Patterson met his wife while a SteelHound
Editor’s note: The Youngstown SteelHounds were part of the Mahoning Valley sports scene for three seasons (2005-08) as part of the Central Hockey League. This is one in a series of stories about the minor league hockey franchise written by Tribune Chronicle / Vindicator sports reporter Brian Yauger as part of his journalism senior project at Youngstown State University. The stories will run periodically in the Tribune / Vindicator sports pages over the next few weeks.
Sports has a knack for bringing people together.
Upon signing with the Youngstown SteelHounds for the 2006-07 season, forward Brad Patterson assumed he was just there to play hockey.
Holly Shalabi was a member and then the coach of the SteelHounds’ dance team at the time, while studying nursing at Youngstown State University for all three seasons. She thought she was just there to dance.
As cliche as it sounds, neither knew what the future held for either of them.
The two met at a Toys for Tots rally in Austintown at which the SteelHounds and the dance team were making an appearance.
“He’ll probably tell you that I went after his good looks or something but he actually asked me for my number,” Shalabi said.
Her guess was correct.
“We had an appearance that was at the Hummer dealership in Austintown,” Patterson said. “A few of our players were there doing some signing things and some of the dance team was there as well. I like to tell people she saw how good looking I was, but it’s probably the opposite.”
After giving him her number, Shalabi wasn’t quick to act, however. It took a couple of months before they actually began to see each other.
“At that time, we didn’t actually even start talking to each other or hanging out for probably three to four months after that, because I kept putting him off,” she said. “He’ll deny that because you know, I went after his good looks.”
Patterson’s teammate and roommate at the time, Dallas Anderson, was eager to take credit for getting them together.
“I’m responsible for them getting married,” Anderson said with a laugh. “I was setting them up and just doing my part. Introducing him to the cheerleaders, so I feel a part of that. She was over quite often and when you’re roommates, there’s nowhere to hide. We were all just kind of sitting in the same room, hanging out.”
After the ’06-07 season, Patterson had every intent to return to the SteelHounds, but spending the first chunk of the following season on a road trip put a wrench into his plans for after retirement.
To have some consistency, Patterson hopped on a plane to England, and spent the majority of the season with the Hull Stingrays of the Elite Ice Hockey League.
“My plan was to come back here,” Patterson said. “When the schedule got released, the first 14 games were on the road. At the time, I didn’t know what the future held, so I was actually going to do a real estate course online and you needed the same IP address.
“We were going to be on the road for I think it was like eight weeks to start the year. So I ended up going over to Europe and, partway through that year, I started to look at coming back.”
While in Europe, the Patterson and Shalabi were able to spend the holidays together, including a trip to Paris.
After his season with the Stingrays was over, Patterson was able to return for the final nine games of the SteelHounds’ regular season and all five playoff games. He anticipated staying around the Mahoning Valley for the foreseeable future, so the news of the team folding was a gut punch.
“I knew that this was a place that I wanted to stay and had actually communicated with Killer (SteelHounds coach Kevin Kaminski) and we had ironed out what, you know, a contract for the following year and possibly even the second year after that,” he said. “I was staying in town all summer, I actually went away to a wedding and came back on a Monday and that’s when it was announced in the paper that the team wasn’t here anymore … I’m back here and I love it but it was an unknown for a while.”
With the SteelHounds folding in June 2008, Patterson gave it one last go as a player-coach in Georgia with the Columbus Cottonmouths. After that season, he returned to Youngstown working multiple positions, including coaching the YSU club hockey team until working his way up to an assistant coach with the Phantoms.
As of the 2019-20 season, Patterson is the general manager of the Phantoms as well as the head coach. When the season ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Patterson was four wins shy of tying the all-time coaching wins record in club history.
Shalabi works as a NICU nurse and was recently nominated for the NICU Nurse of the Year in the state of Ohio.
The two have a son and a daughter who are at every Phantoms home game eagerly waiting outside the locker room to see their dad.