After seeing a sloppy 9-8 Jets win over the Flyers on Thursday night, thanks to a tip from Reading Royals reporter Candice Monhollan, I decided to send myself to the minors. Last night’s ECHL game featured the Trenton Titans (Flyers’ affiliate) hosting the Royals (Bruins/Maple Leafs’ affiliates).
There were no TV timeouts, no in-game advertisements, just straight hockey. At one time the play reminded me of a men’s league game at a local rink. Obviously, these guys are professionals, but there were no lengthy stoppages. The whistle would blow and the players would be lined up, ready for the next faceoff.
The pace of the game was unbelievable, with all of the players constantly hustling on every shift. They know they can’t take a shift off or they might ruin their chances at moving up to the next level. Most players at this level aren’t high NHL draft picks, so they have to impress to advance. It was a nice change of pace from the NHL game I’m used to watching. These guys aren’t playing for money, making at most $525 per week. They play for the love of the game and a glimmer of hope to make it to the NHL.
Even though it’s very difficult to make the journey from the ECHL to the NHL, over 400 players have done it, with the latest being Florida’s Bracken Kearns last week. The first player to accomplish it was Scott Gordon who played for Johnstown before playing 23 games with Quebec in 1990 and 1991. 81 ECHL Alumni were on NHL opening night rosters this season, the highest number in history.
The crowd was small (announced at 2,156) but passionately cheered on their team. They felt new fans like myself feel at home (by the way, section 106, you rock!). At times it resembled a crowd from the movie “Slapshot” as they mercilessly taunted the opposition when players were penalized. They may have had their fun during the game, but Reading had the last laugh winning the game 5-4. The Royals were powered by three third period goals, two of which were 13 seconds apart. Both Oliver Labelle and Chad Painchaud each had a goal and an assist for Reading. The home Titans got two goals from Randy Rowe and one each from Adam Presizniuk and Andy Bohmbach.
But the real winner was the ECHL in gaining a couple new fans.