Kenny Patterson has had a difficult season. Throughout the first part of the year, the veteran winger struggled with the New York Night, a team with championship aspirations, producing underwhelming numbers and frequently drawing boos from the crowds at Neon Sky Center. Midway through the year, he was demoted to the third line. Then at the trading deadline, he was shipped to the rebuilding Hamilton Pistols in the Rod Remington deal. He wasn’t even the focus of the deal; he was a throw-in. Now Patterson finds himself skating for a team with no hope of contending anytime soon. So how does he feel about it all?
He couldn’t be happier.
“My whole year in New York was like that commercial, ‘Life comes at you fast,'” said Patterson. “Honestly, it was getting so bad that I was starting to think about retiring. But I’m loving life here. This is such a better situation for me in so many ways.”
Patterson’s contentment is evident in his numbers. In 38 games with New York, he put up only 5 goals and 13 points; in 11 games since the trade, he’s already scored 8 goals and 11 points. Part of the reason is that he has moved back to his natural right-wing position with Hamilton, while he had been forced to play left wing with the Night. But also, Patterson says, he feels more at home.
“It’s like night and day, literally,” Patterson told reporters. “With New York, everybody wanted to shoot the puck as soon as he touched it. Everybody was fixated on his own numbers and getting attention. I was raised to believe that if you’re really great, you don’t have to gloss yourself, but that’s not the way it was there. And the attitude in the locker room was just negative and dysfunctional. Here, everything’s different. The attitude is supportive and team-oriented. Guys are looking to set each other up and help the team get better.”
The winger also praised Pistols coach Keith Shields. “Keith is a total ray of sunshine,” said Patterson. “He’s always out there pumping guys up, encouraging them, getting them believing in themselves. Total opposite of New York.”
Shields returned the compliments for his new player. “I’m so glad Kenny is here,” said the coach. “He’s just such a smart, talented player. He has a killer shot, but he’s not a selfish player at all. I’ve told him that I look at him as almost an assistant coach on the ice. Our younger guys can learn so much from him.”
How does the 31-year-old Patterson feel being surrounded by younger teammates? “I love it,” he said. “The guys call me Grandpa sometimes and kid me about the gray hairs in my beard, but I know they look up to me. And they’re a frisky, fun bunch. It kind of feels like being in college again.”
Presumably, all thoughts of retirement have now left Patterson’s mind. But it’s possible that his career might wind down before the Pistols can contend. Does that bother him? “Nah,” said the winger. “Besides, I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. These guys will keep me young.”