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AHL Memories: Dan D’Uva

It’s no secret that the American Hockey League’s goal is to produce players to succeed at the National Hockey League level. Fans can see those players wearing each of the 31 uniforms across the world’s top hockey league.

Not every fan hears the stories of the people not on the ice who took the same path to have a career in the NHL. Vegas Golden Knights radio play-by-play broadcaster Dan D’Uva worked his way up from the ECHL and the AHL before arriving in the Valley. Days spent in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch encompassed just about every aspect of a hockey organization’s day-to-day operations for D’Uva.

From classic tales on the road, to sharing a bite to eat over interviews, to unforgettable moments with broadcasting icons, the AHL has given D’Uva a bank of fond memories that he carries with him in his role with the Golden Knights.

GW: How did you first get started in the AHL? What were you doing before you got your start in the AHL?

DD: My first exposure to professional hockey in a working environment was covering the New Jersey Devils when I was still in college. My first job was working for the New Jersey Devils in the ECHL as the Director of Public Relations and Broadcasting for the Trenton Devils, the owned and operated affiliate for New Jersey. Lou Lamoriello literally signed the paychecks. That was my first foray full-time into professional hockey. From there I was on to the American Hockey League with the Syracuse Crunch in 2012. I had driven to Syracuse to interview for the job and it was the day after Game 2 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final in which the Devils were playing the Kings. It was a weird spot because I’d driven to Syracuse the day of the game and the TV in my hotel room didn’t work. I had timed it perfectly so I could get to the hotel, get something to eat and watch the game and of course the TV in my room didn’t work. Well, I got it fixed and they still lost. Anyhow, the interview there at the War Memorial was the next day. That was neat because I had gone to school at Syracuse and I knew the neighborhood very well. I had not interned for the Syracuse Crunch though later I’d have a bunch of Syracuse students intern with me at the Crunch. That had not yet been a thing. The guy who was the broadcaster with the Crunch, Bob McElligot, was not an SU alum so he didn’t really engage the University in the way I had wanted to which was fine.

When Syracuse came into the AHL in 1994, Syracuse was one of the larger markets. It had this incredible history whereas the first championship in AHL history was won by the Syracuse Stars in 1937. That predates the existence of the Onondaga County War Memorial Arena which was built in 1951. The NBA Championship was won there by the Syracuse Nationals in 1995, who you know today as the Philadelphia 76ers. Bruce Springsteen played there. The War Memorial Arena was a really special place. They filmed Slapshot in this arena. It was pretty neat to be in there and to even have the thought of “wow, I can be in there and work in a place with so much history.” It’s a city that I know. The rink is right up the street from SU. I remember being very excited about it. The excitement took another jump when Jim Sarosy told me under great secrecy that the affiliation would be changing for the upcoming season. They were done with the Anaheim Ducks and the new affiliate would be the Tampa Bay Lightning. At that point in time, the Norfolk Admirals had not yet won the Calder Cup, but they were in the midst of perhaps the greatest pro hockey season ever where they didn’t lose a game after Super Bowl Sunday. It was a done deal. This wasn’t just something they had been working on. Jim Sarosy showed me the new Syracuse Crunch jersey with the Lightning logo on it. Meanwhile, the people in Norfolk had no idea what was about to happen. They were going to win a championship and then all these players who were beloved by that community were going to leave and go to Syracuse which, of course, was a rival.

So, I got the phone call a couple of weeks later offering me the position officially and that was that. Jim Sarosy, who had started with the Crunch as an intern in 1995, had been the Director of Communications and then was the Chief Operating Officer and has been in that role for a number of years now. He’s just great. I do remember one thing that he said to me and I think this is pertinent. He said to me in that interview: “it’s our job to get you to the National Hockey League.” What an empowering thing for a prospective employer to say to you. In the same way that they look to move coaches and players up to the next level, they want to move employees to the next level. As if I didn’t already really want that job, I would’ve run through a wall for Jim when he said that. It meant that they were as interested in my career as they were in their own business. They wanted me to succeed and they recognized the bigger picture of my success was organizational success. When they then offered me the job, it made it all that much more exciting. A couple of weeks later I was in Chatham, Mass. and Jim Sarosy called and Howard Dolgon the owner was on the phone and they offered me the job. Of course, I was going to accept it, but when I was first offered the job in Trenton, the amount of money that they had offered me in the interview then somehow changed when I started a few days later. I called them on it and they said: “oh yeah, you’re right.” With that in mind, I just wanted to protect myself. I wanted to know all the questions I had to ask. I just said: “thank you so much. Can I call you back? I need to talk to some people.” I think they were expecting me to just say yes on the spot. So, they said: “well, okay, but call back in a couple of hours.” I think I called my dad; I called my mom – I don’t think my mom actually answered the phone – and then I called Mike Emrick. I said: “Doc, you remember what happened with the Devils, I just don’t know what to say to them and I don’t know what to ask them. I want the job, but I just want to make sure I’m looking out for myself.” He said: “Dan, call them back and tell them yes.” I said okay, and that was that. The rest was history.

