By Mike Griffith
Californian Staff Writer
The Bakersfield Californian
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – Tyler Liebel remembers the moment as if it’s frozen in time.
He was preparing for a road trip on Jan. 2 when he was called into the office of Utah coach Jason Christie and told he had just been traded to Bakersfield.
“I looked at him and said ‘really?’ ” Liebel recalled. “It was one of those things that really caught me way off guard. We were about to leave for a trip to Alaska and he called me in right before we were going to the airport.”
So instead of flying to Anchorage, Liebel (pronounced lee-bull) joined up with his new Bakersfield teammates in Las Vegas three days later and got right to work with his third team of the season.
“It’s can’t be easy on a guy.” Condors coach Marty Raymond said of being traded twice in a season. “It’s not because they wanted to trade him. We kind of demanded his style of player”
The trade was greeted with much skepticism from many Condors fans as Raymond sent popular Joel Irving to Utah. The move also opened up salary cap room to add high-scoring center Alex Kim to the roster and has appeared to be a benefit to both teams.
Utah, 8-19-1-2, at the time of the trade, has gone 10-7-1-1 since the trade while the Condors are 13-2-1-1.
“I think it’s been a good trade for both teams,” Raymond said. “Joel’s doing well and helping their team out. Liebel is helping this team out and we got Kim in the process. That’s what trades are for. To reinforce teams.”
Liebel, 24, may have had that why-am-I not-wanted? feeling for an instant when he got word he was being dealt to Bakersfield. After all, Liebel, a forward, was just settling into his role in Utah after starting the season with Pensacola (Fla.).
In eight previous seasons, Liebel had played for just three teams (two years in Junior A, four years at Colorado College and two years with the Wichita (Kan.) Thunder in the Central Hockey League.
Liebel’s stay in Pensacola lasted 10 games, despite having scored seven points.
“We started 0 and 7, things weren’t clicking or working so it was in their best interest to make a move and they moved me to Utah,” he said. “Things were going well in Utah (nine points in 16 games) but I guess they needed new things in Utah so I was traded here.”
After the initial shock wore off, Liebel quickly counted his blessings.
“I got a happy feeling because I was coming to a pretty good team,” he said. “It’s not like I was going to a team down in the dumps. I came to a team that was high in the standings.”
Raymond said Liebel, a feisty in-your-face type of player, is a perfect fit for the Condors, who did not have a lot of a nastiness before he arrived.
“He plays with an edge, gets under peoples’ skin,” Raymond said of Liebel, who is 5-foot-10, 195 pounds. “I wanted a guy that can skate well and do a good job on our third line. As we go along and get to the playoffs we need that third line to be able to neutralize any line we play against and be able to score some goals.”
Liebel said he’s trying to fill his role to the best of his abilities.
That was evident on Monday night when, prior to a face-off, he began verbally sparring with Fresno enforcer Jonathan Tremblay (6-foot-3, 240 pounds).
“We were having a little chat, I was trying to get under his skin,” Liebel said. “I’m not the biggest guy but I tend to talk a lot on draws and stuff. Sometimes it works. In that case it was pretty interesting because he’s a big boy. I was just giving it to him, seeing if I could draw a penalty.”
Tremblay did not bite on the draw, but before the shift was over he took a hooking penalty and the Condors grabbed a 1-0 lead on the subsequent power play.
Liebel scored 56 points with Wichita in the CHL last season and also amassed 219 penalty minutes, which shows he does far more than just talk. This season he has 23 points in 41 games and 106 penalty minutes.
“I just try to be a chippy player,” he said. “If I can chip in here and there with points that’s what I’m going to try to do.”