Monday, July 20, 2009

Here Come the Hawks!

The public address announcer for the Portland WinterHawks has called it a career.
His famous line over the years when the team took the ice will always stand out for me in my visits to Portland. I am not a fan of many public address announcers in the WHL, but this guy was a beauty. Dan Fowlick is his name.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fighting The Glenrosa Fire

This photo is taken at 8:45 pm Saturday night. The orange flame is on the Southeast side of Glenrosa after jumping over Highway 97.
This forklift brings in crate of water for those spending the night in the school gym,
Inside the Mount Boucherie gym where some Glenrosa residents will spend the night.
Hauling mattresses for those evacuated by the fire.
People help bring bedding to Mount Boucherie, where several evacuees will spend the night.
One of several helicopters picking up water to fight the blaze.
It takes less than a minute for this helicopter to suck up the water necessary to make a run at the fire.

More images from fire.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sakic, No Ordinary Joe After All

Joe Sakic was a young, shy 17 year-old with the Swift Current Broncos when he surprisingly showed up one summer at the local roller rink for a game of floor hockey. I happened to be a participant after a friend’s urging that they needed more players.
We all knew who Sakic was. It likely had something to do with the Quebec Nordiques picking him in the 1st round of the NHL draft, yet for those of us that played floor hockey with him that day, we had no clue he would eventually be considered one of the best players to ever skate on NHL ice.
He just came across to us as an ordinary Joe.
Looking back at Sakic's time in Swift Current, I can still see him skating down the Civic Centre ice wearing number 19 on the back of his sweater. With his Broncos jersey flapping in the wind, Sakic showed us all he was something special. Sakic would score 60 goals in his rookie season and would win the league scoring title and earn CHLplayer of the year honors with 78 goals and 160 points a year later. After just 136 games with the Broncos, Sakic was off to the big show, the NHL, at 19.
To this day I have never heard him talk much about playing junior hockey in Swift Current. When he is voted into the NHL Hall of Fame maybe he will mention his time in the small Saskatchewan community, a city that not only gave him the chance to display his skills, but provided him with the love of his life, his wife Debbie.
Regardless, hockey fans in Swift Current can smile knowing they were fortunate enough to witness an ordinary Joe become an NHL super star.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Frey Largely Responsible For Landing Sakic

One of the key people responsible for Joe Sakic wearing a Swift Current Broncos uniform was Lorne Frey.
The Kelowna Rockets director of player personnel was the Broncos assistant coach at the time, and recalls meeting a young 17 year-old Joe Sakic and trying to persuade him to play.

"Initially he wasn't coming to Swift Current. I think he was playing in the Under 17 deal in Camrose Alberta, so I took a trip out there and was able to meet with him for two or three days. After that meeting, he came out to Swift Current to have a look. Three weeks later he called me and said he would come play with us that season."
Sakic would go on to score 60 goals in his first year in the W.H.L.

Things You Didn't Know About Dan Lambert

  • Lambert still holds the Swift Current Broncos club record for points by a defenceman in a season. Lambert had 102 points in 1988-89.
  • Lambert's brother-in-law is former Western Hockey League forward Landis Chaulk. Chaulk played three seasons in the WHL with the Calgary Wrangers and Lethbridge Hurricanes in the early 80's. Chaulk was a 3rd round pick of the Vancouver Canucks in 1984.
  • Lambert was picked in the 6th round of the 1989 NHL draft by the Quebec Nordiques. That year the Nordiques made Mats Sundin the first pick overall.
  • Lambert was picked in the 6th round, 7 players before the Vancouver Canucks selected Pavel Bure.
  • Lambert had 66 points as a 16 year-old defenceman with the Swift Current Broncos in 1986-87.
  • Lambert was not on the bus that crashed, claiming the lives of four Swift Current Broncos teammate in the winter of 1986. Lambert was at an all-star game with Broncos trainer Gord Hahn in Winnipeg at the time of the crash.
  • Lambert played just 29 NHL games with the Quebec Nordiques before he was traded to the Winnipeg Jets for tough guy Shaun Cronin.
  • Lambert played for Canada at 1989 World Junior Hockey Championships in Alaska. Canada finished in 4th place.
  • Lambert played high school hockey in Warroad Minnesota before joining the Broncos as a 16 year-old.
  • Lambert spends the off-season in Scottsdale Arizona with his wife Melanie (a Swift Current girl) and three daughters. Lambert speaks french fluently after growing up in St. Malo Manitoba.
  • Lambert is a former teammate of Jeff Finley. The two were defense partners in Finley's last year in Europe.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I Knew Him As Danny...A Dandy Defenceman

