By Jeremy Peter
CINCINNATI – An argument could be made that the Cincinnati Cyclones’ Chuck Weber became the ECHL coach of the year because he was the top ticket salesman for the Orlando Solar Bears 10 years earlier.
Weber got the award after leading the Cyclones to the Kelly Cup championship last year, and he has his team back in the playoffs this year.
But when he began his career in hockey, Weber didn’t have much experience in the sport and took a position in the Orlando marketing department because it represented the best way to get close to the game he loved.
Once he got his foot in the door, he tried to become the best at everything he did so if something better presented itself, his employers would be hard-pressed to turn him down. His plan worked, and Weber parlayed his sales success into a job working in the Solar Bears’ video department, and became friends with then-Orlando coach Peter Horachek, who coached in the ECHL in 1990-91 and 2001-02.
Weber’s work ethic in breaking down game videos and taking on extra duties impressed Horachek, who made Weber the team’s second assistant coach and had him help out in practice in addition to his video duties.
“He was a tireless worker,” Horachek, now an assistant coach with the NHL’s Nashville Predators, said of Weber. “He was a sponge. We talked a lot about it takes to be successful as a coach and what it takes to win hockey games. We had a great rapport. He was very dedicated to doing what it takes to win.”
Horachek’s Solar Bears, with Weber in tow, went on to win the Turner Cup in 2001. Horachek next took the helm of the Trenton Titans, and one of the first things he did was make sure Weber got his first shot as a bench coach.
“A lot of people asked if I was sure I didn’t want someone with more experience, and I said no,” Horachek said. “Technically he was exceptional, and he was tireless and loyal. … As a coach you have to have a respect level and a discipline level, but you also have to be able to show the players that you care about them and you care about the team. Those are important things. Chuck was able to add to that environment. He has great intensity and focus. He has a passion for the game, and it shows.”
The two men won a Northern Conference Championship with Trenton. When Horachek moved on to coach for Milwaukee in the American Hockey League, Weber again was right by his side and helped guide the Admirals to the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs.
“I have the utmost respect for Pete,” Weber said. “He taught me so much. There were a lot of subtle lessons in doing things the right way and taking no shortcuts. He’s a winner, and I’ve always had that respect for him. Learning so much from him has allowed me to take the steps I have in my career.”
The two keep in touch, and Weber expects Horachek will become an NHL head coach. If that opportunity comes his way, Horachek said he happily would recommend Weber for a position on his squad.
“In this game there are some great friendships that form, and he is one of them,” Horachek said of Weber. “Once you have won something together, you become like family.”