The list grows longer: You can add one or two names to the small list of Kelowna Rockets alumni that have won the Stanley Cup. Jamie Benn and Blake Comeau of the Dallas Stars will face Luke Schenn and the Tampa Bay Lightning for the right to hoist hockey's holy grail over there head. Only five former Rockets have accomplished that feat. Scott Parker did it with Colorado. Duncan Keith with Chicago. Travis Moen in Anaheim. Kim Dillabaugh with the LA Kings (goaltending coach) and Madison Bowey with the Detroit Red Wings. The last Rockets player to compete for the Stanley Cup and fail to win it was Colton Sissons. Sissons and the Nashville Predators were eliminated in 6 games in the 2017 Stanley Cup finals by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Who to cheer for? That's a tough one. Blake Comeau is probably the best story. Now 34, Comeau has never been an elite player at the NHL level. What's impressive is the Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan resident has played 852 regular season games with six different teams. Luke Schenn was left for dead basically two years ago with the fear that his time in the NHL was over when he was playing in the American Hockey League. Schenn, who is 30, understands that his window of winning is closing quickly as a seventh d-man on the Lightning blue-line. One thing Comeau, Schenn and Benn have in common is they also captured gold for Canada at the world juniors. Comeau in 2006. Schenn in 2008 and Benn in 2009.Oh, all three are also on the Rockets 'Wall of Recognition' down by the dressing room.
Fiddler can't be on the fence. Isn't the answer obvious? The Dallas Stars. The Kelowna Rockets assistant coach, who just completed his first season behind a WHL bench, 'Fids' played five seasons in 'Big D' between 2011 and 2016. Fiddler is very familiar with many of the players on the Stars current roster. As early as two years ago, he was an organizational coach with the Stars, where he assisted with skills and development with Dallas and their AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars.
Mohr wants More: Ex-Kelowna Rockets forward Kobe Mohr is among several players involved in class action lawsuit against the NHL/AHL/ECHL/WHL/OHL/QMJHL. It's an 825 million dollar suit alleging 'a conspiracy among the world's top professional and amateur hockey leagues to exploit dreams - chasing teenage player with one-sided contracts containing abusive restrictions on their young careers. Maybe from now on the WHL will have bold print in their 'standard' player contract stipulating that no legal action will be taken against them if the hockey career of the player doesn't materialize the way he/his family/agent had envisioned. Tough wording indeed for the player and his parents to absorb, but disgruntled teenagers who didn't make it are coming out of the woodwork and looking for a payday is becoming common place. Mohr played 9 games with the Kelowna Rockets last season after being acquired off waivers. He was later dealt to the Moose Jaw Warriors in November in a multi-player deal for 20 year-old Jaden Joseph.
Dialing long distance with Dilly: A wonderful conversation this week with Philadelphia Flyers goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh. It feels like I haven't talked to Dilly in years. Truth is...that's the case. Dillabaugh was the Kelowna Rockets goaltending coach for years before eventually being hired full time by the LA Kings in 2014. He worked with Jonathon Quick and then moved to the Flyers where he is the head goalie coach guiding the likes of up-and-comer Carter Hart. I could talk to Dilly for hours about goaltending. We had a lengthy discussion that will be featured next month on the re-start of 'The Kelowna Rockets This Week'. The show can be heard Saturday's at 6:00 PM on AM 1150. I reached Dillabaugh at his home in New Jersey where he, his wife Bonnie and young daughter and son are keeping safe.
Cookie didn't crumble: I had to ask Dillabaugh about one goaltender he loved to work with during his time with the Kelowna Rockets; Jordon Cooke. "He is one of the most competitive individuals I have had to work with. He is so driven to be the best. I didn't want Jordon Cooke to be a Kelly Guard or Derek Yeomans, I wanted Jordon Cooke to be Jordon Cooke. Everyone is unique. I bring that forth today. I worked with Jonathon Quick and Martin Jones. I don't want Carter Hart, now, to look and play like those guys. Everyone is an individual."
Shame game: I don't like COVID-19. We all don't like COVID-19. What I don't like about it is the public shaming that goes along with a positive test. If you are exposed and the test comes back positive, there is a certain stigma or shame or guilt attached to it. If I was sick, had symptoms and tested positive, would I want that information becoming public? Let's say I am a WHL head coach and have COVID-19. Can you imagine the headline if that person tested positive and it got out to the media? "First positive test of COVID for CHL coach". Who wants to be attached with that distinction? That's why privacy, specifically if one is in the public eye is paramount.
Ice, Ice Baby: When does the ice go in at Prospera Place? For now, all is quiet.
Ice Whisperer: His name is Wayne Pansegrau. We in Kelowna know who he is, but for those that don't, he is arguably one of the best ice makers in North America. Pansegrau is known for his work at Prospera Place, but now owns a company called - Top Shelf Arena Services. It has allowed him to work at no less than 20 NHL outdoor games. I spoke to him this week and asked about which one was his favourite. "The first is the most memorable. It was the one in Ann Arbor Michigan in 2014 with over 105 thousand fans there. That will always be my favourite. That one was picturesque. We had a beautiful snowfall on game day, which was heavy to start but during the game it was lite and added a nice effect for the game."
Masks a mainstay: I saw this week that the Kelowna Rockets souvenir store has re-opened to the general public. 'In The Crease' is a shoppers delight for any fan of the red, black, teal and white. I wonder when Kelowna Rockets logoed face masks will be available? If they are, I am buying one. I see several teams have already purchased some, including the Calgary Hitmen. The Everett Silvertips where taking orders for them back in May.
Doing the Domink Hasek: Was reminiscing with a buddy last week about Marc Habscheid. It took me back to a memory of when the Kelowna Rockets were on a prairie road trip. The year was 2001-2002. During an off day, 'Habby' and the entire team drove out to Stewart Valley, Saskatchewan (about a 20 minute drive north of Swift Current) for a skate on the small communities antiquated ice surface. It was also Travis Moen's hometown. I played minor hockey in that arena as a kid. It was classic. All wood. No Zamboni and a long stairway that led to the dress rooms. Kids, on skates, would often tumble down the stairwell before going on the ice. Oh, the arena staff - all volunteers - offered the best cheese burgers around, but that's a completely different story. Habscheid was all about team building. On this road trip, he allowed me to bring my goalie gear on the bus so I could suit up with the team for practice. Yep, even the broadcaster was designated as 'a part of the team' back then. So, there I was between the pipes taking wrist and slap shots off my head, arms and chest from the likes of Kiel McLeod and Bart Rushmer. I am not sure that would be allowed today with liability issues, but Habscheid was all about inclusivity. (Inclusivity: the practice or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized.) I remember the practice ending with a scrimmage with everyone out on the ice, including the coaches. It was a mad scramble, but man was it fun. Habscheid was cherry picking at the blue-line and received a pass and went in alone with me in goal. I couldn't let the coach score could I? Habscheid, who still possessed slick hands, made a nice move to the backhand. My only recourse was to do my best Dominik Hasek imitation by doing a cart wheel in the crease to keep it out. If memory serves me correct, the puck went off the goal post and into the far corner. Habscheid's story many differ, but I am not changing the outcome. Marc Habscheid is credited with changing the culture of the franchise during his time in Kelowna. I would suggest this is another reason why, by allowing the radio guy to be included.