Terry Ruskowski, better known as “Rosco”, was introduced as the first head coach of the expansion Columbus Chill of the East Coast Hockey League on Aug, 1, 1991. He held the position for the team’s first three seasons (1991-94); recording 96 wins, 70 losses and 20 ties and guiding the Chill to their first playoff appearance in his third season.
His outgoing personality was instrumental in helping build the popularity of the Chill to the point that the franchise would eventually set a then-minor league hockey record of 83 consecutive sellouts.
The native of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, grew up learning the game on the frozen ponds on the family farm. After battling the rap that he was too small to play (5-9, 170 pounds) he proved critics wrong and enjoyed a successful 16-year professional playing career (five in the World Hockey Association, 11 in the National Hockey League).
Rosco played for the Houston Aeros and Winnipeg Jets of the WHA and the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Minnesota North Stars. He played in 630 NHL games, scored 113 goals and had 313 assists for 426 points. He also racked up 1,356 penalty minutes.
In 369 WHA games Rosco had an additional 83 goals, 254 assists and 761 PIMs.
Rosco had the rare combination of toughness, skill and leadership ability as evidence of him being the only player in major professional hockey history to captain four different clubs (Aeros, Blackhawks, Kings and Penguins).
In 1974, Rosco was drafted by both the Blackhawks and Houston at a time when the upstart WHA was trying to compete against the venerable NHL.
Rosco opted to sign with the Aeros and spent four seasons there (1974-78), winning the Avco Cup league championship during his first season while playing alongside the legendary Gordie Howe and his sons Marty and Mark. Rosco was sold to Winnipeg in 1978 where he went on to win his second Avco Cup, garnering four assists in the title-clinching game.
As a result of the 1979 merger, the four WHA teams entering the NHL were only allowed to protect two players each. Rosco went unprotected and was drafted by Chicago. Just twelve games into his Blackhawk career he was named team captain for one of the Original six teams.
He retired after the 1989 season with Minnesota and promptly became head coach of the Saskatoon Blades of the junior Western Hockey League.
Rosco left after two seasons to take the Chill job and one of his Saskatoon players, Jason Christie, was the first signee by the new team.
After his three seasons in Columbus, Rosco returned to Houston as coach of the expansion Aeros of the American Hockey League. He was there 1 ½ seasons.
His next job took him to Knoxville in the United Hockey League from 1999-2001 and from there was named coach of the first-year Laredo (Texas) Bucks of the Central Hockey League.
He won league titles in 2004 and 06’ before ending a nine-year run in the spring of 2011. He wasn’t out of work long – in June 2011 he became the coach of the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees (McAllen Tex.) in the CHL.
Rosco was born Dec. 31, 1954, and spent many a year celebrating his birthday after the Chill’s famous New Year’s Eve games and promotions.
Maurice William “Moe” Mantha, Jr. took over the reins from Terry Ruskowski as the Chill’s second head coach. Moe led the Chill to consecutive playoff appearances during his two-season stint (1994-96). His overall record was 68-60-10.
A native of Lakewood, Ohio, Moe has dual American-Canadian citizenship. He was born while his Canadian father, Moe Mantha, Sr., was playing for the Cleveland Barons of the American Hockey League (1960-61).
Moe Sr. had the unique distinction of playing minor-league hockey in Ohio’s three largest cities, beginning his pro career with the Cincinnati Mohawks of the International Hockey League in 1954 and ending it as the player-coach for the Columbus Checkers (IHL) in 1970.
It was during that season in Columbus that the younger Moe played his first youth hockey game at age 9 in the same Ohio State Fairgrounds Coliseum that housed the Chill years later. He was subsequently raised in Canada when his father retired from hockey and returned to his hometown of Sturgeon Falls, Ontario.
Drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in 1980, Moe Jr. played twelve seasons as a defenseman in the NHL with the Jets, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota North Stars and Philadelphia Flyers.
He had 370 points (81 goals, 289 assists) and 501 penalty minutes in 656 regular season games.
Moe also represented the U.S. in the 1981, ‘85 and 1991 world championships as well as the 1992 Winter Olympics.
He spent one season as an assistant coach of the AHL’s Hershey Bears before accepting the Chill job.
Moe became the second Chill coach to be promoted to a higher level, taking the head coaching job with the Baltimore Bandits of the AHL (later relocated as the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks). He spent four seasons with the organization, qualifying for the playoffs twice.
