Utah Grizzlies vs Wichita Thunder: Finding a Way

With the exception of a newly activated Christian Frey, the roster remained the same as it had been on Wednesday.

First Period

  • Much sharper start from the Grizzlies tonight, they’ve picked up the first two shots in the first couple of minutes.
  • Make that first three. Gage Ausmus takes the puck around the back of the net and puts it right on J.T. Henke’s stick. Unfortunately Stuart Skinner was there to meet it.
  • MIKE ECONOMOS KNOCKS OUR SOCKS OFF. (With some help from the Ryans!)
  • Shots are 6-3 for Utah with just under nine minutes to go, so definitely a better first period effort.
  • Kevin Carr is very sharp tonight.
  • Travis Barron and Pierre-Cedric Labrie had words after that whistle. No penalties thus far.
  • Austin Carroll and Marc-Olivier Crevier-Morin definitely building up some ill-will on that shift!
  • Labrie spends almost a whole shift blatantly trying to goad Zahn into a fight. Zahn eventually gets fed up, and both get roughing calls.
  • Now Barron and Dyson Stevenson exchange words.
  • Preeettty sure Stan Dzakhov should have drawn a tripping call there…
  • Well, that was a very fun first period!!

Second Period

  • YIKES! That’s one way to start the second! A series of bobbled pucks by Wichita and saves by Carr eventually leads to a slashing call on Barron.
  • That was a pretty nice shift by the Grizzlies after the penalty was killed off!
  • That looked bad. J.T. Henke gets hit by the net as it flies off its moorings…He stays on the bench, however, and seems none-the-worse for wear.
  • Well, that’s not what you want. Jesse Gabrielle gets behind the Utah defensemen and beats Carr.
  • Ausmus with a thunderous hit that sure got the crowd going!
  • That Ryan Misiak-Barron chance was almost a fantastic short-handed goal. Sadly, the key word is almost.
  • Wichita has definitely played a lot harder this game in general, and this period in particular.
  • That was a really good shift from Misiak and company, and it leads to a power play!
  • You know that thing that we just said about Carr? It’s relevant again.
  • What a nice power play goal from Tim McGauley. (<–to be read the way Tyson calls it, of course.)

  • What a nice almost goal number two from McGauley.

Third Period

  • That McGauley, Henke, Barron line is looking strong tonight.
  • Watching Carr when he’s on his game like this is always such a treat. He’s so cool and collected, even when there’s a crowd around the net and rebounds are coming in from every direction.
  • Misiak can’t believe that was off-sides, and neither can the fans.
  • That was not one of their better power plays.
  • Ausmus and Misiak have had strong nights tonight.
  • The later in the game we go the more nerve-racking these icings are.
  • Empty net Wichita, talk about nerve-racking.
  • Shots are now 31-20 for the Thunder…
  • Grizzlies win 3-1!!!

Tim McGauley’s tenth of the season, and the eventual game winner, got him first star honors, while Carr’s 30/31 saves earned him second star, and Walters’ two assists and over-all strong play saw him named third star.

“I think Wichita out played us the majority of the game,” said Coach Branham said of the match. “You know what though, we were opportunistic, probably could have scored three or four goals there in the second even though we didn’t play well. Power play once again got us one, that was huge, the game winner, but at the end of the day, we were able to keep them to the outside, we were able to close off rebounds and clear the rebounds. At no point did I think we were in trouble. I think in the second period they had a few chances and we just kind of stopped playing a little bit, we just had to get our battle and our compete level back. But for the most part we found a way to get two points, it was good, good teams do that, we’ve gotta make sure we have a more consistent effort tomorrow for sure.”

“I thought Carr was good. He was really good. Especially late in that game, in the third when shots were coming in, he was able to steer them to the corner, or in the glass, or out of play, it settles things down for us, that’s for sure. Then his ability to play the puck — gets us out of trouble. He’s a competitor, that’s for sure. I know he’s probably wanted to play a lot more games this year, and right now he’s getting his chance, and getting in a rhythm. There’s a reason we brought him back. He’s a heck of a goaltender.”

