Welcome back! I trust this post finds everyone well. What a week for the Icemen organization. Here are this week’s Frozen Facts.
- The team re-signed All-Star forward Brendan Warren. A great way for the team to kick off their summer signings by adding a promising young forward coming off a sound rookie campaign.
- In staff news, Director of Group Sales Luke Nicholas won the ECHL’s Sales Professional of the Year Award! This is a well-deserved honor. Luke delivers excellent customer service and is an extremely hard worker. Additionally, Account Executive Hayden Kestle was nominated as a finalist for the Rookie Sales Executive of the Year award, an award that was won by Senior Account Executive Trent Blair last summer. President Bob Ohrablo was named a finalist for the ECHL Executive of the Year award, and the Icemen were named as a finalist for the Group Sales Department of the Year. Earlier this month, the Icemen were named Jacksonville’s Best Sports Team in the “Jax Best” Awards.
- Also, fans can expect another player signing announcement this week!
My #VirutalKellyCup Tournament UpdateWhile all of us wait for the return of Icemen hockey, there actually is some form of competitive hockey taking place across the league these days. However, as is this case with most events in recent months, the hockey I am referring to is the virtual and digital kind. As you may or may not already know, the ECHL launched a #VirtualKellyCup tournament utilizing the video game NHL 20 from EA Sports.
The ECHL asked teams across the league if there were any team players or staff members willing to participate. As someone who has played the EA Sports NHL franchise since its inception in the early 1990's. I was very interested to organize this for the team. However, finding other participants to partake proved to be difficult, as I was the only staff member who owned the game and/or had the required game console, Playstation 4. I asked a few players that i knew played video games, but they said they either had an Xbox, or they only played non-hockey games such as the popular Call of Duty or Fortnite. A fun fact about hockey players is that a decent amount of them love their Fortnite.
One such player is former Icemen goaltender Mikhail Berdin. Someone told me a story about a year ago that one day Berdin informed the coaching staff that his Internet had stopped working at his apartment. The Russian netminder jokingly told them “I need my Fortnite. No Internet…no play in the game tomorrow.” Of course the issue was quickly fixed, and Berdin went on to play the next night and pieced together a solid season.
With a lack of players and staff to be able to participate, it became clear I would be the lone individual to represent the Icemen on the virtual field / rink of battle in this tournament. I did not mind at all. And why should I? I have had success playing the game over the past few decades, consistently defeating the computer at high skill levels in head-to-head to action, while piecing together 80-plus win seasons in my franchise mode.
However, prior to this tournament I had never played the game online against other people. Despite this, I remained hopeful going into my first match-up with the staff of the Maine Mariners this past Thursday.
I knew going into the match-up I would be playing against a total of four staff members who would be in control of Maine’s players on the game. It never phased me until I started to see their usernames pop-up one after the other on the game’s start-up screen. I knew at that moment I may have bitten off more than I could chew. The digital Icemen squad fought hard to the bitter end, but failed to take advantage of several lengthy power play opportunities and missed quality scoring chances, and the team/I took the loss 2-1 in an exciting game.
With my first online game in the books I was feeling better about my chances heading into this past Friday’s game with Wichita….ahh, famous last words. Manning the Wichita team is forward Beau Starrett. To my knowledge, Beau is the only current hockey player participating in this tournament. As the game began, my beaming confidence quickly unraveled into a humbling experience. I was completely outmatched and took the loss 7-1. I realized then, that my success against the game’s computer for decades was no match for online competitors. As if the loss wasn't bad enoughj, Wichita reveled in my misery with a celebratory tweet, and my humbled response.
All of this is in good fun of course, but I have spent part of the last few days practicing against online players. I will look to get things on track tonight against the Rapid City Rush at 8:00 p.m.. It’s a must win game if the virtual Icemen are going to have a shot at qualifying for the playoff bracket. If you’re interested in watching tonight’s game, CLICK HERE.
Until next time, stay safe everyone!