For most of the players coming in to play for the Baltimore Bandits this season, the focus will be different, although not much: Hey, hockey is still put the puck in the net and jump around celebrating.
"In the American Hockey League, it's the affiliation [with a parent NHL club] system, which means development," Bandits coach Walt Kyle says. "In the International Hockey League [from whence he came], teams are mostly independent operations going with older guys."
Craig Reichert, for one, is an up-and-comer who knows all about that. "Despite a broken thumb and a lack of playing time sometimes," he says, "playing in San Diego last year was a good experience."
For openers, Reichert, a third-round selection by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the 1994 NHL entry draft, got to play alongside Ron Wilson. Only arenas finished within the last few hours have missed Wilson's playing at center ice in them over the past two decades.
Besides 13 seasons in the NHL, Wilson did six years in the AHL and even gave the Central Hockey League a whirl before trying the IHL. A kid new to the professional game can learn a bunch just watching a guy like that get suited up before a game.
"Walt had a tough time coaching the Gulls," Reichert says of San Diego, "because the owners who had gone out and signed free agents wanted the veterans to play. Anaheim, of course, wanted to see the young guys it drafted there to get the playing experience."
"A balancing act," says the coach of his effort. "What happens is, when you have more experienced players, it leads to a slower-tempo game. Youth usually means more enthusiasm and up-tempo. Now, we'll be able to do our own thing and play Anaheim's style."
Such style obviously translates to pleasing results, because the Ducks never did suffer the slings and arrows of a team in its inaugural season, winning an NHL expansion-record 33 games. By contrast, in the Washington Capitals' first season (1974-75), they won eight games (8-67-5).
As far as attendance goes, they say the only way to get a seat at Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim is to bring it with you.
"The Anaheim style," says Kyle, "is to be aggressive while maintaining a strong defensive posture." No departure from the norm there. "But we do encourage guys to be creative, to take chances. That's how a player develops, and that's what we'll be about while trying to put on a good show for the local fans."
The coach says he is confident the players assigned to Baltimore by the parent club "are ready for the AHL. Also, Anaheim went out and got more players to build up its farm system."
Below the Bandits, the Ducks' Triple-A affiliate, if you will, comes Raleigh of the East Coast Hockey League and teams in the Western and Ontario (junior) Hockey Leagues.
NOTES: Players continue to be assigned and arrive in town. Eleven Bandits practiced at the Arena yesterday, and the team will practice at the rink in Columbia today and tomorrow before heading up for an exhibition game in Hershey Wednesday evening. . . . The club's home opener is Oct. 6 against Southern Division foe Carolina, then it hits the road for four games. Eight of Baltimore's first 11 games are away, which doesn't bode well for a fast start.