By Brian Compton
Steffon Walby had everything going for him.
After years as a player/assistant coach with the Mississippi Sea Wolves, the franchise promoted its former two-time 40-goal scorer to head coach on July 27, 2005.
Walby went right to work, trying to put together a roster that could compete for a Kelly Cup championship.
But Mother Nature had other plans. Roughly a month after getting the job, Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc and devastation on the Gulf Coast, and the city of Biloxi was right in the middle of it. The Sea Wolves could not compete in the ECHL’s upcoming season, as the Mississippi Coast Coliseum suffered substantial damage.
In all likelihood, Walby’s tremendous opportunity had been completely swiped from him. The Sea Wolves were probably no more. After all, Biloxi and the surrounding neighborhoods had much larger problems than the area hockey club. Walby was worried about the direction he and his family were headed.
“I was really concerned,” Walby said. “I found myself wondering where life was going to take us. Was this really the path I should have gone down?”
While the Sea Wolves were on hiatus, Walby stayed involved in the game as much as he could. His contract with Mississippi saw to it that he was still being paid, so he spent September of 2005 working with Bob Hartley’s Atlanta Thrashers during training camp. Meanwhile, though, so many people in Biloxi were suffering. Walby decided to return to lend a hand in the reconstruction.
“The very last day of training camp, I decided that it wasn’t really for me and that I needed to be with my family and go back to Mississippi and fight the fight,” Walby said. I’ve pretty much been here ever since. I’ve seen people at their worst. I’ve lived it myself. I’ve sweat through those days with people in my community. I’ve battled through the trenches with insurances, with the coliseum here, with getting a team back with the ECHL.”
And now, two years later, the Sea Wolves are ready to make a comeback. Come October, Walby finally gets to conduct his first training camp as a head coach. Sometimes, things are just meant to be. In this case, though, Walby, along with the entire Biloxi community, put in a tremendous amount of blood, sweat and tears to see to it that the Sea Wolves remained in their lives.