Dustin Klafehn was feeling a bit under the weather last Friday when he received a call from his mother telling him that she had won something for him earlier that day. Soon after, the West Henrietta native learned he would have the chance to break the ice as the 2011-12 season’s first skater on the Blue Cross Arena ice surface Monday morning alongside Amerks great Jody Gage.
The opportunity served as somewhat of a permanent “welcome home” for Klafehn, who just last week signed out of the military after seven years of service. During his extended stint in the Army, he did two tours in Iraq and was also stationed in Hawaii and Georgia.
“I did a wide variety of things, but I was mainly a construction engineer and worked a lot with the infantry and explosive ordinance disposal,” Klafehn explained.
A graduate of Churchville-Chili High School, Dustin said he remembers coming to Amerks games with his parents and grandparents growing up, citing his favorite memory as the 1996 Calder Cup Championship.
Klafehn is no stranger to lacing up the skates himself, playing locally in leagues at Lakeshore and the Sports Centre at MCC.
“I’m pretty good,” he claimed with a smile. “It’s in my family, so I have no choice but to be good.”
Dustin was joined by his wife Lisa and their three-year old son, Logan, who also took the ice with his father. The couple has a younger daughter as well. Getting an opportunity to be joined by Gage just added additional excitement for the family.
“He is a great guy, and I couldn’t be happier,” Klafehn said while suiting up prior to the skate.
“I’m just glad I didn’t fall,” he said with a laugh afterwards. “It felt really good to be out there. It was fun knowing all the greats who have played on this ice surface… The atmosphere is a lot different down here even with nobody watching.”
When asked to give his thoughts about the upcoming season, Dustin responded, “I have a really good feeling about this year. The team looks good and from what I can tell they are going to have a very good season”.
Klafehn noted that he is excited about the team’s reunion with the Sabres.
“It’s nice to follow all the players locally and watch them move up to another local team.”
Gage added to the thrill of the experience by presenting Dustin with an Amerks jersey, which signified him as the first skater on the ice this season. The family was also given tickets to the team’s home opener Thursday, October 13 against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
From the look in his eyes, the experience was extra special for little Logan. “He is never going to stop talking about this and he will definitely want to come to a lot of games,” Dustin said.
All in all, the opportunity provided the Klafehn family with a memory that surely will not be forgotten as well as valuable father-son bonding time on the ice that will be cherished forever.