Careers in professional hockey often take their authors to far-flung locales the likes of which their participants couldn’t dream of, but for Cleveland Monsters defenseman Cameron Gaunce, an eighth-year pro and Sudbury, ON native, there has been one recurring thread in his journey: Northeast Ohio.
Originally selected by the Colorado Avalanche in the second round (50th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Gaunce has 32 career NHL appearances, spending parts of three seasons with the Avalanche, Dallas Stars, and Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s spent the bulk of his playing career in the AHL, logging over 500 games over eight seasons with the Monsters, Texas Stars, Portland Pirates, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
On Saturday, January 13, Gaunce passed former Monsters forward Andrew Agozzino for first place on the franchise’s all-time appearance list, suiting up for Cleveland for the 226th time in his career.
“I think [the record] is a really nice thing,” said Gaunce at a recent Monsters practice. “At the end of your career it’s something you can hang your hat on because staying with one organization doesn’t happen very often and being able to do that in a city like Cleveland where my wife and I really enjoy ourselves means a lot to me.”
Gaunce first arrived in Cleveland during the 2010-11 season as a young blue-line prospect for the Avalanche, the Monsters’ then-primary development affiliate. Returning to Cleveland this season on a two-way NHL/AHL contract with the Monsters’ current affiliate, the Columbus Blue Jackets, Gaunce says the city he loves has only flourished in his absence.
“I think the biggest difference is downtown,” said Gaunce. “It seems like there’s a better energy down there now compared to the early days of my career…we really liked the city back then and we didn’t realize how much we liked it until we went to a couple other cities, but we love being here.”
Gaunce’s head coach, longtime NHL forward and three-time Stanley Cup Champion John Madden, says Gaunce provides a sterling example for his younger teammates. “He’s just so stable on the back end,” explained Madden prior to a recent Monsters road game. “When things start going a little haywire back there he settles things down. He’s got a strong compete level and he doesn’t make many mistakes and he’s extremely well-respected in the dressing room.”
While he’s no longer one of the youngest members of the team, Gaunce says he’s as excited as ever to call Northeast Ohio home and admits that even as a newer member of the Blue Jackets organization, he’s a resource to his teammates on the ins and outs of Cleveland living.
“There’s so much familiarity here, I haven’t even had to use GPS driving around yet,” joked Gaunce. “It’s technically my first year with this organization but some of these guys that have a year or two in Cleveland come to me about where to go for certain things…Going back to The Q as well and seeing so many of the same fans that were there years ago is so nice and that familiarity makes it so easy to come back.”
For the Monsters, Gaunce’s ten points (2-10-12) in 35 appearances this season place him second on the club among defensemen in scoring. That scoring touch makes it just as easy for Cleveland to welcome him back to his hockey home as the one and only “Mr. Monster.”