Sunday, August 24, 2014

Steve Martinson - "State of The Team" Address

 Martinson will be starting his 19th year as a head coach, has eight championships & over 800 wins

- Steve Martinson is back in town after spending the summer at his home in Rockford, Illinois and sat down with fans at the Allen Event Center yesterday to answer their questions. The biggest news Steve shared was the draft schedule (seven team schedule) just arrived and after a quick review by the teams should be finalized and made public in the next few days. Since the document is still a draft no details were given other than the home opener is still scheduled for Friday, October 24th and the team will only have to travel to Brampton one time which makes coach very happy. He spent some time talking about and reassuring everyone that a league with seven teams will be just fine as he has played in and coached in this situation many times. Yes, we will play the teams in closest proximity a few more times but nothing different than when the Brahmas were in the league. And with the no more trips to Arizona and Denver and only one to Brampton the schedule will be more family friendly with less time on the road and should also reduce travel costs.

- Steve spent some time talking about the pros and cons of the CHL and ECHL merging but reminded everyone the important thing to keep in mind is there will be hockey played in Allen this year and many years in the future and that is what fans need to focus on. He has been around the game long enough that he can't predict the future but knows he can be successful no matter what the league or rules dictate.

- To the question as to why there has been so much turnover from last year's team Martinson explained it is a combination of many factors the major one being after winning back to back championships the Allen players are highly sought after both in Europe and the ECHL. Some players go to Europe just for the experience and some because it is more lucrative but either way winning a championship certainly provides more opportunity. Some of the younger players have signed with  ECHL teams because they see it as a better league to play in to move up to the AHL. Another factor in players moving on is salary as after winning a championship all players feel they deserve a raise. Unfortunately the salary cap for the upcoming season is exactly the same ($12,000 per week) so it is impossible to give everyone a raise. And some players were unhappy with their roles during the last part of the season and the playoffs so they decided to move on.

- While many players have moved on, Martinson expects some may return before the season is over. As has happened in the past things don't always work out when players go to new teams so don't be surprised to see some players return during the season. Often times players assume with their new team they will have the same role and minutes that allowed them to shine with the Americans. Sometimes it doesn't turn out that way because there may be AHL contracted players playing ahead of them.

Here are Martinson's comments on a variety of other topics:

- The defense is going to be very strong this year with lots of veteran leadership, guys that can create offense from the blue line, with strong shutdown guys as well. It has the potential to be the best group I have had in a long time. With Kevin Young and Aaron Gens we have two new guys that can jump up into the play, create space, open up the offense and pull guys out of position. John Ryder is a real bruising, physical defenseman who has led his team in hits everywhere he has played and he is also a shutdown guy. Jeremy Beaudry had close to 20 goals in the Quebec league the last couple of years and from what I understand has a heck of a shot. He is a young guy but with our veteran leadership he should do well.

- The new guys up front include Gary Steffes. When he played in Tulsa I thought he was a very dangerous player and was always creating opportunities. He is not the fastest guy or the most skilled guy but he is very smart. He is a power forward type center and I always like to have a guy like Gary to go against the other team's top line.  Sy Nutkevitch may be a sleeper as he led the Brahmas in assists one year and will create offense for our other forwards. Another young centerman we are bringing in is Travis Ouellette who has a lot of upside. He has a chance to be like some of the young guys from last year.

- We have two goalies signed, Rapheal Girard and Ben Meisner who come highly recommended and there are other goalies that want to come and play in Allen.

- We still have some more players to sign. We have a player that has played for me in the past that is buying a house here. He is just waiting on his mortgage approval. I believe he will be a fan favorite and everybody will love this guy because he can score, he can check and he can fight. I have a tough guy that led the ECHL in fighting majors that we have not announced yet. I am also dealing with a couple of the top players from Arizona who would be great additions to the team.

- We have set up an internship program with the Allen police and fire departments where some of our players can get training and experience during the hockey season which will help them get jobs after they quit playing hockey. Players can always find a team that will pay them more money so it is important to sell what is special about playing in Allen. The internships are just another recruiting tool we have at our disposal that will appeal to some players. I want them to know if they come to Allen they can build something for the future.

- Here is what I was thinking when I signed Garrett Clarke. When Clarke was here the first time he was nineteen years old and he is still only twenty one. I remember they way I was and the decisions I made when I was his age. Clarke has done some boneheaded things but he has so much upside. It is hard to teach players to be nasty to play against and that is the way Clarke plays. He has a lot of skill, is a left shot and can play both defense and forward. Clarke came from a situation where he had a ton of pressure on him with the expectation he would be in the NHL by now. I played a long time and saw coaches make up their mind on a player and never give them a second opportunity. Clarke has assured me he has matured and learned from his mistakes and my approach is what is done is done and we are not going to talk about it anymore. What he does from this point forward is what matters now.

- I would love to get Spencer Asuchuk back in Allen if he doesn't sign an AHL deal. It is so critical that young players are given a chance to play so I hope he finds that situation. It is good for Spencer and good for the Allen Americans that he will attend camp with the Boston Bruins. I will always leave the door open for him to return but I don't expect that to happen.

