It's been a day since the Norfolk Admirals hoisted the Calder Cup for the first time. The amazing thing about championships is that they're a shared milestone in the lives of, really, thousands, between the players, coaches, staff, and fans. Those journeys often contain compelling stories that make the triumph worth that journey. For Jon Cooper, it was about closing down his law practice to coach his way from Michigan high school hockey, to the USHL to working with Hockey USA, to a 2 season sprint to glory in the AHL. For Cory Conacher, it was about not being drafted and playing hockey at off-the-beaten path Canisius, dealing with diabetes, and earning an NHL contract in March of an MVP season before posting 4 assists in the championship clinching Calder Cup Finals game.
The stories of the players and the coaches are the ones we'll read about in the coming months and years, and they should be. When the Lightning made their Stanley Cup run in 2003-2004 and were playing the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals, John Tortorella refused to fire back at Ken Hithcock's remarks about "Italians from Boston," because Torts rightfully understood, "It's about the athletes." Ultimately, they're the ones who score the goals and make the saves. They sacrifice their bodies and take the stitches and they take the slings and arrows if they lose. Ultimately, it's their moment, and to a lesser extent the moments of their families who supported them in the journey up to those moments. The hockey moms and dads who woke up at 6:00 am to drive their kids to games. Scratching together money for skates and ridiculously expensive composite sticks. The wives and significant others who live with the players and coaches through the disappointments and the frustrations, and live in fear of moments when things can go wrong, like when slap shots can hit a man in the ear at 90 miles an hour, similar to what happened to Scott Jackson.
Less compelling, perhaps, is the story of an organization, but, these are stories can be worth telling, too... especially in this case. We started beta testing Bolt Prospects in 2004-2005, one year after the Lightning's Cup win, in the heart of the NHL lockout. That year was also the first year since the Detroit Vipers of the IHL folded after the 2000-2001 season that the Lightning had a full-time minor league affiliate: the Springfield Falcons. Absent a full-time affiliate, it became clear the Lightning would struggle to maintain their spot on top of the hockey mountain, because split affiliates would not give prime ice time and coaching help to another organization's players. That problem prompted the start of an 8 year process for the Lightning that ended in building what must be considered the sport's preeminent developmental apparatus with the Norfolk Admirals' Calder Cup championship and the Florida Everblades' Kelly Cup Championship.
I have seen a lot of hockey players come through the AHL and with the exception of Martin St. Louis, Rob Schremp is the best to skate at the Mass Mutual Center (formerly Civic Center). Is he better than Daniel Briere? Flip a coin. We knew Briere was in. I see Schremp in an Oilers Jersey very soon. Hope it's his. Go figure.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, NHL parent club of the Norfolk Admirals, have announced the signing of forward Paul Szczechura (pronounced sha-HER-a) to a two-year contract, Lightning Executive Vice President & General Manager Jay Feaster announced today.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound native of Belleville, Ontario scored 14 goals in 24 games with the Admirals last season after netting two in 29 games with the Iowa Stars to start the season. He was acquired from Iowa on January 15 in exchange for future considerations and netted points in his first ten games as an Admiral. He was tied for third on the Admirals in goals with 16 and was seventh in points with 31. He led all Norfolk rookies in scoring and was tied for the team lead with three game-winning goals.
Being that it's a slow week for Lightning news...
The Albany Times Union reported yesterday that Eric Healey signed a free agent contract with the Colorado Avalanche on July 13, 2007. Healey was signed by the Lightning last summer and scored a career high 75 points (27 goals, 48 assists) enroute to leading Tampa's AHL affiliate in Springfield in goals, assists, and points. Healey finished the 2006-2007 AHL campaign as its 12th leading scorer.
The Detroit Free Press reported on Wednesday that the Red Wings signed forward Carl Corazzini to a one-year deal on July 16, 2007. Corazzini spent the last two seasons as an offensive fixture for the AHL's Norfolk Admirals, Tampa's new AHL affiliate. It was speculated by BoltProspects early in the off-season that Tampa might target Corrazzini as a possible signee for the 2007-2008 campaign, but the Lightning instead signed Craig MacDonald and Mathieu Darche as veteran offensive leaders for the Admirals.
Eurohockey.net is confirming that defenseman Joe Rullier has signed a contract to play with Lukko Rauma of the Finnish SM-liiga next season. Rullier was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks organization at the trade deadlime this season in exchange for defenseman Doug O'Brien. Rullier's departure leaves the Lightning in need of a veteran defenseman to anchor the blueline corps in Norfolk next season.