Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Notes, quotes and anecdotes

Nick Merkley, 1st star in Lethbridge
  • How good are the Kelowna Rockets in three game in three night scenarios? The team is 8-1-0-0 playing three games in three nights. The only loss was a 4-2 setback to the Vancouver Giants which snapped the Rockets 16 game winning streak. 
  • Interviewing European players often provides for some interesting quotes, some of which can be misleading or misunderstood. Players that have chased their dreams by coming to North America to play in the CHL have done a tremendous job learning the English language, but  when interviewed, sometimes the language barrier  provides comments that can be perceived as cocky. I remember the first time I interviewed Mikael Backlund when the Flames sent him to the Rockets in January of 2009. When I asked him about what he wanted to accomplish in the WHL he bluntly said, "I will help the team win the WHL championship'. It came true of course, but Backlund likely wanted to say, "I want to come in here and help this team win a WHL championship". Even the addition of a couple of words often softens the boldness of the comment.
  • The reason I bring this up is because of my interview with Marek Tvrdon that I posted yesterday. Speaking English with a sharp accent, Tvrdon's comments come across bold, but I think we need to take into account his struggles with our language. Tvrdon can score and believes he can. You have to appreciate that. All good scorers have a swagger to them, but my belief is if he had a better grasp of the English language his comments wouldn't be as bold as they come across. 
  • Three Rockets were named to Central Scouting's mid term rankings yesterday. Riley Stadel is the highest rated Kelowna player followed by Justin Kirkland and Tyson Baillie. It is nice to see Baiilie being recognized after being shunned by the CHL Top Prospects game despite leading his team in scoring. My general belief is of the three, Kirkland is the best prospect because he has the majority of the attributes NHL scouts look for. Kirkland has size, which is always a major factor. The 17 year-old can skate and has above average skill. The Camrose, Alberta resident, as of late, is elevating his battle level for pucks which makes him a far more affective player. Kirkland isn't expected to win all of those battles, but he has to show scouts that if the puck is near him he will fight for it and get it on his stick. If it's on his stick, he will protect it and will fight for it if you attempt to take him off it.
  • When it comes to three games in three nights or when the tough games need to be played, one player always rises to the top. His name is Tyson Baillie.   
  • A busy month for birthdays in January. Five members of the Rockets celebrate b-day's this month. Dan Lambert (Jan 12th), Austin Glover (Jan 15), Riley Stadel (Jan 16), Tyrell Goulbourne (Jan 26) and Marek Tvrdon (Jan 31) all blow out candles.
  • It is always interesting to see how a team responds in the second of back-to-back games. Sure you can play hard in the first game, but can you come out with the same type of urgency the night after? The Rockets are 11-2-0-0 in the second game when facing back-to-back scenarios on the schedule.
  • After two games in Victoria this weekend to wrap up a six game road trip, nine of the Rockets next 11 games will be played at Prospera Place. Thank God!!
  • Amazing that the team will have to board the bus just 10 more times this season. That includes double headers in Victoria and Prince George. The team also makes an easy trip to Kamloops and two more visits to Vancouver. Only four more state side games featuring bus rides to Tri City, Everett, Spokane  and Seattle.   
  • How much has Lethbridge Hurricanes head coach Drake Berehowsky aged this season? I asked him that question prior to Friday night's game between his team and the Rockets. "It is all turning grey. I am really proud of the guys that have battled through this season. This whole culture change has been tough on everybody". I sure have a better appreciation of the rookie coach after talking to him on the record, but my respect is greater when he spoke candidly with me afterwards off the record.    
  • Rockets rookie Nick Merkley has bragging rights over his older brother Jay, who plays with the Swift Current Broncos. Nick has 11+20=30 in his rookie season. Jay, who is two years older, scored 12 goals and collected 23 points in his 16 year-old rookie season with the Letbridge Hurricanes.
  • Marek Tvrdon likes tattoos. His left arm features a sleeve of the cast of the Gangs of New York. On the back of his left and right hand are the names of his mom and dad. Tattoos are nothing new with junior hockey players. Myles Bell, Jordon Cooke and Tyrell Goulbourne have body art. Several players on the 2004 Memorial Cup winning team had a tattoo of the cup placed on their lower leg.
  • Madison Bowey has 14 goals. The team record for goals by a defenceman in a Kelowna Rockets uniform is 19, set by Tyson Barrie back in 2009-2010. Barrie had 19 goals, 53 assists and 72 points and lead the team in scoring that season. Tomas Slovak scored 18 goals in 2002-2003. Scott Hannan had 17 goals in 1996-97.
  • Nice to see Peter Loubardias doing well. I had a chance to catch up with him Friday in Lethbridge when Shaw was doing the broadcast. Loubardias is juggling two balls in the air as he also is the radio colour commentator for the Calgary Flames. 
  • Best opposition players I witnessed on the Central Division road trip? When it comes to goalies, it is an easy pick when I point to Edmonton's Tristan Jarry. If it was not for Jarry, the Rockets would have won all four games. Best defenceman? Medicine Hat's Tommy Vannelli gets my vote with Lethbridge's MaCoy Erkamps a close second. Best forward? Calgary's Brady Brassart. Involved physically, the 20 year-old is always around the puck. Again, these players are selected on a one time viewing only, not over their body of work this season.         
  • I love running into Kelowna Rockets alumni. I had a chance to have coffee with Darren Deschamps at our hotel in Calgary Sunday morning. Sitting back and talking with 'Double D' and Rockets athletic therapist Scott Hoyer, it is always great to reflect on the good old days and catch up on what they are doing now. Deschamps is in sales in the oil industry in Calgary. Now 29, Deschamps has the bragging rights of playing against Sydney Crosby at the 2005 Memorial Cup in London, Ontario.      

1 comment:

g.k said...

Keep up the great blogging Regan, it's the only way we can keep up with our Rockets as it seems like forever since they played at home, what a mess of a schedule they got this year!! Oh well lots of hockey ahead, LOTS!!! Regan who do you think Tvordon will be playing with when he finally makes his debut on the weekend!!