- As for the future of the CHL all I know at this time, as I have not sat down with our owner to talk about this in any depth, is Allen will be playing for years to come whether it be in the CHL, ECHL, or some other league. The Steven Brothers are committed to making this franchise work. The fact that they own three teams within busing distance of each other gives him a real strong negotiating position no matter how this all turns out.

- We have a new equipment manager by the name of Rusty Aldridge who is very experienced. We offered the trainer position to a guy who just got hired in the NHL so we have another guy we are talking to right now. Erik Adams may be the assistant coach as we are working on that right now. If that doesn't work out there won't be an assistant. The only two assistants I have ever had were Richard Matvichuk and the son-in-law of one of the owners I coached for. Nothing is set in stone yet as it has to be something that works for Erik and his family. We have such a veteran defense this year if we don't have an assistant coach it will be okay because the experienced guys will make my job a lot easier.

- I am not sure when a captain of the team will be named but the qualities you look for is someone who is unwavering in his desire to be in Allen, someone who will speak his mind and has respect in the locker room. I always like to say anyone can be a leader on my team and talent has nothing to do with it. If you want to be a leader you have to work hard, you have to be in shape, you have to be a team first guy, you have to follow the systems and you have to finish your checks. If you want to lead and have people listen to what you have to say and respect your opinion you must have those five attributes. My thinking has always been you don't want a bunch of chiefs but you want a bunch of leaders.

- I would like to have a better relationship with the Stars organization especially now that they also own the Texas Stars. With a new ownership group in Allen and learning more about what went on in the past I have tried to open some doors over the summer but we will have to see what happens.

- The new supervisor of officials for the CHL is a guy named Wayne Bonney who was an official in the NHL for 24 years. I met him recently at the summer meeting and came away very impressed. My impression is Wayne was all about how can we make things better. I told Wayne I will do my best to be easier on the officials. I have faith going forward we are going to see some improvement in the officiating. To make the referees better I have to improve by treatment of them as well.

- There no plans for a preseason game at this point. We might end up with an intrasquad game.

- Right after Steve Martinson finished his Q & A, Trevor Ludwig revealed that the winning number in the select a number contest was #17 so that is what he will be wearing this upcoming season. I think it was the number Trevor was hoping would win as it is the number his dad wore in Montreal, his wife was born on the 17th, and he wore #17 in juniors and in college. Sounds like a lot of good luck wrapped up in #17.

Trevor Ludwig will wear #17 this year.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

30 Questions With Allen Forward Gary Steffes - A Player Introduction

Gary Steffes

Our 30 Questions series continues today with Gary Steffes who the Allen Americans recently signed  for the 2014-2015 season. Gary will be starting his fifth year as a professional having played for the Tulsa Oilers from 2010-2013 and for the Bakersfield Condors (ECHL) this past season. A 2012-13 nominee for the CHL’s Man of the Year Award when he was with Tulsa, Steffes gives his time and talents to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). He works specifically with FCA Hockey, a group that travels the world sharing the gospel through hockey camps and clinics.  He played college hockey at Miami University (Ohio) and earned a degree in Kinesiology, Health and Exercise Science.

Here are Gary's answers to our get to know you questions:

Can you tell us a little about your family?
-  I have an awesome family. They are super supportive and some of the most loving people I know. My Dad works in automotive industry, my Mom in the Michigan education system. My sisters, Nikki and Kristen are recent college grads. Kristen is currently serving long term in South Africa and Nikki is on the verge of art school.

Did you have a pet growing up?  
- Had a dog growing up named Tonya. Beautiful golden retriever, but she was crazy and always running off making us have to chase her down.

Where are you spending the summer? 
-  Spending summer in the Minneapolis area. I work with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Hockey traveling the world to share about Jesus Christ and coach hockey.

Can you share your involvement with FCA Hockey and where your missions/travels have taken you? 
- I have been involved since 2010, been on staff three years now in the off-seasons. I have traveled all over the US to serve at different events. Buffalo, NY, Albany, NY, Hagerstown, MD, Westminster, CA, Denver, CO, Tulsa, OK, Omaha, NE, and SW Utah to name a few places. I have also traveled to Erzurum, Turkey twice and Torre Pellice, Italy to do events.

Describe your training regimen?
- When the season nears we skate four times a week, lift four times, do tons of sprints, and skill work. I have some awesome friends here in Minneapolis I get to train with who play in the AHL and ECHL. 

What is your favorite number? Do you know what number you will have with Allen? 
- Have not selected a number in Allen yet. Favorite number is #22 or #12. I have been #22 since I started pro hockey, but am open to changing if needed.

 What is your nickname?
 - Bear

Who is your hockey hero?
-  Kirk Maltby who played many years with the Detroit Red Wings

 When did you start skating and what is your earliest hockey memory? 
- I started skating when I was four. I remember pushing a chair around the ice in Flint, MI. I fell in love with hockey!

  Describe your style of play?
- I am a defensive minded, two-way, power forward. I play a big and strong power game more so than fancy, and am blessed to be gifted both offensively and defensively at both ends of the rink. 

Who is your favorite actor?
-  Denzel Washington,  I think he is such a gifted actor. 

 What is your favorite type of music?
-  Christian Worship and Contemporary. I also really enjoy country music.

 What is your current  favorite singer or group?
-  Hillsong United and Newsboys are two of my favorites.

