Thursday, May 29, 2014

Things that make me go hmm....

Moen walking with 'Lord Stanley' in 2007
  • I sure am feeling for Travis Moen these days. The former Kelowna Rockets forward has been a healthy scratch for all of the Montreal Canadiens games in the Eastern Conference final vs. the New York Rangers. The 32 year-old has been sitting in the press box for all five games after seeing spot duty in a second round series with the Boston Bruins. This is the time of year that any player with a heartbeat wants to make a contribution to the team. Moen has to be a good teammate and keep a positive face in the dressing room with the knowledge that unless someone gets hurt, he won't see the ice anytime soon. This obviously isn't Moen's best moment in the NHL. That moment would have to be in 2007 when he played a significant role in the Anaheim Ducks run towards a Stanley Cup title.
  • It is amazing how Josh Gorges has turned into one of the best shot blockers in the NHL. The captain of the Kelowna Rockets Memorial Cup winning team throws caution to the wind when he has a chance to get in the way of a puck coming off the stick of an opposing forward or defenceman. Unfortunately, Gorges likes to shot block so much that no less than three have gone off him and into the back of his own net in this years playoffs.
  • The Dustin Tokarski story is a good one. Not since Patrick Roy in 1986 has a rookie goalie for the Canadiens taken his team within two wins of a birth in the Stanley Cup final. The former Spokane Chiefs netminder is handling the playoff pressure like a true pro. The composure that he shows for a 24 year-old is absolutely amazing.
  • If a game seven is necessary in the Eastern Conference final it will take place in Montreal this weekend. That means the postponement of a concert by 80's Canadian singing sensation Corey Hart. Did I say singing sensation? I have to admit I still have one of his cassettes down in my basement. Or is it on my IPhone?
  • Overage forward Myles Bell is spending the summer rooming with Carter Rigby and former Kelowna Rockets goaltender Adam Brown. What could go wrong?
  • Speaking of Rockets spending the summer in Kelowna, goaltender Jordon Cooke is rooming with forward Colten Heffley. I wonder who does the cooking? Isn't Cooke your first guess?
  • The construction is almost complete in downtown Kelowna. I don't know about you, but I think it looks great. The sidewalks are wider, the lightning is nicer and the parking is better. It is a fresh new look. If I hear one person complaining about the finished product I will poke them in the eye. The wider sidewalks have allowed Starbucks downtown to significantly add tables and chairs in front of the store. The buzz on the streets is so much better. A high five to the local businesses that had to suck it up through all the construction. Sales likely took a beating but I hope the new look attracts more people downtown. I think it will happen.
  • If councillor Colin Basran would be as good a mayor as he is a street hockey player, we may have something here. Basran was the only member of Kelowna council who participated at the HNIC Play-On Celebrity street hockey game and proved he can play.
  • If the Saskatoon Blades have a short list of candidates to fill the GM/HC position with the team, I sure hope they knocked on Marc Habscheid's door and asked him if he was indeed interested in getting back in the game.
  • The spring radio rating's came out this morning and I am pleased to announce that Kelowna Rockets Hockey did extremely well. As our program director called it, the ratings for Rockets hockey were 'huge'. Thanks to you the listeners out there that spend time at the other end of the radio on winter nights. Gord McGarva and I love what we do and we try to put on an entertaining show for you. 
  • What goes a junior hockey coach do during the summer? Spending time with family and working on the golf game are two sure things. Rockets HC Ryan Huska is taking part in a coaches conference in Vancouver July 18th and 19th. Huska is one of the guest speakers. Huska's discussion centers on the penalty killing unit.  Makes sense considering the Rockets had the best PK in the WHL this past season.
  • NHL'ers that spend the summer in the Okanagan are slowly arriving in these parts. Edmonton Oilers d-man Justin Schultz - who calls West Kelowna home - is participating next month in a Chevy Source for Sports' minor hockey contest we ran on AM 1150/Sun FM this winter. The winner picked up a pair of new skates from Chevy's, hoodies for his entire team and a practice with an NHL player. Schultz is that player. I have the privilege to being apart of that contest. Time to slap on the pads and take a couple of hard-high ones from Schultz perhaps?
  • The Okanagan Rockets are using the BCHL's Penticton Vees as a landing spot for many of its graduating players. No less than three have decided to play with the South Okanagan team with two of them essentially snubbing WHL teams. Tyson Jost, a first round pick of the Everett Silvertips, has decided to play in Penticton rather than join Tips head coach Kevin Constantine as a rookie. What does that tell you? Reading between the lines, I don't think Jost believes he will be granted the ice time he needs to improve his game under the defensive minded coach. Constantine traditionally likes to ride his older players. I don't think Jost would get the type of minutes that Nick Merkley was granted under Ryan Huska in Kelowna this past season. I could be wrong, but I think I'm right.
  • Brendan Barry - the Okanagan Rockets starting goaltender this season - has also  committed to the Vees. Barry had a shot of being Jackson Whistle's backup this season with the Kelowna Rockets with the graduation of Jordon Cooke. Maybe Barry was looking for a guarantee from the Rockets that he would be granted the backup duties? Without that guarantee, the listed goaltender believes his option is better to play in the BCHL in an effort to play U.S college hockey down the road. Again, I am only guessing here.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Cooke returns from London and Clark drops the ball

