Looking back on the Rampage as Year 5 begins

by Andrew Monaco || AHL On The Beat Archive

sa_200.jpgThe fifth season of the San Antonio Rampage may be the most anticipated season for the American Hockey League squad. And while we look ahead to the team’s drive in year five, you can’t help but look at what has been.

If any position has been showcased, it has been goaltending. From day one, goalies have been the backbone of the team. From the ultra-competitiveness of Chris Mason; to the ultra-maturity of Wade Flaherty; the seemingly-impenetrable Travis Scott; the desire of Karl Goehring; the persistence of Scott Stirling; to the look, demeanor and unflappability of David LeNeveu. Hands down, the netminders have been a treat to watch.
Rampage fans love their tough guys, and San Antonio has had its share. Let’s start with Rocky Thompson. Even though “The Rock” was here for a short time, he left a lasting impression. And even today, he admits he loved playing in South Texas. Then there is Joey Tetarenko, who wowed the crowd by playing hockey’s version of pinball.
Now I hope both of them will forgive me for this story. These two rough-and-tumble guys on the ice have hearts of gold off it — as it should be. Of course, my lasting impression of both guys is chasing and playing with their children at a holiday party. Physical on the ice and playful dads off.
Another player who was here for a short time but who made a long impact was T.J. Reynolds. He knew how to get the arena rocking, with a board-rocking check or a powerful punch. You even had to admire Grant McNeill, who backed down from no one. Recently, Chris “Big Mac” McAllister and Doug Doull patrolled the ice. I’ll never forget Martin Sonnenberg in the airport looking over and commenting, “Just look at Doug and, with that face, you just know he’s a hockey player.” Martin is right.
Yet it didn’t always have to be a fighter to get the building alive. Gritty and hard-nosed are just a couple of ways to describe Gregory Campbell and Greg Jacina. Rugged and determined, too. Was there anybody who got more out of his talent than David Gove? He made up for his perceived lack of size by outworking everybody. And night after night, former head coach John Torchetti would rave about Juraj Kolnik. Not for his goals, but for leading the team in hits time and again.
Another trip down memory lane. Kristian Kudroc knocking someone to the ice. That didn’t stand out. It was the circumstances. See, the opponent (foolishly) made a run at Kudroc, attempted to deliver the check, only to bounce off Kudroc and fall to the ice. Victor Uchevatov is like that, too. As is Matthew Spiller. All could stop a skater in his tracks with a well-timed check.
For flair and creativity, the name Filip Novak comes to mind. And what about the instincts and wizardry of Michel Periard, especially at the point on the power play. Too small? Try too talented and a magician at that point position. Then there is the speed and power that Matt Jones possesses. It’s a combination that, hopefully, leads to a long NHL career.
No team would be complete without characters. Brendan Walsh was one of a kind when it came to that. The chirping was non-stop with Walsh, similar to the Cowboys’ Terrell Owens. Another guy who could hurt you with his stick, or his mouth, was Jim Campbell. Then there are Jarrod Skalde, Steve Passmore, Sonnenberg, Randall Gelech and Pascal Rheaume who you would want in the conversation, or to be around, for their wit and for their stories.
While the players may come and go, one constant remains — Rampage fans. No group is more giving, with their support for this team and for their causes. The passion that is displayed is not lost on the players. They have mentioned more than a few times how disappointed they have been not to reward the great fans. Oh, they notice the support. 
That passion turns into generosity whenever a jersey is up for auction. Whether honoring the bravery of the military, firefighters, service men and women or supporting the worthwhile charities in the Alamo City, the spirit and generosity of Rampage fans shines through. In the past four years, nearly $200,000 dollars have been raised, making this not a great place to play, but more importantly, a better place to live and a great place to play.
And that connection between city and player has been felt. Ask Serge Payer, who did his best to give back to his adopted community. Mike Green and Ryan Jardine are others who mentioned how much they love this city.
What we look forward to is the connection of San Antonio to the NHL. We had it briefly with the Florida Panthers, seeing Stephen Weiss, Jay Bouwmeester and Nathan Horton star in the league. As painful as the NHL lockout was to hockey fans, the AHL was the beneficiary with an abundance of NHL-caliber players playing right here.
Now the next step is to see who moves from the Rampage to the Phoenix Coyotes. The partnership seems to be strong, as evidenced by the Coyotes’ moves in the off-season. Phoenix made a strong run at the playoffs last year, coming up just short at the season’s conclusion. The Rampage are poised to make a postseason run, and hopefully more, this season. They look forward to returning to the Calder Cup playoffs after a three-year absence. That’s why this may be the most-anticipated season of them all.
It’s always fun to look back. Now it’s time to look ahead, at more memories in the making. It’s that time again. It’s time to drop the puck.

Andrew Monaco is the play-by-play voice of the San Antonio Rampage