Sunday, May 31, 2009

Truitt Back In WHL

The Moose Jaw Warriors have confirmed that Jeff Truitt has been named Director of Hockey Operations for the Western Hockey League team.
The former Kelowna Rockets coach spent this past season at the helm of the Springfield Falcons of the AHL before being relieved of his duties.
Truitt was an assistant coach with the Rockets that won a Memorial Cup in 2004 and guided the team to a WHL championship in 2005 as a head coach.

Here is the article from the Moose Jaw Herald:

Jeff Truitt has been to the Memorial Cup three times. Now he wants to guide the Moose Jaw Warriors to their first. Truitt, 44, will be introduced as the Warriors new Director of Hockey Operations Monday morning at the Civic Centre. “Coming back to the Western Hockey League is very exciting because I’ve been in the league a number of years,” said Truitt. “Coming back to western Canada is huge for myself and our family. Coming to Moose Jaw — I was born here and have relatives here — so I have ties to Moose Jaw. “The opportunity arose and I think it’s an exciting team with a tremendous amount of upside and obviously I’m very proud to be a part of it.”
Truitt will take over the operation of the hockey team from general manager Chad Lang who was fired Friday.
“He came highly recommended,” said Warriors president/governor Darin Chow. “He’s been there. He’s been to the Memorial Cup. He has a Moose Jaw background. We felt he was a person that — not withstanding that in our mind the organization has gotten to a new level — he’s the guy to take us to the next level again.” Truitt spent seven seasons with Kelowna Rockets — four as an assistant coach and three as the head coach. He won his second WHL championship with the Rockets in his first full season as a head coach. Truitt then moved on to the Edmonton Oilers organization with their American Hockey League affiliate in Springfield for the past two seasons.

Friday, May 29, 2009

McMillan/Myers-Team Canada

Kelowna Rockets defenceman Tyler Myers and forward/defenceman Brandon McMillan have been invited to attend the Canadian World Junior Teams development Camp in early August in Saskatoon. McMillan's invite is especially impressive considering he played the majority of the season as a defenceman, yet Team Canada has him slotted in as a forward.
Adam Brown attended a Team Canada evaluation camp for goaltenders only earlier this week.
Congratulations to all three players.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Look Back And A Look Ahead

  • I've had a few days to sit back and reflect on the season that was for the Kelowna Rockets. What an amazing season for a team that technically finished as the 6th seed in the WHL's overall standings, yet managed wins over heavyweights Tri City, Vancouver and Calgary to win the league title. Being the 6th seed and winning a league title only makes you question the merits of pushing a team to the limit in order to capture a regular season title. Is it worth pushing your team to be declared regular season champions, or is managing a team and getting on a roll late in the season (ie: after Christmas) put you in a better position to have success when it really counts, the playoffs? In three years time you will be hard pressed when asked who won the regular season title in 2008-2009, but you will likely have an easier time of answering who the league champions were that season.
  • After the Rockets successes after the trade deadline, what does that say about the trade deadline and how you can significantly upgrade a team for a long push in the playoffs? While the Rockets had a strong team prior to the deadline, four moves made by the hockey team (Backlund, Duval, Grantham, Guggenberger) put them in elite company. The last time the Rockets made a significant plunge at the trade deadline to make noise in the playoffs was in 2001-2002 when Nick Marach and Shane Bendera were picked up to bolster a lineup that also included Chuck Kobasew, who left Boston College that summer to play his 19 year-old season with the Rockets.
  • I don't think the coaching staff get the credit they deserve for molding this team once those four players were acquired at the deadline. Four new individuals in your dressing room can often times upset the apple cart, yet all four only added, not subtracted from the teams overall goal of winning a league title.
  • I find it interesting that all three of the Rockets league championships have been won by three different coaches. Marc Habscheid (2003), Jeff Truitt (2005) and Ryan Huska (2009) were at the helm. Two of the three moved on to the pro ranks. How much longer does coach Huska stick around before diving into the pro game?
  • While the Rockets lose close to 8 players from this years team, what's to suggest that others can't pull up the slack and have career seasons? We see it every season. Players who had a secondary role on the team this season will be put into key positions and will prosper. Why can't Kyle St. Denis have a 30 goal season next year? Lucas Bloodoff has to be captain material in his 20 year-old season unless he signs with a pro team. How can Tyson Barrie not have a productive offensive season on the blue line. How about Mitchell Callahan? Twenty fight majors and 14 goals as a 17 year-old is awfully impressive. Can that same number of fighting major be pulled back with the offensive totals taking a jump forward? Absolutely. He may be just 16, but does Shane McColgan not make a significant impact in his rookie season? Could he score 25 goals, much like Justin Keller did as a 17 year-old? Tell him he can't, and then watch this kid prosper.
  • What can't be lost in the appearance at the Memorial Cup is the benefit it was for the Rockets younger players. Those 18 and younger can only use it as a positive experience looking forward. Adam Brown, Kyle Verdino and Curt Gogol saw limited ice time, but just seeing and experiencing what it takes to play at that elite level should have a lasting impact.

