Thursday, February 28, 2013

CHL announces Penner Decision + Fines to Others


 Photo courtesy of Pro Hockey News
GLENDALE, AZ (February 28, 2013) – The Central Hockey League (CHL) announced today the final discipline from last Saturday’s game between the Allen Americans and the Fort Worth Brahmas.  The league had previously announced that head coach Steve Martinson, forward Alex Penner and defenseman Trevor Hendrikx would all receive suspensions.  Both Martinson’s and Hendrikx’s suspensions were one game (1) and both were served on Sunday (Feb. 24). 

Penner has missed the Americans last two games (Sunday and Tuesday) and moving forward will be suspended for the remainder of the 2012-13 regular season and 2013 Ray Miron Presidents’ Cup Playoffs.  His suspension is open-ended and should Penner consider playing in the CHL again, a hearing will be conducted at that time determining his reinstatement status.  During the game, Penner received an instigating minor penalty, a fighting major penalty, a fighting instigator misconduct, a fighting aggressor game misconduct and a fighting secondary altercation game misconduct (37 total penalty minutes).

All other discipline from the game comes in the form of fines.  The Allen Americans organization, head coach (Martinson), Jim McKenzie, Aaron Dell, Mike Berube, Garrett Clarke, Penner and Hendrikx have all been fined an undisclosed amount of money.

 Fort Worth, head coach Dan Wildfong, Greg Eskedjian, Shawn Szydlowski, Ricky Helmbrecht and Kristofer Westblom have all been fined an undisclosed amount of money.

WARNING!! Is The CHL On The Brink of Collapse?

Found the article below from the online publication, "The Junior Hockey News" (TJHN), which questions whether we are at the beginning of the end of the Central Hockey League. Anything that would get the Americans into the more stable environment of the ECHL would be welcome from my point of view. I also saw in a recent article about the new Brampton CHL franchise a concern about ticket prices and the ability to draw fans. "Brampton’s cultural diversity means that many residents haven’t grown up with hockey and they will need every incentive to get them into the seats.  Low ticket prices are an easy way to accomplish this.  Currently on their website tickets are broken into five categories with prices ranging from $10-$18 a game for season ticket holders claiming a savings of 50% off box office pricing.  Simple math says they are therefore planning on single game ticket prices ranging  from $20-$36. The departing Battalion (with all their attendance issues) current single game ticket prices range from $10-$20.  In order to get Bramptonians into the arena a reassessment of ticket prices is a must."

From what I have read the investors involved in the Casper, Wyoming franchise have to raise the necessary funds my tomorrow (March 1st) or that project will most likely be delayed.

You can never tell where the exact truth lies as these rumors about the demise of the CHL come up every year about this time but there are definitely some facts about several franchises that cause concern.

The End Of The Central Hockey League Could Be Opening More Junior Markets

tjhn1 Sources are reporting to TJHN that the minor pro circuit the Central Hockey League is possibly on the brink of collapse.
The Quad City Mallards have been operated and funded by the league for this season.  While good leadership is in place now, and attendance is up, the team is still reportedly operating in the red.
The Bloomington Blaze are not only operating in the red, but sources are informing TJHN that the league is now operating the team after Sandy Hunnewell-Vitale has abandoned the Central Hockey League Team.  Yes, just left town owing money and the league is now trying to clean it up.  David Holt, Blaze General Manager is now allegedly the owner of the MWJHL’s team in Bloomington after that team was also abandoned.  A quick look at the team pages shows no more evidence of the Hunnewell-Vitale Family.
This is not the first trip around the block for the Hunnewell-Vitale family as they did almost the same thing with a project in Muskegon just a few years ago.
The Tulsa Oilers are also said to be talking to the NAHL and USHL, investigating all avenues of what one source termed “escape”.
An email being sent around is saying; “A Central Hockey League team in the southwest US has made a minority ownership position available and I’d like to speak with you about it if you have the time. The team has a strong relationship with the local community and has performed well over the years. The current ownership group is very strong and has holdings in the NBA, MLB and Minor League Baseball.”
TJHN has learned that other teams in the league are now talking to the ECHL as well as junior leagues to examine their options for the future.  With this information, one would have to believe that planned expansion into St. Charles MO, and Brampton Ontario have to be seen as less than timely.  Another rumored franchise in Wyoming does not appear likely.
If the rumors are all to be believed, it is not likely that the CHL will see too many more seasons.  With several prime markets the USHL and NAHL could not only expand, but expand into markets with long hockey traditions.
When the CHL lost its agreement with the ECHL which amounted to a toster protection agreement, the end of days horn began to blow.  Contiued team defections to other leagues look to only increase.  The next six to eight weeks will determine the fate of the CHL and the opportunity for leagues to capture some of those markets.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

10 Little Known Facts & Martinson Comments 2/26/13

Garrett Clarke photo by
Garrett Clarke's first professional goal was the game winner as the Americans defeated Ft. Worth 3-1 last night at the Allen Event Center. As described on twitter by teammate Darryl Bootland, "Sorry if you missed it !! Clarke's 1st pro goal , end to end Bobby Orr like , then slapshot top corner."

The outcome was great as the Americans now have a five point lead on Ft. Worth with a game in hand and a six point lead over Wichita who has a game in hand over Allen.

In spite of what seemed to me like the official scorer having the under in the shots on goal pool the Americans need to generate more offense as we head down the stretch. The official shots on goal had Ft. Worth with the edge 19-15 with the Americans getting credited with one shot in the first period which I think is an all time record. Fifteen shots per period might be a better goal than fifteen per game.

Here are some of the comments from coach Martinson after the game.

- Pretty bad first period as we didn't have much jump after a day off Monday. Even if the official scorer missed a couple of shots on goal it was a bad offensive period. We should be able to generate more offense against the Brahmas defense as the strength of their team is their speed and forwards.

- Expect to get Bootland back on Friday. The time off has helped him as he looks good in practice.

- Even though we got a power play goal (we were 1-6) we could spend the next two days working on the power play as I didn't like some of the decisions we are making.

- Dell has been great the last two games. Sometimes when your offense is struggling you need to have your goalie be your best player and that is what Dell has been. We will continue to ride Dell on Friday.

- Hopefully we can stay healthy and get some consistent line combinations which has been difficult with all of the injuries. Look for Bootland being back with Maiani on Friday and Pineault with Lukin against Wichita's top line.

- First periods have been a problem for us all year. I have even threatened to bring in music I listen to rather than what is played in warmups that the players like. Self motivation is what is needed to make sure everyone is ready for the game.

- Having a first good period will be imperative against Wichita on Friday. Even when we have control of the puck in the offensive zone we are not getting pucks on the net.

- If you noticed last night when goalie Brad Fogal left the ice one time for a sixth attacker the extra forward jumped on too quickly and their was a stoppage in play. That is not called "too many men on the ice" but "premature goalie change" which is a stoppage of play not a penalty.

- A fan asked about using Clarke on the point on the power play and coach said it was a good idea since we are struggling and he might try that this weekend. If you remember Clarke was used on the point early in the year.

 Other Items:

- With the great wrap around goal scored by Jamie Schaafsma last night which was his 22nd goal of the season we finally have someone with more goals than Scott Howes scored (21) before he left for the AHL.

-  Everyone I talked to at the game last night was pretty tight lipped about the Penner suspension decision which should be handed down today. Reading between the lines would tell me he is gone for the year. I think he may have played his last game as an Allen American.

- Did some research yesterday looking at the home and away record of the Brahmas under Dan Wildfong as everyone has always said how hard it is to play at Nytex Centre. The stats would say that is true and good reason for the Americans to win the regular season championship and maintain home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Here are the numbers. The Americans have an all time record of 17-2-4 against Fort Worth at the AEC and a record of 11-8-3 at Nytex centre.

- This home and away disparity is even more evident when you look at Wildfong's record since he started coaching the Brahmas in 2007. His home record is 131-41-18 while his away record is 81-91-16. Now that is what I call home ice advantage. Since Nytex is so unique I wonder if moving the games to Fort Worth will afford them the same advantage.

- Nice to see Kale Kerbashian get a goal in the last game his parents and girlfriend were here to watch him before heading back home to Thunder Bay.

- The three stars of the game were #1 Schaafsma, #2 Dell & #3 Clarke. Jamie is 4th in the CHL in three star points. For those that don't follow this stat you get five points for being named the number one star, three points for being the number two star and and one point for being the number three star. Jamie has 41 points.

- Anthony Maiani has only one goal since January 26th but has been an assist machine lately. He has at least one assist in ten of our last twelve games. I know he is our best puck distributor but I wish he would be just a little more selfish and take a few more shots. Mr. Under the Radar  leads the team in points (51), assists (37), & plus/minus (+16) and as the smallest guy on the team who isn't afraid to go into the corners he hasn't missed a game all year. I'd say Mr. Under The Radar might be MVP of this team.

- Darryl Bootland at 15.2% and Brian McMillin 13.8% lead the team in scoring percentage. I'm not counting Scott Howes who was at a gaudy 27.6% when he got promoted to Springfield.

- Have you noticed the Americans now have 1347 penalty minutes on the year. The next closest team is Rapid City with 959.

- Power play futility continues even though the 1 for 6 last night (16.7%) was actually an improvement. In the last nine games we are at 9.5% and since Skinner left we are at 11.5% UGH!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pre Game Skate Notes, Whitley Mask, & Penner Penalty

Had a chance to stop by the pregame skate this morning and here is what I have to report:

- Both Pineault and Bootland took part in the pregame skate but only Bootland stayed after for additional work so I am guessing if all went well we might see Pineault in the line up tonight. I know he wasn't expected to play until the weekend but I wouldn't be surprised to see him tonight.

- Based on what I saw at the pregame skate expect to see Aaron Dell get the start tonight against the Brahmas.

- Word on the length of Penner's suspension should come down this afternoon. With only fourteen games remaining from the date of the infraction to the end of the season he is essentially gone for the the season. I know the CBA calls for a hearing prior to a final decision which I assume will take place over the telephone with the officials in Arizona. I think this will be a biggy!! And if he isn't playing the rest of the year it is hard to see him on the playoff roster.

- Interesting how we have gone from three enforcers (Grantham, Brennan, & Penner) to none. I bet Rapid City (Sawyer), Wichita (Boogaard) and Arizona (Brennan) are licking their chops.

- Heard third hand (definitely rumor territory) that the Brahma's are going to file a lawsuit related to the Penner incident. Maybe @rowdybellringer can bring us up to date on any actions taking place.

- I'm sure everyone remembers the mask Chris Whitley had when he showed up in Allen this year with pictures of himself, Musitelli, Lukin, & Bootland as A-Team characters. You can see my original post if you check the archive for "Interesting Article by Kevin Woodley" which was posted October 11, 2012. The mask and Whitley are long gone as Chris gave the mask to a friend/team sponsor and Chris is playing for the Cardiff Devils in Wales. Well, there have been some rather unflattering posts about the Americans front office all over social media recently which was started by a Facebook post by the company that did the mask. It is important to know it is the responsibility of the team to provide a mask for the goalie and they also will pay to have it painted. I have it from reliable sources that the Americans will pay this invoice and acknowledge that it is their responsibility. However, I question the professionalism of a company that takes this type of issue to social media. Seems like a telephone call to Matt Canavan, Team President, could have gotten this resolved in short order rather than sending a bunch of emails and then resorting to social media. I know from personal experience Matt is very accessible. I don't pretend to know the facts of this case but was asked to see what I could find out by several of our readers who were concerned about what was being said. I will just say there are two sides to every story and the company will get paid.

