The Charlotte Checkers have a new head coach, Swedish-born Ulf Samuelsson. He played 16 years in the National Hockey League, and has now turned to coaching.
Samuelsson is the Checkers' third coach since they joined the American Hockey League seven years ago. He replaces Mark Morris, who left after one season for a college coaching job.
The Checkers are affiliated with the Carolina Hurricanes of the NHL. Hurricanes General Manager Ron Francis, who once played with Samuelsson, says the Swede has proven himself as a coach over the past decade, especially in developing young players.
The 52-year-old Samuelsson said that's one of the things that attracted him to the job.
“Carolina has been able to acquire a lot of draft picks over the last couple of years here and I see this organization having a lot of young, high-end talent to work with, which would be a lot of fun as well,” he said.
Samuelsson was a defenseman with five NHL teams, including the old Hartford Whalers, which became the Hurricanes. He was known as an enforcer, and ranks Number 26 on the NHL's all time list for penalty minutes.
Now he's managing, not enforcing, and having some success.
As an assistant coach the past three seasons, he helped the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup finals in 2014 and the conference final last year. He also coached the Swedish league's Modo to two straight playoff appearances.
With the Checkers, he also has his sights set on the post-season.
“I'm gonna work as hard as I can to provide the fans with a very upbeat, hard-working team that hockey fans should hopefully enjoy over the next little while here,” Samuelsson said.
His goal for the first year: “Make the playoffs … That's a clear goal that we have,” he said.
That's something the Checkers couldn't do last year when they alternated hot and cold.
They start pre-season camp in September, and play their first home game October 28.