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February Chill - Junior Hockey News

Published: Friday, 1 Feb 2013
By: Randy Russon

Making the playoffs in the Central Division of the North American Hockey League is a longshot especially now that highly-regarded rookie goalie Blake Cates will be sidelined for the next 4-6 weeks with a knee injury.
But for the Coulee Region Chill and a first-year ownership led by Michelle Bryant, the 2012-2013 season has been a heavy course of on-the-job training which should mean that better days are ahead in 2013-2014.
"Ive learned a ton this year," Bryant told me. "We are looking to change things up for next year."
Bryant, a well-educated person with a background in sales and marketing and a passion for hockey, realizes that her hockey department needs to be expanded beyond its current occupancy, which basically consists of interim head coach A.J. Degenhardt.
The absence of experienced hockey management is not lost on Rik Franke, who covers the Chill like a winter blanket for the Coulee Region Sports Network.
Franke is of the notion that the Chill is in need of a person with a management and scouting background to play a defined role in the hockey operatons department.
The status of the 31-year old Degenhardt, a hometown sports hero from La Crosse who went on to play Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association hockey with the Wisconsin Badgers, will be determined at season's end by Bryant, who made the gutsy and bold move in early January to fire John Hamre as coach-general manager of the Chill.
Hamre's work ethic was appreciated by Bryant but the owner did not feel the team was moving forward and progressing under the leadership of the man who she hired shortly after buying the Chill last summer.
Bryant acknowledges that time was not on the side of the franchise when she took it over in late June and quickly hired Hamre as coach and GM and Degenhardt as his assistant.
"But we've come a long way in the community with sponsorship and fan support and we are looking to the future of the NAHL in the La Crosse-Onalaska area with pure optimism," Bryant told Franke and co-host Scotty Gran on a recent edition of the Chill Coach's Show on the Coulee Region Sports Network.
To be sure, Bryant will not be rushed into a decision as to who will form the makeup of the Chill hockey staff beyond the current season.
Degenhardt is a candidate to return in some capacity. And there are respected, seasoned hockey people with head coaching and management experience who will likely have an audience with Bryant in the days and weeks ahead.
The Chill stands to return as many as 18 players from its current roster for the 2013-2014 season including Cates in goal, Sean Lang and Derek Smith on defence and leading scorers Mac Jansen, Hunter Anderson and Andy Faust.
Who will take the lead from Bryant and assemble a strong hockey staff to take the Chill into 2013-2014 and beyond is the big question that should be answered by the time winter turns to spring.
The Chill has a favourable arena lease at the Omni Center in Onalaska. It has made strides within the business community and attendance has slowly but steadily been on the increase. It has a passionate, personable owner who has a high business IQ.
It just needs the right hockey person to turn the key and crank up the Chill ice machine.


posted Feb. 1st, 2013 - 1:21pm
Pete Brownrigg says:
I see the Chill hiring a new Coach/GM and keeping AJ on as the Assistant Coach. Perhaps some-one who is currently an Assistant Coach at a D1 School or some-one with Junior or Midget Major experience of 15 + years. Its got to be someone with connections at all levels of Hockey for recruiting & then for moving the Players on to D1. Good article.

posted Feb. 1st, 2013 - 1:58pm
Rik Franke says:
Great article Randy, always appreciate your stuff, it's even better when it's close to home.

posted Feb. 1st, 2013 - 2:19pm
Scott Gran says:
Great article Randy -- right on the mark!!

posted Feb. 1st, 2013 - 2:41pm
Randy Russon says:
Rik, Scott,

Thanks for the nice words, men. Just trying to call 'em as I see 'em.

Hope that good days are ahead for the Chill and for you and the Coulee Region Sports Network.

I regularly listen to your Chill Coach's Show on CRSN. Good insight mixed with upbeat personality is a recipe for quality content. Lively show spiced up with a few Buffalo wild wings eh!

I will get one or both of you on the Hockey North Show on ESPN 1400 Radio before the end of the season.



posted Feb. 1st, 2013 - 2:49pm
Billy Bonney says:
If Dan Dakawa does not return to the Ironmen for 2013/14 Season I could see him trying for the Coulee Region job as they have so many players from Minny and that is Dakawa's stopping grounds.

posted Feb. 2nd, 2013 - 9:05am
Pete Brownrigg says:
.Chill lose to brutal Aberdeen team last night which makes 5 losses in a row. Tough to compete without your #1 goalie (Kates) when you do not have a back-up goalie who is proven at this level. First Hamree and now AJ have failed to address the issue of not getting a proven #2 goalie to back up Kates who is out 4 to 6 weeks as Randy Russon has reported here. Yes its been a learning process for Michelle Bryant however the sooner she hires a GM to over-see this team the better. Fans are supportive of the Chill and the N.A.H.L. brand is excitinng but for the future of the Chill Mrs. Bryant has to make them changes that she is talking about to keep the fans interested in this team.

posted Feb. 3rd, 2013 - 9:19am
Frank Hardy Jr. says:
Well 2 losses to Aberdeen makes it 6 losses in a row for the Chill now. I am not saying they should have kept Hamre as Coach but A.J. Degenhart has not had the impact that some folks in the local Media thought that he would. The guys seem to be playing hard for A.J. and this Chill team is young so this is reason for hope and optomism with kids such as Mac, Hunter, Blake etc. Too bad Blake got hurt I did not know this untill I read it here.

posted Feb. 3rd, 2013 - 12:41pm
Stephen Heisler says:
Frank Hardy Jr. writes:
...I did not know this until I read it here.

That's what Mark Frankenfeld thinks just about every morning. Bettman should be so lucky.

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* Article disclaimer: This site may contain advice, opinions and statements from various authors and information providers. Views expressed in this article reflect the personal opinion of the author, Randy Russon, and not necessarily the views of JuniorHockey.com. JuniorHockey.com does not represent or endorse the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other info provided in the article, or from any other member of this site.

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