MICAH SANFORD – FIRST STAR PLAYER IN LAS VEGAS
THE GREATNESS OF MICAH SANFORD
Micah Sanford of Las Vegas was our first star player – in ice and roller – here in Las Vegas.
He was the first from Las Vegas to leave home and play on the AAA level ice hockey with the AAA Vail, Colorado, Avalanche midget 18u team, the first to play in the BCHL with the Chilliwack Chiefs Jr A in Canada, and the first to play on a college scholarship at NCAA Division One Nebraska Omaha.
Micah launched his career here in Las Vegas in roller hockey which is the same route star players such as ice hockey stars Jason Zucker, Adam Naglich, Chris Francis, Eddie Samuels and Eddie Del Grosso also took.
Micah’s father Larry Sanford was the head roller hockey coach who took Las Vegas teams to major tournaments throughout the country. Big rivals for Las Vegas back then included the Orange County Blades, Brea Bulldogs, Arizona Stars and the Northern Colorado Blast.
When Micah was 16, he was named the National Roller Hockey Player of the Year.
“My Dad (Larry) played a lot of roller hockey when he was in his early 20’s,” said Micah. “He played for a team out of Louisana that was one of the best in the nation. He held the scoring title nationwide for about five years. We moved to Las Vegas because my folks thought roller rinks would do well here in town.”
That big roller rink was called Crystal Place built on North Rancho Drive. They call it “The Little House of Champions.”
“My favorite teammates in roller hockey were Freddie Young, Patrick Stevenson, Travis Gunderson and Leroy Garcia. We really meshed well together and we were all work horses – never getting out-competed,” Micah said.
That roller team – the Las Vegas Rolling Thunder – was an unstoppable force on a national level.
MICAH’S GREATEST HOCKEY COACH
Micah Sanford had many great coaches starting with his father Larry in roller hockey. Larry is a six-time Vegas Hockey Roller Coach of the Year.
Micah’s first travel ice hockey team was the AAA Vail Avalanche 18u in Colorado. Brad Buetow was the head coach. Brad was a former head coach at the Minnesota University and Colorado College hockey programs.
To get to Vail, Colorado, Micah packed up his gear in his pickup truck, then he drove back to the Crystal Palace roller rink where he grew up in Las Vegas. There was a group of younger players and hometown hockey moms and dads who were there and who wished him well and watched him drive off on North Rancho Drive. Micah was the first to leave Las Vegas to play the game and it was big news in the world of hometown hockey.
Micah also played for one of the greatest coaches in Harvey Smyl, a legend with the BCHL Chilliwack Chiefs in Canada. When Micah played for Chilliwack hockey dad Larry Sanford would wear his black and yellow-striped Chilliwack jacket at Crystal Palace.
When Micah was at Chilliwack he told Vegashockey.com in 2000 “…I could always stick-handle and score but they worked on my skating and made me more of a complete player.”
After his first season with Chilliwack Micah went to the Peter Twist Skating School in Vancouver.
But who was Micah’s best coach?
“Harvey Smyl at Chilliwack was the best coach I ever had on the bench during a game. But Brad Buetow was the best coach I ever had at running a practice and teaching skills.
“Harvey was great managing his bench, knowing game situations and who to put onto the ice.
“Brad Buetow was the best at motivating his players and getting the best out of them,” said Micah.
Brad Buetow retired a few years ago, as did Harvey Smyl.
MICAH’S ASTOUNDING GOAL-SCORING IN 2001-02 PLAYOFFS
When Micah played for the BCHL Chilliwack Chiefs in Canada hometown fans back in Las Vegas listened to the play by play on radio from the Chiefs two great announcers Barry Douglas and Richard Brew who called the game from the press boxes no matter where the Chiefs were playing. And little did Barry and Rich know – and their radio listeners – they were about to go onto the biggest ride of their lives.
Chilliwack finished the regular season with a record of 46-10-4. Micah, on the top line, led the team with 47 goals. He was 19 years old. His linemates and best rink friends were Kaleb Betts with 35 goals and Matt Gibbons with 28 goals.
On this same Chilliwack team was 17-year-old Gabe Gauthier the former GM/head coach of the WSHL Las Vegas Storm and the Hockey Director at the Las Vegas Ice Center. Gabe had 37 goals that season for Chilliwack. Gabe’s linemates were David Van Der Gulik, 38 goals, and Jeff Tambellini with 46 goals.
Micah always played on top lines. When he was with AAA Vail midget majors he was on the number one line with the great Teddy O’Leary.
Micah was now in his second season with Chilliwack and suddenly – and no one, including him – knows how and why Micah Sanford began scoring so many goals in the playoffs.
While Chilliwack was winning the Nowat Cup and the Doyle Cup and qualifying for the grand finale – the Royal Bank Cup in Halifax – Micah had racked up 31 playoff goals. When he was interviewed by me at Vegashockey.com (the old site, not this one) Micah said….
“I’m not doing anything differently. It’s like everything I shoot – no matter what part of the net – the puck goes right into the net. I cannot explain it.”
On the Chiefs radio Barry Douglas and Richard Brew were going insanely wild calling the games. Gauthier said “…it was unreal, so intense.”
At the Royal Bank Cup in Halifax – the one last crown to capture – Micah and the Chiefs worked their way to the Final 4.
They took on the OCN Blizzard from the Manitoba Hockey League. It was a close, tight game, right down to the final buzzer at the Halifax Forum.
OCN won 4-3.
When the game was over – and maybe it was the pressure of winning so many times – the Chiefs players collapsed onto the ice in all parts of the arena.
On the radio Barry and Richard lost it – they both wept.
They were trying to describe and capture in their own words the final time this great Chilliwacks Chiefs team would ever be on the ice.
Micah scored 31 goals during the playoffs. For the season he had 78 goals, 80 assists – by far the most goal and assists and points by any Las Vegas skater on any level of the game.
Gauthier said “this was such a great team. Micah was a big part of it. I counted 12 of our players who went to NCAA Division 1 teams.
Chilliwack coach Harvey Smyl sized it all up when he said “Micah was a man among boys with his determination and strength.”
Micah got a scholarship to play at Nebraska-Omaha. After four years he played professionally signing with the ECHL Bakersfield Condors.
In 2009 Micah retired as an active player.
MICAH SANFORD CAREER ICE HOCKEY RECORD
1997-98 – Las Vegas Mustangs Midget A
1998-99 – Las Vegas Blackjacks Jr B
1999-20 – AAA Vail Avalanche midget major – 49 goals/35 assists
2000-01 – BCHL Chilliwack Chiefs Jr A – 12 goals/9 assists
2001-02 – BCHL Chilliwack Chiefs Jr A – 78 goals/80 assists
2002-03 – Nebraska-Omaha 8 goals/9 assists
2003-04 – Nebraska-Omaha 1 goal/0 assists
2005-05 – Nebraska-Omaha 1 goal/6 assists
2005-06 – Nebraska-Omaha 1 goal/0 assists
2008-09 – ECHL Las Vegas Wranglers 0 goals/0 assists