At Mahoning Valley Phantoms games, fans always know that they’re watching NHL stars of tomorrow strive for a Robertson Cup championship, but many may not know that some Phantoms have members of their family who are NHL stars of years past.
Such is the case for forwards Kyle Verbeek and Jordy Trottier. Verbeek is the son of Pat Verbeek, who won a Stanley Cup with the 1998-99 Dallas Stars and still stands as the only NHL player to have over 500 goals and 2,500 penalty minutes.
Trottier’s family sports three former NHLers, including his father, Monty, who played for the New York Islanders, and his uncles, Rocky, who was a first-round draft pick of the New Jersey Devils, and Bryan, a Hall of Famer who won six Stanley Cups with the Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Kyle Verbeek, a second-year forward, says that there are certainly advantages to having a father who played 19 seasons in the NHL.
“Growing up, it helped a lot to be able to go to all these NHL games for free and see my dad and his teammates play at the highest level,” said the Bloomfield Hills, Mich., native. “There was always so much hockey going on, and it definitely rubbed off.
“On top of that, scouts will sometimes look down the roster, see ‘Verbeek’ and maybe give me a longer look, which is definitely helpful.”
Trottier says that the benefits also come with added expectations, thanks to the name on the back of his jersey.
“People expect a lot of me coming from such a well-known hockey family,” said Trottier. “I know I have to work harder to live up to, and hopefully exceed, those expectations.”
According to Verbeek, it can also be tough for players coming from such families, especially if things aren’t going so well on the ice.
“After games, especially ones your dad watched, it can lead to a lot of long car rides home with a lot of arguments,” said Verbeek. “You may not want to always listen to some of the advice you get, especially if you know you’re not playing well, but ultimately I know I have to listen to my dad because he played for so long in the NHL and he knows what’s best.”
Trottier says that one of the biggest challenges of coming from a family rich with NHL history is being his own man.
“Our family casts a long shadow in the hockey world,” says the first-year forward who shares the team lead in goals with six, “so it can be difficult for people to see that I’m my own player.”
To that end, he takes cues from his father and uncles to help forge his own identity on the ice.
“I try and take my Uncle Bryan’s hard-nosed, competitive attitude and combine it with my Uncle Rocky’s offensive creativity and become kind of the ‘Ultimate Trottier.’”
While having an NHL background can be both beneficial and stressful for these Phantoms, they say they wouldn’t trade it.
“When you’re 12 years old and you see your dad lift the Stanley Cup,” said Verbeek, “that’s not an experience you’ll ever forget.”
“It definitely has its perks,” Trottier added.
“Yeah, I’d say it’s pretty cool,” Verbeek agreed.
FORMER RANGER TO ARMY: Former Marquette defenseman Cody Ikkala, who skated for the Rangers in 2006-07, has committed to Army (Atlantic Hockey) for next season.
Ikkala, 20, who has skated the past two seasons for the Vernon Vipers of the British Columbia League, played in 56 games for Marquette, scoring one goal and three assists to go along with 185 minutes in penalties.
In Vernon this season, Ikkala has played in all 24 games for the Vipers registering six assists and 12 PIM’s.
A Broomfield, Colo., native, Ikkala came to Marquette with ties to the Upper Peninsula. His father, Dave Ikkala, is originally from Marquette and played hockey for Marquette Senior High School and for Rick Comley at Northern Michigan University from 1977-81.