Category Archives: Hartford Wolf Pack

CANTLON’S CORNER: WOLF PACK OFF-SEASON WEEK 10

gerry-150x130BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – This past week and the week ahead are perhaps the business and maybe even the most important couple of weeks for teams in the National Hockey League. It’s not an exaggeration to say that many times Championships are won and lost as the General Managers build their respective teams and their farm system during this time frame. Continue reading

CANLTON’S CORNER: JASON LABARBERA RETIRES

labarbera_nyr

gerry-150x130BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – It’s amazing how fast sixteen years have flown by.

Jason LaBarbera holds every Hartford Wolf Pack goaltending record and has submitted the paperwork and officially hung up his skates and announced his retirement.

While LaBarbera is ending his playing days, he is not leaving the game as he was named as the new goaltending coach for the Calgary Hitmen (WHL) late last week.

“It’s a great opportunity for me. I had thought about coaching, but I sent a note along to our coach when their guy left, and it’s worked out. I’m really looking forward to it,” LaBarbera said.

Former Hershey Bears head coach Mark Franch stands behind the bench for the Hitmen. With the addition of LaBarbera, French’s other assistants are former Providence Bruin, Trent Whitfield, and former Calgary Flame great, Joel Otto.

For LaBarbera, he will now enjoy a level of stability he hasn’t known since his days as a junior goalie in the WHL where he played with Portland, Tri-City, and Spokane.

“It’s going to be different, but I’m really looking forward to being in one place. For so many years you plan on leaving for camp in the summer or sometimes moving to a new city and team. It does get to be a grind.” LaBarbera said. “Physically and mentally I was spent. I could have kept playing, maybe getting an AHL deal or going to Europe, but that would have meant uprooting my family. I wasn’t going to do that. Calgary is our spot.”

LaBarbera is in Toronto for the next couple of days enjoying one of his passions, taking in a weekend slew of Toronto Blue Jays games with his family and friends.

The game has changed in two fundamental ways for the Burnaby, BC native since starting out in the WHL.

“The teams and players were really tough. Not to say these kids aren’t, but each team had three or four tough guys and a few real super tough guys. We had a line brawl about once a week or more, and that has really been tamped down,” LaBarbera said.

The second thing LaBarbera notes was that the young athlete of today is much more health conscious than his generation was.

“Man, when I was in Hartford we were lucky to get a bag of bagels,” quipped LaBarbera. “You learn over the years. I know I did. Showing up for practice with a box of donuts from Tim Horton’s or Dunkin’ Donuts wasn’t going to cut it. It really helped me, not just as a hockey player, but as a person. What you put in your body affects you. I have seen how the young guys are better structured in that way, especially with the pace of the game now and the travel you have to endure. You have to prepare yourself.”

Over the years the Wolf Pack have had some very solid goalies come through the doors. Robb Stauber and Dan Cloutier minded the net in Year One. There was Calder Cup winning goalie, and AHL Hall of Famer, J.F. Labbe, to former first round pick, Al Montoya, to Dov-Grumet Morris and David Leneveau, Steve Valiquette, Johan Holmqvist, Cam Talbot and Yann Danis, but hands down the best netminder they ever had was LaBarbera.

His glove hand is all over the Wolf Pack record book.

The most games played by a goalie (182), most minutes played in a season (3,393:05), all-time best record (91-54-16-2) and GAA (2.11) most consecutive wins without a loss for a goalie (14) and career minutes played (9,995).

His 2003-04 season was one that caused a rewriting of the Wolf Pack record book, but the AHL’s too.

He had a league-best 13 shutouts, a stunning 1.59 GAA in 59 games, though he finished second to Bridgeport’s Wade Dubielewicz, who had a 1.38 in 33 GP. “Barbs” also had 34 wins and a 93.6 save percentage. He won the AHL’s Baz Bastien Award for best goaltender and became the second Wolf Pack player to capture the Les Cunningham Trophy as the regular season MVP.

LaBarbera was able to take full advantage of the opportunity afforded him when the New York Rangers lost their top goaltending prospect, Dan Blackburn. to a freak accident during weight lifting in the off-season. Blackburn’s injury would wind up being a career ender forcing the Rangers to bring LaBarbera up from the ECHL.

“You know I didn’t know it really then, but it was a small window of opportunity, and I took it. Ironically, I stayed friends with Blackie over the years, and we kept in touch,” Barbs said. “You hate to see someone get hurt like that. It’s something I can pass along to the young goalies now in Calgary. When you get a chance, take it.  With a year like (2003-04), there are two things that you can see now and appreciate even more. One was how good the team you were playing with was so good, and the other is that my head coach, Ryan McGill, had confidence in me and for a goalie that makes a big difference. I have seen over the years having the confidence of your coaching staff goes a long way and makes a player successful.”

