By Larry Holder
The Sun Herald
D’IBERVILLE, Miss. – Talk to Mississippi Sea Wolves operating owner Mike Rogers and he’ll always find a way to hail Steffon Walby, regardless of the topic.
The announcement of a contract extension for Walby on Wednesday should come as no surprise; the Sea Wolves’ head coach/general manager has received a one-year deal to remain on the Coast.
“We agreed to the terms on Monday and officially signed it (Tuesday), and the ’08-’09 season officially begins (Wednesday),” Walby said at a news conference.
Walby’s first ECHL coaching experience was unlike any other, as he worked in makeshift offices for nearly two years while the Sea Wolves sat dormant following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Basically building a roster from scratch, Walby guided the Sea Wolves to a 29-40-3 mark during the 2007-’08 regular season, including a berth in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Mississippi fell in the opening round to Texas 3-1 in the best-of-five series.
Walby said he took a couple of weeks to ponder other opportunities elsewhere. He ultimately decided manning the Sea Wolves’ bench was the right place for him at this time.
Former Sea Wolves coaches Bruce Boudreau and Bob Woods both moved to higher levels of hockey, and knowing that made the Walby’s decision to stay easier.
“Mississippi is making a little name, a little niche with all the personnel, athletic trainers, equipment guys, coaching staff, to all get to that next level … It all prepares you for bigger… . It’s certainly a great incentive to know that people have come from an ECHL market, as small as it may be down here, and got to the NHL, because that’s everyone’s goal,” Walby said.
Sea Wolves president Bill Yates understands this probably won’t be Walby’s final job on the bench with the fluidity of coaching changes in the NHL and AHL. Locking down Walby for at least one more season, Yates said, makes the Sea Wolves a better team.
“We know that he’s a wanted man,” Yates said. “He’s respected around pro hockey circles and I know that he has a lot of contacts with other leagues and other teams.
“We know that he’s got a future beyond the Sea Wolves and we don’t expect to keep him here for the rest of his career. But we want to get the most out of Steffon Walby that we can.”
After a little rest and relaxation, Walby will be back scouting and recruiting players along with finding a new affiliate as Mississippi and Tampa Bay are no longer connected.
“We’re already starting to entertain phone calls for players, affiliations and things to make us excited to know that we are heading in the right direction,” Walby said.