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Thrashers Fire Coach Anderson and Promote Dudley & Waddell

Below is the press release by the Atlanta Thrashers explaining the restructuring of their front office that includes firing coach John Anderson and promoting Rick Dudley and Don Waddell.

ATLANTA, GA. – The Atlanta Thrashers have promoted Don Waddell to President and Rick Dudley to General dudleyManager, according to Co-Owner Bruce Levenson. The team also announced that it will not retain Head Coach John Anderson and Assistant Coaches Randy Cunneyworth, Todd Nelson and Steve Weeks.

In his new role, Waddell will focus primarily on all business aspects of the organization, and as General Manager, Dudley will be responsible for hockey operations.

“My role within the company has evolved and grown the last few years, and the owners and I agree that it’s the appropriate time to have Rick assume all hockey-related responsibilities while I shift my primary focus to the business side of the Thrashers,” said Waddell.

“I will be less involved with the team on a daily basis, but will continue to make myself available to Rick and to lend my experience in any way that allows him to succeed and for us to build this club into a perennial contender.”

“Don has been an important part of this organization since its inception and will continue to play a vital role for our franchise as we transition primary control of our hockey operations to Rick, who has had an immediate impact during his first season with us,” said Levenson.

“Rick has played a key role in building highly successful hockey teams, including most recently the Chicago Blackhawks. He has nearly 40 years of experience and is very well-respected in the hockey community for his expertise in evaluating and developing talent. We are confident that he will do an outstanding job of guiding all hockey-related activities as we move forward and build on the young foundation we have in place. We also thank John, Randy, Todd and Steve for their dedication and contributions to the organization during their tenure.”

Dudley joined Atlanta on June 22, 2009 as associate general manger after five years with the Chicago Blackhawks, where he served as the team’s assistant general manager for his final two seasons. He originally joined the Blackhawks in 2004 as a consultant and was named director of player personnel prior to the 2005-06 season.

“We have a lot of important pieces in place, and I look forward to building this organization even further and working closely with Don, the owners and our staff towards achieving our goals,” said Dudley. “I’ve been in this situation before and we will accomplish our objectives. I appreciate Don and the owners giving me this opportunity to build on what has already been put in place.”

Before joining the Blackhawks, Dudley served as the general manager of the Florida Panthers for two seasons (2002-03 to 2003-04), spent two-and-a-half seasons as senior vice president and general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning (1999-00 to 2001-02) and was general manager of the Ottawa Senators for one year (1998-99).

He is credited with improving each organization he has managed, which includes playing a vital role in building the nucleus of the Lightning’s 2004 Stanley Cup Championship team.

Dudley, 61, was the general manager for the Detroit Vipers of the former International Hockey League for four seasons before joining the Senators. With the Vipers, Dudley led the team to a 200-92-35 record and the 1997 Turner Cup Championship. Overall, as a general manager he has led his teams to the league finals on eight occasions and captured four championships in the American Hockey League, the IHL and the ECHL.

Dudley also has a lengthy and successful record as a head coach in both the NHL and minor leagues, earning a lifetime record of 592-321-105. He spent two-and-a-half seasons as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres from 1989-90 to 1991-92, posting an 85-72-31 record while leading the team to the playoffs on two occasions. During the 2003-04 season, he spent 40 games behind the bench of the Florida Panthers, earning a 13-25-9-3 record.

He has also served as a head coach with the Detroit Vipers (1994-95 to 1995-96), the Phoenix Roadrunners (1993-94), the San Diego Gulls (1992-93) and the Flint Spirits (1986-87 to 1987-88) of the IHL and the New Haven Nighthawks (1988-89) of the AHL and the Carolina Thunderbirds (1982-83 to 1985-86) of the ECHL.