For LaBarbera, his time in Hartford the thing that helped shape his career was learning so much from Rangers goalie coach, Benoit Allaire

“To be honest, I had no idea how to play goalie until I was 25. Benny taught me so much about the position and things that I had no idea about. He has phrases I still remember and will use with the Hitmen. ‘Beat the pass and play the right angle.’ ‘Make the right save.’ You can make something more complicated, but he always kept it simple, not trying to fill your head with so many things to confuse you. My time in Hartford, I have come to greatly appreciate now, and he made a difference in my career. I made a good NHL career as a backup, but everybody wants to play a lot, and Hartford was the best point of my career as a player.”

His AHL career numbers are impressive.

LaBarbera is twentieth in career wins with 155 in 315 games played. He sits seventh all-time in shutouts with 31, and those 13 shutouts he had in 2003-04 is still an AHL regular season record.

The 2003-04 Wolf Pack team finished with a record of 44-22-12-2 and 102 points. They won the Atlantic Division title and looked poised to return to the Calder Cup Finals after beating the Portland Pirates and the Worcester IceCats in the first two playoff rounds and losing just one game. But then they came upon the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and for just the third time in franchise history, they would go a full seven games. They would exit the conference finals losing in heartbreaking fashion 4-3 in overtime when Matt Murley’s deflection of Colby Armstrong’s shot somehow eluded LaBarbera.

It is one of his few professional regrets.

“As a player to go through that was not fun. I was really down after that because you get the chance you never know when you can get it again. Now looking back, I really appreciate how far we got and how good of a season we had.”

LaBarbera had another terrific AHL season this time in Manchester in 2006-07. Contractual team limits in Los Angeles forced the Kings to send Barbs to New Hampshire for the season. LaBarbera made the best of it earning First-Team AHL All-Star status. He played in 60 games and registered a 2.21 GAA, a .933 save percentage and a record of 39-20-1. He played 3,619 minutes. In the playoffs for the Monarchs, LaBarbera posted a 1.78 GAA in 16 playoff games before the team was swept in the Eastern Conference Finals by Hershey, ending another late round run just short of a series for the Calder Cup.

“I have, to be honest, those two years in Hartford and Manchester were my best and the American Hockey League was so important to me. Those times I got to mature as a goalie and as a person. Becoming a coach now, I can really see the whole picture, and since I’m going to be in charge of young goalies, I can point what that road map can look like,” the always affable LaBarbera said.

In fact, Barbs’ only title came in his first year of juniors as the backup. He didn’t play a minute of the post-season or in Memorial Cup action for the champion, Portland Winter Hawks. The starter for the Winter Hawks that year was Brent Belecki, who played in just two AHL games in his entire minor pro career. Meanwhile, LaBarbera went on to play in 187 NHL games!

While this guy named Lundqvist became the standard bearer in net for the Rangers, LaBarbera went on to make a name for himself in the NHL with stops in Arizona (nee Phoenix), Los Angeles, Anaheim and Vancouver.

“I had a lot of pleasure playing with some good goalies. Mike Smith (Arizona), Roberto Luongo and I watched a young, developing Jonathan Quick and several others. I’m just realizing how many great players I was with. I saw Hank (Henrik Lundqvist) in his first training camp.”

In the past few years, injuries had crept up on LaBarbera, not to mention the coast-to-coast recalls from the Norfolk Admirals before Anaheim got a farm team in San Diego. The travel took its toll on him. This included a wild recall that came while at a team Halloween party that led to an insane seven-and-a-half-hour flight that had him at the arena just before game time. LaBarbera described his playing that game as he told the LA Times in, “a complete haze.”

“It was some pretty wild stuff, and I won’t miss any of that or taking 16-hour bus rides from Norfolk to Providence and getting off the bus and going to practice.”

But those trips were nothing compared to the sacrifice he and his wife Kodette would make as a family. Their son Ryder was born autistic. Ryder also has a brother Easton. Because of the nature of their situation, for two years LaBarbera had to live apart from his family while tending net in the NHL.

His dedication to the sport would be the understatement of the year.

