Retirement plans, Part I.

With the ECHL season over, I’ll focus this space in the coming days on three Reign players who are considering retirement.

None of the three would completely rule out returning to hockey in 2010-11, but all are strongly considering their other options. A fourth player, Tony Voce, has already announced his retirement.

Dan Knapp said he’s “80 percent” retired.

Knapp recently obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Nebraska-Omaha — where he played collegiately — after taking classes online the past several years. He’s currently back in Hermantown, Minnesota, with his daughter and family, and is “considering a couple jobs.”

“Having a daughter and everything, I’ve missed out on the past couple
years,” Knapp said. “I’m
looking forward to spending time with my family.”

An original member of the Reign, Knapp filled the role of a typical stay-at-home defenseman — when he was doing his job, you probably didn’t notice him. As a result, Knapp didn’t get much ink in the newspaper. He was not paid to score, and only had a goal and an assist in 40 games this season, after posting four goals and 15 assists in 58 games last year. Knapp also had one assist in two playoff games during the Reign’s inaugural season.

It’s too bad he wasn’t on the scoresheet every day. Knapp was always a terrific interview and arrived in Ontario with a great story, having spent the 2007-08 season playing for Beijing’s entry in the Asian League.

“That was a great experience,” he said. “It
was before the summer Olympics and there were a lot of vibes around the city
and
the country with the Olympics coming. People were great. Especially my
first
year out of college, it was a great experience to go over there, play
hockey,
and see the world. No better way than to experience something and get
paid for
it.”

Knapp and teammate Jason Beeman (a Diamond Bar native) were two of the five non-Asian players that the league allowed to play on each team. Apparently hockey is less popular in China than in South Korea and Japan, and thus the league has since raised the allowance to seven non-Asian players for the Beijing team to help keep it competitive. The league’s other six teams are still limited to five. Teams play a 32-game schedule, shorter even than an NCAA season.

There were a few ex-NHL players dotting the rosters and “a lot of players have the skill,” Knapp said.

“I’m just not sure if
they had the tools, resources – whether it’s been coaches or dads who
have been
around the game – the skill was there, but not necessarily the motivation
or the
brains. The mental side of it. The Hockey IQ. I think it’s a big market
over
there. There’s a lot of potential.”

Last but not least, a brief Q&A …

Most memorable hockey moment?

The Minnesota State High School Hockey
tournament. It’s a pretty big deal up here, played at the Xcel Energy Center (home rink of the Minnesota Wild).
Hockey up here is like baseball down there, or football in Texas. That’s
what
everybody talks about. My sophomore year (at Hermantown High School) we took fifth – the year which I played
with (Reign captain) Jon
Francisco. My senior year we took third. I never had my chance at the
big one.
But two or three years after I left, they went undefeated.”

Best player you ever played with?

I played all four years in college
with (current Kings forward) Scott Parse. He put up some amazing numbers, did some amazing
things.

Best player you ever played against?

I did play against Thomas Vanek in my
first
college game. We played against the Gophers (University of Minnesota). I think we were up 3-0
after
the first, and ended up losing 9-3. I think Vanek had like five, six points
that
game. After the first we were thinking we could hang, then he put it
into
another gear.

This entry was posted in Ontario Reign/ECHL and tagged , by J.P. Hoornstra. Bookmark the permalink.

About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.