New players. New uniforms. New name. New coach. And the team coming in to return hockey to Baltimore after a two-year lapse tonight, the Carolina Monarchs, are new, too. Have you noticed a trend here?
The Baltimore Bandits, an offspring of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, make their official debut in the American Hockey League, the 7:30 p.m. start being preceded by the usual pomp and ceremony accompanying a new franchise's unveiling.
Team spokesmen wouldn't give specifics about the planned festivities, but they should be joyous considering the Bandits have already made a solid impression by drawing 5,000 to an exhibition game last weekend.
"Everybody has first-game jitters anyway," said Bandits coach Walt Kyle. "Add the fact that both teams are new and coming into a different league and, well, things might look a little disorganized at the beginning."
Consequently, the rallying cry for Baltimore's third AHL team as the league enters its 60th season is forbearance. "We have to be patient," Kyle said. "Nothing will be won in the first couple of minutes, much less the first game."
It is the start of a feeling-out process that will continue for a couple of months, the time it will take for the Bandits to have matched body checks with each of the other 17 AHL teams. "For me," said Kyle, "I'll be looking at the talent level in the league for the first time, checking out what other coaches do tactically."
"The most important thing for the players is not only getting to know the opposition but getting comfortable. There's lots of adjustments; to arenas, to the boards, to the different environments we'll be in."
What about comparisons between the AHL and IHL, where some of the Bandits had been playing? "Basically, it's the same level of play, both having NHL call-up players," Kyle said.
The style is different, though. Kyle said he and a half-dozen ex-San Diego Gulls who played for him last year will have to get used to a faster tempo and a more physically aggressive game.
"The players are a little older in the IHL and there's a little more respect among them than here, where the younger guys are always testing each other. The other teams will give everything they have, so you better give everything you have. You'll pay a price physically every night in this league," Kyle said.
Home Team Sports will carry tonight's game, with Brooks Melchior and Josh Lewin announcing. Brian Hamilton has the radio play-by-play on WITH (1230 AM).
No. Player ... ... ... ... ... Pos.
Mark DeSantis .. ... ... ... D
Scott Chartier .. .. ... ... D
Jarrod Skalde ... .. ... ... C
Sean Pronger ... .. ... ... C
Craig Reichert .. .. .. ... RW
Mike Maneluk ... ... .. ... LW
David Sacco ... ... ... ... C
Steven King ... ... ... ... LW
Maxim Bets ... .. .. .. ... LW
20 Byron Penstock .. .. .. ... G
Alex Hicks ... ... .. .. .. LW
22 Peter Leboutillier .. .. .. RW
23 John Lilley ... ... ... ... RW
Darren Van Impe ... ... ... D
Jeremy Stevenson .. ... ... LW
26 Nikolai Tsulygin .. ... ... D
27 Alain Deeks ... ... ... ... D
Jason Marshall .. .. .. ... D
Mike O'Neill ... ... .. ... G
Pavel Trnka ... ... ... ... D
J. F. Jomphe .. ... ... ... C
General manager: Pierre Gauthier. Head coach: Walt Kyle. Assistant coach: Mike Gibbons.
Opponent: Carolina Monarchs
Site: Baltimore Arena
TV/Radio: HTS/WITH (AM 1230)
Outlook: This is the season opener for both teams, new additions to the American Hockey League. The Bandits are expected to get off to a good home start. They have more experienced players than the Monarchs, an affiliate of the Florida Panthers.