You can go home again. Just ask Scott Clemmensen and Mark Fraser of the Albany Devils. Recently, Clemmensen was sent down by the New Jersey Devils and Fraser signed an AHL contract with Albany. Both began their professional careers in Albany, playing for the Albany River Rats, when they were a Devils affiliate. In fact, Clemmensen and his future Albany teammates, Brian Gionta and Bobby Allen, won the 2000-01 NCAA Men’s Hockey championship at the then Pepsi Arena, for the Boston College Eagles. While Fraser got into four games with the Rats in 2006 and also played for the A-Devils in 2011-12.
I’m pretty sure that somewhere deep within the bowels of the now Times Union Center, there are cardboard cutouts of Clemmer and Ari Ahonen, along with a missing 1995-96 Central Division champions banner, in a broom closet. Oh but I digress. As with the big club in Newark, there have also been quite a few players who’ve returned to the organization at the AHL level. Take for instance Captain Rod Pelley, who returned to the organization last season and had previously played with the franchise when it was based in Lowell, MA.
Since returning to Albany, there have been quite a few former River Rats favorites who’ve donned the sweater with the “horn-tailed A.” Stephen Gionta began his career with five goals in three contests for Albany in 2006 and captained the reincarnated Albany team in 2010. Cam Janssen, currently sidelined with shoulder injury, racked up 454 penalty minutes in 96 games with the River Rats and has appeared in a good 67 more for the A-Devils since 2013. Pierre-Luc Letourneau Leblond skated in 27 games for Albany back in 2005-06 and came back in 2010-11, setting an Albany Devils franchise record with 334 penalty minutes, notching a career high with eight goals. Also getting in on the act, Patrick Davis, played three contests for Albany in 2006 and played 40 more with Albany in 2010-11.
Even the coaches have gotten into the act. Former assistant coach and now New Jersey assistant coach Tommy Albelin, was a player for Albany in two stints, first in 1993 and then in 2003, playing nine games in total. Current assistant coaches Sergei Brylin and David Cunniff, also skated for the River Rats in the late 90’s. Robbie Ftorek, who was the bench boss in Albany from 1993-96, leading the River Rats to a 1994-95 Calder Cup title, returned to coach Albany from 2004-06.
Additionally, following a one-year hiatus with the IHL Orlando Solar Bears and NHL Atlanta Thrashers, former Captain Geordie Kinnear, who played in Albany from 1993-99, returned for 14 games, before sustaining a career ending neck injury. Although “Champ” would stay on as an assistant coach and his number would hang from the rafters at the former Knickerbocker Arena.
Speaking of the captaincy, Kinnear’s former teammate Pascal Rheaume, who played in Albany from 1993-97, returned and was named Captain in 2004-05. Rheaume also shares the distinction with Clemmensen, being the only two New Jersey players with three different stints with the parent club.
Sticking with the Captain theme, blue liner Ken Sutton, who suited up with Albany from 1996-00 and was named the Eddie Shore Award winner for best AHL defenceman in 1998-99, made his re-debut with the 2002-03 squad. Sutton’s 1998-99 teammate Matt Ruchty, played for the Rats from 1993-95 and was another fan favorite as well.
Players are always welcomed back fondly in Albany and I’m sure that will hold true for Clemmensen and Fraser. As Maxine Nightingale put it, “Ooh, and it’s alright and it’s coming on, we gotta get right back where we started from.”