I had the pleasure of being around the Aeros and the coaches and staff for six seasons. The times were mostly good, primarily because the players realized I was there doing a job, and most of them realized through experience, or came to learn it from the vets, that their jobs involved more than just excelling at the game of hockey, but they had to learn to excel at the game away from hockey, of speaking to the press, of selling the team and the game.
I enjoyed all of them, but some more than others. Not always because of their abilities on the ice, and not always because of their abilities off of the ice dealing with us. This group of 10 players I'm about to list are those guys who were the easiest to deal with every game, who would always talk no matter what just happened in the game. Some seemed to enjoy themselves more than others, some took great joy in connecting with the fans and dealing with the public. This list isn't scientific, and I'm sure Andrew and Heather will different players if they make such a list.
So without further ado...
10. Danny Irmen: the guy could have a bad night on the ice, yet if I needed a quote, or just wanted to talk while waiting for someone else, the guy would talk. And who knows, maybe at some point Irmen's dreams will be fulfilled and the Vikings will win the Super Bowl.
9. John Scott: he was an enforcer on the ice, yet he was one of the nicest guys off of the ice that I ever met. I was really mean to him one night, and I didn't even realize it. He'd been called up to the Wild, but got trapped in airport hell and couldn't make it to the city the Wild were in and was immediately sent back down. So I saw him in the locker room and just started joking around about how that must of sucked, about how he couldn't even make it to the arena and sit in the press box. I think it was Andrew who told me afterwards that I was the world's worst jerk at that moment. I didn't realize it at the time, but I felt bad because at the time no one knew if he was ever going to make it back up. But Scott kept a smile on his face, joked about the airport, etc. If we would've been on the ice, he would've pummeled me without thinking.
8. Brandon Rogers: Rogers probably wasn't the most skilled player to ever lace up for the Aeros. He wasn't the most flashy. I remember him being a good quarterback of the power play. I also remember one year where he seemingly had a -40 because Kevin Constantine saddled him with the rookie and journeymen d-men. He didn't complain, that I know of. He just went out and did the best that he could on the ice, then talked us to after the games whenever we needed him.
7. Matt Kassian: I liked Matt. I liked his jokes, his twitter feed, and his good nature. He always said hi in the corridor, even when we didn't need him. And I'll always be thankful for his #shinslist and #fiveslist as well as his twitter movie reviews which basically conclude with every movie being a romantic comedy.
6.Jean-Michel Daoust: Daoust had that stereotypical French-Canadian accent, and if he got excited, then his English was really hard to understand. But he had this gleam in his eye, even when he wasn't playing. He was a pest on the ice when he did play. I just enjoyed talking to him.
5. Max Noreau: the guy had a rocket of a shot, and I loved watching him on the power play, knowing that he could snipe a shot into the goal from anywhere on the ice. Thanks for taking the time to talk after games, Max. It's much appreciated.
4. Jed Ortmeyer: what's there to be said about Jed Ortmeyer? How about this: I'm absolutely convinced that everybody on the Aeros would have died for Ortmeyer if he asked. The guy was the soul of the locker room for two seasons. It still amazes me that he's able to play hockey, and that he's willing to risk everything to play the game. I think that's why the players were so willing to give it all for those teams he played on. If he was willing to die for the game, then the least his teammates could do was do everything possible to win the game.
3. Mitch Love: it's hard to believe that Love only played one season with the Aeros. But it was a fun season. Love eagerly embraced the enforcer role, and he was one of Kevin Constantine's top energy guys. The crowds at Toyota Center loved him, and he loved them. I loved talking with Love after games. He loved the game, he loved talking about the game, and he loved his role on the team.
2. Barry Brust: Heather's list of favorite players probably consists of the name Barry Brust listed 5000 times. Brusty was always a fun interview. He had a sense of humor, and he realized just how ridiculous he could be at times. It often seemed that the worst he played, the better the interview, the funnier he was. If something went wrong, it was his fault, not the team, not his defense, not the coaching staff. Him.
1. Jon DiSalvatore: he was the captain of that incredible squad that went to the Calder Cup finals two years ago. Jed Ortmeyer might have been the soul, Patrick O'Sullivan might have been the gunner, but DiSalvator was the anchor, keeping it all together. He was probably the guy we talked to the most for four years. It couldn't have always been easy for him, because when the team lost, he was usually the guy we talked to. But he came out every night, never tried to blow us off, and did his job.