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Shannon getting fresh start with Ottawa

by Lindsay Kramer
Center Ryan Shannon, a man of many moves, got his first big break of the season last month when the Vancouver Canucks pulled their own zig-zag on him.

Earlier in the offseason, Shannon, 25, the Canucks re-signed him to a one-year deal. As training camp drew near, Vancouver could see he was tilting more toward being a depth player again. That was the route Shannon took last season in 27 games with the Canucks and 13 in Manitoba.

So the Canucks decided that freeing the talented sparkplug was better than burying him. They sent him to the Ottawa organization in exchange for talented offensive defenseman Lawrence Nycholat.

"I was surprised. I'd been training, getting ready to go back to Vancouver," Shannon said. "With the change in management, they said there wasn't room for me. Instead of shoving me to the minors, they traded me to somewhere else."

Shannon is still caught in something of a roster squeeze. Last week, Ottawa demoted him to Binghamton. Although that's something of a forced marriage right now, it could also turn out to be one of the AHL's most beneficial ones.

Shannon tore onto the AHL scene three years ago as an undrafted free agent for Portland. He was the igniter of a great Pirates offense, shining with 27 goals and 59 assists. Shannon hasn't come close to replicating those numbers. He might have for the Moose last season, but he missed three months with a torn MCL. When healthy, he's been nudged out of his comfort zone and down to a third-line center role with Anaheim (11 points in 53 games in 2006-07) and Vancouver (13 in 27 last season).

That shouldn't be an issue in Binghamton. The team has a solid group of wings – hello, Denis Hamel – but missed the playoffs last season because the offense at times turned a little stagnant.

"He's going to be a real big part of our team. For as skilled as he is, he works just as hard or harder than anybody else," said Binghamton coach Cory Clouston, who got his first extended in-person look at Shannon this preseason. "He's a very focused athlete."

And considering Binghamton's desperate need for a top-two line middleman, a very busy one as well.

 "You want high expectations on yourself. I feel confident about my game," Shannon said. "There's good skill players (in Binghamton). I think we have all the tools right here. I'd like to play the same way I did in Portland. I think I can do similar things here."
A big misunderstanding -- Given the heavy two-way traffic between North America and Europe when it comes to hockey these days, few people were surprised when a prominent hockey Web site posted that defenseman Alex Brooks had signed to play in Finland last summer.

One of the few people taken aback was Brooks himself, because it was simply not true. It was worth a laugh at first, then turned into a headache in the ensuing weeks when no other teams pursued the veteran free agent because they assumed he was off the market.

"It was kind of an interesting summer. Ever since then, I've been trying to do damage control," said Brooks, 32. "That just shows the power of the Internet. Word can spread pretty quick."

Fortunately for Brooks, he had a friend who bothered to do a little homework. New Wolves coach Don Granato coached Brooks in junior hockey. When it became clear to Chicago that a quality defensive blueliner was still on the market, the Wolves signed him to a one-year AHL deal in mid-September.

"It was a little stressful. I kept crossing my fingers, (hoping) something would come along," Brooks said.

Brooks has played in Finland before, in 2001-02. He wouldn't rule out heading back again next year. He just now knows to not actually believe it until he sets skates there.

"Yeah, exactly," he said. "Then it will be official."
New England state of mind -- More than a decade ago, New England might as well have been Antarctica in the eyes of Derek Bekar.

"Me and my dad couldn't even believe they have hockey in New Hampshire. Now, there's no question I don't know about New England, especially geographical." -- Derek Bekar

Bekar grew up in Burnaby, British Columbia. In 1995, the University of New Hampshire wanted him to play hockey there. Sure, Bekar said. Just as soon as I figure out where it is.

"Me and my dad couldn't even believe they have hockey in New Hampshire," Bekar said. "Now, there's no question I don't know about New England, especially geographical."

That's because since those college days, the region has become something of a hockey touchstone for Bekar. And it's one he's coming back to after a long time away.

Bekar, a 33-year-old center, returned from a three-year stint in Switzerland, Germany and Austria this offseason to sign a deal with Springfield. That's the same team he played for in 2004-05, his last season in North America. It also furthers a New England itinerary that includes stops in Worcester, Portland, Manchester and Bridgeport.

Bekar and his wife, Shanna, spend their summers in New Hampshire, which is one more reason this move feels so natural. Another is that Shanna is expected to give birth to their first child, a boy, any day now, and what would make more sense than bringing him into the world during a New England fall?

Bekar expects to return to his adopted region with production that matches or surpasses his previous efforts, despite the added wear and tear on his game. In his last season with Springfield, he contributed eight goals and 14 assists in 51 games.

"Everyone is all ex-AHL and NHL players over there (in Europe). It's a high level of hockey," he said. "It's not like I've been playing in beer leagues over there."

Philly guy heading West -- It took Frank Miceli his whole life to decide to move out of the shadow of his back yard. So if he has to leave Philadelphia, well, he's going to go a lot farther than just across city limits.

Miceli, who has been the chief operating officer of the Phantoms since the team began in 1996, is resigning to become the new senior vice president of sales and marketing for (San Antonio) Spurs Sports & Entertainment, which includes the Spurs of the NBA, the AHL's San Antonio Rampage, the WNBA Silver Stars, the NBA D-League Austin Toros and all events at the AT&T Center.

It's a drastic move for Miceli, a south Philadelphia native who grew up three blocks away from the Spectrum and attended many of that arena's most famous events before landing a job with parent company Comcast-Spectacor 18 years ago. He figured he'd be with the organization for much longer. He said he never went looking for another job, but when the Spurs pursued him, he liked what he heard.

"It's bittersweet. But opportunities like this come along once in a lifetime and I wanted to make sure I took advantage of it," Miceli said. "I think the scope of the job (in San Antonio) is grander. They are very entrepreneurial in spirit. They are a lot like Comcast-Spectacor was six or seven years ago. I'm anxious for the challenge of that bigger stage."

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