I hate keeping secrets, but in my position as the Kelowna Rockets radio broadcaster, I often times have to bite my tongue.
Last week I heard from an odd source that Dan Lambert was about to be named an assistant coach with the Kelowna Rockets. I received an e-mail from a 'mature' couple from Swift Current, who told me they had coffee with Lambert's in-laws and were excited to hear that Lambert was joining the Rockets coaching staff. Upon hearing the news, I put in a phone call to Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton, who confirmed that Lambert indeed would eventually be named one of Ryan Huska's assistants.
Late this afternoon the Rockets made it official.
While I would consider Lambert more of an aquaintances than friend, I feel like I've known him for years.
While he is two years my junior (40), I watched a young Danny Lambert (yes he was known as Danny back then) during the Swift Current Broncos rise to glory. Lambert was part of a Broncos team that would eventually win a Memorial Cup in 1989, with Lambert being named the tournament MVP.
Who coached Lambert that season? Graham James was the head coach with a much younger Lorne Frey, the Rockets director of player personnel, an assistant.
I can tell you that Dan Lambert was a tremendous offensive defenceman, a smaller Tyson Barrie if you will.
Lambert, all 5 foot 8 of him, looked somewhat odd out on the ice considering smaller players, especially on defence, were the exception not the rule in Western Hockey League at the time.
How good was Danny?
In the Broncos Memorial Cup year, Lambert would score 25 goals while collecting 102 points. Lambert would add 28 points in just 12 playoff games as the Broncos beat every team in the 1989 playoffs, including series sweeps over Moose Jaw, Saskatoon and Portland.
Even after his graduation from major junior, Lambert was often seen in Swift Current during the summer and was always accommodating to the local media. He was approachable as a player and left a lasting impression on those he met.
I can say without a shadow of a doubt, fans of the Kelowna Rockets are really going to like him. What is Dan Lambert like as a coach?
That is yet to be determined, but I can tell you he has played with the best. If you need an example, just look up Joe Sakic, who was a teammate of Lambert's for two seasons in Swift Current, in 1986 and again in 1987.
Lambert becomes the 4th Rockets employee with a connection to the small Saskatchewan city of Swift Current. Lambert is joined on that list by Marc Habscheid, Ryan Cuthbert and Lorne Frey.
Lets just say the Rockets have had a pretty good track record when it comes to hiring individuals from the 'Frontier City'.

Memorial Cup MVP, Rockets New Assistant Coach

The Kelowna Rockets are pleased to announce that they have hired former Swift Current Broncos defenceman Dan Lambert as their new assistant coach.
Dan spent four seasons with the Swift Current Broncos from 1986-1990. He compiled 85 goals and 244 assists. While in Swift Current, Dan was selected in the sixth round of the National Hockey League Entry Draft by the Quebec Nordiques in 1989. Dan won a Memorial Cup with the Broncos in 1989.
I can't be more thrilled with this hiring. My connection with 'Danny' goes waaaaaaaaaaaaay back. More later.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Things That Make Me Go Hmm...

  • It won't even come close to the accident Kelowna Rockets defenceman Kyle Verdino was involved in last month, but former Rockets forward Myles MacRae got a bit of scare recently. A car lost control coming down a hill, striking a Gator that MacRae and a co-worker were riding. The two were doing some landscaping work and suffered only minor bumps and bruises in the incident. MacRae tells me he has a tryout with the East Coast Hockey League's Victoria Salmon Kings this fall.
  • Luke Moffatt will be a no-show at the Kelowna Rockets training camp in September. Moffatt is the Rockets first round pick in the 2007 WHL bantam draft. The Phoenix, Arizona resident will be playing with U-S Hockey's developmental program again this season before deciding on one of two options. Moffatt can play in the WHL or play U.S college hockey. Moffatt has made a verbal commitment to the Michigan Wolverines in 2010-2011.
  • Kelowna Rockets fans will remember him. Ross Ruttle, long time anthem singer at both the Memorial Arena and Prospera Place, passed away Monday afternoon. Ruttle was battling ALS, after being diagnosed with the disease in 2007. Ruttle is best known for singing 'O Canada' prior to the Memorial Cup final at Prospera Place in 2004. I visited Ruttle several times while he was in hospice, and despite his breathing problems, he always wanted to chat about the Rockets, a team he loved to watch and sing for. Here is Ross singing the national anthem at the Memorial Cup.
  • July 6th is a day that hasn't treated me kindly over the last two years. Ross Ruttle's death came exactly a year after my Mom, Lil, passed away from a brain tumour. I guess it's safe to say two Kelowna Rockets fans are now watching down from heaven.
  • The Everett Silvertips made a great move when they persuaded Craig Hartsburgh to join them as the teams new head coach. Yet I wonder if they indeed came clean on the amount of travel that is necessary when coaching in the Western Hockey League? This is no O-H-L. He is going to get a taste of how tough this league really is when he ventures up to Prince George in December for a 10 hour bus ride. That's a ten hour bus trip against a team in your own conference.
  • While attending the July 1st Canada Day celebrations, a quick trip inside Prospera Place had me looking towards the press box to see if any additional work was being done to improve the sight lines for the visiting broadcaster. From ice level the press box remains untouched. Many fellow visiting radio broadcasters have been less than pleased with the location since a new video replay booth was jammed into the already congested broadcast location. Unless a miracle happens in the next two months, a shoehorn will be needed for the visiting team calling games from that location. Don't tell me I didn't warn you!
  • The Kelowna Rockets will be well represented at this weeks Phoenix Coyotes rookie camp, which opens Wednesday. Colin Long and Evan Bloodoff will be on the ice attempting to catch the eye of the Coyotes coaching staff while former Rocket Justin Bernhardt also attends, after signing a deal with the team after a solid 20 year-old season with the Prince Albert Raiders.
  • This has nothing to do with hockey, but I have a beef with Petro-Canada. No one likes to hike up the price of gas like they do, and they are notorious for being the slowest to bring the price down once everyone else in the market has. Now I've noticed that my friendly Petro-Can wants a Loonie from me to pump my tires with air! Are you frickin kidding me. I promptly left the gas station and stopped at a nearby Chevron and recieved my air for free. What's next Petro-Can, a Tonnie to use the squeegee to clean off my windshield?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Novotny Gets Tryout

