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Hitmen name French new head coach

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According to the Calgary Hitmen website, Mark French was named the new head coach of the Calgary Hitmen on Thursday. French, who coached Medvescak Zagreb of the Kontinental Hockey League last season, takes over from Mike Williamson who was fired on April 16.

French has a strong hockey background. From 2006-2008, French was the head coach of the Wichita Thunder of the Central Hockey League and from 2010-2013 was the head coach of the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League. In only his first year with the Bears, the top affiliate of the Washington Capitals, French won the Calder Cup.

French has also been an assistant coach with the North Bay Centennials for two years in the Ontario Hockey League (1999-2001) and an assistant coach for one season with the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies of the East Coast Hockey League (2005). French was also an assistant coach with the Bears for two seasons (2007-2009) before becoming their head coach.

Last season with Medvescak Zagreb (Croatia's representative in the Russian dominated Kontinental Hockey League), French posted a record of 28-14-12. Medvescak Zagreb finished in fourth place in the Bobrov Division.

As a player, French, a native of Milton, Ontario, played one season in the NCAA and one season in the CIS. In 1991-92, French played for Mankato State University and from 1992-93, French played for Brock University. The Hitmen also announced that Brent Kisio has been promoted from assistant coach to assistant general manager.

In other Western Hockey League news on Thursday, the WHL has decided to change its playoff format. The new format will be the same format used by the National Hockey League, where the second and third place teams from each of the divisions will automatically play each other in the first round.

The first place team in the conference will play the lowest seeded wildcard, with the other division winner playing the highest seeded wildcard. If the division winners advance to round two, they will be guaranteed of playing a division rival in the second round of the playoffs.

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