SUGAR LAND, Texas - Several years down the road, if Aeros head coach Rob Daum has moved on to SUGAR LAND, Texas - Several years down the road, if Aeros head coach Rob Daum has moved on to the National Hockey League, folks in Houston should head to The Home Depot and stock up on plywood and generators.---HOUSTON AEROS, BE A FAN---
Four summers ago, Todd McLellan joined the Aeros as head coach immediately following Tropical Storm Allison, which poured more than 40 inches of rain on some parts of the Bayou City.
Now, it’s Daum’s turn to play "Natural Disaster".
Daum, his wife Carol, and their three children got into Houston "full-time" last Monday to move into their house. Two days later, they were on the road to Austin with Hurricane Rita bearing down on their new home.
According to Daum, they were lucky to get where they were went. Aeros assistant coach/assistant general manager Matt Shaw had a block of rooms reserved in Austin. When Shaw called back to confirm, it was "first come, first serve."
"They wouldn’t hold a place for you," Daum said. "At that point in time we didn’t have a place to go."
Shaw, who went with his family to Laredo, got out his massive rolodex and got to work. He called Bill McDonald, head coach of the Austin Ice Bats.
"He was kind enough to let my family stay at his apartment as long as we needed to stay," Daum said. "He had headed back to Thunder Bay to pick up his wife."
Now back in Houston and a day late starting training camp, Daum is eagerly looking forward to starting his first season as a professional coach despite the delay.
"It’s obviously not the ideal circumstance, but it’s one of those things you just have to be as prepared as you can," said Daum, whose team plays the San Antonio Rampage in a pre-season game Saturday at 7 p.m. at Sugar Land Ice & Sports Center. "There’s nothing you can do about what’s happened. You start from square one today and be prepared as you can be."
Just 21 of the 30 players on the Aeros’ training camp roster were able to make it on the ice on day one, which gives some players a chance to make an impression.
"It’s a great opportunity to be a player in this circumstance," Daum said. "You look at the turnover, it’s dramatic. There’s going to be many new faces. I don’t know who those new faces are going to be, but if you’re coming in, you’ve got a legitimate chance to start in the AHL rather than another league under different circumstances."
The Aeros have five players in camp on a tryout - defensemen Darryl McArthur and Chris Cava, and forwards Olivier Proulx, Nicolas Corbeil and Mike James.
Not all of the players are new to Daum, who has spent the last month at both the Minnesota Wild’s rookie camp and then regular training camp.
"It was really important," he said. "It’s important anyways, but you throw (the hurricane) in the mix, and it’s that much more critical. It’s given me some familiarity with some of the players who are here."
Daum has also relied on Shaw, but has been careful to hold back his own opinions until he sees the product on the ice. Both watched the majority of the first-day scrimmage from the bleachers at Sugar Land Ice & Sports Center.
"(Shaw) has been extremely helpful," Daum said. "I’ve relied on him a lot. But at the same time I’m also trying to be open minded as far as making my own assessments of players. You have to do that anyways. Matt’s given me a base to begin, and we’ll take it from there."
It’s a good thing that Daum, who previously coached 10 seasons at the University of Alberta, has experience coaching young players. Twelve Aeros in camp are 22 years or younger, including a pair of exciting teenagers - Peter Olvecky and Roman Voloshenko. Olvecky, who turns 20 October 11, was the Rookie of the Year in the top Slovakian league in 2004-05, playing alongside the Minnesota Wild’s Marian Gaborik. Voloshenko, 19 (5/12/86), was Minnesota’s second-round pick (No. 42 overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.
"It’s going to be a challenge for everybody," Daum said. "I don’t think you can understate that. There are lots of hurdles to overcome on the ice and off the ice. There are a lot of changes for these players."
One of the ways the Wild and Aeros organization is trying to help the cause is by having a translator in town for both Olvecky and 21-year-old goalie Miroslav Kopriva. He will be in town as long as the players feel they need him.
The Aeros will spend much of their first four days of camp scrimmaging, and they are on the ice twice a day both Wednesday and Thursday. Those days, Daum and Shaw will spend the majority of the morning teaching, then they’ll ask the players to show what they’ve learned in the afternoon session.
"We’re going to scrimmage," Daum said. "Because of the shortage of time we have, personally the best time we have is in the scrimmage situation. We can get them to show what they can do in game situations. We’ll adjust as time goes on. We don’t have that many players, so we’ll try to keep scrimmages relatively short, so we don’t have guys run out of gas. They’ll be able to play at a high level."
The Aeros split into green and white teams for their 75-minute scrimmage Tuesday. Team Green was comprised of goalies Josh Harding and Seamus Kotyk, defensemen Colin Peters, Aaron Schneekloth, Kurtis Foster and Erik Reitz, and forwards Mark Rooneem, Bryan Lundbohm, Kirby Law, Peter Olvecky, Olivier Proulx and Josh Olson.
Team White had goalie Miroslav Kopriva, defensemen Curtis Murphy, Chris Cava, Darryl McArthur and Joey Tetarenko and forwards Bill Kinkel, Erik Westrum, Roman Voloshenko, Derek Campbell, Adam Courchaine and Matt Foy.
Kirby Law whipped fans into a frenzy when he faked Seamus Kotyk to the ground on a breakaway and lifted the puck over the sprawled netminder. Law ended the scrimmage with no fewer than four goals.
Watch out below!
The first unofficial camp casualty came Tuesday morning just before the Aeros took to the ice.
With Curtis Murphy doing an interview with a local television station, a puck somehow eluded the netting behind the goal. The puck clanked off Murphy’s helmet, right at the forehead of Mike James, who spent last season in the ECHL with Johnstown and Toledo.
Said James: "It’s a great way to start."
Aeros general manager Tom Lynn is in town. Tune into www.aeros.com to see what he has to say about some new rules in the American Hockey League, and his team’s goalie situation. That’s Wednesday on www.aeros.com.
Houston Aeros Training Camp Schedule
Wednesday, 9/28 - 10-11:15 a.m., 2-3:15 p.m. (scrimmage)
Thursday, 9/29 - 10-11:15 a.m., 2-3:15 p.m. (scrimmage)
Friday, 9/30 - 10-11:30 a.m.
Saturday, 10/1 - 10-11 a.m. pre-game skate; 7 p.m. vs. San Antonio Rampage (pre-season) at Sugar Land Ice & Sports Center (Ticket information)
Sunday, 10/2 - 5 p.m., at San Antonio Rampage (pre-season) at the Ice Center at Northwoods