Sorry haters, but hockey in Arizona is continuing to grow

Ryan Kennedy
Arizona's Anthony Duclair and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

Stories about Arizona’s arena saga are rarely fun to read. The latest development in Glendale has AEG Facilities taking over as managers of Gila River Arena. The company is an offshoot of the firm that owns the Los Angeles Kings and has vast experience in arena management. As always, hope is high in some corners and not so high in others. But guess what? This is a minor development in a state on the rise in the hockey world.

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AHL’s Griffins score two goals that go through net, including series winner

Jared Clinton
Brian Lashoff's shot goes through the net (via Grand Rapids Griffins/YouTube)

The Grand Rapids Griffins, the Detroit Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, are heading to the second round of the post-season thanks to a series sweep of the Nashville Predators-affiliated Milwaukee Admirals, but they should also be thankful for the keen eye of the officiating crew working Game 3 of their first-round series.

The Griffins fell behind early on a goal by Admirals winger Adam Payerl, but stormed back on two goals in the first three minutes of the second period by defenseman Brian Lashoff and winger Anthony Mantha. The Griffins may have been lucky to get both goals up on the scoreboard, though, given that both pucks were shot hard enough to burst through the net in almost the exact same spot.

Lashoff’s goal, especially, caught some off guard. The goal isn’t shown in the AHL-provided game highlights, and it’s only thanks to the Griffins that there’s footage of the puck breaking through the net at all. Take a look: Read more

Prospect Need to Know: Quebec’s future finest is Maxime Comtois

Maxime Comtois  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Finland is golden again thanks to the under-18s in North Dakota and all the international usual suspects came through at the tourney. Jesse Puljujarvi was huge, Clayton Keller took home MVP honors and Tyson Jost led the tourney in scoring. European scouts are basically done watching games now and the CHL playoffs are getting to the big stages, so you can feel the draft combine coming on the horizon. With the AHL starting Calder Cup proceedings, there is still a lot of good hockey left, though. So let’s take a trip around the prospect world again, shall we?

 

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Springfield: It’s a hell of a town, but not for the American League

Ken Campbell
Falcons' leading scorer Craig Cunningham (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

It’s almost as though it’s out of Slap Shot, a last-place minor pro team in the northeast plays out the season amid news the team will be sold to new owners in the sunbelt. Except there are no Hanson Brothers and no Federal League championship for one of the most iconic cities in the history of the American League. It could, however, face the same fate as the fictional Charlestown Chiefs.

It’s hard to believe that Springfield, Mass., could be without an AHL presence for the first time in 60 years and that one of the charter members of the league could be out of the loop starting next season. But that has come one step closer to reality with the news that the Arizona Coyotes, a team that couldn’t even support itself a couple of years ago, now ‘hones’ the Springfield Falcons, with plans to move the team to Tucson as early as 2016-17. The Coyotes announced Tuesday they had signed a purchase agreement with Falcons owner Charlie Pompea and hope to move into the Tucson Convention Center next season.

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Stefan Legein: On kicking drug addiction, and falling in love with the game again

Stefan Legein
Stefan Legein.

Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

The next season, I was traded to L.A. from Philly in a trade that I think saw L.A. get myself and a sixth-round draft pick for nothing just so they could make space for Sean Couturier (looking back now, that was a solid move).

I was ecstatic: Fresh start, new colors, I was out of the Glens Falls Civic Center in Glen Galls, N.Y., and off to Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H. – which in arena terms, would be like basement to penthouse – except a few days before, I was handcuffed and put in jail because of a warrant for my arrest thanks to some shoddy police records and an alleged unpaid speeding ticket, so I had to hang out in ADK for a few days after the trade to get that squared away.

When I got there it wasn’t quite like I envisioned. The coach told me he really knew nothing about me, so I would have to wait patiently for an opportunity. That opportunity took what seemed like forever. I don’t think I saw regular ice time until there was about 25-30 games left. The rest of the season went well: I was blessed with two linemates that I gelled really well with right off the bat, Justin Azevedo and Trent Hunter. My final few games I played well enough to earn a one-year contract extension. Finally, I thought a team is choosing to sign me, not just pick me up from another NHL team’s recycling bin! This is my chance, here we go baby, Leegy is headed to Hollywood and he’s staying.

Well, unfortunately this was around the time of the NHL lockout, so my dream camp in L.A., which had me staying there all year and getting 50+ points and finally becoming the player I was destined to be (I’m a dreamer, don’t take those stats seriously) was taken from me so that the grievances between the players and the league could be ironed out. So my La-La Land vacation was quickly changed to another year in Manchester, but hey: I’m one of the stars there now, the coach loves me, I’m ready: bright lights here I come.

Camp was intense. There were a lot of young Kings players in Manchester so I began to feel it slip away again. But my line was Tyler Toffoli in the middle with myself and Tanner Pearson (two of the hardest working and most skilled players I played with in the AHL), so again, the stage was set: first-line, big-time players with me. This is it.

Well, that lasted a whole day and it was back to reality for me, a reality I never fully understood. I know I had screwed up at every turn, but my game was there (and still is for all the haters out there). I felt as if my past had me trapped. I was a common healthy scratch my second year in Manchester with not much explanation as to why I wasn’t playing. Me and the coach were like fire and gas; I feel like I had some type of meeting with him every other day about what was wrong with my game.

