MILWAUKEE -- Hockey fans may find themselves paying a little more attention to the AHL these days, with the NHL on strike. The Milwaukee Admirals appreciate the new fans, but players like Mark Van Guilder hope people noticed the things players do off the ice as well.
28-year-old Van Guilder spends most of his time on the ice. Now in his fourth season with the Admirals, he knows practice makes perfect. That's true in sports and in school.
That's why even when Van Guilder's not at work, he spends time at area schools.
"First of all, it's fun for me. I have a good time spending time with the kids. I think we're fortunate with the job that we have to have a lot of free time in the afternoons, so I feel like it's our duty to get out and do a little extra," Van Guilder said.
Van Guilder makes friends just by showing up at the schools, but he earns their appreciation by drawing on his own experiences.
"I know how they feel. I just wanted to go to gym class and then recess -- and get out of school. It's good for them to hear that too. The fact of the matter is, you've got to get your stuff done in order to play hockey, to play baseball, to play football -- so that's how my folks threatened me when I was screwing around when I was a kid. If you don't get your work done, you cannot go to hockey practice. That usually got the job done, so I try to pass that on to the kids," Van Guilder said.
Van Guilder reads to a lot of students and enjoys every outing.
"It's hilarious. The kids come up with unique questions every time," Van Guilder said.
At the Milwaukee Sign Language School, Van Guilder said he especially enjoyed the classes where stories were also signed.
"I took one class in college. I got maybe a C+," Van Guilder said.
Van Guilder even tried to communicate via sign language too.
"Once I got comfortable doing it, I get a little more confidence to go to schools and do stuff. I love doing it. It makes me feel good. It's rewarding. I'm trying to get all the guys doing it, especially guys that don't speak English well. Once they get out there more often, they're going to be more confident and they're going to have fun doing it. I think some guys, before they do it once or twice or three times, they're a little bit too nervous and scared. It's certainly nothing to be worried about," Van Guilder said.
The Admirals next home game is Friday, November 9th against the Chicago Wolves.