Houston Aeros 1994-2013: Thank you for all the great memories and two decades of great hockey and entertainment.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Aeros well-represented in Vancouver

Maybe it is just because I have been paying attention a lot more this year, but the 2010 Olympic Hockey tournament has been absolutely fantastic.

We've seen a huge upset, lots of goals by the women's USA and Canadian teams. We've seen more blood per Olympics that we're used to. And last night, a puck went through the net. They needed video review to confirm the goal by Shea Weber. No, there was no hole in the net. It just went through. This time, though, Max Noreau was not involved.

There are nine former Aeros sprinkled throughout the men's rosters this year, and I got a little teary-eyed taking the trip down memory lane to see where the guys are now.

Without further delay, here are the former Aeros in the 2010 Olympics

Goaltender Tim Thomas, USA
Born Apr 15 1974 -- Flint, MI
Height 5.11 -- Weight 201 -- Shoots L

Thomas played in one game for the Aeros under Dave Tippett during the 1997-98 season. He allowed four goals in 59 minutes and took the loss against the Long Beach Ice Dogs on Nov. 6, 1997. He now plays for the Boston Bruins in the NHL.

Defenseman Filip Kuba, CZE
Born Dec 29 1976 -- Ostrava, Czech Rep.

Height 6.03 -- Weight 225 -- Shoots L

Kuba played for Ron Low's Aeros in 1999-2000 on loan from the Florida Panthers. In 27 games that year, Kuba scored three goals and added six assists for nine points. He helped the Aeros get to the West Finals before they bowed out to the Chicago Wolves in six games.

Defenseman Zbynek Michalek, CZE
Born Dec 23 1982 -- Jindrichuv Hradec, Czech Rep.
Height 6.02 -- Weight 210 -- Shoots R

Michalek, affectionately known as "Z," played for the Aeros from 2002 through the 2005 "lockout" season. He's the most tenured Aero of all the 2010 Olympians, having played 193 game for the Aeros, all under Todd McLellan, who is now the head coach of the San Jose Sharks. He was a great two-way player, scoring 16 goals to go along with 43 assists. "Z" was eventually traded to the Phoenix Coyotes organization for Erik Westrum; Michalek has been in the NHL ever since, spending the whole time with the Coyotes.

Defenseman Sven Butenschon, GER
Born Mar 22 1976 -- Itzehoe, Germany
Height 6.04 -- Weight 215 -- Shoots L

Dave Tippett worked out a deal to get Butenschon and Sean Pronger in Oct. 1998. That was one of several deals that helped the Aeros win their first championship in 1999. Butenschon, a stay-at-home defenseman, played in 57 games during their Turner Cup run. He scored one goal to go along with four assists. He and Pronger were called up before the playoffs started, but the Aeros went all the way without them. Butenschon has spent most of his career in Germany since leaving the Aeros.

Forward Hnat Domenichelli, SUI
Born Feb 16 1976 -- Edmonton, ALTA
Height 6.00 -- Weight 180 -- Shoots L

Domenichelli was probably good enough to play in the NHL the year he was sent to Houston, but there was just not enough room on a Wild team that arguably had their best-ever roster that year. The Wild made it to the West finals after a stunning upset of Colorado. Because that team was deep at forward and was remarkably injury free (for a Wild team), the Aeros had Domenichelli for 99 percent of their second championship. He was very good in the AHL, too. In 62 regular-season games for the Aeros, Domenichelli scored 29 goals to go along with 34 assists. He had 14 points in the playoffs, as the Aeros needed two Game 7 road wins over Grand Rapids and Hamilton to hoist the Calder Cup. Domenichelli has played in the Swiss A league since leaving the Wild organization.