When asked about the game, Carr said, “The guys played really well in front of me, helped me see a lot of shots, kept them mostly to the outside, so I think we’ve gotta bring that effort tomorrow night.”

“They’re a good team” he added. “We have to respect them, just like every other team in this league, and I think we’re just playing the right way right now, just gotta keep it going.”

The Grizzlies look close out the home stand with a sweep tomorrow night.


Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff.

Utah Grizzlies: A Winning Note

It was a good night, a good game, a good crowd, and the rousing chorus of Happy Birthday addressed to first star and birthday boy Caleb Herbert was just icing on the cake.

“I thought it was nice to get out on the right foot there, especially here at home in front of the fans. They brought the energy tonight, and it definitely helped us. Congratulations to Coach on his all-time winning record there, that was awesome to get that out of the way for him” Herbert said after the game.

Utah picked up a 4-2 win against Rapid City on opening night, on the strength of two goals and an assist from Herbert, and a terrific 26 save showing from the newly arrived Joe Cannata, and it was a momentous one. Not only was it a good start to a new year and affiliation, but the win also gave Head Coach Tim Branham his 179th, and the franchise record for wins by a head coach.

“Obviously I owe a lot to the players, to my staff, to the organization for sticking with me and giving me the opportunity, so it’s nice.” Branham said after the game. “I’m glad we got to get it out of the way, and we can just focus on moving forward and getting as many wins as we can.”

Utah began strong, before Rapid City found their legs. Cannata made a few saves early, and then Josh Winquist found himself all alone in the offensive zone, and put Utah up 1-0 just 2:57 into the game. The whole line got in on the action as Caleb Herbert and Cole Ully drew the assists.

Austin Carroll made his presence felt early and often, but unfortunately a flubbed clearing attempt by Brendan Harms led to an uncontested look by Adam Marsh, who tied it up at 9:12. Moments later, yet another Rush player was once again left alone in front of the net, but Cannata was there to make the save.

R.T. Rice made an emphatic debut shortly thereafter, laying a couple of monster hits before the Grizzlies drew their first power play. The advantage struck just 33 seconds in. Herbert got his first goal of the night, Winquist picked up his second point, and Walters got the secondary.

At 18:39 Taylor Richart took a stick to the face, and Utah made Rapid City pay again, as Herbert got goal number two from defenseman Kevin Davis, and Walters about forty seconds into the power play.

The teams hit the rooms after an exciting period, advantage Utah 3-1, shots 10-9 in their favor.

Rapid City got a couple of offensive zone shifts to start the second, but both teams picked up a shot with no change in score. The Winquist, Herbert, Ully line continued to look dangerous every time they hit the ice, nearly combining for one a couple of minutes in.

Through the middle of the second, the Grizzlies and Rush traded penalties, but despite some big hits and a couple of scoring chances, neither team capitalized.

Rapid City nearly drew within one, pouncing on a turnover, and leaving Richart and Cannata to fend off a three-on-one. Fortunately, Cannata was more than up for the challenge.

Utah took two more penalties towards the end of the period as things got chippy, but after forty they maintained their 3-1 lead.

Ully continued to have a strong game in the third, along with Winquist and Herbert, and Winquist and Gage Ausmus nearly pulled off a two-on-one while killing off a Matt Berry penalty.

Teigan Zahn and Riley Weselowski were called for roughing at 13:05, but there was no change until Matt Pufahl took a hooking call with less than two minutes to go. The Rush called their time out and pulled their goalie, and at 19:24, Tim McGauley scored on the empty net.

With less than 20 seconds left in the game, Rapid City made it 4-2 on a scramble, but that was as close as they came.

