2003 Entry Draft
Though not as deep as the 2002 draft, there were still a few gems in 2003. Big defenseman Noah Brewer went first overall to Cleveland. As a 19-year-old, Brewer had been eligible in 2002 but was passed over. Brewer enrolled at Minnesota State, where he helped the Screaming Eagles to a Frozen Four appearance and the whole league took notice. “I’ve never seen a kid mature so much both physically and mentally” said Cosmos GM Bill Kelly. “He did a lot of growing up this year.” In general, the draft was rich with defensemen, with ten D-men going in the first round. Goaltender Jussi Miettinen went second overall to St. Louis, while another defenseman, Evan Long, went third to Quebec. Pittsburgh took an important step in their rebuild. After selecting Swedish defenseman Tomas Sandberg, the Stingers then dealt veteran defenseman Jared Hawkins to Edmonton in exchange for the 16th pick, which they used to take Cam Reed.
1. CLE – Noah Brewer, D, USA
2. STL – Jussi Miettinen, G, FIN
3. QUE – Evan Long, D, CAN
4. WSH – Ryan Quackenbush, F, CAN
5. PIT – Tomas Sandberg, D, SWE
6. POR – Kris Lukowich, F, CAN
7. CAR – Kyle Weatherby, D, CAN
8. WPG – Jakub Marek, F, CZE
9. CGY – Jordan Goode, F, CAN
10. DEN – Shawn Brooks, F, USA
11. OAK – Ilya Zhinovjev, F, RUS
12. LA – Kris Griffin, F, CAN
13. NOS – Peter Ossler, F, SWE
14. NYC – Adam Stawski, D, CAN
15. MIA – Ryan Dove, F, CAN
16. PIT (From EDM) – Cam Reed, F, CAN
17. KC – Garret Lowendawsky, F, CAN
18. DET – Eric Cooper, F, CAN
19. MTL – Devan Meyer, F, USA
20. LI – Christian Cloutier, F, CAN
21. BOS – Denis Lapointe, G, CAN
22. VAN – Colton Brady, D, CAN
23. MIL – Jonathan Keller, D, USA
24. CHI – Matt Irvin, D, USA
25. ATL - Alex Andreyev, F, RUS
26. SEA - Dominik Kovar, F, CZE
27. MIN – Marc-Andre Lavoie, D, CAN
28. TOR – Alex Thibodeau, F, CAN
29. PHI – Brad Kruek, D, CAN
30. DAL – Roger Whitfield, F, USA
Jason Radford, F, SEA, 1982-2003
Selected second overall by Seattle in the 1982 entry draft, Jason Radford toiled under the shadow of the Jake Fairbanks/Pete Holloway duo for the first decade of his career. Shortly after Fairbanks and Holloway left, superstars Drake Klausen and Randy McAllen were drafted. The theme of Radford’s career seemed to be that the Grey Wolves would never be his team despite being named captain in 1993. However, McAllen and Klausen struggled to meet their full potential and by the time the team made their big run for the Lewis Cup in 2002, the 39-year-old Radford had put the team on his back and led them to their first-ever title. Radford would play one more season before retiring in 2003.
Jeremy Kitchen, F, NYC, KC, 1985-2003
The son of Toronto Racers legend Bobby Kitchen, Jeremy Kitchen enjoyed a successful career of his own. Kitchen spent most of his 18-year career in New York, playing alongside Aaron Duplacy, where he helped the Civics to the Lewis Cup in 1997. A year later, Kitchen left New York and signed with the Kansas City Twisters, where he won his second and final championship in 2000.
Teppo Sikkanen, D, DEN, CHI, 1986-2003
Sikkanen was one of the most underappreciated players in league history perhaps because he was overshadowed by all the other talent from the historic 1986 draft. It didn’t help that he also spent most of his career on a very weak Denver team, though he did claim the Tom Cooper Award in 1992 as the league’s top defenseman. In 2001, Sikkanen signed with Chicago, where he finally reached the Lewis Cup Finals in his final year, unfortunately coming just one win short.
Jeff Winslow, D, MIN, 1985-2003
While home-grown hero Jason Crowley received much of the credit for Minnesota’s success in the late 1990s, Crowley himself stated in an interview following Jeff Winslow’s retirement announcement that the ‘Jacks two championships in ’96 and ’98 would not have been possible without the steady defenseman’s presence and his ability to kick-start the offence. “Jeff just had that amazing ability to turn the momentum of a game by himself” said Crowley. “He was the reason we won a lot of those big games.”
Dwayne Gibbons, D, WPG, 1983-2003
Another underrated player from a weak team, Dwayne Gibbons had opportunity to leave Winnipeg, but chose to stay through some very lean years. He would ultimately be rewarded with an unexpected Cinderella run to the finals in 1999, but came up short against Vincent Ducharme and the Montreal Royale. Gibbons will remain in Winnipeg as an assistant coach, where he continues to hope to bring a championship to the city.
The blockbuster trade of the summer caps off a tough summer for the Sound, who are forced to trade budding superstar Reid to the Racers to get under the cap.
Washington trades F Rob Wentzel to Seattle in exchange for F Nick Spears.
The rebuilding Generals trade their longtime captain to Seattle hoping he can win a championship.
Pittsburgh trades D Jared Hawkins to Edmonton in exchange for 1st round pick.
