Rutherford works on game - and tan
Forward from Ladner helps lead Everblades crew to best-of-seven ECHL championship in Vegas
By Steve Ewen, The Province
May 22, 2012
David Rutherford (right) has produced 25 goals and 55 points in 57 regular season games with the Florida Everblades.
Photograph by: Submitted , The Province
David Rutherford is improving his hockey resumé and, as a benefit, touching up his tan in the process.
The 25-year-old forward from Lad-ner is part of a Florida Everblades team meeting the Las Vegas Wranglers in the best-of-seven ECHL championship. The Everblades carry a 2-1 series lead into action tonight at Germain Arena, their 7,000-seat facility in Estero, Fla., which is about a 30-minute drive north of Naples. Game 5 is there on Wednesday and, if necessary, the minor-pro set will continue Friday, and then Saturday, in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas to Florida to Las Vegas again. It's good work if you can get it.
"When you think of a hockey final, one of last things you probably think of is Florida against Las Vegas," laughed Rutherford.
"That said, our fans are great. We get 5,000 or 6,000 people every single night. It's one of the better places I've been.
"The fans here are really, really passionate. They're there for the warm-up. I've played in some places where they get excited when you run into the glass hard. Down here, they know what they're talking about."
Playing down there has taken some adjusting for Rutherford, both big picture ("there are a lot of distractions," he said) and small ("I used to make fun of people who had sun blockers in their car windows, but those are a must now," he explained).
Playing at this time of year, though, is something he's become accustomed to. This will be the fourth time in eight years he's played in a league final, after helping the Surrey Eagles win the BCHL crown in 2004-05, the Spokane Chiefs capture the WHL and Memorial Cup titles in 2007-08 and the Bossier-Shreve-port Mudbugs claim the CHL banner last season.
You can argue it's more than circumstance. He's turned himself into a resilient, resourceful player, the kind that a coach can trust this time of year. He's only 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds and he's far from a speed burner, but he's willing to go to the net, willing to take punishment. He's also become a reliable defender.
It's funny. It doesn't feel like it was that long ago that he was going through an injury-filled rookie sea-son with the Vancouver Giants as an 18-year-old in 2005-06, ending up the year practising as a defence-man. He dropped down the right-wing depth chart the following fall and was quickly shipped to Spokane for a sixth-round bantam pick.
A season later, he was helping Spokane beat the Giants in the playoffs. He was one of the Chiefs' best players that entire postseason, putting up nine goals and 18 points in 21 WHL games.
"I learned a lot during my time in Vancouver," maintained Ruther-ford, who seemed like a natural fit for the Giants, since his family home in Ladner is just a few kilometres from the team's practice facility. "They helped make me the player I am today."
He still trains in the summers with Giants strength and conditioning coach Ian Gallagher and plans to do the same this time around, too. The goal, of course, is to move up a level. He thought he had it done this fall, when the AHL's Portland Pirates came calling, but he struggled in training camp, explaining, "sometimes things just don't click," and he was sent to Florida.
He produced 25 goals and 55 points in 57 regular season games with the Everblades, and has five goals and 11 points in 15 playoff encounters so far.
"If you're not striving to get better, you're in the wrong sport," said Rutherford. "Hopefully we can win again this year, because they say that everyone wants winners.
"I'm not the biggest or the fastest but I think I find ways to get the job done. It took me the long way to get to the WHL, so it might take me the long way to get to the next level. I'm definitely going to keep grinding away."
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