Monday, May 19, 2014

Are Expectations Too High In Allen? - A Lesson From The Ft. Wayne Komets

The Allen Americans have been the most successful team in the CHL in the last five years by almost any measurement you want to look at including most points, most playoff wins, Governor's Cups, and Presidents' Cups. With all of the success over the past five years and the back to back championships a question that surely arises is, are expectation in Allen too high and will a good team that makes a nice playoff run but doesn't make it to the finals be seen as a failure. I came across the article below written by Blake Sebring of The News Sentinel ( in Fort Wayne that addresses this very issue as it relates to the Fort Wayne Komets who won the CHL Presidents' Cup in 2012 and then moved to the ECHL. Last year, Ft. Wayne's first in the ECHL, they did not make the playoffs and this year they lost in the second round to the Cincinnati Cyclones.  Some food for thought for Allen fans going into next year.

Because the Fort Wayne Komets won four titles in six seasons, is every year considered a bad one if they fail to win another championship?
``Yeah, here that's a fair statement,'' Komets forward Chris Auger said. ``That's all you hear about, `Are you guys going to win this year?' It's not, `Are you going to have a good team?' ''
Though the Komets advanced past the first round for the 11th time in their last 12 playoff appearances, it was easy to forget that Auger and Kaleigh Schrock were the only players remaining who had won a championship ring with Fort Wayne. They were part of the 2012 Central Hockey League championship squad.
The Komets also won International Hockey League championships in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Some fans don't put as much emphasis on those three titles as they do the CHL title because the IHL was a smaller league.
That's kind of simplistic way to look at it because at least two of the teams the Komets beat for IHL titles would have easily handled the Wichita team Fort Wayne beat for the CHL crown. They were more experienced, more talented, better coached and they had better goaltending.
Winning a championship again didn't happen this year, but the Komets were probably much closer than anyone expected. They'll find out how close as they watch how Cincinnati does in the next two rounds.
``Hockey is a very opportunistic game,'' Schrock said. ``You can out-play somebody for 50 minutes, but they can cash in on their opportunities and that's it. As long as you go out and give the effort, and limit your mistakes, more times than not you're going to find a way to win games.''
It's the old ``Will beats skill'' mantra, which works in hockey more than in any other sport. Players and fans all believe their team can win as long as they want it bad enough.
``It's not going to happen every year because you're going to run into hot teams, you're going to have bad luck and injuries sometimes,'' Schrock said. ``I personally thought our goal this year was to make a deep run into the playoffs and develop a core that could come back and have a chance to win next year. I think the consistency factor comes in... You're not going to be in the finals every year, but as long as you are competing for that opportunity and you are good enough to do it, then that's important. If you are in the hunt every year, that's the goal, to have a chance to lift the trophy.''
That's fine for the players, who have been dealing with the fans expectations that they win all season, maybe even especially when the Komets were struggling to win at home. The players felt the pressure. Many fans didn't care how well the team played on the road because that's not what they were paying to watch.
``The fans demand the best and they can do that and should do that,'' Auger said. ``They are paying good money to watch us play. Is it unrealistic to deem a season bad if you don't win a championship? Yeah, of course.
``But here, especially this season, you can't rule this year as a success just based on the home record and the way everything happened this year. There was too much stuff that went on.''
What's funny is that so few of the current players had any idea of the expectations in Fort Wayne. They don't know the franchise's history, and to them, the name on the back of the jersey is every bit as important as the one on the front. To them, Fort Wayne is no different than Kalamazoo, Wheeling, Cincinnati or Chicago. Their priority is to move up to the American Hockey League and further their careers.
That's part of why it took so long for the team to come together this season, and why so many trades needed to be made. The players who left, generally, refused to buy into the team concept. Some didn't care about anything but their own points.
``I think it's cool that the fans demand that, but at the end of the day we play minor league hockey,'' Auger said. ``Guys want to win because that's the biggest way to get your career to the next level, to play on winning teams. The year after we won, everyone got good contract offers from other teams.''
And if they aren't going to the AHL, they want to go to Europe where the money is so much better. The players all have agents who are looking for their best options all the time.
Especially in the ECHL, the players and the team sometime have different goals, and it's up to the coach to channel both in one direction.
So do the Komets have to win a title for it to be a successful season?
``Yes, that's the way people see things here,'' Schrock said.
But who specifically?
``The people who wear orange and black in the stands.''
But the people in the stands have to remember that even the Komets have to start over sometimes.

Courtesy CHL Memes

DID YOU KNOW: If you go back to all of the CHL champions since 1996 (19 years) every team is no longer in the league with the exception of  the Arizona Sundogs (2008), Rapid City Rush (2010) and the Allen Americans (2013 & 2014).

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Steven Brothers - Ownership Philosophy, Players Leaving Town, Allen Sets Finals PP Record

I have been getting a lot of questions about what changes will take place now that the Allen Americans have been sold to an ownership group headed by the Steven brothers. If you look at what happened when they bought the Wichita franchise in 2011 and Tulsa franchise in 2013 you can get a good idea of their approach in Allen. In all of the articles from the past a couple of themes are always included. First, the key to success is having a quality on ice product including a top notch coach. I know it has only been a week since the championship game, and a few days since the ownership change was announced but it is time to announce that Steve Martinson has been given a multi year coaching contract. It takes time to get these things finalized especially since everything has to be done long distance but the quicker Martinson's deal is announced the more reassured everyone will be.

The second theme that comes across in articles you read about the Steven brothers and hockey is they very much expect to be profitable in this business and will set goals and hold people accountable. The article below was actually published over a year ago (March 29, 2013) by Josh Heck of the Wichita Business Journal ( It gives you a good idea about the passion the brothers have for hockey and also their approach to ownership. After living through the championship last year when Allen won in the seventh game in overtime against Wichita and the back to back championship this year, you can see why the Steven brothers would want to own the Allen Americans.

The Steven brothers work to build a hockey culture in Wichita, and fans are responding

It’s minutes before the Wichita Thunder’s last home game of the 2012-2013 regular season, and brothers Brandon, Johnny and Rodney Steven make their way toward the plush chairs inside their suite at Intrust Bank Arena.
The passion they have for the team and their newfound love of hockey are evident as they talk about the team and its pending return to the Central Hockey League playoffs.
Rodney sits in the first row and Brandon in the second, leaning forward with their elbows on their knees. Johnny, meanwhile, prefers to stand, watching intently from the end of the row as the puck drops and the game gets under way on March 24.

Moments later, when the Thunder scores its first goal of the game, cheers erupt from the brothers and their family members — 14 of them on this night — who accompany them to most of the team’s home games.
“Sweet pass,” Rodney says.
A second goal is scored and a third, all within three minutes in the first period, and the brothers feel good about the game.
The Thunder is squaring off against the Missouri Mavericks, and first place is on the line. A Thunder win — coupled with a loss by the Allen Americans to the Tulsa Oilers — will give Wichita its second-consecutive regular-season championship and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
Knowing what’s at stake, Johnny spends much of the first period checking the score of the Allen-Tulsa game on his phone and updating his brothers. Aside from that, their attention is fixed on what is happening on the ice in Wichita. They don’t move from their spots until the first intermission.
Brandon, Johnny and Rodney later find out that Allen won its game.
But the Thunder also wins — handily, with a score of 5-2. That makes the Thunder the No. 2 seed in the CHL playoffs, which were to start Thursday.
Seeing the team’s owners so involved at games is common now, but it hasn’t always been that way.
The Steven brothers bought the team from Chicago businessman Horn Chen in August 2011 and started operating the Thunder under Steven Brothers Sports Management LLC.
Brandon, Johnny and Rodney attend virtually all of the Thunder’s home games and some road trips as well.
Professional hockey was a new field for the Steven brothers when they bought the team, but they made a promise to be visible and available, traits that many felt were missing from the previous ownership.
“When ownership is there, it holds everybody accountable to do their job,” Rodney says.
So far, the Steven brothers have kept their promise, and those close to the team say they’re creating a winning culture and attitude throughout the organization.
Winning on the ice goes hand-in-hand with increases in attendance and revenue.
In 2012, the Thunder advanced to the CHL finals, and the team and its owners are hoping for a similar run this year, with a championship being the end goal.