- Fox 4 Television will be broadcasting live from the AEC tonight as soon as the doors open (6:05). Plan on getting to the game early and check them out.

- Happy birthday to Brian McMillin. Since Maiani got a goal on his birthday on Sunday I'm predicting a repeat and Brian will get a goal tonight (Tuesday).

- Ran into Bill McDonald and asked him how he enjoyed being behind the bench on Sunday. He told me it is "like riding a bike" and he felt very comfortable handling the defensive changes.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Americans Win, Babies on the Way & Other Stuff

Aaron Dell With a Shutout - Photo by
Aaron Dell stopped 26 shots on the way to his second shut out of the season as the Americans defeated the Brahmas 4-0 before what I would call another disappointing crowd of 3818. The conventional wisdom has been that once football season was over and the weather cooled down the attendance would pick up but that has not been the case. The average attendance is down fractionally this year (200 per game) but when you consider the publicity the team has received from the former Dallas Stars minority owners and the NHL lockout an average attendance of 4134 has to be disappointing. With  three Tuesday night games included in the remaining seven home games don't look for the average attendance to go up over the rest of the season.

No press conference after the game last night so wanted to share some miscellaneous "stuff" that you might find interesting.

- Wasn't it nice to see Bill McDonald back on the bench last night. He is such an iconic coach and I know how much he enjoys coaching. Also good to see Ed Belfour on the bench helping out Richard Matvichuk.

- While some are pushing for a season long suspension for Alex Penner the more likely outcome is a 5-10 game suspension. With no Penner, no Grantham & no Brennan is the search on for another enforcer?

- March is going to be "baby month" at the Americans with Darryl Bootland, Erik Adams and equipment manager Kacee Coberly all becoming fathers in March. First up are Darryl & Sarah Bootland who will have their bundle of joy next week.

- If you see Erik Adams at the game on Tuesday make sure to wish him a happy birthday. Being a leap year baby (2/29/80) he jokes he is only eight years old. We are not buying that so he will celebrate his 33 birthday on Thursday the 28th.

- Aaron Dell has relinquished the best GAA in the league to Danny Battochio of Rapid City (2.26 to 2.31) but he still has the best save percentage in the league at 92.1%.

- Had to have a last name that starts with "D" to be a star in the game last night as the three stars were #1 Dell, #2 Deitsch, & #3 Doyle.

- Don't mean to beat this into the ground but I saw in some of the media notes how our power play is ranked number two in the league at 21.27%. While it is true it masks the recent struggles. In the last eight games the power play is successful 8.3% of the time and if you go back to when Brett Skinner was called up it is at 10.9%. The worst power play in the league this year is Arizona at 12.68%. We have had the worst power play in the league over the last month.

- At the game last night I had the chance to meet and talk to the famous "rowdybellringer" aka Bruce Hadley who is a great Brahmas fan and active participant on chlforum and Twitter. I know there is no love lost between these two teams and some of our fans have had  bad experiences at Nytex Centre over the years but Bruce is a class act who happens to be a avid, passionate supporter of his team.

- I was asked a couple of times at the game yesterday about a rumor that Marco Cousineau was about to sign with the Americans. I have not heard this rumor myself even though the Americans were interested in signing Marco in the off season before he went to Fort Wayne. I also noticed he was put on the 21 day injured reserve on February 19th. Marco has appeared in 11 games for the Komets this year and is 3-7 with a 3.55 GAA and a .886 save percentage. I don't see this happening based on these facts.

- Chris Whitley and his Cardiff  Devils continue to struggle as they lost yesterday to the Belfast Giants 5-3. His record since arriving in Cardiff (end of January) is 2-7 with two of the seven losses shoot out losses. His GAA is 3.04 and his save percentage is .896.

- Scott Howes still isn't playing for Springfield but Brett Skinner continues to play and score. He had a goal and an assist on Sunday as Grand Rapids defeated San Antonio. He has seven points in the ten games he has played since being called up and is a plus six.

- Colton Yellow Horn continues his great play for the Manchester Monarchs as he added another goal on Sunday in a losing cause. He has now scored in seven out of the eight games he has played for Manchester and has three goals and six assists to go along with a plus five.

- Finally, after that fiasco on Saturday wasn't it nice to see a well played game between two good teams, fans from Ft. Worth being welcomed at AEC and oh yes a 4-0 victory which gives us a three point lead with a game in hand. Should be another great game on Tuesday

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Shocking Truth About Cans of Whoop Ass

Scott Langdon named captain of San Francisco Bulls Photo by
I'm sure most of you reading this post have already read about or seen the brawl that took place in the third period last night. If by chance you haven't seen it you can find it on YouTube, "Allen Americans vs Ft. Worth Brahmas Line Brawl" or "Brahmas Hockey Fight" so I am not going to spend a lot of time talking about it other than to say the penalty total for the game was Allen 25 infractions for 150 minutes and Ft. Worth 10 infractions for 50 minutes. I saw lots of comments on social media about "cans of whoop ass" and it struck me that there were two flavors in the whoop ass cans last night and I for one, prefer the flavor that gets you two points in the standings. After Brian McMillin started the scoring with a power play goal in the first period (the third in the last 27 attempts)  the Brahmas proceeded to open up their can of whoop ass by scoring six unanswered goals.

The Americans can of whoop ass came at 6:28 of the third period and resulted in game misconducts for Dell, Berube, Penner, Hendrikx, and Martinson. Clarke got a game misconduct later in the period. I can't say the fighting came as a surprise as the situation (losing 6-1) along with Martinson's comment the night before that when you play a team three times in a row you need to be very physical the first game, especially if it is in their building. Coach did say very physical "within the rules" so I am not saying he predicted a brawl, just a physical game."

I have to say, speaking for myself only, that this type of fighting is unfortunate and embarrassing. I enjoy a hockey fight as much as anyone and feel it has a place in the sport but when things get out of hand like last night I think it hurts the sport.  I like hockey fights but much prefer those that follow the informal rules that exist that says don't pick a fight with the other teams skill guys unless they want to go, stop fighting when a player goes down, and don't gang up on one guy. I don't pretend to understand or even know the details as to how this particular incident happened but I for one wish it hadn't.

Regardless of your opinion on what happened last night I can't imagine missing the rematch today at 4:05 at the Allen Event Center. If you aren't planning to attend the game I think you should reconsider. And for those of you not residing in North Texas make sure to listen to Tommy Daniels broadcast the game (live streaming on KLAK 97.5).


-  Trevor Hendrikx and Alex Penner with their 37 penalty minutes now share the single game record for the Americans which was held by Jim McKenzie at 34 minutes.

- Happy 24th birthday to Anthony Maiani whose birthday is today and Brian  McMillin who turns 25 on Tuesday. Too bad they have to work (play a hockey game) on their birthdays.

- I included a picture of Scott Langdon above as he was recently named captain of his ECHL team, San Francisco Bulls. A nice honor for Scott who was Mr. Reliable when he played for Allen (2010-2012). Here is what his coach, Pat Curcio had to say about him.“He’s a guy who always plays with his heart on his sleeve,” Curcio said. “He does whatever it takes to win the game: he fights, sticks up for his teammates, blocks shots. Winning means more to him than anything else and that’s the kind person I want our young guys to follow.”

- Bruce Graham had three goals and two assists this weekend as his Nottingham Panthers added two more victories to their league leading total. Bruce now has 32 goals which leads his team and is third in the league.

- Colton Yellow Horn had two assists Friday night and a goal Saturday to keep putting up points for the Manchester Monarchs. Yellow has at least one point in six out of seven games since being called up to the AHL on February 10th. He has eight points (2 goals 6 assists) in those seven games.

- Nino Musitelli is on a hot streak for the ECHL Toledo Walleye. Nino had a goal in his first two games for Toledo but then went 12 games without getting a goal. With a goal last night he has now scored a goal in three straight games.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Martinson Post Game Comments, Plus ??? - 2/22/13

Jarret Lukin - #1 Star of Game - Photo by
I know coach Martinson says we are a blue collar team and aren't going to score many "pretty" goals but last night we had two highlight reel goals in a 2-1 victory over the Wichita Thunder to retain first place in the CHL standings.

- Was it just me or did it seem like a small crowd last night for a Friday night game after seven road games. The "official" attendance was 4102 but there must have been a lot of tickets out that were not used.

- Congrats to Jarret  Lukin who was the number one star of the game with his game winning goal and some outstanding penalty kill work. His goal was the 68th as an Allen American which puts him in second place all time for career goals.

- The #2 Star was Jamie Schaafsma and #3 star was Steve Silverthorn.

- Disappointing to hear the drum group was asked to reduce the number of drums in their group after some fan complaints. Unfortunate timing since I just posted their story yesterday. Let's hope this gets resolved so we can have the full group back in action soon.

- Had a chance to meet Kale Kerbashian's mom and dad, Tim & Janne Kerbashian after the game last night, They are in town along with his girlfriend, Amanda, for a visit and to catch s few of his hockey games. If you haven't read Kale's player profile (published January 26th) take a look as he talks about the great influence his parents have had on his life and the support they gave him to play hockey.

- Was that Darryl Bootland on the ice with his son for "chuck a puck" clean up last night. I think so!

- While the penalty kill continues to be outstanding as Wichita was 0-7 the power play continues to struggle. With another 0-5 last night we are 2-26 (7.7%) in the last six games and since Brett Skinner left the point on the power play (12 games ago) we are at a paltry 11%. 

Here is what coach Martinson had to say after the game last night:

- The penalty kill was good, Silverthorn was good and we are seeing more speed from our team right now.

- The Thunder have some good, big defensemen who will make mistakes when you throw the puck in deep. We miss guys like Pineault, Bootland and Grantham in a game like this as they are big, tough forwards.

- Jim McKenzie was the best player on the ice the very first game he played for the Americans. He does all the little stuff and leads by example. Nice tic, tac, toe goal by his line with Maiani to McKenzie to Lukin for a goal.

- I like McKenzie with Maiani as you need a big body corner guy who can also score with Maiani as he is our best puck distributor.

- The European guys I have put on our roster are big bodied, strong, physical players that will win battles for pucks. Hopefully, we will not need these guys but they are insurance in case we need them. Their names will not be known unless we activate them. If we do use the European players they will help us.

- At this time of year you have to make sure to have players available for unseen circumstances such as injury or AHL call ups. I have had calls from AHL teams about Adam Pineault, who unfortunately is injured right now. I have been talking to ECHL players who will not make the playoffs to see if they would come to Allen if we need some help down the road.

-  Garrett Clarke has played well since returning from his injury. He gives us speed up front, is a tough guy and will finish his checks. He has also done a good job in drawing penalties against our opponents.

- In order to be successful against Ft. Worth over the next three games we need to be physical with their defense and as usual get pucks in deep. When you play a team three times in a row you need to be as physical as the rules allow, finish every check and finish every check hard. This is especially true in their rink which is smaller.

- Bootland and Pineault will not return to the line up until next weekend at the earliest.

- The Americans will not be affiliated with the Texas Stars next year.

- I am trying to play Maiani on the point on the power play to replicate what Skinner gave us as he can distribute the puck. We won't be a 25% power play but we should be somewhere around 18%.

