Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Paired Preferences With Daniel Tetrault

If you have ever had the chance to talk to Daniel Tetrault (most call him Tetsy) you probably came away from the conversation impressed by his engaging personality, calm demeanor, and friendliness. A true professional who is a natural leader on and off the ice. He doesn't strike you as a fighter but he will do anything to stand up for his teammates. His next fight will be the 100th of his career. His coach in Wichita (Kevin McClelland), where Daniel was team captain for two years, best conveyed the type of player Tetrault has always been, "He gives his heart and soul to his team. Some guys are leaders in the dressing room, some guys are leaders on the ice. Daniel Tetrault is both."

Earlier this year I had the chance to do "paired preferences" with Tetsy and here are his answers:

Jets or Canadiens: Jets

Playstation or Xbox: Xbox

Dog or Cat: Dog

Blonde or Brunette: Brunette

Coke or Pepsi: Coke

Lady Gaga or Rihanna: Rihanna

Ford or Chevrolet: Ford

Clean or Messy: Clean

Beef or Chicken: Chicken

Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood: Carrie Underwood

Beer or Wine: Beer

Sushi or Mexican: Sushi

Facebook or Twitter: Neither

Big Brother or Amazing Race: Big Brother

Ocean or Lake: Lake

Hunting or Fishing: Fishing

Reese Witherspoon or Angelina Jolie: Angelina Jolie

Tiger Woods or Rory McIlory: Tiger Woods

Boxers or Briefs: Boxers

Titleist or TaylorMade: TaylorMade

Red Wings or Blackhawks: Blackhawks

Hip Hop or Country: Country

Survivor or The Bachelor: The Bachelor

Dancing With the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance: Dancing With the Stars

Texas Stars or Oklahoma City Barons: Texas Stars

Dr. Oz or Dr. Phil: Dr. Oz

Kenny Chesney or Brad Paisley: Kenny Chesney

Usher or Kanye: Kanye

DID YOU KNOW: Daniel Tetrault is from La Broquerie, Manitoba which is in the southeast corner of the province not far from the Minnesota border. As I write this piece the temperature in La Broquerie is -36 Fahrenheit. That is not wind chill but the actual temperature. The high for today will be -19.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Allen vs Wichita Preview, Interesting Stats, Updates (Dell, Tamblyn, Cintala)

- Seems like each week presents a new challenge for the Americans and this week is no different as Allen takes on a much improved Wichita Thunder team tomorrow night at 6:05 and then has two games with league leading Rapid City on Friday and Saturday. Will talk more about the Rapid City series later in the week but suffice it to say they are still undefeated on the road as they have won a record eleven games.

- The Wichita game tomorrow night is a chance for Allen to build on the momentum from winning their last two games. As coach Martinson said at his press conference on Saturday, "I like our team and we can beat any team in the league, we have to build on the positives and eliminate the negatives." Allen hasn't won three games in a row since the beginning of November so a win on Tuesday will show the team is moving in the right direction. 

- If you look at the CHL standings you would see Wichita mired in seventh place with just 26 points. But if you look at the last ten games they have the best record in the league at 7-3. They come to Allen with a four game winning streak and have scored an average of 5.25 goals per game during this streak. If you look at monthly records it might appear these two teams are headed in opposite directions:
                                                                          Allen                                                Wichita
OCTOBER                           5-0-1                      1-2-2             
NOVEMBER                          7-6-0                      3-9-2             
DECEMBER                          4-4-1                      7-3-0             

- Jamie Schaafsma leads the Americans in all offensive categories over the last five games. He has the most goals (4), assists (4), points (8) and also leads the team in plus/minus with a +7.

- Wichita leading scorer Jon Booras (12 goals 24 assists) recently passed two milestones. On December 20th he played in his 500th game and last night against St. Charles he scored his 500th point. Keep an eye on #72 if you are attending the game tomorrow.

- Was working on my power ranking input this morning and found only two teams that went undefeated this week. Quad City was 2-0 and Wichita was 3-0.  Winless this week were Brampton who was 0-2 and St. Charles at 0-3. In a rare Monday night game in the CHL Quad City and Brampton finish their three game set this evening in Brampton.

- Current streaks of significance would be Rapid City and their road win streak of 11 games and St. Charles who has lost 6 straight games.

- Aaron Dell is back with the Utah Grizzlies (ECHL) and played in two games this past weekend. Aaron has had two call ups to the AHL this year (Norfolk & Manchester) but did not get in any games. He has only played in 5 games all season (all with Utah) and hadn't started a game before last Friday since mid November. The good news is Aaron was in goal for Utah wins on Friday & Saturday. For the season (5 games) his record is 4-1, his GAA is 2.20 and his save percentage is .923.

- Peter Cintala, the defenseman from Slovakia who became a fan favorite during training camp and was playing for the Louisiana Ice Gators (SPHL) was traded to the Bloomington Thunder (SPHL) on Friday.

- Corey Tamblyn who played 16 games for the Americans before being released and recently signed with the Peoria Rivermen (SPHL) has gotten off to a great start with Peoria. In eight games he has eight points (3 goals 5 assists) and is a +5.

DID YOU KNOW: Allen and Wichita haven't played each other since the first two games of the season. Both of those games went to a shoot out and they both ended with a score of 4-3. Allen won in Wichita and Wichita won in Allen.   

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Martinson Post Game Comments, McMillin Returns, Tyler Hat Trick, & More

If there was ever a gut check victory it was the 7-4 win last night over the Tulsa Oilers. For starters the team was playing their third game in as many nights which included over 1100 miles of travel. To make matters worse they had a wheel issue on the bus when returning from St. Charles (1:00 am Saturday morning) which not only delayed them but required them to get a replacement bus which was a regular coach bus, not a sleeper bus like the team bus. So when Tulsa came roaring back in the second period from a 3-0 deficit it would have been easy for this exhausted, sleep deprived team to throw in the towel. Instead they worked their butts off and scored three unanswered goals in the third period, a natural hat trick by Tyler Ludwig, to win 7-4 before a great crowd of 5372 at the Allen Event Center.

It was a dream homecoming for Brian McMillin who played in his first game after signing with the Americans earlier in the day. Brian received his championship ring in a ceremony prior to the game, had a goal, an assist, was a +3 and was named the #1 star. Welcome home Brian!


- We had a great first period out shooting them 20-6 and got a 3-0 lead early in the second period and we are looking good and then we give up a couple of power play goals, a four on four goal and a short handed goal and I am sure you were all thinking here we go again. Tyler Ludwig must have changed his stick there in the third period. What we were trying to do is use Tyler on the off side because he has good foot speed and can bring the puck to the inside but the power play has not been clicking. We switched things around and put Tyler with a left shot guy so he can one time the puck because he is very good at that. Tyler started one timing the puck like he did last year when we had Brett Skinner dishing him the puck.

- There were a lot of positives in the game. We are not completely there yet obviously as our penalties get us into trouble. You can be physical without taking penalties. I think it is hard for our guys to know exactly what is going to be called a penalty but we have to be smart, we have to learn a little bit every game. I can't stand the stick penalties, the slashing and hooking and holding. I tell the players just don't slash the guy, just skate and take an extra step, don't take a short cut.

- I like our team and know we can beat any team in the league with the talent we have. We have to back it up but we can do it. McMillin had a nice game with a goal, assist and a +3. Keep in mind Brian has not skated in game conditions for over a month. I was trying to keep an eye on his shifts.

