BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — The logo on the front of Thomas Hickey’s new Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ practice jersey depicted the head of an angry tiger. So is Hickey an angry Tiger?
Here was the 30-year-old defenseman skating Thursday at Wonderland of Ice in his first practice with the Sound Tigers since being waived by the Islanders Monday and then clearing and being assigned here Tuesday along with Tanner Fritz and Josh Ho-Sang.
Hickey was back in the minors for the first time since 2013, before the Islanders claimed him from the Kings’ organization and kept him for the next six and a half seasons. He was prepping to play in the Sound Tigers’ opener at Springfield Saturday night.
Wonderland is the NHL, not the AHL. But like Fritz and unlike Ho-Sang, who wasn’t here after requesting a trade be explored, Hickey is handling the demotion well.
“Am I angry to be here? The answer is no,” Hickey said. “I’m disappointed things didn’t work out with the Islanders to this point, but I’m a professional hockey player and get to do my job. You make 20-some-odd good new friends. I’m excited to get going with the Tigers. …
“I love the organization and never had any ill will. Even after now, the goal is to get back up there and help that team out.”
Hickey is in the second year of a four-year, $10 million deal.
“He is, to me, one of the best guys around as far as quality person, leader, understands the team concept,” Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson said. “He came down with a great attitude.”
The emergence of 2018 first-rounder Noah Dobson squeezed Hickey off the roster. But he first lost his place as a regular last season. He fell on the back of his head in a game at Colorado and missed 29 games with a concussion. Devon Toews was called up, and he stuck. Hickey wonders if he would be in this position if he hadn’t gotten hurt.
“I’ve thought about that lots,” Hickey said. “I slipped and bumped my head and life hasn’t quite been the same. I’m thankful that I’m healthy, but I don’t think that things would’ve taken the turn that they did.”
Fritz played with Bridgeport the past four seasons, but the 28-year-old forward also played 42 games with the Islanders over the past two.
“Obviously, it’s a little disappointing that I didn’t make the team up there,” Fritz said. “… But this is my fifth year in this organization with Bridgeport, so I’m very familiar with it and glad to be back here with the coaching staff and the guys that I’ve played with the last few years.”