Saturday, July 31, 2010

McColgan attends NHL camp

Ok, the headline got you thinking didn't it?
How can a non drafted player attend an NHL training camp?
Kelowna Rockets forward Shane McColgan will be joining about 30 other top eligible prospects for the 2011 draft in Toronto next month for two days of scrimmages in front of many NHL general managers and coaches at the 2010 NHL/Gatorade Research, Development and Orientation Camp.
The camp allows the NHL to test out potential rules such as no icing when shorthanded, a bigger crease, wider blue lines and painted lines in front of each teams bench for line changes.
McColgan is in Toronto August 18th and 19th.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Alumni hockey game thoughts and observations

  • It may have been 34 degrees outside Sunday afternoon, but that didn't deter hockey fans from showing up for the Kelowna Rockets alumni game at the Capital News Centre. It was a full house as fans watched an up tempo game which had little in the way of defense. What was the score? Does it really matter? The fans were treated to some pretty goals and some good goaltending.
  • The two referee's for the game were assistant coach Kim Dillabaugh and athletic therapist Jeff Thorburn.
  • Speaking of goaltending, Kristofer Westblom was on the winning end by making two spectacular glove saves; one off of the stick of Jamie Benn before robbing Evan Bloodoff.
  • It was great to see Kelly Guard at the other end of the ice representing Team White or in this case Steamer's Stallions. Guard played senior hockey in Saskatchewan last season and is no where near his solid self when he backstopped the Rockets to a Memorial Cup in 2004. It was just nice to see the capacity crowd yell out "Guard" on three separate occasions when the national anthem was song prior to game time. Man, does that bring back good memories.
  • Gavin Hamilton was the winning coach guiding the black team to the victory. Local golf pro Neil Schmidt's team, in white, took the loss.
  • Marc Habscheid made an appearance at Sunday's game. Just the fact that the now Chilliwack Bruins GM and head coach showed up was pretty cool. I heard he was in the building, but didn't actually see him.
  • Only two current Rockets participated in Sunday's game. Evan Bloodoff and Mitchell Chapman were on the ice competing against the pro's. Lucas Bloodoff and Brandon McMillan were playing too, but they won't be wearing Rocket colours this season.
  • This would never happen in a game, but I sat next to Luke Schenn on the bench for the third period. This gave me a chance to touch base with the personable Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman, who is as good a guy as they come. Between shifts, 'Schenner' told me he is still a regular reader of 'the rant'.
  • How big is Nolan Yonkman? Huge! Yonkman told me he is tipping the scales at about 255. He will be attempting to crack the Phoenix Coyotes roster this season.
  • Both Schenn and Yonkman complemented me on the Riders hat I was wearing. Schenn is from Saskatoon while Yonkman is from Punnichy.
  • Only one penalty was handed out in Sunday's game. A penalty shot was awarded to Shea Weber. Weber skated in and fired a slap shot from the hash marks that went wide, much to the relief of goaltender Kristofer Westblom.
  • It was good to see Rockets assistant coach Ryan Cuthbert out there showing his stuff. The dude can still play. 'Cutter' scored a goal in a losing cause.
  • Rockets forward Shane McColgan is in town. The 17 year-old will be working out with athletic therapist Jeff Thorburn for a couple of weeks.
  • No wonder Josh Gorges was so good last season. Again this summer he is working out with Shea Weber. Weber, I hear, is an animal in the weight room.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Alumni hockey game in pictures

You won't see this often. A Montreal Canadiens defenseman sitting in harmony with a Toronto Maple Leafs defender. That's Josh Gorges (left) with Luke Schenn.
Evan Bloodoff (left) is seen here with former Rockets forward Josiah Anderson.
The goalies. Kristofer Westblom (left) and Kelly Guard.
I did my best but was unable to convert Shea Weber into a Riders fan. Better luck next year.

