We arrived so early in Kamloops that none of the Blazers management nor coaches had yet arrived at the arena. How odd was it for them to roll up to the ISC and see the Rockets bus parked at their doorstep? Blazers trainer Colin 'Toledo' Robinson was there to welcome us though. The personable Robinson even had a pot of coffee on for the Rockets coaching staff as we arrived. Nice touch.
I met Blazers radio voice Jon Keen for a quick coffee as the team took to the ice. Keen is calling a winner and is like a kid in a candy store these days. Calling a winner is a whole lot of fun for a broadcaster and you have to enjoy every minute of it. I think Keen realizes how fortunate he is to be covering an exceptional group of athletes.
I even received a tour of the Blazers dressing room with Keen after receiving approval from the proper authorities. Let's just say, that probably wouldn't have happened 15 year's ago when Rick Ball was calling the play-by-play for the Rockets and Kelly Moore was doing the same for the Blazers. Back then, those two probably never even talked.
I am not down playing the importance of finishing in first place in the overall standings, but it is not the be all and end all to a great season. Many a team has failed to finish first only to have tremendous success in the playoffs. Many have won the regular season crown only to fall flat on their face when the most important part of the season begins. All I know is few people remember who won a regular season title. All anyone remembers is who won a WHL championship.
Rockets d-man Mitchell Chapman was on the ice this morning in Kamloops. An encouraging sign for a veteran who is desperately needed to anchor the blue line. Chapman's big body presence and physical demeanor is an added element that can go a long way against quick teams like Edmonton and Medicine Hat. Add to the fact he is the best shot blocker and oldest d-man on the team, you can't help but notice his absence when he is out of the line up.
I guess I owe Adam Brown 5 bucks. While stick handling a puck at centre ice at the end of practice, Brown bet me five bucks that he would put a puck on the top of the net at the far end of the ice. "I will take that bet", I yelled at Brown from the bench. The 20 year-old quickly picked up the puck with his glove and promptly skated towards the net and put it on top of the net. I guess he didn't say how he'd do it, but he did it.