The future of Syracuse hockey got a huge "bolt" last month when it was announced the Tampa Bay Lightning would be the brand new affiliation of the Crunch, and on Thursday the Lightning brass touched down in Syracuse. Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman certainly knows what it takes to win as an organization, having captained the Detroit Red Wings to three Stanley Cups in his playing days, and says the Crunch will be a very important factor in the Lightning's championship plan.
"Our mandate is we want to develop our young players," says Yzerman, "we want to get them better from the start of the year until the end of the year, and obviously part of that is winning."
That winning attitude has already been instilled into the new look Crunch, having won the Calder Cup this passed season in Norfolk, along with the championship at the East Coast League level as well. The move to Syracuse is another important tweak in the grand plan of success for the organization.
"We have a lot of returning players," says new Crunch General Manager Julien Brisebois, who was previously G.M. For the Montreal Canadien's AHL affiliate, "we have new young players coming in that are high quality prospects as well to kind of replenish the pipeline, so we're excited."
"We really like the fact that (Syracuse) is a hockey market," added Yzerman, "a lot of people play the game in the area, follow the game, their children play, the location of the city is very important to us for travel."
Jon Cooper was the Head Coach for the Calder Cup Norfolk team, and will continue his duties here in Syracuse. He admits that having minds like Brisebois and Yzerman at the helm, two guys who have already had unbelievably successful careers, gives the entire organization a winning mentality.
"They want to win." says Cooper, "and they're going to do what they can. We're a big believer in developing our players for the NHL, but one of the things on the top of the list of development is winning."
And that bodes very well for Crunch fans starting in October.