Always known as a developer of talent, Moe coached the USA Hockey National Team Development Program’s Under-17 team in Ann Arbor, Mich., from 2000-2004 and one season with the junior Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League in 2005-06.
Moe is currently in his second season as a minority owner, general manager and head coach for the Michigan (Flint) Warriors of the junior North American Hockey League. He took the expansion team to the championship game in 2011.
Moe was born Jan. 21, 1961.
Brian McCutcheon became the Chill’s third coach and guided the franchise to its first divisional title in his only season in Columbus (1996-97) and was named East Coast Hockey League Coach-of-the-Year as he calmly led the team to a 44-21-5 record.
It was also the city’s first pro hockey title dating back to the inception of the Columbus Checkers (IHL) in 1966.
Championships were nothing new for Brian, who holds the distinction of being the captain of the NCAA’s only undefeated national championship hockey team in 1970. He was inducted into the Cornell Sports Hall of Fame in 1986.
In 1971 McCutcheon signed a pro contract with the Detroit Red Wings and he “winged” it from there. During his 12-year career among the teams he played for were the Tidewater Wings, Fort Worth Wings, Port Huron Wings, Virginia Red Wings and he finished with the Kansas City Red Wings in 1978.
Fortunately, he also made it the NHL, playing 37 games over three seasons for the Detroit Red Wings where he had three goals and an assist.
After his playing days ended, he started his coaching career at Elmira College, first as an assistant for one season then the head coach for three beginning in 1984.
He returned to his alma mater as head coach before leaving Cornell after six seasons and landing a one-year gig with the Los Angeles Ice Dogs (IHL) prior to taking the job in Columbus.
Following his successful stay in Columbus, he accepted a position in the Buffalo Sabres’ organization as head coach of their AHL affiliate in Rochester. He guided the Americans to a record of 128-82-9 from 1997 to 2000, twice leading the Americans to the Calder Cup finals. He was runner-up as AHL Coach-of-the-Year in 1999 and 2000.
He was then promoted to assistant and later associate coach to head coach Lindy Ruff with the Sabres. He would spend 11 seasons with Ruff in Buffalo, the last being 2010-11.
McCutcheon was born Aug. 3, 1949.
Don Granato was head coach of the Chill during their final two seasons in Columbus, including a dramatic win in the final ever regular-season game that clinched the 1999 ECHL North Division, the second title in franchise history.
The Downers Grove, Ill., native was also a player on the Chill’s inaugural-season team in 1991-92 and played his only two pro seasons in Columbus. He collected 90 points (26 goals, 64 assists) in 103 career games before retiring.
Before signing with the Chill, Don played for the University of Wisconsin from 1987-91 and had 88 points (45-43) in 162 games. He also helped the Badgers win the 1990 NCAA title along with his soon-to-be Chill teammate, Kurt Semandel, and Mark Osiecki, the current Ohio State men’s hockey coach.
After retiring, Granato sharpened his coaching skills with the Green Bay Gamblers of the junior United States Hockey League from 1994-97 and earned the distinction of becoming the first coach in the league to lead a team to back-to-back regular season championships.
Don had a 33-30-7 record his first season in Columbus. For the 1998-99 season he added the general manager’s duties as the Chill went 39-24-7 to edge Peoria by a point for the division crown after having not led the entire season.
His two-year record was 72-54-14.
The Chill suspended operations after the 1999 season (later to become the Reading Royals) to make room for the start up of the Columbus Blue Jackets NHL expansion team and Don moved on to coach the ECHL’s Peoria Rivermen for one season, capturing the Kelly Cup in 2000. One of his key players was former Chill teammate Jason “Smurf” Christie.
Soon thereafter Don became the fourth consecutive Chill coach to be promoted to a higher level as head coach of the St. Louis Blues’ AHL affiliate, the Worcester IceCats. Don was named AHL Coach-of-the-Year during his inaugural campaign of a five-year stint. He also became the second Chill coach to become an NHL assistant when he was promoted to the Blues (2005-06).
He has since coached the Chicago Wolves (AHL) and most recently was a scout for the Vancouver Canucks.
USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program named Don the U.S. Under-17 head coach on August 15, 2011 – the same position once held by former Chill coach Moe Mantha.
Part of a well-known hockey family, Don is the brother of Cammi and Tony and the brother-in-law of Ray Ferraro.
Don was born on Aug. 11, 1967.