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By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian
The Bakersfield Condors tried the austerity route the past two seasons with disastrous results — back-to-back last-place finishes in the ECHL Western Conference, sub. 400 winning percentages and a dwindling fan base.
So at the end of the season team owner Jonathan Fleisig and team president Matthew Riley promised a revamping of the hockey operation department and a commitment to winning.
First, they brought in highly-respected John Olver, who coached Tacoma, Wash., to a WCHL championship in 1999 and Idaho to an ECHL title in 2004, as general manager in charge of hockey operations. It is the first time the organization ever committed an individual to that role.
Olver then took his time in securing a new coach, getting Troy Mann on June 21.
Mann won an ECHL title as a player with Mississippi in 1999, ld Columbia to the ECHL Eastern Conference finals as head coach in 2008 and spent the last four seasons as an assistant for Hershey, Pa. In the American Hockey League. The Bears won the AHL Calder Cup in 2010.
Mann and Olver have also decided on an assistant coach, who will be announced next week.
All of the above led to Thursday's announcement that the Condors had secured a National Hockey League affiliation with the Edmonton Oilers, who bailed on the Stockton Thunder after a seven-year relationship.
The Thunder went to the Kelly Cup Final last season but it's been a tough road for Bakersfield's Highway 99 rivals since they fell four games to 1 to the Reading, Pa., in the Final.
Several key front-office workers left the organization for other jobs, team president Dan Chapman left for a job at the University of Pacific and finally, head coach Matt Thomas left to become coach of the University of Alaska Anchorage.
All of this while the Condors were building an AHL-model hockey ops department.
No doubt both scenarios played a role in Edmonton aligning with the Condors.
With the building blocks now in place, Olver and Mann will spend the rest of the summer looking to build a team that can live up to the hype that is sure to come.
None of the moves guarantee a championship, but all of the moves certainly making getting to that level a possibility.