Forward Marius Holtet, NOR
Born Aug 31 1984 -- Hamar, Norway
Height 6.01 -- Weight 188 -- Shoots R

During the lockout year (2004-05), the Dallas Stars did not have an AHL affiliate. They sent their prospects to several AHL teams that year, and the Aeros picked up Holtet from their NHL neighbors to the north. In 54 games for Todd McLellan's Aeros, Holtet recorded 12 points (seven goals, five assists) and played in one playoff game. After three more average years playing for the Iowa Stars, Holtet left to play in the Swedish Elite League.

Forward Mattias Weinhandl, SWE
Born Jun 1 1980 -- Ljunjby, Sweden
Height 6.00 -- Weight 183 -- Shoots R

After 27 disappointing games for the Wild covering two seasons, Weinhandl was banished to the Aeros in the 2006-07. For those that need a quick refresher, that was the year that goalie Josh Harding kept the team in the playoff race in the first 45 games of the season or so. After he was recalled to St. Paul permanently sometime in February, the team was an absolute disaster. Weinhandl was the team's best offensive player from his mid-December demotion through the end of the regular season. he played in 48 games for Rob Daum's Aeros and scored 18 goals and added 27 assists. The Aeros did not make the playoffs that year and Daum was fired very shortly after that season ended.

Forward Mikko Koivu, FIN

Born Mar 12 1983 -- Turku, Finland

Height 6.02 -- Weight 205 -- Shoots L

There is only one reason that Koivu ever played in the AHL: The 2004-05lockout. He was a very good playmaker in the AHL and put up 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists) in 67 games that year. Koivu missed some time after needing an emergency appendectomy, but never missed a beat until the playoffs. He took a brutal hit at Allstate Arena in Game 1 or 2 and was a ghost after that. The Aeros split the first two games against the Wolves, and then game home and lost three straight games at Toyota Center. There was never any doubt that Koivu was going to be a great NHL player, but he lost the respect of several Aeros fans for his sheepish playoff series.

Forward John Tripp, GER
Born May 4 1977 -- Kingston, ONT
Height 6.02 -- Weight 215 -- Shoots R

In January 2001, Dave Barr found Tripp, then a Calgary Flames prospect, playing in the ECHL with Pensacola and signed him to a tryout. Tripp went on to have moderate success in the AHL and German leagues, but his brief stint with the Aeros left much to be desired. In 15 games with the Aeros in 2000-01, Tripp posted just six assists. He also played for the Hershey Bears and Milwaukee Admirals that year and did not have his "breakout year" at the AAA level until he scored 29 goals for the Hartford Wolf Pack in 2002-03. Tripp recorded 34 NHL games with the Los Angeles Kings in '03-'04, but has been in Germany for the last three years.


artandhockey said...

Appreciate the post. Must have taken some reseacrh. Thanks for the labor of love!

CatTrick said...

Excellent article, Andrew!!!

Andrew J. Ferraro said...

Thanks for the kind words, everyone. It was Forecheck's idea, but I wanted to add a little flair to it and make it great.

Anyone care to make a prediction about the rest of the Olympic Tournament.

I still like Sweden or Canada, but I will let you know after tonight, maybe. :)


Anonymous said...

Great piece, Andrew!! I had gone over all the rosters, but some of these guys were here before my time. So it's nice to know there are even more former Aeros playing in Vancouver. Thanks for taking the time to do this!

Forecheck said...

GREAT article, it belongs in the Chronicle.

I had forgotten all about Tripp... and for the life of me I still can't remember him. And I wasn' t on Geritol back then, either.... at least I don't remember being on it...

FinnAir said...

M.Koivu helped the grandpas nicely. Here come yankee butt.

Forecheck said...

After last night I'll take Canada.admittedly some really bad coaching by Russia in face of a goalie melt-down, but still Canada was awesome. It could be they were fired up by the loss to the USA, in which case that loss might have been the best thing to happen to them.

This afternoon, I'll take Canada in OT.

FinnAir said...

Well I hope the Slovakians will bring the Canadians back to earth or if not them, then the Finns will do that in the final.

You never know, if it was best of seven none of the teams left would stand a chance against the Canadians, but since it's
only one game you have to win...