Friday, January 31, 2014

Keeping Up With Kerbashian - A Player Profile

While I am on vacation (will return February 18) posting some of what I call "Best Of Allen Americans Blog" that maybe you missed when first posted or might enjoy rereading. This player profile with Kale Kerbashian was posted January 26, 2013. He has also experienced a championship since that time and is the team's second leading scorer this year.

Kale Kerbashian photo by

Kale Kerbashian #18
Birthdate: April 7, 1990
Birthplace: Thunder Bay, ONT
Hometown: Thunder Bay, ONT
5' 11" 200 lbs
Shoots: Left

One of the things I have learned this year as I started this blog and conducted player interviews is how similar the players are in some ways and how totally different they are in other ways. I spent over an hour talking to Kale Kerbashian and came away very impressed with his approach to hockey and how that carries over to his approach to life. I would describe Kale as a quiet, easy going, nose to the grindstone, keep to himself type of guy who practices Tai Chi & Yoga which combines movement with meditation. But I get ahead of myself. Let's start from the beginning.

The Kerbashian's
Kale was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, the middle of three children of Tim and Janne Kerbashian. Tim was the Director, International Education at Confederation College for many years and is currently the Director, Planning and Development for the college. Kale's mom is a social worker at a local hospital. He has a younger brother Jayce and an older sister, Kendall. Unlike many young Canadians who start hockey because someone in their family was a hockey player Kale's family was not big into organized sports. His earliest hockey memory is his first year of organized hockey as a five year old. Kale's recollection is his parents were advised to put him in hockey because he was a high energy kid and his cousins played. He remembers his dad coming to many of his games waiting for him to score and he didn't score until the last game of the season. His dad started putting a rink in the back yard each winter and hockey became Kale's passion. Keep in mind Thunder Bay has the most professional hockey players per capita in all of Canada. Kale remembers breaking neighbors windows a few times when he would glance a puck off the crossbar of the goal in his back yard rink. He also remembers the many hours he and his dad put in shoveling the snow off the rink. He gets his "laid back" style from his dad who his friends call "laid back Jack." His dad would get up in the middle of the night to put water on the rink or to shovel snow.

Kale also did some speed skating as a youngster which he credits for helping him in hockey with his speed. After that first year where he scored only one goal in the last game, Kale kind of took off and started scoring more goals. He had a six goal game and still has the puck. What really comes across when talking to him about those early years is hockey was fun. He had a natural feel for the game. His dad said he played well whether he did or not.  He played because he wanted to play and it was just plain enjoyment.

 For the 2006-2007 season at the age 16 Kale played for a local Junior A team, Fort William North Stars, who play in the Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL). His team was 41-6 and won the regular season but lost in the finals of the league playoff. Kale had a great year with 27 goals, 46 assists for a total of 73 points in 53 games. At the end of the SIJHL season, Kale played a few games including three playoff games for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) who had drafted him in the 4th round (77th overall) in the 2006 OHL draft. He had the opportunity to play with future NHL players Patrick Kane, Sergei Kostitsyn, Sam Gagner and goalie Steve Mason. The coach who was also the owner of team was former NHL great Dale Hunter.

Kale played the entire 2007-2008 and part of the 2008-2009 season with the London Knights scoring 47 point in 97 games. It was a great environment for honing his skills and playing hockey. The team averaged over 9000 fans for each game. In January of 2009 Kale was traded to the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors where he played for the rest of the year. 

During the off season Kale was traded to the Sarnia Sting and got a great opportunity to play there for two years (2009-2011). It was in Sarnia where Kale really started putting up big numbers. His first year he had 26 goals and 30 assists  in 58 games. He was named Sting player of the year, was the team's top scorer  and also won the Ranson Industrial three-star award. He was also rated the second best skater in the league in a poll of coaches. At the end of the first year in Sarnia he got his first taste of pro hockey signing and amateur try out contract with the Wheeling Nailers (ECHL) where he scored two goals in four games.

He returned to Sarnia for his second year (2010-2011) and  had 37 goals and 51 assists in 68 games. He played much of the time on a line with 2012 overall #1 draft choice Nail Yakupov who is now playing for the Edmonton Oilers. Kale became good friends with Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk who both had former NHL great Igor Larionov as their agent. Kale was talking to Larionov about going to Russia to play hockey and came close before signing an American Hockey League (AHL) deal with the Connecticut Whale.

I found the following article by Bruce Berlet talking about Kale's AHL deal. This happened in March of  2011:
Kale Kerbashian joined the New York Rangers organization literally over a cup of coffee and a vanilla milkshake. The quick forward was interviewing with Rangers scout Rich Brown at a Starbucks in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, when he got an offer to play for one of the NHL’s Original Six teams.
“He had watched me all season, and I guess he liked what he saw so they gave me a chance,” Kerbashian recalled. “I loved going down (to Hartford) and staying in the Homewood Suites. It was great.”
Kerbashian got a three-week taste of pro hockey in April after he signed AHL and amateur tryout contracts after completing his junior career with Sarnia of the Ontario Hockey League.
Kerbashian celebrated his 21st birthday in Connecticut but was scoreless in four regular-season games and then watched as the Whale were eliminated by the Portland Pirates in six games in the first round of the playoffs.
“It would have been nice to step right in and help the team, but the experience helped me a lot as far as understanding the dedication it takes toward the game,” Kerbashian said. “On the ice, not that much stuff is different (from juniors), but off the ice, there’s the preparation before the game. It’s paying attention to detail. It’s your job, not something you do for fun or for something to do. You’re signing up for it, so it’s your job, and we’re pretty lucky it’s something we love.”

One of the benefits of signing his AHL contract was an invitation to the Prospect Camp to play with other Ranger prospects. Kale played well enough at the prospect camp that he got invited to the Rangers main camp in New York.

“I didn’t have a very good camp in New York,” Kerbashian said. “I was very uptight, thinking way too much, and they told me that in my exit meetings.”

A meeting with Whale assistant coach Pat Boller, who works with the forwards, immediately helped Kerbashian, though he said it wasn’t anything resembling Einstein’s theory of relativity.

“I just basically told him to just play his game,” Boller said Tuesday. “He was trying to overdo things a little bit, trying to worry about putting the numbers up, and I just told him to do the little things like stopping and starting, going to the net, shoot the puck. I just told him to relax, play hockey and do the little things.”

It might have been simple advice, but Kerbashian knew exactly what Boller was talking about.
“I’m better off when I relax and keep it simple,” Kerbashian said. “And they want me to shoot it more. I know I’ve got a good shot but I wasn’t much of a shooter, and they brought it to my attention. It can be one of my assets if I use it, so I took that as a confidence builder. You don’t have as much time and space as you do in juniors, so if you’ve got a shot, you’ve got to take it.”

Kale started the 2011-2012 season in the AHL but it didn't go well. Kale calls it a huge learning experience. He got sent to the ECHL (Greenville) and that helped him find his game again. The key to his game is not over thinking, relaxing and let his instinct take over. The experience  was tough but it has made him a stronger person today so he wouldn't change anything.

This year (2012-2013) he started in Gwinnet (ECHL) but with the NHL lockout AHL players were being assigned to Gwinnet so Kale wasn't a good fit and was released in October.  Kale went home and skated with a college team and was thinking of enrolling in school. however, he still had something to prove and he didn't want to give up on playing hockey.

Kale and his agent were talking to several CHL teams about a contract but didn't want to pull the trigger on anything as they were waiting for the NHL lockout to end to open up more spots. As it turned out the lock out ended the day after he signed with Allen. He has no regrets and loves the organization and community. It is all about opportunity and he feels he has a great opportunity here in Allen.

I asked Kale about coming to a new team in the middle of the season and the difficulties that presents. His response started to give me some real insight into his approach to hockey and to life. "I'm a pretty quiet guy, I have never struggled to get along with people, I keep to myself and work hard. If you are a good person it goes a long way. Keep an open mind as everyone is different. Take them for what they are. For the most part everyone means well. It is a lot older team and I still feel like a rookie (Kale is the second youngest on the team)."

Kale feels good about his play thus far as he has gotten a point in every game but he feels he still needs to be in better shape.  The toughest thing thus far has been losing games after having the long winning streak. He says he can't help but feel it is partially his fault. 

Kale is devoted to his family. As he has gotten older he realizes how important family is to him. Since he has traveled so much at a young age he really enjoys spending time with family. His family will be visiting soon. His girlfriend, Amanda, will also be visiting. When I say family that also includes his chocolate lab named Calli. Kale calls Calli his best friend and he does indeed Skype with Calli.