Monday, May 25, 2009

It's Good To Be Home

He's one of the most popular players on the Rockets since he was acquired at the trade deadline. Mark Guggenberger received many words of encouragement when he met fans at Prospera Place this afternoon. I was asked many times about how 'Gugg' was doing after Sunday's loss, and I told them to chat with him directly and offer words of encouragement. Guggenberger was one of the main reasons why the Rockets will have a WHL championship banner raised to the rafters next season.
The Rockets received a hero's welcome once they arrived back in Kelowna this afternoon after a long day of travel from Rimouski. The Rockets may have come up short in winning the Memorial Cup, but the team are winners in the eyes of it's fans. Isn't that all that really matters?
Jamie Benn signs an autograph for a young fan at Prospera Place.
It was nice to be involved as the m.c for the Rockets welcome back gathering in front of Prospera Place.
One of the many businesses on Harvey Avenue recognizing the Rockets accomplishments in 2008-2009.
The 737 jet that was chartered by the team. The Rockets left Rimouski at 11:20 am local time and arrived at 4 o'clock Kelowna time this afternoon.
Tyler Myers and Cody Almond coming off the plane this afternoon at Kelowna International Airport.
Rockets players waiting to get on the bus to be transported to Prospera Place.
A pic of Jamie Benn and Colin Long at 32 thousand feet.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tough Ending To A Great Season

  • The Kelowna Rockets season came to an end 247 days after it started. The Windsor Spitfires scored three times on the first three shots they took, in a 4-1 win Sunday afternoon at the 2009 Memorial Cup. The Spitfires are Memorial Cup champions for the first time in franchise history.
  • Ryan Huska is now 4 and 1 in Memorial Cup finals. The Rockets head coach was 4 and 0 as a player/ assistant coach before Sunday's setback.
  • It's easy to look at Mark Guggenberger and use him as the reason the Rockets fell victim to the Spitifires. Guggenberger allowed three goals on three shots before being yanked, but the Rockets still had 53 minutes to get back in the game.
  • As one observer told me, it was a 1-1 tie for the final 53 minutes of the game.
  • The bright spot in a tough effort was the play of back up goaltender Adam Brown. Brown made 24 of 25 saves in a relief appearance after coming into the game for Mark Guggenberger. Brown, who hadn't played since mid March, made several big saves to give his team a chance to get back in the game.
  • I thought Colin Long's goal 8 seconds into the second period would have given the Rockets the lift they needed, but on this night it was tough to create quality offensive chances.
  • The game saw the junior careers of no less than nine Rockets. Ian Duval, Ryley Grantham and Tysen Dowzak graduate from the league while Mikeal Backlund, Jamie Benn, Colin Long, Cody Almond, Tyler Myers are expected to move on to the pro level.
  • How banged up were the Rockets? Head coach Ryan Huska told us on the post game show that forward Lucas Bloodoff underwent knee surgery before the start of the playoffs. Huska said defenceman Collin Bowman was playing with a second degree separation of his shoulder while goaltender Mark Guggenberger had played the last two months with a pulled groin.
  • It was good to see Kyle Verdino see his first action of the tournament late in the third period of the championship game. Verdino dressed for every game, but saw little action throughout the tournament as Myers, Barrie, McMillan, Bowman and Dowzak ate up most of the minutes.
  • I will admit I was a little turned off by the reaction of the crowd at the Colisee over the booing every time the Rockets touched the puck. The booing was the result of the fans belief that the Rockets threw Tuesday's game against the Spitfires when they had a chance to eliminate them from the tournament. Essentially it looked like the fans are blaming the Rockets for the demise of both Rimouski and Drummondville. Windsor would beat Rimouski in the tie breaker before eliminating Drummondville in the semi finals. To say the Rockets threw the game is laughable.
  • Despite Sunday's loss, it's hard to take a negative look at the 2008-2009 season. The playoff run this team had this season could only challenge the playoff run of 2005, when the Rockets won the WHL title.
  • Was this referee Chris Savage's final game in junior hockey? I hope not. Savage received the honour of refereeing Sunday's final. Savage also called the final at the 2004 Memorial Cup in Kelowna. Savage is a good bet to referee at the upcoming Winter Olympics.
  • See ya back in Kelowna at around 5 o'clock Monday afternoon.
More later...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Things That Make Me Go Hmm....