  • Jordon Cooke returned to Kelowna on Monday after spending the weekend in London, Ontario where he was named the Canadian Hockey League Goaltender of the Year. The 20 year-old captured the honour Saturday by beating out representatives from the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. "I believe it is a pretty prestigious award. I hope that this opens a couple of doors. If it doesn't, I can look back on it and be very proud and what happened and go from there". It is hard to imagine that Cooke came within a hair of being cut by the Kelowna Rockets just a few years back. The Leduc, Alberta product admits he didn't exactly impress when he made the team in the fall of 2010."I was pretty lucky that I had pretty good camps prior to that and they (Rockets scouts) knew what type of skill set I had. Now it is completely night and day. I owe it all to (goaltending coach) Kim Dillabaugh. He is one of the best in the business and I can vouch for that."Cooke still isn't sure where he will be playing next season. He may get drafted in June. Maybe a pro team will offer him a contract or he could play CIS university hockey.
  • What an awesome showing by the Edmonton Oil Kings in winning the 2014 Memorial Cup. This was a gutsy effort which mirrored their showing in a game seven WHL championship series with the Portland Winterhawks. Sure, the Oil Kings lost the first game in London against the Ontario Hockey League champion Guelph Storm, but they won the game that really mattered when it came to a rematch between the two teams. What was so impressive about Sunday's win was the ability to find the will, the want and the desire after playing two previous games that went into overtime, including a triple overtime thriller in the semi finals. The team that won the 2014 Memorial Cup showed massive character and are truly worthy of being declared champions.
  • Congrats to Oil Kings scout Bob McGill. McGill, who lives in Edmonton, was at one time a scout with the Kelowna Rockets before jumping to the Oil Kings organization. McGill is the father of Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill.
  • It looks like the Vancouver Canucks are seriously looking at bringing Willie Desjardins on board as the teams new head coach. Desjardins is a former coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers and really turned that franchise around after a stint in the late 90's where they couldn't make the playoffs. They missed five straight years between 1997 and 2001 before Desjardins came on board and found the winning formula that has paved the way to future success. If Desjardins is named the Canucks coach, he won't be a hit with the media. Willie is a good guy, but very quiet and reserved in his approach when it comes to media query's.
  • The HNIC Play-On 4 on 4 celebrity hockey game took place Saturday afternoon in front of Prospera Place. Gord McGarva and I had the pleasure of MCing the contest, which featured the likes of former Rockets Brandon McMillan, Cody Almond and Evan Bloodoff along with current Rockets Myles Bell, Jackson Whistle, Tyson Baillie, Mitch Wheaton and Carter Rigby. Oh ya, politicians like local MLA's Norm Letnick, Steve Thomson and Mike de Jong were also on hand for the game while Premier Christy Clark participated in the opening face-off.      
  • Thomson had to leave the game in the first half after stumbling during the play and crashing to the concrete. And he thought question period in the legislature was tough. 
  • Ronnie Coleman is coming to Kelowna. The 8 time Mr. Olympian is making a quick stop at Fuel Supplements on K.L.O Road Tuesday from 4 until 7. You need to buy 100 bucks of his supplements in order to meet and get your picture taken with Coleman, who is now 50 years old. In his prime, Coleman was freakishly massive  

