Friday, May 30, 2008

ECHL Star forward Lance Galbraith to Join Texas Brahmas as a Player/Coach

The Idaho Statesman has reported that Idaho Steelheads (ECHL) forward Lance Galbraith has accepted a player/assistant coach position with the Texas Brahmas. "It was a tough (decision)," Galbraith said. "I had left Boise before and I came back and won a championship (in 2007)."

A spokesperson for the Steelheads said that Galbraith was leaving because he will be given the opportunity to coach and this is something he would like to pursue once he stops playing.

"I know (Steelheads coach) Derek Laxdal went that way. I thought this was my chance to maybe get my foot in the door (as a coach) and learn a little bit more,'' he said. "I love the game so much, and I don't know how much longer I can play, so if I can get my chance as a coach, better sooner than later."

The 28-year-old was a member of the Steelheads 2004 and 2007 Kelly Cup Championship teams; in the 2007 Kelly Cup Playoffs, he led the ECHL in scoring with 27 pts. (11g, 16a).

Photo Credit: Steve Conner Photography

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Around the League: Austin Ice Bats

Ice Bats sitting out season; Considering move to Beaumont for 2009-10 season

Ford Park Event Center General Manager John Hughes has been talking to Austin Ice Bats owner Randy Sanders about the possibility of moving the team to the 8,500 seat Ford Arena.

The venue is the former home of the Texas Wildcatters, an ECHL team that is moving to Ontario, California and will play as the Ontario Reign this season. The arena is the current home of the Beaumont Drillers Arena Football team and also hosts concerts, rodeos, circuses, motor sports, ice shows and many other events.

"They like the building, but they're looking for local investors,” Said Hughes.

Earlier this month, the Ice Bats announced that they are looking for a new arena and will not play in Austin next season.

The Ice Bats were very successful in their early days and were the first team in the now defunct WHPL to draw over one million fans by their fifth season in 2000-01.

Despite their successes on the ice, the teams’ attendance steadily began to fall and accelerated once the team moved after ten years from the 7,000 seat Luedecke Arena at the Travis County Expo Center to the much smaller Chaparral Ice Arena which seats about 2,000. The Bats had hoped that the central location of the Arena and lower operating costs would help with their financial problems.

"We had hoped that (the fans) would support us at Chaparral, but when they saw the venue that we were playing in, they said no," said team owner Randy Sanders who also owns the Amarillo Gorillas. Attendance was under 61,000 for the 2007-08 season. "It is not financially feasible for the Ice Bats to continue playing in Chaparral Ice, even though they have been a great supporter of our team." Sanders said.

With the Dallas Stars moving their AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars to a brand-new $55 million, 6,800-seat multipurpose event center in nearby Cedar Park and with diminishing local media coverage and fan support, the Austin area has become less conducive to supporting a CHL franchise that is looking for growth.

The Wildcatter’s website states that local investors hope to bring a CHL franchise to the Beaumont area but details are yet undetermined. "There's been encouraging things, but when you get new people into the plan, they have new ideas, and it takes time to figure things out," said Sanders. Hughes said that Sanders could return to Beaumont soon and meet with more people for a chance to put a team in Beaumont for the 2009-10 season.

Hughes also said that Sanders had confirmed with him that the Ice Bats will sit out the 2008-09 season. “It wasn't a matter of terms. It's just he was unsuccessful in the time frame he had, which was a month, in finding a local investor."

Image Credit: Austin Ice Bats

Around the League: Rapid City Rush

The CHL’s newest franchise prepares for its inaugural season

The newest CHL expansion franchise, The Rapid City Rush will kick off its inaugural season this fall. Corporate advertising and season ticket sales have been strong so far and management is excited about the upcoming season. The Rush anticipate remaining on the road for at least the first 8-10 games until they can move into the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Hockey Arena.

The arena, which is currently being renovated, is scheduled for completion in December. The venue will seat 5,200 with 400 club seats and 14 luxury boxes.

"It's going to be gorgeous," said head coach Joe Ferras said. "And the way it's built, there's not a bad seat in the house. We're very excited."

Ferras spent 13 years as a professional hockey player and coached the CHL’s Amarillo Gorillas for five seasons between 2001 and 2006, making the playoffs four consecutive times. He most recently served as the Assistant Coach for the New York Islanders AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers during the 2006-07 season. He holds a 174-136-23 overall head coaching record and 161-132-23 as a CHL Coach.

Ferras is busy recruiting prospects and have signed two players so far, Forward Brady Olsen from the Queen’s University Golden Gaels and Center Stephen Cooke from the University of Prince Edwards Island Panthers. Ferras has said he is especially seeking strong goaltending.

"Your goaltender is your best penalty killer," Ferras said. "…goaltenders are the guys that make coaches look very good. And our goal is to have great goaltending."

The Rush is touting all the amenities of the Rapid City area as well as the facilities available to the players. The team, owned by three Rapid City businessmen, is doing all they can to attract the best talent.

"We want to treat these guys as good as we can," said General Manager Jason Rent. "This league has a salary cap, and the way to make yourself look better than the other franchises is to take care of guys."

