By Brian Compton
NHL.com Staff Writer
In 2003-04, the Cincinnati Cyclones finished in the cellar of a nine-team Northern Division with just 25 wins and 54 points.
They spent the next two seasons on voluntary suspension, but returned in 2006 with a young, energetic coach who was determined to put hockey back on the map in a city that went from hosting ECHL and American Hockey League teams to none at all.
In his first year as an ECHL head coach, Chuck Weber guided the Cyclones to a 37-win season and a trip to the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs, where they lost a heated seven-game series to the eventual conference champion Dayton Bombers.
One year later, Weber’s Cyclones are in the Kelly Cup Finals.
After racking up 115 points during the regular season, Cincinnati is tied after two games with the Las Vegas Wranglers – the National Conference’s top team in 2007-08 – in a best-of-seven series that continues Thursday at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
It truly is the culmination of a tremendous campaign for these Cyclones, who are drawing more fans now than they did during the regular season. Media coverage in Cincinnati has skyrocketed, as Weber skates off the ice following practice and finds tape recorders and television cameras in his face.
Yes, hockey is back in Cincinnati.
“The city has just exploded,” Weber told NHL.com. “Ever since we started the playoffs against Johnstown, the media coverage has really picked up. On Monday night, we had a coach’s show, and every TV station was there. There’s definitely a buzz. There hasn’t been a pro sports team to bring a championship here since the Reds in ’90, and they haven’t had a professional hockey championship here since ’73, which is kind of crazy since that was the year I was born.”