by Mike Ulmer | TorontoMarlies.com
Daniel Girardi has it figured out.
He’ll need a dozen tickets, maybe more, for his debut at the 2007 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic in Toronto, January 28 and 29.
There are two reasons why.
Girardi is a local boy. He is from Welland, Ont., an hour-long jaunt from Ricoh Coliseum. His dad works at the General Motors plant in St. Catharines. His mom is a nurse in Welland. There are friends and relatives to consider.
“With all those people there,” he said, “I’ve got to do good.”
The other reason is this may be his only chance. Girardi, an American Hockey League rookie last season, undrafted junior, has emerged as a bona fide prospect for a job on the New York Rangers blue line.
The six-foot-two, right-handed shot has maximized his time with the Wolf Pack. In his rookie year, he carded a more than respectable 39 points and won a spot on the league’s All-Rookie team. This year, Girardi has recorded 21 points in half a season with the Wolf Pack and earned his first all-star invitatition where he will start on the blue line alongside Hershey defenseman Lawrence Nycholat.
“I’m like a lot of guys who worries about his end first,” Girardi said. “I want to get the puck up to the forwards. If you do that, the points will come.”
Girardi‘s path up the development ladder has been a winding one. He started playing at five years old, played Junior B at home and was drafted by the OHL’s Barrie Colts. But Girardi struggled in Barrie and played only six games in his first season.
He ruptured his spleen in his second season and lost almost all of his season to the injury. Girardi’s luck finally changed when he was traded to the Guelph Storm. That earned him a trip to the Memorial Cup. The next season he got another, this one as a member of the Memorial Cup champion London Knights.
“We played Rimouski and Sidney Crosby and it was a great experience,” Girardi said. “I was on the ice for just about every shift against Sidney.”
That earned him a free-agent contract from the Rangers.
“Naturally, the thing I’m aiming at is playing in the NHL. I want to try and play on the bigger stage but playing in the American League has been a great experience.”