EDITOR’S NOTE: Banners on the Wall is a series consisting of interviews with former Idaho Steelheads skaters Scott Burt, Marty Flichel, Jeremy Mylymok, and Cal Ingraham – the only players to have their numbers retired by the Steelheads organization. The interviews will be published in reverse chronological order from when each player had his jersey retired.
Cal Ingraham’s number 22 — “Double Deuce” — was the first number retired by the Idaho Steelheads on October 28, 2004. On the ice, Ingraham has always been known for his astounding scoring ability in spite of his diminutive stature at 5’5”. At the University of Maine, he scored 46 goals in 45 games, helping lead the Black Bears to a 41-1-2 record and the NCAA Championship in 1993. He is the all-time leader for the WCHL Steelheads with 381 points, and his 175 goals for Idaho came on the back of three-straight 50-goal and 100-point seasons from 1998 to 2001. He officially retired from ice hockey on May 24, 2002, and still holds the Steelheads record for the quickest hat trick in franchise history at 1:15 (January 6, 1999).
The Sin Bin: Let’s go back to your college prep days. You attended the Avon Old Farms Prep School in Avon, Connecticut. In honor of your playing career, you now reside in their Athletic Hall of Fame alongside other hockey talents like Mike Leetch, David Roberts, Jonathan Quick, Chris Higgins, and Nick Bonino. How does it feel to be enshrined alongside names like that?
Cal Ingraham: Well, those guys had better careers than me, but it’s obviously an honor to be by any of them — I think three out of the five of those guys have won Stanley Cups. It’s really cool to be able to be on the wall with them.
TSB: How many years did you attend Avon Old Farms?
CI: Three years.
TSB: Being an American-based hockey system, my guess is they had a junior varsity and varsity program at the school. How many years did you spend at each level?
CI: I think they had four teams: Varsity, Junior Varsity, Thirds, and Fourths. The thing about Avon is that you had to do something every season…that’s why they probably had so many teams. I played varsity for almost the full three years. I was originally on the JV team as a sophomore, but I worked my way up during the season and played varsity for the rest of my time there.
TSB: After Avon, you originally started your college career at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado for the 1989-1990 season. What led you to go play hockey as a cadet there, and what led to your decision to transfer to the University of Maine after just one year?
CI: When I left Avon, I knew I wanted to play hockey in college. I wanted to play Division I hockey, and the only two schools that recruited me were Air Force and West Point…I chose the Air Force. My older brother Bob was at the Academy at the time, so that definitely made it an easy decision between which military school I would go to. I had a decent year as a freshman, but I found out I wasn’t really cut out to be a cadet so much. When I was leaving in May of 1990, my coach at the Academy asked me where I wanted to go, and I originally said UMass-Lowell, which is really close to where I grew up (in Georgetown, Massachusetts). Then, right before I was leaving, he said that Maine wanted me to go up and visit with them…that they were interested in me. So I went up there that first week I was back home and got a tour from Bruce Crowder, who was an assistant at the time, and I really loved the campus and the community. It might have been a stretch for me as far as the hockey went, but I just went up there and played, got a spot, and had a great three years there.
TSB: Maine ending up winning the 1993 NCAA Championship your junior year. You played with the likes of Paul Kariya, Garth Snow, and current Dallas Stars Head Coach Jim Montgomery on that squad. I’m guessing you’ve got some good stories from that team…any one story you’d be willing to share?
CI: That was so long along…just like you said, how great that team was and the talent you had on it. We lost seven guys the following year after the Olympics, I think. It was a special year and a great group of guys. We actually just went back this summer for the 25th anniversary of that team…it was like yesterday. When you’re around a bunch of guys, you hear that all the time. But, the shenanigans and jabs and all that stuff…it was like we’d never left.
TSB: Coach Montgomery was here in Boise for the Dallas Stars Training Camp from September 14-16. Did you get to see him? What qualities do you think he brings to Dallas that will spell success for the Stars?
CI: He’s a very intense guy. I think he took a lot from Shawn Walsh, our coach at Maine, about being really detail-oriented and demanding everyone to be pulling the same way. In his coaching career, he won two titles in the USHL and one with Denver (NCAA). He’s been a winner wherever he’s coached, and he was the same way as a player. He demanded a lot from us that year (in Maine) when we did win it when he was our captain and our leader both on the ice and in the dressing room. He’s got a good presence about him. He’s got a lot of talent in Dallas; he has some great players there. He’s finding a way to put his system on things and keep those offensive guys freed up to go…I think he’ll do great. He’s got a good situation out there.
