The Afternoon Shift – Oct. 18

Silly Phil..."Like" is a Facebook thing!

“I will follow you, will you follow me, all the days and nights that we know will be?”

When Genesis lead singer Phil Collins sang that line from Follow You Follow Me in 1978, the Internet had yet to be invented and a tweet was usually only followed by a mess on your windshield. He could not have foreseen either the wonders that Twitter would one day bring to modern communication or the havoc it would wreak on grammar and spelling.

But times and technology change rapidly, and sports fans over the last 30-odd years have gone from just being able to read occasional stories on their often-reclusive favorite athletes in the daily newspaper to having access to their most random thoughts at any hour of the day.

Of course, many current Griffins came of age during the Twitter era, much to the benefit of fans who want to stay connected. No fewer than eight players on Grand Rapids’ 2011-12 roster — all of whom, to no surprise, are under the age of 23 — have Twitter accounts, including Mitch Callahan, Willie Coetzee, Adam Estoclet, Landon Ferraro, Gustav Nyquist, Trevor Parkes, Brendan Smith and Tomas Tatar.

If you want to follow these players or several other future and former Griffins, including the likes of Cory Emmerton and Adam Keefe, check out the complete list here.

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Alumni news and notes:

NHL alumni goals:

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The Afternoon Shift – Oct. 17

Joey's back in the spotlight. / Photo by Bobby Pulte

Two of the more notable records in Griffins franchise history could topple this week.

Joey MacDonald, already Grand Rapids’ all-time leader in wins (99) and shutouts (17), will reclaim the goaltender games played mark that he once solely held when he makes his next appearance between the pipes. He and current Red Wings netminder Jimmy Howard have each played 186 games for the Griffins, a whopping 83 more than third-place holder Marc Lamothe (103).

Meanwhile, Curt Fraser, already first all time with 243 games as the Griffins’ head coach, needs just three more victories to supplant Danton Cole as the winningest coach in franchise history, currently trailing him 116-114. 

When all is said and done, given MacDonald’s recent two-year contract extension and the current season’s infancy, both MacDonald and Fraser might put their numerous records up on a shelf that none of their successors can ever reach. That already appears to be the case for a couple of the most prominent names to play here over the Griffins’ first 15 seasons.

Take, for instance, Travis Richards, the only Griffins player to have his sweater (#24) retired. The former defenseman played 655 regular season games from 1996-06, nearly 300 more than No. 2 Michel Picard (364). Consider that the leading active Griffin, Francis Pare, has logged 223 games in a Grand Rapids uniform, putting him more than five and a half seasons away from challenging Richards’ record.

Also as seemingly unbreakable is Richards’ cumulative career rating of plus-131, which out distances runner-up Derek King by 60.

But the undisputed king of Ripken-esque records on the Griffins is none other than the aforementioned Michel Picard. During parts of six seasons (1996-00; 02-04) with the club, he racked up 158 goals — more than twice the total of No. 2 Jamie Tardif (78) — and 380 points, 142 more than bridesmaid Richards.

Toss in his 222 assists (182 for No. 2 Richards), 40 power play goals (26 for No. 2 Kip Miller) and 26 game-winning goals (Darryl Bootland, with 18, is the only player with more than half of Picard’s total), and it’s a safe bet that Picard’s name will still be atop the record books when we’re all using jet packs and celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Lions’ Super Bowl XLVI championship.    

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The Afternoon Shift – Oct. 14

T-minus four hours and counting / Photo by Mark Newman

The schedule says that the Griffins’ season started six days ago. But according to the falling temperatures and the buzz building downtown outside Van Andel Arena, hockey season starts tonight.

A 16th consecutive season-opening sellout is expected when the Griffins host the Toronto Marlies at 7 p.m., but those without tickets are not yet without luck.

Approximately 500 tickets, almost exclusively in the upper bowl, are still available at prices ranging from $16-$34. While online and phone sales concluded at 3 p.m. to allow time for processing, tickets can be purchased in person while they last at Meijer stores and The Zone at Van Andel Arena.

If you need any reasons besides the return of Griffins Hockey — or dollar beers and dollar dogs — to attend tonight’s game, we’ve got glow bams for the first 5,000 fans (thanks, Xfinity!), live pre-game music on the concourse from Jaded 8, a post-game fireworks show, and a J&H Family Stores post-game open skate (B.Y.O.S.).

Also, for all you dollar beer fans and aficionados of public transit, take note that tonight is the first Free Ride Friday of the season on The Rapid. Ride the Rapid to and from the game for no charge by showing your ticket.

Sounds like a fare deal to us.

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The Afternoon Shift – Oct. 12

We've got our eyes on you. / Photo by Getty Images

Ever wonder what all the former Griffins are up to in the NHL? Then you’re in the right place.

Once again this season, The Afternoon Shift will provide regular updates and links about your favorite Grand Rapids alumni, including video of every NHL goal they score, plus their biggest hits and most spectacular saves.

There’s usually a lot to share.

Several ex-Griffins have already scored goals during the young NHL season, and Chris Neil made the highlight shows with this huge — but legal — hit last night on Minnesota’s Clayton Stoner.

Twelve of the NHL’s 30 teams currently employ a total of 23 former Griffins, a handful of whom rank among their teams’ or the league’s early-season leaders.

In Detroit, rookie Cory Emmerton is tied for second on the team in scoring with Jiri Hudler (1-1–2) and two others after netting a goal and an assist in the Wings’ season opener last Friday. Emmerton’s two points also tie him for third among NHL rookies. In addition, young defensemen Jakub Kindl (+5) and Jonathan Ericsson (+4) rank first and tie for second in the NHL, respectively, in plus/minus.

