Thursday, December 12, 2013

Notes, quotes and anecdotes

WHL website doesn't lie
  • It is really hard to believe the Kelowna Rockets sit in sole possession of first place in the overall standings on December 12th. To think this team has racked up 24 wins in 29 games is mind boggling. It hasn't been easy to get there and the wins have come in a variety of different ways. I would think its safe to say this team isn't being taken lightly by the opposition at any time this season. Every night the Rockets face the best that the opposition has to offer. No night is a night off for a team that everyone else wants to knock off.
  • How tight are the Kelowna Rockets players? I think a good indication of that was when Cody Fowlie showed up at the team meal this afternoon. Fowlie, who plays with the Regina Cougars men's hockey team, wasn't about to miss out on saying hi to many of his ex-teammates at the Regina hotel.  
  • I asked Everett Silvertips head coach Kevin Constantine last week what he thought of the Rockets. "I think they are the best team...and I like Portland a lot. I better be careful what I say here. Portland has an extraordinary amount of talent. I don't know if Kelowna has exactly the same level of talent or not but I just like Kelowna's team game. I always have. When I coached in Everett 10 years ago, Kelowna was the model. People borrowed styles and systems and whenever you are a team that other people are borrowing your strategies from, you are the best. I've always admired the Rockets for their style of play and their ability to get good players. They have the best winning percentage, what can you say? If they have the best winning percentage they are the best team", Constantine added.
  • I had to chuckle when I asked rookie forward Justin Kirkland about the fight he had with Warriors 20 year-old Jesse Forsberg Wednesday night.  Kirkland, with a big smile on his face said, "I took a couple and I tried to throw a few back. When I hit my hand on his helmet, it hurt, so I decided to hang on".  I am sure Forsberg was asked by Tyrell Goulbourne to fight but wisely said no. Interesting that Forsberg elected to scrap with a shrinking violet instead.                     
  • The players on the bus are well prepared for the elements. The majority of them are wearing toque's  when they leave the warm confines of the 'iron lung'. Ryan Olsen is sporting a very fashionable Seattle SeaHawks toque while Jackson Whistle is all about supporting the Montreal Canadiens. Tyson Baillie surprised me with his Toronto Raptors toque. As Baillie told me, "Hey, I am into all kinds of sports".  I guess that includes Canada's only NBA franchise.     
  • One thing I've noticed during our trip through Saskatchewan is the tendency for motorists to idle their cars/trucks while going inside a restaurant to eat. I guess it only makes sense, considering the amount of time that is needed to warm your vehicle up from a cold start. 
  • Is Zach Franko a team player? If you have a chance, watch Franko unselfishly pass the puck to Ryan Olsen for an empty net goal in Moose Jaw Wednesday night. Franko could have scored, but was happy to pass it off for Olsen's seventh goal in seven games.
  • Doing whatever it takes for the betterment of the team. Colton Heffley has been involved in two scraps during this road trip. Heffley can hold his own, but isn't usually the aggressor. Does he expect some coal in his stocking at Christmas and thus is in a nasty mood? My guess is he wants to do whatever he can to contribute to the success of the team and if taking off his gloves is part of the equation, so be it.         
  • The travel out here in the Eastern Conference is so much easier than in the Western Conference. Oh sure, Swift Current to Edmonton is a haul, but Saskatchewan based teams meeting in head-to-head play is a walk in the park. Swift Current is ideally located. Medicine Hat is two hours away, Saskatoon is three hours away, Moose Jaw is two hours and Regina is a two and a half hour drive. The cash that those teams save on hotels and fuel compared to their Western Conference counterparts must be in the 10's of thousands.       
  • The spirit within the group is good. It is amazing what winning will do. If you believe in positive energy, you will find it on this team. The players are full of energy, are having fun on this trip and have nothing but good things to say about every arena we visit. When we practiced Thursday morning at the Brandt Centre in Regina, not one negative comment was uttered from the players. They love the older buildings that hold so much character. I am glad they appreciate it as much as I do.  
  • I wanted to put a shout-out to Swift Current Broncos athletic therapist Jamie LeBlanc. 'Butter', as he is known to most of us, treated the Rockets like gold during our brief stay at the I-Plex. LeBlanc was always on hand offering assistance and carrying along with him a smile. Addressing the needs of the visiting team isn't often easy, but 'Butter' made it look as smooth as......butter on toast. Corny I know, but let's move on. You have a valuable staff member there in Swift Current, but the Broncos probably already know that. I hope now you know that too.       
  • On Friday's broadcast we are going to spend the 2nd intermission reflecting on Christmas thoughts from both the players and the coaches. Defenceman Jesse Lees gave me the best quote about what Christmas means to him. "You often look at other people and see their situation. We did a hamper this year for a family which was good and I've done that pretty much my whole life. It is good to help out others and at the same time it is good to reflect and be there with your family and have a good Christmas together."       
  • The most interesting interview so far on the trip was a conversation I had with retired NHL's Dave 'Tiger' Williams. Williams was skating at the I-Plex Tuesday morning and I had to sit down with him for an interview. Williams spoke about several former NHL players suing the league for not doing enough to protect players from things like concussions. "If you are worried about concussions, go play another sport. Go play ping pong. Go curling. You won't get a concussion curling", Williams said. "If you blew all your money as a player, to bad for you. Call me, I have some extra". Williams will play in the NHL Alumni Winter Classic at Tiger Stadium next month when the Leafs face the Red Wings. Ironically, Williams played for both teams over his 20 years in the NHL.    
  • Seriously, if you are ever in Southwest Saskatchewan stay at the Best Western in Swift Current. The hotel is solid. I know what you are thinking. How good can it be? Again, it is clean and relatively new. It has flat screen TV's, great beds and the cleaning staff are awesome. It is as good a hotel as you will find anywhere in my opinion. Check it out and try and make me a liar.     

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