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Stapleton happy to be home in Chicago

by Lindsay Kramer
Tim Stapleton grew up in a Chicago suburb, yet resisted the lure of the Blackhawks.

His father was from Michigan, so the whole family followed Detroit sports. The Chicago Wolves, though, they were different. Tim went to the team's very first home game, Oct. 14, 1994, and enjoyed rooting for it without violating his allegiance to the Motor City.

Fifteen years later, the Wolves still are one of his favorite teams. The added perk is that now he gets to help direct Chicago into a new era.

Stapleton, a forward traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs organization to the Atlanta Thrashers in the summer, is one of the productive constants in a stormy start to the season for the Wolves. Through the first nine games, the forward contributed 5 goals and an assist.

"I love it. I haven't played at home since I was 16, 17. It's the first time they (his family) have seen me play in person since I was in college," said Stapleton, 27. "For me, to be able to come home and hang with people outside of hockey is always nice. It kind of clears your mind from what you're doing."

With the way Stapleton's last few months have gone, he needs something to ground him. Last year, in his first full AHL season, he was one of the best players in the league with 28 goals and 51 assists for the Toronto Marlies. On July 1, he was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers with Pavel Kubina for Garnet Exelby and Colin Stuart.

"'I would have loved to have stayed there. We were on the verge of doing another contract," Stapleton said. "I was a little upset. Excited, too."

Stapleton's adjustment to the new organization has continued well past the offseason and into the start of the real games. He's playing center and wing, and said he hasn't gone more than a game or two with the same linemates.

Within the first nine games of the season, Chicago fired coach Don Granato, traded popular power forward Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman, signed veteran goalie Manny Legace and brought in all-time great Chris Chelios, among other moves.

Yet Stapleton motors along, looking every bit like the hometown kid settling in.

"It's definitely a transition for me. I'm one of the newer guys," he said. "I'm coming on the team, most of the guys played together last year. I'll play wherever, I'll play with whoever."

There was one small glitch to Stapleton's summertime switch, though, that needed a little fixing. Just before his trade, he sold his place in Chicago and moved to Toronto. But thanks to his contacts and familiarity with the area, backtracking to find a new place in Chicago didn't take too long.

"It wasn't that big of a hassle," he said. "Everything has been pretty smooth moving back."

A productive 'Bud' --  George Holloway's babysitter had it right all those years ago.

That's the person who tagged the little guy with the nickname "Bud." It's a calling card that everyone uses now; a warm, fuzzy moniker appropriate for someone who gets along well and plays nice with virtually everyone. These days, the Manchester forward is making a place for himself in the middle of a very impressive crowd.

The second-year pro, who split time between Manchester and Ontario of the ECHL last season, has been a valuable fill-in part on the Monarchs' top line. When Oscar Moller was called up to the Kings on Oct. 17, Holloway was slotted into the first line with Scott Parse and Andrei Loktionov. Moller returned, but Holloway still skated on the top line. Parse then went to L.A., while Holloway jumped in with Moller and Loktionov.

Through it all, Holloway, 21, has kept pace to the tune of 4 goals and 2 assists in 10 games.

"We've got good chemistry throughout the lineup. It's about doing my thing and letting them do theirs," Holloway said. "It's a lot of responsibility. You take pride in going out there and being counted on to have a big game."

Holloway's people skills run all the way back to his roots in tiny Wapella, Sask. (population: 354). His dad, George, and his mom, Wendy, own the only restaurant in town, Wendy's Place. Everybody knows everybody there, naturally, and Bud helps out when he goes back home.

With the Monarchs, Holloway already has earned the reputation as one of the quickest wits in the room.

"I always find something to laugh at. I'm real comfortable with everyone," he said. "It's usually just saying something, putting my two cents in."

"For me, to be able to come home and hang with people outside of hockey is always nice. It kind of clears your mind from what you're doing."
-- Tim Stapleton

Short but sweet --  The tenure of center Mike Zigomanis with the Toronto Marlies may be short, but it promises to be memorable.

Zigomanis is swinging through Toronto on a professional tryout with the hope of landing an NHL deal or a job in Europe. His first five games with Toronto show why he is justified in setting his sights high -- he registered 10 points in that span, all assists.

Zigomanis, 28, played 22 games with the Penguins last season before a shoulder injury ended his season. He said he had some two-way offers in the offseason, but nothing he wanted to pursue. Before joining the Marlies, he was working out with Toronto St. Michael's of the OHL.

"I'm relied to score on every shift. It's nice to get that feeling back. It's going back to basics," he said. "I thought I'd be somewhere by now. Everything doesn't work out like you want it to. I'm trying to stay patient, and I hope I'm rewarded for my patience."

Around the AHL -- Worcester coach Roy Sommer earned his 400th career AHL coaching victory Nov. 1 with the Sharks' 4-1 win against Springfield. Sommer, who has a 400-417-74 record in 11-plus seasons in charge of the San Jose Sharks' AHL affiliates in Worcester, Cleveland and Kentucky, joins Fred "Bun" Cook, Frank Mathers and John Paddock as the only coaches in AHL history to reach the 400-win plateau. ... Hamilton has not trailed at an intermission in any of its first 11 games. ... Hartford's 6-0 loss to Hershey on Oct. 30 was the Wolf Pack's worst shutout loss since a 7-0 defeat at the hands of Worcester on Dec. 22, 2000. ... Worcester's Frazer McLaren set a franchise record with 46 minutes of penalties against Springfield on Nov. 1. ... Lowell posted the most wins in October in its four-year history, going 5-4-2. ... Albany rookie Zach Boychuk has a point in each of the River Rats' seven games at the Times Union Center this season (4-5), but is scoreless in four games on the road. ... With a 5-0 mark at Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids is off to its best home start ever. The Griffins never had won more than two-straight games on home ice to open a season. ... Abbotsford scored just five regulation goals in three games last week, but won all three contests. ... Rochester's current eight-game win streak is the longest by an Amerks club since the 2004-05 team won eight in a row twice.

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