- I am still trying to get three lines that can score so I am juggling a little bit and trying different combinations but I am excited going forward this week. We have some big games this week with Wichita and Rapid City. The third period tonight was a big boost for us. We need to build on the positives and try to work on eliminating the negatives.

- Our first forward is coming back fine on defense but we need all the forwards coming back full speed. We work on back checking drills all the time in practice but have too many breakdowns in the games.

- We did a great job on face offs against Todd Robinson who is one of the best. Brian McMillin in particular did excellent job in winning draws.

- Our team needs to be better defensively and Brian McMillin brings a combination of a top defensive forward along with some goal scoring. You can put him in any position and in any situation. It is difficult to trade a player like John Snowden. John has worked hard and is in as good as shape as anytime in his career. He is going to a situation in St. Charles where they need offensive skill. He will get top line ice time, power play time and it will be a great opportunity for him. John did everything we asked of him while he was in Allen.

- Mark Guggenberger is playing well but is not getting the support. If you look at tonight's game Tulsa scored two back door goals where the goalie has no chance. Two of the Oiler goals went off our players. Mark has been an all star in the CHL and was the 2nd best goalie in the ECHL last year. We have to do a better job supporting him. He works hard and stays positive.

- To be successful the rest of the year we need to eliminate mistakes, take fewer penalties, and make the other team beat us with good plays. If you look at shots on goal the last few games it is obvious we are winning the puck possession battle so if we just eliminate mistakes we will be fine.


- With seven goals in the game Allen has moved into second place in goals scored in the CHL with 100. Tulsa has the distinction of scoring the most goals in the league (113) but also allowing the most goals in the league (118).

- Allen had an edge in special teams going into this game as their power play was #4 in the league while Tulsa was #6. On the penalty kill Allen was #3 and Tulsa was #9. The results favored Tulsa however, as they scored two power play goals in six chances plus a short handed goal. Allen did manage one power play goal in eight chances. It was the first power play goal in four games and the power play is now 1-26 (3.8%)  in the last four games.

- Tyler Ludwig's hat trick gives him six goals for the season which places him third in the CHL among defensemen in goals scored.

- As the Americans approach the half way point in the season (January 11th) there are still seven players that have not missed a game. The ironmen are Asuchak, Berube, Kerbashian, Lavoie, Tyler & Trevor Ludwig, and Tetrault.

- John Snowden played for St. Charles last night and continued his scoring streak with an assist in a loosing cause. I want to pass along my best wishes to John and his family as they move back to the upper midwest where they have been before when John played for Bloomington and Quad City. John and Janelle met when he was playing for Bloomington and they have lots of friends in the area.

- The attendance last night (5372) was the largest in the league of the five games played. The larger crowds should be more consistent now that high school football has finished. Allen's average attendance is about the same as the average for the entire season last year and will increase in the coming months.

- The three stars of the game last night were #1 Brian McMillin, #2 Tyler Ludwig & #3 Trevor Ludwig.

- With three assists in the game Alex Lavoie extended his rookie points lead over Tulsa's Adam Pleskach to nine points. It appears to be a two man race as Alex has 39 points, Pleskach has 30 points and third place Thomas Frazee (Quad City) has 21 points.

- Wichita won again last night defeating St. Charles 3-2 for their third straight win. They have won 7 of their last 10 games and are on the move. The Thunder play St. Charles again tonight in Wichita and will be in Allen on Tuesday. Don't forget the start time on Tuesday has been changed to 6:05 pm.

- Rapid City salvaged their three game series with Missouri winning last night 7-4 after loosing the first two games. The Rush have a three point lead over the Mavericks in the standings.

DID YOU KNOW: Five former Allen Americans had points in CHL games last night. Scott Howes (2012-2013), Jim McKenzie (2011-2013), Todd Robinson (2012-2013), John Snowden (2013-2014) and Steve Kaunisto (2011-2012).

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Schaafsma, Snowden Shine, Martinson Comments, Stats & More

There are so many good things to say about the game last night as the Americans had their first four goal victory since early November beating the St. Charles Chill 5-1 in a game they controlled from the opening face off to the final buzzer. Playing before the third largest crowd of the season (2636) at The Family Arena in St. Charles, the Americans were led by the game's #1 star Jamie Schaafsma (2 goals 1 assist) and the #2 star John Snowden (1 goal 3 assists). To quote Tommy Daniels, "Mark Guggenberger had his best outing of the season stopping 29 of 30 shots." I'm sure this performance made for a more pleasant 11 hour bus ride home as the team is not expected to arrive back in Allen until around 10:00 am this morning (Saturday) and will be back at it against Tulsa tonight at 7:05 pm.


-  We played a stronger game tonight all the way around. It was good to see Schaafsma score a couple of goals.

- Our goal scoring has been fine (3rd in the league with 93) but we need better team defense and we got that tonight.

- It is important that we build off the positives from this game and carry this over for tomorrow night against Tulsa.

- Mark Guggenberger needed a strong game and he got that tonight. We need his all-star performances going forward.


- I talk a lot about the plus/minus stat and how the Americans have struggled when even strength. Another positive from the game last night as all five goals came even strength. The Americans were +25 for the game led by Mike Berube & John Snowden who were both +4. The Chill were -25 for the game.

- How great was it to hear the names of Schaafsma and Snowden so many times last night. Guys who have taken some heat for their lack of scoring early in the year have really picked it up. Since Snowden returned to the line up 13 games ago he has 14 points (5 goals 9 assists). Schaafsma has scored in four games in a row and five of the last six. In his last six games Jamie has 8 points (3 goals 5 assists) to go along with a +7.

- The power play continues to misfire going 0-4 last night and is 0-18 in the last three games. For the month of December the power play is 4-41 or 9.8%. While the power play is still ranked #4 in the league at 17.76%, in a pattern similar to last year, the power play percentage was over 25% early in the year and has been slowly declining the past two months.

- As good as the victory was against St. Charles, if the team does not come out with a similar effort  against Tulsa tonight and get a victory the team will not have proven anything. They will be exhausted from the long trip home while Tulsa got to sleep in their own beds last night and will make the short trip to Allen this afternoon. Add that advantage to the 8-2 shellacking Tulsa took at home last night from the Wichita Thunder and the Oilers will be a tough team to beat. It will be a gut check for the Americans for sure but they need a big win at home under these conditions to show what this team can be.

- Brian McMillin did meet the team in St. Charles yesterday but was sent on to Allen to get settled and also get some rest. He should be ready to go and would expect to see him in the line up against Tulsa tonight. It will be nice to see #9 back with the Americans.

- Jarret Lukin is still out of the line up and will not be playing in the near future. 

- Garrett Clarke was back in the line up for the Arizona Sundogs last night for the first time since breaking his jaw and suffering a concussion. The Sundogs lost to Denver 3-2.

- Another former Americans player, Scott Howes, had two goals in a loosing cause as Quad City beat Brampton 5-4. Scott has now played in three games for the Beast and scored in all three. He has five points (2 goals 3 assists). If he stays healthy look for him to get called up to the AHL.

- Missouri beat Rapid City (in Rapid) for the second consecutive night and is now only one point behind the Rush in the standings. Another back and forth battle which the Mavericks won 4-3. The Rush have only lost five games all year but three of those losses have come at the hands of the Mavericks in Rapid City. They play again tonight and this will be for first place.

- Wichita beat Tulsa last night 8-2 in Tulsa. The Thunder are starting to play better hockey as they have just finished a stretch of nine games with seven of the nine being on the road. They had a 6-3 record in these nine games. Most everyone expected to see Wichita get things turned around after an abysmal start and that might be happening.

