Defenseman Don Waddell was a collegiate All-Star as well as excellent minor league player who captured the Governors' Trophy as the International Hockey League's top blue liner in 1982. Waddell began his career playing for Northern Michigan University for four years, two of which he was an All-Star. After graduating in 1980, he turned professional with the Los Angeles Kings, who had drafted him in the 1978 Amateur Draft.
With the Kings organization for the 1980-81 he split his time between the IHL's Saginaw Gears and the Central League's Houston Apollos, but he also played his only NHL game that campaign. The Kings summoned Waddell for a game in which he was on the ice for one goal and did not contribute any points.
The following season he scored 26 goals and 95 points then contributed a league leading 17 assists in the playoffs en route to his first All-Star season in the IHL, as well as the Governors' Trophy. Injuries limited him in the 1982-83 season and the 1983-84 campaign was spent in Germany, but he returned to the IHL in 1984-85. The following year he was back to his All-Star level and was once again named to the First Team. 1987-88 was his final season as a player, and he went out in style scoring 17 goals and 75 points in 71 games with the Flint Generals and being named a Second Team All-Star.
With his playing days behind him, Waddell stayed close to the game and returned to Flint in 1988-89 as the team's coach and General Manager. This began a highly successful second career in hockey. Waddell was also a coach and GM with the San Diego Gulls and then the moved on to the Orlando Solar Bears where he was the Vice President and General Manager. He was twice named the IHL's Executive of the Year during his time in the league. Waddell then made the step to the National Hockey League and joined the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98, the season they won their second-straight Stanley Cup. Waddell completed his ascent when he was named the Vice President and General Manager of the expansion Atlanta Thrashers in June of 1998 and built the new club from the ground up.