He is skating down the ice, month open, tongue hanging out, trying to make a big play when it counts. He is a player that you really cannot cheer against, a fighter by nature, and he has made the most of a second opportunity with the Arizona Coyotes.
For Kyle Chipchura his path to the Arizona Coyotes’ line-up has not been the easiest, going from the American Hockey League to the National Hockey League and back several times. Chipchura has made the most of his opportunity with the Coyotes, but it was what happened early in his career that really makes him a key player on the Coyotes roster in 2015-2016.
Apr 11, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Kyle Chipchura (24) carries the puck as Anaheim Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen (45) defends during the second period at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Chipchura was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the 2004 NHL Draft, and signed a three-year contract with the Canadiens in March of 2006. He joined the team’s AHL affiliate in the Hamilton Bulldogs to complete the 2005-2006 season, and in the 2006-2007 season Chipchura remained with the Bulldogs.
On October 10, 2007, Chipchura made his NHL debut, and ten days later scored his first goal against the Buffalo Sabres. He went on to play 36 games with the Canadiens in 2007-2008, and finished the season with four goals and seven assists. The following season Chipchura played many of his games in the AHL, and on December 2, 2009 he was traded to the Anaheim Ducks for a draft pick.
Chipchura found a spot on a checking line and posted six goals and six assists with the Ducks. He again struggled to find a consistent roster spot in the 2010-2011 season and ended the season with only two assists. Chipchura was released by the Ducks and found himself with the then Phoenix Coyotes on July 19, 2011.
Mar 5, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Kyle Chipchura (24) skates the puck against the Vancouver Canucks at Gila River Arena. The Coyotes won 3-2 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
When Chipchura arrived to the Coyotes they were projected to finish last in the league, and miss the playoffs. Well, we all know that the Coyotes not only won their first Pacific Division title, but also went to the Western Conference Finals. In this phenomenal season for the Coyotes, Chipchura posted five goals and nine assists in 53 games. Chipchura also helped the team in the playoffs playing in 15 of the 16 games, scoring once and getting three assists.
He has been with the Coyotes for four seasons and his work ethic, on and off the ice, has been praised. When Chipchura was placed on waivers in December of 2014, it came as a surprise to many. The Coyotes made the move in order to try to make the 2014-2015 team a playoff contender, but Chipchura did not take it personally. He knew it was the best move for the team and did not let his attitude reflect his personal feelings.
Chipchura cleared waivers and has not missed a game since December 11th. He finished the season with four goals and ten assists. After the departure of Keith Yandle and Antoine Vermette in late February, Chipchura and teammate Oliver Ekman-Larsson were named the alternate captains. Head Coach Dave Tippett said that the locker room knew how rock-solid of a guy Chipchura was and would do anything for his teammates, including standing up for them on the ice.
Nov 11, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Coyotes center Kyle Chipchura (24) fights Dallas Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon (4) at Gila River Arena. The Stars defeated the Coyotes 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Being named an alternate captain is a true testament to the kind of hockey player and person Chipchura is. From his beginnings in the NHL to his play in 2014-2015 Chipchura has been positive and giving his all, what will that mean in 2015-2016?
Though he will not score goals like other centermen, Chipchura is a character player that will put it all out on the ice for his teammates. He has a tough guy mentality and was involved in eight fights in 2014-2015. With the addition of Steve Downie, who also had eight fights last season, Chipchura will not be the only one fighting for his teammates this season.
Chipchura will most likely not be an alternate captain in 2015-2016; he will play a key role in the development of the young players that are joining this team. Look for him to play key minutes when it counts and continue to support his teammates on the ice, but not score more than seven goals.