MAITLAND, Fla. – A little less than a year ago, former NHL player Drake Berehowsky was introduced as the first head coach in the ECHL history of the reborn Orlando Solar Bears. In the not too distant future, a similar announcement will usher in the reign of the second coach in the history of the franchise.
Late Thursday afternoon, the team announced they it had parted way with Berehowsky after just one season. A specific reason for Berehowsky leaving was not given.
“Drake put a good foundation in place,” Solar Bears COO and Managing Partner Bob Ohrablo said in a short four paragraph release. “He is both a teacher and student of the game. We wish him and his family success.”
In his first season as a head coach, Berehowsky’s Solar Bears posted a 28-37-3-4 record. Twenty of those wins came at home at the Amway Center, making it one of the toughest venues for visiting teams to play in the ECHL. In a year that was by all standards difficult because of the NHL lockout displacing players, Berehowsky had more than 50 different players dress for his team, making it difficult to develop any continuity.
Speculation about Berehowsky’s future in Orlando started earlier this week when multiple media sources in Canada linked him to the open head coaching position with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League. The WHL is one of three junior hockey leagues in Canada that provide players for the NHL Entry Draft. Lethbridge’s list of alumni include current NHL stars Brent Seabrook, Kris Versteeg and Bryce Salvador.
Earlier in the day on Thursday, Berehowsky said via text message that he had not signed with any other teams. Following the Solar Bears announcement, he thanked the team and its fans for a memorable year.
“I loved my time in Orlando. The organization, fans and the city are great,” Berehowsky said via text. “I wish them all the success in the world.”
Berehowsky joins assistant coach Matt McIlvane in leaving Orlando for the junior ranks. On May 22nd it was announced that McIlvane had left the Solar Bears to become an assistant coach with the Chicago Steel of the USHL, one of the top two junior leagues in the United States. The Naperville, IL native played one season for the Steel in 2003-2004.
With just over a week before the ECHL free agent period begins (end of season rosters are due by June 15th), getting a coaching staff in place to recruit players is a major priority. Team officials said that a search for a new coaching staff is already underway but no timeline for the search was given.
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