Erie Otters Extend & Add Title to GM Dave Brown

It was only a matter of time. But finally, the Erie Otters locked in their bedrock leader.

On Thursday, the Otters agreed to a new contract with general manager Dave Brown. In addition, he is now the VP of Operations. According to owner Jim Waters, the new contract for Brown is for five seasons. It is easy to see why Waters prioritized this move for the franchise.

“When I purchased the Otters five years ago it didn’t take long to realize I was working next to one of the sharpest minds in the hockey business, Dave Brown,” said Waters. “He is a guy who doesn’t ask the people he works with to do anything he wouldn’t do which makes him a great leader. He is dedicated to this team and the Erie community. I have no doubt the Otters organization will flourish under his leadership.”

Brown is the only general manager the Otters have known since Waters purchased the team back in 2015. The 2020-21 season will mark the beginning of Brown’s 11th season with the team. He started in Erie in 2010 as their Director of Hockey Operations. He helped build teams in the 2010’s that won 50 games in a season four straight seasons (2013-17) which is the current CHL record.

Waters knew right away what he had in Brown after purchasing the team.

“When I first got here,” Waters said. “I could tell Dave was the strength of this organization.”

Brown is thrilled to be continuing on as well.

“Firstly, I am thankful to work for such a great person in Jim Waters. Jim is not only a mentor, but someone I consider a very good friend and I appreciate and admire his trust in me,” said Brown. “I am proud and honored to work with all the great Otters staff. Together, we will strive for excellence. I will encourage our staff to think outside the box for new and innovative ideas both on and off the ice that will make the Otters distinctive and unique. Through solid core values established by the Waters family, we will continue to nurture a culture that puts family first and foremost. Our value is in our loyal fans, community, corporate partners, players, and staff. I look forward to guiding this group to consistently attain personal and organizational goals and, hopefully one day soon, the arrival of a Memorial Cup.”

Brown also went on to say that he is honored at the opportunity to stay in Erie. The city and franchise owns a special place in his heart.

Brown Working the Business Side

As for Brown’s new responsibilities, he will work more on the business side with the front office staff. He will oversee the execution of the team’s development goals. There will be no changes to his duty as general manager.

His duty as general manager might not change, but Brown realizes the importance of the staff around him, especially assistant director of hockey operations Scott Grieve. Brown was quick to give Grieve credit for his work especially with this past CHL Import Draft.

Brown said he presented Grieve with his idea on what he was looking for. It was Grieve’s job to go out and find players that would fit with the plan. Grieve executed the plan by drafting two players that have a good chance of reporting to the team. Now they hope to build off this momentum into better times.

When you think of the success of the Otters in the 2010’s, there are many people that deserve credit. But Brown was with the team the whole decade and has experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in his tenure. Waters says the way Brown has handled everything from a leadership standpoint is what gives him the confidence the job will get done.

What can we expect to see in the near term? Expect to see the team focus on bringing up leaders all over the organization both on and off the ice. Whether it’s a player or a member of the staff, the team focus remains the same. It is Brown’s job to support everyone involved and he is committed to do just that. He will help bring everyone to new levels which will make the whole team better.

Dave Brown, OHL, Erie Otters
GM Dave Brown is one of the most respected men in the OHL. (Photo courtesy of the OHL)

There’s a reason why Brown is one of the most respected men in the OHL. He doesn’t take shortcuts. He’s honest with everyone he deals with. Most importantly, he knows when to get involved and when to stay back. He isn’t afraid to speak up when warranted. Yet he does everything with class. Brown encompasses everything the Otters believe in. Now the team has him locked up for five seasons. Now they can focus on getting ready for the 2020-21 season, whenever that might be. Speaking of which…

Quick OHL Return to Play Update

Waters spoke to the media on a Zoom call Thursday afternoon and did share some information with us about a possible return to play. Although there are a lot of unknowns, Waters said that two main issues exist.

  • The U.S./Canadian border closure.
  • Capacity at arenas.

The border is a huge issue. With three U.S. based teams in the OHL, there is legitimate concern that players might not be able to get back to the states in time for a potential start of the season. We are talking about 16-20 year old kids. Therefore it would be very hard to deem them essential workers for this purpose.

Waters said the last meeting he was involved in was around two weeks ago. As of that time, nothing had been decided. There are several start dates being discussed everything from October to January. With meetings every couple of weeks, Waters has a handle on where most things stand. He said he would share information as it became available.

As for arenas, that’s another area of concern for teams. In juniors, your two main revenue streams are ticket sales and advertising. It would be very hard to imagine the league starting with no fans given their importance to revenues and teams. So they are discussing capacity and a safety plan in order to see if they can get fans in at some point.

Waters said Erie would be in better shape than some other teams. Erie Insurance Arena can hold just under 7,000 fans. At 50% capacity, that’s 3,500. If the Otters can get 2,500-3,000 fans, that would meet the criteria. He feels fans would come out especially early on to help support the team. Fans are always looking for something to do these days in the midst of this pandemic. So long as all safety measures are in place, the Otters could be ok in the short term. We’ll see. There’s obviously a lot of things to figure out.

Stay with the Hockey Writers on this developing story. If we hear anything, we will make sure to pass it along to you. The next major thing to watch is how training camps could look. With August right around the corner, this is normally the time of year where we start thinking about camp. With no information out yet, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where a season starts on time. But as of now, they expect to be back some time in the fall.