Color Me Kisker: Saying Goodbye is Hard

Wednesday, 05.14.14 / 11:55 AM
By admin

I’m from Buffalo, New York…home of the Buffalo Bills who went to four straight Super Bowls and lost every single one of them, and don’t forget the now laughable Buffalo Sabres who can’t even win a first round pick in a lottery despite having the best chance…

I’m used to losing.

That doesn’t mean I accept it well, which is why it took me a few days to post my final thoughts onto my blog. Monday mornings, when I first sit at my desk, I get so amped and excited to figure out what I’ll be posting on Facebook or Twitter and see what kind of reaction it gets…but this past Monday, I sat and stared ahead at an empty screen not knowing what to say.

Which is why I took a few days to make sure the words come out correctly. As I like to consider myself a hockey player, though not nearly as good as the guys in the room, many of us carry our emotions on our sleeves. The same rings true for me, and after a loss you feel disappointment, frustration, anger, sadness, and even if you’re not in the dressing room, you still feel it.

That night when we fell at home, I came into Coach Kromm’s office and we both just sat there. Every once in a while Coach would say something about why or how we lost and I’d listen. You could sense his frustration as our team was in the position to beat Bakersfield in three of those second round games but Condors comebacks in Game 1, 4 and then 5 sealed the Thunders playoff exit.

At the same time, I could sense the sadness in myself. As Coach and I sat in his office in silence, I couldn’t help but get emotional. This was a great team we had this year, and we had a great shot to win it all, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Even if you remember that every team but one loses in the end, and odds are heavily in favor of your team losing, it doesn’t make it easy to accept, and doesn’t make it easy to move on.

Was it a successful season? From the standpoint of did you accomplish your goal of winning the Kelly Cup…no, but from a standpoint of did Coach Kromm and his squad play hard, night in and night out, in spite of the hockey gods issuing the team multiple injured players? To me the answer is a clear cut and emphatic yes.

Speaking of injuries I couldn’t help but find the similarities to the year after the first NHL lockout when the Sabres were the hottest team in the league with guys like Danny Briere, Chris Drury, Brian Campbell, Jason Pominville, Ryan Miller, etc… They took down the Flyers in the first round of the playoffs, then did something they couldn’t do all season in beating the Ottawa Senators setting up a date with the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals.

You could tell by the way they played that they really wanted it but there was one thing keeping the team grounded, and that was injuries. First it was Tim Connolly who went down (11 points in 8 games), then defenseman Dmitri Kalinin, then a few more defenseman in Teppo Numminen, Henrik Tallinder and finally Jay McKee (the most important defenseman).

The Sabres, who looked to be making their best run to the Stanley Cup were derailed by serious injuries to big time players, losing their top four defenseman and important offensive player like Connolly. In the end the team was relying on Rory Fitzpatrick, Doug Janik, Jeff Jillson and Nathan Paetsch on the blueline, who were all American League defensemen playing in the most prestigious and important hockey tournament of their lives.



While all of them elevated their game, it wasn’t enough to take down the Hurricanes in Game 7 as momentum shifted in Carolina’s favor after Campbell’s Delay of Game penalty and would eventually win the game, the series, and the Cup.

This year for the Stockton Thunder was just like that in my mind. We lost Andrey Pedan, Sean Escobedo, Lee Baldwin, Jeremy Langlois, and Garet Hunt all to injuries in the playoffs.

As reported by The Stockton Record, Hunt did have a fractured sternum but the whereabouts confused… fans, broadcasters, and even the Coach, who wondered where Hunt was on the bench.

If Garet is hurt, he’s hurt, because this guy is a warrior that will battle through everything. The injury came as a freak accident so to speak as Hunt tagged up while the Thunder were offsides, charged behind the net and hit a Bakersfield defenseman. The player braced himself for impact and caught our captain at the right place and right time to cause serious damage.

While chatting with him yesterday, he still is in some discomfort, and he made me feel his chest and it was gross…a bump in the middle of his chest that’s bone…awful.

It may hurt when he laughs (no “Moose” impressions for me around Huntsy), when he breathes, but seeing him walk around, and to me the most important thing, seeing him in the locker room after Game 5 was huge.

Speaking of the dressing room, after sitting in Coach’s office I then moved out of the office and into the room. You could see the kind of character these guys had just by looking at their faces. They were devastated that they couldn’t win for you, for their coach, and for themselves.

I walked around the room and shook everyone’s hand and looked at them in the face. No words needed to be spoken, but I respected everyone in the room and by shaking their hand, I hope they felt that respect.

Some guys would say “thanks”, some would say “tough one”, and some didn’t say anything at all. Singling a couple guys out, the reaction I got from Scott Langdon and Marc Cantin will forever be memorable to me; both extremely competitive, both hating to lose, and both guys leaving everything on the ice.

Of course when I wrapped around the room I didn’t see Hunt sitting opposite of his normal stall nearest the goaltenders but seeing him there should reassure everyone where his priorities lie. He may be disliked (although I really think feared) throughout the Western Conference but I’d venture a guess that no other captain would be at the rink sharing a tough loss with his team after fracturing his sternum.

I asked him how he was feeling, he said good, and I moved on, preferring to give him his space and his time with the teammates he’d battled next to through a long, hard season.

So when it’s all said and done and we watch the Kelly Cup Playoffs continue from home instead of participating in them, I’m so proud of the guys in that room and how much I respected their efforts against a very good Bakersfield team.

Speaking of which, I have them over Alaska in six games. I always root for the team that beats my team (provided I don’t despise them like the Flyers or the Maple Leafs) because it provides me comfort that my team lost to the eventual champion. I understand if fellow Thunder fans disagree with me because of the rivalry, but I’m sticking with my gut from earlier this season, the Condors are a good team, made even better by Laurent Brossoit who has NHL written all over him.

I will try to post more notes in the upcoming days regarding the season but this point it seems like a good stopping point.

However I cannot express enough of my sincerest thanks to you fans. You all gave Caleb and I a shot by welcoming us into your ears and hopefully by seasons end you enjoyed the coverage! I’ve gotten to know some of you, either in person, or over social media, and despite a rocky start, many of you were always behind us.

The feedback you’ve provided I’ve really taken to heart as I always look to make Stockton proud. We have a great team, and a great city, and despite such negativity by bad apples or cities that have the same problems as we do (looking down the 99), I am super proud to call Stockton my home and to call you all friends. I urge you to keep in touch with me over the summer on Facebook and Twitter and let me know what you’d like to see for next year, especially since it’s our 10th anniversary season and I’ve only been here for one.

Thank you all for your feedback, both positive and negative (I really do listen to it and I really do try my best to make sure everyone’s concerns are taken into account) but most importantly thank you for your friendship. It’s difficult moving cross country, with no family, and no friends, except of course my lady Rachel whom many of you have met through the course of this season, but playing some puck with you, having a drink, sharing a Stockton Sendoff, or watching an away game together has been an enjoyable experience for me this season and I hope to continue it in the future! I’ll be around if you need anything this summer!

Suggestions for next year, or have a cool idea, email it to me bkisker@stocktonthunder.com.