Hoffman continues to fight his way to the NHL

by D.J. Abisalih || AHL On The Beat Archive

hoffman2_200.jpgThroughout his hockey career, Portland Pirates forward Mike Hoffman has always tried to make the most of his opportunities.

As a young kid growing up in Scituate, Mass., Hoffman always had his eyes set on being a professional athlete. Now, Hoffman is 27 and one step away from the NHL, the ultimate opportunity that rests in his own hands.

A Boston Bruins fanatic and Cam Neely admirer growing up, Hoffman has very similar characteristics to his childhood idol. Known for his toughness and hard work, the Pirates forward also possesses strong family values that have brought him to where he is today.

When he was growing up, Hoffman’s dad instilled strong family values in his three sons: Justin, Alex and Mike. Justin currently works for Scituate Concrete Companies (a business owned by the Hoffman family), Alex is a freshman defenseman excelling at Curry College and Mike is living his dream as a professional athlete for Portland’s American Hockey League team.

Before the three brothers reached success, they all learned about the core values that make Mike and his family so close. All three brothers poured concrete and oiled forms at the family-owned factory in Scituate. The factory was a great place for Mike to learn life lessons and cement a foundation for his career.

“It was the dirty job, not much fun, but something we chose to do,” said Hoffman. After seven years at the factory, Mike found a new way to collect a paycheck. In December of 2003, Hoffman was playing collegiate hockey at the University of Connecticut but was having difficulty making the decision to turn pro. Again it was his hands and advice from his father that would be his best assets. The decision to leave school wasn’t an easy one, but as he has done in the past he turned to his father for advice.

Hoffman had a phone conversation with his father to discuss leaving school. Hoffman decided to heed his father’s advice, and a few days later, Mike’s agent made a call to the St. Louis Blues asking if they would give him an offer. The Blues agreed, and Hoffman was signed to a professional tryout contract with the AHL’s Worcester IceCats.

Entering the contract, Mike’s role was to go out and play physical, dropping the gloves if he had to. With Worcester’s fighter going down in practice that same week, Hoffman got asked the question he’d never forget. Coach Don Granato asked him, “Do you fight?” Looking to do anything in order to crack the lineup, Hoffman replied, “I do now.” Three shifts into his first AHL game, Mike dropped the gloves with Bridgeport’s Graham Belak.

Hoffman was then signed to a two-way contract, and immediately given the tag of “tough guy.”

hoffman_200.jpg Hoffman spent the next two seasons in the AHL’s North Division with the Cleveland Barons and Toronto Marlies. Mike was expecting to sign a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2006 off-season, but never got an offer and was forced to seek other options.

Eventually, the New York Rangers called Hoffman’s agent and offered him a preseason tryout. After his first preseason game with the Hartford Wolf Pack, Mike began suffering from stomach pains. A visit to the doctor revealed that he needed to have his appendix removed.

After three weeks recovering at home, Hoffman was again looking at a situation where there were no offers on the table. Finally, the Los Angeles Kings called, needing an enforcer for their AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs.

His game began to click in Manchester. Mike was putting up points, winning fights, and earning his keep.

However, Mike spent all his time in Manchester on a professional tryout and when his second tryout contract expired nobody said anything and he became a free agent. The next day the Monarchs were playing the Marlies in an afternoon game. Hoffman was without a contract. Midway through the game, Hoffman received a phone call from the Anaheim Ducks, offering a two-year deal. Mike took the deal and headed to Portland to play for the Pirates.

Just under a year later, Hoffman has become a very popular player with the Pirates because of his play on the ice, his ability to drop the gloves and his commitment to the community.

During the postseason last year, Mike got an amazing opportunity, spending the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs practicing with the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Ducks. For Hoffman it was a taste of the NHL.

“It was a special experience to be on a team with future Hall of Famers and the eventual Stanley Cup champions. The opportunity was a once in a lifetime chance and something every player dreams of and drives me every day.”