There have been so many great players that have come through the Guelph Storm organization.
Some have had long careers in the National Hockey League, others have gone on to school, while others have faded into the sunset.
But if there was one person that has embraced what it means to be a member of the Guelph Storm family, it is Chris Hajt.
He has been as a player, a team captain, an assistant coach and an assistant general manager.
He was the man who organized the successful 20th anniversary reunion allowing fans and alumni to gather and rekindle their great friendships from the past. He has always handled himself with class and dignity no matter what the situation.
It was announced recently that Hajt was leaving the Storm to take an assistant coaching job with the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, the top farm team of the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
I must admit I felt a twinge of sadness knowing he’d be leaving but mostly happiness for this great opportunity.
“I am so excited to have been considered by the Kings,” said the 35-year-old native of Saskatoon. “When the Stanley Cup champions are calling you to see if you’re interested and willing to help them to continue to improve (it feels good).”
Hajt played on two Guelph teams that made it to the Memorial Cup and won the Ontario Hockey League championship on one occasion and then played several years of professional hockey. He played a few games in the NHL with Washington and Edmonton and over in Europe, but spent the bulk of his time in the AHL.
“I played in that league for eight years and I understand how it works,” said Hajt, who will surely use that experience to help players moving through the Kings system.
“It is also an opportunity for me to improve my coaching style within the framework of a great organization.”
Hajt spent last season as an assistant to general manager Mike Kelly who mentored him on that side of the business.
“Coaching and teaching are my real passions,” said Hajt. “But spending time with Mike allowed me to see over 300 games and that helps you as a coach, having the aerial view of your team and knowing how to assess players. I can’t thank Mike enough for what he has done for me, and Jason Brooks for hiring me and believing in me.”
Hajt, who will be working with Manchester head coach Mike Stothers, says he will maintain his close ties with the Royal City.
“There is no doubt that Guelph has become a very big part of my life,” said Hajt, who’s dad Bill played over 850 games in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres.
“I’ve spent 10 years in Guelph and I love the fans. Everyone in the city and involved with the team have treated me great. I grew up in Buffalo, but Guelph now feels like home.”
Hajt’s dream is not unlike everyone else in the game and that is to eventually work in the NHL.
“But you’re not going to close your eyes and open them and be there,” he said. “You have to do the right things along the way.”
Hajt has left a trail of ‘right things’ wherever he has played or worked, and I’m sure Manchester will be no exception.