If there was one expression that summed up Syracuse Crunch fans' feelings this past Saturday afternoon, this quote from the Post Standard by Crunch head coach Rob Zettler is probably succinct enough:
If something would have happened during the game, I would have been, 'Uh-oh.'
Yeah, that sounds about right.
A local high school hockey coach got the chance of a lifetime this past weekend when the Crunch called him to see if he would be their back-up goalie for the day. John Parks, assistant coach of the Christian Brothers Academy hockey team, was tapped for a one-day amateur tryout contract with the Crunch and backed up the team during their afternoon matinee against Norfolk.
He's 46 years old. He was paid $300 and got to keep his game-issued jersey.
One just can't make this up.
Parks has filled in for the Crunch before during practice, and he was exactly what general manager Julien BriseBois was looking for, according to this article from The Tampa Tribune written by Erik Erlendsson:
BriseBois was back on the phone Saturday morning with those back in Syracuse asking, "Who is the best men's league goalie" in town?
So, Parks suited up, and Crunch fans had the surreal experience of watching the 46-year-old take practice shots from the likes of Andrej Sustr, Richard Panik and Vladislav Namestnikov. For Parks, it was a dream come true. For Crunch fans, it was the biggest "Uh oh" experience yet this year, and, let's face it, that's saying something.
Thankfully, Parks didn't have to suit up during the game and was able to watch the contest strictly from the back-up goalie's seat. Planned fill-in Allen York, who was playing with South Carolina of the ECHL before being signed to an professional tryout contract with Syracuse, carried the game all the way to the shootout. It was there the Crunch would ultimately lose.
That loss marked the team's seventh in a row, a new season high.
York and Parks were needed because the goalie situation in the Tampa Bay organization is (understatement alert) rather unstable right now. Injury concerns over both Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback Cedrick Desjardins and Kristers Gudlevskis from Syracuse Friday night, leaving the Crunch with very little in terms of immediate help.
Riku Helenius, of course, should have been the nearest available source, and originally it seemed as though he would be tapped for assistance. It was reported he had been seen in Syracuse, and everyone assumed a call up was the cause. But things grew considerably more complicated when it was reported that Helenius should not have been in Syracuse yet and was, in fact, in breach of his contract because he had left Florida of the ECHL before an official move had been made.
Tampa has since said that they will hold Helenius to his contractual obligations and that he will remain suspended as long as he refuses to return to the Florida Everblades. However, it seems as though this situation has reached its climax, as Erlendsson has also revealed the following:
Riku Helenius, the one-time first round pick, informed the Florida Everblades of the East Coast Hockey League on Wednesday that he was leaving the team to return home to Finland, thereby resulting in a suspension from the Lightning for breach of contract.
So, with York a definite and Helenius out, Syracuse was still one netminder short for their Saturday game. BriseBois thought he had it covered by having the Crunch sign Grant Rollheiser to a tryout contract. Rollheiser had been playing with the Brampton Beast, the Lightning's Central Hockey League affiliate. Rollheiser immediately started traveling to Syracuse, but his plane experienced mechanical difficulties that left him stranded in Cleveland. Parks was then signed for the day.
Not much can beat this story. There really isn't one comparable in the Crunch's twenty-year history, especially when one considers that it's still developing.
Originally, it was assumed thatHelenius would work in tandem together while
Unfortunately, the machine known as the regular AHL season cares not for personnel emergencies. Ready or not, the beat goes on for the ever-sinking Crunch. Syracuse will play at Rochester for the first time this season Wednesday night before traveling to Eastern Conference rival Springfield's turf on Friday. They will then return the favor and host Springfield at home on Saturday. The league will then break briefly for the AHL All Star game, during which the Crunch will be represented by Brett Connolly and Zettler.
Things will only get better from here, right? I mean, there's no possible way this isn't rock bottom, right?
Latest Stats for the Syracuse Crunch:
Regular season record (wins-losses-OT losses-SO losses): 17-20-2-5
Place in the conference standings (top 8 make the playoffs): Thirteenth, same as last week, but Portland is now tied with Syracuse. The Crunch hold the tiebreaker, for now.
Place in division standings: Fifth, same as last week
- Top scorer: Vladislav Namestnikov, 13-17-30
Top scoring defenseman: Dmitry Korobov, 0-16-16
Top defenseman, +/-: Jean-Philippe Cote, +6
- Top defenseman, +/-, still active with the team: Andrej Sustr, +1
Top rookie: Nikita Kucherov, 13-11-24
- Top rookie still active with the team: Cedric Paquette, 12-16-28
Other Syracuse Crunch Player notes/transactions:
-Maxime Langelier-Parent was recalled from Florida of the ECHL.
Syracuse Crunch media highlights:
Syracuse Crunch vs. Norfolk Admirals (Feb 1st, 2014) (via Syracuse Crunch)
Interview with Richard Panik (Jan. 30, 2014) (via Syracuse Crunch)