Monday, August 20, 2007

Mac-T Makes Rare Appearance/Benn on Rockets Radar

  • It was as unusual as a sighting of Ogopogo on Okanagan Lake. But like the mythical lake monster, who has supposedly been seen in these parts by half drunk onlookers over the years, Craig MacTavish was on the ice Sunday as a player. Yes it's a rare sight indeed. The head coach of the Edmonton Oilers was at center, flanked by linemate Dany Heatley of the Ottawa Senators and Heatley's brother for a charity hockey game. NHL players, and Mac-T, gathered Sunday at Royal Lepage Place on Kelowna's Westside for a charity hockey game for 13 year-old cancer victim Jonathon Neitsch. "You know I haven't played in a game like that since the last game I retired", MacTavish told me after the game. "I haven't had the gear on or anything. The only way I was going to play was if helmets were not mandatory. It was fun, but it's tough though. You skate out there in a track suit as a coach and you feel like you can still skate, and then you get the gear on and it's a completely different animal. It's actually not a bad thing. All coaches should do it because you get pretty critical, but you realize just how difficult it is", MacTavish added. In case your wondering MacTavish retired after the 1996-97 season, becoming the last player in NHL history to play without a helmet.
  • I had a chance to meet Dany Heatley after the game. The Ottawa Senator forward has a home on the Westside of Okanagan Lake. Heatley was one of the first players to put his name forward for the charity fundraiser.
  • The Kelowna Rockets were represented at the game by former alumni, Brett McLean, Shea Weber, Blake Comeau, Ryan Cuthbert, Jason Deleurme, Nolan Yonkman and Josh Gorges.
  • LA Kings goaltender Barry Brust, who was born and raised on the Westside, was the winning goaltender in the no-hitting 8-6 win.
  • The game was a sellout, as over 17 hundred hockey fans packed the new Royal Lepage Place arena on the Westside. Sunday's game was the first event in the arena, which was over a year behind schedule in it's completion. My first impressions of the building is that it's too small. The seating capacity of 15 hundred is just to small, considering it's main tenant are the BCHL's Westside Warriors. The press box still needs some work, and a beam runs directly in the sight line of the score clock for anyone who is sitting in the press box. The score clock was operational for the game, but the lower half of it has yet to be attached. Does it come anywhere close to the BCHL arena's in Salmon Arm or Vernon. The answer? Not even close. But is it better than Memorial Arena? Absolutely!
  • The Rockets will be busy this week persuading Jamie Benn to join them for training camp. The skilled forward, who is on the Rockets 50 man protected list, has apparently committed to playing college hockey in Alaska-Fairbanks in 2008-2009 after scoring 42 goals with the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL as a 17 year-old. Benn was drafted by the Dallas Stars in this summers NHL draft. Hockey Prospects says "Benn is a pure sniper with both good shooting abilities and dekes in close. He showed consistent and rapid improvement over the course of the 2006-07 season. He has an uncanny knack for finding loose pucks, finding the space to make himself available for a pass and being in the right spot to bury rebounds. His skating is average at best. At 6’2, 185 lbs he doesn’t use his size particularly well and he’s not an overly physical force. He is extremely effective when he has the time to set up and shoot or on odd-man rushes. His defensive play is limited and will need improvement."

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