By Tony Brown | AHL On The Beat Archive
When the National Hockey League’s Columbus Blue Jackets, in conjunction with Cleveland’s Lake Erie Monsters, announced last April that the two organizations had launched into a multi-year affiliation agreement, few individuals were more excited to hear the news than fourth-year Monsters forward Trent Vogelhuber, a 2007 Blue Jackets draft pick, playing at the time for Columbus’ then-AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons.
“There were rumblings of [the affiliation change] throughout the second half of the season, but nobody really thought it would happen until maybe a year or two down the road,” explained Vogelhuber, a 27 year-old right wing who tallied a career-high 16 points last season for the Falcons. “We found out with a couple weeks left in the season, and although I was trying to focus on the end of the year, I was already getting excited.”
Why the excitement? Vogelhuber is a son of the Buckeye State of Ohio if ever there was one.
“I was born at University Hospital, just on the east side of downtown Cleveland, learned to skate at the Kent State ice rink and moved to Columbus when I was six,” said Vogelhuber, rattling off his Ohio roots seamlessly after a recent morning practice. “I played in college at Miami University in Oxford, on the other side of the state, but for the majority of my life I’ve been playing and learning the game in Ohio…in all four corners of the state.”
Vogelhuber’s elation over playing again in his home state extends to his family, according to his mother, Dawn Vogelhuber.
“I feel like he’s almost the poster-child for the organization—born in Cleveland and raised in Columbus,” said Mrs. Vogelhuber at a recent Monsters game at Quicken Loans Arena. “We live just two hours away, so selfishly, we’re absolutely thrilled to have him so close.”
In 18 appearances for Lake Erie this season, Vogelhuber, a 6’2”, 185 lb. right-handed shooter, has four goals, seven points, 15 penalty minutes and a +3 rating to his credit and Monsters Head Coach Jared Bednar says, Vogelhuber plays a critical role on his team.
“He’s one of our most reliable defensive forwards and he’s a guy that plays in every situation for us,” detailed Bednar. “We’ll put a letter on him at times throughout the season…He’s really an extension of our coaching staff in our dressing room, that’s how we look at him.”
On the cusp of his collegiate career in 2007, Vogelhuber was tabbed by the Blue Jackets with the final pick of the 2007 NHL Draft, held at Nationwide Arena in Columbus; drafted in his hometown, by his hometown team. For every player lucky enough to realize his draft-day dreams, the moment of validation holds a special place in his memory, but Vogelhuber’s selection meant a lot to a lot of people, according to his mother.
“At the time Trent was drafted, hockey was not what it is now in Columbus,” said Mrs. Vogelhuber. “When he was growing up in youth hockey, everybody said a local kid is not going to be drafted, but Trent’s attitude was always, ‘Somebody has to be the first kid.’ When it actually happened, we were over the moon about it.”
It’s clear that Vogelhuber takes great pride in blazing the trail for future generations of young Ohio hockey talent.
“From when I was little to now, there’s such a huge difference in youth hockey in the state,” said Vogelhuber. “When I was on the youth teams, we’d play teams from Detroit or Chicago and the results were usually pretty lopsided, but now the Columbus and Cleveland teams are winning nationals and competing worldwide. It’s pretty cool to see and it’s special to me being one of the first few guys to come out of Columbus to play pro.”
As if serving as an Ohio hockey pioneer wasn’t enough, Vogelhuber says the support the Monsters have received from his hometown Cleveland fans this season has been nothing short of inspiring.
“The crowds have been some of the best I’ve ever played in front of. They’re loud and I think we’re establishing [The Q] as a really difficult place for away teams to play,” said Vogelhuber enthusiastically. “I think everybody’s excited about it, not only me… we’re looking forward to it continuing all season long.”