Friday, July 23, 2010

McEwan watching alumni weekend from sidelines

James McEwan is an eager participant.
Never one to back down to defend a teammate or challenge the other teams tough guy, McEwan is relegated to the sidelines with the Kelowna Rockets alumni weekend in full swing.
McEwan was unable to play in the alumni golf tournament Thursday with ex teammates and won't suit up for the alumni hockey game after recently undergoing surgery after breaking his hand.
McEwan broke a thumb in an ECHL fight against former Giants enforcer Garet Hunt.
The thumb wasn't healing properly when another problem was found.
"I came out of a cast and my wrist was limp. I told the doctors that something was wrong as it seemed like the same wrist injury I had in 2007.
Hockey fans in Vancouver will remember that night.
McEwan and Hunt were involved in a scrap when McEwan slipped and was cut on the wrist by Hunt's skate.
McEwan was sent to Vancouver hospital after several tendons were cut in his wrist. McEwan was out for over two months.
"Doctors here (Kelowna) found out that the tendons were ruptured, the two that were severed a few years ago were re-ruptured. They had to cut me open and take the tendon out of the front of my arm and harvest that whole tendon and drilled a hole in my left hand and they weaved it through there. The two tendons that were severed..they weaved it and braided it together combining the three tendons into one. It's amazing what they can do".
McEwan says he needs a little more time to heal but expects to be back for the start of the ECHL season with the Ontario Reign likely looking for another dance partner in the form of Garet Hunt.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Myers and Rockets alumni gather

The Kelowna Rockets alumni weekend is underway. The first order of business was a golf tournament for players past and present at the Harvest Golf Club.
I spoke to Tyler Myers, who was one of close to 200 taking part in the texas scramble format.

"This is my first one as an alumni of the team. It's cool. The past few years all I've heard is stories about it and now I finally get to live it."

How has your summer been?

"I've been training a lot. I haven't been on the ice too much though. I have tried to stay away after a long season, but I am starting to get into it now. I was able to go to summer camp and get on the ice too, so I've been training and relaxing".

How healthy is it to get away from the ice in the off-season?

"It's great to get away. It was a long season and even going to the world championships made it a little longer. It's nice to get some down time but the summer if flying by so quick that I can feel myself starting to get myself back into it and get it started up again".

How's the golf game?

"I am bad at most of it (laugh). I just like getting out here with some friends and having some fun. To tell you the truth, I haven't been out too much. This is probably my third game of the year and the last two I had to play in. I haven't seen too many of the guys play, but maybe I will run into a pro today who can give me some tips".

Monday, July 19, 2010

Things that make me go hmm....