- I am trying to be less aggressive in challenging referee calls as it tends to hurt more than it helps.

- Coach told the crowd about the background of the video clip that was shown in the arena and shared stories about his days as a player and some of his fights. Very entertaining. Any season ticket holder that doesn't stay after the game for the press conference is missing out.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Warning: Percussion Concussion - The Drummers Story

Jon & Brenda Beard (second and third from left) started drumming & chanting in season one. Photo by

Have you ever wondered about that group that plays the drums and sings their creative chants in the upper regions of Section 100 & 120 during Allen Americans games? Did you know if you try and buy a seat in this area at the ticket office you get a warning that "drums are in use" and you may want to rethink your seat choice?

Having been a season ticket holder since the beginning I have often wondered how this whole thing got started and how it has evolved since season one, so I got in contact with one of the founders, Brenda Beard, to get some answers.

It was kind of an innocent beginning as Brenda along with her husband Jon and their friends Travis Bell and Harlan Haire were just finishing up the soccer season as they are huge FC Dallas fans. When Brenda saw an advertisement about an open house for a new hockey team at the Allen Event Center (AEC) she and her friends decided to check it out. She had only been to one hockey game in her life (Dallas Stars) and she didn't like the experience. As she said, "Every time the play would start to be good they stopped to clean the ice." Jon, who is from England, was a hockey fan of the Bracknell Bees (Bracknell, Berkshire) who play in a second tier professional league in England.

Since the hockey season is a perfect fit with the FC Dallas off season and they were looking for something to do in the soccer off season they all bought season tickets on the spot at the open house.

This might be a good time to mention how big of soccer fans Brenda, Jon, Harlan & Travis were as members of the Inferno. For the uneducated like myself, most major league soccer teams have organized team supporters and one of the groups that supports the FC Dallas team is called the Inferno. It is common place for these groups to make noise (drums, horns, vuvuzela), cheer and chant with lyrics that could be called anything from funny and creative to lewd and crude depending on your point of view.

It was with this soccer background of being members of the Inferno that the group approached Matt Canavan, Americans team president, at a watching party at Boston's to see if they might be allowed to bring a drum to the games. If you recall, during the first season the team was on the road for the first seven games as the Allen Event Center was not completed. Fans went from October 16th which was the opening game of the season in Arizona until November 7th for the home opener. Because of the many road games the team sponsored watching parties at Boston's.

It was during one of these watching parties that the idea came up to play the drum at the hockey games. The group knew some of the front office staff ( including Chad Meints) as they had worked for FC Dallas prior to going to work for the Americans. Chad encouraged them to ask and Matt Canavan gave them the okay to bring their drum to the games with only one warning, "don't be too loud."

That first season the group brought only one drum that was mostly played by Harlan with Brenda as back up. There were some issues that needed to be worked out such as not playing while the PA announcer, Lee Hastings, was talking, not playing over sponsorship announcements, etc. but overall the feedback was positive as it helped create atmosphere and energy inside the AEC. At the end of the season the drum was in such bad shape from all of the abuse it took from Harlan's playing, the group signed the drum and presented it to Justin Bowers who represented the team. The drum was put on display in the players locker room.

After the first season Harlan got married and left so in the second season Brenda and Jon bought two drums and became the drummers. In addition, more of the group in sections 100 & 120 started to sing along with the cheers and chants and more of the FC Dallas Inferno group started attending games.

During season three TJ & Kendra Ogroske joined the group of drummers as they went from the group that would sing and chant to drummers when TJ bought four drums and started bringing them to the games. One of the drums TJ bought was a bass drum and Jonathan Virnig has become the bass player with Elizabeth (killer) Hottle as his back up.

This year saw the group expand by two as Kelly and Paul Reichert along with their children (Bailey & Max), who had been sitting lower down in the section, moved their season tickets to the top, bought two drums and are now part of an eight drum group. I also heard from Brenda that Max, who is eight is becoming quite the drummer.

I have concentrated on the drummers but there are lots more people in this no name group. I asked Brenda why they have no name and she told me it has purposely been left as an unorganized group with anyone welcome to come to the top of sections 100 & 120 and join in. There are regulars, one timers, people who come to a few games, full season ticket holders, children and adults. Everyone is welcomed and they will even let you play the drums if you ask. Brenda has heard others refer to the group as the Drum Corp or The Crazies but they don't use a name for themselves.

Some of the folks I haven't mentioned that participate on  a regular basis include (sorry if I missed some names) Carmen, Chris, Rob, Lorae, Richard, Carol, Margarita, & Matt.

photo courtesy of
 Pictured above are some of the drummers in action. Not everyone cares for the group but they have the support of the Americans front office and the vast majority of fans. They create great energy and enthusiasm in the arena and definitely motivate the crowd.

So what are the chants?  Here is a sample of the chants the group uses:

- One of the favorites is "Let's Go, Al-len" punctuated by drum beats
- I think we have all heard, "Hey (insert goalies name), IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT"
- How about, "I'm blind, I'm deaf, I wanna be a Ref"
- We luv ya, we luv ya, we luv ya, and everywhere we'll follow, we'll follow, we'll follow, because we support you Allen, Allen, Allen, and that's the way we like it, we like it, we like it.
- For former players on other teams, "Al-len Re-ject, Al-len Re-ject"
- "Allen ... Americans" is supposed to be a two sided cheer so when you hear the group yell "Allen" the crowd is supposed to respond with "Americans"
- "Let's Go Red"
- 'Get out the way ref, get out the way"
- There is a special song for "Biscuit" that they sing only when he comes to visit.

I think the Allen Americans are unique to have established this soccer style cheering section that has now been engrained into the atmosphere at the AEC. Will there be concerns expressed my some fans, yes. Will Brenda periodically get a visit from Chad Meints of the front office to deal with issues, yes. But we are lucky we have such a dedicated group willing to use their talents to get us off our feet and cheer for our team. I for one appreciate their efforts.

With the team coming home Friday after seven away games wouldn't it be nice to have an extra loud crowd. One way we can all help is chime in with the "no name" group in the upper part of sections 100 & 120 and let the players know how much we support them.

And finally, take the time to stop by and say hi to the group, let them know you appreciate what they do and take part if you like. Everyone is welcome. And thanks to Brenda, Elizabeth & Lorae for spending time with me to share their story.

Practice Notes & Other Thoughts - 2/21/13

Stopped by practice today to see what was happening and picked up a few things that might be of interest.

- The players were scheduled for a day off on Wednesday after the trip home from Wichita but after the disappointing loss everything changed and there was a practice Wednesday.

- Martinson, Matvichuk & Ludwig were all on the ice for practice today.

- Adam Pineault & Darryl Bootland did not practice today so I would assume they will not be available for the game with Wichita on Friday.

- The snow storm in Kansas prevented  the Thunder from traveling to Allen today. They will instead travel Friday morning and hopefully will be able to make it without any problems.

Torrie Jung took slap shot to the throat
-  The picture above is a picture Thunder goalie Torrie Jung posted showing the aftermath of a slap shot he took to the throat off the stick of Jarret Lukin in the first period of the game Tuesday. Torrie indicated he was feeling better and would be okay after spending the night in the ICU.

- Heard a couple of times this week that the Minnesota Wild are looking for a new AHL franchise and will not be affiliated with the Houston Aeros next year. Rumor is they are talking to Wichita and Des Moines groups about establishing an AHL franchise.

- Former Americans player Matt Register has left the Arizona Sundogs and signed with the Ontario Reign of the ECHL.

- Heard the CHL plans to experiment with two referees but plan to do so in the CHL playoff finals. The idea to try two refs is a good one but doing it for the first time in the finals doesn't sound like a good idea to me.

- With the CHL trade deadline passed, the deadline for signing European players passed, the next thing is to find some amateurs to sign.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Update on CHL Team in Casper, Wyoming

I came across this article written by Dale Bohren and published in the Casper Journal yesterday (2/19). I also came across a post on one of the message boards this morning where the poster said they had heard from a reliable source that the deal is done and Casper will be in the league next year. I would put that one in the rumor category. The article below from Mr. Bohren shares the issues the team is dealing with. I noticed a couple of errors in the article. I'm sure the Americans player would be glad to hear the salary cap is $11,000 per player per week rather than $11,000 for the entire team per week.

Local owners consider pro hockey team - Casper non-profits would benefit

A group of Casper investors are on the stick ... the hockey stick that is. And their goal is to provide AAA professional hockey in Wyoming. They’re ready to go. But there is a problem … it’s the ice.
“If we could get that [ice in the Casper Events Center], this thing is done. I mean the ownership of the team will not be a problem,” said Craig Showalter, a hockey proponent and president of the Wyoming Community Foundation.
Ice in an events center-type building isn’t uncommon. Cost to retrofit the Events Center is about $2 million.
To install ice in the CEC, 17,000 square feet of the existing concrete floor would be cut out and hauled away with two to three feet of the underlying subsoil. Nearly 14 miles of pipe in a specially conditioned soil would be placed and connected to a refrigeration plant near the building and concrete would be replaced. It would look pretty much the same as before when completed.
Doug Frank, an experienced ranch pond hockey player and team owner (but not the new Wyoming team) who recently purchased the Higgins Hotel in Glenrock, said to look at the floor, you couldn’t tell the difference. “You couldn’t tell that one has ice, one that doesn’t,” Frank said.
When it’s time to make ice, 15- to 17-degree refrigerated brine is pumped through the pipes to lower the temperature of the slab. The temperature of the concrete slab is gradually lowered below 32 degrees.
When the slab is cooled to the mid-20s, someone with a garden-type hose starts sprinkling the concrete. A few heavy layers of water later and the ice is ready for a Zamboni, an ice finishing machine, to level and smooth the surface. The finished product is no more than one-half to three quarters of an inch thick because of the energy it would take to freeze a thicker product.
“It’s relatively simple to understand. It’s not expensive and complicated,” said Rick Kozuback, president and CEO of the Central Hockey League, who was in Casper to discuss a Wyoming team.
Kozuback said in an active facility when there are back-to-back events that require different surfaces, like a basketball court or dirt arena, boards are placed over the ice before various other surfaces are placed on top. He said it’s common to have Disney on Ice one night, basketball the next and hockey the next. Kozuback said ice is normally removed in late spring, so ice wouldn’t be a factor in hosting the College National Finals Rodeo in June.
According to Frank and Kozuback, if a Wyoming hockey team would call the CEC home, they’d pay daily rent on the facility from mid-October through mid-March. AAA hockey teams play about 33 regular season games plus any post-season playoffs, for as many as 45 to 50 games in a season. “The building gets the rent, the food and beer,” Kozuback said. He said the city could also rent the facility to other user groups and ice events. “That’s a lot of events,” Kozuback said.
Typical for this league are five-year contracts
Kozuback said in markets like Rapid City, “From October to March is pretty intense. That’s usually hockey time, when high school football is winding down … winter season. So what are you doing Friday and Saturday nights? You go up there [to the Casper Events Center] and hockey provides something for the community to rally around and support.”
An unusual twist to this proposal relates to the charitable dollars the team generates that would be distributed by the Casper affiliate of the Wyoming Community Foundation. A good example of this model is in Rapid City. Rapid City’s population is comparable to that of Natrona County.
“The Rapid City Rush have about 200,000 people a year that interact with them on some level,” Showalter said, “and the hockey team generates $200,000 to $250,000 each year for philanthropy to the community.” Showalter said youth hockey could use the ice to alleviate the hardship of Casper kids who currently get up at 4 a.m. to get ice time because another sheet of ice would be available.
“So we think there are all kinds of positive opportunities for a program like this,” Showalter said. “Besides that, it’s not just the ice time for today, but you’re building that sense of community for those youth for years and years and years,” he said, “and I think that positive potential is here for Casper.”
“But,” Frank said, “make no mistake. This is true professional hockey. You think about these kids at the AAA pro level. You got one league between that and the National Hockey League. That’s not very many players. So these are big kids. These are professional players though they’re young and have aspirations; the quality of the hockey is very, very good.” Frank said most people going to a hockey game, even those with hockey experience, would look at this level of play and have a hard time detecting huge differences between AAA play and the NHL.
Kozuback said he expects ticket prices in Casper would range from $12 to $24.
There are currently 11 teams in the Central Hockey League, with 19 players on each roster. Just two steps away from NHL, there’s a maximum salary cap of $11,000 per week per player.
Kozuback said the success of his league’s teams is one-third, one-third, and one-third. “They really don’t differentiate very much from other pro sports. You have one crust of about a third of the teams make a lot of money. One-third struggles to make money or lose a little bit, and then the group at the bottom. It doesn’t matter; football or hockey are pretty much similar,” he said.
Showalter said they think there would be a lot of interest in hockey in Casper. A small group of successful investors, including John Wold, have come forward to form an ownership group. And when there was a small article in the Casper Star-Tribune, the city had people call for season tickets. “So we know there’s some interest,” Showalter said. The question Showalter is struggling with is the ice. “How do we make it [ice] a reality?” he asked. “It makes all the sense in the world ... a partnership in the whole community with local nonprofits.” He thinks it’s worth the investment of his time and energy to follow this through. Showalter said his goal is simple: make it happen.
(Full disclosure: The author is a member of the Casper affiliate board of the Wyoming Community Foundation.)

