His nickname is The Sheriff and he was recently named The Captain, but last weekend Kirby Law added one more moniker to his file – The Magician.
Law’s highlight-reel goal – tipping the puck with his stick through his legs and by a stunned Frederic Cassivi – has fans in Houston talking. The tally capped off a 3-1 win over the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks in the Aeros’ home opener.
“I realized the puck went back to the point,” said Law, a first-year Aero who was originally behind the net. “I saw that Ray Giroux looked up before he shot, and he realized I was at the side of the net. It was kind of a planned play. Things happen fairly quickly, and you just try to deflect it. Fortunately it went into the net.”
“He’s a 6-foot, 190-pound player,” said Aeros head coach Todd McLellan. “He’s adequate size. I know a lot of players much bigger and heavier that don’t have the fire in their guts like Kirby does. A lot of players play, but he competes. I hope it’s contagious to our other players, and they’ll say ‘I can play like that as well.’”
Those are just some of the many reasons Law was named the Aeros’ captain prior to the season opener last week.
“I was obviously very excited,” said Law, who wore an “A” for alternate captain periodically last season with AHL Philadelphia. “Coming to a new team, it’s kind of rare that a player jumps in and ends up being the captain. It’s usually someone who has been around a few years. I was very, very excited and honored as well that they have that much trust in me that they gave it to me.”
“Kirby wasn’t ‘given’ the “C”… He earned the “C” just in the three weeks he was here,” said McLellan. “Coaches have many different ways of choosing their captains. One of the things I believe in is to turn possession of the team over to the team. Every year we have a vote. We as coaches certainly influence it a bit. Our vote counts, but it was quite unanimous in the dressing room. I think that is because he commands respect in the room, and they feel that’s a real good quality. He commands it because he’s very professional. He’s open to all sorts of players, veterans and rookies, and he is available to them. His work ethic on ice is what the players appreciate.”
Law, a 2004 AHL All-Star now in his seventh professional season, is happy to be surrounded by teammates that won’t be afraid to take a leadership role either.
“There’s guys like Wanny (Kyle Wanvig) and Steph (Stephane Veilleux) and (Dan) Cavanaugh that have been here three years plus,” said Law. “Then you’ve got Todd Reirden, Patrick (Traverse) and Ray (Giroux). There are plenty of experienced guys on the team. I’m definitely looking forward to getting help from them. They’ll be big leaders as well.”
According to Law, there are several differences between playing in Philadelphia, where he spent the past three-plus seasons, and Houston – most notably the style of play in the West Division.
“I think this division, is a lot more of a playmaking division,” said Law. “I thought the east coast was much more hard-hitting, there was more chippiness, hard checking, a lot more fighting. The west you’re going to have to be a very good skater and puckhandler, and also be a much smarter player. It’s the little things that make a difference.”
The Aeros have already learned that sometimes, especially early in the season, simpler and definitely smarter can be better.
“Scoring early wasn’t as important as establishing our game early,” McLellan said after his team went up 2-0 Saturday, after falling behind 2-0 in a one-goal loss in San Antonio Friday. “Anyone who watched us play (Friday) knows we didn’t do that. (Saturday) we played a simpler game.”
“It’s a much better league this year,” added Law. “There’s going to be less margin for error because mistakes will end up in your net. The first game, we tried to be a little bit too fancy. Saturday we simplified everything.”
Law, 27, said he had “some offers” to go overseas like many other AHL veterans have done. “But I think I wanted to give myself a chance,” he said. “The AHL is a great steppingstone to make the NHL. Being over here, if something does happen and the NHL starts up, I feel like I do have an upper hand on most guys who are not in this league.”