Fast forward to the start of that 2012-13 season and it was the NHL lockout. There was no NHL. Here were the Norfolk Admirals turned Syracuse Crunch and you can imagine the mindset of these guys. They just won a championship, and their reward was from moving from Virginia Beach to Syracuse, New York. Congratulations. Plenty of those guys, head coach Jon Cooper including, were not happy. They tried to put on a happy face, but some of the guys really did not make the adjustment quickly. After a few months, then it was not even an issue. The first visit to Norfolk was unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. You had all the Norfolk fans, and it was their first opportunity to say thank you to these guys. It was basically the same team. I’d never seen for an AHL warmup the number of people rimming the glass waiting for the teams to come out for warmups. It was incredible. There were a variety of activities at local establishments that had been arranged that night. It was like they were conquering kings returning from the battlefield.

GW: I like what Jim said during your interview about wanting to prepare you for the NHL. That’s the nature of the AHL for the players. Manny Viveiros said the AHL is all about crafting good people. What do you make of that and how have you seen that firsthand?

DD: I think that it starts with the organization you’re a part of. In the ECHL, the Devils organization had an identity of traditional values, very conservative, extremely loyal and extremely tight-laced. The Syracuse Crunch in the American League had its own identity because it was an independent franchise. They were not owned by the Lightning or any other team. They had local ownership. It was a little bit more Barnum & Bailey. There had to be an extra bit of pizzazz. It wasn’t just the hockey. It had to be entertainment as much as it was hockey to keep the fans engaged. It’s a city with a great deal of sports history with hockey, baseball and of course on campus with football, basketball and lacrosse. When you go into an organization that has to leverage those assets, you realize that you as an employee have to do some things that might not be in the job description. You’ve got to be willing to do what the team needs. That’s more than just the hard hours and the commitment to your job. It’s occasionally dressing up as the mascot. It’s pounding the pavement. Instead of working on your game notes for tonight, you’ve got to walk around downtown Syracuse handing out these rally posters. Instead of editing the pregame interview, you’ve got to put together some kind of funny video where the owner of the team is inviting political candidates to come and have their debate before a Syracuse Crunch game. Ridiculous stuff. We got Ric Flair to come to a game. All kinds of crazy stuff that has nothing to do with hockey, but it’s going to get people talking and it’s going to get people in the seats. That is ultimately the business. The players have to get involved in that stuff too. The players would do a lot of stuff that if you told an NHL player who had never been in the minors you have to do x, y and z, they’d think you were kidding. With the Crunch, we would have this awesome event annually called Crunch At Your Service. It was held in this large banquet ballroom at the convention hall. It was set up like a banquet with a stage, large round tables and fans could come and basically bid on things for the players to do stuff. We had Matthew Peca do the Herb Brooks speech from Miracle. We had Jared Nightingale and Eric Neilson serenading me with a Bruce Springsteen song. Things like that. There’s just all this stuff that, as the broadcaster, you’re just the ringleader in a way or a host overseeing this and trying to keep control. You can’t get too out of hand. It’s a wacky thing. The first year, we had a woman as a spokesmodel. She had been Miss Kansas or something like that. We got her to a photo studio, and she lay atop a goal with a telephone in hand and the billboard said: “for a good time call” with the number to order Syracuse Crunch tickets. That got a lot of attention for us and it was great but the next year, we did the same exact billboard except instead of the former Miss Kansas, it was Eric Neilson in his Syracuse Crunch uniform with the same caption. Eric had to be willing to do that and he’s a pro hockey player. There are all kinds of things on a very regular basis where people would have an idea and you had a staff of about 12 people, some interns and hockey players. Let’s see what we can get them to do. We did a great Fear the Beard video with Radko Gudas. That game, we had a great video and we had Mark Barberio stroking his beard. For warmups, all of the players came out wearing beards on their faces for Fear the Beard night. Just wild and crazy stuff. In summation, the things that you have to do beyond your job description, beyond what a reasonable person would expect, is the name of the game in order to succeed in the American Hockey League.