The Toronto, Ontario, native played seven NHL seasons with Buffalo and Winnipeg, recording 174 points (75 goals, 99 assists) in 309 games. He also appeared in 270 World Hockey Association games over four seasons with the Cincinnati Stingers, where he earned 277 points (131 goals, 146 assists) and tallied back-to-back 40-goal seasons from 1975-76 to 1976-77.

After retiring as a player, Dudley became the owner, general manager and head coach of the ECHL’s Carolina Thunderbirds. He also served as the league’s president from 1983-86. Prior to retiring, he was part owner and vice president of the Ontario Hockey League’s Belleville Bulls.

Waddell, 51, was originally named the Thrashers general manager in June 1998 and has become one of the league’s most experienced and respected executives over that time. With 30 years of professional hockey experience as a player, coach and manager, Waddell has guided the Thrashers since its inception and has established an organization that is primed for success now and in the long-term.

Anderson, who was named the team’s fourth head coach on June 20, 2008, earned a 70-75-19 record in 164 games with Atlanta over the last two seasons. During his 15-year head coaching career, Anderson has captured five league championships, most recently guiding the Chicago Wolves to the American Hockey League’s 2008 Calder Cup. He spent 11 seasons with the Wolves, the Thrashers primary minor-league affiliate, earning a 506-283-99 regular season record and a 105-60 post-season record.

The Toronto, Ontario, native played for 12 seasons in the NHL with Toronto, Quebec and Hartford, posting 631 points (282 goals, 349 assists) in 814 career games. He also notched 27 points (nine goals, 18 assists) in 37 career Stanley Cup Playoff games with Toronto and Hartford.

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Thrashers Sign Unrestricted Free Agent Defenseman Chris Chelios

An Atlanta Thrashers Media Release contributed to this article.

ATLANTA, Ga. – The Atlanta Thrashers have signed unrestricted free agent defenseman Chris Chelios, according to Executive Vice President and General Manager Don Waddell. Chris Chelios Chicago

Chelios, 48, has appeared in 44 games with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League this season, recording 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) while ranking second in the league with a plus-35 rating.

The Chicago, Ill., native has registered 948 points (185 goals, 763 assists) and 2,891 penalty minutes in 1,644 career NHL games with the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks and Montreal Canadiens. In a NHL-record 266 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, Chelios has collected 144 points (31 goals, 113 assists) while capturing the Stanley Cup three times, once with Montreal (1986) and twice with Detroit (2002 and 2008).

In his 25-year NHL career, Chelios ranks fourth in games played, eighth in all-time assists by a defenseman, and ranks 10th among defensemen in points.

Among American-born players, he ranks first in games played, second in plus/minus (plus-352) , and third in points by a defenseman.

The 6-0, 190-pound defenseman has earned the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman three times (1989, 1993, 1996), has been named to the NHL’s First All-Star Team five times (1989, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2002), and has participated in 11 NHL All-Star Games.

Chelios has represented the United States in international competition 12 times, and served as team captain at the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics and led the U.S. to a Silver Medal at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City and Gold at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.

Note: Chelios was originally drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the second round, 40th overall, of the 1981 NHL Entry Draft.

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Thrashers Trade ECHL Gladiators Enforcer Myles Stoesz

ATLANTA, GA. – Last week, Myles Stoesz was going through his regular routine, laying back to refuel from an all-night Miles Stoeszbus trip from a game the night before when he got a call from Atlanta Thrashers V.P. Assistant GM Larry Simmons, a call that would change his life.”We had a late night getting back from a game in South Carolina,” said Stoesz. “I just laid down about four o’clock. I got a call, looked at my caller ID and it was Larry Simmons. He told me I was traded.

At first it didn’t sink in. I went and told my roommate, ‘Dude, I just got traded’ then it finally started to sink in. It was a shock for the first day and a half. That night I pretty much sat in my room staring at all my stuff thinking ‘How do I start packing all this stuff'”

Stoesz was part of a deal at the NHL trade deadline that also sent Thrashers defenseman Niclas Havelid to the Devils for Anssi Salmela. With the Thrashers organization overflowing with prospects, Stoesz has yet to be called up and don an NHL uniform but the 22-year-old prospect is hoping for an opportunity in the New Jersey system.

