Gary Gelinas President of CSH International USA and his deep pocket Corporate Chairman Bill Yuill, CEO of the Monarch Corporation have driven the last nail in the Texas Tornado coffin. Reliable sources within the organization confirm that the Texas Tornado are being sold to a group headed by Salvatore and Frank Trazzera who will relocate the team to the NyTex Sports Centre in North Richland Hills, TX as the Texas Brahmas.
What was once considered by many to be the premier franchise in the history of the NAHL will face a daunting task to try to continue the streak of 13 straight playoff appearances due to the complete incompetence of CSH International and the way they have handled the sale of the team.
Despite the fact that the NAHL season ended over two months ago, players on the Tornado roster have been kept in the dark by CSH management. The only communication with players was a notice on the team’s website on June 24th that the main tryout camp had been cancelled. Following that announcement the entire front office staff, except for one individual was let go leading to even greater anxiety. Rumors began to swirl like wild-fire on various website and blogs focused on junior hockey. Players, fans and billet families were left to read of the team ceasing operation or moving to Laredo or NyTex, yet Gelinas and management remained silent. Players turned to Head Coach Tony Curtale looking for information, but there was not much he could provide as Gelinas and CSH stonewalled him as well.
Coach Curtale took the reigns of the Texas Tornado in their expansion season of 1999/00 and guided the team to the playoff every season he was behind the bench running up a record of 465-188-48. Tony had missed the 2007/08 season but returned to the team following their off-season as the Dr Pepper Arena was expanded.
When the Tornado opened the 2012/13 season as the defending National Champions Gelinas had nothing but the highest praise for the head coach. “We are the most successful sports team in North Texas,” stated the CSH President to NAHL.com. “Tony is a big part of that success.” Despite Curtale’s credentials and tremendous success including five Robertson Cup National Championships in 12 seasons, Gelinas and CSH quietly let the contract of the winningest coach in USA Hockey history at this level, expire on June 30th.
CSH International finally broke their silence with the players on July 18th as phone calls were made by the lone remaining staff member to players informing them that the team would be moving to North Richland Hills. Then on Friday July 19th a letter from Tornado ownership was emailed to the players.
Gelinas opened the letter addressing the lack of communications. “First, on behalf of the CSH, owners of the Tornado, I want to acknowledge that there has been a communication gap over the past month due to the fact there was no concrete plan as to the near future of the team,” said Gelinas. “We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused while you were waiting to hear from the Tornado.” Really Gary, it has been more than two months since the players had any substantive communications from CSH and still no details.
The NAHL Board of Governors missed a major red flag when they approved CSH to purchase the Tornado franchise in May 2010. Just five weeks earlier the Central Hockey League had seized control of the Arizona Sundogs franchise from CSH who had purchased the team in Nov 2008. Bob Hoffman, CHL Director of Operations explained to Jeff Wendt of the Arizona Republic why the league had to take such drastic action. “CSH had not been living up to the terms of its operating and licensing agreement in both monetary and non-monetary ways, and thereby defaulted on its license.” Said Hoffman. A few days later Hoffman told the Daily Courier that CSH was “avoiding all their responsibilities where it comes to the license agreement,”
The year before CSH took ownership of the Sundogs, Arizona had won the Ray Miron President’s Cup as CHL league champions. Fans flocked to Tim’s Toyota Center to watch the franchise clinch their first league championship, averaging 4,310 per game. By the time the league took control of the team two years later, the Sundogs had set a record for losses in a season and attendance had fallen to fewer than 2700 per game.
Unfortunately, it appears that CSH has done everything possible to set the Texas Tornado up for much the same fate. By the time the sale and transfer are finalized the new ownership group and coaching staff will have roughly seven weeks to put a team on the ice. An ownership group and head coach coming from the Minor Pro model, with no ties to the Junior Hockey ranks will struggle to assemble a competitive roster despite the veterans who played last season.
Gelinas closed his letter to the players wishing them “nothing but success in the year ahead.” Yet due to his and CSH’s bumbling the Tornado veterans will be looking at an uphill battle to complete a successful season. Every other team in the league will have conducted multiple tryout camps and completed their main camp by August 6th. It will be weeks before the Tornado could arrange even a rudimentary camp to piece meal a roster together around their talented veterans.
CSH had the Tornado front office pushing season ticket purchases following the end of the 2012/13 season with slick mailers to current season ticket holders and online marketing. Now people who have spent hard-earned money are resorting to requesting refunds on the Tornado Facebook page because the offices are dark. Those postings are immediately deleted. One has to wonder, just how long Gelinas and CSH will hold onto the money they have collected.
I wish the best to those players whose NAHL rights are held by the organization. They did not ask for any of this upheaval, they just want to play hockey and an opportunity to earn a coveted NCAA scholarship. It is unfortunate that poor management and business dealings could potentially impact their hard work. Hopefully the Trazzera brothers can right the ship, the young men on the roster and fans deserve nothing less.