Friday, June 27, 2008

Things That Make Me Go Hmm...

  • What would it be like to be the son of Len Barrie? Kelowna Rockets defenseman Tyson Barrie can answer that question. Your dad is a co-owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning and owns a huge development near Victoria. To say your dad is high profile would be an understatement. The question I want to know is would Len Barrie draft his son?
  • And then their was one. Overage defenseman Tysen Dowzak is not only the remaining 20 year-old on the Rockets roster, but the final player from the 2004 WHL bantam draft.
  • Colin Joe's departure leaves a significant hole in the Rockets dressing room. Joe was the team comic, and would often leave his teammates in stitches as he impersonated an Asian tour guide. Joe, who's dad is of Asian decent, loved to poke fun at himself and others. His outgoing personality will be missed.
  • I haven't spoken to him, but I find it interesting that 17 year-old Stepan Novotny has decided to join the Rockets despite signing a letter of intent to play with the University of Denver in 2009. Novotny, who won't turn 18 officially until September, obviously see's the benefits of playing major junior and taking the fast track to the NHL.
  • You shouldn't notice a language barrier when Novotny puts on a Rockets uniform. He's spent the last two seasons taking high school at Shattuck St. Mary's prep school in Minnesota, so his handle of the English language should be strong.
  • Rockets veteran defenseman Tysen Dowzak and Novotny should have something in common. Dowzak also attended Shattuck St. Mary's.
  • Below you will find a picture of Jared and Tyler Spurgeon. The brothers have not only won a WHL title and Memorial Cup, but both have now been drafted by an NHL team.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

C-Joe Sent To Saskatoon

Colin Joe and Milan Kytnar have been traded to the Saskatoon Blades for the Blades 5th round pick in todays CHL European draft and a 5th round pick in the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft.
The Rockets used that European pick today by selecting 18 year-old Stepan Novotny from the Czech Republic. Novotny will attend training camp this fall after playing with the Indiana Ice of the USHL last season.
Colin Joe played 248 games with the Rockets, breaking in with the team as a 16 year-old during the 2004-2005 season.
I spoke to C-Joe about getting a call from Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton this morning.
"I don't usually hear from him during the summer so, I knew something was up", Joe told me from his home in Edmonton." The trade was a little bit shocking, but as a twenty year-old you expect these things, but it was still a bit of a stinger", Joe added.
It's interesting to note that the Rockets have traded all three-16 year-olds from that 2004 team. Joe and Craig Cuthbert were sent to Saskatoon while Kirt Hill was dealt to the Regina Pats.
The Rockets now have just one overage player on their roster - defenseman Tysen Dowzak.

With the Rockets second selection in the 2008 European draft the hockey club selected 16 year-old Czech Lukas Matejka.
The Rockets picked up Matejka after getting the pick from Spokane for a seventh round pick in the 2009 Bantam Draft.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Saying Goodbye To The Man I Know As 'Mosh'

I was saddened to hear of the passing of NHL scout Doug Mosher. Mosher died of cancer on Monday. I have nothing but fond memories of my time with Mosher in my first year as the play-by-play voice of the Swift Current Broncos. Mosher was the GM of the Broncos at the time, and often traveled with the team. The seating arrangement in the bus had Mosher and I sitting together. We were both able to enjoy two seats in the bus, but they were facing each other. So whether I was in the mood or not, Mosher and I had numerous talks on trips to far away places like Moose Jaw and Saskatoon. I remember Mosher always taking off his shoes, planting them on the seat beside me and wiggling his toes in the air with glee, like he had the best seat in the house. Something tells me he did, as he loved the game of hockey and cherished his role as the GM. I recall Mosher being more upset after a win than a loss, and was often critical of players who didn't pull their weight during a lopsided victory. Yet the majority of the time that I knew 'Mosh', he always had a smile on his face. He would often rib me about the funny shoes or tie I was wearing, and loved to deliver jokes and laugh along. That's the Doug Mosher I knew as I was cutting my teeth as a WHL broadcaster. Mosher would eventually become the GM of the Medicine Hat Tigers before taking a scouting job with the Minnesota Wild. When I moved to Kelowna to join the Rockets in 2000, Mosher would always show up at the rink in Medicine Hat to make small talk with me and have a chat with then Rockets head coaches Marc Habscheid and Jeff Truitt. He loved to talk hockey, and even in his ailing years he was always found with the scouts at the Medicine Hat Arena no less than an hour and a half before game time. He was a fun loving guy who couldn't get enough of hanging out at the rink. I think the best story I can remember about Mosher was when he scouted with the Broncos in 1993. The Broncos were WHL champions that season and Mosher provided color commentary for Broncos radio man Eldon Moberg at the Memorial Cup. Mosher, during a stoppage of play, commented that it was nice to see the Broncos executives at the Memorial Cup watching from the stands with their arms firmly wrapped around their wives. Mosher was fully aware that the Broncos executives had left their wives at home back in Swift Current, yet wanted nothing more than to get a rise out of them as they listened to the broadcast on the radio. Mission accomplished. It was classic Doug Mosher. I will admit that when the Kelowna Rockets bus arrives at the Medicine Hat Arena this season and I enter the scouts room to pick up my press notes and pizza, one thing will be missing. It will be that quick wit and smile on the face, that only Doug Mosher could deliver.

