Stephen R. Sylvanie / Special to the Las Vegas Sun
Tuesday, June 16, 2009 | 10:06 p.m.
Las Vegas Sun reporters Steve Silver and Ray Brewer discuss Glen Gulutzan's departure from the Las Vegas Wranglers. Gulutzan has accepted the head coaching position with the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League.
Glen Gulutzan might not know the difference between an Aggie and a Longhorn yet, but the Pas, Manitoba, native will soon learn the ways of the Lone Star state.
Gulutzan, the only coach in Las Vegas Wranglers history, accepted the head coaching position of the upstart Texas Stars in the American Hockey League.
The Stars, an affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, will play in the new 6,800-seat Cedar Park Center in the Austin suburb of Cedar Park.
“I don’t know if it’s long overdue, but I’m certainly very excited about it,” Gulutzan said during a press conference inside the Orleans Arena on Tuesday. “It’s a great opportunity for myself and my family. It’s sad in some regards. My kids go to school here, people have treated me tremendously. The family was a little upset today… We really enjoyed it here. I got afforded a great opportunity and its going to be sad to leave, but we are very excited to go to what we’ve heard is a great place.”
In six seasons as the coach and general manager of the Wranglers, Gulutzan amassed a 254-124-55 regular season record and led Las Vegas to the postseason five times.
This past season, the Wranglers advanced to the National Conference finals and in 2008 they made it all the way to the Kelly Cup finals.
“I am proud of everything, but I think I would leave here with a bigger smile on my face had we won a championship,” Gulutzan said. “So make no mistake, that’s something that lingers with me. I think we came close. We had some great years. I would have really liked to bring the city of Las Vegas a championship.”
Although Gulutzan never captured that elusive Kelly Cup, the 2005 ECHL Coach of the Year and three-time All-Star coach did set a league record for three consecutive 100-point seasons.
The Wranglers snagged the Brabham Cup (regular season champions) in 2007 and tied the professional hockey record of 18 straight victories from March 10, 2007 to Apr. 23, 2007.
“He has helped us build a legacy, that’s for sure,” Wranglers President Billy Johnson said. “First of all, that’s what we do. Our business model is to move people up through the ranks and create a recruiting vacuum, if you will, where we continue to bring talent in. Personally I think it’s overdue. I think he probably could have taken a lot of other opportunities in the past.”
Gulutzan’s ECHL success had attracted a number of assistant position offers in the AHL, but the Texas opportunity is his first as a head coach.
“Whenever you get an opportunity to be a head coach at a higher level, the second best league in the world, you have to take it,” Gulutzan said. “Nothing could have been better for me.”
Gulutzan will focus solely on coaching with the Stars and will not take over general manager duties. His assistant coach will be long-time AHL assistant Paul Jerrard, who is a veteran in the Dallas organization.
Even though Gulutzan has never worked with Jerrard nor lived in Texas, the 37-year-old coach will have one familiar face joining him.
The Wranglers should announce later this week that media relations and broadcasting director Josh Fisher is also heading to Austin to take on a similar role with the Stars organization. Fisher has worked for the Wranglers since the team’s founding in 2003.
“I feel very fortunate to get this,” Gulutzan said. “Six years ago I was very fortunate to get (the Wranglers) opportunity in a premiere franchise in the ECHL I feel the same way going into to Texas and I’m ready to dig in and prove myself at that level too… This is the next progression for me. To get to the NHL, I have to go through the American Hockey League and prove myself there.”
Wranglers’ owner Charles Davenport is actively searching for Gulutzan’s replacement and hopes to fill the position within one month. Gulutzan said he would make some recommendations to help Davenport’s search.
“Gully’s shoes are giant,” Johnson said. “If there are size 25 shoes, that’s what has to get filled.”
Although the Wranglers are losing one of the top coaches and one of the top media relations directors in the ECHL, Gulutzan remained optimistic about Las Vegas’ future.
“I don’t see Vegas missing a beat,” Gulutzan said. “I see them being a contender next year and that’s not me putting pressure on whoever comes in here next. We’ve got a great city and great facility. Things are set for years.”
The Orleans Arena, a Boyd Gaming facility located just west of the Las Vegas Strip, is one of the nation’s leading mid-sized arenas, and was recently ranked No. 1 in the United States and No. 5 internationally among venues of similar size by Venues Today Magazine.
The Arena hosts more than 200 events each year, including concerts by top names like Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Van Halen, Brooks & Dunn, Black Eyed Peas, Akon and Rihanna; family favorites like The Harlem Globetrotters and Circus Spectacular; and a wide variety of sporting events, including NCAA basketball tournaments, the West Coast Conference and Western Athletic Conference Basketball Championships, mixed martial arts with Superior Cage Combat, and major motorsports events.
The arena serves as home to the Las Vegas Wranglers professional ECHL hockey team, the Las Vegas Legends professional indoor soccer team, and the Lingerie Football League’s Las Vegas Sin. Stay connected to the Orleans Arena on Facebook (www.facebook.com/orleansarena) and on Twitter (@orleansarena).
Steve Silver can be reached at 948-7822 or [email protected]