We won the first two games of the year at Manitoba and we ended the year with two wins against the Moose. This was a very good weekend and a good night for the young guys to go out on. The fans have a lot to look forward to next season. Darren Helm and Evan McGrath led the way offensively, and both of those guys figure to be the leading characters in next year's Griffins team. The other great thing about the weekend was once again you, the fans. Despite being out of the playoff hunt, you guys showed up in full force to support us. Hopefully you can show next year's team as much respect as you showed us. I can guarantee that next year's team will be much better and that they will be right where this organization deserves to be, and that is near the top of the AHL standings.
After the game we had the chance to get to meet some of the fans that have been supporting us the whole year. We met children and adults alike that cheered for us, win or lose. I have to especially thank Paul, for his filet of salmon. I would like to thank Ashley for all her talks along the glass about her recent driver's permit. I instruct her not to hit any bicyclist like I did when I first got my driver's license.
I had so much fun here this year. Even though we fell short of our goals, this place will always have a special place in my heart. Whether or not I am here next year, I will root for all the guys that I played with here and hope that you great fans get a championship.
Thank you for reading all my ramblings on this blog. Thank you for the forum to express how I was feeling about being away from my wife. Thank you for everything. A special thanks to Randy Rice for making it look like I was a good writer.
It has been a while! Sorry. Also, going into tonight's game, the Detroit Tigers are 0-7! On the day the Red Sox brought back our old nemesis, Bill Buckner, the Tigers got flat-out dominated. For about six innings they only had two hits and went on to score zero runs. It must be difficult for you Tiger fans out there to watch the second-highest paid team in MLB start this slow. From my standpoint, though, what a wonderful opening day at Fenway. It looked liked it was a beautiful New England day, the wind was blowing, the rings were being passed out and the Red Sox were again winning another day. I celebrated here on my couch with a hot dog and a beer!
This is a difficult week of practice for the guys. We have had such a close-knit team, that realizing it will all be over Saturday night is pretty hard to swallow. You look back and you say what might have been. Not knowing the stats right off the top of my head, I would guess we have lost 20 one-goal games. Had we won 10 of those games we are looking at a different season and a possible playoff birth. I have had so many fond memories in this city, both on and off the ice, so I thought I would share a few with you.
The most fun that I had during a game this year was against the Milwaukee Admirals just a couple weeks ago. We had already been eliminated from the playoffs, yet you guys, the fans, came and sold out the Van Andel. The crowd was loud and into the game from the drop of the puck. We started really slow, falling behind two nothing, but in one of our better efforts this year, we battled hard and tied the game early in the third. Even though we lost in a shootout, I was amazed at the enthusiasm of the fans. You may not think that you help us along, but your energy makes its way onto the ice, so for every win and loss, we truly appreciate your efforts.
There have been many memorable moments off the ice with the guys I have played with this year. The most recent and entertaining was the Carrie Underwood concert. I went in knowing a few of her songs but left being impressed with her entire selection of songs. Not only was she a great country singer, but she was able to belt out rock songs just the same. That was not the only reason that made the night so fun. You had single guys and couples mingling, having a good time. I think that was the best thing about our team. No one really was left out. When you went out or wanted to do something, everyone was always invited. I will always be thankful to my teammates this year, for what could have been a difficult personal time this year, being away from Christine, turned into an enjoyable experience.
Last but not least, the community work that Bob Kaser and Nicole Rodammer set up for us led me to a tremendous experience. Early in the year I had the good fortune of meeting Shay Atwood at Mary Free Bed Hospital. He was a young boy that was hurt during an ATV accident. His mother, Pamela, allowed me to be part of his life over the past three months, and I would like to say that we became friends. He was able to make it to a few of our games, all of which we won and I scored in. I was able to play video games and talk with him during his dialysis. He was so young, but so tough. Even in his state, he wanted to do things for himself. I remember watching him struggle to take off his bandages, but refusing help from any of the nurses. It made one realize how lucky they were. Shay passed away this March, but I am thankful every day that I got to meet him and his family.
