ALLEN, TX – As a follow-up to the story about the retirement of Gary Steffes, I heard from many Allen and Gary Steffes fans that wanted to thank him and tell him how much he will be missed and tell him what an inspiration he is to so many. Here are a couple of examples.

Gilley “Dilbert” Estes says:

“Gary, you are the type of person to whom young athletes should look to for inspiration. You embody the goodness, kindness and work ethic that is so hard to find these days. We will miss you in Allen this coming season but I know that you will be helping to grow the next generation of hockey players. And those players will hopefully have your voice in their heads as they pursue their dreams of college or professional hockey. Sending you prayers and positive energy to show tomorrow’s players how to play hard and do it in His name.”

Sandy Manning says:

“I will really miss Gary. I’ll also miss waiting a bit to leave the stands after a game in honor of his taking a knee at center ice. I wonder if anyone else will do it? He was often alone. It is always a wonderful thing to see an athlete who lives a clean life, has an outstanding work ethic and is so nice to people. He represents what a Christian is supposed to be like. All the best to him as he pursues his next venture!”

I also heard from Gary who had this to say:

“Thank you so much, Barry, for the incredibly kind and encouraging words. I will always be tremendously thankful and honored for the years I got to spend in Allen. Many many blessings to all of you on the team, in the organization and in the community. I can’t say thank you enough for how much you all have blessed my career.”

– My teammate at The Sin Bin, Matthew Harding, did an interview with Gary. It will be out next Thursday.

– With the start of training camp just over two weeks away it is interesting to look at the current rosters around the ECHL. According to eliteprospects.com the number of players signed and announced around the league varies a lot. The Quad City Mallards have the most with 21 and the Jacksonville IceMen the least with just five players announced. By the way, Allen has 16 players signed and announced (one goalie, seven defensemen, eight forwards). These figures can be misleading because some coaches don’t like to announce too many players while they are recruiting so they may have a lot of players signed but not yet announced. If you add it all up there are still 150-175 players to be announced in the next two weeks.

– If you look at the average age of players already announced, Allen is one of the youngest teams in the ECHL with an average age of 24.69. Only two teams are younger, Idaho (24.44) and Florida (24.25). The oldest team in the league at this point is Brampton who has an average age of 28.00. As the rosters fill out these averages will change. Allen, for example, still has two veteran slots that have not been filled.

– The San Jose Barracuda announced yesterday that they have signed free agent goalie, Stephon Williams. Here is the press release issued by the team: https://www.sjbarracuda.com/news/detail/barracuda-sign-goaltender-stephon-williams

Why this signing may be of interest to Allen fans is each season the San Jose organization sends a goalie to Allen for developmental purposes. Aaron Dell, Joel Rumpel, and Jamie Murray are recent examples. Williams is the third goalie on the Barracuda roster and barring injuries one of the three will be sent to Allen. The Barracuda’s top goalie is Troy Grosenick who was the AHL’s goalie of the year last season.

The other goalie on the Barracuda roster is Antoine Bibeau, who was signed in July after spending his first three professional seasons in the Toronto organization. Last season, he played in 32 AHL games and two NHL games. You never know the impact of training camp and injuries but on paper, Williams is the most likely of the three Barracuda goalies to be assigned to the Americans.

– Add Mike Gunn to the list of players that are already back in Allen preparing for the upcoming season. This will be Mike’s third year in Allen. He has improved each season on the ice and he is a great locker room guy.

– Here is a well-done video produced by the Kansas City Mavericks where team owner, Lamar Hunt, Jr., answers a series of questions on various topics. Most of his answers would certainly apply to Allen. Of particular interest to Allen fans is Hunt’s answer to this question, are there games you most look forward to each season?

– For those of you that like to keep track of the three players from last season that have signed overseas (Costello, Asuchak, Brittain) they all have games on Friday and Sunday this week. After the games this weekend, you will start to get an idea how their teams might fare this season.

DID YOU KNOW: The Allen roster typically has about the same number of players from the US and Canada. If you look at all of the players that played at least one game from the 2015-16 roster there were 25 from the US and 22 from Canada. Last season, the number was similar with 24 from the US and 21 from Canada. That trend may be changing this season. It is still early and only 16 players have been signed but 12 of the players are from Canada and just four from the US.