Kevin Gray's Gray Matter: No lockout here in Manchester
Team president Darren Abbott, beaming at the sight of new logos, perfect ice and clean dasher boards, is expecting the biggest opening-weekend crowds in his three years at the helm. If the Monarchs have a true rival in the American Hockey League, it's the Providence Bruins, whose parent club isn't playing hockey right now.
Need your hockey fix, Bruins fans? Grab a foam paw at the Big V and say hello to Max the mascot — is that a new mane? — on the way to your seat. More than 7,000 fans will be at tonight's game against the Bruins, and another 6,000-plus are expected for Saturday night's game against the Portland Pirates. The puck drops at 7 p.m. for both games.
As the NHL lockout drags on — with no sign of the work stoppage ending any time soon — three members of the Stanley Cup-winning L.A. Kings took the ice at Manchester's practice: Jordan Nolan, Slava Voynov and Andrei Loktionov. In addition, Marc-Andre Cliche, Jake Muzzin and goalie Martin Jones all practiced with the Kings throughout L.A.'s postseason run. Loktionov was a game or two shy of having his name inscribed on Lord Stanley's Cup.
';From a hockey perspective, the level of play is as good as we've ever seen in the building,'; Abbott said. ';The intensity is going to be there.';
Kings president and general manager Dean Lombardi has spent much of October watching red-hot Manchester. The NHL-flavored Monarchs won their first three preseason games, and then posted road wins at Providence and Albany. The P-Bruins, featuring right wing Jordan Caron — who played 48 games and scored seven goals for the Boston Bruins last season — are looking for their first win.
';We always draw a lot of Bruins fans. It's a fun rivalry,'; Abbott said. ';Our Monarchs fans love the (Boston) Bruins, but when it comes to the American Hockey League, they are loyal Monarchs fans.';
Monarchs coach Mark Morris, entering his seventh season, can expect player development and winning to go hand-in-hand this fall. The Kings' success has trickled down to the Monarchs.
';When you have NHL players rubbing elbows with our current players, it adds a lot of credence to the process of development,'; Morris said. ';For some guys, it takes a little longer to have success. You've got to stick to the process and build on small components of your game because things don't happen overnight.';
Morris constantly tells his players to trust their work. Stick to the process. Don't worry about the future. Veterans such as tough-guy Richard Clune, who also played with the Kings last season, have been preaching the same message.
It's a minor-league approach to development that leads to major-league results.
';You need long-term goals, but, realistically, the best way for any successful venture I've found is to just live in the moment. Don't get too far ahead of yourself,'; Morris said. ';Today's youth often looks for instant gratification. That's the nature of society.';
The message for tonight? Seize the moment.
';Sometimes we need to remind our guys that opportunity is like the aperture in a camera. It opens quickly and closes quickly,'; Morris said.
It's here. It's a great night for hockey. It's going to rain.
And the Monarchs are the only show in town.
Staff writer Kevin Gray's email address is email@example.com.