Thursday, July 31, 2008

Westy Isn't Ruling Out Pro Opportunities

I spoke to Kristofer Westblom today about signing an agreement to play Canadian College hockey next season at Acadia. But that said, Westblom will only join the Axeman if he is unable to sign a contract to play pro next season.

KW: "I've committed to going to Acadia if I don't sign a NHL/American league agreement, so it's given them some assurance that I will attend their school if my pro aspirations don't turn out this year".
RB: How did you settle on Acadia?
KW: "They contacted me through the year. When I got back from playing down in the American League I went on a fly out to Nova Scotia to see the school and get to meet the coaches, so I was really impressed with the program they have there. I had quite a few schools that talked to me and I thought this was the best decision for me as far as my hockey career goes and get a further education."
RB:You anticipate being the starter with the Axeman?
KW: "For sure. That would be my wish. I think everything needs to be earned. I think I have a good opportunity to go in there and play a lot of games, but I have to prove myself and earn a spot."
RB: So despite the commitment to Acadia, you aren't ruling out pro aspirations?

KW:"I've been in contact with my agent and he's talked to a team or two, so I still have a possibility of signing a contract or at least getting a tryout. Hopefully I can get a tryout and prove myself in a camp."

  • Jesse Ferguson is a married man. The former Kelowna Rockets defenseman got hitched on the weekend. Ferguson's best man was former Rockets forward Nick Marach. One of the groomsmen was Jesse's brother Simon, also a former Kelowna Rockets alumni. Simon Ferguson makes his off-season home in Kelowna.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Things That Make Me Go Hmm....

  • The father of Rockets forward Colin Long was shaken, not stirred, when he felt the affects of an earth quake in the state of California on Tuesday. Steve Long - my hero - says he felt the quake at his home, which was about 30 miles from the quakes epicenter. The good news is no one was hurt and their was no damage to his place.
  • Colin Long is off to the US Junior Teams evaluation camp tomorrow (Thursday) in Lake Placid New York. The camp runs August 1 to 9. Long will have a chance to play against Rockets European prospect Michal Backlund during an exhibition game against Sweden. My hope is 'Longer' will rub Backlund into the boards hard for not attending training camp this fall.
  • Is it any surprise that one of the players participating at the Tampa Bay Lightning's prospects camp this week is Tyson Barrie? Barrie's dad Len is a co-owner of the team, yet he isn't technically Tampa Bay property. I guess that can be said of Brady Leavold, who is there as a free agent. You have to know that if Tyson Barrie gets overlooked in the 2009 NHL draft - which he won't - the Lightning will be there to pick him up.
  • Torrie Jung got the shutout last night in the Lightning's Prospect game in Victoria. Jung played both the first and third periods and got the goose egg. Jung has looked sharp at the camp, and credits Rockets goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh for getting him ready.
  • The Swift Current Broncos radio broadcasts will have a different sound this season as colour man Ryan Switzer moves over for Tim Tisdale. Tisdale scored the most important goal in Broncos history when he scored in overtime in the championship game at the Memorial Cup in 1989. Why was Tisdale such a successful scorer in major junior? He gained his scoring confidence from shooting on me in practice when we played pee-wee hockey with the Swift Current Kinsmen Kings. Tisdale and I won a provincial championship that season. Tisdale was scoring while I was riding the pine as a backup to Dean Walsh.
  • Switzer brought a unique flair to the radio airwaves. His dry sense of humour and quick wit made him a fan of the casual fan, but he was more than just that. In the time I heard him, he knew the game, knew the players, and was a polished broadcaster. On top of that he wore a tie in the broadcast booth, something other talking heads could take a lesson from.
  • Rob Carnie is leaving radio. The former Moose Jaw Warrior broadcaster will be missed. I often laugh now when looking back at the time I spent with him in my early years as the Broncos radio head. I remember chatting with Carnie during the intermissions, always with a cigarette in hand. He was always larger than life on the air. When the mic went on, Carnie came to life and was a real showman. I loved it. His 'hey dittle dittle, her comes Reimer up the middle" was just one of his little phrases he used over his time in the broadcast booth. Carnie's voice on Saskatchewan radio will be missed.
  • Kristofer Westblom is giving Canadian college hockey a try. The 21 year-old has signed on with the Acadia Axeman.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Thorburn Represents Canada/Leavold A Lightning?

