At 11:59 PM Eastern Standard Time on September 15, 2012, the National Hockey League locked out all of their players. This lockout, the second in eight years, has led to a league-wide work stoppage.
When you think of the National Hockey League and its’ players, you often think of the superstar players like Penguins forward Sidney Crosby or Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin.
This lockout will not have much effect on those two guys, or other superstars, but it will affect the depth players of the NHL.
One of the many depth players is ex-Rochester American fan favorite and Greece native Derek Whitmore.
Whitmore, an American Hockey League veteran entering his fifth full season, was now stuck looking for a job in a market that was flooded with locked out NHL players.
Four years ago, Derek Whitmore signed his first professional contract on March 26, 2008 with the Buffalo Sabres after finishing his college hockey career at Bowling Green.
His professional career would begin with his hometown team, the Rochester Americans, during an eight-game stint at the end of the 2007-08 season, where he scored his first professional goal on April 4, 2008.
With the Buffalo Sabres and Rochester Americans reuniting as affiliates last season, Derek would return to the organization he began his professional career with.
Whitmore would go on to have a career year, leading the team with 28 goals and finishing third on the team with 46 points.
During his breakout season, Whitmore was finally called up to the Sabres. He made his NHL debut on December 20, 2011 against the Ottawa Senators.
“Its been a long road and to finally get that call from Buffalo was a dream come true,” Whitmore said.
Derek would play another game against the Toronto Maple Leafs before he was sent back to Rochester and sent back to chasing his dream.
“Two games in the NHL? That’s unacceptable,” Derek told WGR 550 following the call-up. “I got there, and for that brief moment I saw I could be successful at that level. I am not giving up this dream. The moment I do, I will lose that jam that keeps me going.”
At the end of the season, Derek’s contract with the Sabres organization ran out, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Many fans of the Sabres and Americans clamored for Whitmore to be re-signed, but the Sabres upper management seemingly saw things differently.
“I think we’re assuming it’s time to look elsewhere,” said Whitmore’s agent, Steve Bartlett, to the Democrat and Chronicle. “I’m not saying the door is completely closed, but both sides appear to be looking in different directions.”
This development left Whitmore looking for another opportunity in the AHL.
With the lockout firmly in place, many NHL teams had sent young players down to their respective minor league affiliate to keep them in game shape for a potential NHL season. This move filled up many open spots on AHL rosters that would be filled by veterans like Whitmore.
The entire offseason had passed by and no contract had been signed by Derek Whitmore. It took until the day before the AHL season began for him to sign a 25-game professional tryout contract with the St. John’s IceCaps, the minor league affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets.
Now that Derek was with an AHL franchise, the AHL’s rules would end up putting a damper on his pending tryout.
The AHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement states, “Each AHL Club must dress for each regularly scheduled or play-off game, at least 11 players, other than goaltenders, who have played in a total of not more than 260 regular season games in the National Hockey League, American Hockey League, International Hockey League, or any European Elite League, prior to the start of the season.”
To break that down for you, each AHL franchise is only allowed to dress a certain amount of veterans per game. This rule has limited Whitmore to only 7 games played this season for the IceCaps, while being a healthy scratch for the other 12 games.
Although Derek has scored 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) in seven games with St. John’s, he has decided to make a move.
Whitmore left the IceCaps on November 27 to go temporarily play hockey in Germany.
This move was caused by the unavailability of playing time for Derek in St. John’s. Both Whitmore and the IceCaps hoped for the lockout to end and a roster spot to open up, but that obviously has not happened.
When he was reached for comment, Whitmore told The Telegram in St. John’s that although he “loved this group of guys,” this season has “not been very easy for me.”
This move from St. John’s to Germany will be just another bump in the road for Derek Whitmore and his hockey career.
Where will it take him? Nobody knows for sure.
One thing we know for sure is that Derek has spent the last six seasons proving his worth to everyone, and he won’t give up until he gets himself back to the National Hockey League for good.