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Published: Thursday, 10/17/2013 - Updated: 10 months ago

COMMENTARY

Friendly face of the franchise

Walleye captain Rogers enters his 4th season with team

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

Kyle Rogers got a new GMC Sierra last spring and put 8,000 miles on it this summer, mostly attending weddings.

“I think there were seven of them,” he said, “maybe eight.”

There were weddings involving family, friends, ex-teammates, a current teammate and, oh yeah, his own.

Rogers and his wife, Emily, tied the knot on July 27. Their daughter Kendra, about to turn 4, was in the wedding party.

RELATED: 2013-2014 Walleye Season Preview Page

Funny story. Emily and her sister Allison are twins, pretty much identical. They all met during his junior year at Niagara University, Kyle being the rugged hockey star and the sisters on the swim team. Both teams practiced early in the morning and they would meet up at a nearby café.

Rogers knew which sister he was pursuing, but not really.

Kyle Rogers ranks first in Walleye history in games played (214), third in goals (47) and first in assists (79). Kyle Rogers ranks first in Walleye history in games played (214), third in goals (47) and first in assists (79).
BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH Enlarge

“For a while I didn’t know which one to sit next to,” he said. “I’d sort of pull up a chair and hope for the best. I was at their house one day and one of them walked down the stairs and I said, ‘Hey babe.’ And Allison said, ‘I’m not your babe.’ It was a challenge.”

But he eventually figured it out and he got the girl and the truck, and the hockey career. What more could a guy want?

Kyle Rogers has been around, from every corner of Pennsylvania to South Dakota to Niagara Falls to Toronto to various little burgs in the Ontario junior ice circuit. Now he’s in Toledo and to hear him tell it he may stay awhile.

He is the captain, the face, of the Toledo Walleye and it’s not a label he takes lightly.

There have been a lot of faces through the years, from coaches like calculated showman Ted Garvin, all street smarts, and the cerebral showman Terry Slater, to the iron-man goalie Glenn Ramsay, to the finesse of Stan Maxwell, and the slick scoring of Dirk Graham, to the heavies on the Murder Inc. line.

Now it is Rogers, who is set to begin his fourth season in a Walleye sweater.

Kyle Rogers serves himself a piece of fried Walleye at a team fish fry this past winter. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Rogers is entering his seventh pro hockey season. Kyle Rogers serves himself a piece of fried Walleye at a team fish fry this past winter. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Rogers is entering his seventh pro hockey season.
BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge

“I love it,” he said. “I think it is an honor. You never expect something like that to come about. I’ve been here awhile so I’ve heard a lot of the names and met some of them. I know the impact those guys have had on the sport in this city.

“Now, people recognize me. I take my daughter to the zoo or the science center or out to a park and kids run up to give me a high-five; I have to tell you, it’s pretty neat. It means a lot to me. I know what this franchise does for the community and what it means. I feel a big part of it and I want to do it right.”

Rogers had the same dreams of any kid who has ever played any sport, to make it to the big leagues and win championships and see his picture on a box of Wheaties.

You can say he came up short and that his career has settled in Toledo and in the ECHL. But settle is not the word he would choose.

“I play hockey because I love it,” he said. “I played in high school and I had fun. It got me to college and I had fun. Here I am still playing and still having fun.”

But it’s a career, too. And this past summer he got involved with ex-Storm player Nick Parillo’s development camps and found out he’s pretty good at teaching the game to young kids, something he might very well pursue down the road.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that a banner with his likeness on it was hanging on the wall at the rink. The kids liked that. The face of the Walleye.

The 28-year-old Rogers has been nicknamed, “The Edge.” He’s proud of his reputation, that he does the dirty work in the corners and in traffic near the net, that he always seems to be in on every play in the right places at the right times, that he never takes a shift off.

Heck, Rogers never takes a day off. He has played in 214 straight games for the Walleye.

He knocks on the wood table at Focaccia’s, his “go-to place” to eat downtown.

“Don’t be jinxing me now. But yeah, that streak is crazy to even think about. I try to be a clean, hard worker and I think [opponents] respect that, so I haven’t had to deal with any injuries that were too serious. I mean, I’ve been hurt plenty of times, but we have trainers and doctors for a reason.”

Rogers is the second leading points scorer in the fairly short history of the Walleye franchise and its No. 3 all-time goal scorer. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound forward’s numbers have gotten better every year.

So has his appreciation for the Toledo area. Emily has a good job in the online education field, Kyle has realized an off-season employment opportunity, they think the city with all it has to offer for families is a great place to raise their daughter, he thinks the Huntington Center is “a great rink,” and that Toledo fans are among the best in minor league hockey.

He may be here awhile.

That’s good news for the Walleye, for whom he is The Edge and The Face.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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