When Andy Chiodo walked into the Ice Rink at Coal Street for the start of training camp this week, he realized how much he had missed playing hockey in North America.
After spending the first three years of his pro career with the Pittsburgh organization, Chiodo has spent seven of the last eight seasons playing in Europe, including the last three in Austria.
Now, the 30-year-old netminder is back as an invitee to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s training camp, and he’s not only glad to be back with the organization, but in North America as well.
“You always think about it when you’re over there. There are pros and cons to both places, but taking a look at the facility here, the coaching staff, fan support and quality of play, this is professional. There’s nothing better than North American hockey, and you appreciate it more and more as you get older.”
Chiodo had an eventful run with the Penguins during his first three seasons as a pro. In 2003-04 he was the starting netminder as the team made it to the Calder Cup Final. He also saw eight games of NHL action that year with Pittsburgh. He split the next two seasons between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Wheeling, but along the way became a fan favorite.
Now, seven years later, Chiodo is back and no longer is he the young netminder fresh out of juniors. Chiodo admits he’s a different player today.
“This will be my 11th season and I have a lot of perspective at this point. You can’t help but learn every single year and I have a lot to offer,” he said.
That experience, in addition to his play, is what makes Chiodo appealing to Penguins head coach John Hynes. With fellow veteran goaltender Peter Mannino injured and last year’s starter Jeff Zatkoff up in Pittsburgh, Hynes is left with Chiodo and rookie Eric Hartzell.
“Having Andy come in is important because he has a proven track record and is a consummate professional,” Hynes said. “He’s had a good pro career and played in a lot of important games. Now he’s the veteran guy that can really help Eric.”
Chiodo is glad to help and looks forward to using his experience to help Hartzell make the transition into the pro game.
“I’ve been around for a long time and it’s nice to be able to pass that on to a young kid coming in,” he said. “You take pride in helping the young guys and it’s not always an easy transition for them to make.”
But it is an easy transition for Chiodo to return to the North American game, thanks in large part to the fact that he’s coming back to the organization that gave him his start.
The return to Wilkes-Barre has also taught Chiodo another hockey lesson — the importance of leaving a team on good terms.
“This hockey world is a small world and when a team knows they can rely on you, if there’s an opportunity down the road they might call upon you again,” he said. “The way you conduct yourself as a player really plays a big role later in your career.”
• The Penguins lost tough guy Steve MacIntyre on Monday when he was claimed on waivers by Edmonton after being sent down by Pittsburgh a day earlier. MacIntyre spent the last two seasons with the Pittsburgh organization — much of it with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“It’s great for Steve. He’s a guy that’s put in a lot of time with our organization,” Hynes said. “He’s got the hardest job in hockey and he’s done a great job for us. He’s earned the opportunity. It’s disappointing for us, but I wish him the best.”
• With MacIntyre gone, the Penguins still have plenty of toughness on the roster thanks to the offseason addition of Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond.
“The fact that we have one of the tougher guys in the game in Pierre is nice, along with the other depth we have,” Hynes said.
The Penguins also have tough guys Patrick McGrath and Chaz Johnson on the training camp roster.
• In addition to Letourneau-Leblond, Pittsburgh also sent down forwards Jayson Megna, Nick Drazenovic and Adam Payerl and defensemen Scott Harrington, Philip Samuelsson and Brendan Mikkelson. Hynes expects them to participate in today’s practice, which will likely be split into two groups.
• Of those players remaining in Pittsburgh for an extended look are Bobby Farnham and Zach Sill. Hynes was pleased to see two players who have never played an NHL game catch the attention of the parent club.
“Sill is going into his fifth year in our organization and has played 259 AHL games. It’s great to see how he’s matured as a player and off the ice. He’s making a real statement for himself,” Hynes said.
Farnham began last season in the ECHL and worked his way up to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, where he posted 274 penalty minutes in 65 games.
“He’s done it through sheer work ethic and determination,” Hynes said. “It’s nice to see.”
• Monday’s practice featured the first scrimmage of training camp. The Black team defeated the White squad 1-0 thanks to a Brian Gibbons penalty shot goal. Hynes was happy with the play of Chiodo and Hartzell in net, along with the entire pace of the scrimmage.
“The guys really implemented things we had worked on, they were playing physical and they were engaged,” he said.
• Johnson continued to display his physical side in camp throwing several big hits during the scrimmage.
“He’s the type of player that really affects the other team with his intensity level and he’s got a reputation of being a tough player to play against,” Hynes said.
Perhaps the biggest hit of the scrimmage, however, belonged to Back Mountain native Patrick McGrath, who crushed Paul Thompson into the boards behind the net.