Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's only one night of hockey but...

I had to check the attendance numbers after seeing what appeared to be low crowds at all four venues Wednesday night in the Western Hockey League.

In Edmonton, 3285 fans showed up. At the same time last season 5317 fans took in the Oil Kings second home game of the season. That's a difference of -2032.

In Kamloops 4002 fans took in Wednesday's game. At the same time last year 4394 fans showed up. That's a difference of -392.

In Moose Jaw 2141 took in Wednesday's game. At the same time last year 2435 watched the Warriors 3rd home game of the season. A difference of -294.

In Prince Albert, a small crowd of 1800 watched the Pats beat the Raiders 9-3. That the same time last year 2178 watched the Raiders 4th home game of the season. A difference of -378.

Overall - if you compare the four games played Wednesday night to the attendance numbers from one year ago, we witnessed an overall drop of 3096 fans in just one night. OK, enough math. My head hurts.

*In Kelowna for game one this season:6227. Last season: 6188 or +39 more fans this year.
*In Kelowna for game two this season: 6102. Last season: 6026 or +76 more fans this year.

Things That Make Me Go Hmm...

  • With Colin Long’s return in doubt, the Kelowna Rockets surely will be filling his departure with a 20 year-old __________. Should the Rockets fill that spot with a d-man or a forward? Lucas Bloodoff and Mark Guggenberger are the two overagers on this years team. October 15th is the deadline for teams to pair down to three 20 year-olds.
  • Mark Guggenberger starts skating with the team Thursday, which begs this question. What happens when you have three goaltenders on the ice? Someone gets the shaft when it comes to getting reps in practice. The crease gets a little more crowded when Guggenberger returns.
  • Kyle Verdino must hate Canadian billionaire Jim Ballsillie. The Kelowna Rockets d-man has been watching Ballsille unsuccessful attempt to move his Phoenix Coyotes to Hamilton. Verdino is a Phoenix resident while his mom and dad are, or were, Coyote season ticket holders.
  • I am looking forward to seeing Zach Habscheid play this weekend. Mark Habscheid’s son is in his rookie season with the Chilliwack Bruins and is slowly making strides under the watchful eye of his father. I'll speak to both of them about that father/son - coach/player relationship on Friday.
  • Speaking of the Bruins, man am I hungry for pizza. The best pizza in the league can be found at Prospera Centre. Now if only Bruins play-by-play man Randy Merkley would stop spitting on me from the broadcast booth above!
  • If you are going to have early season struggles, its best to do it out of the watchful eye of your devoted fans. While the Lethbridge Hurricanes are winless in six games this season they can iron out all the problems on the road.
  • I needed to sit down when I read last week what broadcaster Rod Pedersen was doing. After calling a WHL game in Regina Friday night, traveling to Edmonton to call the Riders game Saturday and then returning to Regina to call a Pats game on Sunday, I was exhausted just reading it. I feel sorry for the guy. If I hear he is also helping local farmers harvest this years crop, I'm going to call the authorities. Is CKRM radio running a sweatshop?
  • Feeling a sense of deja vu Rockets fans? If Tyler Myers makes the Sabres this season it will mark the second straight year the team has lost a 19 year-old defenseman. Who’s next? Tyson Barrie?
  • I spoke to the WHL Commissioner before the start of the season about the economy potentially taking its toll on ticket sales across the league. At the time Ron Robison said season ticket sales were neutral - not up nor down - league wide. I am no statistician – hello Allan Caldwell - but the number of fans watching games in the first two weeks of the season must be down from a year ago. While season ticket sales may not be down league wide, walk up sales must be taking a kicking.
  • I really like the new Rockets website. The addition of articles from the two local newspapers makes it a must read for hockey fans. As one season ticket holder told me, he can now cancel his subscription to the Daily Courier as he can find the articles for free on the Rockets website. The video highlights the following day are also a great addition.
  • The goaltender that lost to the Kelowna Rockets in the 2003 WHL championship signed a big deal today. Cam Ward is 38 million dollars richer after signing a new contract with the Carolina Hurricanes. Ward was in goal when the Rockets beat the Rebels in 6 games on 2003. I knew he was a good goaltender then, but not that good.

Myers a Sabres...for now.

An injury to a veteran defenseman means Tyler Myers will start the season with the NHL's Buffalo Sabres.
Veteran Toni Lydman has a hand injury and is unavailable for the teams season opening game Saturday against Montreal - opening the door for Myers.
Myers can play in 9 regular season games before the Sabres must decide whether to keep him for the remainder of the season or returning him to the Kelowna Rockets.

The new guy

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Convo with Mark Guggenberger

Other notes:

  • Troy Bodie will start the season as a teammate of Colin Long. Bodie was sent down to the San Antonio Rampage today. The Rampage is the farm team for both the Phoenix Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks. Bodie is Ducks property.
  • Randall Gelech was at Rockets practice today. The man that scored one of two goals in the Rockets 2-1 win over Gatineau in the 2004 Memorial Cup is still looking for a place to play. Gelech was expected to join the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL, but is now looking possibly at playing in Germany.
  • Evan Bloodoff took in Tuesday's practice, as an observer. Bloodoff underwent surgery on his right knee last Friday and will need about 6 months to recover.
  • I spoke to 19 year-old Tyler Matheson today. I will share that interview with you tomorrow.

Talking with Coyotes assistant gm Brad Treliving


I spoke this morning to the assistant general manager of the Phoenix Coyotes on the status of Colin Long.
I will post the interview shorty, but for now here is one quote from my conversation with Brad Treliving.
"It's not out of the realm of possibility, but if you ask me today he will be in San Antonio."

