All things considered, Ben Maxwell performed pretty well Wednesday at Mile One Centre in his first game for the St. John’s IceCaps, but perhaps his best shift of the night came after the 5-3 loss to the Syracuse Crunch.
That was when he appeared outside the IceCaps’ dressing room — tired out from travel and toil, and maybe in need of a GPS to properly orient himself — to patiently answer reporters’ questions. He even managed to summon up a little humour through his obvious fatigue.
“Absolutely. I have no winter coats left. Sold them all ... no that last part is not really true,” he answered with a wry smile when asked if he had learned to be a light packer because of his recent hockey history — which has seen him play with seven different team in the space of 20 a months, including a recent stint in southern California with the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks.
Maxwell’s pro hockey career started quite normally. Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the second round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, he played two-plus seasons with the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs, with a couple of promotions to the Canadiens along the way.
But in February of this year, he was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers in the deal that brought defenceman Brent Sopel to the Canadiens. And so began a nine-month odyssey that saw him move from Hamilton to the AHL’s Chicago Wolves and then to Atlanta. This fall, after the Thrashers moved to Manitoba and became the Jets, he played four games for Winnipeg before being claimed on waivers by the Ducks. But then, when Anaheim placed in on waivers on the weekend, he was reclaimed by the Jets, who immediately assigned him to St. John’s.
All that movement begets travel, including a cross-continent journey that saw him leave Los Angeles Monday afternoon on a flight that landed in Toronto at 11 a.m. He made it to his hotel around 1 a.m., grabbed a few hours sleep and was back up at 6 a.m. Wednesday to catch a flight to St. John’s, where he played that evening.
In other words, there was no telling what his watch said.
“I’m getting used to it. I’ve had quite a few teams in the last calendar year of hockey, so it’s nothing new to me. It’s part of the game, part of the business. But is was funny playing against guys who were teammates yesterday,” said Maxwell, who found himself up against Syracuse goalie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, sent to the Crunch by Anaheim earlier this week.
In fact, there’s a good chance that if the Jets hadn’t claimed Maxwell, he too would have been assigned to Syracuse and playing against the IceCaps, instead of for them. Maxwell didn’t have a point Wednesday and was minus-one, but on the ice at least,he didn’t show too many signs of the mental or physical fatigue he must have been feeling.
“In professional hockey, you have to be on your game at all times. That’s what I tried to do,” said the 23-year-old North Vancouver, B.C. native, who is also trying to maintain his confidence amidst all the transactions, including convincing himself the trades, claims and reclaims only mean that teams want him.
“I hope so. I know was happy to get a chance and tried to make the most of it,” said Maxwell, who had an assist and was plus-two in six games with Anaheim, giving him a goal and two assists in 42 total NHL games with the Canadiens, Thrashers, Jets and Ducks.
In his first appearance with the Caps, Maxwell was pivot for a line that included two other natural centres, Patrice Cormier and Eric O’Dell. It was a situation created, in part, by a shortage of wingers on Wednesday. Carl Klingberg and Jason Jaffray were on recall to Winnipeg; Riley Holzapfel and Shawn Weller were injured, with neither is expected to play until after Christmas; and rookie John Albert was also sidelined with a day-to-day ailment.
You can now add Jason King to the latter list. The Corner Brook native, who shares the St. John’s goal-scoring lead with Kingberg (they each have nine), was hurt in the first period of Wednesday’s game and did not return.
King was examined by doctors Thursday, but St. John’s head coach Keith McCambridge couldn’t say if he would be available for tonight’s game against the visiting Worcester Sharks. And as for Albert, McCambridge said he is doubtful for tonight. If neither King or Albert can go tonight, look for recent arrival Daniel Koger to draw into the lineup for St. John’s (15-5-5). Koger was a healthy scratch Wednesday after playing his first AHL game Tuesday in a 4-3 win over Syracuse.
Notes: Defenceman Kyle Bushee, who didn’t play in either game against the Crunch, has been returned to the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL. Bushee had a goal, two assists and a plus-one rating in eight games with St. John’s, and acquitted himself well during his time here. However, with the return of Brett Festerling from Winnipeg, Bushee became the eighth defenceman of the IceCaps’ roster ... Worcester (8-6-6) is led in scoring by rearguard Matt Irwin, who has seven goals and nine assists through 20 games ... If you are looking for a word to describe the AHL Sharks, “big” would suffice. Worcester has a half-dozen players listed with both heights and weights at six-foot-three and 220 pounds or more ... The 50-50 draw at IceCaps games, which has already created a buzz with steady five-figure payouts, is guaranteed to be that much more popular tonight as there is a guaranteed prize of $15,000 ... Tonight’s game and Sunday 2 p.m. rematch between Worcester and St. John’s at Mile One constitute the Caps’ last home games of 2011. The team finishes off its December schedule one the road, with a week-long Christmas break in between ... Tonight’s game, which starts at 7:30 p.m., is being broadcast on Rogers TV, This Is Newfoundland Labrador, Radio 930 AM, and online, with connections through the radio station’s and IceCaps websites. Brian Rogers pre-game show on radio begins at approximately 7 p.m.