GW: That’s what I love about the American Hockey League. There’s a willingness to be wacky and out there not just to sell tickets, but to maintain a persona of being a fun league. Have you seen things with other teams at other arenas that made you laugh or that stick out?

DD: I always loved when little kids would play on the ice during intermissions. That’s always fun. To be honest, when we are on the road I usually am not watching at the other team’s stuff. Syracuse had the reputation of being the franchise that did those things consistently well. If you were a franchise that was trying to make a splash or trying to spark some fan interest, you would look and see what Syracuse had done, but some of it was not the creation of the franchise itself. As much as we could, we would allow it to occur organically. There were these three fans: husband, a wife, and a brother – I could be wrong on that – who on their own would dress up as the Hanson brothers for every game. They would wear Chiefs jerseys. They would have the long hair and the glasses. I could see their seats, where they would sit every game. There was a point during one of the media timeouts where a certain song would play, and they would get up and run around the arena, and they would be on the scoreboard. The fans would go wild. We didn’t create that. That just happened organically, you know. They have been doing that for decades. You know, there are all kinds of things like that. You have to remember that it is about the fans. It is about the people who support the team. As much as we want to make it about hockey and winning, it’s about the fans. It’s an experience for the people who are coming, whether you are a die-hard hockey fan or you are a family of four looking for something to do on a Friday night. It’s about the fans, and the more you can be open to what the fans want and what the fans enjoy and try to nurture that, the greater success you will have building a fan base. Building your own culture. Because the Crunch were not the Lightning. They were not the Ducks. They were not the Blue Jackets. Those were affiliates. They were proud affiliates, in some cases, not others, but they had an identity that remained regardless of the affiliation. That was special.

GW: Who are some of the players and coaches you worked with in Syracuse that have had success at the NHL level, especially recently?

DD: Jon Cooper is a special guy. He would succeed in whichever career path that he chose. Thankfully for the judge in Michigan who asked him to coach his son’s team once upon a time, Jon said yes, and the rest is history. What makes Jon Cooper a special person, is that he knows people. He knows that you can’t paint with a broad stroke, and he can connect with you in a special way. He would connect with his players in a special way. You know, there are a couple G-rated Jon Cooper stories that I can tell you. One of my favorites, before a game in Syracuse, we are sitting in the coach’s office watching an NHL game on TV. Jon just gotten his food from the media dining room and brought it down to the office to watch the game. I’ve got the microphone there ready to record the pregame interview, in no hurry. We are just watching the game. He had a couple of bites of his dinner, and he starts wiping food from his mouth, and he says: “alright Danny, let’s go.” I said, “John you can finish eating, no hurry.” He said, “oh no, let’s do it.” And I’m like, “John you can finish eating.” He said, “Danny, hit record.” I was like, “Okay. Welcome back to the War Memorial in Syracuse this is Dan D’Uva and Jon Cooper,” and as I am starting the interview, Jon continues to put food in his mouth. Then as he gulps down his last bite, I conclude my rambling with “what do you think Jon.” He starts to answer the question, and as he is answering the question, thoughtfully, cogently, with great insight, he takes his fork, scoops up some more food, and puts it in my mouth. I continue to chew, and ultimately swallow, and as I do, he finishes his answer, and I then go right into the next question. He continued the interview, feeding me and himself the entire time, and you would never know if you were listening. A year or two later, when he had been promoted to Tampa, the Crunch were playing the Hershey Bears at Verizon Center in Washington D.C., and the Tampa Bay Lightning had an opportunity to stop by – Steve Yzerman, Jon Cooper and all – and see the Syracuse Crunch players firsthand. So, we met up at the bar at the hotel the night before, and I asked Coop to stop by the radio booth to do an interview. He said, “first or second intermission?” I said, “Either one. I will be ready for you. If you want to text me that’s fine, but I’ll be either way.” The next day comes, the first intermission and no Jon Cooper. The second intermission comes, and I am stalling a little bit and I was thinking “could he have forgotten? Should I text him?” I’m on the air. You’re doing the broadcast by yourself, and it’s hard to talk and text at the same time. The second intermission comes and goes, and we are about to start the third period, and I’m thinking “Oh well. Too bad.” Coop walks in the door and spits out his gum right as they are dropping the puck to start the third period. He does the entire third period with me. The entire third period, and he did that because he knew how cool it would be for me. When we published that audio, it was probably the most listened to bit of audio in Syracuse Crunch SoundCloud history. It probably still is, and I didn’t take a single commercial break. It was terrific.

