- Recognize the player on the right? His name is Christopher Tai. The 18 year-old goaltender will be attending the Kelowna Rockets main camp next week. Tai has played with three teams over his WHL career including two seasons with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and one game each with Brandon and Medicine Hat. The Delta, BC resident spent the majority of last season in the AJHL with the Lloydminster Bobcats. Tai will attempt to challenge for the vacant back up position to veteran Jackson Whistle.
- Speaking of Whistle; have you seen the new signage outside the Rockets office? It says 'Welcome to Rocketland' and has a face shot of Whistle with his mask on. That is proof in itself that the West Kelowna resident is indeed the teams #1 goaltender heading into the season.
- There is nothing worse than not having your first round bantam pick attend training camp. The Kelowna Rockets felt it in the fall of 2008 when first round pick Luke Moffatt didn't show. Moffatt never played a game with the Rockets, who selected the Arizona product second overall. This season the Everett Silvertips feel the pain as 16 year-old Tyson Jost is a no-show and will instead go to camp with the Penticton Vees this season. Jost was the Okanagan Rockets leading scorer last season and would pretty much be a guarantee to make any WHL roster as a rookie.
- What is with all of these WHL veteran players pulling the pin on their junior careers? The Spokane Chiefs have been hit the hardest when captain Reid Gow decided he didn't want to return for his 20 year-old season. When your captain losses his heart to play the game, that sends an ugly message to his now former teammates. Since then, no less than four veterans including one more from the Chiefs and one each from the Swift Current Broncos, Moose Jaw Warriors and Red Deer Rebels have had a change of heart. Now we hear word that Macoy Erkamps of the Lethbridge Hurricanes won't report to training camp and wants to be traded. We've heard that song played before when it comes to the 'Cane Train'. While you can joke by saying that is typical for the Hurricanes at this time of the year, the WHL isn't laughing at whats happening league wide.
- The Rockets had a similar situation last season, when in November, Swedish forward Henrik Nyberg walked into the coaches office and told them he wanted to go home. It put the team in a tough spot. I would think it is better that a player announce his intentions to walk away from the team prior to the start of training camp rather than two months into the season. With Nyberg's departure and rosters pretty much set, the Rockets were essentially short a forward for the entire season. They attempted to fill that void at the trade deadline by acquiring Marc McCoy from Regina. McCoy was a no-show.
- If I am feeling for one WHL coach at training camp this week its John Paddock in Regina. Named the head coach earlier this month, Paddock is going to have to rely heavily on those around him to formulate his team. With no prior knowledge of what a player did or did not do with the Pats last season, the 60 year-old can only look at a stats sheet to gauge what a veteran is capable of doing.
- How much gas in the tank does Seattle Thunderbirds Mathew Barzal have after attending and winning gold for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka tournament in the Czech Republic earlier this month? While Barzal may not be rewarded with a few days off when he arrives in Kent for main camp, fellow Team Canada and Kelowna Rockets teammate Nick Merkley will. GM Bruce Hamilton says Merkley, the WHL rookie of the year, will not participate in the early stages of main camp. The 17 year-old forward doesn't have much to prove and will sit out of few days of main camp to recharge his batteries.
- The veterans hate it, but it is a clear indication of who was committed to working out over the summer. Fitness testing is always an interesting component of main camp. Rourke Chartier is a rock star when it comes to conditioning. The now 18 year-old is the player to beat. We won't report on who was sucking air in fitness testing in fear of embarrassment, but I anticipate some veteran players doing much better than a year ago under the watchful eye of Athletic Therapist Scott Hoyer.