I was struck throughout  the interview with Kale's approach to hockey and life. I went back through my notes and wanted to share some of the thoughts, ideas, and statements he made to me during his interview that says a lot about himself. He is a smart young man who is wise beyond his years. I admire him in his belief in himself, his dedication to his craft and his willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed. I look forward to watching the journey. Here is just a sample of what he said:

- The harder something is the more satisfying the results
- I try to do all of the little things right and hope they all add up
- I sometimes get in my own way
- The biggest thing for me was to realize hockey is not life
- Tai Chi has helped me get in touch with my senses and live in the moment
- I need to control my emotions
- You work hard in gym today or you have to do it tomorrow. You are going to have to do it anyway
- Everything in life evens out so if you do a good deed for someone it comes back to you so you are really helping your self

In order to get to know Kale better I asked him the following questions:

What is Your Nickname: Kerby

Who Is Your Roomate: I share an apartment with Lukin and roomed with Montgomery on the last road trip.

Hockey Hero: Mike Modano

Favorite Actor: Will Smith

Favorite Actress: Blake Lively

Favorite Type of Music: I listen to everything

Current Favorite Group: Dropkick Murphys

If You Could Have Lunch With Anyone Who Would You Choose: My parents

One Thing People Would Be Surprised to Learn About You: I'm really into Yoga & Tai Chi

Who Do You Admire As A Leader: My grandfather

Most Interesting Place Your Have Visited: Dominican Republic

If You Could Live In Another Country For Two Years Where Would You Live: Sweden

Any Pregame Ritual: After I loosen up I try to relax using some Tai Chi techniques.

What Do You Like To Do To Pass Time On The Bus: I just got an iPhone so I spend time on that, I have a kindle and I play Sudoku.

Favorite Childhood Toy: Hockey Stick

Favorite Motto or Saying: Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.

Who Is The Funniest Guy On The Team: Kip Brennan

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Steve Martinson Talks Championship, Upcoming Season, CHL, Coaching & Family

Allen Coach Steve Martinson - photo by
While I am on vacation (will return February 18) posting some of what I call "Best Of Allen Americans Blog" that maybe you missed when first posted or might enjoy rereading. This is a story I did with Steve Martinson on September 23, 2013.

 If you ever spend one on one time with Allen Americans head coach, Steve Martinson, a few things become obvious very quickly. He is very comfortable in his own skin, hockey has been a big part of his life since childhood, and his family is very important to him. He loves to talk hockey, he has developed a system and style of play that is successful and he knows what works and doesn't work. He is not about to change and you can't argue with his success as he has won seven championships in his seventeen year coaching career. He has missed the playoffs only one time (2011-2012) and he has never lost a game seven in a playoff series.

Steve grew up in Minnetonka, Minnesota which is a suburb of Minneapolis and was a rink rat from when he was a little kid. His earliest hockey memories are walking a half mile from his house to the outdoor rink and playing hockey. He also played hockey on local ponds and more than once went through the ice early in the year. Unlike today, back then there were no parents, no supervision and no car to take you home. According to Steve the toughest part of getting soaked was having to walk home as you would be frozen from head to toe by the time you got there.

Steve attended college and played hockey at St. Cloud State which at the time was a Division II school about 90 miles north of Minneapolis. He had a fourteen year pro career in which he  played for fourteen different teams including 49 NHL games (Montreal-38, Detroit-10 & Minnesota-1). He met his wife, Michelle, while playing for the Hershey Bears (AHL) from 1985-1987. Steve and Michelle have two children, Logan is 13 and Lily is 10. Michelle's grandfather (Frank Mathers) was the President and General Manager of the Hershey Bears. Frank Mathers is a legend in AHL hockey history and Steve learned a lot about hockey and life from him. When I asked Steve about leadership he indicated Frank Mathers was a great leader and a mentor to him. For those of you not aware of Frank Mathers, he is often referred to as the Scotty Bowman of the American Hockey League. Here is his biography from "Legends Of The Game."  

During more than four decades as a player, coach and executive, Frank Mathers helped shape and strengthen the American Hockey League (AHL). His talents were well known and many NHL teams wanted to hire Mathers. He was staunchly loyal to the Hershey Bears and remained content working with the passionate fans of the AHL.
Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Mathers was a gifted athlete who played both professional football and hockey. After spending three years with the Toronto Maple Leafs during the late 1940s and early 1950s, Mathers began a long and rewarding relationship with the Hershey Bears. As a player, coach, general manager and president, Mathers did every possible job that went with running a hockey team.
On the ice Mathers became one of the AHL's all-time great defencemen, being voted to the all-star team on five consecutive occasions during the late 1950s. After he took on the dual role of player/coach the team won three Calder Cups. His greatest asset was remaining calm but still pushing players to reach their potential individually or as a team. He retired as a player in 1962 and turned his full attention to coaching. When he left the game, Mathers stood as the all-time assist and point-scoring leader among AHL defencemen.
Mathers was named president and general manager of the Bears in 1973. He continued to uphold the club's position as one of the league's elite operations. They won three more Calder Cups with Mathers in this executive role. After 43 years, Mathers retired from the game after the 1990-91 season. He was given his own special night in Hershey as the community came out to thank one of their greatest adopted sons. Mathers was presented the Lester Patrick trophy for his life long dedication to hockey in the United States. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992. Frank Mathers passed away in 2005.

An indication that Steve had learned a lot about what it takes to be a successful hockey coach while playing is the fact that he won the championship his first year as a head coach in 1996 (San Diego Gulls - WCHL).

Martinson has 33 years as a professional player and coach

 One of the things you learn in knowing Steve Martinson is you don't really interview him, you have a conversation with him. Honest as the day is long, willing to share his opinions and full of confidence he often answers four different questions when you ask him one. We covered a wide range of topics so thought it would be best to put his comments in categories and came up with the championship, the upcoming season, coaching philosophy,  the CHL, and family.


- When you win a championship it makes for a better summer because it makes for easier recruiting.

- There are so many ups and downs in the season like last year when we had guys called up and also had some injuries. We went through that tough period but I never lost confidence in what we were doing. I never lost faith in my approach, so to see us end up with the championship was very satisfying.

- The championship was satisfying for me personally because it came the year after missing the playoffs in Chicago. Missing the playoffs had never happened to me before. Even though that Chicago team lost seven players to the AHL and had seven season ending injuries and unbeknownst to me the team was folding it was tough missing the playoffs. To win the championship the year after missing the playoffs for the first time was big for me.

-  Our style of play proved to be the difference in the seven game series we had in the second round and the finals. We were the most physical team and when you finish your checks it is going to eventually payoff.


- I am trying to avoid the sure loss guys like Skinner and Howes for this season. I like to tell the young guys you can develop this year, we will try and loan you (AHL) for 5-10 games and then you can try and move up next year.

- The style of play this year will be the same as last year as it is always the same. The advantage of coaching in the CHL versus the NHL is the players are not on multi year contracts so they know if they want to play in Allen this is the style they are expected to play.

- There are no questions on defense. We have six experienced, established defensemen. We are looking for a seventh defenseman after Garret Clarke unexpectedly left for the ECHL (Toledo). It was disappointing that Garrett chose to leave but we have plenty of guys that want to play in Allen so we will have no problem filling that spot.

- We have three players at AHL camps with Alex Lavoie and Kale Kerbashian with the Oklahoma City Barons and Ryley Grantham at the Iowa Wild camp.

- We will not have an official affiliation with Oklahoma City but we will work with them to loan players. Oklahoma City has an affiliation with Bakersfield (ECHL) which is a long way to travel. I am good friends with the general manager in Bakersfield so we will work together. Being so close to Oklahoma City we will have plenty of opportunities to loan our younger players.  There may be an affiliation with the Stars but I do not see us loaning many players to them.

- We are still talking to a player from last year and his signing will add to our scoring. It is always more difficult to make the money work when players wait to sign contracts.

-  We should be in good shape scoring wise. Phil Fox and John Snowden scored more goals on a per game basis than anyone on our team last year other than Howes. Having Kerbashian for the full season should produce more goals for us. Alex Lavoie will be a great playmaker and scorer. Jonathan Lessard could be a 20 goals scorer this year and be a nasty guy to play against. Lukin and Bootland will get their usual 20 goals. We have a 21 year old left wing signed who is 6' 4" that has the potential to score 20 goals and will be tough to play against. On paper and just looking at our team heading to training camp I feel better this year than I did last year from a goal scoring perspective.

- We will have a locker room full of guys who will finish their checks, stick up for their teammates and fight when necessary. We will have a pack of wolves rather than one lion.

- It is not public yet but we have resolved the veteran issue so we will not have an extra veteran in camp.

- Our goalie situation is good with Pitton and Fogal. I have heard good things about both of them.

- Naming a captain is something we will consider as training camp takes place. My philosophy is with one year contracts each year stands by itself and you don't need long term captains like you have in the NHL. The captain doesn't have the same role in the CHL as in the NHL. We will see how it works itself out.

