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10/05/2005 6:39 PM - New Division, New Rules Greet Griffins’ Milestone Year

This Week’s Game
Sat., Oct. 8 - Milwaukee Admirals at GRIFFINS - 7 p.m. - WOOD 1300 AM/B2 Networks
10th Anniversary Opening Night presented by Comcast

Let’s Get it Started: Grand Rapids will drop the puck on its 10th season at Van Andel Arena this Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. versus the Milwaukee Admirals. 10th Anniversary Opening Night presented by Comcast will feature pre-game fireworks, performances by Claude, The Happy Trumpeter, and intermission entertainment by the Gentlemen Jugglers. The first 3,000 fans will receive a 10th Anniversary commemorative poster, courtesy of Comcast, and the game will be followed by a Fox Motors Autograph Session and a 45-minute open skate.

Get Your Tickets: Tickets for all 40 Griffins regular season home games can be purchased in person at The Zone at Van Andel Arena and all Star Tickets Plus locations (including Meijer stores), by phone through Star Tickets Plus at 800-585-3737, or via the web at Full season tickets, five- and 10-game value plans, and group ticket packages are available through the Griffins office at (800) 2-HOCKEY.

At the Helm: Griffins general manager Bob McNamara begins his 10th season with the club, Greg Ireland starts his first full season as head coach and third overall with Grand Rapids, and two-time Stanley Cup champion Jim Paek makes his debut as the Griffins’ assistant coach.

Lebda Makes 70: Defenseman Brett Lebda, who appeared in all 80 games with Grand Rapids last season as a professional rookie, made his debut for the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday against St. Louis, becoming the 70th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL. Other Griffins’ graduates on Detroit’s roster include Niklas Kronwall, Mark Mowers, Jamie Rivers and Jason Williams.

Game On, AHL Style: As the American Hockey League begins its 70th season, the Griffins commence their first campaign as members of the AHL’s North Division, alongside Cleveland, Hamilton, Manitoba, Rochester, Syracuse and Toronto. The AHL has added four new teams (Iowa, Omaha, Peoria and Toronto) and several new rules for the 2005-06 season, including: permission of two-line passes; restoring “touch” icing; returning the blue lines and center red line to 12 inches in width (from 24 inches); widening the attack zones to 64 feet (from 60 feet) and reducing the neutral zone to 50 feet (from 58 feet); and reducing the maximum dimensions of goaltender equipment.

Almost Like Being There: In conjunction with B2 Networks and the AHL, live video broadcasts of every Griffins game this season will be offered through a link at Any fan worldwide with a high-speed internet connection will be able to watch the action for just $6, while listening to Bob Kaser’s play-by-play.

This Week in Griffins History: Oct. 5: Griffins open their inaugural campaign at Indianapolis and emerge with a 1-0 win on 30 saves by Pokey Reddick and a first-period power-play goal by Michel Picard (1996). Oct. 6: Griffins commence their fifth anniversary season by raising their 1999-2000 IHL Eastern Conference championship banner prior to a 4-3 shootout win over Cleveland (2000). Oct. 8: Griffins play in their first-ever shootout, a 5-4 loss at Detroit, as rookie Kevyn Adams becomes the first Griffin to record a multiple-goal game (1996). Oct. 9: Griffins begin their third season with another sellout, defeating Kansas City 2-0 in front of 10,834 fans (1998).

On the Shelf: Saturday’s season opener will be the first ever missed by defenseman Travis Richards, who is rehabbing a knee injury suffered during Red Wings training camp in Traverse City. The Griffins will also start the season without the services of all-star goaltender Joey MacDonald, who continues his recovery from off-season back surgery.

For Starters: Grand Rapids is 7-2 all-time in season openers, including 4-2 at home. Overall, the team’s record in home openers is 6-3, and its mark in road debuts is 7-2 (including six straight wins).

Tune-up Tales: The Griffins earned a 3-0 record during the preseason, with wins at both Milwaukee (6-2) and Chicago (3-2) and at home against Cleveland (4-3). Derek Meech (1-3—4), Jon Insana (0-3—3) and Patrick Jarrett (2-0—2) led the offense, while Drew MacIntyre posted a 2-0 record with a 2.51 GAA and a 0.928 save percentage.

Detroit Exports: Eighteen Red Wings-contracted players are on the Griffins’ 26-man roster, including forwards Darryl Bootland, Matt Ellis, Valtteri Filppula, Michael Hackert, Eric Himelfarb, Jiri Hudler, Todd Jackson, Tomas Kopecky, Donald MacLean, Eric Manlow, Kent McDonell and Ryan Oulahen; defensemen Bryan Helmer, Derek Meech and Kyle Quincey; and goaltenders Logan Koopmans, Joey MacDonald and Drew MacIntyre.

Fresh Faces: Brad Bonello (OHL Ottawa), Valtteri Filppula (Jokerit Helsinki, Finland), Patrick Jarrett (OHL Owen Sound), Ryan Keller (WHL Saskatoon), Logan Koopmans (ECHL Toledo), Nick Martens (CCHA Michigan), Ryan Oulahen (OHL Brampton) and Kyle Quincey (OHL Mississauga) are AHL rookies, joining newcomers Nate DiCasmirro (AHL Edmonton), Michael Hackert (Frankfurt, Germany), Donald MacLean (Blues Espoo, Finland) and Kent McDonell (Duisburg, Germany) on the Griffins’ roster.

