Photo credit: Chicago Wolves
The Canucks’ new AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, finally won their first game of the season the other night, a 2-0 shutout of the Rockford IceHogs. To help Canucks fans learn more about the organization from the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Illinois, we had an opportunity to ask Wolves GM Wendell Young some questions and he obliged:
CHB: You started your NHL career with the Vancouver Canucks and played your last game as a pro with the Chicago Wolves. What were your first thoughts when the Wolves and the Canucks organizations formed this new affiliation?
Wendell Young: I think the Canucks and the Wolves were destined to be together. It is unique that I did start my career drafted by Vancouver. Now I am part of the management affiliated with Vancouver. The two teams are very similar; they both have the same vision of wanting to win.
CHB: Did you always know you were going to pursue a management career in hockey after your playing days were over? What made you pursue this career?
Wendell Young: I really never thought I would be a part of management or coaching until later in my career. I started to realize that I could be a part of management because I love business and I love hockey. So when you combine the two it is a perfect job for me as the general manager. I control a lot of things personnel wise and I also control the business side of things
CHB: For us Canucks fans who are now just starting to learn about the Wolves, tell us a bit about the organization. From everything we’ve heard, ownership and their commitment to winning is top-notch, and the organization itself is often regarded as the gold standard of AHL teams. What is it about the Wolves that separates it from other AHL teams? How do the Wolves separate themselves from Blackhawks?
Wendell Young: First of all, from day one we have been a first-class organization. Owners, Don Levin and Buddy Meyers, made a conscious effort from the start to treat the players with respect and that is the way it has been run from the top down ever since. We are a managerial team in the American Hockey League and that’s how we treat our players. We have a premiere organization, if not the premiere organization, in the American Hockey League. Vancouver is confident that their players and assets are in good hands and are treated properly. We have a tradition of winning and we provide every asset for the players to succeed. From our practice arena, to the coaching staff and the support staff, everything is here for players to get better.
The Wolves are a different organization than Blackhawks. We do not compete against the Blackhawks. Basically, we are different in every aspect, from on the ice to off the ice.
CHB: You’ve won everywhere you’ve been: Memorial Cup as a junior, Calder Cup with the Bears as a player and with the Wolves as a coach, a couple of Stanley Cups with the Penguins, Turner Cup with the Wolves. How do you share your winning attitude, character and experiences with the young players you now manage?
Wendell Young: The big thing with winning cups is that you learn how hard you have to work. We stress hard work here. One key component besides having the talent, which we feel that we do is that the team is very close. We have bonding activities for the players throughout the year. Our core covenant in this is family first. When I say family first I mean personal families as well as wives, girlfriends, moms and dads. We feel we are a family all year and we try to bring our team together.
CHB: I remember reading somewhere that your favorite Family Guy character was Stewie. Why him?
Wendell Young: I like Stewie because he is sarcastic and that is my personality. I get told I am too sarcastic sometimes. He fits my personality, dry humor and sarcasm. Sometimes my sarcasm gets me in trouble.
CHB: The Wolves have had an up-and-down, last four years. Especially with a mostly new group of players and prospects, what are your expectations of this year’s team?
Wendell Young: As every year, the expectations are to win the Calder Cup and to be a championship team. We don’t put a team together to go to the playoffs. Our standards are that we put our team together to win a championship.
CHB: Is there a player (or players) you’d advise Canucks fans to specifically look out for and who may be ready to take their pro careers to the next level?
Wendell Young: We have an abundance of skill here and a lot of players who have potential to play at the next level. I think Adam Polasek’s competitive nature will put him into the National Hockey League. Bill Sweatt has a great chance to continue the progression up. I think the biggest name we have here is Eddie Lack. I think we have one of the best goalies in the American Hockey League. Quite honestly, he might even be better than some of the NHL goalies, he’s that good. So we have a lot of players that I think can really step it up and I think if Vancouver has a need we have their type of players.