Make room for another Hurricane Katrina evacuee story — one that should be of big benefit for the Utah Grizzlies.
Centerman Louis Dumont, 32, the ECHL's career scoring and assists leader, had previously agreed to another season with the Mississippi Sea Wolves of the ECHL. His contract came in the mail to his home in Lafayette, La., the same day Katrina hit.
Their home was safe from the storm, but Dumont's wife told him to hold off signing the contract because Biloxi, home of the Sea Wolves, might be destroyed and not be able to have hockey this season after the hurricane. Was she ever right.
The Sea Wolves attempted a temporary move to Mobile, Ala., but when that fell through, it left the 2004 PHPA Ironman award winner — who spent most of his 12-year career playing in the Gulf Coast region — scrambling for a place to play.
Several teams wanted him, but he hit it off on the phone with new Grizzlies' coach Jason Christie. The two Alberta, Canada, natives have never met but have several mutual friends and similar backgrounds, said Dumont by phone from Lafayette.
The capital of Cajun country, Lafayette has become a metropolis since the storm. "We only had a bunch of wind," during Katrina, Dumont said, but evacuees have swelled the population. "Traffic is unreal."
Dumont has a 1-year-old daughter and, with little time to make a decision, he chose to play for Utah because he thought it would be a safe place for his family while he's on the road with his team. He's only been through the airport in Salt Lake City so far, but his cousin, Martin Sonnenberg, played here last season when the Grizzlies were affiliated with the NHL Phoenix Coyotes and played in the AHL. Sonnenberg told him it's a good place with lots of things for the family to do. Dumont agreed on Tuesday to play for Utah this season.
"It's a big change," Dumont said about coming west, but he said he eagerly watched a lot of the 2002 Winter Olympics television coverage, so he has some feel for what the E Center is like.
"I'm psyched up," Dumont said, adding he's been impressed with Christie's teams when the new Grizzlies coach was at Peoria the last four years. "Great record," Dumont observed. "He will not build a team that's not exciting."
The Grizzlies will probably convene training camp for their first season in the Class AA ECHL on Oct. 9 in West Valley City.
Christie is the fourth player signed for the new team. He has 820 ECHL career points and 511 assists, both league records, and is second all-time in games played at 706. He has played 730 professional games, including time in the AHL, IHL and WHL, and totaled 310 goals, 517 assists. "Obviously, I tried to play in the NHL," Dumont admitted, but that didn't happen, and he preferred the ECHL to some of the other leagues because of its structure, stable teams and players' union. "A notch higher," he called it. "A lot of the organizations are quite strong."
At 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, much of his game is built around speed. Dumont won a fastest skater award at an all-star game, he said. Through his long career, "I've become a more rounded player, but skating is one of my assets," he said, "If I'm playing well, I'm using my speed."
GRIZZ NOTE: All Grizzlies games during the 2005-2006 regular season and playoffs will again be broadcast on ESPN 1230AM KJQS, the team announced Tuesday. Citadel Broadcasting has been the Grizzlies' radio home since the team relocated from Denver in 1995.