By Robin Short
Telegram Sports Editor
Jason Jaffray has been part of two previous American Hockey League all-star games, and while it was an honour to play in the league’s marquee events in Toronto and Portland, Maine, it pales in comparison to what awaits the St. John’s IceCaps’ captain next month.
“To play in an all-star game itself is such an honour, but to be captain of a team, in a game that’s played in St. John’s, well, you get chills thinking about it,” Jaffray said Thursday.
“I’m extremely excited. It’s an opportunity you can only dream about. “
Jaffray, a 32-year-old veteran of 525 AHL games spread over 12 seasons, was selected by the league earlier in the day to captain the AHL all-stars in a one-game showdown with Färjestad BK of the Swedish Elite league Feb. 12 at Mile One Centre.
This year’s AHL All-Star Classic, presented by Assante Wealth Management, is a change from the traditional game which involved players split between East and West teams and prior to that, Canada and PlanetUSA.
A skills competition involving both teams will be held Feb. 11.
The AHL all-star team comprises 20 players – 12 forwards, six defencemen and two goaltenders – and was selected by a committee of AHL coaches and general managers.
Jeff Blashill, who coached the Grand Rapids Griffins to the Calder Cup last season, and Rob Zettler, head coach of the defending Eastern Conference champion Syracuse Crunch, will run the AHL bench.
Unlike previous last-goal-wins All-Star Classics, devoid of hitting and any semblance to defensive play, Jaffray figures this year’s event will be different.
“Things are going to be quite a bit more fast-paced, I would think,” Jaffray said.
“There are definitely bragging rights on the line. We want to prove, being the second-best league in North America, that we can not only compete but beat a very good Swedish team. And they want to prove the Euro game is better.
“They know it’s not an NHL team they’re coming over to play so they’re going to have a little swagger coming in and thinking these are just minor league guys.
“That’s what I think, anyway.”
The game will take place just prior to the start of the Olympics, and will be broadcast in Canada (Sportsnet) and the U.S.
Of the 20 players named to the AHL all-star team, 19 have NHL experience, including 14 who have played in the NHL this season. Eight all-stars are former first- or second-round draft picks.
The 2014 AHL All-Star Classic marks the first time a Swedish Hockey League team has competed in North America. Färjestad BK – led by team CEO and former Calgary Flames star Hakan Loob – is one of the most successful franchises in European hockey, playing in 19 league finals and winning nine Swedish league championships, including four since 2002.
2014 AHL All-Star Team
Brett Connolly, Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay)
Brian Gibbons, W-B/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh)
Mike Hoffman, Binghamton Senators (Ottawa)
Jason Jaffray, St. John’s IceCaps (Winnipeg)
Travis Morin, Texas Stars (Dallas)
Brandon Pirri, Rockford IceHogs (Chicago)
Colton Sceviour, Texas Stars (Dallas)
Colton Sissons, Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville)
Ryan Spooner, Providence Bruins (Boston)
Ben Street, Abbotsford Heat (Calgary)
Ryan Strome, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (N.Y. Islanders)
Linden Vey, Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles)
Chad Billins, Abbotsford Heat (Calgary)
T.J. Brennan, Toronto Marlies (Toronto)
Cody Goloubef, Springfield Falcons (Columbus)
Alexey Marchenko, Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit)
Brayden McNabb, Rochester Americans (Buffalo)
Frederic St. Denis, Springfield Falcons (Columbus)
Jake Allen, Chicago Wolves (St. Louis)
Martin Jones, Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles)