New Icemen Season Born in Controversy

by Sylvain Tremblay | September 16, 2006, 10:49 PM ET
After another cold and windy summer in Reykjavik, a new hockey season is about to begin in controversy. Last year's hockey season ended abruptly, to the deception of both GM Sylvain Tremblay and the fans. The Icemen, who managed to secure the conference title, were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Helsinki Hawks. At the same time, the team was left in financial dismay due to a year of poor attendances and revenues. Like the hot springs, the only thing that did warm up talks during the summer was whether the team would stay in the freezing city or move to a more welcoming place. Without a rink agreement with another city, it seems the Reykjavik Icemen will be staying at least another season in Iceland. The team's outlook this year will be really different, as the team's payroll will be diminished once again. GM Sylvain Tremblay was clear on that point "If the fans don't want to come to watch the game, we can't force them to either. But that means we need to reduce our payroll for a second year or face bankruptcy. So, since I took over the team, the payroll will have went down from $80M to about $30M this year. If the fans finally show a better support for the team, we might try to bring a high profile UFA next summer. For this year though, our budget is set and we have to recoup our losses for the past years." The fans can't expect too much from the team this year, as the roster will be composed of many rookies and younger players finally seeing a promotion. Players that will be returning from last year are Joe Nieuwendyk, Doug Weight, Jan Bulis, Alex Tanguay, Jochen Hecht, Dainius Zubrus, Josh Langfeld, Darius Kasparaitis, Tom Poti and Dan Cloutier. There may be one of the veterans UFA this year that could be coming back to the team according to the Franchise Player provision, but who that would be hasn't been determined yet. The empty roster spots left by the older players quitting the team will be filled by players making a come back from the farm team and prospects graduating from the juniors. Among the guys that will be back after spending a year in the minors are Chris Gratton, Chuck Kobasew, Mike Leclerc, Bryan Muir, Sean Bergenheim, Aaron Johnson and Jamie Rivers. The rookies that should be able to get a roster spot are Paul Gaustad, Shane Endicott and Paul Ranger. Despite the problems the Icemen franchise is facing, GM Sylvain Tremblay is still enthusiastic about the upcoming season: "I believe we will be fighting for a playoff spot once again this year. We're going to have a lot of fresh new faces in the locker room and we're going to give more ice time to our young and talentuous players to showcase their talent. I don't think we will be able to win the Conference title again, but we're still going to battle out there every night for the win." League activities will be starting again today, with a dispersal draft for the new franchises joining in the SICHL. After that, there will be a much anticipated draft next weekend, where the Icemen will try to make some noise again, despite having no first round selection this year, according to GM Sylvain Tremblay: "Just like last year, which was my first draft with the team, we won't have a selection in the first round. It doesn't really matter though, as I'm sure we're going to be able to pick some gems later on, with our great scouting team. We're already prepared quite well for the event and I'm telling you right now that we're going to try to move up and maybe add a few picks if we think we can secure a few of the special players we're scouted. During the next week, I'm going to hand the press our evaluation of last year's draft and it will be the benchmark for our upcoming draft. The bar will be high, but our scouting staff is ready to meet expectations." This year will be important for the Reykjavik franchise, as many things are at stake for the owners, GM and the fans. There are high expectations in terms of team's finance and rankings. Plus the fans will have to show some commitment, else the franchise may well find a new city to play in come next September. It seems like this year may well be a hot springs for news in Icemen territory.

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