Waddell Hired as President/GM of NHL's Blue Jackets

Don Waddell

Don Waddell, former Wildcat hockey defenseman and NMU Sports Hall of Fame inductee, is the new president of hockey operations and general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The longtime NHL executive agreed to a multi-year contract to help turn around the franchise days after stepping down as president and general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes, which registered at least one win in the Stanley Cup playoffs in six straight postseasons.

Waddell spent the past decade with the Hurricanes, serving as team president from 2014-18 and as team president and general manager since 2018. Over the past six seasons, Carolina has compiled a 278-130-44 record to rank second in the NHL in points percentage (.664; Boston - .695) and third in wins (Boston-289, Tampa Bay-283). The Hurricanes have won three division titles (2021-Central, 2022 and 2023-Metropolitan), advanced to the playoffs each year and earned trips to the Eastern Conference Finals twice (2019, 2023) during that time. Prior to his taking over as general manager, Carolina had missed the playoffs in 11 of the 12 previous seasons.

“Don Waddell is one of the most experienced and respected executives in our sport with over four decades of experience as a player, scout, head coach, general manager and team president,” said Blue Jackets President and Alternate Governor Mike Priest in a press release. “Most recently, he has built the Carolina Hurricanes into one of the winningest clubs in the National Hockey League. Don has every attribute we were looking for when this process began, and we are thrilled to have him lead our hockey operations efforts.”

Waddell began his NHL career in 1997-98 and won a Stanley Cup championship as an assistant general manager with the Detroit Red Wings. The following year, he joined the expansion Atlanta Thrashers as vice president of hockey operations and general manager and would serve in that role until 2010 when he was named team president. He also served as executive vice president and co-chair of the executive committee of the Atlanta Spirit, the parent company of the Thrashers, the National Basketball Association's Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena. He then had a three-year stint as a consultant and pro scout with the Pittsburgh Penguins before arriving in Carolina in 2014.

According to a “Five Things to Know About Don Waddell” feature on the Blue Jackets website, the Detroit native:

“… owns an unfortunate part of the lore when it comes to the famed 1980 ‘Miracle on Ice' United States Olympic team. The squad that shocked the world and united the country by winning gold at the Lake Placid Olympics could have featured Waddell, but he suffered a broken leg and then a sprained knee in the lead-up to the tournament and as a result did not make the final roster.”

Waddell did eventually get to the Olympics, serving as the general manager for the U.S. squad that that participated in the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy. He also was a three-time Team USA general manager at the IIHF World Championships. As a player, he helped Team USA to the gold medal at the 1983 IIHF World Championships.

“I couldn't be more excited to join the Columbus Blue Jackets as this is an organization that has everything you need to have success at the highest level,” said Waddell in a press release. “It's a wonderful city with passionate fans, strong ownership, first-class facilities, and a desire to be the best. I'd like to thank the McConnell family, Mike Priest and John Davidson for this opportunity, and look forward to being part of this community.”

Prior to embarking on his NHL management career, Waddell spent a decade as executive vice president and general manager of International Hockey League (IHL) franchises in San Diego (1990-95) and Orlando (1995-97) and was twice named IHL Executive of the Year (1992-93, 1995-96). In Orlando, he was vice president of RDV Sports and served on the executive committee that oversaw the NBA's Orlando Magic, the IHL's Orlando Solar Bears and the company's retail and aviation interests.

Waddell played four seasons of Division I hockey for the Wildcats. He was named Northern's MVP and the CCHA Player of the Year in 1978, and was inducted into the NMU Sports Hall of Fame in 1993.

A seventh-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings at the 1978 NHL Draft, Waddell spent three years with the organization. He went on to play parts of nine seasons as a professional, mostly in the IHL. He also served as head coach of the IHL's San Diego Gulls in 1991-92 and was interim head coach of the Thrashers on two occasions (2002-03, 2007-08) during his tenure with the club.

Prepared By

Kristi Evans
News Director

Categories: Around NMU