Dear Mr. Steve Yzerman, Mr. Julien BriseBois, and Co.,
One of the things that marks many of the teams in the American Hockey League is a distinct lack of franchise players. AHL rosters, by design and necessity, are ever-changing from season-to-season, and sometimes they’re ever-changing from moment-to-moment. It’s rare to have a guy for more than a season or two. AHL fans are used to growing attached to players that will eventually leave them.
The Syracuse Crunch fan base has been lucky to have quite a few players who, throughout the years, have stuck around for multiple seasons. Mostly, those players have been veteran players, guys whom the parent club invests in because of their experience and their ability to guide younger players through the crazy world of professional hockey. They’re important leaders in the dressing room, on the ice, and in their teammates’ lives.
No one in Crunch history embodies that ideal, that “as close to a franchise player as we can get” picture, more than Mike Angelidis.
And we want him back.
Mike’s banner year with the Crunch this past season is no secret. Third on the team in points with 20 goals and 18 assists, Mike matched his highest-scoring season in the AHL while playing in 16 less games. He certainly earned his call up to the Lightning and he also earned a spot as one of the first “Black Aces” to return to Tampa once Syracuse’s season had ended.
During his three seasons with Syracuse, Mike has shown a renewed spirit and love for this game. His resiliency and passion inspired both those on the bench with him and those in the stands watching his team this past season, both when times were good and when times weren’t so good. He was the one the fans looked to to lead, to sacrifice, to show everyone, regardless of the uniform they wore, what a real leader looked like. No one on that team deserved that “C” on his sweater more than Mike.
We want him back out there wearing that “C” for the 2015-2016 season. He knows what life as a professional hockey player can bring, and he has proven that he can guide his younger teammates through the twists and turns of it all. More importantly, Mike knows what this organization expects, and knows how the end to our season this time and the way we were swept in the playoffs is not reaching those expectations. I firmly believe he has already resolved that, if he returns, it won’t be happening again.
Crunch fans need someone with that kind of strength, determination, and tenacity going into next season. They need to be able to believe in the guy in our uniform wearing the “C,” need to be able to believe that he can inspire, push, prod, and support. They need to be able to see someone leading by example, forcing issues and doing what needs to be done to get Tampa Bay’s AHL club back to the level of excellence we were promised and we had when this partnership first started.
I truly feel that Mike remains the best guy for that job. Please bring him back to Syracuse for the 2015-2016 season.
May 18, 2015
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews announced today that the AHL Board of Governors has unanimously approved the selection of the Syracuse Crunch as host of the 2016 AHL All-Star Classic.
The 2016 AHL All-Star Classic will include the AHL All-Star Skills Competition on Sunday, January 31, followed by the AHL All-Star Game on Monday, February 1, taking place at the Onondaga County War Memorial Arena in downtown Syracuse, N.Y.
“As we prepare to commemorate the American Hockey League’s 80th anniversary next season, we are excited to bring the All-Star Classic to one of the cities that served as a charter member of our league in 1936,” said Andrews. “The historic War Memorial Arena will provide a perfect backdrop to celebrate our past while showcasing the brightest young stars in hockey.”
While the Crunch enter their 22nd season as members of the AHL in 2015-16, the city’s history in the league can be traced back to the Syracuse Stars, who won the very first Calder Cup championship in 1936-37.
The American Hockey League will host a media conference to formally introduce the Syracuse Crunch as host of the 2016 AHL All-Star Classic on Wednesday, May 27, at 1 p.m., inside the Onondaga County War Memorial. Ticket information for the 2016 AHL All-Star Classic will be announced at that time; details about other social events taking place – including the AHL Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Ceremony – will be announced at a later date.
“We are excited and extremely honored for our team and community to host the 2016 AHL All-Star Classic,” said Syracuse Crunch owner Howard Dolgon. “Fans from Syracuse and around the region will be treated to an amazing two-day event both on and off the ice.”
“Hosting the 2016 AHL All-Star Classic is great news,” said Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney. “We’ve all seen Howard Dolgon’s ability to create exciting events that generate national attention for the Syracuse Crunch and I am excited to see what he has in store for the AHL All-Star Classic. Thank you to David Andrews and the AHL Board of Governors for honoring our strong hockey history and we look forward to welcoming all of you during the 80th anniversary season of the AHL.”
