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Pete's View - December 2010 - January 2011

Pete Michaud is The Voice of the Admirals. He bring 19 seasons of experience with the team to the airwaves in 2010-11. He has been the team's play-by-play broadcaster for each of the past 12 seasons. In addition to his work with the Admirals, Michaud also calls Norfolk Tides AAA baseball games.

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January 28, 2011 – Well, it's nice to be home. I mean…REALLY nice to be home. The club returned last night from a tough road trip, dropping three of four games along the way. The games themselves, while not exactly a joyous time, were just the tip of the iceberg. Even the sub-zero temperatures through much of the trip won't be my lasting memory of the trek. No, the team bus…or should I say 'buses'…played the biggest starring role in the most recent adventure.

The first bad omen came when we arrived in Portland, Maine a few days ago. The temperatures dropped to –15 degrees, and the fuel and fuel lines all froze up and the bus was dead. A second bus has to come all the way from Norfolk to get us in Portland as the first bus is towed away for repairs. The first bus would later meet us in Manchester, New Hampshire. We board our backup bus and depart Portland Tuesday night. Somewhere between Portland and Manchester, New Hampshire, one of the rear panels on the replacement bus that covers part of the engine was knocked off or fell off along the way. So we're driving along with some part of the engine exposed to the elements (see the photo at right). Anyway, we play the game in Manchester Wednesday night, losing, 4-2.

The original bus is repaired and is waiting for us in Manchester. With all the players and staff on the replacement bus and the original bus following, we leave Manchester at 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday night. For reasons that I never got, we all ride on a single bus, rather than splitting up between the two buses and having some extra room. However, that would be the least of our issues. We settle in for what we expect to be about an 11-hour ride to Norfolk. If you don't know, because of the length of our travel, the Admirals usually do not ride on a standard coach bus, but, instead, use a sleeper bus with bunks.

A sleeper bus has fewer windows. The windows it has usually are covered by shades, and a drawn curtain separates the driver from the rest of us. The point I'm making is this…we usually don't see what it's like outside as we ride. A few hours down the road, in northern Connecticut, the bus starts to slow as we are overwhelmed by the strong smell of burning rubber and smoke coming into the bus. As we push aside the curtain to notify the driver, we see almost a total whiteout in front of us…a hard, heavy snow is coming down, you can't really see the road and visibility is down to about the range of the headlights. With the bus moving, the picture I've attached isn't great, and it doesn't do justice to the bad conditions, but it's the best shot I could get.

So it seems we are right in the middle of a major snowstorm…one that eventually dumps 15-20 inches of snow on much of the area we were driving through. We couldn't see what was happening until it was too late. Needless to say, this was a bit scary to me, although the players seemed to take it in great stride. The burning rubber smell and smoke are from the tires spinning as we try to make our way up a hillside. Our hope is to make it to Hartford, about 20 miles away, where we hope the roads would be better and we could get to a hotel, but it quickly becomes evident that plan has no chance of success.

We continue to plod along, barely able to see, passing other cars and trucks already stuck in snow banks, and at one point pulling a NASCAR-like move to dash between a couple of other vehicles fighting the same fight as us. Frankly, I'm glad I couldn't see that, but it drew quite a roar from the guys at the front of the bus. We continue spinning our wheels and smoking up the inside of the bus like a barbeque hut each time we reach the slightest slope. Our luck eventually runs out and we finally get stuck in the snow and ice, right in the middle of the interstate at about 3:00 a.m. about 20 miles from Hartford in the black of night. It's snowing so hard you couldn't tell where the road was and you could only see about 20 feet in front of you. At one point, many of the players get off the bus to help a woman push her car through the snow. The woman tells the players someone is coming to get her. We didn't want to burst her bubble, but nobody was getting out in that weather to help her unless they were in tank or driving Gravedigger, the monster truck!

All we can do now is just sit and wait out the storm, like many other stranded cars and trucks around us. Most of the guys try to sleep while we wait. We're then awakened about 4:30 a.m. when the bus is partially sideswiped by a snow plow, which dislodges a part of the front bumper of the bus. Our equipment guy, J.W. Aiken, better known as 'Dubsy,' adds some levity to the moment when, in true 'Slap Shot' fashion, explains that 'We're makin' it look mean!'

