Wolves embrace change this season

By Lindsey Woods

The Chicago Wolves have made quite a few changes since last year’s training camp. In addition to a new head coach and new assistant coach, most of the players are also new. During the summer, they switched their National Hockey League affiliation from the Atlanta Thrashers to the Vancouver Canucks.

The Wolves training camp started last week, and their season opener will be on Oct. 8 in San Antonio.

On June 27, the minor league team officially announced its change in affiliation after being with the Thrashers since 2001, when the Wolves franchise joined the American Hockey League. According to Michael Davies, a returning Wolves forward, the switch was made because the Thrashers were bought out by Winnipeg.

Shortly after the Vancouver affiliation was made public, the Wolves announced they would not be renewing Coach Don Lever’s contract. Craig MacTavish was brought in to replace him. Also hired was Assistant Coach Karl Taylor.

“[MacTavish] had an unbelievable NHL career and just as good of a coaching career,” Davies said. “He takes a lot of pride in defense and good attitude and work ethic in the locker room. I think that is going to rub off on everybody. It’s going to be good for us to have him.”

Davies was referring to the eight seasons MacTavish served as head coach of the Edmonton Oilers and the 19 seasons he logged as an NHL player.

“He’s played and coached for a while now, so it’s exciting to play under someone who clearly understands the game quite well,” said Mark Matheson, Wolves defenseman.

The new affiliation means mostly new players for the team. According to Bill Bentley, assistant general manager of the Wolves, the team has yet to determine the final lineup for the season, but they have a lot of young talent, like left-wing Bill Sweatt, 23, that they’re looking forward to working with.

“[Vancouver’s] goal is to win and to bring young guys into an organization where they learn how to win,” Bentley said. “Our goal, obviously, is to win and do the same thing.”

It’s too early to tell whether the changes will affect their play, according to Davies. They’ve only skated together a few times and haven’t played a regular season game yet. He also said he thinks the team will be fast and confident in its own zone this year.

“I can’t really say too much about them right now,” Davies said. “First impressions go a long way. All of them are great guys, and they work very hard on the ice. It’s going to be a good year, a good team and a good fit.”

Bentley said the players will have to learn what to expect from the coaches, and the coaches are going to have to learn their way around the facilities and the Chicago hockey scene. It’s a “learning experience,” he said, and it’ll take time to adjust.

“It’s the first day of school,” Bentley said. “You meet your new teacher, you learn your new classes, where to go and where to put your pencils. It’s going to be like that for a while, getting everyone into place.”

For the Wolves season schedule, tickets and news, visit ChicagoWolves.com or call 1-800-THE-WOLVES.