Paying dividends

The Steven brothers say they feel good about the strides that are being made with the team in terms of wins, attendance and sales. They say the team was profitable last season and will be this year, despite increases in the operating budget. They won’t disclose specific figures.
The Thunder now has more than 2,000 season-ticket holders. Average attendance this season was nearly 6,000, up from the early 2000s, when it was 3,500-4,000.
The Thunder played its March 24 game in front of 10,264 fans, the largest crowd of the season. That helped the team finish first in the CHL in overall attendance — 184,772 for the season.
Fans seem to appreciate the changes.
Longtime season-ticket holder Rick Boczek says the team is much more competitive than it has been in years past, a reflection of the owners’ willingness to spend more money on a top-notch coach — Kevin McClelland — and good players.
Boczek says the Steven brothers have helped to create a winner, and he hopes that kind of atmosphere is here to stay.
“It’s obvious the Steven brothers do care,” he says.
The team has more than 75 corporate sponsorship partners, including Prairie Fire Coffee Roasters, Hall’s Culligan Water, Sonic Drive-In and Verizon Wireless. The Thunder ranks third in the CHL for corporate sales revenue, though exact numbers aren’t disclosed.
Rodney says corporate sponsorships were up 42 percent this season, and much of the interest is coming from businesses that haven’t sponsored the team before, such as Kansas Medical Center and Subway.

A team approach

The Steven brothers have a record of success in their businesses — Rodney and Johnny have Genesis Health Clubs, and Brandon runs Brandon Steven Motors and Eddy’s Toyota — and they’re transferring their team approach to the Thunder.
The new owners of the team set attendance and sales goals and hold staffers accountable to them.
“When the Steven family bought this team, things changed 100 percent,” says Joel Lomurno, who has been the Thunder general manager since 2007 and has been with the team for 20 of its 21 years in existence. “They gave us the tools to make this thing a very successful venture.”
The Steven brothers have grown the team’s back-office staff from four to 15 people, giving it more personnel to focus on increasing sales and sponsorships. They’ve spent money on attracting top players and coaches and this year bought a bus for the team. (They used to charter one.)
The Stevens also have worked to create a family-friendly atmosphere during games by bringing costumed characters like Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants to games. Kiosks where kids can get balloons or player pictures also are set up throughout the arena’s concourses.
“It’s an entertainment business,” Brandon says.
The owners want the Thunder, and hockey in general, to be popular and successful in Wichita for years to come.
And they’re trying to market hockey to the next generation as well. They’ve added a junior hockey team, and Rodney is involved with operations of the Wichita Ice Center through his Genesis Health Clubs business.
“We’re trying to grow grass-roots hockey,” he says.


- It doesn't take long from championship, to celebrations, to scattered to the winds. There has been a steady stream of players heading to the airport the last few days; Hanson, Tarasuk, Franson, Graham, Zion, Maiani, Lavoie, and Lessard to name just a few. And then those that make the long trek by driving like Schaafsma to Ontario or Bryan Pitton to California. Those that will be here during the summer include the Ludwigs, Bootland, Tetrault and McMillin. It won't be long until the focus will change to building a roster for next season. Such is the life cycle in the CHL.

- With silly season in full swing one of the issues you see talked about is at what point in terms of number of teams in the league can teams get out of their contractual responsibilities to the CHL. There has been the urban legend that if the league gets down to eight or six teams the remaining teams would be free to leave the league. I checked with the league office and was told there is no such clause in the team agreements.

Embedded image permalink
Courtesy CHL Memes


DID YOU KNOW: Until this year when Allen went 0-26 on the power play in the finals, no team (either winning or losing team) had ever been held scoreless on the power play in the CHL finals. The closest was the Austin Ice Bats who were 1-22 in 2003 when they lost to the Memphis RiverKings in the finals.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cain Franson Gets Hometown Accolades

Found the article below in Cain Franson's hometown paper (Sicamous Eagle Valley News). In case you didn't see it earlier, here are his summer plans. I will go back home (Sicamous, British Columbia) for a couple of weeks and rest up there and see my family and friends. I will then go to Kelowna to live with my brother and train. It is only a 90 minute drive so I will spend the week in Kelowna and then come home for the weekends. I will not get back on the ice until July. My brother and I will play some golf, softball and baseball with friends and family. I am going to take a vacation to Cancun at the end of June. As for my plans for next year I am undecided if I will play pro hockey or go to college. I will see how things go this summer.

Franson joins CHL champs Allen Americans

The above hockey card is a memento of Cain Franson’s last season with the Vancouver Giants. - Image contributed

Just over a month after saying goodbye to the Vancouver Giants, Cain Franson will be slipping into a championship ring, as will his new teammates on the Allen Americans, the 2014 Central Hockey League President’s Cup champions.
The 2013/14 season was Franson’s last as a junior hockey player with the Giants. He finished the year with 30 goals and 63 points in 245 games. On April 7, the Sicamous product signed a contract with the Americans, (affiliated with the AHL’s Texas Stars and the NHL’s Dallas Stars), and joined the team on the frontline in their successful playoff run.
“Cain performed quite well and it was a very positive experience competing at the minor pro level,” says his father Cal Franson.
On the Allen Americans blog, Cain credits brother Cody, a fellow-Giants alumnus and current Maple Leafs D-man, for helping him train and quell any early self-doubt about his ability to play.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without him,” said Cain.
The 21-year old describes himself as an “offensive threat” with a  defensive game that developed considerably over the past couple of years, making him a complete player.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

It Is Official - Americans Issue Press release on New Ownership

Here is the press release about the new ownership courtesy of the Allen Americans. Sorry for the black on red print.

Allen, TX- The Allen Americans finalized a transfer of ownership from Top Shelf, LLC to a group of investors that includes Steven Brothers Sports Management, LLC, owners of the CHL’s Wichita Thunder and Tulsa Oilers. 
The deal takes place during a remarkable time for the Americans franchise, who clinched their second consecutive CHL Championship on Saturday in front of a season-high crowd of 6,125. Ironically the Americans – in just their fifth CHL season – joined the Wichita Thunder and the Memphis RiverKings as the only back-to-back winners of the CHL Ray Miron Presidents’ Cup.  
This has been a long but thorough process to get this transaction completed but we are thrilled that we can help cement the future of the Americans in Allen as they close out another successful season”, said Rodney Steven II, who owns Steven Brothers Sports Management, LLC along with his brothers Brandon Steven and Johnny Steven. “The Americans already have a great partner in the City of Allen, tremendous support from the community and a proven winner in head coach Steve Martinson. “We are excited to give this team all the tools it needs to continue their success and grow their already great fanbase.” 
Steven Brothers Sports Management, LLC was formed in 2011 when they purchased the Wichita Thunder. The Thunder subsequently advanced to the CHL Finals in both the 2011-12 and the 2012-13 seasons, losing the Championship in 2013 to Allen in an epic seven game series that was decided in sudden death overtime. The Steven Brothers purchased the Tulsa Oilers last summer, guiding the Oilers back to the CHL playoffs this past season.
The Steven Brothers own and operate Genesis Health Clubs in Kansas and Missouri, just adding their 13th facility, which supports their belief in physical activity and fitness. The partners also own and operate multiple car dealerships throughout the Wichita Area including Brandon Steven Motors, Subaru of Wichita, Ford of Augusta, Eddy’s Toyota and most recently Eddy’s Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram.
The CHL salutes the strong fan base in Allen, their passion for the team and excellent corporate support which has built the Americans into a strong national brand”, said CHL Commissioner Steve Ryan. “We are thankful for everything that Doug Miller did these last five years to help showcase CHL hockey in North Texas. The league believes the new ownership group will successfully build upon these foundations and continue the winning tradition the team has enjoyed.”

Shocker: Wichita Owners To Buy Allen Americans - The "Silly Season" Is On

For my last daily blog post of the season (emphasis on daily) I wanted to share the rumors I have been hearing from different sources around the CHL. I want to emphasize NONE of the information below is from any team or the league office so it is rumor and conjecture on my part and could not be fact. It is information I have seen or heard from around the CHL and after all "silly season" is just that, a bunch of outrageous rumors with only a few pearls of truth mixed in.


