Pete's View - Summer 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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July 30, 2012
Well, another season has come and gone, but it was certainly unlike any season we'd ever seen before. For any team, a Calder Cup championship season is special. To do it in the historic fashion in which the Admirals won it is, however, almost like a dream. With the longest winning streak in North American pro hockey, 43 wins in their last 46 games and a dominating run through the playoffs, this 2011-12 Norfolk club will go down as one of the finest in minor league hockey history.
One of the great joys over the past few weeks has been seeing so many of you get the chance to see the Calder Cup, which has made the rounds all over Hampton Roads. I was surprised how heavy the Cup was when I had a chance to lift it on the ice in Toronto after the clinching victory. The Admirals keep the Calder Cup until next January, so I hope everyone gets a chance to have their picture taken with it before we send it back to the AHL office. By the way, you might notice the sliver plates on the base of the Calder Cup. Each plate contains the names of the winners of the cup each season. Obviously, there isn't enough room for a plate for every team that has won it over the years. Only 20 nameplates can fit on the base. Each year, as a new team wins the trophy and has its nameplate attached to the base, the oldest plate comes off. That means the Admirals will have their 2011-12 team roster on the trophy for the next 20 years!
The ONLY thing that could have made the end of the season better would have been winning the title in front of the home fans. This team was so dominating, however, there was just no way the final series was going to go six games. If you have to win on the road, however, I could think of no better place than Toronto. It's the 'capital' of the hockey world, in most regards. It also gave many family members and friends of the players that couldn't get to Norfolk a chance to see some games. It also meant more exposure for the Admirals because of all the hockey media located in that city.
After arriving back in Norfolk to an incredible welcome from the fans both at the airport and at Scope, the guys got together in the locker room for photo with the Calder Cup. I'm sure you've seen LOTS of pictures of the players celebrating the championship, but you've probably never seen this one!
As we put the final touches on a memorable year, I think it's important that we remember the people and the moments that made this season so special. I tried to do that with a little 'season recap' I read during the close of my broadcast after the Admirals clinched the Calder Cup in Toronto on June 9th. I've had quite a few people ask where they could see a written version of what I said that afternoon. So, here's the script of my closing remarks from Ricoh Coliseum that day:
"So, we draw the curtain on this magical, 2011-2012 Norfolk Admirals season. It began in early October, with a victory over the Charlotte Checkers. Down by two goals with seven minutes left, the Admirals gave us a taste of what was to come with a late-game rally and an overtime triumph.
Featuring a cast of largely unknown and untested rookies, the Admirals jumped from the starting blocks, winning seven of their first 10. By the turn of the New Year, Norfolk had established itself as the league's premier offensive club, but still found itself in the rear-view mirrors of the Hershey Bears and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the division's perennial powers.
The club's watershed moment came in Springfield, Massachusetts, on Super Bowl Sunday, February 5th. The Admirals suffered their only regulation defeat of the year in a game in which they led through two periods. In a lengthy, post-game, closed-door meeting, voices were raised and challenges were presented.
The Admirals met those challenges, and in a big way! They would NOT lose another regular season game! Norfolk steamed through February, ending the month with five consecutive one-goal wins and the longest winning streak in franchise history. A February 25th win at Hershey gave the Admirals sole possession of 1st place in the division for good!
The winning continued into March. Twice in the month, the club won three road games in three days, and a 5-0 whipping of Charlotte in the Queen City on March 18th set a new AHL record for consecutive victories. Five days later against the Albany Devils, the home fans watched the Admirals break the record for the longest winning streak in major North American pro hockey history. But they weren't done there!
The Admirals continued to pile up victories, eventually dropping anchor on an unheard-of 28-game winning streak to end the regular season. Only twice during the streak did Norfolk fail to win in regulation, and only once did they need to win in a shootout. The Admirals had the hockey world on its ear, ending the regular season with a league-leading 55 wins and 113 points, and they did it in a shortened, 76-game AHL schedule!