 If you could have lunch with anyone living who would you pick.
-  Francis Chan. He is a pastor in San Francisco who has had a major impact in my life. I would love to just pick his brain and ask him tons of questions about things he has learned.

 What chore do you hate to do?
-  Vacuum for sure.

 What do you have that is of great value to you but little value to anyone else?
-  Notebooks upon notebooks of journals. I love to journal. Through it I connect with God, stay focused, deal with fears and anxieties, etc. They are my life’s story on a page.

Who do you admire as a leader?  
- Not a specific person but in hockey I admire a man of integrity who is able to balance setting an example, not fearing holding others accountable when needed, and loving his teammates in a way they know he cares for them.

 Where is the most interesting place you have ever visited?
- Zion National Park in Utah. The place is breathtaking and left me in awe every corner we turned.

 If you could live in another country for two years where would you pick?
- Italy or Australia I think would be sweet places to experience.

 If you could be anything besides a pro hockey player what would it be?
-  A professional musician

Do you have any pre-game routines, rituals or superstitions?
-  No superstitions, but a routine to get my head, heart, and body ready for sure. I spend a lot of time getting my heart and mind prepared and focused for the game. 

Who is your number one fan?
- Tough debate on that one. My dad, mom, and both sisters are pretty amazing supporters.

What do you like to do to kill time on the bus?
-  Read and listen to music or podcasts

 What was your favorite childhood toy?
-  Stick and puck, or a baseball

 Do you have a favorite motto or saying?
-  “Until you find the cause for which you are willing to die, you will never truly live” – Craig Groeschel

What is your favorite TV show?
- I am not a big TV watcher. 

 If you could choose someone as a mentor who would you choose?
-  Rick Randazzo or Chris Adkins-Lamb. These guys are incredible mentors and friends to me. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without their investment in me.
 Do you know anyone on the Allen team?
-  Yes, many guys signed for this season actually. Many I have played against and know their names, but don’t know them personally. 

 What do you like to do away from the rink?
-  Golf, get involved at church and hang with guys.

 What have you been told or know about the Allen fans?
- I have been told they are passionate and supportive. Looking forward to experiencing it first hand.

 How did you end up in Allen?
 - I was contacted by Coach Martinson this summer. After many talks and getting to know him I felt it was the best decision for me this upcoming year. I am thankful and blessed to be coming to Allen this season and looking forward to the year.

Gary waits for a face-off  during a game in 2012 - photo by Chip Crail

Gary Steffes stats courtesy of hockeydb:
Center -- shoots R
Born May 20 1987 -- Grand Blanc, MI
[27 yrs. ago]
Height 6.02 -- Weight 210

Regular Season Playoffs
Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM +/- GP G A Pts PIM
2004-05 Cedar Rapids RoughRiders USHL 42 1 9 10 60 010 3 0 3 12
2005-06 Cedar Rapids RoughRiders USHL 56 11 11 22 77 -2 8 6 1 7 12
2006-07 Miami University (Ohio) CCHA 42 5 3 8 44

2007-08 Miami University (Ohio) CCHA 36 6 10 16 34

2008-09 Miami University (Ohio) CCHA 41 11 12 23 34

2009-10 Miami University (Ohio) CCHA 17 0 1 1 8

2010-11 Tulsa Oilers CHL 66 19 24 43 59 -6 10 1 2 3 6
2011-12 Tulsa Oilers CHL 66 22 30 52 63 -11 ----------
2012-13 Tulsa Oilers CHL 37 20 14 34 56 -9 ----------
2012-13 Lake Erie Monsters AHL 16 1 2 3 11 -1 ----------
2013-14 Bakersfield Condors ECHL 60 18 17 35 71 -6 16 3 6 9 12


Friday, August 22, 2014

30 Questions with Allen Forward Travis Ouellette - A Player Introduction

Travis Ouellette 

 The player introduction series continues today with the spotlight on Travis Ouellette who was one of the first players signed by Steve Martinson for the upcoming season. Last year Ouellette spent time with the Arizona Sundogs, St. Charles Chill, and the Greenville Road Warriors (ECHL). He had a combined point total of 27 points (11 goals 16 assists) in 34 games.

Ouellette (Oh-LET), 25, had a four-year career at Division One Ferris State University. In 2012-13 as a senior he finished second on the team in scoring with 26 points (11g-15a) in 35 games. In his junior campaign (2011-2012), the Windsor, Ontario native helped lead Ferris State to the NCAA Frozen Four Championship game where they lost to Boston College 4-1. Travis had an assist on the Bulldog's lone goal in the championship game. For his college career, the 5’9″, 170 pound center played 147 games with 37 goals and 45 assists for 82 points. Last summer Ouellette played for the Adelaide Adrenaline in the Australian Ice Hockey League, scoring 13 goals and assisting on 11 for 24 points in just 12 games.

Each year Steve Martinson finds a couple of young players that have not gotten a real chance to show what they can do who end up thriving in his system. Travis Ouellette could be one of those players this year. He is in the mold of Anthony Maiani and Alex Lavoie in both size and style of play. He should be fun to watch. For those of you on Twitter you can follow Travis at @Ouelly89.

