By Erica Whyte
After a long and rainy summer, The Blue Cross Arena finally has the life breathed back into its walls. With October right around the corner, the Rochester Americans training camp has begun, and Day One was filled with the excitement and energy that you could expect from a team that is in the process of a major rebuild.
After a disappointing end to last season, and a management house-cleaning, the new brass worked together to bring in a mass of new players, many of whom had direct ties to the organization’s new leaders. Let’s start from the top down:
Some former Penguins migrated north, each of whom have major ties to the Flower city. Former Penguins associate general manager and Amerks forward Jason Botterill has taken charge as the Sabres new GM. Former Penguins top scout Randy Sexton, who once oversaw operations in Rochester as general manager of the Florida Panthers, has “rejoined” the Amerks as the new GM. And former Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins assistant coach Chris Taylor is back in Rochester for his 15th season, where he was one of the Amerks all-time-greatest players, and was also an assistant coach.
WATCH: RANDY SEXTON SPEAKS WITH THE ROCHESTER MEDIA AFTER DAY ONE OF TRAINING CAMP
Two former captains have joined the Amerks squad to potentially fill the vacant captaincy. Kevin Porter is back with some Stanley Cup hardware to match. Joining him in his third stint with the Amerks is former Grand Rapids Griffins captain Nathan Paetsch, who has some hardware himself. Paetsch returns to Rochester after winning a Calder Cup with a ‘C’ on his chest this past season.
"He was a remarkable young kid when I played with him,” said Taylor of Paetsch, who skated alongside his now head coach in each of his first three seasons with the Amerks from 2003-06. "I remember I had a leg injury one of my last years here, and he was there at the hospital every day, and that speaks volumes about him as a person first and foremost. He worked hard, and that’s why we bought him back. Character people first and foremost.”
Taylor went on to talk about Porter and the leadership he hopes both men will take on within the Amerks dressing room.
"They’re an extension of us. We can say anything we want to the players, but it’s got to come from the inside as well. And I think it’s great to have both Nathan and Kevin on our team who will provide that stability in the dressing room.”
Like any team undergoing a rebuild, excellence needs to come from the top down, and both Porter and Paetsch have proven that they are ready to take on that role.