After a complicated negotiation process that saw the Fort Wayne Komets even rescind a contract offer, things have worked out in the end.
J.C. Ruid, one of the most feared forwards in minor-league hockey, will be in Fort Wayne on Monday when the Komets open training camp.
“He’s definitely a very dangerous offensive player, as his stats would bear out,” Komets coach Pat Bingham said. “And he’s a big, rangy guy who is very difficult to knock off the puck. He uses his body very well. He’s not a bruiser but he uses his body to protect the puck.”
Ruid, 31, has played 238 games in the UHL, tallying 135 goals and 294 points with Asheville, Adirondack and Rockford.
He spent last season in Austria and Denmark. And his desire to return to Europe almost prevented him from joining the Komets.
Still bitter from last season’s midseason departure of star forward Mark Smith to Europe, the Komets wanted a firm commitment from Ruid that he wouldn’t go to Europe.
“We just felt that our organization, our fans, his teammates, the players, we all deserved a commitment,” Bingham said. “It happened last year (that a player left for Europe) and (ownership) didn’t want to see it happen again and I agree. We all want the commitment.”
When Ruid couldn’t give that commitment, the Komets pulled their offer last weekend. But Ruid rethought things this week.
“I just needed a little more time to figure out if I wanted to go to Europe or settle in one place and make that situation work,” Ruid said. “I’ve looked at (the roster) and that was part of my decision to go to Fort Wayne. To have the opportunity to win is big.”
This will be the fourth time that Bingham has been a head coach over Ruid. They teamed up with Asheville (N.C.) in 2000-01, Adirondack (N.Y.) in 2002-03 and Wheeling (W.Va.) in 2003-04.
With Adirondack, Ruid scored 40 goals and 96 points in 71 games. In Wheeling, Ruid was the team captain.
“Pat’s a great person,” Ruid said. “I have a lot of respect for him. He puts his heart out when he coaches.”
The addition of Ruid gives the Komets eight veteran players, one more than they’re allowed to play in each game. Bingham said he was unconcerned with the prospect of having to sit a player each game, though.
“It adds another decision into everything we have to do,” Bingham said. “But I think it affords us flexibility and makes (training) camp competitive. If people want to be here and make a good showing, I don’t see the problem in having something extra. Besides, to think that everybody can compete at an elite level every single night, I think that’s a stretch.”
Bingham added that none of the veterans, which includes Kevin St. Pierre, Guy Dupuis, Kelly Miller, Daniel Goneau, Bruce Richardson, Mario Larocque and Bogdan Rudenko, should take this signing as a negative reflection on themselves.
“We like all the veterans we have,” Bingham said. “Every one of them we’ve signed, we see them all being big parts of this team. We really did our homework and asked a lot of question. They seem like the guys who can deal with a situation like this.”
- Bingham said he didn't know whether Ruid or Richardson would be the top-line center. "We've got two guys, 1A and 1B, and they can fight it out for position," he said.
- In regards to players defecting for Europe midseason, Bingham had a suggestion: Just as all the AA leagues honor contracts from other leagues, they should get together and make an edict that if a player reneges on a contract to go to Europe, like Smith did, that player won't be allowed back in any league until after the following season. Interesting idea.
- Ruid said part of the reason he came to Fort Wayne was how much he loved playing at Memorial Coliseum.
-- By Justin A. Cohn, The Journal Gazette