Friday, January 24, 2014

Notes, quotes and anecdotes

2004 Memorial Cup ring
  • Could we see Mitch Callahan in the NHL sooner rather than later? The former Kelowna Rockets forward is close to finding himself skating with the Detroit Red Wings. Callahan leads the AHL's Grands Rapid Griffins with 16 goals and Red Wings Chief Amateur Scout Jeff Finley likes the way the third year forward is playing. "He is having an outstanding year for us. He is not far off from being called up soon. The coach loves him. His foot speed was in question when he moved to pro. It has gotten better every year and he has improved. If he doesn't play for the Red Wings, I anticipate him playing in the NHL with another team in the future".  
  • Finley also believes Marek Tvrdon is best suited for another season in the WHL. The 4th round pick of the Red Wings is now suiting up for the Kelowna Rockets. "He is a big strong kid. He is very talented. He plays an NHL style of game where he protects the puck very well below the circles in the offensive zone. What he lacks is a little bit of drive in the other two zones. I think this (Kelowna) is the best development team in junior hockey as there is," Findlay added.
  • What did Everett Silvertips head coach Kevin Constantine think of Canucks bench boss John Tortorella's antics when he attempted to enter the Calgary Flames dressing room Saturday night? "I admire John's honesty about situations. He see's situations and is brave enough to give honest answers about them. As players, even though he is honest about them that are hard to take, they understand that he has there best interest in mind in most situations".
  • Well deserved. On the 10th anniversary of the Kelowna Rockes winning the 2004 Memorial Cup, the team will be inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame this July in Penticton. That team won 47 games and were WHL regular season champions that season. Eight players on that 04' team would play in at least one NHL game. I don't wear my Memorial Cup ring often, but the organization was gracious enough to present me with one at seasons end. What does that say about Bruce Hamilton and the organization? Like I mentioned when the Portland Winterhawks gave WHL championship rings to broadcasters Todd Vrooman and Andy Kemper, it is nothing short of class.
  • Is Jesse Lees a better forward than he is a defenceman? The 18 year-old has two goals as a forward since he was moved up front on a recent Central Division road trip and saw success with Cole Linaker and Kris Schmidli Wednesday night against Everett. "I still love playing d. You have to think a lot more at forward. On defence you can see the ice better," Lees added.
  •  Mitch Wheaton and Damon Severson are arguably the teams best d-pairing. The two are a combined +17 in January. Wheaton says the +/- rating puts a smile on his face. "Being a defensive defenceman, the plus-minus means a lot to me. I try not to look to much into it but I take pride in it."    
  • The Kelowna Rockets penalty killing unit remains the best in the WHL. One reason why is the pride it takes to keep the oppositions top players off the score-sheet. "Call me crazy, but the most favourite part of the game is the penalty kill", defenceman Mitch Wheaton told me last week. "For some reason I love having the ability to stop two guys by myself ". The Rockets have killed off 33 of their last 35 kills.    
  • Carter Rigby is playing some of his best hockey of the season, but the 19 year-old admitted to me Wednesday that he can be better. "No, I don't think anyone should be completely happy with the way they are playing. If you look at my first 15 games and my last 15 games, I have made a huge stride playing with Colton Heffley and Rourke Chartier. Definitely it isn't the best hockey I've played. I need to be a 200 foot player and it wouldn't be bad to chip in with a few more assists", Rigby said with a chuckle. The pride of Penticton has just three assists in 30 games this season.
  • Will beats skill. It is a famous quote that came out of the mouth of Kevin Constantine when he was the head coach of the San Jose Sharks. I asked Constantine on Wednesday if he ever thought that quote would have the traction it has gained in hockey circles over the years? "No. I also made Jeopardy when I said, 'hockey players speak two languages, English and profanity'. I really do believe will beats skill. The foundation of the game is work and passion. If you are into the game enough to go be physical and throw yourself into the battle situations, that same mentality makes you a skilled player at the end of the day. You find at the end of those nights you find the way to score a big goal. But did I think that quote would stick, no".    
  • Don't be fooled into thinking 20 year-old Myles Bell isn't smelling the roses as his final season of junior hockey comes to an end. I reflected with him on his 300th career game last Friday in Victoria. "I think for some of us here that have the opportunity to make it a career, I don't see myself going to school over playing hockey. I can't imagine not playing hockey. The more pressure on us this season makes it more fun. With us winning all the time it makes it easy to show up at the rink and have any off days", Bell added.

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