The Norfolk Admirals, the Anaheim Ducks primary affiliate in the American Hockey League, have been officially eliminated from the playoffs; however; there are still plenty of reasons to come to the rink and give it your all game in and game out and one of those reasons is a contract for next season.
Admirals’ goaltender Jason LaBarbera who is competing for a contract next year weighed in saying, “You obviously play hockey to win, but it’s your career, it’s your livelihood. Whatever situations and cards that you’re dealt, you have to find different ways to motivate yourself. To be honest, the guys have done a great job. For as frustrating and hard it’s been not winning, we’ve played very hard. We haven’t won a lot of games, but we’ve been in a lot of games and guys have competed and it’s all that you can ask for.”
Second-year pro Antoine Laganiere whose deal also expires at the end of the season echos LaBarbera’s message, “If there was a time to work, it would be now.” The Yale product went on to mention that you’re always being evaluated even late in the season. “They (Anaheim) want to see who comes to work everyday regardless. It’s important that you try to do that.”
Missing the playoffs and a 26-38-6-4 record can keep a team in a funk, but that’s not the case. LaBarbera says there isn’t a lot of negative energy floating around the rink as Norfolk’s Head Coach Jarrod Skalde likes to keep it positive. “There hasn’t been a lot of negative energy around which is nice. It wears you out when you lose, but they’ve (coaching staff) done a good job staying on point and staying positive. We’ve had a lot of turnover on our roster. We lost a lot of guys. That’s not easy, but the guys have competed. I think that’s a good sign for the coaching staff. They’ve been able to keep guys motivated, engaged, and involved.”
At the end of this season, the Admirals and Ducks split ways after a three-year partnership. The Ducks prospects will
ship west to San Diego to compete in the newly formed AHL Pacific Division. Norfolk in return links up with the Edmonton Oilers to form an ECHL partnership. So with one home game remaining LaBarbera stressed that the fans deserve a win saying, “Your winning for everybody, yourself, teammates, coaching staff, the fans and the organization. Considering we had a tough go this year and the team is moving we still had great crowds and the fans are still engaged, which is great. This has always been a really good hockey market. It’s unfortunate they’re losing an American League team, but they’re still getting an East Coast League team and that’s still great hockey and I’m sure they’ll do a real great job of supporting them.”
Although this season didn’t end the way the Admirals wanted it to, one thing’s for certain, the AHL Admirals will have to remain positive and give it their all while they’re still in Norfolk, because fans want to see the AHL go out with a bang. Hopefully the Admirals can deliver on their last home game which is on April 17th.