DID YOU KNOW: The first place Rapid City Rush have the worst penalty kill unit in the CHL at 77.78%. It is the second lowest penalty kill percentage in the last five years. Only Dayton in 2010-2011 was lower at 76.69%.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Game Recap, Schaafsma Streak, Goal Differential Chart, December Disaster, 30 Goal Scorers

Seems like the most over used words when talking about the Allen Americans these days are disappointing and frustrating. It happened again last night as the Americans took a two goal lead heading into the third period only to have Tulsa score four unanswered goals in a 4-2 victory before a crowd of 4246 at the BOK Center.

- Neither team was able to score on the power play as Allen was 0-3 and Tulsa was 0-2. Tulsa was credited with a shorthanded goal as Todd Robinson scored an empty net goal with eight seconds left in the game.

- Plus/minus has been an issue with Allen all year which proved to be the case again last night. For the game Tulsa was +8 while Allen was -10. For the season here is how Allen ranks with the teams ahead of them in the standings.
Rapid City -   +184
Missouri -      +108
Tulsa -            +57
Allen -            -27

- Shots on goal were telling as Allen had 14 in the first period as they built a 2-0 lead on goals by Garrett Klotz (2) and Phil Fox (7). In the second period the Tulsa defense limited the Americans to just six shots and in the third period Allen could only manage four shots. Totals for the game were Allen 24, Tulsa 34.

- Jamie Schaafsma has quietly become the leading scorer on the team over the last five games with five points (1 goal 4 assists). He had a point in four of the five games.

- Immediately after the game the team boarded the bus for the trip to St. Charles. The team arrived around 4:00 am and will face off with the Chill tonight at 7:05.  St. Charles is on a three game losing streak and has only scored two goals in their last three games.

- With three games still to play this month the Americans are assured of their worst December record in team history. Here is the December record by year:
2013-2014:     2-7 (three game remaining)
2012-2013:     9-3
2011-2012:     8-6
2010-2011:     7-2
2009-2010:     7-4

- In the only other game in the CHL last night, the first round of the three round battle between the top teams in the league, Missouri beat Rapid City 4-2 in what by all accounts was a great game. “Special teams played a big role — we got two (power play goals), they got one, and that was the difference in the end,” Missouri head coach Scott Hillman said. “We bussed all night, about 12 hours to get here, and played a couple men short, so I’m really proud of the guys’ effort. (Rapid City) is the first place team for a reason, and obviously our goal coming in is to try to narrow that gap if we can.”

- Is goal differential (difference between goals scored and goals allowed) a good predictor of success? Before the games last night I looked at goal differential and winning percentage. Here is how the teams ranked by winning percentage with their goal differential in parenthesizes.
1. Rapid City (+37)
2. Missouri    (+26)
3. Quad City  (+11)
4. Allen          (+5)
5. Denver       (+2)
6. Tulsa          (+2)
7. Brampton   (-8)
8. Wichita      (-15)
9. Arizona      (-26)
10. St. Charles (-34)
At least for this one day goal differential was a perfect correlation to winning percentage.

- The difference between fourth place and seventh place in the CHL standings is a scant one point. All 10 CHL teams will be in action tonight.

DID YOU KNOW: There have only been four 30 goals seasons in franchise history and the top three happened in the same year. Here they are:
34 - Bruce Graham (2010-2011)
33 - Colton Yellow Horn (2010-2011)
33 - Nino Musitelli (2010-2011)
31 - Bruce Graham (2009-2010)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Roster Changes, Bootland Suspended, Game Preview, Fight Card, Tulsa Jerseys

The short Christmas break is over and it is time for hockey again as the Americans take on the Tulsa Oilers tonight and it will be a long day indeed.  The team will skate in Allen at 10:00 am, leave for Tulsa at noon, play the game at 7:05 pm and leave immediately after the game (10:30 pm) for the 400 mile bus ride to St. Charles where the Americans play Friday night.

- The team will have to play the next two games (Tulsa & St. Charles) one player short as Darryl Bootland has been suspended for two games. Here is the CHL press release:
GLENDALE, AZ (December 24, 2013) – The Central Hockey League (CHL) announced today that Allen Americans forward Darryl Bootland has been suspended for two (2) games as a result of his actions in Saturday’s game versus the Brampton Beast. Bootland’s suspension comes from a request for review regarding a boarding infraction in the first period of the American’s 6-2 loss to the Beast.  It was observed that Bootland did not attempt to avoid or minimize contact with his opponent who was in a defenseless position.  The hit caused injury and the Brampton player did not return to the game.  Bootland was assessed a two minute boarding penalty on the play. The veteran will miss Allen’s game Thursday in Tulsa and Friday in St. Charles.

- The big question for the week is what roster changes will take place. We do know Lukin and Ehrhardt were on IR last game, Bootland has been suspended for two games and Brian McMillin will meet the team in St. Charles on Saturday. While the team could carry 21 players if there were three on injured reserve the more likely outcome will be to reduce the roster by at least one player. This could be accomplished through a trade, a waiver claim or and outright release. You can be assured if a player is released the coaches attempted to trade them first and then placed them on waivers. It is only after trying trade and waiver will the team release a player.

- The game tonight will be the 9th time the Americans have played Tulsa this year. While Allen has  won five of the previous eight meetings they won the first four times the teams played early in the year. In the last four times the teams have met, Tulsa has won three times including the 10-8 win in Allen (November 23) when the Oilers scored seven times in the second period. Here are the results of the eight games played thus far:
     PAST RESULTS                        
     10/26/13    Allen  3 at Tulsa 2     
     10/27/13    Allen  3 at Tulsa 2     
     10/30/13    Tulsa 3 at Allen  4 Shoot Out  
     11/02/13    Allen  5 at Tulsa 4     
     11/03/13    Tulsa 3 at Allen  1     
     11/22/13    Tulsa 1 at Allen  3     
     11/23/13    Tulsa 10 at Allen 8    
     11/24/13    Allen  2 at Tulsa 4 

- Leading goal scorers in this head to head match up are Michel Beausoleil (8 games 6 goals) and Adam Pleskach (5 games 5 goals) for Tulsa and Kale Kerbashian (8 games 6 goals) and Alex Lavoie (8 games 5 goals) for Allen.

- A good chance you will see some fisticuffs tonight and back in Allen on Saturday as there has been some bad blood between these teams in the past. To start with they rank #1 (Allen with 40) and #3 (Tulsa with 37) in number of fights for the season in the CHL. There have been 15 fights between these two teams this year and nine of them took place the last time they met (November 23 & 24). If you remember the November 23 game was the 10-8 game when a mini line brawl broke out at 15:27 of the second period which resulted in 18 different penalties being called. There were seven or eight players in each penalty box. In that game alone there were nine fighting majors penalties and eleven roughing penalties assessed.

- If you plan on attending, watching or listening to the New Years Eve game against Wichita make sure to mark your calendar that the start time for the game has been changed from 7:05 pm to 6:05 pm.

