"It's something I do on the side. There probably would be a time I'd play for the guys this year, a charity for the community. They may get to see me there. Most of my time is spent on hockey. Everybody needs a break from whatever they do. I think it's healthy. I'm of the mind you need to be more well-rounded because it helps you in their (players') game."
-- Jeff Flanagan
When Johnstown hired Jeff Flanagan in September, it got a head coach who prefers that his players are well rounded.
It's nothing less than he asks of himself.
To start with, at the tender age of 33, he owns four college degrees -- agriculture, horticulture, history, and education. Then there's that little matter of his musical talent.
He plays guitar and sings, boasting a top-5 single, "Hold On," on the Canadian country charts. He released his first full-length record, "Caught in the Rain," in 2004. His band plays small gigs in the summer.
"It's something I do on the side," Flanagan said. "There probably would be a time I'd play for the guys this year, a charity for the community. They may get to see me there. Most of my time is spent on hockey. Everybody needs a break from whatever they do. I think it's healthy. I'm of the mind you need to be more well-rounded because it helps you in their (players') game."
Flanagan joins the Chiefs from HC Gardena of Italy's Serie-A2, where he was the head coach last year. He's also coached overseas with Basingstoke of the Elite Ice Hockey League (U.K.) in 2004-05, and is a former assistant coach for Reading of the ECHL.
But, as you may have gathered, that's only part of the story. Or, as Flanagan himself puts it, "Pretty much anyone can get a book and draw a drill on a board."
Flanagan's depth stems from a love of teaching, and not just breakout schemes. Instruction was always a passion for Flanagan, an ambition that dovetailed nicely with his desire to coach. He's taught levels from kindergarten through 12th grade, and considers his hockey work just an extension of that service.
"It's really the same thing. Just the context is different," he said. "The essential part is developing a relationship with the players or students. They trust you to deliver the right information to them. At this level, a majority (of players) are coming out of university. They are all smart guys. It's just an extension of that when they come here. I try to help them. Sometimes they take it and sometimes they don't."
Reign's Irving still driven
-- So you are shopping for a new car at a Nissan dealership in Regina, Sask., and this huge salesman with a weathered, nicked-up face and the moniker "Big Irv" comes up and says he has a real deal for you.
What do you do?
Well, if you are smart, you might want to consider buying a vehicle. That'd be fine by Big Irv, but, ah, that's OK, he likes it if you just want to yak about hockey.
"I don't scare too many people off, I don't think," said the aforementioned Big Irv, otherwise known as Joel Irving
. "I can close (a deal). But I'm more or less a personality guy. I more or less sit back and let the people make their decision."
Irving can afford to be a little laid back in his offseason job as a car salesman. It is, after all, just a little sidelight, and maybe some groundwork for a distant career. He saves his real pushiness for his day job, which remains hockey.
The 33-year-old wing, all 6-foot-5, 221 pounds of him, will be moving 'em out this season on behalf of the Ontario Reign, with whom he recently signed. Unlike the cars he sells, you could say that Irving is high-mileage. In the last decade, he's skated with 10 North American teams in four leagues.
But he remains a high-performance model -- he tied a career high with 26 goals for Youngstown of the CHL two seasons ago and then topped that with 35 for Arizona of that same league last year.
"I haven't really had a bad experience anywhere," he said of his personal GPS history. "Surprisingly enough, I feel like I'm playing pretty young. Plus, I still feel I'm playing at a pretty high level."
Kalamazoo buzzing about hockey
-- One of the surest signs that it's hockey season somewhere -- anywhere -- is that they are lacing up the skates again in Kalamazoo.
The K-Wings are a new ECHL franchise this season, yet at the same time one that certainly knows their way around the block. The team has been in operation non-stop since 1974, with stints in the old IHL (1974-2000), the UHL (2000-06) and the new IHL (2006-09). ECHL franchises in Toledo and Cincinnati give Kalamazoo built-in rivals.
The statement the town is making about this latest endeavor is especially impressive. The K-Wings have sold about 1,400 season tickets, a 10 percent increase over last year despite the economically challenged marketplace.
"We're very excited. I'll tell you, there's a lot of buzz in Kalamazoo about the new league," said Paul Pickard, president of Stadium Management Corporation, which owns and operates the K-Wings and the Wings Stadium Complex. "We're a traditional hockey market. Kalamazoo has always been a hockey town. People relate very well to that."
ECHL growing in numbers
-- The ECHL's representation in the NHL has reached record numbers.
The developmental league placed 78 players on NHL opening-day rosters, surpassing the record 71 players a year ago and marking the seventh season in a row that level hit more than 50.
The ECHL has former players on 29 of the 30 NHL teams and has affiliations with 27 clubs. There are 26 coaches with an ECHL background working behind the benches of teams in the NHL and 20 former ECHL officials scheduled to work as part of the NHL officiating team in 2009-10.