By Mark Simon
Special to NHL.com
Old New York Rangers don’t retire. They find their way into the East Coast Hockey League.
The list of current or former coaches with Rangers’ connections includes Ted Sator, Don Murdoch, and Reijo Ruotsalainen. Players have been plentiful as well.
Two years ago, Mike Hartman spent a full season as a veteran leader for the Charlotte Checkers. Last season, Daniel Lacroix played an integral part in the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies reaching the Northern Conference Finals. This time, it’s Daniel Goneau’s turn.
Goneau has begun this season playing for ex-Ranger Dave Farrish on the Louisiana IceGators, who opened the season with four straight wins. Make no mistake about it, the 26-year-old left wing wants to get back to the NHL.
“If I can get a shot to go up (to the AHL) even for a weekend, I’m going to take it,” said Goneau. “I’ll go just to show them that I’m the same player that I was before.”
Goneau went overseas for the first time last season, playing in England and Germany and was told he would probably be able to return to Germany, though he would have to wait until midseason to do so. Goneau had too much of an itch to play to go that long without hockey. When childhood friend Bruce Richardson suggested he try to sign with the IceGators, Goneau didn’t hesitate to show his interest. The only thing that kept him in his native Montreal was that his wife Isabelle was due to give birth to their first child right when training camp was supposed to open. She gave birth to a boy, Matt, on Sept. 30th. The bad weather in the south held his arrival up next. Goneau finally got to training camp on Oct. 5.
He got into the swing of things pretty quickly. Through his first four games, he had two goals, including a game-winner, and three points.
“You adjust a bit when you come down here, because it’s chippier,” Goneau said. “We have a few guys on this team that played a lot in the AHL, so we knew what we had to do.”
There was also an off-ice adjustment for Goneau, who was used to bundling up in the fall and winter.
“Everywhere I’d been before was cold,” Goneau said with a laugh. “Here it’s warm and you wear shorts every day. Then there’s the Cajun food. I’m not a spices guy — even the regular pasta here is spicy. I am going to try alligator though. They tell me it’s like chicken, but I doubt it.”
Goneau can impart some wisdom while he’s on the ice as well. He knows what it’s like to skate with someone like Mark Messier and Brian Leetch. He has scored goals in the Montreal Forum and against netminders like Martin Brodeur. He can pick out a top prospect — like IceGators goalie Frederic Cloutier — right away. He knows what it will take for him to get back.
“I’m a power forward,” Goneau said. “I’m not someone who tries to skate all over the place. I use my speed. That’s what got me into the NHL.”
Still, the call-up, at least a permanent one, might never come, and that’s not a problem either.
“I’m in a great place here with a great team,” said Goneau, referring to an IceGators squad that set a league record for wins and points last season. “If this is my worst-case scenario, that’s pretty good.”