Mosher was 71. His funeral is Thursday in Maple Creek Saskatchewan.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tyson Barrie's Dad In Spotlight

Have you ever seen this guy at a Kelowna Rockets game?
Bet you have!
That's Len Barrie, the father of Kelowna Rockets defenseman Tyson Barrie. Len Barrie and Oren Koules are part of an 8 man ownership group that has purchased the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning.
Barrie is expected to be named the Tampa Bay Lightning's new President. The two will be on hand Tuesday when the Lightning introduce Barry Melrose as the team's new head coach.
It's always been a dream of Len Barrie's to own an NHL team, and he got his wish last week when league governors approved the sale.
I've had the privilege of eating at one of Len's restaurant's in Vancouver, the Players Chop house Bar and Lounge. The entire Rockets team, players, coaches and radio guy were treated for a fine meal at Len's establishment last season. The food was unreal. I will admit at the time I didn't think I was dining with a future NHL owner.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Long's Belated Birthday Gift from Gretzky

  • Colin Long has always credited Wayne Gretzky for being a huge influence in getting him interested in the game of hockey. Now the Kelowna Rockets leading scorer from last season is playing for the Great One. Long was selected in the 4th round of the NHL draft Saturday by the Phoenix Coyotes, a team that Gretzky coaches. It was Gretzky, as a member of the LA Kings, that caught the attention of the California born Long, who decided to throw away his surf board and pick up a hockey stick.

  • Isn't it interesting that Long was taken 99th overall in the draft. Gretzky made the number famous over his time in the NHL.

  • Call it a late birthday present for Long. Long celebrated his 19th birthday June 19th...two days later the Coyotes picked him in the draft.

  • So many comparisons were made this season when Long and Chilliwack's Mark Santorelli were battling for the WHL scoring title. Santorelli was never drafted at 17, yet the Nashville Predators plucked him a year later as an 18 year-old. The same holds true for Long, who saw last years draft go by with little fan fare. Oddly enough both Long and Santorelli were picked in the 4th round. Long has the bragging rights of being selected 99th overall, 20 spots better than Santorelli, who was selected 119th overall in 2007.

  • Brandon McMillan is now a Anaheim Duck. McMillan was selected in the 3rd round, joining former Rockets power forward Travis Moen, who has a Stanley Cup to his credit with that franchise.

  • Four Rockets were selected in the 2008 NHL draft. That matches the total set by the team in 2004 when Justin Keller, Mike Card, Tyler Spurgeon and Blake Comeau were taken. A total of seven players from the Rockets were picked in 1997, including Scott Hannan, who was nabbed by San Jose in the first round that year. Kris Mallette, Quinton Laing, Karal Betik, Todd Federuk, Justin Jack and Brett McLean were all taken by an NHL team. Hannan, McLean and Federuk are still earning NHL cash.

  • I was thinking of transcribing some quotes from the Rockets top two picks in the NHL draft, but lets face it they are splattered everywhere for your eyes to see on the Internet. Both Luke Schenn and Tyler Myers were given the attention they deserve from the media, so any quotes that would appear on this blog would be nothing new.
  • Just in case you missed it, Jared Spurgeon, the younger brother of former Rockets captain Tyler Spurgeon was picked in the 6th round by the Islanders.

