Former Admiral Hrkac returns to AHL
In a strange turn of events, Tony Hrkac may be heading back to the National Hockey League.
Hrkac, one of the Milwaukee Admirals' all-time best and well-liked players and the current head coach at Concordia University in Mequon, signed with the Minnesota Wild on Thursday and was assigned to the Wild's American Hockey League affiliate in Houston.
Hrkac last played in 2005 and said he had been in contact with the organization in recent months, but still was somewhat shocked when the offer came.
Hrkac had previously worked camps with members of the Aeros' coaching staff and told that a call could come this spring.
"We had talked a little bit the last few days," Hrkac said Thursday evening. "That's all it was. I didn't have any expectations and I wasn't planning on it.
"I knew the opportunity might be out there, but did I think it would happen? Probably not."
He's signed to a standard AHL contract, but there are no guarantees that he'll end up with the Wild.
"I'm just going to help Houston out and see how it all goes," Hrkac said.
The 42-year-old says he's in "pretty good shape," but will have about a week's worth of practice to get into game shape. He admitted it's going to be tough, but it looking forward to the opportunity.
"I think I'm in pretty good shape," he said. "But we'll see how it goes."
The Wild is the tenth organization to sign Hrkac during his career and Houston will be his sixth AHL stop.
In two stints with the Admirals (1994-97 and 2003-05), Hrkac appeared in 340 regular-season games and recorded 320 points (97 goals, 223 assists). He was a key player in the Admirals' 2004 Calder Cup Championship -- the first professional championship in the franchise's history.
He's sixth all-time in points, ninth in games played for the Admirals and had his number (26) as retired by the team in a ceremony on March 14, 2008.
He's considered one of the all-time best collegiate players in history. Hrkac led North Dakota to the 1987 NCAA Championship and was named the Hobey Baker Award winner that same year.
Hrkac played 758 National Hockey League games with St. Louis, Quebec, San Jose, Chicago, Dallas, Edmonton, the New York Islanders, Anaheim and Atlanta; winning a Stanley Cup with the Stars in 1999. He finished his NHL career with 371 points (132 goals, 239 assists).
After retiring from professional hockey, Hrkac was named the first head coach of Concordia's program. The Falcons went 4-22-1 this season -- their second since the program started.
Hrkac plans to continue recruiting while with the Aeros, relying on phone calls while his assistants at Concordia take to the roads to watch prospective players.
Concordia, Hrkac says, has been very supportive of his endeavor and he's looking forward to get back to work.
In the meantime, fans won't have to go far to see Hrkac; he and the Aeros come to the Bradley Center on Wednesday night, March 25, for a 7 p.m. contest.
"It'll be fun to see him again," said Admirals owner Harris Turer. "He was an important part of the organization on and off the ice. I wish him all the luck in the world."
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