“That was as tough as it gets. You spend a lot of time alone staring at the walls, and there were some very lonely days. I will say two things really made it bearable. One was my wife, because as much as I was handling some tough emotions, she was shouldering a very heavy load. I knew the kids were in a good place, but without her, it wouldn’t have worked. The other were my teammates. You got all the 21 and 22-year-old guys out there all pumped and ready to be at the rink every day, but they made it possible to be distracted in a positive sense every day and made it possible to be able to play and be focused. It’s was so very important in that period.”

LaBarbera deserved to win the AHL’s Fred T. Hunt Award last season, but despite some serious lobbying, LaBarbera wasn’t on the list presented to the media by the AHL.

With the upcoming season in Hartford being celebrated for being the 20th, the team should raise the King-of-the-Hartford-Net’s number 35 along with Brad “Shooter” Smyth’s number 11 to the rafters of the XL Center. It would be a well-deserved pair of ceremonies for two Wolf Pack greats. Let the lobbying begin.

Photo courtesy of angelfire.com

RANGERS: ROBIN KOVACS SIGNED BY BLUESHIRTS

CIhK0TgWcAA0IiWRANGERS AGREE TO TERMS WITH FORWARD ROBIN KOVACS

Rangers’ third round pick in 2015 NHL Entry Draft signs entry-level contract

NEW YORK, July 18, 2016 – New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton announced today that the team has agreed to terms with forward Robin Kovacs on an entry-level contract.

The 6-0, 186-pounder led Allsvenskan in shootout goals (eight) and game-deciding goals (four), tied for second in game-winning goals, ranked third in goals per game (0.48), and ranked fifth in goals and shooting percentage (17.1) in 2015-16. This past season, Kovacs helped AIK win the league championship in Allsvenskan. In addition, he played with Rögle BK in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), registering one assist in four contests.Kovacs, 19, skated in 44 games with AIK IF of Allsvenskan in Sweden this past season, registering 21 goals and 13 assists for 34 points, along with a plus-two rating and 54 penalty minutes. He was named the winner of Guldgallret, which is an award given annually to the top junior player (20 years old or younger) in Allsvenskan in 2015-16. Kovacs also led all players younger than 20 years old in Allsvenskan in goals and points this past season.

Kovacs has skated in 92 career games in Allsvenskan over the last two seasons (2014-15 and 2015-16), registering 38 goals and 24 assists for 62 points, along with 117 penalty minutes. He won the Guldgallret in each of the last two seasons, and he also led all players younger than 20 years old in Allsvenskan in goals and points in each season. In 17 playoff/round-robin games in Allsvenskan, Kovacs has recorded 11 points (three goals, eight assists).

The Stockholm, Sweden, native was selected by the Rangers in the third round, 62nd overall, of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

RANGERS: REBUILD BEGINS WITH TRADING BRASSARD FOR ZIBANEJAD

mika-nov19-blogRANGERS ACQUIRE FORWARD MIKA ZIBANEJAD

Blueshirts also acquire a second round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft;

New York trades Derick Brassard and a seventh round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft to Ottawa

BY: The New York Rangers

NEW YORK, July 18, 2016 – New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton announced today that the team has acquired forward Mika Zibanejad and a second round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Derick Brassard and a seventh round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

Zibanejad, 23, skated in 81 games with Ottawa this past season, registering 21 goals and 30 assists for 51 points, along with 18 penalty minutes. He established career-highs in several categories in 2015-16, including games played, goals, assists, points, game-winning goals (seven), and faceoff win percentage (50.5; 659-for-1,306). Zibanejad has tallied a goal on 13 of his 28 career NHL shootout attempts (46.4%), and he has recorded five game-deciding goals in the shootout. Zibanejad’s five game-deciding goals in the shootout are the second-most a Senator has tallied since 2005-06, as he passed Daniel Alfredsson for sole possession of second place during this past season.

Zibanejad led the Senators in game-winning goals, faceoff wins, and faceoffs taken, ranked third in shorthanded goals (two), tied for third in games played, tied for fourth in assists, and ranked fifth in points and power play points (11) in 2015-16. He tied for fifth in the NHL in shootout goals (four; 4-for-9) and game-deciding goals (two) in the shootout this past season. Zibanejad ranked third among Ottawa forwards in shorthanded ice time per game in 2015-16 (1:25). He tallied 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 24 contests against Metropolitan Division opponents this past season. Zibanejad recorded 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in the final 38 games of the season, and he ranked second on Ottawa in goals over the span.

