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Sports Commentary 1/29/13: Hall Of A Hockey Guy

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Ken Gernander enters the AHL Hall of Fame….and deserves it !

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HALL OF A HOCKEY GUY

Now it’s official.  Those of us who have known him for the majority of his career have known it all along.  He played like one of them.  He coaches like one of them.  He respects the game like one of them.  Now Connecticut Whale head coach Ken Gernander is officially one of them, a Hall of Famer.  Last night in Providence, as part of the American Hockey League All Star celebration, Gernander was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame.  He never made a big deal of it, only to say it’s an honor and he’s humbled to be chosen.  That’s always been his nature.  He’s never made a big deal of any of his achievements, except one.  I do recall him getting quite wrapped up in the celebration in 2000 when the, then, Hartford Wolf Pack claimed the AHL Calder Cup championship.  To Gernander that was something to be celebrated.  It wasn’t about him, it was about team, though it should be noted he was the captain, he was the inspirational leader and the guy with the uncanny ability to come up with the big play, the big goal, the big momentum swing at the big time, time after time, as the Pack charted the playoff waters that year.  Born in Coleraine, Minnesota 43 years ago, Gernander holds the all time AHL scoring record for an American born player.  He was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in the 1987 National Hockey League entry draft.  Three years later he was traded to the New York Rangers and began making history.  With the Wolf Pack he became the all time franchise leader in games played and playoff games played while tasting several cups of coffee with the Rangers in the NHL.  For eight years, from the day they arrived in Hartford until the day he retired in 2005, he was the team’s captain.  He ranks second in Hartford franchise history in goals, assists and points.  In the AHL record books he stands alone with 123 playoff games.  So much for the numbers.  They speak for themselves.  A lot of players and coaches put up numbers, it’s the man behind them that makes the difference, and that’s the difference with Ken Gernander.  A man of great integrity and principle, he’s accepted every accolade to come his way, the only player to have his Hartford AHL jersey retired, a member of the inaugaral class of the Connecticut Hockey Hall of Fame, the AHL Hall of Fame, as reflections of team accomplishments more than his own.  He has embraced Hartford and is consistent in representing the team as it’s ambassador in the community while carefully overseeing the charitable work of the Whale Foundation.  We don’t know yet when management of the XL Center will be awarded beyond this year, AEG having just made it’s presentation last week, but there are assurances from all groups there will be an AHL team in Hartford next season, just no guarantee it will be the Rangers’ team.  As much as we claim Gernander as our own, he belongs to the Rangers.  He goes where they go.  For nearly a decade and a half he’s been one of the most important sports figures in Connecticut and, while he would miss us if fate dictates it’s time for him to move on, we would miss him more.  He carved out his hall of fame credentials here and he’s our Hall of Famer, in every sense of the word.  With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.

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