By Sean McClelland
Dayton Daily News
DAYTON, Ohio – An unsightly laceration decorates the bridge of Jamie Ling’s nose, which is probably only fitting. During his playing days, Ling was known for sticking his nose in the action and had the stitches to prove it.
But isn’t he retired, you wonder? Yes, but every so often he mixes it up in a men’s league at the Kettering Rec Center. On one of these occasions recently, his face collided with another player’s mask, yielding one last hockey souvenir.
“It reminded me of why I stopped playing,” said Ling, who will be enshrined Saturday night in the Dayton Hockey Hall of Fame, along with Steve Self of the old Dayton Gems and broadcaster Lyle Stieg, before the Bombers play San Diego. “If I had been paid by the stitch, I’d probably have retired and not had to work.”
This latest gash required no stitches. More painful was wife Beth’s disapproval.
“I got home and she’s like, ‘What are you doing?’ ” said Ling, who hung up his professional skates in 2003. “She laughed. She’s like, ‘I don’t think when you go to work in a suit that you should go with cuts on your face.’ “
Scarred or not, entering the Hall of Fame puts Ling in the company of such Dayton hockey immortals as Guy Trottier, Bud Gingher, current Bombers assistant coach Colin Miller and the late Lefty McFadden.
“It’s a nice honor,” he said. “And it gives me a chance to get out to the Nutter Center one more time and kind of end my time in pro hockey.”
Ling coached the Bombers last season but has since embarked on a career with UBS Financial Services, working in the Centerville office. Operating on the premise that investors prefer dealing with people they know, the personable Notre Dame graduate is using his hockey contacts to build a client base.
When Costa Papista and Don MacAdam bought the Bombers last summer, MacAdam said the original plan was to keep Ling as head coach. Gears were switched, however, and the more experienced MacAdam installed himself behind the bench. Given the option of staying as an assistant, Ling chose his current path instead.
“For my family and me, it was a great move,” said Ling, who played five seasons in Dayton. “I think it was a smart career decision. I’m happy and it’s great to have more of a set schedule, not to be away five or six days at a time.”
A center, Ling helped the Bombers reach the Kelly Cup finals in 2002. The two-time ECHL All-Star ranks second to Tom Nemeth on the team’s all-time scoring list with 383 regular-season points (132 goals) and second in games.
His pro career began in 1996 and included pre-Dayton ECHL stops in Mobile, Baton Rouge and Chesapeake. Between cups of coffee with several AHL and IHL teams, Ling and Dayton became synonymous at a time when the sport appeared to be thriving here.
But the Bombers have not made the playoffs or posted a winning record since that Kelly Cup run and the franchise almost went bankrupt before the new owners took over. The team starts the second half Friday in last place, although road wins at Wheeling and Toledo last week hint at a possible resurgence.
In Ling’s only season as coach, the Bombers went 26-41-5, narrowly escaping a last-place finish in the rugged North Division.
“It’s tough to figure out sometimes with minor-league sports,” Ling said. “You want a good atmosphere and a good product and a good all-around organization. You’ve got to market it and do a good job with everything. Hockey is different than baseball. It doesn’t sell itself.
“Dayton hockey was good to me. It helped me get where I am now. Hopefully, everything works out and I can just enjoy being a fan.”