Herbert, Cannata, and Walters were named the three stars of the game, but guys like Ully and Ottenbreit also impressed.

“That line is pretty exciting with Herbert and Ully and Winquist,” Branham said of the top line who put up a combined six points, “It’s an exciting line for the fans, that’s for sure. They like to get after it, push the pace, and get creative, so we saw how good those guys are, we just gotta make sure that those other lines are following suit and working hard to get their chances.”

Of the first star specifically, Branham added, “He’s a good player, he’s good in the face-off circle, he’s very talented, and he wants to do well, and when you’ve got guys like that that want to prove themselves and produce at this level so they can get to the next level it’s fun to coach. Good teammate right there, and he’s definitely got a good surrounding cast around him.”

“It definitely helps, just building that camaraderie, and confidence in the locker room, it definitely helps to get off to with a nice win at home,” Herbert said, but the overall message was clear. “We need to keep it going, it’s just one game, we need to string a few together and keep our foot on the gas.”

As Branham noted, there are still things to work on, but it was a promising start to the new season.


Photo courtesy of Tim Broussard and staff

Utah Grizzlies: Step Up

In the second game in two nights against Fort Wayne, the Grizzlies looked to avenge their 4-2 loss. And avenge it they did.

With Mitch Jones out after missing most of the third period, Ryan Walters back from the AHL, and Garrett Haar drawing in for his first game of the season, the Grizzlies went with five defencemen and eleven forwards. Tim Branham also elected to go with the hot hand, so Kevin Carr once again got the start in front of 7,656 fans.

“The guys were excited. I know we got beat last night, and were motivated not to get swept” Walters said after the game. “You can’t lose two in a row at home. So our goal is just to go out there period by period, and that first period was huge for us. We got a lot of momentum, and it ended up working out in our favor for the rest of the game.”

You could tell from the get-go that it was going to be a big night from Ryan Walters, as the Walters, Michael Pelech, Charley Graaskamp line had a couple of good early shifts. Likewise, Brendan Harms, Ryan Misiak, and Ryan Olsen picked up right where they left off.

Despite the early jump from the top two Utah lines, Carr saw a lot of rubber in the first nine minutes of the period. But as always, he was his usual calm, cool, and collected self, turning aside every shot he faced.

While the Grizzlies may have been a little passive in the defensive zone early, there was nothing passive about their offensive output. C.J. Eick got a shot just past the ten minute mark, which drew a crowd.

Two shifts later, Pelech tossed the puck to Walters in front of the net, and Ryan tipped it in perfectly. Graaskamp got the secondary assist, and it all boded very well for the Grizzlies who were 5-0-1-0 when scoring first.

Eick got two minutes for hooking, and Fort Wayne went to the power play at 13:42, and a minute later Richart got taken down behind the play. Before play could be blown down, Walters got his second goal on a thrilling goal short-handed breakaway. Pelech once again got the primary assist, and Chris Leibinger got the secondary.

Marc-Olivier Roy went to the box for the rough on Richart, but Utah was not able to capitalize four-on-four or five-on-four. They did, however get some good puck movement. Carr turned aside Roy’s breakaway bid out of the box with, wand through the second half of the period, the Grizzlies were much sharper in front of him.

Harms had two strong moves on one shift with less than a minute left in the frame, and Travis Howe and Cody Sol exchanged words in a scrum that gathered with mere seconds left.

After the buzzer, both teams converged on the ice, and words were exchanged, but while there was a lengthy discussion, nothing came of it.

After 20, shots were 13-10 for Fort Wayne, but Utah held the 2-0 lead, thanks to Carr’s terrific goaltending, and Walters’ pair of goals.

The Grizzlies drew an early power play, and got a few good chances, including a great set-up for Richart from Graaskamp, but the took a too-many-men call half way through.

Ralph Cuddemi and the Komets got some chances of their own on the four-on-four, and on their ensuing power play, but Carr and the Grizzlies’ defence held them off.

