Q: You’ve been with the Monarchs since the beginning. Can you talk about how the organization has developed over the years?
Cail: The Monarchs arrived in Manchester in 2001 with a very different philosophy than the Monarchs we have come to know over the last several seasons. After two years of guiding the Kings’ top affiliate, the AHL's Lowell Lock Monsters, Head Coach Bruce Boudreau arrived in New Hampshire with a roster of veteran minor leaguers, a number of players with considerable NHL experience and a few prospects selected in the NHL Draft by Los Angeles. Some of those on the roster with an NHL pedigree were forwards Scott Thomas, Rob Valicevic, Steve Kelly, Brad Chartrand and goalie Stephane Fiset in what would be his final year as a professional.
Later, they were joined by former Boston Bruins forward and fan favorite Ted Donato who spent more than six seasons in Boston's black and gold. Although several younger players went on to long NHL careers, the roster was not as prospect-driven as it has been in recent years.
The Monarchs helped to develop 14 members of the Stanley Cup Champion L.A. Kings roster under head coaches Boudreau, Jim Hughes and for the past seven seasons, Mark Morris. The one constant during that time has been the Director of Hockey Operations Hubie McDonough, who has used his extensive network of contacts in the hockey world to fill some gaps along the way when the Monarchs have been shorthanded due to injuries and promotions. In fact, Hubie and Assistant Coach Bobby Jay were forced to suit up for the Monarchs for several games during the team's inaugural season.
The emphasis during Dean Lombardi’s regime has been to develop the draft picks and free agent acquisitions signed by the Kings out of junior hockey, the college ranks and international leagues. As a result, the Monarchs have consistently been among the youngest teams in the AHL not to mention one of the most productive.
Q: Do a couple of highlights come to mind when you think about your years behind the mic broadcasting the Monarchs? Can you share with us some of your greatest memories?
Cail: November 23, 2001, was a turning point for the Manchester Monarchs. That’s the day they were joined by free agent Ted Donato. The Monarchs hosted the Norfolk Admirals on that Friday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena and while the Monarchs lost the game, 3-2, it marked the start of better things to come for the franchise which was off to a sluggish 5-10-2-1 start. Following the loss to Norfolk, the Monarchs immediately boarded the team bus and headed for St. John, New Brunswick, for a game with the St. John Flames the next night. For the veteran Donato, it was the first bus trip of his professional career. He had never played a game in the minor leagues before joining the Boston Bruins. He went right from Harvard to the NHL and perhaps his intelligence was overlooked by some of his unsuspecting teammates on the bus. It was widely reported on the trip that Donato was a terrific poker player and won a considerable amount of the meal money which was handed out to the players prior to the journey to Canada. At approximately 4 a.m. on Saturday, November 24, the Monarchs, with many lighter in the wallet, got off the bus and checked into their hotel in St. John to get some rest prior to that night's game.
The Monarchs had been struggling but Saturday night's game was intense, close and hard checking from start to finish. The Monarchs were looking to escape with at least one point. That point became a reality when the card shark himself, Donato, scored with two-tenths of a second left in regulation. The overtime was scoreless and the game ended in a 2-2 tie prior to the days of the shootout. It was one point in the standings but it was much more than that. Donato brought a new spirit and professionalism to the Monarchs. He was instrumental in showing this team how to prepare both mentally and physically to go into battle on a nightly basis. He was a leader and it showed from day one. The bus ride back to Manchester had the feeling of one carrying the Calder Cup champs...not simply coming off a deadlock on the road. Over the next 13 games, the Monarchs went on to win 10, lose two and tie one, all sparked by that last second goal and everything else that Donato brought both on and off the ice. He played just 36 regular season and five playoff games for the Monarchs but in my mind, he remains the single most important player in franchise history. Donato gave the new team credibility among the fans and respect around the league.
The NHL Lockout of 2004-05 provided for a real treat for Monarchs Country. Manchester was the host city for the 2005 AHL All Star Classic and it was two days to remember between the Sunday Skills Competition and Monday's All Star Game. The Verizon was packed both nights to witness any number of future NHL players. The game turned out to be an “instant classic” as the Planet USA Stars battled back from a 4-0 deficit to defeat the Canadian Team in a shootout, 5-4. Manchester coach Bruce Boudreau was behind the bench for the victorious Planet USA.
Q: Describe the typical Monarchs fan. What is their passion? What drives them?
Cail: New Hampshire has been a hockey “hotbed” for generations. The first organized hockey game played in the United States was on November 17, 1883, at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, when the legendary Hobie Baker was a member of the St. Paul’s team at the age of 14. Since that historic day, hockey has been played throughout the state from Berlin to Nashua and all places in between. New Hampshire knows hockey and they recognize some of the best that the sport has to offer when they see it.
If there is a “typical” Manchester Monarchs fan, it’s one that’s hard-working, opinionated, vocal, takes a lot of pictures, family-oriented and looking to share the experience and pass on the love of the game to their children and grandchildren. Their enthusiasm mirrors the manner in which the Monarchs have played at home over the last 12 years. The Monarchs have won the majority of their games at the Verizon Wireless Arena with hard-checking, outstanding goaltending and some fisticuffs along the way. Players who have exemplified the “lunch pail” style are admired by the Manchester fan base.