There's a tendency for players with a resume like Jordan Owens to regard the ECHL as a way station to bigger and better things in professional hockey.
Kelly Cup Playoffs
WHAT: ECHL Eastern Conference quarterfinal
Who: Wheeling Nailers vs. South Carolina Stingrays
When: Friday, 7:05 p.m.
Where: North Charleston Coliseum
The South Carolina Stingrays forward came into the current season with more than 300 games of experience in the American Hockey League already under his belt.
When Owens didn't make the opening day roster of the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs back in October, the Toronto native didn't pout or sulk about his plight.
That's just not his style.
Instead, the veteran forward looked around for the right team and vowed to return to the AHL. When Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery called to inquire about his interest in playing in the ECHL, Owens knew he had found his team. Owens was familiar with the league and the Stingrays, having played for the Charlotte Checkers for 20 games during the 2007-08 season.
"The Stingrays have a great reputation and Charleston is a beautiful city, so when (Carbery) called, I jumped at the chance to play here," Owens said. "I wanted to come down here and work on my game and help make this team better."
Owens made no secret of his desire to return to the AHL. It was exactly the kind of veteran that Carbery wanted in the Stingrays locker room.
"This is a young league and young guys are going to look up to the older players in the locker room for leadership and to see how they approach the game," Carbery said. "Jordan is a quiet guy, but he approaches the game the same way no matter what league he's playing in. The younger guys see that and try to copy that and that's only going to make your team better."
It took Owens all of 18 games to make an impression on the AHL. Playing on the Stingrays top line, Owens had seven goals and 11 assists and played in every situation.
"In the AHL I'm more of a third -or-fourth-line guy who plays physical and brings energy," Owens said. "Here I'm more of a skill guy, a guy that is counted on to score and do a lot of different things. It's the same role I had in juniors and I really enjoy it."
Just after Thanksgiving, Owens was called up to Hamilton where he spent the rest of the season. In 26 games with the Bulldogs, he had a goal and five assists.
"I was an hour away from home, so there were family and friends at almost every game," Owens said.
When it became apparent that the Bulldogs were not going to make the postseason, Owens was more than happy to return to the Stingrays. He had an assist in the Stingrays' 4-1 win over Elmira in the regular-season finale.
"Jordan is an impact player at this level," Carbery said. "He makes plays in this league that a lot of guys can't make. His patience with the puck and his ability to find open guys is second to none. He makes everyone on the ice better."
Scott Campbell played on Owens' line at the beginning of the season and can't wait to be reunited with the veteran forward during the playoffs.
"Jordan makes stuff happen every time he's on the ice," Campbell said. "He has great poise with the puck. He's hard on the puck. He makes things happen when he's out there, and it's a huge bonus for us to have him back for the playoffs."
Owens, who won a league title last season in Denmark, would like to experience a championship in North America.
"We have an opportunity to make a long run in the playoffs and I want to be a part of that," Owens said. "I won last year in Denmark and I know how fun that can be and I want to be a part of that again."