Stay tuned!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Rockets pick up winger

The Kelowna Rockets add some size with the acquisition of 19 year-old forward Tyler Matheson from the Saskatoon Blades. The Rockets give up a 7th round pick in the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft. Matheson is a 6'2, 230 pound forward who dressed in three games with the Blades this season. Matheson was listed by the Blades in 2008. Matheson has played the last two seasons with the BCHL's Victoria Grizzlies.
Matheson turned down a chance to attend the Rockets training camp last summer, instead choosing to stay in his hometown of Victoria as the Grizzlies were hosting the Royal Bank Cup. It's interesting to note that Matheson attended the Vancouver Canucks prospects camp last fall. My understanding is he can play both d and forward.

Long makes the cut

Never say never, but it looks like Colin Long's days with the Kelowna Rockets are over. The San Antonio Rampage made several roster moves today by sending no less than seven players down to the ECHL and releasing five players in time for Friday's AHL home opener. I anticipate the Rampage/Coyotes offering Long a contract this week considering he can't play unless he has a pro contract in his pocket in time for the regular season. One of the players released by the Rampage today was Osoyoos resident Mitch Fritz.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Solid work ethic+execution=W

  • The Kelowna Rockets had one thing missing from their 4-1 road loss Friday night in Kamloops. Twenty-four hours later they found it. The work ethic remained intact but this time the execution offensively was there in a solid 5-0 win Saturday night over the Blazers.
  • After generating 37 shots Friday night, the Rockets peppered Blazers goaltender Jon Groenheyde with 49 on Saturday. Stepan Novotny scored twice and added an assist while Shane McColgan and Brandon McMillan had two assists each.
  • McColgan played his best game in a Rockets uniform. His picture perfect up ice pass that sent Brett Bulmer all alone on a breakaway was fantastic, but his on the tape setup to Novotny on a second period power play stole the show. McColgan was full marks for being named the games first star.
  • It was nice to see Brett Bulmer and Cody Chikie score their first WHL goals. Bulmer's came on a breakaway to open the scoring while Chikie banged in a rebound off a Collin Bowman shot during a goal mouth scramble.
  • It's amazing what three power play goals will do for you. The Rockets essentially put the game away with a power play goal from Stepan Novotny in the second period after Blazers goaltender Jon Groenheyde was tagged with a slashing penalty.
  • I thought Blazers head coach Barry Smith did the right thing when he sent overage forward CJ Stretch to the box after Matej Bene was given a five minute major and game misconduct in the third period for charging. Smith must have been none to pleased with Stretch and other veterans who simply did not have the same jump and desire they did one night earlier.
  • Adam Brown earned his 3rd career shutout, making 23 saves. He needed that goose-egg after getting shelled for 12 goals in his first two starts. Brown's average is now 3.97.
  • The Rockets shutout the Blazers at home for the first time since December 10/05 when they recorded a 4-0 win. Derek Yeomans made 13 saves that evening as the Rockets fired 52 shots at Devan Dubnyk.
  • Kyle Verdino returned to the Rockets lineup for the first time after getting into a car accident this summer.
  • Edmonton Oil Kings GM Bob Green took in the game.
  • Antoine Corbin made his WHL debut. Corbin played as a forward.
  • Colin Long scored once for the San Antonio Rampage in an AHL exhibition game Saturday night.

Hey, it was bound to end sooner or later

  • It was bound to end sooner or later. After beating the Kamloops Blazers 13 times last season the Rockets were do for a setback against their BC Division foe. Despite firing a season high 37 shots on goal, the Rockets went 0 for 8 on the power play in a 4-1 loss Friday night at the Interior Savings Centre.
  • The Rockets power play lost a key piece when defenceman Tyson Barrie left the game in the first period after a hit from Blazers forward Shayne Wiebe. When watching it on replay, both players were going towards the puck when Barrie attempted to put his shoulder into Wiebe. Wiebe pushed back and his momentum appeared to catch Barrie in the back of the right shoulder sending him into the corner boards. A dirty hit it was not. A dangerous area to be hit, it was. In today's often over-officiated game, I was surprised Wiebe didn't get any extra time in the penalty box other than the five minute major for fighting after engaging with Rockets defenceman Collin Bowman.
  • With the loss of Barrie, the Rockets used 16 year-old Shane McColgan as a defenceman on the power play.
  • Mitchell Chapman and Max Adolph also left the game last night. Chapman left early after getting hit while Adolph caught an edge and went awkwardly into the end boards.
  • The downfall of the Rockets was a second period where they generated 18 shots on goal, yet were unable to score. The majority of the shots taken landed firmly in the midsection of Blazers goaltender Jon Groenheyde. That said, Groenheyde was good and was worthy of the 1st star.
  • With the loss of Barrie and Chapman, I now have a better appreciation of rookie d-man Colton Jobke. Jobke logged a lot of minutes last night and appears to be getting better with every outing.
  • My hands hurt just watching it. A third period fight between Curt Gogol and Cole Grabavac had both players throwing bombs towards one another with fists hitting helmets. Ouch! It's often tough to see how many punches in fact connect, but while Grabavac appeared to throw more punches, he was the one left with a bloody nose when it was all said and done. Mark my words, someone is going to break his hand/knuckle in a fight now that the players are keeping their helmets on.
  • Will Tyler Shattock score 50 goals this season? The Blazer forward already has five after scoring 30 one season ago.
  • The Rockets and the Lethbridge Hurricanes are the two teams in the WHL that have failed to earn a win in the young season.
  • Was it just me, or was it a disappointing crowd last night in Kamloops? While attendance was 4480, finding a empty seat wouldn't have been a problem at the Interior Savings Centre. Now 3 and 0, you would think that hockey fans would want to come out and watch a pretty decent team. Or have they seen this act before, only to see things disintegrate as the season wears on? Kamloops isn't the only centre where attendance numbers were low. Twenty-two hundred in Kent last night as Seattle lost to Chilliwack won't make T-Birds GM Russ Farwell very happy.
  • The best comment on the night came off the air when the final buzzer had sounded. Colour Analyst Gord McGarva looked over at Blazers broadcaster Kirk Fraser and said "nobody can win in this broadcast booth". This season the visiting and home radio broadcasters have essentially traded places up in the press box. We called last night's game from the same location that Fraser called all 13 losses to the Rockets one season ago.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Reno - Tri City visitors dressing room

This is a look at the visitors dressing room at the Toyota Center..the home of the Tri City Americans. The hockey club is spending their own cash to upgrade the room for the 'enemy'.

