From: Ryan Stanzel
Director of Communications
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
713.361.7930 (Direct Line)
AEROS HAVE VETERAN FEEL TO TRAINING CAMP ROSTER
Club Has Also Added Young Prospects To Fill Out Lineup
The Aeros have a mix of veterans
like Todd Reirden (facing) and promising youngsters like
Hobey Baker winner Junior Lessard (22)
SUGAR LAND, Texas
Aeros General Manager, Tom Lynn knows that one of the things missing from the 2003-04 Aeros team was more veteran leadership, although it wasnt supposed to turn out that way. The sudden retirement of Chris McAlpine, plus other key injuries, kept veteran/depth players in the NHL for most of the season.
Thats the reason one of Lynns main priorities this summer was to sign veterans such as Todd Reirden, Ray Giroux and Kirby Law.
"It was part of a plan," said Lynn. "Last year, we fully expected two veterans plus one defenseman to come down. As it turned out, we had none to start. We moved seven veterans from the Wild at the end of last year. We knew wed have to have a veteran presence here in Houston to start the season. At the same time, were glad to have these people be able to also play for the Wild."
Reirden, who at 33 is three years older than any other player in camp, is one of the key components. The hulking 6-foot-5, 215-pound defenseman is the type of player and person who gains the respect of his teammates and those around him early on. He said he began to learn his leadership ways when he first arrived in the NHL in St. Louis in 1999-2000.
"Al MacInnis (a perennial NHL all-star), when I played in St. Louis, was a complete professional," said Reirden, one of five (the maximum number that can dress for any game) Aeros classified by the AHL as a veteran. "He came to work every single day and gave 100-plus percent. He did the right thing on and off the ice in terms of being a perfect pro player. Theres something to be said about behavior not only on ice but also in the locker room and in the community."
Reirdens community involvement, which he prides himself on, started even earlier than that. Reirden started a "Stick with School" program in 1995 that hes brought with him to most of his 16 professional stops.
"I started doing it eight years ago in San Antonio in the IHL," said Reirden. "We went into a lot of pretty tough neighborhoods with idea of getting kids to finish school, just get a high school degree. You dont have to go to college and graduate cum laude, just go to school every day, finish up high school, and see where it takes you."
Reirden thinks that while community involvement is something that professional athletes should do, both sides involved get more benefits when the player is happy with what hes doing.
"I really enjoy trying to make a different in peoples lives," he said. "Its so simple, half-an-hour or an hour and you can help affect the direction of some lives.
During the summer, Reirden isnt on "vacation" per se. He participates in golf outings and other events for the Boys and Girls Clubs, Special Kids/Special Needs and the Ronald McDonald House. His wife, Shelby, is able to get involved now as well, since son Travis is two years old.
Reirden also works closely with the Jennifer Ferraro Foundation, named after the deceased wife of longtime friend Chris Ferraro. Reirden and long-time hockey player Ferraro went to high school together.
Mark Aeros head coach Todd McLellan down as one who is happy Reirden is in camp.
"It makes our job easier if its the right guy," said McLellan. "Just because youve played for 10 years doesnt mean you can assume that role. With that said, Todd is capable of doing it, and I think hell be very good at it. The coachs voice becomes old, so its nice for the other players to hear another voice sometimes at practice or between periods. We encourage him to be involved that way."
"I think that is why they were interested in having me here," said Reirden. "I was in that sort of role the last two years with helping mentoring players on and off the ice in Cincinnati. Its something that I enjoy. I love playing hockey and being around the rink. Its a great game, I just try to pass on the things that Ive learned in whatever way I can.
Reirden is thankful to be in a place he feels wanted after an uncertain summer.
"Obviously, this is the longest Ive ever had to wait to sign a contract," said Reirden. "When you have a young family
I considered Europe but I thought it would be a bad move because someday Id like to do some coaching. I think you lose track of players who play in North America. I definitely thought about it, but when it came right down to it, I think its the best thing for my career development. Being a depth guy with Minnesota, they know I can play at that level if needed. In addition, they know Im not going to come down to this level and be a negative. Im going to try to have an impact on young players on and off the ice. I had some other opportunities, but it wasnt quite a good a fit as this. I was impressed with the success they had here a couple years ago, and also the coaching staff is highly thought of around the league."
Reirden also thinks highly of his new teammates after two days.
"At this level, there isnt even a question that this is the most challenging camp Ive ever been involved in," he said. "The prospects that you have here have an unbelievable amount of skill and have a great future in front of them."
Reirden knows that when the lockout is settled, hes in a good spot. He got a taste of the NHL again last season after a trade from Anaheim to Phoenix. He notched two assists in seven games after not having played in the league since spending all of 2001-02 with Atlanta.
"It had been almost two full years after having played four years at that level," he said. "I just enjoy the challenge. Thats why you play the game, otherwise you wouldnt be a competitor. Even though I enjoy the role of working with younger players and being a team leader, if I still didnt have the urge to play at a higher level, I wouldnt want to be here. A reminder that tickets are on sale for both Aeros/Rampage exhibition games at the Sugar Land Aerodrome. Tickets are $7 and can be purchased at both the Sugar Land and Willowbrook locations. It's your chance to see up to nine first-round draft picks before the season even starts. Tickets are available each day from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
---HOUSTON AEROS, BE A FAN---