The 6-2, 222-pounder has skated in 281 career NHL games over parts of five seasons (2011-12 – 2015-16), all with Ottawa, registering 64 goals and 87 assists for 151 points, along with 64 penalty minutes. Over Zibanejad’s first five seasons, 52 of his 87 career assists have been primary assists. Zibanejad tallied at least 20 goals and 40 points in each of the last two seasons. He was one of only three Senators who recorded 20 or more goals in both 2014-15 and 2015-16. In addition, Zibanejad’s goals, assists, and points totals have increased in every season during his career. Over the last two seasons, Zibanejad has tallied 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists) against Metropolitan Division teams.

Zibanejad helped Ottawa reach the playoffs in two seasons during his tenure with the team (2012-13 and 2014-15). In 16 career NHL playoff games, Zibanejad has registered two goals and six assists for eight points. He tied for the team lead with four points (one goal, three assists) in six contests during the 2015 Playoffs.

Internationally, the Stockholm, Sweden, native has represented his country in several tournaments. Zibanejad registered five points (four goals, one assist) and posted a plus-three rating in six games while helping Sweden earn a gold medal at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship. In addition, he tallied the game-winning goal in overtime of the Gold Medal Game against Russia. Zibanejad also recorded eight points (four goals, four assists) and posted a plus-eight rating in six games while helping Sweden earn a silver medal at the 2011 IIHF U18 World Championship.

Zibanejad was selected by Ottawa in the first round, sixth overall, of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Brassard skated in 254 games with the Rangers over parts of four seasons, registering 69 goals and 105 assists for 174 points.

CANTLON’S CORNER: WOLF PACK OFF-SEASON WEEK 12

gerry-150x130BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – While it was a relatively quiet week last week for the Hartford Wolf Pack and New York Rangers, this week there was more movement and a lot of Pack and Rangers related players signed deals and moved about.

PLAYER SIGNINGS

The Rangers announced the signings of three players, two for the NHL club and one for the AHL.

Defenseman, Dylan McIlrath obtained a $200K raise on a one-year $800K deal. The team signed free agent forward, Josh Jooris, from the Calgary Flames. It is expected that he will center the fourth line while Oscar Lindberg recovers from surgery. Jooris is a strong penalty killer for the Flames. He made $975K last year. Details of the new deal have yet to be published. Jooris’ father Mark is a scout for the Vancouver Canucks and the head coach/GM for Burlington (OJHL).

As we reported first last week and it became official this week, defenseman Tommy Hughes was re-signed for a one-year, two-way deal at $632,500K-NHL and $65K-AHL.

The leaves two RFA’s (restricted free agents) for the Rangers to sign, Chris Kreider and Jimmy Hayes, and one at the AHL level, Marek Hrivik. Cantlon’s Corner has heard that Hrivik has in fact signed, but the announcement of the signing will likely come in the next two weeks.

Late Thursday 2015 draft pick, Robin Kovacs from Sweden, put his name on a three-year, entry-level contract. His NHL salary will be $803,333 and his AHL pay is $70K. Kovacs was selected in the third round, 62nd overall. He spent most of the last season with AIK in Sweden Division 1. Kovacs tallied 21 goals and played four games with Rogle BK of the Swedish Hockey League.

The Rangers are expected to go on the Jimmy Vesey Sweepstakes. The Hobey Baker forward from Harvard declined to sign with the Nashville Predators who originally drafted him. During last month’s draft the Pred’s traded his rights to the Buffalo Sabres.

On the NESN (New England Sports Network) blog, there were unconfirmed postings that Vesey was on the verge of signing with the Boston Bruins. NESN is the Bruins broadcast network.

The Maple Leafs, Bruins, Rangers, and Buffalo are considered to be the finalists even though he cannot sign until August 15th.

ON THE MOVE

The summer address changes keep rolling on…

George McPhee, who had a seven-year pro career that included a brief stint in New Haven and played 109 games with the Rangers and after 17 years as the GM of the Washington Capitals, was named the first GM for the NHL expansion Las Vegas franchise.

McPhee played the game hard and had a good wrist shot, but in his heyday, despite being just 5’9, was one of the most feared fighters in the NHL. Injuries cut short his career short with it ending after just six games with the Devils in 1986.

McPhee won the NCAA Hobey Baker Award at Bowling Green as the nation’s top college hockey player in 1981 registered 80-plus points in his freshmen and senior season.

McPhee’s son Graham was selected by the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL Draft last month. The younger McPhee is heading to Boston College in the fall for his freshmen Hockey East season under the guidance of Eagles head coach, Jerry York, who coached the elder McPhee at Bowling Green.

The Vegas team’s special advisor to owner Bill Foley is former Hartford Whaler, Murray Craven, who played 1,071 NHL games mostly with Philadelphia. Craven tallied 266 goals and 759 points. Craven was a native of and played junior hockey with Medicine Hat (WHL). He started out with the Detroit Red Wings and after Hartford played with Vancouver and Chicago before ending his career with the San Jose Sharks.

