Saturday, June 28, 2014

It's not how you start, but how you finish

  • Justin Kirkland was grinning from ear to ear. Do you blame him? Kirkland became the third Kelowna Rockets player selected by the Nashville Predators when the NHL team grabbed the skilled forward Saturday with their opening pick in the third round. Kirkland also has the bragging rights of being the first draft eligible player taken in the Western Conference of the WHL. Kirkland is another example of a player that didn't necessarily start the season with a bang, but it isn't how you start in your draft year, its how you finish. The 17 year-old had just three goals in his first 16 games and went a full 15 games without a goal from late November to early December. Kirkland turned it on after Christmas though with 12 goals and 17 assists. The well spoken winger finished his rookie season with 17 goals.
  • Teammate Rourke Chartier also heard his name called on draft day. While not in attendance in Philadelphia like Kirkland was, the soft spoken Chartier was plucked in the 5th round by the San Jose Sharks. It is the first time since Scott Hannan was taken in the first round of the 1997 draft that the Sharks chose a Rockets player. Chartier started slow but ramped up his game as the season went along. With just three goals in his first 15 games, the Saskatoon resident would score 17 goals and would collect 26 assists after the Christmas break. Charter would finish the season with 24 goals and 28 more points than he did when he was named the Kelowna Rockets rookie of the year in 2012-2013. Chartier, while small at 5 foot 10, showed his durability by being one of just three Rockets to play in all 72 regular season games. Madison Bowey and Cole Martin also played ever game last season.
  • Only four NHL teams have never taken a player from the Kelowna Rockets organization. Those four teams are Montreal, St. Louis, Carolina and the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Kirkland is a Predator

Justin Kirkland will be taken in Saturday's NHL draft. It is just a question of what round and by whom.
The 17 year-old forward (He doesn't turn 18 until August 2nd) had a tremendous rookie season with 17 goals and had it not been for the spectacular play of 16 year-old teammate Nick Merkley, Kirkland would have been named the Kelowna Rockets rookie of the year.
Kirkland saw massive minutes in his first season in the WHL with time on the power play and playing on a line which often featured leading point producer Myles Bell.
Editors Note: Kirkland was taken in the 3rd round by the Nashville Predators this morning.
I had to question one reporter in Philadelphia who compared him to former Rockets sharp shooter Jamie Benn. Kirkland is a solid player yes, but Jamie Benn played with an edge which only added to his above average skill level. Kirkland is considerably more timid than Benn and will have to really increase his intensity level to be in the general ball park as the Dallas Stars captain. Kirkland has also been compared to former NHL'er Eric Cole. I would say that is more accurate.
Does Kirkland have the ability to play in the NHL down the road? When you possess that size and have that skill set, the Winnipeg born product has all the makings of being an impact player in the WHL and a solid second or third liner in the National Hockey League down the road.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rockets release 2014-2015 schedule

  • The 2014-2015 Western Hockey League regular season schedule for the Kelowna Rockets was released this morning. The team will raise two banners to the rafters when they open the season September 20th against the visiting Kamloops Blazers. The Rockets are BC Division champions and WHL regular season champs.
  • The Rockets make an earlier visit to Prince George with back to back games September 26th and 27th. I guess I am bringing my golf clubs. Al Bristowe, make the tee-time please!
  • 15 of the teams first 24 games will be played on the road.
  • The Rockets play one 'road' double header this season. The Rockets visit the Portland Winterhawks on October 30th and November 1st.
  • The Rockets host the Winterhawks in a double header at Prospera Place on November 21st and 22nd.
  • The Rockets enjoy two - five game home stands.
  • The most significant news out of the Rockets schedule is the team does not play three games in three nights. Nope..not even once.
  • The bad news? If you are a Rockets season ticket holder you won't see the defending WHL champion Edmonton Oil Kings at all at Prospera Place. The Rockets face the Oil Kings on their own turf on December 16th.
  • This is a little concerning. The Rockets play three games in four nights 12 times.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Now what?

