Friday, May 13 2022

During the 2004-05 NHL lockout, the AHL was filled with primo prospects from 30 NHL franchises.

Eric Staal was one of those stallions waiting for time in the minors after an 11-goal rookie year. He scored 77 points in 77 games for the Lowell Lock Monsters and still largely credited that weird year with helping him prepare for a monster second season where he had 45 regular season goals and 100 points, led all NHL players in the playoffs with 28 points and helped the Carolina Hurricanes win the Lord Stanley Cup in 2006.

Staal’s last AHL game was on May 14, 2005.

Thursday morning, when Staal stepped onto an AHL ice rink in West Des Moines, Iowa, to begin a pro tryout with the Minnesota Wild-affiliated Iowa Wild in his practice jersey. Iowa red and his dark green pants and socks were the exact same shoulder and shin guards he wore in that last AHL game.

Of course, they’re a little – OK, a lot – more tattered.

And plastic caps have long since been replaced by softer sewn-in shells mandated by the NHL when it implemented equipment rule changes to make the sport safer years ago. But even for Staal, it wasn’t hard to rejoice that this well-decorated multiple NHL and Team Canada medalist was back in the AHL with the same gear aeons later.

It’s the same gear he wore

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