  • For the second straight year the Western Hockey League champion will face the Ontario Hockey League champion in the Memorial Cup final. The Kelowna Rockets face the Windsor Spitfires Sunday afternoon in the biggest game of the season for both teams. AM-1150 has the broadcast starting with the pre-game show at 1 and the play-by-play at 1:30.
  • It's funny how everyone here is making a big deal about the Rockets four day layoff after completing the round robin on Tuesday. If you look back to the playoffs, the Rockets were off for a full five days before facing Vancouver in game one of the Western Conference final. The Rockets won that game 4-2 in Vancouver.
  • The Rockets had a brisk workout Saturday in preparation for Sunday's game. You won't often see hard hits in practice, but that was the case at the Colisee this morning. The best hit came when defenceman Aaron Borejko sent big forward Ryley Grantham to the ice with a hit along the end boards.
  • Gord McGarva and I attended the CHL awards banquet this afternoon. The most impressive speech may have come from Saskatoon Blades defenceman Stefan Elliott, who ended his speech by speaking for a significant amount of time, in french. Elliott is the CHL Scholastic Player of the Year.
  • It was nice to see Prince George Cougar forward Brett Connolly recognized for his season. Thirty goals for a 16 year-old ain't bad. Only Patrick Marleau scored more goals as a 16 year-old when he managed to fill the net 32 times with the Seattle Thunderbirds. Let's hope the Cougars can continue to find talent like Connolly in their own backyard. Having a Prince George kid wearing a Cougars uniform and making an impact is never a bad thing.
  • Jon Blum got a chuckle from the crowd in his acceptance speech when he was named the CHL's Top Defenceman. Blum thanked his parents for finding ice for him to play on considering it was often hard to come by, considering he grew up in California.
  • John Tavares was named the CHL Player of the Year. One reporter asked him in a post awards banquet scrum if he would trade away the award for a chance to play at the Memorial Cup. His answer came quickly when he responded by saying, "Absolutely."
  • The most impressive aspect of the 2009 Memorial Cup has been the shuttle service. Thirty-three cars have been used to move media/scouts and other out-of-town visitors across the city. Why is this so impressive? You don't have to wait for a driver. You ask for a ride and someone is there in a flash to drive you to your destination. It's been a well oiled machine.
  • Rimouski is not exempt from rising gas prices. After sitting at a reasonable 97.4 cents a litre when we arrived last Wednesday, the gas shot up to 107.4 cents a litre yesterday. I was told gas took a similar jump in Kelowna earlier this week.

Faces At The Memorial Cup

Chris are loved!!
This is a pic of the arena host, who mingled with the crowd over the 10 days tournament. I couldn't understand a thing she said, but man did she have energy.
Brandon Wheat Kings fans are pumped that the 2010 Memorial Cup is coming out West.
Do I need to explain this jersey?


Listen to Sportstalk on AM-1150 tonight at 10 pm as Gord and I chat with Rick Quinton about Sunday's Memorial Cup final.

Friday, May 22, 2009

'O' And 'Dub' Get It On In Memorial Cup Final

  • The best from the Western Hockey League will meet the beast from the East, the Ontario Hockey League champions, in the Memorial Cup final. Adam Henrique scored at the 4:31 mark of overtime leading the Windsor Spitfires to a 3-2 victory over the Drummondville Voltigeurs. So it's the Kelowna Rockets and Windsor Spitfires in Sunday's final (AM-1150 pre-game show at 1 - play-by-play at 1:30).
  • A good start by both teams as the first whistle doesn't come until 4 and a half minutes into the opening period. Two quick goals just over two minutes apart from Taylor Hall and Ben Shutron had the Ontario Hockey League champions heading to the dressing room with a 2-0 lead.
  • My favourite Voltigeur scored early in the second period to make it a one goal game. Samson Mahbod snapped a low shot past Spitfires goaltender Andrew Engelage to make it a hockey game. Had the Spitfires scored the next goal to make it 3-0, it would have been lights out for the 'Q' champs.
  • Why is Mahbod my favourite Voltigeur? On the second day we arrived in Rimouski I made small talk with him as we were sitting in the stands. He was a great help as I asked him how to pronounce the Oceanic players names before game one between Rimouski and Kelowna.
  • Taylor Hall is a smart player. After shooting the puck after the whistle, Hall gets a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. When Drummondville defenceman Dmitry Kulikov takes exception to the late shot and touches Hall, the 17 year-old goes down like Kulikov has the strength of Hercules.
  • You won't often see a delay of game penalty as a result of a player shooting the puck from his defensive zone over the glass at the other end of the rink. Spitfires defenceman Mark Cundari did just that in the second period by firing the puck down the ice from inside his own blue line with such velocity that it went over the glass behind Voltigeurs goaltender Marc Cousineau. Ok, now I officially hate the rule. To say Cundari was attempting to fire the puck over the glass by drilling it to the other end is laughable.
  • The save of the Memorial Cup came in overtime when Drummondville goaltender Marco Cousineau slides across to get his left leg down on Spitfires forward Greg Nemisz, robbing him of a sure goal. That was one of many reasons why Cousineau was named the first star.
  • You have to enjoy Voltigeurs head coach Guy Boucher's spunk. Often animated behind the bench, he likes to often joke with the media at news conferences, win or lose.
  • The Kelowna Rockets are almost the unforgotten team in this tournament. They haven't taken to the ice for a game in four days now. If you just landed here in Rimouski from outer space, you'd swear this was a three team tournament.
  • One stat the Western Hockey League has to look at is adding shots by an individual player on the game sheet. The QMJHL provides that statistic for every game that is played. It's an interesting stat to see who was trigger happy at the end of the night.
  • What's with the Quebec referee calling a penalty late in the game in a 2-2 tie? Jean Hebert makes the call against Drummondville, then misses an infraction nearby when a Voltigeur is pulled down. I hate when the referee goes out of his way to look for fouls against the league he represents in an effort to look impartial.
  • Three fans from Brandon, Manitoba made it down to the Memorial Cup. All three had their shirts off, were painted with yellow from the neck to their waist and were chanting 'Go Wheat Kings Go'. The three likely had their shirts off because they felt like it was a summer day back in Manitoba. Today's temperature in Rimouski was +14.
  • Even the referee's have their fans. Four guys dressed up as referee's with flashing goal lights made their presence known Friday night at the Colisee. They were shown on the score clock chanting 'Go Ref's Go".
  • My understanding is the Rockets will leave Rimouski Monday morning at 11:20 local time. That means we should fly in to Kelowna International Airport at around 4:30 Monday afternoon BC time.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Rimouski Says Au Revoire

