When center Marty Murray
and defenseman Eric Werner
left Manchester two seasons ago, they certainly didn't burn any bridges.
In fact, they built new ones, structures that stretched all the way overseas. Earlier this offseason, they used those spans to come right back to the Monarchs.
In something of an oddity, Murray, 33, and Werner, 25, independently decided to return to Manchester as free agents after spending a season in Europe. Murray played in Switzerland, while Werner skated in Finland and Germany.
"It is kind of odd. It's not overly common," Murray said of the timing and thought process of the dual decisions.
"I've never seen anything like that," Werner said. "That was totally a coincidence. I found out when they (the Monarchs) released both of us. To see him come back is a huge bonus for the team."
In Werner's case, it came as something of a pleasant surprise that the organization was still interested in him.
“When I was over there, I was thinking I'd like to try back in the States again. I was looking around over here. Manchester called me up and said they had a spot. They came in the mix. I was happy when I was there. It's good going back to the place I was before."
-- Marty Murray
"When I was over there, I was thinking I'd like to try back in the States again," he said. "I was looking around over here. Manchester called me up and said they had a spot. They came in the mix. I was happy when I was there. It's good going back to the place I was before."
Werner hopes to bring something of a different twist to this encore. Already a solid offensive blueliner -- 24 assists for the Monarchs two seasons ago -- he said the free and easy attacks of European competition forced him to be a little more focused defensively.
"I've never seen anything like that," he said of the style of play over there. "It's a really good thing."
Murray contributed 12 goals and 28 assists in 34 games for the Monarchs two seasons ago. His return came down to a desire for his two young children -- a third is on the way -- to begin their pre-schooling in North America.
"There was the familiarity with Manchester, the same coaching staff," Murray said. "We enjoyed everything about there when we were there."
And as for Murray's likely status as the oldest Monarch on a team that had no vets at the end of last season?
"It will be a good opportunity for me to be that grandpa to the young kids," he said.
"Original Admiral" designs logo -- Dennis McEwen
is not only part of pro hockey history in Norfolk, he knows how to graphically represent the era as well.
That made him the perfect man to design the logo that commemorates the Admirals' 20th season of pro hockey this year.
McEwen is the team's corporate sales manager. He is also known as "The Original Admiral" because he was one of the first players signed by the franchise in 1989. He appeared in 262 games with the Admirals from 1989-99 and ranks in the top ten lists for games played, goals, assists and points.
Conveniently enough, he also has more than a little artist in him. He used to run a graphic design company and formerly designed minor league baseball cards.
"I just have ideas in my head," he said. "I don't have drawing talent like that, but computers allow you to do a lot. When it comes to design, you put your foot down on what you think looks nice."
In this case, McEwen put his foot down on a logo that features components of all four used by the Admirals since the team's inception in 1989. The battleship that is prominent in the current team's primary logo takes center stage in the 20th anniversary logo as well.
All but one of the logos used in Admirals history contains five stars, and the 20th anniversary logo is no different. A platinum band containing five gold stars crowns the battleship. The words "20th Anniversary" run along the top of the band.
A large gold anchor runs behind the ship and emerges behind the word "Admirals" in the familiar script of the current Admirals logo. The dates "1989-2009" are etched on the bottom of the anchor.
"From the day I got here back in 1989, I feel like I've been invested in this organization," McEwen said. "We have a rich tradition. I'd like to think I'm part of that tradition. That's why I took the task on. I'd like it to be put forth in the best light."
Another crossroads for Crunch --
The Syracuse Crunch's 15-year tenure in town could be approaching another crossroads.
The Crunch averted a potential relocation showdown two years ago when it agreed to a five-year lease to play in the Onondaga County War Memorial. One stipulation of that lease is that by the end of the third year, the county will buy the Crunch a new scoreboard or else the team's rent will go down.
Crunch owner Howard Dolgon isn't interested in benefiting from that financial penalty. He wants a new scoreboard, one that will enhance the fan experience and create a better revenue stream in a building where those are rare.
But the county's legislators are balking at the $750,000 price of the scoreboard. Earlier this week, they approved money for some improvements, but not for the scoreboard. The legislature could buy one later, but Dolgon, wary of last-minute pushes, isn't going to be left without options.
That's especially true if Brooklyn -- a long slapshot from his home on Long Island -- follows through on its speculated pursuit of a team. Dolgon was asked whether the temporary scuttling of the scoreboard will push him to explore a move to another city.
"I don't think we need to make inquiries," he said. "People follow this. There are a lot of empty buildings in bigger markets that would throw a party to get us."
When asked if other markets have contacted him about relocating there, he refused to comment.
Radja stays close to home --
Forward Mike Radja
's choices for a place of employment this season came down to his extended back-yard territory or a region that's become his home away from home.
He chose to follow his deeper roots.
Radja signed a free-agent deal with Rockford this summer, a city that's a mere 90 minutes away from his hometown of Yorkville, Ill. The IceHogs won out over an offer from Springfield, which is roughly the same distance from the University of New Hampshire, where Radja starred collegiately.
"Once the opportunity presented itself, it was exciting," Radja said of sticking to his home state. "Now my friends and family can come to every game. Either way, I was going to have a good grasp on the area."
That stability will help Radja get a grip on his pro career.
The undrafted Radja blossomed into an All-American with the Wildcats, posting 19 goals and 24 assists as a senior last year. In a brief trial with the Syracuse Crunch, he opened a few eyes with three assists in two games.
Still, there was Radja this summer, floating around as something of an afterthought free-agent signing in August.
"I've always flown under the radar. There's no pressure on me," he said. "I go out and play my game. That keeps the mental side of the game to a minimum for me. I'm going to have to make the most of my opportunity. I'm excited to see what happens."