I believe he actually gave me the nickname “50 percent” because 50 percent of the time I was the best player in the league and the other 50 I was invisible. What I don’t think he realized is he only dressed me for about 40 percent of the games, so to me the math just wasn’t adding up – but I feel truly in my heart that once I made my choice with Columbus, that no NHL team would touch me. Luckily for me I had finally conquered my main drug addiction and was functioning at a more normal rate so the slide in my career was handled in much healthier ways. I still had a few habits, but none that you won’t find down at any local high school.

So these hardships in Manchester were dealt with much more responsibly than in previous years, except for the “eff you” match we had in the Springfield hallway after Game 1 of the playoffs when he told me I wouldn’t be seeing Game 2, an argument that I feel cost me all potential offers for the next season.

Since my NHL/AHL career has come to an end, I have bounced around all over the place – a short stint with the Toronto Marlies thanks largely to Steve Spott, who is one of the nicest, most genuine coaches I have ever had the pleasure of playing for (along with Greg Gilbert who coached me in junior and pro, as well as Rich Seeley and Jeff Giuliano, who were the first coaches to take the time to ask me about what I was dealing with off the ice and in turn sort of inspired this article).

After Toronto I went overseas for parts of two years, and finally ended up in the ECHL. Writing this has driven me through all stages of emotion.

I have cried, laughed, been angry, depressed, sad, embarrassed, but the more and more I read over it, the more grateful I am for every single moment of it. I wouldn’t be who I am today without what I have been through. I have the most beautiful wife, an amazing dog, and the best family and friends in the world. All because the experiences I went through shaped me into a man I am — finally proud of the man in the mirror.

For the non-athlete readers out there, give us some slack. The reality of professional hockey isn’t millions of dollars flying around on private planes eating steak and sushi at 30,000 feet. For the very lucky that is the experience, but the reality of pro hockey is long bus rides, cold, run-down arenas, low budgets, low paychecks and a life that could make any man insane.

Yes, we love the game and when you love your job you never work. I love hockey, but some days I hate my job just like you. Just because we are doing what most wish they could it doesn’t mean it’s all a dream. Every athlete from the $30-million men to the $400-a-week man has battles he is fighting – even though our lives look so peachy from the outside, sports is a dangerous, dangerous industry and going through what I have gone through has pushed this to the forefront.

And for the athletes, get help if you need it. The game lasts until you’re 35, if you’re lucky – life lasts a lot longer than that. If you aren’t right don’t wait because you never know when it will go past a point you can’t return. We have lost many players already just because of our pride, to think we are too tough for these real-life problems. I respect the hell out of every player willing to put that jersey on for a living. It’s a long, dark road, but if you want it and are willing to put in the right kind of work the rewards can be endless. Get a financial advisor, eat junk food sometimes and remember to have fun — you are where you are because of all the fun you had growing up playing the game trying to make it to that next level. Just remember that when you get there not to forget the little things that made you love it in the first place.

I love hockey, I love the atmosphere, the smell, the sound, the dressing room, and I know I still have a lot of good hockey left in me. Plus, everyone loves a comeback story. But if this weekend was my last game, I just want to say thank you, you were my first love, my life, and I will always miss you.

Thank you Shannon, Dad, Mom, Tyler, Jake, Grandma, Grandpa, Nana, Puppa for the endless support and love along with my friends and my handful of fans (Legein’s Legion) and thank you to all the guys I have met because of the game. Some of you were lemons but most of you guys were amazing friends that I will share special memories with forever.

Follow Stefan Legein on Twitter at @legeeyfbaby.

Prospect Need to Know: Cliff Pu is making London a nightmare

Cliff Pu (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

The world under-18s are going full-bore in North Dakota right now and there is some fantastic talent assembled. Sure, Russia’s under-18s were pulled out because of a drug scandal, but youngsters such as Klim Kostin and Andrei Svechnikov just get to make their impressions a year earlier. And with Jesse Puljujarvi joining Finland, the Americans will have several rivals to fend off if they want to defend their gold medal from last year. We’ve also got CHL playoffs getting serious and a special guest star from the coaching ranks in this week’s prospect round-up.

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Watch: Two coaches, five players ejected in wild AHL game

Dhiren Mahiban
Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 8.14.38 PM

The Albany Devils and Bridgeport Sound Tigers combined for over 200 penalty minutes on Saturday at the Times Union Center in Albany, New York.

Albany head coach Rick Kowalsky and Bridgeport assistant Eric Boguniecki were both ejected after going after one another between the benches with 43.4 seconds remaining in the second period.

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10 prospects ready to make an impact in the NHL next season

The Hockey News
Dylan Strome (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)

By Mo Cranker

With the end of the regular season, over half of the teams in the NHL are gearing up for what they hope will be an extended playoff run.

For the teams that miss, though, it’s more about reflecting on a failed season and looking forward to and preparing for the next season.

Whichever side your team falls on, there’s probably going to be an open roster spot, or two, ripe for the taking due to players retiring, free agency or trades.

Here’s a list of 10 prospects that are ready to earn a roster spot and make an impact on their big league club next season.

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