By Suzie Cool (@SuzKewl) | Published on February 3, 2020
Back on Dec. 19, the Rochester Americans announced that the team was inducting forward Domenic Pittis into the Amerks Hall of Fame as the Class of 2020. Pittis was unanimously selected for induction by the Amerks Hall of Fame Committee and took his rightful place in the prestigious club this past Friday when Rochester hosted the Syracuse Crunch at The Blue Cross Arena during their second Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino Legends Night of the season.
“When Jody (Gage) gave me the call, you’re not expecting it and then you start thinking about all of the great guys you’ve played with. It’s such an honor, so humbling and really tough to put into words,” stated the former high-scoring forward just minutes before his official induction into the Amerks Hall of Fame last Friday night.
Officially the 65th member of the exclusive club, Pittis quickly evolved into one of the franchise’s most prolific scorers during his three seasons in Rochester, reaching the 20-goal mark twice and recording at least 65 points on all three occasions. In 204 career games with the Amerks, Pittis produced 246 points, placing him among the top 20 forwards all-time in franchise history, and ranking 17th all-time with 171 assists. He also added 70 points (16+54) in 57 postseason appearances while leading the Amerks to the playoffs in each of his three seasons, including back-to-back trips to the Calder Cup Finals in 1999 and 2000.
WATCH: DOMENIC PITTIS HALL OF FAME INDUCTION CEREMONY
A year after breaking into the American Hockey League with the Syracuse Crunch, Pittis joined the Amerks for the 1998-99 campaign and assembled what would be his best season over his 19-year pro career. In 76 games with the Amerks, Pittis amassed an AHL-best 104 points on 38 goals and 66 assists, winning the John B. Sollenberger Trophy as the League’s top point-getter during the regular season while helping the Amerks to a franchise record 52 wins during the regular season. Rochester also set an AHL record for the fewest goals allowed with 176.
Pittis became just the sixth different player in team history to earn the honors and first to lead the AHL in scoring since Paul Gardner put up 112 points during the 1985-86 season. It was also the last 100-point performance by an Amerk in recent years.
That same season also saw Pittis accomplish the rarest of feats as he appeared in two games in the same day. On March 28, 1999, Pittis helped the Buffalo Sabres to a 4-3 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, who drafted the Calgary, Alberta, native in the second round (52nd overall) of the 1993 NHL Draft, before returning to Rochester in time to notch two assists in the 3-2 loss to the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks later that same day.
“At the time it just seemed normal. There’s such a good relationship between Rochester and Buffalo that when they had asked me to come back to play the second game it was like, ‘Yeah sure, why wouldn’t I.’ You never thought of it as something out of your job description, it just seemed like the right thing to do,” recalled Pittis when asked about his unique two-game day back in 1999.
Pittis and the Amerks would advance to their first of two straight Calder Cup Finals later that Spring, ultimately falling in five games to the Providence Bruins.
The following season limited Pittis to just 53 games due to injuries but was equally as productive, nonetheless. Despite missing the first 22 games, Pittis would rediscover his scoring touch and finish the year leading the Amerks with 48 assists and 65 points while leading Rochester back to the Calder Cup Finals. Pittis delivered a memorable performance during the postseason, scoring four goals and tying an AHL record with 26 assists in 21 playoff contests as Rochester fell to the Hartford Wolf Pack in six games.
WATCH: DOMENIC PITTIS ADDRESSES THE ROCHESTER MEDIA
After three years away from the organization, including two full seasons in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers, Pittis made a return trip back to Rochester in 2003-04 for what would be he his final stint with the Amerks. Much like the previous two years, Pittis averaged more than a point-per-game, leading the team in assists (57) and points (77) and ranking second in goals (20) while serving as team captain. The Amerks returned to the postseason for the third time under Pittis, who added 19 points (5+14) in 16 games as Rochester advanced to the Western Conference Finals.
Pittis departed the organization the following year, ending his tenure in Rochester as the franchise’s all-time leader in playoff assists (54) and second in points (70). He also ranks sixth all-time among playoff leaders in games played (57) and seventh in goals (16).
Three years in the Flower City and countless memories out on the ice, Pittis genuinely feels as if his time with the Amerks was when his career took an upturn for the better.
“I really think my career took an upturn right after the Amerks. With a lot of the veteran leadership that was here, the atmosphere, the passion from the fans, after I left, a lot had to do with those years that I had here in Rochester.”
He played the remaining nine seasons of his pro career in Switzerland, winning two league titles along the way as well as a Champions Hockey League championship. Pittis also excelled at the international level while abroad, helping Team Canada claim gold at the 2007 Spengler Cup.
Pittis announced his retirement following the 2012-13 campaign and is currently in his fifth season as an assistant coach with the Stockton Heat, the AHL affiliate of the Calgary Flames.
“Obviously, you can’t go out and play but you really have to dig in and every player is a different puzzle you have to try and figure out. It’s really been enjoyable,” stated the fifth-year coach after being asked how much he enjoys his position behind the bench.
The last time Pittis made a trip back to Rochester was in 2014 for a development trip with the Calgary Flames, but he made sure to reflect on the special place that the city and Buffalo organization still holds in his heart.
“It’s the type of people that live in the city here. They bring you in and treat you like one of their own. You definitely feel that when you come back.”
Now Pittis is “officially” a part of the city of Rochester, becoming the 65th member inducted into the Amerks Hall of Fame to forever remember his skillset and demeanor that he contributed on and off the ice.