I want to start with the Allen Americans as that is the team I know the best and it is well known that the team has been for sale for most of the season. A deal to transfer ownership to a new group has been completed according to many sources around the league. If you follow the messages boards and social media it has been pretty widely reported that the new majority owners of the Allen Americans will be the Steven brothers (Rodney, Brandon, Johnny)  who currently own the franchises in Wichita and Tulsa.  I have always been led to believe that when the team did change ownership it would be to a group as opposed to one entity and  part of the ownership group should/would include local presence. So my assumption would be there will be local ownership involved in the team as well. If the Steven brothers are the new majority owners of the team that will be a good thing for the organization as they are dedicated to winning and believe the on ice product is the key to financial success. The Steven brothers are young successful guys who own numerous health clubs and car lots in Wichita among their business holdings. They bought the Wichita franchise in 2011 and Tulsa in 2013. Their philosophy about building a successful franchise can be seen in their statements when they bought Tulsa last year. Here are some quotes from the Tulsa purchase. I have taken the liberty to substitute "Allen" for "Tulsa" in these quotes so you can see how they might approach things in Allen.
  "We are thrilled to have the opportunity to be part of the next chapter of Allen Americans hockey. This franchise has an outstanding history, an extremely loyal fan base, and one of the best arenas in the Central Hockey League. We are looking forward to working closely with the coach as well as the American's players and staff to make sure the team has everything it needs to be successful."
  "Our first priority is to put a strong, competitive team on the ice. We need to win consistently. These fans in Allen deserve to watch a playoff caliber team that will compete for championships."
   "We want to re-energize our existing fans but we also want to make a big push to reach new fans, to attract families, and to let everyone know that Allen Americans hockey is the very best entertainment value in this entire region."
From left to right Rodney, Johnny & Brandon Steven

 A press conference billed as an "End of Year Press Conference" was scheduled for today for the media only. The notification about the press conference was sent around 2:00 pm yesterday afternoon but at about 2:00 am this morning a message went out postponing the press conference because of a conflict for Coach Martinson. Since it is silly season I am guessing (I haven't been told this by anyone) new ownership was going to be discussed/announced/talked about at this press conference and some issue came up that caused the postponement. 

The most important questions to be answered by the new owners from my perspective is what changes will be made to the current staff. I have said on the blog before, Steve Martinson needs to be retained with a multi year deal and the same can be said for Richard Matvichuk. If the new owners are the Steven brothers they just gave Wichita coach Kevin McClelland a contract extension so it should not be a stretch to give the back to back championship coaches a multi year deal.

 Will the new owners favor a two coach team? What changes if any will be made in the front office? How will the team be run differently than in the past and what impact will that have on the recruitment and retention of top players? After all Allen has had the formula for success from the first year of the franchise.

For those that still think the ECHL is an option for Allen next year I would say no way, not going to happen. The driving force for that was a previous owner.

I want to say again nothing is certain until it is officially announced and while it seems based on all of the sources around the league saying this is a done deal until we hear something official from the Allen Americans anything can happen. After all, it is "silly season" in the CHL.


I know it is important to maintain at least a ten team league and that remains a question mark at this point. I have heard the same ownership group buying the Americans recently made a trip to Laredo to look at putting a team there but that didn't pan out. St. Charles is searching for new ownership and you hear several other places mentioned as possible expansion opportunities including  Louisville, Minnesota and another team in Canada among a bunch of others. Could the Brahmas be reactivated? Whether any new teams can be added for this coming season is doubtful but not impossible. You hear all of the time it is not too late to start up a new franchise but if you talk to most sales and marketing folks they will tell you it is already too late to do it right.

Then you hear other rumors (not substantiated as it is silly season) about teams like Rapid City, Denver and Arizona not playing in the league next year. The rumors include Rapid City going dark for a year and then moving to the ECHL or getting out of the CHL and coming back with a USHL franchise, Arizona being displaced by an AHL team, and Denver moving to another league. My personal feeling is all of these teams will be in the CHL next year and the league will do everything in its power to have a ten team league.

Most people that have been around long enough to know and understand the CHL business model  will tell you that it is not a matter of if but when the league will be forced to consolidate with the ECHL or more likely have some teams move to the ECHL, some to the SPHL and some to junior hockey. Rapid City Coach Joe Ferras mentioned recently in his year end meeting with fans that the Missouri Mavericks were the only profitable team in the CHL right now and the Chill lost 1.7 million dollars this year.

So there you have my perspective on the "silly season" and as always what transpires over the next couple months may or may not bear any resemblance to what is being talked about today. I can speak for most Allen fans and assume this applies to most of the fans that read this blog when the season comes around in October we will be "all in" supporting our teams no matter what happens during "silly season."

This will be my last daily blog post for the year. It has been something like 240 days straight and it is time for a break. I am like the players as I am taking a vacation (two weeks of fishing in Canada & Minnesota) and then will come back and hit the gym. In my case I will try and shed the twenty pounds I gained during the season by writing the blog in the morning instead of working out. I will still blog on an as needed basis as new information becomes available. If you are on Facebook or Twitter you can see whenever there is a new post on the blog by liking my page on Facebook at "Allen Americans Blog" or following me on Twitter at @allenamericans1. I will also put any new post up at which is a great place to get information about all teams in the CHL during the off season.

DID YOU KNOW: Since 1992 when the CHL was reestablished there have been over 40 different teams in the league. The Tulsa Oilers and Wichita Thunder are the only two teams that have been in the league since 1992.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Boys Of Summer - Players & Coaches Plans For The Off Season

As the championship celebrations wind down and the players head for home thought you might enjoy hearing about their summer plans. As fun and exciting it is to win the Presidents' Cup it comes with the realization that the makeup of the team will be vastly different next year and many of these players will not return which has a sad component to it, but that is a story for another day.

Thanks to all of the players who shared their plans with me:

Jamie Schaafsma - We will head back home to Chatham, Ontario as we bought a home their two summers ago. It is close to my parents and Nicole's parents so lots of time for our two little ones to spend time with grandparents. My brother has a security business installing security alarms and cameras and I will help him. The group home for foster kids where I have worked part time for five summers closed in February. I have a six week fire fighting course I will be taking through the Professional Hockey Player's Association (PHPA) along with Bryan Pitton. We are doing some of the course long distance but then we will go to Mississauga for six weeks in mid June to a training facility where we will do all of the hands on training. Other than that I will be spending time with the kids as Nicole will be working at the hospital. We usually get a cabin with some friends for a week in the summer and hopefully we will be able to do that again. I will take a week or two off and then start training again. I will do some skating with some other professionals in the area and play some shinny hockey. I will play some softball (shortstop, pitcher, outfield) and a little golf as well. We have a family golf tournament each year called the Schaafsma open. I have a brother who works for General Motors who is moving to Singapore for three years so we will spend time with him and his family before they depart as we won't see them for a long time.

Cain Franson - I will go back home (Sicamous, British Columbia) for a couple of weeks and rest up there and see my family and friends. I will then go to Kelowna to live with my brother and train. It is only a 90 minute drive so I will spend the week in Kelowna and then come home for the weekends. I will not get back on the ice until July. My brother and I will play some golf, softball and baseball with friends and family. I am going to take a vacation to Cancun at the end of June. As for my plans for next year I am undecided if I will play pro hockey or go to college. I will see how things go this summer.

Phil Fox - I will be heading home to Stillwater, Minnesota and will live with my brother. I will work at the same high school hockey camp I have worked at for several years and will also work at a training facility. I will play a lot of golf and softball. I am not sure if I will play next year or start my coaching career as it all depends on what opportunities present themselves. I will be going to Washington DC to visit my sister in August. I play in an eight team men's hockey league that is pretty competitive and it is easy to find pick up hockey games as well. I will spend some time with Pearl (dog) who I don't see during the hockey season.

Jarret Lukin - I will head home to Calgary for a bit but am not sure where I will be working. I may go to Ft. McMurray (center of Canada'a oil sands production) to work for a while. I will get a trainer like I have done in the past. I will see Colton Yellow Horn as we play in a four on four tournament at the end of this month. We are called the "Toe Dragons" and we won the tournament last year. Aaron Dell also played with us. I will play some golf as my dad loves to play golf. I will also spend some time with my nephew who is three now and at that fun age. He is just starting to skate so I am sure we will spend some time on the ice together. I will turn into a cowboy for ten days when the Calgary Stampede takes place in July.

Trevor Hendrikx - I will be heading to California to spend some time with my girlfriend (Cassi) and then head home to Ottawa, Ontario for a month or two to work at some hockey schools and help out my parents who have a flower nursery. No specific vacation plans but I definitely need one. We will probably take a beach vacation sometime this summer. I am not a golfer but enjoy fishing as does Cassi so I go fishing as often as possible whether it is ocean fishing in California or lakes in Ontario.

Tyler Ludwig - I will take a couple of weeks to let the body heal and spend time with the family. Our annual family vacation to Wisconsin will be later than normal this year because Trevor just had a baby and we need to wait until she is a little older and my younger brother (CJ) has signed a contract with Oklahoma City and he has to be in Edmonton for a bit of rehab for an injury he had at college this year and then he will be at training camp with Edmonton in July. We will have our summer hockey team again (we won last year) and hopefully will play in a softball league as well. I hope to get in a few rounds of golf before it gets too hot outside. I will be working full time again this year for Mark Miller like I did last year.