- The Tulsa Oilers have gotten on the ugly Christmas Sweater Jersey bandwagon and will be wearing theirs on Thursday against Allen and Friday against Wichita. They will be auctioned off after the game on Friday.
Designed by Tyler Fleck, Former Oiler Captain & Company Owner

DID YOU KNOW: In the five year history of the Allen Americans they have won more regular season games on the road (91) than they have at home (90). So much for home ice advantage.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Craig Ludwig, A Hockey Family Story & Ugly Christmas Specialty Jersey

Trevor (left) and Tyler with dad in 1988
Merry Christmas everyone! On this joyous day I hope you get to spend time with family and friends. Because of the short break for Christmas and a game scheduled for the 26th many of the Allen Americans are not able to be with family unless the family traveled to North Texas. Because Christmas is all about family I thought today would be a good day to post about the patriarch of the Ludwig family, Craig Ludwig. If there is a first family of the Allen Americans it is Ludwig family. While we watch Trevor and Tyler on the ice, cheering from the stands is Trevor's wife Holly and Tyler's wife, Taylor along with their daughter, Sydney. And many nights if he is not involved with a Dallas Stars broadcast you can see dad, Craig, watching the Americans games from the second level of the Allen event Center. The hockey family also includes younger brother CJ who is a senior at Northern Michigan University where he is the captain of the hockey team.  Phil Fox and Greger Hanson were teammates in 2010-2011 when CJ was a freshman and Phil was the captain of the team.

I found this story (it is not new) about Craig on Joe Pelletier's blog called, The Greatest Hockey Legends.com. It is obvious what Craig learned from his dad he has passed down to his children. A true hockey family.

Craig Ludwig

Let's start with the obvious - Craig Ludwig was not an offensive defenseman. His skating and mobility were also below the NHL norm. He was a classic stay-at-home defenseman, perhaps the best of his era. He was a hulking 6'3" 220 lb monster who loved to play physically, yet he played remarkably cleanly. He rarely took dumb penalties. In fact he barely averaged one PIM a game in his career. He made up for his lack of ability with experience and good hockey sense which allowed him to read plays and anticipate what the oncoming attacker was going to do. Mentally tough and poised under pressure, shot blocking was a forte of Ludwig's. Using incredibly thick and wide shin pads (people use to joke he wore street hockey goalie pads for shin pads), Ludwig fearlessly would throw himself in front of any shot. He was a leader in the dressing room and on the ice. He knew his role and played within his own limitations.

Craig was Montreal's third round choice (61st overall) in the 1980 Entry Draft. He had played college hockey at the University of North Dakota of the WCHA. It was a great time for Ludwig, who was part of two NCAA championships in 3 years.

"Being in a school like North Dakota, that at the time was one of the college powers, to see how all the students and everybody reacted to the sport of hockey was a highlight. I was from a real small town and I didn’t realize how big all college sports were, but to go to North Dakota where hockey is their number one sport there was great," said Ludwig. Craig, a native of Rhinelander Wisconsin, also got the opportunity to represent the United States at the 1981 World Junior Championships.

Craig turned pro in 1982 when he came to Montreal's training camp. In those days it was common for rookies to spend a year or two in the minors to develop, especially in Montreal's system. Even greats like Larry Robinson spent some time in the minors before being elevated to Montreal. However Ludwig impressed the Habs so much in training camp that they decided to keep him on that year. During his rookie season with the Canadiens he notched a career-high 25 assists, but no goals. He also showed remarkable composure for a rookie, knowing his limitations and playing a simple game which of course would become Ludwig trademarks, along with those big shin pads.

In 1983-84, he scored a career-best seven goals, and tied the career-high 25 points he recorded during his rookie season. But it was 1986 that Ludwig remembers best, as he won his first Stanley Cup. Even after winning another Cup in Dallas years later, the 1986 Habs championship is Craig's career highlight.

"Obviously, the one for me that’s going to stick out is the year that we won the Cup in Montreal in ’86. That whole playoff run that we had, the games that we won, the goals that were scored in overtime, and everything that went into it was one thing. And then I guess for me, was the couple days after when they had the parade in Montreal. I never realized what the game meant to these people in Montreal. Being an American and playing in a Canadian city is one thing, but when you see the people that turn out for this … I was in awe the whole time. Even now when I look back… I’ve got pictures of shots of the parade in St. Catharines Street and the streets that the parade was on, I look at all the people and the people that were climbing up in the lights, the street lights and the things like that, and the cars that got pretty much demolished from going through the parade and everything else. I think that’s something that I’m always going to remember is being part of that, being in that and just looking at all the people and just wondering: ‘What is it, why are you all here for this?’ When you see it, when you look back, you know how important the game is to them.”

Ludwig remained a Hab until the summer of 1990. Fearing that his rugged style of play had put many miles on his body, the Habs felt his career was near completion and wanted to trade him for a younger defenseman while they could still get something for the wily veteran. Montreal traded Ludwig to the New York Islanders in exchange for Gerald Diduck. Of course Ludwig would prove Montreal wrong and go on to enjoy many more years in the NHL, but he did not enjoy his time in New York. He struggled through his worst season in New York, and was the subject of much criticism. The media questioned his attitude and ability, as Ludwig posted a career worst -24 +/- ranking.

The problem was Craig had learned to play Montreal's style of defense so well, that he had trouble adjusting to a new system under Islander coach Al Arbour. Montreal stressed that you protect the middle of the ice and force the shooter to shoot the puck and then play the rebound. Under Arbour, Ludwig was told to pressure the shooter, thus forcing him to make a play. Unfortunately Ludwig's foot speed hampered his ability to play in Arbour's system. As a result Ludwig would often try to play the Montreal system in New York, even though the rest of the team was playing Arbour's system.

The Isles traded Ludwig to Minnesota in exchange for Tom Kurvers after that ill-fated season. That was a great move for Ludwig as he was reunited with Bob Gainey and soon Doug Jarvis. Ludwig would become an on ice leader once again and help the former Habs develop a winning tradition in the Stars organization, which would eventually earn a Stanley Cup championship of their own. Of course with the guidance of Gainey, Jarvis, Ludwig and eventually Guy Carbonneau, the Stars adopted the old Montreal style of defense under which Ludwig thrived.

After two years in Minnesota, Ludwig moved to Dallas with the entire Stars franchise. Talk about one extreme to another. He cherished his days in Montreal because of how much the people cared about their hockey team, but now Ludwig found himself in the virgin hockey market of Texas of all places. While it took a while for Texans to learn the game, they too eventually appreciated Ludwig's fine play. He was no all star. Heck, scoring more than 2 goals a year was exceeding expectations for him, as it always was. But it soon became obvious even to new fans just how important Ludwig was to the team's success.

On March 12, 1996, he played in his 1,000th NHL game, becoming the 110th player to reach that milestone. Not bad for a guy who never expected to play in the NHL.

“From the beginning I was a guy that never expected to make it to the league. I expected to be in the minors.

Of course playing that long is one thing, but Craig managed to stay really healthy over his 17 year career too. How does he account for such durability?

“I think luck. I think you’ve got to be very lucky as far as being healthy. I think you play the game a certain way and I was always taught by my dad that you’re supposed to be the one doing the hitting instead of the one getting hit. You stay healthier that way. So, I think that’s got a lot to do with it. And try to be more of an aggressive player. But like I said, I think you need a lot of luck in there, too, to try and stay away from injuries.”

You need a little luck along the way to winning a Stanley Cup championship too. Hard work and natural talent can only take you so far, you need some friendly bounces along the way too. The Stars got a couple of friendly bounces along the way to winning the Stanley Cup in 1999.

1999 was Wayne Gretzky's last year, but it also proved to be Craig Ludwig's last hurrah as well. While no one would ever confuse Ludwig for Gretzky, Ludwig in his own way was a superstar. Just a very underappreciated superstar. He did however benefit from playing one particular system for most of his career, and proved in New York that once out of that system he was in trouble. It just goes to show that many good hockey players fail to live up their billing, not because they're no good necessarily, but more because they are misused.

