It’s been quite the off-season so far on the “Coast”. Here’s a look at the teams making the news:
Arkansas RiverBlades: The RiverBlades are readying for their inaugural season, and have named Geoff Ward as their first head coach.
Ward lead the Guelph Storm ( WHL ) to a 44-22-2 record last season.
The ‘Blades will not only be battling their ECHL opponents on the ice, they will be competing against the WPHL’s Arkansas Glaciercats off the ice. The teams will share home dates 11 times. The Riverblades will call the new Alltel Arena home.
Arkansas took Rob Weingartner ( Louisiana ) with their first pick in the Expansion draft, and Richard Keyes ( Columbus ) in the Dispersal draft.
Birmingham Bulls: Head Coach Dennis Desrosiers will not leave the Bulls to coach the Saginaw UHL club, as rumored. Desrosiers had an escape clause in his contract , but it passed with out event.
Signed: Kory Mullin will return for his forth season with the Bulls. Injuries hindered the offensive minded defenseman last year.
Mullin was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1993.
Charlotte Checkers: Head coach Shawn Wheeler has been earning his off-season paycheck by signing his goaltending tandem, and putting several players in place weeks before training camp even starts!
Signed: Goaltenders Taras Lendzyk ( Charlotte ) and Jim Hrivnak Defensemen: Brooke Chateau ( Florida, Charlotte ), and Rocky Wesling ( Northern Michigan, 1994 Ducks draft pick) ) Forwards: Van Burgess and Mike Rucinski ( Florida, Charlotte )
Acquired rights to: Anthony Terzo ( Toledo ), Tracy Egeland ( Huntington ) , Micheal Flynn ( Miami via Dispersal draft) .
Signed : Forwards Tim Ferguson ( Florida ) , Brad Frattarolli ( Northern Michigan ), Geoff Bennetts ( Ferris State ), Steve Moffat ( Columbus ,ECHL ).
Acquired rights to : Todd Norman ( Pensacola ), Louis Bedard ( Toledo ) .
Greensboro: Jeff Brubaker is back in Greensboro! Years ago, Greensboro was the home of the ECHL Monarch’s. Brubaker built the club to be one of the elite in the league, winning the Riley Cup ( now Kelly Cup ) it’s inaugural season. The team jumped to the AHL, and then eventually gave way to the Carolina Hurricanes. With the Canes relocating to Raleigh, Brubaker is back in business.
Greensboro picked up Miami goalie Brett Belecki and Columbus forward Beau Bilek in the Dispersal draft. The club picked up veteran Bob Berg in the Expansion draft, but , Berg is expected to retire.
Greenville Growl: Named the ECHL affiliate of the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers.
Jacksonville Lizard Kings: Named Alain Lemieux Head Coach. Does the name ring a bell? It shouldn’t, but his brother Mario might be more recognizable! Could we see some Pens prospects in Jacksonville this season?
Johnstown Chiefs: Announced extension of their affiliation agreement with the Calgary Flames.
Signed: Forwards Carl Fleury ( Johnstown) , Dmitri Tabarin ( Jihnstown ), Scott Parmentier Goaltender: Frederic Deschenes ( Birmingham, ECHL, Orlando IHL, Portland AHL )
Louisiana IceGators: Bought out the contract of coach Doug Shedden. Despite dominating the regular season every year , Sheddens club always faltered in the play-offs. It has been rumored the Gators will go for a more defensive approach. The question is , how many players loyal to Shedden will stick around?
Mississippi SeaWolves: It appears coach Bruce Boudreau will be leaving the team to coach the Lowell Lock Monsters of the AHL.
Boudreau led his club to a Kelly Cup title last season.
Signed : Forward Kevin Hilton
Signed: Forwards Jason Clarke, Scott Cherrey ( Univ. of New Brunswick ), Mark Turner, B.J. Kilbourne ( Vermont ), Jason Elders ( Mobile )Goaltender: Steve DeBus ( Mobile )
Acquired rights to: Dalen Hrooshkin
Signed: John McNabb ( South Surrey BC Jr II ), Frederick DuFour ( Cowansville Jr III )
PeeDee Pride: Jack Capuano has moved from behind the bench to the front office, taking over the Senior Vice President position.
Frank Anazlone has been named the new Pride bench boss.
Signed: Forward Peter Geronazzo
Peoria Rivermen: Named Don Granato Head Coach.
Tallahassee TigerSharks: Named Larry Kish GM. Where Kish goes…his agreements/affiliations with Montreal and Edmonton go. Montreal’s Quebec AHL club has already made it official.
South Carolina Stingrays:
Signed: Damian Prescott