Category Archives: Hockey

ARRAL: NWHL NEWS – RIVETERS ADD KOREAN NATIONAL TEAM GOALTENDER SOJUNG SHIN

NWHLNWHL NEWS: RIVETERS ADD KOREAN NATIONAL TEAM GOALTENDER SOJUNG SHIN

Shin is Preparing for the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang

BY: Savanna Arral, NWHL 

New York, NY — Sojung Shin has signed a contract with the New York Riveters for the 2016-17 season, General Manager Chad Wiseman announced Wednesday. Shin and the Riveters agreed to terms on a one-year, $13,500 contract.

“I heard the NWHL is one of best league in the world,” said Shin. “I think the NWHL would give me a chance to develop for 2018 Olympics. I’m honored to be part of New York Riveters team and excited to play in the NWHL for next season!”

Shin played collegiately in the CIS at St. Francis Xavier University, where she collected 37 wins, a 1.46 GAA, and a .944 SV% in three seasons. She was named MVP of the women’s hockey team at St. Francis in 2015.

Shin has participated and medaled in seven IIHF World Championships (Division II/III) since age 14, earning a 1.33 GAA and .954 SV%. She was named Best Player of the tournament six times, most recently in 2016. Shin has also played for the South Korean National Team at two Asian Winter Games, two IIHF Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia tournaments, and the 2014 Olympic Games qualification round.

“Sojung is a talented goaltender and a great teammate,” said Rebecca Ruegsegger Baker, Riveters Head Goaltending Coach and South Korean National Team goaltending consultant. “We are excited for her to join the Riveters organization and have the opportunity to compete against the top players in the world in preparation for the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang.”

The restricted free agency began on April 1 and lasted until April 30. Free agency began May 1 and lasts until July 31. The 2016 NWHL Draft was on June 18.

ARRAL: NWHL NEWS – CORINNE BUIE SIGNS WITH BUFFALO BEAUTS

NWHL 2NWHL NEWS: CORINNE BUIE SIGNS WITH BUFFALO BEAUTS

Forward Played for the Boston Pride in Inaugural Season

BY: Savanna Arral, NWHL

Buffalo, NY — Corinne Buie has signed a contract with the Buffalo Beauts for the 2016-17 season, General Manager Ric Seiling announced Tuesday. Buie and the Beauts agreed to terms on a one-year, $13,000 contract.

“Corinne comes to Buffalo after winning the Isobel Cup with Boston,” said Seiling. “She’s a proven winner that skates well, handles the puck, and knows how to compete.”

With the Boston Pride in 2015-16, Buie scoring 7 points (3g, 4a) in 18 games. She played in all four of the team’s playoff games, culminating in the first Isobel Cup championship win.

“I’m excited for what the second season of the NWHL will hold,” said Buie. “The first year was amazing, and it’s just going to get better. I’m really excited to be joining the Beauts in September. I’m looking forward to playing at the HarborCenter. It’s an awesome facility!”

Buie is the third player so far this offseason to sign with a team other than the one they played for in the inaugural season.

The restricted free agency began on April 1 and lasted until April 30. Free agency began May 1 and lasts until July 31. The 2016 NWHL Draft was on June 18.

ARRAL: NWHL NEWS – RIVETERS HIRE REBECCA RUEGSEGGER BAKER AS GOALTENDING COACH

Riveters Hire Rebecca Ruegsegger Baker As Goaltending Coach

Coach is a Consultant for the South Korean National Hockey Team

NWHL
BY: Savanna Arral, NWHL

New York, NY — The New York Riveters have hired Rebecca Ruegsegger Baker as Head Goaltending Coach for the 2016-17 season; General Manger Chad Wiseman announced Monday.

“Rebecca’s past playing experience and recent coaching experience at St. Cloud, along with a great attitude and true passion for the game makes her a perfect fit for the Riveters organization,” said Wiseman.

Ruegsegger Baker was a member of the USA Hockey U-18 gold medal team at the IIHF World Championship in Calgary in 2008. She then played for the University of Wisconsin, winning a NCAA National Championship in 2011. For the last two years, Ruegsegger Baker has worked with the St. Cloud women’s hockey team and is a consultant for the South Korean National Hockey Team.

