Forward Kelsey Tessier, one of the real fixtures on the Wolf Pack/Whale roster the last three seasons, had another year to run on his American Hockey League contract with the Pack. Another opportunity suddenly came up for the 23-year-old New Brunswick native, though, and the parent New York Rangers agreed today to release him from the second year of his deal.
“They were really nice to release me,” Tessier said of the Rangers in a telephone conversation this afternoon. “I got an offer in Europe and I was still under contract, so I didn’t know if I was going to be able to (accept the offer) or not, but [Wolf Pack general manager/Rangers assistant GM Jim Schoenfeld] was really nice to cooperate with me and release me from my contract so I can go there and get a good opportunity. So I was really happy to hear that.”
The offer came from the Swedish club Rögle, which plays in the Allvenskan, the next league below the top-level Swedish Hockey League. And like so many opportunities in hockey, or anywhere in life, it came via a good connection.
“The GM there (in Rögle) is Anders Carlsson,” Tessier said. “When I was drafted to the NHL with Colorado, he was the head European scout. He called me up, and he and I had a great connection since I got drafted there, and every time I talked to him we really clicked. It was really nice to hear that after three or four years he still remembered me and really wanted me on his team and gave me that opportunity. So I was really, really happy.”
As thrilled as he was to be wanted by Rögle, Tessier stressed that it was hard to be leaving Hartford, where he arrived right out of Junior hockey and had three solid seasons.
“I’m definitely going to miss that town,” he said. “I made a lot of good friends, on and off the ice, and the people around were great, and passionate about hockey too. So that’s the big thing I’m going to miss, the people that I met there, and just everything. Hartford was the one that gave me my opportunity to play pro, and my coaches, Kenny (Gernander) and when (former assistant) J.J. (Daigneault) was there and just having Pat Boller and all the staff, I’m definitely going to miss those guys. I’ve been there three years and was expecting to go there again this year, and having them not around is going to be different. I’m going to have a new chapter in life, same thing but different league, so it’s kind of weird.”
As valuable a cog as he was on the ice, Tessier made an equally strong impact on the Hartford community, winning the team’s community service award the past two seasons.
“Every year we’d go to the children’s hospital (Connecticut Children’s Medical Center) and all that, that’s something I’m definitely going to miss, but at the same time I already plan to do that in Sweden,” Tessier said. “I’ve always been that guy, to get outside my bubble and do something around town. And my girl (Audrey Houle) is going to follow me there too, and one of our goals is to do the same thing over there, and that’s something I always do.
“I haven’t been to Sweden, but I’ve been to Europe, I’ve been to pretty much everywhere around it but Sweden. We’ve been reading up on it and all that. It (signing with Rögle) just happened, so I’ve got to read more about it and everything, but just really, really excited.”
Tessier played 221 total games in a Wolf Pack/Whale uniform, 15th all-time in franchise history, and had 33 goals and 49 assists for 82 points. This past year the 5-9, 177-pounder scored 11 goals and added 13 assists for 24 points, and led the team in shorthanded goals with three.