  • I want to especially thank Jon Keen for his great work at the NHL draft. I asked the Swift Current Broncos radio voice to provide me with some interviews from the NHL brass that selected Schenn and Myers, and Keen went far beyond the call of duty to provide me with what I needed. It was almost as good as being there. Thanks are a good man.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Schenn/Myers/Beach - Congrats!

Luke Schenn is now a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Kelowna Rockets defenseman was picked 5th overall, becoming the highest selected Rockets player ever at the NHL draft. Kyle McLaren held the honor after being selected 9th overall by Boston in 1995. Schenn also becomes the first Rockets player ever to be drafted by the Leafs.

Kyle Beach is the newest member of the Chicago Black Hawks. Beach was the first WHL forward selected in the opening round of the draft, and will eventually become well acquainted with former Kelowna Rockets defenseman Duncan Keith.
Tyler Myers was selected just one pick after Kyle Beach was taken by the Hawks. Myers is now a member of the Buffalo Sabres. Myers joins former Rockets defenseman Mike Card in the Sabres stable. Card was taken in the 8th round in 2004.

Schenn-sational Day for Kelowna Rockets?

  • It's anticipated to be one of the greatest days ever in Kelowna Rockets history when two players will be selected in the opening round of the NHL draft. Luke Schenn and Tyler Myers will hear their names called in round one with Colin Long and Brandon McMillan likely hearing their names called on day two of the draft. TSN thinks Schenn will go to Toronto while Myers will be drafted by Buffalo. Who was the last Rockets player to be taken in the first round? Scott Parker was picked 20th overall in 1998 while Scott Hannan was selected 23rd overall in 1997.

  • It appears Luke Schenn will make Kelowna Rockets history today. If Schenn is picked 4th or 5th, he will become the highest selected Rockets player in franchise history. Former Rocket Kyle McLaren holds that honor after being picked 9th overall in 1995 by Boston.

  • The picture above is an 8 year-old Luke Schenn. I talked with Luke before he left for Ottawa, and his interviewing skills make him sound like a pro. "I'm going to do whatever it takes to be NHL ready and give myself the best opportunity this summer. It doesn't matter which camp you go to. If it's the NHL camp, with which ever team it is or a World Junior camp, or the Kelowna Rockets camp, you have to go in there ready to compete and make the team. I think if you didn't have that mindset their would be something wrong."

  • I spoke to Everett Silvertips forward Kyle Beach by phone Thursday afternoon. Originally I left a message for him on his cell phone to call me. Fifteen minutes later he called me back. Not bad for an 18 year-old who had just spent an hour answering questions from the national media. What does that say about this kid? Enough said.

  • Beach will have his mom, dad, sister and girlfriend in his corner on draft day. The Kelowna minor hockey product will undoubtedly do us proud. This is what he told me when I asked him about some NHL scouts being leery of his bad boy reputation. "I think some things have been blow out of proportion. It's like the game you play in elementary school where you start with the word oreo and by the end of the day it comes out as cheeseburger. It's definitely interesting hearing some of the rumours out there and hearing what people come up with, but I know what's true and what's not true and hopefully people will realize that when they get to know me in the future".

  • I loved the comments from John Becanic, the head coach of the Everett Silvertips in Thursday's Province newspaper. Becanic had nothing but glowing things to say about the Kelowna resident, and said that the GM that takes him in today's draft will look like a genius. Their is no one who should know Kyle better than John Becanic. Would Becanic put his own reputation on the line by misinforming NHL scouts about what Kyle Beach is like as a player, both on and off the ice? Becanic is not that stupid!

  • Swift Current Broncos play-by-play man John Keen is my eyes and ears in Ottawa at the NHL draft. I have recruited him to provide some audio from NHL GM's that are fortunate to pick Luke Schenn and Tyler Myers in round one.

  • Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton, Director of Player Personnel Lorne Frey, Head Coach Ryan Huska and former coach Jeff Truitt will all be at the draft in Ottawa.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tips Come Draft Day

Unfortunately I am unable to make it to the NHL draft on Friday, but I will be watching with great interest as both Luke Schenn and Tyler Myers are selected in round one. Here are a few things I want to see at the NHL draft Friday night in Ottawa.

