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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Granato to be new Wolves coach

Don Granato is rumored to be the next Head Coach of the Chicago Wolves. Granato won the Louis A R Pieri Memorial Award in 2001 while at the helm of the Worcester IceCats. He has generally been associated with the St. Louis Blues organization. Granato was at the helm of the IceCats in 2005 when he was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, a form of cancer that spreads in the lymph nodes.

The cancer was defeated with chemotherapy at Loyola University Medical Center and a second round as part of a trial called Stanford V. Granato told the Peoria Journal Star’s David Eminian “Chemo is hard. I was sick to my stomach every moment, every day, couldn’t look at food.”

“I thought I was going to die,” Granato told the Journal Star.

Granato says he was cheered when “he looked at his Peoria championship ring, and (read) the single word Granato and the team chose to have engraved on its side panel: ‘Relentless,’” Eminian wrote.

“I looked at the ring and there was that word, and it’s what I needed,” Granato said. “When you are fighting for your own survival, you discover how much you have to live for.”

Granato led the Green Bay Gamblers to back-to-back national championships in the USHL in 1995 and 1996. He led the ECHL Peoria Rivermen to the Kelly Cup in 2000. St. Louis named him to be the first head coach of the AHL Peoria Rivermen, but removed him prior to the 2005-6 season, due to his illness. He was offered a scouting job with the organization instead.

With other members of his family, he runs a hockey camp based at Seven Bridges Hockey Rink in Woodridge, Ill. aimed at developing women’s hockey skills. The Granato family is deep into the hockey world. His sister, Cammi Granato, is the all-time leading scorer in women’s International tournament games. She captained the Gold Medal US Team at the Nagano 1998 Winter Olympics. Tony Granato, his brother, is the head coach of the Colorado Avalanche. Rob Granato was a captain on the University of Wisconsin hockey team. The Chicago Wolves did not return calls seeking comment.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hockey in July

Normally at this time of the year, the hockey blog is on vacation. Between the end of the professional season in mid-June and the early July camps for prospects, the next big event is usually the September training camps.

A few items may be newsworthy of course. Today, for example, the Chicago Wolves said they’d agreed to a deal with Brian Sipotz, a native of South Bend, IN.

Meanwhile the Chicago Blackhawks and the NHL dragged some boards out into Wrigley Field yesterday and talked about the outdoor game planned for New Year’s Day, 2009. As has been mentioned in several articles, how long has it been since hockey made the front of the sports pages in this town? IN JULY?

Sipotz had the leading +/- for players in the AHL regular season in 2007.

The Blackhawks President, John McDonough, the former President of the Chicago Cubs, returned to Wrigley for the first time since he joined the Hawks. The players were wandering around talking about what it would be like to play outdoors. They used the word “fun.” Tickets will probably be priced, according to a story in the Chicago Sun-Times, at $250.00 each and will be hard to get anyway.

Sipotz has played for the Wolves for several seasons. He isn’t an Atlanta prospect. His contract is owned by the Wolves.

In a 2006 game played at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI, 40,890 attended. The game held on New Year’s Day 2008 attracted 71,217 to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, NY. “At Lambeau, the ice got chopped up real fast, and if it snows, it’ll be even worse, “ Hawk winger Adam Burish told the Sun-Times. “But who cares? It’s the experience.”

At a meeting of the Chicago Wolves Booster Club yesterday, team representatives had no news about a replacement for John Anderson, the four-time championship coach who is now in Atlanta.

“We’ll play like we’re young boys,” Denis Savard told the Sun-Times. “It’s the fun of a lifetime.”

The Wolves reps told the Booster Club Tuesday the summer was the busiest time of the year for the sales staff. Until the Hawks started generating news, it was the quietest period of the year for the hockey blog.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New aggressive BHawks threaten Wolves

The Chicago Blackhawks are promoting themselves in a much more aggressive marketing campaign, according to a story in today’s Chicago Tribune. With a slogan of “One Goal,” the team has announced it engaged the leading advertising agency of Ogilvy & Mather. This follows the decision, last season, to hire Chicago Cubs President John McDonough as the president of the Blackhawks.

Following the success of the outdoor game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Pittsburgh Penguins on New Year’s Day, 2008, McDonough is understood to have pitched the idea for an Original Six game between the Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings to the NHL. That game was announced at the Chicago Blackhawks first fan convention, held last weekend.

Other significant moves include the decision last season, by the BHawks, to reverse the long-held policy on television broadcasting: all Hawks games will now be broadcast. And the team has a high-quality outlet in place with WGN AM 720 broadcasting the games. Pat Foley, the team’s former broadcaster, has been hired away from the Chicago Wolves and returns to the broadcast booth too this season.

It could be the biggest turnaround ever for a sports franchise. Ridiculed for years, the team was named the worst major league franchise by Sports Illustrated. The death of team owner Bill Wirtz was met by dances and laughter on Chicago sports radio. But, now, in mid-July, the team is back in the news, with front page coverage of the new on-ice captain and a Business section front page story in the Tribune.

Proof of greater interest in the Blackhawks is also evident in the note, in the Tribune story, that season tickets increased threefold, currently to between 9,000 and 10,000 from about 3,000 – 4,000 in the previous season.

The “One Goal” mentioned in the ad? Not the playoffs, which eluded the team last season, but the Stanley Cup. It is a worthy rejoinder to the Chicago Wolves campaign reminding fans of its recent Calder Cup victory. The Tribune article, which completely forgets the Wolves, may be a warning sign to the Rosemont team: a winning Blackhawks team may eclipse the Wolves as completely as a poorly managed major league team was bested for years by a smaller, feisty minor league team.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Fankhouser moves from Manchester to Bloomington

Scott Fankhouser, one of several goalies to play briefly with the Chicago Wolves in the 2004-5 season, has signed with the Bloomington Prairie Thunder. Trivia question, how many goalies from that season can you name? Fankhouser spent the most recent season in the English Elite League with Manchester Phoenix. You can learn more about the English Elite League reading Jane Rickard's blog. But, the Internet hockey database doesn't show him as having played any games there. So the question is, does he still have those huge orange pads?

Wrigley to host outdoor hockey: Star- Tribune

It is the worst kept secret of the Chicago Blackhawks prospect camp, the NHL and the Blackhawks will use the first ever Chicago Blackhawks convention next week to announce that the Hawks will host the 2009 outdoor New Years Day game at Wrigley Field. The Minneapolis Star Tribune broke the story on July 7th with Chicago media outlets rushing to play catch-up.