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Daniels still playing at high level

Friday, 09.19.2008 / 9:00 AM / ECHL Report

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

"That's one of the reasons why I'm playing another year -- just to keep my options open."

-- Kimbi Daniels

Kimbi Daniels is a living Energizer battery.

He keeps going, and going and going.

Daniels, who will turn 36 in January, signed with the Phoenix Roadrunners on Tuesday. The former Philadelphia Flyers forward was informed earlier this offseason that the Alaska Aces would not be bringing him back for what would have been his ninth season in Anchorage.

With a desire to play one more season, the offers came flooding in for Daniels, a solid two-way player who had 25 goals, 66 points and 134 penalty minutes for the Aces in 2007-08. Wanting to repay his family for all the years of unfavorable weather in Anchorage, Daniels decided to sign in sunny Phoenix.

"From an off-ice standpoint, I think my family really likes it," Daniels told NHL.com. "My kids are starting to get to an age where they realize there are warm places in the world. They probably spend a half-dozen days outside in short and t-shirt weather here (in Alaska). It'll be a nice change for them. I think they're excited to go somewhere where they can experience the warm weather for longer than seven days."

Daniels had every intention of playing another season in Alaska, where he helped win a Kelly Cup in 2006. But the Aces' brass opted to go with a youth movement, which left Daniels on the outside looking in. He admitted the news took him by surprise, as Alaska was fully aware that he wanted to play one more season.

"I was planning on playing two more years, which would have been last year and this season," Daniels said. "I kind of made plans to play another year, which had to do with my wife finishing school. That kind of threw a wrinkle in things, but I probably couldn't go to a better place to finish up. We're pretty excited to go.

"Things change in this business. There's not a lot you can do about it. It's been good here, so I can still stay and do something else outside of hockey for a year until she finishes. I entertained a lot of offers and just thought I'd like to finish playing on my terms. I don't think I could have picked a better spot."

Roadrunners coach Brad Church is certainly pleased to have Daniels aboard. Church, who is nearly four years younger than his newest forward, was a teammate of Daniels with the New Orleans Brass during the 1998-99 season. Considering the amount of youth that is expected in Phoenix this season, the coach is excited about having such a seasoned veteran with NHL experience to help show them the ropes.

"There's no question that he brings a ton of experience," Church said. "He's won championships, he can play in all situations and his input is definitely welcomed by our coaching staff. We're looking at him as someone who will be able to help our young guys as well. Not only can he play in all situations, but he's very effective in all situations."

That's ultimately the reason why Daniels hasn't hung up the blades yet. While most players at the ECHL level are usually done by their early 30s, Daniels remains one of the more consistent players in the league at 35. In 2006-07, he had 81 points in 70 games for Alaska.

"He's won championships, he can play in all situations and his input is definitely welcomed by our coaching staff. We're looking at him as someone who will be able to help our young guys as well." -- Brad Church talking about Kimbi Daniels

"If I didn't enjoy playing or if I didn't feel I was capable of playing at a high level, then I'm sure either I would have stopped or somebody would have told me to stop," Daniels said. "It's the fact that I feel comfortable in this league, this division, this conference. From a hockey standpoint, I certainly don't expect to have a drop-off of any sort. I'm sure I could play for a couple of more years, but I'm at the point where as much as I love playing, enough is enough."

With the chances of his production slipping awfully slim, Daniels will certainly retire as a high-quality player. Sure, it would have been easy for him to give it up once the Aces informed him he wouldn't be back, but his passion for the game outweighed everything else.

In the end, Alaska's loss has become Phoenix's gain. But it wasn't easy.

"This has been the hardest decision I've had to make in terms of just having to leave Alaska," Daniels said. "It has nothing to do with hockey. If I had to pick up and leave for any other reason, it would be tough to do. I'd been going back and forth all summer and has to pass on previous offers because I wasn't ready to make a decision at that time. I'd been putting things off because I was unsure if I wanted to move."

Another major reason for why Daniels went to Phoenix was his desire to stay involved in the game. Knowing that his playing days are running out, Daniels hopes to either scout or coach when his career comes to an end. By remaining on the ice, he has the opportunity to stay involved.

"That's one of the reasons why I'm playing another year -- just to keep my options open," Daniels said. "I did talk to a couple of NHL teams about the possibility of getting into scouting. There just wasn't enough time to get it together this year. For me, it's about whether I want to move around. That's the life of a hockey player, or anyone in the hockey world."

Will all of this add up to a playoff spot for Phoenix? We won't know for a little while, but there's no doubt that bringing Daniels into the mix makes the Roadrunners that much better.

"Obviously, we're excited about the guys we're bringing back," Church said. "We feel like we've improved and we want to be a playoff team. That's our goal."
   
Around the ECHL -- The Fresno Falcons signed rookie forward Judd Blackwater, who helped the Spokane Chiefs win the Memorial Cup last season. … Shawn Snider, a center who played in Sweden last season, signed with the Reading Royals. … Cam Keith re-signed with Alaska. … Matt Craig is returning to the Utah Grizzlies after spending last season with the Idaho Steelheads. … The Ontario Reign acquired forward Preston Callander from the Florida Everblades for defenseman Michael Grenzy. Callander, a rookie last season, had 57 points in 47 games for Florida. … The Victoria Salmon Kings signed defenseman Tim Wedderburn. … The Augusta Lynx re-signed defensemen Tim Branham and B.J. Crum.

Contact Brian Compton at: bcompton@nhl.com.



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