  • I want to see Luke Schenn hug his dad once his name has been called. You don't shake your dad's hand once you get drafted...come on!!! Luke's dad Jeff has been instrumental in his son's hockey career and is his greatest supporter. Give your dad a hug Luke, he deserves credit for getting you to where you are today.
  • I am looking forward to seeing Tyler Myers tower over the management of the team that drafts him in that oh-so-famous picture that happens once he reached the stage and puts on that NHL jersey. It's not your turn to look cool. If you are happier than a pig in s**t, show it with a big smile. If you feel the need to jump up and down with glee, you are given permission by me to 'act cool'.
  • I want to see Everett Silvertips forward Kyle Beach taken in the top 10. My wish will likely be granted as Beach is one of those players teams will have a hard time passing on. I'm a Beach supporter, not a critic. I won't say a bad thing about Kyle until the day he cross checks me in the back of head after we complete an interview.
  • While Schenn and Myers will be getting pictures taken with NHL brass and family and friends following the draft, I hope to see Rockets Director of Player Personnel Lorne Frey pencilled between Schenn and Myers for a photo op. Frey deserves a ton of credit for landing Schenn with the 20th overall pick in the WHL bantam draft and Myers with the 19th overall pick a year later.

These are some things I don't want to see from any of the WHL players selected in the first round with a national audience watching on TV.

  • Don't pick your nose or bite your finger nails as you wait to get drafted. It looks bad on TV as the camera's will be panning the crowd with regularity in the opening round.
  • Don't trip as you go up the stairs to meet the management of the team that just drafted you. Falling on your face is not a good idea as TSN's Bob McKenzie exclaims "He's an extremely quick footed forward and scouts like his foot speed".
  • Don't put on the sweater backwards of the team that just drafted you. Also don't spent all day trying to custom fit the team hat they give you. While you've likely spent 3 hours doing your hair the morning of the draft, just push the hat firmly on your head and hope for the best.
  • In the post draft interview don't say "It was the team I always wanted to be drafted by". If you are drafted by the worst team in the league, you were likely bad mouthing them with your buddy's last week and praying to the hockey God's they wouldn't select you.
  • Don't look disappointed if you are selected later than your were projected by NHL Central Scouting. The more disappointed you look, the more the TV camera's will want to show your mug.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Truitt's Time

Good friend Jeff Truitt was named the Springfield Falcons new head coach this morning. I spoke to Jeff about his first head coaching job at the pro level:

JT: "I'm really excited about it. Just moving up the ladder again..and to be named the head coach of the Springfield Falcons is a real feather in my cap. It's very much the same as when I got hired with the Kelowna Rockets. Their is a lot of excitement and big shoes to fill, but I'm really excited about this and very thankful for the opportunity"

RB:Did you expect this job to come your way so quickly?

JT:"It was a funny situation because Jeff Ward was the head coach here in Springfield and he wound up taking a job with the Boston Bruins as an assistant coach last fall and Kelly Buchberger was brought in. Knowing that Kelly came in a little bit late to coach here, you just never knew? For me it didn't matter who the head coach was, I just wanted to learn and contribute. As it's turned out Kelly has moved on with the Edmonton Oilers which opened up the door for me."

RB:You've had success as a head coach at the WHL level, can you continue that success at the pro level?

JT:"You wouldn't take these type of challenges without the confidence. I've done a lot of learning over the years and I think I've gotten better over the years as a coach with great teaching and cooperation from Bruce Hamilton, Lorne Frey ad Marc Habscheid. We had a real good group in Springfield last season that were willing to learn, and we anticipate a lot of those same guys returning this season."

RB: Your role changes, but how so? This gives you a chance to put your own stamp on this team?
JT: "Any body who's a head coach has to put the building blocks together on what you believe in, and as an assistant you are there in a supporting role and you listen and put your advice in as it's needed. I remember saying this in my first year in Kelowna, you need to lean on the guys around you, but you have to ultimately make those decisions, and sink and swim through those decisions, and live with those mistakes."

