By Hannah J. Goldman | Photo Contributions by Ross Dettman
Thirteen months and three days ago, the Chicago Wolves raised the 2008 Calder Cup Championship banner at their 2008-09 home opener against the Peoria Rivermen. Wolves fans were basking in the glory of the title from the year before, but the team on the ice was a very different group.
Such is not the case when taking a glance at the Chicago roster this season. After a one-year hiatus, center Kevin Doell, and 2008 MVP Jason Krog and defenseman Nathan Oystrick are back in the line-up, hoping to lead another title run in the Windy City.
It’s long way from Sweden, where Doell spent the 2008-09 season. And the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, native is excited to be sporting the burgundy and gold uniform once again.
“A lot of things factored into my decision to come back to Chicago,” he explained. “I enjoyed my time over in Sweden and everything, but it was always in the back of my mind to give it another shot and maybe win another championship here.
“Obviously, I still have goals to play in the NHL, and if that works out, fine,” he continued. “But in the meantime, knowing Chicago and playing here for five years, I have enjoyed it and fell in love with the city and the fans. I just thought that it was the perfect fit, so why not give it another shot?”
Doell definitely has accomplished goals that most young hockey players dream of: winning the WCHA title with Denver in 2002; being named ECHL Rookie of the Year in 2004; and recording an astounding hat trick in a span of 77-seconds – a Wolves franchise record – during a Dec. 15, 2007, game. But most important, he helped Chicago capture the 2008 Calder Cup Championship, amassing four goals and five assists during the 24-game playoff run.
“The hat trick was more funny than it was an accomplishment,” joked Doell. “Not being a goal scorer in the AHL, being able to get a hat trick was pretty cool. But, definitely the thing that tops all of that was winning the Calder Cup.
“It was a long and exhausting year, both mentally and physically, but after you raise that Cup, it is all worth it. Even now, when you reflect back on it, it is still just as exciting and you remember how much work you did to accomplish it,” Doell said.
In a big-league sports city like Chicago, you might think an AHL crown would fly under the radar of the media masses, but the victorious Wolves felt nothing of the sort. Among other events, Doell threw out the first pitch at a White Sox game, an opportunity he garnered by winning a coin toss with his teammates, and also had the chance to take the Calder Cup on a visit to the Chicago Board of Trade.
“I thought that was the coolest thing [we did],” he said. “Every time we would walk by one of the pits, everyone would just stop trading and give us a standing ovation. It was unbelievable. Everyone knew who we were and was congratulating us, and that was amazing.”
Although looking back brings good memories, now is the time to look forward. As an assistant captain this season, Doell, along with Krog, Oystrick and right wing Joey Crabb, plans to lead the Wolves with one message: winning.
The Wolves franchise is certainly not used to losing, and Doell plans on making that message loud and clear to everyone in the locker room, especially those who were not part of the 2007-08 roster.
“It is definitely important to get the message across to everybody that the organization does not take losing lightly,” Doell said. “In
a way, it is a tough business like that, but when you win here, there is nothing better.”
As a captain, Doell does not feel like there is much of a difference in terms of his leadership other than actually sporting the “A.” With the group of older guys around the locker room, he feels that the team has good leadership to make a run this year, and for him, it is most important to just lead by example. One thing is certain, with the quartet of captains having all been a part of the ’08 championship team, he, Krog, Oystrick and Crabb are united in their goals for the season ahead.
“This organization is all about winning,” Doell said. “We need to focus on doing everything we can to win the games on the ice. Off the ice, we will have a lot of fun, but we are here to win hockey games. If we don’t do that, then things are not as fun as they should be.”
With what has already proved to be an interesting season so far, Doell is concentrating on contributing to his team. He will put a lot of focus on his penalty killing abilities, hoping to be at the top of the Wolves in that category. And although Doell likes to get some goals and put points up when he can, the hard-checking center is more of an energy and defensive forward.
“I will do anything I can to help the team win,” he said. “I’ll run a guy and hit a guy and start something to get the guys going any way I can. Sometimes we will come out a little flat, so it is my job to get things going and light a spark, so I will do that, too.”
As in all sports, seasons can take many unexpected twists and turns, but one thing that Wolves fans can count on is for Doell to give everything he has to bring this team back to the playoffs. And if the Allstate Arena is seeming a little quiet, you can expect Doell to do what it takes to make the rafters shake.