  • Another good hockey game Thursday night at the Colisee as both teams were in desperation mode with their seasons on the line. Dale Mitchell was the story scoring three times as Windsor came back from a 4-2 third period deficit, earning a 6-4 win. The Spitfires used another gear in the third while the Oceanic appeared to tire and fell into penalty trouble. That means the Spitfires advance against Drummondville tomorrow in the semi finals while Rimouski's season is over. The winner of Drummondville and Windsor will meet Kelowna in Sunday's final.
  • The Rimouski team was fun to watch in the four games they played. I questioned their skill level in the opener, but looking back now, they hadn't played a game in three weeks when they faced the Rockets. They would give any Western Hockey League coach a heart attack, but man can they create offense.
  • The best goaltender in the tournament? While I like to pump the tires of Mark Guggenberger, Oceanic netminder Maxim Gougeon appeared to be the most consistent. I didn't like the second goal he gave up Thursday night as the puck hit his glove and then went in, but the smallest goaltender in the tournament was standing tall between the pipes.
  • Vancouver Canucks foward Kyle Wellwood would be watching the Memorial Cup with interest. His younger brother Eric plays for the Spitfires. Eric Wellwood is always in the play and provides Windsor with some good energy.
  • The Oceanic's mascot 'Louky' is a smart dresser. Even when the Oceanic were wearing their away jersey's in Thursday game, 'Louky' also changed his jersey to match the team.
  • If their is one thing I've noticed in Rimouski, it's a lack of pickup trucks. I've seen one, a black Dodge 1500. That's it. Being the owner of a Dodge 1500 myself and being from Southwest Saskatchewan, pickup trucks are common place. Not here.
  • I understand Kyle Verdino's mom and dad have traveled up from Phoenix to support their son. Unfortunately with TV timeouts as part of the mix, Verdino hasn't seen the ice surface. The TV timeouts work in the Rockets favor, as it allows the top four d-men ample time to get a rest between whistles. Three TV timeouts a period translates into 4 and a half minutes of rest time.
  • Had it not been for a career change in the fall of 2002, Rockets head coach Ryan Huska wouldn't be here at the Memorial Cup. Huska was attempting to get certified as a financial advisor when he elected to join Marc Habscheid's coaching staff as an assistant. A few years later he is guiding the Rockets to a Memorial Cup birth. Just think of it. Today Huska could be back in Kelowna looking over data dealing with mutual funds. Instead he's attempting to 'cash in' with a team that is one win away from the ultimate prize.
  • It was the best day, weather wise, we've had in Rimouski. On Thursday the sun was shining, the wind was down and the drive to the Colisee was beautiful. Let's hope the weather holds for the remaining three days.
  • We've been in Rimouski for nine days now. We arrived last Wednesday and it feels like it's been three weeks. Don't get me wrong the experience has been great, but the small confines of the hotel room gets old. Why am I spending a significant amount of time in my room? I am doing more than just calling games here. I am sending local stories pertaining to the Memorial Cup back to our newsroom at AM-1150. My hotel room is used as my audio studio during the tournament.

Come Inside the Colisee in Rimouski

Rimouski in Pictures

Mark Guggenberger attempting to read a french newspaper in the hotel lobby.
My MVP of the Memorial Cup is this man right here. Donald Lafresnaye is a computer technician and handles all computer problems that members of the media may have at the tournament. I had a problem on day one and Donald worked on my computer to get it back in working condition. Thanks Donald. Without his work, this blog would have been awfully quiet. It's people like Lafresnaye that make everything run so smoothly here.

This is what you call a media scrum. It's when members of the media, newspaper,TV/radio get together and interview the players after the game. If you read the Kelowna Daily Courier you will notice Doyle Potenteau in the middle of the scrum. Does he always smile when he interviews someone? No. He knew I was taking the picture.

I've gotten to know this gentleman very well this week. Cory Flett is the Director of Communications for the WHL. Flett has been a helping hand to Rockets VP of Business Development Gavin Hamilton this week.

