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.

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