Danger: Losses & Injuries With Pictures

Photo courtesy of
Another loss to Wichita last night as the Thunder struck for five goals before an enthusiastic crowd of 5940 at Intrust Bank Arena.

Jarret Lukin scored early in the second period to tie the game 1-1 but that was the end of the offense for the Americans. Wichita scored four unanswered goals all at even strength.

I am sure the team is looking forward to getting back on home ice after seven roads games. Here are some of my thoughts and some stats.

- The team finished the seven game road trip 3-4 with one of the losses a shoot out loss so they ended  up with seven out of a possible 14 points.

- Three of the four losses on this road trip came at the hands of the Wichita Thunder. With another game against the Thunder on Friday I would say that it is an important game. Since Wichita is now within one point of the Americans (67-66) the game on Friday will be for first place in the CHL.

- Not that it was the difference in the game last night but the power play continued to struggle going 0-6. In the last five games the power play is 2-21 for a 9.5% success rate which is the worst in the league.

- After having the best power play in the league early in the season with a success rate above 25% the team has struggled recently. While still rated the second best power play in the league at 22.13% the figure is misleading. Since Brett Skinner was called up by Grand Rapids ( 11 games ago) the power play is at 12.5% which puts them toward the bottom of the league.

- Adam Pineault did not play in the game. He posted a picture showing him getting treatment on various parts of his body and also the picture above getting stitches above his left eye.

- When you are 5' 7" and fearless in going into the corners amongst the trees I guess this happens quite frequently. New chicklets on the way for Anthony Maiani.

- Remember in early January when a couple of Americans players turned down AHL call ups for personal reasons because the call up was only for a game or two. Gary Steffes from Tulsa took one of these assignments to the Lake Erie Monsters. The reason I mention this is Steffes was just sent back to Tulsa yesterday after a 16 game call up that lasted 41 days. The moral of the story is take a one game call up if at all possible (sometimes it isn't) as you get exposure at the next level and you never know what might happen.

- I hope we have a good crowd on Friday to welcome the guys back to the AEC. I am finally going to complete the story about the group that drums, chants & cheers for the Americans.  Let's follow their lead and be loud and proud to show our support as the team returns from a tough seven game road trip.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Soldiers of Little Fortune - Life In The CHL

Couldn't Find a Decent Picture For This Article, Sorry

I found this article written by George Darkow and published in the Urban Tulsa Weekly. I know it has appeared on other blogs and forums but thought you might like to read it if you haven't already seen it. It gives some insight into life as a player in the CHL. With a weekly salary cap of $11,000 to be shared by all players on the active roster and a minimum salary of $345 per week for those players with 25 or fewer professional games and $390 for players with over 25 games nobody is getting rich. While top players can earn $1000 per week the salary cap limits the number of these on a team. And remember, they only get paid during the season. I also know from talking to many of the players that in addition to trying to earn some money during the off season they spend a lot of time working out to stay in shape. Private skating lessons and working hockey camps are also ways to earn extra money so think about hiring one of the players to give your children/grandchildren a private lesson. A great way to get to know your favorite player and also teach your children/grandchildren correct skating techniques.

Soldiers of Little Fortune

No glitz and glamour in minor league hockey


Teachers, landscapers, farmers -- these are the people Tulsa Oilers head coach Bruce Ramsay spends a majority of his time with.
No, Ramsay hasn't shelved his skates and clipboard for a career with an employment agency; he's merely explaining the realities of life as a professional hockey player in the Central Hockey League.
Contrary to popular belief, the seemingly glamorous life of a professional athlete isn't always what it seems. Instead of signing lucrative deals and cashing six-figure paychecks like their NHL counterparts, Ramsey's bunch is consumed with chasing dreams and struggling to endure reality.
"It isn't easy," Ramsay said. "In order to survive you have to have two careers."
If anyone would know, it's Ramsay. His 15-year career as a player saw him spending winter months guiding pucks toward opponents' nets and summer months guiding fishermen around the numerous lakes in his native Canadian province of Ontario.
Essentially, while their NHL equivalents enjoy a relatively relaxing 4-month break following their 82-game schedule, players in smaller leagues like the CHL must find a way to supplement the already meager $400 - $500 weekly salaries they receive during their 26-week season.
"In the summer, players aren't getting paid," Ramsay said. "Once their contracts are over, they're done getting paid.
"There's a good gap of about six months where the players are not getting paid, and obviously in the summer time they're busy doing all sorts of jobs," Ramsay added.

Amy Frost
Don't be misled in thinking the compensation players receive during that six-month stretch is lucrative. The Oilers play an average of three to four games per week, practice frequently, and partake in film sessions and team meetings almost every day. Let's not forget they compete in one of the most grueling and physical sports in the world -- one that has gained much of its popularity from the black and blue reputation it holds.
Ask any casual hockey fan what they enjoy most about the sport and odds are they'll mention fighting.
"In hockey, the most popular player is usually the toughest player," Ramsay said. "It's probably the only sport left in the world where two guys will fight bare-knuckled."
And being involved in a sport with such high tendencies for violence, often the effects on players can be detrimental. Just last season, the Oilers lost two players for the season after a series of fights in a single game, crippling the team and leaving injured players' careers and long-term health in jeopardy.
Engaging in such punishment on a nightly basis seems ludicrous when the reward is a salary not much higher than minimum wage.
Even when the players aren't on the ice or in the film room, much of their downtime is spent travelling around the Midwest. Often, the team is faced with playing games in multiple cities on consecutive nights, and occasionally required to squeeze as many as three games in three different cities into as little as 48 hours.
On one particular occasion last year, the Oilers hosted the Quad City Mallards for a 7pm game at the BOK Center, then drove nine hours Quad City again in Moline, Ill., and again journeyed into the wee hours of the morning for a 4 pm home game the next day. So much time on a bus could be considered cruel and unusual punishment, but for teams like the Oilers, it just comes with the territory.
"A lot of [the players] sleep," Ramsay said. "Guys play cards; a lot of guys read. We're in a technological age and we have computers and iPads and all those things they can take advantage of. We do have Wi-Fi on the bus, so a lot of guys take advantage of that."
One bright spot surrounding travel, as far as the Oilers are concerned, is that hotel accommodations are usually decent in remote cities. Ramsay says that, for the most part, the team enjoys the amenities their opponents provide them. Of course, there's always an exception.
"We have had a few hotels that weren't so great," Ramsay said. "In Amarillo one of the hotels had doors like an old saloon that swung back and forth."
"But for the most part, the hotels are really nice and decent," he added.
Housing in Tulsa isn't much of a concern for Oilers players either. As part of their contractual agreements, many players receive rent-free housing. The organization houses its players in the Vista at Shadow Mountain community, and though their apartments may pale in comparison to the mansions and high-rise condos of some NHL stars, free housing is a definite benefit, especially considering the unpredictability of being a minor league professional athlete.
Ramsay is one of the only personalities within the Oilers organization who enjoys consistent, year-round employment. His winter months are spent teaching, mentoring, and guiding his roster of 20 as they pursue league championships, and his summer months are spent scouting and recruiting new players.
But while NHL coaches may enjoy a great deal of support personnel, Ramsay's duties extend well beyond the typical head coach's job description. Scheduling, travel logistics, providing his players with housing, and handling immigration issues are all Ramsay's responsibility. Though this season he's enjoyed having the first assistant coach in his coaching career, the responsibilities Ramsay has make for many a long workday.
"Most American league teams have one or two assistant coaches; they'll have video guys, people that do the recruiting, general managers," Ramsay said. "For coaches in the CHL, one guy does the work of about 10 in the NHL."
So why do these gluttons for punishment continue to suffer the consequences of physical punishment and near poverty?
Mostly because they refuse to abandon dreams they've had since childhood.
Make no mistake: the players in leagues like the CHL are still among the best hockey players in the world. They may sometimes be forced to moonlight as farmers or landscapers in order to make ends meet, and odds are most of them may never see the light of signing bonuses, clothing endorsements, or digitized characters in a video game. But they possess something that makes them heroic every time they lace up their skates: undying perseverance.
They simply refuse to settle for a life short of what they so desperately desire.
It's a shame such an admirable quality isn't better rewarded.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Game Recap & AHL Player With Americans Ties Hurt 2/17/13

The Americans lose to the Wichita Thunder tonight 4-1 before a huge crowd (8829) at Intrust Arena in Wichita. Penalties caught up with the team as the Thunder scored three power play goals  in the third period to put what was a close game out of reach. Special teams proved to be the difference in the game as Allen was 0-5 on the power play while Wichita was 3-10.

Penalties have been problem over the last three games even in the victories as the Americans are 1 for 10 while their opponents are 5 for 23. It is easy to blame the referees for bad calls but there have been three different refs in the last three games. Maybe it is time to emphasize the value of staying out of the sin bin again, especially at crucial times in the game. 23 power plays to 10 over a three game period is hard to overcome.

- Congrats to Alex Penner on his first goal of the season

- Mike Berube did not play in the game because of some unspecified injury  but according to Tommy Daniels on the radio broadcast he will be ready to go for the rematch with Wichita on Tuesday.

- It sure was a surprise to hear the Allen Americans mentioned as the CHL leaders on the national NHL television broadcast this afternoon during the Chicago vs Los Angeles game. SWEET!!

