Aug. 30, 2011
ADA -- One of Darryl Bootland’s favorite hockey memories is being on the ice with former Grand Rapids Griffins Bruce Ramsay and Matt Ruchty the day after he took over the franchise record for penalty minutes.
Griffins play-by-play announcer Bob Kaser took a picture of the trio -- each of whom claim the top three places on the organization’s all-time list with a combined 2,627 penalty minutes -- and Bootland still has the towel from the penalty box when he passed Ramsay for the No. 1 spot on Feb. 4, 2006.
It is just one of the many fond recollections Bootland has from his time with the Griffins from 2002-07.
And it is one reason why he looked forward to taking part in the 17th annual Griffins Youth Foundation Golf Classic on Monday at Egypt Valley Country Club.
"My time spent in Grand Rapids was the best time of my life," Bootland, 29, said. "It was like college for me because I was 20 to 26 years old. The fans loved my style of play, and I loved doing it for them, so it was a lot of fun.
"It’s a great place. I missed the fans. They were a lot more on my side than in a lot of places. Grand Rapids has some great memories for me."
He was not the only one who felt that way. Several other former Griffins took part in the event, including Mike Fountain, Kory Karlander, Don McSween and Clay Wilson, as did current coach Curt Fraser and assistant coach Jim Paek.
Fountain, 39, decided to settle down in West Michigan after he retired in 2009. He met his wife while playing for the Griffins from 1999-01, and now runs the youth hockey program at Walker Ice and Fitness Center.
His hockey career took him from Vancouver to Raleigh, N.C., and Germany to Russia but, in the end, Grand Rapids felt like home.
"I had the good fortune to play in a lot of good cities in my career, and Grand Rapids was definitely the top one for me. Without a doubt," Fountain said. "A lot of people say that, but I can honestly say that it is. That’s why we bought a home here and that’s why I’m proud to call it home."
Wilson, 28, spent only one season with the Griffins in 2005-06, but the area left its mark, and he spent this past summer living in Muskegon.
He signed a two-year deal with the Calgary Flames this offseason, but he fondly remembers the strong relationships he fostered with the Griffins on and off the ice.
"Grand Rapids is great. I really enjoyed my time here," Wilson said. "I’d be happy to come back here. It was great for me. It definitely made an impact on me."
Bootland also chose to remain in the West Michigan area, playing for his older brother, Nick, who coaches the Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL, and providing a home for his wife, Sarah, and 5-year-old son, Trace.
"When you play for 10 years, you kind of want to be comfortable where you are," Bootland said. "Playing with my brother, going with him every day to the rink and having someone there like that is amazing. I can’t really beat it."
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