Greger Hanson - I will be headed to North Carolina to be with my wife (Andrea) who is attending law school. She will be doing an internship this summer and I am hoping to get an internship as well. I will be in North Carolina for most of the summer and hopefully will be able to go home to Sweden to see my family sometime in August. Since I have been more injured this year than in the past I will take off two or three weeks before I start training. My off season training is more of a track and field style training and I will stay off  of the ice until late August.

Trevor Ludwig - I will play hockey and softball with my brother and some friends this summer. I will still be rehabbing for the next month or two using putty and balls to keep strengthening my arm. My arm is getting stronger all of the time and I can shoot better every week. The doctor and therapist are surprised and happy with my progress thus far. The biggest difference for us this summer is our daughter, Lynden who was born 4/14/14. We will take our annual family vacation to Wisconsin in August to introduce Lynden to grandparents and other family. 

Garrett Klotz - I am heading to Maui to spend some time with a buddy who works on power lines and got called to a job in Hawaii. He has a house with some other linemen so I am going to spend a couple weeks with him. After Hawaii I will head home to Regina, Saskatchewan where I will work at some hockey camps, train some kids and workout and train myself. I will play hockey during the summer and I am a big outdoors guy so I will spend lots of time at a cabin fishing and hunting. I also do a lot of biking in the summer.

Jonathan Lessard - I will head home to Quebec to spend time with my family and friends and train. I will take a couple of weeks off before I start training. Normally I take longer to rest my body after the season but because we played so long I won't take much time off. I will play a little summer hockey with some friends and will also get on the ice with my trainer. I will play as much golf as possible during the summer. I have no plans for a vacation.

Steven Tarasuk - I will be heading home to Ontario to visit family and friends. Because we have made such a good run to the championship the other guys at home have already started their workout programs so I will only take a week or two off and then get right back at it. I work at some hockey camps to make some money. As for vacations the only thing I have planed is a visit to London, Ontario where I played junior hockey to visit my billet family. I will probably go to Montreal for a few days as well. I try to stay active in the summer whether it is playing hockey, beach volleyball or tennis.

 Ross MacKinnon - I will take some time to recover from the season and then get back on the ice in late June. I need to find a job. Last year I worked at a golf course so I might do that again. In addition to playing a lot of golf I play a lot of tennis as it helps with footwork. My vacation this year is attending the US Open golf tournament which will be played at Pinehurst in North Carolina. I am really looking forward to that.

Jonathan Zion - I will be heading back to Ottawa and will play sports all summer. I won't take any time off from training and will get right into it when I get home. I do a lot of mixed martial arts training in the summer. I am also into yoga and do a lot of bike riding. Ottawa has great biking trails that go through some beautiful areas. We have one of the biggest beach volleyball tournaments in the world each year and I will play in that. I am a big music buff and will go to as many concerts as I can. We have an event called Blues Fest which is ten days long, we have Jazz Fest and also a country music festival. It is the best city to be in if you like music. No vacations planned because I am gone during the hockey season and it is nice to stay home in the summer. I might go to Montreal in June for the Formula One race weekend.

Bryan Pitton - I will be driving to Lodi, California with my wife (Katie) who will be helping out her parents during the summer. I will leave California in mid June to head back to Canada to attend a six week firefighters course with my brother (Jason) and Jamie Schaafsma. It works out great for me as the training facility is in my hometown so all I have to do is wake up and drive fifteen minutes down the road. After the firefighters course I will head back to California to spend time with Katie and then we will come back to Canada as I am the best man in my brothers wedding which is in August. I love to hunt and fish and will do as much of that as possible. I have already missed an annual fishing tournament we have every year and also spring turkey hunting. My brother has already got a turkey. But I much prefer being in Allen winning a championship. I work at a goalie school during the summer which is nine hours a day on the ice so I will do that though it will be different this year with the firefighting course. I play in a softball league with my brother and some buddies but do not play golf. I would rather fish than golf.

Ross Rouleau - We are actually moving to Minnesota to be closer to parents and grandparents. As of right now I don't plan to play next year but that is always subject to change. We will see what the fall brings. I will play some pick up hockey this summer but just for fun. We have no vacations planned other than visiting family.

Kale Kerbashian - I will go home to Thunder Bay for the summer. I  help coach a AAA 15 year old team and really enjoy that. I spend a lot of time with friends and family in the off season. I train with a bunch of other professionals and we also play hockey every week. I am going to enjoy this second championship and then decide what to do for next year. It looks like I will have a couple of good tryout opportunities so we will see what happens.

Alex Lavoie - I will head home to the Montreal area and take a few weeks off to heal up my body. I will then start training at the same gym I have been training at where there are many NHL players and other professionals. Jonathan Lessard and Antoine Roussel train at the same gym. We also will go on the ice at the gym where we train.  I will spend time with my family and also do some fishing which I really enjoy. I have a vacation planned in June with some friends and we are going to visit Cuba.  I will also play a lot of golf with my parents and my friends.

Anthony Maiani - I will be heading home to Shelby Township, Michigan to spend time with my friends and family. I will help out with the family catering business which is very busy this time of year.  Around mid July I will join some friends for our annual trip to Las Vegas. After a week in Vegas I will head over to the University of Denver where I live with and train with some other Denver alums including Tyler Bozak who plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs. I might go to Phoenix this weekend for a bachelor party and then I have to go to Toronto for a wedding. I actually have three weddings to attend this summer so it will be busy. And as always I will play a lot of golf this summer.

 Spencer Asuchak - I will head home (British Columbia) to work, train, and play a lot of golf. As far as training is concerned this is a weird year as I have never played this long so I don't want to miss too much but I need a little time to heal up after a long season. I will be stacking a lot of cases of beer as my summer job is at the Liquor Warehouse. I love boating and the beach in addition to golfing. The only vacation I have planned so far is to visit my grandparents on Vancouver Island.

Bruce Graham - We will be headed back to our home in the Moncton, New Brunswick area. I have not given a lot of  thought to our summer plans yet. I will take a few weeks off to heal and will then start to train again. I definitely now have the bug to play another year or two and will train with that goal in mind. My side of the family is building a cottage in Nova Scotia right on the ocean (Bay of Fundy) so I will be involved in that. I will also try and play some golf.

Brian McMillin - I will be spending most of the summer in Allen as Wendy started a new job when we returned and so we will stay here. My brother is graduating from high school so we will go back to Minnesota for that in about a week and have a chance to visit with friends and family and hopefully get in some walleye fishing. When we get back from Minnesota I will get back to training at Cooper Fitness and hope to play a lot of golf as well. Will also try and get in some bass fishing before it gets too hot in Texas. Wendy has to go to San Diego for work in August so we will make that a mini vacation.

Daniel Tetrault - I will be giving a lot of skating lessons to kids in Richardson as that is my passion. At the end of the month we will be going to San Diego with Tabayia's parents and brothers to relax and play some golf. The plan is to coach hockey this coming year but things change. I will train like I always have whether it is for hockey or for my health. Whether I play another year is a question mark. I  have waited a long time to taste a championship and once it happened you want to do it again. We will see.

Darryl Bootland - Our summer plans are still up in the air. I have an offer from a hockey school that travels around the US and then a couple things in Dallas so we will see what happens. We will spend time with Sarah's family around Conroe. I will take two or three weeks off before I resume training to let my body heal. I am the player representative for the team so will attend the Professional Hockey Players Association (PHPA) meeting in Las Vegas in June and we will make a vacation out of that.

Mike Berube - We will be heading home to Edmonton, Alberta and I will work with my brother and dad who own a kitchen cabinet company. I have done this for the last six years. I'll take off a couple of weeks to rest my body.  I will work out with a long time friend.  I do play some summer hockey just for fun with my brothers in law, brother and dad and I play in a charity softball game every summer. I also play a lot of golf. We will take a vacation to Palm Springs later this month with my brother. My brother in law is getting married this summer so that will be fun to attend.

Richard Matvichuk - I spend so much time away from the family during the season it is now my time to give back to the family. They are out of school on May 29th so we will have some fun in the summer. My eighteen year old is graduating this year so we will take some type of beach vacation but nothing is planned yet.

Steve Martinson - We will stay in Allen until school is out and then head to our home in Rockford, Illinois for the summer. We have a home on the river so it is like a vacation all summer. We have a sports court, boats, and ATV's so it is a lot of fun for the family. We might take a trip to the gulf coast the end of the month before we head north. There really is never an off season for a hockey coach as you are recruiting all year around. I keep in touch with lots of players.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You Plus A Preview of "Boys of Summer" & "Silly Season"

While we are all still basking in the glory of a hockey season that ended with back to back championships it is time for me to say my thank yous to all involved. I sure consider myself lucky to have started this blog two seasons ago and having both of them end with championships.

