By Christine Troyke
Gwinnett Daily Post
For the second consecutive year, Gwinnett Gladiators president and general manager Steve Chapman was named the ECHL’s Executive of the Year.
The award, as determined by a vote of the board of governors, was announced on Tuesday following last week’s league meetings in Las Vegas.
Chapman expressed his surprise over the honor while vacationing in Florida with his family.
“This year I was shocked actually,” Chapman said. “I have to admit, this one means more than last year.”
“Because last year, after 14 years in the league, it was like it was more a lifetime achievement award,” he joked. “I’m like the Crash Davis of ECHL teams.”
All kidding with the “Bull Durham” reference aside, Chapman was instrumental in bringing the team to Gwinnett three years ago and has helped make it one of the league’s most successful organizations since.
The Gladiators advanced to the Kelly Cup finals for the first time in 2005-06 and have made the playoffs every year here. The team also has been a fixture in suburban Atlanta, making contributions to the community, schools and charitable organizations — including more than $75,000 raised for donation this season.
“Honestly, I had no idea,” Chapman said of his second straight selection. “So I was pretty honored if you want to know the truth. It makes you feel good because it means people respect what you’re doing. It shows our organization stands in good light with the league.
“But it’s not just me. It’s all the guys that work with me and for me.”
A runner-up for the award in 2003-04, Chapman is the team’s general manager and also a partner in Gwinnett County Hockey LLC, the team’s ownership entity. He is responsible for overseeing all business and hockey operations for the team — which is the ECHL affiliate of the Atlanta Thrashers and AHL Chicago Wolves.
The husband and father of two young kids began his sports management career in 1992 as a sales executive with the Birmingham Bulls before rising to assistant general manager of the ECHL team in 1993.
In 1995, Chapman accepted the challenge of bringing minor league hockey to Mobile, Ala., as general manager and was with the team in that capacity until its relocation to Gwinnett in 2003.
“We don’t have an organization of the year award, but really this is an honor bestowed on teams that operated the best both on and off the ice,” Chapman said. “It just shows what a good organization we have from top to bottom.”