Everyone loves him; from the fans to the media. You can't ask for a better guy to talk to, which is probably why everyone was talking to him.
When I arrived to Iceworks yesterday, the Wrecker was sitting on a bench outside the rink with Coach Scott Gordon and his trusty laptop. Gordon was showing him a few things on the monitor as Joel sat there in full gear nodding his head. They are taking incredible time and patience with Joel. He is a sponge and is taking in everything that he can.
"He (Gordon) runs a high tempo practice. We see eye to eye and I try to absorb everything he tells me whether it's about fighting or playing hockey. Garth has been great. Cairnsy has been great."
Eric Cairns is working with him. If he can teach him to be the type of player that fan-favorite Cairns was for the NY Islanders, then we have nothing to worry about in the tough guy department.
Garth Snow has also taken an interest in Joel. Recently, they spoke at a dinner about his training schedule. He was already scheduled to be on Long Island for his I.C.E. tour dates in August, but they think he should be on Long Island sooner in order to train with them rather than back home.
"I'm going to be here earlier than expected just to train and make sure I have a really good year. I'm going to be home for about seven days after this camp and then I'm just going to head back and work on my game. " There is nothing he wants more than to improve his game and become a big part of this team.
"I trained really hard back home in Wisconsin and the reason I came back home was that I wanted to be here full time in the summer but there was a family issue with my brother."
Joel's younger brother played for Odessa last year and didn't have the best season. Joel stayed home in June and coached him so that his next season would be far better. He is hoping that his "little brother" can follow in his footsteps.
"There's a lot of pressure on him too. He's a big kid. He's got the skill and he's got decent hands for a big kid. He just needs to work on his speed a bit. We really did a lot of stuff and I think he'll have a good year."
Hmmm.... Maybe there's a Little Wrecker in the works in Wisconsin. (and I say that full well knowing there is nothing little about the kid.)
"I'm going to get a head start in July. I'm VERY serious about next season. I want to have a good year." He is very determined.
This is Joel's second prospect camp with the Islanders and he is heading into his second year of his 3-year rookie contract. I asked him what has been different about the camp this year.
"The only thing I would say is different is the schedule. Last year we were on the ice twice a day. Now we're on the ice, we go hard and then we work out. Or we work out first and then go on the ice. They really push you. But at the same time, they take the token of 'rest' which is great for the guys' bodies -- which is key. I think they are pushing in the right direction. What's really good is that Garth, Charles and the whole Islanders organization has really made everyone at camp feel welcome with taking them out to dinner and having the guys bond with each other. A lot of these kids don't know what the pro atmosphere is like and it's important for them to experience it."
Joel is talking with a voice of experience, even for his young age. Just as young Josh Bailey, who is TWO years younger than Rechlicz, also speaks with authority when it comes to how things are done at an NHL level on the NY Islanders.
"I'm very excited to be around these guys. I want to show some of the younger guys the ropes. If I can't do it stick handling, I can do it off the ice and them, 'This is pro hockey. This is the life.' And chemistry is very important. You want everyone to be like brothers. You're a big family whether you're on the same team next year or not. We're all Islanders."
This year's camp schedule has a lot of showing the prospects not only the ropes of being a pro, but the NY area as well. Baseball games, dinners, golf and concerts help to break up the grind of working out at the rink.
Joel was surprised when I told him how much his Bridgeport SoundTigers jersey went for on E-bay. Actually, every one of Joel's jerseys that has been auctioned off has gone for a premium price. This includes those from his ECHL days with the Utah Grizzles. I asked him if he realized he was such a fan favorite. I think he almost blushed.
"You know, I love the kids. I go out of my way for the kids. I remember when I was growing up and my dad took me and my brother to AHL games all the time. The Milwaukee Admirals, and I always looked up to the guys. I remember I always thought it was awesome. I wanted to play in the AHL and be a pro-hockey player. I couldn't go to an NHL game because it was too much money. My dad did his best to take us out and experience that. Just looking up to those athletes as a kid, you're star-struck. And now... I'm one of those guys. It just feels great to give back to the community. They are the future and you've gotta be nice to everybody and you've gotta give back. You gotta."
And he does. He knows the kids look up to athletes and he wants to be a good role model. Even though he's a tough guy, he plays the game the way it should be played. Old time hockey, eh?