I did get to catch up with him when he was here for Training Camp. We met up with him on Thursday night and had a bite to eat. His coaching staff was there, so I got to meet a bunch of them. It was a lot of fun to hang out with him, but unfortunately, I missed all the on-ice stuff. Hopefully, it will be an annual thing, that the Steelheads and Stars can tie something together and keep doing training camp here.
TSB: After you graduated from Maine in 1994, you took a year off of ice hockey and played for the New England Stingers of Roller Hockey International. What led to the decision to join the RHI and delay your pro career in ice hockey?
CI: After my senior year, Portland (Maine) had a team in the RHI. They called about playing and I had no plans. So, I lived with Garth Snow and a couple other guys in Old Orchard Beach, and I had a blast. Roller hockey is a lot of fun. It’s a four-on-four game; there are no blue lines, so it’s very offensive. But, I don’t think any of the guys on our team had played roller hockey, so it was definitely a learning experience how to stop on the wheels. You can skid a little bit, like a bicycle. You can stop, but it takes some time.
I didn’t take a year off (from ice hockey) on my own. I had gone down and went to the Portland Pirates camp, got let go, and then went to an East Coast League camp, got let go, and then figured it wasn’t just going to be for me. That was the year off; it wasn’t planned that way. I worked on a construction crew for a year…which was great…and then had the chance to go to Tallahassee the following year, and made the most of that.
TSB: As you mentioned just now, you went to the East Coast Hockey League and joined the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks for three seasons from 1995 to 1998. One of the games you played sticks out in minor league hockey lore — February 27, 1998, against the Louisiana IceGators — because of that infamous line brawl that has been immortalized on YouTube. I didn’t hear your name mentioned on the call. Did you stay on the bench for that? What was going through your head as the brawl unfolded?
CI: I think I snuck into the locker room, maybe! [Laughter] No, I think I did go out on the ice, but you always know the guys that aren’t into that. You just go find another small guy on the other team, just watch everyone else do their thing and have a little talk with him. That was the only one I was ever involved in. We did have some guys in Tallahassee that were your prototypical goons that loved to fight and fought at least once per game…a lot different than what you see nowadays. You go to a Steelheads game now, and it’s probably less than 50/50 that you’ll see a fight. Back in those days, you were pretty much guaranteed to see two or three fights a game.
But yeah, John Badduke was our ringleader for that little brawl…I definitely didn’t get involved in that. Louisiana was definitely known to have a lot of fighters on their club. During my years down there, Louisiana attendance-wise was unbelievable. I bet they averaged over 10,000 a game. I mean, they were the IceGators, so it was like [being] down at Florida with them doing the gator chomp in the stands. It was a great atmosphere…a great place to go and a tough place to play.
TSB: It was a different time in the old East Coast Hockey League…before it became just the ECHL.
CI: Right. I think they stuck those teams in a lot of these southern cities that had no idea what hockey was. The craze would last about three to five years and then it burnt out a little bit. Tallahassee was a great spot; we played where Florida State basketball plays [Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center]. There were times where we had over 10,000 people in there. But, during the week, you’d have a thousand, maybe. I got to do a lot of cool things in my three years there, with it not being far from the Gulf of Mexico. I think it’s more of a true Florida city; it’s not inundated with retirees or that type of thing, maybe a little bit redneck-ish out gigging frogs and fish…stuff like that. It was a lot of fun.
TSB: After 71, 92, and 93-point seasons in Tallahassee, you decided to go to the WCHL and join the Idaho Steelheads in 1998. First, what made you come out west, and second, what was the hockey climate in Boise when the Steelheads were still fairly new?
CI: Well, I grew up back in New England, but my Aunt Alice moved out to Boise in the late 50s. So, as kids, we went out here three or four times. Then, as teenagers, I came out for another couple of weddings. So it wasn’t a complete shot in the dark to come out here. My older brother Dave moved out here in 1990…he was a fairly big part of it. He’s in the construction world and built the Batter’s Eye for Hawks Stadium. At that point, I believe both the Steelheads and (Boise) Hawks were owned by the same group [Diamond Sports Management], led by Cord Pereira. Anyway, Cord told Dave that he wanted me to come out, and Dave said, “Well, he’ll be out here for a wedding this summer…talk to him and figure it out. I think he wants to.”
I did try to come out here for the first year of the Steelheads [1997-98] when Dave Langevin was a coach, but they weren’t going to match what I was making in Florida. So, we stayed put for an extra year. But then it came together when I was out for another one of my cousin’s weddings that summer of ‘98. I met with (then-GM) Matt Loughran, we figured it out, and then I flew back to Florida and drove over here.
TSB: In those early years with Idaho, you got to experience Clint Malarchuk as a head coach. He was your coach for two years in Idaho…how would you say he handled you guys?