-  Both our equipment manager (Kacee Coberly) and trainer (Osama Kassab) are an important component of the team. Attracting good candidates for these jobs is similar to recruiting players. Allen is a great place to live and we work hard to get the guys promoted like happened recently to Jason Wallace. We want our guys to move up and that will happen for Kacee & Osama. Kacee just went with the Stars on their trip to St. Louis over the weekend. He will definitely be moving up. I don't know when but it will happen.

- We are going to have a real fun team this year. We have a team that is fast and physical with a lot of skill. We have good size, and a very experienced defense. The fun thing about camp is seeing the chemistry that develops between players and figuring out line and defense combinations.


- To me it is common sense that the ECHL got rid of the reciprocal agreement with the CHL because they want to take CHL players. For many teams in the CHL this can really hurt but it is a two way street and for a team like Allen which is a great place to play and we have a reputation for loaning players it is actually a good thing because players on the bottom of the ECHL standings will want to come to Allen. For the league as a whole a reciprocal agreement would be a good thing but for Allen it works to our advantage not having the agreement.

- I see the CHL as more of an entertainment league than a development league. For the CHL to say they want to be primarily a development league doesn't make sense as the ECHL is seen by players and agents as the place to be to get to the AHL. The rules in the ECHL also makes for it being more of a development league.

- The thing the CHL should do is to establish itself as an entertainment league and protect itself from the ECHL by changing the veteran rules to a higher number of games and maybe even lower the number of veterans a team can have. This way you can have the best vets and they can be your stars.

- There should be more parity in the league this year than in the past. Brampton has the advantage of being able to recruit players that can stay at home but the disadvantage of a tough travel schedule. Tulsa should be much improved because of the new ownership and the willingness to spend more money. Missouri and Wichita have good looking rosters. Every team has advantages and disadvantages. I'm not going to complain about other teams advantages because we have our own advantages.


- I have moved my family to Texas this year so it makes things so much better for me personally. We are in a nice house, the kids are playing hockey in the Allen Americans youth hockey program so I can be involved. I am an assistant coach on Lily's team and go to Logan's practices when I can. Since we live so close to the rink we can come down after school and skate so it is a big bonus to get extra ice time.

- My time away from the rink is spent with my family. Our home in Illinois is on a channel next to a river. There is an 8 acre island that creates the channel. We call the place Camp Martinson as we have a 24' x 36' sports court, ATV's, a boat to wakeboard and go tubing. In the winter I take out the boat dock and the channel becomes a 120' x 60' hockey rink. We have a gym in the home where I can work out with my wife. I love boating as it is something you can do with your family for ever. I brought my boat to Texas and we just spent some time on Lake Ray Hubbard. Our friends are parents of the kids Lilly and Logan play hockey with.


- On the first day of camp I will tell the players what I am looking for from each of them. I say it often and it is straightforward. What is important to me is having players that work hard, are in great shape, follow the system, be a team guy, and finish checks. If you don't do all of these things you can't be a leader.

- We want to make sure right away they understand the type of team we are going to be. That is one that competes hard, is physical and difficult to play against. While this is more verbal in training camp as you can't practice hitting it will be clear to everyone the expectations. I would rather have a player that hits hard and is a so so fighter than a player that can fight but doesn't hit hard.

- Sports to me is somewhat like the military. Many times you have to do things you don't like to do because it is for the good of the team. People that have to make tough decisions need to do it without letting personal feelings get in the way. That is what I try to do.

- What you did last year gets your foot in the door and maybe some positive perceptions but what happens this year is based on what you do this year. You have to earn your ice time. Brian McMillin last year was a good example as at the beginning of the year he was mostly a defensive player playing against the other teams top line but he worked hard and earned more ice time and look how it payed off in the playoffs.

- I always say don't mistake me for being friendly because I am not your friend. My job isn't to make players or fans happy. My job is to win games. I have gotten rid of the most popular players in order to help the team win. It is difficult making decisions to trade or cut players as it can have a great impact on their lives but my goal is to win games and do what is best for the team.

- You don't have to treat everyone the same but you have to be fair.


- Favorite Player Growing Up: Terry O'Reilly and Bobby Nystrom

- Favorite Motto or Saying: You can't expect to be the best if you don't work the hardest.

- Earliest Hockey Memory: Having fun at the rink. They would flood the outdoor rinks in Minnesota  the middle of December and flood them each day. I'd come home from school and head to the rink which was a half mile from home. I'd come home for dinner and then head right back to the rink.

- What Do You Do On The Bus: I spend most of my time on the bus dealing with hockey issues and looking at tape but I will watch  movies as well.

- Favorite TV Shows: The Bridge & Game of Thrones

- If You Could Have Lunch With Anyone Who Would It Be. Scotty Bowman 

After spending some time with Steve Martinson and Richard Matvichuk you can be confident we are going to have another great season in Allen. Repeating as champions will be very difficult as it has only been done twice in the history if the league and the last time was ten years ago (Mississippi River Kings). They are happy with the team they have assembled and even though there will be setbacks, trials and tribulations as there always is in minor pro hockey our chances are excellent. We have great ownership, great coaches, a great community to live and play in and an ever expanding fan base. We have been spoiled the first four years of existence having finished first or second in the standings each year. No reason to see that streak end this year. We are just 24 days away from the home opener and I for one can't wait. Get your tickets early for the home opener (October 20th). It will be the unveiling of the new team but it will also be a celebration of the the championship from last year complete with raising the banner to the rafters at the Allen Event Center.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Darryl "Booter' Bootland Player Profile

While I am on vacation (will return February 18) posting some of what I call "Best Of Allen Americans Blog" that maybe you missed when first posted or might enjoy rereading. This is the player profile I did about Darryl and Sarah Bootland which was originally posted December 28, 2012. Much has changed since then as the baby they were expecting at the time, their beautiful daughter Havyn, is about to turn one and that championship Booter was longing for has become a reality.

Darryl Bootland #27
Birthdate: November 2, 1981
Birthplace: Toronto, ONT.
Hometown: Bradford, ONT.
6' 2" 200 lbs.

The first impression when meeting Booter (yes, he prefers Booter or Boots to Darryl) is the same impression you get when you see him play hockey. A guy that truly enjoys what he is doing and expresses it whenever he gets the chance. Someone who feels a 100% work ethic and lots of fun can go hand in hand. But what isn't so obvious until you talk to him is his absolute commitment to his team, the organization, the fans and the community.  He is very serious about using his experience (10 years as a pro) which includes 32 NHL games (Detroit Red Wings & New York Islanders) to help provide leadership. He is proud to be wearing an A on his jersey as an alternate captain.

 Booter's early hockey experience is pretty typical for anyone growing up in Ontario. His parents had six acres in Shelburne and behind the barn was a small pond and a field that would freeze over and create a skating rink. "There were all kinds of bumps on the pond, we would find the smoothest spot and that is where we would play." A few years there was enough water they could skate down the ditch to the neighbors. Booter's earliest hockey memory is at the age of three laying on the ice on the pond behind the barn watching his brother and his friends play hockey. He would make his parents put on his skates but he would not stand up but just lay on the ice and watch. If they would try and take his skates off he would start crying. Bootland's bother, Nick, is three years older and has been a big influence on his hockey career. Nick had a 10 year pro career himself which included over 350 games in the AHL. His last three years as a pro (2005-2008) he played for the Kalamazoo Wings and when he retired he was immediately hired as the head coach of the the Wings and has had that position for the last five years. In 2011 Nick took his team to the finals of the ECHL Championship (Kelly Cup) where his team lost to the Alaska Aces who were led by Scotty Howes who was named MVP of the tournament. Ironically, Booter's roommate on the road is Howes. Yes, hockey is a small world.

As Booter got a little older he started playing a lot with his brother and his brothers friends. He loved when his brother would have pond hockey parties. He credits his toughness to all of the time he spent playing against his brother and his friends who were three and four years older than him. "I was basically a tag along and once I got big enough they all beat me up." Even in the summer Booter was playing hockey with his brother so his parents didn't have to drive to two different tournaments. "They knew I was the younger guy so they tried to pick on me." "I was tall and really skinny but looked bigger because I always had to wear my brothers old equipment which was too big for me."

When he was 15 Bootland started his junior career with the Junior B Orangeville Crushers. Again he was following his brother who had played for the Crushers four years earlier. In 1998 he was selected in the first round of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) draft by the Barrie Colts which was his home town team. His excitement of playing for his hometown team was short lived as at the trade deadline (right after Christmas) he was part of the biggest and most famous trade in Canadian Hockey League (CHL) history, a whopping nine player trade which involved some troubled kids including one who had been in jail.

