The Gage Dictionary of Canadian English describes the “Dog Days of Summer” as a period of very hot, humid, and uncomfortable weather during the months of July and August. The weatherman in Hamilton, Ontario, must not have gotten around to reading this dictionary yet because the weather has been cold, wet, and miserable. Hamilton’s own “Bulldog Days of Summer” have been as equally erratic as the weather, as the AHL team goes through its own methodical daily changes during the offseason.
The most drastic change has been the sudden dismissal of the entire coaching staff. More than a few Bulldogs fans had their jaws hit the floor with the shocking news that Head Coach Don Lever and Assistant Coach Ron Wilson had been relieved of their duties behind the bench. This dynamic duo of coaches led the Bulldogs to their first ever AHL Calder Cup Championship in 2007. Don Lever became Hamilton’s longest serving Head Coach in franchise history, coaching for four years, and when he was called up to Montreal late last season, many assumed that he was being groomed for the Head Coaching job with the Canadiens. Ron Wilson spent six years with the team and as the Interim Head Coach in Lever’s absence, finished the season with a 10-3-2-0 record.
They are replaced with the new Coaching Staff of Guy Boucher as Head Coach along with Daniel Lacroix and Martin Raymond as the Assistants
Guy Boucher comes with a wealth of coaching experience from the last 10 years which he has spent in Major Junior Hockey and IIHF International Hockey. He was the Head Coach of the QMJHL Drummondville Voltiguers for the last three seasons and has succeeded in taking every team he has coached to elevated levels of victory. His coaching triumphs have given him various league awards and several gold medals with Team Canada’s World Junior squad.
Daniel Lacroix was an Assistant Coach with the New York Islanders for the past three years and is a former NHL player. Like Boucher, Lacroix also has coaching experience in the QMJHL, while Martin Raymond had a long tenure in CIS Hockey, coaching the McGill University team for 14 years.
Player roster changes are also in progress.
Most significant is the departure of goaltender Marc Denis, the Bulldogs’ MVP last season. He played 46 games for the Bulldogs, posting a record of 27-18-0, with a Goals Against Average of 2.46 and 5 shutouts. Denis has been substituted between the pipes by Curtis Sanford, who spent the last two seasons with the Vancouver Canucks and Manitoba Moose. Sanford comes to the Bulldogs with 108 NHL games and 172 AHL games on his professional resume.
Additional players who will be pulling a Bulldogs jersey over their heads this season include Mike Glumac (the team’s top goal-scorer last season), Alex Henry, Chad Anderson, and Shawn Belle, who all re-signed one-year contracts. Bulldogs fans will also be able to see returning players such as David Desharnais, Cedrick Desjardins, Ryan Russell, and Brock Trotter to name a few. Mathieu Darche is a notable newcomer to the team. The 32 year old LW finished in the top-20 in league scoring last season, and will go a long way toward replacing the departed Yanick Lehoux. Other players moving on from last year’s squad include Doug Janik, T.J. Kemp, Dan Jancevski, Mathieu Aubin, and Olivier Latendresse.
Sadly, all of this is overshadowed by the media coverage of the Phoenix Coyotes and Jim Balsillie’s continued attempts to purchase the struggling NHL franchise and relocate them to Hamilton. This ongoing battle regarding the Coyotes has dominated the offseason and looms over the Bulldogs, as well as the season ticket holders and fans who support their AHL team. Should Mr. Balsillie become successful in his quest to move the NHL franchise, the Bulldogs are legally obligated to make way for the NHL team according to their lease agreement they have with Copps Coliseum. These ongoing events forced team owner, Michael Andlauer, to initiate an emergency back-up plan which consisted of opening negotiations with the City of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Mile One Stadium as a potential team relocation, should the Bulldogs be evicted from their Dog Pound in Hamilton.
However, whatever happens, the Hamilton Bulldogs are preparing for their upcoming season. This includes the very exciting news that the team is going to travel to Scotland in the preseason to participate in a 4-team tournament with their rivals, the Toronto Marlies, and two local UK Elite League Teams…the Belfast Giants and the Edinburgh Capitals. The Grand Prize in this tournament is the Gardiner Cup, which is named after Charles Gardiner, a Scotsman who played goal for the NHL Chicago Blackhawks in the early 1930s. The tournament takes place in Edinburgh from September 24-27 and is part of Scotland’s Ice Hockey Homecoming celebration.