“In today’s AHL, it’s getting harder and harder to achieve the string of successful seasons that we orchestrated here, and I’d like to think that that strengthens the legacy of what we accomplished.”
LGA: It seems unfair that your legacy is what happened at the end vs. bringing a Cup here and having several successful seasons generated in your vision. What do you say about that?
Donner: “True Amerk fans know my accomplishments. In today’s AHL, it’s getting harder and harder to achieve the string of successful seasons that we orchestrated here, and I’d like to think that that strengthens the legacy of what we accomplished. Curt would ask me how I did it for all those years. And I would never trade it for anything. The negative stuff … that’s just public life. The media does what it wants to.”
LGA: Do you think there is a place for you in the Amerk Hall of Fame?
Donner: “I hope so. We had the best winning percentage in the AHL over that first 10 year period. We won the franchise’s last Calder Cup and had 2 other final appearances. I’m very proud of it (his ownership tenure). It’s the longest local ownership tenure in franchise history….I loved…almost….every minute of it.”
LGA: I have to ask you, as someone who grew up with the 60’s championship Amerk teams, have you seen the Don Cherry movies now streaming on Netflix .. “Keep your Head up Kid” and “Wrath of Grapes”? I feel like it’s a must watch for Amerk fans.
Donner: “YES! I’m catching up now. It’s funny, because that scene when Coach Doug Adams got punched by a fan at the end of a game Don Cherry wasn’t dressed for …… I had been talking to Cherry right as that happened. I kept looking for the little kid with crutches in the movie” It’s fun watching Cherry and his days here. Players were allowed to have character then.”
LGA: Did ESL Ice Centre (Now Bill Gray’s IcePlex) hurt the Amerks relationships with other local rinks?
Donner: Things were tense during the lobbying phase. There was some initial backlash, but overall in the end it grew youth hockey in Rochester. Some rinks thought it might hurt them – but it didn’t hurt their business. When I first came back to Rochester there were a lot of complaints about the lack of available ice times, especially good ice times. The competition ended up serving the customer for the best. We promised to never undercut them – the ice centre was always the most expensive. Youth hockey was really left in better shape as there was more ice times, better ice times and better facilities.”
LGA: What are you up to these days:
Donner: “Doing some sports consulting. Bought an ice rink….both of my kids are playing hockey now. And I bought a meat packing plant. I always admired and was friends with the Zweigles family. And you can’t get a decent sausage here. So, I’m learning that business and would ultimately like to be the Zweigles of the South!”
LGA: Your fans and I want to thank you for all you did for us and for taking the time to chat with us in such detail. Do you have any final comments:
Donner: “I thank all of you guys. I really appreciate it. All the real hard core Amerk fans out there – speaks to how great they are. I don’t think you can just tell fans in places like Rochester that this is how the AHL is today and to just accept it.”