by Damon Markiewicz || AHL On The Beat Archive
When Springfield Falcons head coach Jeff Truitt was searching to name a team captain at the start of the 2008-09 campaign, he had some options, but overall, there seemed to be one perfect player to wear the “C”.
That player of choice was Tim Sestito.
“When you talk about having the respect of your teammates and leading by example, you think of someone like Tim,” said Truitt. “Having been around Tim last year, I knew what type of person and player he is and that made my decision a little easier. He competes hard every night, every practice and has all the qualities you want in your captain.”
So, after the team’s practice back on Oct. 8, Truitt announced that Sestito was the 13th captain in Falcons team history, an honor that Sestito didn’t take lightly because he knew the list of former captains in Springfield includes John Stevens, Rob Murray, Jeff Daniels and Rick Berry.
“It’s a huge honor to be a captain at any level,” said Sestito. “I am not a guy who will say a lot, I like to lead by example and play the game the right way, I think that’s the best way to lead. I think we have a bunch of different guys on this team who can lead, guys like Jake Taylor, Ryan Potulny, Carl Corazzini, Derek Bekar and Mathieu Roy just to name a few. I know there have been a lot of great captains in Springfield over the years and I just want to do my part to help us win games.”
After a four-year junior career with the Ontario Hockey league’s Plymouth Whalers, Sestito split time between the AHL and ECHL through his first two seasons of pro hockey. In 2005-06, he played in 72 games with the ECHL’s Greenville Grrrowl and scored 21 goals, added 23 assists and 127 penalty minutes.
The following campaign, Sestito split the season between the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder and AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and he quickly displayed a grit on the ice and a reputation of a player who wouldn’t be afraid to get into the high-traffic areas on the ice and he would stand up for himself and his teammates.
During his first season with the Falcons last year, the Rome, N.Y., native appeared in 77 games, the third-highest total on the club, and with Sestito’s physical style of play, there were nights that he played through many bumps and bruises.
“There is no question Tim will play through pain, I saw that a lot last year and again this year,” said Truitt. “He is the type of guy who wants to play through pain, but you have to force him not to play when shouldn’t. He works hard and earns everything he gets out there, he is a true competitor.”
It’s the desire of Sestito that had Truitt excited to have him back on the roster entering the 2008-08 campaign. Sestito arrived back in Springfield after an impressive training camp in Edmonton. He helped lead the Falcons to an impressive 9-4-2-1 record through their first 16 games, and he would soon reap the benefits of all his hard work.
After the Falcons’ 5-1 win over the Providence Bruins on Nov. 22, Sestito was told he would have the chance to live a dream and get a shot at playing in the National Hockey League for the Edmonton Oilers. Sestito would make his NHL debut in Edmonton on Nov. 26 against the Los Angeles Kings and to nobody’s surprise, the 6-foot, 195-pound center finished tied for the Oilers team lead in hits on that night.
“It was definitely an awesome moment being able to play in the NHL,” said Sestito, who had 138 ECHL games and 106 AHL contests under his belt before his first NHL game. “Especially in Edmonton with all of the history and tradition, it was just a great moment and something I will never forget.”
Just a couple days after his NHL debut, Sestito was back with the Falcons, wearing the “C” and leading by example once again. And if you think a taste of the NHL will change Sestito’s work ethic, guess again.
“I always try to be consistent with how I prepare for each game and each practice,” said Sestito. “Hard work is so important; when you work hard good things happen in this game.”
Truer words could not be spoken.