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Pete's View - December 2011 and January 2012


Pete Michaud is The Voice of the Admirals. He brings 20 seasons of experience with the team to the airwaves in 2011-12. He has been the team's play-by-play broadcaster for each of the past 13 seasons. In addition to his work with the Admirals, Michaud also calls Norfolk Tides AAA baseball games.


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January 18, 2012
Hello from Albany, New York, where the Admirals kick off their first road swing of 2012 with a big game tonight against the Albany Devils (New Jersey Devils' affiliate). The Admirals have yet to win in four tries against Rick Kowalsky's club, so there's plenty of motivation there!

The Admirals, like every other team, find themselves in a tight battle as we start to look at the playoff picture now that the second half of the season is upon us. In case you hadn't heard, the AHL has altered its playoff format to mirror the NHL this season. Each conference sends eight teams to the playoffs. The three division winners are guaranteed the top three seeds. They are joined by the next five teams with the best point totals through the regular season.

If the playoffs began today, the Admirals would be the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference and would match up with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the 5th seed, in the 1st playoff round. The problem facing teams like Norfolk and Wilkes-Barre is that the division winners are locked into the top three seeds, regardless of points. Even though the Admirals have just one fewer point than St. John's, the #2 seed at the moment, the best seeding Norfolk or any other East Division team could claim would be fourth, if they can't catch Hershey. So, I guess the Admirals will just have to go bear hunting in the second half of the year! It should be a great race!

While Hershey has surged to the top of the overall standings (and that's no real surprise with the veteran-laden roster they have), a team I think could be a real problem in the months ahead is Syracuse. The Crunch have been lurking in the standings, and now sit just three points out of the last playoff spot. Syracuse has just received several players down from Anaheim that should make them even tougher, and now they've added Trent Yawney to their coaching staff. If you're new to Admirals hockey, you might not remember that 'Yawns' was our head coach for our first five years in the AHL, leading the club to a pair of division titles and playoff spots every year he was here. In fact, it's hard to believe that the last time the Admirals won a playoff series was when Trent was the coach in 2004! He is a great defensive coach and could really be a difference-make for Syracuse. That could be a tough team to play the rest of the way. Oh, by the way, the Admirals continue their road swing Friday in Syracuse!

For the Admirals, however, the greatest challenge over the last 37 games will not come from who is on the other bench, but who the Admirals have on THEIR bench. Or, perhaps it's better said as who they DON'T have on their bench. Trevor Smith got the call from the Tampa Bay Lightning the other day to replace an injured Dana Tyrell. 'Smitty' is 4th in the AHL in scoring and is, in my mind, the Admirals' best all-around player. You'll find a great story on Smith in today's Virginian-Pilot. The Admirals have already lost J.T. Wyman and Pierre-Cedric Labrie to the Lightning. Now, we'll really see if the rookies on this team can carry the load down the stretch.

In other AHL news, the league set a new attendance record when the Adirondack Phantoms played the Hershey Bears before more than 45,000 fans in Philadelphia about 10 days ago. The game was played at Citizens Bank Park, the baseball stadium that is home to the Phillies. The park is just a few steps away from the former location of the fabled Spectrum, which served as Philadelphia's hockey home for the Flyers and then their AHL club, the Philadelphia Phantoms. I miss Philly. It was nice to have a 'big league city' in the league. There are others, such as Chicago and Milwaukee, but we rarely see those teams. It was also nice to have a team within five hours of Norfolk!

Speaking of outdoor games, the AHL will have its first one in Canada on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. as the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Toronto Marlies meet at Ivor Wynne Stadium, the home of the Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, in Hamilton, Ontario. The game can be seen live on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada and through ahllive.com. You can catch a replay of it on the NHL Network at 3:00 p.m. Sunday. If you're watching football, set your DVR to record it. Former Admiral Louie DeBrusk will handle color commentary on the telecast.