Craig had no regrets about hanging up the skates, even though he was an unrestricted free agent and likely could have cashed in and have played one or two more years. Instead Ludwig accepted a front office position within the Stars organization.

"It wasn't a hard decision. Winning the Cup made it a lot easier. I never thought I'd play in the NHL, and I played 17 seasons. It's was time to move on. It  gave me the chance to stay involved with the team."


DID YOU KNOW: Some teams do a specialty jersey for Christmas. How about this one from the Reading Royals (ECHL) "Ugly Sweater Collection"

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Hazing: A Story of Recovery & Redemption You Must Read

As fans we are mostly only exposed to all of the positives surrounding our favorite hockey team with community appearances, post game skates, championship celebrations etc. I found the story below, which is the story of one hockey player who talks about his journey in junior hockey, to be one that we don't normally hear about. It is a story of recovery and redemption. It was written by Roy MacGregor of the Toronto Globe and Mail.

His mother says he "owns" any room he walks into, and perhaps this is not merely a mother's musings. All eyes - particularly those of the young women and the waitresses - are on Carson Shields as he strides into this restaurant in the upscale River Heights neighbourhood of Winnipeg.
He has chosen the restaurant well - Inferno's - given he is coming from his own personal hell.
Tall, blond, wide-shouldered and clear-eyed, he wears a shirt so crisp and white it brightens the room as much as his smile. Peel back the shirt, however, and you will see the tattoos that seem bizarrely out of place with such a pristine first impression.
"Fortune favours the brave" is writ large across his chest, a decision made one frenetic day after being high on cocaine for the previous two. Down his right arm is tribal art, on his left scripture adapted from the book of Acts: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." Near his right elbow is a large diamond, inked at a time when he thought he held the secret to forever living the good life ... presuming he lived.
The diamond excepted, he has no regrets concerning the tattoos. "They are a road map from where I was to where I am today," he says.
And where he is today is also there for the reading: three softer tattoos that speak to the great dichotomy that is Carson Shields.
On the outside of that arm is a rose, with his goddaughter Emersyn's name beside it. The tribal art on the right arm is the Cantonese love symbol with the name of another goddaughter, Loevah, beneath. Hidden on the inside of the left arm, inked inside a burning cross, are the names of his parents, Larry and Carol.
There is no body art to show the trauma he and his parents believe so profoundly affected his life: a humiliating junior hockey hazing that took place when he was barely a teenager.
It is far simpler to see what is behind the white shirt than to know what lies back of the pleasant face, the trusting eyes.
Peel that back and you will find a 25-year-old man deeply scarred by the sick side of the game he loved and still loves. You will find a happy boy from a good family in a good neighbourhood who became an alcoholic, a drug addict and, by his own admission, a criminal. You will see a tortured young man who finally hit rock bottom when, waiting outside a Winnipeg crack house for a drug-dealing buddy, he felt the cold metal of a 9-mm pistol pressed to his temple.
Carson Shields says he needs to tell his story. His mother says he needs to tell it to heal.
He needs to show how far he fell from the simple dream he was chasing, how dark it all became and how, today, he is sober and clean, back living at home, coaching the game that all but destroyed him and attending university - one benefit of which is help in paying for the anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and high-blood-pressure pills he takes each day.
"This story needs to be told," his father says. "I'm just sorry that it was my son had to go through it to have it written."
Too much we concentrate on the far-less-than-1-per-cent, the ones who make it. We forget, as we focus on the troubles experienced by certain NHL enforcers and fighters that, just as the talented players get funnelled tighter and tighter until there are but a precious few that move on, there are the tough ones, many of them, who just were not tough enough. They, too, get left behind.
Carson Shields was, by his own measure, an "average good hockey player." Good enough for junior, not good enough for major junior. He bounced around so much - traded, sold, dropped, picked up - his father nicknamed him "Suitcase."
Between 16 and 20, he played for an astonishing 10 junior A-, B- and C-level teams in four different provinces. He was rarely seen as the team "enforcer" but always regarded as the one big and tough player who never backed down, who would, as they say, die for his teammates and, in the end, very nearly did.
"I lost more fights than I won," he concedes.
He has no idea how many of either there were. He counts five concussions. He cannot bring his pinky fingers in line with his ring fingers. He sometimes throws out his shoulder in his sleep. His knee has never healed properly from an injury to his MCL. One psychiatrist determined he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, the PTSD that haunts so many Canadian soldiers who have seen action in Afghanistan; another has diagnosed him with acute stress reaction.
He sometimes wakes in the morning with his shoulders and hands sore, knowing he has been "fighting" again in his sleep, pounding pillow, bedding, headboard. He has trouble being alone.
Carson Shields was born on the first day of spring in 1988. He was both the fourth child and, in a way, an only child, his parents having divorced their original partners years earlier and begun a new marriage when each already had a daughter. Full brother David is 14 years older. Carson was a welcome and warmly welcomed surprise.
Larry Shields had been a star halfback and rookie of the year in the Manitoba-Saskatchewan Junior Football League. With the University of Manitoba Bisons, he was a Western Conference all-star. In one faded clipping, head coach George Depres called Larry "the fiercest, most competitive player he had ever coached."
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers invited Larry to their CFL camp but the stark realities of life – a baby on the way – made teaching physical education in nearby Selkirk a more secure proposition. It was here, later, that Larry and Carol met.
In Winnipeg, the Shields lived in a good neighbourhood with good schools. Carson was an excellent student, winner of awards and admired by his teachers. He looked out for an autistic classmate in the schoolyard and picked up the nickname “the Friendly Giant” – the big-hearted kid who had time for everyone.
“He was a real joy as a child,” Larry says.
And he was mad for sports. His parents put him in tae kwon do to burn off his endless energy. Summers were spent at the family cabin on Lake of the Woods. In winter, the youngster took to hockey, with Larry determined not to be as pushy a hockey parent as he felt he had been with David a dozen years earlier.
Larry Shields had walked away from a possible football career and the experience had stuck with him. Even to this day, he sometimes has a nightmare in which he is running up a hill while everyone else in the dream is running right past him, leaving him behind.
“I didn’t want him to go through life wondering, ‘What if?’” Larry says.
Larry knew if he just sat in the stands he was still having an effect on his sensitive youngest child. Carson says, even from the first, he was acutely aware of even the slightest hand gesture or roll of the eyes from his father. There were tough rides home but never once, Carson says, did he doubt his father “loved me” and wanted only for the child to succeed.
At 10, Carson tried out for the AA Assiniboine Park Rangers and made the team. Jonathan Toews, now captain of the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, was captain and best player. Frazer McLaren, now a hulking forward for the Toronto Maple Leafs, was also on the team.
“I was the worst player on the team,” Carson says, “ but we won everything. That was the last time I truly enjoyed going to the rink.”
He played for other minor hockey teams – captain on one – and went to the Kelowna Rockets camp after bantam, but could not make the WHL. He knew he had been invited to the camp because of his soaring penalty numbers, not his skill. Will, unfortunately, was not quite enough to crack a lineup that would go to the Memorial Cup.
“He was a boy with average abilities,” Larry says. “Not a star but a good, good teammate. He was willing to do whatever it takes to continue playing. And I wanted to support that – maybe too much so.”