Instead of placing him on the ECHL Trenton Devils roster, the Devils assigned Stoesz to their AHL affiliate Lowell Devils team.

As a few formalities run their course, Stoesz anxiously awaits an opportunity to show what he can do on an AHL sheet of ice. “I think they want their doctors to take a look at me to clear me as far as playing so I don’t know if I’ll be playing this weekend,” said the rugged winger. “I’m happy to be here at practice with the guys and see more of the AHL. I’m taking it one day at a time and will work my butt off as far as practice goes.”

“I want to play. I’m looking forward to my first opportunity,” he added. “All I need is my one shot, one opportunity; and I definitely won’t disappoint them.”

This season, Stoesz, the Steinbach, Manitoba native suited up for 43 games with the Thrashers ECHL affiliate Gwinnett Gladiators and tallied 7 points, (4g,3a) while accumulating 158 penalty minutes.

Known for his leadership in and around the locker room, Stoesz is no stranger to fisticuffs. He recorded 449 career penalty minutes over less than two seasons in the ECHL, including a league-leading 281 minutes last season.

Although he will miss the fans in Gwinnett, being delegated to the AHL has many rewards and is one step away from the NHL.

A fan-favorite in Gwinnett, Stoesz’ appreciation for fan support never has gone unnoticed. “Gwinnett has some of the best fans in the ECHL. They support the team and they supported me tremendously,” said Stoesz. “I’m going to miss them and I want to thank them for coming out and watching while I was there, for buying my jerseys and for putting my videos on ‘YouTube’. That was nice to have.”

Copyright © 2009 – Sports Climax

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ECHL Gladiators Fighting For Playoff Spot

ATLANTA, GA. – With just 20 games left on their regular-season schedule, the Gwinnett Gladiators occupy the final Gwinnett Gladiators Logoplayoff spot in their division, sitting just .019 percentage points ahead of the Mississippi Sea Wolves.

Going into last Sunday’s game against the league-best Florida Everblades, Gladiators’ head coach Jeff Pyle knew it was time to light a torch under his players. “We’ve been short-handed and were a little beat up. We got in at 7:30 in the morning [Sunday]. I didn’t know if we were going to be sluggish or not but we came out hard, scored early in the game and considering the situation we played really well”.

The team did play well, in fact they dominated most of the contest to the delight of 4,835 fans who attended that game at the Arena at Gwinnett Center and saw their Glads ice a 6-3 victory.

The players were give the day off Monday to re-energize before hitting the ice for three scheduled practices while they await the Charlotte Checkers who come into town for another important game on Friday.

When asked about how the long hiatus between game days may affect his players, Pyle was quick to welcome the break. “We needed the time off to regroup”, said Pyle. “We know how important all these games are. [With the break] I expect them to come out hard on Friday against Charlotte”.

With Mississippi right on their tails, Pyle believes his team is in the middle of a playoff run, “I think we’ve been in the playoff mode for the last three weeks or so”, said Pyle. “Every win is important”.

The team will try to bring their best game to the final run of the season and ride the momentum of their recent success, “You always hope you’re going to hit that hot streak”, the coach said. “The last five games we have been pretty solid. We did a good job on the road, came back and had that big win against Florida”.

Between the large number of call-ups to the AHL and injuries, Pyle has been dealing with the challenging task of juggling his roster. “You just of have to piece it together as you go. We need all three lines going which has been the key for us lately”.

That certainly was the case during Sunday’s win over the Everblades as several role players contributed to the stat sheet.

Myles Stoesz, who is known more for his fists than scoring, opened the scoring at just 22 seconds into the game, his 4th of the year and Wisconsin-native Andy Brandt netted his 5th and 6th goals of the season, one an empty-netter, earning the game’s First-Star honors.

