Walleye put best face forward

Rogers returns as team captain; played 214 straight games

Walleye captain Kyle Rogers, a 220-pound forward, hasn't missed a game in 214 contests since 2010.
Walleye captain Kyle Rogers, a 220-pound forward, hasn't missed a game in 214 contests since 2010.

The face of the Toledo Walleye franchise will return for a third season as the team’s captain.

Veteran forward Kyle Rogers, who has played in more games than any other player in Walleye history, re-signed with the team on Tuesday.

Rogers, 28, has played in 214 straight games for Toledo dating to the 2010-11 season. The 6-foot-2 and 220-pound forward has not missed a game yet.

“Your body tells you no, but you want to do it,” Rogers said. “It’s in your blood as a hockey player.”

That all-out attitude and unyielding work ethic also has endeared Rogers to Toledo fans. A photo of Rogers and his 4-year-old daughter Kendra graced the program covers last season.

“It’s an honor to be that face [of the franchise],” Rogers said. “This organization is top-notch. The fans do recognize me. I love this city and the people here.”

Coach Nick Vitucci named Rogers, who plays center and right wing, the team’s captain prior to the 2011-12 season.

“Kyle is a terrific leader and is so strong on the ice,” Vitucci said. “He does everything we ask of him. If we need him to kill penalties, he does that. Score a big goal or set up a play, he does that. It is great to have him back.”

Rogers, a defensive-minded forward, has produced career highs in goals, assists, and points the last two seasons. He scored a career-best 20 goals in 2011-12. Last season, he set career highs in assists (31) and points with 46.

“For some reason, I’ve been more on the offensive side of it lately. I think it’s because I’m out there with skill guys and I find them the puck,” Rogers said.

He has earned the nickname “The Edge” for finishing his checks and willingness to go into the tough areas on the ice.

“I was always taught to go 110 percent. I like to get into the dirty areas,” he said. “The majority of my goals are within 10 feet of the goal.”

After Toledo missed the postseason in his first season as captain, Rogers helped lead the Walleye to a playoff berth. Toledo went 37-26-9 and earned the No. 7 seed in the Kelly Cup playoffs, but fell behind Cincinnati three games to none in the best-of-seven series. The Walleye rallied with two road wins and nearly forced a Game 7 but the Cyclones won 4-3 in overtime to take the quarterfinal series.

“The postseason was a great experience, but it is still a bitter taste,” Rogers said. “We want to do better. I will push us to do better this year.”

Rogers also ranks third in Walleye history in goals scored with 47 and second in points with 126. Evan Rankin, a former teammate of Rogers who played for the Walleye in parts of three seasons (2009-12), is the organization’s leader in career goals (65) and points (130).

Rogers said he takes special pride in his “iron man” status. He said the streak nearly came to end last season when he was vomiting all day before one game. But he ended up playing sparingly and scored an empty netter.

“I’ve been very fortunate that nothing has happened,” he said. “I play hard but clean and I think other players respect me for that.”

Before joining the Walleye at the start of the 2010-11 season, Rogers spent two seasons with the Toronto Marlies in the American Hockey League. He played college hockey at Niagara University.

Rogers, who was born in Philadelphia and has family in Erie, Pa., now makes his home in northwest Ohio. He is marrying his fiance, Emily Carr, next week.

Rogers works with former Toledo Storm player Nick Parillo at hockey clinics at Tam-O-Shanter in Sylvania in the off season.

“You can’t play hockey all of your life and this organization has helped me learn things off the ice on the business-side,” Rogers said. “Emily has a full-time job here now. I really enjoy this city and I could see us sticking around.”

The Walleye’s home opener is Saturday, Oct. 26.

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.