Monday, 23 August 2010

Raw Talent

While this blog is devoted to the AHL news from the Manitoba Moose, I do keep my ear to the ground in terms of digging for other great news from around the AHL. Thanks to Randy Cleves, Senior Director of Public Relations for the Grand Rapids Griffins, I've been able to follow the happenings in Michigan with Detroit's AHL affiliate. While it is interesting to hear about future Red Wings, I've been much more interested in the stories coming out of the Griffins' camp about other hockey ventures. Tonight is one such story as the Griffins are proud to announce that they are developing hockey players for Team USA's sledge hockey team!

Nineteen year-old Tyler Anderson and sixteen year-old Chris Melton, a pair of defencemen, will suit up for the American National Sledge Hockey Team in the 2010-11 season as part of ten newcomers to the national team. Both men have spent the better part of a decade playing with the Grand Rapids Sled Wings, and now they have a chance to take their skills to another level with the national program.

What's great about this news is that this opportunity was made possible to these two young men thanks to the Grand Rapids Griffins, and, more importantly, by the Griffins Youth Foundation in partnership with Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. Both of these organizations allow people with disabilities to participate in a variety of sports, and it's encouraging to see an AHL team promoting a national team that doesn't get much press.

Both men will still play with the Sled Wings this season, but will also participate in a number of national team camps in preparation for exhibition series against Canada's junior sledge hockey team.

From the press release, here is a little about the two men:

"Anderson has also played for both the Grand Rapids Junior Pacers wheelchair basketball team and the Grand Rapids Wheelchair Sports Association’s tennis team. The 2009 graduate of Jenison High School now attends Grand Rapids Community College.

"Melton, a junior at Zeeland East High School, is also a multi-sport athlete. An avid hunter, he plays wheelchair tennis for Zeeland East and is a member of the Grand Rapids Wheelchair Sports Association’s tennis and hand cycling teams."
Pretty cool, in my opinion. The full American National Junior Sled Hockey Roster can be found here. If you notice, there's even one gal playing on the national team, proving that sledge hockey isn't just for boys. Kristina Vaughn, who I assume is a female with that name, is one of the nine forwards that were named to the team, and member of the Jamestown Lakers appears to be the only gal on this year's roster. Could we be seeing another trailblazer à la Manon Rheaume?

Overall, a great announcement to send out from the Griffins. While I'm certainly not turning my back on Team Canada, it's always nice to see a professional hockey team celebrating the achievements of a national team, especially when two of their own make it on to the roster! Congratulations to both Tyler Anderson and Chris Melton, and best of luck in your season and international games this year!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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