Rogers fits in blue-collar town

Walleye captain will join with coach Lalonde to help lift team

8/1/2014
BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The Toledo Walleye’s durable and dependable captain is back in the fold, and Kyle Rogers promises to continue to bring all he has every night.

Rogers will be entering his fifth season for the Walleye after signing with the team on Wednesday. Rogers is the organization’s all-time leader in games played with 278, and in total points with 160.

The 6-foot-3, 223-pound forward, who has been captain for three seasons, said his work ethic has meshed nicely in the blue-collar town. The Philadelphia native who grew up in Erie, Pa., has made Toledo his new home, and the Walleye fans have reciprocated. He has become the team’s most recognized player.

“You always know the fans here will bring it every game,” Rogers said. “That gives you that extra boost. That’s what I love about this city. That’s what the fans want most. They want a hard-nosed team that plays 60 minutes every game. That is what I try to live off every shift.”

Rogers has only missed eight games in the past three seasons. He put together a remarkable feat of endurance when he played in 225 straight games until he suffered an injury in late November last season.

“I was raised to never quit,” Rogers said. “Everyone takes a hard kick and falls down. But you can get back up and play through it. If you go down, you better really be down.”

The veteran also has been a productive leader. Rogers also has the most assists in the team’s history with 98 and has scored 62 goals for the Walleye.

“I love trying to help the young kids develop and get to the next level,” Rogers said. “I show up regardless of how I feel and will give 110 percent. I’ve always said I’m a quiet leader, but if things need to be said I will say it. It’s all about effort on the ice.”

Walleye coach Derek Lalonde called Rogers “a Toledo hockey player through and through.”

“Kyle brings his hard hat and goes to work each and every night,” Lalonde said. “He leads by example and is a guy that you count on to be there day in and day out.”

Rogers said he was pleased to see the team sign former Michigan State University goalie Jeff Lerg, who led the Spartans to a national championship in 2007.

“You have to build a team around a goalie, and he looks like a good one,” Rogers said.

Lalonde was brought in to resurrect a team that went 21-44-7 and finished last in the ECHL Eastern Conference. Rogers said the struggles serve as motivation.

“It was definitely mind-draining,” he said. “It takes a toll, physically and mentally, when you find yourself in a deep rut. But for every negative there is a positive. When you are down, you try to find a way to get out of it. Toward the end, the team didn’t give up. We can build off that.”

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