During his days with Guelph, Mike Kelly helped mold the Storm into the perennial Ontario Hockey League powerhouse that they remain today. Kelly left his post as the Director of Scouting with the National Hockey League’s Calgary Flames this past spring to join the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires as their President and General Manager.
Two days before the start of his team’s 1999-2000 OHL season, Kelly sat down for a talk over breakfast
JH Why leave the sanctity and the prestige of the National Hockey League to return to junior hockey – and a floundering junior hockey franchise at that?
MK (Spitfire owner) Steve Riolo was very persistent in talking to me. He had contacted me shortly after Christmas last year when I was at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Winnipeg. I really did not have a strong interest at that time, mainly because I had only been in the NHL for only a season and a half. Steve called me again in February and we met, and again I basically indicated to him that I was content to remain with the Calgary Flames. But he kept calling and calling and just before I was about to leave for the World Under-18 championships in Germany in April, I had a pretty good idea of how badly he wants to build a winner in Windsor.
To be honest, from an outside perspective, I have always looked at this franchise and thought that it had a lot of potential.
Well, the Soo Greyhounds training camp has come and gone for another season and this year’s camp has produced a few surprises. All things considered though, the 1999-2000 Greyhounds are in great shape.
The Greyhounds had four rookie goalies in camp (Jeremy Day, Tyler Mercier, Jeremy Elliott and Ray Emery). Last season’s goalies, Jason Flick and Jake McCracken, were attending NHL training camps and missed part of the camp. Flick was in Tampa Bay and McCracken was in Detroit. Both have since returned.
As for the rookie goalies, fifth round pick Ray Emery had a good camp but the only way he is going to be a regular in the Greyhounds lineup is if either Flick or McCracken are dealt during the season. Jeremy Day also played well making 50 saves in an exhibition game against the Sudbury Wolves on September 10th.
The Greyhounds have a lot of experience on their blueline this year. With six returning defensemen the Greyhounds had only a spot or two open for rookies. First round draft pick Trevor Daley has given Greyhound fans a good reason to smile. Daley’s skating is great and he has good on-ice vision.
CHL import pick Vaclav Zavoral spent a good part of camp at the Toronto Maple Leafs training camp. He played his first game as a member of the Greyhounds this past Saturday against Sudbury and he played pretty well. He has good size and mobility. He also handles the puck well.
It’s that time of year again. Finally, after waiting about 6 months, the new season is about to start again. The Guelph Storm once again look like they are going to be contenders. After seeing the Storm play through the preseason with a record of 3 wins, 1 loss and 2 ties, they look to be a well rounded team.
With an overager problem, Storm have been rotating the four O.A.’s. The two who are most likely to stay with the team are forwards Joe Gerbe and Bob Crummmer. The other two are Chris Madden and Darryl Knight. If Madden stays then the Storm will have three goalies and will have to send one somewhere else. Mind you, Millar did say he was going to keep three goalies. But will one become trade bait or will he just rotate the three of them and give them all an even chance? Darryl Knight would provide a problem, on the front line with the Storm already having a problem fitting everyone into the line up. Plus the Storm are still waiting for Charlie Stephens to come back from his N.H.L. team. It will be interesting to see what Millar does with this situation.
In goal, as stated before, there is a problem. With three goalies and one of them an overager, I wouldn’t be surprised if they trade either Madden or Mike D’Alessandro and keep Craig Andersson. All three of them had O.K. preseason games, but nothing spectacular. I guess with time, they will get back into the “groove” of things.
This column will endeavour to keep you informed about happenings going on with the Windsor Spitfires and Plymouth Whalers over the course of the 1999-2000 OHL season. Emphasis will be placed on the progress of the teams, of course, but particular emphasis will be placed on the rookies and selected sophomores on each team. You will be able to check out how these youngsters are doing offensively, along with some comments on how they’re handling themselves as the season goes on.
For now, some jots and thoughts as the teams get ready to open the season.
For some, the pre-season is a lot like the TV game show “Whose Line is it Anyway.” (Everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.)
However, coaches and GMs spend long hours going over each player’s performance.
In Windsor, the feeling is one of rebirth. Things are looking up with the hiring of Tom Webster as coach and Mike Kelly as GM.
Together, they’ve brought an air of knowledge and professionalism, the likes of which Windsor Arena hasn’t seen in a good, long while.
It started in early July, a few weeks after the draft. The players were sent a conditioning program to follow, and while it’s a work in progress, things seem better this time than they did a year ago.
Webster told the Windsor Star the biggest challenge is getting players to do the program.
“What they have to realize eventually is that the game becomes so much easier when they’re in shape.”
What awaits the Ice House this year? Will it be a version of the 95-96 London Knights or the Knights of the last two seasons?
This Knights team can do some more damage if they get some keys guys returning. Teams like Barrie, Sarnia and Plymouth will be taking the brunt of a lot of games this year instead of giving them. Then again that all depends on how Finley plays for Barrie or if Sarnia gets back Sarno and if Plymouth can get back Legwand. As for the Knights, if the first exhibition game is any indication then the Knights are in good shape. They are coming off a birth in the OHL finals. Last year nobody thought they would make it out of the first round let alone make it to Game 7 of the finals.
WHO IS GONE:
Richard Pitirri – A excellent center. What can’t be said about this guy. He is a faceoff artist who was voted third in the league at faceoffs. Last season he decided to comeback to the London Knights as an overager. He turned down playing with Cincinnati of the IHL to play for them. Well it was probably his best choice as he finished the season with 76 points leaving him 4th on the team. Plus his 34 points in the playoffs was a great accomplishment. This season he will be playing with Portland of the AHL.