Everything Happens for a Reason…

So here we are, starting a New Year.

When I got home from Hartford this time last year, after seeing the Devils beat the Wolfpack and having an unplanned dinner with a few other Albany fans, I was feeling pretty good about what was to come in 2017. The team was playing well, on its way to another playoff spot, and I was looking forward to my first trip to Allentown in a few weeks for AHL All Stars.

Then everything happened.  First, the rumors.  Then, the breaking announcement that I had to learn from the media instead of the team.  The press conference in Binghamton that soon followed.  That I still don’t get as to why everything had to go down the way that it did.

But you know what?  Now that I look back on things…and see what has conspired since this season began…I almost feel somewhat content.

When I thought once the season ended my hockey writing career was going on hiatus, not one, but two doors ended up opening for me, giving me a chance to expand beyond the blog and find a new audience (not to mention it helps the resume out if I decide to switch careers at some point in the next few years too).  And, I found a new team that may be in a lower league that what I’ve been used to, but the environment is such an improvement over what I dealt with in Albany the last few years that…part of me wouldn’t mind if the AHL decided to put the Capital Region in its rearview mirror.

There are things I miss about Albany AHL hockey, of course: the shorter commute, befriending future NHLers, interacting with other fans in person and online on the regular.

But…I don’t miss AHL Live video, certain members of the fanbase, and having to plan life and the second job around a hockey schedule.  I’m actually enjoying being able to pick and choose which games I want to attend…it actually feels nice to be able to stay in on a weekend night on occasion and listen to games online on my couch with my pajamas on.

So what will 2018 bring?

As far as the blog goes (it turns 7 this week!), you’ll probably get mostly these kind of entries now.  With my hockey stuff outsourced, it would just get repetitive.  I want to go back to what I originally wanted to do before all the Devils stuff took off.  That will come as the inspiration–and the time to sit down to do it–hits me.

I’ll still be doing my weekly visits at Inside AHL Hockey and Raw Charge for the rest of the season…while keeping my eye on the rumor mill.  Personally, I don’t feel like another AHL team will call Albany home next season, but stranger things have happened.

Happy New Year to all, and thanks for still reading despite me changing my mind several times. (I really should work on my indecisiveness habits.)

Out of the Box: Life Lessons from a Nongenarian

On this Christmas Day…not to mention it’s been a few weeks since I’ve written something other than my weekly articles…let me share with you the story of Mr. Ullery.

Who is Mr. Ullery?  He was my mother’s former boss at the NYS Education Department.  I believe she was still his secretary when I was born in 1978.

He gave me a personalized rocking chair when I was about 3 or 4 years old, a chair I still have in my living room today, even though it’s a little beat up.

Even after my mom passed away in 2000, I would still get a Christmas card from him and his wife, with a typed letter that had to be printed out on the same press schools used to print out worksheets.  Even after his first and second wives both passed away, he would still send his annual letter of the places he has been and how the family was doing.

This year, I once again received a card and letter from Mr. Ullery, from his home in Ohio.

The biggest news he shared?  He hit 90 this year.  And what did he do?  Everything.

He went to the Rose Parade in Pasadena.  He took a bus to Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and Scottsdale.  He took a Caribbean cruise.  He even took a trip to Normandy, where he visited the same mudfield he visited as a member of the Army band back in 1947, just after the completion of World War II.

He plays in his town’s Community Band and Symphony Orchestra, and sings in his church choir.

He grants scholarships to music students at a high school where his father founded the band program, and traveled to Lake Placid to see 9 of those students participate in a local music festival.

Seriously, this man has a fuller social life than I do!  He went to France, the Caribbean, out west…and the furthest I traveled was to Allentown for AHL All Stars.

So why am I sharing his story with you?

As I am approaching a birthday milestone myself in 2018…I see what he has accomplished in his life, even in the last few years at his age, and it gives me motivation.  I would love to be able to do half of the things Mr. Ullery has done, especially later in life.

Basically, I’m learning a life lesson from Mr. Ullery that I’m passing along to you this holiday season…to live life to the fullest, to see and experience as much as possible.

I plan on writing a letter back to him this week…and I may just tell him that.

November by the Numbers

It’s the end of November, which means…

Time for the monthly Thunder progress report!

(all stats through November 30th)

Record: 9-8-1-1, 20 points.  4th place in North Division, 8th in Eastern Conference, 15th overall.

Home: 3-3-0-0.  Road: 6-5-1-1.

Individual Leaders:

Top 5 Scorers:

Ty Loney, 20 pts; Shane Conacher, 17 pts; James Henry, 15 pts; 2 tied with 14 pts

Goals: Ty Loney, 12

Assists: Shane Conacher, 14

Plus/Minus: Desmond Bergin, +7

Penalty Minutes: Eric Neiley, 36

Power Play Goals: Ty Loney, 5

Shorthanded Goals: 4 tied with 1

Game Winning Goals: Paul Rodrigues, 2

Shots: Ty Loney, 62

Wins: Nick Riopel, 6

GAA: Nick Riopel, 3.79

Save Percentage: Nick Riopel, .882

Team Statistics:

Attendance: 3,003/game, 23rd.

Penalty Minutes: 243 in 19 games, avg 12.79/game, 21st.

Power Play: 22.0%, 4th.  Penalty Kill: 78.8%, 24th.

Goals For/Game: 3.42, 8th.  Goals Against/Game: 3.58, 22nd.

Shots For/Game: 33.47, 10th.  Shots Against/Game: 31.63, 13th.

ECHL Individual Leaders:

Points: Ty Loney tied for 6th (20)

Goals: Ty Loney 2nd (12)

Power Play Goals: Ty Loney tied for 1st (5)

Losses, Goaltender: Nick Riopel tied for 3rd (6)

Minutes, Goaltender: Nick Riopel 3rd (744)

Rookie Scoring: Pierre-Luc Mercier tied for 6th (14)

And before we kick off the December slate, a few blueline changes:

-With Daniel Walcott getting injured in Wednesday’s Crunch win in Toronto, Mathieu Brodeur is going back to Syracuse on a PTO.  This will be Brodeur’s second PTO of the season, after appearing in 7 games with Springfield to start the year.  Since returning to the Thunder, he has appeared in 12 games, going scoreless with a +1 rating.

-Taking Brodeur’s place on the roster will be rookie defensemen Matthew Spencer, who will be starting his second Thunder stint.  He had appeared in three games during the road trip in early November, going scoreless.  Since returning to the Crunch, he has only appeared in two games, not seeing action since November 24th vs. Wilkes-Barre.

-And one more to add to the blue line: second year pro Vytal Cote has signed a standard contract.  The 22 year old Florida native started the season with the SPHL’s Mississippi Riverkings, appearing in 10 games with 3 goals and 3 assists.  He began his pro career last season with Fayetteville and Evansville of the SPHL, playing in a combined 50 games with 2 goals and 9 assists.