The wait is finally over for Seth Griffith.
The 28-year-old winger from Wallaceburg began a long-anticipated American Hockey League season with the Bakersfield Condors on Feb. 5.
He hasn’t played a regular-season game since the last AHL campaign was shut down in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The long layoff did nothing to cool his passion for the sport.
“You definitely learn to appreciate it a lot more,” Griffith said on a video call with media. “There’s no question about it, guys like the time away from the rink in the summer. It’s a good break. But when you compact almost three or four summers into one, being at home, guys get a little antsy.
“I know, for me, I enjoy being on the ice. I love playing the game of hockey, so being away from it for that long for me was tough.”
The extended off-season did have its benefits. Griffith appreciated spending more time with his family.
“But you’re not getting any younger here,” he said. “I love to be at the rink. I love playing hockey every day, so it was definitely tough.”
The former London Knight skated in the off-season with local pro and junior players.
“We were getting our workouts in but also staying safe,” he said.
Griffith also worked out in Chatham with trainer Colin Roeszler of Athletes’ Fuel Strength & Conditioning.
“It was a bit of an adjustment,” he said about the break. “You’ve got to change your workouts a bit. You can’t be going for nine months hard training.
“My trainer back home put a good program in place where we got stuff done. We worked really hard for four solid months before I came. I was skating a lot, so I feel pretty good.”
Griffith signed a two-year, two-way contract with the Edmonton Oilers in October. He went to their camp before being assigned to Bakersfield.
While some Canadian NHL teams moved their AHL affiliates to Canada for this season, the Oilers opted to keep theirs in California.
Players aren’t sure how the call-up process will work, Griffith said.
“But you’re looking to make a good impression for when that time does come,” he said. “Everybody’s got to be ready to go.”
Griffith is beginning his eighth pro season. He’s spent most of his pro career in the AHL, but he has 19 points in 79 NHL games with Boston, Toronto, Florida and Buffalo.
Last season, he led the Winnipeg Jets’ top farm team, the Manitoba Moose, with 41 points in 58 games.
The AHL shortened its schedule for this season. It’s still uncertain if the playoffs will be held.
“I’m looking forward to getting on the ice and competing again,” Griffith said. “It’s been a while, so we’ve got to be ready right out of the gates here. We don’t know what’s going to happen with playoffs, but we want to be up there if need be.
“We’re shooting for first in the league. I think that’s what you do coming into every season. And we’ll go from there. We’ve got to be one of the top teams in our division. And if there’s no playoffs this year, so be it. We’ll carry that momentum into next season.”
He likes the Condors’ mix of experienced vets and hungry young players.
“It’s a great group of guys,” he said. “Everybody seems to get along here. That’s the one thing that’s biggest with team success. Everybody’s got to get along. And everybody seems to jell here. There’s a bunch of good guys. It just feels at home already.”