The Stanley Cup is being fought by the New York Ranger and the Los Angeles Kings. There are many Canadian players on both team but alas, the excitement of supporting a Canadian-based team won’t be happening this year.
There is a Canadian-based team in the second best league in the world and they are the St. John’s IceCaps (formerly the Manitoba Moose)
While many Winnipeg Jets fans have been pouting about another play-offs denied for the home team, the farm club team of the Jets has been soldiering on from one round to the next. It is now all on the line against the Texas Stars for the Calder Cup.
In the 15 years of the Manitoba Moose, Winnipeg never did win a Turner Cup (in the old IHL) or a Calder Cup in the AHL. In less than three years, St. John’s, Newfoundland is not only in the final but has a very, very good shot at winning the Calder.
In many ways Winnipeg and St. John’s are the same in regards to the terrible loss we experienced losing our hockey teams. In Winnipeg’s case, it was the Jets and St. John’s case it was the Maple Leafs (who moved to become the Toronto Marlies).
Winnipeg’s good fortune was also St. John’s good fortune in that Winnipeg chose to place their farm club team of the AHL in St. John’s. The unadulterated joy in both cities was palpable. And St. John’s has rewarded that commitment by selling out the arena all the time.
It has always been joy in IceCap land. Last year the team was not in the play-offs and finished second last in their conference. The joy is back now and this a reflection if three years of drafts for the Winnipeg Jets and from sound management practices that saw the old Moose consistently advance in the play-offs.
Why should Winnipegger’s play attention?
Well, the short of it is that many of the players playing their hearts out have played on the Jets for a few stints and are now eyeing permanent jobs on the team. Easily the stand out that we in Winnipeg need to watch Is Michael Hutchinson, the goaltender the Jets picked up as a free agent this year and who had started in the even lower East Coast Hockey League. This young man has amassed over 50 wins in three leagues including the Jets this year!
Three veterans on the team have shown leadership to many of the young guys coming up. Jason Jaffrey, Andrew Gordon and Blair Riley have helped the kids do well and wracked up points too. But this isn’t just core vets getting the job done. Winnipeg Jets prospects like Adam Lowery and Josh Morrisey have jumped into the line-ups and helped the team. Eric O’Dell at center has been solid on Jets and with the Ice Caps. Zach Redmond is making his way from that terrible injury with the Jets.
Many of the prospects had a chance to show some stuff with the Jets when late season injuries crippled the team. Ben Chiarot helped on defence with Jets this year. Patrice Cormier and John Albert showed some center ice promise. J.C. Lipon, Karl Klingberg and Brenden Kitchon are playing their hearts out.
Yes, all in all, this is an exciting team and we have gotten to know a few of these players this year.
Quite frankly, we need to see these guys get experience and confidence as they play the Calder Cup. Why? The reason why is that the new Winnipeg Jets and old Atlanta Thrashers don’t have a lot of play-off experience. We need that grit, experience and confidence going forward.
Not all of the Jets on the team this year will be back next year. We could lose a few to free agency. We could lose a few to trades. A possible retirement could also happen. In all likelihood, some of the St. John’s Ice Caps or others in Winnipeg’s system will make their way to big show this year.
In the mean time, it is a crying shame that we can’t watch Canada’s team, the St. John’s IceCaps, play the Texas Stars. The IceCaps have one heck of a good website and update Twitter so Winnipeg fans can enjoy it through there.
So, go IceCaps go! You deserve it St. John’s! Hope you can hold that cup high!
This has been a guest editorial by John Dobbin.
To read more from John, visit his blog Observations, Reservations, Conversations