This tune they play in the Colisee reminds me of the Montreal Forum.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Best Game Bar None

  • What a great game Wednesday night between Rimouski and Drummondville (3-2 Voltigeurs) to end off the round robin at the 2009 Memorial Cup. These two teams went at it in a wide open affair. Talk about entertainment! Wow. If you can say one thing about the 'Q', defense comes secondary which creates scoring chances on almost every shift. I loved it. It was the best game of the tournament on entertainment alone. No wonder the people of Quebec love the game. When it is played with little structure, or appears to look that way, it's a great game to watch.
  • What I like most about the fans here in Rimouski is how they respond to the play. Every time Drummondville iced the puck, the fans would boo. Even after Drummondville scored to make it a 1-1 game, the fans didn't let the goal damper their spirits. They made as much noise when it was scoreless and Rimouski was putting on the pressure as they did when the game was tied.
  • The crowd was into this game before the puck was even dropped. The reason? It may have had something to do with Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards being apart of the pre-game ceremonies. The two NHL'ers were gracious enough to return to the Colisee where their junior careers began.
  • I thought Gord McGarva said it best when describing the puck hitting the end boards at the Colisee after missing the net. "It sounds like a shot gun going off when the puck hits the boards".
  • I find it interesting that the music played in the Colisee does not have to be rock and roll to get the crowd into the game. If you can clap to the music, you've accomplished the goal. Most of the music played in the building is 'clap worthy' and few spectators fail to participate.
  • I will admit the use of air horns in the building is a little annoying though. I can't imagine being a season ticket holder and having the dude sitting next to me blasting his brains out (and mine) with his air horn for 36 home games.
  • Everyone is still talking about the shot blocking clinic put on by Rockets forward Cody Almond Tuesday night. One QMJHL GM suggested to me it's that type of shot blocking that will get a player like that drafted. When I told him Almond was selected by Minnesota, and was already signed, he said "I can see why".
  • How did the Kelowna Rockets spend the day off. They stayed away from the rink and went on a local zip line. A zip line consists of a pulley suspended on a cable mounted on an incline. It is designed to enable a user propelled by gravity to traverse from the top to the bottom of the inclined cable, usually made of stainless steel, by holding on or attaching to the freely moving pulley.
  • I would compare this years edition of the Kelowna Rockets much like of a thoroughbred race horse who at times doesn't like to run. It has the capability of winning races, but only on it's own terms. The jockey (the coaches) can use a riding whip to spur them on, but it's ultimately up to the horse to expend the energy necessary to reach the finish line with the opposition in its wake. The thoroughbred (Rockets) will have to run the race of it's life Sunday in order to finish the race in first place.
  • Prior to the game I ran into Jeff Cristall, the chairman of the 2010 Memorial Cup in Brandon. Cristall was flanked by Brandon police services inspector Ian Grant and Wheat Kings director of marketing Rick Dillabaugh. All three are here to check out how the Memorial Cup tournament is running in Rimouski, and would look to only add to the event when it makes it's way West next season.
  • Kyle St. Denis' mom and dad took in Tuesday night's game at the Colisee while celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. The couple's son did his best to treat his parents special on the day by being named the games second star.
  • The 50/50 draw here in Rimouski is capped at 1 thousand dollars. No matter how many tickets are sold, the pot never changes. That's a far cry from the 19 thousand dollars that was up for grabs in the 50/50 back in the 2004 Memorial Cup final in Kelowna.
  • The Oceanic mascot's name is 'Louky'. The guy wearing that suit is going to be about 50 pounds lighter once the Memorial Cup is through. I've seen energetic mascots, but this dude doesn't stop.

A Day Off In Pictures From Rimouski

On a trip in downtown Rimouski we walked by a local radio station. I just had to get into the action. I can see it now "Join Pierre, Claude, Manon, Jean-Paul and Regan for laughs in the morning on 93 CFYX".
The hotel we are staying at in Rimouski.
The boardwalk outside of our hotel lobby. The Saint Lawrence River runs along the city of Rimouski. The river is 477 miles long. Amazing.
You won't find a Starbucks here. But even 'Timmy's' makes an appearance in Rimouski.
One of the several churches you'll find in downtown Rimouski.
I had to take a pic of this for former colour man David Michaud. Michaud Motors is the supplier of transportation at the Memorial Cup.
A pic of a 50/50 ticket purchased during the Memorial Cup. A maximum of 1000 bucks goes to the winner.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Are You As Confused As I Am?

  • This Kelowna Rockets team has confused me all season long. When push comes to shove they find a way to win, yet when it's not a back against the wall situation this team just doesn't push themselves. It was evident Tuesday night in a 2-1 round robin loss to Windsor. The Rockets were given 4 power play chances in the second period alone, but managed just 7 shots on goal. From my vantage point it looked as though the Western Hockey League champions were content on closing out the round robin with a record of 2 and 1 and were just thrilled to be headed to Sunday's championship final.
  • While Windsor should have been the more desperate team, how does it feel to be skating away with just a one goal win against a team that clearly lacked urgency in their game? If I was Windsor I'd be concerned, not celebrating the fact that I have a chance to play in a tie breaker game on Thursday.
  • Cody Almond was one of few Rockets that appeared to want to win the game and head into Sunday's final with a record of 3-0. The best shift of the game came when Almond blocked four shots on a Windsor 5 on 3 power play. Almond took two shots off the glove, one off the head and another in the ribs as he got in the way of every shooting lane possible.
  • Where has Mikael Backlund gone? After making his mark in the WHL playoffs with some terrific efforts, Backlund has no goals to show in the first three games of the Memorial Cup. In a match up of the Calgary Flames first round picks, Windsor forward Greg Nemisz clear outplayed Backlund. Nemisz, a first round pick of the Flames from 2008, was a threat to score while Backlund, a first round pick of the Flames in 2007, didn't even have a shot on goal. A world class player like Backlund can't be a passenger in a tournament of this magnitude.
  • Who was the best Rocket? Mark Guggenberger gets my vote. Another tremendous effort by the 20 year-old goaltender who surely needs to get a serious look by some NHL team. Wouldn't you want to bring this guy in on a tryout? Guggenberger was the main reason why the Rockets lost the game by just a single goal. After allowing two 'softies' against Drummondville, Guggenberger could have easily earned the third star in Tuesday's game.
  • Tyson Barrie will have little time off following the Memorial Cup. Barrie told me before the game he is off to the NHL combine following the 10 day tournament. The combine is for North American players expected to be selected in the first two round of this summers NHL draft.
  • The Rockets will take the day off before preparing for Sunday's final against one of three teams. Tonight it's an all Quebec match up as host Rimouski faces Quebec champion Drummondville. One of those teams will finish the round robin at 1 and 2, meaning a date with 1 and 2 Windsor Thursday night in a tie breaker.
  • Just before we left our hotel this afternoon several fire trucks, with lights flashing, surrounded the building. As it turned out an ammonia leak took place in one of the beer fridges on the 3rd floor of the hotel. The fridge in question belonged to a room housing two referee's for the tournament. I was told one of the them was taken to hospital for observation.

