Friday, August 26, 2011

Whalers' Aleardi ready for new season

While many of the Plymouth Whalers have been busy this off-season with the National Hockey League Entry Draft, NHL rookie camps and national team evaluations and world tournaments, Plymouth veteran Alex Aleardi has had a busy summer around Compuware Arena.

Work every segment of Whalers hockey camps? Check.

Work with Plymouth goaltending coach Stan Matwijiw and his students? Check.

Read to children at the Canton Public Library? Check.

Work out regularly at the arena? Check.

Play inline hockey and help his team win championships? Check.

March in the Farmington Hills Founding Fathers parade? Check.

Change his number from 18 to 40? Check.

Aleardi – from Farmington Hills - sees this activity as a prelude to a successful season in 2011-12.

“It’s going to be an exciting season,” said Aleardi. “We’re a really deep team with a few good new players, all of our “D” returning and a lot of other players coming back, so it’s going to be a fun year for our hockey team.”

For Aleardi, a new season means a fresh start with a new number. Aleardi wore 42 with Kitchener in 2008-09, switched to 27 when he was traded to Belleville and then wore 18 last year with the Whalers.

“My lucky number growing up was 42,” Aleardi explained. “The highest we go in Plymouth is 40, so I wanted to get as close to 42 as possible.”

Aleardi worked the Whalers summer hockey camps to rave reviews from parents and plenty of smiles from his students. He sees the work as something that might turn into a long-range opportunity.

“It’s always great to give back to the community,” he said. “I like to work with kids – it’s something I want to do when I get older if hockey doesn’t work out. It’s always fun to work with kids and see the smiles on their face – (for instance) you pass them the puck and it makes their day. So it’s fun to do.”

Aleardi’s speed is one of his major assets. Some players learned to skate around the ponds, but Aleardi got started in the basement.

“I’ve always been one of the fastest kids in my age group,” he explained. “When I was younger, we had an unfinished basement in my parents’ house. So I put on the roller blades and cruised around the basement for hours at a time. My parents started me when I was two, three, and four years old. So I learned how to skate through my mom and dad.”

Aleardi’s FTB inline team won the NARCH national championship at Germain Arena in Estero, FL and the TORHS national championship at Joe Dumars Fieldhouse in Shelby Township.

According to Aleardi, certain elements of the inline game translate into skill on the ice.

“It really does help with your hands,” he said. “There’s no hitting in roller hockey so it’s a different game. It’s four-on-four, so it’s more of a speed game, which is my favorite type of game.”

The Whalers acquired Aleardi from Belleville on Sept. 20, 2010 and he started his Plymouth career with a bang, scoring two hat tricks and seven goals in his first three games to become the Canadian Hockey League and Ontario Hockey League Player of the Week for the week ending Sept. 26, 2010,

“That week was one of the best feelings of my hockey career,” Aleardi said. “I’m just hoping I can play steadier this year, show I’m committed and show people what I can do.”

After the quick start, injuries and a suspension slowed Aleardi down last season. Still, he finished with his best scoring year in the OHL with 20 goals and 19 assists for 39 points over 65 games.

While many of his teammate are NHL drafts, have played in the World Junior Championships or are up for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Aleradi is hoping to open the eyes of professional scouts in 2011-12.

“It’s one of my big goals this year,” he said. “I want to show that I’m developing as a player. Having just turned 19, I want to show that I’m continuing to get better in the off-season, getting bigger and stronger. I want to see our team do well this year and go far.”

Photo by Walt Dmoch/Plymouth Whalers

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