Barry Soskin's enthusiasm yesterday made it clear that the team's new leader is, foremost, a hockey fan, and that he will do all he can to promote the Toledo Storm.
Soskin is back running the team he founded in 1991 after agreeing to a four-year management contract. Soskin, who is a Chicago businessman, called Toledo his second home at a press conference at the Maumee Bay Brewing Co.
"This is a celebration for me. I'm glad to be back. I've always missed Toledo," Soskin said.
"This is a business. But if you think as a fan, we can get this job done and bring the Storm back to where it was in the '90s. We won a couple championships, a few division titles and we had a lot of fun along the way, and we are going to bring that fun back."
Soskin founded the Double-A franchise 15 years ago and the team won two Riley Cups and four division titles under his ownership. Soskin signed a management agreement with current owner Tim Gladieux to run the team with an option to purchase the club. Gladieux bought the team from Soskin in 1998.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed and it still must be approved by the ECHL's board of governors.
Soskin made it clear he wants input from his fellow Storm fans.
"My personal e-mail address will be on our Web site," he said. "I want everyone to e-mail me so that they can give me their suggestions. They don't only have to be team-related. I want ideas from fans."
Storm coach Nick Vitucci, who played for Soskin when he owned the team, said he's excited about the change. Vitucci was Toledo's goaltender from 1993-95.
"He was a great owner," Vitucci said. "He is a fan and the players recognized that. You'd see him after games and he'd love to talk about hockey. He was always genuinely thrilled when we won."
Vitucci said players appreciated Soskin's enthusiasm because they knew he truly respected their effort.
"He is like one of the fans," Vitucci said. "He likes to be in the stands and shake hands. He realizes Toledo is a blue-collar town with hard-working people who enjoy watching sports. He is just like that."
Storm general manager Mike Miller said the move was very positive and that it was "a happy day for Toledo and for its professional hockey team.
"The man that founded the team is back," Miller said. "When you add to an organization, what you are looking for is enthusiasm, a good work ethic and somebody that loves the game. He understands what the fans like, what the fans want."
Soskin said he wants to bring the team back to the top in terms of attendance and success on the ice.
"We can do it with the fan and business support that we've had in the past," he said. "In 35 home games, we had something going on, for at least 20 of them. There was always something going on whether it was a giveaway or a raffle for a free trip to Vegas. I think you need to do that."
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