Steffon Walby says a two-and-a-half minute phone call has completely changed his life. In that Thursday call, Walby was told by Mississippi Surge owner Tim Kerr he's no longer part of the team's future. "I'm confused," Walby told WLOX News Director Brad Kessie from Hershey, Pennsylvania, where he's vacationing this week. "I asked him for reasons why, and he didn't give me reasons why."
The team had a staff meeting this morning. Afterward, a statement came from the Surge owner saying Walby had been let go. "In order to move ahead and keep hockey viable here on the Gulf Coast this is a decision that we had to make in the overall best interest of the franchise," Kerr said. "Certainly we appreciate everything Steffon has done for the Surge and we wish him the best in the future."
Walby said he got blindsided by suddenly being out of work. "I didn't see it coming. The phone call hit me right between the eyes," he said. "I guess I wasn't his guy to coach his team in the upcoming season."
Fans were just as stunned. This email came to WLOX from Mrs. Pat McArthur. "The line of nonsense spewed forth by Tim Kerr as 'rationale' for Coach Walby's dismissal makes absolutely NO sense!!!!" she wrote.
Walby was part of the ownership team of the Surge through the end of last season. The 2010-11 campaign ended with Walby's hockey team winning the SPHL championship. A short time later, Tim Kerr purchased the Surge. And this week, he cut ties with the team's only head coach.
Steffon Walby first moved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to serve on Bob Woods' staff with the Mississippi Sea Wolves. At that time, he was a player-coach who excelled on and off the ice. When Woods moved to the American Hockey League, Walby hung up his skates, and became the Sea Wolves head man.
It was Walby would stayed with Mississippi Sea Wolves hockey during the two years after Hurricane Katrina, when people wondered if hockey would ever return to the Mississippi Coast Coliseum. He got a thunderous ovation in October, 2007 when the puck dropped on and the Sea Wolves were back.
Two years later, the Sea Wolves, and the ECHL. were gone. They were replaced by the Mississippi Surge and the Southern Professional Hockey League. Behind the bench that night was Walby, the one key link between the two teams.
"What on earth would possess a team owner to get rid of a coach who was well liked and well RESPECTED by his team as well as the community?????" wondered Mrs. McArthur.
In that inaugural season, the Surge played for a league title, but lost. In year two, Walby's squad won the SPHL championship. But just three months, and one ownership change later, Walby got released.
Walby sent out resumes and contacted friends in the hockey world, hoping to call in some favors and find a job. "Ultimately, I'd like to stay in hockey," he said. However, after 11 years in south Mississippi, he said he could see his family remaining on the coast.
We'll have more on this story throughout the day on WLOX.com and on WLOX News.
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