ECHL.com Note – The author of this feature story on Patrick Rissmiller is Jamie Smock, who is in his fourth season as the voice of the Cleveland Barons. Smock began his professional hockey broadcasting career in the ECHL, beginning with the Knoxville Cherokees and continuing when the team moved to South Carolina and became the Pee Dee Pride. During his tenure with the Pride, Smock became assistant general manager while continuing his broadcasting duties. He was chosen to broadcast the 2000 ECHL All-Star Game and he also founded and presided over the Pride Youth Hockey Association, the first youth ice hockey program of its kind in northeast South Carolina.
By Jamie Smock
CLEVELAND – Patrick Rissmiller finally knows what he wants to do in life. After much consideration, and even an attempt at an alternative sport, the Barons forward wants to be a full-time NHL player.
This, of course, comes as no surprise to fans who have watched the Belmont, Mass., native play for the Barons over the last three seasons. They’ve witnessed an “unproven” rookie, given a chance as a “project” for the Sharks, develop into an offensive leader that earned a skate with the Sharks last year.
However, little did we know that a short time ago, Rissmiller, who scored four points (2g-2a) in two games with Cincinnati of the ECHL in his first professional season in 2002-03, thought he might be headed for San Jose to play for the Stealth of the National Lacrosse League, instead of the NHL’s Sharks.
Rissmiller went to boarding school at Williston Northampton in Easthampton, Mass. The school is best known for the advent of basketball, but Patrick (it’s not “Pat” – that’s his mother’s name) never paid attention to the hard court, instead focusing on ice hockey.
Already a member of the hockey team, he was asked to play lacrosse. Although the skilled hockey forward had never played lacrosse before, he decided to give it a try.
“It was pretty easy to pick up for me,” said Rissmiller. “I think I was able to adapt to it because of my background in hockey.”
Like hockey, lacrosse has the same fundamental rules. The three basic positions are forward, defense, and goaltender. While the equipment is a bit different, the similarities don’t end with positions. There are two-minute minor penalties and five-minute major penalties. Like hockey, when a team in possession of the puck draws a call, a delayed penalty is called.
Rissmiller’s ability to play both sports helped him land at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. After agreeing to play hockey for the university, the lacrosse team immediately tried to recruit him to play. At first, he declined, opting to focus on his schooling first and hockey second.
“I didn’t go to school thinking that I would gain a career in hockey,” said Rissmiller. “When I started at Holy Cross, I figured I would be working a normal job after graduation.”
Trying to gain a full collegiate experience, Rissmiller was finally swayed into playing lacrosse. During his junior year, he became a two-sport player. His time on the lacrosse team was fun, but his hockey ambitions became a bit clearer.
“I had a lot of fun on the lacrosse team, but we weren’t good,” said Rissmiller. “During my senior season, my focus was back on hockey.”
Focus is an absolute must at Holy Cross, who was skating in the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference. The MAAC, now known as the Atlantic Hockey Association, was never known for elite college hockey and had never produced an NHL player before. But the 6’4” Rissmiller was tearing up the league earning MAAC Offensive Player of the Year honors in his Senior season with 46 points in 33 games.
Meanwhile, Rissmiller’s assistant coach at Holy Cross, Jim Stewart, was talking up the player to Tim Burke, San Jose’s director of amateur scouting. Soon after, Burke was watching tape on Rissmiller.
The tapes, along with Rissmiller’s achievements on the ice, convinced Burke that the Sharks needed to look at the 6-4 and 205-pound forward a little closely.
After earning his degree in Political Science from Holy Cross, Rissmiller was invited to San Jose’s summer camp. With a good showing, the Sharks extended a training camp invitation to the new-found prospect. His strong play at the camps eventually lead to an AHL contract offer with the Barons prior to the 2002-03 season.
Looking back at the experience, Rissmiller values his education at Holy Cross even more than the hockey opportunities that followed.
“Hockey helped me get to Holy Cross, but I went for the education,” reflects Rissmiller. “I had a good four years and I was able to get my degree. That was important to me.”
Now the most important career goal for Rissmiller is to gain a spot in the NHL, when it comes back from the work stoppage. After what this player has already accomplished, who can doubt he’ll make it full-time in “the show.”