  • The South Okanagan Events Centre is an impressive building. The Vernon Multi-Plex takes a back seat to this facility and the VMP isn't bad either. I love that you walk up two flights of stairs at the SOEC and enter the ice surface from high above. You then make your way down to your seats. You can still reach the seats from ice level, but entering from above gives you that "wow" factor. If you have never seen a game in that building, I encourage you to make the trip. While I don't promote the BCHL on this blog, this building should make the city of Penticton proud. The SOEC easily out classes some WHL buildings.
  • At Duncan Keith's Stanley Cup celebration Saturday afternoon, I briefly spoke to Sportsnet's Craig McEwen. McEwen was covering the event and is spending the week in Penticton as his son attends hockey school. McEwen couldn't have timed his vacation better. He will also cover the BC Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony this weekend.
  • I felt a little sorry for Keith during Saturday's celebration. Everyone wanted to get a picture with him and a signed autograph. He did the best he could to accommodate but people are aggressive. It's amazing what people will do to get a pic with a celebrity so they can post it on their facebook profile.
  • Before speaking with Keith, I had to laugh at the number of people that approached him like they were his best friend. Keith was polite, but must have been saying to himself: "Who is this" or, "get me out of here".
  • During the Stanley Cup celebration, references to Keith's hockey career in the Okanagan didn't mention his involvement with the Kelowna Rockets championship team in 2003. But in saying that, two pictures on the jumbo screen showed the Rockets team photo from that year and a pic of Keith in a Rockets uniform along with then captain Ryan Cuthbert and head scout Lorne Frey.
  • One thing I will miss when the WHL season begins will be the visual of Tigers head coach Willie Desjardins firmly grasping his clip board. No coaches in the WHL had a clip board in hand during a game outside of Desjardins. He was also known for standing on the bench at Prospera Place during the intermissions. It looked like Willie had no where to go after speaking to his team, so he elected to stand on the bench to watch the Zamboni clean the ice surface.
  • Now that Shaun Clouston has been named the Tigers new head coach, would he still sport that killer playoff beard like he fashioned in the Tigers championship seasons as an assistant coach? It seems as though you can get away with it as an assistant, but as a head coach is appears to be taboo.
  • A buddy of mine out east is trying to convince me to get involved with Twitter. Should I open a Twitter account? Would you be interested to follow me on Twitter? Even Gord McGarva is on Twitter, and he is no techno-geek. I still don't understand the hype over it? Everett Silvertips broadcaster Jon Rosen is a big fan of it too.
  • Manhattan Point Restaurant at Prospera Place is getting a face lift. While that's all well and good, shouldn't RG Properties focus on one of the real problems in that building...the oh so small press box?
  • I have been playing in the Kelowna Men's Floor Hockey League this summer using a Shane McColgan 'second hand' hockey stick. It must be operator error because that stick isn't working the magic it performed when the 16 year-old had his hands on it during his rookie season. Scoring goals are hard to come by. Sweating in +35 degree temperatures isn't.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Duncan's day with Lord Stanley

Duncan Keith and his fiancee sitting on the stage as they and other family members were introduced. Keith had the Stanley Cup with him and of course that gold medal around his neck.
Close to 5 thousand people fill the South Okanagan Events Centre in Penticton Saturday to celebrate the Stanley Cup victory with Keith. July 17th was declared "Duncan Keith Day" in Penticton. The Chicago Blackhawks defenseman was given a key to the city.

Move over Sydney Crosby. Keith's a popular guy around these parts. Keith is now a favourite of the young Okanagan hockey fan. Keith won even more fans over Saturday when he made a surprise visit to the Penticton Regional Hospital where he visited those unable to attend the celebration. He then pulled out his wallet and made a 10 thousand dollar donation.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Rockets colour analyst taking in British Open

Here is a pic of Rockets colour analyst Gord McGarva with the Claret Jug Trophy Tout at St Andrews.
McGarva is spending the summer over in Scotland, but assures me he will return before the puck drops on the 2010-2011 season.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hay staying with Giants

One of the elite coaches in the Western Hockey League has said no to an assistant coaching position with the NHL's Edmonton Oilers.
Don Hay has told Vancouver Giants’ owner Ron Toigo that he will remain with the team.
“I talked to Don tonight and he said he really likes it here,” explained Toigo to the Windsor Star. “He said it would take something special to get him to leave. We’re very excited and happy he’s staying.”
Earlier Wednesday, Toigo had confirmed his head coach had been contacted about the Edmonton job.

Cap'n Kirk calls it quits

And then there were four.
A fourth opening for a play-by-play position has been created in the Western Hockey League after Kirk Fraser of the Kamloops Blazers officially announced that he is stepping aside after 11 years of calling games.

Jobs calling play-by-play are now available in Kamloops, Vancouver, Edmonton and Regina.
Prepared and passionate.
That may best describe what I witnessed from Kirk Fraser during his time in the Kamloops Blazers broadcast booth.
Let me point out that while the Blazers and Rockets were fierce rivals, the same couldn't be said for the relationship between the teams broadcasters.
Sure we waved our teams respective flags with pride, but once the game was over so were the battle lines.
I will always remember a game in Kamloops between the two teams with fight after fight, causing numerous stoppages. I looked over at Fraser after the sixth fight had concluded only to see him looking back at me jokingly with his fists clenched. It was like he was saying we were next in-line to get into a scrap.