  • Premier Christy Clark drops ball at celebrity 4 on 4 game 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Ten years ago today, Kelowna Rockets win 2004 Memorial Cup

It was 10 years ago today that the Kelowna Rockets won the 2004 Memorial Cup.
Randall Gelech scored one of the Rockets two goals in the third period to beat Gatineau 2-1 in the tournament final.
"I think I have broken down in tears about three times", Gelech said after the final buzzer sounded. "I never dreamed in a million years that this would ever feel this good. Now that we've done it, it feels like I need to wake up. It feels like a dream," Gelech added.
It was an emotional ending to the season for 19 year-old forward Tyler Mosienko. "I was crying man. When I was skating before the game I had tears coming down. I couldn't even talk. I was choked up and I haven't cried in a little while."  
The Rockets went 3 and 0 during the round robin tournament before winning a one goal game in the championship final. Overage goaltender Kelly Guard was named the tournament MVP for allowing three goals in four games.
"I just wanted to have a strong tournament and give the guys a chance to win. I believe together as a team we have done that", a soft spoken Guard said after the game. 
The 2004 Memorial Cup championship team will be inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame during a ceremony in late June.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Things that make me go hmm....

Cougars GM Dallas Thompson joining us in 2010
  • Exciting times in the WHL. The Regina Pats held a press conference earlier this week to introduce their new ownership group and the Prince George Cougars have a press conference 'party' planned for next Tuesday. It is a chance to meet the new owners and get a glimpse of WHL commissioner Ron Robison, who makes a rare visit for positive reasons. Sounds like exciting times in PG as new ownership attempts to repair hurt feelings with its fans and more importantly the business community. A free barbecue and the shaking of hands won't exactly heal broken hearts in 'Cougar Country', but it sure is a step in the right direction. It will be interesting to see how many fans come out to meet and greet the new ownership that includes NHL'ers Eric Brewer and Dan Hamhuis. 
  • I hope the best for the new ownership in Prince George. Would I rather have the team located in nearby Abbotsford or Nanaimo? For travel reasons yes, but if the fans come back and the CN Centre becomes a fun place to visit, I can't see why the pain won't lessen when opposing teams make the long journey to the Western Conference's most northern outpost. 
  • If Dallas Thompson is no longer the GM of the Cougars, it makes me wonder where he will end up? Thompson has been in hockey all of his life. It is what he knows best. I can't see him staying in Prince George. Maybe a scouting gig is his next step? Thompson has been with the Cougars for 11 seasons, including time as an assistant coach. If you go to the Cougars website, his name has been wiped clean. Even his house in Prince George is up for sale. 
  • Shane McColgan is undergoing surgery this week. The former Kelowna Rockets/Portland Winterhawks/Penticton Vees forward was going under the knife to repair a thumb he hurt in training last summer. I will be interested to see where McColgan ends up playing next season. Europe possibly? 
  • Home cook'n never tasted so good in the WHL championship series. The home team has won all four games in the best of seven between the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Portland Winterhawks. Amazing to think both of these teams are flawless on home ice in the playoffs. The Oil Kings are 10 and 0 while the Winterhawks are 9 and 0 in front of the home town crowd. Two of the next three games are at the Moda Center in Portland.
