Comets Tales : Meet Jaime Sifers
With parts of eight AHL seasons experience behind him, Jaime Sifers hasn't skated a single game at The AUD – yet.
This is going to change come November 1.
The newly signed Comets defenseman is anxious to begin the next chapter of his career in Utica. Comets Tales spoke with Sifers, last week while he was on vacation in Cape Cod, about his playing career and expectations for the upcoming season.
Q: Coming to Utica after playing in Cleveland the past two seasons brings you closer to your hometown in Connecticut (Stratford), did this weigh on your decision to sign with the Comets?
A: Ah, it definitely sweetened the deal a little bit. Now, I am within a closer driving distance to my family, and my wife and I also have a house in Burlington, Vermont. We have a lot of close friends in that area. It has brought us closer to them.
But it really was the organization's amazing reputation. As a player, that's what you want to be part of.
Q: You signed a two-year, one-way AHL deal. Why a two-year deal?
A: I wanted two. I still love the game. I'm 34 now, but I still feel really good. I'm trying to play for as long as I can. I love the role that I'm playing as of late; more of a veteran's presence on the team. I've been looking up and down the roster. The Comets from last year, and the guys coming back, I'm excited to work with them.
Q: What have you heard about playing in The AUD?
A: I've been told some unbelievable things about The AUD. I'm already thinking about the first home game there in November. It's always great to play in front of fans that actually care about the sport. That was another great reason for signing there. I've talked to past players (Comets), during the process, they were almost speechless about how much support they received, and the comfort level they had, while playing in Utica.
Q: You signed shortly after Trent Cull was announced as the Comets' new coach. Do you have any history with him?
A: No. I don't. I actually have never met Coach Cull during my entire career but we played against each other – him coaching, and me as a player, when he was in Syracuse. I've heard he's a terrific coach. We have spoken on the phone once, so far. We had a great conversation, and it built on the excitement that I already had about coming to Utica.
Q: What conditioning plan do you follow that contributes to your durability?
A: It has been a long career, and something I have learned long ago, taking care of yourself on and off the ice is important. Summertime is one of the most important times to get your body ready for that physical abuse that you take during the year. It lessens the blow mentally, because there a lot of peaks and valleys during the season. Playing through (injuries) is a part of the culture as a player.
Q: Your team won the Calder Cup in Cleveland in 2016, what was that experience like; physically and emotionally?
A: It was an absolute rush. When you make it to the playoffs, it almost feels like a new season. You've accomplished something great with the guys that you have been battling with all season.
Making it to the championship was such a monumental part of my career. It's really hard to put into words. And, obviously, winning it was even better. Not only for yourself and your teammates, but for your family, and the people that supported you throughout your whole career. The fans and the community, winning has such a deep meaning.
Being able to play in June is a privilege. I hope that we can do that this season.
Q: Was that the longest playoff run of your career?
A: I was in the Western Conference finals my second-year pro with the Marlies. We ended up losing to Chicago in 2008. I made it to the finals, my first year in Germany. We lost. I guess you could say that was the furthest I've gone in the playoffs.
Q: When you arrived home after winning the Cup, and you had some alone time, what did you feel like?
A: It was a little bit of release, and it was just pure joy. I sat back with my wife, Sydney, who has been with me my whole career, and she's gone through so much with my travels, and I've brought her everywhere and our two young kids – to be able to share it with them was special.
Not every person gets to experience a championship. As you're getting older, you're not sure how many more opportunities you are going to get. So, yeah, I get chills every time I think about it.
Q: On your day with the Calder Cup, where did you bring it?
A: I brought it to Burlington, Vermont, where I went to school. I was able to share it with both my coaches, at the University of Vermont – Mike Gilligan and Kevin Sneddon. I was able to share the Cup with everyone that I wanted to up there. That place has a very special place in my heart, and my wife's as well.
Q: Your coach, Jared Bednar, left Cleveland the season after winning the Cup and was replaced by John Madden. How did that impact your team?
A: That happens. We had such a special group of guys. A lot of guys made it to the NHL level the next year. Michael Chaput played a huge role in us winning. You gain so much experience when you're in a playoff setting. Everything is magnified. It doesn't matter how banged up you are, or how tired you are, that's when the guys really pull together.
We had a little bit of an adjustment, this happens every time you get a new coach coming in. In the end, a lot of coaches are the same. They want the same things out of their players. We had a good core of returning guys last season, leaders and young guys. Madden did a great job. Unfortunately, we missed out on a tie breaker to get in. That just shows you how hard it is to get into the playoffs.
Q: You go to play in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (German Hockey League) for three years. What brought you there, and what influenced you to return to skate in North America?
A: That's an interesting question. I was going up and down and getting some NHL experience. Things then took a different turn. I had a nice offer from Germany, and I wanted to give it a shot for a little bit. I ended up staying longer than I had anticipated. Germany is a great place to play and I played for an awesome organization (Mannheim Eagles).
The way Mannheim takes care of their players is amazing. My wife and I have a lot of great memories from over there but at the same time, the North American style of hockey is what I love. I didn't want to give that up. I didn't want to end my career in Europe.
The Blue Jackets took a chance on me. They gave me a shot in Springfield. Luckily, I was able to sign a two-year deal, when they relocated to Cleveland.
Q: What style of a defenseman are you?
A: I'm more of a reliable guy on the ice making the smart, simple plays. I'm not a very high-risk player. I'll jump in on the rush, from time to time. I'm more focused in keeping pucks out of my own net. I like to play physical and I like to play with a lot of emotion.
Q: What do you do to relax, before training camp opens?
A: Every summer, my wife and kids, we take a trip out and visit our families. I'm from Southern Connecticut, and my wife is from Westchester County. Now, I'm on the Cape with three of my former teammates from the University of Vermont, and their wives and kids. We're enjoying some R&R that we don't get to have during the season.
Q: Favorite player growing up and why?
A: Brian Leetch, I was a huge Rangers fan growing up. I like Adam Graves, as well. I've been a defenseman for as long as I can remember. I loved how gritty Graves played, and how much emotion he had. He was a great teammate. That's a real important characteristic to have. Leetch is a Connecticut guy. There's a lot to look up to there.
I was able to actually meet (Leetch) at Madison Square Garden, when I was with the Maple Leafs, after a game. That was pretty cool.
*Interview conducted by Don Laible