Carson decided to play for the Kelvin High School team in Winnipeg, where he was coached by Bruce Sirrell, a physical education teacher at the school locals call “Hollywood High.” Carson captained the team.
Sirrell, now a lifelong friend, says Carson “was aces on the ice. He would listen. He never missed. There were never any issues apart from him one time leaving the bench to defend a teammate.”
Larry Shields also got involved with the high-school team, serving as parent manager. “He was the ideal hockey parent for us,” Sirrell says. “One of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet in your life.”
And yet, Sirrell began hearing his captain, off the ice, was “a bit of a wild character – the one who had to be ‘The Guy’ at the parties.”
Because of his higher skills, Carson had made the team in Grade 10. The seniors introduced him to alcohol and he liked it. A lot. In the journal of his hockey years that he kept – now an expanding memoir entitled The Beauty he and friend Brandi Parnell hope to polish and publish – he wrote drinking made him funnier and people liked him more.
Certainly, most of the junior coaches he would play for liked him fine. He had skill enough, but more heart than most. He would do whatever it took to win, whatever it took to stay with the team.
It was early in his wandering junior hockey career – he would be a “rookie” on several teams – that he attended the hazing ritual that, he says, “haunts me to this day.”
The veterans on this particular team, mostly 18- to 20-year-olds, forced the handful of new players to strip naked in the street outside a house they had the use of one weekend. No coaches were involved; no team officials even knew it was taking place.
Carson knew he was being targeted for special treatment. He was new, big, brazen, and some of the veterans wanted to see him put in his place. The drinking that began early in high school had given him a bit of “wild” reputation that some teammates resented. He was first called to the gathering’s “court” and told to choose from six glasses of clear liquid. Once he chose the one containing only water, he would be freed.
He went through five glasses without finding water – he knew from the tastes that he had downed vodka, white rum and sambuca – and was told to drink the sixth anyway. It was gin.
The drinking went on until the rookies were completely inebriated. They were forced to do an “elephant walk” about the rooms: each rookie holding onto the testicles of the hunched-over rookie walking ahead of him.
Forced to drink even more, the rookies were then stuffed in a bare room where several vomited, one all over Carson. They were brought out and ordered to “bong” three beers each – chugging the entire contents at once. Before passing out, he remembers girls being brought up from downstairs, but then nothing …
In the days that passed, he heard from others how out of it he had been. He was told at least one veteran player had urinated on him. He found out that photographs had been taken of him in humiliating poses, pictures that to this day give him nightmares. He was shattered.
He remembers being in his car after he had learned the extent of the humiliating hazing. “I was thinking maybe I should just get into an accident – and end it all.”
Hockey Canada is crystal clear on its policy on hazing: It is forbidden. The organization that oversees minor hockey throughout Canada defines the act as “an initiation practice that may humiliate, demean, degrade, or disgrace a person regardless of location or consent of the participant(s).”
Penalties are severe – suspension, even expulsion.
For the past decade and more, Hockey Canada has tried to be active on the hazing issue with its “Speak Out” clinics and various online programs for athletes and their parents, as well as volunteers who become certified coaches, trainers and managers. But it cannot prevent young players from acting on their own, whether the “hazing” rituals involve something as harmless as singing a song in front of teammates or as harmful as what Carson Shields experienced.
Two years ago, in small-town Manitoba, the junior-A Neepawa Natives made a 15-year-old rookie “tug” across the room a water bottle that was tied to his scrotum. When this incident and others were reported by a team official who discovered what had taken place, the league moved to fine the team $5,000, suspend 16 players and suspend two coaches, one of whom had been the whistleblower. The RCMP investigated, but no charges were laid.
The message, Manitoba Junior Hockey League commissioner Kim Davis told the media, was “hazing is not acceptable.”
And yet it continues to exist, sometimes with dire consequences, in sports teams, bands, fraternity and sorority houses. An American survey taken nearly 15 years ago – before social media turned bullying into a rising social and political issue – found as many college- and university-level students, one in five, had been subjected to unacceptable, possibly-illegal hazings as had experienced what they considered a positive initiation.
The most notorious recent example of hazing occurred this fall in the NFL, when Miami Dolphins lineman Richie Incognito, a 6-foot-3, 319-pound guard, launched a profane, racist and even threatening attack on young teammate Jonathan Martin. The appalling example of bullying left Martin fleeing the team and Incognito claiming the vicious text exchanges were misunderstood, that taken in the culture of the dressing room they were actually all about “friendship.”
Carson Shields believes no such thing. It is, pure and simple, bullying. And it is not done so much to initiate and welcome new young players to a group as it is to send out serious warning signals.
“You have 19- and 20-year-olds organizing this ‘party’ for 17-year-olds who are there to take a veteran’s job away,” he says. “So what’s he going to do? He doesn’t want that kid to take his spot. So he intimidates him.”
“I agree with him,” says Paul Carson, Hockey Canada vice-president of hockey development. “They mask this as being about ‘belonging’ through hazing. It’s bullying.”
“The culture is changing,” adds Todd Jackson, Hockey Canada senior manager in charge of safety. “We are seeing a shift but we’ve got to continue to push.”
Both Calgary-based Carson and Ottawa-based Jackson believe one key is parental awareness and involvement: monitoring off-ice team activities that involve their youngsters and communicating with the youngsters so they are aware hazing is unacceptable behaviour. They are especially concerned with the repercussions from such activity in the age of social media.
“The way the Internet is now,” Carson says, “it could have ruined my life.”
Even without Twitter and Facebook, it almost did.
There is no doubt Carson Shields was a troubled young man, capable of being wild on and off the ice, even before the hazing. But it was the hazing, his parents came to believe, that triggered something that changed their son irrevocably.
“Something was stolen from him that night,” Larry says. “Whatever it was, it led him to overcompensate in going in the other direction.”
Carson now knows this to be true. All the bad, all the demons, all the bad behaviour, seem to date from that humiliation. Having been so seriously degraded that night and living in terror that those photographs would follow him, he set out to become what he calls the “Swinging Dick” of junior hockey.
His manhood would never be challenged. He would be the ultimate warrior, the very definition of hockey’s treasured “character” player.
“He was the kind of guy who would do whatever it took to win,” says Randy Lulashnyk, who coached the Dryden Ice Dogs to the Superior International Junior Hockey League championship with Carson playing a key role on defence.
“He might have looked like an enforcer but he could play. He could make that first good pass.”
But his main role was intimidation. Colin McIntosh, the Ice Dogs best player and leading scorer that year, recalls being crosschecked after a whistle and Carson skating across the ice to tear into the opposition player.
“Back at the bench the coach goes, ‘Shields – what was that?’” McIntosh recalls. “Carson’s simple reply was ‘Nobody touches Mac and gets away with it.’ And for two years, though I never asked for it, I knew that Carson always had my back.”
Lulashnyk began to hear stories of his player’s off-ice behaviour and it concerned him. “I had ideas,” he says from Yorkton, Sask., where he now lives. “But I had no proof. … Nobody wants to tell the coach.”
Another player on the team, Jonathon Mitchell, says he and the other rookies heard the stories of Carson’s abusive behaviour but, he adds: “Never once did Carson force those choices of his on others – that speaks to the character he has as a person.” He protected the rookies off the ice as well as the stars on the ice.