Lambert played with passion. Brings same trait as coach
  • How crazy was Monday for ya? Yikes! Coach Ryan Huska moves to the pro ranks and assistant Dan Lambert takes his place. I love the move. Why? Over the last five seasons I have talked with and watched Lambert closely and the personality traits that I see in Lambert are many of Ryan Huska's strengths. Neither is an intimidating figure. Both are extremely sociable and likable..player coaches if you will. The most important trait in Lambert, like Huska, is the want to win. Huska was often completely honest in post game interviews when evaluating his players or the way his team played. He knew when they sucked as a group and wasn't afraid to speak his mind about it. He told it how it was which made for great radio. Lambert is very much from the same ilk. I can only imagine the two of them are clear in their messaging to there players. You don't have to read between the lines. Both coaches want their players to be accountable and that is where much of the success lies. 
  • Where Lambert and Huska differ is the fiery sides of their personalities. Huska used the softer, gentler approach in communicating specifically with officials after a bad call. My belief is Lambert will use a slightly different tactic if he has a problem with how the game is being called. But that said, when roles change behind the bench, sometimes the demeanour also changes. A head coaches composure, or lackthereof often sends a clear message to the players that the train is either going off the track when adversity strikes or the ocean is indeed calm after a turbulent situation. What I do know is Lambert is a sore loser. What good coach isn't? I will take a sore loser over a coach who accepts it. When a coach accepts losing, so do players. The two are closely connected.
  • Outside of coaching, Lambert brings to the table the ability to recruit. Lambert was a player himself that was recruited by the Swift Current Broncos in the mid 80's. Lambert knows the concerns parents have about their son choosing major junior and closing the door on an NCAA scholarship. Lambert has already been instrumental in that area. I can only see that intensifying now that he is driving the ship.
  • I really liked the emotion expressed by both GM Bruce Hamilton and Coach Huska at yesterday's media conference. That isn't a sign of weakness. That is a sign of being real. That is an outward sign that both Hamilton and Huska really care. They care about the team. They care about each other. I thought it was honest. I thought it was appropriate and the emotional sendoff couldn't have been more fitting for a coach that gave so much. Huska was thrilled that Hamilton gave him the chance in 2007 rather than overlooking him for what would have been considered a better candidate at the time.
  • Hiring from within. I have never had a problem with that concept, especially when the individual is right under your noise. In Bruce Hamilton's case, Dan Lambert was right under his nose and he knew it. I am sure Hamilton could have opened up the search for a new head coach and many big names would have given him a call inquiring about the vacant position. But Lambert, like Huska in 2007 is an up and comer. Can Lambert be the next best thing coming out of major junior? The answer is a definite yes!
  • Losing Ryan Huska to the AHL does have its perks. Huska will be a walking billboard for the Rockets organization. Huska will talk glowingly about the organization to those he comes into contact with and will be a valuable resource for the current coaching staff that he leaves behind in Kelowna.
  • Who is Lambert's assistant coaches going to be? Will only one be added or will two assistants be required? General Manager Bruce Hamilton has suggested they want to hire an assistant with significant experience and to groom that individual - like they did Lambert - to eventually be the head coach when Lambert eventually sets sail. Who that individual(s) is remains uncertain. Now that the Regina Pats have cleaned house with their entire coaching staff, would Malcolm Cameron be a good fit?
  • You would think several Rockets' alumni would have to be considered. Cam Paddock joined the team in late December/early January in a support role when the team played a double header in Portland. Would Paddock be interested? Some may suggest he is to young. Is 31 to young? I don't think so...not as an assistant. One area Paddock falls short on is actual coaching experience, a criteria that must be met according to Hamilton. Paddock is an interesting candidate though. I could throw out more names, but what's the point? Sooner rather than later we will find out who the successful candidate is. Just by looking at the organizations track record, that person will come with the same qualities you find in Jeff Truitt, Ryan Huska and Dan Lambert.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Huska says goodbye and Lambert is promoted to top job

