Patience is Hard to Come By

The Cincinnati Cyclones have a new coach, Skalde.  Our previous coach, Weber, was very successful. Let me repeat very successful.  Two ECHL Championships in 4 years successful.  It has to be tough to come into a system that was very successful and have to deal with pressure from expectations.

To say the least we in Cincinnati are very spoiled.  We expect our ECHL Hockey team to continue to be successful even under a new coach because from our perspective there are a lot of returning players from last season’s championship team.  If those guys were successful last year, they should still be successful this year, right?

Under Weber, even if our team started the season slow (and it always did), we as fans had confidence that no matter what by the time January rolls around, our team will be one to be reckoned with.  It always was, and our record the last four seasons proves that.

The problem I see this year is that there is no confidence by the fans that Skalde can turn the team around because we don’t know him.  We only know Skalde by his past coaching performances which weren’t that great and what we have seen so far this year.  Neither of those two items inspires confidence from the fans.

On top of that Skalde doesn’t seem to be nearly as fan centered as Weber was.  Weber knew that his bread and butter were the fans.  Inspire the fans and make them believe, and they can lift up a hockey team to the next level.  The fans will be the 7th man on the ice to help in difficult games to put our team on top.  I’m not sure Skalde quite gets this, but maybe he’s shy being in a new city and all, but in comparison, Coach Weber would never have missed the annual season ticket holder dinner and would have held it right before the season started.  Of course for all I know Skalde had no say on when the dinner was held and therefore blame lies on the sales department.

As for how the team and coach Skalde are doing so far this season and where that will take us in the future; I am trying to keep an open mind, but boy when you get burned on the same outlet pass four times in a game and no change was made to stop it; it makes it hard to keep that open mind.  I keep telling myself that the guys from last year are learning a new system, and that it is going to be painful until we get it and that is assuming that the new system will be successful.

Coach Skalde has said that he wants our team to be an offensive team first.  I’m good with that, but I can tell you if we do not work on our defense then our offense is going to have to be scoring in the double digits to keep up.  So far, our defense is pathetic to say the least.  I am sure it will improve.  I don’t really see how it can’t…it is that bad.

Our goalies both need work as well…and work with the defense.  To both goalies, when I (we sit directly behind the score twice goal) can see a totally empty net and you are a foot off to the side…you are too far off to the side.  You will get burned and burned over and over by someone passing to the guy on the other side.  Because you are so far out, there is no way on this great earth you can get over to stop the shot.  Learn to stay closer to home.

To the defense, the fact that you allow that pass to occur, is not helping out our goalie.  Our goalies need help.  As a defense, you need to stop the guy who is streaking over to catch a pass.  You also need to man-up and be aggressive and hit the guy with the puck.  You do one of the two and that pass doesn’t occur and your goalie will be happier with you.

To our offense, where are you guys?  We are supposed to be an offensive team first.  That’s what our coach said.  So far I don’t see it.  We have a hard time even getting the puck into the zone and once we do break that plane, we can’t keep it in the zone.  Our poor goalie had a hard time getting off the ice, so that we could get another man on the ice because you weren’t doing your jobs.

I’m not even going to talk about the penalty kill or the power play.  Neither exists, so no point in talking about them.  Note to coach…we need both or I will start calling our power play a power kill again.  And as someone in our section said, “It’s not even a power kill when our five guys have to work hard against four to even get the puck in our zone.”  So, I’m not sure what to call it at this point.

So, from my perspective we need to work on all aspects of the game.  I don’t mean to dog you Cyclones, and I will be there for every win and every defeat, but you aren’t looking pretty right now.

My point is that as fans, we need to realize that there will be growing pains with a new coach and new goalies.  The Cyclones are traditionally slow starters for what ever reason.  I am currently hoping that our team is being its usual slow starter, and that come January we will be a force to be reckoned with.  Please as fans, do not say “Cyclones Suck” or “Boo” our team right now.  Do not be like Philadelphia fans and bring your own team down.  I would say right now, our team needs us the most.  If you need someone to boo, boo the refs.

