By Ryan J. Harr
Sitting at home while watching television with his girlfriend, Victoria, Rochester Americans defenseman Brendan Guhle received a rather unexpected call from head coach Chris Taylor informing him he was headed to Springfield to represent the Amerks at the upcoming AHL All-Star Classic.
“Tayls (Taylor) called me Thursday evening and said I would be going to Springfield since Reds (Zach Redmond) was unable to go because of his injury the night before,” said Gulhe.
“Victoria was sitting there beside me and we both were very excited obviously, but I did have to cancel a trip Orlando,” said Guhle with a smirk. “I thought there was a possibility I would go when Reds went down, but you obviously never want to see a player and teammate suffer an injury. He definitely deserved to go after the year he was having and setting the record.”
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After sharing the news with his mom, Guhle, a 21-year-old blueliner from Edmonton, Alberta, went on with his night knowing he was going to attend his first midseason showcase alongside the league’s top players. The excitement was building up, but so too was the expectations leading up to the event.
New to the event, Guhle in his second full season, sought out fellow second-year teammate C.J. Smith, who was named MVP of last year’s AHL All-Star Challenge, about what to take, dress code for certain events and general advice when it came participating in the Skills Competition.
But despite the uncertainty of everything, Guhle also viewed the event as an opportunity to rekindle relationships with players from around the league. He especially looked forward to catching up with forward John Quenneville of the Binghamton Devils, whom Guhle knows well from his offseason training back home.
“I work out together with John during the summer, so it was cool to share the experience with him. The other players on the North Division roster were great and to chat with them in a relaxed, laidback setting was great. It was nice to be able to get to know the guys you’re normally battling against every night on a more personal level,” said Guhle.
Once landing in Springfield, Guhle was excited to do the Skills Competition, something he has never done before, and participate in the All-Star Challenge. The blueliner found out he was going to partake in the CCM Fastest Skater as well as the CCM Hardest Shot events based off a tweet notification from the Amerks twitter, but he was not sure what to expect with the outcomes.
“The events are pretty self-explanatory, but I had no idea what to expect on how hard I could shoot the puck. I never had a shot measured like that before and never really been timed as a skater. I was a bit surprised on the speed of the shot (99.4 mph was his hardest attempt) but with the skate, I was really happy with the result (13.648, the third-fastest time in the event and sixth-fastest in league history).”
Following the Skills Competition, Guhle and the rest of the All-Stars signed autographs for the fans inside the MassMutual Center in downtown Springfield.
Following the night where the Western Conference came away with a slim 17-14 victory, the league’s All-Stars were on hand to witness John Anderson, Don Cherry, Murray Eaves and Brad Smyth be honored for their outstanding achievements and contributions in the American Hockey League as they foursome was inducted in to the American Hockey League Hall of Fame.
“It was a neat experience to hear each of their stories and achievements that got them into the Hall of Fame,” said Guhle. “I talked with John Anderson a little bit and found out that he and Gordo (Amerks assistant coach Gord Dineen) go way back. That was pretty cool to find out.”
The All-Star Challenge, where the four divisions would play in round-robin style tournament, was on the docket upon the completion of the ceremony, which means it was just another game-day routine for Guhle. Quick nap followed by a pregame meal and it was off to the rink.
After dropping the first game, 4-2, to the Pacific, the North Division recorded a pair of victories to advance to the championship game, where they defeated the Atlantic 1-0 in a wildly entertaining four-round shootout.
“The games were laid back, relaxed and had little strategy, but as it went along and we realized we were able to make the Finals, we wanted to win, and it definitely got much more competitive. It was fun. It was nothing major, but as a player, any time you win a tournament, it’s exciting.”
While the 2019 AHL All-Star Classic was an experience Guhle will never forget, he’s thankful for the opportunity to represent Rochester – and by extension the AHL – in a world-class event.
“The overall experience was very cool. It was an awesome experience. I did not have any family there, but it was on television and they were able to follow along. They reached out and said how proud they were of me. It was a lot of fun and now it’s time to get back to work.