Rockets press release

Rockets trim roster: Issued at 11:15 am

The Kelowna Rockets have reassigned prospect Brady Poulsen to his midget club in Red Deer, Alberta.

The Rockets have two games this weekend as they play in Kamloops tonight before hosting the Blazers tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at Prospera Place.

Rockets Game Notes vs. Blazers

Tonight’s Preview: The Rockets and Blazers are meeting for the first time since the opening round of last years playoffs. In that series the Rockets eliminated the Blazers in four straight. These two teams will play one another eight times this season – 4 at home and 4 on the road. These two teams will hook up again tomorrow night, this time at Prospera Place. The Rockets enter tonight’s game winless in their first two regular season games (0-1-1-0). The Rockets were a 6-5 overtime loser to Vancouver on opening night last Thursday before dropping a 6-1 decision in Tri City last Saturday. The Rockets and Blazers met 9 times during the regular season in 2008-2009, with the Rockets winning all 9 games. The only game where the Blazers earned a point in the seasonal series was in a 4-3 shoot-out loss. The Rockets enter tonight’s game riding a 7 game winning streak in Kamloops. That includes two post season wins at the Interior Savings Centre in last years opening round playoff series. The last time the Rockets lost in Kamloops was February 8, 2008 in a 2-1 shoot-out loss.

Slow Starts: The Rockets are no stranger to getting off to a slow start to the regular season. Last season the Rockets lost their first two games before beating the Blazers in Kamloops in game three by a score of 6-2. The Rockets also lost their first two games in 2007-2008 before beating Everett 6-4 in the third game of the season. The last time the Rockets lost the first three games of the regular season was 2006-2007 when they dropped their first four games before beating the Blazers, again in Kamloops, by a 5-4 score in overtime.

Game Day Tidbits: Brandon McMillan returned to the team Saturday after playing in two exhibition games with the Anaheim Ducks. McMillan earned the lone assist on Tyson Barrie’s second period power play goal in a 6-1 loss. McMillan is playing this season as a forward after playing the majority of last season on defense…The Rockets face a BC Division opponent in 6 of their next 7 games. The only non-division game is October 7th when they host the Medicine Hat Tigers…Six of the Rockets next nine games are on home ice…Of the 12 goals the Rockets have given up in their first two games, five have been scored while the team has been shorthanded…Colin Long remains at the training camp of the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage. Long has not yet signed a pro contract and could still return to junior. Long’s situation is eerily similar to Cam Paddocks return as a 20 year-old to the Rockets during the 2003-2004 campaign. Paddock missed the Rockets first nine games before returning to the team from the Pittsburgh Penguins AHL affiliate in time for a game against the Lethbridge Hurricanes on October 15/03. Paddock would go on help the Rockets win a Memorial Cup title that season.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Long/Paddock could have similar story

I can't help but look back to an incident involving a Kelowna Rockets 20 year-old when viewing the situation currently facing Colin Long.
Cam Paddock was drafted as an 18 year-old by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2002 after being overlooked in his draft year. The same goes for Long, who was also drafted at 18. Paddock would impress the Penguins organization so much in the fall of 2003 (as a then 20 year-old) that they signed him to a pro contract in early October and sent him down to their American Hockey League team. After a few exhibition games and one regular season games with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, Paddock was sent back to the Rockets where he played the remainder of the season and a birth in the 2004 Memorial Cup. Paddock would miss the Rockets first 9 regular season games before returning October 15/03 against the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Here was a 20 year-old player, signed and sent down by the NHL team to its AHL affiliate, yet still ended up playing his overage season in Kelowna.
You have to wonder if Colin Long is on a similar path? It just goes to show you that it can happen. It's rare, but it does happen.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Beach interview

I caught up to Kyle Beach this afternoon as he was driving back from Chicago. I've always been a fan of the Kelowna product, and ya, it has something to do with him being from my own back yard. That, and the people that often times are outspoken about his play and wanting to take a negative stance as opposed to praising his on ice talents. Rant over. Here's the interview.

Kyle Beach Interview

Just got off the phone with Spokane Chiefs forward Kyle Beach. The audio will follow momentarily.

Rockets not in top 10. What's with that?

Calgary is rated #1 with Brandon and Saskatoon also in the top 10. You may remember I poked some fun at the panel who selected the Rockets as the 10th best team in the nation before the season began.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The 'Long' and short if it

The waiting game continues for Colin Long.
The Kelowna Rockets captain is still without a pro contract and is unsure where he will be spending this season. The 20 year-old is still un-signed, and it remains unclear if the Phoenix Coyotes will indeed offer him a contract. My belief is they've expressed interest in signing him and have verbally told him a contract is being worked out, yet until a pen has been put into his hand for him to sign on the dotted line, everything remains up in the air.
Without a contract, Long is headed back to Kelowna for another season. It's as simple as that.
It appears Long will have to earn a spot with the Coyotes AHL team in San Antonio before a deal is signed. The problem Long faces is the Coyotes farm team is also shared with the Anaheim Ducks. Only so many Coyote prospects can play on that team, so his chances of making the squad are essentially cut in half. To make matters worse the Coyotes sent top prospect Kyle Turris and Ryan Hollweg down to San Antonio earlier this week. Making that team just got a whole lot tougher.
You have to also consider that Long was drafted after his 18 year-old season, not his draft year of 17, so the Coyotes still have another year before they technically have to offer him a contract or lose his rights.
Colin Long wants closure as do the Rockets organization. Let's hope the Coyotes decide quickly, one way or the other, so Long can focus on playing the game of hockey rather than worrying about if is he going to be spending his winter in the 'Lone Star State' or riding the iron lung across western Canada.

