American Hockey League

Dalpe looks forward to more hockey

Paris native Zac Dalpe played just 18 games in his first season as captain of the American Hockey League’s Cleveland Monsters before an injury ended his year.

Instagram – @monstershockey

Zac Dalpe was excited to perform the duty of being a co-captain with the American Hockey League’s Cleveland Monsters last season.

But that was before the Paris native’s body betrayed him.

During a preseason two-mile run with Cleveland’s NHL affiliate, the Columbus Blue Jackets, Dalpe hurt his knee, an injury would lead to an early end to his season with the Monsters.

“I didn’t say anything because I was trying to make the team,” he said.

“I got sent to Cleveland and played 18 games. It was a tough pill to swallow.”

Dalpe’s knee injury is the latest ailment in a list that includes hip, collarbone and more knee issues.

From his days in minor hockey all the way to the NHL, the 30-year-old has battled through adversity.

“I was just trying to get through it,” the six-foot-two, 195-pound forward said of the injury.

“I think a lot of it was a pride thing. I had just got named captain and felt I had worked hard to deserve that title.

“I looked at the schedule and we had only played 10 games. We had to play 68 total and I didn’t know how I was going to do it.”

Dalpe said that no one knew he was hurt, not even the team trainers, but, by the 10th game of the AHL season, the pain started to become unbearable. He did play eight more games and then tried to rehab the knee before it was decided that surgery in January was his only option.

After hobbling around on crutches for two months, he now is well into the six- to eight-month recovery period.

A former standout at Ohio State University, Dalpe was drafted in the second round (45th overall) of the 2008 NHL draft by the Carolina Hurricanes.

He has spent most of his time in the AHL with Cleveland, Albany, Charlotte, Utica and Iowa but he’s played in the NHL in every year of his pro career – except this one. His NHL stops include check-ins with Carolina, Vancouver, Buffalo, Minnesota and Columbus.

With 281 points (148 goals, 133 assists) in 378 AHL games and 12 goals and 13 assists in 141 NHL games, Dalpe has carved out quite a career for himself. And he’s still working on bumping up those totals, including his NHL stats.

“Nothing’s really ever been easy for me and I just feel like it’s going to be hard for me to make it,” he said of playing in the NHL again before noting that Columbus has been extremely helpful during his most recent injury.

“I accept that but I still want to try and do it. The second that I don’t ever want to play in the NHL, I don’t know if hockey is for me. I’ve always had that fire in me to play in the NHL.”

During this past season, he also got a taste of one option after his playing days.

Dalpe was approached this past season by the Monsters – who are owned by Dan Gilbert, owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers – to host a show that was called: Between Two Goals.

Dalpe’s moniker on the show is Zac Dalpiganakis, which is a play on the host’s name for Between Two Ferns, Zach Galifianakis.

On his show, Dalpe interviews teammates and asks them comical questions in a dry and condescending way. Dalpe and his teammates have no idea what the questions are until he asks on the show.

“I’ve always been comfortable on camera and chirping guys,” he said.

“People really enjoyed it. If the league didn’t shut down, we were planning on shooting more. It was pretty fun.”

On one show, Dalpe wants to know how a teammate got his nickname, The GOAT. Dalpe then adds: “Because you’re not, like, the greatest.”

Another exchange required a couple of takes thanks in large part to the comfort Dalpe has in asking the biting questions with a straight face.

“I asked one guy, ‘Why did you change your number? Don’t you think it would be easier to retire?’ I think the first take he was taken aback.”

He said his teammates were all good with the show.

“I think they knew what they were getting themselves into a little bit just maybe not to the extent that we went,” he said.

“That’s kind of how I am in the dressing room. I’m always interacting with the guys, having a good time and chirping them a little bit.”

In Cleveland, Dalpe plays with Dillon Simpson, son of Craig Simpson, a former NHLer, who is now on Hockey Night in Canada. Dalpe said he often asks Dillon about his dad’s role on the show.

“I don’t know if getting into media with this show (Between Two Goals) helps me get my foot in the door,” Dalpe said.

“To me, being the colour commentator on Hockey Night in Canada is like the pinnacle job for me. I’ve always wanted to do something like that.”

Although he’ll have to look at life after hockey at some point, that time isn’t coming soon if Dalpe can help it.

“I feel like I still have a lot of great playing years ahead of me,” said Dalpe, who, with wife, Cassandra, has been sharing COVID-19 pandemic parenting duties of sons Brooks, 3, and Beau, 1.

“I would love to play (at least) five more years. That’s my goal for sure.”

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