The Colorado Avalanche captured the esteemed Stanley Cup on Sunday night, defeating the two-time defending National Hockey League champion Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-1, to take the best-of-seven series, four games to two.
Residents of the Centennial State will be celebrating their Avs’ first NHL title since 2001 with a parade and rally in downtown Denver on Thursday morning – and among the participants will be a Batavia native who holds the title of the franchise’s Director of Video Scouting.
Mike Battaglia, a standout goaltender for the Batavia High Ice Devils from 2004-2007 who went on to play at the collegiate and professional levels, has worked for the Avalanche for the past six years.
Speaking by telephone today from his apartment in Denver, Battaglia said he has had the opportunity to scout some of the young men who led the Avalanche to the NHL crown – players such as left winger J.T. Compher, right winger Logan O’Connor, center Nico Sturm and defensemen Cale Makar and Bo Byram.
“I did quite a bit of scouting, but I must clarify that none of these players fall directly on me,” he said. “We are a team and it was a group effort. I am just a small piece to the puzzle of a Stanley Cup winning team.”
An essential piece, at that, as Battaglia has put in countless hours traveling throughout the United States and Canada evaluating potential prospects for the team and working with the analytics’ department to compile pertinent data and statistical information for management.
ALL-STAR GOALIE IN HIGH SCHOOL
An All-Greater Rochester first team goaltender and New York State Second Team All-Star in high school, Battaglia went on to play club hockey at Niagara University – earning most valuable player honors – before moving on to Division III hockey at Geneseo State College.
After graduating in 2011, he took a summer internship with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets in the marketing department and also ventured into video scouting and even was used as a practice goalie on several occasions. Battaglia tried out for the Cincinnati Cyclones and signed a pro contract with that team, staying there for a short time.
While at Columbus, Battaglia actually signed an NHL contract – for one day – when star goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky became ill before a game and was unable to play.
“We needed an extra goalie at that point and there was no emergency goalie then. Because I used to practice with the team every now and then – and because I was a goalie – they called me in the office in the press box and said that I needed to put my pads on,” Battaglia recalled. “And if the other guy gets hurt, you’re going in.
“So, I had my pads on, I was sitting in the locker room and I had to sign a contract. They even had a jersey all made up for me. It was definitely an interesting experience.”
When asked if he got in the game, he replied, “No. Thank God.”
'ON THE ROAD AGAIN'
In 2016, Battaglia began his full-time tenure at Colorado – finding himself on the road on the weekends scouting players and in the office during the week working with General Manager Joe Sakic and Assistant GM Chris McFarland. He said he is very close to McFarland, a Bronx native and fellow New York Yankees’ fan.
“I’m traveling to college games every weekend and do a lot of college free agency right now,” he said, adding that he attended more than 200 games this season. “Because when we're chasing the Stanley Cup, we're trading a lot of draft picks.”
Battaglia contributes to the evaluation process by communicating his thoughts on player skills and by matching the video he shoots with the “numbers” generated by the analytics staff.
“We do something called Identity Files where we're trying to capture all the players that we have interest in -- in the draft – and what they are, and what they're all about. And then when it comes to draft time, I'm the one who actually types the players’ names in a system that selects the players. It can be a little stressful.”
Colorado has one farm team, the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League – the same league that includes the Rochester Americans, who are affiliated with the Buffalo Sabres.
“We have the one farm team and many prospects that we’ve drafted who are playing college hockey or are in Europe or junior hockey in Canada,” Battaglia said. “I’m fortunate enough to touch a lot of pieces in our organization and see a lot of things. I work pretty much throughout all departments of the organization, and I am very grateful for that.”
NUPTIALS SCHEDULED FOR AUGUST
Battaglia is youngest son of Paul and Mary Battaglia of Batavia. His brothers are Paul Jr., Mark and Tim.
He said he and his fiancé, Stephanie Dupuis, will be getting married in August at a ceremony at Stephanie’s hometown of Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
“We met through work. I was scouting and she was working for a junior team in Windsor,” Battaglia said.
When talking about family, Battaglia said he owes much to what he learned from his mentors during his time as part of the Batavia High ice hockey “family.”
“I always will appreciate the coaches at Batavia,” he said, naming them all. “Paul Pedersen, Nate Korzelius, John Kirkwood, Mark Dahl, Peter Guppenberger, Jack Porter and John Zola. Those guys are really important in making it more than just hockey for me – showing how to do the little things and being a good person.”
Battaglia said there’s a chance that he will be able to transport the actual Stanley Cup to Batavia when he visits this summer.
“I haven’t heard if I get a day with the Cup yet but if I do I will bring it to Batavia if I’m allowed to,” he said. “I will keep you updated if that happens.”
Batavian native Mike Battaglia is on cloud nine as he has his moment with the NHL's Stanley Cup following the Colorado Avalanche's victory over Tampa Bay. Submitted photos.