The 2016 AHL All-Star Classic will feature the top young talent in the American Hockey League: Of the 679 players to take part in the AHL All-Star Classic since 1995, more than 93 percent have competed in the National Hockey League, including Patrice Bergeron, Ben Bishop, Troy Brouwer, Ryan Callahan, Zdeno Chara, Logan Couture, Jiri Hudler, Tyler Johnson, Chris Kunitz, Ryan Miller, Gustav Nyquist, Zach Parise, Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne, Bobby Ryan, Martin St. Louis, Cory Schneider, Patrick Sharp, Jason Spezza, Eric Staal, P.K. Subban and Mats Zuccarello.
In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 88 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and for the 14th year in a row, more than 6 million fans attended AHL games across North America in 2014-15.
We all sort of knew this was coming, right?
But, it’s still kind of neat to see it in print now from the league itself. The Crunch hosting the All-Star game again is, as many people have said, another feather in the organization’s hat. It’s probably a bigger, flashier event than when Syracuse first hosted it, and it looks pretty good coming off the heels of the very successful Toyota Frozen Dome Classic. It’ll also be another opportunity for the Crunch’s owner and company to do what he does best, which already has some of our friends excited:
The Crunch has been well represented at the AHL All-Star game since joining forces with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2012. In 2013, Syracuse had an unprecedented 4 players at the event: Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik, Mark Barberio, and Radko Gudas. In 2014, a year where not every team was represented because of a change in the format of the event, Brett Connolly was the Crunch’s man. Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Nesterov were selected from Syracuse for the most recent event, with forward Jonathan Marchessault replacing Nesterov after the defenseman got called up and stuck with Tampa Bay. Namestnikov was also voted as a starter in that game.
With guys like Matthew Peca, Yanni Gourde, and Slater Koekkoek on the rise, it’s probable that the Crunch will be well-represented again this year, which will be pretty nice with the game here in town. As the release states, ticket information will be released during a press conference on May 27th. My assumption is that season ticket holders will get first crack at their seats, kind of like what happens during playoffs, and then things will open up from there.
The Syracuse Crunch has returned to the North Division, but it’s a much different North Division than it was when they were a member back when I first started watching hockey.
With all of the movement in the league, we knew divisional changes were coming. But, whoa. This is pretty big:
Our good ol’ North looks a little different now, with Utica, Binghamton, Albany, and St. John’s joining Syracuse, Toronto, and Rochester.
Many AHL fans have been asking for all of the NY teams to be united into one division. This does that, obviously, while also balancing out the numbers with the addition of the two Canadian teams. This division does Syracuse some nice favors travel-wise and unites the Crunch with rivalry teams Rochester, Binghamton, and Utica. All in all, this could mean a nice payday for all of the teams involved, with the assumption that fans will eagerly be traveling across the state and the Canadian border–well, to Toronto, anyway–to watch their teams play.
A downside here is that fans hoping to see new faces and variety in who the Crunch plays will probably be disappointed. For instance, Syracuse had a nice rivalry going with Hartford and Springfield, both members of the Crunch’s current Northeast Division, and battled bitterly with the Wolf Pack right up until the final weeks of the season for first in that division. Of course, divisional and even conference lines have never been the ultimate deciding factor in which teams play which, so there’s always the change that Syracuse will continue to see the Wolf Pack and the Falcons a few times a season. Also over in the Atlantic Division, I’m sure WBS, Hershey, and Lehigh Valley will appear on the Crunch’s schedule a few times this upcoming season, too.
The final playoff format for the 2015-2016 season is still pending approval.
Syracuse.com just posted up an article outlining the contract statuses of those on the Crunch’s roster. Here’s the highlights:
Kristers Gudlevskis — one year left
Adam Wilcox — two years left
Joey Mormina — unrestricted free agent
Jake Dotchin — two years left
Dan Milan — UFA
Dylan Blujus — two years left
J.P. Cote — UFA
Jared Nightingale — UFA
Charlie Dodero — UFA
Slater Koekkoek — two years left
Luke Witkowski — restricted free agent
Ryan Martindale — RFA (rights belong to Florida)
Carter Ashton — RFA
Mike Angelidis — UFA
Brayden Point — must return to juniors
Kevin Lynch — UFA
Justin Courtnall — UFA
David Broll — one year left
Jonathan Marchessault — RFA
Cody Kunyk — RFA
Mike Blunden — UFA
Matthew Peca — two years left
Cameron Darcy — three years left
Eric Neilson — UFA
Dalton Smith — RFA
Yanni Gourde — one year left
Henri Ikonen — two years left
Philippe Paradis — RFA
Tanner Richard — one year left
Joel Vermin — one year left
In Tampa Bay
Forward Vladdy Namestnikov — RFA*
Defenseman Nikita Nesterov — one year left
Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy — two years left
*- Namestnikov becomes waiver-eligible next season.
