Why did I decide to dedicate two chapters in Hound Town to the organization within the CHL and OHL and the ‘Program’ developed by the Soo Greyhounds?
Over the years, I have witnessed the frustration potential players, parents, advisors, minor hockey officials and fans have in attempting to understand the total picture of what teams in the OHL provide for the benefit of these young men that move away from home and are placed in the hands of total strangers for the most part. I have attempted to demystify the hockey operations of a team in the OHL. It is important for those interested having these young men pursue their dreams, should have factual information available to them in readable form.
To me, it has always been important to remember that the OHL is a development league for not only the players but also for the staff. Development is not only the honing of hockey skills but the development of all of those associated with the team, especially our players. It is up to the league and the team to do the best we can to enhance the opportunities in hockey and in life by protecting them, educating them and teaching them the importance of giving back to the community. This has to be placed in perspective. We are dealing with players who are very young and prepared to sacrifice to follow their dreams. The same goes for staff, who are older but have their dreams as well.
It has always been interesting to me that so many people that I have encountered over the years think that it doesn’t take much to operate an OHL franchise. I have watched at close hand how a number of individuals from both the hockey and business world were overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. Like most things in life, you may not realize it until you are in it. That’s why, I believe that it important to outline the many parts to operating a franchise.
Next week, I answer the following question: Is the community as important to other teams in the OHL as it is for the Soo Greyhounds?
Why did the Soo Greyhounds risk putting their faith in so many young talented individuals in both hockey and business operations? Part Two:
Kyle Dubas surrounded himself with other young people who were intelligent, hardworking, dedicated and believed in him.
Sheldon Keefe, as head coach, was also young, intelligent, hardworking and dedicated. Dubas provided Keefe with excellent assistants. Together, they refined the plan and found success. Dubas was recognized for his abilities and was hired to become a vice-president with the Toronto Maple Leafs and placed in charge of the Toronto Marlies. The following year Sheldon Keefe and a number of others in our organization followed Dubas.
When Dubas was leaving, he assisted us in finding the right fit to replace him. The directors remained with youth in hiring Kyle Raftis at 28 years of age. He complimented Keefe and moved to make trades that provided us with the opportunity to win it all. Although we didn’t go all the way, it was an amazing year in which the Greyhounds ended in first place overall in the CHL and broke the team record for most points with 110.
With Keefe leaving the next year, Raftis decided on a young head coach who played for the Greyhounds during our three consecutive trips to the Memorial Cup tournament. Again, it turned out to be an excellent choice and our Greyhounds continue to be successful.
Our controversial moves produced great results for a development league: between 2011 and 2015, the Soo Greyhounds had more players drafted or signed to professional contracts than any other team in the OHL, including the big market teams. Many of our players have succeeded in moving up to professional hockey. We had a general manager, head coach, assistant coach, trainer/physical therapist and equipment manager move up the ranks. With the young, skilled players and staff with exceptional talent, the success should continue.
Next week, the answer to the following question: Why did I decide to dedicate two chapters in Hound Town to the organization within the CHL and OHL and the ‘Program’ developed by the Soo Greyhounds?
Why did the Soo Greyhounds risk putting their faith in so many young talented individuals in both hockey and business operations?
Posted at www.houndtownhockey.com and shared on Facebook (Frank S. Sarlo) and Twitter
In 2011, the directors of the Soo Greyhounds knew that hockey was entering a new phase of development, especially in the OHL. For the most part, it was the big market teams that were more successful and the challenge for smaller market teams was to compete with these teams. Besides the various changes occurring on the ice, there was the whole new world of communication with our fans and our young players. We needed people who understood the challenge and could succeed communicate in this new world. The change began to occur with controversial moves by the directors: first, in hiring a general manager who was just 25 years of age and no experience in the position; and second a head coach that had to buy a team to prove his ability However, Kyle Dubas, as general manager, was intelligent, hardworking, dedicated, fearless and had a plan.
Shortly after Kyle Dubas became the general manager of the Soo Greyhounds in the spring of 2011, we set out to formalize and highlight the program, which would allow the Greyhounds to become the best major junior hockey organization in the world. We were striving to be much more than a hockey team by putting staff in place with character and integrity who would be empowered to develop people, not just players. We wanted to find players with character and integrity, passion, skill, and hockey sense. Our goal was to be the best in academics, strength and conditioning training, community involvement, character development, and hockey development. Our general manager, Kyle Raftis, has continued to tweak the program for best results. The Greyhounds were always these things, but it was important to formalize and highlight them so that everyone involved would keep these goals front and center in their minds.
Dubas reminded us that rather than taking our core values for granted, it was important to put our mission statement forward for all to see. Therefore, he told anybody that would listen that the Greyhounds’ mission is to maximize the development of each young man who enters the program in four areas:
Next week, part two of the answer to the following question: Why did the Soo Greyhounds risk putting their faith in so many young talented individuals in both hockey and business operations?
What was it like to make it to the Memorial Cup tournament three years in a row and win it on home ice?
1. Vol. V: February 4, 2017:
Posted at www.houndtownhockey.com and shared on Facebook (Frank S. Sarlo) and Twitter
It was like a long dream that makes you wonder whether all of it really happened. We were in a four-year time frame that seems like a fantasy but it really happened. It started with the Soo Greyhounds drafting Eric Lindros first overall in the 1989 OHL priority draft and his refusal to report. This led to an agreement to sell the Greyhound franchise to Detroit Compuware for one million dollars, almost twice the value of the franchise in Sault Ste. Marie. It was worth the price to a buyer that intended to move the team to the Detroit area with Lindros as a large draw in the bigger market area.
As fate would have it, a new clause was added to the arena lease agreement that the city or any group from the community would have thirty days to match any offer that moved the franchise out of Sault Ste. Marie. It would take a miracle to match the price. ‘Dr. Miracle’, Dr. George Shunock rallied the community and the franchise was saved for Sault Ste. Marie.
Over the next year, an executive committee and others worked tirelessly to build an organization that included Sherry Bassin, with his knowledge of hockey and the League, as General Manager; Ted Nolan, with his motivational skills, as Head Coach; and Danny Flynn, with his technical expertise, as Assistant Coach. All became legendary figures over the following three years. With the brilliant trade for Eric Lindros, other excellent trades, draft choices and important walk-ons, the Soo Greyhounds became a highly skilled team with speed and the will to win. They played with heart and determination to overcome all odds.
To that point, only two other major junior teams had ever made it to three consecutive Memorial Cup tournaments and only one team had won the Memorial Cup on home ice. The Soo Greyhounds made it to the tournament in 1991,1992 and 1993. We won it on home ice in 1993. It was one of the best sport’s dreams ever.
Next week, part one of the answer to the following question: Why did the Soo Greyhounds risk putting their faith in so many young talented individuals in both hockey and business operations?