Tuesday Pics From Rimouski

It wasn't a well played game last night, but the score is pleasing to the eye.

Two Western Hockey League fans at the Colisee waiting for Monday night's game to begin. This picture was taken after they got into a fist fight. All joking aside, these two simply love the junior game.

Never take yourself to seriously. I don't, which may be the reason why I had the motivation of picking up this microphone from RDS, the french language version of TSN. This is as close as I will ever come to being on french TV - period!

One of the many trophy's on display at the Memorial Cup is the Ed Chynoweth Cup. This is engraved names of the winners from 2002-2003.

Patrick Roy has some of his hockey gear on display at the NHL Hockey Hall of Fame display including the mask he wore with the Montreal Canadiens.

The Memorial Cup being guarded by some of Rimouski's finest.

Equipment Manager Mel Gerrett enjoying poutine!

Monday, May 18, 2009

'Big Benn' Deafens Drummondville

  • Jamie Benn said it was his best game ever, and I am not about to argue with him. Everything the 19 year-old forward touched Monday night at the Memorial Cup turned into a goal. Benn registered five shots on goal and scored four times in the Rockets 6-4 win over Drummondville. The win volts the Rockets into the Memorial Cup final for the first time since 2004.
  • When Benn puts his mind to it, he is one of the best forward in the Canadian Hockey League. His breakaway speed on a shorthanded goal to open the scoring put the theory to rest that he has a hard time accelerating. If Benn smells a goal on his stick, he can definitely put it into high gear in a hurry.
  • How good is Jamie Benn? Of the ten goals the Rockets have scored in the Memorial Cup, eight have been created by the Victoria BC resident. Benn has 5 goals and 3 assists in the tournament.
  • Benn's 8 points in the Memorial Cup sets a new Rockets franchise record. Jesse Schultz had the previous mark with 1+4=5 in the 2003 tournament in Quebec City.
  • The Rockets showed some character by battling back in this one. The Rockets moved to within a goal of Drummondville three seperate times. The Rockets were down 2-1 and tied it, 3-2 and rallied back to tie and also trailed 4-3 at one point in the third period before Benn would score a power play goal to tie the game at four.
  • Benn and Cody Almond each led the Rockets with five shots apiece. Almond had two goals.
  • The nicest goal of the night came on a three way passing play between Tyler Myers, Colin Long and Jamie Benn. Three quick passes and the game was tied at 3.
  • I liked the hustle from captain Colin Long. He was often out muscled off the puck in the WHL playoffs, but has now regained his form at the Memorial Cup by handling the puck and not wanting to give it back.
  • Brandon Wheat Kings GM Kelly McCrimmon took in Monday's game. McCrimmon and his Memorial Cup committee are gathering in Rimouski in the hopes of gathering valuable information to put on a spectacular event when the tournament is hosted in Brandon in 2010.
  • The Rockets close out the round robin today (Tuesday) when they host the most desperate team at the Memorial Cup. The Rockets face winless Windsor. The Ontario Hockey League champs are a surprising 0 and 2. A loss by the Spitfires sends them packing for the summer.
  • A birth in the Memorial Cup final provides Lucas and Evan Bloodoff with the luxury few brothers have been able to enjoy. It's not often two brothers, as teammates, can potentially share in a Memorial Cup victory. The last time two brothers on the same team won a national title was when Trevor and Darren Kruger captured the Memorial Cup with the Swift Current Broncos in 1989.
  • Rockets defenceman Collin Bowman can also accomplish something his brother did last season in Spokane. Drayson Bowman, Collin's older brother, won the title last season with the Chiefs.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Spitfires Stumble At Memorial Cup

