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Stapleton happy to be home in Chicago

by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com

Tim Stapleton grew up in a Chicago suburb, yet resisted the lure of the Blackhawks.

His father was from Michigan, so the whole family followed Detroit sports.

The Chicago Wolves, though, they were different.

Tim went to the team’s very first home game, Oct. 14, 1994, and enjoyed rooting for it without violating his allegiance to the Motor City.

Fifteen years later, the Wolves still are one of his favorite teams. The added perk is that now he gets to help direct Chicago into a new era.

Stapleton, a forward traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs organization to the Atlanta Thrashers in the summer, is one of the productive constants in a stormy start to the season for the Wolves. Through the first 11 games, the forward contributed five goals and two assists.

"I love it. I haven’t played at home since I was 16, 17. It’s the first time they (his family) have seen me play in person since I was in college," said Stapleton, 27. "For me, to be able to come home and hang with people outside of hockey is always nice. It kind of clears your mind from what you’re doing."

With the way Stapleton’s last few months have gone, he needs something to ground him. Last year, in his first full AHL season, he was one of the best players in the league with 28 goals and 51 assists for the Toronto Marlies. On July 1, he was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers with Pavel Kubina for Garnet Exelby and Colin Stuart.

"I would have loved to have stayed there. We were on the verge of doing another contract," Stapleton said. "I was a little upset. Excited, too."

Stapleton’s adjustment to the new organization has continued well past the offseason and into the start of the real games. He’s playing center and wing, and said he hasn’t gone more than a game or two with the same linemates.

Within the first month of the season, Chicago fired coach Don Granato, traded popular power forward Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman, signed veteran goalie Manny Legace and brought in all-time great Chris Chelios, among other moves.

Yet Stapleton motors along, looking every bit like the hometown kid settling in.

"It’s definitely a transition for me. I’m one of the newer guys," he said. "I’m coming on the team, most of the guys played together last year. I’ll play wherever, I’ll play with whoever."

There was one small glitch to Stapleton’s summertime switch, though, that needed a little fixing. Just before his trade, he sold his place in Chicago and moved to Toronto. But thanks to his contacts and familiarity with the area, backtracking to find a new place in Chicago didn’t take too long.

"It wasn’t that big of a hassle," he said. "Everything has been pretty smooth moving back."

Lindsay Kramer, the AHL correspondent for NHL.com, profiles an up-and-coming player each Monday during the season, and his AHL notebook appears each Thursday on NHL.com. Read today’s complete column here.