Three former Spokane Chiefs are preparing to represent their country in the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. Former players Michael Grabner and Stefan Ulmer will both play for Team Austria while former coach Mike Babcock will coach Team Canada.
Grabner, a right wing, was drafted in the 1st Round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by the Vancouver Canucks and appeared in 20 games before being traded to the Florida Panthers in 2010. However, he would be claimed off waivers by the New York Islanders before ever suiting up for Florida, and is now in his 4th season with New York. This season, he has 6 goals and 8 assists in 41 games for the Islanders, bringing his NHL career total to 81 goals and 49 assists in 260 games. Grabner was a Calder Trophy finalist in 2011 as one of the league’s top rookies. Grabner played in Spokane for three seasons from 2004-2007, scoring 88 goals and 41 assists in 180 games. He was selected by the Chiefs in the 1st round (21st overall) of the 2004 CHL Import Draft, coming from Villach, Austria.
Defenseman Stefan Ulmer played in Spokane from 2007-2010, contributing on the Memorial Cup-winning team in 2008. He suited up for 167 games as a Chief, scoring 19 goals and 75 assists while posting a career +44 plus/minus rating. Ulmer, a native of Dornbirn, Austria – where current Chief Dominic Zwerger also calls home – was Spokane’s 1st Round CHL Import Draft selection in 2007. Ulmer has since gone on to play in the top-tier Swiss National League A for HC Lugano. He is currently in his 4th year with HC Lugano, posting career stats of 11 goals, 27 assists, and 84 PIM.
Babcock was also the head coach of Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics, where he helped them win gold in Vancouver. Babcock coached the Chiefs from 1994-2000, finishing as the Chiefs all-time winningest coach with 224 wins over six seasons. He was twice named WHL Coach of the Year. Babcock took the head coaching position with the Detroit Red Wings for the 2005-06 season. Through 43 games this season, he has a combined coaching record in Detroit of 395-184-86. The Red Wings won the Stanley Cup in 2008 under his leadership.
The Chiefs return to Spokane Arena tomorrow, Friday, January 10 to face the Kamloops Blazers on Viva Las Vegas Miller Brewing Company Trip Giveaway Night. Tickets are still available in-person at the Chiefs’ Ticket Office, over the phone at (509) 535-PUCK, via TicketsWest Outlets and online at www.ticketswest.com.