Richart leveled Garrett Thompson at the blue line with about 12 minutes to go, and Utah pressed the Komets. Brendan and the Ryans had a great, hard-working shift, and Harms drew a power play with 10:45 to go.

Mere moments later, Utah got a two-man advantage, as Jamie Schaafsma got sent off for holding. Branham called his time out to get organized.

This time, the power play paid off.

It took lots of passes, and a clear, but Cliff Watson passed to Richart from the right circle, and Pelech tipped it in to make it 3-0.

Erik Higby took a penalty with 7:44 to go, but thanks once again to Carr, and the play of Watson, Richart, and the others, that one too was killed off.

Watson, Pelech, and Walters had a beautiful three-on-one in the minutes that followed, and were all a little too unselfish, passing the puck just a few too many times. In the end, it didn’t matter, as the Olsen line had a hard-working shift, and Richart scored at 16:04 with assists from Olsen and Harms.

Fort Wayne pulled Michael Houser after the goal, and rallied a bit around Garrett Bartus, but Utah got out of the period with the 4-0 lead, shots 24-17 for Fort Wayne.

Walters began the third with a nifty move in his bid for the hat-trick, but Bartus was up for the challenge.

Haar took an interference penalty, but once again, the Utah kill remained perfect.

Fort Wayne broke the shut out with 11:11 to go, scoring on their 27th shot, a frustrating turn of events followed by a good deal of door and stick slamming. Graaskamp and Sol went off with matching slashing calls immediately thereafter. Haar made his presence felt on the four-on-four with a big hit behind the Grizzlies’ net, but there was no change in score before both teams returned to full strength.

Unfortunately, Utah got stuck in their own zone for the second time at 12:26, and once again Komets scored..

That’s as bad as it got, however, and Olsen and Haar both gave Grizz fans something to cheer about with a couple of thunderous hits as the game entered the last five minutes.

Fort Wayne pulled Bartus with just under two minutes to go, but Misiak was hauled down shortly thereafter. Utah ended the game on the power play, but the Komets again pulled their goalie on to fish the game five-on-five.

The final buzzer saw another 4-2 victory, this time for Utah, despite Fort Wayne’s 31-20 edge on the shot clock.

Walters (two goals), Carr (29 saves), and Pelech (one goal, two assists) were the three stars of the game.

When asked about Carr’s great performance, Walters said, “Carrsy is a great goalie. We rely on him a lot. I wish sometimes we didn’t rely on him as much, maybe give him a break every once in a while, but he’s been great this year, and I hope he keeps it up, and we couldn’t ask for anything more from him either.”

While Walters was busy praising Carr, Branham had great things to say about the boost Ryan’s return gives the Grizzlies.

“Fortunately for us, Ryan is back. Obviously it makes an immediate impact. It’s nice to have him. It gives us a lot of depth up front, and allows Ryan Olsen’s line to do their thing, and gives Pelech and Walters a good second punch there.”

Walters, Pelech, and Carr were certainly the top three stand outs. However, with the exception of the shifts that led to the two Fort Wayne goals, the Grizzlies played a pretty complete game, both in terms of team contribution, and in terms of the overall game itself. That fact was pretty well reflected on the scoreboard.

Richart got his sixth goal of the year, and is now tied for the league lead in goals amongst defencemen, and Leibinger has clearly settled into his role, picking up his second point in five games.

Brendan Harms has really come into his own in the past couple of weeks, picking up four points in four games as he, together with Olsen and Misiak have put together a couple of impressive games. The line has combined for two goals and four assists in the last two games, and has clearly found some chemistry. They have easily been one of the team’s best lines—only overshadowed by the terrific play of Walters and Pelech.

“I thought all our guys were really good tonight,” Branham added, “Obviously Carrsy in net was tremendous early on. We’re taking strides forward. It was nice to get Garrett Haar back as well. I’m sure he was feeling it a little bit, not having played there for a little while, but he did a great job.”

Utah has now won eight of their last ten games, their abysmal start rapidly disappearing in the rear-view mirror as they look forward to next weekend’s tilts with the Colorado Eagles.


Photo courtesy of Jess Fleming

Get to Know the Staff: Tim Branham

Over the course of the season, we’ll be posting “Get to Know” Q&As with members of the Grizzlies staff and front office.

To kick off the series, we’re starting with Head Coach and General Manager Tim Branham!


Namiko Hitotsubashi: How did you get into hockey?

Tim Branham: My brother played. We played in a pretty big hockey town, small town, like 1200 people, but it was a big hockey town. He came home and said “Hey, my friends want me to play hockey” so my mom and dad were like, “Ok, that’s fine.” And then I was like, “Well, I wanna play hockey too!” Cause my older brother, right? “I wanna play!” I was like four at the time, “I wanna play too!” And they were like, “Well, why don’t you watch a year.” And I guess they had put me in dance or ballet or something, I forget, and I wouldn’t get through the door. Like, I had my arms locked in the doorway, they put me in events and I wouldn’t go in, wouldn’t do it, so I was like “I wanna play hockey,” and they were like “Ok. Why don’t you wait a year, and then if you still wanna play, we’ll put you in”.

I watched for a year, and I still wanted to play, so they put me in. And so, my brother’s like two years older than me, so like he’s on the next level up, always. His team would be practicing here, and my team would be practicing down here, and like half way through practice, coach would be like, “Where’s Tim?” And I guess I would go down to the other end, and be by my brother the whole time, and we’d be practicing with his team!

So, those are just the funny stories. That’s how I got into it. Played ever since.

NH: How did you come to coaching? Was that something you were always interested in?

TB: You know what, when I was in high school, I’d help out with John LaFontaine, Pat LaFontaine’s brother, he was one of my coaches, I’d help out with his hockey schools, LaFontaine hockey schools, and then I was like this is kind of cool, why can’t I start my own camp? So my first year pro I started my own camp, that was like, I dunno, 15 years ago, whatever it is, and from there, it was kind of well, I like doing this. And then at the end of my career, I broke my hand, so I just helped out (it was in Reading), I just helped out Larry Courville behind the bench one year, we went on a long playoff run, and they just brought me back the next year, and I liked it, and just kept doing it.

NH: How did you end up being the GM as well? Is that common in the ECHL?

TB: I guess technically every coach is the GM? Except maybe in Fort Wayne? And maybe Florida? I mean, every coach–maybe I have more responsibilities than a coach? But from a hockey standpoint, every coach assigns his players. Every coach is the hockey GM. He manages the salary cap, does contracts, chooses his team, that kind of thing. I mean, I do have say in some other stuff, I guess, General Manager duties, but that kind of just came with the territory.

NH: Where was your favourite place to play as a player?

TB: Gosh. Barrie was nice, in the OHL. That was a really great town. It’s grown a lot now, a lot of people from Toronto have moved out there cause it’s just cheaper and they can take the GO Train out there, so it’s a lot bigger, a lot more people than it used to be. It used to be a really nice small town. Guelph was nice, Guelph was a good spot too. I really liked St. John, New Brunswick, that was my first year pro, that’s a neat town too.

ECHL? I always wanted to come here and coach, because I came here as a player, and thought it was really nice. So, when the job came open, I was like, “I wanna go to Utah for sure.” Because I was offered the Stockton job before the Utah job. I was offered a job in the SPHL, I was offered the assistant job in Orlando, so I’m like “Aww…I wanna go to Utah…” So I came out here and interviewed, and it was great. Worked out perfect.

NH: What was it about Utah, what is it about Utah that you love so much?