Saying goodbye to Ryan Huska. (Left to right, Lambert/Huska/Bartel
  • It was an emotional press conference this afternoon as the Kelowna Rockets officially said goodbye to seven year head coach Ryan Huska and then introduced Dan Lambert as his successor. Why was it so emotional? For a junior coach to spend seven seasons with one team, 12 if you include his time as an assistant to both Marc Habscheid and Jeff Truitt for five seasons, you become a part of the fabric of the organization. 
  • Even General Manager Bruce Hamilton showed emotion when thanking Huska for the time he had spent with the organization. "I thought a year ago he was ready but he didn't think he was ready. I knew as soon as the opportunities started coming this year, and the number of teams that contacted me to talk to him where lots, he probably was in a position to pick where he wanted to go. If you would have asked me a month ago I thought the Flames would be the last team he would go to. I think they (Flames) have a great plan and he is a big part of it."
  • Huska too was full of emotion when he stood at the podium to say his thank yous. "It is tough and it just isn't the hockey side of things and that is why it was are in a way leaving family. When you throw family into the picture at any time emotions get involved. We have grown up with this organization. I have learned to coach here. Bruce has been really supportive of us along the way and has done so much for our family that I can't really express right now. Standing up at that podium was a challenge, that's for sure".
  • Dan Lambert has no previous head coaching experience, outside of his position as head coach of Team West at the Under 17's last December. But true to form, Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton hired or promoted from within. He did it with Jeff Truitt. He did it with Ryan Huska and now he did it again with Dan Lambert. "Five years ago I thought I knew a lot. When you see the detail that Ryan Huska puts into a daily schedule and then the detail of coaching, it is pretty amazing. I certainly learned from a great guy and a guy I want to emulate in the future. It feels pretty special. It is with mixed emotions to see Ryan leave and to know that same camaraderie won't be there. It won't mean it can't start from new, but certainly I am excited, thrilled and honoured".   
  • The most composed of the three who spoke at the press conference was Lambert. But even he too admitted it was bitter sweet to see Huska move on. "It is a day of celebration for me but you do have those mixed emotions because over the last five years I have probably spent more time with Ryan Huska then I have my wife, and that's the truth. You do create a bond and a relationship that is pretty special. There isn't to much Ryan Huska doesn't know about Dan Lambert and Dan Lambert about Ryan Huska. The trust that we have built over the years is pretty special", Lambert added.
  • Lambert's next order of business will be to hire an assistant coach. Let's just say the phone will be ringing off the hook at the Rockets office over the next couple of days.

Huska moving on to AHL

I knew this day would come. It was a matter of when, not if. Ryan Huska is no longer the head coach of the Kelowna Rockets.
Huska is moving to the American Hockey League as the new head coach of the Calgary Flames minor league affiliate in Adirondack New York.
It is no surprise Huska is moving on. Like the new I-Phone 6, which will eventually hit the store shelves, Huska is the next best thing.
The personable coach succeeded Jeff Truitt as the new head coach of the Kelowna Rockets in July of 2007 and seven years later he leaves as the winningest coach in franchise history, a WHL championship banner in 2009, two BC Division banner and a Western Hockey League regular season banner in his back pocket.
He was one of the most highly coveted major junior hockey coaches in the country. When you win 109 games over the last two seasons, pro teams tend to notice. That is why he is moving on. Huska is just that darn good.
To be honest, this is a sad day for me. A sad day selfishly because of the relationship I built with him over the years. Huska, who is ten days shy of his 39th birthday, was such a joy to be around on a day to day basis.
I will always remember meeting him at Manhattan Restaurant after the game six win over the Calgary Hitmen in the 2009 WHL final. As I walked towards Huska, who was waiting patiently for us to come down from the broadcast booth for our post game interview, we gave each other a hug in a celebration of what had just happened. It was a special moment that could only be celebrated with an embrace. A solid handshake at that point seemed impersonal.
But friendships are not built on only the good things that happen in life, but are truly strengthened and tested when hardships follow. In January of this year, Huska's father Peter passed away from cancer. In a reception line at the funeral an embrace was only appropriate as I shared the pain with Huska of losing a loved one. My mother Lil too passed away from brain cancer in 2008.
Now on June 23rd 2014, I again will embrace Huska, but this time in celebration as he advances his coaching career to a new level. His father Peter would be so proud of his son and too is this radio broadcaster to see him move on to another chapter in undoubtedly a magnificent coaching career.
Congratulation Ryan on the new gig in Adirondack. I will miss you but am so happy for you.
Who is Huska's successor behind the Rockets bench? The answer is obvious. That individual will be revealed at one o'clock this afternoon.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Who backs up Jackson Whistle?