Who would have imagined a blog started for the Heritage Ranch Allen Americans fan club now reaches people all over the US and Canada as well as the hockey hotbeds in Europe on a daily basis. It proves Allen Americans fans are all over the world.

I want to start out by thanking all of the fans that frequent this blog. It has been my pleasure to meet many of you and your words of encouragement in person, comments at the end of each blog post, on Twitter, Facebook and email have been very satisfying and inspiring.

Thanks to the many fans, bloggers, and media from all over the league that have promoted the blog as fair and balanced and also have shared information with me about their teams. One of the unexpected benefits of writing the blog has been getting to know all of the passionate fans from the other CHL teams.

Jim Wiley, Director of Hockey Operations and Bob Hoffman, Director of Operations for the CHL have spent more time with me than I deserved to help educate me about policies, rules, discipline, rosters, and officials. They are always willing to explain the rationale behind their decisions and while you don't always agree you can appreciate their willingness to share how a decision was made. They both have difficult jobs to do but have always been open and honest with me and very responsive.

Thank you to the players who have never said no to a single request I have made of them for a chat, an interview or a question.  I have gotten to know most of these young men both professionally and personally and they have represented the Americans in an outstanding manner.

One of my goals when I started the blog was to share the personal stories of the players. The wives/girlfriends, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and friends I have met have been great in sharing family stories which I have then been able to share on the blog. Thanks to all of you.

Thanks to Steve Martinson, Richard Matvichuk, Kacee Coberly, & Osama Kassab for always being willing to talk to me and help educate me. A special thanks to coaches Martinson and Matvichuk for allowing me to stop by their office after every game and every practice to ask questions and talk about the team. It is their openness and trust that has allowed the blog to have information you can't find anywhere else.

A special thank you to Tommy Daniels, Director of Communication & Broadcasting who has been a tremendous help to me all season. He is the one that encouraged me to start the blog, made me feel like part of the media team, answered many questions, let me stop by his office on almost a daily basis to get current information, publicized the blog to attract new readership, and invited me to be part of the between periods conversation on his radio broadcast to talk hockey and promote the blog.

Thanks to Erik Adams and Tom Manning for letting me bother them with questions when they are busy with other duties. Erik has been the liaison with the fan club at Hertiage Ranch and has devoted many hours talking to the fan club and helping me arrange for guests at our fan club meetings.

Unlike most writers, bloggers, and other media types that cover the Americans I have a dual role as in addition to being a blogger I also coordinate the activities of the fan club at Heritage Ranch. In this capacity I spend a lot of time in the front office of the Americans arranging for season tickets, suites, individual game tickets, seats for soldiers tickets, and other promotions. I want to thank the entire sales and marketing staff and  especially Mike Martin and Robert Fatta who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help the residents of Heritage Ranch.

Finally thanks to Matt Canavan, club President, who is always willing to answer all of my questions about how the league operates, the business end of minor pro hockey and any other questions I may have.

So a second magical season has come to an end. I have been a season ticket holder since the beginning so I have been following the team since its inception but these last two seasons have been different. I was able to see the team from a different perspective and the access I was given by the entire organization helped me bring the story to the blog.

Now everything is over except a couple more celebrations (Splitsville tonight and Game On Sports tomorrow), exit physicals and interviews. Then everyone will scatter to the wind and all of the uncertainty about next year commences. Based on history  more than half of the players will not return. I plan on writing two more blogs post before the daily posts turn into periodic posts for the summer. Tomorrow will be the "Boys of Summer" which is about what all of the players had to say about their summer plans. You will find out everything from who is going to Cuba on vacation, who is building a cottage on the ocean, who is taking courses to become a fireman, and who throws around cases of beer for a summer job. Then on Wednesday it will be "The Silly Season" with all of the rumors about the CHL from expansion to contraction, changes with the Allen Americans and other teams around the league. This will be a good one for sure.

Finally, the guys that run the Team Store asked me to share the following information:
In case you didn't get one of the two championship shirts after the game on Saturday we will have them at the Team Store and celebration events as well as online. Also preorder forms will be out and at the Team Store if you want the special edition "Come and Take It, 2013-2014 Back to Back" jersey which can be customized with any name and number you choose. We are also preordering pucks, ministick and hats. The jersey will be on the Team Store website soon or you can stop by the Team Store for additional details.

                                                       Thanks again,  Barry

Embedded image permalink
Courtesy CHL Memes

DID YOU KNOW: In the last twelve years the CHL championship final has been won in five games six times. It has gone to seven games three times, six games twice, and only once (2008 Arizona defeated Colorado) has the finals ended in a four game sweep.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Allen Wins, You Will Walk Together Forever

THE CHAMPS - photo by
It wasn't as dramatic as last year but it was quite a feat as the Allen Americans won their second consecutive Presidents' Cup last night with a 5-2 win over the Denver Cutthroats to win the series 4-1. How cool is it to celebrate the one year anniversary of winning the franchise's first championship by getting a sold out crowd of 6125 together to win a second championship. The goal scorers were Kerbashian (2), Bootland, Schaafsma and Lessard.

I have so many thoughts about the game, the team, the coach, the fans and the season that this will be a long rambling post so I ask for forgiveness up front. I will save all of my thanks yous for another post I will do tomorrow. Here goes:

- To the Denver team a heartfelt congratulations on an outstanding year. A great hockey team that made it to the CHL finals in only their second season in the league. Definitely a team to be reckoned with in the future.

- The one player all of the coaches, players and fans were most happy for was no doubt Daniel Tetrault. A natural born leader, in his fourteenth year of professional hockey, he earned his first championship on his third trip to the finals. His "will" and his "want" were so obvious on the ice you could cut it with a knife. In addition to leading all players in the playoffs with a plus/minus of +19 he contributed points in four of the five games in the finals. In the locker room the team counted down each victory during the playoffs starting with 12 by having a player change the number after each victory. When it was time to change the number from 1 to 0 after the championship victory last night the honor went to Tetrault. The 34 year old veteran, the oldest player on the team was also the ironman of the team, playing in every game this year. That total is 66 regular season and 17 playoff games. What a way to go out, winning a championship. And what a nice touch by captain Mike Berube as the first person he gave the cup to after it was presented to him by Jim Wiley, CHL Director of Hockey Operations was Daniel Tetrault.

- It was such an unreal feeling in the AEC as the game ended with all of the excitement but I also sensed the pride that was running through the fans. I think everyone felt part of the team at that moment. It was quite special.

- As much as I enjoyed watching the players celebrate on the ice it was also great to see how excited the rest of the staff was, like equipment manager Kacee Coberly and his helper Jordon Dutton, trainer Ossama Kassab, bus driver Scott Alexander, and all of the front office staff.

- For Kacee Coberly it was his last hockey game as he is headed home to Oklahoma to begin a second career outside of hockey that is more family friendly. No more long road trips and late nights at the rink. What a way to go out for Kacee with a second championship and also being voted the best equipment manager in the CHL this year. Good luck Kacee, you will be missed.

- It was also great to see all of the wives, girlfriends, friends and particularly family celebrate with the guys. I saw tears of joy 30 minutes after the game was over. How special for all of them!

- On this Mothers Day a special acknowledgement to the moms on the team. Yes, the hockey season is grueling for the players but imagine what it is like for the moms with young children to deal with late night hockey games, long road trips, all of the "guy" activities and after hours commitments. How about the team giving the wives and girlfriends a championship necklace this year to go along with the championship rings the players receive. And no I wasn't put up to this by one of the wives. Well, maybe one of them suggested it would be a good idea but I wholeheartedly agree.

- Congratulations to Jamie Schaafsma on being named the playoff MVP. I always call Jamie a good luck charm as he has now been in the championship finals for six straight years. Jamie's story this year somewhat mirrors what happened last year with Brian McMillin. Jamie had a slow start with only one goal in the first nineteen games of the season, his playing time was reduced and he missed some games. He stayed positive, worked hard and his play the last part of the season and the playoffs led to his MVP selection. For the record, Jamie led the team in scoring during the playoffs with twenty points (10 goals 10 assists).  And we all found out this year he is a pretty darn good defenseman when he pitched in when needed because of injuries.

- Another player that is great to see win a ring is Greger Hanson who had an outstanding playoffs with seventeen points (7 goals 10 assists). If you remember, Greger did not get to play in game seven last year when he was with Wichita as he was injured in game six (broken jaw). His speed, quickness and tenacity were evident in this year's playoffs and that wrap around goal to win game three in the finals will be talked about for years to come. Greger had four game winning goals in the playoffs.