The state road crews eventually show up about 6:30 a.m., banging on the bus door, telling us "This isn't a campground," as if we were sitting in the middle of the interstate by choice. They have plowed the heaviest snow in front of us and want us to move the bus. They say vehicles are backed up for miles behind us. After ten or 15 minutes of some plowing, road salting along the tires, more wheel spinning and inhaling of burning tire smoke, we finally get the bus freed. The other bus would require a tow truck to pull it from the ditch and need another 45 minutes to get back on the road.

It's almost 7:00 a.m. now. The roads are still quite treacherous, but they are at least drivable at a conservative speed. It still takes us over three hours to reach Stamford, Connecticut, where we get breakfast at a truck stop and wait for the other bus to meet us there. I've attached a photo from that point, where you can see what it was like AFTER the plows had partially cleared the roads and things were MUCH better. The snow was piled up six feet high in many areas.

It seems we're through the worst of it. At this point, we're told the generator on the replacement bus is burning out and that bus might break down, so we transfer everything back to the original bus for the remainder of the ride and hit the road. By noon, we were 14 hours into the trek and had just reached the area near New York City.

We move along without incident for a few hours to meet our replacement driver in Dover, Delaware. Both of our drivers had met their legal limit of driving hours for a day, so they could go no further. The problem...we get one replacement driver and we have two buses! So, the original bus with the players and staff can go back to Norfolk, but the replacement bus has to stay in Dover…and that bus has our trailer, which holds all of player's gear and equipment. We needed the gear, because the team was supposed to practice this morning. Unfortunately, we can't switch the trailer back to the original bus because it no longer has its hitch attached. Our other option was to switch everyone to the replacement bus with the trailer and drive that bus back to Norfolk. However, the generator on that bus had either died or was on life support, so we'd be on a bus with no inside power, no lights and no heat. We make the call to stay on the original bus and leave the trailer, hoping it would show up at Scope this morning.

We finally get back to Norfolk at 7:00 p.m. last night. The entire adventure took 21 hours! I hope I never have to do it again. On the bright side, while it was a worrisome trip and both physically and emotionally exhausting, no one was hurt. So, it could have been worse. But it's great to be home. Let's hope the guys show their appreciation and a strong effort with a weekend win over Springfield. I'll see you on the radio shortly. Until then...

January 25, 2011 - We're in frosty Portland, Maine today. It has been incredibly cold here the past two days. The overnight lows the past two nights have been around -10! Yesterday, even in bright sunshine, it was four degrees when I walked over to the rink at noon. Even the people who live here are complaining about the cold. The Admirals match up with the streaking Pirates tonight. It's a 6:30 p.m. game, so make a note of the early start time. It's off to Manchester to wrap up the road trip tomorrow.

Vladimir Mihalik/Photo by John WrightIn my last blog entry, I filled you in on all the player's nicknames. I rarely get any feedback from the guys about my blog, but I heard from several guys about that one. Why? Well, I said that Vladimir Mihalik didn't have a nickname. Well, it is true that Vlady doesn't have the traditional 'hockey' nickname, one made from a person's last name, like Jonesy, Pouls or Forny. The guys tell me that while Mihalik doesn't have the 'standard' hockey nickname, he does have several nicknames…maybe more than anyone on the entire team, in fact. While I don't have all of them yet, I do know the guys sometimes call him "Big V" and "Avatar." I stand corrected!

In Saturday's game at Syracuse, Mark Barberio left the game with a right arm injury. I guessed on the air that Mark had been cut by a skate blade, and I was right. Amazingly, Barbs had the wound stitched up and, while I'm sure it was quite painful, returned to the game at the beginning of the next period. Thankfully, no tendons or veins were cut. That would have been far more serious.