Jackson Whistle will be front and centre this season
  • The Kelowna Rockets hold the first of its kinds prospects camp this weekend at the Capital News Centre. In the past only goaltenders have been involved, but this time 14 prospects (8 forwards and 6 goaltenders) will be put through the paces by the coaching staff. The three day get-to-together is designed for these new faces to meet the coaches while getting to know a few of the veterans. Among the prospects will be 15 year-old defenceman Jonathan Smart who was taken in the first round by the Rockets in May's WHL bantam draft.
  • It will be worth watching the six goalies in camp closely. Why? The question has to be asked. Who is the next Jordon Cooke? With the CHL Goaltender of the Year graduating from major junior, hopefully no less than two emerge as a possible back up to 19 year-old Jackson Whistle. Is Whistle ready for prime time? He better be. After two years as a back up to Cooke, now is the West Kelowna residents time to shine in his third full season in the WHL. The Rockets are counting on Whistle to carry the mail this season. If he can't...look out!
  • The Rockets will release their regular season schedule next week. If I was a betting man, the chances of starting the season with a home and home series against the new look Kamloops Blazers under head coach Don Hay is pretty good. If that indeed happens, it will be nice to raise the BC Division and WHL regular season championship banners in front of them. That never gets old against an arch rival. I remember when the Blazers lifted the BC Division banner in front of the Rockets at the Interior Savings Centre in 2013. It wasn't nice to watch as a member of the dreaded opposition.
  • Dan Lambert showed he can preform under pressure. The Rockets assistant coach was asked to pinch hit when GM Bruce Hamilton was unable to make a press conference Tuesday when the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame named its four inductees for 2014. The Rockets 2004 Memorial Cup championship team will be inducted during a ceremony in November. Despite not being apart of the team in 04' and playing in Europe at the time, Lambert came through with flying colours with some nice thoughts of how that championship team paved the way for future success within the organization.
  • Just to keep things straight here, the Rockets will be inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame in Penticton in July and will again be inducted into the Central Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame in Kelowna at a breakfast in November.
  • I met an enthusiastic female Rockets fan at the Hall of Fame press conference. She came up to me and said, "So you are Regan Bartel! I expected you to be much larger". We both laughed. I told her to give me another 10 years, with the way we eat on the road, I will look exactly how she envisioned. 
  • Next month I will share my memories of the 2004 Memorial Cup winning team, but for now a memory from 2002 when the team was attempting to beat out other bids to host the 10 day tournament. I remember boarding the Rockets bus headed for Vancouver the night before the presentations were to be heard. The Rockets bid committee was comprised of GM Bruce Hamilton, VP of Business Gavin Hamilton, then Prospera Place GM Dave Dakers, Memorial Cup Chairman Paul Mitchell and Councilor Andre Blanleil. Myself and Doyle Potenteau of the Daily Courier were the only two media members asked to come along to report on the event. Rockets Head Coach Marc Habscheid and Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray were also apart of the committee's presentation, but they were not on the bus the day we headed out to Vancouver. I remember the day of the announcement after the presentations were heard by league governors at a downtown hotel. At a gathering in a conference room at the Pacific Coliseum that evening, WHL Commissioner Ron Robison stepped up to the microphone to announce the host team for the 2004 Memorial Cup. With Lethbridge bowing out, it was between Kelowna and Vancouver for the chance to host the prestigious event. As we know now, Kelowna won the bid. When Commissioner Robison uttered those words, the yell from the committee in jubilation is something I will never forget. Less than two years later the team would win the darn thing.
  • I was extremely pleased to learn Prince George Cougars assistant coach Jason Becker is heading to the Okanagan this fall. Becker, who spent five seasons as an assistant in PG, has taken a coaching position with the Okanagan Hockey Academy. Becker and I go back to my days as the Swift Current Broncos radio broadcaster while he was a player on the team. The year was 1994-95. The move for his family alone will be a major upgrade. The winters are so much better here in the Okanagan than up North. That said, the people of Prince George are a friendly bunch and my hope is the people here embrace them too.
  • The Okanagan is always the site of weddings in the summer. Kelowna specifically provides for an outstanding backdrop. This summer two former Kelowna Rockets players will be tying the knot in our fair city. Ryan Cuthbert, who captained the team for two seasons including the 2003 WHL championship squad, will say 'I do'. Defenceman Tyler Myers, who was a member of the Rockets 2009 WHL championship team, will also walk down the aisle. 
  • It looks like Zach Franko will head to Acadia University this fall. The 21 year-old played 252 regular season games with the Kelowna Rockets before being traded to Kootenay in January to make room for overage forward Marek Tvrdon. Franko told me he will choose to go to Acadia if a pro opportunity doesn't come his way.
  • It will be interesting to see what happens with Myles Bell and his contract negotiations with the New Jersey Devils. With Bell being unsigned and having no other option but to play pro or go to school, the Devils need to offer him a contract to his liking for him to play in the AHL this season. Bell was drafted in the 6th round by the Devils last summer.
  • Speaking of players looking for a contract, will the Edmonton Oilers re-sign Kelowna resident Curtis Hamilton before July 1st? If the Oilers don't, Hamilton, a 2nd round pick of the Oilers in 2010, will become a free agent. Several players in Oklahoma City have had a chance to show their stuff with the Oilers over the years but Hamilton unfortunately hasn't been afforded that luxury. It makes you wonder if the now 22 year-old would get a better shot with another team?
  • Will Rockets alumnus Travis Moen be with the Montreal Canadiens next season? While he still has two years left on a four year contract that pays him 1.8 million, it never looks good when you are a health scratch in the Eastern Conference finals. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Hamilton up for the challenge on two high profile fronts

