When veteran defenseman Sean Curry first signed with the ECHL's Alaska Aces a year ago, those who know him well figured his move north wasn't likely to be temporary.
"My dad said, 'You're not coming back,' " Curry recalled.
Aces coach Rob Murray sensed Curry, who he coached in the American Hockey League and knew loved the outdoors, would be seduced by the state, which is what happened to the towering blueliner.
"It didn't take him long, and knowing him like I did from coaching him before, it didn't surprise me,'' Murray said. "He's that outdoorsy guy.''
Now, Curry is an Ace for the second straight hockey season.
The Aces on Thursday revealed Curry, 31, as their first announced signing of the offseason, giving them a defenseman who buoyed one of the circuit's stellar defensive clubs last season, when Alaska won its unprecedented third straight Brabham Cup as regular-season champions.
The 6-foot-5, 226-pound Curry, a native of Burnsville, Minn., has spent most of the summer here, fishing, hiking/running and biking, often with his girlfriend, Emily Thompson, who he met here. He enjoyed his first season with the Aces and believes the organization is first-rate.
And, look, he's having his fishing boat shipped here.
All of the above signal he could be another of those players from Outside who get to Alaska and make it their home -- think Kimbi Daniels, Bryan Miller, Chad Anderson.
"The whole combo,'' Curry said of his decision to return. "It's a great place here, and I'm happy here. There are a lot of places you can play where you're not happy and not having fun. That's no fun. If you can get a good mix ... I've found it here.''
Curry said he never really considered playing elsewhere in his upcoming 12th pro season. Murray said when he asked Curry soon after the end of last season whether he would be interested in returning, the blueliner did not hesitate before saying yes.
Curry gives the Aces a defenseman who can play on a shutdown pairing, can play a punishing physical game, can help anchor the club's traditionally strong penalty-killing unit and can chip in on the power play. Curry in 53 regular-season games last season furnished 7-11--18 totals and a plus-7 rating. He led Alaska defensemen in goals and served as an alternate captain. In 11 playoff games, he furnished two assists and a minus-1 rating.
"He's a hard guy to play against, and very mobile,'' Murray said. "He's that kind of veteran guy who, when you're on another team, you wish he was on your team.''
Curry missed the first seven games of last season with a strained groin and missed 19 games in all with various ailments. He said he's been healthy all offseason and currently weighs 226 pounds, the weight he played at last season.
"I thought I had a decent regular season,'' Curry said. "I wasn't too happy with my playoffs, to be honest. I want to be more consistent and focused with my game.''
One avenue to that goal is staying healthy.
"If he can come in and be strong, and not miss blocks of games, he can do better when he's in the lineup more consistently,'' Murray said.
Once the Aces begin announcing signed players in the offseason, they generally make an announcement or two weekly for the next couple months.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
By DOYLE WOODY