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Stork brings winning attitude to Greenville

by Lindsay Kramer /
Dean Stork's new contract to be head coach of the fledgling Greenville Road Warriors must contain a moonlighting role as the area's tourism director.

If there's one thing he beams about almost as much as hockey, it's his new environs.

"Greenville is a fantastic city," he said. "You can drive 10 minutes and be in the mountains, or be in the city. You have the city life. There's lots to do. It's like a mini-New York City. You have all these little shops. I've been in this league for 12 years as a player and a coach. Greenville ranks in my top five cities to be in."

There's just one problem with Stork's surroundings -- he won't get to enjoy them much. He's already harried trying to put together a team in a new market, and preferably one that can quickly approach the success of the squad he left, Kelly Cup champion Cincinnati.

"It's going to be a lot of hard work. You have to set the bar high. You're coming to Greenville to win a championship," said Stork, 34. "You have to weed out the kids who are just collecting paychecks. I want more (championships). As a coach, you are always greedy."

The Cyclones barely whet Stork's appetite. He was an assistant there for four seasons, winning the title in 2008 and 2010. A former defenseman himself, Stork crafted an airtight Cyclones’ blue line. Cincinnati limited its opponents to just 2.80 goals per game -- second best in the ECHL -- over the past four years. The Cyclones set a team record by allowing just 178 goals (2.47 goals per game) in the 2007-08 season.

"The '08 team, we had a lot of skill, a lot of talent," Stork said. "This year's team, we relied on work ethic, grinding the corners, and sticking to systems. We were more of a defensive-minded team. We didn't give up much. We just competed and competed. We didn't have much skill. We were a defensive-minded hockey club and got the goal when we needed it."

And if the Road Warriors have any confusion about what's at stake for them, Stork plans on clearing that up in a hurry. He said a DVD of the Cyclones' championship highlights and celebrations will be part of the required viewing in preseason.

"That's what we start off with in training camp, and we hope to build on it," he said. "It's going to be a hell of a hockey team here."
Drulia ready for new gig -- The first time he got a shot as a head coach in the ECHL, with Augusta from 2003-05, Stan Drulia said he was hindered because he didn't have enough experience to have built up a wide sweep of contacts in the hockey world.

That shouldn't be a problem any more.

Drulia, 42, was named new head coach of Wheeling Thursday after several years of successful networking. For the past four seasons he was head coach with the Port Huron Flags and Port Huron IceHawks of the UHL and IHL, and his teams increased their wins total each season. He was also an assistant coach with the Toledo Storm in 2005-06. 

Within minutes after getting the Nailers' gig, Drulia was tapping into his resources to start finding some players for Wheeling.

"The Blackberry now is a wonderful thing,'' Drulia said. "It took me some time to figure out the recruiting here (in the ECHL). I made a ton of contacts. I didn't have that when I first started. That's what it's all about here. I've never been a part of an organization where I've been allowed to develop kids for the next level. Developing these prospects (for Pittsburgh) is a real honor for me."

Drulia's appeal lies as much in what he knows as who he knows. His playing career included 126 NHL games with Tampa Bay and Atlanta, 479 career points in the OHL, which remains the all-time record for that league, an ECHL Most Valuable Player award and two IHL playoff MVP awards.

"I try not to talk about myself with the players. Players do their homework now. When I was coming up, we didn't have the Internet. I didn't even get a computer until I was done playing," Drulia said. "I just hope when players come into my office now, sit in my locker room, they realize it takes a lot of hard work. I paid my dues in the ECHL. The dream of playing in the NHL always has to be there."
ECHL coming to Chicago -- In Craig Drecktrah's estimation, Chicago is a city with broad enough shoulders to support even more pro hockey.

The ECHL is betting that he's right.

The league has approved Drecktrah's application for an expansion team, which would begin play in the 2011-12 season. The squad would play in the Sears Centre, located in suburban Hoffman Estates, Ill., approximately 25 miles northwest of Chicago.

So if all goes as planned, one geographic area will be represented by the NHL's Blackhawks, the AHL's Wolves and the ECHL's new team.

Bring it on, Drecktrah said.

"It's going to be a lot of hard work. You have to set the bar high. You're coming to Greenville to win a championship. You have to weed out the kids who are just collecting paychecks. I want more (championships). As a coach, you are always greedy." -- Dean Stork

"That was a big question, obviously," he said of the saturation. "If you take a look at the demographics, you take 20 miles around the Sears Centre, you have about two million people and 12 to 14 sheets of ice. With that, you have kids playing hockey. We're not going to compete against the Hawks and Wolves. We're going to exist with them. There is enough interest to keep everyone happy."

Drecktrah is a former co-owner of Rockford of the UHL. He said the name of his new franchise -- maybe Chicago, Hoffman Estates or "Windy City" -- will be determined in August.

"Once we get the name, we'll go out and do what you're supposed to do in minor-league hockey - market yourself as well as you can," he said.
Team winners -- Two more ECHL teams have chalked up big wins well after the season ended.

Toledo has been selected as the 2009-10 recipient of the ECHL Team Award of Excellence. The award recognizes the organization that executes a well-rounded business plan including, sales, marketing, media relations and merchandising while also distinguishing itself in the community.

Toledo finished second in the league with an average attendance of 6,294 per game. The Walleye’s total attendance of 226,575 was nearly 50,000 more than the city’s all-time record in more than 60 years of hockey history. In their first season in the league, the Walleye sold more than 2,100 season tickets and led the league in souvenir sales.

Bakersfield was tabbed as the 2009-10 winner of the league's Marketing Award of Excellence. The award goes to the team that executes a well-rounded marketing, sponsorship and advertising campaign. It is the second time in the last three seasons the Condors have claimed the honor, also winning it in 2007-08.

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