TB: The mountains, the mountains just get ya. It’s just gorgeous. The rink is amazing, I didn’t know the fans at the time, right? So it was just more like the city, and the mountains’re just gorgeous, the rink, all that kind of stuff. I knew a couple of guys that helped me with hockey camp, the Adameks, one of them was up in Park City, the other I think moved to Wisconsin, I knew they were from here, really liked it. I mean, everyone I talked to just loved it here, and then just visiting here, it was gorgeous right? And then you move here, now I like it for different reasons. The people that are here, the fans, there’s so much to do! And then you throw on top the mountains, and everything like that. The way of life is just…it’s a good spot. All those reasons. Makes it really hard to leave.

NH: Do you have a favourite spot to coach now that you’re here? Or a team that you enjoy playing against?

TB: I enjoy playing against Colorado, in Colorado. It’s a hostile environment, they’re always good, and I enjoy that. I enjoy that challenge. Idaho as well. Their crowd is not as hostile, I guess, as Colorado’s, but it’s a nice, cosy rink, really good. Our division is the toughest division by far. Every game is hard, right? It’s nice to go to Orlando, the Amway Center, everyone’s got tons of family, I’ve got tons of family down there, so that’s pretty neat going down there and playing. But yeah, probably those three.

NH: Do you have a favourite hockey related story? For you, or anything that you’ve heard or seen?

TB: For me, the favourite part is the winning part. Won a championship in major junior, played in two Memorial Cups, and then winning an ECHL championship, those are just special, special moments, right? You just want to get that feeling back, right? So those are probably my favourite. Getting drafted, obviously for me, that was pretty neat, so probably those, those memories.

NH: This is kind of a cop-out question, but is there anything you wish they would ask and don’t, or something that you’d like people to know that they don’t already?

TB: No, that’s the thing, right? A lot of times, moves are made, and people, maybe they don’t know the whole reason, so they’re like “Why! Why did we do this, why did we do that?” A lot of times, at the chalk talks I’ll tell them if I can. If it’s something that’s not done yet, or I shouldn’t say, then I don’t, but usually there’s a pretty good reason I’m doing something, but at the end of the day, I’m just doing my job. I’ve definitely learned that people are going to like you, people are going to–I don’t know about hate, but maybe dislike you for certain things, and you can’t make everybody happy, so I just go about my business, try to do my job as best I can.

So far it’s gone pretty good. I really think that I’ve done a good job here, I think I can do better. I learn every day, try to be a better coach. More importantly, we want to win, and we want to make sure we bring in good people into the community so that this community can be a part of what we have, can continue to grow that. Cause if they have, what is it, ten years in a row? Increase in attendance, and making the playoffs, that’s something to be said for everybody. Jared, the front office, me, the teams, the past coaches that have been here–I mean in the past everyone made the playoffs…

NH: One year the entire Mountain Division made the playoffs…

Yeah, I think it was, when I took over it was the first year that not everyone made it, and my first year, it was everyone but one team, Vegas, they were so bad, right?

But I think it’s… that’s a real honour to have accomplished. And to still be around, right? I mean, the longevity of a minor league pro hockey team is ten years, maybe less. So for our team to be doing what we’re doing, we’ve got good people in place, and they’re doing a good job.



Photo Courtesy of Josie Vimahi/Utah Grizzlies

Interview Part I: The Basics of Contracts

Earlier this summer, I got to sit down with Head Coach Tim Branham to talk hockey.

Given that the off-season work of finalizing 2016-17 trades and rosters had just ended, and the beginnings of the 2017-18 team were underway, it seemed like an appropriate time to get into the nitty-gritty of contracts, and the thought-process that goes into building an ECHL team.

In this first of a two-part Q&A, we talk the salary cap, one-way vs. two-way contracts, the protected list, season-ending rosters, and college signings.

Namiko Hitotsubashi: Let’s start with the salary cap: How exactly does it work? Are contracts all one year long?