Players will be housed in new town homes on the Red Rock Meadows golf course community and will travel to games either by first-class air or in a brand new $600,000 bus that can sleep 23. Emphasis is put on the state-of-the-art ice arena with a locker room that will “rival those of any major league team.” The team website’s recruiting page includes an impressive video and photos and floor plans of the town homes.

The team plans to become very involved in outreach to the Black Hills community. "Right out of the gate, we are the community's team, and we want everyone to know that," Ferras said. The Rush plan to give back to the community that has welcomed them through various programs, events and fundraising campaigns. "We're going to put a product on the ice that they're going to be proud of. Not just on the ice, but they're going to proud of these 20 individuals off the ice."

Image Credit: Rapid City Rush

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Letter To The Editor from Mike Barack

Some Hockey In Tarrant County

Posted May 27, 2008 on

In response to Bud Kennedy's May 18 column ("Once Texans cheered for Wings"): It's amazing how we all remember the "good old days."

It's interesting that Kennedy looked back on hockey history in Fort Worth and remembered only the highest peaks.

Although it's a great history with many exciting games against the rival Dallas Blackhawks, the fact is that multiple owners couldn't keep hockey alive in Cowtown.

The Rangers, Wings, Texans and even the Fort Worth Fire couldn't keep hockey going in Kennedy's favorite city. In fact, there were multiple ownership and financial issues through the years, causing a lack of stability and longevity.

What's more puzzling is that Kennedy didn't mention that hockey would be played in Fort Worth now if not for the mayor and his City Council colleagues.

After nine years of hockey in Fort Worth at the Convention Center and Will Rogers Coliseum, generating more than a million dollars in revenue for the city and hundreds of thousands of dollars in the community, the city decided to bring in a minor-league basketball team prior to the 2005-06 season.

Despite being provided mountains of financial and historical evidence about the viability of the NBA "D" League and how this would cause financial harm to the Brahmas, the city decided to bring in the Fort Worth Flyers. Now the city is left holding the bag of more than $150,000 and is having to sue that organization on lack-of-payment grounds.

Meanwhile, Mayor Mike Moncrief let our fans know that the Brahmas did not "win enough games" or "draw enough fans" to gain the city's interest. Yet on many weekends, the Brahmas drew 5,000 to 6,000 fans and provided quality entertainment. We also paid our bills and were phenomenal community players.

Meanwhile, in what has been a blessing, the Brahmas sat out a season and moved to our new home in North Richland Hills this year.

Thanks to that city, loyal fans, committed sponsors and a dash of local ownership (NYTEX Sports businessmen Salvatore and Frank Trazzera joined forces with Stuart Fraser and Andy Moog), we were able to return top-flight hockey to Tarrant County at the newly renovated NYTEX Sports Centre.

We've been embraced by the city and its leaders, and our fans were treated to a team that came one goal and one game short of reaching the Central Hockey League championship round.

We're excited about the hockey interest that was fueled these past few weeks by the Dallas Stars, in addition to the Brahmas' fantastic playoff run throughout April.

As for those who may remember what it used to be -- they don't have to. Professional hockey is available right in your back yard as the Brahmas gun for a CHL President's Cup in 2008-09.

-- Mike Barack, General Manager, Texas Brahmas Hockey Club, North Richland Hills

You can read the original story Mike is responding to, "Cowtown: Once a hockey town"
By Star-Telegram Staff Writer Bud Kennedy

Monday, May 26, 2008

Around the league: Collective bargaining negotiations begin

Date set for initial meeting between union, league

The initiation of formal negotiations between the Professional Hockey Players Association and the Central Hockey League began on May 21-23rd. CHL Communications director Bob Hoffman said the league wanted to have at least one meeting with the PHPA before the league conference in mid-June to begin negotiations on the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The PHPA had announced their certification by the National Labor Relations Board as the recognized collective bargaining unit for Central Hockey League Players. CHL players voted in favor of union representation through a secret ballot vote, conducted by the NLRB throughout the week of March 17-21. Each active CHL player was afforded the opportunity to vote for or against PHPA representation. The ballots were counted on March 25th with formal certification taking place on April 1st after a 7-day objection period.

“This is a watershed moment in hockey history, and we very much look forward to working with CHL players and management to create stable, sustainable markets with enhanced benefits and working conditions,” said PHPA Executive Director, Larry Landon. “I am confident that CHL Owners will embrace the credibility which the League will receive with our involvement,” said Landon. “We look forward to working with CHL players, in the advancement and protection of their rights, thereby enhancing their experience in professional hockey.”

Once the certification took place, each player was forwarded a Collective Bargaining Agreement questionnaire, which the union uses to create negotiation strategies as it pertains to the player’s thoughts and desires on issues important to them. The PHPA negotiating team is comprised of 3-6 CHL players, 2 attorneys and PHPA staff, guided by the findings obtained by the questionnaire

You can read the questionnaire

You can read a summary of the current AHL Collective Bargaining Agreement here

You can read a summary of the current ECHL Collective Bargaining Agreement

The PHPA was founded in 1967 and is the labor union representing over 1400 players on 54 teams in the American Hockey League (AHL) and the ECHL (formerly the East Coast Hockey League). The main function of the PHPA is to negotiate and protect player benefits by way of a Collective Bargaining Agreement. These benefits include: health and welfare benefits, training camp allowances, travel and trade relocation expenses, daily per diem, housing allowances, licensing rights, revenue-sharing, and Membership Assistance Programs. The PHPA is the only union in professional sports representing players at the minor league level.

