At 37 years of age, former Hope Minor Hockey player Jeff Hoggan is the oldest skater in the American Hockey League. When you’re lucky and healthy enough to stay in the game for that length of time, people around the league have taken pretty good stock of your contribution to the game.
Hoggan seems to have made a positive impression, as a majority of players, coaches and media have nominated him as the recipient of this year’s Fred T. Hunt award, for being the “AHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey.”
The award was started in 1978, honouring Hunt, who was an AHL player and manager, working mainly with the AHL Buffalo Bisons and the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. Past recipients included the current Anaheim Ducks coach, Bruce Boudreau (1988) and long-time NHL players Randy Cunnyworth (2000) and Mike Keane (2007), who spent some of their careers in the AHL.
“It’s great to see the other guys on the award,” said Hoggan via telephone last Thursday. “Just to be associated with them is pretty cool.
“Mark Cullen, my room-mate for my first two years of pro is on there, Jordan Sigalet, a fellow BC boy and teammate in Providence, Rhode Island — and Nathan Dempsey, a teammate on the Boston Bruins.”
Hoggan has NHL experience on his résumé as well, with 107 games for the St. Louis Blues, Boston Bruins and Phoenix Coyotes… where he was coached by some guy named Wayne Gretzky. He is in his third year as captain of the Grand Rapids Griffins, the farm team of the Detroit Red Wings.
Hoggan skated in all 76 league games for the Griffins this season, recording 14 goals and 17 assists and only 39 penalty minutes.
“Hoggan has reached double digits in goals in eight of his nine full AHL seasons while surpassing 60 minutes in penalties just twice,” says the league’s press release. “The 37-year-old native of Hope, B.C., is renowned for his work ethic, competitiveness and preparation, as well as for the culture he has helped to develop and the leadership he has provided in the Griffins’ locker room, mentoring more than a dozen players who have since graduated to the Detroit Red Wings.”
Coach of the Griffins, Jeff Blashill said, “Jeff has done a great job creating a championship culture in our locker room. As captain, his example of extreme daily work ethic and approach has both allowed the Griffin organization to have success and helped accelerate the development of the many young players now playing and making an impact for the Detroit Red Wings.”
“Nobody would have imagined that I’d be going this long in the game,” said Hoggan, a former Hope Standard paper carrier. “I try and help the young guys move on.”
Did he know the award was coming?
“No… not at all. I wasn’t at home, so I didn’t get the coach’s voice mail until later. I was getting these text messages from friends, congratulating me… and I was wondering ‘for what?’”
Hoggan’s parents, Ann and Gerry still live in the family home in Hope. Ann said, “We were very pleased to see that Jeff was recognized for his hard work. He works well with others and has always been a very determined individual.
“Jeff will be pleased that he is still recognized in his home town. That’s why he brought the Calder Cup back here a few years ago. Hope is where it began.”
The Griffins just finished the regular season, taking the Mid-West title and placing second in their conference. This puts them up against the seventh-place Toronto Marlies in the first round, which starts this weekend. AHL president, Dave Andrews, will present the Fred T. Hall award to Hoggan before the start of next Wednesday’s home game, said Randy Cleves, senior director of public relations for the Griffins.
Awards are fine — but Hoggan also gets a charge out of seeing old Hope friends and former minor hockey teammates.
“Darwin Ortis travelled from B.C. with his son Ryan on a father-son trip for our last home game, which I thought was even cooler,” said Hoggan.
A third Calder Cup would be pretty cool, too.