On a final note, make sure you go to the league website to vote for the starting lineups for the 2012 AHL All-Star Game in Atlantic City. We congratulate our three All-Stars this season Trevor Smith, Cory Conacher and Mark Barberio. We'd love to see them in the starting lineup. You can vote through noon on Monday, January 23rd. You can win a prize by voting, as well.

Well, that's it for now. Until then, feel free to drop an email ( pete@norfolkadmirals.com) with any questions of comments, and make sure to follow me, @PeteMichaud2012, on Twitter. Take care and we'll see you at Scope when the Admirals return. We have three big home games next week, with Charlotte coming in on Tuesday, Jan 24. Hershey then visits for back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 27 & 28. The Friday game will be our big Olaf Kolzig bobblehead night and Saturday will be our 'Guns & Hoses' night for police and firefighters to benefit CHKD. Until next time
January 4, 2012
Our first 2012 entry comes from frigid Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where the Admirals tangle with the Penguins tonight before returning to Scope for back-to-back matchups with the Albany Devils on Friday and Saturday.

It's been a great race so far, with the season nearing its mid-point. The Admirals are just two points from the lead in the Eastern Conference, yet that's only good enough for 5th place! The race is so tight in the East that the last place team is just seven points from the last playoff spot. Remember that the playoffs are different this season, with the three division winners and the next five best records from each conference going to the post-season. No longer is a division guaranteed three or four teams in the playoffs. In fact, as of today, the Northeast Division would only have one playoff team (Connecticut), while the East Division would get three (Hershey, Norfolk & Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) and the Atlantic Division would have four teams make it (Manchester, St. John's, Worcester & Portland). It should be a wonderful second half of the year!

Admirals Athletic Trainer Brad ChavisThe team made the drive to northeast Pennsylvania yesterday, arriving about 3:00 p.m. and then heading right to the ice for a 4:15 p.m. practice. It was great to see Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Kevin Quick back on the ice. Head Coach Jon Cooper tells me neither will play tonight, but the fact that both have returned to practice, obviously, leads me to think both could be back in the very near future.

Getting the injured guys healthy again is the primary job of our trainer, Brad Chavis, one of the best in the league. 'Chavy' is always on the bench during games, but he always has to be around, as well, when the players are practicing or working out, as you can see by the picture, just in case someone gets hurt. It's a good day when he doesn't have too much to do, but he's always at the ready. His services were certainly needed recently when Bridgeport's Tomas Marcinko was seriously cut by a skate blade around the neck in a game at Scope. 'Chavy' was cool and calm, during a very scary situation, which is key when an emergency comes up. We all remember how valuable his skills and demeanor were a few years ago when an AHL referee had his neck cut by a skate. That accident was much more serious than the one we saw last week with Marcinko, who underwent minor surgery at a Norfolk hospital and was released the following day.

Admirals Equipment Manager J.W. AikenBrad is half of the great support staff the coaches and players rely on every day. The other part of that tandem is equipment manager J.W. Aiken. 'Dubsy,' as he's called, is usually at the rink well before and long after all the players and coaches. I arrived early at the rink yesterday, about an hour and a half before the bus was scheduled to leave, and J.W. was already there, repairing shin guards and packing bags. Like the trainer, he's always nearby just in case his services are needed. You can see him quickly making a repair to goalie Dustin Tokarski's helmet during yesterday's practice.

On another note, the AHL heads back outdoors on Friday as the Adirondack Phantoms play the Hershey Bears at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. The clubs will play on the same ice used by the Rangers and Flyers just a few days ago during the Winter Classic. That game will be one of two AHL games played outside in January. The other will feature the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Toronto Marlies at Ivor Wynne Stadium, the home of the Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, in Hamilton, Ontario. That game takes place later in the month. I love the outdoor games as much as anyone. I just hope we don't wear out the novelty. What would we do next? Maybe play a game on a REAL outdoor pond. Now that would be something!

On a final note, the playing rosters for the AHL All-Star game will announced later today (3:00 p.m.). With the big offensive numbers being put up by players like Trevor Smith, Cory Conacher and Mark Barberio, the Admirals would appear to have a good shot at having multiple players in this year's All-Star affair. Fans can go online to the league's website starting Thursday to vote for this year's starting lineups. Randomly selected fans will also get some nice prizes. The AHL All-Star Game will be in Atlantic City, New Jersey at the end of the month.