Fraser will be missed.
He was responsible - or took the responsibility - for providing all 21 other broadcasters across the WHL with a player pronunciation guide at the start of each season. I, like many others, often twisted the names of some players and didn't follow the script, but Fraser was like a choir director wanting all of us (broadcasters) to sing from the same song sheet. Some of us, me included, just sang off key sometimes.
Fraser never called a winner.
During his time in the Blazers broadcast booth, first round exits were par for the course. But despite the struggles, Fraser was ever the optimist before the puck was dropped.
Isn't that what you want from your radio broadcaster? The belief that the home team can win every night?
Fraser was that type of broadcaster, a radio voice the Kamloops Blazers organization can be proud of.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Things that make me go hmm...

        • Here's an update on Kyle St Denis. St. Denis, like any other veteran, has an open invitation to Kelowna Rockets training camp this fall. St. Denis will battle for one of three overage spots along with Tyler Matheson, Evan Bloodoff and Geordie Wudrick. It's up to St. Denis to make sure he is medically cleared to play by doctors - outside of the Rockets personnel - after spending the majority of last season on the sidelines with concussion like symptoms. The Rockets would love nothing more than to have the 20 year-old in the lineup this season but it's St. Denis - with the help of specialized doctors - that have the final say on if he is healthy enough to play. Right now, St. Denis is symptom free.
        • When you've been in the game as long as Newell Brown has, you don't find employment. Employment finds you. The father of Kelowna Rockets goaltender Adam Brown may land a position with the NHL's Vancouver Canucks as either an assistant coach or scout. Brown's contract as an assistant coach with the Anaheim Ducks was not renewed at seasons end.
        • The summer months are often the time a couple elects to get married. In the hockey world, the summer is the only time to tie the knot. Congratulations to former Kelowna Rockets forward Josiah Anderson who got married last month. Former Rockets Troy Bodie and Blake Comeau were among the best men. Also congrats to Medicine Hat Tigers marketing magician Dave Andjelic', who also entered married bliss.
        • When one of the 22 Western Hockey League broadcasters is dismissed of his duties, it's never a good day. As the hockey season rolls along you build friendships with your fellow broadcasters and often times gravitate closer to some than others. AJ Jakubec and I go back to my first year in Kelowna when he was my colour commentator on Rockets broadcasts. Over the years we've kept in touch and I was pleased when he landed the Edmonton Oil Kings gig two years ago. The surprising dismissal of AJ caught me by surprise. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that AJ brought passion and energy to the rink when the Oil Kings took the ice. AJ was likely more upset after an Oil Kings loss than some of the players. He was also never afraid to express his dislike for a WHL official. Oh ya, that got him in hot water with the league, but you can't but appreciate the passion he brought to the game. While Jakubec's termination is disappointing, you can't keep a good man down. Jakubec will bounce back. Unfortunately for us, we likely won't see his smiling face around a WHL rink anytime soon.
        • I picked up the Kelowna Daily Courier on Tuesday. After reading it I blew my nose in it. It was that thin! For a minute I thought I was reading an old edition of the Swift Current Sun.
        • Spending a week of holiday time at home with my twin boys gave me a chance to take them to the driving range. Let me just say they are no Tiger Woods. Yet in saying that, would I want them too be? I wouldn't have said that two years ago.

        Thursday, July 8, 2010

        Weber named captain

        There's a new captain in Nashville, as talented young defenseman Shea Weber will wear the "C" on his jersey this coming season, the Predators announced Thursday night.
        Weber, 24, led Nashville defensemen in scoring and finished sixth overall on the team with 16 goals and 43 points. He was also a valuable member of the Canadian Olympic Team that won the gold medal in the Vancouver Olympics.
        "In addition to being one of the top young defenseman in the League today, Shea is a natural leader, and we are confident he has the respect of his teammates, opponents, the Predators organization and its fans," Nashville GM David Poile said. "He becomes the first Predators draft pick to be named captain, and has been part of the culture and belief system we have worked hard to create."

