Charlotte Checkers’ Head Coach Leaving the Franchise
It’s certainly not been the best weekend for Charlotte sports fans. By now everyone is well aware that Kemba Walker will be playing for the Boston Celtics, and not the Hornets, next season. And the bright spot in our sports world this past year, the Charlotte Checkers, are giving us tough news as well. Mike Vellucci is leaving his head coaching position with the Charlotte Checkers to be the new head coach of the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins.
Vellucci has spent the last five seasons working in the Carolina Hurricanes’ organization and the last two as the head coach of the Charlotte Checkers and Assistant GM of the Carolina Hurricanes. As a head coach, both seasons were successful, including posting the best record in the AHL at 51-17-8 this past season and capping it by winning the franchise’s first ever Calder Cup. It was reported that the franchise and Vellucci mutually parted ways two days ago, where he was quickly snatched up to be the head coach of AHL opponent Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. “I’m thankful for my time with the Hurricanes organization. We created some great memories in Charlotte, including winning the franchise’s first Calder Cup and bringing the first championship to Charlotte last season. It’s hard to leave, but I have been presented with an exciting opportunity that makes sense for my future,” Vellucci commented about leaving.
I would imagine most people had the same reaction to this news as I did, which is a very confused “why?” It’s not often a coach wins a championship and leaves to go coach another team. And what makes it even more confusing is the fact he is leaving to coach another AHL team, so it’s not like he’s getting a shot in the NHL. However, he is close to Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford, having worked under him before coming to the Carolina organization. Even though Vellucci is taking on the head coaching position for the WBS Penguins, I would guess he’s taking the position with the knowledge that he could soon become the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins or work in their front office. That makes the most sense to me.
As for the Checkers, they are now looking for their 5th head coach in franchise history. It should be a very attractive job, given the talent they still feature from a Calder Cup-winning season. We hate to see Vellucci leave Charlotte, but would like to thank him for leading the Checkers to a very special and fun season this past year. It will be one that we will never forget being a part of as Checkers fans.