Truitt will be busy over the next few weeks looking at resumes to fill out his coaching staff. Having the luxury of attending the NHL draft in Ottawa, Truitt will likely do some interviewing of candidates at that time.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Speaking To Hamilton in Cowtown

  • I caught up with Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton in Calgary as he prepares for league meetings Tuesday and Wednesday. The sale of the Edmonton Oilers and how that will affect the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings will be discussed as well as the financial status of the Portland Winter Hawks. Following the league meetings Hamilton is off to the NHL draft in Ottawa.
  • Hamilton says Jeff Truitt was a key reason why Rockets defenseman Luke Schenn and Tyler Myers will likely hear their names called Friday in the first round of the NHL draft. Truitt, a defenseman by trade as a player, has been credited with helping the playing careers of Shea Weber and Josh Gorges.
  • I had to ask Hamilton about the rumor that Jeff Truitt will be named the new head coach of the Springfield Falcons Tuesday. Hamilton is pleased Truitt will be given the opportunity after serving as an assistant coach to the Edmonton Oilers minor league affiliate last season. The Falcons have a press conference set for tomorrow where Truitt is expected to be named to the post. Considering he was golfing with Oilers VP of Hockey Operations Kevin Prendergast this afternoon has me banking on Truitt being named the Falcons head skipper.
  • The Kelowna Rockets can still use the excuse of having bus legs, but they will be driving in style this season. Hamilton admits the team will be taking delivery of a new bus in August. Hamilton says the existing team bus is just two years old, and they shouldn't have any problems selling it to a tour company. The new rig is expected have better seating, enabling players to recline for better sleep during overnight trips.
  • Congrats to Colin Long for being invited to the 2008 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. August 1-9. Long is one of six WHL players named to the camp. This years World Juniors are in Ottawa.
  • Marc Habscheid is a class act. Habscheid gave me a call the other day concerned about the well-being of my mom. Habscheid has often spoken about the relationships that he has built with players over the years, and how they are as important to him as championships. The call I received two weekends ago just punctuates the point.
  • I want to publicly congratulate Todd McLellan for a) Winning the holy grail of hockey b) Being named the head coach in San Jose. It's great to see a new face getting a chance at a head coaching job at the NHL level considering the norm where coaches at the elite level are often times recycled. Todd you deserve it!
  • Hope you enjoy the new look of the blog. It was time for a color change.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Non Hockey Related, But Life Changing

We take it for granted don't we?
I did until last Friday when I was told by a doctor that my mom has a brain tumour. The news hit me like a ton of bricks. I was sick inside, and sadden at the possibility of losing not only my mom, but my friend. Up until last Friday, I can honestly say that my immediate family has never faced a sever illness, and while extended family and friends have faced hardships, those struggles seemed so distant.
Now, with my mom diagnosed with a brain tumour, life has become so fragile.
I know that fellow blogger Ryan Switzer lost his mom at a young age, and I can't even fathom the loss he must have experienced then, and how much he misses her today.
My brother-in-law lost his dad when he was 20, and still tears up when he speaks about a father he wish he had gotten to know better.
And while my mom is nearing 70 and we've had so many good times together, it pains me to see her suffer. When a loved one is struggling through illness their is nothing more helpless than simply being there for support and letting the doctors do their best to help her through this battle.
I spoke to Shea Weber's mom this week about her battle with a brain tumour. She told me it's now been five years since she was first diagnosed, and she is nothing short of a fighter. What amazes me now is Shea was able to concentrate on hockey during a time when his mom was fighting for her life.
That said, in the past when I heard of other people going through health struggles, I sympathized with them, but only to a certain degree. It didn't affect me directly, so the problem seemed so distant. It's only now, that I face a similar situation, that my heart has grow heavy for what others and their family member may be going through.
Let's just say this experience has made me more compassionate for my fellow man.
What I've been most encouraged by during this tough time is the support of others. Friends, colleagues and even acquaintances have had such positive words for me. I can only take what I've learned from others through this gut wrenching experience and apply it to my life.
How will I respond next time I hear a story of a friend or acquaintance who has lost a loved one or has been stricken with a sever illness? Far different than a week ago. This life changing experience has likely made me a better person, and without a shadow of a doubt has made me a more compassionate person towards others.
Like she did when I was just a little kid, my mom has again taught me a valuable lesson.