MILWAUKEE — For the 10th straight year, the Milwaukee Admirals have qualified for the Calder Cup playoffs – a streak that ties the longest in history. While it has been a rewarding road, it has also been a long road for a few of the team’s veterans.
Over the next week, the Milwaukee Admirals will travel more than 4,000 miles to take on their first Calder Cup opponent – Abbottsford. It’s a short trip, compared to the journey a few of the players have made just to be in the AHL post season this season.
Tyler Sloan calls himself one of the old guys. At 31, he has certainly made the rounds. “Syracuse, Dayton, Las Vegas, Hershey, Washington D.C., Manitoba, Omaha and now Milwaukee,” Sloan said.
Zack Stortini has a similar resume, though he’s been in Brew City before. “I started my career in Des Moines, Iowa, Milwaukee, Hamilton, Edmonton four to five years, Nashville at the beginning of the year, and now, here,” Stortini said.
Exhausting travel in junior hockey and the minors is expected. “You’re traveling around, and you’re riding buses for 12 hours. You’re not flying in planes to start your career,” Stortini said.
For some, the moving around never slows down. There may be no other professional league that has the movement that the AHL sees. While it certainly brings challenges for the players, individually, some believe it also prepares them for longevity and success. “It’s not easy, especially guys who are married younger. A lot of times, you see guys trail off as the years go on. They just can’t hack it,” Sloan said. “It’s part of the process. Gotta battle through, be mentally tough, and keep forging ahead,” Stortini said.
“If you’re not mentally tough, you’re not going to survive. There’s a ton of travel. Even if you’re in one place, you’re all over. You could be traded at any time to a new city, so if you’re not mentally tough, usually by now you’re weeded out,”
Most still hope that Milwaukee isn’t their final destination. A trip to the NHL is always the ultimate goal, but for now, a stop off in Milwaukee means a post season berth, and all the perks that go along with it. “You make a lot of friends along the way, and meet a lot of people – friends for life,” Sloan said.