Odd Man Rush is bringing the draft, but it is not what you might think. With two divisions, a 20 man roster, and eight teams, this draft is melting down preconceived notions of “Beer League.”
Honed to a sharp edge by notorious ‘ice man’, Reid McDonald and his partner on the sheet, Steve Glines, the Eagle River Hockey League (ERHL) promises to be unlike any league for adult players this town has ever seen.
Coming back to the ice will be AAA and AA division players alike. I’m talking about some of our old favorites. Names like Brian Swanson, Ross Johnson, Geep Baranow and Billy Bagron will be upping the ante and bringing the competition back to cow bell ringing roars. The deafening silence left behind by the ACES will be filled by cheering fans once more.
The real focus for this new league is on maintaining elite level development for players. Having two divisions allows room for growth for those in the AA level, and even the advanced levels will be pushed to sharpen their skills as the league provides the services of Guest Coaches. The aim of which is to bring professional training through specialized clinics to hone these skills. Player support is emphasized throughout training.
According to McDonald, a pre-draft camp will be held on September 7th and 8th for the upper level. It will be limited to 40 players and run by Coach Paul Brauneis, who may, or may not, throw a glove, to help prospective players identify strengths and build existing skills prior to the draft. Individual sign up will be held for all interested players. Players will be rated prior to the draft where they will be signed, and, in keeping with the lighter side, each player is hosted, or perhaps roasted, with an event signing.
I caught up with McDonald and Glines while they were brewing up enthusiasm for ERHL at Odd Man Rush. They explained just how different this is from what’s happening in Anchorage, where players hoping to achieve a higher professional level often resort to just plain bad sportsmanship. Not here, says McDonald, stressing the quality of the game is maintained by good sportsmanship combined with a full dose of humor.
“The thing with this league is that it’s fun, and we can make fun of ourselves. Those guys want to fight you; they want to stick you, cross check you. We’re not putting up with any of that. We’re going to force our guys to play real hockey. We’re going to make hockey fun again.”
Glines emphasizes how this kind of league can only work in a supportive community like Eagle River. ERHL has garnered a great deal of local interest already. Currently, six of eight teams have been sponsored, ensuring a competitive and exciting match up for the draft choices.
The draft event is scheduled for September 23, at OMR and is open to the public. Holding a real draft ensures the teams will be balanced and sponsors will get to participate in the formation of their teams.
Sponsors are important to this league, they will help keep the cost to players manageable, provide jerseys and extras like trophies for the players.
Justin Martinthe was recently picked up by Shine’s.
“It kinda makes your dream come true. You always end up playing in an adult league; this makes it competitive. And, it gives us new places to meet up with our friends, family, and fans.”
AAA league team sponsors include Pizza Man, Garcia’s Cantina, The Homestead Lounge, and Jalapeños. AA league team sponsors are Shine’s Fusion Bistro and Cubs Painting. Confirmed tailgate sponsors are Dr. Jeffrey Moore, TrustWorthy Hardware, Totem Equipment, EP Roofing, Inc., and Chris Moore/Partners Real Estate.
Reid recognizes the importance of family. His father, Coach Mac, helped lace up the boots of many of our local hockey players and fans.
“We have eight different sets of brothers playing as well as one father and son combo. It’s pretty cool.”
Pretty cool is right.
The league believes supporting and strengthening the bonds of our community. ERHL will be providing a Mustang Hockey League scholarship to an aspiring young player each season.
Every time McDonald and Glines come together, “One idea just spawns another and another.”
One of those great ideas is to have protected front-row seating for residents of the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center. The season begins in October. Visit www.eagleriverhockeyleague.com for information and schedules.