  • Dan Lambert is leaving the Kelowna Rockets. Let me rephrase that. Lambert will be leaving the team in late October as he coaches one of three Canadian teams at the revamped Under 17 World Hockey Challenge. The nine day tournament still features the best Canadian born players in the 16 year-old age group, but Canada will have three teams competing instead of each player representing their region which has been the case since 1986. You won't see Team West, Team Pacific nor Team Ontario anymore. Three Canadian teams (red, black and white) will compete against other countries like Finland, the USA and Russia. Lambert is no stranger to Hockey Canada after coaching Team West at last year's tournament in Nova Scotia. 
  • Rockets' rookies Joe Gatenby and Nick Merkley were members of Team Pacific which won a silver medal at the Under 17's. That tourney took place December 29th to January 4th in Cape Breton. The event has moved to late October so it doesn't get lost with all the hype surrounding the World Junior Hockey Championships during the Christmas break. The change makes sense and allows the Under 17's to play on a bigger media stage.
  • Nice to see Travis Moen getting some TV time during the NHL playoffs. Along with teammate Dale Weisse, these two hard working prairie boys are making a big contribution to the Canadiens success.
  • I have to admit that watching the Montreal Canadiens penalty killing unit is awfully impressive when you see two of the five skaters on the ice having connections with the Kelowna Rockets. Travis Moen won't score you many goals, nor will defensive defenceman Josh Gorges, but those guys are valuable at this time of the year.
  • How good is Lars Eller? I don't have a chance to see the Canadiens much on TV during the regular season but his compete is outstanding. The Canadiens are getting a deal paying him 1.5  million dollars. The 25 year-old, surprisingly, scored just 12 goals this season. 
  • I love the organ music at the Bell Centre in Montreal. That old school sound brings back memories when I used to watch games on TV from the Montreal Forum.
  • Nice work Okanagan Sun. The junior football team in Kelowna has revamped its logo for the 2014 season. I like the new look with the 'O' being prominent on the teams' helmets. The old logo, which has been with the team since its inception in 1981 will remains, but the new look should be a hit with the players and its fans. Heck, its a hit with me. Get me some gear!
  • Hard to believe that the Okanagan Midget Rockets have a summer camp coming up later this month. Didn't they just wrap up their season a few weeks ago after competing at the Telus Cup? No rest for the defending BC Major Midget Hockey League champions, who will have major holes to fill. BC Major Midget Hockey League Champions!!  Doesn't that sound nice?    
  • I wonder how many offers/phone calls Jordon Cooke is getting these days from Canadian universities for his services? It is a hard time for the 20 year-old, who is probably contemplating playing pro but doesn't necessarily want to shut the door on four years of tuition and books. Decisions. Decision!
  • Ryan Olsen is still up practicing with the St. Johns IceCaps. The Kelowna Rockets forward isn't getting any playing time but is watching the team he will undoubtedly play for next season in the second round of the AHL playoffs. Alumnus Mitch Callahan is also competing in the AHL playoffs for the Grand Rapids Griffins.   

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Steve Papp for MC assignment?/Don't forget about Habscheid.