- It was nice to see players from the past at the game last night including Jordie Benn (2009-2010), Chris Kaufman (2009-2010), and Jason Deitsch (2011-2013)


Coach Martinson was kind enough to take some time from the celebration to come into the season ticket holder lounge after the game and share his thoughts. It was great to see this old school, nose to the grindstone, grizzled veteran of many battles both as a player and a coach with a big smile on his face. He knows what works as a coach and he lives and dies with his approach which is definitely old school. As he has said many times I stay out of the players locker room,  I expect them to do the right thing, I am not a babysitter, I don't spend time with the players on the bus, I don't eat with the players, I have enough friends so I don't need the players to be my friend. I'm sure the championship means a lot to Steve even though it is old hat to him. This is his second championship with Allen for a total of eight as a coach to go along with the two championships he won as a player.  This guy is a winner and he knows how to coach and more importantly he knows how to recruit players. He deserves a long term contract and I hope whoever owns this team gives him one. Here are a few of the comments from Martinson:

- What a great crowd and it really helped us tonight. Momentum is such a big part of hockey and the crowd helped the guys keep going. Once we got that first goal you could feel the crowd come alive.

- Everyone on this team, including the injured guys, contributed to this championship. Different guys throughout the series made plays, young guys, veterans, those that had lots of ice time and those that didn't.

- You need veteran guys in the playoffs to lead by example and that is what Daniel Tetrault did along with many others. It is always good to have youth on your team and they carried us early in the year but at this time of year you really want  your veteran guys to step up and lead by example and Tetrault did that for us.

- It was hard to get going in the first period as we had to kill eight minutes of penalties. Penalty killers upfront is one area where did not have a lot of depth this year.

- I thought playing three games in four nights really favored our team. They have that one big line and in the playoffs that is a lot of skating for that line. I have had some teams that have had the top scorers in the league and if they go cold in the playoffs you don't have the depth. Having three games in four nights on home ice with last change and our depth was hard to overcome.

- We had a lot of guys who contributed and made plays during the playoffs but Jamie Schaafsma had an outstanding playoffs and was deserving of the MVP. He had a slow start to the year but the second half of the season he was one of our best players. He scores, kills penalties, plays both sides of the puck and has a good personality. For me, it is really nice to see a guy like Jamie have success.

- Bryan Pitton certainly could have been the MVP as he played great. Once we went down to one goalie he grabbed it and took control. I am really happy for him as he had some tough times as many goalies have early in their career in the ECHL. I have never had a more low maintenance goalie than Bryan.


- Kale Kerbashian was named the games #1 star last night. It was fun to see Kale get stronger and stronger each game since he returned from injury six games ago. Last might he had two goals, an assist and was a +4.

- Having lived through this championship euphoria last year everyone knows what is about to happen and that is lots of change. That is why I like so much about Fred Shero's quote, "Win today and we walk together forever." This team will be connected forever and their accomplishments remembered but make no mistake changes always happen and this year probably more than normal. It is sad to know so many of those we have come to know and enjoy will not be back. But for a couple of days lets celebrate and thank the guys for a job well done.

Courtesy CHL Memes

DID YOU KNOW: In the odd stat category, how about winning the Presidents' Cup without scoring a single power play goal in the entire final series as Allen went 0-26 on the power play.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Goodbye 0-4 Friday, Coaches Post Game Comments, 2nd Championship on Anniversay of 1st Possible Tonight

Goodbye 0-4 Friday and hello championship anniversary Saturday. Jonathan Lessard's  goal at 3:53 of overtime put an end to the American's Friday night losing streak and now gives Allen the opportunity to win a second Presidents' Cup in a row exactly one year to the day from their first President's Cup. Yes, it was a year ago today (Saturday, May 11, 2013) that Todd Robinson scored the dramatic overtime goal to win Allen's first Presidents' Cup.

For the first time in the series the team that scored first did not win the game as Robin Soudek got Denver on the scoreboard first just five minutes into the game. However, from that point forward Allen had one of their best periods of hockey during the playoffs. They tied the score 1-1 on a Jonathan Lessard goal and ended the first period with a 20-7 shot advantage. Allen took a 2-1 lead early in the second period only to have Denver score two unanswered goals before Daniel Tetrault scored to make the score 3-3 at the end of the second period. The third period was scoreless thanks to some outstanding goaltending at both ends of the ice. Both teams had great scoring chances in overtime before Steven Tarasuk circled behind the Denver net and made a pass in front to Lessard who put it past goaltender Kent Patterson for the 4-3 victory.


- We still haven't played our "A" game although after the first five minutes of the game the first period was one of the best periods we have played in the playoffs.

- Pitton's two saves on the Vincent Arseneau breakaway were spectacular. It really showed second effort on his part. He kept his eye on the puck and stayed really focused after the first save which allowed him to move his glove toward the puck. It was a smart play that resulted in a spectacular save.

- The Schaafsma one timer goal from Hanson and Graham was a beautiful play and a beautiful goal.

- The guys need to relax on the power play as with the long drought they are putting too much pressure on themselves. Yes, we could win more battles for the puck and make some better decisions at times but they are just trying too hard, squeezing  their sticks and if they relax we will get a power play goal. The good news is with our power play struggling the even strength play has been outstanding this series.

- What happens when we get in trouble is we stop playing our system and we turn over the puck. There are still some things we can clean up for the game tomorrow.

- There is no doubt we will see Denver's best Saturday night. Their goal is to get one win in our building to get the series back to their ice. To win the fourth game in a championship series is always the toughest and they will bring everything they have at us. We need to be ready.


-  Another great game by Daniel Tetrault and Ross Roleau who were both +3 for the game and were almost always matched up against Denver's top line. Tetrault is now a phenomenal +18 for the playoffs and there is not a player on the ice that is more determined, tenacious, dedicated or committed than him. It is such a pleasure to see a guy that has played professionally for as long as Daniel show such enthusiasm and leadership. And did I mention goals the last two nights in the biggest games of the season.

- The defensemen continue to play a big part in the offense as they were part of three of the four goals in the game. There were twelve total points scored on the four goals and the defense had five of the twelve points.

- The power play is now at 0-22 in the series with a lot of credit going to the Denver penalty kill. Allen is definitely due to score a power play goal and that could just be the difference in the game tonight.

- Allen continues to dominate even strength play as the Americans outscored Denver 4-2 last night when both teams were at even strength. For the series Allen has a plus/minus of +41 while Denver is at -34.

- A big advantage in this series has been Allen's depth with scoring coming from all three lines and the defensmen. How is this for balanced scoring:
9 - Schaafsma
8 - Lessard
7 - Hanson
6 - Graham
6 - Bootland
5 - Maiani
4 -  Asuchuk
3 - Ludwig
3 - Tetrault
2 -  McMillin
2 - Lavoie
1 - Zion
1 - Tarasuk
1 - Kerbashian

- Anthony Maiani leads the team with twelve assists followed by Schaafsma, Ludwig and Hanson with ten. However, there are twelve players with at least five assists in the playoffs..

- A big crowd for the game (5059) as the Americans topped 5000 for the first time in the playoffs and it was as loud as could be in the Allen Event Center. Saw a long line of people at the ticket office after the win last night and you can be assured tonight (Saturday) will be close to if not a sellout.

- I don't pretend to know all of the factors that go into the CHL decisions on suspensions but it struck me after the CHL ruled that there would be not any supplemental discipline (fine or suspension) for Denver defenseman Mikeal Tam for slashing Greger Hanson late in game three that Allen had two guys suspended in the finals last year for similar offenses. Darryl Bootland and Jason Deitsch both got one game suspensions for stick penalties for not controlling their stick as it was determined they were wreckless, careless, and dangerous with their stick and the play was unnecessary. In both cases, if I remember correctly the the Wichita Thunder player who was fouled was not injured or at least did not miss a shift in the game and continued to play. The CHL stated in their decision there was not a deliberate intent in injury in either case. The CHL used very similar wording to describe the Tam case but yet decided no suspension or fine. It is hard to see the difference.

- It has been said many times before but Allen has a chance to do something special tonight in winning back to back championships as it has not been done in the CHL since 2002 and 2003 when the Memphis RiverKings accomplished the feat.

 - I will end this post the same as I did last year on this date because it really captures what team sport is all about at any level and what the Allen Americans represent.  A bunch of men playing a game, strangers coming together for a common goal, willing to do anything for each other.