Unknown forward Cory Conacher, an undersized, undrafted rookie from an unheralded college program, had a dream season. He led the AHL in goals, finished second in the league in points, was an easy pick for AHL Rookie of the Year and was selected the league's Most Valuable Player.
Fellow first-year pro Tyler Johnson dazzled, as well. A 31-goal campaign landed the undrafted speedster on the AHL All-Rookie team. Johnson was one of three Admirals to conclude the year in the top seven in the AHL scoring race.
The other was Trevor Smith. The seasoned veteran, with 26 goals, posted his fifth straight 20-goal AHL campaign, while leading the entire league with a jaw-dropping plus/minus rating of +36. Norfolk's Pierre-Cedric Labrie finished second in the AHL in the category, while Admirals' blueliner Mark Barberio was third.
Barberio had a stellar sophomore campaign, leading the league's defensemen in scoring. He was a 'shoo-in' for the Eddie Shore Award, presented to the AHL Best defensemen. Conacher, Smith and Barberio all represented the Admirals at the 2012 AHL All-Star Game in Atlantic City.
In net, Dustin Tokarski and Jaroslav Janus teamed for perhaps the league's best 1-2 punch. Tokarski led the AHL in wins and finished fifth in goals-against average. Janus wasn't far behind, finishing with the 14th best GAA in the league while winning a club-record 15 consecutive outings.
The Admirals didn't rely on just star power, however. The club featured as much depth as any in the modern history of the AHL. Up front, rookies Richard Panik and Ondrej Palat made huge contributions down the stretch. Captain Mike Angelidis, Michel Ouellet and Alex Picard offered veteran leadership and timely goals. On the back end, Mike Kostka and Evan Oberg complimented Barberio with their scoring savvy, while Jean-Philippe Cote and Scott Jackson ranked among the AHL's best 'shutdown' defensemen, and Radko Gudas intimidated opposing forwards with his physical play. Meanwhile, youngsters like Jeff Dimmen, Philip-Michael Devos and others proved to be valuable assets along the way.
Behind the bench, meantime, the Admirals had one the game's top staffs with AHL Coach of the Year Jon Cooper and assistants Mike Flanagan, Steve Thomas and Brian Garlock.
Several moves through the year proved to be huge keys for the Admirals. In mid-November, the club picked up former NHL defenseman Jean-Philippe Cote, and in early December, a trade for Mike Kostka and Evan Oberg further solidified the blue line corps. In February, Norfolk acquired Brandon Segal, a former Calder Cup champion, to strengthen what was already the league's most potent offensive attack. And near the regular season's end, Alex Killorn joined the club out of college and seamlessly transitioned to the pro game.
Not only did the Admirals catch the eye of every other team in the league, they also caught the eye of the Hampton Roads sports fans. More than 5,000 turned out on average each night, the highest attendance figure in Norfolk's AHL history.
Following the regular season, Norfolk's winning run unofficially hit 29 straight games with an opening playoff decision over Manchester, before the Monarchs won Game 2 to end the Admirals' streak. Jon Cooper's club, however, polished off the Monarchs in four games, with Alexandre Picard and Alex Killorn grabbing the reigns offensively.
The Admirals then disposed of the Connecticut Whale in the conference semi-finals in six games. Norfolk ended the series in storybook fashion. A bloodied Richard Panik returned to the ice after taking a slap shot to the face to net the clinching, overtime goal in what might have been the single, most exciting moment at Scope this season.
In the Eastern Conference Final, goaltender Dustin Tokarski and the Norfolk defense put on a display for the ages. Tokarski and the Admirals surrendered just two goals in the series, an all-time AHL playoff record for a four-game series, to quickly dispose of the second-seeded St. John's IceCaps.
Advancing to unchartered waters, the Admirals played on to June and their first Calder Cup Final against the Toronto Marlies. Norfolk dominates the first two games at home, and then wins Game 3 here in Toronto on one of the most bizarre finishes in history. Mike Kostka's red line drive caroms off a corner stanchion and bounds into the net to give the Admirals a stranglehold on the series.
