Late last season, the Bandits were on their way to becoming a force in the American Hockey League, as their run in the playoffs attested. As year two of the franchise dawns, however, the cast mainly responsible for the heroics has been decimated.
Gone are the top eight point-scorers, the young veterans who turned what looked to be an impossible situation around. In their stead is a youthful cast of alleged prospects, compliments of the parent Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
But as opposed to last year, when the club had to sit back for a couple of weeks to see what it had (translation, not much), it took Bandits assistant general manager Mike Mudd about two seconds to get on the phone to get some help before potential damage commences.
Dave Sacco, who played 25 games here last season before going to the NHL, was being farmed out by the New York Islanders, a team that does not have an AHL affiliate. They wanted Sacco playing the brand of hockey the league features and Mudd landed what figures to be the team's top forward at the start.
Previously, the Bandits had no hockey man on hand, the assistant general manager of the Ducks serving as the GM here in (3,000-mile) absentia. Owner Mike Caggiano corrected that situation, posthaste. So where did this guy with the interesting name come from? Any relation to Dr. Samuel Mudd, ministrator to John Wilkes Booth?
Next time you hear some ingrate rage on about starting at an entry-level position, just say two words: Mike Mudd. and then relate this story.
A few years ago, the short but extremely eventful professional goaltending career of Mudd was coming to an end in (yeah, but will it play in) Peoria.
"I was back to being the third-string goalie of the Peoria Rivermen of the 'I' [International Hockey League] and, heading into the playoffs, they certainly didn't need three guys," recalled Mudd. "I figured that was my shot at a playing career and I knew I wanted to stay in hockey when a stroke of good fortune came along: Miami [University] of Ohio offered me a two-year graduate assistant's job."
Better yet, while Mudd was coaching hockey and picking up a master's degree in sports organization and management, his new wife, Holly, also was in the graduate assistant's program and working toward her master's degree in business administration.
Things couldn't have worked out better over the next two years, Miami becoming a collegiate power and, in May of 1994, both of the Mudds holding advanced degrees. The world was their oyster, right? Not exactly.
"A couple of schools were interested in me as an assistant," Mudd said, "but there was an economics problem. For me to work for [peanuts] would have meant my wife would have had to make at least that much working someplace nearby. We were at the point of having to make a decision when Holly got offered a good job in Washington."
So, each morning after Holly would head off to work in the District, Mudd would paper the region with resumes: "Teams, television, radio, colleges, it didn't matter. I just knew it had to be sports. After all, that's what I was trained for."
While awaiting replies, which didn't turn out to be numerous, he heard about a summer hockey school being conducted at Piney Orchard Ice Arena. Right up his alley. Starting out as a fill-in instructor at the school, he ended up being offered the post of general manager and director of hockey operations at the facility.
Assuring one and all that he was willing to do anything it took to start up the ladder of success, he was put to the test immediately. Like at 5 a.m. There were a million things to be done daily at the rink after opening it and Mudd did every one of them: Drive the Zamboni, clean up. Do the floors and the repairs. Help load and unload.
"I'm thankful for the folks at Piney Orchard, giving me a start," said Mudd, "but I was being underutilized. With my background and education, I'm sure I could have been a big help running the pro shop and doing community relations."
He bided his time and, when it was announced an AHL team was coming to Baltimore, he moved quickly, latching onto a job doing statistics for coach Walt Kyle. Next, Mudd provided for Brian Hamilton's radio broadcasts. He had picked up radio experience during his coaching days at Miami.
"I'd work until 5 p.m. [at Piney Orchard], then hustle up to Baltimore to work Bandit games." All on a strictly volunteer basis, understand.
Ultimately, Mudd's offer to help out with the goalies and with anything else he could do to facilitate team practices was taken up by Kyle. Not only was he proving he'd do anything it takes to be in the business, Mudd said, "I'd look forward to those two or three hours of volunteer work as the highlight of my day.
"It's a perfect fit the way I see it," he said Mudd of his current Bandits position. "We'll be signing five of our own players and I've done a lot of work in personnel. While my hockey background helped in getting me this job, I think the fact I know how to hit the hockey community is just as important because that's what has to be done here."
While Mudd is generous with his praise for people who have helped him, he knows he's done a bunch of things right along the way, like education, hard work and a willingness to do whatever it takes.
Pub Date: 10/04/96