  • The National Junior Team has wrapped up it's summer development camp. Three members of the Kelowna Rockets attended the camp, including returning gold medalist Luke Schenn. Schenn was joined by teammates Jamie Benn and Tyler Myers at the camp. Schenn is a lock to again play for Canada at the 2009 tournament in Ottawa, but Benn and Myers will be holding their breath, hoping for an invite to main camp in December. Benn had a goal and an assist in Tuesdays intersquad game.
  • One member of the Kelowna Rockets will represent Canada at this years World Juniors, and we aren't talking Luke Schenn. Rockets Athletic Therapist Jeff Thorburn has been named to the medical staff for Team Canada. Thorburn isn't the first Rockets Athletic Therapist to represent our country at the World Juniors. Scott Hoyer was with Team Canada in 2003.
  • Who replaces Thorburn when he's gone to the WJ? Constable Gary Creed, who helps Thorburn in the Rockets dressing room as a volunteer, may be pressed into duty.
  • In watching the TSN highlites the other night from the evaluation camp, I marvelled at the short summer the likes of Schenn, Benn and Myers have had. All three have had little time away from the rink, that I wonder what type of mindset they will have when the Rockets open the playoffs next March? Both Schenn and Myers have had the pressure of the draft, have attended prospect camps for the Leafs and Sabres respectively, and now are trying to put their best foot forward to earn an invite for a spot on Team Canada. Benn didn't have to go through the draft this summer like his teammates did, but he had the pressure of earning and signing an NHL deal with Dallas. I know all three love the game of hockey, but you wonder if an overdose of the game will have an adverse affect on them sometime over the course of next season? I'm not making excuses for any of them, but will they have much left at the end of the regular season to be impact players when the fun of the playoffs really starts?
  • Two members of the Kelowna Rockets are taking part in the Tampa Bay Lightning prospect camp near Victoria this week. Goaltender Torrie Jung is obviously there after being drafted by the Lightning in 2007, but the feel good story at the prospects camp has to be former Rockets forward Brady Leavold. Leavold is getting a shot at showing his stuff, with the possibility of attending training camp with the Lightning this fall.
  • It likely didn't cross Leavold's mind at the time because it wasn't a done deal, but essentially he was auditioning for Lightning co-owner Len Barrie during his short time in Kelowna. While Barrie missed few road games last season watching his son Tyson play, it also gave him the chance to appreciate the skill level and grit that Leavold brought consistently during his time in Kelowna.
  • Wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall when the Rockets players get to know each other at training camp next month and talk about what their parents do for a living. I can see a fresh faced 16 year-old rookie telling Rockets defenseman Tyson Barrie that his dad is a pig farmer in Saskatchewan, to which Barrie will respond - oh that's interesting, my dad owns the Tampa Bay Lightning.
  • How badly does Prospera Place need a lit up sign in the parking lot that tells you what is going on in the building?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Things That Make Me Go Hmm....