To make matters worse he was traded to the Toronto St. Micheal's Majors who were in last place. Booter played for St Micheal's for four years and the first two years were very difficult. However, a new coach, Dave Cameron, who now is an assistant with the Ottawa Senators, was hired for the 2000-2001 season. He immediately turned the team around and Booter credits Cameron with teaching him a lot about playing hockey. His junior career ended with an amazing year in 2001-2002 as he had 41 goals and 56 assists in 61 games. His plus/minus was a lofty +48 which led the entire CHL. The year ended in disappointment as they won their division and were favored to win the conference but lost in the finals to the Barrie Colts. Bootland is still the career leader for St. Micheals in goals, points and penalty minutes.

Booter started his pro career in 2002 playing  for the Toledo Storm (ECHL) but was signed by the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) after playing the majority of the season with the Storm. He played for the Griffins for five seasons. During the 2003-2004 season he was called up by the Detroit Red Wings for 22 games and had one goal, one assist along with 74 penalty minutes. During much of his career the way he was asked to play was to fill the role of enforcer. It was a tough job but it was the role he was asked to play. He has had several seasons with over 300 penalty minutes including 2005-2006 with the Griffins where he had 390 penalty minutes.

The last few years Booter has played for many different teams trying to win what has been an elusive  championship. He has been in many championship tournaments along the way with disappointing losses in the semifinals and finals several times. One of the most disappointing seasons was in 2009-2010 when Bootland signed to play for his brother and the Kalmazoo Wings. It had been a dream come true to play for his brother and they had a good team. However, about a third of the way through the season he received an offer to play in Europe (Austria) and he made a decision that in retrospect he regrets. He admits he was thinking more about himself and the dollars and cents and not enough about his teammates. To make matters worse his Austrian team lost in the finals and he came home to watch Kalamazoo loose in the finals as well. Booter told me, "The hardest thing I have ever had to do in hockey was watch my brother and the teammates I left to go to Europe lose in the playoffs."

Americans fans may remember Booter from his previous Central Hockey League stint with the Oddessa Jackalopes in 2010-2011. A couple of his memories of that year include how jealous he was of the Americans facility and surroundings whenever they traveled to Allen. Extra money was sure to be spent when visiting the Americans. He also remembers Kip Brennan roughing him up including a cut on his head from an elbow.

Last year, after Odessa folded, Bootland returned to play for his brother in Kalamazoo and they had a great season loosing in the semifinals of the Kelly Cup tournament.

So how did Booter get to Allen. The first thing you need to know is both the Kalamazoo Wings and the Chicago Express (coached by Steve Martinson) were in the same ECHL division last year. They played each other 14 times during the season so Coach Martinson got to see Booter play a lot. When Martinson got the Americans coaching job he gave Booter a call to see if he was interested in signing with the Americans but Bootland said no because he was fully expecting return to the Kalamazoo Wings. But the more he thought about it the more it appealed to him. He new what a great coach Martinson was and with the new minority owners he felt his best chance for a championship was with the Allen Americans. He decided he really wanted to play for Martinson so he called back to ask if a slot was still available. The rest is history.

I asked Booter about anyone on the current team that he has played with in the past. He has played against Kip Brennan ever since they were fourteen. "He used to chase me around all of our junior career and then we got to pro he continued to chase me around, throw me around and abuse me all of the time. In 2007-2008 we played together in Bridgeport and that was the best thing for me as he didn't lighten up much after we played together but he lightened up a little bit after that. I also played with Scotty Howes & Trevor Ludwig for the Manitoba Moose in 2008-2009."

I also asked Booter if he his having as much fun as it appears he is when you watch him play. He told me as he has aged he has learned to love hockey even more every day, appreciate what he has, and tries to plays every shift and every game as if it were his last. He had a good friend that lost his helmet when his chin strap broke and was knocked out and in a coma for a month. His best friend was in a bad car accident and is a paraplegic. The tragedies and things he has gone through have made him realize you have to enjoy what you are doing.

Here are some comments from his former coaches and teammates about Booter:
     - He is a throwback from the way the game is supposed to be played
     - He has fun
     - He plays hard
     - He does a lot of different things for your team, he can score and fight
     - He keeps guys loose
     - He is great in the locker room
     - He has been in the league a while, he knows how to play
     - His presence is important when you have a lot of new faces and changes

After spending some time with him I now know why he has so much fun playing hockey. I also have an appreciation for how much he is driven to win a championship before he retires. He knows with all of his experience he has something to contribute as a leader and will go out of his way to help his teammates and bring a championship to Allen. He deserves a championship and I look forward to watching the quest and enjoying the result.

Booter is married to his lovely wife Sarah. They met in Mexico when he and his best friend went on a vacation after his friend got a settlement from his accident and Sarah was there for a wedding. They have a six year old son named Trace and are expecting a little girl in March. Sarah is from Willis, Texas which is a small town just north if Conroe.

His mom (Isis) & dad (Chris) owned a Price Chopper grocery store franchise for over 40 years. They now live in Lagoon City which in known as Ontario's "Little Venice" where every home is on the waterway.

When I asked about pets Booter seemed a little embarrassed to admit that yes they had a pet. It is a cat named by Trace. The official name is Aunt Hot Donna Lord Tubbington Bootland but you can call her Hot Donna.

In order to get to know Booter a littler better we asked him some questions:

Roommate On The Road: Scotty Howes, you have to keep the married guys together.

Nickname: Booter, don't call me Darryl.

Hockey Hero: When I was a kid my hero was Brendan Shanahan but then I played with him and he wasn't my hero anymore.

Favorite Actor: Edward Norton

Favorite Actress: Jennifer Aniston

Favorite Type of Music: Rock

Favorite Group: Tragically Hip (Canadian Rock Band)

If You Could Have Lunch With Anyone Living: Wayne Gretzky

One Thing People Would Be Surprised To Learn About You: That I have a cat. My buddies back home would be shocked that I have a cat.

What Chore Do You Hate To Do: Laundry

What Do You Have That Is Great Value To You But Little Value To Others:  My chew tin (Skoal)

Who do You Admire As A Leader: Kip Brennan, he has taught me to be a pro to my body and train like a pro.

Where is the most interesting place you have visited: Barcelona, Spain

If You Could Live In Another Country For Two Years Where Would You Live: Australia

If You Could Be Anything Besides a Pro Athlete What Would It Be: Rock Star

Any Pregame Superstitions: I eat the same, sleep the same hours, do everything the same, get dressed from right to left, if I haven't scored in a while the stick goes in the garbage can before every game.

Who Is The Funniest Guy On The Team: Drew Daniels with his dry humor.

Favorite Childhood Toy: Ninja Turtle Pizza Thrower

Who Is Your Number One Fan: Uncle Ernie & Papa Jerry

What Do You Like To Do To Kill Time On The Bus: Read baby books. I've just finished my third one.

Favorite Motto or Saying: Before every game I say to the guys "Let's have some F****** fun, this F****** game is supposed to be F****** fun. Then they know I am ready to go.

Favorite TV Show: Modern Family & Duck Dynasty. My teammates call me Uncle Si

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Lavoie Youngest Scoring Leader, San Francisco Folds, Denver Makes Changes, Vacation & More

Yesterday brought some big changes in minor pro hockey as the San Francisco Bulls (ECHL) suspended operations and the Denver Cutthroats (CHL) made changes at the top of their organization. Both of these moves prove once again how difficult this business can be.

- The San Francisco Bulls situation hits close to home as Americans trainer, Osama Kassab worked for the Bulls last year. Osama was smart enough to see the writing on the wall and made the decision to move this year and Allen was lucky enough to get his services. Talked to Kassab briefly on Sunday and he has many friends that are now out of a job. The other Allen connection to the Bulls are two former players (Scott Langdon & Dylan King) who are now free agents and from what I hear would like to move to another team as a package deal. I would assume Allen is one of the many teams Langdon & King are talking to though their preference may be to stay on the west coast. With the Bulls team folding all players, except five who are under AHL contracts and will be reassigned, become free agents. In addition the ECHL will have to redo their schedule for the remaining of the season.

- The day after parting ways with President and General Manager Ben Rifkin the Denver Cutthroats split his two titles between the coach and assistant coach. Head coach Derek Armstrong now takes on the additional role as Team President and assistant coach Brad Smyth adds General Manager and Director of Hockey Operations to his bench duties. Whenever duties are merely added to existing positions it makes one wonder if additional changes are coming down the road. With Denver's free fall in attendance this year there are still a lot of questions to be answered going forward.

- New defenseman Jon Zion will be wearing #28 for the Americans. A great and lucky number indeed. If I remember correctly the last person to wear #28 was none other than LA King Stanley Cup champion Alec Martinez when he played three games with Allen last year during the NHL lockout. Many of you will remember Christian Gaudet who was the first Allen American to wear #28 in the inaugural season (2009-2010).