  • I think few would have thought the Windsor Spitfires, rated as the top teams in the CHL rankings for the majority of the season, would be 0 and 2 at the Memorial Cup. The Spitfires dropped their second straight game though, losing a 5-4 decision Sunday to the host Rimouski Oceanic.
  • It was the most physical of the three games we've seen so far with two fights breaking out over the course of the contest. I thought the Oceanic played with more heart and desperation after looking flat in the opening. That said, both teams haven't 'wowed' me in the first two games. Windsor is beatable if the Rockets play their game. Spitfires head coach Bob Boughner said they will have to play a flawless defensive game against Kelowna if they want to win their first game of the tournament on Tuesday. Boughner says his team has yet to play their 'A' game.
  • Let's face it, a Rimouski win is only good for this tournament. A host team going 0 and 3 is never a good thing for the credibility of the championship. Also local fans stay engaged in the event for a longer period of time.
  • The Rockets face Drummondville Monday. We have the game on AM-1150 starting with the pre-game show at 3:30 and the play-by-play at 4. Both the Rockets and Voltigier are undefeated after wins in their opening games. The Rockets beat Rimouski 4-1 while the Quebec champs beat Windsor 3-2 in overtime.
  • Is it just me or does Spitfires goaltender Andrew Engelage remind you of former Rockets goaltender Kris Lazaruk? The pads that Engelage wears are identical to the ones Lazaruk had in his short stint with the Rockets. Plus his stance is a mirror image of the veteran goalie.
  • Do Ian Duval and teammate Kyle Verdino get along? I am sure their are some friendly barbs after the suggestion that the NHL would like to see the Phoenix Coyotes move to Winnipeg if the franchise is sold to Jim Basille. Duval is from Winnipeg, the former home of the Jets while Verdino is from Phoenix, the city that stole the Jets from Duval's home province in 1996.
  • No team, other than the Rockets on opening night, have been called for delay of game for shooting the puck over the glass in the defensive zone.
  • I spent the third period of Sunday's game sitting with WHL referee Chris Savage. Savage told me he was born near Melfort. Now that I know Savage is a Saskatchewan boy, he can't do anything wrong in my eyes. Ok, almost anything wrong.
  • NHL heavyweights taking in Sunday's game included New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello.
  • Color Anaylst Gord McGarva had some company on his ride from Quebec City to Rimouski tonight. McGarva drove in with the parents of Evan and Lucas Bloodoff.

After Further Review...

  • After further review, the players name I supposedly butchered is Belarus born IIya Silik. In talking with organizers of the tournament though, it is in fact pronounced Sil-ick. Unless I had some poutine in my mouth at the time, I thought I hit it correctly when he had the puck, which frankly he didn`t touch often in game one.
  • For the record, many people call me Reagan (ray-gun), which is incorrect, yet I just go with the flow.
  • Speaking of poutine, did you know it originated in 1950. The french delicacy is essentially french fries, gravy and cheese. I was told that you can add ground beef or sausage to it as well. While it`s not good for you, sometimes you have to live dangerously.
  • I had my first look at Windsor forward Taylor Hall. This kid is the real deal. He can skate, has great hands and has a confident swagger about him. I like him. To think he is not draft eligible until 2010. Wow.
  • The Rockets defenceman will have to do a better job of adjusting to the short glass along the side boards at the Colisee. The Rockets took two delay of game minor penalties for the puck over the glass. As stated previously, the side glass is two feet shorter at the Colisee than the WHL standard.
  • My only technical issue at the Memorial Cup was my laptop crapping out on me. But this tournament is so organized a freelance computer expert is on hand to look into my problem. I can`t say enough about how this tournament is run. Now if I could only get a good massage, I`d be in heaven
  • I was questioned earlier about this being the most enjoyable Memorial Cup of the four I`ve attended. I enjoyed Kelowna in 2004 don`t get me wrong, but I had to broadcast every game so I didn`t have a chance to experience the events outside of the arena. I will never forget the moment that Josh Gorges lifted the Memorial Cup over his head, but I didn`t leave the experience saying I enjoyed all aspects of the tournament.
  • Colour analyst Gord McGarva is traveling to Rimouski as I blog. It will be a long day for McGarva, who won`t arrive here until 2 am local time. McGarva will join me on the broadcast Monday afternoon. If he miss pronounces a name or two from Drummondville or isn`t his perky self, cut him some slack.
  • Scalpers here in Rimouski are sour. In speaking to them this morning, business is anything but brisk. Apparently the people here are not interested in paying full market value for the tickets, which are going for about 70 bucks a game at the ticket counter. Many scalpers are selling them for less in the hope of simply getting rid of them.
  • Tyson Barrie`s father Len is the only parent I`ve seen so far at the Memorial Cup. I understand Brent Gogol, Curt Gogol`s father, will also be here. Colin Long told me yesterday his dad Steve won`t be making the trip.
  • Kelowna`s own Jim Hammett is at the Memorial Cup. Hammett is the director of player personnel for the NHL`s Tampa Bay Lightning.
  • During one of the TV timeouts during the game, the arena host entertains the crowd in a number of ways. One of the most entertaining bits is when the host gets a fan to sing karoke on the video screen. It`s sung in french, but it`s still pretty funny.

Mickey Renaud`s jersey behind the Windsor bench.

Chris Savage making the WHL proud.

Colin Long, Tyson Barrie and Cody Almond after a skate Thursday afternoon.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Things That Make Me Go Hmm....