  • From an avid golfer as a teen to a dad of twin boys who plays golf once a summer. That's the story of my life these days. I dusted off my clubs Wednesday and took part in the Kelowna Rockets/AM 1150 golf tournament at the Harvest Golf and Country Club. The texas scramble tournament is a chance for the Rockets and the radio station to thank the many businesses that support us over the course of the hockey season.
  • Rockets General Manager Bruce Hamilton had two special guests join him for Wednesday's golf tournament. Spokane Chiefs GM Tim Speltz brought his golf clubs with him, as did Bob Nicholson, the President of Hockey Canada. Speltz is in K-Town for the Western Conference scheduling meets today while Nicholson is getting set to attend the BC Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Penticton on Friday.
  • Western Conference teams gather today in Kelowna for scheduling meetings. While we won't know for a couple of days on when the Rockets officially open the 2008-2009 regular season, we do know that the team will finally play in Edmonton, against the Oil Kings this season. Last season the expansion franchise made a stop in Kelowna, but the Rockets didn't return the favor.
  • Ever wonder why the Western Conference scheduling meetings are always held in Kelowna? Why not Prince George? Enough said!
  • The Regina Pats have a news conference set for today at 1 o'clock BC time. GM Brent Parker will announce the teams new head coach at that time. Only from what I've read, it appears Dale Derkatch is the individual Parker is leaning towards. That said, I would love to see Marc Habscheid back in the league, but I am biased with that thought.
  • Congrats to Dave Sheldon for being named the new play-by-play man of the Vancouver Giants. Sheldon takes over from Joey Kenward, who moved to the Vancouver Canucks. Sheldon can not only handle the play-by-play duties with the Giants, but will also be involved in the marketing of the team. The question remains unanswered if Sheldon will be driving the Giants bus though. Sheldon was a regular behind the wheel of the Chilliwack Bruins last season.
  • With Sheldon moving to Vancouver, who takes over on the air-waves in Chilliwack? I wouldn't be surprised if a new face, from outside the league, gets a shot at the Bruins gig.
  • I found it interesting that Jarome Iginla is working out on the ice at the C-N-C by himself. The Calgary Flames forward, who makes Kelowna his off-season home, rents his own private sheet of ice for an early morning workout. Even the staff at the C-N-C are tight lipped on when exactly 'Iggy' is on the ice. Let's just say Iginla doesn't wish to have any spectators watching in the stands as he puts on a sweat.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Curtis Hamilton Getting Big/Finley Has All The Luck

  • Saskatoon Blades fans, get excited about Curtis Hamilton. The 16 year-old (he won't turn 17 until early December) son of Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton has added some size over the summer, and looked in fine form during a weekend workout I witnessed at the C-N-C. I marveled at how much bigger he appeared to be on the ice, which his dad Bruce promptly said "My days of play wrestling with him are over".

  • It's Torrie Jung's job to lose as the Rockets starting goaltender this season. Jung was the single veteran during a goaltending camp put on by the Rockets this weekend. Jung is sporting news pads and gloves, with J-U-N-G embroidered on both the blocker and trapper.

  • Cody Almond, Brandon McMillan, Dylan Hood and Evan Bloodoff also took part in workouts on the weekend. I noticed Almond wearing gloves that had the colour scheme of the Minnesota Wild, the team that drafted him two summers ago.

  • Montreal Canadiens defenseman Josh Gorges was in attendance at Saturday's workout at the C-N-C, as an observer. Gorges told me since the season ended with the Canadiens he hasn't even slipped on his skates yet. Gorges says the time away from the rink will make him better prepared mentally when he begins on-ice sessions as he prepares for a grueling NHL season.

  • Gorges may not be on the ice, but he's working out hard in the weight room. Who is Gorges' training partner? Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber. Gorges says Weber is a monster in the gym, and is extremely powerful. Gorges says Weber is close to 235 pounds, not bad for a player who struggled to keep his weight at 200 as a junior aged player.

  • Some guys have all the luck. Rockets assistant coach Jeff Finley had a chance this summer to play with PGA veteran Fred Couples at his new signature course 'The Rise' near Vernon. On top of that Finley played a tournament a few weeks back and shot a hole in one. Finley was rewarded with a new car.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Things That Make Me Go Hmm....