Well, that's it for now. Until then, feel free to drop an email ( pete@norfolkadmirals.com) with any questions of comments, and make sure to follow me, @PeteMichaud2012, on Twitter . Until next time
December 9, 2011
The left side of the goaltender masks of (L-R) Dustin Tokarski and Jaroslav Janus. Photo by Pete Michaud.Hello from Binghamton, as the Admirals get ready for a big weekend against the defending Calder Cup champions, the Binghamton Senators, in back-to-back tilts this weekend. It's so nice to be able to just go to the arena without having to pack up all our things and then rush to get all the gear to the bus after the game. It's pretty rare, since the Admirals travel immediately after almost every road game, whether it's to go home or just on to the next road stop.

We have a pretty crowded bus and locker room right now. A few of our injured players are close to returning, so they've come on this trip with the team. Michel Ouellet hasn't played since late October. Alex Picard hasn't been in the lineup since early November. Both, however, are skating and working with the team and look to be close to returning. Mike Angelidis, meanwhile, went down with an injury last weekend. He is also on this road trip, as is Charles Landry, who is also hurt.

While injuries have hit the team in recent weeks, thankfully the club's goalies have remained healthy. Dustin Tokarski has been especially impressive as of late. Both he and Jaroslav Janus will have to come up big for this team to contend all year. That's no surprise, though. We all know goalie is the most important position in team sports.

The right side of the goaltender masks of (L-R) Dustin Tokarski and Jaroslav Janus. Photo by Pete MichaudEvery goalie is unique, from his positioning to his mannerism to his quirks. And part of what makes a goalie unique is his helmet, so I thought I would write a bit about that in this blog. The goalie mask or helmet has an amazing history, starting with Jacques Plante's simple, molded mask, the first 'true' mask worn by a netminder, to the amazing works of art today's goaltenders wear. I asked both of our goalies about their helmets, which you can see in some of the photos I've attached.

Dustin Tokarski is sporting a different look this year. Dustin told me he had his helmet repainted during the summer by an artist in Toronto. The most unique part of Tokarski's mask is an amazing portrait of his late grandfather on the back of the mask along with the word 'Guardian.' 'Tic' told me his grandfather, and every man in his family, has played goaltender at some level, whether at just a recreational level or, in Dustin's case, the professional level.

The back of Dustin Tokarski's mask. Photo by John Wright."It was easy to figure out what position I was going to play," Tokarski told me.

Dustin feels as if his grandfather is always looking over him, so the helmet portrait is a wonderful tribute. The front of Dustin's mask features the cartoon superhero, the Tic. The Tic's greatest strength is what's known as 'drama power,' which is the ability to perform at his greatest level during the most intense, pressure-filled moments. That sounds like a perfect attribute for a top-flight netminder. The other side of Dustin's helmet features a rather ferocious looking, snarling dog.

I asked Dustin about this, and he told me it's there to remind him "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but rather the size of the fight in the dog."

The back of Jaroslav Janus' mask. Photo by Pete Michaud.Janus' helmet, meanwhile, features the Tampa Bay Lightning name and logo on one side, and the god of lightning, on the other. As a Tampa affiliate, both of those are pretty self-explanatory. The back of his mask features the coat of arms of his homeland, Slovakia, which is also part of the Slovakian flag. The interesting item on the back of Jani's mask is a cartoon character of a piece of cheese wielding a hockey stick. Janus tells me he's had the figure on his mask even since his days of junior hockey, and he really has no idea where it came from or what it means. He said he is asked often about it, and really has no explanation for it.

Well, that's it for now. Until then, feel free to drop an email ( pete@norfolkadmirals.com) with any questions of comments, and make sure to follow me, @PeteMichaud2012, on Twitter . Until next time


View October and November 2011 editions of Pete's View




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