Some of you may dismiss the American Hockey League and the Calder Cup Playoffs as small and insignificant compared to the Stanley Cup. That’s fine. That’s your call. But for many people, especially those who live in AHL cities (or other minor league locales), it’s a big deal. Actually, it can be a very big deal.
Just ask Binghamton, New York, home of the AHL’s Binghamton Senators. It took 29 seasons in the American Hockey League for the city to earn its first league title. Over those years they’ve been affiliated with teams like the Hartford Whalers, New York Rangers, and now Ottawa Senators. And yet, it took until a miracle run this season for them to win the big prize. It’s not the Stanley Cup, but you have to admit it’s pretty damn cool.
I’m happy for them.
But more than that, I’m really excited for the future.
For me, that moment was when I watched goaltender Robin Lehner be handed the award for being the playoff MVP. See, as a lifelong Ottawa Senators fan, watching one of our players have any modicum of playoff success is a strange sight. What’s stranger is seeing one of our goalies be rewarded for such success. Having lived through nearly two decades of goaltenders arriving in the city only to have their careers die, watching Robin Lehner is the strangest of strange.
It’s not just Lehner, though. It’s a guy like Zack Smith finding some offensive magic (while still taking dumb penalties). It’s seeing Bobby Butler finally getting his scoring ability going in the NHL before coming back down to do the same thing all over again on the farm. It’s Jared Cowen, fresh out of junior and putting up major minutes while proving detractors wrong.
It’s seeing a glimpse of a possible exciting future after a miserable season in the doldrums.
It brought back the fun.
I’m excited again. For Robin Lehner, Bobby Butler, and Jared Cowen. For David Rundblad, coming over from Sweden. For someone else whose name will be called in a few short weeks at the NHL Draft.
If these kids can come together like they did on their way to winning the Calder Cup, well, maybe the future is brighter than I thought.
Thanks, Binghamton. Congratulations. Let’s do this again next year.
Note: This article was originally posted on The Classic Blog. Yep, I'm shameless.