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Coach seeks hard workers



Published: Thu, September 28, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The team opens training camp Oct. 10 and concludes it with an exhibition vs. Dayton.

By TOM WILLIAMS

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

YOUNGSTOWN -- The new coach of the Youngstown SteelHounds has only been in the Valley since Sunday, but already he has an appreciation for how seriously hard work is appreciated.

At dinner one night, Kevin Kaminski said he met a couple of railroad workers who, despite having an early morning wakeup call, were sharing a few beers and tales of work.

"I know what a hard-working town this is and that's what I'm going to bring to this organization," said Kaminski at Wednesday's press conference at the Chevrolet Centre to outline plans for the Central Hockey League team's second season.

Kaminski, 37, played 139 games in the NHL, most of them a decade ago with the Washington Capitals. The Churchbridge, Saskatchewan, native scored 13 points and spent 528 minutes in the penalty box.

His goal

Finding relentless players is his goal for the SteelHounds.

"That's what I strived [for] as a player," Kaminski said. "I did whatever it took physically, mentally to play at the highest level."

His coaching career began in 2000 as an assistant with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the American Hockey League. His first head coaching job was with the Long Beach Ice Dogs of the East Coast Hockey League.

Two years ago, Kaminski guided the Missouri River Otters to a record of 10 games above .500 and a playoff berth in the United Hockey League.

But like so many other minor league franchises over the past 15 months, Missouri folded. Kaminski admitted the competition for minor league hockey jobs is "fierce" right now.

"Last year was a disaster," Kaminski said.

The SteelHounds began looking for a coach in mid-August when Jean LaForest resigned after a 25-34-5 season.

Had an offer

Kaminski said he was weighing an offer to join the New York Islanders as a scout when SteelHounds general manager Joe Gregory called.

"I don't want to come here for just one or two years," Kaminski said. I want to build this into one of the best organizations in the CHL."

The SteelHounds will open training camp Oct. 10 and conclude it Oct. 13 when they play host to the ECHL's Dayton Bombers in an exhibition game.

While some SteelHounds jobs are assured, Kaminski said he plans to invite as many as 30 players to try out. At last year's camp, approximately 20 players attended.

"The reason why is that we only have the one exhibition game," Kaminski said. "Of the three days we have, we're going to have scrimmages with 3-on-3, 4-on-4 and 5-on-5 so these players can show me what they have.

"Not everyone is going to be able to play in that one game," said Kaminski, who added that full-fledged scrimmages are possible with 30 in camp.

Top returnees

Among the returning players are winger Jeff Christian and center Chris Richards, the top two scorers. Christian, the team's captain and assistant coach, scored 107 points and was runner-up as the CHL's MVP while Richards was fourth in the CHL with 92 points.

Kaminski said a late September start is not ideal but he's up to the challenge.

"Obviously, I would have liked to have a little earlier start," Kaminski said. "There are players who I would have liked to sign who have signed somewhere else. We have to find the right players who trickle down through the cracks, people with good character, good work ethic and who want to win.

"Everyone will have a role and I expect them to work at it with discipline," Kaminski said.

Gregory said the SteelHounds have no affiliation with the NHL or AHL but two players are training with the Columbus Blue Jackets' AHL affiliate in Syracuse, N.Y.

williams@vindy.com




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