The Gladiators continue their playoff run, returning to the ice Friday night at 7:35 p.m. to face the Charlotte Checkers at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Copyright © 2009 – Sports Climax

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Brett Sterling Cracking Thrashers Line Up

Previously published in USA Hockey Magazine Feb. 2009 Edition

ATLANTA – When you’re only 5-foot-7, it’s easy to fly under the radar. But after an impressive college career and anBrett Sterling Photo (AP Photo/Don Heupel) award-winning rookie season in professional hockey, Brett Sterling is proving that big things can come in small packages.Now, the California native is trying to prove he deserves a regular spot with the Atlanta Thrashers.

A fifth-round pick by the Thrashers in 2003, Sterling has put together a quiet but competent professional career with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League. In his first full season in the Windy City, Sterling tallied a league-leading 55 goals, earned AHL rookie-of-the-year honors and a first team All-Star spot.

“I came in my first year and nobody knew who I was,” says Sterling, a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award during his junior season at Colorado College. “Coming in unknown was great, and I was playing with unbelievable players like Jason Krog and Darren Haydar. I had 34 goals in my first 35 games. All of a sudden teams started keying on me and the defense started to tighten up.”
Since taking the AHL by storm, Sterling has been threatening to cross the NHL threshold on a full-time basis. He spent his off-season working out and was committed to bringing himself to camp in the best possible shape.

After leading the Thrashers in scoring this preseason, the high-flying, left winger made the final cut and remained on the roster. Sterling saw action in 13 NHL games with the Thrashers last season and still hopes to build on that. “I feel a lot more comfortable this year,” says Sterling, who has played in three games so far this season with the Thrashers. “Last year I was jittery, and we had a rough start. That never helps when your team starts out 0-6 and you’re getting shifted around a lot, playing on the right wing with a variety of players.

“I’m a confidence player so the earlier you get scoring like I did my first year in the minors, the better. In the NHL, guys are bigger and stronger and they put up a better fight. It’s a challenge, and I’m ready for it. I thrive on that.”

Sterling’s journey from the sunny beaches of California to the NHL has been an interesting one. His family was first introduced to the sport by his uncle who encouraged Brett’s cousin and older brother to play hockey. He soon followed, donning his first pair of skates at 2 and playing his first season of organized hockey at age 4.

He continued playing both ice and inline hockey in California until he was 16. That’s when he received a great opportunity to play with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. “I wanted to go so bad; I actually called my parents to make sure it was OK with them after I already said yes to Ann Arbor,” recalls Sterling. “It was a big step but a great opportunity. You really develop as a player and learn about yourself.”
His experience in Ann Arbor led Sterling to Colorado Springs, where he notched 184 points as a four-year player with the WCHA powerhouse Tigers.

Though small in stature, Sterling is a solid competitor and not timid about going into high-traffic areas to gain a scoring chance.
In a league where it’s common to find 220-pound defensemen standing well over 6-feet tall, Sterling pulls his inspiration from some past NHL stars.

“The guys like Theo Fleury, Paul Kariya, Dino Ciccarelli, I watched them very carefully when I was growing up and tried to emulate them the best I could,” he says. “The NHL game has opened up for smaller guys these days.”

Although he has spent much of the season in Chicago, Sterling is on the fast track to gain a spot on the Thrashers roster. The team continues to rebuild around its young stars under the tutelage of Head Coach John Anderson, who was behind the Wolves’ bench during Sterling’s incredible rookie year in Chicago.

“Last year [and this year] I made the team out of camp, which is awesome,” says Sterling, who hopes to follow his coach from the AHL to Atlanta.

“That team last year struggled, and I struggled along with them. I went back to the AHL but now I’m back this year. I want to prove that I belong [in Atlanta] and want to prove to people I can play here.”

Copyright © 2009 – Sports Climax

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