Blogs | 2/10/2012 3:57:18 PM | Don Stevens
| Hall of Fame Broadcaster Don Stevens
Andy Gross, a former owner of the Rochester Americans (1997-2004), passed away yesterday (February 9th, 2012), and I have very mixed emotions about it. I am so deeply saddened by the passing of such a tremendous person, but on the other hand, I am so glad that Andy’s suffering has come to an end. He was always such an “up and on the go” person, to see him debilitated over the past few weeks, you knew it had to be so hard on him.
For the past 24 hours, I have been trying to write about losing a great friend. I’ve written probably six drafts, and then deleted each of them. I’ve come to the realization that I shouldn’t be the one to try and put his life on paper… I just wouldn’t be able to do him justice. But, I don’t know that “anyone” would be able to.
I don’t think there are very many people that really understand what Andy Gross meant to this community, and especially to the Rochester Americans and the sport of hockey. Not only was he an upstanding businessman and contributor to the area, but from my vantage point, if it wasn’t for Andy Gross, the Amerks franchise would’ve either moved elsewhere or ceased to exist many years ago. If it wasn’t for Andy, I most certainly wouldn’t have kept my job, and probably would’ve been gone from here a long time ago.
Andy was the “money man” that kept the team in Rochester, but he was a background contributor… he just didn’t want the notoriety that usually accompanied sports ownership. Instead, he climbed down into the trenches with the rest of us and went to work, trying to keep this team afloat through some of the most volatile times in the history of the franchise. He would actually come into the office at the beginning of the week, get a stack of tickets for that week’s games, and go out and try and peddle them door-to-door and on the streets. In Andy’s world, there was no room for failure, only success. If something didn’t work one way, you simply attacked it from another angle. He couldn’t understand “excuses”… the word just didn’t exist in his vocabulary.
When it came to the Amerks’ on-ice product, and for that matter the game of hockey overall, it you lost a game it was just because you weren’t “tough” enough. He absolutely loved the physical side of the game. He used to come down to the press box before the game to make sure the team’s “tough guys” were in the lineup. And if they weren’t, it took a while to calm him down so he could go enjoy the game. And if we lost the game, he knew exactly the reason why… there wasn’t enough toughness in the lineup.
It’s sort of funny that the player that he adored, probably more than any other, wasn’t a “tough guy.” It was Craig Charron. Andy was at Craig’s side, right through to the very end when he lost his battle with cancer. Andy was extremely instrumental in making sure Craig’s family was taken care of. It’s really ironic that Andy would then have to go through it all over again, this time for himself.
Outside of his family, there was nothing Andy was more passionate about in life than hockey and more specifically, the Rochester Americans. He did everything he could to make this a successful franchise. But beyond that, it was each individual he cared most about. He never treated any of us like an employee or an underling. Inside of his “tough love” personality, we were all on the same level, and all shared the common goals… to make this a successful franchise and live a happy life.
In all the years I knew Andy, he never complained, and never asked anything for himself. There was only one time he ever asked me for a “personal” favor. A couple weeks ago, he asked me for an Amerks jersey (specifically a Jody Gage jersey), and that it be signed by the members of this season’s team. When I was at his house just a couple days ago, the jersey was on the table next to his bed, with the Amerks insignia prominently displayed on top.
I wish all of you could’ve gotten to know Andy like I was so privileged to. If there was ever a franchise award for the “All-Time Unsung Hero,” Andy Gross would get my vote over and over again. I know Andy is right now starting to organize the Angels into teams and will have his own hockey league up and running soon. He most certainly is scouting the talent, and signing all the “tough Angels” for his team.
I Miss You already !!!! I Love You !!!!! Rest In Peace…….my FRIEND……..ANDY GROSS.