When Brendan Shinnimin scored his 50th goal on Feb. 26, it was almost 13 years to the day since Dylan Gyori -- the last Tri-City Americans player to score 50 goals -- notched his on March 19, 1999.
Gyori, who has played in Germany the past eight years, scored his 50th goal to start a hat trick at Spokane Arena. He said recently he was surprised it took so many years for another Tri-City player to reach the milestone.
"The game is tailored around more speed and skill, so it really makes me wonder why it's taken so long for an Ams player to get 50," Gyori said in an e-mail. "It's just nice to see a player finally do it for the Ams. Congrats to Brenden for doing it. I guess it goes back to the old saying -- 'When the team does well, everyone achieves more.' "
Even though he is an ocean away and several time zones ahead of Kennewick, Gyori said he keeps tabs on his former team.
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"It's been great to see the Ams do so well the last few years," Gyori said. "I know Bob Tory is an excellent manager who knows what it takes to put a good product on the ice. It's nice to see the fans rewarded for their loyal support over the years."
The Americans are in a heated battle with the Spokane Chiefs in the Western Conference semifinals. Tri-City leads the series 3-2 heading into Game 6 tonight at Spokane Arena -- a building that holds special memories for Gyori.
"For me, there are two games against Spokane that stand out," Gyori said. "The first memory I have was the very first game ever played in Spokane Arena. I'm pretty sure there was a line brawl to start the game, and I scored the first-ever goal in Spokane Arena history (Sept. 30, 1995).
"In my last year of junior, I got my 50th goal against them as well, and that was pretty exciting at the time."
Gyori is far removed from the Americans-Chiefs rivalry, but the teams had their battles back in the day.
"Our rivalry with Spokane was always heated no matter what time of year or where the teams were in the standings," Gyori said. "I remember there being a few line brawls, hard checks, lots of goals and some intense New Year's Eve games. Mike Babcock was Spokane's coach at the time, and his teams always played hard and you always knew it was going to be intense."
A native of Red Deer, Alberta, Gyori had no idea the Americans had three players -- Justin Feser, Mitch Topping and Derek Ryckman -- from his hometown.
"Maybe that's why the Ams are doing so well this year," Gyori said, adding a good-natured, "It's nice to see some of the young punks from central Alberta having success in the WHL."
During his playing days for the Americans, Gyori played one year (1998-99) for Don Hay, then played for him again with the AHL's Utah Grizzlies (2003-04).
"I hold Don Hay in the highest regard," Gyori said. "Without Don, I wouldn't have been able to sign an NHL contract with Pittsburgh, score 50 goals in the WHL and learn what it takes to be a pro hockey player. It was great playing for him again with the Utah Grizzlies. He is one of the most intense coaches I have ever played for, and he really taught me how to play the game well at both ends of the ice."
Gyori tries to make it home during the offseason, but the last three years he has stayed in Germany.
"I actually spent my whole summer in Munich last year and was enrolled in a language school," he said. "I spent four months, four hours a day learning German. I did this so I can work toward getting German citizenship, which can help extend my career because I won't count as an import player anymore. This summer I decided to come home early and spend my time with my family and friends."
Saturday, he was in Phoenix watching former Tri-City teammate Daymond Langkow and the Phoenix Coyotes drop a 4-3 overtime game to the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the NHL playoffs.
Gyori hasn't been to Kennewick in 10 years, but he remembers the town and its people fondly.
"I was there four years and I enjoyed it very much," he said. "I was treated excellent by the organization, the fans, the kids that I met at Kamiakin and just everyday people you would meet around town.
"It goes by so fast, and the memories you'll make you'll have for the rest of your life. My message to the guys currently on the Ams: Do whatever it takes for the team to be successful today, because one day you'll look back and reflect on your career and remember the times you all had together. Make those memories worth remembering."