Next up for Las Vegas will be the announcement of their scouting staff, their head coach, and his staff and then likely their AHL farm team destination for the 2017-18 season. The name and logo, according to Foley, is expected to be unveiled in October with the delay coming over trademark considerations regarding the name and logo.

Jack Combs, who played 18 games with the Pack and the rest of the season in the ECHL with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, heads off to Germany to play for the Fischtown Penguins, the newest entry in the German DEL league. Combs also played for the Sound Tigers back in 2012-13 season.

Fischtown was elevated from the German DEL-2 league when the Hamburg Freezers were folded by their parent company AEG.

Joining Combs in Fischtown is Rob Bordson, who spent most of the year with Iowa and ten games in Providence with the Bruins after starting the season with Adirondack (ECHL)

Kevin Goumas, a former Canterbury Prep player, is another AHL’er off to Europe. After spending most of the year with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and a dozen games with Reading (ECHL), Goumas heads to Mora IK (Sweden-SHL). Brendan Shinnimin who played in Springfield heads to SC Langnau (Switzerland-LNA).Brett Olson Portland is another heading to Austria and EC Salzburg.

Brendan Shinnimin, who played in Springfield, heads to SC Langnau (Switzerland-LNA).Brett Olson Portland is another heading to Austria and EC Salzburg.

Portland’s Brett Olsen is another heading to Austria and EC Salzburg.

That brings the total number of AHL’ers to date leaving for the European continent at 43.

A slew of ex-Wolf Pack players are signed and are off to new destinations.

Kelsey Tessier, after splitting last season playing for two teams in two different leagues in Sweden, signs with Vienna (Austria-AEHL).

David Liffiton leaves HC Innsbruck Austria for Frederikshavn IK (Denmark-DHL).

Corey Locke goes from EHC Visp (Switzerland-LNB) to Villacher SV (Austria-AEHL).

Jeff Taffe stays in the KHL going from Neftekhimik (Russia) to HC Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia).

Matt Ford stays in North America going from Bakersfield to Grand Rapids.

Landon Ferraro, son of ex-Whaler Ray Ferraro, lands a nice one-year, two-way deal with St. Louis/Chicago (AHL) at ($750K-NHL/$275K-AHL).

Joining Ferraro in Grand Rapids, Michigan is Carter Sandlak, son of ex-Whaler Jim ,who split last year between Charlotte and Florida (ECHL).

Jake Marchment, the nephew of former Whaler Bryan, was originally drafted by Los Angeles has signed an AHL deal with San Jose to play with Barracuda.

Dave Barr, a former Whaler and who had a cup of coffee with the Rangers, becomes the new assistant coach with the Florida Panthers leaving Buffalo.

Mike Halmo leaves the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and signs a one-year two-way deal with Tamps Bay/Syracuse at ($575K-NHL/$150K-AHL).

Sound Tiger Alan Quine was re-signed by the Islanders to a two-year, one-way deal paying him $575K-$650K-NHL.

At the NHL level, Luke Glendenning, who played at Salisbury Prep, didn’t so bad either as he signed a four-year extension with Detroit starting next year at $2 million per year a jump from the last year of his current deal which pays him $675K.

Scooter Vaughan, another ex-Sound Tiger, signs again with the Chicago Wolves on an AHL deal.

Former Wolf Pack, Kyle Jean re-signs with Idaho (ECHL) on a one-year ECHL deal.

Ex-Pack Rory Rawlyk who split last year with Canadian senior league team Stony Plain (Chinook Senior Hockey League) and Orlando (ECHL) signs with ASC Corona Brasov (Romania-MOL).

Matt Hussey, born in New Haven and played at Avon Old Farms, continues his pro career In Europe after playing a handful of games last year with Evansville (ECHL) and HC Detva (Slovakia Division-2). Hussey signs with HE Rouen (French Magnus Elite League) as the league embarks on a 50-game schedule for the first time next year.

Ex-Sound Tiger Ty Wishart goes from ETC Crimmitschau (Germany DEL-2) to HC Banska Bystrica (Slovakia-SLEL).

Another ex-Sound Tiger Sean Bentivoglio departs AS Asiago (Italy-LIHG) for Cardiff (Wales-EIHL).

One time Sound Tiger Sergei Ogrodnikov leaves HK Ryzan (Russia-VHL) for HK Gomel (Belarus-BHL).