And today, on this Saturday afternoon, the 9th of June, the Norfolk Admirals stamp a final, indelible mark on the 2012 American Hockey League season with a 6-1 victory, their 10th win in a row, and a Calder Cup title! It's been a season like none we've ever seen, and like none we'll likely ever see again. An historic AHL campaign ends here today with the ultimate prize, the Calder Cup. Enjoy the victory and treasure the memory of these unsinkable Norfolk Admirals.
In closing, we have so many people to recognize and thank. From the Admirals' office….
On the hockey side, thanks to…
- Club President Ken Young and the Admirals entire ownership group
- Vice-President Joe Gregory
- Media Relations Director Keith Phillips
- Director of Ticketing Dee Dee Danner
- Corporate Sales Manager, and my co-host on the Michael & Son Admirals Hour, Dennis Ewen
- Director of Group Sales Charlie Colon
- Merchandise Manager AnnMarie Pidissi
- Director of Community Relations Dana DeFillippo
- Business Manager Jeff Goduti
- And all the interns and game-day staff that put in such long hours. Among them, Nathan Skytta, who has been a great help to me on the media side of things.
- We'd also like to thanks to Marie Boos, who finishes her 23rd season as the head of the Admirals off-ice officials, and her outstanding staff of statisticians, goal judges, time keepers and penalty box attendants.
- In addition, thanks to the ice crew, the Zamboni drivers, Jody Cox and his video crew, John Rhamstine and the staff at Scope, and all the men and women who handle so many different duties at Scope on a game day.
Thanks to Johnny D, BT Briggs, Philip Wrigley, Dan Taylor, Joe Wetherley and all the people at 102.1 FM 'The Game.' And thanks to my long-time broadcast partner, Pat Shetler, who concludes his 23rd season as a member of the Admirals radio team.
- General Manager Steve Yzerman and his staff with the Tampa Bay Lightning
- Lightning Assistant G.M. and Admirals General Manager Julien BriseBois
- Head Coach Jon Cooper
- Assistant Coaches Mike Flanagan, Steve Thomas & Brian Garlock
- Equipment Manager J.W. Aiken and his assistants, Corey & Shawn Massey
- Trainer Brad Chavis and all the team doctors and medical personnel
- And thanks to all the Admirals players who have made it a season for the ages!
The final chapter has been written here at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, Ontario, Canada…where the celebration is underway. The Admirals are bringing the Calder Cup home to Hampton Roads! Today's final….The Norfolk Admirals 6, the Toronto Marlies 1. The Admirals win the championship series in a four-game sweep!
Until we meet again, I'm Pete Michaud, for one final time, putting out the call.. 'ALL HANDS ON DECK' for your 2012 Calder Cup Champion Norfolk Admirals! So long from Toronto!"
And that wraps up my final blog entry for the 2011-12 season. I hope you enjoyed reading it through the year. I'll leave you with one final image from the season. It's a photo from June 13th at Scope. The Admirals may have won the title on the road, but that didn't keep them from celebrating on HOME ice. Just before the Calder Cup Victory Parade downtown, the Admirals got in uniform one final time at Scope for a team picture with all their trophies. Afterwards, they decided to enjoy a few moments at Scope skating all their trophies around their home barn. Here's another shot you've probably not seen before, unless you're a friend of mine of Facebook!
Until next time, feel free to drop an email ( email@example.com) with any questions of comments, and make sure to follow me on Twitter (@AdmiralsVoice for updates during the hockey season and @TidesRadioVoice during the baseball season), as well. I also hope you'll become a friend on Facebook, where I have MANY more photos from the 2012 AHL playoffs for you to check out. Take care and we'll see you at Scope in October!
View the June 2012 edition of Pete's View
View the May 2012 edition of Pete's View
View the April 2012 edition of Pete's View
View February and March 2012 editions of Pete's View
View December 2011 and January 2012 editions of Pete's View
View October and November 2011 editions of Pete's View