This week’s interview is with Michigan Gray Wolves coach Ron Wright.
SHL Digest: We’re here this week with Ron Wright, the bench boss for the SHL’s best team, the Michigan Gray Wolves. Coach Wright, thanks for speaking with us.
Ron Wright: Don’t mention it. Speaking to the press is part of my job.
SHLD: I’d ask you about the playoff race, but for your team, there really isn’t one. You’ve been out front of your division since the start of the season, and now you lead the West by over 20 points. Are you surprised at how easy it’s been?
RW: Let’s be clear; nothing about a professional hockey season is easy. Whatever we’ve achieved, we’ve paid for in blood, sweat, and hard work. That said, we were definitely not expecting to have a lead this large at this point in the season.
SHLD: Having a lead like that must make it tempting to take your foot off the gas and cruise. How have you kept your team focused and productive?
RW: I’ve always told my guys that we don’t measure ourselves by the competition. We measure against ourselves. And they know that I’m not going to ease up in practice or slow down just because we’ve running away with the division. Dedication and intensity is what wins championships.
SHLD: Speaking of championships, the East is looking stronger this year. The Hamilton Pistols look like a serious contender, and they’ve played the Wolves tough all season, including a 1-1 tie this week. What do you think of them?
RW: They’ve come a long way in a short time. [Keith] Shields has done a hell of a job with them. They’ve got a powerful offense, and they’ve really integrated their young guys into the program. Their style is an interesting match for ours; they play faster and more offense-oriented. And that’s definitely a matchup that could go either way. We couldn’t take that for granted.
SHLD: The Quebec Tigres are another Eastern team doing well, although their style is more similar to yours.
RW: Yeah, they’re also focused on defense and shot suppression, slowing the pace down. That’s the matchup that the league is dreading, because it would be so boring. But that would be a real chess match.
SHLD: The trading deadline just passed, and almost all of the contenders made moves to improve. The Wolves, on the other hand, stood pat. Did you consider making trades?
RW: I’m sure [GM Tim] Carrier kicked the tires on a couple things, but no, we weren’t looking to upgrade. My team is on the ice. Trying to integrate a new player in midseason is always a challenge; if you’re going to do that, you’d better be confident that it’s a risk worth taking. I’m satisfied with all of my guys.
SHLD: Some thought that you might make a move after [center] Wesley Knight was hit with a 15-game suspension for PED usage. How have you dealt with that?
RW: Let me say first, that was a real shock and a disappointment when I learned about that. He’s too good a player to reach for a crutch like that. But we’ve got Phoenix Cage, who’s stepped in and done a good job in that spot. He’ll be able to hold the fort until Knight is back.
SHLD: Well, thanks for a wide-ranging and interesting conversation. Good luck the rest of the season!
RW: Thank you. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish.