Wednesday, April 30, 2008

WHL Award Winners

WHL Player of the Year: Karl Alzner Calgary Hitmen.

Rookie of hte Year: Brayden Schenn Brandon Wheat Kings

WHL Goaltender of the Year: Chet Pickard Tri-City Americans

WHL Defenceman of the Year: Karl Alzner Calgary Hitmen

WHL Scholastic Player Award: Jordan Eberle Regina Pats

WHL Most Sportsmanlike Award: Tyler Ennis Medicine Hat Tigers

WHL Humanitarian of the Year: Ashton Hewson Prince Albert Raiders

WHL Coach of the Year: Don Nachbaur Tri-City Americans

WHL Top Official: Andy Thiessen

MacRae Days with Rockets Appear Over

  • It appears Myles MacRae's days as a Kelowna Rocket are over. Team brass confirming that MacRae isn't interested in playing as a 20 year-old with the Rockets next season. MacRae would have joined Colin Joe and Tysen Dowzak as overages next year. The Rockets still hold his playing rights though, with the hope he will change his mind and attend training camp this fall. MacRae was listed, not drafted by the Rockets, and played a total of 182 games between 2004 and 2007.
  • When I look back at MacRae's career, he landed in Kelowna at a tough time. As a raw rookie in 2004-2005, MacRae had the privilege of playing with a WHL championship team. Tyler Mosienko, Justin Keller, Tyler Spurgeon and Troy Bodie were just a few forwards that season that consumed an abundance of ice time. A year later, MacRae again found himself in a tough spot playing behind forwards like Lauris Darzins, Blake Comeau, Chris Ray and again Troy Bodie. Call it a case of bad timing to wear Kelowna Rockets colours during a period where the Rockets were top heavy in talented forwards. Whether it stunted his growth and development as a player is up for debate.
  • I will always remember MacRae's first ever WHL goal though - in his second WHL game - on a long range shot from center ice against the Calgary Hitmen. It wasn't one of beauty, but on that night it allowed the Rockets to earn a 3-3 tie.
  • Rockets Director of Player Personnel Lorne Frey and GM Bruce Hamilton are in Calgary for Thursday's WHL bantam draft. The Rockets have the 10th overall pick in round one. Look for the Rockets to select a forward with their first selection. A good contingent of the top end players in this years draft according to Frey, reside in Northern Alberta.
  • It would be great to see Frey attend this June's NHL draft. Frey is solely responsible for selecting Luke Schenn and Tyler Myers in the 2004 and 2005 bantam drafts. A picture of Frey between the two potential first round picks is a must. Frey is a smart hockey man bottom line. He is responsible for drafting players like Todd Holt, the Swift Current Broncos franchise leader in points. Frey was also a key in persuading at the time a young Joe Sakic to play his junior hockey in the smallest centre in the CHL.
  • Congrats to the Spokane Chiefs for winning the West. The only Rockets connection I can think of is Tyler Spurgeon's younger brother Jared having a chance to play in his first ever WHL championship series. Tyler won two WHL champions with the Rockets in 2003 and 2005. Chiefs forward Drayson Bowman is the brother of Rockets defenseman Collin Bowman.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Long Left Off Invite List

It appears Colin Long won't be picking up any hardware at Wednesday's WHL awards banquet. The reason? He hasn't even been invited. The Western Conference nominee for Sportsmanlike Player of the Year will have to look forward to June's NHL draft, where he will most certainly be selected.
Tyler Ennis is the Eastern Conference nominee for the Sportsmanlike Player of the Year. If I was a betting man, Ennis got his invite in the mail.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Going High Tech

  • We are going high tech next season on Rockets broadcasts on AM 1150. That's right the can attached to a string is out and we are getting with the times. Starting next season away games will sound as crystal clear as Rockets home games. Astral Media has purchased a piece of equipment that will make all games sound 'studio quality'. It's not necessarily new technology, as I understand it's been available for 5 years now. But you are talking to an old school broadcaster who still to this day uses a hand held mic, not a headset with a mic attached to it like you see today's broadcasters using, so this new/old technology is something I have had to come to grips with. Now if I can only break the habit of using my manual typewriter in the newsroom!!
  • The WHL awards will be handed out Wednesday in Calgary, and it will be interesting to see if Colin Long attends. The Kelowna Rockets forward is the Western Conference nominee for Sportsmanlike Player of the Year. If he doesn't attend, that tells me one thing. He isn't the winner.
  • It looks like Brady Leavold is sidelined with an injury. The former Kelowna Rocket is on the Victoria Salmon Kings injury reserve list. No word on the extent of his injury though.
  • I got off the plane Friday only to hear on my voicemail that Jeff Truitt called. The former Rockets head coach left a message hoping to catch up with me now that his and my hockey season is over. Truitt was an assistant coach with the Springfield Falcons of the AHL this past season. Truitt and his wife Shauna will be spending the summer down in Springfield, meaning a trip to the Okanagan to see friends won't be in the cards for the personable Truitt.
  • The 2008 NHL draft is starting to intrigue me. With so many Kelowna Rockets expected to hear their names called that weekend, maybe it's worth considering a trip out East to take in the day first hand. It's almost a give both Luke Schenn and Tyler Myers will be selected in the opening round, plus Brandon McMillan and Colin Long will surely hear their names called. Even defenseman Riley McIntosh may be a late pick as teams take a chance on a player who saw limited ice time on the back end this past season. I know fellow broadcaster Jon Keen will be there. Keen and I attended the draft representing the Swift Current Broncos when it was held in Calgary back in 1999.
  • I will be watching for one thing in the WHL final. No it's not who out coaches who, or who takes advantage of the other teams mistakes. It will be interesting to see what type of atmosphere is created inside the Lethbridge Enmax Centre. Traditionally it's been an extremely dull building with little to no atmosphere. That obviously should change when games three and four are played in that building against either Spokane or Tri City.
  • The season the Hurricanes won the WHL title - 1997 - they beat the Seattle Thunderbirds, the Western Conference representative.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

My 25 Hundred Dollar Tan

  • Even us lazy radio broadcasters need a little r and r every once in a while. For me and my wife that meant a nice 7 day trip to the Dominican Republic. If their is someone who deserved this vacation, it was my wife Diana. She is a pillar of strength over the hockey season taking care of her hockey husband and twin boys. To say it was a well spent 25 hundred bucks would be an understatement.
  • Some quick thoughts on what I experienced down in the Dominican. 1) Topless sunbathing was the norm down there, with the french speaking set - pardon the pun on the 'set' - leading the way. I was almost tempted at buying a speedo, as I was the odd man out on the beach with my shorts that were cut off just above the knees. Even the old farts - those over 60 - had their family jewels dangling and on display for all to see in those tight speedo's. 2) While I sampled the local drinking hole, I don't understand why people go on a vacation and get all liquored up? Why do you want to spend 25 hundred bucks drinking your face off for one night, only to spend the next three days in your hotel room trying to shake if off? If you want to get hammered, save the 25 hundred bucks and get liquored in your backyard. It's waaaaaaaaaaaay cheaper. 3) Use suntan lotion. I saw more red faced Canadians that threw caution to the wind on day one, and hid behind a big hat for the next 5 days. The sun will eat you up out there if you don't use any SPF. 4) I don't mind giving tips, but when it's a setup for making tips by the locals, I get my back up. The bus driver told us to stay inside the vehicle until all of our luggage was sorted and placed on the sidewalk for pickup. But as they were sorting out our luggage, I noticed sever 'locals' quickly heading for our bags with an aggressive attempt to wheel them to the check-in counter. As I got off the bus, I quickly grabbed the luggage and told them I could handle it myself. Let see. My luggage - all two pieces of it - have wheels, which makes it easy for me and my wife to transport it on our own. I don't need the help from a greedy Dominican looking for a handout to get my bags to the counter. Do I sound bitter? I am! For the most part the people down there in the service industry did a fantastic job, and I tipped them accordingly. But when it's a set up as a tipping opportunity, you will have to wrestle me to the ground to get your hands on my money.
  • While I was away I came back to discover that Ed Chynoweth past away. I knew that Chynoweth was in poor health, but hearing the news that he had passed away still saddens me. I put myself in the shoes of Dean and Jeff Chynoweth. Both WHL GM's are relatively close to my age (40), and both lost a father and friend with their dads passing. I fortunately have not experienced that same loss, but will obviously cross a similar path eventually. My heart goes out to those two gentleman who I have a great amount of respect for. Death is never easy, and losing a loved one is painful even if you saw the writing on the wall.
  • Tyler Myers is ahead of Luke Schenn as the top WHL prospect eligible for the upcoming NHL draft. Good for him. It will be a hard choice on draft day for NHL teams to decide who should be selected higher, Myers or Schenn. While Schenn is the more complete player now, scouts always referred to Myers as the type of player who will develop into a better pro down the road. I don't think teams will be disappointed on who they pick on draft day. I will be watching TSN closely on draft day to see who is picked first in the opening round.
  • Four Rockets are taking part in the NHL draft combine this summer. Myers and Schenn will be joined by Brandon McMillan and Colin Long. It's an exciting time for all four players, now go out and show the scouts that you are worthy of being selected on draft day.
  • Congrats to Myers and McMillan for winning gold for Canada at the Under 18's. Now that's a great way to end your hockey season. It's been a long season for those two, who also played at the CHL Top Prospects Game, but having a gold medal in your trophy case has to be pretty sweet.
  • Lethbridge is in the WHL final. Wow. I knew they had a pretty good team, but I would have never picked them to come out of the East. I saw the Hurricanes twice this season, and both times their skill and speed were on display. You have to feel good for Mike Dyck, who has never received the credit he deserves for turning that team around. As an outsider, the Hurricanes were a mess a couple of years ago. Now they are four wins away from a trip to the Memorial Cup for the first time since Bryan Maxwell guided them to the big dance in 1997.