- Sounded like a scary moment this afternoon in the AHL game between the  Springfield Falcons  and Adirondack Phantoms as Springfield forward Wade MacLeod collapsed to the ice after initially getting up and skating toward the bench after being boarded. MacLeod did not immediately fall to the ice after the hit, which earned Brandon Manning a two-minute boarding penalty. He skated toward the Springfield bench and  collapsed to the ice and started convulsing, prompting trainers from the Falcons and Phantoms to come to his aid. This happened with 3:42 left in the second period. He was taken to a Springfield hospital, where the American Hockey League team said he was stable and alert.
The coaching staffs and players immediately agreed to stop playing. Adirondack was up 2-1 at the time. MacLeod was a teammate of Drew Daniels at Northeastern University and Jim MacKenzie at Evansville.

Americans Win, Pineault Hot, Former Player Update

Adam Pineault #1 Star With Two Goals - SceneByKimberly
The Americans defeated the Missouri Mavericks last night 5-3 before a sellout crowd (5800) at the Independence Event Center (IEC) in Independence, Missouri. The IEC is very similar to the AEC in looks and feel. The Mavericks lead the CHL in average attendance at 5552 so they are close to averaging a sell out for the year.

Adam Pineault led the way with the first goal of the game and a short handed goal which was also the game winning goal. He was named the number one star of the game.

To say the game was out of the ordinary is an understatement as the Americans had to fight off back to back five on three power plays in the third period.

Combine the two five on threes along with a shorthanded goal, an empty net goal, and 27 shots on goal and it was some kind of third period.

- Pineault remains "red" hot as he now has six goals in the last six games.

- Adam's short handed goal was his third of the season and puts him in the record book as he is tied  with Jarret Lukin, Dave Bonk and Tobias Whelan with most shorthanded goals in a season.

- Shorthanded goals is something Adam has always excelled at as in 2008 he finished second in shorthanded goals in the entire AHL while playing for the Syracuse Crunch. He had six that year.

- Jarret Lukin is a +5 in the last two games.

- Chris Doyle is quietly coming into his own with five assists this week. He has been named one of the three stars of the game twice in the last week.

- Another player flying under the radar but is playing great is Kale Kerbashian. He had a goal and an assist last night, has scored in five of the last six games, has four goals and four assists during the last six games and is averaging a point a game since his arrival a little over a month ago.

Catching Up With Former Players:

- Ryley Grantham had an assist and a fight last night in a losing cause as Houston lost to Hamilton. Rumors I have heard is that Ryley will soon be returning to the Americans.

- Brett Skinner continues to do well with Grand Rapids as he has a goal and two assists in the last two games.

- Scott Howes still has not returned to the line up for Springfield since he suffered a concussion.

- The hottest team in the  ECHL is the Las Vegas Wranglers who have won nine straight games. The hottest player on the team is Judd Blackwater who has ten points (3 goals & 7 assists) in the last four games.

- Colton Yellow Horn has played well even though his team (Manchester Monarchs) is not winning. Yellow has played in four games and scored in everyone of them with one goal and four assists.

- Bruce Graham scored his 29th goal of the season as his Nottingham team beat Braehead on Saturday. They play Fife today. Nottingham continues to lead the league and looks to go a long way in the playoffs.

- Chris Whitley and his Cardiff  Devils team have been having a tough time. Chris has played in seven games since arriving in Cardiff and they have lost six of the seven. Chris has played well as evidenced by his last four games in which he lost two in shoot outs and two by a score of 2-1. His GAA in these games is 2.66 and his save percentage is .913.

- Talk about a great player on a bad team all you have to do is take a look at how Scott Langdon is doing with the San Francisco Bulls. Playing on the team with the second worst record in the 23 team league Scott is a +11 on the year. Playing on a team where double digit minuses are the norm being +11 is quite an accomplishment.

- Finally, congrats to one of our blog followers, Adam Wallace, for being the first to answer the trivia question correctly on last nights radio broadcast and winning four tickets to an upcoming Americans game. Good job Adam! The question was when was there a NHL franchise in Kansas City and where did they move. Answer: The Kansas City Scouts were a professional ice hockey team from 1974–76. In 1976, the franchise relocated to Denver and became the Colorado Rockies. In 1982, the Rockies relocated to New Jersey where they are now known as the New Jersey Devils.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Americans Win, Interesting Stats & Other Thoughts

Jim McKenzie Returns To Americans
The Americans regained sole possession of first place in the Central Hockey League last night with a 4-2 victory over their cross town rival Ft. Worth Brahmas. There was a good crowd at the Nytex Centre (2206) to see long time CHL & Brahmas player Chad Woollard honored as he was playing his last game before retiring.

- It was great to see Jim McKenzie back in an Americans jersey flying around the ice. Welcome back Jim!! Good to have another Minnesotan on the team.

- For the trivia buffs Jim is from the same suburb of St. Paul, MN (Woodbury) as Mike Montgomery's girlfriend Ashley. He also won the 2007 NCAA national championship as a member of the Michigan State Spartans. He had an assist in the championship game which Michigan State won by defeating Boston College 3-1 before over 19,000 fans in St. Louis's Scottrade Center.

- And by the way to keep this connection going, Mike Montgomery won the NCAA national championship in 2011 as the captain of the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. It was a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory against Michigan played before over 19,000 fans in his home town arena, Xcel Energy Center, St Paul, MN. The Xcel Energy Center is a good luck charm for Mike as he also won the Minnesota State High School championship in the arena in 2004 as he scored the only goal of the game in overtime with over 17,000 fans in the stand and a statewide television audience watching.

- The Americans have a two point lead over Ft. Worth but they have three games in hand.

- The Americans have a five point lead over Wichita with only one game in hand.

- Adam Pineault has now scored a goal in four of the five games since he returned from his groin injury.

- Since January 29th the Americans have been in four shoot outs and lost all four. The success rate for these four shoots outs is 8% as the team is 2 for 24.

- Tyler Ludwig continues to lead all CHL defensemen with 42 points, four more than anyone else.

- How is this for a hard to believe statistic. What Americans player is seventh in the league in goals, third in power play goals, eleventh in game winning goals, & first in shooting percentage? And the give away stat 173rd in games played. Yes, it is Scott Howes who compiled his impressive record while playing in only 22 games compared to 51 played by some players.

- We are down to three players that have played in all 47 games for the Americans. Our iron men are Deitsch, Schaafsma, & Maiani.

- The Americans have had 30 different players suit up for at least one game this year.

- Congrats to Brian McMillin for being named the number one star last night for his goal, assist and great play on special teams.

Brian McMillin With a Goal & Assist Was Selected #1 Star - photo by

Thursday, February 14, 2013

An Open Letter To Hockey Fans - A Wife's Perspective

I found this "open letter" through Twitter this morning. It was written by the wife of Rapid City Rush team captain, Scott Wray. I think it has a lot of applicability to what the Americans are going through right now. As an avowed "homer" I tend to agree with many of the comments but even if you disagree it is food for thought. Comments on your thoughts are welcome.

An open letter to Hockey Fans

I am sad.
I am sad and a little angry.  And mostly with a bunch of people I don’t even really know.  Which is sucky and awful and wrong.  But that doesn’t make it any less true.  I am sad and I am angry and it’s sucky.
Every year around this time, we’ll start seeing players travel back to this side of the pond, returning from their hockey season over in Europe somewhere. Sometimes, if the timing is just right, these players, who might have played here before,  may just don a Rush jersey again, helping bolster our roster for playoffs.  Or sometimes this is a new-to-you player, who knows someone who knows someone, and comes to you on high recommendation.  Either way, around this time of year, tongues start wagging.  Rumors start flying. Especially if your team has been less than perfect. Especially if your team has really been less than exceptional.
This year has proven to be no different.  Before the season even started, the rumor mill was busy, fans making assumptions and placing bets on who would return to the Rush, knocking whichever new guy out of his spot on the bench, or who was going to make a playoff appearance.  Never mind that a single game hadn’t been played, the ice barely in place. Never mind that the jerseys hadn’t been hung in the stalls of the locker room, the home/away schedule still in it’s final drafts. The fans were already planning for the season, pining to see familiar faces return, not even giving the new ones coming in the chance to become familiar themselves.
I am a hockey wife deep down to my toes, as much as I might have fought it initially, it was inevitable that it would happen (superstitions, game-day rituals and all). There is always a plethora of opinions, judgements and analysis on Mr. Sometimes and/or his team before, during or after a game, available to me when and if I choose to indulge.  While it is readily accessible, I can assure you that I do NOT read the message boards or the forums.  That’s the equivalent of asking every single person you know and do not know, to tell you every single horrible thing they could possibly fathom about you, mixing in the odd compliment (even though at this point it does no good) whether it’s true or not, to your face.  The fact that they may or may not know you holds no bearing.  The words mean the same, your character is being tested, judged and picked apart.  Your insecurities will be made larger, the information you read is, more often than not, negative at best and despicable at worst.  I made the choice a long time ago to never indulge my curiosity when it comes to what the general public might have to say with regards to my husband (and, later, when he became captain, his team) because I don’t swallow that pill well.  When it’s good, it’s really good.  When it’s bad, it’s really bad. And when it’s bad, people want answers. And when people want answers, they start pointing fingers, usually at the wrong person.  And this is only at a SEMI-PRO level.  It’s ridiculous.
Obviously, there are times when the opinions and negative comments get past my firewalls.  It could be something as awful as a private Facebook message, telling the Captain that he should be ashamed of himself, that he is the worst leader that a team could ever have, and that any game lost will fall on his shoulders.  Or it could be something as simple and innocent as a group of fans, commenting on what or who could turn the team (who’s had more losses than they’d like to count) around and the unanimous vote being one (singular) person who could come and save the team.  As if the answer is just that simple.
Every once in a while it’s the latter of the two scenarios that seems to make the bigger impact on me.  I seem to have taken on some of Mr. Sometimes’ “loyal to a fault” persona, becoming the proverbial momma bear when it comes to this team.  These boys are brothers to my husband, uncles to my sons.  They are an extended family to a foursome who spends 11 months out of the year away from home. I love this team because my husband does.  Sure, it’s emotional on a level I couldn’t have bargained for years before.  But if you need to get right down to it, take the whole “Captain’s Wife’s Opinion” out of the mix, we have a really, really good team.  On paper,  we’re “deep” (I used quotations because I am not one who comes by hockey speak easily, it’s about as awkward as when I call Mr. Sometimes “Wrayzer”- a name reserved for teammates and good buddies, not a wife) Stats don’t lie.  My husband alone scored 20+ goals every single season since 2003-2004.  Six of those seasons were 25+ goal seasons for him. And he is not the only one, by far, who has great stats- consistently. Strangely enough, these fans seem to still want more, this not being good enough.  Consistency doesn’t seem to be key, or play a large role.  They’re like a group of toddlers, wanting instant gratification by way of multiple goal scoring every single night.  While it might be possible, it’s not probable in this game.  Any good statistician could tell you that.  It’s not rocket science; more of a game of numbers and odds and luck and superstitions.  And while I’ve never been good with numbers, I’d take consistency and hard work (and lucky socks or underwear) every game over one (or two, even) phenomenal seasons, any year.
I know, I know. It’s wrong of me to come down on the very people who make it possible for my husband to have a job that allows him to play a sport that he has loved his entire life, for a living.  A job that will put food on the table for his kids and clothes on their backs.  Don’t get me wrong, we are fortunate.  Hockey has given us so much more than we could ever hope to give back.  But for that, we have also made sacrifices.  My children have grown up knowing what it’s like to share their dad with a zillion other kids who look up to him.  To share his time while he is home, even on a day off.  My kids know what it means to look into the stands when they are the ones playing hockey and (more often than not) NOT see their dad sitting there, cheering them on, because he is out of town or playing in his own game. They know what it means to have to share.
I learned early on what it means to navigate through Dr.’s appointments and parent/teacher conferences by myself. To surround my oldest son with my girlfriends, like second moms and aunts, on his birthdays (that always seem to fall on a road trip) so that he doesn’t feel any worse about not having  his daddy home.  I have rocked babies to sleep while listening to road games, snuggled sweaty toddlers who ask incessantly about daddy and I have watched a pre-schooler stand by the door, on day 1 of a 5 day road trip, with his suitcase packed full of hotwheels, his favorite stuffed monkey named Melman and his winter boots, for hours- waiting for the bus to come and get him so he could be with his daddy, not having the heart to tell him that the bus wasn’t coming back.  Yes, I am grateful for what hockey has given us, but it has not come without sacrifices made. Compromise has been the rule of my life for so long that it has become second nature, to almost always play second fiddle during the season.  So, it only makes sense that when people start searching for the “savior”, I start to find myself more than a little annoyed that they can’t seem to take the time to appreciate the players that they have right in front of them.
I doubt that no one has ever thought for one moment that a lack of confidence from the fans could be part of the problem.  I can’t imagine on one hand, trying to do my job well enough to please 5000+ people and on the other hand, knowing full well they’re praying for someone else, who in most cases chose not to be here, to come back.  That they are praying for someone else to come back, to score goals, to save this team because you’re just not cutting it.
Sometimes it’s not a case of the team needing saving.  Sometimes it’s a case of the team needing support and confidence.  Believe me.  These boys deserve your confidence. Mr. Sometimes and I are not the only ones who have made sacrifices.  They all have.  Even the guys who do not have families of their own (yet).  These boys are someone’s brothers, someone’s sons.  They have family they never see.  They are here, to work, for you.  They leave their hearts and souls on the ice, for you. They play through injuries and illness, for you. I think it’s high time that you all notice that enough to stop wishing for a savior and appreciating what you have.
You ask these boys to be loyal to your team and return year after year.  Maybe it’s time you do the same.
Maybe it’s time to appreciate what you have instead of wishing for what you don’t.
**You can take this whole thing with a grain of salt, it’s not meant to offend but if you did take offense, please take it solely with me.  After all, I am speaking my own mind, I do not speak for these players or their wives/girlfriends/families.  I am not good at anything if I am not good at writing ranty, emotion-fueled posts.  What can I say? It just is what it is.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Aaron Dell Called Up To Houston Plus More

