Oct. 30, 2012
by Alan Cross - griffinshockey.com
An unfamiliar city, a new head coach and an NHL lockout. These factors and more define the setting for Nathan Paetsch’s debut season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, his first full season in the AHL since 2005-06.
And he couldn’t be looking forward to it more.
“I’m really excited,” said Paetsch. “It’s a great organization, all the way through. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about the city and the people, so I’m super excited about it.”
Paetsch has traveled many places in his 10-year pro career, but last year took him to his furthest location ever in Wolfsburg, Germany. It was here that he played the 2011-12 season with EHC Wolfsburg Grizzly Adams of the DEL.
“It was great,” said the LeRoy, Saskatchewan, native. “Just a completely different experience all the way through, living, hockey was different. It was great hockey, a lot better than I think a lot of people expect.”
Outside of any North American league, the DEL sees the highest population of American and Canadian players. However, it’s an entirely different game that brings new challenges and requires adapted skill sets.
“The DEL is definitely older,” said Paetsch. “You see a lot of ex-AHLers there, a lot of guys I played against seven years ago around when I first started, so there’s a little more age there. The top-end level of the AHL is obviously going to be better because there are a lot of guys who are going to be in the NHL soon, but there’s also a lot of speed in the DEL because it’s bigger ice. Everybody can skate.”
But Paetsch is back in North America and ready for success with the Griffins.
Included on his hockey resume are several years of NHL experience. In 2006, Paetsch was called up from the AHL to play in his debut NHL game with the Buffalo Sabres where he scored his first NHL point. Later, he returned to the Sabres to play in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Carolina Hurricanes.
“It was insane,” recalled Paetsch. “It was deafeningly loud in the third period, especially when they scored to tie it. It was so loud in there, and the energy, and the whole building was shaking. The ice was shaking. It was quite the second NHL game.”
Paetsch will serve as an alternate captain this year under new captain Jeff Hoggan, who also spent a season with Wolfsburg in 2010-11. With the Griffins icing an even younger lineup than last season, the veterans will be leaned on to complement the fresh, young talent.
“I want to help out the young guys,” said Paetsch. “Show them what a veteran player is and obviously help my own career and help the team win. I mean, it’s my 10th year and I’ve never won a championship, and I don’t want to go without one. That’s my main goal.”
In the face of a lockout, the AHL has seen a sudden insurgence of talent. The veteran experience of the Griffins’ leaders could prove to be extremely beneficial in the transformed landscape of the league.
“Obviously the talent level is going to rise quite extremely,” he said. “You’re getting anywhere from two to three, five, six players that are NHL players. Plus, you’re not getting that ‘with an injury, you’re losing a guy’ stuff like that, so it’s going to be a completely different league. The competition is going to be a lot harder. It’s going to be a lot more exciting for people to watch.”
With such a unique season at hand, Paetsch’s extensive experience and refined knowledge of the game will prove to be a huge asset to the Griffins.