CI: I definitely would say he was a player’s coach, a lot of fun to be around. He had a good knowledge of the game, with as long as he was around it. The one potential problem he had was that his first year, he got here so late that he didn’t have time to recruit like one would like to do. All these guys that have been through here, that’s one of the bigger parts about being a coach at this level, your net worth with agents and other teams and whatnot. It’s not like the NHL where they have a general manager doing that for you. At this level, you’re doing everything. I think that was a little bit of a hitch for him.
I loved playing for him. He was one of the funniest guys ever, prankster, that type of stuff. He was at the team parties doing different things to guys and was just so much fun to be around. He’s so much fun to listen to, as well. A couple of the guys from the old Steelheads — Troy Edwards and Scott Davis — started the Tales from the Road podcast. Clint’s got some incredible stories that he told about his days in the NHL and some of the stuff those guys used to do. He was definitely a treat to play for.
TSB: You played alongside fellow Idaho jersey retirees Jeremy Mylymok and Scott Burt played in the early 2000’s when your hockey career was winding down. What kind of chemistry could you feel with such great hockey players like Burt and Mylymok on those squads?
CI: I think both of those guys are more knowledgeable (about the game). You talk about Jeremy, I mean, all his years here — but his first year, especially — he was a dominant d-man in this league with 60 or so points and 200 penalty minutes. He was the type of guy that could beat you on the power play, or just beat you up. Just a great teammate, another guy that’s fun to be around. And Burty…when you talk about “speed kills”, that’s what you think of. That guy was an effortless skater and could just fly. And again, a guy that does everything for you: penalty kill, power play, and wasn’t afraid to fight either. Not a super big guy, maybe 5’10” or 5’11”, 180 pounds soaking wet with all his gear on. Great teammates, great people, and just a lot of fun to play with.
TSB: You helped establish the Boise State Men’s Hockey Club by serving as its head coach from 2011 to 2017. What peaked your interest to coach college hockey?
CI: In 2009, I was asked to coach the Junior Steelheads U-18 team. I probably would have kept doing that, but with that age group, there is sometimes not enough players. The following year, they didn’t have enough players that age to really have a team worth traveling with. When (Boise State hockey) came around, a bunch of those guys that were on the U-18 team were now freshman at BSU. Dave Costello, one of the dads involved (with BSU hockey), asked me if I would be interested in doing that. At that point, my son wasn’t playing travel so much yet, so it made sense.
The kids that were coming through there were, for the most part, dedicated and wanted to be there. The third to last year I was there, we had a great group of Boise kids that came back; they had gone to Minnesota to chase Division III hockey, and unfortunately, it didn’t work out. We had a really great team that year that went to Nationals. I mean, it also makes you feel a little bit younger hanging out with those guys. I had a good time with it.
TSB: Being with Boise State hockey for six years and now being a year removed from the program, how do you feel about stepping down from coaching there?
CI: I think it was time. I had done it for six years, and it takes you away a lot. My son was traveling at that point, too, so I was gone probably twelve to fifteen weekends each winter. It just got to be a little bit too much. It’s all a donation of your time for the most part. It just kind of ran its course, and it was time to move on.
TSB: Shifting gears a bit here…which Steelheads player can you see getting their jersey retired next?
CI: There’s probably a couple. I would say Darrell Hay could definitely be up there — two championships and is Idaho’s highest scoring defenseman of all-time. Lance Galbraith is another guy that did a lot and was here for both championships as well. He was a huge part of every phase of those championships, whether it was stirring the pot or scoring the big goals or standing up to people. I don’t know which order you would go in, but I would say those two would have the best chance going forward.
TSB: I think a good candidate from the active player’s pool would be Jefferson Dahl. What kind of chance would you give him to put his jersey on the wall?
CI: I’ve got to be honest, I haven’t been to a lot of games and paid as much attention lately. Both of those other guys I talked about, I was around back when I was sort of helping out as a coach. I know Jefferson is very talented and has been the captain there for the past couple of years. He’s a guy that seems to do everything you need: power play, faceoff, and all the little things you need your leaders to do. I don’t know how old he is or how much longer he has, but he’s certainly had a great career.
TSB: Do you have any hockey endeavors that you’re chomping at the bit to take on? Got your hands in anything for 2018-19?
CI: I coach the Eagle High and Rocky Mountain High School team — they’re called Eagle/Rocky High School. That’s what I’ve got on my plate, and that’ll probably be it for me. I’m probably too old to jump into trying to get into a coaching career at this point. I don’t think anyone is looking for an almost 50-year-old assistant. Jimmy sure didn’t offer me any jobs when he was here! [Laughter]