MUSKEGON, MI- The fans have spoken.
After a week of fan submissions, the Muskegon Lumberjacks have chosen the top questions submitted by fans via social media, and the Jacks’ front office has answered them below.
Dozens of questions were submitted, and fans had a wide variety of questions for the Jacks’ front office. Available for comment were Head Coach Mike Hamilton, General Manager Jimmy McGroarty, President of Hockey Operations Steve Lowe, and Director of Media Relations and Broadcasting Scott Bradford.
Our first question comes from Alex: “How would you classify your team when not on the ice? (Examples: Who’s the class clown? Who’s the late one? Who’s the beast? Who’s the tired one? Who’s the fanboy? Who’s the food lover?)”
Mike Hamilton (MH): “We had many characters in this group! Here are my “awards” for the end of the 19-20 season:
Team Clown- Dylan Wendt. Watch the videos on our social media- need I say more?
The Pleaser- Rhett Pitlick. Anytime I show a little disappointment in his game, it bothers him and he responds.
The ‘Just On Time’ guy- Alexandros Gaffney. He chased many buses out of the hotel.
Sweet Tooth- Cameron Berg. Cam loves to negotiate, and for him, big nights equal a dessert after the next team meal.
Ladies Man- Grant Docter. Or should I say…. in his mind there is not a girl that hasn't hit on him.
Quiet Guy- I can’t pick just one for this award. Alex Konovalov, Jack Williams, Jan Lasak, Tyler Dunbar, Ivari Rasanen, Hank Kempf, Dylan Gratton, Jon Williams.... I think we have 7-10 guys that have those silent discos so they do not need to engage in a conversation.
The Late Guy- Tanner Edwards. Eddy has some of the best excuses I have ever heard. Tanner will be chapter four in my book on parenting/coaching 101.”
Scott Bradford (SB)- “All great awards coach, but I gotta say that Rasanen should get some credit for Team Clown, he had me cracking up on numerous occasions…. But maybe it’s just the accent?”
Our next question, from Amy: “What players will be returning from last year? Will Gushchin be back?”
Steve Lowe (SL): “Unfortunately, we aren’t expecting Gushchin to return next year, but we certainly will look back on his career in Muskegon very fondly. As for our returners, we could have more than ten players back for next year’s team. We as a staff are very excited about our returning group of players, led by captain Dylan Wendt, goalie Jon Williams, forwards Christophe Fillion and Alex Gaffney, and defensemen Dylan Gratton and Tyler Dunbar.”
From Andrew: “How do players get noticed by USHL teams?”
Jimmy McGroarty (JM): “The short answer is to work hard and play the game the right way and USHL teams will find you and take notice.”
“In the USHL, most teams have multiple scouts and staff that will attend various games all over North America and even Europe. They recruit players out of other junior leagues, high school hockey, as well as AAA 15U through 18U. These scouts don’t get enough credit for how hard they work and the countless hours that they put in at the rink and writing up evaluations for our scouting database. They build relationships with players and families for the USHL draft.”
“Building relationships with family advisors, college coaches and NHL scouts is a big plus for recruiting players. On our staff, we are always watching games on video from HockeyTV, InStat, and any other websites that we have access to. Each player has multiple evaluations in the database for us to review. This is why we always tell players to show up every shift because you never know who is in the stands watching.”
From Elizabeth: “My question is for Scott Bradford: How long does it take to prepare for each broadcast and what sources are used to provide the analysis of players that you discuss on air?”
SB- “It depends on the time of year, really. There is so much turnover on each roster year-to-year that early on in the season, every team is very much different than they were the year before, and that includes Muskegon. To prep for those early games, it might take 16 hours or more to get ready for a weekend series... But by the end of the season, I’ve got the Eastern Conference pretty well figured out.”
“My biggest sources are USHL.com and eliteprospects.com. Both provide in-depth stats and information on every player in the league. More importantly, the entire front office staff is a huge help to me. I’m constantly picking the brains of coach Hamilton and coach [Josh] Nelson in particular, along with Athletic Trainer Ian Wood and Equipment Manager Patrick Dooley. These guys have been invaluable to me when it comes to offering insight on each and every game. I’m just getting to know Jimmy McGroarty and Steve Lowe, but can already tell you they share the same desire to help me enhance the broadcast however possible.”
From Liberty: “Has anyone on the team lost a bunch of teeth while playing hockey?”
MH- “Knock on wood, but in my time we have avoided anything major. The worst I have seen in my time here in Muskegon have been Mikael Hakkarinen and Danil Gushchin. Hakk lost two teeth and chipped another, and Danil lost one and cracked one but the amount of blood involved was pretty scary.”
SB- “I remember both of those injuries. And also one where Colby Bukes lost a bunch of blood on the ice, but managed to hold on to all his teeth. The other one that immediately comes to mind dates back to my first year, ‘16-’17, when Jack McNeely laid flat on his stomach to block a centering pass… an unselfish play that cost him an incisor.”
From Maya: “What advice would you give someone who wants to work in sports?”
SL- “I would get a degree in Sports Management or have a lot of sales experience for the business side. For the team operations side, playing experience helps, but if you don’t have that- learn that sport through video and break it down so you have the ability to understand the inner working of that sport.”
SB- “Never turn down an opportunity. I held two unpaid positions before my first “paid” sportscasting gig. Even with that job, I had to sell my own ads to make a profit, but it built my resume, built my network, and helped me land other jobs after that. Eventually, I was able to get an interview here in Muskegon.”
From Elizabeth: “What are the most important statistics to consider when evaluating your team and players?”
JM- “This is an interesting question. I love stats and analytics because they help us evaluate our individual and team strengths and weaknesses. When looking at team stats the first columns we evaluate are powerplay and penalty kill. As a team, we would like our percentage to be more than 100 when our powerplay and penalty kill percentages are added.
“Another important stat we evaluate are faceoffs. It’s simple, the more faceoffs we win, the more possession time we get, which allows our team to create more scoring opportunities.”
“As everyone can imagine, save percentage is a vital stat in any team’s success. Most teams build from their goaltending out."
From Tyler: “What does the team plan on doing to give more insight on the ins and outs of the team?”
SL- “Our plan is to start to build a better social media presence for our fans; we understand this needs to get better. We are now exploring ideas and this is the first of many that we will be doing to bring fans the inside scoop on the team and what goes on inside Mercy Health Arena.”
Thank you to all the fans who submitted questions! Sadly, we couldn’t answer them all this time around, but we hope to do this again in the future- stay tuned!