Views from the Press Box with Dan Weiss

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By the time you get around to reading this, I will be pretending to hob-knob it with the big wigs in New York City, but please save your jealousy for someone else. It is actually supposed to be hotter Thursday in New York (97 degrees) than San Antonio (94 degrees). It’s just my luck that when I try going somewhere to get out of the heat, I bring the heat along with me. But I digress. And just as a disclaimer, I have no idea how to “hob-knob it” anyway.

Caught up with Rampage Head Coach Chuck Weber earlier this week as he was driving back to his old stomping grounds in Cincinnati. Chuck is heading off to Pittsburgh for the NHL draft this weekend and is expected to meet with the Panthers brass in preparation for free agency. He’s also getting married later this summer so congratulations are in order for his pending nuptials. Last week I wrote in this space that the Rampage have eight restricted free agents and six unrestricted free agents. Chuck thinks that the Panthers will look to qualify most, if not all of the restricted free agents depending on whether their plans include playing in North America or playing overseas. Two of the RFA’s, Roman Derlyuk and Michal Repik, have already confirmed signing in the KHL. Derlyuk has returned to his previous club Dynamo Moscow, while Repik signed Wednesday with HC Lev Praha. That leaves James Wright, Eric Selleck, Ondrej Roman, Justin Bernhardt, Keith Seabrook, and Brian Foster as the remaining RFA’s. Restricted free agents must receive qualifying offers by Monday or they become unrestricted free agents. In regards to free agency, Chuck told me that GM Mike Santos definitely has some “names in the hopper” as far as pieces he’d like to add to the current roster. We’ll wait to see what happens on July 1 and after.

Fan favorite and runner-up in the The Hockey News “Best Hockey Name” tournament Wacey Rabbit confirmed on his twitter page Wednesday that he has signed with Lorenskog in Norway for the 2012-13 season. Categorized now as a veteran (more than 260 games in the NHL/AHL), Rabbit was unlikely to return to the Rampage, but he’s the type of “glue guy” that everyone locker room needs if they want to succeed. Wacey was great with the fans and tremendous in the community, and will be sorely missed by this writer and others I’m sure. The Rampage aren’t the only AHL club to be hit by the annual European exodus. With the start of free agency still a week-and-a-half out, a number of top-line players have already committed to playing overseas. Some familiar names include Cody Almond (Houston), Juraj Mikus (Toronto), Alex Salak (Rockford), Ryan Thang (Milwaukee), former Rampage center Colin Long (Portland), Jacob Micflikier (Hershey), Trevor Gillies (Bridgeport), and Rhett Rakhshani (Bridgeport).

Finally some sad news to close this week out as the Rampage’s Central Hockey League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees, ceased operations Wednesday. Rio marks the third South Texas pro hockey team to shut their doors in the last three seasons following their neighbors Corpus Christi and Laredo. Once a mainstay in Texas, the Central Hockey League (a re-incarnation of the old Western Professional Hockey League) is down to just two teams left in the Lone Star State: the Texas (former Ft. Worth) Brahmas and the Allen Americans. My first job in this business was back in 2002 with the Corpus Christi Ice Rays, and when I was in the CHL, there were nine teams in Texas including Amarillo, Lubbock, Odessa, El Paso, San Angelo, Fort Worth, Austin, Corpus Christi, and Laredo. Amazing what can happen in just a decade.

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June 15, 2012

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