Kelowna's own Steve Papp
  • An impressive start for the Portland Winterhawks in the first two games of the Western Hockey League final against the Edmonton Oil Kings. The defending league champs earned a 5-2 win in game one and did it without forward Brendan Leipsic. The 19 year-old was tagged with a one game suspension for his spear on Kelowna Rockets forward Tyrell Goulbourne in game five of the Western Conference final. With the Nashville Predators draft pick back in the line up for game two, the Winterhawks earned a 3-1 win. Portland has now won an impressive 25 straight games on home ice and have lost only twice in the playoffs to the Rockets and Victoria Royals.
  • I would be surprised if the Winterhawks win both games in Edmonton as the series switches to Rexall Place for games three and four this week. The Oil Kings are also flawless on home ice in post season.  Will the Winterhawks win the series and represent the WHL for the second consecutive season? Portland is getting the goaltending they need to get the job done and need no help in generating offense at the other end of the ice. 
  • Nice to see Kelowna resident Steve Papp being rewarded for his efforts as one of a handful of referee's used in the WHL final. Here is hoping that Papp calls a strong game or two and is given the honour of representing the league at the Memorial Cup in London Ontario later this month. 
  • Two members of the Kelowna Rockets are undergoing surgery this summer. Mitch Wheaton will go under the knife for shoulder surgery while teammate Tyrell Goulbourne will have bone chips removed from his elbow. Wheaton underwent shoulder surgery after last years playoff run but this time the right side will get the attention instead of his left shoulder.
  • Leading scorer Myles Bell will be spending the summer in Kelowna while rooming with teammate Carter Rigby. I ran into the two of them at the Parkinson Rec Centre on Sunday as they were watching a billet families son playing flag football. Rigby and Bell will be doing construction work this summer to pay the bills. 
  • Last week I suggested the likely candidate to back up veteran Jackson Whistle in goal next season may be rookie Jake Morrisey. Morrisey may also find himself battling for the spot with Okanagan Rockets goaltender Brendan Barry. The 1997 born player was instrumental in helping his team reach the Telus Cup where the midget's earned a bronze medal. Barry was listed by the Rockets.
  • I will admit I am not a big Montreal Canadiens fan, but how can you not cheer for them considering they are Canada's only hope in the NHL playoffs? And if that isn't enough to convince you, how about the fact Rockets alumni Josh Gorges and Travis Moen are apart of the team? And don't forget about former Vancouver Giants agitator Brendan Gallagher. OK, Gallagher was a hated member of the G-Men in his days in the WHL, but you can't but admire the courage he plays with against the much larger Boston Bruins.
  • With Don Hay taking over the head coaching duties with the Kamloops Blazers, we now have three WHL teams' needing to fill head coaching vacancies. The Giants have an opening along with the Calgary Hitmen and Saskatoon Blades. Several names have been thrown about as possible candidates. Let me throw Marc Habscheid's name into the ring. Would he not be a good fit specifically in Saskatoon? Habscheid is a former alumnus. Now 51, Habscheid has coached in Kamloops, Kelowna and Victoria and has had success .What is unclear is if he wants to get back into the coaching racket or keep a low profile at his home in Southwest Saskatchewan.   
  • Sixteen year-old Nick Merkley tells me he will be spending time training over the next couple of weeks with Rockets Athletic Therapist Scott Hoyer. Merkley is completing his grade 10 here in the Okanagan before spending the majority of the summer back in Calgary where he will be working out  at Crash Conditioning. The WHL rookie of the year wants to take time off after his first season of major junior hockey, but the sky is the limit if the soft spoken forward comes back to training camp this September in unbelievable shape. 
  • You know line-mate Rourke Chartier will be in tip top shape. The 18 year-old is often the most impressive physical specimen at training camp. Let's hope this summer his name is heard at the NHL draft so his tireless work ethic is rewarded in a significant way.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

'Smart' pick by Rockets

Jonathan Smart
The Kelowna Rockets did something they have never done before by drafting a local player in the opening round of the WHL Bantam Draft.

Director of Player Personnel Lorne Frey picked 15 year-old defenceman Jonathan Smart 22nd overall.

Smart played this season at Okanagan Hockey Academy under the watchful eye of head coach Mike Needham.

"I have spoke to a lot of different teams over the last couple of weeks about Jonathan and I was surprised he slipped to where Kelowna got him to be honest with you. It is a very, very good pick for Kelowna".

Smart is regarded as a gifted skater with an offensive upside.

"He is a kid that jumps up into the rush. He is the prototypical NHL guy that can move the puck and come late and enter the offensive zone late and give you some offence from the back end", Needham added. 

Smart's father is Jason Smart, who was drafted by the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins and was a forward in the WHL with the Saskatoon Blades and Prince Albert Raiders in the late 80's. 

The 44 year-old was elated that his son was taken by the home town team.

"We are so over the top happy. It is just great. We are happy for our son and happy that it is Kelowna. It really couldn't have gone any better".

Jason Smart is now an RCMP officer in Kelowna. His wife and family moved to the Okanagan from Williams Lake in 2004.     

"The defence thing came naturally at a young age. He always wanted to score but wanted to defend", Smart added. "He never was big on being scored on so he found out in Adam and Pee-Wee that he could still play back there and still score goals".

Smart had 42 points in 48 games with OHA this past season.