This is going to be short and sweet. Not a long blog, but an efficient one.
Please, everyone, watch the Detroit Red Wings game tonight. My boy, Darren Helm, got called up.
Usually people that play on a minor league team hold resentment toward another player that got called up, but I can absolutely say that this is the most proud I have been of a player in a long time. Darren and I sit right next to each other in the locker room, and for what ever reason we have had a mutual scoring competition in practice. I do not know if I see a lot of me in him, but I hope to all heck that he succeeds at whatever he does. He is one of the most genuine people that I have met.
So I hope that all you fans take a little time out of your busy schedules to cheer for Darren tonight. I know that he is nervous, but he will do excellent and he will make all the fans in Grand Rapids proud. Good luck, Darren.
It is official: I am a Grand Rapids Rampage fan! Brad Thompson asked our team last week who would like to the game, and I was not excited about the prospect of wasting a Monday night at a football game. An arena football game, no less. I believed that it was a game filled with gimmicks in order to get fans excited about minor league football. Man, was I wrong.
There was no rush to get to the game last night. Driving over to the hotel to pick up Cleve Kinley and Jason Jozsa, we made the decision that we were going to have a leisurely dinner. The diner proved to be a great choice. There were the three of us along with Francis Lemieux and Garrett Stafford. Not a likely group to hang out but we made the most of it, actually engaging in the most intelligent conversation that I have been in all year. Though we had different educational and political backgrounds we kind of had a round table, chatting about anything from the upcoming election to our favorite conspiracy theory. Being from Boston, my favorite, conspiracy theory is who shot John F. Kennedy. I am just waiting to see film of the third shooter on the grassy knoll. Now, although we had fantastic conversation and great food, my biggest regret was that I did not see the opening half of the Rampage game.
We walked into the Van Andel just as the second half of football started. The boys, or the rest of our team, were howling about the halftime entertainment. Something about Van Halen tickets, a radio personality and a woman trying to tackle him. They said it was possibly the funniest thing they had ever seen.
Right from the first kick off that I witnessed, I was hooked. The ball came flying of the screen, and having no idea the screen was live, I was fully expecting the whistle to blow. But our team member picked up the ball and was rudely met by an oncoming rush of players surrounding him. Hooked! Adrian McPherson came out and dazzled me with his skill and accuracy. The fans were into the game, the cheerleaders were on the field of play, and although their moves lacked energy, there was always the prospect they might interfere with the play. Pretty interesting stuff.
There were two plays that stuck out in my mind. One was our kicker, Brian Gowins, making a tackle that was the hardest hit that I have seen, bar none. He got up and jogged off and the crowd erupted. The second was an apparent interception early in the fourth quarter. The ball was thrown into the crowd and a fan directed it onto the field of play and the Rampage player intercepted the ball. After much discussion the refs decided the fan had come into the field of play, thus no interception. Awesome! The fans could get involved. I was expecting gimmicks and I got them, but they were oddly entertaining and I cannot wait to go back.
Now, I have not answered many questions, so here goes. Christy asks me what my plans are for the summer. My wife and I had big plans to make a second honeymoon, but we just bought our first home, so I have no money. So Christine, Max and I are going to enjoy the peaceful quiet of our own backyard! The summer on the East Coast is awesome. Everywhere you turn there is water, beautiful beaches and, most importantly, Red Sox games every night. Still World Champions, by the way! That was actually the only question I got. I have to say a nice hello to Mary Helen. She sends me great emails about her day and is probably my biggest supporter, and I truly appreciate that.
Oh, my dog, Max, was very excited to see himself on the Internet. He always believed in his heart that he was truly a star, but now his dream of making it on the Internet is realized. His next goal is Youtube. After that we are going to work on a minor role in a movie. Maybe they will make Shiloh 2 or something. His manners are lacking but he is super sweet, so I am sure that his personality will more than make up for his lack of social grace.
Have a great weekend. To Shay, I hope you are feeling better today, bud.