Belec and Anzalone Not Returning Johnstown

The Johnstown Chiefs announced today that Tampa Bay Lightning will no longer be involved in managing the hockey operations of the Chiefs. As part of the restructuring of the Chiefs, VP of Hockey Operations Ryan Belec, Head Coach Frank Anzalone, Trainer Rodney Bogart and Equipment Manager Casey Taylor will not be returning to Johnstown. All four are employees of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

As part of the continuing affiliaton between Tampa and Johnstown, the Chief may have Tampa prospects playing there next season. The search for a new head coach, trainer, and equipment manager begins immediately.

There is no immediate word on whether or not the Lightning have retained the services of Belec, Anzalone, Bogart, and Taylor in some other capacity within the organization.

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This may signal a paradigm shift

I imagine when we took an ownership interest in the Chiefs the contract we signed specified that the Lightning controlled the staff. So why did Jay back down instead of saying no to Weber?

Likely that's $500,000 or more saved that can be redirected to the NHL payroll. If Jay moves some of his current budget around, perhaps he can convince PSE to add a little more to at least move the payroll to what it was this season.

Also, developmentally, even though these guys don't learn the system (which many are not yet developed enough to play anyway) there, they are 2 steps away and have to pass through Norfolk anyway. They won't be there for a month, they'll be there long enough to learn the system.

Johnstown, will become a place for those few extra prospects the club thinks have high potential or for organizational depth. One extra goalie, a couple of d'men and a couple of wingers. Likely Johnstown will not be stocked with more than 6 guys ever (usually 2 to 3) that the Lightning are paying.

That means the number of players under contract in the organization will probably become leaner. The Munce's, Cey's, Elliot's, Rosehill's etc. will be looked at closely to determine if there aren't a number of equivalent talent players avilable as free agents on a yearly basis. While the organization will likely help place guys they like with organizations their contract's will not likely be on Tampa Bay's dime.

Player acquisition wise, draft picks will be trade bait, or used primarily on college and European players to give them more time to age and develop. Rounds 3 - 6 may be more devoted to scoring ypside guys, than character grinders. I'm not saying I agree with the approach. That may however be the economic reality.

How can Jay get back to his preferred development model? As busy as he likely is, I think he needs to turn back to his minor league operator roots. Jay needs to come up with a model that would fit with PSE's corporate model. He needs to find a Florida venue where an arena operation would make PSE money on concert and other bookings and allow him to operate if he can break even. Perhaps a facility in the Ocala/Gainesville area or Eastern/North Orlando. Growing areas with the long term potential to develop an additional Lightning fan base particularily if it could attract the UF or UCF crowd with cheap entertainment and cheap beer. The fighting aspect of the ECHL would be attractive to those crowds. (We used to drive from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham to watch the Bulls in bith the WHA and the E). If he could develop something like that there would be a chance to go back to a full ECHL devolopment model.

Good thoughts

If Jay were able to make that work and please PSE in the process, what a relief it could provide.

Jay might have better luck finding a facility in or near Orlando than Gainesville/Ocala. I lived in Gainesville for a couple years in school and the area is pretty much limited to the campus and a small surrounding area. Lord knows it was hard finding any place to see Lightning or other hockey games on television there, aside from the Sun feed in my apartment which was often dropped for fishing shows! I know the Gators have a club hockey team though their home games are up in Jacksonville. Having the O'Connell Center (home to the Gator basketball team and pretty much the concert-entertainment hub in the area) there would also throw a wrench into things. Not saying it would be impossible for something to get started there, but it wouldn't be easy.

I remember back when I used to live in Tallahassee and the Tiger Sharks were initially a big draw because of exactly what you mentioned, cheap beer and fights. FSU also had a club team but once the Sharks packed up and moved to Macon, they moved their home games to an Orlando complex where the Magic train. I'm sure there are plenty of the old Solar Bears fans who wouldn't mind having a hockey club in the area again.

Desharnais

I think on of the things the Lightning learned is it's hard to stock an ECHL team with good free agent junior players so they decided to abandon the experiment. What Desharnais taught them is the stigma of the ECHL is too great to lure free agent talent.

I think they also probably decided they just didn't get enough development from non-goalies for their investment. Other than Henrich and Atherton, did any of the ECHL callups really do anything in Springfield? Not really.

