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Bullfrogs' Sonier Eyes Second Job : Roller hockey: He is candidate for coaching job in East Coast Hockey League, which would keep him away from Anaheim most of the year.

August 31, 1995|PAUL McLEOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Bullfrog Coach Grant Sonier, Roller Hockey International Western Conference coach of the year, is expected to be named coach of the Huntington (W.Va.) Blizzard once the sale of the East Coast Hockey League club is completed.

The appointment, which Sonier confirmed, could be made as early as next week.

Courted this summer by five or six hockey teams, mainly as an assistant, Sonier said he plans to return as coach of the Bullfrogs in 1996 after the hockey season ends. But his absence during the fall, winter and spring will put a dent in the team's community service program.

With Sonier, a popular, personable and energetic figure, the Bullfrogs aggressively courted the youthful roller hockey market. The effort was credited with increasing attendance at The Pond to an announced average of 10,000 this season.

There's always the question as to whether Sonier will become too involved in duties elsewhere to return to roller hockey. But money may be a factor that leads him back. He is believed to have made about $64,000 a year with the Bullfrogs. He said he is taking a pay cut to return to the ice.

"I had the opportunity of staying in roller hockey and closing a door to ice hockey, or staying in roller hockey and keeping both doors open," he said.

Sonier said the ECHL is the prime recruiting ground for roller hockey players. That will give him an edge in signing top players for the 1996 RHI season, Sonier said.

"It will benefit both of us," he said.

Assistant coach Brad McCaughey is expected to take over Bullfrog operations in the off-season.

Nearly a week after San Jose used a power-play goal in the final 41 seconds to upset the Bullfrogs, 2-1, in a 12-minute mini-game and take the best of three semifinal series, there's still a cloud hanging over The Pond.

Bullfrog officials were livid when referee Mark Catto sent Victor Gervais to the penalty box for slashing with 1:07 to play. They say replays show Catto missed two punches to the head of Gervais while he was wrestled to the floor by a pair of Rhinos. Sonier contends that at least one Rhino should have been sent off, as well. San Jose scored with 44 seconds remaining. "All season long you work and work on discipline and then you have a retaliatory penalty that costs you a chance at the finals," he said. "It leaves a bad taste in your mouth."

The Bullfrogs had the best regular season record in the league and were heavily favored to win their second RHI title. But after dropping the first game of the three-game set in San Jose, 11-4, they were unable to get the job done, despite evening the series last Saturday with a 9-4 victory in the regulation game. Anaheim finished with a record of 25-6-1.

San Jose leads Montreal in their best of three championship final after a 7-4 victory at home Tuesday. The series concludes in Canada Friday.

The Silver family, owners of the Bullfrogs, is reassessing what direction it wants to take the three-year-old club after its loss. Even with those announced crowds, it is believed the Silvers lost money for the third consecutive season. The family does not release financial statements.

"It was a devastating loss," team President Stuart Silver said. "But we expect most of our players to come back next year."

Sonier believes the Bullfrogs will come back as strong as ever next year.

"Time is a great healer," Sonier said. "I'm confident that the caliber of players we have had this year will come back because the franchise has been run in a professional manner."

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