Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The once and future Brahma

Brahmas officially announce Woollard's return (finally!)

Fans of the Texas Brahmas got a boost in spirit today when the club announced the return of veteran sniper Chad Woollard. Is it the biggest signing we'll see before training camp starts? Maybe not. But there's a tremendous amount of affection for "Woolly" among the old guard of the purple and black faithful who consider him to be one of their favorite players - on and off the ice.

"This is a great opportunity for Woolley and his family to return back to the area they consider home," Head Coach Dan Wildfong said. "He is a fierce competitor who's proven to be an offensive threat in this league. Having played and coached against him, it will be nice to have him on our depth chart this season."

Woollard, who turned 31 on Saturday, was a member of the Corpus Christi IceRays' final roster in 2009-10 where he tallied 64 points (40 G, 24 A, +10) and 72 PIM in 57 games played. He added three points (1 G, 2 A) in two post-season contests against the Brahmas. He also reached 30 goals in 40 games, the second-fastest pace in franchise history.

Maybe the most spectacular goal of his season (and the most painful) came on December 18th at home against the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees. Just 8:34 into the contest, teammate Jason Tessier sent in a slap shot that unfortunately hit Woollard right in the mouth. But the puck deflected past an out-of-position Andy Franck and into the net for the score. Woollard was credited with the goal and Tessier with the assist. Woollard returned later in the game wearing a full shield and with three teeth lost, managed to score another goal in the final minute of the middle frame. Talk about moxie!

IceRays captain Justin Quenneville, who was the center on Woollard’s line, had this to say about his teammate (courtesy of Greg Rajan):

“(Woollard has) the best shot I’ve ever played with,” said IceRays captain Justin Quenneville, who was the center on Woollard’s line. “For me personally, I’ve never played with a guy who is a pure goal scorer and wants to score goals so bad. It’s fun playing with him because it’s easy to look for him and every time, he’s going to be in position to shoot, which makes him hungry to score goals.”

The 6', 3", 210 pound left wing from Durham, Ontario played four seasons of major junior hockey with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Owen Sound Platers and Toronto St. Michael's Majors in the Ontario Hockey League.

Woollard went pro in 1999-00, splitting the season with the Jackson Bandits and the Greensboro Generals of the ECHL. The following season, Woollard signed with the WPHL's Fort Worth Brahmas. Despite a 20-win season for the team, the 21-year-old Woollard tallied 44 points (18 G, 26 A) and 83 PIM in 60 games played. He also had his first of many run-ins with another second-year pro - Dan Wildfong of the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs.

Woollard remained with the Brahmas for the next four seasons, through some of the most difficult years (in terms of success on the ice) in the history of the franchise. Woollard was a standout on those teams and was a stable, physical scoring threat each year. He also established himself as a fan favorite off the ice and maintains friendships to this day with many of the fans he met while playing at the Fort Worth Convention Center and Will Rogers Coliseum.

His most productive season with the Brahmas (and career-best at that time) was his last, in 2004-05. Woollard tallied 75 points (40 G, 35 A) and 127 PIM in 60 regular season games played.

All told, Woollard accounted for 264 points (132 G, 132 A) and 686 PIM in 290 regular season contests with the team. He also saw action in call-ups to the American Hockey League's Utah Grizzlies (2001-02) and St. John's Maple Leafs (2003-04). He remains the Brahmas' franchise leader in games played (290), points (264) and goals (132).

After five seasons that led to just four playoff games (versus Memphis in 2002), Woollard left the CHL in 2005-06. He signed with the United Hockey League's Quad City Mallards with whom he would have two of his best pro seasons. He totaled 158 points (79 G, 79 A) and 231 PIM in 145 regular season games and earned a call-up to the San Antonio Rampage (AHL). The Mallards made the playoffs both seasons, but lost in the first round each time. Woollard would contribute 18 points (11 G, 7 A) and 30 PIM in 12 post-season contests.

In 2007-08, Woollard returned to the CHL, signing with the Mississippi RiverKings. On the team's top line, he tallied 68 points (37 G, 31 A) and 84 PIM. He added two goals in the first round of the 2008 playoffs, in which the RiverKings were knocked out by the Texas Brahmas.

The following season, Woollard signed with the Muskegon Lumberjacks (IHL) where he registered 57 points (33 G, 24 A) and 69 PIM in 50 games during the regular season and six points (2 G, 4 A) and 8 PIM in 10 playoff games.

I'll have an extended interview with Chad in which he talks about his career, his time with the Fort Worth Brahmas and his return to the organization posted in the near future.

Photo Credits: Top/Robert Keith, Bottom/Texas Brahmas

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