Stingers use the pick on winger Cam Reed, Northern Lights get a veteran defenseman to provide leadership to a young team.
Key Free Agents
D Henrik Soderstrum signs new 6-year deal with Cleveland worth $9 Million/year.
D Ricky Wolfe (NOS) signs 6-year deal with Pittsburgh worth $8 Million/year.
Pittsburgh signs Wolfe to an offer sheet and New Orleans lacks the cap space to match it. The Sound will receive Pittsburgh’s first-round draft choice in 2004 as compensation.
F Alexei Suvorov signs new 7-year deal with Denver worth $9 Million/year.
F Brett Reed signs new 5-year deal with Edmonton worth $4 Million/year.
F Jordan Rifkin signs new 4-year deal with Oakland worth $5 Million/year.
D Travis Tearney signs new 4-year deal with Boston worth $4 Million/year.
F Brett Delaney signs new 7-year deal with Kansas City worth $9 Million/year.
The Twisters’ top forward all but ensures he will retire in KC.
After 15 seasons as the heart and soul of the Civics’ blueline, the New York native makes the difficult decision to leave as the Civics embark on a rebuild. Jackson hopes to help the Sound back into the playoffs and into contention.
D Randy Fernandez signs new 2-year deal with Toronto worth $4 Million/year.
After speculation that the 36-year old would sign elsewhere, Fernandez takes a big hometown discount for an opportunity to win more titles with the Racers.
D Kevin Drake (CAR) signs 3-year deal with Minnesota worth $3.5 Million/year.
The aging Lumberjacks add to their blueline depth in an attempt at one last run.
F Kim Brodie (PHI) signs 1-year deal with Kansas City worth $2 Million/year.
Nearing the end of a fairly successful career, Brodie moves to KC with the hopes of winning a championship.
D Elliot Andrews(VAN) signs 1-year deal with Chicago worth $1 Million/year.
Elliot “U-haul” Andrews is on the move again, signing with his 9th PHL team for what could be his final season.
Perhaps no franchise in PHL history completely seemed to come unglued like the New Orleans Sound in the summer of 2003. With rumours of Sam Bendt’s financial struggles and a possible move to either Houston or Ottawa already swirling, disaster struck on July 1. The team was really hoping that emerging star defenseman Ricky Wolfe would accept a hometown discount to save the team cap space, when the Pittsburgh Stingers swooped in, signing Wolfe to an $8 Million offer sheet that the Sound could never hope to match. Infuriated over losing a star player, the increasingly irrational Bendt blamed GM Grant Dunlop, firing him and taking over the position himself. Incredibly, Bendt had Darryl Byrd’s full support in stepping into the role, while others were left scratching their heads. Just 12 hours into his new career as a hockey GM, Bendt excitedly announced the signing of future hall-of-famer Lamar Jackson to a $5 Million deal. The deal was a decent one, the Sound needed to replace Wolfe on their blueline and Jackson like the opportunity to help a young team, But Bendt misunderstood the cap system.
Somewhere he had heard a rumour that the cap would increase to $57 Million per team, an absurd notion, given that it had only been $45 Million in ’02-03. In fact, the cap had increased to $48 Million. But Bendt had fired his GM and would not listen to his advisors. Desperate to get under the cap, the Sound were forced to trade budding superstar Darren Reid, dealing him to Toronto for Theo Galvin and a first rounder. After the trade, head coach Garth Collins abruptly quit his job, calling the Sound “the most disorganized, incompetent, bush league organization I’ve ever seen.” Scrambling to find a new coach, Bendt hired head trainer Kevin Jones, who would be the youngest coach in PHL history at age 29. That was when the league stepped in. Deputy commissioner Neil McCormick ordered Bendt to surrender the GM position to somebody with experience and 70-year-old former NCAA coach Bill Draper was hired. Draper had been a golfing buddy of Bendt’s and was the only hockey person he knew outside the Sound organization. After the fiasco cleared up, it was reported that Bendt had been checked into a rehab facility in Florida. “Unbelievable” said commentator Brian McLeod. “I can’t say that I’ve ever seen anything like this in my 30 years covering the sport.”
After Bendt checked into rehab, Houston billionaire emailed Darryl Byrd. “I’ve still got that 18,000-seat arena if you need a place for the Sound” read the email. Questions were even raised concerning Byrd’s qualifications for his job as he had allowed the fiasco to happen, and it took his assistant to stop it. The owners were already starting to gear up for another labour battle in 2007 and were uncertain if Byrd was the man for the job.
“That Summer” as it would forever be known in hockey circles, proved to be a positive for Grant Dunlop, who returned to coaching as the New York Civics’ new bench boss, as Bruce Irvine focused on the GM duties. “I can’t wait to go back to coaching” said Dunlop. “As crazy as Sam Bendt was, I really do owe him for this.”
The bad news only continued into the 2003 pre-season, this time in Boston, where captain Scott Rose refused to report to training camp after being low-balled in contract negotiations. Rose was seen as the ‘Dogs future franchise player but the team had offered him the same salary he had been receiving so they would have the cap space to sign Chris Haines and goaltender Chad Cohen the following summer. “Scotty just wants to be paid what he’s worth, I think he’s earned that” said Rose’s agent. When training camp ended and Rose still had not signed, Boston fans became nervous. “At this point we have to consider what’s best for this team” said GM Bruce McKinnon.