Tim Branham: Contracts are 24-hour contracts. A player could sign a contract today, and I could cut them tomorrow. It’s just on a daily rate. So they sign a weekly rate, but you pay them on a daily rate. Our salary cap is a weekly salary cap. The last year was 1,2600 dollars, next year it goes up to 12,800, so next year I have 12,800 dollars a week to sign 20 players. So the players on the reserve don’t count to the salary cap. Players on the injury reserve, as well, don’t count on the salary cap. So we have 20 active roster spots, two reserve spots, which we can put on and off at any time, then you get as many players as you want on the injured reserve. Any players on the injury reserve or the reserve don’t count to the salary cap. And you can have less than 20 players on the salary cap. My first two years, I would go one less player a lot of times, put 19 on the active roster.

NH: When you have guys on one-way vs two-way contracts, how does that work?

TB: That’s different. AHL or NHL contracts, those are year long contracts. Well, they’re a year contract. They get paid—say they signed for 60 thousand dollars, they get paid only during the hockey season. So they get a pretty good chunk of change through the hockey season, but they don’t get paid in the summer, so that’s how those contracts work. But not the ECHL contracts. There’s always been talk about the ECHL going to, like, maybe five guaranteed contracts. You know, you can sign like…a Jon Puskar to a guaranteed contract. You know you’re not gonna trade him, he’s not going anywhere, but it’s too difficult, and the owners haven’t decided on doing that.

NH: Does that mean that ECHL contracts don’t get paid out through the summer?

TB: Correct. ECHL players do not get paid in the summer.

NH: When, say, a Kevin Boyle comes and plays for the Grizzlies, what does that mean in terms of contracts?

TB: So that’s under Anaheim. It does count toward the salary cap. Any of those contracted players, whether it’s American League, or NHL, they count to 525 on the cap, so 525 dollars. If you get good contracted players, that’s awesome, cause they’re really cheap on the salary cap. Whereas that player, say it’s like, Charlie Sarault, he’s making X amount of money–lots of money–X amount of money, playing here, but he only counts at 525 on the salary cap, where if you want to sign Charlie to an ECHL deal, that’s like a thousand-dollar player, so you get him for 525 on the cap. So it’s beneficial to have a good affiliate that sends good players.

NH: So, there was a protected list, and then there was an end of season roster. What are they exactly, and what is the difference?

TB: I’ve always wondered what those rosters mean, and I was always rolling my eyes, because I just felt that they were really dumb, however, having said that, finally, this year, I was like, ‘Oh this is why they have the list!’ because I had future considerations out there, so that first list you put out, you can have as many players on there as you want. There are certain limitations to what players can be on it, so like, the players that you protected the year before, but didn’t sign the qualifying offer, you still have their rights. So like, those qualifying offers I just issued out, if those players don’t sign them, I still own their rights all year. So if they want to play in this league, they have to play for me. That being said, if they don’t sign that offer, I can sign them for whatever I want. I can sign them for league minimum, 450 a week, if I wanted, or we can negotiate a different amount. But I own their rights.

That first list is like, ‘Hey, this is my protected list. These are the players that I have the rights to.’ All the players that finished our season, all the players that didn’t sign their qualifying offers, all the players that have been in the American League, but that you signed to ECHL deals, then from that list– so I had future considerations out there, right, I traded [Erik] Bradford and [Tim] Daly, traded Colin Martin to Toledo, in order to get [Gabriel] Verpaelst. That’s the deal I made.

I can recruit a whole new team for next season so making the playoffs is a top priority.  Next year really doesn’t matter.