— From the 2014 draft: defenseman Dominik Masin is eligible to join the Crunch, but is not signed. He can also return to juniors.
-Don’t look for Vladdy to be back in the AHL next season. Waivers plus his current “he’s a part of our team now” per coach Cooper status means bye-bye and thank you to one of the most talented guys we’ve seen play in a Crunch jersey.
-I WANT ANGELIDIS BACK.
-I can’t wait to see Masin in a Crunch uniform. I really hope it happens next season. I think he’s ready, and he could be a nice, physical boost for the Crunch’s blue line.
-Nesterov will probably stick in Tampa.
-Speaking of the Crunch’s blue line, we better hope that the team’s GM (whomever it is, whether it’s BriseBois or someone else) does a better job with summer signings than he has the past two summers. I highly doubt Mormina will be brought back, and my gut is telling me Cote won’t be, either. However, without those two, our blue line is young. Freaking young. We need at least two vets. Three, like we had before Matt Corrente was traded, would be better to accommodate and take over when NHL call ups start, as we know they will.
-I WANT ANGELIDIS BACK.
-I wouldn’t mind if Nightingale was re-signed. I don’t think Dodero or Milan will be back.
-Tampa will hold onto Witkowski. They’re not about to let that one go.
-It wouldn’t exactly surprise me to see Gudlevskis traded during the off season or used as fodder during the draft, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if Tampa decided to wait out the last year and see what he can do with Wilcox. However, having those two in net together kind of worries me, especially with Gudlevskis’ performance during this last stretch. I wish Tampa would find a veteran netminder for us, but that’s probably not going to happen. I honestly don’t think Vasilevskiy will be back. He’ll be backing up Bishop with Tampa.
-Ashton, as an RFA, might be let go. He hasn’t produced like Tampa imagined, with 14 points (3-11) in 29 games with the Crunch. They might choose to not retain his rights. The same could be said of Philippe Paradis (injured at the moment, 15 points in 34 games) and Dalton Smith (17 points in 62 games).
-Marchessault and Kunyk will be retained.
-I WANT ANGELIDIS BACK.
-Out of our UFA forward crop, I could see Courtnall returning. Maybe. I can always hope for Eric Neilson, but I’m just not sure if Tampa will invest another year in him. He’s so good for the community and is such a leader on the team that I’d hate to see him go, but I’m just not sure if he’ll be back. I’d imagine Lynch is done. I’d love for Blunden to return as one of our vets next year, but with the way his season ended in injury, it’s hard to get a read on how Tampa will feel about him. I’d say he was impressive in his initial 33 games (22 points, 13 goals, 9 assists).
-I WANT ANGELIDIS BACK.
-I WANT ANGELIDIS BACK.
Unless something changes, Syracuse Crunch fans will be able to walk away from one of the most dissatisfying seasons in recent memory Wednesday night, when the Crunch play game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Syracuse is down 2 games to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Round one of the Calder Cup playoffs is a best of five series, so one more loss will seal the deal and send the Crunch’s players to the golf course much sooner than anyone would have wanted.
It’d be nice to be able to say that it’s hard to believe that a team who was sitting atop their conference a mere few months ago could fall out so quickly. It’d be even nicer to be able to say that it’s harder to believe that a team who led their division for more than half the season could fall out so quickly. But for those who have been paying attention, this latest blow to what should have been a satisfying, fun ride for Syracuse and their fans is anything but surprising.
Regardless of what the standings have said, this was not a good season for the Syracuse Crunch. It just wasn’t. It ended the way it should have: with the Crunch losing nine of their last ten regular season games, being out-scored and out-hustled in nearly every outing. Those who have watched and worried all season, however, honestly felt that every game should have gone that way, and the fact that Syracuse was able to stick it out at the top for as long as they did was nothing short of a miracle.
That miracle has run out, and Syracuse’s season is on the brink of running out, too.
