For two weeks, people have been waiting to see which 20-year-old player the Americans would trade/waive.
After watching Neal Prokop play after returning from a horrific injury in March, I was pretty sure he was staying. Sure, the Americans needed help on the blue and Zak Stebner provided that. But what Neal brings to the team is not something that can be coached. He is a leader and his teammates look up to him. He was a difference maker last year when the Americans won a third U.S. Division title.
Neal and linemates Justin Feser and Patrick Holland also have a chemistry that cannot be matched by any other line on the team.
I talked to Neal and Zak at the Ams gingerbread house event in Pasco last weekend. Neal was hopeful that he would stay. Zak referred to himself as a rent-a-player with the Calgary Hitmen last season (but it did get him a trip to the Memorial Cup) and was hopeful he'd found home here with the Americans. I guess if either had a Christmas wish, it was to stay in the Tri-Cities. Unfortunately, Bob Tory on had one wish to grant.
Zak is off to Kelowna, which is a good team with a good coach. He will be well taken care of there.
Paul Sohor, acquired from Everett before the Stebner trade, has big skates to fill. Stebner was quality D-man and Sohor is trying to get his career back on track after leaving the Silvertips a few days ago in hopes of going to a team that would give him more playing time. Many a player has revived their careers with the Americans — Neal Prokop now how has done it twice. Maybe Neal could offer Paul a little advice.
The Americans will be helping the Salvation Army today, ringing bells and taking donations at the Kennewick Fred Meyer. Players will be there from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and again from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Stop by, meet the guys and help a good cause. This is just one of many charitable causes the Americans support and according to story in today's paper, the Salvation Army is way behind its goal for this year.
I will have to check with the Salvation Army later this week to see how well the guys did. In the past, when the players are ringing the bells, they bring in more than if you or I were doing it.