Win today and we walk together forever."
—Philadelphia Flyers Coach Fred Shero wrote this on his famous chalkboard before the Flyers' 1974 Stanley Cup finals victory.


Courtesy CHL memes

 DID YOU KNOW: None of the players who scored goals in the championship winning game that took place one year ago today will be playing in the game tonight. (Jarret Lukin, Trevor Hendrikx, Todd Robinson).

Friday, May 9, 2014

Why Tonight's Game is Special, Hanson Will Play, Schaafsma Leads All Scorers, Shots From The Point

The Allen Americans take on the Denver Cutthroats tonight at the Allen Event Center (AEC) and the game is special for several reasons. It commences the last weekend of hockey in Allen for the year. A win will give the Americans the chance to close out the series before the hometown fans on Saturday. Lot's of friends and family have made the trek to Allen from Michigan to Minnesota to all over Canada to watch their sons, brothers, nephews, son-in-laws, cousins, boyfriends, and buddies play in the CHL finals which always adds some extra incentive. The game will be special because there will be lots of people in the building (over 5000) making more noise than has been made all year. Finally, the game tonight will be special as it is an opportunity to put to rest the Friday night playoff losing streak that stands at four. Hard to believe the Americans overall record in the playoffs is 10-5 but they are 0-4 on Fridays.

- The line up tonight will be the same as Wednesday. That means Greger Hanson will be able to play after the slash he took to the arm in the last game. Cain Franson and Trevor Hendrikx will not be dressed tonight.

- It is always interesting to see what the CHL puts up on their page about the finals series. Here is their "Shots From the Point" for today:
Series Notes:
-Allen defenseman Daniel Tetrault started Game 3 with a goal ending a 13-game goalless streak in the post-season.  The last strike for the veteran d-man was in the very first game of the playoffs versus Brampton.
-Denver forward Troy Schwab did not record a point in a game for the first time in this year’s playoffs ending his 13-game point streak in Game 3.  Schwab nearly tied the game late in the third period with one of many Denver shots that hit the crossbar or post.  Schwab is still tied with teammate A.J. Gale for the playoff scoring lead with 22 points.
-Allen went 0 for 6 on the power play in Game 3 and are 0 for 16 so far in the Finals.  The Cutthroats have allowed just four PP goals in 68 chances in the post-season (94%).
-The Americans have won six of their seven home games in the playoffs outscoring the opposition 28-13.  They have outscored the opposition 14-4 over their current four-game post-season home win streak.
-Allen goalie Bryan Pitton is 6-1 with a 1.86 GAA and a .937 save percentage on home ice in the playoffs.
-After scoring 13 points (6-7=13) in his first 11 playoff games, Allen forward Bruce Graham has just one helper over this last four games.
-Despite taking the loss, Denver goalie Kent Patterson made 34 saves on 36 shots and has 34+ saves in eight straight games.  He has a 2.51 GAA and a .933 save percentage so far in the post-season.

- For those interested the referee for the game tonight is Tudor Floru.

- Jamie Schaafsma leads all scorers in the finals with seven points (4 goal 3 assists). No one else on the Americans has more than three points and Denver's top scorers have four points. Jamie is scoring on over 30% of his shots. Jamie has been getting plenty of coverage on his playoff performance in his hometown paper with a recap of how he did after each game. Here is the blurb after the game on Wednesday:
"Jamie Schaafsma of Blenheim had one assist for the Allen Americans in a 3-1 win over the Denver Cutthroats in Game 3 of the Central Hockey League final Wednesday. The Americans lead 2-1 in the best-of-seven final. The next two games will also be in Allen. The Americans are trying to become the first back-to-back CHL champions since the Memphis RiverKings in 2002 and 2003. Schaafsma has seven points in the championship series."

- Todd Robinson, the hero of the game seven overtime win in last years championship finals has taken a coaching job and appears to be done playing hockey though no retirement announcement has been made. Here is part of the press release:
The Muskegon Lumberjacks have announced a new addition to the organization's assistant coaching staff in former Muskegon Fury and Lumberjacks Forward Todd Robinson, who spent nine seasons as a player with Muskegon's Minor Professional Hockey organization. Robinson will join Rich McKenna as the team's two assistant coaches for the upcoming 2014-15 season along with having an added role in Business Development. "I am very excited to be back and get involved in the Muskegon organization as my family and I have proudly called this area our home for the last 14 years," shared Robinson. "This is a great opportunity for me both on and off the ice as I will offer my advice and assist in any way that I can in helping the team get better while continuing to help spread the USHL brand to our great fans within the community.  I am eager for the upcoming season to get started."

- I had a chance to talk to a couple of CHL officials about two issues you have been asking about. On the decision to not use two referees in the finals, that was made by the Board Of Governors during the CHL summer meeting back in July. Never did get a good explanation as to why they chose not to publicize the decision. As to the decision to change the dates for games six and seven of the championship finals twice with the last change coming in the middle of the series it was done at the request of the Denver Cutthroats. Everyone I talked to agreed the last minute change didn't put the CHL in the best light. Denver made the proposal for the change from Friday to Saturday based on past experience with crowd size on both days and it was a compelling argument. Allen had to agree to the change and I would assume some type of financial concessions were made to Allen for the additional expense they will incur by staying an extra day in Denver if a game seven takes place. What is hard to understand is why it would take until the middle of the finals series for the Denver front office to figure out they would have a much bigger gate on Saturday than Friday.

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Courtesy CHL Memes

DID YOU KNOW: Both Allen and Denver are 8-2 in the playoffs when they score the first goal and in the final series the team that has scored the first goal has won all three games.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Hanson's Wrap Around Game Winner, Coaches Post Game Comments, Trends Continue

Allen Americans Celebrate Big Game Three Win - Photo by

In a game that saw several trends continue the Allen Americans defeated the Denver Cutthroats by a score of 3-1 before an enthusiastic midweek crowd of 4553 at the Allen Event Center last night. The game was much more like what was predicted between these two teams who are led my great goaltenders. The first two games were high scoring (both 5-4)  wide open games while game three was more tight checking and only three goals were scored until Kale Kerbashian put home an empty net goal at 18:24 of the third period. The teams traded goals early in the first period and that was the end of the scoring until a game changing, high speed, wrap around goal by Greger Hanson at the 14:18 mark of the third period put the Americans in the lead for good. It was Hanson's seventh goal of the playoffs to go along with eight assists. Greger took a nasty slash from Cutthroat defensman Mikeal Tam with 24 seconds left in the game which most observers felt should have been a major penalty for intent to injure. Hanson will have x-rays this morning to see if anything is broken.

As for those trends that continued last night they include both good and bad. Allen scored  first in the game on a blistering shot by Daniel Tetrault which continued the streak of the team that has scored first has won every game in the series thus far. Allen won on Wednesday which extends their unbeaten streak in the playoffs to 4-0 in games played on Wednesday. Another trend that continued last night was out shooting Denver in the third period which has happened in all three games. The third period shots last night were 14-7 in favor of Allen. The Americans continued to win the even strength battle as they were +10 while Denver was -11. For the series Allen is at +32 and Denver is at -25. The one trend that continued that is not good was the inability to score on the power play.  Allen was 0-6 on the night and is now 0-16 in the series. 


- I really liked all of the chances we had tonight both even strength and on the power play. We didn't get a lot of goals but we had the better chances. I also liked that the third period was our best period and we still had our legs.

- Denver has a good penalty kill and a good goalie so it makes it tough on the power play. I think our decisions on the power play were better tonight but we need to do a better job of battling for pucks and getting to loose pucks.

- The lineup for Friday should remain the same unless Hanson is unable to play because of the bad slash he took at the end of the game. He will get x-rays in the morning.

- We will have a light practice tomorrow and hopefully come out with even more energy in game four. Winning game three was a big step as it was an important game.


- Here is how Cutthroats Radio, which is a twitter account run by Denver play-by-play radio announcer Derek Kessinger, described the slash on Hanson while he was live tweeting the game, "Tam with a huge frustration slash with 23 seconds left."

- Daniel Tetrault, “Friday is a new day and we have got to come ready to play, it’s even bigger, every game gets bigger from here on out".

- Kale Kerbashian, “Friday is huge for them, they are going to come out hard, we have to be ready from the get go. It’s playoff hockey and if you’re not ready at this time of the year something is wrong with you. We have go to come out hard and we have to play our game. Stay patient and aggressive."

- AJ Gale, Denver's leading goal scorer in the playoffs, who was injured in game two, was in the press box last night and watched the game from the upper level of the AEC. It is still uncertain if he will play this weekend.

- Last night was only the second time in the 15 Allen playoff games this year that neither team scored a power play goal.

