I have been playing hockey for as long as I can remember and basically my entire life. It all started with a wooden mini stick and my grandpa’s old Skoal tins that I used as pucks in the living room. This quickly turned into my dad making me custom rollerblades for my feet as he added two wheels to each of my tiny Nike shoes. Fast forward to my family building an ice rink in Pittsburgh (the Ice Castle Arena) in 2001 and turning it into the family business. To put it lightly, hockey is my passion. Hockey is the greatest game in the world. It can completely consume you. The amount of time, energy and commitment that it takes just to be a marginal player growing up is unparalleled by any other sport. Skating on its own is difficult enough and that’s just the beginning. I never really get away from hockey because I don’t need to; I love it. After the season, I spend the majority of my time at the family business training hockey players of all ages on and off the ice. I also train myself and organize the summer practices for local pro, college and junior guys.
Since I have spent my entire life thus far playing hockey and calling myself a hockey player, I consider every season a chapter. Every season from Mite to professional hockey has led me to meeting more amazing people and creating even more memories. This season is another ‘chapter in the book’ and I can’t wait to write it. This will be my sixth season of professional hockey and over 400 games in ECHL and AHL combined, including playoffs. I am really proud to say that. It’s also my tenth season playing away from home as I played four seasons of junior hockey, one season for the Chicago Steel of the USHL and the following three seasons in the OHL for the Saginaw Spirit. It has been quite the journey.
I am really looking forward to this chapter as I begin the 2015 season with the Atlanta Gladiators (recently renamed from the Gwinnett Gladiators). I played here for my entire second season of pro, played over half of the season here during my third season (spent over three months with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL) and returned to the Glads for the last seventeen games of last season. It really is great to be back with the Gladiators. I have felt more comfortable playing here than anywhere else I have played in pro hockey. There are so many great people in and around the organization. The support that I have received here has truly been amazing. The decision to return was an easy one. I also feel that playing here gives me the best opportunity to contend for the Kelly Cup and earn a call-up to the AHL. I have a ton of respect for our coach Andy Brandt and assistant Mike Flanagan. They compliment each other and I believe they will get this organization back where it wants to be- a Kelly Cup contender. I was lucky to have played with Brando during my first two seasons with the Gladiators. He worked extremely hard and is the type of guy that you want to go to battle with. We were part of a team that won the ECHL South Division title in 2011-2012 with a group that could have been defined as hard working, good guys. Brando was a huge part of our success with his contributions on and off the ice as one of the leaders of the team. He has a great mind for the game and knows what it takes to have success in the ECHL.
After three days of training camp, I like what I have seen. We have a good mix of young and older guys. It definitely seems like we have a good blend of guys that can fill different roles and contribute. We also have a new affiliation with the Boston/Providence Bruins and we will probably receive a few more players as the week progresses. We will be practicing every day this week leading into two preseason games, one against the South Carolina Stingrays and one here at home against Greenville. My thoughts are with their organization and the city of Charleston as they deal with the flooding this week. It is one of my favorite places to play on the road and I have met some quality people there.
Thank you for reading my first blog post of the 2015 season! Please feel free to comment below and ask any questions or share ideas that you have for my next post. I am looking forward to giving everyone an inside look into my season and a behind the scenes perspective on the Atlanta Gladiators and the ECHL.