For those who believe in second chances, this is the story for you. The Anaheim Ducks, the same team that caught lightning in a bottle by signing Ray Emery last season, will hope to do the same as they signed Mark Bell to a one-year, two-way contract worth $575,000. Bell hasn’t stepped foot on NHL since his 35 game stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2007-08 season. That year he managed 4 goals, 6 assists, and 60 penalty minutes in 35 games. The next season he split time between the Toronto Marlies and Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL before heading to Kloten in the Swiss League for the last two years.
He put up respectable totals over the course of the short Swiss League seasons (29 goals over the last two seasons), but statistics in Europe are only a footnote to Bell’s story.
In 2006, Bell pled no-contest to driving under the influence charges in Northern California. A judge ordered the former San Jose Sharks forward to serve six months of jail time; a sentence that ended up being reduced to two months of work in a California jail and a 15-game suspension from NHL commission Gary Bettman. He played that final season with the Maple Leafs after the conviction, but ended up falling off the NHL radar afterwards. Today’s signing with the Ducks signifies a second-chance.
A year after the incident, Mark Bell spoke to the Toronto Star about the accident and how it affected his career and his outlook on life:
“Sometimes it takes something like that (accident) to change your life and it has. I’m taking the negative that happened a year ago and turning to a positive. The decision I made one year ago has changed my life in many ways.”
“It’s been a learning experience this whole past year. I feel I’ve really grown as a person. I’m very confident in the way I live my life now. It’s taking one step at a time,” he said.
“Now, every day I wake up I realize I’m living a dream. It’s taken a while for me to understand that. Now that I have, I’m going to grab it. My fun now is at the rink.”
(s/t to Eric Stephens for the link)
The next step in Bell’s evolution will be to actually make the opening night roster for the Ducks. As it stands now, he will compete for a bottom-six role at the NHL level or will provide leadership with the Ducks’ AHL affiliate in Syracuse. If he’s grown as much as he says, Bell could be the second success story in as many years for the Ducks. Ray Emery overcame a career threatening hip-injury and a stint in the KHL to put up a 7-2 record and help launch the Ducks into a playoff spot last year. Honestly, Anaheim would be pleased if Bell has half of Emery’s success. The first step is proving that he can hang with on an NHL roster on an everyday basis; anything beyond that would be icing on the cake for the 30-year-old Ontario native.
One thing is for sure—he’ll appreciate it this time around.