Winning a professional championship -- no matter what the level -- is a dream for every young hockey player.
Quad City Mallards defenseman Jay Holladay had his dream snatched right out from under his nose this past spring.
A member of the International Hockey League's Fort Wayne Komets since the season's start, Holladay could almost taste a cool beverage flowing from the Turner Cup onto his lips. Then, without any notice, it was all gone.
Facing salary cap concerns with the return of veteran Colin Chaulk from the injured-reserve list, the Komets were forced to let someone go and Holladay was their choice.
"That was heart-wrenching,'' Holladay said of being let loose after 57 games as a Komet. "I had played all season with those guys and we were so close. We started the season with high expectations and injuries really hurt us. We fell as low as fourth place, but by the last month of the season I knew we were going to win it all.
"We knew Colin was coming back, but I didn't know anything about the salary-cap implications and had no idea anyone had to go. I was totally blind-sided and it was crushing. I even told them I'd play for free, but that's not possible because I had a contract.''
Looking for a place to play, Holladay, who had three goals, 12 assists and 81 penalty minutes with Fort Wayne, signed with the Flint Generals a few days later and played out the season in Michigan without any chance of making the postseason.
"You have to take advantage of every opportunity to play, so it was an easy choice to sign in Flint,'' Holladay said. "Still, it's tough knowing all of the guys you spent an entire season with are making a run to the championship.''
Holladay decided to remain in the IHL for another season, signing this summer with the Mallards. However, there was another hurdle ahead for the 24-year-old blueliner. Less than a week into training camp, Holladay suffered a groin injury that sidelined him for several days -- including both of the team's preseason contests.
"That was really awful and frustrating,'' Holladay said. "I had such a great summer and was in the best shape of my life. I had a good camp in Springfield (American Hockey League) and was excited to come here and prove myself to my new team and teammates. The injury really took a lot of momentum away from me.
"The one positive was that I've had groin problems in the past and they were much worse than this. I'm just thankful Coach (Frank) Anzalone was patient with me, let me heal and then gave me a chance to win my position on the team.''
Irononically, his Mallards career began with a game at Flint and last Saturday's home opener was Fort Wayne. QC hosts Flint tonight at 7:05 at the i wireless Center.
"No question, the game against Fort Wayne was emotional,'' Holladay said. "Ihave a lotof guys I know very well and consider friends over there, but that doesn't mean I want to show them they let go of the wrong guy.''
Who knows, maybe he'll get a chance toget that first championship and take the Turner Cup away from Fort Wayne.
Today is Wednesday, March 12, the 71st day of 2014. There are 294 days left in the year. 1864 -- 150 years ago: Soldiers from the barracks on the Arsenal manage to elude the vigilance of the guard nearly every day and come to town armed. In the hands of excited and perhaps intoxicated men, these weapons are dangerous. 1889 -- 125 years ago: Manufacturing's merchants and professional men of Moline were petitioning the Western Union Telegraph company to establish a telegraph office in the business area of the city. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Three Rock Island students, the Misses Eleanor Cleaveland, Dorothy McCabe and Ruth West, escaped injury when fire destroyed College Hall at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. 1939 -- 75 years ago: The Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War gave a party for William H. Stremmel, the only survivor of John Buford Post 243, GAR. 1964 -- 50 years ago: The East Moline Grade School Board of Education last night granted salary increases totaling about $47,000 to teachers and staff members. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Five champion spellers from the Rock Island/Milan School district were selected after competition this week at Modern Woodmen of America. Winners are Sarah Cottay, Christopher Gilbrich, Jared Vogele, Kedric Roper and Kenny Stevenson.