Hockey

‘We like to put on a good show’; Steelheads promise speed, toughness in 21st season

Idaho Steelheads defenseman Charlie Dodero ranked second on the team last season with 97 penalty minutes. Dodero, who begins his fourth season with the Steelheads, liked Boise so much he bought a home here over the summer.
Idaho Steelheads defenseman Charlie Dodero ranked second on the team last season with 97 penalty minutes. Dodero, who begins his fourth season with the Steelheads, liked Boise so much he bought a home here over the summer. kgreen@idahostatesman.com

Idaho’s minor-league hockey franchise begins its 21st season with back-to-back games starting at 7:10 p.m. Friday and Saturday against the Norfolk Admirals at CenturyLink Arena.

With 36 regular-season home games on the calendar from mid-October through the end of March, the Idaho Steelheads’ roster is bound to see its share of changes.

But here are a handful of story lines you can count on this season:

Killer consistency

Since the team began play in 1997, the Steelheads have made 20 consecutive postseason appearances, highlighted by Kelly Cup titles in 2004 and 2007.

The run is one of the longest active streaks in pro sports. No team in North American professional hockey (NHL, AHL or ECHL) can match the Steelheads’ postseason streak after the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings saw their 25-year run end last spring.

“You’re going to see a winning team and fast-paced action,” Steelheads veteran forward Jefferson Dahl said. “We’re going to give fans our best effort every night.”

Speed and toughness

Idaho coach Neil Graham said there were two areas he wanted to address in the offseason — speed and toughness.

Graham assembled this year’s roster with those traits in mind, and the focus will be evident on the ice this season.

“I think as a group we may have lost a couple inches on the stat sheet in height,” Graham said. “But we play a grittier, tougher, harder-to-play-against style.”

Familiar faces (or jersey numbers, at least)

The Steelheads brought back nine players from last year’s roster, led by the captain, Dahl.

Dahl, who is in his fourth season with Idaho, paced the team in scoring last season with a career-high 66 points, including 22 goals.

“He does the little things well. He battles defensively. He can agitate the other team. He can score timely goals,” Graham said. “I’ve always referred to him as the motor of our lineup.”

Idaho’s other returners are defensemen Joe Faust (2nd season with Idaho), Corbin Baldwin (3rd), Aaron Harstad (2nd) and Charlie Dodero (4th), forwards Will Merchant (2nd) and Connor Chatham (2nd), and goaltenders Branden Komm (3rd) and Philippe Desrosiers (3rd).

Fan-focused fun

On select nights each season, coveted Idaho Steelheads jerseys are auctioned off to support local charities, and the 2017-18 season will be no different.

Traditional auction nights are Dec. 8-9 (St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital), Feb. 2-3 (Jayden DeLuca Foundation) and March 9-10 (Pink in the Rink).

Marvel Super Hero Night makes its debut March 24 featuring Captain America vs. Ironman. The ECHL-Marvel themed jerseys will be auctioned off later at MeiGray.com.

For fans who want to meet the Steelheads up close, autograph nights are Nov. 4, Dec. 9, Feb. 3 and March 10.

And for the extra-thirsty, 21-and-older crowd, there’s Bud Light $2 Beer Wednesdays.

“I think it’s important for fans to know how appreciated they are,” Graham said. “The louder the better, of course, but we have amazing fans. We’re very fortunate for the support we get and in turn we like to put on a good show for them.”

Rachel Roberts: 208-377-6422, @byrachelroberts

If you go

  • When: 7:10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
  • Who: Idaho Steelheads vs. Norfolk Admirals
  • Where: CenturyLink Arena, Boise
  • Cost: Tickets start at $18 per seat (prior to fees)
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