Houston Aeros 1994-2013: Thank you for all the great memories and two decades of great hockey and entertainment.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thank you Aeros: What a ride!

I will be the first to admit that I thought the Aeros first round playoff series would last barely more than a week. In the paper, I picked Peoria to win in six. I was wrong. In the second round, I thought Milwaukee, having home ice and being the second best team in the AHL, would win in seven. I was wrong. Then, in round three, I thought the Aeros magic carpet ride would get them to a sixth game only to lose. I was right, but as they DON'T say, "One out of three ain't good ... "

The things that will stick out in my mind most about this team is A) they never quit and B) they did remarkably well not really knowing from one game (series) to the next who would be their starting goalie. A lot of you know the game well (in many cases better than me) and you know that good, solid goaltending in the playoffs is paramount. While I don't know the X's and O's of hockey as well as I should in some cases, I do know the Houston Aeros better than just about anyone on this planet.

I know they won two championships in 1999 and 2003, but those teams were great hockey teams built to win. But this team, the 2009 Aeros, had the greatest, most unexpected run of all because of how they did it, who they beat and how they got there along the way.

They were the ultimate team to cheer for as a fan because from one night to the next, you had no idea which team would show up, yet they gave Houston hockey fans so much night in and night out.

When Anton got that first shutout in Round 1, a 2-0 win over Peoria in Game 3, I think that was the springboard to bigger and better things. As you all know, the Aeros crashed horribly down the stretch and nearly lost out on the playoffs all together. That is just my opinion, but Aeros assistant coach Luke Strand agrees with me. Consider this quote from Luke:

"Maybe the biggest 'test' was to get Anton his first playoff 'W' and inclusive was his shut out game in round 1," said Strand. "I feel he gained the confidence of the players and staff after out-dueling (Manny) Legace.

"Anton's bumps in the road I feel came from too many opportunities. He played more minutes in a month than he had in the second 1/2 of ECHL season."

Maybe it is too bad he got hurt in Game 4, but maybe it was a blessing in disguise for Matt Climie too. I thought he was cool under pressure, and watching him in Game 6 just does not do him justice. I have talked to several folks in Manitoba that say he kept that game from being about 5-1 or 6-1 after 40 minutes.

No matter how you slice it, these Aeros need to be lauded for an incredible run that gave Aeros fans excitement, joy, several myocardial infarctions per game, disappointment and pride. I cover the games objectively for the Houston Chronicle, but I would absolutely be lying to you if I said I did not well up a tad when Beaudoin and Hrkac scored those overtime goals.

That is how I will remember these Aeros; shooting scoring, running into each other's arms and piling up in the corners after those two OT goals. It's how you should remember them, too.


beware the bear(s) said...

You and many others...those goals by Beaudoin and Hrkac ...
A roller coaster kind of a season.. this team melded together and did extremely well, all things considered. I cannot recall being more 'down in the dumps and up in the sky' any other time in my life and there have been moments!! WOW.

Ms. Conduct said...

Here here... well said, Andrew. :)

Andrew J. Ferraro said...

My first year covering the team was 2003, and what a magic ride that was. That team actually had goaltending issues too, but somehow they decided to trade their best defenseman (L. Nycholat) and team leader for an unproven goalie named "Honker" ... aka Johan Holmqvist.

He turned out to be nothing more than the playoffs MVP.

But this team has been drama from the get-go, and no matter what happens this summer, next year just won't be the same ... for better or worse.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for a little heart in your story... they deserve it.

Fred Trask said...

These guys, for good or for ill were a team. They came together and they had more heart than any team I've seen in a long time. They struggled, they battled and they never gave up. They believed in themselves and their teammates. They were beaten battered and bruised yet they did far more than many who were better suited to go on. They will not be this way next year as the page has turned. These guys had something special together. They had the kind of team and built the kind of teamwork that championship teams build. They might not have won the Calder Cup but the same feeling was with this team. They'd gone into the battles together as individuals and came out as brothers. There is something special that sometimes happens with teams and I believe this was one of those teams. They are indeed champions in our hearts and will be long remembered for their accomplishments as well as the adversity they were able to overcome.

I'll be posting some of my favorite photos from the past year over the summer but I have to say this was one fun ride.

I tip my hat to ALL of the guys and my wish for each of them is that they find the same spark, the same brotherhood on every team they play on. The wins will take care of themselves. Heads high Aeros because you ARE champions. The world may not know it but we fans certainly do.

Al said...

You are so right Fred. This team (include coaches) was very special. They had the heart of the 99 team without the high talent level 0f the 03 team.

A really spectacular job by all involved. Thank you to all the players and staff.

B2Bomber said...

Great season. Words really can't describe the elation, the disappointment, the thrill, the slow burn, and the ultimate feeling of being in the "final four" of the Calder Cup playoffs. It was a wonderful roller coaster year that won't be forgotten.

Andrew J. Ferraro said...

Fred ... I think your comment deserves a post of its own!

No way I could have said that any better, and I didn't.

TxHockeyMom said...

Andrew and Fred,
Thanks for saying all the things I've wanted to say and conveying so much of the feelings I've had. Well done!

I just wish the Aeros could have a meet and greet NOW where we could pat them all on the back, hug them , wish them the best and have a better chance to show our gratitude for a great season!!

Ms. Conduct said...

*raises hand* I'm in for that hugging thing...

killerwhaletank said...

Nice write-up... shows that the fans that came out and supported the team have as much determination and heart as the team itself.

And yes, Climie was stellar in that game 6. He gave his team every opportunity no matter how badly they were being out-shot and out-chanced. Without him that game could have easily been even worse than 5-1 or 6-1. He really deserves a pat on the back for holding his team in it for so long.

Foster_girl said...

Mr. Fred, thanks for putting my feelings into more eloquent words than I could have ever come up with.

Aeros, thanks a million for a wonderful season!!!!! Each and every one of you (Aeros) are champions in my book!

Count me in for the hugging meet/greet/thank you that I WISH could actually happen with my one and only favorite team ever.