For seven years—three as an outstanding center and four as the team’s coach—Greg Puhalski, whose nickname is “The Chief,” was a central figure on the Toledo Storm hockey team.
His contributions helped lead the team to win two ECHL championships. Puhalski joins an elite group as he is inducted as a member of the 2019 Toledo Hockey Hall of Fame class.
“For me, personally, it’s a great honor. I know that there are a lot of deserving people and I just feel honored to have my name thrown in the hat and join the great hockey history in Toledo,” Puhalski said from his home in Waterloo, Ontario.
Puhalski recalls his time in the Glass City as among the most significant of his life—not only because it was where he first became a coach, making the transition from the rink to the bench, but also because of the connections he made here, including meeting his future wife.
“Part of being a coach and a player is being a vagabond. You’re going to different cities, especially the coaching part—you’re not going to be in one place for too long. I can really say my seven years in Toledo, were by far the most enjoyable time of my life.”
Puhalski first began playing hockey in his hometown of Fort Williams, Ontario at the age of nine. “I kinda got a late start, by today’s standards, for sure,” Puhalski said. “My older brother signed me up to play, it just kinda grew from there. I enjoyed all sports, I played everything. As I got into my late teens, the path I decided to focus on was hockey.”
Early Storm player and coach
In 1991, Puhalski began playing for the then new Toledo Storm as both a center and assistant coach, helping the team to win two Riley Cups. Three years into his tenure, at the age of 29, Puhalski became the team’s second head coach—a change, he explains, that was made easier by his teammates.
“They were really good. Those guys made the transition easier. I had always thought about being a coach, and sometimes you don’t recognize the things that go into being a coach, especially at the East Coast League level. I wouldn’t say it was easy, but it was certainly made a lot easier by the guys that I had to coach. They respected what I had to say, and made the transition that much easier for me.”
After his time with the Storm, Puhalski went on to coach a number of teams in the United Hockey League and the ECHL before assuming his current position, as the head coach of his alma mater, Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario.
“I’m always looking to change and adapt. I think that if you’re not, you’re not probably doing your job properly. I’ve always had to morph into a different type of coach.”
Honored by his induction into Toledo’s Hockey Hall of Fame, Puhalski said he’s looking forward to reconnecting with a time in his life that still means a great deal to him.
“It will be great to reconnect with some people that I haven’t seen in a long time,” Puhalski said.