Dennis Cook has to be an MVP candidate.
Most valuable? Maybe not. Most versatile? He's got a chance.
Few in hockey will volunteer to sharpen skates, adjust sticks, visit season-ticket holders in the stands, and don a uniform and goalie pads on game day. Yet these are just some of the duties that Cook, a 39-year-old security company manager from Long Beach, has performed for the Reign this season.
"Basically doing anything I can to try and keep (the team) happy.They're great people," Cook said.
"The crowds here are great. I like going out and talking with them. They know I'm just like them. I'm no different."
When starting goalie Curtis Darling was held up at an airport Saturday and couldn't make that night's game in Las Vegas, Cook laced up as the emergency backup for the first time this season. It's a job he performed several times last season for the Reign, and before that for the now-defunct Long Beach Ice Dogs.
But, he insists, "I'm not a player. I'm more, I guess you'd say - a very lucky fan."
Cook's experience between the pipes consists of almost two decades playing in local recreation leagues. He initially took interest in the sport as an adult to coach his son Parker, who is now 16.
Per ECHL rules, the emergency backup can only enter a game if the starting goalie is injured, regardless of the score. Cook has never seen game action either in Ontario or in Long Beach, and Reign coach Karl Taylor can recall playing an "e-bug" once when he was coaching the Reading Royals.
For Cook and the league's other emergency goalies, just dressing and sitting on the bench in an actual game is enough.
"A lot of times it's a big thrill," Taylor said. "It's a young kid or someone that gets to sit on the bench in front of 7,000 people and enjoy the event. So it's a thrill for them and a big service for us a lot of times."
Darling returned to the team for Sunday's home game against Bakersfield and Mike Zacharias, Saturday's starter, returned to his usual backup position.
That didn't keep Cook away from the rink. He returned to his equipment-managing role.
Cook said that $50 he makes per day as the emergency backup is the only money he takes from the Reign.
"Nothing (else) at all," he said. "A `thank you,' and that's great with me."
Defenseman Jon Landry was suspended by the team Saturday.
Possessing a hard shot and good puck skills, Landry had alternated at forward recently while the Reign were depleted by injuries and AHL recalls. However, Landry had just one goal and no assists in his last 10 games.
"He wasn't happy with how things were going and neither were we,"
Taylor said. "He decided he wasn't going to play the way I wanted him to consistently, so we cut back his ice and he's requested a trade.
We're doing the best we can to accommodate him but hopefully also help our team, too."
Acquired Nov. 4 from the Cincinnati Cyclones in exchange for winger Adam Henrich, Landry had three goals and six points in 18 games with the Reign, including a goal in his first game in a Reign uniform on Nov. 6.
Less is `Mo' for McEwan
Forward James McEwan was a clean-shaven man when he returned from the Christmas break Saturday. The enforcer had grown a moustache during the month of November - or "Movember," as dubbed by its participants, who put down their razors to call awareness to prostate and testicular cancer.
"December rolled around and I kind of grew attached to it," McEwan said of the 'stache. "My brothers play junior hockey in Canada, they were growing it too, so we decided to have a competition of who had the best moustache for Christmas. I shaved it off after that because it was getting pretty long and greasy. It was fun."
Joey McEwan, 20, plays for the OCN Blizzard of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. Josh McEwan, 18, plays for the Trail Smoke Eaters of the British Columbia Hockey League.
Taylor adjusted his forward lines over the weekend, moving left wing Peter Lenes to a line with center Michael Pelech and right wing Mike Howe, and moving left wing Chris Curran beside center Tim Kraus and right wing Greg Hogeboom. Former Reign goalie John Murray was loaned to the Johnstown Chiefs of the American Conference, after beginning the season with the Victoria Salmon Kings.