Signed and Sealed: Seven players on the current roster are under contract to the Griffins, including forwards Brad Bonello, Patrick Jarrett and Ryan Keller, and defensemen Greg Amadio, Jon Insana, Nick Martens and Travis Richards.

Welcome Back: Fourteen current players appeared in a Griffins game last season: forwards Darryl Bootland, Matt Ellis, Eric Himelfarb, Jiri Hudler, Todd Jackson, Tomas Kopecky and Eric Manlow; defensemen Greg Amadio, Bryan Helmer, Jon Insana, Derek Meech and Travis Richards; and goaltenders Joey MacDonald and Drew MacIntyre. In addition, center Donald MacLean played 28 games for Grand Rapids in 1998-99.

Tell Me What It Takes: Six players and coaches for the Griffins have won major championships in North America at the pro, college or major junior level, including assistant coach Jim Paek (NHL Stanley Cup – 1991 and 1992 Pittsburgh, IHL Turner Cup – 1989 Muskegon and 1999 Houston), Greg Amadio (CHL President’s Cup – 2003 Memphis), Bryan Helmer (AHL Calder Cup – 1995 Albany), Jon Insana (UHL Colonial Cup – 2005 Muskegon), Donald MacLean (CHL Memorial Cup – 1997 Hull), and Derek Meech (CHL Memorial Cup – 2001 Red Deer).

Do You Feel a Draft?: Sixteen of the Griffins’ 26 players were once selected in the NHL Entry Draft, from Donald MacLean (#33 overall by Los Angeles in 1995) to Darryl Bootland (#252 by Colorado in 2000).

NHL Experience: Seven Griffins have combined to play 269 games in the National Hockey League: Bryan Helmer (134), Eric Manlow (37), Kent McDonell (32), Donald MacLean (29), Darryl Bootland (22), Jiri Hudler (12) and Travis Richards (3). Just two seasons ago, the 2003-04 Griffins boasted nine players with 2,068 NHL games, while last year’s squad had eight players with 523 contests.

Veteran Roll Call: Excluding goaltenders, AHL clubs may not dress more than five skaters with more than 260 games of experience in the NHL, AHL, IHL or European Elite leagues. The Griffins currently have four designated veterans in Bryan Helmer, Donald MacLean, Eric Manlow and Travis Richards.

One For the Ages: The average age of the Griffins is 24 years, one year younger than the 2004-05 squad and two years younger than the 2003-04 edition. Travis Richards (35 years, six months) leads the way as one of only five players over the age of 27, while Kyle Quincey (20 years, one month) is the youngest of nine players who have yet to reach their 22nd birthdays.

International Flavor: The Griffins’ roster includes four players who were born overseas in Valtteri Filppula (Finland), Michael Hackert (Germany), Jiri Hudler (Czech Republic) and Tomas Kopecky (Slovakia). Eighteen Griffins hail from Canada, led by 12 Ontario natives, while four Americans fill out the roster, including a pair from Michigan (Ann Arbor’s and UM’s Nick Martens, and Mt. Clemens’ and MSU’s Jon Insana).

Where Are They Now?: Nine players from last year’s season-ending roster now find themselves in other locales, most notably Ryan Barnes (free agent), Mark Eaton (NHL Nashville), Niklas Kronwall (NHL Detroit), Brett Lebda (NHL Detroit), Kip Miller (free agent), Blake Sloan (free agent) and Peter Vandermeer (AHL Hamilton).

Making History: The Griffins finished the 2004-05 season in fifth place in the West Division with a 41-35-2-2 mark (86 pts.), becoming the first team in the AHL’s 69-year history to win more than 40 games and be excluded from the playoffs. In addition, Grand Rapids joined the 1948-49 Pittsburgh Hornets (88 pts.) as the only teams in league history to earn as many as 86 points and miss out on the postseason.

For the Record: Grand Rapids finished the 2004-05 season 17-13-1-1 (0.563) after Greg Ireland was named head coach on Feb. 10, including a 16-10-1-1 record (0.607) since Feb. 25 and a 12-7-0-1 mark (0.625) since March 11…The Griffins’ 12 victories over the final five weeks of the 2004-05 regular season ranked only behind four other teams with 13 wins apiece…Their 41 total wins were more than their 1996-97 and 1997-98 squads (40 and 38, respectively) that qualified for the playoffs, and just one shy of their 2001-02 edition that finished atop the West Division…With their 7-4 win at San Antonio on April 7, the Griffins secured their sixth consecutive season with a winning record, and their 4-2 victory at Utah on April 8 clinched their sixth straight 40-win campaign.

Scouting Report

Sat., Oct. 8 vs. Milwaukee Admirals – Van Andel Arena – 7 p.m.

Radio: WOOD 1300 AM at 6:05 p.m. Web Casts: Video ($6 – B2 Networks) and audio (free) available through Season Series: First of eight meetings overall, first of four in Grand Rapids. All-Time Series (W-L-T-OTL-SOL): 35-20-7-1-3 Overall, 21-8-2-0-0 Home. NHL Affiliation: Nashville Predators. Head Coach: Claude Noel (3rd season). Ships Ahoy: The Admirals finished second in the West Division in 2004-05 with a 47-24-4-5 record. They fell 4-3 to Cincinnati in the West Division semifinals…Grand Rapids went 4-4 against the Admirals last year, including a 2-2 mark at Van Andel Arena…Darren Haydar has been one of Milwaukee’s top scorers since 2002, totaling 75 goals and 184 points over the last three seasons…Rookie Shea Weber was a standout at Kelowna (WHL) for three seasons…Brian Finley finished third in the AHL with 36 wins last season.

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