NORTHFORD — Wallingford natives Lee Moffie and Pat Mullane have completed successful collegiate careers on the ice and the lifelong friends are on the verge of taking their next step: Playing professional hockey.
Moffie and Mullane are among several state-bred hockey players tuning up for the season in a “pro camp” every afternoon this week at the Northford Ice Pavilion from 1 to 3 p.m. It’s being run by Avon Old Farms assistant coach Bill Maniscalco. Moffie and Mullane both played for him at the prep school.
“It’s hard to get into shape on your own,” Mullane said after Monday’s session. “Northford Ice Pavilion and Bill Maniscalco have been great for us growing up over the years. It’s hard to get in shape with just two or three guys, so over the summer I tried to get all of the good guys in the area. It’s better for me to play with better competition. When you have 15 or 16 guys out here it’s easier to get into shape and get ready for camp.”
Mullane and Moffie both first laced up their skates for the Wallingford Hawks. They went on to win two New England prep championships at Avon Old Farms.
In college, they went separate ways, though both to major Division I programs: Moffie to Michigan, Mullane to Boston College.
At BC, where he was a forward and senior captain, Mullane was aboard for the most successful run in program history. The Eagles won two national championships, three Hockey East championships and four Beanpot titles in Mullane’s four years at Chestnut Hill.
After graduating, Mullane signed with the Rockford IceHogs, American Hockey League affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
“It’s exciting,” Mullane said. “It’s a different mentality. For the past few years I have been fortunate being at BC and knowing I had a spot on the team. Now I am fighting for an NHL job or an AHL job. There are no guarantees going into camp. You are fighting to making a living. You are fighting against a guy who is working to feed his family. It’s a different world and a different mentality.”
Mullane’s quest for a roster spot begins at a rookie tournament in London, Ontario on Sept. 5-8. The main Chicago Blackhawks camp follows at Notre Dame University starting Sept. 10.
“I would like to see myself in Rockford for much of the year,” Mullane said. “Chicago is extremely deep. I would like to have a full season in the AHL and prove myself as a pro. I think the AHL is the second best league in the world. I’m excited to play against some of the best guys in the world.”
Moffie was a stalwart on defense for the University of Michigan. He led the Wolverines to one Frozen Four in his four years in Ann Arbor.
“College was a blast,” Moffie said Monday. “It was a great experience. For any young kid playing hockey around here, Michigan is a great place to go. The whole atmosphere: It’s just an amazing place. I get goose bumps just talking about it. It was the perfect place for me. I wish I could go back and do it all again.”
Moffie is hoping to create more great memories as a pro. He’s already had some professional experience. Since graduating in May, he’s been with three clubs. Moffie was drafted by the San Jose Sharks, who traded him to the Edmonton Oilers in mid-July. He is now in the process of signing with the Colorado Avalanche and will head out to Denver next Tuesday.
Like Mullane, Moffie is hoping to play AHL hockey this coming season. Colorado’s affiliate are the Cleveland-based Lake Erie Monsters.
“I will have rookie camp and main camp and I will see what happens. Hopefully, I will be Lake Erie this year,” Moffie said. “The Colorado GM is a Michigan alum, so it’s a great fit for me. I have to play well to make the team. I think my chances are good. I have to bring it and we will see what happens.”
Maniscalco, who came through the door at Avon Old Farms with Moffie and Mullane in 2005, said the duo has meant so much to the program and are great role models to young hockey players around Connecticut.
“I’ve known those guys since they were 10- or 12-years old,” Maniscalco said. “They mean the world to me and I love those guys. They have done a lot with youth hockey around here. If I ask them to come to practice, they don’t hesitate. They just come out. They help out and are a great inspiration for the younger kids. It’s great for Wallingford Youth Hockey.
Maniscalco coached many of the players that are expected to be on the ice with Mullane and Moffie this week. Some of the other Connecticut-bred skaters at Northford this week are Nick Bonino of Farmington (Anaheim Ducks), Cam Atkinson of Greenwich (Columbus Blue Jackets), Mark Arcobello of Trumbull (Edmonton Oilers) Max Pacioretty of New Canaan (Montreal Canadians), Sean Backman of Greenwich (Islanders/ Bridgeport Sound Tigers), Nathan Gerbe of Oxford (Carolina Hurricanes) and Kris Newbury of the New York Rangers/Hartford Wolf Pack.
“Pat and I have been on the ice a lot lately and trying to get ready,” Moffie said. “This is serious stuff we are getting into. It’s great to get the intensity level up against all of these talented players. It will be great preparation for next week.”