  • Dean Brown. I caught a playoff game with Brown calling the play-by-play on CBC before I left for vacation. I have heard him before (he calls the play-by-play for the Ottawa Senators during the regular season) and I really liked what I heard. I loved his delivery, and I think he's a great addition to Hockey Night in Canada. Now I'd like to hear more of him.
  • My twins boys are into hockey cards. I decided to take out some of my old cards and show them my collection. I noticed one card that showed the top five shutout leaders from the 1978-88 NHL season. Montreal's Ken Dryden had five shutouts to lead the way. Tony Esposito, Mike Palmateer, Mario Lessard and Bernie Parent were next on the list with just two. Henrik Lindqvist of the Rangers had 10 shutouts this season alone.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Things That Make Me Go Hmm...

  • I will admit I watched little of Shaw's playoff coverage last season, but the series they covered between Swift Current and Calgary this post season caught my eye. I was impressed with the play of both teams, especially the pace in overtime of game three. How nice would it be to see every team in the WHL play with the same type of skill level and speed that Swift Current played with?
  • I was especially pleased to see the Broncos force a game six back Swift Current. Why? Gate revenue. While the Broncos didn't have exactly a long playoff run, the extra gate revenue, thanks to home playoff dates, will help the bottom line of the community run hockey club.
  • Back to Shaw's coverage. They did a great job of covering this series. I had to chuckle when Dan Russell and Bill Wilms were shown calling the play-by-play from one of those small cubical broadcast booths on the North end. Not only was it tight quarters, but the Shaw broadcast crew was given the worst booth, as the two were stationed at essentially the blue line. It didn't appear to bother the two of them, as Russell and Wilms did a great job of broadcasting a series where they are trying to preach the virtues of both teams. Now that the Broncos have been eliminated, I won't be watching as intently, but good on Shaw for broadcasting any of the four remaining teams in the chase for the WHL title.
  • Brady Leavold is having success in his short stint with the Victoria Salmon Kings. Leavold not only scored two goals in three regular season games with the Salmon Kings, but earned his first pro playoff assist in a 4-3 win Saturday night over the Bakerfield Condors. Leavold earned the assist against former Rockets alumni Chris Di Ubaldo.
  • Former Rockets teammates Josh Gorges and Chuck Kobasew were expected to meet in round one of the NHL playoffs as the Montreal Canadiens battled the Boston Bruins. But Kobasew isn't playing. Chucky is out 4 to 8 weeks after breaking his shin bone late in the season after he was struck by a puck from Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara. Kobasew had a great season with the Bruins scoring a career high 22 goals.
  • Congrats to Rockets alumni Troy Bodie for being named the Springfield Falcons Community Service Award winner Saturday night. Bodie had 15 points in 61 AHL games this season with the Falcons, who's assistant coach is former Rockets bench boss Jeff Truitt.
  • I thought it was interesting to see Blake Comeau back in the American Hockey League with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers after spending the majority of the season with the NHL's New York Islanders. Comeau joined the Pirates on April 4th, but even his heroics couldn't help the AHL team make the playoffs.
  • Former Rocket Tyler Mosienko had a brief tryout with the Tigers this season. Mosienko played 7 games with the Islanders AHL affiliate, scoring 2 goals and adding an assist. Unfortunately the day that Comeau re-joined the Tigers, Mosienko was released from his player tryout a day later.
  • Rob Vanstone has been busy. The Regina Leader-Post sports writer did a bang up job in a five part series on the WHL. You can find it on the Leader-Post website.
  • I laughed when I saw the comments from Regina Pats GM Brent Parker over the talk of a new arena for Moose Jaw. "If they are too stupid to get a new rink built, the deserve what they get.", Parker told Rob Vanstone. I love it. We think it, but Parker isn't scared to say it. He may not win many fans over in Moose Jaw, but I can't help but admire the outspoken character.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Westy Moving Up!

