BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings
HARTFORD, CT – Another week without hockey games to write about, but the business of hockey goes on. Lots of news this week.
ON THE MOVE
There were two moves made on the AHL coaching front.
The Providence Bruins named long-time assistant coach, Kevin Dean, as their new head coach. For the last four years, Dean had been an assistant under Bruce Cassidy. The opening came when Cassidy was promoted to the parent Boston Bruins as an assistant to head coach, Claude Julien.
The defending Calder Cup champions, the Lake Erie Monsters, signed their head coach, Jared Bednar to a two-year extension. They also named a new assistant coach. Steve McCarthy, who retired after playing for sixteen years, split this past season between the Kalamazoo Wings (ECHL) and Lake Erie. McCarthy was a first-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks back in 1999.
Goalie coach Manny Legace was signed to another one-year deal. Legace was a Hartford Whaler draft pick way in 1993. He went in the eighth round, 188th overall. Blake Geoffrion, the grandson of NHL legend Bernie “Boom-Boom” Geoffrion, was named the assistant General Manager for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Tucson Roadrunners have a new GM, Doug Soetaert, who played for the New York Rangers after he was drafted in the second round, 30th overall in 1975 NHL Draft. Soetaert played in 284 NHL games with the Rangers, Winnipeg (original Jets) and Montreal. He got his Stanley Cup ring backing up Patrick Roy in 1986.
Soetaert has been the Arizona Coyote’s western pro scout after a two-year stint as the Director of Scouting in Europe for EHC Munich (Germany-DEL) and EHC Salzburg (Austria-AEHL) both teams are called Red Bulls.
He played for the AHL New Haven Nighthawks from 1977-1981.
The Colorado Avalanche signed a new ECHL affiliation deal with nearby (Fort Collins) Colorado Eagles. The agreement ends their affiliation with the Ft. Wayne Komets.
Former Hartford Wolf Pack forward, Paul Crowder, signs a deal with Orlando (ECHL).
Nick Lukko, who played at Salisbury Prep and is the son of Florida Panthers’ President, Peter Lukko, re-signs with Reading (ECHL).
Ten more AHL’ers are off to Europe with the latest two heading to Beijing to play for the KHL expansion team, Kunlun Red Star, the first Chinese KHL team. Sean Collins (Hershey) and Brett Bellemore (Providence). Last season Bellemore was in the Wolf Pack training camp. Mike Moore (Hershey) is the third player to go to Fischtown (Germany-DEL) in the last ten days. Derek Smith of Springfield goes to KHL Medvesak Zagreb (Croatia-KHL) and ex-Sound Tiger, Matt Donovan, goes from Rochester to Frolunda HC (Sweden-SHL)
Mike Moore (Hershey) is the third player to go to Fischtown (Germany-DEL) in the last ten days. Derek Smith of Springfield goes to KHL Medvesak Zagreb (Croatia-KHL) and ex-Sound Tiger, Matt Donovan, goes from Rochester to Frolunda HC (Sweden-SHL)
Ex-Wolf Pack and Sound Tiger rearguard Dylan Reese goes from Springfield to HV 71 (Sweden-SHL), ex-Sound Tiger Kael Mouillierat goes from Wilkes- Barre/Scranton to Lulea HF (Sweden-SHL) and Evan Trupp of Chicago goes to Augsburger (Germany-DEL).
Andre Benoit goes from Chicago to Malmo IF (Sweden-SHL). Kyle Cumiskey Rockford to Skelleftea AIK (Sweden-SHL) and Ryan Martindale, who split the season with Syracuse and Florida (ECHL), goes to Esbjerg (Denmark-DHL).
That brings the total number of AHL’ers going to Europe to 55.
Another college underclassmen turns professional as Jack Roslovic signs a deal with Winnipeg and leaves the University of Miami at Ohio after his freshmen year. He will either be assigned to Manitoba (AHL) or go to junior hockey with London (OHL), who obtained his junior rights in a trade with Flint last month at the OHL Priority Draft. Presently, 37 underclassmen have signed pro deals since the end of last season.
Charlie Sampair goes from University Minnesota-Duluth to Alaska (ECHL) making it 177 NCAA players who have signed pro contracts since the end of the college season in the spring.
Taft Prep’s Shea Courtemanche of Madison, has made an oral commitment to Dartmouth College for 2019-20. His father Jason was born in Hartford and had a five-year minor pro career in the late 1990’S.
William Ennis from South Kent Prep and its US Selects Academy program (USPHL U-16) heads to Oshawa (OHL) next season.
Hamden-born Joe Aloi Jr. follows in his father’s footsteps and is a training camp invitee to Acadie-Bathhurst (QMJHL) whose GM is former Nighthawk, Sylvain Couturier. The elder Aloi Sr. played for Hull (nee Gatineau) OIympics (QMJHL) in the late 1980’s and is one of six Hamden natives drafted by the NHL teams.
Ex-Pack Vinny Saponari leaves the Greenville Swamp Rabbits (ECHL) to join Dynamo Riga (Latvia-KHL). He played in short stints with three AHL teams last season Portland, Lake Erie, and Milwaukee.
Former Wolf Pack, Alexandre Giroux, gives the KHL another twirl signing with Medvescak Zagreb as well. Another ex-Pack still around kicking in the KHL is defenseman Maxim Kondratiev who leaves Torpedo Novgorod to head to Amur Khaborovsk. It’s his ninth KHL team in ten years.
