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By Chicago Steel, 01/02/18, 12:22PM CST


Steel also announce change to coaching staff

GENEVA, ILLINOIS — The Chicago Steel announced two organizational changes to further its goals as an elite development organization within junior hockey:

  1. The Steel have formed a multi-year partnership with Darryl Belfry and Belfry Hockey, an innovative skill-based training organization credited with accelerating the development of many current and rising National Hockey League stars including Patrick Kane, John Tavares, Auston Matthews and Noah Hanifin. Belfry and his staff will be supporting Steel player development with on-ice instruction, coaching the coaches on enhanced skill-based practices, collaborating with Steel staff on individual player development plans and supporting player growth with game-based analytics and practice and game video analysis.
  2. Ryan Cruthers has been named Interim Head Coach and Assistant General Manager of the Chicago Steel, effective immediately, and the team has parted ways with Head Coach Mark Abalan. Ryan brings a track record of success in both player development and team achievements as a head coach and general manager in junior and professional hockey, and enjoyed a distinguished college and professional playing career.

“As the United States Hockey League and the Chicago Steel increasingly become the destination of choice for hockey’s brightest stars to accelerate their development, we are excited to make this multi-year commitment to a development approach that has produced the game’s brightest stars and can support our players’ aspirations to be impact players in college and professional hockey,” said Chicago Steel Owner Larry Robbins. “While winning a Clark Cup last season was a special achievement, our long-term success will be measured by the success our players enjoy beyond junior hockey and we are committed to use their time with the Steel to supercharge their development. Ryan and his staff will work in partnership to elevate the skills and efficacy of the Steel players as they prepare for college and professional hockey, as we continue our relentless pursuit of championships in the USHL.”

Added Steel President Dan Lehv, “The USHL stands for development and excellence, and we are proud to attract and forge partnerships with additional outside talent that will raise the level of player education and training. We know how hard these kids work, and our entire staff is dedicated to work just as hard to support their growth.”

“I couldn’t be more excited to bring my team to work with the Chicago Steel organization and their current and future players to accelerate their impact in college and professional hockey,” said Belfry. “We are honored to have the opportunity to engage these elite athletes in building a personal skill platform that will translate to success at the next level while leveraging their game towards the mission of the Chicago Steel Hockey Team.”

Ryan Cruthers joins the Steel following nearly two seasons as the Head Coach and General Manager of the Charlotte Rush (United States Premier Hockey League), compiling a record of 66-7-3 and leading the team to a USPHL Championship last season. Cruthers also served as Interim Coach for both the Reading Royals (ECHL) and the New Jersey Titans (North American Hockey League) over the past few years.

Prior to coaching, Cruthers spent eight seasons playing professionally in the American Hockey League and the ECHL. He retired as the Reading Royals’ all-time leading scorer and was an ECHL All-Star in 2008. He played college hockey at the United States Military Academy (Army) followed by two seasons at Robert Morris University (Atlantic Hockey).

“Ryan has shown a consistent commitment to player development, collaboration, innovation and team achievement, and look forward to his leadership as we implement the Belfry development partnership while battling to defend our Clark Cup Championship,” said Robbins.

Mark Abalan is credited with coaching the Chicago Steel to the Eastern Conference’s leading win percentage this season and league-leading penalty kill. “We appreciate the hard work that Mark put into his role with the Steel and we wish him the very best moving forward,” said Robbins.

The Steel travel to Fargo this weekend for a pair of road games against the Force. Chicago returns home Friday, Jan. 12 to host Cedar Rapids. The Steel will visit Madison the following night before hosting a Sunday afternoon matchup with Sioux City in a rematch of the 2017 Clark Cup Final. For more information, or to purchase tickets, call 855-51-STEEL, stop by the Box Office at Fox Valley Ice Arena or visit





The 2017 Clark Cup Champion Chicago Steel are in their 18th season in the United States Hockey League (USHL) and third season playing at Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva, Ill. 2016-2017 was a record-breaking season for the Steel, including new team records in regular season wins (38) and points (81), and culminating in the first championship in team history. The organization's focus is providing affordable, family-friendly entertainment. Steel players are recruited from across the country and internationally. They are assigned a host family and advisor to arrange housing and education options while with the team. Education, and development as a player/individual, are keys to their success. 192 Steel players have earned NCAA Division I scholarships since 2000 and 34 have been NHL Draft picks since 2002. Follow the Steel on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @ChicagoSteel. Visit for more information.



A pioneer in research-based player development, Belfry Hockey supports and shapes the skill and game development of many of the top NHL superstars in the game today. Since founding Playmakers Hockey in 1997, Darryl Belfry continues to uncover new pathways to influence the speed players can transfer their training into their game, which has established a new standard of expectation for elite athletes. Follow Belfry Hockey on twitter @belfryhockey or visit



Headquartered in Chicago and founded in 1979, the USHL is celebrating its 16th season as the nation's only Tier 1 junior hockey league. Its players range from 16-20 years old, and are recruited from over 35 states and 9 countries to fill the rosters on 17 teams nationwide. A record 40 USHL players were chosen in the 2017 NHL Draft, and more than 400 USHL players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the league as the world's foremost producer of junior hockey talent.