In January, is when we can make a judgment call on the new coach; not right now.  Please give him a chance.  Skalde has huge shoes to fill and he’s going to make mistakes.  As long as he realizes his mistakes and learns from them, I will be happy.  This is ECHL hockey where players and coaches refine their skills.  So give them a break and be patient; even though it is very difficult right now.  Patience is very hard to come by isn’t it? 😉

Open Letter to Coach Chuck Weber

Dear Coach Weber,

First off let me give you a belated “CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! On the AHL Coaching job with Rochester.”  I am really, and truly happy for you. 🙂  You deserved a job in the AHL after the 2008 Cyclones championship, but I am happy that you stayed with us for two more years even if I am being selfish.

Back in 2006 when the Cyclones came back to Cincinnati, I wasn’t a big hockey fan because I had never been around it.  My boyfriend was though and he wanted to go to the opening night game.  We enjoyed ourselves and decided to attend the next game which as you probably remember there was a brawl and Matt Rogers wound up getting his head slammed to the ice.  That was my introduction to hockey.

For the record, I am not a big fan of hockey fights, but I understand them and why the guys fight.  I learned from you what a good fight is and what a bad fight is.  The problem is getting the rookie fans to understand that it was a bad fight even though our guy won the fight. 😉  I now have an understanding of that aspect of the game from a coach’s perspective and I look for it.

Anyway we started coming to the weekend games, and kept mainly to ourselves that first year.  But the one thing I noticed about you was that no matter what was going on; you always had a smile for us fans.  In 2006, the Cyclones were predicted to finish in last place.  You and the team far exceeded those goals and finished in fine fashion.

In the 2007-2008 season, boyfriend and I became partial season ticket holders and started interacting with our section who has become our second family.  The only games we missed that season were weekday games in November and December.  It was a once in a lifetime season with the team breaking records left and right along with Texas.  We knew that we were a part of something special, and you gave that to us.

That season, the nights that I loved most were the weekday nights.  What I loved most was that I could hear the players on the ice due to the crowd noise being down.  I believe I even heard you holler out once or twice. 😉  A crowd is nice for the arena, but it seems like a bond is made with the dedicated fans and the players during the weekday games.

When we won the championship, I was so proud for you and the guys.  You deserved it!  I told boyfriend in the car on the way home that we would probably lose you after that season.  I was happy for you, but also sad.   I knew you deserved to move up to the AHL, but I wanted you to stay with us because you were the only coach I knew.

Then the news came, that you were staying in Cincinnati for the 08-09 season.  What?  Why?  I was sad for you, but elated that you were back.  We became season ticket holders and attended the season ticket holder dinner at the start of the season.  You spoke to all the season ticket holders and explained how you were attacking this next season with the loss of a vast majority of the previous season players due to call ups to the AHL.

Here is where I absolutely became a dedicated fan of yours.  You looked us straight in the eye.  You made eye contact with us.  You were speaking to us; not at us.  You were also being very honest in that we were starting off with basically a new group of guys.  You explained that we would have a good team with the new recruits, but there was going to be a learning curve and that we needed to be patient.

And then you asked if there were any questions. 🙂  I think most of us were surprised at first that you, a coach of a professional team, would take the time to answer our questions.  We appreciated it.  We came to fully respect you because you respected us.  After that dinner, I started telling my ticket representative that when they have jersey auctions that they needed to include one for you.  I kept telling him that people will buy it.  Unfortunately, it never happened that season.

We also attended the pucks and pasta dinner where the players serve the fans and there was the first talent show and an auction afterwards.  I have never laughed so hard in my life.  This is the other thing that I loved about having you as a coach is that you taught the payers that the fans should be respected as well.  When the t-shirts off their backs were auctioned, the players signed the shirts, and you had them go out and shake hands with the person who won the auction.  I happened to get the Chuck Weber shirt and the Chris Burke t-shirt was boyfriends.  I was in shock when you came over and shook my hand.  I and the other winners of the auction will never forget the moment when we were made to feel special by you and the team.  Thank you!

That year we went to the playoffs again, and there was another dinner for ticket holders.  Even though you had to prepare for the playoffs, you once again took the time to speak with us.  Again, you spoke to us; not at us.  Boyfriend and I loved hearing your perspective of the team.  You are a very good speaker Coach Weber, and I applaud you.

