So by now you've read the post on Mitch Love in the mothership. But I had a lot of left over material, so I thought I would write some more over here.
What I didn't write for the mothership -- damn space limitations -- is that I consider Mitch Love to be one of the biggest subtractions from last year's team. The work of Kolanos and Locke, etc., wouldn't have been possible without Love around to protect them. And the Aeros didn't want him to leave, but Kevin Constantine told T3I on Sunday that he and Love talked about the move to Peoria, and it was an offer that Love just couldn't pass up.
And speaking of Constantine, one of the thing that struck me after talking with Love was how much he likes and respects Constantine. “I’ve been fortunate enough to play for Kevin in junior and pro,” Love said. “I owe him a lot for what he’s done in my career.”
But not only that, he credits Constantine and his system, for the team’s playoff run last year because every guy on the team bought into Constantine’s system. And he credits his play on the ice last year and his ability to play his role on the team because of the trusting relationship he’d built up with Constantine.
“I think it's important finding that trust relationship with a coach,” he said. “Especially in the role I play. I wasn't out there to score to many goals but had to try and allow the guys who did score to do their job every night and that's something I take pride in. Having the respect of your teammates and coaches is as important as anything in the game.”
That reminds me of various things Constantine said to us last year. The fourth line was generally Mitch Love, Jason Ryznar, and Matt Kassian. It wasn’t a glamorous line, and it wasn’t a line that was going to score points. But what the line usually did was steady things down a bit on the ice. Constantine liked the line because he could rest the “stars” for a bit and know that there wouldn’t be stupid turnovers and penalties. He also appreciated the line because while they weren’t exciting on offense, they brought energy to the game, the players, and the crowd because they were aggressive when it came to hitting and getting back on defense.
“My history with [Love] is why I wanted to get him last year,” Constantine said. Love had been the captain of Constantine‘s first Everett club, which was an expansion team. “Because I knew he was a great person and a really competitive guy…he would do anything he could to help the team. I’ve always respected that.”
I used this quote at the mothership, but I like it, and I think it’s important. We thought of Love as an enforcer. Love doesn’t quite like that term.
“I think enforcer is a interesting term,” Love said. “I'd like to call it a good teammate. Someone that picks the right time to spark his club, stick up for a teammate and set the tone for a game. I've always been a guy who enjoys playing the game honest and on edge which sometimes leads to a fight here and there. I think last year I just did what I thought was good for the team, we had other guys like Kassian, Stoner, and Scott that all did the same thing in regards to this role.”
Love is, of course, playing for a new team this season. And he’s played on numerous teams throughout his career. Danny Irmen said earlier this season that he enjoyed the new influx of players into the locker room. Love doesn’t quite call it an enjoyable experience on his end, but it’s one that he’s becoming accustomed to.
“I've had to join a few new teams in my career so it's seems to get a little easier every time,” he said. “We have a great bunch of guys in Peoria. It was a little weird joining a team that we had such a battle last year with in the regular season and playoffs…”
His goal, of course, is the NHL. And he’s aware that guys sometimes have to jump around to fight the right fit. It’s not easy, and he realizes that there’s one factor that’s beginning to work against him. But it’s one he thinks he can hold off a little while longer.
“I think anyone one will tell you that their goal is to play in the NHL and mine isn't any different. For some guys it may take a few organizations to find a place that might give them that chance one day to playing in the NHL. This is my third NHL team and I'm not getting any younger so I'm still going to work everyday working my hardest to get better and help the young guys along in their journey to the NHL.”
And when it comes to helping out guys, he’s got a few words of wisdom for Brandon Rogers who has been making the move from defense to center this season.
“My best advice for [Brandon] would be watch as much video of himself and his teammates -- guys who have been playing forward for their whole lives. That’s the best way to learn the position. Not many guys make a transition like this, but for myself I think it was the best move I’ve done and I kind of wish that I had done it earlier in my career.”
And for those of you who followed us last year know, Love does a blog about his life as a hockey player for a TV station in Seattle. The person responsible for the blog is Su Ring, and it came about last year after she was singing the Canadian Anthem at an Everett hockey game, and fans shouted the word “Love” really loudly. So she investigated, and she discovered that this was done in tribute to Mitch Love. So she tracked him down to Houston, told him the story, and asked him to start blogging for her.
And as popular as he was in Houston, just wait until here about his popularity back in Everett.
“Mitch played for the Silvertips between 2003 and 2005,” Ring said. “He ended his junior career as Team Captain. No matter where he plays during the season, he always comes home to Everett during the summer. He coaches camps. He takes part in auctions. He is always available to kids. There's still a billboard up at Comcast Arena that features a photo of Mitch pitching some insurance company. Fans still walk around wearing 'Tips jerseys with Mitch's name and number (2) on the back.
“In short, Mitch is still well-LOVED, nearly five years after he graduated out of the WHL. I think Aeros fans probably feel the same way.”
Love is continuing with his blogging duties this season. It’s something he enjoys doing, plus he’s already thinking of post-career options.
“Yup the blog is back this winter,” he said. “I'm putting it out every 2 weeks this year. I really enjoyed it last year and just like to show people that don't really understand what we do on a weekly basis. There's a lot that goes on in a pro hockey players life beyond the boards we play in. I've always liked the media aspect of sports and someday, maybe when I'm done playing getting into that field.”
But he has still got this season to play. And once again, he’s playing for the fans.
“Peoria is a great hockey city,” he says. “It has been for a long time. Like any sports city the fans here want to see a winner and well try to do our best to give them one this year.”