By Doug Plagens || AHL On The Beat Archive
When the Lake Erie Monsters hit the ice in Grand Rapids last Friday—a familiar road site for Cleveland’s American Hockey League club—the trip proved to be different than the average road game. The Monsters topped the Griffins for the first time this season, snapped a five-game winless skid in Van Andel Arena, and Monsters forward Joey Hishon played his first road game as a professional, before a near-sellout crowd.
And the 2010 first-round draft choice of the Colorado Avalanche didn’t just play in the game; he was a difference-maker, scoring the shootout-winning goal for the Monsters. After missing the whole 2011-12 campaign with a head injury, and not beginning his professional career until just last week, Hishon revealed the offensive skill he displayed in the Ontario Hockey League.
As for earning the confidence of his teammates and coaches, that didn’t take long either.
“It was definitely a big confidence booster to know that I can still do that at this level. It was huge for me,” Hishon said. “The fact that I had a shift in overtime and I had a shift late when the game was tied, and to get called in the shootout; [Monsters head coach Dean Chynoweth] showed some confidence in me, which I really appreciate. That’s huge when you’re trying to play games in a league you’ve never played in before.”
“He has tremendous skill. Everybody knows that,” said Monsters head coach Dean Chynoweth.” It was a matter of getting a chance to see it live and on the ice. He has done some great things that show he has tremendous hockey sense.
“For us as coaches, we were hoping that we would get him back because he’s another weapon to have in a situation like the shootout or on the power play where you have a guy who’s extremely gifted offensively.”
Hishon made his professional debut in a Monsters 4-2 loss to Toronto on March 19 in Cleveland, and in his third professional game—a home contest against Grand Rapids on Saturday—Hishon picked up his first career point when his rebound attempt on the power play bounced off teammate Bill Thomas’ skate and into the net. Initially, the goal was awarded to Hishon, but Thomas became the owner of the tally when replay revealed the puck glanced off the veteran forward. But Hishon will gladly accept the helper.
“That was huge for confidence as well. I know everyone thought I scored, but I knew it hit Bill right away, so I went over and told the ref as soon as I had a chance,” Hishon said. “Everyone was like, ‘Should I get the puck? Should I get the puck?’, and I said, ‘No, I didn’t score.’ Even after the game, I was getting texts until people had realized the goal had been changed and Bill had tipped it in.”
The Monsters coaching staff is happy to have Hishon back in the mix, but his teammates are happy to be playing alongside the gifted forward as well.
“It’s great to see Joey back,” said Monsters all-star forward, and rookie out of the OHL Andrew Agozzino. “Not only did I play against him, but he and I were teammates on Team Ontario and won the gold medal together at the Under-17’s, so we got to know each other there.
“Playing against him [In the OHL], he was one of the elite skill players in the league and just so competitive. The way he plays the game is fun to watch.”
The road back to hockey was a long one for Hishon, but following his return to the ice, he issued credit to some of the people who made him game-ready again.
“It was a tough road and a long road, but I can’t say enough about my family and my friends, and all the support,” Hishon said. As for the conditioning aspect, “[Monsters athletic trainer] Brent Woodside and [Monsters Director of AHL Operations/Assistant coach] Dave Oliver ran me through some very tough workouts. I really appreciate that and it’s something I needed to get back into shape and get ready to play.”
Now that Hishon’s professional career is underway, the focus has shifted away from his return and toward progressing. Hishon, who is still only 21 years old, wants nothing more than to win, and with that desire comes even more appreciation for the game he grew up playing.
“I always did appreciate the game, but you never know how much you miss something until it’s gone,” Hishon said.
“Now it’s time to move forward, and start winning some hockey games.”