Friday, July 18, 2014

All aboard! Rockets bus heading to induction ceremony

Kelly Guard was the MVP in 04 Memorial Cup
  • Next week the Kelowna Rockets 2004 Memorial Cup winning team will be inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame. The ceremony is a week from today in Penticton (the site of the BCHHF) and I wouldn't miss it for the world. I had the pleasure of calling that memorable moment in May of 2004 when the Rockets earned a 2-1 win over the Gatineau Olympiques. I've been invited on the team bus as many of the coaches and players from that squad head down - in mass - for the special night. It should be an enjoyable 40 minute ride down to Penticton with former coaches Marc Habscheid and Jeff Truitt. It will be odd though, seeing Shea Weber and Josh Gorges sitting at the back of the bus. They didn't look out of place back in 2004, but fast forward 10 years and these two integral pieces of the Rockets success that season are now making big money and making solid careers at the NHL level. They could drive their own limos to the event.  
  • The Rockets social and auction Thursday night at the Eldorado was a massive success. Close to 20 grand was raised for the Kelowna General Hospital. One of the new features of the social evening, which is held a day in advance of the alumni golf tournament, was the auctioning off of several players. The auction allows fans to play with the likes of NHLers Shea Weber, Josh Gorges, Jamie Benn and Tyson Barrie.  
  • This year the alumni hockey game, which is traditionally held on a Sunday has been cancelled. The game was called off with a lack of players being available. I can see the game being scrapped all together. I think if you can get alumni together for two days (Thursday and Friday) it is more workable in every ones schedule rather than the four days (Thursday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday) when the alumni hockey game is part of the puzzle. The fans won't like it, but if the alumni hockey game can't attract the bigger names that once wore a Rockets jersey, is it worth having it? Will people want to come out to watch if Weber, Myers, Schenn and Gorges don't play?    
  • My gut says Victoria. My heart says Red Deer. It is a three horse race to see which WHL centre hosts the 2016 Memorial Cup. Vancouver, Red Deer and Victoria are the three vying for the 10 day tournament. All three have great buildings to host the on-ice portion of the event with the Giants having the leg up on the other two when it comes to a larger venue. The bigger building with more seats means more $$$! But is it all about money? Sadly, in most cases it is. Somehow that needs to change. The Memorial Cup has to be profitable, but the event needs to be attainable for those who want to host it... big or small. In this case, I think Red Deer deserves to host 2016. Why? Because they have made previous bids and have lost. That and Red Deer has never hosted. I like Victoria as a second option, but they are new to the process and would be a good fit down the road in 2019. Vancouver hosted in 2007, which was only 8 years ago, so I think it's far too early to go back there. Saskatoon (2013), Brandon (2010), Vancouver (2007), Kelowna (2004), Regina (2001) and Spokane (1998) are the last six WHL cities to host the MC.
  • Simon Ferguson is back in the game. The Kelowna Rockets alumni, who retired two seasons ago after a short stint in Europe, is the new head coach of the Okanagan Rockets. Ferguson is an interesting choice for the defending BCMMHL champions. 
  • There was so much talk about Tim Hunter being the front runner for the Vancouver Giants head coaching vacancy; one would have concluded the former NHL enforcer would have been the choice to guide the G-Men this season. That wasn't the case. The Giants hired Troy Ward instead so Hunter, who was a bridesmaid in the coaching sweepstakes in Vancouver, took the head coaching duties with the Moose Jaw Warriors instead.  
  • In listening to an interview with Hunter on Team 1040, it sure sounds as though he was the Giants top choice but the two sides couldn't come to an agreement on either money or length of contract. It blows me away that Moose Jaw would have offered Hunter a better deal. If that is indeed true, a high five to the Warriors for outbidding a large market franchise.        
  • Mitch Callahan has signed a one year deal with the Detroit Red Wings. The former Kelowna Rockets antagonizer will have to play well this season in order to get a longer term contract from the NHL team. Honestly, I was a bit surprised it was only a one year deal for the 22 year-old Callahan. Last season in the AHL, Callahan scored 26 goals and was a +23. 'Cally' also made his NHL debut with the Red Wings on March 25th against Columbus. Callahan was drafted by the Red Wings in the sixth round (180th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
  • Congrats to Brendan Batchelor for being named the full time radio voice of the Vancouver Giants. Batchelor did road games for the G-Men last season and the occasional home game. It only makes sense to have one consistent voice calling the games both home and away rather than three announcers wanting a piece of the 36 home dates that are available.
  • Bryan Maxwell is back in the WHL. 'Maxy' has joined the Lethbridge Hurricanes as an assistant coach. I haven't had many conversations with Maxwell over the years, but when I have his deep voice always stands out. It is raspy and low. I am sure a cigarette habit has something to do with that. One thing about Maxwell that also stands out is, while looking intimidating, he always has a friendly smile  on his face.

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