Aaron Dell Gets First AHL Call Up - Photo by SceneByKimberly
- Aaron Dell has received his first AHL call up to the Houston Aeros. Heard he had to drive half way to Tulsa as the team left all of the equipment in Tulsa after the game on Sunday. Casey (equipment manager) met him half way and then Aaron was off to Houston. Aaron should be back for the games this weekend.

- Also heard Houston is pleased with the play of Ryley Grantham and he will remain with the club for a while longer.

- Finally, heard negotiations with a former Americans player are in the final stages so could hear something about this in the near future.

- Want to read a great story about a high school hockey rivalry. Take a look at this story about Roseau and Warroad Minnesota. Roseau is where Brian & Wendy McMillin went to high school. This story was written by John Rosengren of SB Nation.

Late on a January afternoon, a yellow school bus heads east on Minnesota State Route 11, the single artery just beneath the Canadian border that connects Roseau and Warroad, a place that the Ojibwe used to call Ka-beck-a-nung or the “Trail of War,” for the blood spilled there with the Sioux. It has since become Hockeytown, and the only battles are waged on ice between the Roseau Rams and Warroad Warriors, one of the greatest rivalries in sport.
The bus carries the latest incarnation of the Roseau varsity, 20 boys becoming men and bearing the tradition of their town. Ryan Anderson, the goalie they call Bob, sits by himself gazing absently at the passing trees and wheat fields skimmed with snow. He visualizes himself inside the Warroad rink, catching a shot with his glove, turning another away with his pad. He feels the confidence that comes with those saves, but it’s harder to block out the thoughts that came last night, when he had lain awake knowing that not just his team but his people counted on him.
The road bends and in the falling darkness Bob can make out the pale blue Warroad water tower painted with crossed hockey sticks. At the corner of Cedar and Elk, Bob and his teammates grab their equipment bags and head inside the Warroad rink.
Two blocks south, the Warroad goalie, Justin King, decides it’s time. He’s spent the past two hours after school chilling, eating pasta his mom prepared, watching a Law and Order rerun and trying not to think about that night, but finding it impossible to keep the biggest game of his life at bay. Anderson. Yon. Strand. Okeson. Bjugson. Halstensgard. He’s played against these guys since kindergarten. They faced off five, six times a year, the closest competition for miles. Now, his senior year, this will be the last time they meet in the Gardens.
The sickness that’s swept through the team this week—five different players have missed practice—has settled on Justin. He can feel it in his throat. He’s running a fever. He’s exhausted. On another day, he might just crawl back into bed. He has played every minute—625-plus—of his team’s first 13 games (10 of them wins, one tie)—and there’s no way he won’t play every one tonight. The goalie with short blond hair combed straight forward hops into his 2001 Ford Taurus and heads to the rink.
* * *
Warroad has earned its moniker. The town of 1,781 on Lake of the Woods, the body of water that fills most of the northernmost nib of Minnesota, has two stoplights, two Holiday gas stations along Route 11, a Chippewa casino, one grocery store, one major employer (Marvin Windows & Doors) and an international hockey reputation. Since 1946, National and Olympic teams have traveled to this remote outpost to play the Lakers, an elite men’s team that sometimes sent them away humbled. The Christian Brothers, Billy and Roger, after winning gold in the 1960 Olympics, founded their eponymous hockey stick company in their hometown, though it has since stopped production. Warroad High, with only 318 students grades 9-12, has won four state titles in the past 20 years.
Roseau, the town next door, rivals Warroad in hockey tradition. Bigger, with 2,633 residents, Roseau has the edge in entertainment options with both a movie theater and a bowling alley. It also has a single major employer, the Polaris snowmobile and ATV plant. Roseau High, with 374 students, has appeared in Minnesota’s fabled state tournament more times than any other school (32) and won seven titles.
When someone here says that hockey is life, they mean just that
Over the past century, the frozen rivers, outdoor rinks and early indoor arenas in these two hockey hamlets have produced more Division I hockey players per capita than any other Minnesota municipality. Roseau alone has sent 71 players to the elite collegiate ranks. Dozens have gone on to play in the Olympics and professionally. Currently, T. J. Oshie, who led the Warriors to a pair of state championships, plays for the St. Louis Blues while Roseau’s Dustin Byfuglien and Aaron Ness play for the Jets and Islanders, respectively.
Hockey runs in the bloodlines. Scan either team’s varsity roster and you’ll spot familiar names—Yon, Nelson, Christian, Vatnsdal, Anderson, King—whose brothers, fathers, uncles and grandfathers played. The game provides continuity among the generations and forms the core of the community. “If you’re talking about anything on Main Street in Roseau in the summer, it’s probably when the hockey season will start,” says Rube Bjorkman, who led the Rams to their first state title in 1946 and won two Olympic silver medals. “It’s the intangible thing that keeps the community together.”
The hockey arena, not the church or the town square or the shopping mall, is the heart of the community, the center of its social and spiritual life. “The rink is the hub of all the action,” says Jay Hardwick, the Warriors coach. “There’s always something going on there. If you ever need to talk to somebody, you more than likely run into them at the rink.”
That’s where they raise their children. The doors to the rinks in both towns are never locked. Kids can come skate any time, and they do. Indeed, both towns with the purity of their hockey traditions seem to be a throwback to simpler days before money and marketing and performance-enhancing drugs soiled sports. Here, in these two towns, a simple game played on ice provides a singular purpose. When someone here says that hockey is life, they mean just that.
* * *
When Ryan Anderson, aka Bob, the Roseau netminder, walks into the Gardens, the Warroad tradition gets in his face. Before the second set of doors, two trophy cases overflow with the hardware of the town’s success. Posters, plaques and laminated newspaper clippings paying tribute to Warroad’s prowess decorate the lobby walls. To the right, five glass displays honor the town’s five U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductees: Roger, Billy and Dave Christian, Henry Boucha and Cal Marvin. Straight ahead, blown-up photos of Warroad’s seven Olympians: Gordon Christian, Roger Christian, Billy Christian, Dave Christian, Henry Boucha, Dan McKinnon and Gigi Marvin.
The moon-faced boy with short brown hair walks by all this without paying it any attention, but he knows it’s there, the way you sense someone staring at you, the Warroad tradition watching over him. They have all of this back home, the photos of past greats, seven Olympians, 10 NHL players and three of their own Hall of Famers (Neal Broten, Aaron Broten and Oscar Almquist, the Rams coach from 1941-1967) but it’s different walking into someone else’s home.
Like most kids in Roseau, Bob started skating before he started school. His father, Earl Anderson, who starred for Roseau High and played for the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings, introduced his son to hockey the way his father, who had played for the Roseau Cloverleafs, the senior men’s team before the high school had one, introduced him to the game.
Bob first played goalie in Mites, for kids 8 and under, and liked it, though he still skated out some games. Earl, who’s still trim more than 35 years since his professional playing days ended, was not sure goalie was a good spot for his son, what with the pressure, but he was willing to let Bob try it. Not Bob’s mom Mary. “You know how many times I tried to talk him out of it?” she says. “He was too young to understand you’ve got to be very fortunate or you’re going to be sitting on the bench.”
She knew. Goaltending, like hockey, ran in the family. Two of her brothers had played goalie in high school, the younger one for the Rams after the Pelowski family moved to Roseau.
Earl coached Bob in Peewees and Bantams but wasn’t able to give him any specific pointers about his position. “He was a right winger,” Bob deadpans.
Bob is a smart kid, an honor roll student whose favorite subject is science. College is a given. Hockey is not. There have been no courtships from any D-I or United States Hockey League (USHL) coaches, the nation’s top junior league. “He’s smart and will get more out of life from college than playing hockey,” Earl says.
Bob’s as laid back as he is smart. Take his nickname. In fourth grade, his team had three Ryans, so Tanner Okeson, now a senior defenseman, dubbed him “Bob.” Ryan went with it. He has BOB written on the back of his mask. His mom still calls him Ryan but has him as Bob in her cell phone. “When I’m mad at him, I call him Robert,” Earl jokes.
Bob’s round face looks to be years before he’ll need to shave. It’s hard to read any emotion in his demeanor. But he has the skills: a quick glove and excellent lateral movement. He played only two varsity games as a sophomore but has won the starting job this season.
In the hallway under the stands, he does some stretching and juggling. When he was younger, he slapped hands rhythmically with his mom, who gradually accelerated the pace to hone his hand-eye coordination. They did that before his team won the Peewee A state championship, his biggest win so far, but he’s outgrown that. Tonight there will be no pregame patty cake with Mom.
* * *
Justin King shows up in a black cap over his blond bangs, a personalized black Bauer jacket, a gray button-down shirt, striped tie, dress slacks and black shoes, the same outfit he and the other hockey players had worn in school. He’d had trouble thinking about anything else, typical on a game day but even more so on this game day, which made it somehow a rotten trick that his coach, Dennis Fermoyle—the goalie coach!—had given a test in AP government. Justin did all right on it. A straight-A student, he is ranked eighth in his class of 88 seniors. He isn’t cocky—far from it—but possesses a quiet sureness. Fermoyle, a former goaltender who has coached 20 years, calls King “one of the two best goalies mentally we’ve ever had—he just doesn’t get shook up.”
Justin pauses to watch a portion of the JV game. That was him last year. Coming up through the ranks, he’d always had to wait his turn: on the B team his first year, then the A team his second. The two goalies ahead of him graduated after last season, which finally gave him his chance on varsity. Justin’s small, only 5’7, but adept at squaring up on the puck. He’s been good enough to stop 332 shots, a .930 save percentage, and win 10 games. This year it feels different to walk in later, at this time, knowing you’re no longer the warm-up act but the marquee event, especially tonight.
While Bob’s dad had been teaching him to skate in Roseau, Justin’s dad had been teaching him in Warroad. The talent pool in the King family may not run as deep, but the goalie gene is dominant. Brian King backstopped the Warriors his senior year, 1993. His brother—Justin’s Uncle Todd—a backup, played a couple of minutes in the 2000 state tournament championship game. Justin’s cousin, Tony Soros, whom Justin looked up to, was the starting goalie on the ‘03 Warrior team that won the state title. Naturally, Justin fell in love with the position after his first save as a Tiny Mite. “I loved being the guy everyone looked at and said, ‘He’s the guy stopping the pucks,’” Justin says.