Mike Smith/Photo by Michael FolsomWe expect to see Mike Smith in goal for a second straight conditioning outing for the Admirals tonight. Mike tells me he expects to go back to Tampa after tonight's contest to enjoy the NHL All-Star break. Whether he returns to Norfolk after the NHL break remains to be seen. I'll be chatting with Mike for an interview in the 1st intermission tonight. The, in the 2nd intermission, I'll present some of the best parts of a recent interview with Hall of Fame broadcaster Mike Emrick. 'Doc' worked here in Portland during his AHL days, so I thought it would be appropriate to use that interview tonight. He was a recent guest of ours on the Admirals Hour.

Well, that does it for this time. If we don't all freeze, we'll see you at Scope when the Admirals get home on Friday versus Springfield.

January 20, 2011 - Hello from Binghamton, New York. The Admirals departed last night and midnight and made the eight-hour trek through the night to the Southern Tier, where they play tomorrow night against the Binghamton Senators. It’s the start of a four-game road swing for the Admirals over the next six days.

Whatever post-Christmas slump the team may have been in has seemingly vanished thanks to a four-game winning streak. The only worries for the club at the moment are injuries, with five players currently out of the lineup with ailments, including G Cedric Desjardins and D Marc-Andre Bergeron. F Pierre-Cedric Labrie, D Mathieu Roy and F Mitch Fritz have also been out with injuries.

All in all, we can’t complain, however, about what has been a fine season so far. As we move into the second half of the campaign, I think those of you who follow the team on a regular basis have come to know the guys as hockey players. To REALLY know the guys, however…like an Admirals ‘insider’…you have to know their names. No, not their real names, but their hockey names. I’ve been in this game about 20 years, and if I’ve learned one thing, it is this…Almost no one goes by their real name in this sport.

Thankfully, most hockey nicknames are easy to figure out…just add an ‘s’ or a ‘y’ or an ‘er’ to a player’s last name or part of his name. For example, our Captain, Chris Durno, is known as ‘Durns.’ Some, however, are a bit more difficult to figure out, like Paul Szczechura, who goes by ‘Chewy.’ I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect it began as ‘Shuey,’ which sounds like his real name (pronounced ‘shuh-her-uh’) but is kind of tough to say, and somehow morphed into ‘Chewy.’ And then there is Vladimir Mihalik, the one guy on the team in three years who hasn’t had a nickname. Poor guy! We just call him ‘Vlady.’ So you can talk about our players like you’re really part of the organization, here are all of the nicknames of the Admirals players and staff members:

4 Kevin Quick – ‘Quicker’
7 Mike Vernace – ‘Vern’
8 Mark Barberio – ‘Barbs’
9 Blair Jones – ‘Jonesy’
10 Mike Angelidis – ‘Ange’ or ‘Angie’
11 Stefano Giliati – ‘Gilly’ (Say it with a ‘J’ sound, like ‘Jilly’)
12 Paul Szczechura – ‘Chewy’
16 James Wright – ‘Wrighter’
17 Levi Nelson - ‘Nelly,’ ‘Strauss’ or ‘Strausser’ (As in Levi Strauss, the blue jeans maker)
20 Pierre-Cedric Labrie – ‘P.C.’ or ‘Labs’ (His mom calls him ‘Pete’)
22 Scott Jackson – ‘Jacks’ or ‘Jacko’
23 Radko Gudas – ‘Guds’ (Rhymes with ‘Foods’) or ‘Gudy’ (Sounds like ‘Goo-dee’)
24 Tim Marks – ‘Marksy’
25 Chris Durno – ‘Durns’
27 Alex Berry – ‘Bear’ or ‘Bear Cat’
28 Mathieu Roy – ‘Roysy’ (Sounds like ‘Wah-zee’)
29 Mitch Fritz – ‘Fritzsy’
30 Cedric Desjardins – ‘Ceddy’ (Rhymes with ‘Eddie’)
32 Jaroslav Janus – ‘J.J.’ or ‘Jans’ (Pronounced like ‘Yawns’)
33 Troy Milam – ‘Miles’
34 Dustin Tokarski – ‘Tic’ or ‘Ticker’
39 Matt Fornataro – ‘Forny’
44 Vladimir Mihalik – ‘Vlady’
78 Mac-Antoine Pouliot – ‘Pouls’ (Sounds like ‘Pools’)
90 Johan Harju – ‘Harj’ (Rhymes with ‘Large’) or ‘Harjee’
Head Coach Jon Cooper – ‘Coop’
Assistant Coach Mike Flanagan – ‘Flags’
Video Coach Brian Garlock – ‘Gar’
Trainer Brad Chavis – ‘Chavy” (Rhymes with ‘Savvy’)
Equipment Manager J.W. Aiken – ‘Dubsy’ or ‘Dubs’ (Kind of a take on the letter ‘W’)
Broadcaster Pete Michaud – ‘Pistol’ or ‘Meesh’ (A take on my name if you said it the French way)