- Coach Martinson has been saying for quite a while that the Americans are scoring enough goals but are allowing too many. The success of this team is dependent on allowing fewer goals. During the recent past as Allen has been playing great hockey with a 11-0-2 record since Christmas allowing fewer goals has been one of the keys. Here are the goals against stats to show this improvement.
Overall:            3.03
Last 10 games: 2.50
Last 5 games:   2.40

- Plus/Minus numbers have also improved recently with Allen going +36 in the last five games.

- Seems like this is the case each and every week at this point of the season but the two games with Wichita on Friday & Saturday will be very important. All of the other teams at the top of the standings (Rapid City, Missouri, & Denver) play three games this week while Allen only has two. Rapid City is in Arizona for three games, Denver has three games on the road (Wichita, Missouri & Tulsa), and Missouri plays at St. Charles and  then at home against Denver & Quad City. If Allen doesn't get four points this weekend they most likely will no longer be in first place.

- I talk a lot about the amazing season Alex Lavoie is having for the Americans as he is on pace to break many scoring records. To be this successful as a rookie is all the more remarkable.  I decided to take a look at the leading scorer for each team in the league and see how old they are. Found the results very interesting. Here are the ages:

35 years 10 months 13 days - Rob Collins (Brampton)
35 years  7 months 12 days - Todd Robinson (Tulsa)
32 years 10 months  4 days - Sebastien Thinel (Missouri)
32 years   6 months 10 days - Garrett Bembridge (Denver)
31 years   4 months   0 days - Jesse Schultz (Rapid City)
31 years   1 month   11 days - Jon Booras (Wichita)
27 years 10 months   4 days - Paul McIlveen (Arizona)
26 years   7 months  13 days - Kyle O'Kane (St. Charles)
24 years   3 months  18 days - Gergo Nagy (Quad City)
21 years   2 months  11 days - Alex Lavoie (Allen)

- In transaction news Todd Robinson (Tulsa) has been placed on seven day IR effective January 24 and Scott Howes (Brampton) was activated yesterday after being granted leave by the league on January 20th.

DID YOU KNOW: Since starting this blog in October 2012 there have been 426 posts with over 163,000 page views. For the next 20 days my wife and I are taking a vacation to Argentina and Chile  where we will visit Santiago, Buenos Aires, Patagonia, Tierra Del Fuego, Cape Horn, The Chilean Fjords and Easter Island  to name a few. The person that is house sitting for us has been kind enough to agree to post each day one of the stories I call "Best of Allen Americans Blog" so please visit the blog each day while I am away to see the best stories from the past. There won't be any posts to Twitter, Facebook or CHLforums so please bookmark the blog ( and check out the "Best Of" for the next 20 days. Here is just a sample of what is in store:

 -Player profiles (Bootland, Schaafsma. Pineault)
- Wendy McMillin "Hockey Wife, Hockey Star"
- Open Letter to Hockey Fans
- Soldiers of Little Fortune
- Is The ECHL Better Than The CHL
- Fighting in the CHL
- Story of the Allen American's Drummers
- Zamboni Rodeo
- Darryl Bootland, Bad Boy or Pussycat
- Allen Wins Championship, You Will Walk Together Forever
- Everything Has Been Said Except Your Favorite Motto

Most important keep this winning streak alive while I am gone. Will be posting new stories starting February 18.

Easter Island

Penguins & Glacier Visit

Monday, January 27, 2014

Martinson Post Game Comments, Balanced Scoring, Denver Fires President/GM & Stats

The Allen Americans took care of business Sunday afternoon scoring three unanswered goals after giving up the first goal of the game to beat the St. Charles Chill 3-1. Allen was led by Tyler Ludwig who had two power play goals and has now scored at least one point in 13 consecutive games. Darryl Bootland got the other goal, his second in as many nights.


- I liked the fact that we got a couple of power play goals tonight (they were 1-17 going into this game). We did not look good on the first power play but then we got a couple of shots and screens. When you one time the puck it is tougher on the goalie to find it and then when you have traffic in front of the net it makes it even more difficult. So the power play was the biggest positive tonight.

- The third period was another positive. We tried to carry the puck into the zone way too much rather than dump the puck in. We talk about it all of the time but some players want to make the big play and it results in turnovers and some bad habits. It wasn't a lot of fun the first two periods as it was not our best effort. In the third period we woke up and played much better (Allen had a 21-8 shot advantage). The first two periods we had puck possession but the shots were even and I kept wondering why are we letting these guys hang around.

- We need a good week of practice as we prepare for a home and home series with Wichita this weekend. It will be a tough two games as they are a good team and there is some bad blood between Allen and Wichita so we will see what these two games bring.

- Once again Trevor Hendrikx makes a great hip check and gets called for a penalty. It seems to be the same thing, everytime he hits a guy hard they call a penalty. There was a CHL supervisor here tonight and I told him it is frustrating when you have to tell a player not to hit in close games because clean hits are being called penalties. I will keep sending clips of these clean hard  hits into the league office.

- Alex Lavoie left tickets for Alex Chiasson & Antoine Roussel of the Dallas Stars and some of the stuff he was trying to do on the ice made me think he was trying to show off for them. I wasn't sure if the Dallas players showed up as I wanted to tell Lavoie they aren't here so go back to playing your normal game. (I did see Roussel talking to Lavoie and Lessard after the game).

- Ryley Grantham has been okay as he has had some good hits. He is a little out of shape yet as he has only played in six games all year before arriving in Allen.

- I am pleased with the line combinations we have now. When you play the last place team in back to back games players get into some bad habits and try to do too much. We had a lot of good chances this weekend where we didn't score. I am trying to not be hard on the guys when we have games like the last two as were in control and won both games. You can't be hard on the guys all of the time and while we talk about what we need to do the guys want to make plays. I understand that as it was the same when I played. I don't want to justify it but we tried to do too much at times.


- After a slow start when he first arrived in Allen, Mark Guggenberger has won his last six starts and his GAA is coming down (3.00) and his save percentage is now at .905.

- Alex Lavoie was held to one assist last night and now has 53 points (20 goals 33 assists) in 39 games. Alex will soon surpass the leaders from last year in goals (Schaafsma - 24), assists (Tyler Ludwig - 40) and points (Anthony Maiani 55).

- Will have to ask Tommy Daniels for this information but Tyler Ludwig's scoring streak must be a record or close to a record. Tyler has scored in 13 straight games and has 9 goals and 8 assists in that stretch. He is third in scoring among all CHL defensemen and leads in goals with 12.

- Nice to see the power play back on track scoring on two of five power play chances after only scoring on one of seventeen chances in the last four games. Special teams will be a key next weekend against Wichita.

- The three stars of the game were #1 Tyler Ludwig, #2 Darryl Bootland, & #3 Mark Guggenberger.

- The announced crowd for the game was 3658 which was disappointing from my point of view. The common wisdom was after football season and the first of the year attendance would pick up. Thus far that hasn't been the case. While average attendance for Allen is up over last year it is by only ten people per game (4167 vs 4157). I expected a much bigger increase this year based on last year's championship season. There are only 12 home dates remaining so there is limited time to increase the 4167 average. The CHL average attendance is at 3494 compared to 3706 last year.

- Have seen several reports that Denver President/General Manager Ben Rifkin has been relieved of his duties with the Denver Cutthroat organization. Average attendance for the Cutthroats is only 1279 which is the lowest in all of minor league hockey. What makes this number even worse is that it is less than half what Denver averaged last year (2981).

- There are lots of ways to look at balanced scoring so decided to see how many players have at least 25 points on each team. Here are the results:
Allen -         8
Tulsa -         7
Brampton -  7
Arizona -     5
Missouri -    5
Rapid City - 5
Quad City -  4
Wichita -      4
Denver -       2
St. Charles - 2

DID YOU KNOW: The Americans have taken 1324 shots this season for an average of 34 per game. This is the highest average in team history.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hockey Jargon Test, Does When You Score Predict Wins, Pitton B-day, Zion Arrival

Happy 26th B-Day Bryan Pitton

After a rare Saturday off from hockey to spend time with visiting family, play golf, go to the zoo, attend a Dallas Stars game, head to the Ft. Worth Stock Show and a myriad of other activities the Americans are back at it this afternoon (4:05 PM) against the St. Charles Chill. First place in the standings is at stake as Rapid City beat Wichita again last night and now has a two point lead on the Americans.

- Bryan Pitton gets the day off for his birthday as Mark Guggenberger starts in goal. Whether Phil  Fox rests again will be decided just before warmups.

- Bad weather in Ottawa has delayed Jonathan Zion's arrival in Allen. He should still arrive later tonight.

- If you have ever looked at when the Americans score and lead in games you know it is very telling in the outcome. Here are a few examples of Allen's record this year:
When scoring first: 14-3-3
When leading after 1st period: 11-3-0
When leading after 2nd period: 14-1-3
When tied after 1st period: 7-2-3
When tied after 2nd period: 8-0-1
When trailing after 1st period: 6-5-1
When trailing after 2nd period: 2-9-0
When outshooting opponent: 13-6-1

- Look for Allen to win the special teams battle today as they have better stats on both the power play and penalty kill. The power play is over due (1-17) and should get a goal in this game.

