Forward Greg Hogeboom
got much the same reaction from family and friends when they heard he'd signed with the Ontario Reign last off-season: You went halfway across the world to end up right where you left?
Well, yes and no.
True, Hogeboom technically rejoined the Los Angeles Kings
system, the same organization in which his lack of progress spurred him to play the last two years in Switzerland. But since Hogeboom signed an ECHL-only deal with Ontario he saw it as playing for the Reign, not for an affiliate of the Kings.
"I guess it is a bit weird. My family wondered that for a while," Hogeboom said. "I suppose it's natural. I pretty much explained that the Kings don't have much to do with the ECHL team here."
Playing with the freedom of needing to please no one but his teammates, Hogeboom, 27, is finally making a mark on the West Coast. Hogeboom, a fifth-round pick of Los Angeles in 2002, is pacing the Reign in goals (20) and points (33). The career restart comes after three seasons in the Kings' system (2004-07) when he bounced between affiliates Manchester of the AHL and Reading of the ECHL.
He said goodbye with a great 2006-07 (30-44 for Reading) then went overseas for a different perspective.
"That's always in the back of your mind," Hogeboom said of his stall out. "But I don't think about it too much. That would drive you crazy. Probably, I didn't play up to what I could do. Maybe I was nervous. You always think this is your chance to do something. Then you don't play your game. I don't really blame anybody else for me not making it."
Hogeboom milked his time in Switzerland for the best possible life experiences. During a vacation he took his then-girlfriend to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris and proposed (she said yes).
Hogeboom decided to return this season, and the recommendation of an old connection steered him to Ontario. Karl Taylor, his head coach in Reading, is now in charge of the Reign. Taylor remembered how Hogeboom lit it up for him three seasons ago and offered him a spot on the team this season.
Hogeboom, indifferent toward the distant connection to his earlier failed opportunity, was up for it and has turned in an all-star season.
"You have to put everything behind you, enjoy life," he said. "It's being comfortable where you are. As I was younger, I was more of a me-first guy. I think I've changed my view, (become) more of a team-first guy than maybe before. That's all part of growing up as a hockey player and a person."
-- After getting a taste of playing together for the first time last year in Alaska, brothers Brett and Colin Hemingway
didn't like getting pulled apart earlier this season.
Their separation didn't last long.
Colin's trade from the Aces to Stockton last week reunited him with Brett, who was swapped to the Thunder several weeks ago. The high-scoring forwards helped Alaska to the Kelly Cup final last season and re-signed with the team with the promise they would be kept together.
But new coach Brent Thompson
didn't see Brett fitting in early, and Colin stuck it out in Alaska until he got a ticket to Stockton as well.
"I understand it's a business. When Brett got traded, I tried to act as a professional," said Colin, who produced 13 goals and 17 helpers in 28 games for Alaska. "It got to the point where I'm 29-years-old, I don't know how much longer I'm going to play in the ECHL. I'd like to enjoy my last year playing (there) with my brother."
The brothers played on the same line for much of last season, and when Brett, 26, returns from a concussion Colin hopes they'll get a chance for similar chemistry with the Thunder.
"We were basically inseparable, and I'd say it worked out because we made it to the Kelly Cup final," Colin said. "We feed off each other. We work extra hard to one-up each other. Just having a family member (on the line) makes it more comfortable and life more difficult for the opposing team. When we're both happy, we do some damage on the ice."
Seeing the systems
-- Rookie forward Bryan Leitch
sees at least one positive in his around-the-ECHL tour this year.
"I know a lot of systems now," he said. "You have to look at it some way. I'm trying to get a handle on it, find a place where I can fit in."
In just half a season, Leitch is at four teams and counting in that regard.
"You have to put everything behind you, enjoy life. It's being comfortable where you are. As I was younger, I was more of a me-first guy. I think I've changed my view, (become) more of a team-first guy than maybe before. That's all part of growing up as a hockey player and a person." -- Greg Hogeboom
Milwaukee, which signed him as a free-agent last summer, re-assigned Leitch from Florida to Kalamazoo last week, then moved him again from the K-Wings to Toledo on Jan. 28. Prior to those two moves, Leitch began the season with Cincinnati, was traded to Alaska and was then shipped from the Aces to the Everblades. In 30 games overall, he has 6 goals and 8 assists.
It's a jarring start for a player who paced NCAA Division I in scoring with 59 points for Quinnipiac last year.
"It's a lot different than college, where there's no trades," he said. "Definitely, it's not fun. I still think I can play. I've done it before. But it's not really working out right now. You have to stick with it and see what happens."
Around the ECHL
-- Bakersfield forward Andrew Ianiero
became the 28th player in ECHL history to play in 500 games when he dressed against Alaska on Jan. 27. ... South Carolina tied the ECHL record for most players with a point in a game when all 15 skaters got on the score sheet in an 8-5 win against Reading on Jan. 22. The Stingrays are the fourth team to have 15 skaters register a point in the 22-year history of the league. ... The eight goals allowed by Reading in that game marked the eighth time in the nine-year history of the team that it has surrendered that many scores in a single game. The last time it occurred was on Dec. 26, 2008 at Wheeling, West Virginia, when the Nailers beat Reading 10-6. ... South Carolina had a team-record 10,570 fans for its game against Reading on Jan. 23. ... Forward Nick Johnson
became the 42nd Wheeling alum to reach the NHL when he played for Pittsburgh against Washington on Jan. 21. That total is more than any other ECHL team and represents almost 10 percent of the overall figure of 430 players from the league to skate in the NHL. ... Charlotte had the largest ECHL crowd of the year with 11,484 against Wheeling on Jan. 22. ... Kalamazoo goalie Jeremy Duchesne
earned an assist on the K-Wings' game-winning goal vs. Toledo on Jan. 24. The assist was the first point this season earned by a K-Wings goaltender. ... Elmira potted 15 goals in two games last weekend, an average of one score every eight minutes. ... Steve Martinson
earned his 100th win as the coach of the Jackals with an 8-2 win over Toledo on Jan. 23.
For more information, go to www.echl.com