SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Toward the end of his playing career, Syracuse Crunch Coach Rob Zettler spent parts of two seasons in the AHL playing for the Portland Pirates, who were coached by Glen Hanlon.

“I lived in Falmouth,” he said “It was my wife and I and our young daughter. I was one of the few players with a family, and we just wanted to be by ourselves.”

Zettler recalled driving past the B&M factory to get to the Cumberland County Civic Center.

“We rented a condo up there,” he said. “We were lucky enough to find it. It was close to downtown, great area. We really enjoyed it.”

A defenseman, Zettler spent his final season as a player in 2001-02 with the Washington Capitals, the Pirates’ NHL parent at the time.

“I was kind of a call-up guy,” he said. “I was signed as (Washington’s) seventh or eighth defenseman. I was getting called up when there were injuries. The first two years I spent split between Portland and Washington. The third year I was up the whole year with Washington.”

Zettler is a month into his tenure as Crunch head coach.

After spending the previous 10 seasons in the NHL as an assistant coach at San Jose and then Toronto, he started the season as the top assistant to Syracuse Coach Jon Cooper. When the NHL parent Tampa Bay Lightning fired Coach Guy Boucher on March 25, he was replaced by Cooper, and Zettler became the head coach of the Crunch.

“It has been a pretty smooth transition,” he said. “I took over with 11 games left, so we were doing well. I wasn’t going to change anything. What we do on the ice hasn’t changed and, you know, the demand for the work ethic and the attention to detail is still there.”

THE PIRATES’ roster will get a boost Monday with the return of veteran centers Alexandre Bolduc and Chris Connor and defenseman Michael Stone from the NHL parent Phoenix Coyotes

All three of those players remain among the Pirates top scorers despite spending a significant amount of time with the Coyotes.

Bolduc, who was called up to Phoenix on April 5, has 24 goals and 27 assists in 56 games with the Pirates. He was scoreless in 14 games with the Coyotes.

Conner, who was called up to Phoenix on April 3, has 13 goals and 27 assists in 60 games with the Pirates. He scored a goal and had an assist in 12 games with the Coyotes.

Stone scored a career-high five goals and had four assists while appearing in 40 of the Coyotes’ 48 games. In 36 games with the Pirates, he scored six goals and had 22 assists.

AMONG THE banners hanging from the rafters of the 62-year-old War Memorial Arena are pennants commemorating boxer Carmen Basilio’s reigns as middleweight and welterweight world champions, the Syracuse Nationals’ NBA championship in 1955 and the Syracuse Stars’ Calder Cup championship in 1937.

Basilio, who died last November at age 85, lived in Canastota, N.Y., about 30 miles east of Syracuse. Following his retirement from boxing in 1963, he worked at LeMoyne College in Syracuse for 25 years.

In 1963, the Nationals, a member of the NBA for 14 seasons, morphed into the Philadephia 76ers following the move west of the Philadelpia Warriors. Nationals owner Danny Biasone is credited with getting the NBA to use the 24-second shot clock to speed up the game.

The Stars, who operated in Syracuse for 10 seasons, won the championship during the AHL’s inaugural season.

Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

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