Image Credit: Professional Hockey Players Association

Texas Brahmas rumored to
be looking at ECHL Goaltender Steve Silverthorn

Idaho Steelheads goaltender available

The Brahmas are said to be looking to add some height to their goaltending and someone they are rumored to be looking at is former Idaho Steelheads (ECHL) goaltender Steve Silverthorn.

The 27-year-old played at Coach Wildfong’s alma mater,
Colgate University, and is looking for a fresh start. After the Alaska Aces swept the Steelheads out of the playoffs with a 4-0 series win in the opening round, Silverthorn announced his intention to leave the team. "I enjoyed my time here, but obviously there comes a time in your career when you've got to move on," he said.

At 6’ 2”, 190 lbs, Silverthorn was a member of the Steelheads 2007 Kelly Cup Championship team. He was named Kelly Cup Playoffs MVP, after posting a 16-6 record while setting new ECHL playoff records for wins (16) and minutes played (1,388) in a single postseason. He finished the 2006-2007 regular season ranked 1st in the ECHL with 36 wins, 8th in GAA (2.57), 18th in SV% (90.8%), T-2nd in shutouts (5), T-1st in shootout wins (6), 3rd in minutes played (3,435) and 5th in saves (1,451).
Update: reported that Silverthorn has signed with German team EC Bad Tolz.

Photo Credit: Allen Picard

Saturday, May 24, 2008

"Making The Cut 2008" Coming in September"

Two Training camp contracts will be offered

The Texas Brahmas have announced their Making The Cut 2008 prospect camp will take place at the NYTEX Sports Centre in September.

Two official Central Hockey League (CHL) training camp contracts will be issued to players at the end of camp selected by Brahmas Head Coach Dan Wildfong and Assistant Coach Forbes MacPherson.

At last years camp, 21 athletes attended and unexpectedly, five players were offered invitations and contracts to the Brahmas training camp. "The guys did an amazing revealing what kind of skills they had. The decision reached by the Making the Cut staff was challenging. It took all of us to decide to ultimately bring in five guys. It is very encouraging to see such incredible talent out there..." said Coach Wildfong.

Specific dates and schedules will be announced during the Summer. Click
here for more information.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Texas Brahmas Day - April 28, 2008

Brahmas honored by city leaders

The City of North Richland Hills, Texas recognized the Brahmas during its April 28 City Council meeting and declared April 28, 2008 as "Texas Brahmas Day" in recognition of the team and its many accomplishments during the 2007-08 season . A good number of fans attended the event as well as Texas Brahmas players, coaches, ownership, management and staff. General Manager Mike Barack and Coach Dan Wildfong spoke at the event.

North Richland Hills mayor, Oscar Trevino, was presented with a team autographed stick.

"We cannot be more excited about our partnership and relationship with the City of North Richland Hills," said NYTEX Sports President Frank Trazzera. "The city has embraced both the team and our facility and we are truly appreciative of their support."

Afterwards many of the players stayed to hang out with the fans and with each other before heading their separate ways for the off-season.

Click here to read the Texas Brahmas Day proclamation. Click here to watch video of the City Council presentation honoring the Brahmas. Click here for more photos from the event.

What a season!

Fans witness remarkable return of the Texas Brahmas

What an incredible season for the Texas Brahmas! The Brahmas returned to the Central Hockey League after a one year hiatus to skate their way to within one game of the Presidents Cup.

These milestones were originally published on the Texas Brahmas website on 04/25/08:

· The Brahmas finished the regular season with a 40-22-2 record. The 40 victories are tied for 2nd in franchise history. Texas ended the season as the league’s hottest team as they went 23-5-1 in their last 29 games.

· Texas finished with 82 points, which was 5th in the 17 team CHL.

· Captain Blair Manning scored his 500th CHL career point.

· Goaltender David Cacciola won his 50th CHL career game.

· Forward Scott Sheppard recorded his 100th CHL career goal.

· Brahmas standout defenseman Justin Kinnunen was invited and competed in the CHL All-Star Game in January.

· Rookie forward Tyler Skworchinski was named to the CHL All-Rookie team.

· The Brahmas and the NYTEX Sport Centre had five sell outs; four in the regular season and one playoff game.

· The Brahmas reached the CHL playoffs for the first time since the 2000-01 season.

· Texas was able make it to the Northern Conference Finals, coming only one game and one goal short of the Finals. They defeated the Mississippi RiverKings in the Semi-Finals and swept the Governor’s Cup champions, the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs in the Quarterfinals. They extended the defending President Cup champion Colorado Eagles to the final minute of the 7th game before the season concluded.