MacLean turned south Florida on to hockey by leading the Panthers to the Stanley Cup finals in 1996 before being fired this season. He hopes to do the same in central Ohio before the Blue Jackets hit the ice in October 2000.
"The opportunity to be able to build a team on and off the ice is a dream. There's very few people who get this opportunity," MacLean said at a news conference announcing his hiring.
"With the (minor league) Chill and Ohio State hockey already in place, this market is ripe to become a hockey town. If you can turn the kids on, then you can turn the parents on."
Columbus was one of four cities awarded NHL franchises by the league last June.
MacLean, 43, became the Panthers' coach - his first head coaching job in the NHL - in July 1995. He was 76-59-29 in his first two seasons with Florida, leading the Panthers to the finals in 1996 before they lost to Colorado.
He was fired this season when the Panthers got off to a 7-12-4 start.
MacLean said he did not plan to coach the Blue Jackets because there should be plenty of good candidates to choose from.
"There's always eight great coaches a year because that's how many get fired a year," said MacLean, who plans to have his scouting staff in position a year before the team starts play.
John McConnell, principal owner of the Blue Jackets, said he was confident MacLean would excel in his position.
"Doug MacLean took Florida to the Stanley Cup final in his second year of a third-year franchise. We expect the same from him," he said.
But MacLean said he would be surprised if the Blue Jackets made it to the finals that soon.
"I don't know if it'll ever happen again," he said. "It's an amazing feat and I don't think people realize that. It's a tough thing to happen."
MacLean's coaching career began in 1986-87 as an assistant with St. Louis. He later served as an assistant coach with Detroit and went on to become the Red Wings' assistant general manager.
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