Home Town: Wellsville, NY
First Amerks Game: December 1967
Home Games Missed Since: Approx. 20
Q-What do you enjoy about the Booster Club?
A.PADDOCK- I enjoy going on the trips. We’ve had some memorable ones.
We went to Sherbrooke. I had worked all night, the night before and we left in the evening. And everybody went to sleep and I woke up and I looked over and here’s the driver rubbing his eyes and sticking his head out the window. And I thought, well, this is now a time to stay awake. So pretty soon, my girlfriend Lynn woke up and she said: aren’t you sleeping? I go: No, I think I’m going to stay awake and keep the driver awake. She said: I think I’ll be right there with you. It was cold.. the bus was cold.
Well, we got to Sherbrooke and he filled the bus up (with gasoline) and we went on to the game and left the next day to go to Springfield. We go to Springfield and went to the game and we left the next morning. Only problem is, the bus driver didn’t put any more gas in the bus and at the New York State Thruway, we were out of gas. And he said: I filled it with liters and I thought we had enough to get to such-and-such a place to get gas. I thought: don’t we look at a gas gauge to see how much gas we have? So we sat there five hours. One could start the bus but couldn’t give us gas and the other could give us gas but couldn’t start the bus. So after five hours, the state troopers came and we got on our way home. We got home about seven o’clock that night.
Another one… we were playing Portland. And then we were going.. back to Springfield. And we left here at midnight and there were a few flurries. It snowed all the way. We got to Lee, Massachusetts. And Donna (Voelkl) called the Portland box office.. oh yeah (they say) it’s not snowing here at all. So we continued on. Every road we went through, they closed. We finally got to Portland about 3:15 in the afternoon. It should have taken us nine hours. It took us like 13 and a half. And we got to the lobby and here’s John Van Boxmeer and the entire team sitting there waiting for us to come. They were gonna cancel the game but seeing as how the Booster Club had come with two busses.. there were 500 people in the arena. We played the game. And the next morning I’m looking out the window and I’m saying to my friend Carol: we’re not going anywhere. The team bus is not starting. So, eventually we gave up one of our buses to the team. And we put five of our older gentlemen on the bus. And it ended up, that bus also broke down and they had to get the Portland Pirates bus to bring them to Springfield.
So, those are a couple of our memorable trips. I’ve not gone to San Antonio or any of those places. I didn’t have the opportunity at the time.
Q-Booster Club trips not just done by bus…
A.PADDOCK- Oh yes, we’ve taken trains, we’ve flown. We used to go to Adirondack, and we’d go “choo-choo and chair”… we’d go by train and go to Schenectady and then switch and go up to Fort Edwards near Adirondack. We’d watch the games and then come home.
They’ve flown to the Maritimes or taken the train and they’ve flown to San Antonio and Houston and then rented cars or whatever to get to their destinations.
Q-Has the enthusiasm for these kind of trips been waning recently?
A.PADDOCK- Part of the reason is: the buses have become exorbitantly expensive. Last year, if we were going to say, Binghamton, the bus was $960. The Booster Club subsidized a third of that, so it was $600. Today, we’re going to Binghamton at the end of March (2009). The bus is $1200 with no subsidy, SO, we’ve had from $40 for a member to $65 for a member just to go down and back.
Q-How you got involved in rooting for the Amerks?
A.PADDOCK- I was the one that.. the girl said to me: let’s go, you’re not working, you’re not off tomorrow. She said, come on, we’ll go to the hockey game tonight. And we’ve been going ever since.
I loved it. I said I had no idea what I was walking into but I thought, she’s giving me a free ticket. Let’s go see what this is all about. I had read about them in the newspaper but it didn’t mean much to me.
Q-Ever been close to getting hit by a puck?
A.PADDOCK- Oh, we’ve been hit several times. Many times. Oh yes, we were in Pittsburgh and we were sitting behind the goal. My friend Dusty (Miller) and another friend. Dennis Hull was shooting from the blue line and it was coming right for my forehead. Dusty pulled me to the side. The other fellow put his hand up. The puck hit his hand and flew ten rows behind us. I didn’t get hit by that one but if I had my face would have been smashed.
Q-Your favorite Amerk player?
A.PADDOCK- Yvon Lambert. He came in. He was a little bit of an older player. I had various opportunities to work with him in organization things with the team. And it was worth knowing the man.
Q-We don’t see much of older players playing in the AHL?
A.PADDOCK- Not any more. Occasionally, they’ll come down on a conditioning assignment like Noah Welch came down. But most of the time, you don’t see the veterans come down any more.
Q-Other favorite players and coaches?