Kelowna Rockets forward Stepan Novotny will attend the NHL training camp of the Edmonton Oilers.
The 18 year-old was not picked in the NHL draft last month.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Verdino Lucky to Be Alive

Kelowna Rockets defenceman Kyle Verdino is lucky to be alive.

Verdino was involved in a serious two vehicle accident late last month in Phoenix Arizona, breaking his ankle and left hand.

Kyle was driving to the gym when he was hit by an on-coming vehicle.

Charges in the accident have not be laid.

Verdino's father Ralph says his son also underwent plastic surgery after suffering significant cuts to the right side of his face.

Over 500 stitches were needed to close various lacerations on Verdino's face and body.

"When we saw his truck four days later at the salvage yard I said...(sigh). People were scared to ask how the driver was. One of the workers said we see a lot of wrecks and this is one of the top five that we've seen here, damage wise", Verdino added.

Ralph Verdino says his son should make a full recovery.

"The ankle they (doctors) figure he will have to be off of it for about six weeks, three without pressure at all and then in three weeks doctors will put a walking boot on him."

Editors note: Due to the sensitivity of the situation I gave Ralph Verdino the option of not commenting on the accident. Mr. Verdino found no problem with this incident being relayed to readers/listeners and hockey fans in Kelowna. In fact he appreciates the support Kyle's teammates have shown towards him on the road to recover.

Alumni Pics

Pictured above is Tyler Mosienko, James McEwan and Randall Gelech.
I had the chance to play a round of golf with Blake Comeau(left) and Troy Bodie (right).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Rockets Alumni Weekend Begins

  • The Kelowna Rockets alumni weekend kicked off Thursday afternoon at the Harvest Golf and Country Club as past and current players gathered for the texas scramble format. I had the privilege of spending the afternoon with former Rockets Blake Comeau (Islanders) and Troy Bodie (Anaheim Ducks) and Bill Winters, a local accountant, who was instrumental in helping the Rockets make a successful bid in hosting the 2004 Master Card Memorial Cup. Did we win the tournament? No. Did we make some good shots? Yes. Did we have a great afternoon? Absolutely.
  • Nashville Predators Shea Weber, Toronto Maple Leafs Luke Schenn, Montreal Canadiens Josh Gorges and Boston Bruins forward Chuck Kobasew were on hand for the event. Weber went so far as to purchase the jersey of Blake Comeau during the auction following dinner.
  • Other alumni included Kristofer Westblom, James McEwan, Clayton Barthel, Brett Palin and Randall Gelech just to name a few.
  • Current Rockets Cody Almond, Brandon McMillan and Evan and Lucas Bloodoff took in the event. Head coach Ryan Huska and assistant Ryan Cuthbert were also there.
  • Former Rocket Brady Leavold is about to become a father for a second time. Leavold's fiancee will give birth to a baby boy in September. Leavold already has a 15 month old daughter.
  • Mike Card is going to try his luck in Germany this season. After suffering through concussion problems, Card will play in Europe in an effort to get back to good health and improve his game. Card's off-season has been a long one after being sent home in February after suffering his second concussion of the season.
  • Tyler Mosienko will also be playing hockey in Europe next season. Mosienko has signed a deal to play in Germany.
  • Kiel McLeod will be playing in Italy this season.
  • Cam Paddock was unable to play golf Thursday as he recovers from off-season hip surgery.
  • This tournament last year raised 33 thousand dollars for the Kelowna General Hospital.
  • Current Rockets defenseman Collin Bowman, despite failing to be drafted last month, will attend the training camp of the NHL's Ottawa Senators.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Spurgeon's Oiler Days Are Over

Tyler Spurgeon is no longer a member of the Edmonton Oilers. Spurgeon became a unrestricted free agent after the Oilers failed to offer him a contract Wednesday.
Originally drafted by the Oilers in the 8th round of the 2004 NHL draft, Spurgeon will now attempt to sign on with another interested party.
'Spurg' played 212 games with the Kelowna Rockets, winning two league championships and a Memorial Cup.