“I am excited and honored to work with the Riveters to give these women opportunities to play after college and continue to develop as goaltenders and people,” said Ruegsegger Baker.

The New York Riveters previously announced the hiring of Sis Paulsen as Assistant Coach for the 2016-17 season.

ARRAL: NWHL NEWS – MICAELA LONG SIGNS WITH CT WHALE

Micaela Long Signs With Connecticut Whale

Forward Tied for Second on Team in 2015-16 Playoff Scoring

LongBY: Savanna Arral, NWHL

Northford, CT — Micaela Long has signed a contract with the Connecticut Whale for the 2016-17 season, General Manager Lisa Giovanelli announced Monday. Long and the Whale agreed to terms on a one-year, $13,500 contract.
“The coaching staff is very excited to have Micaela returning to the Whale,” said Head Coach Heather Linstad. “Micaela has a very good hockey IQ and plays well at both ends of the ice.

She is a strong penalty killer with good speed, size, and the willingness to block a shot. In addition, she brings a great attitude to the rink and locker room.”

Long scored 10 points (3g, 7a) in 17 games with the Whale last season. Her two assists in the Isobel Cup playoffs tied her for second on the team.

“I am thrilled to be playing for the Whale again this season,” said Long. “Last year was a huge success and I’m excited to see what is in store for year two. I’m so happy to continue playing the game I love and to do it in front of our incredible fans! I know we are all looking forward to October.”

The restricted free agency began on April 1 and lasted until April 30. Free agency began May 1 and lasts until July 31. The 2016 NWHL Draft was on June 18.

CANTLON’S CORNER: WOLF PACK OFF SEASON – WEEK 13

gerry-150x130BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – Another week without hockey games to write about, but the business of hockey goes on. Lots of news this week.

ON THE MOVE

There were two moves made on the AHL coaching front.

The Providence Bruins named long-time assistant coach, Kevin Dean, as their new head coach. For the last four years, Dean had been an assistant under Bruce Cassidy. The opening came when Cassidy was promoted to the parent Boston Bruins as an assistant to head coach, Claude Julien.

The defending Calder Cup champions, the Lake Erie Monsters, signed their head coach, Jared Bednar to a two-year extension. They also named a new assistant coach. Steve McCarthy, who retired after playing for sixteen years, split this past season between the Kalamazoo Wings (ECHL) and Lake Erie. McCarthy was a first-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks back in 1999.

Goalie coach Manny Legace was signed to another one-year deal. Legace was a Hartford Whaler draft pick way in 1993. He went in the eighth round, 188th overall. Blake Geoffrion, the grandson of NHL legend Bernie “Boom-Boom” Geoffrion, was named the assistant General Manager  for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Tucson Roadrunners have a new GM, Doug Soetaert, who played for the New York Rangers after he was drafted in the second round, 30th overall in 1975 NHL Draft. Soetaert played in 284 NHL games with the Rangers, Winnipeg (original Jets) and Montreal. He got his Stanley Cup ring backing up Patrick Roy in 1986.

Soetaert has been the Arizona Coyote’s western pro scout after a two-year stint as the Director of Scouting in Europe for EHC Munich (Germany-DEL) and EHC Salzburg (Austria-AEHL) both teams are called Red Bulls.

He played for the AHL New Haven Nighthawks from 1977-1981.

The Colorado Avalanche signed a new ECHL affiliation deal with nearby (Fort Collins) Colorado Eagles. The agreement ends their affiliation with the Ft. Wayne Komets.

Former Hartford Wolf Pack forward, Paul Crowder, signs a deal with Orlando (ECHL).

Nick Lukko, who played at Salisbury Prep and is the son of Florida Panthers’ President, Peter Lukko, re-signs with Reading (ECHL).

