By Ed Chavez, Staff Writer
Locked out until further notice, players like Claude Giroux, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Jaromir Jagr have packed their bags and jumped on the first plane to their respective overseas’ teams. Others have returned to where it all started for them, in Canada.
Competing in Le Tournée des Joueurs players such as Simon Gagné, and Marc-André Fleury look to raise money for charities while putting on a show for fans at extremely low ticket prices. While many fans in the Sunbelt markets hope that such an event might occur in the south, Coyotes fans were treated to the next best thing.
Lacking an AHL team in the state of Arizona, local fans have limited options when it comes to live hockey action. Taking up residency up north in Prescott Valley is the Arizona Sundogs. Operating as a franchise parented by the Phoenix Coyotes, the Sundogs enter their sixth season as part of the Central Hockey League. No stranger to the double-A team, Coyotes’ defenseman David Schlemko was first assigned to after signing as a free-agent with the NHL club . In his first and only season with the minor league team, Schlemko notched 10 goals and 39 points in 58 games. After being offered contracts that would see him shipped to Europe the 25-year old Alberta native, Schlemko opted to stay close to his wife, Kristin, and new born daughter, Ava.
The convenience of only commuting an hour from his home to Prescott Valley also proved appealing to teammate, Kyle Chipchura. Chipchura, who was formerly Montreal’s first round draft pick back in 2004, found himself in Portland, Maine with Phoenix’s AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates at the beginning of the 2011 season. Called up after only eight games down with the Pirates, Chipchura would spend the rest of his season in Glendale.
Starting their season on the road in Texas, the Sundogs dropped both games of the series against the Allen Americans, losing the latter in a shootout. Sharing ice time together, the desert duo will now turn their sights to the Tim’s Toyota Center as the Dogs will hope to correct the ship early on this weekend in a home opener series against the Missouri Mavericks.