It’s fair to say that longtime Western States Hockey League operator
Joe MacConnell and I have not been on the best of terms over the last few
years. So it should not come as too much of a surprise ( read here to see why ) to know that I all but threw a keg party when news of the pending sale of the
Springfield Express crossed my path. I tried hard not to hold a grudge, but
this guy is simply a tool.
As bad of an operator that MacConnell was, I can say without reservation
that the new local owners are already raising the bar in Springfield.
We got the pleasure of spending time with Dr. Brenton Coger and wife
Andrea when visiting Springfield during the playoffs. With MacConnell
continuing to display his naturally abrasive personality during negotiations
with the Cogers, It was easy to see how the new owners were going to adjust to
life within the structure of the WSHL. Let’s face it, after dealing with
MacConnell, anything the rest of the league is going to toss in their direction
is going to be a piece of cake.
The Cogers have already retained veteran coach Jeremy Law’s services to
continue coaching the team. Law spent a year with my WSHL team in Alaska back
in 97-98 and followed us to Florida the following season. Needless to say, I’m
very proud of my former defenseman and friend. Law has quickly emerged as one
of the most successful coaches in WSHL history.
For the first time in Law’s WSHL coaching career, he gets the benefit
of an ownership group completely committed to the maturation and development of
these young hockey players. Law’s former employers read like the Who’s Who List
of the worst operators in WSHL history. From Tim Best to Jon MacWilliams and
Frank Trazzera to MacConnell, Law has had to weather one heck of a storm.
What’s amazing, through all the piles of BS, is that Law has a way of
getting the absolute most from his hockey teams, despite to constant chaos of
the front office.
The Cogers bring an enormous amount of credibility and love for the
game to the WSHL arena. An affair that started out with a son in youth hockey
to billeting players for the Express, has morphed itself into team ownership.
One thing is for certain, the Cogers won’t be cutting corners when it
comes to sports training, fitness, and safety. As a neurosurgeon at Mercy
Hospital in Springfield, Dr. Coger is going to make sure that his players get
every advantage when it comes to treating injuries and rehabilitation. A prime
example is the care of defenseman Robert Horak. The Express player from the
Czech Republic was billeting at the Coger home when he suffered a season ending
concussion. Dr. Coger and his wife went way beyond the call of duty to make
sure the gifted player received the proper treatment and closely monitored his
recovery. That sure beats the old days of cracking the smelling salts.
With such a dedication to their team, and Law behind the bench, the
Springfield community is certainly in store for a heck of a show. Out with the
old and in with the new.
Law and Order…the Express are well on their way to lifting the Thorne
Cup again and again with Coach Law on the bench and the Cogers maintaining
NAHL Playoff Preview
Could we really see three
additional clean sweeps? If Monday night was any indication, that’s exactly was
the other three home teams are hoping to avoid.
(1) Bismarck Bobcats vs (3) Austin
Bruins (Bismarck leads series 2-0)– Austin will be putting it all on the
line tonight…or reach for the golf clubs. Bobcats win.
(1) Aston Rebels vs (3) Johnstown
Tomahawks (Aston leads series 2-0) – Can the Tomahawks win tonight to live
another day? I think so.
(1) Fairbanks Ice Dogs vs (3)
Minnesota Wilderness (Fairbanks leads series 2-0)– Fairbanks looks unstoppable. That’s
not good news for Corey Millen and the Wilderness. Ice Dogs win.
Stephen Heisler has
spent a lifetime in the game of hockey. Now semi-retired and working with
individual teams, coaches, and players as a consultant, he spends most of his
time in Florida with his family.
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