Local connection paved way for Rats’ Guite

by Don Helbig || AHL On The Beat Archive

Ben Guite was 17 years old when he first played hockey in the area for Jim Salfi’s Capital District Selects junior team. While he played just one season for the team in 1995-96, that experience was the start of a path in hockey that has led the Montreal native back to the Capital Region as a member of the Albany River Rats.

Now in his seventh professional season and sixth in the American Hockey League, Guite was playing in a hockey showcase in Montreal in the mid-1990’s when his father bumped into Salfi.

“They hadn’t seen each other in 20, maybe 25 years,” Guite said. “My dad had lost all of his hair and Mr. Salfi’s hair had all turned gray, but they recognized each other right way. He asked my dad what I was doing and it started from there.”

Pierre Guite had played for Salfi at the University of Pennsylvania in 1971-72. “My dad had played four years of junior hockey in Canada from the time he was 15 to 19 and he wanted a university education,” Guite said. “He thought the American programs were really fit for that and he wanted to combine hockey with school. He met Mr. Salfi and had an opportunity to go play for him at the University of Pennsylvania.

“This was back in the early 1970’s and because the NCAA really didn’t exist back then, there weren’t any set rules on which players could play and which one’s couldn’t play and my dad was one of the first that was made an example of since he had played junior hockey in Canada and was declared a semi-professional,” Guite said. “A big battle went on for a whole year and he had to sit out. He kind of got sick of it and decided to turn pro (in the WHA). When he left, Mr. Salfi told my dad he owed him one.”

Salfi provided Guite with a chance to play for his Capital District Selects junior team as well as allowing him to live at his house with three other kids.

“It was a great experience playing for Mr. Salfi and the Capital District Selects,” Guite recalled. “He was a tough coach but at the same time he’ll go to bat for all of his kids, making sure they find good places to play hockey in college and if they’re not going to play (in college), he sets them up to do some cool things with their lives.”

Guite’s play with the Capital District Selects drew the attention of several Division I programs. Salfi pushed for him to go to the University of Maine.

“When Maine showed interest I knew in my heart that was where I wanted to go,” Guite said. “I was pretty fortunate to go there.” He played in 148 games during his four seasons at Maine, winning an NCAA championship in 1999 and leading the squad in goals with 22 as a senior. Guite was drafted by Montreal in the seventh round of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft and turned pro following his collegiate career.

He began his AHL career in 2002-03 with Bridgeport, followed by stops in Cincinnati, Bridgeport again, then Providence before landing in Albany this season. He had a breakout season with Providence last season, establishing career highs in goals (22), assists (31) and points (53) in 73 games and making his NHL debut for Boston in a 5-0 win on Jan. 30 against Ottawa.

“The guys (in Boston) all knew I was an older rookie playing in my first NHL game,” Guite said. “They told me to just go out there and have fun – not to worry about it. When you get called up you’re usually on the fourth line and don’t see a lot of ice time so there isn’t much of an opportunity to mess up. I really enjoyed it. It’s what you play for your entire life.”

Colorado signed Guite as a free agent during the summer and assigned him to Albany during training camp. Guite’s solid play, team-first attitude and work ethic have made an impression on River Rats head coach/GM Tom Rowe.

“The best way to describe Ben is, he’s the ultimate professional,” Rowe said. “He plays the game the right way. He has respect for the game, and he has respect for everyone he plays with.”

Rowe has used Guite in all situations but his primary role has been as the center on the club’s checking line. His ability to chip in offensively, win faceoffs and draw penalties makes him a valuable player.

In addition to playing for a key role for the River Rats, Guite is spending his free time away from the rink working towards his master’s degree.

“I had a bachelor’s degree in English coming out of college but didn’t really know what I was going to do with it,” Guite said. “I had an opportunity to go into the MBA program and complete the program in 13 to 14 courses. A professional hockey player has a lot of free time so I thought I might as well occupy it. I’ve been taking online courses here and in the summer I am going to go back to Maine and take a few courses there. Slowly but surely I’ll get there.”