At one point, Carson asked to be dealt to another team, convinced he needed a new start away from his growing personal troubles. Lulashnyk granted the request. Not long after, Carson called about coming back, but he was turned down. “I wanted Carson Shields the player to come back,” the long-time junior coach says. “I didn’t want Carson Shields off-ice to come back.”
Carson continued to bounce from team to team, delighting some, appalling others – one team sent him packing after a single out-of-control shift in his first game – but always appreciated by his teammates for whom he would do anything.
“I played two years of junior with Carson,” says McIntosh, who now plays professional hockey in Europe. “I played without fear because he was guarding my back and would step in when needed. He wasn’t the toughest guy, but was so fiercely loyal to his teammates it was truly incredible.”
“Hockey is like no other sport when you’re into a game,” Carson says. “It’s a war out there. You have to know your teammates – are you going to be there for me? You have to know if I get mugged that you’re going to have my back. Well, I was that guy. I was ‘The Guy.’
“There’s not a person I played with that I couldn’t go to now and say, ‘Did you enjoy playing with me?’ They loved me on their team. I was there for them. Always there.”
Yet, the teams weren’t always there for him. He was a commodity – tough, willing, somewhat skilled – teams wanted when they didn’t have him and took for granted when they did. He was sent to teams, dropped by teams, picked up by teams, sometimes in a matter of hours.
“You become a piece of meat mentally,” he says. “No wonder there are so many troubled guys. No wonder there are stories of suicide. Guys can’t handle their demons. I can relate to those demons. I know them.”
“We wanted to support him,” Larry says. “We knew how much he loved the game. But … how much did I know? How much would I let go in order for him to play the game he loved. I can’t answer that. I don’t know.”
The longer Carson played, the larger those demons grew.
Drinking led to drugs, eventually cocaine. His personal problems grew worse.
One billet he had very much liked committed suicide, shattering the good woman he left behind and the young players who had looked to him for guidance. A female billet for another team (team locations have been deliberately left out) hit on him and played sexual mind games on him until, he says: “I would be out wandering the streets with a 26-er of vodka, afraid to go home.”
Carson also starting to take painkillers to handle the pains in his hands and knee. He graduated quickly through Advil to Tylenol 3 to Valium, clonazepam. To speed up the effect, he crushed the pills and inhaled the powder just as he continued to do with cocaine.
To maintain his “Swinging Dick” role on teams, and in the bars the players turned to after games, he turned to steroids, ballooning up to 220 pounds of muscle. He learned how to inject himself by watching YouTube videos. He had more power, more endurance. “This feels so good,” he wrote in his journal, “why isn’t it legal?”
He shaved his head and got more tattoos, the fierce physical trappings oddly out of sorts with his smooth baby face. He was The Guy on the ice, No. 23. He was The Guy in the bar taking the girl home. Forever and endlessly proving himself.
Finally, he came down to one final proof in hockey: He could make a career in the game. Some American schools had shown interest; there might be opportunities in the professional minor leagues.
“This was my 20-year-old year,” he says, “and my last kick at making an impression on pro or college scouts.”
He had returned to Winnipeg and to a team he had once played for. They won the championship – he proudly wears the ring today – but, almost at the very end of his junior eligibility, he crashed into the boards on a fore-check and wrecked his shoulder.
He was done.
“I strongly believe that when Carson’s junior career ended,” his old teammate Colin McIntosh says, “it was almost like a death for him. He had put his body on the line so many times and stood up for countless guys, only to watch them continue to play at a higher level.
“For him to watch guys he played against, and with, ripped him apart inside, and he began to hate and blame the game for not being able to play.”
With no college offers and no chance at professional hockey – “I don’t want to portray I even had a sniff at it” – Carson took his parents’ advice and went back to school.
The University of Winnipeg accepted him and issued him student No. 3019314. It was a crushing moment.
“I was always ‘23.’ That was my number, ‘23,’” he says. “The day I got my student card I looked at the number and I was no longer ‘23.’ I didn’t know anybody – but, more important, nobody knew me. That was scary.”
Without his on-ice persona, without his well-earned “rep” in hockey, he felt he had lost his identity. In the small towns and cities where he had played, he couldn’t even go for coffee without being hailed and admired. Now, if he went for coffee he sat alone. He took to drinking, alone, in his car in the campus parking lots.
He fell in with a rough crowd. It was, in many ways, his new team and he felt as though he was becoming a somebody again, the big tattooed tough guy who moved with ease among drug dealers and other criminal elements.
He became close with a major dealer, a man who took him to crack houses where children were soiled and whimpering while their parents lay high in the next room. He could not stand seeing such squalor and neglect so, one night, he stayed outside in the car while his friend went in to deal the drugs.
That was when he felt the barrel of a 9-mm pistol touch his temple, a choke line slip around his neck.
“Where is buddy?” he was asked.
Buddy, fortunately, emerged soon after and, even more fortunately, was carrying enough cash to satisfy the three burly men with the gun.
A second incident resulted in Carson being picked up by Winnipeg police, photographed and charged with assault. The court decided to send him to a facility where he was placed on a course for anger management.
It was there he finally had his epiphany: “I decided that I owed it to myself and to my parents to try and take a serious stab at university and being a productive member of society.
“I needed to straighten out – and quick.”
It is late fall of 2013. In the spring, Carson Shields will graduate from conflict resolution studies at the University of Winnipeg. He lives with his parents. He has part-time work with Manitoba Hydro. He attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He does volunteer work for a charity (hockeyhelpsthehomeless.com) raising money to build three shelters for the homeless.
And he is back in hockey, an assistant coach with the Transcona Railer Express, a local Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League team. The players are all aware of his “rep” when he was a player. They call him “Reggie Dunlop” after the feisty Paul Newman character in the iconic hockey movie Slap Shot.
“Carson is probably the most-liked coach on the team,” Express captain Greg Myall says. “Guys in the dressing room know he can relate to our generation and can be someone to go to and talk with if there is an issue individually or as a group. He knows when to be serious and the right time to have fun with the guys.
“He’s a really good coach,” says Bruce Sirrell, the old Kelvin High School teacher/hockey coach who is now running the Express. “He’s really settled down and changed. I’m too old to have the rapport with the guys that he has.”
At his son’s urging, Larry signed on with the Express as the assistant equipment manager – “glorified water boy,” he calls it. Father and son go to games together, just as they did 15 years ago, but the only expectation is they will enjoy the game and pass on what they can.
Larry now knows what his son lived through. They attend therapy sessions together. Larry and Carol now know just how far their baby fell, and if they had to pick a starting point for the long descent, it would be that rookie party.
“I never at any point thought it would have the damage it did,” Larry says. “I love this game, you know. It’s a wonderful game – but there is a sickness in the game …”
Carson agrees, a dark side to a wonderful game that serves no known purpose, that has no reason to be. That should no longer be.
“I swore that when it came my turn, it would never happen to others like it happened to me,” Carson says. He has set up a Twitter account (@CarsonShields23) where junior players can contact him if they wish to talk.
“Nobody think for a moment that I’m now some sort of prince,” he cautions. “I’m the furthest you can imagine from that. But I’m trying to pass on the lessons that I’ve learned.
“I’m hoping to make up for all those things that I’ve done.”

