The 2024 Stanley Cup Finals get underway Saturday ay 8 p.m. ET

Jun 5, 2024

1.pngBy Andrew Mossbrooks | @Mossbrooks48


No matter who wins, the Rochester Americans will once again have names of former Amerks etched onto the ultimate prize in hockey; the Stanley Cup.


The Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers face-off in the 2024 Stanley Cup Final. The two teams are separated by 2,541 miles, making this the longest traveled cup final in the NHL’s 100-plus year history. One team resides in the capital city of the Canadian province of Alberta. The other nests off the shores of South Florida, but both sides have personnel who at some point in their careers called Western New York home. In total, five former Amerks have the chance to win a Stanley Cup from an on-ice, staff, and managerial position.


SKM_C550i24060510040.jpgFrom Edmonton, assistant general manager Keith Gretzky will be involved in his first career Stanley Cup Final. Gretzky, 57, first broke into the NHL as an Amateur Scout with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2001, but was originally drafted by Buffalo in the third round of the 1985 NHL Draft. The younger brother of all-time great Wayne Gretzky went on to make his AHL debut with the Amerks in the 1987-88 season. In 43 games during his rookie season, Gretzky amassed eight goals and 24 assists for 32 points, finishing ninth in scoring amongst all Amerks forwards, who were led by Jody Gage’s historic 104-point campaign (60+44).


Gretzky would remain in Rochester the following season, recording 16 points (3+13) in 23 games, finishing his Amerks tenure with 11 goals, 37 assists, and 48 points over 66 games in the red, white, and blue.


Three skaters and four former Amerks represent Florida, whom the Amerks had previously been affiliated with from 2005-11.


Campbell 101405 2J.jpgLike Gretzky, Greg Campbell is the assistant general manager in Florida, but briefly appeared in Amerks colors during the 2005-06 season. The veteran centerman of over 800 NHL games appeared in 11 AHL contests with the Amerks, posting three goals and six points, coupled with 30 penalty minutes. His debut with the team came Oct. 7, 2005 against Toronto, when the London, Ontario, native scored a goal and assisted on Anthony Stewart’s first Amerks goal in a penalty-filled 8-5 win that saw the teams combine for 166 penalty minutes.


Behind the bench, Panthers assistant equipment manager Thomas Anderson is in his seventh season with Florida, putting him in the Stanley Cup Final for a second consecutive season. Before joining the Panthers, Anderson spent four seasons in the Flower City, where he was the Amerks assistant equipment manager from 2013-17. Earlier this season, Anderson was recognized for reaching 1000 pro games for his career.



DSC_7873 (1).jpgOn the ice, Panthers alternate captain Sam Reinhart guided his team to a second consecutive Eastern Conference title and now attempts to help lead Florida to its first Stanley Cup victory. Reinhart was selected second only to now teammate-Aaron Ekblad in the 2014 NHL Draft by Buffalo. Reinhart has played in 699 regular season games as a pro, with all but three coming in the NHL between Florida and Buffalo. Those three exceptions came in Rochester during the 2014-15 campaign.


In one weekend, Reinhart played three games in three days across three different venues. His lone game at Blue Cross Arena saw the future 50-goal scorer dish two assists against Utica on April 17, 2015. Two days later, Reinhart tacked on his third assist of the weekend on a Mikhail Grigorenko goal that helped the Amerks secure a 5-3 win against the Adirondack Flames.


Rodrigues-3.JPGThe most notable Amerk of the group is forward Evan Rodrigues, who spent parts of three seasons and 128 games in an Amerks jersey. Rodrigues, now 30, was in Rochester from 2015-18, scoring 23 goals and accumulating 70 points during his development years. In his rookie season, the Etobicoke, Ontario, native played in 72 of Rochester’s 76 games, posting 30 points (9+21). His first pro goal came on Nov. 25, 2015 against Syracuse followed by his first career game-winning-goal against the same Crunch team later that season in February.


Rodrigues went undrafted and had gone back and forth between Rochester and Buffalo for his first three professional seasons, until a breakout 2017-18 campaign kept him in the NHL for good. Since then, Rodrigues has played for Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Colorado, and now Florida. He will make his first career appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.


The Stanley Cup is the physical achievement of reaching the summit of the sport. William Carrier and Brayden McNabb did it in Vegas. Chad Ruhwedel picked it up with Pittsburgh. Chris Thorburn celebrated in St. Louis. John Tortorella, the man who guided Rochester to its most recent Calder Cup in 1996, earned it in Tampa Bay. Earl Balfour won it in Chicago. Yvon Lambert hoisted it four times with Montreal. He’s surpassed by Larry Hillman, who collected six rings between Detroit and Toronto.


So many names and the list goes on, and now, regardless of the outcome, the list will continue to grow following this 2024 Stanley Cup Final. Whether it’s won in Edmonton or Florida, whether the name Gretzky appears on a cup again, or the name Reinhart falls under a team that has never graced Lord Stanley.


One thing these legendary names past, present, and future all share in common is their path. Not all are identical. Almost none of them are, but at some point in each of their careers, their path brought them to Rochester. We’ll go on to view the winners of this series as Stanley Cup champions, but for a group of blue collar fans in this city, they’ll always look at them as Rochester Americans.

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