By Kris Smith
MacLean first joined the Stars in 2010, when the team made the step up to the Elite League and for the following two seasons, he was captain.
The Canadian brought a mix of North American hockey experience to the Stars after previously playing in the Central Hockey League, International Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
During his three year stint in Dundee, A.J. made 179 and totalled 108 points but he also became a much loved, club legend.
MacLean started off by explaining what he has been doing since he left Tayside, almost seven years ago.
He began: “For the past seven years. I have been coaching hockey teams.
“I started off in the Ontario Hockey League as an assistant coach with the Soo Greyhounds, and for the past five years, I have been an assistant with the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League.
“Since leaving, I have also gotten married to my wife Jenanne and we have a one-year-old boy called Lachlan.”
Three seasons is one of the longest spells by an import with the Stars and over that time, the Antigonish, Nova Scotia native has an endless list of memories from his time in Scotland.
A.J. added: “I don’t think there’s enough space to write them all!
“But from all the stories I look back on, the main thing that comes to mind is how incredible the people are in Dundee.
“Right from when I got picked up at the airport, I was treated like I was family.
“From everyone in the Stars organisation, to everyone in the community.
“It certainly is a special place for me and I met life-long friends there that I still remain in contact with today.”
However, the one memory that will always be the winger’s favourite was scoring a goal at home and hearing his famous song.
“My favourite has to be scoring at home in front of the fans” said MacLean.
He continued: “I always loved the energy the fans had off the initial goal and then carried it right through to the end of your song.
“It was something I never experienced anywhere else but Dundee.”
When he signed back in 2010, it was under Dan Ceman’s leadership, as he was appointed Head Coach for the Stars’ first season in the Elite League.
However, it was not Ceman who reached out to MacLean to offer him the chance to play in Scotland.
He explained: “Brent Hughes actually brought me to Dundee.
“The previous year before we tried out for the same team and got to know each other really well.
“He went overseas that year and I stayed in North America to play with the Dayton Gems in the International Hockey League.
“During the summer, I was helping my brother move down in the States and my Canadian phone was turned off for about a week I think.
“Once I got back to Canada, there was a voicemail from Hughesy wondering if I wanted to play in Dundee and I remember calling him in a bit of a panic worried the opportunity might be gone.
“Thankfully it was still on the table and the rest is history.”
Now that he is involved in the coaching side of hockey, A.J. was asked how he found making the transition from player to coach.
He replied: “It was pretty natural for me when it came to the tactics and such.
“I always had watched hockey with my dad, so I soaked up a lot of information throughout my life.
“Where I really needed help was becoming more innovative and also how to be more organised.
“That’s where the coaching staff in the Soo really helped me out.”
With his current club, the Marlies, MacLean was part of the team that won the Calder Cup Championship in 2018, which is the American Hockey League’s playoff trophy.
Discussing that success and his time in Toronto so far, A.J. said: “It’s an honour to be with the Marlies.
“The organization is top class, they treat us incredibly well and I really can’t say enough about them.
“Winning a championship is always special and it is for sure the apex of my hockey career so far.
“Also, my wife and brother were in the building that night, which made it even more special for me.”
Also, some fans may not know that when A.J. made the move into coaching, he began working with Sheldon Keefe – the current Head Coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and brother of Belfast Giants Head Coach, Adam Keefe, who he played against during his time in Dundee.
The pair were colleagues for seven years, with MacLean being an assistant under Sheldon at both the Greyhounds and the Marlies.
“Working with Sheldon was life changing, he’s been an incredible mentor for me personally and professionally”, said A.J.
He continued: “It was pretty funny how it all worked out with me playing against his brother for so long and then getting to work with him.
“We always made sure each other knew when there was a Dundee v Belfast fixture!”
Finally, MacLean had a message for all the Stars fans back in Dundee and he said: “I miss you all greatly!
“You have made such a positive impact on my life, and I carry that with me at every stop on the road.
“From my wife surprising me and teaching the guests at our wedding the “AJ MacLean song” (with help from Euan Forsyth), to me changing the words to the very same song to sing to my son to sleep.
“I still follow along watching the highlights and interviews through social media and I am looking forward to the upcoming season!
Also, back in 2012, our very own Stars TV followed A.J. around for a day and documented the regular daily life of the Stars captain.
Check it out below!
That concludes our series of ‘Look Back’ articles on the 11th Dundee Stars season but there is plenty more still to come, as next week we take you back to the 2012-2013 season.
If you want to be a part of the historic 20th Dundee Stars season then you can buy your season tickets by contacting [email protected]