NH: Especially if it’s just signing rights…

TB: Yeah. I could go sign a whole new team. Oh, I lost two players? Ok, I’ve gotta go find that player again. It doesn’t matter. In this league, it doesn’t matter. So I never care about next year, ever. I need to do what I need to do to make playoffs, and to win this year. I know that’s hard to understand, and hard to take sometimes, like, the next year, sometimes you wish you had players, but you gotta do what you gotta do to make playoffs, and I really feel like the moves I made helped us make playoffs. Sometimes they turn out, and sometimes they don’t. I really feel like most of my trades have been good. There’ve been a couple I regret, but for the most part…

Anyway, so that protected list, that first list that goes out, the teams I have future considerations with, they can choose from that list, however you traded. Those are the players you have rights to, so those are the players that you can trade now to the other teams that you owe futures to. I owed one to Toledo for Bradford, I owed two players to Norfolk, and really, honestly, all those are is gentlemen’s agreements. Future considerations mean nothing to the league, it’s just a gentlemen’s agreement between the two coaches.

And then once I’ve made those trades, then what is it, June 15th? So then June 15th the other list goes out. Now, that’s a max of 20 players. So like, I traded those three players away, but I still had like, 24, 23 or 24 players I had to chose from. Players I know aren’t gonna play, or I don’t want next year, I’m not going to protect them. And then you have between June 16th, and July 1st to sign any of the players that you want for next year, keeping in mind that come July 1st, you can only qualify, you can only protect, eight of those players, so you want to sign as many as you can. So like, I’ve brought back a lot of players this year, players that I’ve already signed, tons of them, right? I’m really happy about that.

But, at the end of the day, if none of them wanted to come back, I can only protect eight of them. But I was fortunate. I got a bunch of them signed, then I only had to get off six qualifying offers. There’s no point in qualifying a veteran, say like, [Michael] Pelech or [Mathieu] Aubin. If they get a qualifying offer from me, since they’re veterans, they played more than 260 games, come September 1st, they’re free agents, they can go wherever they want. So it doesn’t really make sense to qualify a veteran, that’s why you hardly see veteran players get qualified. Just because if they wait it out, the can go sign anywhere they want. That’s why there are hardly ever any veterans on that list.

NH: So with someone like a Marc-André Lévesque, who signed in France, if he wants to come back and play in the ECHL, he has to come back here?

Yeah, he’s got to come back and play for me now. He signed in France, and now he has to play for me.

NH: When you’re going to sign a whole new team at the beginning of the next year, basically the pool you can then draw from is anyone who hasn’t signed an agreement with another team, and is a free agent?

TB: Correct. Yeah, so any player – if you’re on an American League deal last year, say like, who did we have, Kenton Helgesen. There’s no ECHL rights attached to him, cause he’s on an NHL deal, so anybody can sign him right now. Any of the free agents could have played in the ECHL, could have played in the American League, could have played in Europe, Division I college players, Division III college players, major junior players (OHL, WHL, Quebec Major Junior League), those are the players that you’re pooling from to sign for next year.

NH: With college signings, we had one guy that you signed last season to play for us this coming season, Brandon Harms I think? How does that work?

TB: When I claimed him on waivers, and he didn’t report, we suspended him, and were able to keep his rights for the following season. Those are ECHL rules.

NH: So when you suspend a player mid season you keep his rights?

TB: That’s right, you can keep his rights for the next year. Like Robbie Donahoe, I know there’s a couple of other D-men that I had suspended, but I didn’t end up protecting them, I didn’t have enough spaces, but yeah, like Robbie Donahoe I could have protected. If they sign an ECHL contract, and then you suspend them after the first day, then you can keep their rights and qualify them for the next year.

NH: Then you also had Robbie Nichols, the goalie who came and played one game for us?

TB: Robbie Nichols, I could have protected him, but I didn’t.

NH: In a situation like that, is there a deadline before which you can or can’t sign college players, how does signing players out of college work?

TB: During the season, you can sign them any time, it’s like an amateur try out, but they’re not going to come to you until their school, until their season is done. In the summer, you can sign them any time. Well, sorry. After June 16th. So technically, you can’t sign anyone till June 16th.


Look for part two on the anatomy of an ECHL team in the coming days!


Image courtesy of Josie Vimahi/Utah Grizzlies