Travis was kind enough to answer some get to know you questions:

Can you tell us a little about your family?
- I come from a hockey playing family. My brothers (Britt & Chad) played college hockey at Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Brit and I played together in Australia and also in St. Charles last year. Britt is is playing in Germany (Hanover) this year. Chad now works on the business side for the Toronto Maple Leafs. My girlfriend's name is Avery and she works for Lululemon's sister company, Ivivva, which is for younger girls.

Did you have a pet growing up?
- I never had a pet growing up but Avery and I are in the process of getting a dog this summer.

Where are you spending your summer?
- I am currently living in Windsor, Ontario training and getting as much ice time as possible. I train with a lot of other professionals who live in the area.

What is your favorite number and do you know what number you will be wearing in Allen?
- My favorite number is #9 as I wore that all four years at Ferris State. I do not know what number I will be wearing in Allen.

What is your nickname?
- Ouelly

Who is your hockey hero?
- I would have to say Doug Gilmour. I loved the Maple Leafs growing up and he was such a stud! I wore 93 one year in AAA and it was a good year.

When did you start skating and what is your earliest hockey memory?
- I started skating when I was two. My brothers are both older than me so naturally I followed what they did. My dad would take all of us to the rink for skates. I didn't skate that much at first but observed until I got it.

How would you describe your style of play?
-  I am a play making forward with some touch around the net who doesn't mind getting his nose dirty.

 Who is your favorite Actor?
- Denzel Washington

Who is your favorite Actress?
- Kate Beckinsale

What is your favorite type of music?
- I like everything really, but I might just need to get a little more into country music.

What is your current favorite singer or group?
- Jack Johnson and Needtobreathe

What song or artist do you hope your teammates don't catch listening to?
- Miley Cyrus singing "Party in the USA" always gets the motor running.

If you could have lunch with anyone living other than your  family who would you pick?
- Pavel Datsyuk, the guy is a magician!

What chore do you hate to do?
- The dishes, I'm not one for putting them in or taking them out. God forbid if there is no dishwasher!

What do you have that is great value to you but little value to anyone else?
- I have this glass fish that I take around with me. It is sort of my good luck charm.

Who do you admire as a leader?
- Sidney Crosby, the guy took over at a very young age and presented himself well, however, some  might disagree.

Where is the most interesting place you have ever visited?
- To date I would have to say Costa Rica.

If you could live in another country for two years where would you pick?
- France for sure. The whole Europe trip intrigues me but being able to understand the language puts it ahead.

Is French your first language?
- No, English is my first language but I grew up going to French school so I can speak a little French.

If you could be anything besides a professional hockey player what would it be?
- A pro golfer. I love golf, unfortunately I am just not very good. Happy Gilmour reversed type of thing here.

Do you have any pregame routines, rituals or superstitions?
- I try not to get caught up in rituals and superstitions so I have nothing to blame if something should happen.

Who is your number one fan?
- My family of course.

What do you like to do to kill time on the bus?
- I have been playing a lot of games on my phone lately. I am really into Clash of Clans right now.

What was your favorite childhood toy?
- Wrestlers! Had a whole bunch of guys I used to play with.

Do you have a favorite motto or saying?
- 100% of the shots you do not take will not go in.

What is your favorite TV show?
- Suits is my current favorite, however I love Game of Thrones and Sons of Anarchy.

Do you know anyone on the Allen team?
- I personally don't know anyone on the team but Jamie Schaafsma grew up in a town nearby.

What do you like to do away from the rink?
- Golf and video games. I play a lot of NHL and Call of duty.

What have you been told about the fans in Allen?
- I was told it is a great place to play and the fans are dedicated and rowdy!

How did you get to Allen?
My agent contacted Martinson and here I am.

Here are statistics about Travis courtesy of hockeydb:

Travis Ouellette
Forward -- shoots R
Born Feb 17 1989 -- Windsor, ONT
[25 yrs. ago]
Height 5.09 -- Weight 170
Regular Season Playoffs
Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM +/- GP G A Pts PIM
2008-09 Penticton Vees BCHL 60 25 28 53 47   10 2 3 5 10
2009-10 Ferris State University CCHA 34 7 4 11 52  

2010-11 Ferris State University CCHA 36 10 11 21 43  

2011-12 Ferris State University CCHA 42 9 15 24 47  

2012-13 Ferris State University CCHA 35 11 15 26 34  

2013-14 Arizona Sundogs CHL 10 3 8 11 6 -1 ----------
2013-14 St. Charles Chill CHL 15 6 7 13 8 -2 ----------
2013-14 Greenville Road Warriors ECHL 9 2 1 3 8 -1 ----------

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly - A CHL In Turmoil

As fans of the Central Hockey League, every year seems as if many teams are dealing with issues about the continued viability of their team. After all, only Missouri made money last year and even deep pockets owners, who are typically successful businessmen, don't like losing money unless they can see light at the end of the tunnel. It appears some of the owners have figured out that the light at the end of the tunnel is really a train headed at them. So let's take a look at where things stand, the good, the bad and the ugly but in a different order than normal.


 - The Denver Cutthroats announced yesterday they were suspending operations for the 2014-2015 season. According to the press release the team will look to secure additional investors with the hope of returning for the 2015-2016 season. Can't say this was a shock as rumors were swirling for weeks that they had not made their mandatory payments to the league. All players signed to contracts for the upcoming season immediately became free agents. Within a matter of minutes after the formal announcement the Cutthroats would not play next year,  Missouri announced Garett Bembridge, Denver's leading scorer and CHL MVP last year had signed with the Mavericks.


