ECHL: An Interview With Florida Everblades Two-Time Kelly Cup Championship Coach Brad Ralph

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The Florida Everblades have won back-to-back Kelly Cup Championships in 2022 and 2023, and in the ECHL, players come and go, but one thing that has stayed constant with the Everblades and that is Head Coach Brad Ralph, who spent seven years in the ECHL as a player putting up 96 goals and 127 assists for 223 points in 295 games before finding himself behind the bench, “I played professionally for nine years, 2008 I decided to get into real estate when the real estate bubble burst so it was a tough time, I just applied for a job, there was a head coaching job in Augusta, Florida it was an hour-hour an a half from where I was living in Columbia, very quickly after I got the job realized that’s where I was meant to be more so than playing” said Ralph. In 2018 Ralph would pick up his first piece of hardware as he was named the ECHL’s Coach of the Year, “It was a great season; we fell short in the finals against Colorado, but no different than anyone else anytime you’re getting accolades on the job that you’ve done you appeciate it, and it was a nice honor” but two years later Ralph would coach the Everblades in the COVID year which came with its own challenges, “Ya, that was a seaon I’d like to forget, It was a gruling year for us just to accodomate the regulations and restrictions that we had to go through on top of an already difficult schedule, difficult job that made it that much harder, we were fortunate to be playing here and living in Florida at that time, and it was a great hockey league, it was a condenced season, there we’re 14 teams in the league, the caliber of the ECHL was incredible, and we had a good team as well, I guess at the end of the day we were fortunate to play and battle through, but it wasn’t easy.” 

Florida’s Head Coach signed one of the longest extensions that the league has seen when it comes to coaches as Ralph got a five-year deal back in 2021, “We were successful, that was before we won our first Kelly Cup, just appreciated it for ownership and management, from my end it was just the want and the desire to stay here for a long period of time, obviously my family and I enjoy it here, it’s a great organization, great area,  I think both sides were happy to sign that long-term deal” said Ralph. Throughout his coaching career, Ralph has found a way to get his team into the Playoffs, including last season when the Everblades made the Kelly Cup Playoffs as the fourth seed in the South and finished off by raising the Kelly Cup at Hertz Arena in front of their home crowd, “I’ve played and coached at so many different levels that I have a working knowledge of the caliber at each level and I’ve been able to recruit good player” said Ralph when asked what has led to his success year after year. When asked about the recent back-to-back Kelly Cup Championship, Ralph mentioned numerous factors played into the team’s success, “Lot of work, some long seasons, nice to get rewarded we’ve been knocking on the door there with the 50 win seasons and not to being able to win but to see all the guys like John McCarron, Ben Masella, Joe Pendenza, Blake Winiecki, Levko Koper, Stefan Leblanc guys who have been here for three, four, five, six plus years nice to see them raise a cup and feel that exhilaration of winning the last game of the year, those guys are the reason we were able to do it, the experience and the knowledge and the will to win was a big reason.” 

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For the Ralph family, it’s been nice being in the same place as it helps build a sense of community to some degree, “As a player and a coach, it seems like you’re in cities for short stints, and it can be difficult to grown roots, we’ve been fortunate to be down here grow roots and create some great relationships with fans outside of the game of hockey, I know my wife and my kid have flourished down here, just very thankful to do what I do here and be here as long as I have”

Currently, Ralph’s favorite memory is winning the first of two Kelly Cup Championships. However, he mentioned that he’s still hoping to get that call to coach in the AHL, “Ya, I think anyone is looking to be appreciated and offered jobs at a higher level or the next step in their profession whatever it is, but we are taking it one day, and the goal is to keep on winning and make sure this team is elite for years.” Still, Ralph also mentioned that the gig he currently has may be perfect, “Ya, after Idaho, there was a short stint where we were moving around for a little bit; I’ve had enough success where I should have moved on at this point, but sometimes you gotta prioritize what’s most important, and sometimes the dream is right in front of you.”

Armand Klisivitch

Inside The Rink ECHL Manager | Senior Editor Credentialed Reporter for the Adirondack Thunder & Worcester Railers.

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