What’s probably the most frustrating thing with all of this is that the reasons the players and the coaching staff are giving for losing are things that were echoed by writers on this site back in November. According to quotes in a recent Syracuse.com article, the players are concerned about a lack of communication, a lack of energy and motivation, and a lack of organization on the ice. Those exact issues were ones that were pointed out as huge problems in the beginning of November in an article written by myself and John Fontana. Among the highlights:
How is it a team of skilled and talented players, those who could play at the NHL level as part of a concise unit, cannot find that same direction and motivation with their AHL teammates? It seems like a clear sign something is wrong.
When the status-quo holds and the product remains tepid and mediocre (making a showing but not putting together a winning effort) there’s a problem. It’s a problem higher than the guys on the ice.
The effort the Crunch is currently displaying is too disorganized, too scrambled, and too disconnected from each other to be capable of generating consistent efforts that translate to wins.
This is the second season the Syracuse Crunch are underperforming, and the second season that player recalls have been cited as the reason the compete-level is underwhelming from a talented roster. At what point is the problem acknowledged? At what point is everyone – players and coaches – held accountable for the lack of results?
How well does what was written in November match what is being said now? It appears nearly identical. So, are the players really saying that they have learned nothing since those times of troubles six months ago that will help them to overcome and persevere when this team needs to the most? And if so, what does that say about the leaders in the dressing room and behind the bench?
Yes, Syracuse’s roster has been dinged by recalls and injuries. Yes, their level of apparent scoring talent is lower than any other team in the Conference’s top 8. But shouldn’t there still be more that this roster can give? Something? Anything? The Crunch has been outscored so far by a 9-1 margin. Surely there’s got to be a better showing than that buried somewhere in this team’s potential.
Then again, maybe this group was doomed before they even started.
It’s been a point of idle chatter among Crunch fans as to whether the coaching staff has continued all of the team building exercises that former head coach Jon Cooper started during Syracuse’s 2012-13 season. That team, with many holdovers from a Norfolk Admirals squad that had won the Calder Cup the season before, was just about as close as a team could get. Cooper’s goal was to keep it that way. Players joined a bowling league with each other. They practically embodied the idea that a family who plays together stays together.
The past two seasons, news of that kind has been scarce. Although players continue to talk about how close they are, their stories to prove that closeness revolve around video game tournaments and team dinners, activities that, while normal and probably good in their own right, don’t exactly scream total team bonding. Has Cooper’s obviously successful plan been abandoned for some reason? If so, would continuing to follow that plan have changed anything this season?
Obviously, there’s a lot of questions and not a lot of concrete answers. However, if the goal is progress, then these questions are things that Syracuse’s players and coaching staff should be chewing on this summer.
How long they have to chew on them, however, is up to them.
What’s done is done, and although it’s obvious that the last few weeks of the Syracuse Crunch’s season didn’t work out as expected or hoped, there’s no use worrying about it now. It’s all water under the bridge. Spilled milk that there’s no use crying over.
A new season starts Monday. Playoffs have arrived in Syracuse.
The Syracuse Crunch finished the season in 5th place in the Eastern Conference and second in the Northeast Division with 92 points and a record of 41-25-10-0. Their 5th place seed means that the Crunch draws 4th place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (WBS) as their first round opponent in the Calder Cup playoffs. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins finished the year with 97 points and a 45-24-3-4 record.
Syracuse took the regular season series with the Penguins 3 games to 1. Yanni Gourde was the player with the Penguins’ number, scoring three goals and netting two assists against them over all four contests. On the other side of the red line, Penguins’ center Jayson Megna will be the one for Syracuse’s defense to keep an eye on, as he netted four goals against Syracuse over the course of the season.
In net, Syracuse saw half of their mixed bag of goalies from this season play against WBS. Allen York only backed up for one game against the Penguins and did not play, while current Crunch backup Adam Wilcox arrived on the scene too late to get a game in against this conference foe. Andrei Vasilevskiy was the only Crunch goalie to take a loss against the Penguins this season, letting in 5 goals on 35 shots back on November 10th. He redeemed himself on January 17th when he came into the game in relief of Kristers Gudlevskis and helped to backstop Syracuse to a win. Gudlevskis himself claims a 3-2 victory against WBS that happened on November 15th, and also was the winning goalie in overtime on March 20th, when Syracuse won 2-1.