Most of you can probably figure out your own hockey nickname. If your last name is Miller, you’d be ‘Millsy.’ If your last name were ‘Smith,’ you’d be called ‘Smitty.’ They’re not all that easy, but you get the idea.

Well, that’s it for now. Sorry for the delay between blog segments. I’ll try to do better. It’s always easier to work on the blog on road trips, when I have a bit more free time and am around the players more. Until next time, take care.

Dec 28, 2010 - Hi again. I hope everyone had a nice holiday. Now, it's time to get back into focusing on some serious hockey. The Admirals are doing just that, kicking off a run of five games in eight days with their loss in Hershey on Sunday. I was impressed with Hershey's play. They are one of few teams this year to shut down the Admirals' high-powered offense.

The Bears posed just one of a series of challenges for us on Sunday. The biggest problem was getting home after the game, considering the weather and the snowstorm that rolled through much of the East Coast on Saturday night and Sunday. Amazingly, we didn't see a flake of snow while we were actually in Hershey, and most of the drive home was a breeze. We didn't really run into much snow until we got close to Norfolk. The first challenge was getting the bus into Scope. The loading dock at Scope has a steep, narrow, sloping entrance that was covered in a few feet of ice and snow. We stopped the bus on Brambleton Avenue just outside of Scope after getting back from Hershey, pondering our odds of getting the bus down the slope without sliding into the concrete sidewalls on each side of the entrance ramp. My fear was that we'd slide down the ramp into the sidewalls and get stuck, unable to open the bus door to get out. Thankfully, the bus driver was able to get us down the ramp successfully and into the building.

The drive home was a slow, tedious process, but everyone got home without incident, as far as I know. I made it home to Chesapeake, with just one close call on the way. The interstate wasn't too bad. I had to plow through a mound of snow to get on the exit ramp, but I made it through. I got all the way home and began to pull into my drive when my car got stuck in the snow…half in the drive and half stuck out in the street. I'm standing there thinking to myself…I've come all the way from Hershey, get ten steps from my front door and NOW I get stuck?! So, I'm out in my drive at 3:30 a.m. trying to dig my car out of the snow. It took me about 40 minutes of digging to move my car just enough to get it off the actual road. So much for the glamorous hockey life!

I'm sure those of you who live in areas where big snow storms are the norm are probable laughing at our 'misery,' but this part of the country just isn't equipped for this kind of weather. Well, that's it for now. Have a good 'New Year' and I'll be back in touch shortly. See you at Scope tonight and Thursday night for our games against Charlotte.

Dec 3, 2010 – After a few days off from game action, the Admirals cotinue their six-game road trip tonight here in Manchester, New Hampshire, against the best team in the Atlantic Division, the Manchester Monarchs. This is day nine of an 11-day trip. With a 9-4-2 road record, the Admirals are the league's second-best team right now away from home. Blair Jones is back from another recall to Tampa Bay, and Vladimir Mihalik has returned to practice and seems ready to play once again.

The guys have practiced here at the Verizon Wireless Arena the past two days. Yesterday's practice was a lot of fun. Once or twice a week, the players will finish practice with a shootout competition. Each player takes a shot, with those converting advancing to the next round while those that fail are out of the game.

What makes it interesting is that in each competition, one player is designated for a chance to win some sort of prize from his teammates. The 'designated' player is determined by going numerically down the roster from the smallest numbers and moving up. Kevin Quick, #4, had the first chance to win. #6 Ty Wishart had a shot for the prize the next time they played, and so on. A player can ONLY win the prize if he wins the shootout game on 'his' day. No one had come close to winning the contest on 'their' day this year.

