OMAHA, Neb. -- The Omaha Lancers junior hockey team of the USHL is going to resume hockey operations on Monday, Nov. 22. The Lancers are scheduled to play home games against the Lincoln Stars at 6:05 p.m. Nov. 27 and the Sioux City Musketeers at 4:05 p.m. Nov. 28 at Ralston Arena.
The team has been in turmoil recently because of budget cuts and it let go of coach and general manager Chadd Cassidy two weeks ago. On Nov. 18, players walked out and said that they would not play in road games against Waterloo, Lincoln and Des Moines over the weekend. The USHL declared the games "no contest" and will work to reschedule the games.
Instead of playing games, players met with representatives from the USHL and USA Hockey on Friday, Nov. 19, according to a press release from the league. Players met away from Ralston Arena and discussed the team in smaller groups and individually. Then players were given updates on Saturday and there was an additional virtual meeting on Sunday morning.
On Sunday morning, USHL President and Commissioner Bill Robertson and Josh Mervis met with the players virtually. In that meeting, Mervis was introducted as a representative of the USHL to oversee operations of the Lancers and players were introduced to Gary Graham, who was named the team's head coach on Nov. 18.
Graham was a coach for the Fort Wayne Komets from 2009-19. He coached the Indy Jr. Fuel 16-and-under AAA team in the North American Prospects League in 2020-21 and had been coaching that organization's 18-and-under team this season before being named the Lancers coach.
On Nov. 18, Sean Walsh, who began the season as an assistant coach for the Lancers, was named to replace Cassidy. According to a story by Brad Schlossman, Walsh entered team president Dave DeLuca's office and asked about a potential pay raise if he's going to be the head coach for the rest of the season. DeLuca became enraged, cursed at Walsh and told him to get out of the office. DeLuca, a former Las Vegas firefighter, pursued Walsh down the hall, continuing his tirade, Schlossman reported after multiple interviews with those with knowledge of the situation.
Walsh, assistant coach Tate Maris and trainer Nick Hart all resigned. Walsh, Maris and the team's captains held a meeting, where Walsh told the players if they wanted to play this weekend, he would be there behind the bench for them. But if they decided to walk, he would walk with them. The players decided to boycott the three games over the weekend. Walsh resigned. Team trainer Nick Hart followed.
The Lancers placed Deluca on administrative leave on Nov. 20.
On Nov. 19, an investigation of the Lancers was begun by a third party, who is a SafeSport coordinator. SafeSport is dedicated to ending sexual, physical, and emotional abuse on behalf of athletes.
The investigator has begun interviewing players, former coaches, front office staff and ownership, according to the USHL press release.
Schlossman reported tensions began building earlier this season as the Lancers, owned by Anthony DiCesare, made major budget cuts that included the team's video software, player equipment and even postgame meals for players.
The Lancers have won the USHL's Clark Cup as the league's playoff championship seven times and won the Anderson Cup as the league's regular season champion five times. The Fargo Force is also a USHL franchise.
Omaha has 19 of its 28 players on its roster committed to play for NCAA Division I men's hockey teams, according to the USHL website.