- Yesterday afternoon it became apparent the Arizona Sundogs would also not play in the CHL for the upcoming season. While a formal announcement has not been issued by the league, players have confirmed they have been told to start looking for jobs, front office personnel have confirmed the team will not play and coaches/executives/owners from other teams have acknowledged Arizona will suspend operations for 2014-2015. The formal announcement should be issued today. Again, not a big surprise as rumors have been around since before the summer meeting.

- There is a lot of fallout from Denver and Arizona suspending operations but Tommy Daniels said it best, "For most its message board material and lots of speculation. For me it's worrying about close friends and how this will affect their lives." In addition to the over twenty players who now have to try to find jobs late in the recruiting season the front office personnel are out of jobs. These were understaffed organizations to begin with which meant everyone in the front office was working their butts off to help the team survive. These are the folks that are really impacted. And don't forget about the ushers, concession workers, the cleanup crew, and many others whose livelihood depended on the hockey team. A sad time indeed.

- It is obvious how important loyal, enthusiastic, fans are to a hockey team. I call them the "super fans" who invest their time, money and energy with their favorite team. They know the players plus their wives and children, they attend and support off ice events. Your heart goes out to these folks who have suddenly had the rug pulled out from under them.

- The scary thing is the final shoe may not have dropped on this whole situation as decisions are still being made that could have additional negative impacts. Let's hope the worst is now public.

- With three teams (don't forget St. Charles) not returning from last year the maximum (if nothing else happens) number of teams in the CHL will be seven. Certainly doable from a scheduling standpoint but with unbalanced schedules, teams that are in close proximity will end up playing each other over 15 times which is never ideal. And while you might think not having to make the long trip to Arizona will be a big money saver for the remaining teams it also probably means an extra trip to Brampton which will wipe out any Arizona savings.


- Most hockey experts would acknowledge the game would be better off with one AA league rather than the two that currently exist. You also hear all of the time it isn't a matter of "if" but "when" the CHL & ECHL become one league. If any good can come out of the current turmoil in the CHL it would be moving to one league. For CHL fans the sooner this can happen the better. Most say it is impossible for the upcoming season but stranger things have happened. Let's at least hope it happens for the 2015-2016 season.

- With three less teams in the CHL the remaining teams will be stronger on the ice with all of the free agent talent now looking for new homes. The CHL coaches have to be burning up the phone lines trying to recruit players from Denver and Arizona. The top goal scorer in the CHL last year was Garett Bembridge and he was quickly snapped up by the Missouri Mavericks. The number three goal scorer in the CHL from last year with 34 goals was Arizona's Kevin Baker. He would be a nice fit in Allen.

- There is no doubt there will be hockey in Allen this season and while the schedule is being reworked all indications are the home opener will be October 24th. Another banner raising event you don't want to miss.

- The Allen Americans will host an open house this Saturday (August 23) from 10:00 - 2:00 and it will be worth attending. Steve Martinson will be speaking and answering questions from 11:00 - 12:00. With all that is going on it should be very informative. I will be the emcee for the hour with Martinson and will post what he has to say on the blog for those that aren't able to attend. If you have  questions you would like me to ask coach Martinson please send them to me through social media or put them in the comments section at the end of this post.

- Trevor Ludwig will be at the open house to sign autographs (12:00 - 1:00) and prior to that at noon will reveal the number he will be wearing for next season based on the fan vote. It is not too late to vote. All you need to do is send an email to with the number you want Trevor to wear. The choices are #16, #17, & #47. If you select the winning number (Las Vegas odds has #17 as the winner) you will have a chance to win one of his jerseys.

- The player introduction posts on all of the new players coming to Allen this season have been well received and there are two more that are almost completed. Thanks really go to the players who take the time to answer all of the questions so everyone can get to know them both personally and professionally. Look for "30 Questions" with Travis Ouellette and Gary Steffes to be posted in the next few days.

With all that is happening thought you might enjoy some of these:
- Our only security is our ability to change 
- The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic
- There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things
- Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future
- Your success in life isn’t based on your ability to simply change. It is based on your ability to change faster than your competition, customers and business
- If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got
- If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading
- If there is no struggle, there is no progress

Monday, August 18, 2014

Phil Fox Moving On - Allen Americans & CHL Weekly Update

- The elephant in the room the past two weeks has been what is delaying the issuance of the CHL schedule. Have been getting a lot of questions as to what is going on at CHL headquarters. Will avoid any further speculation on what is going on and what will be the outcome other than to restate comments from last week that the CHL is dealing with some big, important issues which should be resolved soon.

- Heard from Phil Fox that he has applied for a position at his alma mater, Northern Michigan University (NMU). Phil will hopefully be the Manager of Hockey Operations. This position will assist  head coach Walt Kyle by overseeing all off-ice aspects of the intercollegiate hockey program. Responsibilities include video editing, purchase of equipment & supplies, student staff coordination, report preparation, assist with team travel and logistics, and other off-ice duties assigned by the head coach. Phil also plans on working on his Master's degree at NMU. Phil will be missed but this can be a great first step toward his goal to become a head coach. Best of luck Phil.
Phil Fox interviews for position with Northern Michigan University

- The number of players signed and announced around the CHL is up to 95 from 88 last week. Still a long way to go to have full rosters which is around 180 players. Allen, Missouri, Quad City and Rapid City lead the way with thirteen players announced while Brampton has the fewest players announced with five. A complete list by team is at the end of this post.