  • Marc Habscheid stated in the Regina Leader Post Monday that he is interested in speaking with Pats GM Brent Parker about the vacant heading coaching position. If Habscheid indeed got the job, how odd would it be to see him behind the Pats bench with they make a visit to Prospera Place this season? The Rockets won't make a stop in Regina this season after doing the deed last year.
  • What's Rockets forward Colin Long up to these days? Long is in Kelowna this week spending time with his billets and getting in some workouts with Rockets Athletic Therapist Jeff Thorburn. Nice to see Long pictured on the Phoenix Coyotes website wearing Coyotes colours. I don't want him to look too good in those colours though. I want him back for 2008-2009.
  • Congrats to former Rockets forward Cam Paddock after signing a NHL contract with the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday. Just because he signs a deal with the Blues doesn't mean he's a slam dunk to play at the NHL level, but the fact he's gaining interest from the Blues is a feather in his cap. Paddock was originally drafted by Pittsburgh in 2002.
  • The Rockets expect to have five goaltenders at their summer goaltending camp at the C-N-C this weekend. Veteran Torrie Jung will be joined by rookies Daniel Salamandyk and Dylan Tait and two other drafted goaltenders on the Rockets 50 man protected list. It only makes sense to have Jung as the legitimate #1 goaltender this season, but who earns the backup role? If I was a betting man Salamandyk is likely #2 on the depth chart, but don't count out Tait in challenging for the backup job either.
  • Congrats to Vancouver Giants play-by-play man Joe Kenward for getting a piece of the pie as the Canucks have elected to go with a three man system for radio broadcasts this season. John Shorthouse will handle the majority of the duties, but Rick Ball will cover for Shorthouse on home games while Kenward will cover for Shorthouse on the road. Kenward's best move came when he moved from the smallest market in the CHL - Swift Current - and landed in one of the largest markets - Vancouver a few years back. If it was a calculated move on his part, Kenward looks like a genius. The remaining 21 radio broadcasters across the WHL are no doubt jealous. I'm not scared to admit it....I am! It's frankly nice to see a major junior broadcaster getting a chance to show his stuff at the NHL level. It rarely happens.
  • It's interesting that both Kenward and Rick Ball are former broadcasters of the Kelowna Rockets. Ball called the play-by-play while Kenward was the color commentator before Ball left for Victoria after the 1999-2000 season and Kenward took a job in Swift Current. Kenward and Ball are not the first Kelowna broadcasters to call games at the NHL level. Jim Hughson had a short stay in Kelowna radio before eventually making his way to the 'show'.
  • Colin Long isn't the only one wearing an NHL jersey. Jamie Benn is featured on the Dallas Stars website after signing a three year deal last week.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Things That Make Me Go Hmm...

  • Congratulations to Josh Gorges for signing a new three year deal with the Montreal Canadiens. Everyone wants to be wanted, and the Canadiens obviously see Gorges being a piece of the teams successes in the next couple of years.

  • While my focus was on my mothers funeral Thursday, I managed to check my voice mail at the end of the day to find out that Kelowna Rockets head coach Ryan Huska sent his best wishes to me and my family during this tough time. Huska said he would have been in attendance at the funeral, but was called out of town at the last minute. Huska is more than a great coach. He cares for people, and his concern does not go unnoticed.
  • A quick e-mail from Rockets assistant coach Kim Dillabaugh is another example why I find myself appreciating him as more than just a coach.

  • I was pleased to see David Michaud at my moms funeral. Michaud and I have built up a great relationship over the last couple of years, and his support on Thursday was appreciated. Michaud is not only a colleague I enjoyed working with on Rockets broadcasts last season, but he's a true friend.

  • One of the many flowers that my family received during my mom's funeral was from Brent and Darrell Maser. The owners of the Medicine Hat Tigers hockey club simply went out of their way and showed once again they are a classy organization. I want to publicly thank them, and while the flowers were unnecessary, they were appreciated by me and my family.
  • Everett Silvertips fans should be proud of the quality individual they have calling their games in Jon Rosen. Rosen sent me an e-mail the other day with encouraging words on the death of my mom. Rosen knows first hand about the pain of losing his mother, after she passed away during this last hockey season.
  • I also want to thank Bruce Vance of the PA Raiders, Craig West of the Tri City Americans, and AJ Jakubec of the Edmonton Oil Kings for e-mails showing genuine concern over the death of my mom. While they may seem like quick e-mails, they are appreciated.
  • An e-mail sent by Rockets goaltender Torrie Jung about my mom's passing is another example while I love this guy!
  • Over the last six weeks my total focus in life has been my mom's battle with cancer. I hope now that I can again focus on what this blog was truly intended for.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A 6 Week Struggle Ends

My mom - Lil Bartel died Sunday after a 6 week struggle with brain cancer.

Her funeral is Thursday in Kelowna. It will be the toughest thing I have ever gone through when we say goodbye to her Thursday.

She was just 68 years young.

She was a season ticket holder of the Kelowna Rockets with my dad Vern.