It was a long summer for Butch Goring. Much too long for his tastes, in fact. Goring, the head coach and general manager of the Utah Grizzlies, could hardly wait to get back out on the ice in preparation for the 1998-99 International Hockey League season on Tuesday.
Goring welcomed 35 players and new assistant coach Dean Chynoweth to training camp at the Acord Ice Arena in West Valley City."We had the earliest playoff exit ever for the Grizzlies last year, so it was a longer summer that we like," said Goring, whose team eliminated in the opening round of postseason last spring.
"Having that extra time on our hands is something we're not used to and we're definitely not fond of."
The summer was not only long, but it was eventful for Goring. He was offered the head coaching job for the NHL's Anaheim Mighty Ducks. But when Disney, the owners of the Ducks, didn't offer to pay him the going rate for an NHL coach, Goring refused - even though the Disney low-ball salary would have meant a considerable raise from what he makes with the Grizz.
"I think it says volumes about how good I think this organization is and how well I've been treated that I decided to stay," said Goring. "I had an opportunity to go to the National Hockey League and to make more money, but I have been treated well, I like this league and I enjoy Salt Lake City."
And one day into preparations for the upcoming season he likes the looks of his team.
"This is going to be our strongest camp ever," said Goring. "We have more talent at this camp than we've ever had. We've got the best crop of rookies that I've seen. Watching them in drills (Tuesday) morning and in a scrimmage (Tuesday) afternoon bares that out."
The Grizz have 17 players in camp that have signed contracts and figure to be around when the regular season begins Oct. 10 with a game at the E Center against the Long Beach Ice Dogs. The other 18 players in camp have tryout agreements and are long shots to make the final cut. The opening roster will likely include about 22 players total.
There are six members of last year's team that are back, including veteran defense men and team captains Gord Dineen and Jeff Sharples. Other returnees include Fred Knipscher, Rod Miller, Rhett Trombley and Scott LeGrand. There are nearly as many San Antonio Dragons on the roster. San Antonio is no longer in the IHL, so five Dragons from last season - including Micah Aivazoff, who was with the Grizz in 1996 - have hooked up with the Grizzlies. Rookies who have contracts with the Grizz include Steve Noble, a left-winger from Notre Dame, and Curtis Sheptak, a defense man from Northern Michigan.
The biggest concern for Goring is in the goal. LeGrand, who had a short stint with the Grizz last season, figures to be a solid No. 2 goalie, but the Grizz are expecting someone else to be their top net-minder.
"I'm pretty confident we'll get a good goaltender from the National Hockey League," said Goring. "You can't do much about it until they decide to make their moves. Really, that's the only position we're really waiting on. In past year's we've had eight to 10."
The team will have a team scrimmage, which is open to the public, on Friday night at the Acord Arena (5353 S, 3100 West) at 6 p.m. The cost will be $2 per person or a can of food, with all proceeds going to the Utah Food Bank. The Grizz will then head to Boise for a pair of exhibition games against the Houston Aeros on Saturday and Sunday.
In other local hockey news, the NHL's Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks will play an exhibition game at the E Center on Oct. 3. It will be the first-ever NHL game played in Utah.
Utah Grizzlies Camp Roster
Name Pos. Last season
Micah Aivazoff LW San Antonio (IHL)
Dave Archibald LW/C San Antonio (IHL)
Rene Chapdelaine D San Antonio (IHL)
Gord Dineen D Utah (IHL)
Terry Hollinger D Worcester (AHL)
Fred Knipscheer LW/C Utah (IHL)
Brad Lauer LW Cleveland (IHL)
Scott LaGrand G Utah/Fort Wayne
Mike Legg C/RW Kalpa (Finland)
Rod Miller D Utah (IHL)
Nick Naumenko D Worcester (AHL)
Steve Noble LW Notre Dame
John Purves RW San Antonio (IHL)
Daniel Shank RW San Antonio (IHL)
Jeff Sharples D Utah (IHL)
Curtis Sheptak D Northern Michigan
Rhett Trombley RW Utah (IHL)
Name Pos. Last season
Frederik Beaubien G Idaho (WCHL)
Ryan Black LW Cincinnati (AHL)
Scott Chartier D Amarillo (WPHL)
Colin Chaulk LW Kingston (CHL)
Nathan Grobins G Fort Worth (CHL)
Mike Hurley RW Portland (WHL)
Marty Johnson LW Hull (QMJHL)
Jan Kobezda D Dukla Trencin (Slovak)
Chris Low LW Idaho (WCHL)
Lars Patterson C Raleigh (ECHL)
Tyler Rice RW Wichita
Ryan Root D Ohio State
Bogden Rudenko RW Russia
Taj Schaffnit D Ohio State
Pavel Smirnov RW Shawinigan (QMJHL)
Greg Taylor G Columbus (CHL)
Mitch Vig D North Dakota
David Whitworth LW Dartmouth