Coaching his son, Brian was able to offer Justin the special understanding that only another goaltender can. Father and son still talk for a few minutes after every game. “If he has an off night, he says, ‘You know, Dad, I just couldn’t get comfortable tonight.’ I get it,” says Brian, who’s also short. “Goalies understand one another.”
Justin’s parents split up when he was in eighth grade. His dad still coached him, and he divided his time evenly between his dad’s and mom’s homes. But his teammates assumed greater significance in his life. He found in them the family he lost. They hung out together at the rink before and after practice, treasuring the locker room camaraderie. Justin feels particularly close to this year’s Warriors. “It’s going to be hard to give up after high school because I’m having so much fun with it,” Justin says. “Hockey’s been a big part of my life the past 15 years.”
* * *
Roseau and Warroad are natural rivals, separated by only 20 miles, which is nothing up here in the North Country. Warroad got the railroad; Roseau grabbed the county seat in 1896 under what one Warroad old-timer still believes were “false pretenses.” When Bill Marvin, the Marvin Windows & Doors magnate, offered to donate $4 million to build a courthouse in Warroad and relocate the county seat almost 20 years ago, the Roseau mayor resisted and made comments about Warroad that the townspeople remember as “crude and cruel.”
Since their inceptions, the two towns have measured themselves against one another, and hockey quickly became the gauge
Since their inceptions, the two towns have measured themselves against one another, and hockey quickly became the gauge. As early as 1908, pickup teams from the two towns challenged one another. These ragtag outfits developed into more serious men’s teams playing in regional leagues. The focal point of the rivalry transferred to the prep level in 1945 when the state of Minnesota sanctioned high school hockey and introduced the state tournament. In those early years, the qualifying playoff final took place in Roseau, because it had an indoor rink, much to the chagrin of Warroaders. “They not only had home ice but home referees,” one old-timer recalled. “It was so bad that everybody said you couldn’t win in Roseau.”
Not until 1948, when the region playoff moved to Thief River Falls, did Warroad beat Roseau 3-2 to play in its first state tournament. A squad with T. J. Oshie’s grandfather, Max, and great-uncle, Buster, along with the oldest Christian brother, Gordon, made it all the way to the championship game.
The Rams and Warriors have played 161 times since 1945. Roseau holds a 94-63 edge with four ties, though that’s mostly due to its dominance in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. Over the past 30 years, Warroad has won 36, lost 28 and tied two.
Since Roseau opted up to Class AA, the larger school division, in 1998, the rivals no longer have to beat one another to get to the state tournament, but the two regular season games are still highly charged, the games everyone in both towns circle on their calendars. “The rivalry is everything,” says Beth Marvin, Warroad’s historian. “It got its intensity because each town wanted to win so bad. Each wanted superiority.”
Beth Marvin arrived in Warroad in 1947 to teach school. For entertainment, she attended hockey games, standing in snowbanks when it was 40 below, because that was what people in Warroad did. Now 88, she oversees the Heritage Center, housed in the Warroad Public Library building. She sits at a worn oak desk in her office with a recording of Native American flutes playing in the background and explains that she became a true hockey fan when she met a Marvin.
You can’t talk about Warroad without talking about the Marvins. Since George came to town in 1904, three years after it incorporated with 520 residents, and amassed the family fortune with the company that eventually became known as Marvin Windows & Doors, his progeny have ardently supported and bankrolled hockey. Two of his sons, Jack, the youth hockey treasurer for 35 years, and Tut, who promoted high school hockey, donated a large share of the money to build the Gardens in 1993, a deluxe arena with a bowl of hard-backed seats, a concourse that rings the rink, a press box and an Olympic-size ice sheet. The youngest son, Cal, inked Warroad on the state’s hockey map when he founded the Warroad Lakers in 1946, the most successful senior amateur hockey team in U.S. history, which he coached and ran for 52 years, winning a handful of championships, including the Allen Cup three straight years.
He was the Marvin that Beth met. They married, started Cal’s, a lakeside resort where the casino is now, and raised 12 children. Cal passed in 2004, but Beth still never misses a game if she can help it, even though the excitement can sometimes be overwhelming: “The games are nerve-wracking because you want to beat them so badly.”
* * *
These games assume a place in the players’ lives that will stay with them wherever they go
These games assume a place in the players’ lives that will stay with them wherever they go. Ask Henry Boucha, perhaps the purest talent ever to come out of either town, who won a silver medal in the 1972 Olympics and played six years in the NHL until an eye injury cut short his career. He’s back from Alaska, where he has lived the past few years, to watch his great-nephew Zach Johnston, a senior defenseman. Boucha played five years of varsity hockey for the Warriors. His retired No. 16 hangs from the rafters. People stop on their way to their seats to say hello. He shakes their hands and gladly recalls his glory days playing against Roseau.
He remembers his senior year, 1969, when they played the Rams four times, with vivid detail, as if it were the day before yesterday. The Warriors beat the Rams at home 6-3, then went to Roseau in late January ranked No. 1 and lost 7-4.
Bob’s dad, Earl Anderson, who played for Roseau in ’69, comes up the stairs. “Don’t believe anything this guy tells you,” he says.
The two laugh, shake hands and Boucha continues his reminiscence. Roseau beat Warroad in the Region 8 final. “It was a long bus ride home,” he says.
But those days, the Region 8 runner-up had a second chance to get to the tournament by beating the Region 7 runner-up. Boucha took a stick above the eye that would later require 15 stitches. He missed about 10 minutes while a doctor taped the cut closed and the game ran into a second overtime. He returned in time to score the winning goal.
Warroad met Roseau in the semifinals of the state tournament at the Met Center in Bloomington, just outside Minneapolis, the first year it was played at the new home of the North Stars. It was Boucha’s first state tournament—the Warriors hadn’t been there since 1963, having lost to Roseau in the region playoffs the past seven years—eight if you counted 1969. Boucha scored two goals to pace Warroad to a 3-2 victory. “We had our revenge,” he says.
Tonight’s matchup is layered upon those memories.
* * *
Jay Hardwick waits in the hallway outside the Warriors’ dressing room. The texts and emails have been coming in all day. Students in the computer and geography classes he teaches at the high school had wished him luck, so had faculty in the hallways. They’d be watching the rookie coach in the biggest game of his young career.
Hardwick was an assistant last year, his first back in Warroad after graduating in 1998, playing four years at University of Minnesota-Duluth and another six professionally. But when last year’s coach, Steve Haataja, couldn’t survive the scrutiny and left to work the oil fields in North Dakota, the job went to Hardwick. At 34, with receding brown hair, a thin beard and a soft waistline, he looks more like the father of four and schoolteacher he is now than the fighting defenseman that he had been. He returned to his hometown because he didn’t know where else to go. “I liked the way you can show up at the rink whenever you want and skate,” he says. “That’s the way I grew up and I wanted the same for my kids.”
Warroad, with Hardwick on the team, had twice beaten Roseau in the region finals en route to the state tournament, winning it all in 1996, his sophomore year. He didn’t feel the rivalry diminish as a senior in 1998, the year that Roseau had moved up to Class AA and had a strong young team. Hardwick’s Warriors faced them as underdogs and beat them twice. “That was satisfying,” he says.
Being a former Warrior gave Hardwick instant credibility as a coach, as did his coaching pedigree: his maternal grandfather, Dick Roberts, coached the Warriors back in Boucha’s day. The players like Hardwick and so far the community has been supportive—of course, it helps that his team’s only lost two of its first 13 games. “They aren’t going to settle for a .500 team,” he says. “If we were 1-5, I’m sure I’d be hearing it. There’s pressure, but thankfully I played through it and knew what to expect.”
* * *
Across the way, Andy Lundbohm figures he doesn’t need to say much to get his team fired up. In his fourth year as the Rams’ head coach after a four-year apprenticeship, he knows his players are sufficiently motivated, the same as when he played for Roseau in the ‘90s. None of his later games during four years at West Point, six in the minor leagues and an NHL exhibition for the San Jose Sharks, matched the adrenaline rush of those high school games against Warroad.
From the time he was 6 years old, he’d attended the varsity games, memorized every Ram's number and pretended he was Neal Broten or Chris Gotziaman when he played. He suffered to see Warroad knock off his guys two years in a row but then, when he was 13 years old, he was thrilled to make the 360-mile trek to St. Paul to watch Roseau win the title. “Watching the guys from home skating in front of all those fans, the whole place erupting when there was a goal, was surreal,” he says.
He wanted the chance to get there himself his senior year, 1995, but Warroad blanked them 3-0 in the region final. “It hurts pretty bad to lose a final, but just a little bit worse to lose to Warroad,” he says.
It hurt even more knowing that Warroad had a couple of imported ringers on the team. That’s been the knock against Warroad for years: that they recruit outside talent. This year’s team has several imports. The Sylvester family moved in from Little Falls, Minn., 265 miles south, a couple of years back. Karley was Ms. Hockey 2011 and powered the girls team to the state championship. Her younger brother Kyle is a junior forward and blue chip prospect on this year’s Warriors. Kobe Roth, a short but quick sophomore forward who will likely play D-I, came from Mason City, Iowa, and Jared Bethune, another sophomore forward and the Warriors’ leading scorer, came from Fort Frances, Ontario. The three imports are the Warriors’ three best players. “If somebody wants to come here, you can’t not play them because they didn’t grow up here,” Hardwick says matter-of-factly.
But it doesn’t sit right with the Roseau set. “It bothers us because we’re not doing it,” says Bob’s dad, Earl Anderson.
That just enhances Lundbohm’s desire to win this game for Roseau. He wants to show Warroad they could beat them with their own players.
* * *
“Oh my god, I’m so nervous, this is such a big game”
A half hour before game time, the Gardens is filling to capacity, with nearly half the crowd wearing the Rams’ green and white. That night, Jan. 10, the most notable spectators are the Minnesota Wild executive team, which has made the 35-minute flight from St. Paul in one of majority owner Craig Leipold’s jets. They’re the guests of Bob Marvin, Bill’s youngest son, Warroad mayor for the past two decades and a Wild minority owner. That’s the sort of draw this legendary rivalry has.
When told that Warroad is beating Roseau in a Tiny Mite game in the adjacent rink, Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher says without irony, “The kids get to dislike each other for a long time.”
