San Jose Sharks join Edmonton Oilers as co-affiliates for ECHL Stockton Thunder, press conference transcript
STOCKTON/SAN JOSE/EDMONTON Press Conference
Monday, August 2nd, Stockon Arena
A transcript from the press conference:
Stockton Thunder President Dan Champan
Matt (Thomas) and I worked together for the last several weeks putting this together, he is really the guy who dotted the T’s and crossed the I’s and worked hard with both of these organizations to get this done.
We are great partners with the Oilers, and are happy to have them back on board for a fifth consecutive season. They are committed and dedicated to the development of their young players while at the same time committed and dedicated to understanding the importance of trying to help us put a winning team on the ice. Whenever Matt, or I, or anyone else in the organization asked Edmonton for help, whether it was needing scoring, needing defense, needing goaltending, they are always very, very receptive to our needs. That doesn’t mean we are going to get that guy tomorrow, or in a week, but rest assured we know they are always ready, willing and listenting to the requests we make. We are certainly happy to have them back on board.
As for the San Jose Sharks, what can you say about them other than the fact that they have been at or near the top of the National Hockey League for the last decade or so. We are very, very happy to have them on board as well. Geographically it makes a lot of sense. There is a lot of synergy that can go on between our two organizations, not only on the ice, but off the ice in the areas of marketing, promotions. There are a lot of Sharks and Thunder fans between here and HP Pavilion Arena that can now go back and forth, and see both teams play.
Stockton Thunder head coach Matt Thomas
I think the important thing for us going into this offseason was that we got the Edmonton deal solidified for next season… One thing that has been a huge benefit to the Stockton Thunder has been the Edmonton Oilers. I don’t think there are many ECHL teams that can boast seven players that have played in the ECHL and played in the National Hockey League in the last 5 years. I think it is certainly something special that a lot of ECHL teams don’t get to experience, and we have got to experience that with Edmonton. My first order of business this offseason was to get on the phone with Rick (Olczyk) and make sure we can hammer that out.
With that said, making sure that was in place, with the Oilers blessing we thought it would be a huge benefit to us, and from my standpoint on the ice, to get another team on board with the San Jose Sharks. I think you are looking at a kid growing up loving hockey, there wasn’t a team as good as the Edmonton Oilers to watch, to see all these great players, from Gretzky, to Messier, to Lowe, to Charlie Huddy. All the great players that came through that organization. Like Dan alluded to, now having a relationship with the San Jose Sharks, who argueable have been the best team in the National Hockey League the last five seasons.
We have got two of the great organizations we can say are part of the family. For me, the one thing I really want to try to accomplish with getting this done, I think we are that close to winning a championship. I think last year being 2 wins away from a chance to be in the Finals, I think we needed a little bit of a push. What contracted players due from NHL organizations… these guys have the carrot a little bit more right in front of them. That is important from a motivation standpoint. When you got a lot of players that are a part of these organizations, and there is a true opportunity to move up and play in the National Hockey League, and they are seeing it happen and also having our players that are on ECHL contracts seeing that they are not that far off from that player that they are with. It gives you that little push over the edge. I think that is what we need.
Obviously a lot of things need to happen for you to win a championship. I think these two relationships together are going to give us a huge push in that direction. I am really looking forward to getting an opportunity to work with some of these prospects. It is a fun thing for a coach, myself and (assistant coach) Matt O’Dette to work with the young guys who are hungry and really want to move up. We are looking forward to it, and I want to thank both organizations for making this happen. I know it is going to be a very happy marriage.
Edmonton Oilers assistant GM Rick Olczyk
It is a pleasure to be here on behalf of Rexall Sports Corp. I would like to thank the Stockton Thunder, and in particular Dan Chapman and of course Matt Thomas for continuing our relationship. We have really enjoyed it over the last 4 years. We are looking forward to our fifth year upcoming here. It has been very professional, treating our players any time we have had our prospects come down and play here. We have had some good ones come through here as you remember, Devan Dubnyk, Liam Reddox, Ryan O’Marra (as well as Bryan Young 06-07, Tim Sesito 08-09, Troy Bodie 08-09, Colin McDonald 09-10), and other guys that have had an opportunity to play in the show. It is what any hockey player aspires to, to play in the big dance, to play in the National Hockey League.
We know when we put players down here in Stockton, first of all we know there is a great fan base. It is something exciting to see. I will tell you, you outshite a lot of the AHL buildings in terms of the excitement. It is really great to see. Some would argue, some of the nights in the National Hockey League. Keep that going, keep that intensity, keep that passion going here. I know our players, we have the utmost confidence and respect for Matt Thomas and what he does. How he reacts to callups, and any time we have to send a player down here to Stockton. Two things that we emphasize in our organization is development and winning. Certainly Matt instills both of those principles on a daily basis. We certainly appreciate that, that is why we want to continue that relationship here in Stockton.
