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CENTRAL HOCKEY LEAGUE New team unveils plans to become part of community



Published: Thu, February 17, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The SteelHounds' GM says the team is here to make the area better.

LIBERTY -- Grant Buckborough, general manager for the Youngstown minor-league ice hockey team, says family, fun and entertainment are three of the four things he hopes fans think of when they hear the name SteelHounds.

"But the most important of them all is community," Buckborough said. "This team is here to make the community better. We want everyone to be proud of this identity."

Wednesday, the Youngstown team owned by Herb Washington revealed its SteelHounds name and logos. The team will begin Central Hockey League play (think Double A in minor-league baseball) in November and skate at home in the Youngstown Convocation Center.

"This is a significant day in the short history of this franchise," CHL president Brad Treliving said at the unveiling. "Not only does it give [the team] an identity, not only does it give it a name, but it gives a brand."

Buckborough said the next step the SteelHounds take is hiring executives and front-office staff.

Hiring coach will wait

"We're going to be hiring staff, even before the coach [is named]," said Buckborough, adding that he expects to name a coach in mid-April.

"Since hockey is going on right now, it's not really professional to interview now," Buckborough said. "We are going to be talking to coaches currently across the league and in other leagues.

"We're going to be talking about the coach every day, but our main focus right now is getting an assistant general manager/director of ticketing operations," Buckborough said. "When he or she is in place, we'll spend the next two weeks going to get the rest of our hounds -- our ticketing executives, sales staff. We should have 75 percent of our staff in place within the next month."

The assistant general manager should be named in two weeks. Buckborough said the SteelHounds' director of media relations also will head up the public relations department and the team's foundation program.

"We will be doing nonprofit [work] and giving back to the community," Buckborough said.

Buckborough also said the SteelHounds will begin pursuing an affiliation with a National Hockey League or American Hockey League (Triple A) team once the coach is hired.

"About half the teams in our league have NHL affiliations right now," Buckborough said. "With us, it would make sense probably more than anybody else because we have a lot of AHL teams geographically located [near] to us."

Short trip

Buckborough noted how Youngstown is not far from such NHL teams as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres as well as AHL teams in Cleveland; Hamilton, Ont.; and Rochester, N.Y.

"Our players would be going up and down from Triple A, which is the AHL," Buckborough said. "What happens then, if they call one of our guys up, they don't have to fly him halfway across North America to get to their game. They could probably jump into a car or a bus."

Buckborough said the coach will make "the initial contact and I'm not going to step on any toes. The coach we bring in obviously will have his own contacts and he'll have teams he wants to speak with first. Herb and I will jump into discussions later on."

Unlike at the NHL level, CHL coaches make most of the player moves and recruit players.

"We'll offer suggestions, but that will be his responsibility," Buckborough said.

CHL tops attendance

The CHL regular season ends on March 20. Eight teams qualify for the playoffs and it takes three best-of-seven series to crown a champion.

"We're very excited about what's taking place in the Central Hockey League," Treliving said. "Currently, we continue to lead all of Double A professional hockey in average attendance and this will be the fourth-straight year that that has happened.

"We hope that continues next year when Youngstown joins the league."

The Youngstown Convocation Center being built east of the Market Street Bridge is expected to seat 5,700 fans for ice hockey.




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