The Kelowna Rockets are pleased to announce that 21 year old, Kristofer Westblom has been called up by the Pittsburgh Penguins American Hockey League affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins for the rest of the 2008 season.
Rockets President/General Manager Bruce Hamilton states, "Kris has been a large part of our organization for the past four seasons and we are very happy for him and this opportunity. We hope this will open doors for his future."

Westblom finished his WHL career with 129 regular season games played and a record of 67-47-5-3.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Reflecting on the Rockets

  • Losing out in the playoffs never leaves a good feeling in your belly, but actually participating in them, not having that sinking feeling of missing the playoffs like one year ago, was a real treat. It's only when something is taken away, do you realize how much you enjoy it. Missing the playoffs last season after such a successful run made you cherish every moment of this years post season, win or lose.
  • Did we really know what we were getting when Jamie Benn and Brady Leavold came to the Rockets in early October? We had heard Benn could score, but that was at the BCHL level. To see him score with regularity at the WHL level was truly impressive. Looking back, it amazes me that Benn didn't play major junior at 17. Whether it was a confidence issue or simply wanting to stay closer to home for another season, Benn's success at the WHL level shows that he is indeed an elite goal scorer.
  • Brady Leavold was expected to bring grit and sand paper to the Rockets lineup, but at times he was as smooth as silk with his offensive flair. You have to give the coaching staff credit for allowing Leavold to explore the skilled side of his game, something that was lost during his time in Swift Current. Whether it was an attitude change, or a role change, or a combination of the two, Leavold couldn't have done more for the Rockets as an overage forward. An overage player needs to be an impact guy. Leavold fit the bill. I always wonder what would have happened to Leavold had he accepted a trade to Everett a few years back. Brady Leavold and Kyle Beach on the same team. Wow, would that be a tough group to play against. I enjoyed Brady during his time in a Rockets uniform, and he will always be regarded as one of the best interviews in my time in K-Town. I hope he returns for the Rockets alumni weekend.
  • Who's next years captain? Is Luke Schenn the automatic choice? If the players have any say he will be. That said, will being the captain take away from his overall play? We don't want that to happen. If Schenn wasn't given the 'C', it wouldn't be like a slap in the face to the sure fire NHL'er. Remember Shea Weber was never a captain in Kelowna, but wore an 'A' with pride. Schenn will be the anchor on the blueline next season, does he need to be burdened by being the team leader as well?
  • Does Schenn return next season? He will be a high draft pick no doubt, and will get a long look by the team that is fortunate to draft him. That said, the Saskatoon resident will be back next year. I would bank on it. What NHL team wants to throw a prospect into the fire at such a young age? Sure Patrick Kane made the jump, but I just can't see Schenn being hurried into duty at the pro level. The Rockets will have a very good team next season, and the team that drafts him would love nothing more than to see him mature with another trip to the World Juniors and a long playoff run.
  • Coach Huska's first season behind the bench was an interesting one. Huska took over the reins from Jeff Truitt and did a tremendous job. I always wondering how tough the transition is from being an assistant to being the head man, but Huska handled it well. I really believe the players responded to Huska, and now with a year under his belt, Huska can fine tune his game and how he must motivate the players to greater things next season. Huska will have a talented group to work with in 2008-2009, but it's up to the coach to get the most out of that talented group.
  • Torrie Jung may wish the summer was over and the 2008-2009 season was already upon us. Jung will be given every chance to assume the #1 goaltending duties with the departure of Kristofer Westblom. Jung will be challenged by rookie Dylan Tait, but if he should falter, I wouldn't be surprised if GM Bruce Hamilton looks at making a trade for an established goaltender. Rockets management won't be as patient with their goaltenders as they were this season.
  • Much like last season, this year was one of patience for GM Bruce Hamilton. Look for him to be a little more trigger happy in 08/09. The majority of this team will be 19, and in junior hockey that is usually the uphill cycle. In simple terms, it's time to win.
  • Who will have a big seasons next year? The Long's, Benn's and Schenn's will garner all of the headlines, but look for Evan Bloodoff to emerge as a solid offensive player. I thought Evan was very good in the first few games of the playoffs, before tailing off in the final two. The younger brother of Lucas, Evan has the ability to out-skate opposition d-men, and with maturity and strength, look for Evan Bloodoff to turn some heads in his 18 year-old season. A younger Dana Tyrell maybe? Look for Collin Bowman to also emerge as a top four d-man.
  • Tyler Myers being named to the Under-18 team is a clear indication Hockey Canada has plans for him earning a possible roster spot at the World Juniors down the road. Now with dual citizenship, Myers won't shut the door on playing for the U.S, but clearly his inclusion into Hockey Canada's Under-18 program has him waving the flag of the red and white with the maple leaf in the middle, before donning the colours of the red-white and blue.
  • The longer I am in this league, the more I appreciate opposition coaches. I spoke about my relationship with Seattle's Rob Sumner. I genuinely like him. Brandon's Kelly McCrimmon is a straight up guy. In an exchanging of e-mails this season I got a better appreciation for him. The Giants Don Hay is always a class act, and I leave an interview with him with more knowledge then before the mic was thrown in his face. To sit on the bus with him and pick his brain every day would be fun. Giants broadcaster Joey Kenward has that privilege 24/7. Say what you want about Cougars GM Dallas Thompson, but he's been nothing but excellent with me. I applaud his efforts in getting a number one bantam pick for Ty Wishart, when I believed it couldn't be done. Tri City head skipper Don Nachbaur is all class. The coach of the year, in my opinion, has always treated me well. You often get a better sense of these coaches when you see them outside of just the position as coach. Seeing Nachbaur strolling across the ice with I am assuming was his two sons hand-in-hand after a Tri City win, tells you that these men behind the bench are not just good coaches, but good dad's.
  • One individual who I appreciated in the first half of the season was color analyst David Michaud. Now in Prince George as the Cougars marketing guru, Michaud made a commitment to me and our radio broadcasts on AM 1150 that I am sure I will never witness again. Because of a fall out with the radio station (no not me), I lost a valued partner on the air-waves. Publicly I want to thank David for his friendship, commitment and professionalism along the way. I wish him all the successes in his time in Cougar Country, but remember David when the Rockets face the Cougars next season, you are the hated enemy.
  • The conclusion of the Rockets season also means a slow down of the postings on this blog. I may post once a week,or more, all depending if I have some interesting to pass along. What you won't see over the next couple of months is a posting every day. In the off season I simply don't have enough interesting things to share. Once again thanks to those who read this blog regularly, and the positive comments are much appreciated.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Things That Make Me Go Hmm...

  • It's been reported that former Kelowna Rockets head coach Marc Habscheid will only entertain a coaching offer at the WHL level if ownership or GM/Coach duties are part of the equation. I don't want to speak for Habscheid, who I chat with occasionally over the hockey season, but it's just not accurate that those conditions must be met before he'd move back behind the bench of a WHL team. If the situation is right for Habscheid and his family, my sense is he would entertain all offers at the junior level.
  • Congrats to Brandon McMillan and Tyler Myers for being selected to the Canadian Under-18 team. The two players are coming off a solid performance in the playoffs, and now their season continues for a couple of more weeks.
  • What does the future hold for Kristofer Westblom? The Kelowna Rockets goaltender may entertain a pro offer in the East Coast League, but would he not want to take advantage of his scholarship money after five seasons in the WHL? Many quality goaltenders have elected to play Canadian College hockey rather than follow a pipe dream of getting a shot at the NHL level. Look no further than former Rockets netminder Derek Yeomans (U of New Brunswick) and former Everett Silvertip Jeff Harvey (U of S). It will also be interesting to follow the hockey career of James McEwan. Does he attempt to battle it out at the pro level next season or does he also take advantage of the scholarship money he has in front of him?
  • The Kelowna Rockets exit meetings took place Wednesday and Thursday. It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall when the coaching staff met with 19 year-olds Myles MacRae, Colin Joe and Tysen Dowzak. My belief is one of the three will not be wearing Rockets colours at this time next season. All three will be battling for an overage spot next year, and if one is moved in a trade this summer, I wouldn't be surprised.
  • If you thought Jamie Benn was a threat this season, just wait until next year. A summer of intense training will make Benn play at an even higher level than he demonstrated in his 18 year-old rookie season. Benn relied mainly on pure skill to get him by this season. With some added muscle thanks to the work of Rockets Athletic Therapist Jeff Thorburn, Benn will be a force in his 19 year-old season. Benn will be better off for it as will the Rockets and the team that drafted him, the Dallas Stars.
  • With the Rockets recent mechanical problems with it's bus, could a new form of transportation be in the works? Majority owner Bruce Hamilton has hinted at a new bus for the team next season.
  • How about a new scoreboard in place at Prospera Place for the start of next season? I spoke to RG Properties Dave Dakers about it in the playoffs, and he laughed it off. But Dakers gets the idea that the current scoreboard is bush league, and an upgrade is needed. The Rockets organization is willing to chip in for the cost of a new one, now it's up to RG Properties to dig into those deep pockets and come forward with some cash to put a smile on the face of it's greatest tenant.
  • I didn't have the chance to see a Mariners game down in Seattle during the Rockets/T-Birds playoff series, but I had the pleasure of getting a shoe-shine. I was a shoe-shine virgin until I was persuaded to go downtown to get them buffed up. It was the best $2.50 I've ever spent.
  • Seattle is a beautiful city. It's too big for this prairie boy, but man is it a great place to visit.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Power Play To Blame In Playoff Elimination

  • The Kelowna Rockets can only blame their power play – or lack thereof - for their demise in game seven. The Rockets were given eight power play chances on the night, but were unable to convert. Those power play chances included a 5 on 3 in the second period when the score was 3-1 Seattle, but they generated just a single shot on goal. Even a full 4 minute man advantage in the third period saw the Rockets generate few if any scoring chances. How bad was the power play? The game winning goal was scored shorthanded. The Rockets gave up two shorthanded goals in the series, one to Greg Scott, the other to Lindsay Nielson in game seven.
  • What makes the game seven loss so disheartening was the fact that few Rockets showed up in this one. Luke Schenn was by far the best Rocket, and did everything in his power to generate some type of offense from the back end. Schenn had in the neighborhood of five shots on goal, a large sum for a player who is considered as a defensive defenseman.
  • If NHL scouts had questions about Luke Schenn, all were answered in this series. Schenn logged a ton of ice time and appeared to get better as playoffs went on. I knew Schenn was good, but I was even at awe over his play, and I watched him 64 times this season.
  • Neither team had their ‘A’ game in this one. My belief is the Rockets struggled so much to find their game that the T-Birds only had to be marginally better. Seattle managed just 19 shots on goal, which tells you they were opportunistic, but they didn’t create an abundance of scoring chances. In some respects how could the T-Birds create any offense when they were penalized as many times as they were?
  • Brady Leavold’s strong play this season and in the playoffs has him heading immediately to pro hockey. Leavold has been called up by the East Coast Hockey League’s Victoria Salmon Kings. Leavold left for Victoria immediately after last night’s game with his father Brian rather than return to Kelowna with the team. Leavold scored a team high 6 goals in the playoffs.
  • Leavold scored 33 goals for the Rockets in his overage season. Leavold had 27 goals during the regular season and 6 in the playoffs.
  • T-Birds Bud Holloway is a class act. The Courier’s Doyle Potenteau and I arrive at the KeyArena two hours ahead of time and Holloway is driving shot-gun with Sena Acolatse behind the wheel. Holloway doesn’t just blow by us with an ‘I’m too cool for school’ attitude. Holloway instead has a friendly wave for us as he drives by. It’s a small gesture that doesn’t go unnoticed.
  • You either build greater relationships with the opposition coach or your disdain for one another grows in a seven game series. I have a greater appreciation for T-Birds head skipper Rob Sumner after this one. Sumner was extremely accessible in the series and was a pleasure to visit with. Sumner and I spoke off the record many times during the series, and that honest and open approach from both sides only builds relationships. While I look through Kelowna Rockets glasses that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the opposition coaches take on the game and the strengths of his hockey club.
  • How wacky was this series? The road team won the first four games before the home team won the final three games.
  • The Rockets out-shot the T-Birds in the third period in all seven games.
  • The loss brought to the end the junior careers of 20 year-olds Brady Leavold. James McEwan and Kristofer Westblom. I will share my thoughts on those three players in a later post.
  • Sure the Rockets were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, but this seven game series was invaluable for the second youngest team in the WHL. This team learned what it takes to open a playoff series on the road, win on the road, lose an overtime playoff game, win an overtime playoff game and play in a game seven. Next year this team has no excuses in the playoffs. Been there done that.
  • Look for two Rockets to be named to the Canadian Under-18 team today.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Adversity Before Game 7

  • Nothing has come easy for the Kelowna Rockets in their opening round playoff series with the Seattle Thunderbirds. Poor officiating, less than stellar goaltending, and now a bus mishap has gotten in the Rockets way. Yet the adversity hasn't sent the Rockets reeling, it's made them stronger and more determined. The Rockets bus suffered an oil pressure problem yesterday just 10 minutes after crossing the U.S border. The team bus was out of commission, so a second bus was found to pick up the team and it's gear from the side of the road. Two hours later the Rockets arrived in Seattle for a good night's sleep before game seven.
  • The Rockets have a quiet confidence about them heading into game seven tonight. After playing great in game six, in a game that should have never have gone into overtime, the Rockets will need to throw out their best against a Seattle team that believes they have yet to play at their peak. Game seven tonight should be nothing short of outstanding, with a nail biter for the full 60 minutes. I anticipate a low scoring game. If it's low scoring, I like the Rockets chances. If it's high scoring, the T-Birds look to benefit.
  • You would think several members of the Tri City American brass will be in attendance at the KeyArena tonight to watch these two teams battle it out. Americans GM Bob Tory took in game three in Kelowna, and will likely take in tonight's game as his team plays the winner of this series. If Tory has his way, tonight's game will go into quadruple overtime. The Americans have to be as pleased as punch to see these two teams killing each other in the only series in the first round going the distance.
  • The worst mistake the Rockets can make is play overly cautious against the T-Birds. Respect their speed no question, but dictating the play is pivotal in winning this one game showdown.
  • It was just another day at the U.S Border crossing for the Daily Courier's Doyle Potenteau and yours truly. For the second time in this series we were asked to get out of our vehicle and answer a series of questions inside the border crossing compound. The key concern is not our criminal records - that's a joke - but the fact we are working in the U.S. Explaining to these power hungry border patrol officers what we are doing and how we are not stealing a job away from a poor American is their greatest concern.  After spending 45 minutes answering a series of questions including how much Canadian currency I had in my wallet, we were allowed to cross. My general feeling is we need a working visa. Funny thing is if the Rockets advance to the next round and we use a different border crossing to get to Kennewick, this so called work visa won't even be required.