In Ottawa, Neil already has a goal and an assist in just three games, while Jason Spezza has contributed four points to tie for second on the Senators. 

Here’s the complete list of the Griffins’ active NHL alumni:

  • Anaheim – Sheldon Brookbank
  • Boston – Chris Kelly
  • Buffalo – Matt Ellis, Ville Leino
  • Colorado – Kyle Quincey
  • Detroit – Justin Abdelkader, Cory Emmerton, Jonathan Ericsson, Valtteri Filppula, Darren Helm, Jimmy Howard, Jiri Hudler, Jakub Kindl, Niklas Kronwall, Jan Mursak (IR)
  • Florida – Tomas Kopecky
  • Los Angeles – Scott Parse
  • New York Islanders – Mark Eaton
  • Ottawa – Chris Neil, Jason Spezza
  • Philadelphia – Andreas Lilja
  • Tampa Bay – Mattias Ritola
  • Winnipeg – Derek Meech

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The Afternoon Shift – Oct. 7

Name that captain...

Everything on the preseason checklist was pretty much complete when the Griffins’ bus rolled out this morning toward Rockford for Saturday’s season opener against the IceHogs.

Final roster decisions had been made, all the equipment was packed, the game plan was in place, and 30 players, coaches and support staff were on board.

Only one thing on the to-do list remained: appointing the Griffins’ captains for the 2011-12 season. That final piece of business was completed after the team’s practice this afternoon at the BMO Harris Bank Center, when Curt Fraser announced the news to his team.

It wasn’t exactly the stop-the-presses variety.

Four of the Griffins’ five veterans were given leadership positions: defenseman Garnet Exelby was named captain, continuing a role he had, ironically, for Rockford last season. He replaces Jamie Tardif, who served as Grand Rapids’ captain the last two seasons before moving on to Providence over the summer.  

A trio of alternate captains were named, with defensemen Greg Amadio and Doug Janik reprising their 2010-11 roles alongside forward Chris Conner. 

The selection of Exelby as captain comes as no surprise. In addition to a mean Ron Burgundy impression, he also boasts nearly as many games of NHL experience (408) than his other 22 teammates combined (416), having played seven seasons with Atlanta and Toronto.

If you didn’t follow the bus to Rockford for Saturday’s 8:05 p.m. EDT contest, be aware of a late radio programming change. While Bob Kaser’s call of the action will still be streamed online at espn961.com, the over-the-air broadcast will be heard on WTKG 1230 AM due to Clear Channel’s contractual obligations to both the Detroit Tigers and Michigan Wolverines. The pre-game show will begin at 7:45.

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The Afternoon Shift – Sept. 27

Lonely no more / Photo by John VanderHaagen

Hockey season has finally arrived in Grand Rapids.

Sure, the Tigers are division champs, the Lions are 3-0 for the first time in nearly two generations, and the Wolverines are also undefeated as October looms. But the one constant, shining constellation in the Michigan sports sky has long been the Red Wings, and tonight’s Red & White Game at Van Andel Arena and tomorrow’s first Griffins practice at Griff’s IceHouse herald the beginning of another season of promise.

Regarding tonight’s Red & White Game, the first at Van Andel Arena since Sept. 18, 2003, we’d love to provide a link to newspaper stories detailing the roster for each squad. But we won’t, because the Red and White lineups announced yesterday have changed dramatically. Instead, here’s a PDF that reflects the latest and greatest information from the Red Wings’ PR dept…subject to change, of course.

Speaking of change, the Griffins were originally scheduled to complete their joint training camp with the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena this week, but instead many of the players will now stay in Grand Rapids following tonight’s game and hit the ice at Griff’s IceHouse tomorrow and Thursday for 11 a.m. practices. The new schedule calls for off days Friday through Sunday while the players settle into town, before practice for the Oct. 8 season opener in Rockford resumes on Monday at Van Andel Arena. As with all Griffins practices at Griff’s IceHouse, this week’s sessions are free and open to the public.

West Michigan fans can also slake their hockey thirst this Saturday when the Detroit Red Wings Alumni take on the Jolly Roger All-Stars in a 4 p.m. charity match at the newly renovated Eagles Ice Center in Grand Rapids. The alumni roster is scheduled to include former Griffins Darren McCarty, Kevin Miller and Josh Langfeld, fellow former Red Wings John Ogrodnick, Brent Fedyk and Dennis Hextall, and ex-NHLers Dean Kolstad, Sergei Kharin and Ray Markham. Tickets are just $10, and proceeds will help fund a new scoreboard and rink lighting.

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The Afternoon Shift – Sept. 21

A thousand words about hockey/Photo by Toby Broughman

ArtPrize gets underway in Grand Rapids today — just in case you’ve been in a coma — and the Griffins enthusiastically welcome back the event for its third year. Outside of the obvious benefits for downtown and the arena district, ArtPrize is a fantastic lead-in to start of the Griffins’ 2011-12 season on Oct. 8, one day before the contest concludes.

Plus, art and hockey actually have a lot in common. Creativity, skill and grace are all attributable to the most successful practitioners of either discipline. In fact, a strong argument can be made that the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Pavel Datsyuk possess artistic talents that rival those of Monet, Picasso and Warhol. Only instead of using paint, the players’ canvas is a fresh sheet of ice, their brush is their stick, and their medium is a puck.

And at when it comes to this edition of ArtPrize, hockey, literally, is art.

For the first time, the Griffins’ office is an ArtPrize venue, specifically our exterior windows on the east side of Van Andel Arena. Local photographer Toby Broughman was given the opportunity to shoot several Griffins games last season, and the result is 17 framed photos now displayed for passersby to view as an ArtPrize entry. Take a stroll down the alley and, if you like what you see, vote 53451 to support Toby’s effort.

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