FRANCHISE SHIFTS

No surprise here, last Monday, the Montreal Canadiens received approval from the AHL BOG (Board of Governors) to relocate their AHL team from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Laval, Quebec, a North Shore suburb. The team will play in the brand new Place Bell Centre currently being built and expected to be completed by the summer of 2017 to be ready for the 2017-18 season.

In last week’s edition of Cantlon’s Corner, we showed the progress from just last summer to this summer after a recent vacation to Montreal.

It will be a very, very friendly venue to get to for Habs fans. The arena is located perfectly on the city’s subway Metro orange line.

It will be a great weekend spot for fans to enjoy the city. It has plenty of good restaurants, shops and nightlife in the friendly, bilingual (French/English) city.

A favorable exchange rate will make it even better to visit for Americans. Just a reminder, you do need a US passport to enter Canada and it’s a nice easy drive. It’s only a five-hour drive from Connecticut to the Canadian border in either New York or Vermont via I-87 or I-89 respectively.

Sadly, this means this likely the end of the road for the AHL in St. John’s for the second time, that is of course unless Quebec City gets a relocated NHL franchise sometime next year. The teams (Maple Leafs & IceCaps) there have been well supported, but the distance they are from the rest of the league as the late AHL President Jack Butterfield once said, “they’re closer to Ireland than Canada.”

If the Pack play St. John’s this season on a weekend for a pair of games book the trip because it will be your last chance to get there and would certainly be worth it. – Note – fly out of Montreal and save some money.

Wouldn’t a St. John’s – San Diego Calder Cup Final be something?

Read HERE to look at the St. John’s Telegram on the future of hockey on, “The Rock.”

The situation continues to boil in Binghamton about Ottawa moving the team to Belleville, which is closer to the Canadian capital city. It seems to be a fait accompli, but there are several hurdles needed to be crossed and finalized before they’ll receive the AHL’s BOG approval for the move.  Read about it HERE.

STREET HOCKEY CLINIC

A very important hockey outreach program will be kicking off in the Bay State next month. There will be three dates in Springfield and Worcester among the six towns and cities bringing an introduction to hockey to the inner city. The program will be done in conjunction with DAJ Hockey and with assistance from the Boston Bruins Alumni Association.

Springfield is home to the newly christened AHL franchise, the Springfield Thunderbirds. Worcester, a former AHL city, will have a new ECHL franchise, the Railriders that will begin play following next season in 2017-18.

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In an effort to broaden youth participation at state-managed facilities this summer, the Baker-Polito Administration announced the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) will join with DAJ Hockey, LLC and the Boston Bruins Alumni to conduct a series of street hockey events as part of its Urban Summer Street Hockey program.

“It is incredibly important that kids receive great access to recreational opportunities across the state, especially during the summer months, and I am very proud to be able to offer my support of the Urban Summer Street Hockey Program,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “When state government works in cooperation with private partners, such as DAJ Hockey, we are able to leave a long lasting impact that will directly benefit today’s youth.”

“We’re very excited to be launching this venture. It’s been a long process, but we’re happy we’re here and ready to go,” VP of Business Operation for DAJ Hockey, Mark Willand said. Willand is known to many for his work with the CT Whale management and the Hartford Whalers.

“It’s important that we got the message out through the public school systems, to be honest. The biggest challenge hockey has had in reaching high-risk communities is the cost. This provides a great vehicle and low cost to get kids to begin to understand the basics of hockey and learn about it and conversely the kids will have a positive place and environment to be in. It also helps parents with their scheduling priorities that this can fit in and we were aware of that need,” Willand said.

Each clinic will occur between 6:00 PM and 8:00 PM and will be held adjacent to DCR hockey rinks. Clinics will include basic skills instruction, structured games / play time, and discussions on subjects such as teamwork, nutrition, bullying, and more. The clinics will also feature food, beverages, and free hockey-related promotional items.

“I am thrilled that our Administration will be able to provide kids from Springfield to the South Coast, and many communities in between with yet another outdoor initiative that will offer an incredible summertime activity and learning experience,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “By creating a safe, exciting environment where children of all ages will grow and thrive through outdoor recreational opportunities, we are able to promote a healthy lifestyle for the next generation.”

“Throughout the summer, kids will learn the value and appreciation of outdoor recreation thanks to the creative thinking of this Administration and DAJ Hockey,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “The Baker-Polito Administration’s work to protect and preserve public spaces is showcased through the Urban Summer Street Hockey program, and we look forward to helping this innovative program move forward.”

