116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS – Three weekend games for the Omaha Lancers have been declared no contests as the United States Hockey League club has become embroiled in a controversy that has seen their head coach and other staff members resign.
Lancers players unanimously voted Thursday to boycott games against Waterloo, Lincoln and Des Moines to protest the recent dismissal of head coach Chadd Cassidy and club-imposed tightened budgets that reportedly have forced players to pay for their own food on road trips and for sticks and even stick tape.
USHL clubs are expected to pay for those things and more as part of the Tier I junior hockey league, the best junior league in the United States.
“We are aware of the reports about the Omaha Lancers and are actively working to resolve this matter,” the USHL said in a Thursday statement. “We have standards we take seriously in order to provide the best possible experience for all players who participate in the USHL.”
The league said in another statement released Thursday night announcing the weekend no contests that it would be conducting an investigation into the franchise. The Lancers said they would give their full support and cooperation.
The USHL consists of players mostly aged 16 to 20 years old who are preparing for college hockey and or professional hockey. The National Hockey League is a partner, as is USA Hockey, the governing body for the sport in this country.
The Cedar Rapids RoughRiders are a member.
Cassidy was informed he was out as head coach after a meeting Nov. 9 with Lancers president David DeLuca, who runs the club for Quebec owner Anthony DiCesare. DeLuca came to Omaha in the summer of 2017, after being a captain for the Las Vegas Fire Department.
The Omaha World-Herald reported the Lancers cut their budget for hockey sticks this season in half, meals were deemed inadequate and a subscription video scouting service that all USHL clubs use was canceled. Additionally, the World-Herald reported they attempted to get a billet family member (those who house players) to work as team equipment managers for free.
“This leadership group isn’t giving the players the resources they need to success,” Tate Maris told the newspaper.
He resigned as the team’s goaltending coach Thursday, as did assistant coach Sean Walsh, who had been named interim coach earlier this week. The World-Herald reported Walsh and DeLuca had a heated exchange Thursday, which prompted Walsh and then Maris to quit.
Though Cassidy had been let go, he still was asked to coach the team last weekend, which he did, leading Omaha to two victories. The team has an 8-4-2 record, its 18 standings points good for fourth place in the USHL’s Western Conference.
The club announced it has hired Gary Graham to be new head coach. He has been coaching the Indy Jr. Fuel U18 junior team.
Omaha said it has created an “advisory board” chaired by former longtime NHL official Pat Dapuzzo and also consisting of NHL players Charlie McAvoy and Adam Fox, among others, to “provide experienced counsel to Omaha Lancers players, coaches and staff as they progress along their path in hockey.” Maris told the World-Herald he felt getting rid of DeLuca and perhaps finding new ownership would be the right path forward for the club.
“Kids shouldn’t have to deal with this,” he told the World-Herald.
The RoughRiders, by the way, played Friday night at Chicago.
For those curious, attendance league wide in the USHL is down, an average of 1,396 per game. Sioux Falls leads the way with an average attendance of 5,949, with Fargo next at 2,662 and Cedar Rapids third at 1,777.
Omaha is fifth in the USHL with an average attendance of 1,677. It has long been considered one of the flagship franchises of the league.
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