An open letter to a tryout

Imaginarily swiped off an imaginary desk…

Dear Sir:

You have done an outstanding job here at BRIDGEPORT SOUND TIGERS training camp. You have done everything we asked. This entire week, you played for the logo on the front, not the name on the back.

Unfortunately, there are only a certain number of
___ forward
___ defense
___ goaltending

spots available for our team. And now that split-squad games are completed in the Grapefruit League, we have to cut down. We regret to inform you that we have
___ reassigned you to Kalamazoo (ECHL)
___ reassigned you to Odessa (CHL)
___ reassigned you to Khabarovsk (KHL)
_x_ released you from your tryout

We wish you all the best and hope to see you back here at some point. We’re never shy about giving a chance to players we know. This is by no means an end, but a beginning.

We know, we know, everybody says that (stuff). You want evidence? Fine.

Dozens of players have come to the Sound Tigers on professional tryouts, just like some of you. Some were here in training camp. Others arrived during the season. Some have come back to fill in for the injured and the recalled. Some have gone on to win regular jobs and AHL contracts. And some ride shotgun with the stars. As the team begins its 10th season, here is one version of the top 10 PTOs in Sound Tigers history. (And just for fun, we won’t count Mark Parrish’s weekend here, because everybody knew who he was, and he was gone before we blinked.)

(10) BRETT MOTHERWELL, 2009-10. Remember that guy this week, the defenseman? This team was desperate for defensive help last spring. He came in with a couple of other guys and helped get the Sound Tigers into the playoffs. Now he’s got an AHL deal.

(9) DAVE KARPA, 2005-06. He was a veteran, he was a leader, he was a big piece of why this team went from so-so to solid that winter. (Then he retired to southern California after 25 games. These things happen.)

(8) EDDIE CAMPBELL, 2004-05. This was a crazy year around here. We weren’t even sure in June that the team would be here. There were three different captains. Campbell was the third one. He had been given an AHL contract by then.

(7) JAY LEACH, 2003-04. He had AHL cups of coffee before Bridgeport, but this was his first extended stay. He found a home the next year in the Bruins organization and has since pushed his way to the NHL.

(6) BRENDAN YAREMA, 2004-05. Like we said, this was a crazy year. Around New Year’s, this guy became available from Chicago, which had too many veterans. He showed up here and did everything for this team. He scored three short-handed goals in 25 games, for crying out loud; that was the team record at that point. And when his 25 games were up (after 17 points) in March, and he became free again? He signed with Milwaukee and played in the playoffs.

(5) MATT HIGGINS, 2001-02. He was a former first-round draft pick. Montreal had given up on him. He was still sitting home at Christmastime when Bridgeport, needing some depth down the middle, picked him up. He had some great offensive hot streaks and played in all situations for the Sound Tigers, right up through the Calder Cup Final.

(4) BEN GUITE, 2003-04. He was actually on an NHL contract in 2001-02, but the Islanders traded him at the deadline to get Dave Roche back. Even then, Guite came back on a PTO at the end of camp in 2003. He earned an AHL contract at midseason. But they didn’t bring him back. In the offseason, Providence picked him up. Within a year and a half, he had made his NHL debut.

(3) JODY ROBINSON, 2002-03. He was a fill-in who impressed. He got a little more playing time. They brought him back for the playoff run. They signed him for the next season. They kept bringing him back, year after year, until 2006, by which time he was wearing an ‘A’ for this team.

(2) JAMIE FRASER, 2006-07. Undrafted and unsigned, often a forward in junior, he had been doing well on defense for South Carolina when Bridgeport latched onto him. After 25 games, he had earned himself an NHL contract and became a Bridgeport mainstay for the next three years. No former PTO has more games or more points in a Sound Tigers sweater.

(1) ALEX MENARD-BURROWS. Wait, I see you checking the IHDB. Right, he never played for the Sound Tigers. No, he never played for the Islanders. Nope, never played for an Islanders or Sound Tigers affiliate in a lower-minor league.

Alex Burrows was here in training camp on a PTO in 2002, his first year after junior hockey. He impressed coach Steve Stirling in a couple of preseason games. There was one problem: The Islanders didn’t see room for him in Bridgeport. Trenton, then the ECHL affiliate here, said it didn’t have room for him, either. The Sound Tigers let him go, and eventually, he found himself a job in the ECHL.

The next season, two teams later, he wound up with Columbia. The Inferno’s affiliate, Manitoba, liked what it saw and gave Burrows an AHL contract. When he moved up, after some fits and starts, Vancouver liked what it saw and gave Burrows an NHL contract.

And four and a half years later, shoulder surgery will make him miss his first NHL game in three seasons. It might also prevent him from scoring 30 goals for the second year in a row.

So, truly, this doesn’t have to be an end. It’s a beginning.

Sincerely yours,


We’ll have other special features this week in honor of the team’s 10th season. A few may appear here, but look for them in the paper every day beginning Tuesday. Some will look back, while others will look ahead at this year’s team.

Michael Fornabaio