That season we were in a tight playoff series that was tied and the final game was at home.  That game went to a double overtime, and we fans were cautiously nervous because we were confident we’d win.  We knew that you could coach our team to a win, and you didn’t let us down.  I remember our players changing every 15 to 30 seconds to keep their legs under them.  At first I thought it was strange, but when the second overtime started; our guys looked fresh whereas the other team looked sluggish.  It took very little time for Syro to score a goal in that second overtime.  You coached our team awesomely. 🙂

We wound up not winning the championship that year, but you gave us a lot of memories to enjoy.  Once again I swore that you would be given a job in the AHL because you took a team that was pretty much decimated and won the division plus made a strong playoff run.  Boyfriend agreed and we were just hoping that the new coach was a memorable as you were.  We were shocked, but elated to hear that you were back for the 09-10 season.

The 09-10 season was a rocky one.  At the start of the season, our defense/goalies were giving up a ton of points in a game, but our penalty kill was awesome.  We were shaking our heads at the start of the season.  But the one thing we all agreed on in our section was that with Coach Weber at the helm we would have a great team by the end of the regular season.  You did not disappoint us.  🙂

The one thing that we did joke about in our section was that instead of a power play; it was more like a power kill.  In that we had the man advantage, but were just killing time.  🙂 It is a joke that we had because it really seemed like we could not score on a power play.  🙂 Sorry…we were trying to keep our frustration down regarding our power play. 🙂  But you know what happened? When we needed it to in the playoffs, that power play scored. 🙂

AT the end of the year, the Cyclones had a jersey auction, and low and behold they had a jersey with your name on it.  I had all season been asking for them to have a Coach Weber jersey.  I even talked to the fans in my section about asking their representatives for it as well.  It worked, and I think the organization was shocked at how high it went.  I was going to bid on the jersey, but it went very high very fast, and I could not get it.  I was not surprised at this because you are truly the favorite Cyclones coach of all time for many fans.  We all want a Coach Weber jersey.

As fans the team was endearing if not frustrating the whole season.  One game they looked awesome and the next we were wondering if they all had the flu because they didn’t look good.  During the playoffs, the team just looked tired.  I think the biggest break was when Bon Jovi needed the arena and we got a 3 day break.  I don’t know what you did with the team during those 3 days, but whatever it was worked.  Our team did what very few others have done and came back from a 3 game deficit and won. 🙂

Once we got past that series, we fans knew it was won.  It was just a matter of when and where the championship would be won.  You and the team did it at home which I think is all the more special.  Last season was absolutely amazing to watch.  We didn’t have the glamour of the 2008 championship team, but the 2010 championship team had heart and scrappiness about them.  The two winning teams are so special for different reasons, but they both had you as the coach.

At the celebration on Fountain Square, the whole team was there and you know how hot it was, but you and the team stayed there for us fans.  When you spoke, you were very gracious and distributed the accolades every where.  It is nice that you are so humble and that is what is endears you even more to our hearts.  At the jersey auction, I got the Ortiz jersey.  I really liked how he played in the playoffs.  After I went over and got my jersey and came back to where boyfriend was, I looked over at you to see what you were doing.  You actually noticed me look towards you, and you made eye contact and smiled.  Again I felt special and it is these little things that you do for all fans that makes us feel so special.  Just one smile is all it takes for us.

The one thing that I one hundred percent trust you on is your recruiting.  I don’t know how you do it, but you can find talent in players that other coaches pass by.  You were willing to give a guy a chance to play in the ECHL.  You were also willing to at any time allow a player to go to a higher league which as a coach that had to be difficult.  But you pulled the team through those times, and found players that needed a chance to come out and prove themselves.  Many did and some didn’t, but every player gave their all for the team.

It is because of this trust that I am trusting that your replacement will be a good one.  Skalde has some huge shoes to fill, and it will be difficult for him because you are so liked here in Cincinnati.  Because of you, we are willing to give him a chance.  I appreciate that you worked it, so that you were still affiliated with our organization.  It gives us comfort to know that you are out there giving the advice which we fans respect.  I can only hope that Skalde takes some of it.

Boyfriend and I are trying to find a Rochester game that we can attend to see your new team in action.  I truly hope that you are as successful in Rochester as you were here, and that you eventually get a job in the NHL.  Once you make your millions in the NHL and are tired of that level, come on back to Cincinnati. 🙂 We’d love for you to spend your retirement on our bench training our young men to be great hockey players. 🙂

Thank you for the four awesome years that you gave us!

A Chuck Weber Fan for Life