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Location counts for Ontario's Francisco

by Lindsay Kramer /
As someone who used to work as a commercial real-estate appraiser, Jon Francisco appreciates the value of a good location.
Right now, he can't find a better one than Ontario, Calif.
The 29-year-old center has signed on for a third straight season with the Reign. He was one of only four Reign players to skate in all 72 regular-season games in 2009-10 and contributed 15 goals and 30 assists.
"I've played with enough guys to know where I stand. I'm fine with it at this point," Francisco said of his current career slot. "It's not something I stress about. I'm not going in there thinking I'm a top prospect. But I'm all right with that."
It's fulfilling enough just to help an organization that gave Francisco a second chance in the sport.
A bad injury to his right knee forced Francisco into what he thought was a premature retirement after the 2006-07 season with Reading. He sat out all of 2007-08, dabbling in the real estate world.
"I enjoyed doing the appraising. You get yourself very engulfed in the business. You get to understand all aspects of it," he said.
Before the 2008-09 season began, Karl Taylor, who coached Francisco in Reading, asked him to give the Reign a shot. Francisco's knee held up, and three years later the Minnesota native has a very appealing second home.
"It kind of feels like it, for all the time we've spent out there," Francisco said. "Who can complain about being in Southern California when it's sunny and 75 every day?"
Siddall's arrival worked quite nicely for Brandt -- The running joke between good friends and Victoria teammates Matt Siddall and Andy Brandt last season was that Siddall's presence on the Salmon Kings eventually was going to be Brandt's ticket out of town.
Siddall was reassigned by the Atlanta Thrashers to Victoria on Feb. 2 for future considerations. Brandt would muse about whether he was the player who eventually would constitute the payback.
The answer turned out to be yes, although not immediately.
Once the off-season rolled around, Victoria shipped Brandt, 26, to Gwinnett as the player to be named later.
"It's funny how we traded positions like that," Brandt said. "I wasn't sure it would come true. It was a thought in the back of my mind. I let time take its course."
Brandt hopes his numbers follow in kind.
This is Brandt's second go-round in Gwinnett. The forward had 18 goals and 26 assists as a rookie three seasons ago and then 10 goals and 21 assists in 2008-09.
Last season, he was traded from Gwinnett to South Carolina, and then from the Stingrays to Victoria. He tailed off to 13 goals and 15 assists for the Salmon Kings, a career valley that Brandt might be able to climb out of now that he's back on more familiar ice.
"You can't always count on the numbers. You want them. But it comes with work. When you are comfortable, sometimes you play better," he said. "I'm real excited to go back to Gwinnett. It's where I got my start in my career. I'm an older guy. I bring that experience back with me."
Ciao, Baker -- Of all the things that Kevin Baker takes with him on his impending adventure to Italy, a revised outlook on his situation may be the most important.
Baker, a former Florida Everblades forward and the ECHL's MVP two seasons ago, signed a pact to play overseas in 2010-11. It will be his second journey of that nature. He played in Germany in 2007-08, an experiment that fizzled out. He returned to North America for a couple of seasons in Florida as a prelude to his latest career move.
Baker, 31, said he went to Germany looking for a big contract and didn't pay enough attention to his fit on the team. At this point in his career, he said he's trying to parlay a season in Italy into a long-term stretch there that perhaps lasts the rest of his playing days. With that blueprint, doing homework on the role he's getting into was just as high a priority as cashing a check.
"I'm going in with a different mindset," he said. "I want to play as long as I can. The less wear and tear over there is going to allow me to do that. It's less demanding on the body. It's less travel. I know what to expect now. It was a decision I was looking forward to making."
Condors, Ducks flying in different directions -- The Anaheim-Bakersfield connection isn’t nearly as convenient as it used to be.

"Who can complain about being in Southern California when it's sunny and 75 every day?" -- Jon Francisco

As a result, the Ducks and Condors are looking for new partners.
Anaheim has ended its affiliation with the ECHL team in search of one closer to new AHL farm club Syracuse. Last season, the Ducks did not have an AHL team and the relationship with Bakersfield was a natural. Now, Anaheim has to find an affiliate closer to the Crunch so that players recalled to that level can get there faster.
The Condors are in the process of exploring their options with other organizations.
"We'd like to have something sooner than later but we're not really in the drivers' seat," Bakersfield president Matthew Riley told the Bakersfield Californian. "From the NHL perspective, they certainly have their priorities. We're pounding the pavement, so to speak, but it takes two to tango."
Toledo is right where Vitucci wants to be -- Nick Vitucci's Toledo Walleye finally took the ice in 2009-10, and with so much more to do he's in no hurry to leave town.
The franchise announced last week that Vitucci is returning as coach for its second season of ECHL play in 2010-11. It will be his fifth full season as coach in Toledo.
Overall, he has a mark of 175-132-28. Vitucci has won a record five ECHL championships (four as a player, one as an assistant coach), and has been involved with the league as a player and coach every season since the group's inception.
"Success sometimes breeds opportunity," he said. "I was humbled this summer with a few phone calls (with other job opportunities). It would be hard to pry me away from Toledo. It's a nice opportunity to come back and continue what I was able to start a year ago."

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