- Had a chance to met Mike McCall who was recently hired to be the Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Steven Brothers Sports Management. As Mike described his position he works with all three of the hockey franchises (Allen, Tulsa, Wichita) and reports directly to the Steven brothers. He has his office in Allen only because he resided in the area when he was hired.

- You may have seen the recent press release from the Allen Americans inviting fans to help Trevor Ludwig choose a new number to wear for the upcoming season. His #24 has not been kind to him on the injury front. As Trevor put it, "After missing the last two playoff seasons and not being able to celebrate a championship on the ice, I decided this year will be fresh and new. I've picked three numbers (16, 17, 47) as jersey numbers I would wear this season." Trevor then asked the fans to vote by emailing their choice to Was wondering how Trevor came up with these three numbers. His dad wore #17 in Montreal but exactly what went into picking #16, #17, & #47. Here is what Trevor had to say:

#16 - This is the number worn by long time NHL player Trevor Linden. I am named after him and our daughter (Lynden) is also named after him.

#17 - Of course this is the number my dad wore all those years he played for the Montreal Canadiens (1982-1990) but it is also the day of my wife's (Holly) birthday (June 17th) and it is also the number I wore in juniors and college.

#47 - This comes from a mixture of numbers. The #4 because our daughter was born on 4-14-14 and the #7 from the #17.

So there you have it. Make sure to email your choice to If you select the winning number you will have a chance to win a Trevor Ludwig jersey. Seems like the photo  below when he was just three shows the number he has been wearing the longest. Go #17!
Trevor, left, wearing #17 at age three

- Saw this recap of a recent North American Hockey League (NAHL) coaches meeting that took place in Frisco. Food for thought for anyone involved in coaching:
The meetings began with a presentation from former hockey coach Scott Muscutt. Muscutt, now a motivational speaker with his company, Learn Lead Win, served for 10 years as Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations for the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs, a former Central Hockey League team. Over the past decade in the Central Hockey League, Muscutt’s name has become synonymous with two things above all: hard-working dedication and winning performance and attitude. Muscutt brought that energy into the coaches meetings, which energized the group from the beginning of the morning. “I wanted to take something that made a difference in hockey players lives and translate that to the coaching and business world, and make these guys understand how teamwork is supposed to work,” said Muscutt to open the presentation.  “You can’t lead your players by your strengths, you lead them by their strengths.” His examples included some very moving videos and included some of his own personal stories when he was a coach. “Checkers and Chess use the exact same board, but the game is completely different.  The same applies to hockey and how you motivate and utilize your players,” Muscutt said. “The X’s and O’s and drills are just the checker board, but the chess part comes in being able to get the most from your players and it all starts with the manner in which you are able to motivate them.” Muscutt then challenged the coaches to move forward based on three main points: Am I prepared for relationships? Can I change the way I look at things? Can we build mutual trust?

- The Nottingham Panthers (EIHL), where Bruce Graham and Mike Berube are playing this year, had their first preseason game yesterday losing 3-1. They played again today and lost 4-3 with Graham getting one of the goals. Mike Berube did not play in the preseason games.  They are preparing to play in the first European Champions League tournament which brings together 44 teams from eleven different European first tier leagues. The tournament is run similar to the soccer World Cup where the 44 teams are seeded into 11 groups of four teams.  Nottingham will play the other three teams in their group (home and away) with the team with the most points moving on. Their first two champions league games are at home this Friday against a Finnish League team (Lukko) and Saturday against a Swedish League team (Lulea). The fourth team in the group is Hamburg from the top league in Germany (DEL). Jamie Benn played for Hamburg during the 2012-2013 NHL lockout. This tournament will be a tall task for Nottingham as they are one of the lowest seeded teams in the tournament but a great opportunity to participate with the top teams in Europe. 
Bruce Graham's season starts on Friday

- Here is the updated listing of players that have moved on from last year's championship team.

5/30/14 - Bruce Graham signs with Nottingham (England)
6/21/14 - Bryan Pitton signs with KH Sanok (Poland)
7/8/14   - Garrett Klotz signs with Indianapolis Fuel (ECHL)
7/8/14   - Anthony Maiani signs with Rungsted (Denmark)
7/14/14 - Mike Berube signs with Nottingham (England)
7/15/14 - Kale Kerbashian signs with Evansville (ECHL)
7/16/14 - Trevor Hendrikx signs with Cardiff (Wales)
7/17/14 - Dallas Ehrhardt signs with Missouri (CHL)
7/19/14 - Brian McMillin signs with Eindhoven (Netherlands)
7/28/14 - Greger Hanson signs with Cincinnati (ECHL)
7/30/14 - Darryl Bootland signs with ECHL team
7/31/14 - Daniel Tetrault signs with Rapid City (CHL)
8/1/14   - Alex Lavoie signs with Florida Everblades (ECHL)
8/5/14   - Jarret Lukin signs with Evansville IceMen (ECHL)
8/7/14   - Cain Franson signs with University of Calgary
8/15/14 - Steve Tarasuk signs with Kaltern/Caldaro (Italy)
8/18/14 - Phil Fox applies for job as Director, Hockey Operations at Northern Michigan

