By Tom Hanson
Copyright © 2005 Naples Daily News
ESTERO, Fla. – Craig Brush’s face became bright red.
It looked like the Florida Everblades general manager, president and part-owner had gotten too much sun playing golf. But that wasn’t the case.
Brush was just plain mad.
And then he erupted.
He lashed out in a verbal assault that would have made Lou Piniella proud.
“Why do you guys always have try to find something wrong?” Brush asked me — minus a few words that we can’t print.
He obviously wasn’t happy about a potentially negative column about the unenthusiastic crowd at Germain Arena.
Did it bother me that he was so upset?
No. I loved it and not because I’m some sadistic fool who likes to irritate people.
On the other hand, it just showed Brush cared.
No one cared more about the Everblades than Brush. Take notice of the use of past- tense verbs here.
After the Everblades lost out on their second chance for a Kelly Cup championship last week no one hurt more than Brush.
His face wasn’t red but he truly was upset.
“I’m disappointed that’s about all I can say right now,” he said after congratulating the coaches from the Trenton Titans.
Brush’s frustration was compounded by the fact that this was most likely his last chance to win a championship with the Everblades.
With the pending sale of the franchise and the arena, Brush could be the first one out of a job.
While everyone seems so worried about whether Reggie Berg or Brad Church will be back next season, the person who would be missed the most next season is Brush.
Thanks to Brush’s vision, Southwest Florida hockey fans have been spoiled.
First he brought hockey here. When he told people he was going to build a ice hockey rink in the middle of a cow pasture in Estero they called him crazy. Now you’re all crazy about the team he’s built — that winning team that he’s built.
Thanks to Brush’s player personnel talent and his ability to stock the roster with quality players year after year, the Everblades have never had a losing season. How many franchises can say that?
The Everblades have never missed the playoffs. What else needs to be said?
“The Everblades wouldn’t be what they are today without Craig Brush,” Everblades forward Brandon Coalter said. “He’s the man that has made it all possible. And without him hockey may have never lasted this long here.”
Who would have thought that Brush, this little, once again with an emphasis on little, insurance man with a dream and a love for hockey, could pull it off? He called running Germain and the Everblades the toughest job that he’s ever had. He also called it the most rewarding.
“I’m a competitor,” Brush said. “I hate to lose worse than anyone. While it was a lot of work at times I love the fact that we could measure our success by looking at the standings every morning.”
The Everblades may have never won a Kelly Cup during Brush’s reign. And during the seven years, he’s heard his share of complaints.
But no one should be complaining about the job Brush has done.
By putting a winner on the ice and making hockey flourish in the hot Florida sun, no one could ever call him a loser.
There’s less than 90 days until the start of Everblades’ training camp and compiling a roster that will compare with last season’s will be tough.
But replacing Brush, the father of hockey in Southwest Florida, will be a tougher task.