ALLEN, TX – A couple of documents fans have been waiting for were released yesterday, that being the ECHL critical dates and the San Jose Barracuda training camp schedule and roster. Let’s take a look at both.

BARRACUDA TRAINING CAMP

Here is the schedule and roster: https://www.sjbarracuda.com/news/detail/barracuda-announce-2017-training-camp-schedule-roster

The first thing you notice is the roster only has 16 players and camp opens on Monday. The 16 players are made up of 11 players that were sent down to the Barracuda earlier in the week from the Sharks NHL camp and five players from Allen who were invited to camp on tryout contracts.

More players will be assigned from the Sharks camp to the Barracuda camp before Monday. The Sharks still have 42 players in training camp, and the final roster will be 23. A big group will get sent down in the next two days.

The five Allen players attending the camp are forwards Marcus Basara, Olivier Archambault and Vincent Arseneau and defensemen Josh Thrower and Jaynen Rissling. Archambault is shown as a defenseman on the roster, but that is an error.

With Arseneau in camp with San Jose that puts to rest any doubts concerning his ECHL status. You can now be assured if he doesn’t stay in San Jose he will be playing in Allen.

Interesting to note the two oldest players of the 16 on the current training camp roster for the Barracuda are David Makowski who is 28 and Arseneau at 25. Two of the players (Alex True & Jeremy Roy) just turned 20.

If you look at the schedule, you will notice the Barracuda will have three practices (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) before the first preseason game on Thursday in Bakersfield. This is just conjecture on my part based on prior seasons but what might happen is the Allen tryout players may get a chance to play in the first preseason game on Thursday and then head back to Allen and will arrive in time for the Americans first on-ice session. Of course, it is possible that the Barracuda will keep one or more of the Allen players longer and while not likely one of them could end up with an AHL deal. All any player ever wants is a chance, and these five players have that chance.

The other unknown when you look at the roster and schedule is how many Barracuda contracted players will be assigned to Allen and when will they be assigned. The last I heard coach Martinson intended to go to San Jose next week to observe the Barracuda training camp. When he returns to Allen, he may have a better idea of what players will get assigned and when he might get them.

As I have mentioned before the Sharks still have four goalies in camp and just one assigned to Barracuda camp and that is Stephon Williams. If the Sharks send two goalies to the Barracuda this weekend (most likely Troy Grosenick & Antoine Bibeau) you would expect Williams would get assigned to Allen.

CRITICAL DATES

The ECHL issued their annual critical dates memo yesterday and wanted just to mention a few of the dates. If you haven’t seen the press release here, it is: https://www.echl.com/echl-critical-dates-2017-18-season

September 29 – This is the official date for opening training camps. Each ECHL team has a little different schedule but typically the first day is a get together, and players go through physicals. The first on-ice session could be anytime after Friday and for Allen will probably be determined by the availability of ice time. I am sure the team will issue details sometime next week when practice will be open to the public. Everything will take place in the community rink since there will be no ice in the big rink until the week of October 1.

October 11 – This is the day rosters are due to the league office (3:00 pm EDT). Remember, the first month of the season the active roster can be 21 and then it reduces to 20. Steve Martinson hasn’t always carried the maximum number of players because they have to fit under the salary cap which is $13,260 per week for the first month and then drops to $12,800 after the roster drops to 20 players.

January 19 – This is the jersey reversal date. I assume the Americans will wear white at home the first half of the season and switch to red the second half.

February 15 – Always a date to keep an eye on to see if any overseas players might return. I think the rule is they must be back in the US and with the team by that date. With Costello, Asuchak, Brittain, and MacLeod all playing in Europe the odds of one of them returning is not bad in my opinion. MacLeod has played in Europe before, but for the other three, it is their first time. The hope is their teams do well, they enjoy the hockey and are having a good time off the ice. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. If you recall, David Makowski returned to Allen from Hungary in early December last season and look how it worked out for him. He had a great season with the Americans which earned him an AHL deal with the San Jose Barracuda.

– Speaking of the overseas players, last night was not good. Costello’s team lost 6-3 to fall into a tie for last place in the 14 team league. They play one of the teams they are tied with tomorrow (Sunday) with a chance to move out of last place. Spencer’s team lost 3-2 in overtime and is tied for seventh place in the 11 team league with a record of 2-2-1. Josh’s team also lost in overtime (3-2) and is in second place in the league just two points out of first. Brittain’s team has played six games winning three and losing the other three in overtime. Everyone plays again on Sunday and the game to watch is Spencer’s team taking on Josh’s team.

