Late in the summer of 2006, I attended a party for outgoing University of Wisconsin Hockey support staff members Nancy Olson and Rob Malnory. At that party I met former Badgers goalie Kirk Daubensbeck, who, just a few months earlier, was a member of the Hershey Bears team that defeated the Milwaukee Admirals for the 2006 Calder Cup. Daubensbeck told me the reason his team won was because of the deal that sent Brendan Witt to Nashville for Kris Beech. Beech was, at the time, one of Milwaukee’s top scorers and he ended up starring for the Bears.
You have to give something to get something. The 2013 trade deadline saw the Predators acquire uber-talented Filip Forsberg from Washington in a trade for one of the franchise’s greatest players, Martin Erat, and one of the most popular Admirals in my time here, Michael Latta.
As soon as the trade was announced, I sent a text to Michael and told him I was heartbroken to see him go and wished him all the best. Michael was ALWAYS very giving of his time to me and is a great interview. With his head certainly swimming, he sent a message back almost immediately.
Those of us in the office will miss him. Fans, we know you’ll miss him.
Admirals VP of Communication Charlie Larson said, “In my time, other than, maybe, Marc Moro, I can’t recall a more popular player being traded out of Milwaukee, during the season, by this franchise.”
Trades are so exciting for fans. How will their team improve? Who’s on the move? Over the last few years, I’ve been inside to see the human face of a trade. In some cases, guys are devastated. There’s some excitement, but some fear, too. And, maybe even some doubt about their abilities.
I can’t speak for Michael. He’ll be successful wherever he ends up, which is hopefully, soon, in the NHL.
I cannot speak for his teammates, either, so I asked them to speak for themselves…
Mark Van Guilder: “I’ve never had more fun playing hockey than this year with Latta on my line. He’s not only an awesome hockey player, but a great guy and pure entertainment. Milwaukee won’t be the same without him. We’ll all miss him.”
Kevin Henderson: “Latta was a great teammate, linemate, roommate and friend. He will be missed in this organization and I wish him all the best in Washington.”
Scott Ford: “After playing with ‘Latts’ the last few seasons and watching him develop as a player and person, this is extremely tough. His genuine and fun-loving nature will be hard to replace.”
Jeff Foss: “I’m shocked. It’s bittersweet. I’ve known ‘Latts’ for the past four years and it’s tough to lose a good friend like him to a trade. But, that’s hockey. His gritty, team-first mentality, as well as the laughs he brought with him every day will be missed. I wish him nothing but the best and I hope that he gets an opportunity in Washington.”
Jeremy Smith: “He’s a great player and a great teammate. I’m sure he’ll fit right in next to Alex Ovechkin.”
Josh Shalla: “I thought the deadline was over, then Twitter got buzzing and I saw Latta’s name. It’s never fun losing a guy like Latta. He’s such a key guy in our room. He’s a great player and a great friend. He will be missed here.”
Chris Mueller: “He’s a great teammate and a better person. He’ll be missed in Milwaukee both on and off the ice.”
Anthony Bitetto: “Latta was one of the first guys to approach me at summer camp my first year and he really made me feel comfortable. It was a pleasure being his teammate and even better knowing him as a person. ‘Latts’ is one guy you definitely want on your team and you hate to play against. ‘Meaty’ is going to be extremely missed. I hope the best for him just like he would do for us.”
Mike Liambas: “Obviously, he’s a major part of our team and it’s tough to see him go. He was one of the first guys I got pretty close with since I’ve been in Milwaukee. He is a teammate anyone would want by their side to head into a battle. I have learned a lot in such a short amount of time from him. No more ‘Liambatta’.”
Jon Blum: “First thing is, you have to realize it is all part of the game and it’s a business. But, when you lose a guy like Latta, who was a total team guy, it’s a big hole to fill. I think his skill level was underestimated and he’s going to be a fun guy to watch in Washington. I told him he still better come to my wedding next summer (laughs).”
Scott Valentine: “We came in as rookies together last year after growing up playing against each other from the time we were ten years old. I knew him as a competitor from both minor hockey and the OHL and got to know him as a teammate and friend the last two years. He’s passionate about everything he does, which immediately draws everyone toward him. Everyone will be sad to see him go. We’ll miss both his abilities on the ice and his cohesive powers off the ice.”
Victor Bartley: “It’s tough to see a guy like ‘Latts’ leave your team. He’s one of those ‘heart and soul’ players who put it on the line every night. He’s one of the most fearless players I’ve played with.”
Ryan Ellis: “I’m very shocked at the trade. He played a key role for our team. He has a very bright future ahead of him and I wish him the best of luck with the Washington Capitals. He’ll be missed in our locker room and on the ice.”
Juuso Puustinen: “I came home and checked Twitter, and there it was. At first, I didn’t believe it. I thought maybe it was still April Fools Day. Then I saw more and more tweets about it and I got very sad. This guy is an absolute beauty: the funniest guy in the locker room, a fan favorite and a huge leader on and off the ice. I always thought he was in the wrong league. I hope he gets a chance to play in the NHL because that’s where he belongs.”
Michael, if you’re reading this…if Hershey beats Milwaukee in the Calder Cup final this year because you scored a point or more in each game, like Kris Beech in 2006, I’ll go nuts.
Of course, I hope you bypass Hershey for a Caps sweater.
We’re all going to miss you, kid.