A.PADDOCK- Dunc Rousseau, a forward, was funny. I can’t tell you how, funny… Eddie Walsh, he was a goalie for Nova Scotia. We used to feed him popcorn because at those times, we didn’t have the mesh and be sitting right next to the goalie and we’d feed him popcorn or what ever we were eating that night.
I think my most interesting coach is Al McNeil. He was great. We’d sit and watch warmups and he’d come by and he’d talk to a group of us and he was always very pleasant. Most of the other coaches would say hello, but not to the extent that Al McNeil did.
Q-How has the style of play changed over the years?
A.PADDOCK- The players are much stronger, much more skilled than they were back in the 70s. We didn’t have people that were 280 pounds. Nobody who was six-foot eight or nine. Most of them were maybe five-nine, five-ten, six foot, that type of thing. They weren’t as strong as they are now.
Q-What would you change about the game?
A.PADDOCK- I miss seeing the players. You can’t identify with them because they all have the helmets on. And they all look a like.
Q-Any special hockey memorabilia?
A.PADDOCK- I have three sticks I’ve gotten over the years. And the rest of it is jerseys.
Q-A story about off-ice officials…
A.PADDOCK- Bob Wetmore. He was one of the penalty box attendants. And one night I’m sitting across the ice where I sit now. And he’s pointing down on the ice and screaming to one of the linesmen: get my teeth, get my teeth! Before somebody skated over them. That was the funniest thing on two feet.
Q-Your other favorite hockey teams?
A.PADDOCK- When Boston was here, we followed Boston. We’ve had Buffalo. And I follow the teams that have some of our players from the past like Atlanta, Nashville, Tampa Bay. So I kinda look to see how they’re doing. Now, Chicago, with Brian Campbell.
Q-Positions you’ve held with the Booster Club?
A.PADDOCK- Treasurer and Transportation. Maybe Membership.
Q-Your over view of the Booster Club?
A.PADDOCK- I think for the most part, we have done very well. We do have problems like any organizations have problems. But we try to work through them . And if we could get more people involved- that would be the best thing. We need more people because ten people can’t do it all and keep it going as well as it’s been run. So, we’re hoping to have more people become involved. We try to get people to do the fifty-fifty and the jersey raffles.
Q-Plug any particular member?
A.PADDOCK- Over the years we have had people that have been 25-year members. One that comes to mind would be Donna Voelkl. She’s been a great supporter of the Amerks Booster Club and the Amerks. Betty Grasta is another one. They’ve held positions. They help where they can.
Q-Any particular player who came here with a lot of promise, but fizzled?
A.PADDOCK- From the 1980 Olympics and the USA team, we got three players. One broke his leg and was never the same afterwards. And two were supposed to be great players and none of them panned out at all.
Q-What about Wayne Gretzky’s brother Keith Gretzky for the Amerks?
A.PADDOCK- Well, he was a little shrimp. At that point, they had a lot of bigger players and he just wasn’t able to keep up.
Q-How about our tough guys?
A.PADDOCK- Battleship Kelly is always a good one. He would keep you in your seat or standing up. The one who was a great guy off the ice but I didn’t like him as a player particularly: John Wensink. I just think sometimes he got a little crazy and didn’t think what he was doing.
Q-You can describe Wensink’s pounding of Len (Cumming) at the War Memorial?
A.PADDOCK- I was sitting probably five rows from it. And he just kept pounding him and pounding him, hitting his head on the ice, etc. I just kept screaming: stop, stop, stop! And they eventually stopped it. That was awful
Q-Your high Amerks moment?
A.PADDOCK- I think ’96 when we wore the red white and blue jerseys. I thought that was a great year. With Mike Keenan, we had a great team that year. And Van Boxmeer and Tortorella, they’ve all done great jobs with the teams. The down years of course were the Vancouver years.
And I think right now, Benoit Groulx has done an outstanding job with what he was given at such a late stage in the game to start this year. He had nobody. He had nine rookies and three or four sophomores and nothing to back it up. The goalie was supposed to be good but he never proved he could carry this team. I don’t know whether the team didn’t like him or what. But the team never played for Beckford-Tseu. And this goalie, Brodeur came in. I don’t know whether it was his attitude, but it certainly turned the team around and they have done much better.
Q-How do you assess goaltender Mike Brodeur?
A.PADDOCK- I think he’s a very good goalie. Sure he’s going to have some mistakes but obviously he was doing alright in the East Coast League. He had been carrying that team.
Q-Overall, the Amerks…
A.PADDOCK- Over the years, we’ve had great teams. We’ve had a few down years and every team will have down years. We’ll get through this year. We won’t make the Calder Cup playoffs. But next year, we can always look forward to next year ’cause there will be new players coming in. The management will have a whole year under their belts and it will be run much differently next year.