- Saw a YouTube video posted by Christine Gegear (Alex Lavoie's mom) which lists some hockey player jargon. How many do you know?

- How may players will skate for a team during the course of a season? There a lot of variables including call ups, injuries and team record. The Americans have used 30 players thus far this season. The most players Allen has ever had in one season was in 2011-2012 when 50 different players were on the roster. The fewest was last year with only 35. Here is the list for this season for all teams in the CHL.
Missouri -    26
Rapid City - 27
Quad City - 29
Brampton -  29
Allen -         30
Wichita -     35
Tulsa -         36
Denver -      39
Arizona -     44
St. Charles - 48

Congrats are in order for a couple of teams playing on the road this weekend. Arizona beat Denver last night in Vail (another small crowd of  484) and gets four points from their trip to Colorado. Quad City has won two games from Brampton (in Brampton) and they play again today.

DID YOU KNOW: In their last 10 games Allen's GAA is 2.70 and St. Charles's GAA is 4.40

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Martinson Post Game Comments, Game Recap, Stats, Injury Updates

#1 Star Spencer Asuchak (2 goals 1 assist) scores on a penalty shot - photo by

The Allen Americans outshot, outplayed, and outscored an outmanned St. Charles Chill team by a score of 5-2 last night before a crowd of 4317 at the Allen Event Center. The Americans scored twice in the first three minutes of the game on goals by Spencer Asuchak and Alex Lavoie and the outcome was never in doubt after that point. Darryl Bootland finally got the monkey off his back (great celly by Booter) with a goal midway through the first period and Allen had a 3-0 lead. St. Charles could never get closer than two goals the rest of the game. Spencer Asuchak added his second goal on a penalty shot for Allen's fourth goal and Jonathan Lessard put away the rebound off a Daniel Tetrault rocket for the fifth and final goal. The teams get a rare Saturday night off (Sidekicks play tonight at the AEC) before playing again Sunday afternoon at 4:05 pm.

Steve Martinson Post Game Comments:

- I really liked the start of the game as we had some great hits, we were moving the puck and we could have had four or five goals in the first period.

- The Chill had a different game plan as they would dump the puck and go into that one and four. After the first two goals their game plan was working a little bit as we were turning over the puck. We were trying to do too much. When you get a couple of goals early as we did, it is hard to hold guys back and play the right way. We were talking about this the entire game that we have to get the puck in deep if we don't have a solid play.

- Asuchak played great. He had that chance for a hat trick. He said he is so tired he needs an IV. One thing about Asuchak  is he gives you everything he has. He is like that dog that chases the bus and just goes and goes and goes.

- It was good to see Bootland finally get a goal. I told the guys maybe they should get him the puck as he was so happy to score as it has been a while.

- We have tomorrow off as there is no game and no practice which is rare. I will be at the community rink as my kids have a practice and a game tomorrow.

- I rested Fox tonight as he has been playing with a nagging injury that is almost healed and I felt giving him a night off would help. If necessary he could have played. He is a hard working guy, he is in great shape and trying to get him 100% will help. He is one of the guys you always know what you are going get. He is one of our glue guys that is consistent.

- I thought Grantham got a little tired as he is not used to playing as much as he did. Early in the game he was typically Ryley with some good hits.

- Grantham doesn't count against the salary cap or the roster for five games. This rule is to avoid having to cut a player when a player comes from an AHL team for what might be a short time.  It is an opportunity for me to bring Ryley in and get him some games. His agent has already fielded calls from some AHL teams. So who knows how long he will be with us. I won't have to make any adjustments to the roster until right at the trade deadline (February 3) if I end up making any.

- I thought we had really good puck possession tonight. We hit the post several times, Kerbashian made a great play on that two on one to Hanson with an open net and it didn't go in. We easily could have had eight or nine goals in this game.

- There are times you want to crack the whip and there are times you don't. Right now I am trying to talk about positive things and avoid being too hard on anyone because I felt we were always in control of the game.

- We were 0-3 on the power play again tonight. I tried some different guys on the point and it will get better once we get Zion out there. We went for a period where we were scoring power play goals every game and all of a sudden recently we have stopped scoring. It is the same group that was scoring that has stopped scoring. We need to get Tyler some more onetimers. What you saw tonight was guys trying to pass the puck to their linemate when they should have passed the puck to the point.

- I juggled the lines a lot tonight because I wanted to give some guys a chance to play with different people. This will help if we get injuries or call ups down the road. You never know when the lines will have to change.

- I told the guys they don't need to celebrate tonight like they won the Stanley Cup. We need to get the two points on Sunday so you need to take it easy and take care of yourself. They are like your children growing up in that you have to trust them and hope that they are smart and make good decisions so we are ready to go Sunday afternoon.

- Jonathan Zion will be in Allen tomorrow (Saturday) but he will not play on Sunday. I put him on injured reserve (seven day) which will allow him to get here, get practicing, and get settled. We knew we had an extra player if someone got hurt so this is the best approach.


- With three points (2 goals 1 assist) last night Spencer Asuchak has moved into third place in the CHL rookie points race with 26 points (12 goals 14 assists). Alex Lavoie leads all rookies with 52 points (20 goals 32 assists) and has a 15 point lead on second place Adam Pleskach (Tulsa) who has 37 points.

- Not sure what the Allen record is for most consecutive games with at least one point but Tyler Ludwig is on a streak. With his assist on Spencer Asuchak's first goal of the game Tyler has scored in the last 12 games. In that stretch he has fifteen points (7 goals 8 assists). Ludwig has climbed into third place in points by a defenseman (27 points) and he leads all CHL defenseman with 10 goals.

- The French connection (Lavoie & Lessard) each had a goal last night and are #1 & #2 on the team in goals scored. Lavoie has had multiple points in five of the last eight games while Lessard has had multiple points in three of the last five games.

- The three stars of the game were #1 Asuchak, #2 Bootland, #3 Lavoie.

- Had a chance to meet Jarret Lukin's mom, sister and nephew after the game last night who are here to visit Jarret and help celebrate his 30th birthday. They were very complimentary of the reception that have received in Allen. They are looking forward to the warmer temperatures the next couple of days. It is unfortunate Lukin is not playing and it appears his return to the line up is not close.

- Also spent a few minutes talking to Trevor Ludwig after the game and I have to say for a guy that has had some tough injuries the past few years he has such a positive attitude. Asked him the toughest things to do with one arm he said tie his shoes, buckle his belt and make food. If it isn't cereal his wife, Holly, needs to make it for him.

- Rapid City scored four unanswered goals in the third period to beat the Wichita Thunder  6-3 so Allen and Rapid City remain tied with 52 points atop the CHL standings. Third place Missouri also won their game last night.

- Denver lost to Arizona 4-1 in a game played in Vail, Colorado before a crowd of 401. It is difficult to see how this team survives. They have the lowest average attendance (1321) of all 72 minor league hockey teams across four different leagues. What is more disturbing is they are drawing less than half the fans they had last year.

- Special teams play was the one area where St. Charles had the advantage last night. Allen gave up one goal in three penalty kill opportunities and scored no goals while on the power play. The power play is 1-17 (5.9%) in the last four games.

DID YOU KNOW: Allen's current penalty kill percentage (85.02%) is second highest in team history trailing only the team from last year who finished with a penalty kill percentage of 85.67%. The CHL record for penalty kill is held by two teams at 89.34% (Laredo in 2003-2004 & Colorado in 2004-2005).

Friday, January 24, 2014

Roster Moves Chess, 2nd Half To Do List, Great YouTube Videos

- Had several questions about the schedule and roster as we head into the weekend with two games against the St. Charles Chill. First, the easy one as to why the games are Friday and Sunday with no game on Saturday. The Dallas Sidekicks (indoor soccer) have a game at the Allen Event Center Saturday night.

- With the addition of Ryley Grantham and Jonathan Zion the Allen roster increases to 22 players. In order to have that many players on the roster it would normally require four players be on injured reserve (IR). The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) allows for one seven day IR slot, two fourteen day IR slots, and two thirty day IR slots. In addition you can put players on season ending IR. Here is how the Americans stand as of this morning.

Jarret Lukin: Moved from 14 day IR to 30 day IR yesterday. This is merely a paperwork exercise since the 30 days is from when he was injured which is over 30 days so he is eligible to come off IR immediately as soon as he is healthy. It does free up a 14 day IR slot.

Trevor Ludwig: Moved from 14 day IR to 30 day IR yesterday. While Trevor is almost certainly out for the season keeping him on 30 day IR gives the team maximum flexibility. It also frees up a 14 day IR slot.