  • I failed to mention on an early blog entry that the police in Rimouski are extremely proactive in making sure this tournament receives the respect it deserves. Our bus ride into the city from the airport Wednesday included a police escort. At every intersection, whether the traffic light was yellow or red, two police cruisers would promptly cut into the intersection, blocking all lanes to allow our bus to go through. It was awesome to watch, and made us all feel special as an honored guest in the community.
  • Chris Savage was one of the referee`s that called game two of the Memorial Cup Saturday night. Savage, the Western Hockey League representative, is at his second M.C after getting the assignment in 2004. Savage was the referee when the Rockets won the cup against Gatineau. I will have an interview with Savage on our broadcast Monday afternoon.
  • I find it interesting that the french radio broadcasters calling games at the Memorial Cup are dressed in jeans. It`s a small detail, yet it looks odd to me considering all radio broadcasters in the WHL are professional dressed when calling games, whether it be regular season or the playoffs. My theory is we (radio broadcasters) are an extension of the team we cover, and should take some pride in our appearance.
  • As I was preparing or my opening broadcast Friday night, I couldn`t help but notice the panic on the face of the Quebec City radio broadcaster. His equipment wasn`t working, yet his phone line was active. What that means is his broadcast board malfunctioned. The problem was solved by using the road radio equipment of the Rimouski Oceanic.
  • I ran into Ian Duval`s old billets from Calgary before Saturday`s game. Scott and Beverly Surridge had nothing but good things to say about `Duvy`. The interview with the likable couple will be airing during Monday`s broadcast.
  • I thought it was a nice touch by the Windsor Spitfires to have the jersey of Mickey Renaud hanging on the wall behind their bench at the Memorial Cup. Renaud, the Spitfires captain last season, died after a seizure in February 2008. While Renaud`s jersey was hanging prominently behind the Spitfires bench at the start of Saturday`s game, it was promptly moved to the side, as to not cover up the signage that was strategically placed for national TV coverage.
  • On my shuttle to the Colisee this afternoon I had the privilege of being accompanied by former Montreal Canadiens forward Pierre Mondou. I recognized him instantly in the lobby of our hotel as his hockey card is firmly entrenched in my head. Forget about memorizing time tables as a kid, memorizing hockey cards was my goal. I told Mondou that I have his hockey card, to which he replied, ``I guess I`m old``.
  • Ok, my paranoia is starting to kick in. I`ve been told that both Rimouski and Drummondville players are suffering from some form of strep throat. That would be a broadcasters worst nightmare. Ok, laryngitis would be, but they are both bad. Let`s just say I haven`t been participating in finger food in the media room, for fear the virus is looming.
  • Give the organizing committee here in Rimouski a high five for playing `Rocket` by Def Leopard every time the Rockets score. The song is used extensively at Prospera Place every time the Rockets light the lamp, and the added touch shouldn`t go unnoticed.
  • This is the fourth Memorial Cup I`ve attended, and unless things go sideways fast, it`s the best I`ve ever attended. No, the hotel isn`t great and it`s not exactly party central, but it`s been a lot of fun. The people of Rimouski are top drawer, and the event is running like a well oiled machine. And if it`s not, they are hiding it well behind closed doors. In the past I would question awarding this tournament to a smaller center, yet now that theory has been put to rest. This community has one thing on their mind. The Memorial Cup is it!
  • I received a nice e-mail from Dallas Texas today. A Dallas Stars fan is listening to our radio broadcasts over the Internet with interest considering Jamie Benn will be playing in that organization next season. The positive feedback was nice to hear.

A Day Off In Rimouski

One of the many gas stations in downtown Rimouski. The gas isn`t that cheap here either at 97.4 cents a litre.
We used a rental car to travel to the Rockets practice facility Saturday morning.

Brandon Wheat Kings athletic therapist Rob Stouffer died this summer after a battle with cancer. Trainers across the WHL, including Rockets athletic therapist Jeff Thorburn, have a patch on their fanny pack in memory of the former colleague.
Coach Huska spends some one-on-one time with forward Ian Duval.
Mark Guggenberger looks on after Saturday`s workout. Assistant Kim Gellert has a chat with the players.
Assistant coach Kim Dillabaugh has a few words of wisdom for Guggs.
These two are converted Rockets fans. They were watching the Rockets practice this morning.
Even the Rockets chartered bus for the Memorial Cup comes with a Rockets flag.
This is where the Rockets practiced this morning. It is located in a small town about a 30 minute drive outside of Rimouski. The arena made me feel like I was transported back to Kyle Saskatchewan.
Rockets forward Jamie Benn gets some camera time after being named the first star Friday night.
Some crazy Rockets fan taking in the Memorial Cup. Reagan is a beauty. To say she`s a fan would be an understatement. Tysen Dowzak makes his way onto the bus for the 30 minute drive to the practice facility.

Rookie Shane McColgan makes his way onto the bus. What an experience for the 16 year-old, who will be looked upon to lead the Rockets to another Memorial Cup birth down the road.
Monday`s opponent. Flashy bus for the QMJHL champs.
The flash card in the broadcast location at the Colisee tells me where to set up my broadcast gear.
This is the home of the Rimouski Oceanic.
The grocery store across the street from the Colisee doesn`t hide the fact on who they are cheering for.
Inside the Colisee where you pick up your tickets.