In net for the Penguins for the duration of this series will surely be AHL Rookie of the Year and the AHL’s Most Outstanding Goalie Matt Murray. Although Murray had a 0-2 record against the Crunch this season, he is not a player to underestimate. From theahl.com’s coverage of Murray’s top goalie award:
Murray owns a record of 25-9-3 in 39 appearances, and his 1.51 goals-against average, .943 save percentage and 12 shutouts not only lead the league in 2014-15, they also all represent the second-best marks in the 79-year history of the AHL.
Murray set an AHL record for longest shutout streak by a goaltender when he held Wilkes-Barre/Scranton opponents off the scoreboard for 304 minutes and 11 seconds between Feb. 8 and Mar. 8, a stretch that included four consecutive shutout victories. Murray is an impressive 13-3-3 on the road this season, and since the All-Star break overall, he is 15-2-1 with 17 goals allowed and nine shutouts in 18 starts.
The article also points out that Murray is a big reason that Wilkes-Barre/Scranton led the league in team defense: they ended the season at 2.15 goals per game with a total of 163 goals against. In contrast, the Crunch allowed an average of 2.92 goals per game. Their 219 goals against total led the Eastern Conference in the worst way possible and points to a clear deficit in Syracuse’s game: it’s hard to win when the puck’s always in the back of your own net.
Both the Crunch’s parent club and WBS’ parent club are in the playoffs. As of writing this, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins are both tied 1-1 in their respective opening-round series. Should either team drop out by the end of the first round (sorry, Lightning fans, but this needs to be said), both the Crunch and Wilkes-Barre could see reinforcements arriving.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has five players up top who are eligible to return for the AHL postseason. They are forward Scott Wilson (19-22), and defensemen Brian Dumoulin (4-29), Derrick Pouliot (7-17), Taylor Chorney (4-15), and Scott Harrington (2-10). The Crunch has three players in Tampa Bay who can come back for the playoffs. They are defenseman Nikita Nesterov (3-11), goalie Vasilevskiy, and forward Vladislav Namestnikov (14-21).
The reassignment of these players is completely up to the NHL parent club. Sometimes, when a player has been up and playing in the NHL consistently for a while, like Nesterov, the parent club will elect to not send them down and instead let the player rest up for next season. Theoretically, if the moment of a send down decision arrives, it’s very possible that Syracuse only sees Vasilevskiy. Goalie Ben Bishop is expected to run the gauntlet in the playoffs for Tampa, and Vasilevskiy’s overall usage by the Lightning during the regular season was low. Nesterov and Namestnikov have been seeing steady NHL time, and it’s very possible that Tampa elects to let them rest rather than have them play out the AHL playoffs.
In the AHL, the conference quarterfinals are a best-of-five series. The other three rounds are in a best-of-seven format. The Crunch-Penguins series will follow the following schedule:
Game 1 — Fri., April 24, 7:05 p.m. — Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Game 2 — Sat., April 25, 7:05 p.m. — Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Game 3 — Wed., April 29, 7 p.m. — Syracuse, N.Y.
Game 4 — Thu., April 30, 7 p.m. — Syracuse, N.Y. (if necessary)
Game 5 — Sat., May 2, 7:05 p.m. — Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (if necessary)
Syracuse is still waiting for a fully healthy roster. It’s currently expected that Crunch captain Mike Angelidis and Crunch defenseman and alternate captain Joey Mormina, both of whom have missed nearly three weeks of games due to injuries, will return in time for the playoffs. However, both were still practicing in red no-contact jerseys this past week. The status of Crunch defenseman Charlie Dodero, who was hurt this past Saturday during the first period and did not return to the game, is unknown at this time.
Having Angelidis back will be huge for Syracuse if it occurs. The Crunch has sorely missed Angelidis’ attitude, leadership, and ability these past few weeks. There’s just a visible change on the bench when Angelidis plays, and many are hoping rather desperately for his return this Friday.
Tickets for the April 29th game of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals are on sale now and range from $19 to $23 (day of game charges may apply). Tickets can be purchased by contacting the Syracuse Crunch office at (315) 473-4444, in person at the Syracuse Crunch office, or the Oncenter Box Office. Tickets can also be purchased online at Ticketmaster.com (additional fees may apply).
Final Regular Season Stats for the Syracuse Crunch:
Regular season record (wins-losses-OT losses-SO losses): 41-25-10-0
Place in Eastern Conference (top 8 make the playoffs): 5th
Place in Northeast Division: 2nd
- Top scorer: Jonathan Marchessault (24-43-67)
Top scoring defenseman: Slater Koekkoek (5-21-26)
Top defenseman, +/-: Jean-Philippe Cote, +14
- Top rookie: Joel Vermin (12-21-33)
Other transactions and player news:
-Crunch players JP Cote, Mike Angelidis, and Eric Neilson are teaming together and are encouraging Crunch fans to save their change and donate it to a great cause. The funds will go to pediatric cancer research and will stay in the CNY area. TampaCuse enthusiasts can get in on the action, too, by going to the team’s Go Fund Me page.
–Matthew Peca scored his first professional goal this past Saturday.
-The Crunch released defenseman Bryant Molle and signed defenseman Dan Milan this past week, although Milan has yet to suit up for the Crunch.
Syracuse Crunch media highlights:
The Crunch’s SoundCloud has been updated with broadcasts and player interviews from the past week.
Syracuse Crunch 2014-2015 team awards:
Bryant & Stratton “Smart Player” of the Year Award – #37 Yanni Gourde
This award goes to the player recognized as the smartest player on the ice throughout the year. He is in the right place at the right time to make the necessary play.
Columbia College “Go for Greater” Player of the Year Award – #18 Jonathan Marchessault
This award goes the player who continues to go for greater—through his on-ice play, assistance in the community or team leadership.
Davis-Ulmer “Crunch Protector” Player of the Year – #33 Dalton Smith
This award goes to the player who is always first to stick up for his teammates.
Eastern Shore Associates “Most Improved” Player of the Year – #6 Dylan Blujus
This award goes to the player who has shown the most improvement throughout the year.
Ephesus “Brightest Prospect”/Rookie of the Year Award – #65 Slater Koekkoek
This award goes to the best prospect of the year.
Gannon Pest Control “Pest of the Year” Award – #71 Tanner Richard
This award goes to the player who was voted by the fans as the hardest to play against for an opposing team.
NBT Bank “Plus/Minus Play of Year” Award – #37 Yanni Gourde
This award goes to the most dependable Crunch player, the one who leads the team in the plus/minus category. Gourde leads the team at plus-16.
NYCM Insurance “Insurance Player of the Year” Award – #37 Yanni Gourde
This award goes to the player with the most insurance goals on the season—insuring his team a win.
Lamacchia Power Forward of the Year Award – #10 Mike Angelidis
This award goes to the team’s best power forward.
Change of Pace Wing of the Year Award – #18 Jonathan Marchessault
This award goes to the team’s best winger.
IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year – #29 Eric Neilson
This award recognizes the Crunch player for exemplary community service. This is the third consecutive year Neilson has received this award.
Defenseman of the Year – #65 Slater Koekkoek
This award goes to the team’s best defenseman.
RE/MAX MVP Award – #10 Mike Angelidis
This award goes to the Most Valuable Player on the ice.
Tonight, I want our Syracuse Crunch players to get back to enjoying their sport again.
I know the past few weeks have been tough. I know they haven’t been fun. It certainly hasn’t been fun from our side of the glass, so I’d imagine that it’s much worse on the other side.
As fans, we’re tough on our team. We always have been, and we’ll be the first ones to tell you that we are. But I’ve never once worried about that, because I can promise they’re much harder on themselves than we could ever be on them. Being tough on them shows how much we care, how passionate we are, and how much we want them to win, especially when we know that they can win.
We know this group can win.
Tonight is generally one of the most fun nights of the season. Players get recognized. Fans get appreciated. Memories, the good ones that make it worth going through everything we all do–players included–are shared.
I’ve always loved the last game of the regular season, simply because it’s generally a reminder of why we all do this, year after year. It’s important just because of that. Regardless of the outcome of a season, it reminds us of the sacrifice, of the excitement, of the passion, of the heart that is hockey.
Everything is so tense right now. It doesn’t need to be that way tonight. Tonight, I want our guys on the Crunch to forget about the standings. I want the team to forget about the record, the division, the conference. Screw it all.
I want them to play hockey.
But, more, I want them to enjoy it again.
We have hockey next week while a lot of other AHL teams, some of whom are closing their doors completely after this weekend, don’t. That’s good enough right now. The chips’ll fall, and we’ll face what’s next on Monday, once the whole picture has been made clear. It will be what it will be.
So, for tonight?
Enjoy hockey, boys.