This month the AIHL premiers Coaches Corner with Todd Wiley of the Harrisburg Lunatics. Coach Wiley weighs in on his organization, his competetion, and their first year expectations.
AIHLHockey.com: Coach what makes the Harrisburg Lunatics unique?
Coach Wiley: I think of the Lunatics as a sort of comprehensive package much like when you purchase full coverage insurance. We work as a family within the “Tics”. The Staff from coaching to game day personnel, to the behind the scene work with financing and all the red tape of running a team is all managed within the organization and done out of a passion for the game. This reflects to the players who I believe see it as people who care about their experience. That reflection brings out the best in the players on the rink, bench and off the rink. It is nice leaving the rink after a game or practice knowing that you are thought of beyond your dollar bills.
There is a long standing history of great hockey players and teams here over the years of this sport and that helps to give the Lunatics a sort of aura of tradition and pride which carries over from season to season. The Lunatics do nearly as much off the rink together as they do on the rink. Players mesh to become close friends, they hang out together, they become close knit in a social setting and no one player is held in a higher light than another. This may sound like a fairytale but truly it is not.
As far as game play uniqueness, I think teams who have played against us would agree that we are strong based as a program on defense. I hate using words such as stingy or tenacious because usually that thinking will bite you later. But having one solid system you use year after year helps to create a unique style with the team.
AIHLHockey.com: Who do you think will be your biggest competition and who are you most looking forward to playing against this season?
Coach Wiley: The teams in the Colonial Division are all very familiar to the Lunatics and we know each of them well. I am not stating this to avoid slighting any one team, but honestly every team in the division has previously given us fits. Bandits, Inferno, Mavericks, Richmond are all teams with a lot of character and color. All are managed by first class gentlemen that I know personally as friends in and out of the hockey community. All have players who can strike deadly at any moment and I would not want to underestimate a single one of them. I love the fact that once again we will meet on the rink to renew rivalries. If that answer seems diplomatic? You can bet your rear-end that it was meant to be.
AIHLHockey.com: Who are the players to watch out for this year in the Lunatics organization for both Elite and Minor?
Coach Wiley: In Elite with the Lunatics Shawn Powell is lean, fast, and strong on the puck and has become a leader with the players. He is solid, smart and has gifted skill. Jason Allen is has a jump to his skates that puts him beyond quick. Mix that with being a pure goal scorer and he becomes lethal. Josh Murphy may well be the strongest defensive player on the team, he is young and quick and covers an amazing amount of floor both with his skating and his long reach. Nick Pappas gives us the grit of the hard working man and has great passing and shooting presence. Jay Mazer has been playing for as long as many can remember and he is every bit as dangerous and crafty with the puck and skates today, and his leadership to this organization is unparalleled. Bubba Albright, and Svend Sheppard are our youngest Elite, both have impressive speed and abilities. Might be the quickest team I have ever coached.
For the Minor team, you have Angel Silva who has played with the Tics for 8 or 9 years and he brings leadership and experience and is always quick on his feet. Ryan McCrone, Brett Wiley , Dennis Conrad, Ryan Fitser, and Derrick Kreiser also bring that valuable experience and together will give a strong nucleus of solid defense. Where of course all good things happen.
AIHLHockey.com: What players in the league are you and your team most looking forward to oppose?
Coach Wiley: I have always enjoyed the talents of Dustin Roux of the Bandits, Kevin Donovan, Kevin Spain , and the Lensing Brothers (if they are playing for) of the Mavericks, The Davis brothers of the Inferno, and R.K. Kent of Richmond . League wide there is an endless list as we have played against some incredible players who make a game exhilarating and are a pleasure to compete against. It will be an extreme pleasure to share the rink again with these gentlemen again.
AIHLHockey.com: As an new team to the American Inline Hockey League, what are your first season expectations?
Coach Wiley: Expectations as a coach are always excruciating to define, as you can’t be successful unless you set that bar high. However as the Lunatics enter unchartered territory in the AIHL I expect there to be a period of adjustment and some nerves that will need to be overcome. That being said, I demand hard work from the teams I coach, and I expect us to carry ourselves in the AIHL with dignity and class, giving everything we can to compete tooth and nail in an effort to earn respect from our peer teams and the league. If that happens, I am a happy coach.