My interest piqued by a very British (some may say ‘Juvenile’) reaction to the team name, I quickly became enamoured with the ECHL’s newest team, the Newfoundland Growlers.
The league officially approved a new team out of St. Johns, the former home of the IceCaps on March 13th 2018 and the Growlers name was officially announced on May 22nd.
The start-up quickly established a strong social media presence as a bold logo and some nice looking kits were unveiled; but the team also celebrated its heritage and that of its emblem by encouraging fans to involve their four-legged friends in comments and replies, and they seem genuinely committed to providing a large range of merchandise for dogs as well as us mere humans. All this, coupled with the inevitable excitement which surrounds a franchise created a buzz around the team; but there were other, ultimately more important reasons to follow the Growlers over the summer:
In heist movies the best part is often watching the team come together; I love roster building in sports and watching a whole new team be assembled holds a (relatively) unique appeal. Fans also feel like they are getting in on the ground floor as the franchise develops and makes its own history; so news of latest signings and roster moves have been eagerly anticipated.
Former New Jersey Devils assistant coach and Newfoundland native Ryan Clowne was named as the head coach on June 20th. However, at the moment, with their first game a little over a month away on October 12th the Growlers only have five players under contract:Hometown boy Marcus Power became the teams first ever signing on July 12th, the left-handed centre joining straight from the University of Prince Edward Island.
He was soon joined by blueliner James Melindy, another Newfoundlander who comes with plenty of ECHL experience having played 53 games for the Utah Grizzlies last term, as well as the likes of Wichita Thunder and Wheeling Nailers amongst others in the past. He also has AHL experience with Portland Pirates and San Diego Gulls.
In recent weeks these have been joined by the Latvian D-Man Kristians Rubins, formerly of the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers; and the Russian right-winger Semyon Babintsev; although it has been a few years since he has played any significant amount of games.
And this week they were joined by veteran defenceman Adam Pardy.
Another Newfoundland native – the third on the roster – Pardy was drafted 173rd overall in the 2004 NHL draft by the Calgary Flames and has appeared in over 350 NHL games; the 34 year old adding what could be valuable experience to the Growlers roster.
Thanks to affiliations with two Toronto based teams, the NHL’s Maple Leaps and the AHL’s Marlies; the roster will inevitably be filled with players farmed out from those organisations, along with hopefully one or two more signings; but with a little over a month until the Growlers face-off at home to the Florida EverBlades – and a the game exhibition series before that – there is still a lot of recruitment work to be done to fill the roster and gel a team together.
I’ll be watching out for new arrivals as the season draws near and keeping a watchful eye on how the Growlers get on during their inaugural season.
Photo Credits: The Newfoundland Growlers