Ten more AHL’ers are off to Europe with the latest two heading to Beijing to play for the KHL expansion team, Kunlun Red Star, the first Chinese KHL team. Sean Collins (Hershey) and Brett Bellemore (Providence). Last season Bellemore was in the Wolf Pack training camp. Mike Moore (Hershey) is the third player to go to Fischtown (Germany-DEL) in the last ten days. Derek Smith of Springfield goes to KHL Medvesak Zagreb (Croatia-KHL) and ex-Sound Tiger, Matt Donovan, goes from Rochester to Frolunda HC (Sweden-SHL)

Mike Moore (Hershey) is the third player to go to Fischtown (Germany-DEL) in the last ten days. Derek Smith of Springfield goes to KHL Medvesak Zagreb (Croatia-KHL) and ex-Sound Tiger, Matt Donovan, goes from Rochester to Frolunda HC (Sweden-SHL)

Ex-Wolf Pack and Sound Tiger rearguard Dylan Reese goes from Springfield to HV 71 (Sweden-SHL), ex-Sound Tiger Kael Mouillierat goes from Wilkes- Barre/Scranton to Lulea HF (Sweden-SHL) and Evan Trupp of Chicago goes to Augsburger (Germany-DEL).

Andre Benoit goes from Chicago to Malmo IF (Sweden-SHL). Kyle Cumiskey Rockford to Skelleftea AIK (Sweden-SHL) and Ryan Martindale, who split the season with Syracuse and Florida (ECHL), goes to Esbjerg (Denmark-DHL).

That brings the total number of AHL’ers going to Europe to 55.

Another college underclassmen turns professional as Jack Roslovic signs a deal with Winnipeg and leaves the University of Miami at Ohio after his freshmen year. He will either be assigned to Manitoba (AHL) or go to junior hockey with London (OHL), who obtained his junior rights in a trade with Flint last month at the OHL Priority Draft. Presently, 37 underclassmen have signed pro deals since the end of last season.

Charlie Sampair goes from University Minnesota-Duluth to Alaska (ECHL) making it 177 NCAA players who have signed pro contracts since the end of the college season in the spring.

Taft Prep’s Shea Courtemanche of Madison, has made an oral commitment to Dartmouth College for 2019-20. His father Jason was born in Hartford and had a five-year minor pro career in the late 1990’S.

William Ennis from South Kent Prep and its US Selects Academy program (USPHL U-16) heads to Oshawa (OHL) next season.

Hamden-born Joe Aloi Jr. follows in his father’s footsteps and is a training camp invitee to Acadie-Bathhurst (QMJHL) whose GM is former Nighthawk, Sylvain Couturier. The elder Aloi Sr. played for Hull (nee Gatineau) OIympics (QMJHL) in the late 1980’s and is one of six Hamden natives drafted by the NHL teams.

Ex-Pack Vinny Saponari leaves the Greenville Swamp Rabbits (ECHL) to join Dynamo Riga (Latvia-KHL). He played in short stints with three AHL teams last season Portland, Lake Erie, and Milwaukee.

Former Wolf Pack, Alexandre Giroux, gives the KHL another twirl signing with Medvescak Zagreb as well. Another ex-Pack still around kicking in the KHL is defenseman Maxim Kondratiev who leaves Torpedo Novgorod to head to Amur Khaborovsk. It’s his ninth KHL team in ten years.

Former Wolf Pack goalie, Jason Missiaen, goes from STS Sanok (Poland-PZHL) to the newly created French Alps based combo franchise HC Chamonix-Morinze Pioneers to play in the French Elite Magnus League which will play a fifty game schedule this year for the first time.

Ex-Pack Jeff Ulmer leaves HC Innsbruck (Austria-AEHL) to play this year Braehead (Scotland-EIHL) who play in Glasgow.

Former Sound Tigers defenseman Nathan McIver retires after playing for Braehead last season to become an assistant coach with Oshawa (OHL).

Former CT Whale, Tim Kennedy, leaves Finland and KHL Jokerit Helsinki for Sweden and Lulea HF (Sweden-SHL).

New Canaan native and one-time Taft Prep player, Drew Mackenzie, signs for another year with Dornbirner EC (Austria-AEHL).

The Sound Tigers have signed three players to AHL deals for next season. Connor Jones joins his twin brother Kellen, and fellow Quinnipiac University alum and a pair of defenseman Kane Lafranchise and Patrick Cullity. All three who also spent time last year with Missouri (ECHL).

Ex-Sound Tiger, Tyler Gron goes from Esbjerg (Denmark-DHL) to Heilbronner (Germany DEL-2). Ex-Sound Tiger Ryan Caldwell goes from Lorenskog IK (Norway-NEL) to Oji (Japan-ALIH).

Ex-Sound Tiger goalie Kent Simpson stays in North America going from Stockton (AHL)/Adirondack (ECHL) to San Antonio (AHL).

