Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Stapleton takes OHL job with Otters

Mike Stapleton is returning to his roots to further his coaching career.

Stapleton, who served as an assistant to head coach/GM Scott Gardiner with the Traverse City North Stars during the club’s inaugural 2005-06 season, has agreed to take over as associate coach of the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie (Pa.) Otters. He will continue with the North Stars through the team’s August 4-6 invite-only training camp before heading to Erie.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity I got here in Traverse City,” said Stapleton, who played in the OHL en route to a 15-year NHL career. “From Steve (Fournier) and the ownership group to Scott (Gardiner) and the entire organization, it was a great place to coach. Now, I’m going to try to take that next step in coaching, and I’m looking forward to the challenges.”

The OHL is one of three leagues – along with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League -- under the umbrella of the Canadian Hockey League. It is classified as major junior hockey, and is generally regarded as the best junior hockey league on the planet. Players receive stipends for their services, but also sacrifice their amateur status. The Erie franchise has been around for over a decade, and was fifth in the OHL in attendance last season at around 4,500 per home date.

Sarnia (Ont.)-born Stapleton was a prolific scorer with the OHL's Cornwall Royals, amassing 104 goals and 258 points over three seasons and 182 games with the franchise.

“It’s a great opportunity for Mike, and we’re happy for him,” Gardiner said. “He played there, and now he can further his coaching career there. We’ll miss him as a coach and a friend, but we also support his decision and wish him nothing but the best in his new position.”

Fournier agreed.

“It’s been great having Mike with us from the beginning. He was an asset on and off the ice, and we would like nothing more than to see him succeed at the next level just as we hope for the same for our players that move on.”

A 15-year National Hockey League veteran, Stapleton played 697 NHL contests for seven different franchises (Chicago, Pittsburgh, Edmonton, Winnipeg/Phoenix, Atlanta, N.Y. Islanders and Vancouver), netting 71 goals and 182 points to go with 342 penalty minutes over that span. Stapleton also played in all or parts of four seasons in European pro leagues, and played 21 games for Team Canada in 1986-87.

Stapleton owned a cottage near Clam Lake before moving to Traverse City on a full-time basis two years ago. He says his wife Laura was instrumental in helping him make the decision to embark upon the transient journey that most coaches take.

“Laura said she and the kids (sons Luke and Nick) were willing to do it,” Stapleton explained. “Of course, we’ll always have ties to Traverse City. We’ve made some great friends here, and they’ll always be great friends no matter where we are.”

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