Spirit Players Find News Homes a Long Ways from Home

Posted In: Sports, Local Sports, Saginaw Spirit,   From Issue 711   By: Mike Thompson

23rd September, 2010     0

Fourth-year Saginaw Spirit forward Jordan Schwarz remembers when he was a 16-year-old rookie in 2007, drafted to a team far from hometown of Burlington, Ontario.

Early in the season, the Spirit would charter a bus for road games in Ontario.

“There are times when our bus route takes us through Burlington,” he says.

Of course, the bus on a Spirit road trip doesn’t stop for individual players to visit their homes.

“Especially in my first year, there were times when it would get to me, with the bus going right through my hometown,” Schwarz says, “but now I’m older, and I’m used to it. For many of our Canadian players, it can be difficult to adjust to such a big change. Our families are so far away.”

He says owners Dick Garber and Craig Goslin help to make the transition as smooth as possible, by arranging for host families and by enrolling the younger players at Nouvel Catholic Central High School.

“One of the good things about coming (such a long distance to Saginaw) is that the hockey environment and the organization are second to none,” Schwarz says.

Forward John Shalla, a 19-year-old from Whitby, Ontario, previously played at Brampton and Guelph. He is starting his second season in Saginaw.

One thing pivotal player likes about playing in Saginaw, Michigan, U.S.A., is that “everything is cheaper” than in Canada, he says with a laugh.

“The only downside is that you’re a little bit farther away from home,” Shalla says, “but my parents come to Saginaw when we are playing at home on weekends.”

Ryan O’Connor is a 17-year-old defenseman from Hamilton, Ontario, who previously played at Barrie. He is in his second year in Saginaw, and he says the distance from home can serve as an advantage.

“This is a better group of guys here in Saginaw, compared to at Barrie,” O’Connor says. “We’re more together. We bond better because of the distance.”

Forward Brandon Saad, who is 18 years old and center Vince Trocheck, 17, face less culture shock because they are from Pittsburgh.

“It would have been fun to play in Ontario but being from the States, it’s also nice to be here,” says Saad, who is meeting his new Saginaw teammates. “Everybody on the team gets along, it doesn’t matter where you’re from.”

Trocheck takes note of long bus rides

“I get to stay in America,” he says, “but it’s farther than anywhere else to play in the league.”

 Volunteer Team Officials Support ‘The Kids’
   
Some of the Saginaw Spirit’s top supporters barely get to relax and watch the games.

They are the volunteer team officials.

“We make sacrifices, but it’s good and worthwhile to be part of the organization,” says Shawn Ashley, the chief of the 17-member crew.

“This program is for the kids,” adds Tom LaManna, Ashley’s predecessor, who now is retired. “We are like the stagehands supporting the kids.”

Team officials who serve as goal judges, for example, are supposed to keep their eyes on the net in front of them, although their vision may wander at times to watch the action at the other end. When the puck is in the zone in front of them, their focus is on the goal line to help determine whether or not a shot enters the net. If so, their job is to flash the red light for a goal.

The penalty box attendants and the penalty timekeepers don’t have ideal views, even though they are at ice level.

Team officials upstairs who keep count of face-off victories and shots on goal often are frequently distracted.

“Coaches from the visiting teams say that Saginaw has one of the best operations,” Ashley notes. “We give them accurate statistics that they can evaluate between periods of the game.”

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