February 11, 2013 - Federal Hockey League (FHL)
As the season comes down to the last few weeks, and all the teams are fine tuning their rosters, we would like to once again thank all of our fans support for what has become a truly challenging season. The good news is that the 4 remaining teams are playing very good hockey and the attendance is up for these teams. We have had different degrees of discussion with over a half dozen potential new members. This will be a very prolonged and tedious task before we will accept any new members. We will be starting a survey in the near future helping the awards committee pick post season award winners along with the coaches. Your participation is greatly appreciated.
The Federal Hockey League
Daytons Ahmed Mahfouz A Demon on the ice.
By: Marc Spitzer
When Ahmed Mahfouz was signed by the expansion Dayton franchise of the Federal Hockey League on August 10, 2012, the team was called the Dayton Devils.
Later, on September 27, 2012, the team announced that it was changing its name to the Demonz but it might have had it right the first time because the soon-to-be 24-year-old (February 18) native of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada plays with a little bit of the devil in his game.
A youthful, devilish smile, devilishly good offensive numbers and a hell of a lot of penalty minutes for a player with his scoring touch and two-way ability are descriptions of Mahfouz and his three seasons of professional hockey in the FHL.
Dayton head coach Marc LeFebvre called Mahfouz the "biggest pest in the Federal League last season" on the day he signed with the team. He meant it strictly as a compliment.
"He plays a kind of Sean Avery [former NHL left wing] kind of role a little bit where he gets under people's skin. He loves the physical stuff," said LeFebvre.
"He played that rat type of game where he'd piss people off to no end. When a team's talking about you like that you know he's done his job and for him to have reversed his role a little bit this year and to expand his role to an offensive player this year...his all around game has been great," continued the coach.
Fouz, as he is called by his teammates, totaled 347 penalty minutes (199 last year) in his first two seasons as a professional with the Akwesasne Warriors, adding 56 more in 11 playoff games. He also scored 28 goals and added 74 assists in 73 regular season games and nine goals and eight assists in the playoffs for the Warriors in two seasons.
His offensive numbers have exploded this year. Mahfouz, listed at 5-11, 195 pounds on Dayton's website, had 81 points (30 goals, 51 assists) through 35 games and was third in league scoring behind teammates Trevor Karasiewicz (19 goals, 75 assists) who came to Dayton (January 25, 2013) in the dispersal draft after the Williamsport Outlaws folded and Jason Hill (29 goals, 54 assists).
Mahfouz, who was +39 through 35 games, tied with Karasiewicz, also had 134 penalty minutes for the first place Demonz.
"I'm up there in PIMs [penalties in minutes] this year," he said. "It's just the type player I guess I am.
"I like to fight once in a while if it has to happen. I'm one of those that something happens on the ice to one of your teammates, I'm usually one of the first guys to step in so...just sometimes it calls for it and you have to do it."
Mahfouz, whose parents were both born in Lebanon, became available to the Demonz when the Warriors folded.
Akwesasne won the championship in the FHL's inaugural season of 2010-11 defeating the New York Aviators in a four-game final while Mahfouz won the Rookie of the Year award with 21 goals, 39 assists and 148 penalty minutes. He was also +21 during the regular season and scored seven goals and eight assists in eight playoff games.
Fouz, who now wears a full-face beard which does not hide his youthful appearance, also won a championship with the Pembroke Lumber Kings of the Central Canada Hockey League prior to his first season of professional hockey. He started that year with the Nepean Raiders but was traded after 22 games (10 goals, 13 assists, 33 PIMs).
"Well," said Mahfouz, "there was just a little bit of...a couple of problems in the organization between the coach that brought me in and the owners so the coach ended up resigning and I ended up demanding a trade and I ended up getting to Pembroke."
He was very happy there.
"Oh, we were treated amazingly actually. It was a good organization to go to for my last year, my 20-year-old year," he said. "You couldn't ask for much more. Got a championship. The fans were great. We packed that barn up for playoffs. It was a good atmosphere to play in. We probably got about like maybe 2000 [fans] during the finals. Just a little Junior A rink but they pack it up for that."
He played his first year of junior hockey with Nepean (2008-09) scoring ten goals with 24 assists and 106 penalty minutes in 56 games.
Fouz, who has three younger sisters, Marlene, Jasmine and Kristine, tried out for the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
"I was just there for 15 exhibition games," he said. "Got released a few hours before the home opener. That's about her."
Someone in Gatineau, directly across from Ottawa on the northern banks of the Ottawa River, obviously was not using his cerveau in evaluating the talents of Mahfouz.
Akwesasne's owner used his.