Talking sports with Vancouver based columnist Jim Taylor

Cousineau a Rocket

The goaltender that led the Drummondville Voltigeurs to a birth in the 2009 Memorial Cup has been traded. Marco Cousineau was dealt to the P.E.I. Rocket for a first round pick in 2011. Cousineau will remember Jamie Benn. Benn scored four goals on Cousineau in a 6-4 round robin victory for the Kelowna Rockets.

Quick Pics

It looks like Rockets athletic therapist Jeff Thorburn has his hands full! I think Thorburn will tell you that six pairs of skates to sharpen before game time is no big deal. Twenty pairs of skates is a different story though.
Goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh works with Rockets backup Warren Shymko.

Kyle Verdino gets in a workout at the Toyota Center Saturday morning.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Long sent to San Antonio

Taking one on the chin in Tri City

  • Tyson Barrie likely had no idea he had reached a personal milestone, and on Saturday night it really didn't matter. The 18 year-old defenceman scored the Rockets lone goal - his 100th career point - in a lopsided 6-1 loss to the Tri City Americans.
  • Despite the lopsided score, the Americans had just a 3-1 lead heading into the third period before scoring three times to put the game away.
  • The Americans created numerous scoring chances, something the Rockets had very few of in this game. Brandon McMillan, who returned to the lineup after arriving earlier in the day from the training camp of the NHL's Anaheim Ducks, had two significant chances but was unable to finish.
  • If the Rockets were tired at games end, the main reason may have been the amount of time spent chasing the puck. Significant amounts of time were spent defending not generating scoring chances at the other end of the ice.
  • After losing 6-5 in overtime Thursday night, the Rockets have now given up 12 goals in two games. Of those 12 goals allowed, five have been on the power play with one shorthanded.
  • The best Rockets' player? Shane McColgan was again good, which is a good and bad thing. When a 16 year-old is your best forward it shows that the older players need to do more to match that type of intensity.
  • The best American? I sure like Tyler Schmidt. The defenceman logs big minutes and chips in offensively. Schmidt also had a big hit on Rockets forward Kyle St. Denis late in the second period.
  • When was the last time the Rockets gave up 6 or more goals in back-to-back games? The Rockets fell 7-5 to Portland October 12/2001 and then lost 6-4 to Lethbridge one night later.
  • The loss extended the Rockets losing streak in Tri City to 7 regular season games. The Americans have now won 9 straight home openers.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Observations from Tri City

  • The Tri City Americans will have a banner ceremony of their own before tonight's game. The Americans will unveil a U.S Division regular season championship banner to go with the one they won in 2008. If the truth be told the Americans won't lift the banner to the rafters, but will instead have minor hockey players skate with it to centre ice and unveil it there. The Americans players will then hover around it before it is taken off the ice and placed in the rafters at a later date. Fans can also have their picture taken with the banner between periods. Cool idea.
  • The Toyota Centre received a few upgrades over the summer. Most noticeable is new club seating in a section between the blue lines on the bench side of the arena. The new seats are slightly larger and padded in comparison to the orange plastic theatre style seats that are throughout the arena.
  • It was loud enough as is, but Toyota Centre will be even louder this season. They've installed a new horn in the building (see picture below) that will bellow out every time the Americans score. From a Rockets perspective lets hope that horn is used sparingly tonight.
  • I understand a new visitor dressing room is also under construction, unfortunately the Rockets will use the existing one on this stop.
  • Americans GM Bob Tory came up to our broadcast booth prior to the Rockets morning skate to say hello. Small gesture yes, but I will admit to having a greater appreciation for the man over the last few years, not only for his hockey smarts but just being a good guy.
  • Americans radio broadcaster Craig West will enter his 20th season of calling WHL games in 2009-2010. Westy has called over 15 hundred hockey games over that period, with four different teams. The veteran broadcaster has called games for Spokane, Vancouver, Portland and Tri City. West could write a book about the people and places he's seen over his time behind the mic.
  • We technically didn't get lost when we drove to Kennewick last night, but a detour with no signage anywhere had us taking several side streets to make it to the hotel. The bridge that we are suppose to cross is under construction, so we were told to use another route. The problem is, with no signage to help you even a GPS system becomes somewhat obsolete. I finally had to tell Gord McGarva to shut off the female voice from the GPS system after she repeatedly told me to - 'turn around' .

Rockets game notes vs. Americans

Tonight’s Preview: The Rockets play their first road game of the season tonight against the Tri City Americans. These two teams are meeting for the first time since the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, a series the Rockets won in six games. These two teams will meet four times this season (2 at home – 2 on the road). The Rockets host the Americans on Oct 13 and December 5th and make a return appearance to the Toyota Center on October 23rd. Oddly enough the Rockets face the Americans three times in their next 11 games. The Rockets are coming off a 6-5 overtime loss Thursday night to the Vancouver Giants. Stepan Novotny scored four times and added an assist while Mitchell Callahan had a goal and two helpers. Adam Brown took the loss in goal making 31 saves. The Rockets were 1 for 4 on the power play while the Giants were 3 for 6 with the extra man. Following tonight’s game the Rockets are in Kamloops Friday night.

It Ain’t Easy: Winning hockey games for the Kelowna Rockets at the Toyota Center over the years hasn’t been easy. Despite playoff success in that building, the Rockets are riding a 6 game regular season losing streak at the Toyota Center heading into tonight’s game. The last Rockets regular season win came February 25/06 in a 4-3 victory. Justin Keller’s power play goal in the 3rd period – his 45th of the season – led the Rockets to the win.

Game Day Tidbits: Prior to Stepan Novotny’s five point effort against the Giants Thursday night, who was the last Rockets player to register five points? Jamie Benn had 4+1=5 in the second game of the 2009 Memorial Cup in a 6-4 win over Drummondville….When was the last time the Rockets gave up 6 goals in a home opener? In 2007 the Rockets fell 6-5 in overtime to the Tri City Americans. Eric Felde scored the game winning goal for the visitors on the power play…Mitchell Chapman, Colton Jobke, Codey Ito, MacKenzie Johnston, Brady Poulsen and Jessey Astles all made their WHL debuts Thursday night…Brandon McMillan is expected to be in the Rockets lineup tonight after attending the training camp of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks. McMillan attended the Canadian World Junior team evaluation camp this summer…Since the start of the 2000-2001 campaign the Rockets are 3-5-0-0 with one tie in the first road game of the season. Last season the Rockets lost their first road game of the year (5-2) in Tri City on Sept 20/08).

Who’s Gone: The Rockets lose several key players to graduation following the 2008-2009 season. Twenty year-olds Ian Duval, Ryley Grantham and defenceman Tysen Dowzak are no longer with the team while Jamie Benn, Mikael Backlund and Cody Almond have all signed pro contracts and will not return this season. As of tonight’s game, the Rockets are missing their top five playoff point getters from last season. Tyler Myers is in that group, yet can return to the Rockets this season if he fails to earn a spot this season as a 19 year-old with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. Outside of overager Tysen Dowzak, the Rockets return their entire defensive core, including goaltenders Mark Guggenberger and Adam Brown.

What’s New: The Rockets will dress no less than three 16 year-olds this season in Shane McColgan, MacKenzie Johnston and Jessey Astles. McColgan was the Rockets first round pick in the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft while Johnston was listed by the team following a tryout two seasons ago. Astles is the Rockets 6th round pick in the 2008 bantam draft. McColgan played four regular season games with the Rockets as a 15 year-old last season and then joined the team for the playoffs, dressing in an additional four games. The Rockets also welcome a new assistant coach to head skipper Ryan Huska. Dan Lambert has joined the staff after the departure of Jeff Finley, who took a job as a scout with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Man that looks nice...

This is a pic of the Western Hockey League championship trophy, which was on display Thursday night at Prospera Place.

Great start...odd finish

Lucas Bloodoff and Tyson Barrie were given the privilege of hanging the Western Conference championship and WHL championship banners during a pre-game ceremony.

  • It's not often you see a game winning goal scored on a penalty shot - in overtime - shorthanded. But if you were at Thursday night's Rockets home opener at Prospera Place you witnessed Craig Cunningham's goal at the 3:16 mark of overtime, yes shorthanded and on a penalty shot, lifting the Vancouver Giants to a 6-5 win.
  • Cunningham's goal came after he broke away from a Rockets defenceman and appeared to have a one-on-one situation with goaltender Adam Brown. Cunningham appeared to lose the puck as he attempted to go to the backhand as the d-man's stick glanced off of the Giants forwards arm. For those keeping count, referee Pat Smith made the call.
  • When was the last time the Rockets lost a home opener by giving up 6 goals? The Rockets were a 6-5 overtime loser to the Tri City Americans September 22/07. Eric Felde scored the game winner, on the power play, at the 1:02 mark of overtime.
  • Stepan Novotny scored four goals and chipped in with an assist for a five point night. Who was the last Rockets player to register five points? Jamie Benn had five points (4+1=5) in the second game of the 2009 Memorial Cup in the Rockets 6-4 win over Drummondville.
  • Lucas Bloodoff came to the aid of a teammate after Giants forward J.T Barnett just missed clocking Rockets rookie Brett Bulmer in the neutral zone. Bloodoff didn't like what he saw and landed several solid rights to the face of Barnett, who left the altercation bleeding.
  • Giants goaltender Jamie Tucker looked shaky giving up two goals on the first two shots he faced, but instead of panicking head coach Don Hay kept the struggling goaltender in there to work out his problems and regain his confidence. Tucker appeared to get better as the game wore on.
  • Lance Bouma is a bull. The Giants team captain had a solid game by scoring a goal and winning battles to loose pucks. Bouma looked down and out after missing a Rockets defenceman and crashing heavily into the end boards. The 19 year-old skated slowly off the ice but didn't miss a shift.
  • Rockets forward Mitchell Callahan had a career game with a goal and two assists.
  • Mitchell Callahan, Stepan Novotny and Collin Bowman were all +3 in the game.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Barrie officially re-assigned/McMillan feeling Ducky

Brandon McMillan is in the Anaheim lineup tonight in an exhibition game against the Vancouver Canucks.

Tonight's Game Notes

Tonight’s Preview: Welcome to a new season of Kelowna Rockets hockey! The Rockets organization is celebrating their 15th season in Kelowna, after re-locating from Tacoma for the start of the 1995-1996 season. Tonight the Rockets open the 2009-2010 Western Hockey League regular season against the Vancouver Giants. These two teams are meeting for the first time since the Western Conference final, a series the Rockets won in 6 games. The Rockets and Giants will meet eight times this season (4 at home – 4 on the road). Following tonight’s game, these two teams meet October 9th in Vancouver.

A Special Moment: Before tonight’s game the Rockets will celebrate the accomplishments of the 2008-2009 season as they raise to the rafters a Western Conference championship banner and a Western Hockey League championship banner. The Rockets captured their 3rd league title in franchise history last season with a six game series win over the Eastern Conference champion Calgary Hitmen. The Rockets also won league titles in 2003 and 2005.

By the Numbers: The Rockets are playing their 1009th regular season game tonight based in the city of Kelowna. The Rockets played their 1000th regular season game against the Rebels in Red Deer February 27/09. Tonight’s game is the Rockets 505th regular season game in Kelowna. The Rockets are celebrating their 19th season as a franchise after being granted an expansion team for the start of the 1991-92 campaign. Tonight’s game is #1297 in Rockets history (Tacoma/Kelowna combined).

Home Opener Success: Last season the Rockets were a 5-4 winner over the Kamloops Blazers in the team’s home opener. The Rockets have opened the season at home against the Giants before. It was back on September 23/05 when the Rockets earned a 3-2 win. Since the start of the 2000-2001 season, the Rockets are 4-3-1-0 with a tie in nine home openers.

Who’s Gone: The Rockets lose several key players to graduation following the 2008-2009 season. Twenty year-olds Ian Duval, Ryley Grantham and defenceman Tysen Dowzak are no longer with the team while Jamie Benn, Mikael Backlund and Cody Almond have all signed pro contracts and will not return this season. As of tonight’s game, the Rockets are missing their top five playoff point getters from last season. Tyler Myers is in that group, yet can return to the Rockets this season if he fails to earn a spot this season as a 19 year-old with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. Outside of overager Tysen Dowzak, the Rockets return their entire defensive core, including goaltenders Mark Guggenberger and Adam Brown.

What’s New: The Rockets will dress no less than two 16 year-olds this season in Shane McColgan and MacKenzie Johnston. McColgan was the Rockets first round pick in the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft while Johnston was listed by the team following a tryout two seasons ago. McColgan played four regular season games with the Rockets as a 15 year-old last season and then joined the team for the playoffs, dressing in an additional four games. The Rockets also welcome a new assistant coach to head skipper Ryan Huska. Dan Lambert has joined the staff after the departure of Jeff Finley, who took a job as a scout with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings.

Milestone Makers:
Lucas Bloodoff: Game 97 tonight – 3 shy of 100 for career
Kyle St. Denis: Game 91 tonight – 9 shy of 100 for career
Brandon McMillan: Game 197 tonight – 3 shy of 200 for career
Collin Bowman: Game 142 tonight – 8 shy of 150
Tyson Barrie – Game 140 tonight – 98 career points
Colin Long – 223 career points in 229 career games.

Refreshing Your Memory: The Rockets were third in the Western Conference last season with 98 points. The team was 47-21-1-3, and finished just three points back of the Tri City Americans for 2nd in the conference. The Rockets won 28 times and home and 19 times on the road. The Rockets rode an 8 game winning streak into the playoffs, where they beat Kamloops (4 straight) in round one, Tri City (6 games), Vancouver (6 games) and Calgary (6 games) to win the league title for the 3rd time. The Rockets played 22 playoff games last spring, just two shy of the team record of 24 set during the 2004-2005 playoffs.

Notes compiled by Regan Bartel - AM 1150

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

For what it's worth and it isn't worth much...

Western Hockey League radio broadcasters were asked to predict the order of finish in the Western and Eastern Conference this season. Fortunately, Western Conference broadcasters were responsible for predicting only the conference they cover. The results can be found on several blogs (, so I won't bore you with posting the same info. The goal of this blog is not to be a repeat offender by providing information that others have sufficiently covered. Here are my prediction though on how I see things finishing in the BC Division.

#1 - Kamloops. With as many returning players as the Blazers have this season, you have to think they will generate enough goals to win more than their fair share of hockey games. Some criticize their goaltending, yet two returning veterans isn't a bad option. Even if the goaltenders allow the odd softy, they should more than score enough at the other end of the ice.
#2) Vancouver. Work ethic alone wins hockey games against more skilled teams. The defensive core is questionable after several key personnel losses back there but they still have ample fire power up front. They have one more thing going for them. Don Hay.
#3) Kelowna. I am picking the Rockets 3rd in the BC Division, but that could be higher if Tyler Myers and Colin Long return. The Rockets lose just one d-man from the blue line (Tysen Dowzak) if Myers does return from Buffalo. Lucas Bloodoff, Kyle St. Denis and Brandon McMillan will need to have career years offensively with the loss of some significant fire power at the forward ranks.
#4) Prince George. Dean Clark is going to wonder some nights if he indeed made the right decision to sign a five year deal with the Cougars, but he has a good group to work with. Brett Connolly, if healthy, will have to be lights out again this season. A sophomore jinx could put the Cougars into 5th place in the division. For my money Connolly is just too good to stumble in year two.
#5) Chilliwack. Marc Habscheid is a solid coach and if anyone can turns this team around, he can. The question is can Habscheid instill a work ethic in Chilliwack like we saw with the teams he had in Kelowna? If so, teams are in trouble. While I like the Bruins goaltending, they appear to be a bit thin at forward to score enough goals. Ryan Howse will have to be huge this season. Habscheid led the Rockets to a Memorial Cup in 2004 with a defense first philosophy and it will be that game plan that will produce W's for the Bruins this season. While I predict Chilliwack finishing 5th in the division, they will make the playoffs.

Sneak peek at new video screen at Prospera Place

How has sluggish economy affected WHL?

I spoke to Western Hockey League commissioner Ron Robison at a news conference at Prospera Place this morning. Sure we discussed the new rule changes on fighting, but how has the slumping Canadian economy affected the league:

"We monitored that very closely throughout last season and the course of this off-season as well, both in terms of season ticket response and cooperate sponsorships. We weathered the storm very well. Our research going into it showed that do to our modest price points in terms of ticket prices being family affordable and our sponsorships having great value that we found a way to get through it."

"The downturn may be somewhat economy driven but we've only had a few teams...our season ticket sales are more or less flat. We haven't seen a decrease at all across the board. Some teams have dropped a bit but some teams have also increased (ticket sales). I think we attribute it more to the teams performance. I think the fans hold the teams accountable on team performance ultimately, if you run a good program you are going to be rewarded at the gate."

Barrie Back!

Rockets defenceman Tyson Barrie is expected back for opening night.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fighting Ain't Fashionable in WHL

Do you like fighting in the Western Hockey League? Get used to seeing less of it this season.
The league is adopting several rules that will have enforcers second guessing themselves prior to engaging in a fight with an opponent.
The most significant rule change is an extra two minute minor penalty for a player who takes his helmet off prior to the start of a fight. That offending player will receive an two minute unsportsmanlike penalty in addition to a five minute major.
Aren't those fights off an opening face-off to a game exciting? Forget it. Any so called 'pre-meditated' fights off a face-off will result in a game misconduct.
An impressive take down by throwing your opponent to the ice following a fight may become history too. If a player deliberately throws a player to the ice during a fight, a game misconduct will be issued. While fighting majors have gone down considerably over the last few years, the drop should be significant this season under these new rules.

Long will play for Coyotes tonight

Monday, September 14, 2009

Back in the saddle

Kyle St. Denis and Lucas Bloodoff return to practice today after attending NHL training camps on free agent tryouts.
St. Denis was with the Dallas Stars while Bloodoff was with the Phoenix Coyotes.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Photo evidence of Callahan-Benn tilt

These two Rockets' teammates elected to drop the gloves last week at the Traverse City, Michigan tournament. Mitchell Callahan of the Red Wings and Jamie Benn of the Stars.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Rockets fall 3-2 to Giants

  • The Kelowna Rockets concluded the 2009 pre-season schedule with a 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Giants Friday night. Mitchell Chapman and Shane McColgan scored goals for the Rockets, who ended the exhibition season with a record of 2 and 3.
  • The Giants held period leads of 2-0 and 2-1 before the two teams exchanged goals in the 3rd.
  • The Giants out-shot the Rockets 13-3 in the first period and 32-16 in the game.
  • James Henry had 3 assists in the win for Vancouver.
  • The Rockets dressed just five veterans. Adam Brown was joined by Curt Gogol, Spencer Main, Kyle Verdino and Aaron Borejko.
  • While Verdino and Borejko dressed, they didn't play. Both are out with injuries.
  • Main again wore the 'C' for the Rockets in this one.
  • Rookie defenceman MacKenzie Johnston, Mitchell Chapman, Colton Jobke and Antoine Corbin can't complain about a lack of ice time in this game. It was essentially a four man rotation on 'd' with the small numbers. The Rockets dressed just 15 skaters....13 if you throw Verdino and Borejko out of the mix.
  • It was my first chance to see 16 year-old Giants defenceman David Musil. As advertised, this kid can play. He looked like a vet out there against essentially an all-rookie Rockets lineup. That said, Musil skates well for a big body (6'3 - 191) and possesses a pretty good shot.
  • Torrie Jung's younger brother Mikael is attempting to make the Giants again this season, this time as a 17 year-old. They gave one of the Giants goals to Greg Lamoureux, but I would swear Jung had the Giants opening goal.
  • Red Deer Rebels head coach Jesse Wallin took in Fridays game along with Edmonton Oil Kings GM Bob Green.
  • The Rockets held a moment of silence before the game on the 8th anniversary of 9/11.
  • In my 9 years as a Rockets broadcaster, this exhibition season has been the weirdest on record. To have so few veterans around to participate in pre-season games is nothing short of sad. While the young talent can be evaluated, how can the coaches, yet alone the fans, get a good indication of what type of team will hit the ice when the Rockets open the season on Thursday?
  • In some respects the Giants and Rockets are facing a similar situation. If they both get back key veteran players they could go from being middle of the pack teams to challengers for a division or conference title. Evander Kane would make a huge difference to the Giants fortunes. The same holds true for Rockets defenceman Tyler Myers.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Rockets press conference

Kelowna Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton spoke at a press conference this morning on the ticket availability for the upcoming Super Series game at Prospera Place. Tickets for the November 26th game go on sale to the general public October 6th. The game is one of six stops across Canada featuring hopefuls for Team Canada against the Russian world junior team.

Bloodoff Requires Surgery

Kelowna Rockets general manager Bruce Hamilton told the media today that 18 year-old forward Evan Bloodoff will need surgery on his knee.
The injury occurred during last years WHL final against the Calgary Hitmen.
Once the surgery is completed, Bloodoff will be lost to the team for between 4 and 6 months. Bloodoff was sent home from the training camp of the Phoenix Coyotes after team doctors were unable to clear him to participate in rookie camp.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Myers Article

Video Blogging

Things That Make Me Go Hmm...

  • I was surprised to see Evan Bloodoff at Rockets practice Wednesday. The 18 year-old has been sent back to Kelowna by the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes. Bloodoff, a 6th round pick, didn't receive medical clearance to participate in Coyotes rookie camp.
  • Prior to the Rockets practice Wednesday, veteran goaltender Mark Guggenberger was on the ice working out with assistant coach Ryan Cuthbert. Check out the Courier, who's photographer was taking pictures left, right and centre.
  • Adam Brown has new gear. The 17, about to turn 18 year-old goaltender, was wearing new pads and gloves from Reebok at practice Wednesday. Brown says he won't wear them in a game until he feels comfortable that they have been broken in.
  • The Rockets had some alumni join them for practice today. Jason Deleurme, Mitch Fritz, James McEwan, Justin Keller and Randall Gelech were all participating in drills.
  • A lot of hype about nothing when it comes to the new jerseys unveiled Wednesday? The Rockets jersey didn't change much, which is a good thing. The cut is different obviously, but it looks much the same as the old one. Some other team jersey's took on a new look though. I thought one thing missing from all of the jerseys - league wide - was the word 'WHL' on the lower part of the neckline of the jersey. The Reebok jerseys worn in the NHL have 'NHL' stitched in that area. The WHL jersey's just have a piece of cloth covering that spot. Overall the Rockets jersey looks good to me.
  • You will notice something different at Prospera Place when the team opens defense of the 2009 WHL title next week. The championship banners from 2003, 2004 and 2005 are being moved to the other side of the ice, opposite of where they currently hang, which is above the press box. The reason? I've been told for TV. With the TV camera's situated in the building, it makes for a better shot.
  • Look out, here comes Les Lazaruk! The voice of the Saskatoon Blades is again calling on us radio broadcasters to submit our predictions for the upcoming season. The good news is he is asking us to predict the order of finish in the conferences we represent. I will make one bold prediction Les! Are you ready? The Brandon Wheat Kings will be in the Memorial Cup. Yes, Kelly McCrimmon, your team is going to the big dance. Something tells me McCrimmon is well aware of that fact.

Looking good...

Curt Gogol, Adam Brown and Spencer Main pose for the local media as they show off the new Reebok uniforms that will be worn by the team this season. The new jerseys are now on sale at the Rockets souvenir store - 'In the Crease.'

Rockets new look

The black jersey will be worn at home.
The white jersey will be worn on the road.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Audio Blogging with MacKenzie Johnston

BCHL broadcaster joins Rockets

Congrats to Kevin Parnell for finally seeing the light.
The former voice of the BC Hockey League's Westside Warriors
has joined the Kelowna Rockets office staff.
Parnell will be involved in updating the teams new website while issuing press releases during the season.
Parnell says he will not be the 'voice' in the stands during home games this season. He will leave that up to someone more good looking. Ok, I added that part.
Parnell also covered the most recent Memorial Cup in Rimouski for the Capital News.
Congrats Kevin on the new gig.

Rockets press release on new goalie

The Kelowna Rockets would like to announce they have acquired goaltender Warren Shymko from the Tri City Americans in exchange for a ninth round bantam draft pick in 2010.

Shymko, 17, was originally drafted by Tri City in the 2007 WHL bantam draft. A native of Calder, Saskatchewan, he has played the past two seasons of midget hockey in Saskatoon.

Rockets president and general manager Bruce Hamilton said it was a move to bring in depth in net for the Rockets.

"With the uncertainty with Mark Guggenberger’s injury, we needed to get another guy in here," said Hamilton. "We felt we needed to bring someone in that could get some playing time while Mark is on the sidelines."

No Joke. Rockets in top 10

The CHL Mastercard top 10 rankings for the 2009-2010 season have been released and the Kelowna Rockets are on that list.
No joke.
The Rockets are rated as the 10th best junior team in the country. The Calgary Hitmen are rated 2nd, Brandon is 4th and Saskatoon is 7th.
The top rated team in the nation are the Windsor Spitfires.
Nothing against the Rockets here, but to suggest they are the 10th best team in the country with the loss of essentially their top two lines has to make you chuckle just a bit.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bloodoff brother's at Coyotes camp

Courtesy of Phoenix Coyotes.

St-D gets scoring chance for Stars in shootout

Kyle St. Denis is joining teammate Jamie Benn as the Dallas Stars compete this week at the NHL Prospects tournament in Traverse City, Michigan.
St. Denis saw his first game action Monday and was even used in the shootout in the Stars 2-1 loss to Minnesota.
St. Denis is attending the Stars camp on a free agent tryout.
Nieuwendyk lauds Benn - New Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk has liked what he's seen in the team's top prospect -- forward Jamie Benn.
"It seems like a long time ago I was injured with that concussion. I feel really good. I've recovered from that and it's just nice to play some games (in Traverse City) and get that out of the way."
Benn, of course, led all goal-scorers during the 2008 Traverse City Prospects Tournament, connecting five times in four games en route to leading the Stars to the championship. He posted 46 goals and 82 points in 56 games to lead the Kelowna Rockets to a Western Hockey League championship last season.
The Stars see Benn, a fifth-round pick in 2007, as a future star in the League."I don't think he's too far off at all," Nieuwendyk said. "If he doesn't make our team, I'm sure he'll be called up from time to time. We have a great situation where our minor league affiliate (in Texas) is only two-and-a-half hours down the road, so that's going to be a big bonus for us."He's already in a man's body and we'll take a good look at him at training camp."

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bulmer leads Rockets to exhibition Win

  • The Kelowna Rockets earned a 3-2 exhibition win over the Kamloops Blazers Saturday night at Prospera Place. The win improved the Rockets record to 2 and 2 in the pre-season heading into next Friday's game against the Vancouver Giants.
  • Brett Bulmer's goal at the 1:43 mark of the third period was the game winner, as the Rockets out-shot the Blazers 31-24.
  • If stars were handed out in exhibition, Bulmer would have been given top honours for his goal and assist. Bulmer's battle level was high throughout the night. He's a keeper!
  • Bulmer played a good portion of the game with Spencer Main and Shane McColgan.
  • Main wore the 'C' on this night. Great to see.
  • McColgan was the most dynamic player on the ice. In a game that featured few veterans, McColgan often times controlled the game with his speed and tremendous passing ability. The Hermosa Beach, California resident also scored a nice goal speeding down on right wing. The 16 year-old appeared to lose his balance, dropping to his knees, yet somehow snapped a low shot past a startled Blazers goaltender Jon Groenheyde.
  • Speaking of Groenheyde, he was solid. The South Surrey, BC resident faced 15 shots in the third period, making a nice toe save on McColgan from in tight. The Blazers goaltending will not be a problem this season. LeClerc? Groenheyde? Pick your poison, you can't go wrong.
  • Rockets rookie forward Max Adolph was awarded a penalty shot at the 9 minute mark of the third period in a 3-2 game. Adolph was unable to beat Groenheyde after mishandling the puck and the veteran goaltender then poking it away with his stick for good measure.
  • The Rockets dressed overage players Jonathan Milhouse and Kevin Kraus. Both are familiar with the WHL. Milhouse spent time with both Everett and Portland while I remember Kraus playing in Kamloops and Tri City. Kraus played last season with the Vernon Vipers.
  • Notables in attendance Saturday night included Montreal Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges. Gorges was joined by former Rockets Brett Palin and Carsen Germyn.
  • I ran into former Rockets alumnus Jason Deleurme during the intermission. J.D isn't sure if he will be headed back to Europe or if he will look for a possible AHL tryout in North America at months end. When I asked him if he was thinking about retiring he told me, "No way".
  • I had a chance to watch the game from the stands, which is a treat for me considering the amount of games I witness from the broadcast booth.