With the San Jose Sharks, I think it is a no-brainer for us. We have had a long relationship with Doug Wilson for a number of years. I have the utmost admiration and respect for him as a person first and formost, but certainly as a hockey executive as well. We just think this will be a great fit, a natural fit. This kind of piggybacks with our rookie tournament in Penticton, British Columbia with a couple of those other California teams which we won’t mention.
It should be great, we are really looking forward to this. We think this will be great for the city of Stockton, and certainly for both organizations the Edmonton Oilers and the San Jose Sharks.
San Jose Sharks GM/EVP Doug Wilson
Thanks very much, because I know how much work has gone into getting us to this point. All I can say to start off is that we are really excited to have a partnership with the Stockton Thunder as our ECHL affiliate. The Thunder have really fostered a great tradition of success on and off the ice, and for us it makes perfect sense for our franchise. I think we are located right around 80 miles apart as we enter this mutually beneficial relationship. I think I have to appreciate and thank Stockton chairman and owner Brad Rowbotham, president Dan Chapman, and certainly head coach Matt Thomas, who we have worked with and enjoyed a great relationship with for a long time.
We feel really comfortable with our players playing, learning and experiencing success under Matt. I think it is appropriate that I follow Ricky Olczyk because we want to thank the Edmonton Oilers organization. We look forward to working with them to bring a Kelly Cup to the city of Stockton. I can’t say how much respect I have in particular for (Edmonton Oilers GM) Steve Tamballeni and Rick Olczyk. I have known Ricky for a long time, and know the work he put into this. The partnership that we are trying to create here is to try to benefit all parties involved, but in particular to have a team that can win a championship. To bring a Kelly Cup to Stockton would be a great accomplishment for all of us.
To me it is a really exciting time for our organization, for Edmonton’s organization which Rick mentioned we are going to compete in a rookie tournament coming up in September. That is just the starting point of this relationship.
San Jose Sharks Assistant GM/VP Wayne Thomas
Personally I am excited with the partnership with the Thunder and the Oilers, but particularly to be back working with Matt Thomas. I think we look at partnering with an ECHL affiliate, there is three real things we look at, a stable professional organization, which Stockton has certainly proven to be a great partner for the last 4 going on 4 years with the Oilers, they have a proven history there. We also look for a place where hockey is important in the community. The response the fans have given to the Thunder the last 5 years, they are making a lot of people in minor league hockey happy. It is a great spot. There have been kids that have played there who have been through our organization and have had nothing but great things to say not only about how they are treated by the team, but also how they are treated in the community. The third thing is to entrust your players to a coach. Matt has done a great job in the past and present with our people, we are looking forward to working with him again.
It is a no-brainer. I am excited to work with the people over there, and like Doug said we are 80 miles away. That is an asset for us, to be able to see our kids play.
San Jose Sharks radio play-by-play host Dan Rusanowsky
It is a great pleasure to be here. I would be remiss if I didn’t talk for a moment about my background in minor pro sports. I spent 5 years in the American Hockey League in New Haven, and understand the relationship very closely between the affiliate team and the team in the National Hockey League. I have to say we have been watching the way the Stockton Thunder and Edmonton Oilers have been here in Stockton the last few years. It is really great to see people like Devan Dubnyk, Liam Reddox and some of the other players that have skated here get to the NHL. It shows a track record, it shows a professionalism, and that of course is a credit to Dan Chapman, Brad, Matt and everybody here in Stockton.
It also goes back to the fans. To those fans maybe checking us out on the internet, it gets back to you, the fact that you are so passionate, the fact that you love the game of hockey. Wayne Thomas talked about. The fact that there is a crossover between this area, and the fact that there are so many people coming to HP Pavilion to see the Sharks play. We see that on the radio, listening in on AM970 ESPN Radio that is our affiliate in this area, also in Sacramento. We have a lot of listeners that tell us they are tuning in. Also we see some zip codes from this area pick up a little bit when the Sharks play the Edmonton Oilers. What a surprise that might be. I think that is great. We think that is special, that rivalry on the ice is accentuated by the work the Sharks and the Oilers will do together to try to develop players. Development is the key to winning. The fact of the matter is, without those future players you are not going to have a present.
I think that people in Stockton are doing a great service to hockey by being so passionate. Dan runs a very professional organization here. You have a great training staff, a fact that often gets overlooked. The fact that our training staff can trust the people here and understand that if they are working with one of our players they are going to get top quality attention. Those are little things that really add up a great success for the organization.
What it also comes down to is that there is a winning tradition here, a love and support for the game. The San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers are proud to be working with the Stockton Thunder, and we hope to do so for a long time.