July 23, 2009 - ECHL (ECHL) - Stockton Thunder
STOCKTON, Calif. - The Stockton Thunder, the proud ECHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League and Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League, has agreed to contract terms with veteran center Craig Valette, Thunder head coach Matt Thomas announced today. Per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Valette, 26, helped guide the Thunder to within one win of advancing to the National Conference Finals last year while serving as acting captain during the playoffs when his 13 points (6g-7a) in 14 games ranked third in Thunder postseason scoring. Valette also paced tied for second on the Thunder with six playoff goals, including three game-winning tallies in a seven-game, first round upset of the Pacific Division champion Ontario Reign.
"Bringing back a player of Craig's pedigree is an exciting move for our hockey club as we prepare for 2009-10," said Thomas. "He proved in the playoffs last year that he's an elite, two-way centerman and a guy we can count on. One thing that's important at any level of pro hockey is being strong up the middle and Craig helps us solidify that area of need not just with his speed, skill and toughness, but also his unparalleled leadership ability."
Last year, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound pivot skated in 43 regular season games for the Thunder, totaling 25 points (9g-16a) and 65 penalty minutes while adding 21 games at the AHL level with the Houston Aeros and Syracuse Crunch, posting two assists and 17 PIM's.
Previously signed to an NHL contract with the San Jose Sharks, Valette scored a goal in three NHL preseason games in 2006-07 and has skated in 392 career games as a professional, scoring 107 points (45g-62) and 522 penalty minutes with the Thunder and appearing in 349 AHL games with Cleveland, Worcester, Houston and Syracuse.
"I've found Stockton to be a great hockey town and it makes returning here very exciting," said Valette. "Going to the rink is fun here. The seats are always full, there's a great atmosphere and you're a part of a great team. As nice as it was to get far in the playoffs last year, there's unfinished business at hand. I have confidence in our team and coach Thomas that we're going to improve on last season and I'm excited to be a part of that."
The native of Shellbrook, Saskatchewan scored a career-high 15 goals and 26 points (15g-11a) and added 77 penalty minutes in 55 games for Worcester in 2006-07.
The contract signing marks the first returnee to the Thunder roster from the 2008-09 season, when Stockton finished 22-16-3 under Thomas and advanced to the Pacific Division Final round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
The Thunder return to the ice for preseason play on Thursday, Oct. 8 against the Bakersfield Condors, starting at 7:00 p.m. at Stockton Arena. The 2009-10 season, the fifth year anniversary for the team, launches on Friday, Oct. 16 at Qwest Arena against the Idaho Steelheads at 6:10 p.m. and the Thunder home opener is Friday, Oct. 23 against the Ontario Reign at 7:30 p.m. at Stockton Arena.
The Thunder was voted "Best Local Sports Team" by readers of the San Joaquin Magazine, has led the ECHL in attendance for four consecutive seasons and drew 223,854 fans to Stockton Arena in 2008-09. Season tickets for 2009-10 are on sale now. For more information about tickets, merchandise, or other inquiries contact the Stockton Thunder offices at (209) 373-1500 or visit http://www.stocktonthunder.com/.