The Rookie Team: the San Francisco Bulls

A little over year ago, news emerged that the San Francisco Bulls, a new ECHL team, would be taking up residence at The Cow Palace.  How time flies.  San Francisco’s new hockey team has now held a dozen practices. They play their first regular season game tomorrow.

I asked Head Coach Pat Curcio if that seemed rushed:

“It didn’t, until last Friday. When I looked at our lineup … we have 13 rookies … and we were playing a team with 12 veterans in their lineup. That was a little bit overwhelming… but the guys worked through it. Tomorrow night… Bakersfield’s got at least a dozen guys that played there last year.”

ECHL Rules limit the number of veterans on a team. But that doesn’t mean ECHL teams are all made up of players in their first professional season. Obviously some, like Bakersfield and Colorado, do have many players that fall in between rookie status and the veteran cut off.

The team’s preseason results were disappointing: two losses. Impressively, the Bulls kept the final scores close. In the second game, they recovered from a five goal deficit to push the game to overtime and a shootout. Preseason games may be poor indicators of how a team will perform in the regular season but those near misses give the team and its fans reason to hope for better.

The Bulls spent a lot of time killing penalties in the preseason. The Bulls had three power plays in their first game, four in their second. Their opponents each had seven.

“I think in our league, there seems to be a lot of calls. Special teams are so important. So we need to work a lot on our penalty kill… It’s going to take some time, guys are getting to know each other. Hopefully we’ll be disciplined tomorrow night.”

Curcio has seen a lot of progress since Day One, and he remains optimistic about the team’s chances in the season opener Friday night:

“Hopefully our rink will be an advantage for us, the excitement in the building and that’s what we hope for.”

Not everyone will be available for the first game of the season:

“We’ve a few guys injured already… all three are lower body… We won’t be seeing one of our best players until November.”

The three injured players are Dylan King, Jonathan Lessard and Chris Lawrence. I think. My recording was not wonderful. I guess that qualifies as a rookie mistake.

Sharks goaltending coach Wayne Thomas was on the ice today, working with Bulls goalies Thomas Heemskerk and Taylor Nelson.

Nelson and Heemskerk were both assigned to San Francisco from Worcester.  I went ahead and asked if the goalies would be getting orange masks, since they were both wearing teal ones at practice today.  No, they will be wearing their teal masks.

I hadn’t realized what a high percentage of rookies the team has. It isn’t ideal but I think it’s great: brand new players on a brand new team, playing under a brand spanking new scoreboard. The scoreboard really is beautiful, and the sound system was apparently used for an AC/DC concert recently. You know it’s built for noise.  As for the young players and the newness of the team, those are wonderful.  The season is bound to be full of surprises.

Is Curcio ready to say “I love it when a plan comes together”? (Obviously that’s my cheesy tv reference, not his.) He laughed:

“Maybe after tomorrow’s game. Ask me tomorrow.”

Friday’s game starts at 7:15. It will be broadcast on Comcast Hometown Network and you can listen to it on (Look for the Bulls logo in the mid to lower left of the web page.)

(Originally published at Kukla’s Korner.)


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