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Jotting it Down with Jesse: Character Building

Friday, July 10th
Jotting it Down with Jesse: Character Building

We’re coming up on about one month since the ECHL signing period opened in mid-June. And already, the Orlando Solar Bears’ roster for the 2020-21 season has started to take shape: 

The team has signed forwards Chris LeBlanc, Peter MacArthur and Trevor Olson; defensemen Alexander Kuqali, Kevin Lohan and Paul Meyer; and traded for defenseman Tommy Panico. 

That’s the makings of a solid core, and one that is extremely high on character. 

Having two members of the team’s leadership group in LeBlanc and Olson return is certainly welcome. Both served as part of the team’s leadership group this past season, and understand the culture that head coach and general manager Drake Berehowsky has attempted to cultivate since returning to the organization early in the 2016-17 season. 

Fans likely already have gotten a sense of the type of person MacArthur is via our Zoom interview with him earlier this week. 

The praise has continued to flood in from elsewhere around the league, and while it’s still only July, there’s a sense that the Solar Bears have made a very shrewd addition via the free agent market. 

Bergin out in South Carolina 

The South Carolina Stingrays had a bombshell announcement earlier this week when it was revealed that first-year head coach and John Brophy Award winner Steve Bergin is leaving the team after accepting a position outside of the ECHL. After being passed over in 2018 for the head coach position, Bergin remained as an assistant under one-and-done bench boss Spiros Anastas. His patience was rewarded and helped lead the Stingrays to the top spot in the ECHL prior to the season’s cancelation. With the exception of Anastas’ hiring, the team has historically always promoted from within; that would mean assistant coach – and former Solar Bears player – Ryan Blair is a likely candidate to take over behind the bench for South Carolina. 

What’s going on in Quebec? 

Yesterday there was some confusion in ECHL circles about a potential announcement coming out of the city of Trois-Rivières, Quebec – that's “Three Rivers” for those of you who don’t speak French. A press conference revealed an ownership group led by the same people who oversee the Newfoundland Growlers franchise have reached an agreement in principle to also field a team out of the new arena being built in Trois-Rivières, beginning in the 2021-22 season. 

While the team has yet to be approved by the ECHL Board of Governors, it’s an encouraging sign that the province of Quebec may soon include an ECHL affiliate for the Montreal Canadiens, who have begun to see the value in having a dedicated AA-level affiliate after struggling to find a permanent ECHL home for goaltending prospect Michael McNiven last season. 

Tulsa picks up new affiliate 

The Tulsa Oilers last week that they’ve added the Anaheim Ducks as their new NHL affiliate. The Ducks had previously been without an ECHL affiliate since working with the Utah Grizzlies in 2017-18. Last season, several Ducks prospects found themselves loaned to Tulsa. 

Emily Cave soldiers on 

In early April the hockey world suffered a devastating blow with the passing of Edmonton Oilers prospect Colby Cave due to a sudden brain bleed. His wife, Emily, spoke with ESPN’s Emily Kaplan about carrying on her late husband’s legacy. 

There’s a quote that resonates particularly well throughout the piece, and it’s the mantra by which Colby and Emily Cave tried to live their lives together: “Be somebody that makes everybody feel like a somebody.” 

Make this a must-read for yourself. 

NHL Return to Play becoming clearer 

It’s looking more and more like the NHL will finally resume with hub cities in Toronto and Edmonton to close out the 2019-20 season, and has tentatively agreed with the NHLPA to a four-year extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. That’s great for the game of hockey. Formal training camps for the Return to Play initiative will take place on Monday. The Qualifying Round is expected to open on Aug. 1. This is all subject to review, but for those who are hoping for some sort of closure for the past season and the awarding of the Stanley Cup, the path seems to be clear. 

Jesse Liebman is the director of communications and broadcasting for the Orlando Solar Bears and enters his sixth season behind the microphone as the team’s play-by-play voice for the 2020-21 season. Use the form below to shoot him your questions, comments or blog ideas.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Solar Bears. All opinions expressed by Jesse Liebman are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Solar Bears or their Hockey Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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