MACON, Ga. – It’s a factor that SPHL teams, especially ones that find success, will at times during a course of a season confront.
Players being called up to the ECHL.
While seeing some of their best players noticed by clubs on the next level can speak well of how an organization can put players in position to advance their career, there’s also the factor of SPHL coaches and front office staff being forced to scramble and fill key roster spots in a hurry.
“Once you know who you might lose, you kind of have a list of guys where if someone gets called up and kind of go through that (thinking of) If I need a puck moving guy or stay at home defenseman,” Mayhem head coach Leo Thomas said. “You kind of have some names in mind, there are guys who were here for camp and might have seen play that I know can fit in.”
It’s a road that the Macon Mayhem has once again found itself traveling down this season. At the goalie position alone, the Mayhem have seen three who have at one time started for them in net either be called up or leave the team – Jordan Ruby, Gordon Defiel and Andrew D’Agostini.
The flip side of that? The players that teams seek out when they find themselves in a lurch.
In the middle of November, after initially leaning on a few short-term options in goal following Defiel’s loan to South Carolina on November 5, Macon claimed Ian Sylves, who was available after playing in two early-season contests for Evansville and released Oct. 31.
For Sylves, the work to get back to the ice was the result of a two-fold effort. Not only did he stay in top physical shape by getting work in, but Sylves also says that a critical part of players not currently with a team is to work past connections, similar to someone combing through past networking contacts in a job search.
In fact, how ready to go a player is could impact a player’s staying power in pro hockey, as Sylves explains.
“I was just training, staying on the ice and trying to stay active and in shape,” Sylves said. “It’s important. When you get that opportunity, you need to be ready. If you’re not ready, they can be like, ‘oh, he’s not ready when someone needs him’ and all of a sudden, nobody wants you.”
Those past connections came into play in a large way for Sylves when it came to the latter, as a player who had discussions about actually ending up in Macon last season before ending up in Evansville ended up in Georgia’s midstate this time around.
“Last season, Macon was one of the teams interested in me along with Evansville after college,” Sylves said. “I was on their radar a little bit. When they reached out, I knew this was a great opportunity.”
Now, Sylves is thriving with Macon as both Ruby and Defiel in the ECHL. He is 4-0-0 with the Mayhem, giving up more than two goals just once.
Sylves blending in is helped by what numerous Mayhem players have noted in past few years – strong chemistry in the locker room that allows new arrivals to easily blend in with an established core of players.
“We have always had a good group here, it’s a fun room,” said Thomas, in his third year overall with the Mayhem organization. “Guys get along, hang out together and it’s a big family. The new guys who get here, just feel like they have been here for a long time.”
Don’t get teams like the Mayhem wrong. They hate to lose talented players. But with a well-set process in place for when a game of roster chess begins, the blow of departing players is lessened.