Former Wolf Pack goalie, Jason Missiaen, goes from STS Sanok (Poland-PZHL) to the newly created French Alps based combo franchise HC Chamonix-Morinze Pioneers to play in the French Elite Magnus League which will play a fifty game schedule this year for the first time.
Ex-Pack Jeff Ulmer leaves HC Innsbruck (Austria-AEHL) to play this year Braehead (Scotland-EIHL) who play in Glasgow.
Former Sound Tigers defenseman Nathan McIver retires after playing for Braehead last season to become an assistant coach with Oshawa (OHL).
Former CT Whale, Tim Kennedy, leaves Finland and KHL Jokerit Helsinki for Sweden and Lulea HF (Sweden-SHL).
New Canaan native and one-time Taft Prep player, Drew Mackenzie, signs for another year with Dornbirner EC (Austria-AEHL).
The Sound Tigers have signed three players to AHL deals for next season. Connor Jones joins his twin brother Kellen, and fellow Quinnipiac University alum and a pair of defenseman Kane Lafranchise and Patrick Cullity. All three who also spent time last year with Missouri (ECHL).
Ex-Sound Tiger, Tyler Gron goes from Esbjerg (Denmark-DHL) to Heilbronner (Germany DEL-2). Ex-Sound Tiger Ryan Caldwell goes from Lorenskog IK (Norway-NEL) to Oji (Japan-ALIH).
Ex-Sound Tiger goalie Kent Simpson stays in North America going from Stockton (AHL)/Adirondack (ECHL) to San Antonio (AHL).
Mark Kastelic, son of former Whaler, Ed Kastelic, was named to the Team USA squad for the U-20 Ivan Hlinka tournament taking place in August from the 8th to the 13th in Bratislava, Slovakia and the Braclav, Czech Republic. He plays for the Calgary Hitmen (WHL) and is entering his second junior hockey season.
Matt Puntereri, a former Danbury Whaler, is now playing with Canterbury Red Devils (New Zealand-NZIHL) in the summer and for the winter hockey season signed with EV Aich (Germany Division-6). Who knew there was a German sixth division? Puntereri’s head coach for FHL Danbury under several permutations (Whalers and Titans) and leagues after five years in the Hatter city, East Haven native, Phil Esposito Jr. has stepped down as head coach. Esposito also played for the New England (Danbury) Stars in the NEPHL.
ARE THE ISLANDERS LOOKING TO MOVE ?
Weren’t they moving to Hartford?
Once again, you may not want to read this, but Hartford is not even on the radar screen for the NHL despite what some people fantasize about. Read about the Isles home situation HERE.
The long often repeated rumor of the Rangers moving Hartford to Bridgeport is now officially off the table.
The new Islanders majority owners Jon Ledecky and Jeff Malkin stated publicly there are not moving the Islanders AHL farm team to the soon to be newly renovated Nassau Coliseum scheduled to reopen in the late spring of 2017. Bruce Ratner, whose company won the bid to renovate the building beating out MSG stating publicly that was their intention.
Ledecky and Malkin citing the team’s lease – one of the longest in AHL history which is also ironclad – it can only be transferred to another entity to assume the lease as is until its conclusion at the end of the 2020-21 season – as one of the primary reasons they will keep their AHL team there. Breaking the lease beforehand carries a $250K exit fee per year for each year remaining on the lease.
The lease was negotiated by the late Roy M. Boe, who founded the Bridgeport Sound Tigers after buying the dormant, Beast of New Haven franchise, from Carolina for $2 million, thirty days after the team was folded in 1999 after not being able to secure another affiliation or purchase the franchise.
The lease he entered into with Center Plate, a food concessions company who won the original management contract back in 2000 despite having never managed a building before, agreed to pay $20 million dollars for twenty years. Boe’s bid exceeded the bid of Paragon Sports’, the parent company of Beast of New Haven, which was $11 million for ten years, obviously made before they mothballed the team.
At the time, it was unknown except for a small group, that the New Haven Coliseum would be closed and eventually demolished.
The Sound Tigers nearly folded in the summer of 2003 after just two seasons by the AHL because of mounting financial problems including The Sound Tigers failure to pay its affiliation fee to Islanders, debts to numerous local vendors, and employees. The team was “sold” to then Islanders owner, Charles Wang.
The Islanders created a new company then under the direction of former GM Howard Saffan. They eventually “won” the building management contract in 2012 when Center Plate declined to renew its contract to run the Webster Bank Arena (nee Arena at Harbor Yard) after ten years. Spectra (then Global Spectrum) declined to make a bid to manage the building after reviewing the building’s financial books.
Highly trusted sources tell Cantlon’s Corner that Belleville, Ontario is pretty well set to become the newest AHL addition and will become the new home of the Ottawa Senators top farm team after relocating them from Binghamton.
A $7 million dollar renovation of the junior hockey league size Yardmen Arena has been agreed upon. The present international ice surface would be shrunk down to the NHL size 200’x85′ sheet allowing more seating to be put in place increasing it beyond it’s present capacity of 3,200.
The final seating numbers are being worked on with the architects, but would meet one of the AHL BOG requirements to place the franchise there and only conditional approval will be granted at first until benchmarks are met. The situation is similar to Tucson before full status would be granted.
Proper Locker rooms, weight-training, and office space are other key considerations, particularly meeting negotiated facility requirements in training as per the NHL and AHL CBA’s.
The issue of ownership of the franchise is also being worked out and as a local group of several investors is expected, but outright ownership by Ottawa is also on the table. Presently, 16 of 30 AHL teams are owned by their parent NHL team including the Hartford Wolf Pack.
The building will be ready for the 2017-18 AHL season.