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Fee helps Checkers win AHL title

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A former Dauphin King and Dauphin native became a champion, Saturday in Chicago, when the Charlotte Checkers won the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup.
Myles Fee, who played three seasons with the Kings, served as the Checkers assistant coach/video for the last three seasons. Charlotte won the Calder Cup with a 5-3 win over the Chicago Wolves, Saturday.
“It’s a little surreal right now. I don’t think it’s sunk in. Until I get back to the rink (Monday), that, I think, is when it will start to sink in,” he said, early Sunday afternoon.
“It’s amazing. It’s been a season of firsts, so it was nice to get the win in franchise history.”
It was a history-making season for the Checkers. They set franchise records with 51 wins and 100 points, finishing first overall in the league. It was the team’s best season in the AHL and one of the best in Charlotte hockey history.
It was also the first time a team from Charlotte hit the 100-point mark since 1974-75.
Charlotte opened its playoff run with a three-games-to-one win over the Providence Bruins in round one, then swept the Hershey Bears in four in the quarterfinals. A six-game victory over the Toronto Marlies in the semifinals propelled the Checkers into the final, where they beat the Chicago Wolves in five games, winning four straight after the Wolves won game one in overtime.
Fee said the play of goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, who won the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as Top Goaltender, was a big factor in the team’s success.
“He was outstanding. He’s a guy that, there’s a breakaway, there’s a break down and the other team is all up cheering, ready to score and he just stops them cold. He plays the puck better than anyone I’ve ever seen. He got a goalie goal a couple of years ago against (Manitoba) Moose. He just has the ability to fight,” he said.
“And tied in with that, our captain Patrick Brown, he’s the driver of the team. He drives the bus, for sure.”
When it came to the playoffs, Fee said the coaching staff took more of a hands-off approach in the sense they did not hammer the players with video every day.
“What we did was, just more small conversations. ‘Hey, remember that play?’ Whereas in the regular season, we’d sit down and look it over, ask them what they wanted to do and then show them what we should be doing,” he said, adding in the playoffs it was more about conversations and relationships.
“Swinging by and having a talk about different options, walk-throughs on the ice, post-practice, in the middle of practice. Whenever you can get a moment.”
Fee noted some of the coaching staff is pretty superstitious, so if a player was playing well, they did not want to talk to him.
“Which I find comical. I try not to be superstitious. But, the further we went, I think it was more hands-off. We’d just show them our team meeting and just move on. If anyone had a questions, we could go in deeper,” he said, adding everyone had been drilled all season long.
“They were pretty in tune with what we were doing,” he said.
Charlotte and Chicago did not play each other in the regular season. That required a bit more effort by the coaches to figure out a game plan. To help with that, the Checkers contacted teams the Wolves had played in the postseason leading up to the final.
“And I got help from other video guys and they sent me their keys to when they did well against them,” Fee said, adding Chicago was well-coached with Rocky Thompson on the bench.
Fee and Thompson coached together in Bakersfield, Oklahoma City, the Edmonton Oilers’ farm teams, as well as one year in Edmonton.
“The key for us was effort. We all knew how to play, how to beat them. But we just needed to turn it up a notch. They caught us in the first game and then we were able to go four straight, just because we matched their effort,” he said.
“They came out really hard. We matched their effort and our skill took over.”
It was a special moment to be on the ice celebrating.
“It was a little colder on the feet, with the old leather soles. There’s a lesson learned,” he added.
“But it was something special. You get to embrace the guys that had battled with you. There were so many guys out there with broken bones and separated this and separated that. Just to go around and say your effort paid off was a nice thing to do.”
Fee had his chance to hoist the trophy once the players were done with it.
Fee hopes NHL teams will take notice of the effort he put forth in helping the Checkers win the title.
“This, hopefully, is a stepping stone. I’m not looking past what we did this year and I don’t want to think this is just the next step. But everyone wants to get to the NHL. I hope one day that I’ll be back,” he said.
“I spent a number of years up there and if I can get back, that’s the ultimate dream.”

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Doug Zywina
REPORTER
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