Jon Klemm found things a little different returning to the American Hockey League at age 37, more than 12 years after his last stint in the minor leagues.
On the bright side, the average travel time between games had shrunk from about seven hours to one or two. But the players with whom he was sharing the bus rides were nothing like he remembered.
“When I first started out, there were a lot of older guys,” Klemm said. “Now it’s all about development, so the guys are really, really young. I was like 15, 16, 17 years older than everyone on the team. It’s tough to find things in common with guys when they’re that much younger. But it was fun to watch them and just remember when I was their age, how much fun they have coming to the rink and the gags and stuff like that.”
Some days he felt younger being around the other players and sometimes he felt ancient.
“A lot of those kids like to listen to the hip hop music,” Klemm said. “I grew up in the ’80s listening to heavy metal. One time one of the coaches came in and asked if there was any music I’d like to hear in the locker room. The kids started rattling off names like Judas Priest. Then one of the young guys says The Beatles. I just shook my head. It was funny at the time.”
Klemm, a 15-year NHL veteran, won two Stanley Cups in Colorado, where he played for three years under Marc Crawford. He could have retired but he decided to sign a one-year, $500,000 contract with the Kings even if it meant he had to spend time in the minors.
“I’m not ready to pack it in yet,” Klemm said. “I still think I can play at the NHL level. It’s tough to have to go down but those things are out of my control. My goal wasn’t any different than any of the young guys down there. I could sit there and feel sorry for myself because I’m in a situation I didn’t really want to be, but I tried to have fun, work hard and wait for a call to get up here. I got my chance now, and hopefully I can make an impression and stick around for a while.”
Klemm played forward during the Kings’ game against the Ducks on Sunday. He’ll move back to his usual defensive position tomorrow to replace Jaroslav Modry, who was given leave to be with his ailing father in the Czech Republic.
“I know what he’s capable of,” Crawford said. “He’s similar to the player I remember. I’ve always been a big fan of Jon because he works hard, is smart and competitive. It’s kept him in the league a long, long time.”