I know this headline does not abide by the strict rules of journalism but this is a blog so relax. Kyle’s family tree has provided us with a walking headline but no need to exploit it.
“What a Beach of a day”, “When Life Hands You a Beach, Swim It Off”, “Beach… there it is!” Ok, I’m just beachin’ around with those, but you see what I mean.
Instead let’s just get to the point, just like my headline. Everybody’s flavour of the week due to his recognition as AHL’s Player of the Week (w/o Oct 29) has piqued the interest of Blackhawks and hockey fans throughout this NHL-less world.
Trust me before you start, this is not a Kyle Beach has turned the corner piece. This is more like “it’s nice to have my first blog about Kyle Beach not highlighting his trouble with the law/team/hockey Gods” kind of blog. I would like to comment on where he’s been to where he is currently and maybe what the future may hold if I can find my crystal ball.
Last week’s 5 points in 2 games (+ a fight) performance surely showed the Hawks brass something they had hoped for when they drafted him – production in a power forward type role. To me it showed an aspect that has been the topic of oh-so-many Kyle Beach conversations since before his draft year – mental toughness. It was his ability to learn from a message sent by head coach Ted Dent that sparked this entire Beach buzz. After finding himself watching from the press box (or wherever AHL players watch games from) as a healthy scratch for 2 consecutive games, Beach knew something needed to change.
There’s no question about the logjam of players across the board in the AHL due to the NHL lockout. The coaches have hard decisions but also more choices from a game-by-game basis. The choice to sit Beach was not due to a numbers game but to send a message to the 22 year old that his play needed to pick up.
Spending most of his time on the 4th line with limited minutes, Beach had a mere 1 goal in the first 6 contests. His past might tell us that his character and mental makeup would have him sulk in the corner while his team enjoyed their recent winning streak. But no, Kyle took it upon himself to be a part of the solution rather than the distraction.
His off-ice reputation was well documented coming into draft year and I dug up an article from the Vancouver Sun right before the 2008 draft – http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/columnists/story.html?id=d399c383-603a-49b8-875e-36831feb0162 that povides a sound recap of exactly that. It had the Vancouver Canucks fans very high on Beach, hoping to get him with their number 10th pick.
But Canucks GM Mike Gillis was quoted, “There’s a lot mixed stuff about Kyle Beach,” in his initial evaluation. “He seems to be a lightning rod for all sorts of things. People here like him as a player and our interview went well. In the totality of evaluating those type of things [rumours and reputation], you just have to be careful.”
And careful he was, passing on the B.C. native by selecting Cody Hodgson with their 1st round selection. The Hawks took Beach with the next pick. He was the type of player that Chicago would welcome with open arms if he figured it all out as a professional. He was big, tough and had a ton of skill in his arsenal but experts called it a “risky pick” due to his reputation. Fast forward 4 years and now in retrospect, Hawks fans might have wished Gillis went local, taking Beach off the board and saving them the anguish of watching him struggle to find his way.
Since landing in Rockford his time has been an interesting ride starting with being sent home after one playoff game due to an alleged food fight with Akim Aliu. Beach’s 52 goals in 68 games the following year for Spokane in the WHL would have us believe that this message was received loud and clear. He returned to Rockford after his Chiefs season concluded, kept all his food on his plate and even notching 3 goals in a 1st round exit in the 2009-10 playoffs.
However the summer had Beach in the spotlight for the wrong reasons as he beat up Mathis Olimb, during a developmental camp doing everything short of taking his lunch money. Olimb was signed to a one-year deal earlier that off-season as the Hawks were very interested in the Norwegian’s finesse game, not his fighting. Beach picked on Olimb not once but twice in the same game, who is 4 inches and 30 pounds less Mr. Beach. The second fight saw Beach attack Olimb leaving him with a shoulder injury and crushed dreams of ever playing in North America. Courtesy of Puck Daddy, you can watch it for yourself – http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Video-Chicago-GM-defensive-after-Kyle-Beach-tak?urn=nhl,255690.
Karma struck and Beach was sidelined for most of last year limiting him to 19 games with his own… wait for it… dun, dun, dun… shoulder injury. Whether it was a P.R. ploy or another notch on the positive side, Beach used his time off in an unconventional and surprising way. He found himself volunteering his time coaching a Jr. Icehogs House League team – http://blackhawks.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=625538. This is a true testament that Kyle is capable of making smart decisions to better himself as a person and in the eyes of upper management.
Now we head into this weekend with Rockford playing back to back games and all eyes will be on #12 for the Ice Hogs. I’m not saying that last week will ultimately be the week that defined Mr. Beach. All I’m saying is, it’s been a rocky road and I am happy to see the little wins like this in his game, showing that the skill is there and he is still dedicated to making the next step. Unfortunately I couldn’t find my crystal ball to look into the future to see how this Kyle Beach script plays out so you will have to just sit back and watch. However if this is just a flash in the pan type of a week, you can find me at the beach writing my next literal masterpiece “NHL out of Reach for Beach”.
Ty Cam out!
About the Author: I am a rare Chicago Blackhawks fan from Canada, one might describe me as a hockey connoisseur and a solid checking line centre to your local rec hockey team. I once lived in a town of 500 people and now work in the hockey mecca that is Toronto. I work in the wonderful world of Advertising and these opinions are one of my own and not of my company - don't get it twisted.