Gordon enjoys giving players the ultimate news
In minor league sports, coaches and managers have different ways of telling a player that they’re getting that first call to the highest level of their sport.
Former Lehigh Valley IronPigs manager Dave Brundage used to enjoy having a bit of fun at the player’s expense, sometimes letting them think they were being passed over or that the coaches were concerned about their play lately before he would let the cat out of the bag and give the good news.
For Phantoms coach Scott Gordon, the approach is a little more straightforward and businesslike.
When top prospect Morgan Frost was sent to Philadelphia recently, Frost was at home with his roommate Isaac Ratcliffe. When Frost’s phone went off, Ratcliffe saw it was Gordon calling and told his roomie, “You know what that means.”
When Frost and Gordon spoke, the coach was very straightforward about the travel arrangements and other issues surrounding the move and wished him luck.
“I’m happy for anyone, especially when they get their first call-up,” said Gordon recently. “Every player who comes through here, that’s their goal, to get to the NHL.”
The Phantoms coach enjoys the varied reactions of the players, ranging from being businesslike and doing everything they can to hide their feelings to simply bursting with emotion. When Gordon told Cole Bardreau that he was going to the NHL for the first time, Bardreau’s reaction was, “Now I can die a happy man.”
When Gordon — who was a goalie in his playing days — got the call, it was unexpected. He wasn’t a top prospect and wasn’t even the top goalie for the AHL’s Halifax Citadels.
As it turned out, there was an injury to a goalie ahead of him on the Halifax roster and the parent club, the Quebec Nordiques, also had a goalie injury. Gordon’s coach, Doug Carpenter, came to the hotel and started a somewhat awkward conversation with Gordon, asking him where his dream place to play would be. Gordon answered the Boston Garden, and Carpenter replied his choice would be Buffalo, and then told Gordon he was going to meet the Nordiques in Buffalo and would make his NHL debut the next night.
Gordon would wind up playing in 23 NHL games over two seasons with Quebec. He still remembers that first game and everything that went through his head, and keeps those things in mind when he tells players that they’re going to the NHL.
“You get told and you’re like ‘Now what? When is the flight? What is the game plan? Are they home or on the road? Call your parents,’” said Gordon. “There are a lot of things that start rolling through your head and everything happens ultra-fast. It’s a pretty intense 24 hours until you play that first game, but it’s something you never forget.”
FROM A PHANTOM TO A DUCK ... Former Phantoms and Flyers goalie Anthony Stolarz was recalled from San Diego of the AHL by the Anaheim Ducks on Monday. Stolarz signed with the Ducks back in July and went 8-5-1 with a 1.98 GAA this season with the San Diego Gulls. In his NHL career, “Stolie The Goalie” is 6-6-4 with a 3.04 GAA and two shutouts in 25 career games in the NHL with Edmonton and Philadelphia.
WORKING OVERTIME ... Two games in a row the Phantoms went into overtime, but came away with a win. On Friday, Lehigh Valley scored five goals in the first 22 minutes, but didn’t score again until T.J. Brennan netted the game-winner in overtime against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Then, on Saturday, with the game tied 1-1, Andy Welinski scored his fourth goal of the season and second overtime game-winner of the season as Lehigh Valley downed division rival Hartford 2-1. Alex Lyon saved 26 of the 27 shots he faced in the win over the Wolf Pack.
SAME STUFF, DIFFERENT DAY ... Hartford also played back-to-back overtime games, but lost both. One day after their loss to the Phantoms, they lost in Hershey, 4-3. The Wolf Pack opened the year 8-0-0-1, but have since fallen on some hard times and have gone 3-4-2-1 to drop from first to third in the Atlantic Division. The two overtime losses give Hartford a five-game losing streak, and six losses in their last seven games.