- Here are the players signed and announced for each CHL team:

(13) Allen Americans: Kevin Young (D), Jamie Schaafsma (F), Tyler Ludwig (D), Jonathan Lessard (F), Trevor Ludwig (D), Travis Ouellette (C), Garrett Clarke (D), Jeremy Beaudry (D), Aaron Gens (D), Sy Nutkevitch (C), Raphael Girard (G), John Ryder (D), Gary Steffes (F),

(9) Arizona Sundogs: Kevin Baker (F), Michael Couch (D), Alex Tuckerman (D), Michael Trebish (F), Berkley Scott (F), Matt White (F), Charles Lavigne (G), Drew Fata (D), TJ Fox (F),

(5) Brampton Beast: Calin Wild (C), Andrew Darrigo (D), Josh McQuade (F), Mike MacIsaac (F), Jason Pitton (F),

(10) Denver Cutthroats: Mike Bayrack (C), Garett Bembridge (F), Kyle Fletcher (F), John Griggs (G), JP Chabot (F), Steve Kaunisto (D), Kyle O’Kane (F), Daniel Barczuk (F), Phil Teseriero (D), Sean Zimmerman (D),

(13) Missouri Mavericks: Andrew Courtney (F), John-Scott Dickson (F),   Scott Langdon (D), TJ Battani (F), Sebastien Thinel (F), Dave Pszenyczny (D), Evan Vossen (F), Ben Power (F), Collin Circelli (C), Dallas Ehrhardt (D), Colten Hayes (D), Josh Unice (G), Kellan Tochkin (F),

(13) Quad City Mallards: Darren McMillan (D), Caylen Walls (D), Joey Holka (F), Mike Monfredo (D), Jeff Lee (F), Justin Fox (F), Evan Mosher (G), Matt Duffy (D), Jannik Christensen (D), Antti Pusa (F), Joe Perry (F), Evan Haney (F), Benjamin Dieude-Fauvel (D), 

(13) Rapid City Rush: Winston Day Chief (F), Justin Sawyer (D/F), Justin Faryna (F), Scott Brannon (F), Sean Erickson (D), Brett Kostolansky (D), Jared Brown (F), Wayne Savage (G), Brandon Martell (D), Reid Campbell (D), Patrick Divjak (F), Daniel Tetrault (D), Bobby Preece (D),

(12) Tulsa Oilers: Jake Obermeyer (D), Nathan Lutz (D), Adam Pleskach (F), Matthew Larke (F), Chapen Leblond (F), Eric Tallent (D), Charles Lachance (F), Ben O’Quinn (F), Kevin Noble (D), Steve Mele (F), Marc-Olivier Phaneuf (F), Mike Zacharias (G),

(7) Wichita Thunder:  Alex Bourret (F), Nikita Kashirsky (F), Ian Lowe (F), Taylor Nelson (G), Jim Jorgensen (D), Andrew Martens (D), Todd Hosmer (F),

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Allen Defenseman Aaron Gens - A Player Introduction Including A Music Video

Aaron attended the NHL Washington Capitol's development camp in 2012

The player introduction series continues today with recently signed Allen American's defenseman Aaron Gens (pronounced Jens). Aaron comes to Allen after playing in the ECHL the last two years (Evansville & Reading). His response on why it took a few days to answer my questions is all you need to know about Aaron, "Sorry it has taken so long to get back to you, I have been training and fishing in Alaska for the last month."

Born (Februay 24, 1987) and raised in Baudette, Minnesota which is literally across the Rainy River from Canada, playing hockey and fishing is just what you do. Baudette is known as the "Walleye Capital of the World" as Willie The Walleye, a 40 foot, two ton walleye welcomes you to the town of 1100.

Willie the Walleye

Aaron left home in 2004-2005 to start his junior career and what a change it was. Going from Baudette where low temperatures in the winter average below zero and record low temperatures are  minus 50 (not wind chill but actual temperature) he signed to play junior hockey in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He spent his entire junior career playing for the Santa Fe franchise.  In 2007-08 when the team moved to Topeka, he followed the team and helped Topeka win their first ever division championship. He exploded offensively with 58 points and set a franchise record with a plus-minus rating of +41. His efforts earned him many awards, including the teams “Defenseman of the Year” and “Most Valuable Player”. The NAHL recognized him as “NAHL Defenseman of the Year”, and Aaron was named to  the All-NAHL All-Star team. His performance also led him to a Division I college commitment with University of Alaska-Fairbanks (UAF).

Aaron had a great hockey career at  UAF where he played for four years and had 72 points (12 goals 60 assists) in 140 games and was the club's leading scorer among defensemen his junior and senior seasons.  He was also successful in the classroom as he graduated with honors with a degree in Business Administration (marketing). 

