The Lockout-And So It Begins


And so it begins. At 12:01 on Sunday morning, the AHL became the top league in North America and Bridgeport’s team is already beginning to assemble.

On September 8, Kirill Kabanov … “ rented a house for next season in Milford… pretty sweet .. has its own beach”, is how he described it on Twitter. (photo of Charles Island taken by Kirill from his deck).

Thursday Matt Donovan, whom many expected to make the Isles out of camp, completed his 22 plus hour drive from Oklahoma and rejoined his best friend from last season Sean Backman. Backman, from nearby Cos Cob, stayed in Milford through the off-season sharing a place in Milford with his friend and college teammate from Yale, Mark Arcobello. (Arcobello, a Milford native, is a top prospect from CT currently skating in the Edmonton Oilers organization.)

The boys are back in town and sales will soon increase at Chipotles, Mr. Macs Canteen and dozens of restaurants in the area as the players prepare for the upcoming season.

It will not be long before locals can expect a Swedish flag flying outside a home rented by John Persson, Johan Sundstrom, David Ullstrom and Anders Nillson while area chefs cringe watching Ullstrom add ketchup to the marinara sauce they spent hours preparing.

Training camps for AHL teams will open on Sept. 28 and the first puck of the 2012-13 season will be dropped on Oct. 12. The talent level for all AHL clubs will improve as NHL players eligible to play in the AHL (those on last years ‘Clear Day List’ and others) have been assigned to their affiliates.

Hurricanes Jeff Skinner, the 2010-11 NHL rookie of the year, will be playing with the Charlotte Checkers. Edmonton Oilers winger Jordan Eberle along with 2011-12 NHL rookie of the year finalist Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be Oklahoma City Baron teammates of Mark Arcobello to start this years campaign.

The Sound Tigers will enjoy the talents of Islanders regulars Travis Hamonic and Nino Niederreiter, as well as the unexpected return of David Ullstrom, Casey Cizikas and Matt Donovan, each thought to have a legitimate chance of making the ‘bigs’ out of a camp that may not be held.

Attendance figures across the AHL will increase and at the Webster Bank Arena fans are likely to see some very familiar faces in the crowd.

Matt Moulson, whenever his busy Islander schedule permitted, made trips to Bridgeport to watch his brother-in-law Sean Backman play. Unfortunately, when Moulson is not caring for his new daughter, he may have too many opportunities this year as will Backman’s other brother-in-law, Stanley Cup MVP Jonathan Quick. Sean maybe the only member of the group with a job.

It should not surprise anyone if other Islanders, with unexpected time on their hands, come to the arena to hook-up with their teammates from last season and watch a game the NHL has prohibited them from playing. Other frequent guests at Sound Tiger games will most assuredly be the Isles coaching staff.

If and when the NHL season begins there will be a limited amount of time for coaching staffs to evaluate new talent at training camps. You can expect coaches throughout the NHL to be regular attendees at AHL games.

The AHL will start the 2012-13 season on time and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers will have their home opener at the Webster Bank Arena as scheduled on Sat. Oct. 13 when they host the Providence Bruins.

It will be a bittersweet start as the team attempts to repeat as division champions knowing that thousands are out of work due to another labor dispute.


-Mike Flannery


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