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Knights' Ubriaco is the developer

Gene Ubriaco, the coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning's minor-league team in Atlanta, bristles at that term. Minor league? To him, it's a misnomer, and he's quick to offer his own phrase:

The Major Development League.

While his term is kinder and gentler, you could argue it's also more accurate. Especially for the expansion Lightning, which will shuttle players between Tampa Bay and its top farm club.

"Winning is the most important thing in professional hockey, but you have to develop people and players," Ubriaco said. "In the minors (oops, he meant MDL), there's three teams: the one there, the one coming and the one going."

Who's coming, at least to start the Atlanta Knights' inaugural season in the International Hockey League, is the Lightning's most celebrated player _ goaltender Manon Rheaume, the first woman to play in the NHL, the NFL, the NBA or major-league baseball.

"We're going to set up a program for her on and off the ice," Ubriaco said. "This season will really be a buildup year for her. She needs to get stronger and work on her technique. We just have to be patient."

Ubriaco, 54, has coached for 16 years, including a stint with Pittsburgh (1988-89 and 26 games into the '89-90 season).

Ubriaco originally wasn't "interested in going back to the minor leagues." He changed his mind and now considers this another opportunity to "give people the chance to be the best they can be."

Atlanta facts

Home ice: The Omni (capacity: 15,207)

Players to watch: Manon Rheaume, goaltender; Shawn Rivers, defenseman; Matt Hervey, defenseman; Brent Gretzky, center; Jeff Harding, right wing; Christian Campeau, right wing; Shayne Stevenson, right wing; Keith Osborne, left wing; Dan Vincelette, left wing; Jean Blouin, left wing.

Schedule: October: 9 at Peoria, 10 at Milwaukee, 16 at Cincinnati, 17 Cincinnati, 23 at Fort Wayne, 24 at Fort Wayne, 7 San Diego, 29 San Diego, 31 Phoenix. November: 1 Phoenix, 6 at Cincinnati, 7 Kansas City, 8 Kansas City, 13 at Peoria, 14 at Milwaukee, 16 Fort Wayne, 18 Fort Wayne, 20 at Cincinnati, 21 Cincinnati, 26 at Cleveland, 28 at Salt Lake, 30 at Salt Lake. December: 3 at San Diego, 4 at San Diego, 6 Milwaukee, 9 Milwaukee, 11 at Indianapolis, 12 Salt Lake, 13 Salt Lake, 17 Kalamazoo, 18 Kalamazoo, 19 at Kalamazoo, 26 at Kansas City, 27 at Cleveland, 29 Cleveland, 31 Salt Lake.

January: 2 at Salt Lake, 8 Peoria, 9 Peoria, 13 Salt Lake, 15 at Kansas City, 16 at Kansas City, 19 Cincinnati, 23 Cleveland, 24 Cleveland, 26 Kansas City, 28 Kansas City, 29 Indianapolis, 30 Indianapolis. February: 5 Peoria, 6 at Cleveland, 7 at Cleveland, 12 at Phoenix, 13 at Phoenix, 18 Indianapolis, 20 Salt Lake, 21 Salt Lake, 24 Milwaukee, 26 at San Diego, 27 at San Diego. March: 3 at Kansas City, 5 at Cincinnati, 6 Cleveland, 7 Cleveland, 9 Phoenix, 11 Phoenix, 12 at Kalamazoo, 13 Fort Wayne, 16 San Diego, 18 San Diego, 19 at Indianapolis, 20 at Cincinnati, 24 Indianapolis, 26 Indianapolis, 27 at Fort Wayne, 30 at Phoenix. April: 1 at Phoenix, 2 at Salt Lake, 3 at Salt Lake, 9 at Cincinnati, 10 Cincinnati, 11 Cincinnati.

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