New Louisiana IceGators coach Drew Omicioli implemented three major themes with his team shortly after he accepted the job, but one of them stands above the others.
“The third one, the most important one, is ‘Champion,’ ” Omicioli said. “That’s what we’re striving for as an organization. I feel that’s why I was brought in.”
One calendar month away from the home opener, IceGators General Manager Louis Dumont formally introduced the no-nonsense 35-year-old Omicioli on Thursday afternoon.
“The ownership and I feel that coach Omicioli has the professional hockey experience and networks to get the IceGators to the next level, which is the (Southern Professional Hockey League) President’s Cup,” Dumont said.
Omicioli (pronounced oh-ma-CHO-lee) wasted no time unveiling his vision for the team.
He said he will stress an ego-free atmosphere in the IceGators locker room, trying to foster a “lunch-pail” mentality with a team that finished 35-18-3 last season but was bounced in the first round of the playoffs.
Training camp begins in a little less than two weeks, where Omicioli will begin the process of trimming his roster from its current 30 players to 20. He’s looking to assemble a team that is “skilled but tough” from those players.
He said he “wouldn’t be the right man for the job” if he didn’t rely on forward Shawn McNeil, who was named the SPHL’s MVP last season after leading the league in scoring with 67 points.
“I’m extremely pleased with the core guys that we have coming back,” Omicioli said. “Obviously any time you can take a new position and have the MVP of the league and leading scorer coming back is phenomenal.”
He’s also pleased with the fact that he has what he considers four talented goaltenders coming in to choose from.
What he’s looking to add is a level of grit and feistiness that he felt may have been lacking last season.
“We have the players coming in to have a championship team,” Omicioli said. “That’s something that this city has never experienced.”
Omicioli is no stranger to the Acadiana area, having spent three summers in the area to train early in his playing career, but he has taken the time to experience the area in new ways.
“Already this year, the first time I’ve ever gone hunting, the first time I’ve ever shot a gun,” Omicioli said, before unwittingly walking into the pun: “It’s been a blast so far.”
But that was about the extent of Omicili’s joking mood. He went right back into his main theme after delivering the one-liner.
“I want to make this place not just one-and-done,” Omicioli said. “I want to be here for a while. Nothing would be better than getting this organization back to where it was ... and getting the Cajundome back to having 11,800 fans.”