Jonathan Zion: No announcement has been made about his signing a contract so unless that happens today he is not officially counted on the roster. If he is signed officially today he would most likely be put on IR.

Ryley Grantham: Found out from coach Martinson that Grantham does not count against the salary cap or the roster for five games because he has been in the AHL for over 21 consecutive days. Grantham will be in the lineup tonight and to make room for him, Phil Fox, who has been playing with a nagging injury, will be rested.

- Here is the description of the Allen vs St. Charles series by the CHL:
Americans and Chill Battle- The Allen Americans (23-10-4) have caught the Rapid City Rush at the top of the standings thanks to their 11-game point streak that has seen them go 9-0-2.  The Americans will host the St. Charles Chill (9-25-5) this weekend marking the first visit to Texas for the expansion Chill.  The two teams have met twice in Missouri with the Americans taking both battles with Jamie Schaafsma scoring three times against the Chill.  St. Charles has won just twice in their last 15 games (2-12-1).  The Chill are 1-2-0 on their current five-game road trip that wraps up in Allen.  The Americans won their last game in dramatic fashion with Spencer Asuchuk scoring with nine seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game against the Arizona Sundogs on Monday afternoon and then Greger Hanson scored the winner in overtime.    

- Wanted to share the second half "To Do List" put together by the Mavericks official blogger who writes some great stuff. You can follow him at The Sin Bin (@SinBinMavs). While he was talking about the Missouri Mavericks it struck me how most of this applies to Allen if they are to continue in first place for the rest of the season. If the Americans stay healthy, get good goalie play from both Bryan Pitton and Mark Guggenberger, be physical without crossing the line, improve special teams (especially the power play), and continue to improve on the blue line they will be in good shape to repeat as champions. Here is SinBinMavs assessment as it relates to Missouri:
Stay Healthy
I'm knocking on wood as I type this section, which makes it very hard to type. For the most part the Mavs have avoided the injury bug this season. This is an obvious one to put on the list, but unfortunately the only one that is completely out of their control. That being said, the numbers don't lie and the numbers when this team is at full-strength are astronomically better than when playing short-handed. Again, an obvious point, but still one that needs to be stated.
 Stellar Goalie Play
Good goaltending will get you to the playoffs. Great goaltending wins you championships. We all know what Shane Owen brings to the table, but we also don't want him going through a Mike Clemente-type stretch of appearing in 18 straight games, which makes Erno Suomalainen that much more important. We've only seen a small sample size of Sumo so far, but at some point, he's going to log some important minutes for this team, and they'll need him to rise to the occasion.
 Walk the Fine Line
It's no secret that the Mavs have had issues with suspensions this season. The league has dolled out a total of 22 games worth of suspensions to the Mavs, including the most recent to Chezy. The target is definitely on their backs, and they have no one to blame but themselves. Unfortunately, this team is at its best when playing aggressively, finishing checks, and protecting their end of the ice. Not one player will admit that they don't think about it on the ice, and I'm doing my best to believe them. The hardest, but maybe the most important, aspect of any second half success will be walking that fine line of playing aggressively, but not going that one millimeter over it that would catch the league's eye once again. If the Mavs can't figure out how to accomplish this, we might as well pack it in and get ready for season six.
 Special Teams
The Mavs seem to have righted the ship in regards to special teams play this season. Last season, they finished 6th in the league in powerplay, and 9th in penalty kill. The Allen Americans, the eventual league champions, finished 3rd in powerplay and 1st in penalty kill. That's not a coincidence. Championship teams excel on special teams (for the most part). This season, the Mavs are 2nd in the league in both powerplay and penalty kill. All that they need to do is keep that pace, which will be easier said than done, especially if they have to play short-handed.
 Solidify the Blue Line
The biggest weakness of this team has been the defensive play. If this is news to you, go back into hibernation. It's really weird to me to declare that assessment with players like Chezy, the Olympian Henrik Odegaard, and Matt Stephenson anchoring the blue line for the Mavs. That means that players like Anders Franzon, Colten Hayes, Evan Zych, and whoever is brought in to fill Odegaard's spot when he travels to Sochi will need to step their games up to round out this team. Scoring goals has not been a problem for the Mavs Free skaters in the defensive zone, losing battles in the corners, and clearing traffic in front of Shane Owen has been. To steal a line from my second favorite hockey movie of all time "Mystery, Alaska" (if you haven't seen it, you can buy it on Amazon for less than ten bucks, it's worth the investment) "This is hockey, OK? It's not rocket surgery. If you don't play this game with a big heart and a big bag of knuckles in front of the net, you ain't got dinky doo."

- Saw a couple of YouTube videos yesterday that you might enjoy. Neither of them are new but if you haven't seen them it is worth a look. You can find them on YouTube under the following titles:
 "AHL referee wears helmet cam" - AHL referee David Banfield wears a GoPro helmet cam, giving an up close and personal look at what happens on the ice during a game. When you hear him talk to Skinner that is former American Brett Skinner.
 "Pegula Ice Arena Facility Tour" - Talk about state of the art hockey facility with all of the bells and whistles, this is it. Penn State Nittany Lion men's hockey goaltender PJ Musico takes you through Pegula Ice Arena - the new home of Penn State Hockey. It just opened in October.

- In the only action in the CHL last night Quad City beat Brampton in Brampton 4-1. They play again tonight. Other games tonight are Missouri at Tulsa, Arizona at Denver (played in Vail), and probably the best match up of the weekend where the red hot Wichita Thunder take their five game win streak to South Dakota to play Rapid City.

- I know many Allen fans are closely following what is happening in San Francisco with the ECHL Bulls and their struggle to stay in operation because former Americans Dylan King and Scott Langdon play there. Here is a statement from the team that was released yesterday:
 A Statement from SF Bulls CEO Angela Batinovich: Thank you for your support during this time, we appreciate all of the encouragement from our fans. During the ECHL Mid-Season Meeting on Wednesday, the Commissioner and Board of Governors granted our request for additional time to complete negotiations that would allow for the transfer of the San Francisco Bulls to a new ownership group.
We are hopeful that these negotiations will be completed within the allotted time, and we currently have no intention to cancel any games.


DID YOU KNOW: The St. Charles Chill have used a league leading 43 different players this year. The Americans have used 26.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

St. Charles Preview, Grantham Returns to Allen, Lukin B-day, Allen Aliens?

When comparing Allen and St. Charles in almost any statistical category it is easy to draw the conclusion that on paper the Americans should easily get two wins this weekend. Unfortunately games are not played on paper and if Allen takes the Chill lightly they will be in trouble. While St. Charles has a road record that has only four wins (4-12-1) they came against good teams (Quad City, Brampton, Denver & Missouri). Here is a comparison of the two teams:

                                  Allen Americans            St. Charles Chill  
RESULT OF LAST GAME               WIN  3-2 vs ARZ            LOSS  3-6 vs BRM   
GAMES PLAYED                      37                         39                 
RECORD                            23-10-4                    9-25-5             
POINTS                            50                         23                 
HOME RECORD                       11-5-3                     5-13-4             
AWAY RECORD                       12-5-1                     4-12-1             
SHO RECORD                        4-3                        3-4                
LAST 10 GAMES                     8-0-2                      2-7-1              
LAST 5 GAMES                      4-0-1                      1-3-1              
OCTOBER                           5-0-1                      1-3-1              
NOVEMBER                          7-6-0                      2-7-3              
DECEMBER                          5-4-1                      4-10-0             
JANUARY                           6-0-2                      2-5-1                            
SCORING FIRST                     13-3-3                     3-5-1              
LEADING AFTER 1ST                 10-3-0                     1-4-1              
LEADING AFTER 2ND                 13-1-3                     3-5-3              
TIED AFTER 1ST                    7-2-3                      5-9-2              
TIED AFTER 2ND                    8-0-1                      4-3-0              
TRAILING AFTER 1ST                6-5-1                      3-12-2             
TRAILING AFTER 2ND                2-9-0                      2-17-2             
WHEN OUTSHOOTING OPPONENT         12-6-1                     2-7-3              
1 - GOAL GAMES                    12-2-4                     6-8-5              
GOALS FOR PER GAME                3.65                       2.44               
GOALS AGAINST PER GAME            3.11                       3.92               
SHOTS FOR PER GAME                33.70                      28.59              
SHOTS AGAINST PER GAME            31.92                      33.54              
POWER PLAY RECORD                 36 - 201   17.9%           30 - 192   15.6%   
PENALTY KILLING RECORD            30 - 203   85.2%           36 - 194   81.4%   
SH GOALS FOR                      8                          5                  
SH GOALS AGAINST                  6                          3                  
PIM AVERAGE                       23.70                      19.54              

Allen                 36   50   44   5   135    
Opponents             35   38   38   4   115    
St. Charles           21   38   32   4   95     
Opponents             38   48   62   5   153 
 - A couple of the more telling stats from the chart above are the goals scored per game with Allen at 3.65 and St. Charles at 2.44. Also, St. Charles has allowed the most goals in the league (153) with 62 of the goals being allowed in the third period.