Mark Kastelic, son of former Whaler, Ed Kastelic, was named to the Team USA squad for the U-20 Ivan Hlinka tournament taking place in August from the 8th to the 13th in Bratislava, Slovakia and the Braclav, Czech Republic. He plays for the Calgary Hitmen (WHL) and is entering his second junior hockey season.

Matt Puntereri, a former Danbury Whaler, is now playing with Canterbury Red Devils (New Zealand-NZIHL) in the summer and for the winter hockey season signed with EV Aich (Germany Division-6). Who knew there was a German sixth division? Puntereri’s head coach for FHL Danbury under several permutations (Whalers and Titans) and leagues after five years in the Hatter city, East Haven native, Phil Esposito Jr. has stepped down as head coach. Esposito also played for the New England (Danbury) Stars in the NEPHL.

ARE THE ISLANDERS LOOKING TO MOVE ?

Weren’t they moving to Hartford?

Once again, you may not want to read this, but Hartford is not even on the radar screen for the NHL despite what some people fantasize about. Read about the Isles home situation HERE.

The long often repeated rumor of the Rangers moving Hartford to Bridgeport is now officially off the table.

The new Islanders majority owners Jon Ledecky and Jeff Malkin stated publicly there are not moving the Islanders AHL farm team to the soon to be newly renovated Nassau Coliseum scheduled to reopen in the late spring of 2017. Bruce Ratner, whose company won the bid to renovate the building beating out MSG stating publicly that was their intention.

Ledecky and Malkin citing the team’s lease – one of the longest in AHL history which is also ironclad – it can only be transferred to another entity to assume the lease as is until its conclusion at the end of the 2020-21 season – as one of the primary reasons they will keep their AHL team there. Breaking the lease beforehand carries a $250K exit fee per year for each year remaining on the lease.

The lease was negotiated by the late Roy M. Boe, who founded the Bridgeport Sound Tigers after buying the dormant, Beast of New Haven franchise, from Carolina for $2 million, thirty days after the team was folded in 1999 after not being able to secure another affiliation or purchase the franchise.

The lease he entered into with Center Plate, a food concessions company who won the original management contract back in 2000 despite having never managed a building before, agreed to pay $20 million dollars for twenty years. Boe’s bid exceeded the bid of Paragon Sports’, the parent company of Beast of New Haven, which was $11 million for ten years, obviously made before they mothballed the team.

At the time, it was unknown except for a small group, that the New Haven Coliseum would be closed and eventually demolished.

The Sound Tigers nearly folded in the summer of 2003 after just two seasons by the AHL because of mounting financial problems including The Sound Tigers failure to pay its affiliation fee to Islanders, debts to numerous local vendors, and employees. The team was “sold” to then Islanders owner, Charles Wang.

The Islanders created a new company then under the direction of former GM Howard Saffan. They eventually “won” the building management contract in 2012 when Center Plate declined to renew its contract to run the Webster Bank Arena (nee Arena at Harbor Yard) after ten years. Spectra (then Global Spectrum) declined to make a bid to manage the building after reviewing the building’s financial books.

AHL MOVES

Highly trusted sources tell Cantlon’s Corner that Belleville, Ontario is pretty well set to become the newest AHL addition and will become the new home of the Ottawa Senators top farm team after relocating them from Binghamton.

A $7 million dollar renovation of the junior hockey league size Yardmen Arena has been agreed upon. The present international ice surface would be shrunk down to the NHL size 200’x85′ sheet allowing more seating to be put in place increasing it beyond it’s present capacity of 3,200.

The final seating numbers are being worked on with the architects, but would meet one of the AHL BOG requirements to place the franchise there and only conditional approval will be granted at first until benchmarks are met. The situation is similar to Tucson before full status would be granted.

Proper Locker rooms, weight-training, and office space are other key considerations, particularly meeting negotiated facility requirements in training as per the NHL and AHL CBA’s.

The issue of ownership of the franchise is also being worked out and as a local group of several investors is expected, but outright ownership by Ottawa is also on the table. Presently, 16 of 30 AHL teams are owned by their parent NHL team including the Hartford Wolf Pack.

The building will be ready for the 2017-18 AHL season.

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

CANTLON’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.’ ‘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