REFLECTIONS

When you turn 70 as I did this week, you can’t help but reflect on the past, and I have done plenty of that recently. While we all have many facets to our lives, I couldn’t help but think about what a wonderful experience it has been to be a fan of the Allen Americans. I have written about this in the past, but it is worth revisiting. It seemed simple enough back in 2009 when my wife noticed there was a new hockey team coming to Allen and maybe we should get season tickets. We were hockey fans having gone to high school and college in Minnesota, attending the University of Minnesota and Minnesota North Stars games. Little did we know when we became one of the first Allen Americans full season ticket holders the joy it would bring.

It would be easy to just focus on the success of the team as that has been amazing. From going to the championship finals in the very first year (2009-10) to winning four consecutive championships starting with the 2012-13 season. The Americans have never missed the playoffs and won all four of their championships on home ice. Allen’s all-time regular season record is 344-145-24-30. No fan could ask for more.

Team success is just part of the great fan experience in Allen. Most fans would agree what makes minor pro hockey unique and more enjoyable is the relationship between the players and the fans. Always accessible, willing to take time with the fans, sign whatever the fans wish to have signed. The players aren’t just players but become friends with the fans. You never get tired of watching the players interacting with the young ones who attend practice, games or team events. It is special.

Many fans not only become friends with the players but with their families. It is like keeping track of relatives once the players retire or move on. Luckily, social media plays a big role in updates as those babies from a few years ago start to grow up. Harper and London Graham are now in school and have a little brother. Aiden Snowden has already won a golf tournament and been interviewed by the Golf Channel, and both he and his little brother (Keegan) love hockey. The oldest of the five Ludwig kids, (Tyler & Taylor have three, and Trevor & Holly have two) are starting to play sports. The Schaafsma family grew by one last summer. Nicole always posts pictures of Sawyer, Sutter, and Sullivan to keep everyone up to date. With the Costello’s in Germany, Ashley is keeping everyone informed of their three little ones.  The current team has a new crop of children (Pierro-Zabotel & Gill) for fans to watch grow up. One thing is already apparent, and that is there are some hockey players following in their dad’s footsteps.

It is also fun to reflect on some of the “characters” that have played in Allen over the years. You know, those players the opposing fans don’t like until they play on their team. Kip Brennan, Darryl Bootland, and Derek Mathers are great examples. Different on the ice than off the ice. Engaging, introspective and articulate guys who always had time for the fans.

The last five years have been unprecedented in minor pro hockey as the Americans won four straight championships before being eliminated in the second round this past season. You certainly can’t reflect on the history of the Allen Americans without talking about Steve Martinson. His coaching prowess speaks for itself with ten championships in 21 years as a head coach. He is a throwback coach who knows what works and is a great recruiter. I have spent many hours with Martinson over the last five years, and it is clear he sees his job as winning hockey games and that drives his decisions. He has been a player, coach, general manager and owner and used that experience every day to help him win. He knows all the rules and how to use them to the team’s advantage. A good example is managing the salary cap.

In Allen’s first year in the ECHL (2014-15), Martinson submitted more than 250 salary changes to the league, all within the rules. The following year the league changed the rule to limit salary changes to 52. Contrary to popular belief, under Steve Martinson, Allen is not a team that breaks the compensation rules. Truth be known, Martinson won four championships under some unbelievable budget constraints that would have had most teams fail. He has dealt with serious problems related to travel, housing, insurance, medical care, equipment, benefits, and salary. All teams have budget issues, but the issues in Allen were much more serious than anyone knows. It is a tribute to Martinson that he has been successful while dealing with the numerous budget/ownership issues the last few years until Jack Gulati bought the team in February.

I also reflected on the many Allen Americans fans I have gotten to know over the years. It is a tight-knit group who truly enjoys everything the team has to offer. It is like a big hockey family. It makes you look forward to attending each and every game.

So there you have some of my reflections about the Americans. Maybe you have had some of the same reflections or maybe not. I just know for my family the Americans have been a wonderful addition to the community and have brought more enjoyment and success than anyone could have imagined. Looking forward to the start of season nine. If for any reason you are hesitating renewing your season tickets for the upcoming season I would encourage you to reconsider. With new ownership, a new team president, a bunch of new players along with the same coach and general manager this season will be great entertainment.

DID YOU KNOW: Tommy Daniels, Vice President of Broadcasting & Media Relations, is the only employee of the Allen Americans that has been with the team all nine years of its existence.