Monday, December 23, 2013

Team Stats (Season & Last 10 Games), Power Rankings, Quotes, & Interesting Did You Know

- With the team on a three day break for Christmas it is a good time to take a look at the stats for the season and also the last 10 games. The overall team record is 14-9-2 and in the last 10 games the record is 4-5-1. Here are the team leaders for the season and the last 10 games. A couple things stand out when you look at these statistics. Alex Lavoie continues to have an outstanding season and leads the team in most offensive categories. Spencer Asuchak leads the team in assists in the last ten games with nine which is three more than anyone else on the team and he is also the plus/minus leader the last ten games. Throw in the work he has done on special teams while Jarret Lukin has been out of the line up and Spencer may be the best player on the team the last 10 games.

Season Stats:
Goals - Lavoie (14)
Assists - Lavoie (21)
Points - Lavoie (35)
Plus/Minus - Bootland (+4)
Penalty Minutes - Bootland (86)
Game Winning Goals - Kerbashian & Lavoie (3)
Shots - Bootland (80)
Shooting Percentage - Lavoie (20.3%)

Stats For The Last 10 Games:
Goals - Lavoie (6)
Assists - Asuchak (9)
Points - Lavoie (12)
Plus/Minus - Asuchak (+5)
Penalty Minutes - Bootland (39)
Game Winning Goals - Hanson, Kerbashian, Lavoie, Lessard (1)
Shots - Hanson (44)
Shooting Percentage - Lavoie (24%)

- Power Rankings: As I was preparing my weekly input to the Minor League Hockey Report Rankings it was apparent things stayed pretty much the same this week. The two best teams in the league (Rapid City & Missouri) were the only undefeated teams for the week both going 2-0. The teams at the bottom of the standings (Wichita, Arizona, St. Charles) didn't make any movement. The five teams in the middle (Allen, Tulsa, Quad City, Brampton, Denver) remain clustered together all within three points. Two teams were winless for the week with St. Charles going 0-3 and Denver going 0-2.

- A few hockey quotes from players past:
"The top three worst things I've seen in hockey? The invention of the trap. The invention of the morning skate. And the invention of the extremely ugly uniform."
Hockey Hall of Famer Brett Hull

"The three important elements in hockey are: the forecheck, the backcheck and the paycheck."
Former Sabres center Gilbert Perreault.

"I don’t want to get into a 'he said, she said' with the refs…I’m the he."
Defenseman Chris Pronger.

DID YOU KNOW: If you look at averages Allen is the heaviest team in the CHL at 197 pounds. They are the second tallest at 6' 1" and the fourth youngest with an average age of 26.3 years.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Watching That Game Was Like..., Martinson's Comments, Stats & More

Watching that game was like watching the movie Lincoln and speculating how it would end.
Watching that game was like watching a thoroughbred get euthanized after breaking it's leg.
Watching that game was like watching a game of tennis, where one player forgot their racquet.
Watching that game was like watching paint dry while listening to nails on a chalkboard while getting your teeth pulled. Yes, it was that bad.
Watching that game was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.
Watching that game was like watching a fork inside of a blender.
Watching that game was like shoving razorblades in my peephole.
Watching that game was like when your mom told you go to pick a belt for you to get whipped with.
Watching that game was like playing a hockey game on the play station with a broken controller.
Watching that game was like removing teeth with an ice pick: slow, painful, & full of mistakes.
Watching that game was like watching a team that was put together the morning of game day.

Take your pick as one of these has to capture how you felt if you watched (or listened to) the Americans lose last night to the Brampton Beast by a score of 6-2. Special teams, as is so often the case, determined the outcome of the game as the Beast scored three power play goals plus a shorthanded goal while the Americans went 0-11 on the power play. Lack of discipline in taking penalties led to numerous 5 on 3 opportunities for Brampton and they made them count. 


- The penalties we took tonight were the story of the game. We give them three, five on three goals. The first goal was a pass across, then the three five on three goals and then the shorthanded breakaway goal. Taking penalties in the offensive zone and taking penalties that are obvious like hitting a guy in the back of the head really cost us. You just can't take bad penalties. We know what is a penalty and what isn't and we are taking too many bad penalties. You can be physical without taking penalties. 

- When we were on the power play 5 on 3 it looked like rather then the team thinking this is a chance for us to get back in the game the mindset was, "this is a chance for me to score."

- We had plenty of shots (45-26) but their goalie was seeing just about every shot that we took. We work on it everyday to have the players get in the tough areas so the goalie doesn't see the shot but that didn't happen enough tonight.

- We didn't win battles off the face off, we didn't win battles down low, we didn't win battles along the boards and we simply did not compete hard enough.

- This isn't a matter of practice, we have to decide what we want to do here.  I think it is a matter of focus. I have said it many times you can't have the attitude, which some of our players have, that we will be there when it counts, we were there when it counted last year and we will do that again. I have been in championships at every level of hockey from the NHL, AHL, CHL, & IHL, as a player and a coach and you cannot flip a switch. You can't just turn it on when playoffs roll around.

- Are we expecting the young guys to lead or will we be led by the veterans? Bootland gets tossed when you really need him in the game. You need your veteran guys in a game like this. This comes down to who are we looking to take us in the right direction. When the going gets tough out on the ice who is leading the charge. 

- I'll say this about what happened toward the end of the game with Klotz. Jason Pitton jumps Phil Fox who is not a fighter and he is willing to fight Mike Berube but then whenever Klotz challenges him he doesn't want to fight. I don't apologize for what happened as Klotz's challenged several of their fighters who wouldn't fight. If you kick the beehive and end up getting stung don't come crying to me about it. They were crying on the bench after Klotz went after VanderVeeken. Do they think we don't have any pride when it is 6-2 in our rink.


- Data may not back this up but doesn't it seem like every time there is a big crowd in the house Allen has a poor game. The official attendance last night was 5039, the largest crowd of the season. And as one of the super fans, Mike Stiney, reminded me after the game, it seems like we are 0 for forever when there is a post game skate.

- The upcoming break (no activities December 23-25) may actually help the team get their batteries recharged, get away from hockey, and come back ready to go. The team will not have a practice this week other than the pregame skate on Thursday before the game in Tulsa. Remember, because Tulsa is so close the team will travel on game day. The team will head for St. Charles immediately after the Tulsa game on Thursday. They will play St. Charles Friday night and then leave right after the game for Allen and play Tulsa again Saturday night at the AEC. To put it in mileage terms it goes like this. Allen to Tulsa Thursday morning (230 miles), Tulsa to St. Charles Thursday night/Friday morning (397 miles), St. Charles to Allen Friday night/Saturday morning (606 miles). In summary, three games in three nights, 1233 miles, 24 hours worth of bus time.  The life of a minor pro hockey team!

- Even though the game had long been decided it was nice to see Garrett Klotz get his first goal with Allen and Jamie Schaafsma get his second goal of the season. 

- With the 0-11 on the power play last night the power play percentage dropped from 20.1% to 18.6% for the season and drops the Americans to #4 in the CHL. The penalty kill, which gave up three goals in nine chances, also had a drop from 86.2% to 85.0% which is #3 in the CHL. 

- Rapid City defeated Denver last night in Denver 6-5 for their 11th consecutive road victory which sets an all time CHL record. The Americans are now ten points behind the first place Rush and are alone in fourth place in the CHL standings.

- Missouri, Wichita & Quad City were the other winners last night. Looking ahead to next week the two best teams in the league (Rapid City & Missouri) play three games in three night (Thursday, Friday & Saturday) in Rapid City. 

- Even Santa's mom had a miserable time at the game last night. Her exact comment was, "That was not a fun night at all." Not sure if she was talking about the beat down the Americans took on the ice or the beat down her son (Santa)  took at the hands (or hips) of usher Elaine, the dancing queen.

DID YOU KNOW: Darryl Bootland played junior hockey (Toronto St. Micheals) with Chad Woollard (all time leading Brahma scorer), who played with Phil Fox as a Brahma, who played with Greger Hanson in college (Northern Michigan University- NMU), who was recruited by NMU along with Erik Gustafsson ( NHL Phildelphia Flyers), who plays with Jakub Voracek who played with Rick Nash (NHL Columbus Blue Jackets) who played with Adam Pineault in Columbus who played with Sergei Fedorov in Columbus who played with Darryl Bootland with the Detroit Red Wings. Not sure what the hell this proves other than all hockey players are connected if you look deep enough.