Name: Jeff Kugel
Born: February 7, 1980
Hometown: Roseville, Michigan
Position: Left Wing
Weight: 246 lbs
When Jeff Kugel was slapped with a lifetime ban by OHL commissioner David Branch last winter there were a lot of people that thought that he would never play hockey again. He jumped off the bench, sucker punched one player and chased another. When you look at the situation you must say that it was very serious.
Some people thought that a 25 game suspension was long enough and others thought that a lifetime ban was the perfect punishment. OHL Commissioner David Branch, who is also the CHL president, handed Kugel a lifetime ban as many of you know. Last summer Branch decided that Kugel had learned his lesson and re-instated him into the league.
A couple of weeks ago Kugel was attending the New York Rangers training camp. He apparently got into a couple of dandy fights. When Kugel joined his teammates at the Windsor Spitfires training camp he received word that he had been put on waivers by the team. It didn’t take long for him to create interest from other teams as there were a few teams that wanted him in their lineup.
The Soo Greyhounds won the Jeff Kugel sweepstakes. The rule for taking players off waivers is the team with the worst record from the previous season will get the player. Out of all of the teams that wanted Kugel, the Greyhounds were the lowest seeded team from last year that wanted him. The news of the addition of Kugel created a buzz around the Soo. It surprised a lot of people that the Greyhounds wanted Kugel.
On opening night Kugel received the loudest cheer from the Greyhound fans when he was introduced to them for the first time. If Kugel would have played in that game it would have been very ironic. The Greyhounds opponent for that first game was the Owen Sound Platers, the same team that Kugel played his last game against last season.
Kugel has yet to play a game with the Greyhounds this season as the Greyhounds want him in better shape before he starts to play in games. It is possible that he could play next weekend in the Soo against, ironically enough, the Windsor Spitfires.
The fact that the Greyhounds have 21 veteran players on their 1999-2000 roster could be one of the main reasons that Kugel has not dressed as a member of the Greyhounds yet. The Greyhounds have almost all of last season’s team back this year with the exception of Rob Mulick, Chad Cavanagh and Adam Nittel.
Whether he is in good shape or not Kugel provides the Greyhounds with a physical presence that they were lacking when training camp started. In training camp the Greyhounds had a lot of tough players like Tim Zafiris, Ryan Bayliss and Josh Bennett, but they lacked a legitimate heavyweight. Now, even with Kugel out of the lineup, other OHL teams may be afraid to cause problems like going after the Greyhounds better players because they know that the next time they play the Greyhounds Kugel could be in the lineup to straighten things out. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that Kugel is going to go out on the ice and go after everybody on the other team. What I’m saying is Kugel will be like a policeman. When he is on the bench teams will be afraid to cause trouble based on the fact that they may have to face up to Kugel later in the game.
It is tough to say when Kugel will see his first action as a member of the Greyhounds. It could be next weekend because then he will have had some practice time with the team and will be more game ready. I know that I said he attended the New York Rangers training camp but he still may need a little bit more time to get into the shape he needs to be in to play at this level.
Kugel has received a bad reputation for all the bad things that happened last winter. He has said repeated times that he felt remorse for what happened against Owen Sound. While attending the Greyhounds opening two games in the Soo he has taken time to talk to the press and, during the games, when a fan went up to talk to him he was very polite and took the time to speak with any fan who wanted to talk to him. That just shows that he is not a bad guy after all.