Yesterday, it was #16 James Wright's turn. 'Wrighter' was on his game and made it to the finals against Ty Wishart. The two went through SIX rounds of a shootout without a winner as the tension continued to build. Then, in the 7th round, Wishart decided to try to full slap shot and scored on Cedric Desjardins. Here's a shot of Cedric moments after surrendering the critical goal. Wright, needing to score to tie the game and force another round, was denied by Dustin Tokarski, giving Wishart the win. The players erupted with cheers, knowing the prize would wait until another day. #20 Pierre-Cedric Labrie gets the chance to claim the prize in the next shootout contest.

Speaking of shootouts, the AHL has implemented a change in the shootout rules. In the past, coaches had to submit their five shooters and the order in which they would shoot before the shootout began. As of today, however, coaches can now decide who to use and when to use them as the shootout goes along. I'm not sure why the league would make a change in the midst of the season, but I'm all for it. I've been suggesting this change ever since the AHL went to the shootout years ago. It brings a lot more coaching strategy into the shootout. This is how it was done in the ECHL when the Admirals were in that league. Our Head Coach, Jon Cooper, told me earlier this season that he also prefers the option of selecting his shooters as the shootout goes along.

Well, that's it for now. We're off to Portland, Maine, after tonight's game and then off to Springfield, Massachusetts, after that for a Sunday afternoon game. Things will get pretty busy, so I'm not sure if I'll be able to write anymore before the weekend ends. I'll check back in sometime soon, however. Until next time …

Dec 1, 2010 – Hello from the road! Today, we are in … uh … let’s see … oh, yes, Manchester, New Hampshire. It can get a bit confusing when you’re seemingly in a new city almost every day. This is day seven of an 11-day trip for the Admirals. The team plays here Friday against the Manchester Monarchs, one of the hottest teams in the AHL right now. It’s nice to be in a town with a few places to eat. In fact, Manchester is great for that. You can walk just five or six minutes from the hotel and actually pass 20 good places. It’s also nice to be back in a hotel that doesn’t charge $15 a day just to use the internet like the one we stayed in outside of Bridgeport! And the hotel here is just a two-block walk to the rink, which is always a plus.

The team arrived here in Manchester yesterday afternoon. They stayed in Bridgeport after the Sunday game there and the guys had all day Monday off. Many of the guys actually took the train from Bridgeport into New York City Monday. The team had practice in Bridgeport yesterday and then made the drive, about four hours, from the Connecticut coast to Manchester. By the way, Vladimir Mihalik did skate with the team yesterday. Vlady has been out a few weeks with an injury, but he told me he’s hoping to play at some point this weekend.

The Admirals are 2-1-0-0 on the trip so far after dropping a 3-0 decision Sunday in Bridgeport. The guys played hard Sunday but just couldn’t get anything going. That building always seems tough to get excited in – there doesn’t seem to be much energy in that place for some reason. One of the unique aspects of the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport is that there is no scoreboard hanging over the ice. Check out the above picture I took on the way out of the arena Sunday. There was a men’s league game going on after the Admirals and Sound Tigers finished up. There is a small, basic scoreboard (no video) attached to the upper level façade on each side of the arena, but nothing over the ice. In fact, from my vantage point in the press box, the overhang of the upper level blocks my view of the scoreboard on the opposite side of the rink. I have to lean down to see under the overhang for a view of the scoreboard.

The Admirals kicked off this trip with a Friday win in Adirondack and followed it up with a Saturday victory in Springfield. I mentioned on the air Saturday that the visitor’s broadcast booth in the MassMutual Center has a large, framed photo of Mitch Fritz hanging on the wall right behind where I broadcast. Mitch was a very popular player when he played for the Falcons a few years ago. It was a bit tough to find an angle without too much glare, but I did my best to get a decent shot (at left) of Fritz’s picture. It’s a great shot.

Well, it’s back to the grind. They guys are practicing at 1:00 p.m. both today and tomorrow here in Manchester. I’ll check back in a few days. Until then …

View October and November 2010's editions of Pete's View

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