Former NHL defenseman Steve Staios is building a major junior champion

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Staios, 48, has been with the Bulldogs since 2015, after a brief stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a player development advisor and assistant coach.

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SAINT JOHN, N.B. — Steve Staios has played more than 1,000 NHL games, including Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals with the Edmonton Oilers, but that doesn’t compare to the stress level how he feels as president and general manager of the Hamilton Bulldogs. .

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“Oh yeah, it’s not even close,” Staios said with a smile before the Bulldogs opened the 2022 Memorial Cup against host Saint John Sea Dogs on Monday.

“Even when you’re a coach, you feel like you have a little impact on the game as well. As a GM, you’re just sitting there watching the team. You can offer some advice after the game. It was really fun, I love it, but it’s a lot more stressful.

Staios, 48, has been with the Bulldogs since 2015, after a brief stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs as a player development advisor and assistant coach. The Hamilton product has a roster stint in the Ontario Hockey League and has rebuilt a winner four years after his last trip to the Memorial Cup in 2018.

“I got to build my own program and I got to look at all areas and aspects of playing and building, and I found that really rewarding, Staios said. “I was team president the first year, then I became president and general manager.

“The biggest challenge in Year 1 is sitting in marketing and budgeting meetings and realizing pretty quickly that if I was going to help this team have success and financial stability, I would had to build a good hockey team. . It was fun. We did some things in writing where we revamped our scouting team and the way we looked like some players. It just came naturally, it’s sure.

Staios played junior for the Niagara Falls Thunder where he was selected by the St. Louis Blues in the second round – 27th overall – of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. He then played with the Boston Bruins, Vancouver Canucks, Atlanta Thrashers, Oilers, Calgary Flames and New York Islanders.

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Staios finished his NHL career playing 1,001 games and 33 in the playoffs, most of it during the Oilers’ run to the Cup Finals in 2006, where they lost Game 7 to the Carolina Hurricanes. .

After retiring, he joined the Maple Leafs as a player development advisor and jumped behind the bench as an assistant after head coach Randy Carlyle was fired 40 games during the 2014 season- 2015.

“I loved it, but it wasn’t the right time in my life with kids and a family,” Staios said. “I was lucky to have a long playing career, where you travel away from family, so I didn’t want to do it again.

“I was ready to come back with Toronto and continue player development and go all the way and this opportunity with Hamilton came along and it was unique.”

The Belleville Bulls moved to Hamilton in 2015 and became the Bulldogs, replacing the American Hockey League version of the team, which was sold to the Montreal Canadiens and moved to St. John’s, NL .

Staios bought the team, became president, and then took on the role of general manager.

“It’s been amazing,” he said. “It’s really amazing, because it’s different from the pro; you meet the players’ families and get to know them well, then the host families and you get to know them and make those connections with the parents.

“It’s very gratifying on a personal level. I have players now playing pro or in the NHL texting me all the time. Even those guys who play U-Sports now, they come back for the games. It’s just more of a sense of community.

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Staios was in charge as the Bulldogs won the OHL championship in 2018 and earned a trip to the Memorial Cup in Regina, Sask., where they were eliminated in the semifinals by the host Pats.

The 2018 version of the Bulldogs included Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Riley Stillman, St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas, Dallas Stars forward Marian Studenic, Los Angeles Kings forward Arthur Kaliyev and Chicago Blackhawks forward MacKenzie Entwistle.

“After Regina, you realize it was going to take four years to rebuild,” Staios said. “You have to write well; you have to make the right trades, and all the pieces have to be there.

“It has been the most rewarding. In the first round, I only had the team for a few years and they proved to me that season that I had to make a few acquisitions to give them a chance to win. It was a bit different because it was a four year build and it was a bit more organic.

This year’s edition of the Bulldogs features NHL prospect defensemen Artem Grushnikov (Dallas Stars), Arber Xhekaj (Montreal Canadiens), forwards Mason McTavish (Anaheim Ducks), Jan Mysak (Canadiens) and Ryan Winterton ( Seattle Kraken).

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The Bulldogs topped the OHL, finishing with 107 points, then went 16-3 in the playoffs. The only series in which they lost a game was in the Finals, where the Windsor Spitfires pushed them to Game 7.

“I think that’s probably the most rewarding thing about this team,” Staios said. “We had a chance to reflect after winning the OHL championship and you think back to day 1, the plan and how we had to recover assets after 2018 and get the right players in the right positions and develop them. I’m glad everything went well.

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

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