- Allen and St. Charles have played twice this season with both games in St. Charles. The Americans won both games (6-4 & 5-1). Leading scorer for Allen was Jamie Schaafsma (3 goals 1 assists).

- As is the case almost every weekend Allen has a special teams edge when you look at the percentages and it will be important to take advantage on the power play and penalty kill. The power play struggled last weekend going 1-14 (7.1%).

- Ryley Grantham was released from his professional tryout agreement (PTO) yesterday by the Springfield Falcons (AHL). Grantham played in six games with the Falcons, had two assists, 19 penalty minutes and had a +1 rating. The 6' 4"  210 pound forward signed a PTO with Springfield July 25. Grantham is back in Allen and should be in the line up against St. Charles.

- Jonathan Zion will not arrive in Allen until Friday so do not expect him to play against St. Charles this weekend.

- Surprised to see the Arizona Sundogs practicing at the Allen Event Center (AEC) yesterday. Apparently staying in Allen after the game on Monday was a cheaper alternative than going home or traveling to Vail, Colorado where they will play Denver Friday & Saturday. The Sundogs will practice this morning at the AEC before heading off to Vail.

- Had a chance to talk briefly to Jarret Lukin at practice and nothing new to report on his injury. He is not sure when he might get back to skating. His sister, nephew and I think his mom are in Allen to help him celebrate his 30th birthday which is tomorrow (1/24). His nephew's (Dryden) third birthday was yesterday. Happy birthday Dryden & Jarret.
Happy 30th Birthday Jarret

- Did you see the article on Fox Sports talking about Quad City offering Seattle Seahawks corner back (Richard Sherman) a roster spot:
 Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman believes he’s the best in football, so one team in the Central Hockey League would like to see him try his hand at a different sport.
The Quad City Mallards (Moline, Ill.) have extended an invitation to the most famous man in football right now, asking him to trade in his cleats for some skates.
“Our roster has been depleted in recent days by a series of call-ups to the American Hockey League and we would be happy to give a world class athlete like Richard Sherman the opportunity to help us combat that roster shortage,” Mallards president Bob McNamara said in a press release.
The hockey club is even willing to wait for Sherman to finish out the season with the Seahawks — but only if he wants to. If the best shutdown corner does opt to play in the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, the Mallards would wait until their Feb. 5 home matchup with the Allen Aliens to welcome Sherman to the team. The Allen Aliens??? COME ON, MAN!!

DID YOU KNOW: According to Tommy Daniels the CHL is looking into having an outdoor game as early as next season. Timing, location, & teams involved to be determined.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Team Stats Leaders, Snowden Baby, Commissioner Interview, ECHL Troubles

I am sure the Americans are feeling pretty good about themselves as they practice for games against St. Charles on Friday and Sunday. After all, Allen has gotten five of six points the past two weekends and vaulted themselves into a tie for first place in the standings. Meanwhile St. Charles is ensconced in last place with a road record of 4-12-1 and have lost six of their last seven games. A perfect formula for under performance by the Americans and where team leadership is important to make sure they capture all four points in the next two games. While Allen has been playing well recently (9-0-2) four of the last six games have gone to overtime. I will do a series preview tomorrow. Will also stop by practice today and see what if any new information is available.

Here are the team leaders 37 games into the season. There are still six players who have played in all 37 games, the ironmen. (Asuchak, Berube, Kerbashian, Lavoie, Tyler Ludwig, & Tetrault)

Goals: Lavoie (19), Lessard (16), Kerbashian (14)
Assists: Lavoie (30), Kerbashian (23), Schaafsma (17)
Points: Lavoie (49), Kerbashian (37), Lessard (30)
Plus/Minus: Schaafsma (+12), Lavoie (+10), Berube & Ludwig (+8)
Penalty Minutes: Klotz (130), Bootland (103), Hendrikx (73)
Power Play Goals: Lessard & Ludwig (6), Lavoie (5)
Power Play Assists: Lavoie (11), Kerbashian (10), Ludwig (7)
Shorthanded Goals: Asuchak (3), five tied with one
Game Winning Goals: Kerbashian (5), Lavoie (4), Hanson (3)
Shots: Lessard (116), Lavoie (110), Kerbashian (101)
Shooting Percentage: Klotz (20.8%), Fox (19.3%), Lavoie (17.3%)
GAA: Pitton (2.69), Guggenberger (3.18)
Save Percentage: Pitton (.918), Guggenberger (.900)

Here are the players in the top ten in the CHL:

Alex Lavoie: Goals (#6), Assists (#5), Points (#7), Game Winning Goals (#7), Power Play Assists (#7), Rookie Goals (#2), Rookie Assists (#1), Rookie Points (#1), Rookie Plus/Minus (#2), Rookie Power Play Goals (#3), Rookie Power Play Assists (#1), Rookie Game Winning Goals (#1), Rookie Shots (#3), Rookie Shooting Percentage (#2)

Tyler Ludwig: Power Play Goals (#5), Defensemen Goals (#1), Defensemen Assists (#6), Defensemen Points (#5), Defensemen Power Play Goals (#1), Defensemen Power Play Assists (#9), Defensemen Game Winning Goals (#1), Defensemen Shots (#4), Defensemen Shooting Percentage (#4)

Spencer Asuchak: Shorthanded Goals (#1), Rookie Goals (#4), Rookie Assists (#6), Rookie Points (#4), Rookie Plus/Minus (#10), Rookie Penalty Minutes (#9), Rookie Shorthanded Goals (#1), Rookie Shots (#6)

Garrett Klotz: Penalty Minutes (#1), Shooting Percentage (#5)

Daniel Tetrault: Defensemen Power Play Goals (#4), Defensemen Shots (#4)

Jonathan Lessard: Shots (#10), Power Play Goals (#5) 

Kale Kerbashian: Game Winning Goals (#4)

Phil Fox: Shooting Percentage (#10)

Darryl Bootland: Penalty Minutes (#5)

Trevor Hendrikx: Defensemen Penalty Minutes (#10)

Mike Berube: Defensemen Shooting Percentage (#6)

- If you haven't listened to the interview Matt Harding of Minor League Hockey Report (MLHR) conducted with CHL Commissioner Steve Ryan I encourage you to take the time and do so. Among other things they talk about the economics of the CHL and expansion plans. You can find the interview by going to the MLHR web site at One thing I took from Matt's interview is Oklahoma City is at the top of the list for CHL expansion if the AHL Barons leave which has been rumored.

- If you haven't been following the goings on in the ECHL there is a meeting in Philadelphia today and one of the agenda items is the fate of the San Francisco Bulls. After losses of $2 million last season and projected similar losses this season, the San Francisco Bulls minor-league hockey team could fold as soon as next week according to team President and coach Pat Curcio. Curcio has a pending agreement with a new ownership group that would save the Sharks-affiliated franchise but relocate the team to Oakland or Fresno. The deal hinges on league approval and a new venue, and league meetings are today in Philadelphia. Curcio cannot name the new potential owners because of a non-disclosure agreement. If the team folds those players not under AHL contracts would become free agents. Former Americans defensemen Dylan King and Scott Langdon (2010-2012) play for the Bulls. Langdon is the team captain.

- The CHL trade deadline is fast approaching as the last date teams can make trades is February 3rd. Don't expect many trades around the league but there might be a pick up in activity as the deadline approaches.

-Congrats to the Snowden family as Janelle, John and Aiden welcomed Keegan Jeffery Snowden to the family. Keegan was born last night at 11:01 pm and weighed nine pounds even. Mom and baby are doing fine. Here is a picture of Keegan that Janelle posted on social media and it is her caption.
He is a tank and the absolute clone of his big brother!!!!
- In the only game in the CHL last night Wichita continued their hot streak winning for the league leading fifth straight game by beating Tulsa 3-2 in a shootout. RG Flath  scored the only goal of the shootout in the the bottom of the fifth round to give the Thunder the victory. Former American's goalie David Brown stopped 33 of 35 shots as well as Michel Beausoleil, Todd Robinson, Adam Pleskach, Ben Gordon, and Ryan Menei in the shootout. A stout shootout line up for sure. Job well done by Brown.

- Denver continues what they call their "Colorado Tour" this weekend as they play Arizona twice in Vail because their facility in Denver is tied up all month with a stock show. They should draw better than the two games they recently played in Aspen which drew just over 400 fans. Denver's on ice product is a very good one and deserves better support than they are getting.

DID YOU KNOW: In the last ten games the Americans are led by three players with 13 points. Tyler Ludwig (7 goals 6 assists), Alex Lavoie (5 goals 8 assists), and Kale Kerbashian (4 goals 9 assists)