Minor League Sports

#GerryTime: 2019-20 hockey season was a special one for former Cedar Rapids RoughRider Gerry Mayhew

Dubuque's Niklas Nevalainen stops Gerry Mayhew of the RoughRiders during a 2013 game in Cedar Rapids. (The Gazette)
Dubuque’s Niklas Nevalainen stops Gerry Mayhew of the RoughRiders during a 2013 game in Cedar Rapids. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — #GerryTime is a thing.

It has been since Gerry Mayhew’s freshman season at Ferris State University, when he scored a clutch overtime goal to send his team to its conference finals. The guy running the Bulldogs’ social media accounts excitedly tweeted out Mayhew’s heroics followed by that hashtag.

It stuck, through four years of college hockey and even as the former Cedar Rapids RoughRiders forward got into the pro ranks. Where this season, there were a ton of Gerry Times.

The American Hockey League (the NHL’s Triple-A, if you equate it to baseball) officially canceled the remainder of its 2019-20 season Monday because of the COVID-19 pandemic, putting a close to a Mayhew breakthrough. The Michigan native won the league’s Willie Marshall Award for most goals: 39 in just 49 games for the Iowa Wild, located in Des Moines.

A prestigious 40-goal season would have been a cinch, and Mayhew was even threatening to become the AHL’s first 50-goal guy since Alexandre Giroux of the Hershey Bears in 2009-10. The league shut down, as all sports did, in mid-March with 13 regular-season games remaining.

“Some of the guys gave me crap for it: ‘What, you couldn’t get 40?’” Mayhew said. “As much as it does suck, 39 goals is tough to do. I would never, ever have dreamed of doing that. It just sucks that I couldn’t finish the season out and maybe get 45 if I had gotten on a hot streak. Even 50, if I had gotten lucky. Either way, it was a fun season. I just wish it had ended differently and we’d gotten to finish it.”

Mayhew’s story is one of dogged persistence to unexpectedly reach the apex of the sport. The United States Hockey League could use him as their poster boy.

He has never been the biggest guy, never been the fastest skater or had the most lethal shot. He has simply perservered.

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His path to the NHL included putting up 36 goals and 41 assists in two seasons with the RoughRiders (2011-12 and 2012-13). He had eight goals as a freshman at Ferris State and steadily increased his scoring output from there.

Mayhew, 27, signed a Standard Player’s Contract (essentially a tryout) with Iowa after his senior season at Ferris State (2017) and returned to the Wild in 2017-18, scoring 16 goals in 72 games. A 27-goal season in 2018-19 earned him a two-year contract with the parent Minnesota Wild.

The first of those two years was brilliant. Not only was he a star in the AHL, he got his first NHL call-up, playing in 13 games for Minnesota and scoring two goals.

“A lot of hard work, for sure,” Mayhew said. “I went to the USHL and didn’t know what to expect. I got comfortable there, Coach (Mark) Carlson helped me get through there. Then I committed to Ferris and just kept getting better and better and wanting it more and more. Soon enough, I’m in the American League and finally get that (NHL) contract. It was like ‘OK, it’s real, so I’ve got to keep working.’ I kept working and made it (to the NHL). Now the goal is to stay there.”

Mayhew made his NHL debut Oct. 15 at Toronto and had a goal in a 4-2 loss. More #GerryTime.

“A special moment,” he said. “It was surreal. I got to play with guys I grew up watching. I played against (Edmonton’s Connor) McDavid, (Washington’s Alex) Ovechkin, guys like that. You don’t realize how good the game is until you watch it live and play in it. It’s fast, guys are stronger, everything was on point. It was definitely a special experience for me to be able to play in that environment. It’s tops in the world, and to be a part of that was special.”

Mayhew’s Iowa teammate and linemate Sam Anas, another former USHLer, led the AHL in points to win the John B. Sollenberger Trophy. Mayhew said their chemistry was undeniable.

He said if the NHL resumes and concludes its season, he figured to be a "Black Ace," a guy who practices with the team and could be used in a pinch.

“I didn’t know I would have the season I did,” Mayhew said. “I’ve been playing with a couple of guys on my line for about three years now, so I think we just jelled really well. It all took care of itself. Just a lot of hard work. It was just a special season, and it just sucks that it had to end.

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“I had a cup of coffee in the NHL, so hopefully next year, I’ll get a full chance and I can make a name for myself. Be a full-time NHLer, which is what the ultimate goal is.”

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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