Head coach Melkert moving on, accepts role with ECHL Fort Wayne

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – The Fayetteville Marksmen, proud members of the Southern Professional Hockey League, have announced that head coach Cory Melkert will not be returning to the Marksmen organization after accepting a position in the ECHL.

Melkert will join former Marksmen head coach Jesse Kallechy as his assistant coach with the Fort Wayne Komets, an affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers.

“Over the past five years Fayetteville has become our home and my wife and I will cherish our memories created here over the past several seasons,” said Melkert.

After three seasons split between being a player and an assistant coach for the Marksmen, Melkert took the helm as head coach during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Navigating the most tumultuous time in the team’s history, Melkert secured a franchise record 40 wins in his opening season, becoming just the fourth head coach in league history to earn a 40-win year.

In just his first season as head coach, Melkert finished as runner-up for the SPHL’s coach of the year award.

“Losing Cory is incomprehensible,” said Marksmen owner Chuck Norris, “but this is what minor professional hockey is. You develop guys for the next level.”

Melkert’s 66 wins in franchise history rank second only to Tommy Stewart. The Marksmen lost only 12 home games in regulation under Melkert.

The Marksmen were not the same juggernaut this season as they were in 2021-22. However, at home the Marksmen turned in 16 wins and 22 games securing at least one standings point. The team also came within one game of ousting eventual-league-runner-up Birmingham in the President’s Cup playoffs as a seven seed.

At the Crown Coliseum, the Marksmen lost only 12 regulation games in the Melkert era.

“Thank you to the fans here in Fayetteville for your continued support, you truly are the best fans in the league,” said Melkert.

Melkert will leave the team as the winningest head coach in Marksmen history and the second-winningest coach in franchise history. With five years in Fayetteville under his belt, Melkert was the longest-tenured staff member behind 2023 SPHL athletic trainer of the year Kyle Sherrill (15 years) and the Norris family (six years).

“Cory’s like a son to Lanai and I, and I care deeply about [Melkert] and his family. We are excited for their future in Fort Wayne and beyond,” said Norris.

“Chuck and Lanai [Norris] gave me the chance to become a professional hockey coach, and it’s something I’ll forever be grateful for,” added Melkert.

As he joins the Komets organization, Melkert will reunite with former Marksmen head coach Jesse Kallechy. As a pair, the duo logged 31 wins in the 2019-20 season and a finished tied for first when COVID-19 shut down SPHL play.

“We’re just good together,” said Melkert of his partnership with Kallechy.

As for what’s next for Fayetteville behind the bench, the Marksmen are already deep into a head coaching search and anticipate a hiring announcement very soon.

“When Cory informed us of his decision, we immediately started doing our due diligence in looking for the next head coach to continue the momentum we’ve built,” said Norris. “We’ve been working hard and having many conversations to ensure the team is in great hands for many years to come, including furthering our push for an SPHL championship.”

The Marksmen have reached the playoffs in each of their last three seasons of play and are committed to returning a competitive product to the Crown Coliseum.

“For Cory and his family I truly wish nothing but the best,” said Norris, “not only in hockey, but in life.”