Mar 12, 2018


We’re now officially in “ATO Season.”  What’s that, you ask?

Well, the American Hockey League allows teams to sign players who have finished their collegiate or major junior (OHL, WHL, QMJHL) seasons to an Amateur Tryout Agreement. If you’re wondering why it’s “ATO” and not “ATA,”, well, I have no clue. On a side note, professional tryouts (for players that already have pro experience) are dubbed “PTO,” so if you ever see those transactions, you now know what that means.

Anyway, the Wild added center Gerry Fitzgerald yesterday, as he finished up his tenure at Bemidji State University and inked an ATO with Iowa.

He took warmups yesterday, but did not play. With the club now on another road trip, there’s a good chance Fitzgerald gets a crack at his professional debut this week.

Since March 8, there have already been five (5) ATO contracts handed out around the league, including Fitzgerald.

I’m a big fan of the ATO contract because it benefits both the player and the organization.

Let’s start with the player perspective:

  • Whether you’re a first-round draft pick like Luke Kunin (who signed an ATO in March of 2017 before his NHL entry-level contract kicked in for this season) or an undrafted kid like Fitzgerald, you’re able to get a first-hand taste of pro hockey before you enter your rookie season. It allows you to grasp the speed and strength of the game at the AHL level. It allows you to learn what it takes to “be a pro” and it also sheds some light on the organization that signs you – their resources, facilities and depth chart are all things you can gather first-hand knowledge on.

From the team’s viewpoint:

  • Coaches, scouts and management get to see the player up close for a few days, weeks or even months, based on your postseason success. Coaches can work on a daily basis with the player and really get a solid determination on whether or not his skill set translates to the pro game.  Additionally, ATO players can provide a spark down the stretch of the regular season, at times adding some youthful energy and skill. ATO players also create competition for spots in the lineup, which coaches always like to have at their disposal. Plus, if a kid is a “homerun,” you probably have the best chance to sign him for the upcoming season.

Here are some notable ATO’s to join the Wild in recent seasons:

  • Gerry Mayhew (17 games last season…now a rookie)
  • Justin Kloos (9 games last season…now a rookie)
  • Carson Soucy (3 games last season…now a rookie)
  • Hunter Warner (3 games in 2016…now a second-year pro)
  • Pavel Jenys (8 games in 2015…went back to junior hockey, and is now a second-year pro)
  • Kurtis Gabriel (8 games in 2014…now 217 games played with Iowa)


After getting back from its last road trip Saturday afternoon and playing the following day (yesterday) at home, the Wild is right back on the road today (Monday, 3/12).

Windstar Lines VIP sleeper bus is the means for transportation on this trip. It has 30 sleeping bunks, some flat screen TV’s, Wi-Fi, a bathroom and a few other amenities. As far as I know, it’s one-of-a-kind in the Midwest, and the Wild is lucky to have it for long trips like this.

Here’s the road trip itinerary:

- Monday – Des Moines to Rockford (4 hours or so)

- Tuesday (post-game) – Rockford to Grand Rapids (4.5 hours)

- Saturday (post-game) – Grand Rapids to Rosemont (3 hours)

- Sunday (post-game) – Chicago to Des Moines (5.5 hours)

All told, it’s a four-game trip. Then, Monday the 19th, the Wild plays at home against Rockford. Yep, it’s a busy week for the club…and crucial standings points are at stake.


If you’re looking to kill time at the office (tell your boss I approved this) or just need more for your “hockey fix,” then check out the Iowa Wild Soundcloud page.

Here’s the link:

The most recent “Hockey Gone Wild” is up there, featuring a conversation with former Iowa Wild defenseman, and U.S. Olympian, Jon Blum.  Plus there are game highlights (audio) and other pertinent interviews.  Appreciate the support!

- Wild Joe Radio

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