That reminds me that a couple of years later, in Hershey coincidently, it’s the last game. This is a great story. One of my favorites. Its only partly related to the people and I’ll get back to that in a moment, but it’s just great. I have told this before. It’s the last game before Christmas break. Crunch are in Hershey. So, it’s four hours away. There were so many injuries and call ups, there were nine defensemen in the lineup for Syracuse. Nine. Not six. Not seven. Not eight. Nine defensemen in the lineup for the Syracuse Crunch. Including Luke Witkowski, who played as a forward this particular game. A sign of things to come. Anyhow, it’s the last game before the Christmas break, you know how the schedule goes there, after the game we would go back to Syracuse and then everyone would hop in their vehicles or go to the airport and go home for Christmas. Hershey being as close as it is to home for me, my dad had come. He had driven out just for the game. So, it’s a couple hours before the game. I’m standing outside the Crunch dressing room. I had just interviewed the coach for the pregame interview. I am looking at my phone because my dad is trying to figure out where to go to get his pass and where he was supposed to park. As I looked up from my phone, somebody was tapping me on my shoulder, and it was Mike Emrick. I said, “Doc what are you doing here?” I had not realized he was emceeing the Hershey’s Bears Hall of Fame induction ceremony that night. Doc had been the broadcaster for the Maine Mariners in the AHL, but while there had fallen in love with Hershey, Pennsylvania when the Mariners would go there to play Hershey. So, when he got promoted to the Flyers play-by-play job, he and his wife moved to Hershey not to Philly. They moved to Hershey. Even when he worked for the Devils, he drove from Hershey to East Rutherford. So, he loves Hershey. Eventually, they moved to Michigan where his wife is from, but for a long while they lived in Hershey and he commuted for all these games. The point is, he’s got deep roots in Hershey, which is why he goes back and emcees this event. So, I didn’t realize he was going to be there. So, as I am saying hello, I realize my dad is calling because he doesn’t know where he is going. Then I saw J.W. Aiken, a Bowling Green alum, who hears another Bowling Green Allum Mike Emrick, and I believe J.W. had never met Doc. So, I said, “Oh Doc, won’t you meet J.W. Aiken. He is a Bowling Green alum. He is our equipment manager.” J.W. was like, “Oh my god.” I said, “Doc my dad is coming. He is calling me right now. I’ll see you later.” Then I had to answer my phone and find my dad, but truth be told I didn’t know if I was going to see Doc later. I had no idea what his plans where. I had to find my dad and get to the booth and call the game. So, I get to the booth. Doc emcees the ceremony. The game begins, and my dad is in the booth with me which is pretty neat. A couple minutes in the game, the door opens, and Doc walks right in. I can see the look on my dad’s face like oh my god! Doc walks in and shakes my dad’s hand. This is a lesson to all young broadcasters; always have that extra headset plugged in and ready to go, and I always did. So, Doc sat down between us and put on the headset and he looked at me. I presumed he wanted to say something. If he wanted to come in and just watch or listen, I wasn’t going to force him to come on the air, but when you put on a headset it’s a pretty good sign that he is eager to say something. So, I said, “Oh we have a special guest here in the booth. It’s Mike Emrick. Hi Doc.” “Hi Dan,” and on we went on and we continued through that entire first period calling the game together, which was amazing. He left. He had to sign some autographs, but then he came back later and just sat in the booth, and he talked to my dad, watched the game, and just listened to me, and that was all very cool. After the game, we are on the bus on the way back to Syracuse, and the bus breaks down. It’s the worst timing, because everybody has to get home so that they can make their arrangements. Matt Taormina was going to get in the car and drive to Michigan for Christmas. So, we are stuck on the side of the road somewhere near Wilkes-Barre. I think, “well this is not going well. I’ve got to do something to lighten the mood.” I plugged my iPad into the music speaker – the big speaker we would have in the locker room for pump-up music. It was sitting next to me in the aisle on the bus, so I plugged my iPad into the thing. I pull up the Christmas channel, and I hit play. I kid you not, the first song that starts playing was Frank Sinatra, I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Everybody laughed. It broke the tension, and we ordered some pizza to be delivered to the side of the road. We found out another bus was on the way to come get us, and it just felt like “A Christmas miracle.” As I was sitting there enjoying the moment, I thought it is a picture too good not to paint for Doc. I wanted to send him a note to thank him for coming on the broadcast, so I wrote him a note and painted the picture of this. I mentioned that there were nine defensemen in the lineup, Luke Witkowski among them. Luke had some great scoring chances. Luke loved the opportunity to play up front, so even when he got a scoring chance he would come back to the bench and pound mitts with the guys. Doc just fell in love with this guy, because he is a Michigan guy. So fast forward several months, it’s the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Luke is up with the Lightning at this point. Luke walks in the Tampa Bay Lightning dressing room and sees all the media standing around Steve Stamkos’ locker and there is one person at Luke Witkowski’s locker waiting to talk to him. Sitting there waiting. It was Mike Emrick wanting to ask about the night back in December. On multiple occasions thereafter, I would get on the phone with Doc and he would just break into song, “I’ll be home for Christmas.” You know, we have had these running jokes over these years. We had one about ties. But anyways that’s one of my favorite AHL stories, because it’s my favorite AHL stories of Doc’s. He has told that story. Anyways, that’s off the path from the question you asked, but still one of my favorite stories. A hard one to shorten, and I think I have written or talked about it before.

