They were on the same 6 a.m. flight to Chicago Saturday to begin their whirlwind trip on their first day as professional hockey players. Cody Freeman and Chris Rumble went from being teammates at Canisius College to teammates for the Evansville IceMen in the ECHL, but the week long lead up to their pro debuts wasn't exactly a smooth ride.
For Freeman, the week began with a broken cell phone. The senior forward was worried he would miss calls from teams interested in him after the Griffs' season ended in the Atlantic Hockey semifinals. Sure enough, he missed calls from Evansville.
"By the time I called back,t hey said they were signing someone else and I was a little bit bummed," Freeman said. "An hour later, they called me back and said 'We want you to come out.' They put me on the same flight as Chris Saturday morning.
"We didn't tnow what to expect. There wans’t a ton of direction there. It was pretty basic. After they had given me a call, I talked to my agent to confirm it was a good place to go. It wasn't too complicated."
Freeman and Rumble flew to Chicago Saturday morning, signed their contracts and joined the IceMen for their game against the Toledo Walleye. Running on adrenaline, Freeman scored his first pro goal that night -- a power play tally in a 3-2 loss.
But before they took the ice Saturday night, Rumble told Freeman not to be surprised if suddenly he wasn't on the ice. Rumble was having all kinds of second thoughts all day long.
While he's a senior academically and is scheduled to graduate in May, Rumble had a year of collegiate eligibility left. He had to make a decision -- move on to pro hockey or stay one more year with the Griffs.
"When the year ended, I decided to gauge the interest," Rumble said. "I could leave if I wanted to, so my advisor talked to some teams and there was interest from Ottawa. They wanted me to get started right away with Evansville and have me to rookie camp this summer. That was my best option. I talked with (Canisius head coach) Dave Smith and we both agreed it was a smart decision for me to leave a year early.
"It wasn't an easy decision for me. Every minute that went by after I agreed to leave, I wanted to come back and I had to be pushed out of there. When I walked on the ice for warmups the first night in Toeldo and came back out I told Cody 'Don't be surprised if you don't see me on the ice. I might sneak out.' It was a hard decision. I really had a great time at Canisius. It took every bone in my body to not cancel that flight. My hand shook for a good 30 seconds when I signed the contract."
Still Rumble, who turns 25 next month, decided it was the right time to leave school.
"It was time for me to let the kids play," Rumble said. "Some guys are five years younger than me this year. I think it was my time to move on. ... A huge portion of my decision was the age thing. I'm not getting any younger."
Rumble and Freeman will both return Canisius after the ECHL regular season. Evansville is the last place team in the league and the two will play out the final six games with the IceMen, ending April 11 with a game at South Carolina -- the team which happened to sign Canisius goaltender Keegan Asmundson.
Asmundson blanked the IceMen for his first pro win on Saturday, getting some help when Rumble blasted a shot from the blue line off the goal post.
"We had a smile and a wink at each other when the shot went off the goal post," Rumble said. "The whole thing is just surreal and playing against Keegan just added to that. Good for him though to get the shutout. He's a head case and that shutout will help him a lot more than the loss will hurt us."