The DCR’s Urban Summer Street Hockey program will begin on July 19, 2016, and conclude on August 25, 2016. The street hockey events are designed to provide youth with a high-quality athletic and educational experience delivered by some of the sport’s greatest legends, including Rick Middleton, Glen Featherstone (also a former Whaler) and Tom Songin, with more participants to be announced in the coming days.

“Guys like Rick, Tom Glen, and Terry O’Reilly are so good with the kids and their natural teachers for a sport we all love. We have high hopes for the program,” said Willand.

The events are free and open to youth from six to fifteen years of age.

“Broadening youth participation in urban communities requires the kind of forward-thinking mindset that the DCR has brought to this partnership, and I am glad to see its success beget a second year of summertime fun,” said DCR Commissioner Leo Roy. “We at the DCR must remain mindful of new ways to engage children inside our 450,000 acres of protected land across the Commonwealth, and I am proud to see our hockey rinks supporting a good sport and a great cause.”

“We created our ‘Hockey in the Streets’ program last year because we are committed to bringing the great game of hockey to all children regardless of their socio-economic background. It is very gratifying to be able to connect Boston Bruins legends with urban kids, who often don’t have access to the great sport of hockey,” said David A. Jensen, owner of DAJ Hockey, LLC, past US Olympian, and former NHL veteran.

Urban Summer Street Hockey clinics will occur at the following locations:

  • Brockton (Asiaf Arena) on July 19 and 26 and August 2
  • New Bedford (Hetland Arena) on July 20 and 27 and August 3
  • Springfield (Smead Arena) on July 21 and 28 and August 4
  • Lowell (Janas Arena) on August 9, 16 and 23
  • Worcester (Buffone Arena) on August 10, 17 and 24
  • Lawrence (Valley Forum) on August 11, 18 and 25.

Full program details, updates, and news are available at DAJ Hockey Twitter and Facebook pages and at dajhockey.com. Or Call Mark Willand at 617-701-7289

**Portions of a DAJ Hockey press release were used in this story.

RANGERS SIGN TRIO WHOSE NAMES COMBINED SOUND LIKE A LAW FIRM – MCILRATH, JORTIS, & HUGHES

rp_new-york-r_thumb.gifRANGERS AGREE TO TERMS WITH DYLAN McILRATH

BY: The New York Rangers

NEW YORK, July 15, 2016 – New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton announced today that the team has agreed to terms with restricted free agent defenseman Dylan McIlrath on a new contract.

McIlrath, 24, skated in 34 games with the Rangers this past season, registering two goals and two assists for four points, along with a plus-seven rating and 64 penalty minutes. He tied for 13th among NHL rookies – and tied for fifth among NHL rookie defensemen – in plus/minus rating in 2015-16, as he posted a plus/minus rating of even or better in 29 of 34 games in which he played. Among NHL rookies who played at least 15 games this past season, McIlrath tied for fourth – and led all defensemen – in hits per game (2.7; 93 hits in 34 contests). He also ranked second on the Rangers – and led team defensemen – in hits per game in 2015-16.

The 6-5, 236-pounder registered his first career NHL assist/point on December 11, 2015, at Edmonton, and he recorded his first career NHL goal on December 15, 2015, vs. Edmonton. McIlrath became the first Ranger rookie defenseman to tally a goal since Ryan McDonagh on April 9, 2011. McIlrath posted a plus-one rating while making his NHL playoff debut in Game 2 of the First Round at Pittsburgh on April 16, 2016.

McIlrath has skated in 37 career NHL games with the Rangers over parts of three seasons (2013-14 – 2015-16), registering two goals and two assists for four points, along with a plus-six rating and 80 penalty minutes. He made his NHL debut with the Blueshirts on December 12, 2013, vs. Columbus.

The Winnipeg, Manitoba, native was selected by the Rangers in the first round, 10th overall, of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

RANGERS AGREE TO TERMS WITH JOSH JOORIS

NEW YORK, July 15, 2016 – New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton announced today that the team has agreed to terms with free-agent forward Josh Jooris.

Jooris, 26, skated in 59 games with the Calgary Flames this past season, registering four goals and nine assists for 13 points, along with 39 penalty minutes. He tied for the team lead in shorthanded assists (two) and tied for fifth on Calgary in shorthanded points (two) in 2015-16. The Flames posted a 9-2-1 record in contests which Jooris tallied at least one point this past season, and he posted a plus/minus rating of even or better in 45 of the 59 games in which he played during the season. He skated in his 100th career NHL game on February 23, 2016, at Los Angeles.

