ALLEN, Texas – When you go to an Allen Americans game or follow the Americans faithful on Twitter, you will hear and see the repetitive phrase “Fear The Beard” uttered whenever Darryl Bootland’s name is mentioned. When you set eyes upon the most impressive beard in the Central Hockey League and watch his frenzied play on the ice, you’ll understand exactly why.
The 31 year old native of Toronto, Ontario has become quite a fan favorite this season in Allen. Bootland’s aggressive, never-quit work ethic coupled with an immediate bond with fans of all ages, especially the little ones, has endeared him to many.
Bootland is in his 11th professional hockey season and shows no signs of slowing down, if anything he seems to be rejuvenated.
“I’m enjoying the game right now; I’m having a lot of fun. I’m looking at the game a lot different now than I did my first couple of years” Bootland admits.
Although he’s battled injuries this season, causing him to miss 11 games, his enjoyment of the game is easily reflected in his numbers. Darryl is currently tied for 3rd in scoring on the team, compiling 43 points (19G, 24A) in 43 games, while also being tied for 3rd in PIM at 109 but remains a +12.
There’s obviously no shortage of production in Bootland’s game, no matter what the aspect is, he works hard to bring that to his team.
“It’s not an easy line to walk across, trying to get points and playing physical as well, but over the last few years I’ve really prided myself on being an overall player that can play at both ends of the ice and bring the physical game to it,” Bootland said.
A big part of his game is using his verbal skills to play the mental angle on his opponents, while chatting it up with the officials; this is better known in the game of hockey as ‘chirping’. When you watch him play, you’ll notice his skates are the only thing that moves faster than his mouth.
‘Boots’, as he is known amongst his team mates, acknowledges how important the mental aspect is and how you have to be equal parts agitator and salesman in getting into your opponents head, while staying on the right side of the officials.
“I learned that from watching the guys in the NHL do that. If a player is talking to me they’re not thinking about the game, so I try to get guys off their game and I talk to the refs and try to get them on my side too,” Bootland explains.
A huge part of Bootland’s charm with the fans is that he makes a point of including the fans in the game as well as opponents. Watching Darryl play, you’ll see a plethora of facial expressions wash across his face, from furious to comedic in the span of seconds. Whenever he’s done chirping an opponent, he’s just as quick to throw a wink and a smile to a youngster in the crowd, his favorite target audience.
“Half of the time I’m out there smiling and having fun with kids because I remember being that kid in the seat. I remember Andrew Cassels, who coaches in Cincinnati now, he was the first NHL’er that winked at me, I was 11 years old at Maple Leaf Gardens and it was a big thrill in being noticed,” Bootland remembers. “It’s something that kids remember so if I can bring a smile to a kids face, that makes my day better.”
Bootland really enjoys these exchanges with the fans and the fans reciprocate in kind.
“I like being like that with the fans, not every guy is like that as some are really focused but over the last few years I’ve learned how to do that and still play a good hockey game. It’s a lot of fun,” Bootland confesses.
He’s even taken his stylish banter to the internet, experiencing Twitter for the first time this season and it’s been a great experience for him and the fans to have even more contact with each other.
“I’m new to Twitter this year and it’s been a lot of fun to interact with the fans, you get a lot of support too, so it’s been great,” Bootland commented.
Darryl Bootland is expected back in the lineup as early as this weekend and it couldn’t come at a better time for the Allen Americans who are battling to keep the top spot in the Central Hockey League standings with Fort Worth and Wichita breathing down their necks.
Having ‘Boots’ back on the ice will give the Americans one of the team’s biggest leaders and producers heading into the final month of regular season play and prepare for the post season.
It will also allow Americans fans to voice their support for Darryl, loud and proud.
“Fear The Beard….”
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