By Scott Linesburgh
Record Staff Writer
Copyright © 2005
STOCKTON, Calif. – Chris Cichocki arrived in Stockton on Wednesday and announced the time had come to build a winning hockey team.
Cichocki, a proud hockey lifer whose name rhymes with the sport he loves, was officially introduced as the coach of Stockton professional hockey franchise at the Valley Brewing Company. After touring the site of the new arena and meeting with team officials, he promised to put together a hard-hitting, exciting team which would win on the ice and be involved in the community.
He also vowed to bring along his passion for the game, and pointed out his last name is pronounced “Cha-hockey.”
“I love hockey. I’ve got it in my name, and I’ve got it in my blood too,” Cichocki said. “It’s a great sport, and I can tell there will be a lot of buzz for it here. They are going to have a beautiful new stadium, and we’re going to work very hard to put a winning team on the ice.”
Team owner Michael Reinsdorf touted Cichocki’s experiences as an NHL player with Detroit and New Jersey and as a coach in the Double-A ECHL with Arkansas and Cincinnati some of the reasons he hired him.
“I think he’s exactly what we were looking for in a coach, and you just heard so many good things about Chris Cichocki,” Reinsdorf said. “I would call people about other candidates, and if Chris’ name came up, the person on the phone would start raving about him. He has a great reputation in the game, and he knows how to make us competitive right away.”
Cichocki, 41, will be taking over the team former known as the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies. He will be the primary decision maker on personnel matters, and when the ECHL playoffs ends in June he will be able to protect as many as eight players on Atlantic City’s final 2004-05 roster. Cichocki can then negotiate with those players and any available free agents.
He said he already has a list of 200 players he’s considering and he will get the talent to win.
“This is not a two- or three-year plan here,” Cichocki said. “You can build quickly in this league.”
In his first season as a coach with the Arkansas RiverBlades in 2000, Cichocki inherited a team which won just 18 games the year before. Cichocki kept just two of the 20 players who where there when he arrived and made the playoffs with a 34-24-14 record.
“They won 18 games, so they didn’t have the right players,” Cichocki said. “But the two I kept really helped us.”
Cichocki said favors aggressive hockey with plenty of hard checking noting that “we’re not playing volleyball out there.” Florida Everblades defenseman Ryan Brindley, who played for Cichocki in Cincinnati, said that’s exactly the type of hockey fans will see in Stockton.
“Chris is a player’s coach in the sense that he just wants you to go out there and play hard,” Brindley said. “He does like to be aggressive, and those are the types of players he’ll recruit.”
He’ll start scouting players immediately from his home in Cincinnati, and will move to Stockton in June with his wife, Val, and two children.
“We are moving to Stockton and it’s very important that we’re part of the community,” Cichocki said. “It’s something we’ll stress to our players.”