After finishing his college career (2011-2012) he signed an AHL contract with the Lake Erie Monsters and played with them for seven games at the end of their season. The 2012-2013 season proved to be a special one for Aaron as described in an article written by Arch Ecker who is the broadcaster for the Topeka Roadrunners. "The 2012-2013 season brought Aaron something very special, as he was able to fulfill a lifelong dream. Playing with my brother (Matt) in Evansville (ECHL) brought something I never thought would come my way. There was a type of chemistry that can't be explained. We grew up talking about it and skating with each other in the summer and when the dream came true to play with him, it was better than we had ever imagined.”

Allen fans will remember Matt Gens as he played for both the Odessa Jackalopes (2010-2011) and the Evansville IceMen (2011-2012) when they were in the CHL.

Last year Aaron played for the Reading Royals and had 22 points (5 goals 17 assists) in 46 games. After signing with Allen this is what Gens had to say, "I am so excited to be coming to Allen. The Americans have quickly become one of the top franchises in minor pro hockey. I feel I can add scoring from the blue line and contribute to what should be a very skilled defensive unit. Coach Martinson is a great coach with a winning record and I am looking forward to playing for him. I can't wait to meet all of the great people in Texas and get the season started as we build towards bringing another championship to Allen."

Aaron was kind enough to answer some get acquainted questions: 

Tell us a little about your family:
 - My parents are both ministers and I have three brothers (Ed, Pete & Matt) and two sisters (Amy & Lisa).  My dad (Dave) and mom (Mary Lee) live in Baudette, MN and have been great role models for all of the kids growing up in a hockey community. All of my family are musicians and can play drums, guitar and piano. We are very close and love to jam together. All but one of my family played hockey growing up and a couple of us have made the pro ranks.

Do you have a favorite number? Do you know what number you will be wearing in Allen? 
- I don't have a preferred number but we will see what happens here soon.

What is your nickname?
- My nickname is Gensy

Who is your hockey hero?
I don't have a hockey hero, but respect all of the players for what they have accomplished both past and present.

What is your earliest hockey memory?
- My earliest hockey memory is playing knee hockey with my brother Matt who was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks and played 8 years pro. 

At what age did you start skating?
- I have been skating since I was two

What is your favorite kind of music?
 - I play all types of music but a blues rock style is my favorite.

If you could have lunch with anyone who would you pick?
- I would have lunch with my grandpa because I've learned so much from him and always miss the talks being away playing hockey. 

One thing people would be surprised to learn about you? 
- I think one thing people would like to know about me is the number of fish that I have had the opportunity to catch and all of the different species including a number of salmon and halibut in Alaska.

If you could live anywhere in the world besides the US  or Canada where would you pick?
- I have been to some amazing places and wouldn't trade it for the world. If I were to go to another country besides the U.S. it would be somewhere with extreme hunting for some trophy animals.

If you could be anything other than a professional hockey player what would you pick?
- I would love to be a fishing and hunting guide if hockey were to end today.

When will you arrive in Allen?
- I will be headed to Allen late September and can't wait to learn from all of the people about the way of life down south. Very thankful for the opportunity and can't wait to get started.

What do you like to do away from the rink?
- I am looking forward to scanning the lakes for bass and the woods for big whitetail deer.

How would you describe your style of play?
- I'm an offensive defenseman that is not afraid to block shots and lay down my life for a win.

How did you get to Allen? Do you have a connection to Steve Martinson?
- I am excited to play for Steve Martinson and have been ever since I watched him hoist the Colonial Cup (United Hockey League championship) with my brother Matt for the Rockford Ice Hogs in 2006-2007.  

Here are just a few quotes about Aaron from coaches past and present: 

"Gensy was a player who was patient in his own development. He utilized all of his junior eligibility  to develop into one of the top defenseman to ever play in the NAHL. Aaron came in as a youngster with potential and left as an MVP."

"I think we will never forget his ability to throw out a rap on the bus rides, but I most remember Aaron as a player who refused to be told he couldn't accomplish something. He was a player that everyday put in the time to improve. He was first class in the community and represented our program very well. He always did things with a smile on his face."

"Aaron is a solid two way defenseman."

"Aaron is smart and creative with the puck. When he moves the puck and gets going he is very effective in the transition. He helps in the transition offense and is also capable to jump up into the play. He has that instinct to be an offensive defenseman."

"I liked what he brought when I saw him in camp. He moves the puck really well; he skates well; he has a good offensive mind. He shoots the puck well and plays physical for the most part. He's a nice addition."

 An ambitious young man with lots of different interests would certainly describe Aaron Gens. He started his own hockey camp while still in college. The Complete Defenseman Camp (CDC) was formed in 2010 as a hockey camp in Fairbanks, Alaska. CDC is a two week developmental camp that focuses on off-ice hockey specific training and on-ice defensive skills. His camps take place in June so Aaron can combine his love of hockey and his love of fishing while in Alaska. For you avid fisherman or if you would like to check out some Minnesota ice fishing, Aaron was a guest on a television show called Lake of the Woods Outdoorsman. You can find his appearance on YouTube at, "Outdoor Bound TV Episode 38 LOTW Rainey River Walleyes."

Finally,  as Aaron mentioned above, music is a big part of life with his family as they are all musicians who have written and produced original songs. The video below is part of an impromptu jam session that Aaron and his brother Matt did at an event when they were both playing for the Evansville IceMen. Aaron is on guitar.