Joe Gerbe played for the Guelph Storm in the Ontario Hockey League from 1996-97 to 1999-00. In his final two seasons, Joe produced some decent offense with 78 points over 68 games during the 1998-99 season and 73 points in 68 games during the 1999-00 season.
The Michigan born centre moved on to the Canadian University system after his OHL career was over. Joe played 3 seasons with the University of New Brunswick before entering the world of professional hockey in 2003-04. In four years, Gerbe played sparsely on 5 different teams in 4 leagues, the highest level being the ECHL.
Joe just finished off the 2009-10 season with the Battle Creek Revolution of the All-American Hockey League (AAHL). The four team league, which is expanding to six for the 2010-11 season, has been developed to be a feeder to AA leagues like the ECHL, CHL and IHL (yes, there’s some debate at what classification these leagues should actually have…).
Joe excelled this season with 76 points in just 42 games and is signed on to played next season with the team.
Interestingly, the NHL is concerned about trying to build popularity for the game of hockey in the large U.S. markets. The more they try to promote hockey in the Southern states (even to the point of changing rules to make the game more ‘marketable’), the more they seem to fail. Meanwhile, smalltown based leagues at a seemingly much lower skill level than the NHL such as the AAHL, SPHL, IHL and CHL seem to be gaining strength in leaps and bounds.
This league based in cities basically between Chicago, Illinois and Detroit, Michigan is expanding and each team seems to have a solid fan-base.
Bravo to Joe Gerbe, and those like him, that keeping chasing the dream and playing the game for the true love of the sport. And, bravo to the fans of the AAHL, and leagues like it, for supporting their teams, realizing that there is such a fine line between the AAHL and the NHL and that the product that they’re paying $20 per night, at the most, to see has an excitement level that can exceed the product you pay $120 for.
Check out the Battle Creek Revolution’s official website here.