The 6-1, 187-pounder has skated in 119 career NHL games over two seasons (2014-15 and 2015-16), both with Calgary, registering 16 goals and 21 assists for 37 points, along with 55 penalty minutes. Over his first two NHL seasons, Jooris has been on the ice for only 14 power play goals against in 158:44 of ice time while shorthanded. He tallied 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists) in 60 games during his rookie season in the NHL in 2014-15, and he tied for third on Calgary in game-winning goals (four) during the season. Jooris registered his first career NHL goal/point while making his NHL debut on October 17, 2014, at Columbus. Also, Jooris skated in nine contests with the Flames during the 2015 Playoffs, registering four penalty minutes.

Jooris has also skated in 75 career American Hockey League (AHL) games over parts of two seasons (2013-14 and 2014-15), registering 11 goals and 16 assists for 27 points, along with 67 penalty minutes. He recorded his first professional goal, assist, and point as part of a two-point effort while making his professional debut with the Abbotsford Heat on October 4, 2013, at Lake Erie.

The Burlington, Ontario, native was signed by Calgary as an undrafted free agent on July 30, 2013.

RANGERS AGREE TO TERMS WITH TOMMY HUGHES

NEW YORK, July 15, 2016 – New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton announced today that the team has agreed to terms with restricted free agent defenseman Tommy Hughes on a new contract.

Hughes, 24, skated in 59 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL) this past season, registering two goals and seven assists for nine points, along with 48 penalty minutes. He tied AHL career-highs in goals, assists, and points in 2015-16. Hughes tallied a shorthanded goal and recorded two shots on goal on October 18, 2015, vs. Syracuse. Also, he registered a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” on February 5, 2016, at Portland, recording a goal, an assist, and a fight in the contest.

The 6-2, 225-pounder has skated in 173 career AHL games over three seasons (2013-14 – 2015-16), all with the Wolf Pack, registering five goals and 20 assists for 25 points, along with 109 penalty minutes. Hughes made his AHL debut on October 5, 2013, vs. Norfolk, and he recorded his first career AHL goal, assist, and point on October 12, 2013, at Adirondack. Also, he recorded three points (one goal, two assists) in 15 contests during the 2015 Playoffs while helping Hartford advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. Hughes tallied the series-winning goal in overtime in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Providence on May 1, 2015.

The London, Ontario, native was signed by the Rangers as an undrafted free agent on April 1, 2013.

FUEHRING: SWAMP RABBITS RE-UP WITH DOMMETT FOR 2016-17

rp_Greenville-Swamp-Rabbits-300x225.pngSWAMP RABBITS RE-UP WITH DOMMETT FOR 2016-17

Second-year forward recorded eight  points and seven fighting majors last season

 

BY: Alan Fuehring, Greenville Swamp Rabbits

Greenville, SC – The Greenville Swamp Rabbits, proud ECHL affiliate of the New York Rangers and the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack, today announced the team has re-signed forward Andrew Dommett for the 2016-17 season.

Dommett, 25, began his professional career with the Swamp Rabbits last season and notched eight points (4g, 4a) and 51 penalty minutes in 38 games. He scored his first pro goal on Jan. 3 at Manchester and racked up seven fighting majors over the course of the season – tied for second-most on the club.

“As we saw last season, Andrew is a hard-nosed, hard-working forward who gives it his all during every shift,” Head Coach Brian Gratz said. “He has offensive upside and is a guy whom we are looking to have a breakout year this season. His teammates love him because of his team-first approach and willingness to do anything for them.”

Prior to turning pro, Dommett played four seasons of college hockey at Lake Superior State University from 2011-15. In 128 appearances, the Major, Saskatchewan native produced 17 points (9g, 8a) and 61 penalty minutes for the Lakers. He spent two seasons alongside Swamp Rabbits forward Matt Johnson who was re-signed on June 24.

“I’m beyond excited to continue my career with such a great team, city and fan base,” Dommett said. “The organization knows how to treat players the right way, from the coaches to the front office, and I’m looking forward to getting back there. It was a simple decision to return.”

The 5’11, 192-pound forward also played four seasons with the Kindersley Klippers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League from 2007-11.

Get Social: Follow the Swamp Rabbits all off-season long and get behind-the-scenes coverage like never before on the team’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Ticket packages for the 2016-17 season are available and on sale now! Contact a Swamp Rabbits Account Executive at 864-674-PUCK (7825) for more information and to secure your seats today! Get the latest Swamp Rabbits gear by visiting the “Hop Shop” online at SwampRabbits.com/shop to browse the full collection of fan wear and novelties!