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Back In The Keystone State

08/25/2009 12:55 PM - Chris Etheridge
The Reading Royals (ECHL) announced today that they have signed former IceHogs centerman and alternate captain Gavin Morgan (2007-08).

From the outside looking in, this looks like a solid move for both Morgan and the Royals.  The Scarborough, Ontario native is a veteran leader at the American Hockey League level, having recorded 206 points (67g-140a) in 467 career games.  He's also shown a willingness to drop the gloves with more than 1,700 PIMs in 622 professional contests in his 11-year career.  In 2003-04 he got a cup of coffee with the Dallas Stars, skating in six games and recording 21 PIMs.  The Royals are going to get a solid energy guy who can also occasionally score.

The University of Denver product is returning to the Keystone State for the first time since he skated in 67 games with the Hershey Bears in 2003-04, but he certainly is no stranger to the region.  Morgan runs a
summer hockey skills camp in Harrisburg, about 90 minutes from Reading and still lives in central Pennsylvania, according to the Reading release.  Living so close to where he works may have come a factor for Morgan and his family after the pivot joined teams in Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Ontario, Illinois, Utah and New York in the last decade.

There will likeliy be a bit of an adjustment period for Morgan, who will be playing AA Level hockey for the first time since his rookie pro season in 1999-2000 (Idaho Steelheads, WCHL).  When IceHogs center Jake Dowell speaks to classrooms in the Rockford area, he says that the NHL tends to be an easier level to skate in than the AHL because everyone on the ice is where they are supposed to be.  I suspect the same is true when moving from the AHL or Europe to the ECHL or CHL.  Making the adjustment will be a challenge to someone who is used to the quicker pace of the AHL game.

Part of the reason that this move warrants a blog post and my attention is because player making the jump down to a lower level after such a solid career at a higher level doesn't happen all that often.  Wade Flaherty's 31 games in Rockford in 2007-08 came after his 120 appearances in the NHL  If you figure that a goalie plays half as many games as a position player, he's looking at a 240-game career in the show before jumping back down to the AHL for five more seasons.

Jeff Christian is another player who chose to move to a lower league rather than hang up his skates.  After 265 games in the AHL and 893 career contests between the AHL, IHL, NHL and Europe, Christian decided to sign with the Sheffield Steelers (EIHL) in the United Kingdom for the 2004-05 campaign and Youngstown Steelhounds (CHL) in 2005-06.  He's had an amazing level of success in the Central Hockey League, recording 382 points (144g-238a) in 245 games over the last four seasons.  The performance has also earned the 39-year-old two AHL recalls and the CHL's Most Valuable Player award in 2006-07.

To continue to play is what Christian wanted, and it looks like that's exactly what he did.  We can only hope for the same kind of success for Morgan now that he has made a similar move.



Understanding Favre

08/19/2009 9:03 AM - Mike Peck

So Brett Favre is in the news again and I’m sure a lot of people aren’t happy with his decision to not only return to the NFL, but do it with the Vikings.  You’re now probably wondering why I’m blogging about football on a hockey site. I guess I can’t resist the Brett Favremania!

Well, over the years I’ve been around plenty of hockey players that have helped me understand a little bit of Favre’s indecision and ultimately coming out of retirement AGAIN.

Being a professional athlete is definitely a unique thing.  A career span for an athlete isn’t very long.  Can you imagine being 29-30 years old and fighting to stick around your profession? For a pro athlete that’s probably the average age for their careers to expire at.

So when an athlete voluntarily steps into retirement, naturally there is going to be some remorse because in the back of their mind they know that they can still play at that elite level.  When your window of opportunity is so small, the last thing that you want to do is step away early and five years down the road regret quitting before your time.

Favre is obviously on the extreme side of this argument since he is pushing 40 but he can still play at the NFL level.  Hockey fans need to look no further then Chris Chelios as the sports example of a player who kept playing because he knew he could (without the Favre drama of course!)

I remember when Bruce Watson rejoined the IceHogs for the 2004-05 season, he said that that season would be his last and that he was going to hang up the skates.  Not only was that not his last season, he went on to play three more of them after that before retiring from professional hockey.

That’s just one example of many that I recall from the past eight seasons.  Retirement might sound great at the end of a season for an athlete when they are beat up from the long grind or midseason when there are still a lot of games left to be played.  But when it’s about time for training camp the competitive blood starts flowing and thoughts of playing starts to sit in.

I have never competed professionally, but I ran competitively in high school and college.  That was ten years ago and I still “get the itch” to get back into it when fall rolls around and cross country season is underway. 

I am as sick as the next guy with Favre news and this back-and-forth indecision that he’s been pulling for the past five, six, seven years.  But I do understand his mindset.