Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stefan named new Plymouth head coach

Compuware CEO and Plymouth Whalers owner Peter Karmanos, Jr. announced the promotion of Mike Vellucci to Governor, President and General Manager of the Plymouth Whalers and Compuware Arena, effective immediately.

In relation with the promotion, Vellucci named Greg Stefan (pictured) as new head coach of the Whalers. Stefan resigned as an assistant coach of the Carolina Hurricanes today and rejoins the Whalers for the third time in his coaching career.

Joe Stefan remains with Plymouth as an assistant coach. Greg and Joe Stefan will be behind the bench Thursday when the Whalers resume action in Peterborough against the Petes.

“Mike’s had tremendous success as a head coach, while balancing the demands of three different jobs,” said Karmanos. “He’s created stability and has built a winning environment within the organization. He has taken our on-ice performance in Plymouth to another level. I’m proud of the fact that Mike was able to bring home a championship to Plymouth. Mike will now have an opportunity to focus his energies towards running Compuware Arena and the Whalers without the day-to-day time restraints of coaching.”

After losing in the OHL finals in 2000 to Barrie and in 2001 to Ottawa, Vellucci went behind the bench in the summer of 2001 and led Plymouth to the second championship last season in the Whalers' 18-year history.

Vellucci recently became the winningest coach in Plymouth history, compiling a record of 246-132-37-22, good for a .630 winning percentage, second in franchise history behind Paul Maurice (.681), now with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Vellucci became the first American to win the Ontario Hockey League’s Matt Leyden Award last season as Coach of the Year.

Plymouth won four West Division titles and never finished lower than second place during Vellucci’s tenure behind the bench. The Whalers are currently 18-8-1-2 and in third place in the ultra-competitive OHL West, eight points behind the first-place Windsor Spitfires (21-6-2-3) and seven points behind the second-place Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

Greg Stefan, 46, worked as an assistant for the Whalers originally from 1993-98 and rejoined the Whalers from 2003-05 before moving to the Hurricanes in 2005, helping Carolina to the first Stanley Cup in their history in 2006.

Stefan played in the OHL as a goaltender with the Oshawa Generals from 1978-81 before being selected in the seventh round of the 1981 National Hockey League Entry Draft by the Detroit Red Wings. Stefan turned to coaching after retiring as a player in 1991.

“I’ve worked closely with Greg for a long time and he has been loyal to the organization,” Vellucci said. “He deserves this opportunity to become a head coach. I am confident he will develop our players for the next level and continue our winning tradition. He knows what it takes to make it to the National Hockey League, both as a player and a coach.”

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