"The owner at the time for the Akwesasne Warriors I guess just ended up hockey db'ing me [hockeydb.com] or whatever it was, he ended up just contacting me and asking me to go try out for them," said Mahfouz. "He saw my stats and saw me play a couple of times previously and asked me to come skate with them."
Mahfouz, who started skating when he was two and playing hockey at four, had 18 fewer points, 51 more penalty minutes and was a -10 for the regular season in his second year. The Warriors lost to 1000 Islands in three games in the opening round of the Commissioner's Cup playoffs and were assessed 163 penalty minutes on 24 infractions in the decisive game, a 6-2 victory for the home team.
Asked why he had more penalty minutes and fewer points in his second year Mahfouz said, "That's gonna happen. You know I don't know what it was. There was just a little bit of problems in the dressing room I guess the second year. I wasn't playing the same role that I was the first year and you get frustrated losing games. You take more penalty minutes."
LeFebvre, who coached 1000 Islands last year before leaving the Privateers in February due to what he called "internal conflicts within the team", liked what he saw in Mahfouz.
"I knew I wanted to get him from day one when I got the Dayton job," said the 30-year-old LeFebvre who played hockey mostly in Europe across nine professional seasons.
"I think he's the MVP of the league at this point. I don't think there's anybody played better throughout the season. If we don't have him in the lineup, you know, we hurt," continued LeFebvre.
"Just so much energy. Great offensively. Great defensively. Top to bottom I think he's been our best player and the best player in the league this year."
Smiling with a devilish grin, Mahfouz, who cooks in a restaurant in the off season that his aunt manages, would not say what he thought of his coach when he was with the Privateers last year but did say, "Maybe opinions have changed a little bit. Maybe that's one reason why I had so many penalty minutes last year cause his team would always beat ours by a few goals and I'd get a little upset."
LeFebvre, sitting a few feet away in the locker room, laughed as he listened to his star forward.
Decidedly not funny are the occasional taunts Mahfouz hears because of his Middle Eastern name and heritage.
A fan at a recent away game called him a terrorist.
"I've definitely got it a couple of times from fans, you know, and I've unfortunately got it a couple of times from a couple of other players in this league but stuff like that's gonna happen I guess when you play the type of game that I do.
"I guess the fists might have to come into play every once in a while," he says laughing, again with that devilish grin.
Mahfouz, who enjoys playing NHL on Xbox and who likes to listen to rap music, hip hop and rhythm and blues but "can't stand country", attributes his offensive explosion to playing on such a good team. The Demonz lead the league with 28 wins in regulation time and three overtime/shootout victories through 37 games. They have 93 points and an amazing .838 win percentage.
"Just the team we got," said Mahfouz. "We got so many guys it doesn't matter who you play with. People can put the puck on your stick. We have a lot of talent on one team."
Still, Mahfouz is happy to skate with line mates Nicholas Petriello and Marcus Pryde who was loaned to the Augusta RiverHawks of the Southern Pro League on January 22, 2013.
"We've been together since first day of training camp and we just had a lot of chemistry since that opening skate and it really hasn't stopped I don't think," said Fouz, who came to Dayton when a mutual friend of his and the coach negotiated a contract that worked out well for both sides.
As for why he is not yet playing at the Double A level, Mahfouz says, "I just need the opportunity. Just somebody maybe help me out and get me an opportunity. Put one foot in the door and I'll bring my other one across."
He adds that he probably needs to get a little stronger.
LeFebvre feels playing in Akwesasne might have hurt him. "I just think their reputation of their team," he said. "They never really had anybody called up anyway cause they were a team that just, you know, played games. They didn't practice much and they had that bad boy reputation I don't think a lot of people wanted to deal with. I think he kinda got lumped in with all those guys and now that he's separating himself from that he's opened up a lot of people's eyes.
"People are gonna call eventually. I think he should have been called up by now," said the coach.
Wherever he plays Fouz is likely to have a good time. He says the best thing about playing professional hockey is, "Just playing the game that I've been playing since I was four. Couldn't picture doing anything else right now."
LeFebvre probably couldn't picture his Demonz without Mahfouz though he knows it's just a matter of time before he moves up.
"I knew he was gonna be great," said the coach. "I didn't think he was gonna be this great."
Asked what he needs to improve on LeFebvre said, "Just keeping his head. I think he's got that mentality from Akwesasne where they chase around the referee sometimes. Get in the ref's face. He's gotta keep his head a little bit. I'd rather him on the ice than in the penalty box. That's for sure."
Ahmed Mahfouz, with just a little bit of the devil in his game, is at home either way.