Gordon ready to earn his reward

Brendan McCarthy
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Newly signed winger hopes play in St. John’s will help him secure a foothold in the NHL

There are one-way contracts. There are two-ways. But you might say St. John’s IceCaps’ right-winger Andrew Gordon has a one-and-a-half-way deal.
The 27-year Gordon was signed as a free agent over the summer by the Winnipeg Jets to what is officially a two-way pact. But it is unlike most such agreements, which routinely feature an AHL salary that is 10 to 20 per cent of the designated NHL pay.

Gordon’s minor-league pay will be $350,000 annually, well more than half the $550,000 yearly salary that’s called for when he’s in the NHL.

Gordon is one of the early beneficiaries of limitation of re-entry waivers in the collective bargaining agreement that ended the NHL lockout in January. Under old rules, players who signed two-way deals worth more than $105,000 annually in the minors were subject to waivers when called up to the NHL. As a result, many players felt compelled to accept AHL salaries under the $105,000 mark in an effort to increase the likelihood of recall, and teams undoubtedly took advantage of those beliefs.

Like most people, Gordon is uncomfortable publicly talking about his financial standing, although he allows it is undoubtedly an important consideration. He has less problem talking about the implications that comes with the structure of his contract, which in monetary terms, tells him exactly what the Jets told him in negotiations and since.

“It showed a commitment at some level,” said Gordon. “They told me they thought I could contribute, if not right away, then sometime over the course of the season, when injuries and such happen, that they saw me as a player and a person they could bring up and find a use for, at some point.

“You hear Winnipeg is a team that rewards players who work hard, and they’re honest with guys and they are true to their word. Well, they have been ever since I joined and I think (the contract) is one way they’ve showed that.

“At the same time, when I played in Hershey (as a member of the Washington Capitals’ organization), there were lots of guys who had big two-way contracts and never saw a minute in the NHL.

“But I think it shows (the Jets) were serious about me and I know I can play at that level. It’s just a matter of finding the right opportunity.”

Gordon has played 55 big-league games, but has spent most of the last six seasons in the AHL, looking for a way to permanently puncture the force field between him and permanent NHL employment.

“I’m 27, turning 28 (in December). I’m not some first-round 21-year-old stud,” said the five-foot-11, 180-pounder from Porters Lake, N.S.

“You can’t really draw up a map for yourself and figure out exactly how you’re going to get there.

“What I’ll be doing is working hard, and enjoying the fact I have a job in pro hockey.

“If I never played another game, I know I’ve worked as hard as I could and it just wasn’t my time.”

Gordon has put up points wherever he’s played, first with the Eastern Shore Mariners minor program, then for two years with the major midget Dartmouth Subways. In his second season with Dartmouth, as 17-year-old, he was a linemate of a 15-year-old Sidney Crosby as the Subways won the silver medal at the Air Canada Cup (now Telus Cup) national midget championship.

He then went to Notre Dame College in Saskatachewan, where he was just about a point-per-game player, and spent a season as a linemate of St. John’s native Teddy Purcell, who like Crosby, remains a close friend.

“When you’re in south central Saskatchewan, you find another east coaster and chances are you’re going to become good buddies right off the bat, and we did,” said Gordon of Purcell.

“He’s a guy who took a different route to the NHL, but he’s earning every penny he’s making and I couldn’t be happier for him.”

Gordon was a seventh-round draft of Washington in 2004, the same year he began what was to be three years of American university hockey at St. Cloud (Minn.) State.

He turned pro in 2007, and after two sips and one swallow of coffee with the Capitals and a couple of Calder Cup wins with Hershey (including one during a 37-goal season in 2009-10), he signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Anaheim Ducks.

“I thought we had a good thing in Anaheim, but we had a tough start (in 2010-11) and the coaching staff (headed by Randy Carlyle) got fired. Then they brought in the guy who had cut me the previous four years (former Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau),” said Gordon.

“A good opportunity turned sour in a hurry.”

After spending last season with the Vancouver organization (and six-games worth of big-league java with Canucks), Gordon hooked on with the Jets, who were looking for organizational depth and players who could turn around the fortunes of the IceCaps, who finished out of the Calder Cup playoffs last season.

He’s been given a featured role in that effort, being put on a line with St. John’s captain Jason Jaffray and Jerome Samson, another free-agent winger with NHL experience.

“I’ve played against him too many times, so it’s finally good to play with him,” said Gordon of Jaffray. “Jerome Samson, too. I’ve been chasing him around the ice when he played in Albany and Charlotte for the last six years.

“I hope to stick around with these guys a little bit and get some chemistry going. As a line, I think we’re the same. We play simple, we play hard and we play the right way,” he added as the IceCaps prepared for Friday night’s AHL season-opener against the Providence Bruins at Mile One Centre.

For Gordon, Friday’s contest was also his first meaningful game on Newfoundland ice.

“I’ve played against teams from all over Newfoundland many times, but always in tournaments on the mainland, never here. I had never been out here to play hockey before. I’ve come over to visit friends, for different social events, but I’ve never been out to play.

“So, it’s my first business trip, as I like to say,” he said with a smile.

 

bmcc@thetelegram.com

Twitter @telybrendan

 

SIDEBAR

By Brendan McCarthy

The Telegram

It's not a question normally posed to a professional hockey player.

"Are you the guy that kissed that guy…?"

But St. John's IceCaps' communications director Dave Salter, who moonlights as a human hard drive full of hockey facts and folklore, couldn't hold back the query on meeting new IceCaps' forward Andrew Gordon.

And yes, Gordon is that guy.

On Dec. 21, 2010, while playing for the Washington Capitals against the New Jersey Devils in D.C., Gordon scored his first National Hockey League goal, taking a cross-ice feed from linemate Marcus Johansson, and sending the puck behind no less than Martin Brodeur.

Gordon then proceeded to go through the traditional skate-by, glove-tapping receiving line of congratulations from teammates, including Alexander Ovechkin, before taking a seat on the bench.

But as he settled in, Gordon planted a big smooch of appreciation on the cheek of Johansson, in a spontaneous show of appreciation that Gordon still laughs about to this day.

Gordon, who was playing in his eighth NHL game, was named the second star of the contest after also adding an assist in a 5-1 Capitals' win.

The video of the Gordon and Johansson became a sensation. Bob McKenzie tweeted about it. It was featured on Yahoo Sports Puck Daddy blog. It showed up on television shows that rarely cover hockey. But if you haven't seen it, here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJpk4p5TVlo

bmcc@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Notre Dame College, NHL, Jets Washington Capitals IceCaps Air Canada Telus Vancouver organization Canucks Providence Bruins

Geographic location: Winnipeg, Porters Lake, Dartmouth Saskatachewan Saskatchewan Washington Newfoundland St. Cloud (Minn.) Anaheim Albany Charlotte

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