By Lindsay Kramer
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – One number will link two generations of pro hockey in Syracuse on Saturday night.
Score one for the Rycroft family, with a huge assist to Crunch captain and former ECHL All-Star Zenon Konopka (pictured).
Before the Crunch’s game against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Syracuse will raise a banner honoring the 1972-73 Eastern League champion Blazers. Al Rycroft was a forward on that team and will be at the game. Mark Rycroft, his son and older brother of Utah Grizzlies forward Travis Rycroft, currently plays for the Crunch.
Al wore No. 11. That’s Konopka’s number, but for Saturday’s game only Konopka is giving it to Mark in exchange for Mark’s No. 32.
“It’s just an honor whenever you’re tied to your dad for anything,” Mark said. “It’s going to be extremely memorable. I’m sure there’s going to be many pictures from Saturday night that will live on in the Rycroft household.”
The tribute required no bartering. Konopka said he was glad to hand the shirt off his back to his teammate.
“It will be more foreign to fans than it is to me,” he said of wearing No. 32. “I can’t see the number on my back.”
Mark hinted that he’ll find a way to pay back Konopka in some fashion.
“He will not go unrewarded for his generosity,” Mark said.
The past has been rushing back at Mark lately. He was at an autograph signing earlier this week when a fan handed him a stick. It was a piece of lumber used by Al many years ago, that the fan picked up as a child.
“It’s amazing to hold a stick from that era,” Mark said. “It weighs about the weight of 10 of my sticks. And it’s wooden. You don’t see many wooden sticks anymore.”