GW: How about some of the players you worked with that are succeeding at the NHL level?

DD: You just never know which guy is going to be the guy who makes it. Yanni Gourde was in the ECHL in Kalamazoo, the Worcester Sharks signed him to a 25-game tryout contract. Yanni came up to the American League and had almost a point per game in those 25 tryout games. Then after your tryout expires, you have a few options. You can do nothing as the Sharks did and he goes back to the ECHL, he could sign a regular contract for the rest of the season, or you can sign a guy to a second tryout contract. Two is the limit, you can’t do more than two tryout contracts. The Sharks decided to do nothing and let him go back to Kalamazoo. The Lightning swooped him, forget about a tryout, they signed him to a contract right then and there. He joined the Syracuse Crunch in the 2014-15 season and the rest is history. He just signed a six-year contract worth millions of millions of dollars but at that point his contract with the Crunch was like $500,000. Even when he got to the NHL with the Lightning, he was still making $500,000 and change. That’s where a great scouting staff makes its money. You find someone who’s got the ability, the heart, the temperament to excel and just by your size can make an impact and boy has he. Tyler Johnson: undrafted, AHL MVP. He was as clutch as anybody in my time in the American League. I remember Jon Cooper saying to the critics of Ondrej Palat that his numbers were only good in junior hockey because he was playing Sean Couturier. Jon Cooper suggested that Sean Couturier’s numbers were so good because he was playing with Ondrej Palat. You really saw it there in the playoffs with Palat, he’s just the glue. He’s not your Kucherov or your Stamkos, he’s not Brayden Point, he’s not the star but he is the glue that binds everything together. Nothing falls through the cracks when Ondrej Palat is on the ice. He’s just an awesome guy and was shy because he’s from the Czech Republic of course. In 2012-13 during the lockout year, they had that training camp in the middle of the winter and a number of Crunch guys took part. I remember Ondrej was somewhat hesitant to do an interview with me on the air. He was great to talk to, you could really have a conversation with Ondrej. His language skills were fine, it was more of a shy thing than it was a language barrier, but he would hide behind the language barrier as an excuse to not do an interview. I remember saying to him: “Ondrej, if you do an interview with me here in Syracuse, it’s no big deal because we know each other. If you go to the NHL, you are going to have a lot of people who you don’t know asking you questions. He would sort of shrug off the idea of him being in the NHL but ultimately, he would agree to do an interview. When he went up for that midseason NHL training camp following the lockout of course he was interviewed, and he came back to Syracuse and I remember the first time I saw him when he got back, he had this huge smile on his face as if to say he knew I was right. He’s the sort of person that if he’s angry about something, it doesn’t get the best of him. He never loses it. He’s just a terrific teammate, just one of those people you couldn’t dislike. I don’t know anybody who has met Ondrej Palat who disliked him, it’s impossible. Alex Killorn: sometimes guys would question how he got into Harvard. He was showing signs of graying like he could’ve been in those Just for Men commercials. We were at Chucks which is an SU bar when he got called up and he never came back. A lot of the guys who got called up in 2012-13 came back and were part of the long run to the Calder Cup Finals. Killorn was not one of them, but there were guys who went up and could not be reassigned to the Crunch for roster reasons. They physically came back because they wanted to be there to watch us play. They were part of that team. I can remember the celebrations after different series wins. Jon Cooper was there for it. Steve Yzerman was there for it. It was very important that the people in Tampa were invested in what was happening in Syracuse. I can remember Steve Yzerman and I were walking out of the Norfolk Scope Arena once just coincidentally. I was probably going to go back to the hotel, drop my stuff off and meet up with some people to eat. Steve asked me: “do you have any plans for dinner?” I was thinking: “oh my god Steve Yzerman wants me to join him wherever he is going.” I said: “No I don’t!” when I actually kind of did have plans. I found myself joining Steve Yzerman for dinner in Norfolk. At that point I was a year or two into my AHL tenure. He was just such a down to earth guy and made everyone feel like they mattered. Same thing with Jon Cooper and Julien BriseBois, they really do care what you think and that always made a good impression on me.