I think they decided it was too difficult to turn Johnstown into what they wanted it to be and that even if they did perhaps the ECHL is only suited for developing goaltending prospects.

Orlando fans

I think the game will be very difficult, if not impossible to grow in Orlando. I work with a guy who plays net for the UCF hockey team (ACHA Div 3) and the turnout is just horrid. On most nights the hockey games would be lucky to have 30 people there, this coming from a fanbase that will usually go by the tens of thousands to watch one of the worst football teams in the history of college ball.

Most of the students don't even know they have a hockey team. I know I didn't until I met the guy at work. It would take a lot of work to get things rolling to get people into the sport, and I don't think it's really worth the effort, as fans in this area are really poor fans in terms of sticking with teams through good and bad IMO.

Who knows.

Big difference

While I've never seen an East Coast game, I have passed by a UCF game and a couple practices and there's a reason why they have absolutely no fan base. ACHA Div III means that it's about as low a level of club hockey that you can play in college. It's basically a stepping stone for lower-tier men's league. I have played against a few guys who went on to the East Coast (the Chiefs' Gus Katsuras being one of them) and based on their abilities and what I've seen of UCF there is absolutely no comparison as to the level of hockey.

That being said, I have to agree that Orlando's fickle fans would have a difficult time adopting yet another minor pro team. The Solar Bears folded for a lack of fan support, and the Seals aren't exactly sweeping up in (I believe still) Kissimmee. Maybe with the right venue (size and location), an ECHL team could work, but past history would unfortunately suggest otherwise.

I agree with you. I

I agree with you. I regularly attended the UCF games this fall semester, and it was usually a fun time. But I think the reason why it's not so popular is because no one KNOWS about it. They are just a club team, and the club teams around campus hardly get any exposure at all. With the right amount of exposure they might draw more. I turned on a few of my friends to the team and they weren't even hockey fans before. Unfortunately they play out in Maitland and a lot of kids around campus don't want to drive that far.

I don't think the Solar Bears folded just because of attendance. It certainly didn't help that they were playing in the arena that the Magic play in, so I imagine the rent wasn't exactly cheap. The Seals probably don't do well because they're in Kissimmee. Who lives in Kissimmee besides tourists?

I agree about the level of

I agree about the level of hockey. They played a DII team sometime this season and got destroyed. They within 2 weeks played Citadel back to back and put up a combined 40 something goals in the two games. The level of competition is low, but it's still a fun, cheap time for students. I don't think it could pull in non students very well because the crowds can get pretty rowdy, so it's not exactly a family event.

Not to mention the usual 10 PM start times for the games is a bit late, plus like you mentioned the drive to RDV is a good 30 minutes from the direct area around UCF. I've been doing my best to spread the word around to people who buy anything hockey related that come into my job, and sending invites around on myspace, but nothing really works.

I know the guy we work with has been busting his ass to get some sort of sponsorship from places in the area. They want to be able to have a few jerseys and whatnot to sell at the games, but no one has really bitten. I know he's contacted the Lightning about it as well. Hopefully someone picks up soon and helps these kids get the word out.

Yeah. Grand Valley State and

Yeah. Grand Valley State and Florida Gulf Coast took a big steaming pile all over them. And then a few weeks later, they play Colorado, and they brought barely enough players for three lines with them. Silly.

Agreed on the rowdiness though. It ain't exactly family friendly around those parts some nights. 10PM start times do suck, I forgot about that one.

Colorado

I remember that game. They had 12 or 13 players on the bench, and 2 of them were goalies. Another one of their guys took a really nasty hit behind the net and his night was finished as well. I couldn't believe they actually let them take the ice without something that even looked like a full squad.

There was another team that came in and it was like they brought the whole school with them. It might have been Kennesaw. They did the "ole ole" chant after every goal, and they won by about 11, so it was a long night.

It's a really physical game though, you can tell the guys really look for the hits at this level. I even saw a fight earlier in the season which was pretty hard with full cages.

There isn't a place I'd rather be on Thursday/Friday nights though. It's free, it's fun, and it's hockey. I think they start back up in September, so if anyone else is around the UCF area and wants to come out to the games, they have a website at goldenknightsicehockey.com and they have a myspace at http://www.myspace.com/ucficehockey. Check around for times/schedules and come out to a game or two.

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