Bruce Hamilton
  • Bruce Hamilton loves a challenge. The Kelowna Rockets general manager will again be an integral part of the management team for Hockey Canada at the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships in Montreal and Toronto. Hamilton was apart of the management team that lost in the bronze medal game in Sweden at the 2013 tournament. Hamilton has one World Junior Championship medal in his home after his son Curtis was a part of Team Canada’s entry at the 2011 tournament. Hamilton told me winning a gold medal at the World Juniors would be ‘his Stanley Cup’.
  • It has been a busy week for Hamilton, who was re-elected as Chairman of the Board at the WHL annual meetings Wednesday in Vancouver. Hamilton is now in his seventh term as chairman, which is the longest tenure of anyone to hold the post in league history. I may be reading between the lines, but it doesn’t appear anyone else wants the job. No one is stepping up and saying, ‘pick me, pick me’. Instead they are taking the easy way out by re-electing Hamilton. The main reason why, I assume, is it takes a lot of work and being the chairman often puts you in a tough spot  when you have to make decision for the betterment of the league that may not sit well with some people.    
  • League governors have voted for a new playoff format that mirrors the one used in the NHL. The new format should set up divisional playoff match ups in round one; something the Rockets didn’t see at all in three playoff rounds in 2013. The Rockets faced American based Tri City in round one, Seattle in round two and Portland in round three.  Portland followed a similar path facing BC Division Vancouver in round one, Victoria in round two and Kelowna in round three.    
  • Bruce Hamilton would like to get a pro tryout for 21 year-old goaltender Jordon Cooke. He says the CHL Goaltender of the Year deserves a closer look.
  • Word is Cooke has 14 Canadian Universities wanting to obtain his services. Do you think?
  • The NHL Draft at the end of the month should see no less than two Kelowna Rockets players taken and maybe even a third. Justin Kirkland will hear his name called and Rourke Chartier also has a shot of being picked by one of the 30 teams. It will be interesting to see if Tyson Baillie has a team that chooses him when the draft is held in Philadelphia.
  • Nice to see former Kelowna Rockets forward Dylen McKinlay is going to university this fall. Now 22, McKinlay will suit up with the University of Regina Cougars. McKinlay had career high 24 goals and 68 points with the Rockets in 2012-2013.
  • Congratulations to AJ Jakubec for being named the radio play-by-play voice of the CFL expansion Ottawa Redblacks.  AJ was my colour guy on Kelowna Rockets broadcast during the 2000-2001 season. It has been a great six months for the Edmonton resident, who called his first NHL game with the Ottawa Senators in March. I’m thinking AJ better buy a lottery ticket. The dude is on a roll.   
  • I loved LA Kings goaltender Jonathon Quick's comments to reporters after a pre-game skate this morning in advance of game five of the Stanley Cup final.  Quick sounded like Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. Quick's answers were 'quick' and had little to no substance. The more reporters attempted to pry something out of him, the more tight lipped he became. 
  • Darryl Sutter was asked how important the start would be in game five. Check out his answer. "How important is a good start? That's why they put time on the clock always. It starts. That's when it starts. Then you get 30 or 40 seconds of it and then somebody else gets to go. It is not just the start. What does start mean? Does it mean shift?  Does that mean period? Does that mean until the first time out? Does that mean save? Does that mean, o-zone, d-zone or neutral zone? What does it mean? After listening to that, I'm as confused as Sutter is.       

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Things that make me go hmm...