        It's a boy!

        Congratulations to Ryan and Denise Huska.
        The two are proud parents of a bouncing baby boy.
        Luke Huska was born last night at Kelowna General Hospital weighing in at 8 pounds, 12 ounces. Luke Huska is eligible for the Western Hockey League bantam draft in 2025.

        Tuesday, July 6, 2010

        Wudrick going to Coyote Country

        Kelowna Rockets forward Geordie Wudrick failed to sign a NHL contract with the LA Kings on June 1st, but he is now moving on to another team in the hope of making a positive impression.
        Wudrick has been given a tryout with the Phoenix Coyotes.
        Wudrick will attend training camp with fellow teammate Evan Bloodoff this fall.
        Wudrick was acquired from the Swift Current Broncos last season, scoring 28 goals in 50 games in a Rockets uniform (regular season/playoffs combined). Wudrick led the Rockets in playoff goal scoring with nine goals.

        Monday, July 5, 2010

        Date for Duncan Keith bringing Stanley Cup announced

        Duncan Keith will be bringing the Stanley Cup with him to the Okanagan on Saturday July 17th.
        The Chicago Blackhawks defenseman will be honoured by the city of Penticton at a ceremony beginning at noon at the South Okanagan Events Centre...and yes the holy grail of hockey will be with him.
        The public will be invited to honour Keith, who this past season won the cup, an Olympic gold medal and the Norris trophy.

        Cody Chikie Update

        Cody Chikie should be even better than he was in his rookie season when he opens his sophomore campaign with the Kelowna Rockets in 2010-2011.
        Chikie tells me he is skating at Eric Morissette's Paragon Hockey Camp once a week.
        Morissette has trained players like Fernando Pisani, Kyle Brodziak, Jason Strudwick and Tyler Spurgeon.
        Chikie also tells me he is working out at Athletes Nation Sports Performance Centre twice a day seven days a week.
        Outside of extensive training, Chikie is enjoying a new boat his family bought this summer and is using it at a lake just outside St. Albert.
        Chikie had the 6th most goals on the Rockets roster last season, scoring 18 times in 58 games.

        Saturday, July 3, 2010

        McMillan headed to Anaheim

        Kelowna Rockets forward Brandon McMillan is off to Anaheim next week.
        McMillan is one of 31 prospects taking part in the Anaheim Ducks conditioning camp July 5th to the 11th.

        Kelowna resident Curtis Hamilton ( Saskatoon Blades) will attend similar camp in Edmonton a day later.

        Friday, July 2, 2010

        Huska getting older/Jobke graduates

        • Happy birthday to Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. Huska was born July 2, 1975. That would make Huska 35 years-old today.

        • Rockets forward Mitchell Callahan tells me he is skating twice a week these days. Callahan, who signed a contract with the Detroit Redwings in May, has also been hanging out with teammate Adam Brown. I guess it only makes sense considering Brown lives in Yorba Linda, California while Callahan is 30 minutes away in Whittier, California.

        • It's not often I make contact with a former Rockets player still playing in the league, but Curt Gogol sent me a message the other day. Gogol was passed over in this summers NHL draft, but considering he was injured and traded all in the same season, scouts thought they would pass on the gritty forward. Lets hope Gogol can get a tryout with some NHL team this fall and show what he can do when he laces it up with the pro's. There appears to be interest from several teams to bring him into camp as a free agent.

        • Here's an update on defenseman Colton Jobke. Jobke is enjoying his summer like never before. Why? Jobke has just graduated from high school. Jobke has been busy skating twice and week and training six days a week. I found it interesting that following the hockey season he spent a couple of months detailing boats that would then be shipped down to California where they would be auctioned off.