* * *
Jay Hardwick waits until the clock counts down seven minutes to game time to enter the Warriors’ locker room. “I shouldn’t have to get you motivated, you should be excited,” he says, pacing the narrow space between the two rows of players facing each other. “Right from the first hop. Can’t take any shifts off.”
The boys whoop like giving amens and alleluias to a preacher. He leaves. They stand, bow their heads and say the Lord’s Prayer. Punctuated by more whoops and shouts of “Let’s go, boys!”
They cluster by the door, their helmets strapped on. Some chatter sparks the room then fades. The student manager pops his head in the door, “3:59 left.”
Justin King kneels to adjust a strap on his pads. The room falls silent. They can hear the Warroad student band above them. “Longest three minutes ever,” one boy says.
Suddenly the soundtrack changes, rock music pumped over the arena’s loud speakers—it’s time!
“Right away!”
“Let’s go, boys!”
“Let’s f---ing do this!”
Justin leads the charge onto the ice.
The Warroad band plays the school rouser.
The home crowd welcomes their boys.
One Roseau mom turns to another, “Are you nervous?” “Oh my god, I’m so nervous,” the other mom answers. “This is such a big game.”
* * *
These games are hell on Mary Anderson, Bob’s mom. She’s slender, the source of her son’s brown hair and has soulful brown eyes. It sometimes makes her physically ill to watch. She so desperately does not want her son to be the cause of a loss. Once she left the rink during the third period and got locked out. That was worse, not knowing if he had let in any goals. “Now I sit there and suffer through it,” she says. “It’s awful.”
Bob makes his first save almost a minute into the game, routinely redirecting a low shot with his stick, but it isn’t enough to settle his mom’s nerves. Warroad takes a penalty, and Justin faces his first test, stopping four shots. After one he smothered against his body, he skates out of the net to his left, spots a group of youth hockey players lined along the glass with signs and raises his catching glove in a wave.
The first period belongs to Roseau. Though Warroad manages almost 10 shots, only three are on goal, and Bob easily turns them away. The action’s mostly in Warroad’s end, with several scrambles around the net, but Justin’s always in position to stop them. After Justin thwarts a two-on-one, a Roseau mom says, “That goalie’s good.”
When the buzzer sounds, Justin has stopped 11 shots, Bob three, but Mary Anderson hasn’t made it through the first period. She nearly throws up in the ladies room.
Warroad skated tentatively in the first period. Hardwick tells his players they need to pick up their game. They come out harder, play more physically the second. When a Warrior trips Roseau’s leading scorer, Zach Yon, with no penalty call, a Roseau fan quips, “They’ve got refs from all over if they’re hometown refs.”
Sylvester, the boy from Little Falls, does get whistled for a tripping penalty when he takes down Yon with a slide. Thirty-four seconds into the power play, Roseau’s Alex Halstensgard fires a shot from the right circle. Justin has it lined up, clasps his left arm to his body, but gets only a piece of it, and the puck slips past him. The Roseau fans roar their approval. Brian King, standing in his customary spot by the Zamboni entrance, right behind the net where his son has let in the goal, gives no reaction. He’s been involved in hundreds of hockey games as a player, a coach, a referee and now a goalie dad. He’s trained himself not to let his emotions wander too high or too low.
Bob makes a save, leaves a rebound in front, but a defender swats it away. Earl Anderson wipes his hand across his brow; Mary clenches her jaw.
Play shifts to the Warroad end with less than five minutes to go in the second period. There’s a flurry in front. Justin drops to his knees. Roseau’s Alex Strand slides the puck back to the point. Tanner Okeson, the team captain and a D-I prospect, rifles a slapshot that stretches the twine at the back of the net. He raises his arm triumphantly, and the Roseau fans cheer mightily. Three teammates come back to tap Justin’s white pads encouragingly.
Warroad jumps right back. Less than a minute after Roseau’s second goal, Bob stops a shot from the blue line, but Kobe Roth, the kid from Iowa, pounces on the rebound to cut Roseau’s lead in half. The arena music blares. Bob stands in his crease. Justin skates up to his bench to complete the receiving line for Roth and his linemates who high-five their teammates on the bench.
Almost immediately, Roseau takes a holding penalty. Mary Anderson climbs the stairs and heads toward the lobby. Twenty seconds after scoring the Warriors’ first goal, while the announcer is informing the crowd of Roseau’s penalty, Roth strikes again. A Warroad fan blasts an air horn. The goal electrifies the home crowd. Just like that, the score’s even. It’s a new game, Justin thinks. A fresh start.
The period ends 2-2. Lundbohm has rarely put out his third line. Hardwick, as the home team coach, has been able to match up lines, not taking chances with his own third line.
Mary’s back in her seat for the third period. The hits keep coming. The refs whistle a tripping penalty on Warroad, then two seconds later call one on Okeson that nullifies the Rams’ man advantage. Jared Bethune, the kid from Fort Frances, flies in on a breakaway, tries to stuff the puck between Bob’s pads, but Bob shuts him down. Mary covers her face with her hands.
The action rushes back and forth. Nine minutes into the third the score remains tied. Both teams have ratcheted up the intensity. They seem to sense that the next goal will win it. The crowd does, too. It’s on edge, chastising the refs, cheering every rush. A Warrior fan in a black and yellow jersey and a Russian fur cap bangs a drumbeat on the boards with his fist.
Warroad charges into Roseau’s zone. Senior forward Matt Harrison rips a wrist shot over Bob’s catching glove. Goal! The Warroad fans immediately leap to their feet. They’ve taken the lead for the first time all night. The clock shows 7:47 remaining. Mary Anderson takes another walk.
Four tense minutes pass, then Blayke Nelson, Gordon Christian’s great-nephew, gets called for slashing with 3:44 to play. Less than 30 seconds into the power play, Roseau’s Okeson feeds a pass from the blue line across ice where Alex Strand one-times it. Justin slides to his right but not in time. Roseau has tied the game.
Brian King takes it in stride. That was a tough one. He’s just glad neither his son nor Earl’s has let in a bad goal. The two had run into each other beforehand in the lobby. Brian wished Earl luck. Someone asked if they put a wager on the game. “Goalie dads don’t bet,” Brian said.
Regulation time expires with the score tied 3-3. The two teams take a brief breather before the eight-minute sudden death overtime.
Play tilts toward the Warroad end. A Roseau player carries the puck behind the Warrior net. Justin slides over to stymie the wraparound. Almost simultaneously, he bangs the post with his pad, jarring the goal off its moorings, and the puck slams into the net. The Roseau fans jump up. The Rams celebrate on the ice. Justin fixes his eyes on the official, poised to protest—he knows the net moved before the puck entered. Down at the other end, Bob’s thinking, We’ve won! It’s over! Andy Lundbohm’s not sure. He’s seen this happen before.
The ref waves his hands in a washout sign—no goal! The crowd’s reaction reverses—applause from the black and yellow, groans from the green and white.
The game goes on. No one has left. Like the rest of the 1,700-plus in the arena, Deanna Comstock feels the pressure build. She’s a Pelowski, Mary Anderson’s sister, and grew up in Roseau, but she taught English in Warroad for 34 years. Her nephew Bob defends the Rams’ net, yet she knows all of the Warriors on the ice. With each sweep of action, she throws her hands in the air or clenches her fists. No matter the outcome she’ll win and lose, lose and win.
Roseau’s Strand dances around a defender. “Uh, oh,” Deanna says. “Here we go.”
Strand snaps a wrist shot. Justin blocks it.
Warroad comes back the other way. “Here it is,” Deanna says.
Bob makes the stop. Normally during breaks, he simply stands in his crease, knees slightly bent, shoulders slouched, but now he skates a little lap to his left. As close to a show of emotion as you’ll see from him.
Halstensgard, who has been all over the ice, making hits, setting up teammates, crashing the net and scoring Roseau’s first goal, gets whistled for tripping at 3:40. “He’s going to call it?” Deanna asks in disbelief.
Lundbohm is surprised, too. Sure, it was a trip, but he saw the refs let one go during overtime that should’ve been a penalty against Warroad.
Hardwick calls timeout to rest his players. Brian King sits calmly in the spot where he’s moved above the Zamboni entrance. Earl and Mary Anderson can hardly watch.
Warroad buzzes Bob’s net. Bethune, the Fort Frances kid, wrists a shot that Bob gloves. Each shot heightens the tension; each save prolongs it.
From the faceoff, the Warriors move the puck back to the blue line. Junior defenseman Nick Jaycox uncorks a slapshot. Bethune has wrestled himself into position in front. He nicks the puck with the shaft of his stick, deflecting it under Bob’s right arm. The home crowd cheers, all Warroad cheers; the Roseau fans sit stunned.
The Warriors spill over the bench and mob Bethune against the glass behind the Roseau net. Bob skates away.
Eventually, the two teams line up and shake hands. Bob’s the first player off the ice. He clomps into the dressing room followed by his teammates. Takes off his mask, strips off his chest protector and arm pads. His cheeks are flushed, his hair matted with sweat. Lundbohm paces between his sullen players. “This one stings,” he says staring at the floor. “You don’t ever want this feeling. That’s the reason you play your asses off.”
Across the rink on the flip side of defeat, the Warriors parade jubilantly into their locker room. They blast Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration” on the stereo. Justin savors it, slowly taking off his wet gear, drying off and putting on his pre-game uniform. The music changes to a loud bass-thumping rhythm that fills the cinder block hallway outside the closed door.
Jay Hardwick listens outside with a smile through his beard, allowing the players to enjoy their time together.
When Justin finally comes out of the locker room, he’s not feeling sick any more. There’s no elixir like victory. He struggles to find words to describe the feeling that’s come over him, knowing that senior year they’ve beaten Roseau at home in a game he’ll never be able to repeat but will always remember. “Awesome?”
When they were down 2-0, he appreciated that his guys didn’t quit. “They always find a way to fight back,” he says. Maybe that’s what makes this moment so special, the way they are there for one another. “That’s what I love about our team.”
He walks down the hallway, climbs the stairs to where a group of high school girls waits for him. They scream in delight, and he surrenders to their hugs.
* * *
Meanwhile, the Roseau players walk outside into a steady rain, load their gear into the trailer hitched to the back of their bus and pull out of the parking lot at 9:57 p.m. A couple of players grumble softly about the overtime penalty call. Lundbohm won’t blame anyone, not the refs, not his player. They lost as a team, he figures.
Bob sits quietly by himself. In 19 days, they’ll play the rematch. Warroad will travel Route 11 to their house. The Rams will have the chance to avenge this loss. But that seems a long way off, farther even than the drive back home that night. Bob stares outside, the oncoming headlights stabbing the streaked windows. Later, the rain along Route 11 will freeze to ice. ★