By Mark Simon
Special to NHL.com
Oct 11, 2002
The topsy-turvy nature of ECHL rosters from season to season means that almost every team has a completely fresh look with each new campaign. That may be especially true for the Greensboro Generals this year, and that’s a good thing because there’s nowhere for this franchise to go but up.
After three seasons languishing at the bottom of the league in both the standings and in attendance, Generals management made its boldest move since the franchise was brought back to this city, hiring Rick Adduono as head coach.
Adduono was the head coach of the South Carolina Stingrays for the past four seasons, guiding the team to a league championship in 2001. When Stingrays management elected not to renew his contract, the Generals acted quickly to bring him in. It’s a new start both for the team and for the head coach.
“They haven’t won here — I don’t know whose fault that was, nor do I care,” said Adduono. “I left South Carolina in tremendous shape and I’m not afraid to say that. I gave my heart and soul to that organization 24 hours a day. I’m confident about this job because somebody has to be. Somebody has to take on the challenge here and it’s full steam ahead for me.”
Adduono meant what he said. Within days of his hiring, the team inked a pair of cornerstones — veteran stars that had been cut by their former team. Former NHL goalie Daniel Berthiaume — well known by his nickname, “The Bandit” and his penchant for fishing — will be missed by a Roanoke Express fan base that wrote letters to the local newspaper protesting his release. He has been welcomed with open arms by the Generals. High-scoring physical forward Jay Murphy, a two-way presence whenever he is on the ice, returns to the Northern Conference after starring for the Louisiana IceGators.
“In this league, you have to solidify your goaltending right off the top, because a goalie like that can steal games for you during the season,” Adduono said. “Jay Murphy was a surprise. If there’s anybody on the opposing team that you’re going to hate, Jay Murphy was the guy. He played with an edge and always gave 100 percent. You can’t wait in this league. You have to grab the people who you think are going to be able to get it done.”
Adduono didn’t stop there, adding forward Mark Turner after he returned from England. Turner has scored 75 goals in his prior two ECHL seasons and was a valuable member of the Mobile team that came the closest to knocking Adduono’s Stingrays out of the playoffs the year of the Kelly Cup win.
The Generals weren’t completely overhauled, as Adduono made sure to keep the most valuable members of last season’s team — forwards Vlad Serov (profiled last season when he played for Ukraine in the Winter Olympics), David Whitworth and Chris Bell, and defenseman Andrei Lupandin.
The remainder of the roster will be filled out with younger talent. The Generals should be helped greatly by an affiliation agreement with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have promised the team a young goaltender to pair with Berthiaume.
Adduono knows that his team may not get off to a quick start, but he doesn’t figure to lose hope easily.
“Regardless of how we start,” he said, “we’re going to be very dangerous come playoff time.”
A quick start though may be necessary to generate the fan interest needed to keep hockey in the area. Greensboro was one of the most popular teams in the minor leagues during its initial ECHL run, but fans have not shown the same level of interest — yet.
“To keep the ECHL strong, I want to make this happen in Greensboro,” Adduono said. “Especially with the merger (with the WCHL) coming next season, it’s important to see this franchise get better.”