Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Snakes and Ladders 2015 Hockey

To refresh your memory: Snakes and Ladders was the wonderful board game of your youth. You rolled the dice, and moved your piece on the board. With good fortune, you would avoid the snakes. If you landed on a snake, you could go from almost winning to definitely losing. The ladders helped. You could climb your way to the next level. Carefully.

Such is the nature of hockey in the minor professional leagues. We are back in Fort Myers, not too far from the Germain Arena, home of the Florida Everblades. The Blades play in the Eastern Conference of the ECHL along with nine other teams. Five teams are located in the south east, the others in the north east. There is also a Western Conference consisting of 11 teams, from California to Alaska.

Most of the teams in the league have affiliation with American Hockey League teams, and NHL teams. The Everblades align with the Charlotte Checkers and the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL, and the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Carolina Huricanes of  the NHL. Some affiliate with one team, some with none. It is the ultimate goal for every player at the ECHL level to move up to the AHL, and then to the NHL. Along the way, however, are those snakes and ladders.

Injuries often get in the way. Patrick McEachen spent the first few games this season as an observer. The team carried more defencemen that required, and Patrick was the odd man out. Players were moved to the AHL, and to other teams, and subsequently, Patrick was inserted into the lineup. He played well for eight games, then ran into the injury bug. He has been skating lately, and his return to the lineup is imminent.

                                              Chris Kushneriuk and Patrick McEachen

Quite often it depends on the chemistry of the team, and how the coach perceives that chemistry. Some coaches like to build speedy teams with smaller, highly skilled players. If you are a gigantic slug, you should look elsewhere for work. But teams cannot rely entirely on speed. At the ECHL level, all teams must be prepared for physical play as well. In this regard, the Everblades rely on Tyson Gimblett.

Gimblett began his Junior career with the Cobourg Cougars of the OPJHL in 2000. He played 45 games, and spent 92 minutes in the penalty box. Tyson stands 6’ 3”, and tips the scales at 215 pounds. I imagine he was a big lad when he started with Cobourg, but he was 15 years old at that time! The following year, he played briefly with St. Michael’s Buzzers, then moved up to the Majors. He played for Owen Sound and Saginaw in the OHL before returning to the Georgetown raiders of the OPJHL. He told me he knew the interior of the DukeDome, intimately. He also spent five years at the University of Prince Edward Island, with former Dukes Steve Cooke and Dayne Davis. He is in his third season in Florida.

The ‘Blades are experiencing a banner season, thus far. They have won 24 games, lost 5 and have 2 shootout losses. They lead the East Division of their conference. Much of their success can be attributed to their coach, Greg Poss. Due to his experience and knowledge, he is able to juggle the lineup for every game. He must make adjustments weekly for the players he loses to the parent teams. Former Belleville Bull, Alex Aleardi, was recently called up to the Checkers, leaving a gap in the lineup

                                                            After the Game-Why not?

They play the Wheeling Nailers tonight! It’s the $ 2 drafts, dogs, and wine night. All night long. Bring your appetite, and your thirst! 

James Hurst
January 13, 2015   

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