Friday, January 9, 2015

This & That - The Good News, The Bad News, The Happy News, The Sad News

The last few days have been filled with both good news and bad news with some indifferent news thrown in for good measure. Today may be more of a stream of consciousness than a blog post but it reminded me of how being a hockey fan is really about the people involved as much as it is about the team or teams you follow.

Original member of the North Stars Passes away

- It was sad to hear about the passing of former Minnesota North Star great J.P. Parise on Wednesday at the age of 73. I grew up in Bloomington, Minnesota which is where the Stars played and attended the very first North Stars game on October 21, 1967 and was a huge fan. I still have the ticket stub from that first game. The NHL expanded from six to twelve teams that year and it provided a great opportunity for guys like Parise who had been playing mostly in the minors a chance at playing in the NHL. The 1967-1968 season was a great and tragic one for Parise and the North Stars. Great because in their very first season, even though they finished with a losing record, they finished fourth in their division and made the playoffs. They won the first round in the Stanley Cup playoffs in seven games against the Los Angeles Kings before losing to St. Louis in seven games in the semi-finals. The tragic part of the year was on January 13, 1968 when J.P.'s teammate, Bill Masterton was killed as a result of a check when his head whip lashed as he fell to the ice. He is the only NHL player killed as a result of an injury suffered during a game. I was also at that game. Many people know J.P. as Zach Parise's dad but to me growing up watching J.P. it is the other way around. Zach Parise is J.P.'s son. The picture that has always remained in my mind about J.P. is the big, bushy, black eyebrows he had which always made him standout. Parise played in 890 NHL games and was a two time all-star. His style of play was best described by one of his teammates, "J.P. was probably one of the best cornermen in the game, when he went into the corner he was going to come out with the puck." An interesting story about how J.P. met his wife Donna. In 1971 she was honored as the two millionth North Star fan. She and her sister won a road trip with the team and met her future husband at a restaurant in Boston. R.I.P. Jean-Paul Parise.

- Congratulations to Bruce and Whitney Graham who announced yesterday that they are having another baby. It will be baby number three who will have two big sisters (Harper and London) who were both born in Allen if memory serves me right. Bruce is playing in Nottingham, England this year and is the second leading scorer on the team with twenty nine points (14 goals 15 assists) in thirty six games.

- Closer to home and certainly not breaking news but Tyler and Taylor Ludwig along with their daughter Sydney are anxiously awaiting the arrival of baby number two which will arrive in a couple of months.

- The ECHL All-Star reserves and alternates were announced yesterday and have to say it was certainly a disappointment. Lack of knowledge on my part led to this disappointment as it turns out there was never a chance to get more than one player on the All-Star team. I had heard that the six starters were voted to the team and the 15 reserves would be picked from a list provided by the coaches but never heard about what is apparently a one person per team rule. It certainly is not a coincidence that the six starters were all from different teams, the fifteen reserves were all from different teams and the ECHL happened to pick enough alternates (six) to make sure every team was represented. With 28 teams in the ECHL and 14 teams in each conference (maybe 30 and 15 next year) let's hope the league can find a financially feasible way to have a true All-Star game next year between the two conferences so guys like Chad Costello, who by any measure is one of the best players in the ECHL can be recognized.

- The former CHL teams get two more cracks to improve on the 3-12 record they have against the older ECHL teams tonight as Brampton plays at Elmira and Evansville is at Missouri. For Evansville it will be the first game behind the bench for new head coach Al Sims.

- Everyone seems to have an opinion on the eight game suspension handed out by the ECHL to Garrett Clarke yesterday with many feeling it should have been longer. What looked like a serious injury at the time when the player (Jonathan Narbonne) was taken off the ice on a back board turned out to not be so serious as Narbonne was back in the line up four days later for Rapid City. Makes you wonder if that was a factor in the final decision. The next step is to see what if any action the Americans might take given the fact that Clarke will be suspended and unable to play until the January 24th away game against Toledo.

- Don't be surprised if you see Brian McMillin attend the games this weekend at the AEC. It has been two weeks since his surgery and he is anxious to able to watch and support the team.

- Raphael Girard who was the backup goalie in Allen when Aaron Dell was called up by Worcester was released yesterday by Rapid City. Girard has played well when given the chance. If Dell or Riley Gill get an AHL call up and Girard is available he most certainly would get signed again by Allen.

- Congrats again to Jack Combs and Steve Martinson who will be participating in the All-Star game on January 21. Not sure when (probably today) the formal announcements will be made about the coaches, trainers, and equipment managers but Martinson will/should be named as a coach based on the criteria set by the league.

- For those that don't participate in the All-Star game they will have a break from January 20-22 to enjoy themselves. After the All-Star break starting with games played on January 23 it is jersey reversal date for the ECHL so Allen will be wearing white on the road and red at home. Allen will be on the road on the 23rd so the first time their red jerseys will be worn at home will be on January 29th.

 - Rusty Aldridge (Americans equipment manager) confirmed yesterday that Allen players order new skates with all of the various options as described in the story in yesterday's post. You learn something new everyday.

- You could make the argument that most of the players on this year's Allen team could be playing in the AHL but the one player on the team who is having a terrific year and seems to be a perfect fit for the AHL is Gary Steffes. He is an unselfish player yet he is second in the ECHL in goals scored, sixth in plus/minus, he is a tireless worker, works hard at both ends of the ice and never takes a shift off, will stick up for his teammates, drop the gloves if necessary, is great in the locker room, can play power play and penalty kill, and is an alternate captain on the team. Some AHL team needs to give Gary a shot.

DID YOU KNOW: Sixteen players from the Allen roster this year have played in the AHL:
Jack Combs, Chad Costello, Gary Steffes, Ian Schultz, Greger Hanson, Aaron Gens, Jamie Schaafsma, Spencer Asuchak, Tyler & Trevor Ludwig, Austin Smith, Rylan Schwartz, Brett Lyon, Devin Didiomete, Riley Gill, and Aaron Dell.

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