Editor's Note: Valerie returns this season to cover the Arizona Sundogs for us. We'll have updates from her each Wednesday on the goings on up in Prescott.
The offseason, while long, was far from uneventful for the Arizona Sundogs and their fans. At the end of last season, it was announced that the CHL was seizing control of the team and seeking new ownership. The full story behind the action has never been made clear to the public, but after initially contesting the move the previous owners acquiesced. The lack of ownership left fans fearful that the team would be moved from Prescott Valley; but the CHL reassured fans that it had all intentions of keeping the team where it was.
On June 1, 2010, the CHL announced that it was merging with the IHL to create one AA level superleague. The merger brought five new teams into the CHL and the total teams up to eighteen.
On June 16, 2010, though no ownership had yet been announced, the Sundogs introduced Jerry McBurney as its new President. Most recently McBurney worked as Vice President/General Manager of the Bloomington Extreme of the UIFL and Bloomington Prairie Thunder of the former UHL. Prior, he worked for 14 years in the National Football League (NFL), American Hockey League (AHL) and Arena Football League (AFL). McBurney promised the team would return to a culture of putting a product on the ice that the fans would not only support but feel ownership of.
At the same press conference, The Sundogs introduced a new fifth anniversary logo. The traditional ‘S' has been morphed into a ‘5' with a banner underneath that reads 2006-2011 with a single star for the team's CHL championship.
With no ownership as yet, but management beginning to settle into place, the Sundogs began signing players for the upcoming season. There were many returning players as well as new faces. One familiar face stayed with the team but changed his role as on August 18, 2010 Captain Chris Bartolone announced his retirement. Bartolone's 2009-2010 season was cut short by an injury, the lingering effects of which precipitated his retirement from playing. The fan favorite, often mentioned as the heart and soul of the team, is taking a role behind the bench as Assistant Coach.
Continuing the team's efforts to bring back fans and reenergize those fans that have continued to support the team, on September 1, 2010, the team introduced the 2010-2011 marketing campaign ‘YOUR TEAM'. The secondary campaign also includes the line ‘SIX ON THE ICE. 100 THOUSAND ON THE TEAM' in reference to the population of the surrounding areas.
On September 29, 2010, the charter members of the Sundogs' new ownership group, the Mile High Hockey Club, were announced. The group is made up of local business owners with strong ties to the community and a dedication to the team.
Training camp got underway on October 4, 2010, and as one who was there for every minute open to the public, I can say that the team looks very good this year. There is a lot of size and speed, both of which have been absent the last couple of seasons. Having listened to all of the promises made by management and staff, I can only hope they achieve half of what they say they will, because if they do then the Sundogs will be back in the championship playoffs once again. There does seem to be a lot of hope from the other fans I have spoken to, and a sense that maybe we will once again see the level of play we saw in the team's first two seasons.
Below is the current finalized team roster with some information about each player.
2 Adam Smyth 6' 1" 253 lbs
Returning to the Sundogs after being acquired from the Mississippi River Kings in a trade deadline deal last season.
9 Jason Visser 6' 0" 208 lbs
Back for his fourth season with the Sundogs; named an alternative captain for the 2010-2011 season.
17 Mark Kolanos 6' 1" 188 lbs
Younger brother of former NHLer Kris Kolanos. Returning to the Sundogs after playing last season with the Texas Brahmas. In his rookie season with the Sundogs was a finalist for Rookie of the Year.
19 Joey Sides 5' 11" 195 lbs
Returning for his second season with the Sundogs. Skated in Lake Erie Monsters' (AHL) 2010 training camp.
20 Steve Kaye 5' 11" 176 lbs
Joins the Sundogs after skating the last three seasons in Europe. Has averaged a point per game or more throughout his entire amateur and seven-year European professional playing career.
21 Chase Watson 6' 0" 195 lbs
Son of former NHLer and five-time All-Star Jim Watson and nephew of former NHLer and two-time All-Star Joe Watson, who as brothers won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Philadelphia Flyers in 1974 and 1975. Skated in American Hockey League's Adirondack Phantoms 2010 training camp. Last season was a member of the ECHL's Johnstown Chiefs and Reading Royals.
36 Joel Irving 6' 4" 228 lbs
Rejoins the Sundogs after skating last season with the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees. Former sixth round draft pick (148th overall) of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. Prior to the 2010-11 season, the veteran has appeared in 723 games as a professional, including 30 at the American Hockey League level. Named an alternative captain for the 2010-2011 season.
41 Torren Delforte 5' 11" 183 lbs
Returning for his second season with the Sundogs. Registered 41 points in 51 regular season contests last season.
22 Cam Keith 6' 3" 226 lbs
Split nearly his entire pro career between the ECHL and American Hockey League (AHL). Spent last season with Cortina SG in Italy.
18 Jason Williams 5' 10" 195 lbs
Skated in Adirondack Phantoms' (AHL) 2010 training camp. Received the 2010 Coaches Award and finished tied for third all-time in Colgate history in games played (153).
71 Samuel Grenache 5' 11" 199 lbs
Played five seasons in the QMJHL with Acadie-Bathurst, St. John's, Montreal and Lewiston.
5 Chris Kane 6' 1" 199 lbs
Played last three seasons at Merrimack College.
7 John Wessbecker 6' 2" 195 lbs
Former seventh round (225th overall) draft pick of the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning and appeared in nine contests with the ECHL's Trenton Devils in 2009-10
23 Tyler Butler 6' 2" 200 lbs
Joins the Sundogs after captaining the Tulsa Oilers last season; named Sundogs captain for the 2010-2011 season.
55 Yan Turcotte 6' 0" 215 lbs
Joins the Sundogs after a five-year career at McGill University (CIS) in Montreal, Quebec.
61 Clayton Barthel 6' 3" 202 lbs
Third round draft pick (88th overall) of the Washington Capitals in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Spent last two seasons playing in Europe.
72 Billy Bezeau 6' 1" 213 lbs
During 2009-2010 season split time between ECHL and France.
35 Bobby Jarosz 6' 0" 180 lbs
In 2009 played for the ECHL's Wheeling as well as NCAA Michigan State University.
40 Doug Groenestege 6' 2" 210 lbs
Returns for second season with the Sundogs after being acquired from the Missouri Mavericks. Last season posted a 3.40 GAA, .898 SV% and one shutout in 23 appearances with the Sundogs.