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Rocky Thompson addresses affiliation change before Wolves lose to Grand Rapids

Whether he lands in the NHL next season or makes the trip west to lead the Golden Knights’ new affiliate in Nevada, Thompson’s tenure with the Wolves officially began running down when Vegas announced it was buying the San Antonio Rampage and moving that franchise for the 2020-21 season.

Grand Rapids’ Jarid Lukosevicius redirects the puck past Wolves goalie Oscar Dansk during Saturday’s game.
Ross Dettman/Chicago Wolves

Late Saturday afternoon, coach Rocky Thompson addressed the impending breakup between the Wolves and the Vegas Golden Knights. Then he was “embarrassed” by how his team played in the Wolves’ subsequent 5-2 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

“I feel embarrassed by that performance and that effort,” Thompson said. “I don’t take anything away from Grand Rapids, either. They had to travel all night and they played last night. We should’ve been the fresher team. They just out-competed, out-battled, out-worked us. They wanted it more. We just sat back and ate it. That’s embarrassing for me.”

Thompson undoubtedly wants that to change Sunday when the Wolves host Cleveland. And that wouldn’t be the only change coming relatively soon for Thompson.

Like the vast majority of the Wolves players, Thompson is a Vegas employee. And whether he lands in the NHL next season or makes the trip west to lead the Golden Knights’ new affiliate in Nevada, Thompson’s tenure with the Wolves officially began running down when Vegas announced it was buying the San Antonio Rampage and moving that franchise for the 2020-21 season.

Over his first two seasons, Thompson led the Wolves to a pair of division championships and one Western Conference title while establishing a growing coaching reputation. But Thompson also knows movement is part of the hockey lifestyle, and is taking the impending change in stride.

“We have a great relationship with (chairman) Don (Levin) and (general manager) Wendell (Young). It’s been wonderful,” Thompson said. “It’s tough in that situation, but that’s the game. It is what it is. It’s neither sad nor glad for me. That’s part of the business and you’re prepared for it. When you’ve moved as many times as I have over 25 years, it just comes with the territory.”

Prior to the change, Thompson and the Wolves still have 25 games and a potential playoff run. So it’s the on-ice issues Thompson said he’s thinking about, not how he’ll be moving again in the near future.

“It’s like our players: some guys are up on contracts. They probably won’t be with this organization next year,” Thompson said. “You can’t focus on those things. You can only focus on what you can control, and we’ve got so much on our plate right now.”

Thompson is right about that, and that showed against the Griffins. Grand Rapids’ Matthew Ford and Givani Smith scored twice, and the Wolves were out-shot 28-19 and got their goals from Jake Leschyshyn and Jake Bischoff.

It was a far cry from what happened Thursday, when the Wolves scored five times in the third period to rally past first-place Milwaukee.

“I think we might have gotten too comfortable with that win,” Leschyshyn said. “I think, from the start we were kind of sloppy and got behind and we ended up chasing the game for most of the time. I think that was a real issue for us tonight.”

NOTE: Athletic trainer Kevin Kacer was honored for working his 2,000th Wolves game Thursday night. Kacer became the Wolves’ head athletic trainer in 1995 after coming from the Detroit Pistons.