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Michigan hockey associate coach Bill Muckalt moves on to next chapter

Heorhii Rysak

Bill Muckalt, who has served as associate head coach for the Michigan hockey team for six seasons, is rumored to be departing from the program this offseason.

Bill Muckalt, who served as an associate head coach for the Michigan hockey team for six seasons, will be departing from Ann Arbor this offseason, as reported by College Hockey News. The news has not been confirmed by a Michigan spokesperson. If the reports are true, Muckalt’s departure would mark the first significant change in the Wolverines’ coaching staff since Brandon Naurato was appointed as head coach.

It appears that this rumored departure has been expected for some time. In August of last year, when former Michigan hockey coach Mel Pearson was dismissed due to misconduct, Bill Muckalt was one of two individuals interviewed for the position of interim head coach. Despite having served as an associate head coach for the program, Muckalt was not selected for the role. Instead, Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel appointed Brandon Naurato, who had only one season of experience as an assistant coach, to the interim position.

What will Bill Muckalt do next?

As an associate head coach, Bill Muckalt has amassed an impressive record of 125-77-19 during his time at Michigan, and his wealth of experience in the field could make him a strong candidate for a head coaching position at another program, whether at the collegiate, junior or even minor league level. Muckalt’s coaching career has included stints in high junior hockey and the NCAA, including four years as an assistant coach at Michigan Tech, as well as two years as both coach and general manager of the Tri-City Storm in the USHL.

Given his extensive experience at the college level, Bill Muckalt may have the option to explore professional opportunities as well. NHL and AHL teams often hire assistant and associate head coaches from the college ranks, and Muckalt’s five-year NHL playing career has afforded him a strong network of connections to draw upon, in addition to those he has established during his time at Michigan.

Possible reasons for leaving

However, Muckalt’s departure seems to come as a surprise, given the terms of his contract. A document obtained by The Michigan Daily via an open records request reveals that Muckalt’s recent three-year extension, signed in August 2021, included a salary of $230,000 for the upcoming season, which is the highest of the three-year term.

If Bill Muckalt does indeed choose to depart early, he would be giving up his upcoming $230,000 salary. The circumstances surrounding his alleged exit remain unclear, and it is uncertain whether the decision was initiated by Muckalt or Michigan. However, the timing of his departure does make sense, given the recent turmoil within the Wolverines’ coaching staff since last August. The language used in any subsequent statements from the Michigan program may provide clues as to who made the decision to part ways.

What will change at the club?

The way in which Michigan fills this coaching vacancy could offer insight into Brandon Naurato’s vision for the program’s future. Muckalt was a key recruiter for Ontario-born players, as well as those from junior hockey leagues in Alberta and British Columbia. He also coached the team’s defense, which included standout players like Owen Power, Quinn Hughes, and Luke Hughes, solidifying Michigan’s reputation as a factory for producing NHL-caliber scoring defensemen. Whoever takes over Muckalt’s position could bring a different approach to recruiting.

With the departure of Bill Muckalt and the fact that the rest of his coaching staff was on one-year agreements, Brandon Naurato appears to have a clean slate in shaping the Michigan hockey program to his liking. As a result of his interim tag, the coaching staff had been operating on a “prove-it” basis during the 2022-23 season. However, now that Naurato has secured the full-time head coaching job, he has the freedom to create his vision of the program’s future without any constraints. He can exercise his creative license to craft a new image for Michigan hockey.

It appears that Brandon Naurato has a unique opportunity to shape the Michigan hockey program according to his vision. The rest of his coaching staff had been operating on one-year agreements for the 2022-23 season, which were essentially “prove-it” deals due to Naurato’s interim status. Now that he has secured the full-time head coaching job and with Bill Muckalt reportedly leaving, Naurato has the freedom to design the program according to his preferences. He has the creative freedom to paint a figurative picture of what he wants the future of Michigan hockey to look like.