CENTRAL HOCKEY LEAGUE SteelHounds' first player signed
The coach said that contract offers have been made to six other players.
AUSTINTOWN -- The Youngstown SteelHounds now have a man in uniform and a date for their home opener.
The minor league hockey team announced both developments in a press conference Thursday at the Country Inn and Suites Hotel.
The first SteelHound under contract is 6-4, 230-pound defenseman Kris Mallette, and team officials say he's the kind of tough player they hope will be a leader on the Central Hockey League expansion team.
"He will be a physical presence on the ice for us," said SteelHounds coach Jean Laforest. "But the most important thing is that he is a hard-working guy with good character. He's been on a championship team and knows how to win."
Minor league veteran
Mallette, a 26-year-old veteran of five minor league seasons, was the SteelHounds' first pick in the CHL's expansion draft on June 4. They chose him from the roster of the 2004-2005 league champion Colorado Eagles. He scored two goals and recorded eight assists with 193 penalty minutes in 55 games last season.
His first game with the SteelHounds will be his 300th professional game.
"I'm one piece to the puzzle," said Mallette, a third-round draft choice of the NHL's Philadelphia Flyers in 1997. He has also played at the minor-league level in the East Coast Hockey League and the United Hockey League. He averaged more than 300 penalty minutes a season in three UHL seasons.
Mallette said that going from a championship team to a first-year franchise "will definitely be an adjustment."
But the British Columbia native said it's also an opportunity.
"It was an intriguing situation to me because you can't go backward on a first-year team," he said. "You can only go forward. I visited here and was sold on the community and the direction the team wants to take."
Laforest said that contract offers have been made to six other players and that the team may announce more player signings in the next two weeks. He said the team is also continuing to work on an affiliation with a team in the American Hockey League, the highest-level minor league in the U.S.
Home opener Nov. 4
At the press conference, the team also announced its first home playing dates in the new Convocation Center. The SteelHounds will play against the Oklahoma City Blazers on Nov. 4 and 5, general manager George Manias said.
The SteelHounds open the season on the road on Oct. 21 against an opponent to be determined. Manias said the team will release its complete schedule in "a couple of weeks." Training camp for the team begins Oct. 10, and Manias says the team hopes to conduct it at the Convocation Center.
"It depends on how ready the building is to play in at that point," Manias said.
Games on radio
In other developments, the SteelHounds announced that ESPN Radio 1240 (WBBW) will broadcast all 64 regular season home games and any playoff games. The broadcasts will include a pre-game and post-game show and the station will also air a hockey talk and interview show during the week, said Tim Roberts, director of radio operations for the station's parent company, Cumulus Broadcasting LLC.
Bob Hoffman, an Akron native who most recently served as broadcaster for the AHL's Utah Grizzlies, will call the games.
The team also introduced its mascot "Crusher," who will make appearances at games and also at schools and community functions. "Crusher" and Mallette were to throw out the first pitch at Thursday night's Mahoning Valley Scrappers game.