Matt O'Dette needed more suits, and better ones at that.
The off-ice wardrobe he had while playing defense for the Stockton Thunder was OK, but he admits he had to step up his sartorial game when he was named a full-time assistant with the team.
"I had to pump up the wardrobe being behind the bench," O'Dette said. "I had some, but some of the suits weren't very nice. That's been taken care of."
With that detail out of the way, there's no reason to believe O'Dette won't wear his new job well.
O'Dette, 34, officially was named an assistant to Matt Thomas before the National Conference semifinals against Bakersfield, but that was a formality. O'Dette was a player-assistant for the Thunder this season, and when he was left off the playoff roster, his new role with the team became obvious.
O'Dette played 13 seasons of professional hockey with the ECHL's Thunder, Fresno Falcons and Roanoke Express, and the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs, Quebec Citadelles and Saint John Flames. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound defenseman suited up in 662 career games as a professional, totaling 116 points (38-78) and 1,587 penalty minutes.
"I knew that this was going to be my last year (playing). I knew I'd only play when we were short. I've come to grips with the fact the playing career is over," he said. "In a way, it's invigorated me to stay in the game. You see everything from a different pair of goggles."
O'Dette has a well-rounded perspective of the sport's landscape as it is. He never missed the playoffs in his final five seasons, four of which he served as captain. He helped guide the Thunder to their first Kelly Cup playoff series victory in 2008-09 after signing with the club as a free agent at mid-season.
Among his accomplishments was helping lift the Falcons to their first Pacific Division title, 100-point season and berth in the National Conference Finals in 2005-06. He was a part of two Calder Cup finalist teams, with Saint John in 1997-98 and Hamilton in 2002-03, and was a member of the Montreal Canadiens' "Black Aces" during the team's 2003 Stanley Cup Playoff run.
"I think the biggest thing I bring to the table is I like to think I was a professional, the way I approached the game," he said. "Guys see how I take the game seriously. It's been a fine line with the coaching aspects and how you handle the players. It (being an assistant) is almost the same role (as captain). But it's a step beyond that. It's being on the same side as the guys, but parlaying that on to the coach because I'm an assistant coach."
Leap of faith -- Idaho coach Derek Laxdal took it on blind faith that forward John-Scott Dickson could help his team at the most important point of the season, sight unseen.
It was an inspired bit of hockey vision.
Dickson has taken a circuitous route from the University of New Brunswick to the Steelheads. Laxdal never had seen Dickson play, but one of his players, Dustin Friesen, was a teammate of Dickson's in college and gave him a glowing recommendation.
Dickson is a two-time national champion at New Brunswick, and this season produced 40 points (17-23) in just 27 games.
Laxdal signed Dickson out of college April 2 and immediately loaned him to Rochester. Laxdal then placed Dickson on the team's playoff roster April 5.
"We heard a lot of good things about him," Laxdal said. "We knew we were going to get a decent player coming in. Top-end (college) guys can usually step in and play a bit."
The 6-foot-3, 214-pound Dickson made a splash commensurate to his size. He joined the Steelheads just in time for their playoff series against Utah, and contributed 2 goals and 3 assists in his first three contests. That included the game-winner at the 18:19 mark of the third period in Game 2.
"It's kind of a different situation. I'm happy Derek had that confidence in me," Dickson said. "These guys have worked hard all year. They finished first in the league for a reason. I'm not a fancy player by any means. I'm a player who can get in the corner and mix it up for them. You worry about the chemistry before you come. You just hope you can gel with any player they put on the ice."
"I knew that this was going to be my last year (playing). I knew I'd only play when we were short. I've come to grips with the fact the playing career is over. In a way, it's invigorated me to stay in the game. You see everything from a different pair of goggles." -- Matt O'Dette
While Bootland was appreciative of his re-signing, the K-Wings' earlier-than-planned ending sent him into the offseason in a grumpy mood.
Kalamazoo was upset by Reading in the first round of the ECHL playoffs, the second straight season in which the Bootland-led K-Wings lost in the opening series (last year's stumble came in the IHL).
That did not sit well with Bootland, who was out scouting for possible new talent just a few days after his season ended.
"Obviously, there's no doubt Kalamazoo comes from a winning tradition. Yes, we are happy we won the (North) Division. I don't think you could say it was a successful year. Is it a step in the right direction that we did well? Yes. But we expect to be able to do well. It (the loss) is going to sting for a while. But at the same time it's going to motivate me."
Bootland has coached the K-Wings to an 86-49-8-5 record in his two seasons. This season, the team's mark of 42-20-6-4 was the third-best overall record in the league.
Around the ECHL -- Bakersfield goalie J.P. Levasseur's 36-save shutout of Stockton in Game 3 of the National Conference semifinals April 21 was the second in Condors postseason history. The other was recorded by Rejean Beauchemin in a 4-0 win against Fresno on March 19, 2007. ... Cincinnati set a club record for most goals in a playoff game by beating Charlotte 9-5 in Game 3 of the American Conference semifinals April 21. Cincinnati's power play, which was 2-for-29 in the postseason entering that game, went 3-for-7 in the win. ... The Cyclones' Maxime Lacroix has two shorthanded goals this postseason, a total that sets a team career playoff record in that category. ... Cincinnati is 5-0 in odd-numbered playoff games this postseason (Games 1, 3, 5, 7) and 0-2-1 in the even numbered games (2, 4, 6). ... Reading's 4-0 series win against Florida in the American Conference semifinals was the team's first playoff sweep in the nine-year history of the organization. ... Seven different Royals scored game-winning goals through Reading's first seven playoff wins. ... Bakersfield led for 42:29 in the first two games of its series against the Thunder, while Stockton didn't hold a lead until winning each game in overtime. ... Stockton center Oren Eizenman's first 10 playoff points all came on assists until he scored twice himself in a Game 2 win over Bakersfield April 18.