We had guys like Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy in Syracuse too, but you realize that some guys were on a faster track than others to move up. I’ll tell you the players who were the fan favorites were the guys who just managed a game or two in the NHL, they had a cup of coffee or maybe they didn’t make it. Those were the people that the fans loved because they were underdogs. They felt more within reach, their experience in life was more attainable than the Kucherov or Vasilevskiy and predetermined NHL-bound stars. Mike Angelidis was the heart and soul of that Syracuse Crunch team. Has was the captain. He would say if you were on that bus, no matter if you were a player, coach, broadcaster, equipment manager, bus driver, you were in a special group that was unbreakable. In all of the sports I’ve covered at every level, there has never been a better captain than Mike Angelidis. He scored a goal on his first NHL shot and there probably was not a bigger goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning organization that year. Mike Angelidis had been the overseer, who nurtured all these young guys who had been moving up under his tutelage while he remained the rock in Syracuse. When he got there and got a chance it meant so much more than just Tyler Johnson scoring his first goal, or Kucherov scoring his first goal because you knew they were going to get a lot more. It was part of the plans for those guys but when Angelidis scored a goal it was out of this world. Those people mean a lot to the minor league teams because as much as you love to see the young players move up from the AHL to the NHL. If you’re a fan of the AHL team you’re always a fan of that AHL team. In other words, you don’t move up with the players. You don’t graduate from AHL fan status to NHL fan status. You care more intimately about those people who are part of your AHL franchise. Whether it’s Mike Angelidis or Eric Neilson, Luke Witkowski, J.P Cote, there are guys who played for the Crunch who broke in, who didn’t really have substantial NHL careers, but they were fan favorites in the AHL. So, I would very much anticipate people who become die-hard Henderson Silver Knights fans will fall in love with guys that don’t really have NHL prospects. It’s not just about the next Cody Glass or Peyton Krebs because Cody Glass and Peyton Krebs don’t want to be the AHL, they have their eye on the next step and moving on to the NHL. You’ve got guys who are putting every ounce of themselves into playing pro hockey, knowing the hopes of getting to the NHL are very slim and the chances of an NHL career are even more slim than that. Those are the people that tend to connect with an AHL fan base. Let’s just say things go well this year and let’s hypothetically say Cody Glass is playing in the American League but then he gets called up to Vegas. He’s never going to be a Henderson Silver Knight – he’ll always be a Vegas Golden Knight. Tye McGinn is a guy who’s a good friend who was in Syracuse with me and was on the Chicago Wolves the last few years. He’s the kind of player that a fan of the Henderson Silver Knights would call their own. He’s played dozens of NHL games, but he’s an AHL guy. That’s important to me that you have guys that are part of the team and it’s hard to move on from those guys who are fan favorites, not necessarily the big prospects. The Crunch people for example, they go to the hilt to celebrate all these alumni like Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point. Like, Brayden Point wasn’t in Syracuse for very long but he’s technically an alum so, “hey! He played for the Crunch! This is wonderful!” I’m sure he barely remembers being in Syracuse. People get all excited because it’s like they contributed to the Tampa Bay Lightning winning a championship. People can care about that. But when you’re pulling on the heart strings, the athletes they care about the most are the ones who are long-term AHL guys who are the heart and soul of your team, not the guys who have one eye on moving up for a long NHL career.

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