This was originally posted on Ye Olde Facebooke. A group I follow, called Southern Hockey Problems, which generally laments the treatment of southern hockey fans by the northern folk, shared the following picture:
And I wrote the following:
I like this photo on a few levels.
First, the reminder that unaffiliated minor league hockey will be back soon makes me happy.
Second, that's a picture of long time SPHL journeyman enforcer Dennis Sicard and Knoxville Ice Bears coach Mike Craigen.
Sicard's one of those guys you love to hate. His job, plain and simple, for many years, was to act as a disruption. He's smaller than most of the other players (he's listed at 5'11," a number that I will tell you from having walked next to the man is Bull Shit. He's not even 5'11" on skates...). He runs his mouth. And he fights. A lot. And sometimes, he did it dirty. I had my problems with him, because while I'm not against players dropping gloves from time to time, it seemed to be the only thing Sicard was good for. The picture below, I like, because these two have history on the ice. Sicard, feeling that Craigen had sucker punched him during a game back in Craigen's playing days, shaved Craigen's numbers onto his head, and spent the rest of the season planning on getting even. Which he did. And then some.
I was kinda upset when I'd heard Knoxville had traded for him, to replace their long-time enforcer David Segal. Segal could and did scrap, but he also remained a leader out on the ice. Sicard? A fighter. And last year, Knoxville had guys like Corey Fulton and Brad Pawlowski, who had stepped up into Enforcer rolls. I didn't see that Knoxville needed a body like Sicard, who's entertaining, but ultimately plays a frustrating brand of hockey.
Which isn't to say I wasn't interested. I'm always curious about team dynamics. Especially when you bring a guy like Sicard with so much history on board. Hell, it had only been a couple weeks before that Sicard, taking umbrage to Ice Bears' defenseman Ryan Hill taking perceived liberties with Peoria's line, and wanting to get even for a scrap between two other players earlier on, had dropped the (legit) 6'4" hill like a toilet seat when they dropped gloves. Now, Sicard, with history between he and and Craigen, with history with a number of players on the roster, was now lacing them up along side. I know it's a job, and maybe they can not take that stuff personally. I don't know.
It hit me maybe a couple times in, seeing him play in Knoxville. 1.) He's capable of much, much more than simply fighting. And 2.) His reputation as a fighter and enforcer left of a lot of opposing players (and coaches) underestimating his potential as a goal-scorer.
He's like a wolverine, out there on the ice. He went out there, and played harder than just about everybody lacing them up, all year, after he arrived. He did fight, from time to time. I guess that's unavoidable, when that's your reputation. He got called for penalties that he didn't deserve, which sucked, but then, that's SPHL officiating for you--those guys are clownshoes, and they hold grudges just like players. But he also scored a lot.
The Ice Bears won the league championship last year. I don't think they would have done it, if they'd kept David Segal in his role. That pains me to say. Segal had lost a step or two, age and injuries taking their toll. Sicard stepped into a roll that others weren't (and maybe he himself wasn't) used to him playing. I can tell you that there was a coach and a defense or two that weren't ready for Sicard to be the one bringing the puck down the ice....the guy was a fighter, not a skater....often, they had no answer for him. It was Sicard who scored the goal that sent them to the playoffs.
I don't know that if there was anybody else happier holding up the President's Cup at the end of the Championship game last spring, than Dennis Sicard. He's played several season in the SPHL, with something like 8 or 9 teams in the league (3 or 4 of which are no longer even in operation, as is the carny atmosphere in the league). This was his first championship.
As much as I say I hate painting a story on an athletic competition, I guess I end up loving the drama as much as the next guy. Last season was a cool one. Looking forward to another....