- Jamie Schaafsma had an assist on Daniel Tetrault's first period goal which gives him an assist in all three games in the finals to go along with four goals which leads the team. Jamie also has the team lead in plus/minus in the finals with +6.

- Had a chance to talk briefly to Chris Kaufman who played defense for the 2009-2010 Allen Americans team. Chris and his family are in town visiting the Graham family. Chris scored five goals the season he played for Allen and everytime he scored Allen won the game. He was also a +22 while playing in just 40 games which was second on the team to Bruce Graham's +23.

- The biggest crowds of the season are expected for the games on Friday & Saturday and the team certainly deserves a big turnout. You don't want to miss these games if you live anywhere close to Allen.

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Courtesy of CHL Memes

DID YOU KNOW: Allen has won ten games thus far in this year's playoffs and Greger Hanson has the game winning goal in four of them.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

It's Game Day, Team Pic, AJ Gale Out, Game 7 Date Change, AEC Car Show Saturday, Maiani Story

Photo: At this mornings team photo shoot.
Smile Boys!! - photo courtesy of Richard Henry

- It is game day in Allen and needless to say a very important one in this championship series. The Americans have home ice advantage and want to retain it, they are 3-0 on Wednesday games in the playoffs, they want to seize the series lead for the first time and put the pressure on the Cutthroats. Had the chance to attend practice yesterday and watch both teams go through the paces and you could sense confidence in both teams. Should be a great game tonight.

- Allen took their official team picture before practice and wore their white jerseys for the first time foregoing the traditional red jersey. My understanding is the Americans will be wearing the white jersey for all remaining games in this series both home and away. It was great to see guys like Phil Fox, Jarret Lukin and Trevor Ludwig back in uniform even if it was just for the team picture.

- Could not get any official word on the status of AJ Gale for the rest of the series but have heard from several sources that he will not return. The last official word was he has a lower body injury and may return later in the series. Not positive about this but from what I can determine the CHL does not have a prohibition about misleading statements about injuries. So there is nothing to prevent a team from saying a player has a lower body injury if he has an upper body injury like a concussion.

- Denver and Allen are so close in numerous statistical categories it is understandable that all of the games will be close and additional overtime games are almost certain. After all the first two games had identical scores of 5-4 with each team winning once. Check out a few of the comparisons:
Playoff Record: Denver (9-4), Allen (9-5)
Goals Scored: Allen (51), Denver (48)
Goals Per Game: Denver (3.69), Allen (3.64)
Save Percentage: Denver (.928), Allen (.926)
Power Play: Allen (#2), Denver (#3)
Penalty Kill: Denver (#1), Allen (#3)

- With all of the similarities one difference to be noted is playoff home vs road record. Allen is only 4-4 on the road but 5-1 at home. Denver has a home record of 5-3 but is better on the road going 4-1.

-  The CHL changed the date of game seven yesterday from Friday, May 16 to Saturday May 17.  Is it just me or do actions like changing the date of game seven of the championship finals in the middle of the series with no explanation reflect poorly on the CHL who desperately wants to be seen as an equal to the ECHL. I know staff, players, and fans that are inconvenienced by this decision at this late date.

- There is going to be a car show prior to the game on Saturday in the parking lot outside the Allen Event Center.  If you like classic cars stop by early to check it out. And if you have a classic car, truck or motorcycle give Joe Yannessa from Solutions Automotive or Erik Adams from the Americans a call as you will get free tickets for the game if you participate. Details below:

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- Here is an article about Anthony Maiani that was posted by the CHL yesterday:
For four years, Allen forward Anthony Maiani enjoyed great success scoring goals in the city of Denver while playing for the University of Denver from 2007-2011. But through two games of the CHL Finals, maybe no bigger goal has come for the Shelby Township, Michigan native than the one he scored with 1:14 remaining in regulation of Game 2, a game that Allen would win in double overtime by a 5-4 score. The Americans had just concluded a power play and had earlier pulled goaltender Bryan Pitton giving them a chance to battle back from a 4-3 deficit and force overtime. The Americans were able to get the puck in the zone and scramble a bit on the boards by the left wing when finally defenseman Jonathan Zion settled the puck and found Maiani alone at the right circle for a one-timer and the game-tying strike. Maiani scored in both Game’s 1 and 2 in the Finals in Denver showing his affection for the Mile High City and he is currently tied for the scoring lead for the Americans with 17 points (5-12=17) joining Jamie Schaafsma (8-9=17). With the Pioneers, the now 25-year-old averaged 32 points per season with the high mark of 41 points (11-30=41) coming during his sophomore season.  Maiani was the top player on a team that featured current NHL stars Tyler Bozak (Toronto) and Joe Colborne (Calgary). In 13 games during last season’s title run for the Americans, Maiani played down in the line-up scoring just seven points (2-5=7) in 13 games but already this post-season he is making a statement with big goals and nightly contributions to Allen’s attempt to become just the third CHL team to repeat as champs.

Anthony Maiani - The Denver University Days


DID YOU KNOW: As a freshman at Denver University in 2008 Anthony Maiani scored a spectacular game winning goal in the semi final game of the conference championship against North Dakota. You have to take a look at this goal on youtube, "Anthony Maiani's Magnificent Goal" at:

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Team Pic Today, Shots From The Point, Keys to Success, Silly Season Is Here, Undefeated Wednesdays

- You know the hockey season is quickly drawing to a close when the official team picture is scheduled. Heard from Tommy Daniels that event will take place today before practice. Sure hope they are in the red jerseys for the picture.

- Here is the CHL "Shots From The Point" which was published yesterday and recaps the final series thus far:
2014 Ray Miron Presidents’ Cup Finals Schedule
Denver Cutthroats (2) vs. Allen Americans (3)
Series tied 1-1
Game 1 – Fri., May 2 – Allen 4 at Denver 5
Game 2 – Sat., May 3 – Allen 5 at Denver 4 (OT)
Game 3 – Wed., May 7 – Denver at Allen, 7:05
Game 4 – Fri., May 9 – Denver at Allen, 7:05
Game 5 – Sat., May 10 – Denver at Allen, 7:05
*Game 6 – Wed., May 14 – Allen at Denver, 7:00
*Game 7 – Fri., May 16 – Allen at Denver, 7:00

Series Notes:
-Game 2’s double overtime win for Allen marks the third 2OT game in CHL Finals history and the second for Allen who lost in the longest CHL Finals game in history back in game 6 of the 2010 Finals versus Rapid City.
-Jamie Schaafsma has four goals and two assists along with a +4 plus/minus rating in the two games in the Finals so far and he scored the double OT winner in Game 2.
-A.J. Gale left Game 2 in the first few minutes after being checked hard into the boards.  Gale had seven goals in the previous two games.
-Troy Schwab is tied with Gale for the league lead in post-season scoring with 22 points.  Schwab has eight goals and 14 assists and had a 13-game point streak (league record is 15 games).
-The Americans have played in three straight one-goal games dating back to Game 7 of the previous round vs. Quad City.  Allen is 2-3 in one-goal games in the playoffs.
-The loss in Game 2 by Denver marked the first time that the Cutthroats had lost a game when leading after two periods (6-1).
-Jonathan Lessard has goals in four straight games, tied for the longest in this year’s post-season.
-Alex Lavoie has two goals and five assists over his current six-game point streak after going his first six post-season games without recording a point.
-During the playoffs, Allen is now 7-2 when scoring first and Denver is 8-2.
-The Cutthroats have played in a league-high four overtime games during this year’s post-season (3-1).

- Mentioned yesterday the special teams battle in the first two games of the finals has been won by Denver. Allen is 0-10 on the power play and Denver is 4-10. However even strength play has been won by Allen as reflected by plus/minus. For the entire playoffs Denver is +16 and Allen is +59 but in the first two games of the finals Allen is +21 while Denver is -21. So the path to success seems to be Allen improving on special teams and Denver improving even strength.

- For those of you that track message boards and social media you have seen "silly season" is in full swing around the CHL. When teams are no longer in the playoffs the speculation starts about what will happen in  the off season. Who is folding, expansion plans, ownership changes, league changes, who needs to be fired and hired are just a few of the topics discussed by fans that may or may not have any reliable information. I am constantly asked about these rumors and my answer has been, no silly season discussion until after the playoffs are over. Stay Tuned.

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Courtesy CHL Memes

DID YOU KNOW: The Allen Americans play better on certain days of the week if you look at the playoffs this year. Allen is 3-0 on Wednesday games but 0-4 on Friday games. On Saturday they are 1-1 and Saturday is overtime night as both Saturday games went to overtime.