When Mike Pelino, the Spokane Chiefs’ new assistant coach, reported for work this week, the energy coming out of the coaches’ office at the Arena was doubled.
Pelino has a lot in common with his boss, Chiefs coach Mike Babcock.
Like Babcock, Pelino brings an academic as well as athletic background to the Western Hockey League club that returns to work Wednesday with the opening of training camp.
Pelino left Brock University in St. Catherine’s, Ontario, after a decade as head coach.
He says a No. 2 role is no problem. The two worked together, Babcock as head coach, Pelino as an assistant, with Team Canada at the World Junior Tournament.
“When Mike and I got re-acquainted with the national junior team it was a great formula,” said Pelino, who answers to the nickname “Plug.” “We’re on the same wavelength. It’s not like I’m going to be there, second-guessing. I know my role. I’m a support person. It’s a great fit, working together toward a Memorial Cup.”
Playing as the host team in junior hockey’s Final Four, the Memorial Cup, the Chiefs face a different motivation - the pressure to perform on a championship level in May without the pressure of having to win in the regular season or in the playoffs.
“We don’t want the Memorial Cup to be something that hangs over our heads,” Pelino said Friday. “We want it to be a sort of guiding light that attracts us. We know it’s going to be a challenge to get them prepared to win it.”
The 37-year-old assistant said there are no guarantees in his contract beyond this season. Speculation is that the Chiefs were looking for a potential head coach, anticipating Babcock’s move into pro hockey.
“My family and I are approaching this as a one-year opportunity to do something special, and then whatever happens happens,” Pelino said. “By no means am I looking further right now than this one-year aspect.
“I have all the confidence in the world that if we’re successful, things are going to happen. If that means Mike moves up to bigger and better things and the organization feels that I’m the right person for the job, or Mike stays and something else comes up for me, I don’t want to look beyond ‘97-98.
“There is so much we want to do and are looking forward to doing.”
Pelino and his wife of eight years, Kim, have two children, Alexandra and David.
His resume includes three Ontario Universities Athletic Association coach of the year awards and a gold medal as head coach of the Canadian under-18 team that won last summer’s Pacific Cup in Nelson, British Columbia.
The Chiefs aren’t sure if their pick in the import player draft, Czech center Petr Sykora, will be on hand when players report Wednesday. He is a second-round draft choice of the Detroit Red Wings and the younger brother of Chicago Black Hawks defenseman Michal Sykora. He may report to Detroit’s camp before a decision on his immediate future is made. Sykora had an assist in two games during last September’s World Cup. … The Chiefs dive right into the grind. After registering Wednesday, they will scrimmage Thursday at the Arena, GM Tim Speltz said. Training sessions are open to the public. …
Trent Whitfield, in town to work the Chiefs hockey school that ends today, still has no contract with the Boston Bruins. The two sides aren’t close, but Whitfield leaves for the Bruins camp Sept. 3 hoping to accelerate interest. Look for the versatile Whitfield to do just that. Chiefs insiders believe Whitfield will be on the Bruins’ roster come opening night. … Chiefs captain Hugh Hamilton picked up 15 pounds during the summer to strengthen his bid to stick with the NHL Carolina Hurricanes, formerly the Hartford Whalers. …
Ex-Chiefs goaltender coach Jamie Reeve has officially added the assistant’s GM job to go with his assistant coaching duties with the Swift Current Broncos. … RW Ty Jones is one of 22 U.S. players in Finland for an exhibition tournament. It keeps Jones on the fast track to an appointment to the U.S. World Junior Tournament team. “This doesn’t mean he’s made their team for Christmas, but it gives him a good head start,” Babcock said. … Former Chiefs captain Jon Klemm has signed a three-year, $1.75 million deal with the Colorado Avalanche.
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