As a change of pace from the normal coverage here on FNYTSF, I wanted to post some interviews from two people who work behind the scenes at a couple of the most successful hockey teams in the Federal Hockey League, a professional hockey league that could be compared to Single-A baseball, as players can get called up to the ECHL, from there, the AHL, and then lastly, and hopefully, the NHL. Nobody really thinks of the importance of minor league hockey here in the United States, though we spend a lot of time and money going to minor league baseball games. Up in Canada, however, it is reversed. The fact is, leagues like the FHL can provide the same entertainment that the NHL can, albeit in a much different (and cheaper) atmosphere. Why would I be writing about this, you may be wondering? Well, it is because of a few friends I have that happen to work for FHL teams—David Zohn and Rob Boertlein of the New Jersey Outlaws, and Chris “Gootz” Hoeler for the Danbury Whalers, who has a regular hockey column on this blog.
By Guest Blogger Chris “Gootz” Hoeler
Sometimes opportunity knocks on the door of your life and offers itself to you…other times it kicks the door down and just walks in. In my case, it was the latter. For those who do not know I had the opportunity to stand behind the bench of the Danbury Whalers of the Federal Hockey League (FHL) for three games while Head Coach Phil Esposito was suspended. His suspension was as a result of a bench-clearing brawl that occurred when the Whalers played the Danville Dashers up in Maine. If you haven’t seen the video for this you can find it on YouTube when you search Danbury Whalers bench brawl. Here is the story:
I was on the train up from NYC to Danbury for the weekend to help out at the two games the team was to have that weekend, the second half of a stretch of four games in four nights. Pros in the higher levels don’t do those kinds of schedules so these guys are absolute warriors. But while sitting on the train I got a call from coach asking about my plans for the weekend. Obviously going up to Danbury for the weekend to my first Whaler home games of the year. He hung up and said he would call me back.
Chris Hoeler, a friend of mine, who has been contributing hockey articles to this blog for his column, “On the Rink With Gootz”, has served as the Assistant Director of Player Personnel for the Danbury Whalers since the off-season, for the Federal Hockey League. However, due to the coach’s absence Friday night (and for the next two games) he stepped up to take over the helm, and his first two games were both victories; 6-1 over the Vermont Wild and then last night, 5-3 over the Cape Cod Blue Fins. He will continue his coaching stint Wednesday night, when the Whalers visit my home state to take on the New Jersey Outlaws. Ironically, I actually have another friend that works with the Outlaws, helping to keep stats. Had it not been the night before Thanksgiving (and the arena is a far drive away) I would have loved to go and see the two teams play.
I thought it was time for a fresh voice on the blog to peddle the bemusement that we fans of the New York Rangers have experienced over the last few weeks. While in my last article, I briefly explained why bringing back Sean Avery (in response to fan chants on opening night) was a bad idea or just not going to accomplish anything, it seems that management is actually going to listen to the Garden Faithful (or as some say, Brainless) on this one, as they will be recalling Avery today. Should he not get claimed by another team, he would be available Thursday night against Anaheim.
To voice his frustration and critique on the matter, I have asked my good friend “Gootz”, as we call him, to contribute a guest post, and I hope that he will be a regular columnist on this blog, since it becomes rather tiresome voicing the same frustration over, and over, and over again. Gootz currently serves as the Assistant Director of Player Personnel for the Danbury Whalers of the FHL. Below is his posting:
By guest blogger Chris “Gootz” Hoeler
While attending opening night at the Garden this year, the ire of fans towards the New York Rangers’ organization about sending Sean Avery down to Connecticut was rather evident. A banner hung out over section 427 that wanted Avery back and suggested sending John Tortorella down to the Whale instead. Later in the evening, a loud “We Want Avery” chant went up, as the Rangers seemed lifeless. My reaction? Head in my hands.
Do I like Sean Avery? Yes. I like the way he plays and the way he jaws with other players. It gets things going and I like having characters in a professional sports scene where many people are very bland. But Sean isn’t the answer here.
He provided a spark to the Rangers when he first arrived in New York a few years ago and did so a few other times. But it is now over, Rangers’ fans. We all know that everyone believes that John Tortorella has neutered Avery and made him useless. If people believe that, then why bring him up? And even if you don’t subscribe to that belief, does anyone here really think Sean Avery is going to be the offensive dynamo that this team needs to start lighting the lamp consistently? Probably not. I was an advocate for having Sean on a line with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik and at this point, if Sean makes it up to New York, I am sure it will be tried. Would I like it to work? Absolutely. Do I think it is going to? No.
I want this team to be successful and am willing to try anything at this point because the team seems completely lost right now. Sean may or may not be apart of that but what bothers me the most about this whole situation is how many people seem to think bringing Sean back is going to magically bring this team to the top of the conference and everyone can tell Tortorella “I told you so”. The problems run a bit deeper than this. Marc Staal has seemingly fallen off the face of the Earth and no one knows anything about when he may be coming back. Addressing the defense and making that stronger will certainly help issues.
But Ranger fans need to realize that this is most likely the last we will see of Sean Avery in a Ranger uniform, assuming he doesn’t get claimed by another team. I would love to be totally wrong and see him come up here and spark this team but people need to be realistic and look at the bigger picture here. The Rangers have bigger problems on the ice than Sean Avery, who, as God-like as he is to some fans, cannot solve them with an almighty wave of his stick, like he did in front of Martin Brodeur’s face.