Vin Scully knows when to 'shut up'.
  • Kim Dillabaugh has one Stanley Cup ring. Would he like another? The Kelowna Rockets goaltending coach is also a goaltending consultant with the LA Kings, meaning he will be at Staples Center tonight for game one of the Stanley Cup final between the Kings and the New York Rangers. Dillabaugh was with the Kings when they won hockey's holy grail back in 2012. Dillabaugh primarily works with the Kings goaltending prospects but worked extensively with Jonathan Quick when he was cutting his teeth at the American Hockey League level.
  • How would you like to live in a hotel for a month? If you are wondering what its like,  just ask Ryan Olsen. The Kelowna Rockets forward has been hanging out in a hotel in St. John's Newfoundland while practicing with the American Hockey League's IceCaps during their long playoff run towards the Calder Cup. Olsen hasn't played a game, but is a group of Winnipeg Jets prospects that are along for the ride and could see duty if a regular is injured. "We have had to eat out every single day since I have been here. I haven't had a home cooked meal since I left Kelowna", Olsen told me this morning on an off day.    The IceCaps face the Texas Stars in the Calder Cup final which begins Sunday.
  • Several WHL teams have updated their jersey colour scheme over the last couple of years. This week the Swift Current Broncos went back to the uniforms they wore when they broke into the league in 1986. I wonder if the Kelowna Rockets change things up considering this season marks their 20th in the Okanagan in 2014-2015.
  • If Brian Gionta doesn't resign with the Montreal Canadiens, wouldn't Josh Gorges be a nice choice for captain of the Habitants?
  • NHL prospect Sam Bennett raised eyebrows this week when he was unable to do one pull up at the Combine in Toronto. I am a little surprised he couldn't do one, but have you ever attempted to do a pull up? Try it. I dare ya! I am a little bit of a gym rat so I know the strength and technique needed to execute one properly. Trust me, Bennett is not a bad player because he can't execute a pull up. If he can't shoot a puck or skate, then he is in massive trouble.
  • The NHL draft will see Kelowna Rockets Justin Kirkland taken somewhere in the late second or third round. When he is chosen, just remember he didn't play major junior until he was 17. The lanky forward spent his 16 year-old year playing midget hockey in Wilcox Saskatchewan (Notre Dame). Did that extra year in midget hurt? Not one bit.
  • I read an interesting article on legendary broadcaster Vin Scully. The one quote that stood out was when Scully said, 'I've learned to shut up'. That is so true. Some times its best to keep your yap shut.
  • The Kelowna Rockets will have one prospect attending the WHL's Combine this weekend at the Capital News Centre. Jonathon Smart, the teams first round pick in April's bantam draft, will be there.
    Prospects will be put through the paces at the Combine, which is designed to assist players with their skill development, with on ice testing, tips and seminars. Rockets Head Coach Ryan Huska will make a presentation to players attending on the benefits of playing in the WHL.
  • An interesting hire indeed for the Saskatoon Blades this week. Bob Woods leaves his assistant coaching position with the NHL's Anaheim Ducks and will guide the Blades for the next five seasons. I only find it interesting that an NHL assistant coach comes back to major junior in the hopes of getting some additional head coaching experience with the goal of eventually moving back to the 'bigs' as a full time bench boss. And to think Woods traded in the sunshine of California for the cold winter nights on the Saskatchewan prairies. He likely won't say it publicly, but on several occasions he will mutter to himself, 'What did I do'?
  • Now that the Montreal Canadiens are out of the playoffs, lots of talk about how good Brendan Gallagher was leading up to the Eastern Conference final. Gallagher is a smallish player with a MASSIVE heart. He just doesn't quit. But honestly, how many small players are out there that play with that type of effort and can do it at an elite level? Gallagher is a special player and I am not sure many can match what he brings in a small package. 
  • The Blue Jays are sparking my interest. I know it is only June, but I am watching the out of town scoreboard closely hoping the team stays atop the division and has what it takes in October. Will the bubble burst? I am enjoying the fact they have won 14 of their last 17 games and are in first place. I thought they would suck this year. That said, I thought they would be good last season and they really struggled. 
  • The Saskatchewan Roughriders are holding training camp in Saskatoon this year. I remember as a teenager driving up from Swift Current with a buddy of mine and spending the weekend watching the Riders workout. Even back then, in the mid 80's when the team was horrible, we were still diehards.
  • The BC Lions hold training camp at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. Remember the days when the Lions held camp in Kelowna? I understand the set up for the Lions in the 'Loops' is outstanding and they are looking at staying there long term.