By: Justin Dickie
07/25/2014 8:58 AM -
Amongst a championship title, call-ups, send-downs and a suspension, it was an eventful first year of professional hockey for Bobby Shea, but one filled with learning experiences.
Shea, 24, signed a one-year, two-way American Hockey League / ECHL contract with the Hamilton Bulldogs on July 21st. With one full season of pro under his belt split between the AHL and ECHL, he hopes to stick in the AHL straight out of camp this fall.
“I want to come in, work hard, be solid defensively and be an all-around player,” Shea says. “I like to play hard, move the puck, play tough defensively.”
His whole life, Shea’s prided himself as a tough defenceman who’s difficult to play against. His high penalty-minutes totals from his junior days until now indicate he’s willing to mix things up physically.
“I play hard and fights happen,” Shea says. “You want to have that in your repertoire, you know, to be able to play tough, and penalty minutes come with that.”
The 5’11”, 201-pound defenceman was drafted by the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters in 2006, but opted to play junior with the United States Hockey League’s Green Bay Gamblers to maintain his collegiate eligibility. In his second season with the club, in 2008-2009, he developed under the tutelage of current Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper as the Gamblers finished the USHL regular season in first place.
“He really expects the best of his players,” Shea said of his time with Cooper. “He was a really good people person and he knew how to win hockey games. He put together a good team.”
After two years with Green Bay, Shea moved onto play with the Bowling Green State University Falcons in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. While maintaining his trademark physical edge, the Harrison Township, Michigan native improved his offensive output in each of his four seasons at Bowling Green, from zero points in 19 games as a freshman to 20 points in 40 games as a senior.
“I loved it there. It’s a great school,” Shea says. “We didn’t win many games to begin with, but they’re really turning it around now and starting to win games. It’s a good school to go to. Everything started to click around my junior year and I think just as a player I developed more smarts for the game, skill wise.”
Following his senior season, Shea turned pro and signed on with the ECHL’s Reading Royals at the end of 2012-2013. With one assist in four regular season games, then three points in 15 playoff games, Shea helped the Royals to their first Kelly Cup championship.
Not a bad way to start a pro career.
“It was cool to come out of school and jump on a good team,” Shea says. “They were obviously good before I got there, but it was cool to jump on and win a championship and travel around for the next couple of months right out of school. It was awesome.”
After that exciting welcome to the pros in Reading, Shea signed on with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs last season. He split time between Rockford and its ECHL affiliate, the Toledo Walleye, earning seven points in 29 AHL games and four points in 19 ECHL games.
“I liked it a lot,” Shea says. “I was up and down a little bit. I was called up right away, then was sent down for a month, then back up for the rest of the season. It’s a learning experience. At the end of the year, I think I was playing pretty well.
“You’ve got to pay attention to the older guys and see what they do. You’ve got to learn from them.”
While Shea had a largely positive season with the IceHogs overall, he had one tough night in late March that ended his campaign early. During a road game against the Chicago Wolves on March 21st, he was involved in an off-ice altercation with Wolves forward Ty Rattie and was subsequently suspended for eight games. When asked about that night, Shea’s open about it, genuinely contrite about the events that took place.
“It was an in-the-heat-of-the-moment thing. It’s something I regret,” Shea says. “I just play hard, but that was outside the lines.”
Like anything else, he hopes to grow as a player and person as he moves on from the incident.
“It’s something, obviously, I wish I could take back. Emotions got the best of me and I made a stupid decision,” he says. “Maybe when I’m 40, I can look back and laugh on it a little bit.”
Now as a new season approaches, Shea will have a fresh start with the Bulldogs organization and could potentially join former teammates Greg Pateryn and David Makowski in Hamilton as he looks to build upon the positive steps he took last season. Through the good and the bad, Shea had many learning experiences in his first year of pro hockey that he will use to improve his game as a Bulldog in 2014-2015.
Browse by Month »