by Jeff Elston | AHL On The Beat
Over the course of seven professional seasons on the ice, Cleveland Monsters veteran defenseman Tommy Cross has experienced most of the ups and downs that come with being a hockey player.
That said, entering the 2018-19 season — Cross’ eighth in the pro ranks — the Connecticut native found himself in relatively unfamiliar territory.
After spending the entirety of his professional career in the Boston Bruins organization, Cross signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets last offseason. At the end of Columbus’ training camp in September, Cross was assigned to Cleveland where he has played an integral role so far, not just on the ice but in the locker room as well.
“The transition to Cleveland and the Blue Jackets organization has been an exciting challenge,” said Cross. “New routines, on-ice systems, and living circumstances have been some of the more difficult adjustments but we’ve really enjoyed the change and are excited to be a part of the Monsters. [My family and I] have received a jolt of energy since our move and it’s been very refreshing to meet new teammates, coaches, and fans. It’s sparked a lot of growth in me as a player and person.”
Another fact that has not been lost on Cross and his family is the passion the Cleveland fan base has for its teams.
“The fans here in Cleveland are fantastic,” added Cross. “I’ve been impressed by the support and enthusiasm since I’ve arrived, especially from the Monsters Hockey Club boosters. The crowds at The Q have been large and [they’ve been] loud. We knew Cleveland was a sports town [coming in], but since being here, we have been blown away by the passion and loyalty that our fans show to not only us, but to the Browns, Cavs and Indians as well.”
Despite the fact the entirety of his pro experience came in Boston’s prospect pool, Cross is not completely unfamiliar with the Columbus Blue Jackets organization. Prior to his collegiate career at Boston College, Cross played nine games for the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets of the United States Hockey League in 2007-08.
“I was a young buck back then,” said Cross. “I remember [going to] the Ice Haus and watching the Blue Jackets at their morning skates. I lived in Dublin briefly with a very nice family. My time in Ohio was a great experience for me.”
Cross says it’s somewhat nostalgic to compare his brief time with Columbus back in 2007-08 to what it was like for him to transition to life as a Blue Jackets prospect this past September.
“It’s a funny coincidence getting the opportunity to sign a contract with the Blue Jackets 10 years later,” said Cross. “After spending training camp in Columbus, I was fortunate enough to get a much better feel for the city and its restaurants. It’s a great NHL city.”
On the ice, Cross is settling into his game and has been eager to help his teammates any way he can.
“I think I’ve started to get into my type of game [over the last few months],” explained Cross. “I just want to make sure I am filling my role every night for the team, which is taking care of my own end, blocking shots, and getting pucks to the forwards. I think I have a lot more to grow and to give so I am just worrying about trying to get better each day.”