Toffolo in, Lukey out in Pelham
Pelham Panthers owner Tim Toffolo, far right, will take over from Chris Lukey as head coach after Lukey and the organization parted ways this week. Photo by: BILL POTRECZ
The Pelham Panthers and head coach Chris Lukey have parted ways.
Lukey cited family issues as the main reason things did not work out.
“I’ve been traveling every weekend to and from the U.S.,” Lukey said. “I was trying not to miss games or practices and it was getting stressful. I raced home the last three weekends from the States. My kids are only young once and my mom is very ill right now so things happen for a reason.”
Lukey’s son, Dawson Lukey, plays at the Gilmour Academy of the United States High School Prep League in Ohio.
The Panthers are in last place in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, Golden Horseshoe Conference standings with a 4-13-2 record.
“The team does need a lot of attention which I can’t give 100 per cent to right now,” Lukey added.
Panthers owner/general manager Tim Toffolo will take over behind the bench.
“Chris has a lot of commitments with his boy in the U.S. wanting to watch him play whenever he’s playing and in tournaments,” Toffolo said. “Chris has a lot of things going on with that and his ability to fully commit to a junior hockey team at this time is just not in the cards for himself or this organization with the other commitments that he has.”
Assistants Craig Slack, Ed Kirsten and Alex Guptill will remain with the team while former Welland Junior Canadian and Brock Badger Brayden Stortz has been added to the staff.
“It’s certainly not a bad thing in this organization that’s happening because everybody wants to be here,” Toffolo said.
Toffolo is pleased to be adding Stortz to the staff.
“We’re going to bring him in to add some more depth and experience and with the age of these guys because he just finished at Brock,” Toffolo said. “He was here briefly with us last year.”
Toffolo, who said he is also open to adding a new head coach down the road, feels the Panthers aren’t far from getting back on track.
“We’re really going to pay attention to detail,” he said. “I don’t count the empty-net goals, but it’s fair to say we’ve lost nine one-goal games, maybe more.
“There are some little things that are causing us to not have four or five or six more wins. And we feel they’re very small things that all can be corrected and that we can manage and move forward.”
Toffolo said the team was addressed Tuesday about the coaching change.
“They’re all on board, they’re excited,” Toffolo said. “We’ll move forward from here.”
The Panthers are in Welland Sunday.
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