SSRqHounds’ Kaminski will coach RiverKings

By Joe Scalzo

Kevin Kaminski left the Youngstown SteelHounds after coaching the team to two playoff berths.

YOUNGSTOWN — With the team’s future in doubt, Coach Kevin Kaminski left the Youngstown SteelHounds before they could leave him.

Kaminski, who coached the SteelHounds to the playoffs in his two years here, accepted the head coaching position for the Mississippi RiverKings of the Central Hockey League on Tuesday.

“I tell you what, I’m still kind of choked up about having to leave Youngstown,” said Kaminski, who had a 73-40-15 record during the regular season with the SteelHounds. “Obviously we were successful the last two years and my family really enjoyed living here.”

Kaminski’s departure follows that of SteelHounds GM Joe Gregory, who recently accepted a job with the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League. The CHL terminated the SteelHounds’ league membership in early June and the team has yet to find a league for next season. The SteelHounds’ best-case scenario may be to wait out the 2008-09 season before joining a league for 2009-10.

“I obviously hoped for a better time frame, but that didn’t happen and I didn’t want to be left out in the cold with no job,” said Kaminski, who added that he had already turned down one job in hopes of returning to Youngstown. “This is how I feed my family.”

Kaminski , who also had opportunities to become an assistant in the AHL, submitted his resignation on Tuesday and the RiverKings announced his hiring on Wednesday.

He signed a three-year guaranteed contract, which is a rarity in the CHL. Most coaches get one- or two-year deals with an option year.

“There’s only so many coaching jobs,” said Kaminski. “I waited as long as I could.

“It was a really hard thing to do. I loved it here.”

Kaminski thanked SteelHounds owner Herb Washington for the opportunity and said he is leaving on good terms. He said he’d welcome a chance to return to Youngstown in the future.

“I’d be all over it,” he said. “We have a lot of friends in Youngstown and I’m hoping to be back [as a coach] one day. If not, we’ll be back to visit.

“We’re hoping and praying they’ll be hockey again in Youngstown. If they don’t get a team this year, they’ll get one the year after that.”

Washington, who has been involved in a dispute with the city over the future of hockey at the Chevrolet Centre, did not return a phone message Wednesday.

Kaminski was hired in 2006 as the team’s coach and director of hockey operations, replacing Jean LeForest.

Since retiring as a player in 1999, he has also coached the Missouri Rover Otters of the United Hockey League, the Long Beach Ice Dogs of the East Coast Hockey League and as an assistant with the Cincinnati Might Ducksy of the AHL.

He dressed in 139 career NHL games a player, scoring 13 points with 528 penalty minutes.

He helped mold the SteelHounds into the league’s best road team in his two season, no small feat considering Youngstown’s location in relation to the CHL, where most teams are located in Texas or the neighboring states.

The RiverKings, who are located near Memphis, Tenn., were the closest team to Youngstown.

Although he won’t have to travel as much for road games, Kaminski said those long bus trips weren’t as bad as they sound.

“Those bus rides were a lot of fun,” he said. “You got to know the guys in a different demeanor. It showed you what kind of character we had in that locker room. I give those guys a lot of credit.”

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