Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Notes, quotes and anecdotes

Derek Cain photo  - www.derekcainphotography.com
  • The best interview of the week, without question, came courtesy of 18 year-old goaltender Michael Herringer (pictured). Herringer told me his life story on how he was born in Haiti and was put into an orphanage at 14 months and was subsequently adopted along with his brother by a Canadian couple. "I am extremely lucky. I am extremely blessed. I owe my life to my parents", Herringer told me during a pre-game skate in Portland Thursday morning. "With the earthquake there, me and my brother could obviously not be here today. I was one of nine kids in my family so I am blessed", Herringer added. Herringer has never returned to Haiti but plans on making a trip there next summer.  The well spoken goalie, who made his Rockets' debut Sunday in Vancouver and backstopped the team to a 5-3 win, has a maturity about him which is rare for an 18 year-old. Herringer is a good story. In a day and age where the majority of junior players come from families with significant financial backing, Herringer is cut from a different cloth. He doesn't want our sympathy; he just wants a chance to play at an elite level. Honestly, I'm cheering for him.       
  • Marc Habscheid is back in the WHL. After a two years absence, the former head coach of the 2004 Memorial Cup championship team is now the new head coach of the Prince Albert Raiders. Depending on who you talk too, Habscheid was the teams' first choice while it has been suggested by another media outlet that Malcolm Cameron in fact was the top pick and rejected the short term deal. Regardless, Habscheid is back behind a WHL bench after previous stops in Kamloops, Kelowna and Chilliwack/Victoria. The Habscheid hiring didn't come with any press conference flash. Only a press release came out from the Raiders. Nothing more, nothing less. It is probably the way Marc wanted it. He isn't an attention getter, but what he is is a darn good coach. Habscheid and the Raiders are in Kelowna for their one and only meeting in early December.
  • Habscheid took over the coaching job after Cory Clouston was canned on Friday. Clouston has coached in Kootenay, Brandon and Prince Albert. While in baseball, three strikes and your out is the norm, the feeling I get is someone in the WHL will give him another chance if a coaching vacancy becomes available.  Some coaches, like a cat, seem to have nine lives.         
  • The best player I witnessed last week was Portland Winterhawks 19 year-old Oliver Bjorkstrand. The Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick works hard, doesn't shy away from body contact and has a wicked shot. If the WHL recorded players shots per game on their website, which they do in the QMJHL, Bjorkstrand would be among the league leaders. Bjorkstrand never hesitates to shoot, and why would you after a 50 goal season in 2013-2014. The quick release he showed Saturday with his shorthanded goal is proof that he has a pro shot. What he needs to get to the next level is more girth on that skinny body of his. Once he fills out, Bjorkstrand will have a solid pro career.
  • I loved the comment last week from New Jersey Devils head coach Peter DeBoer when asked about the play of former Kelowna Rockets defenceman Damon Severson. "What hasn't he done? We weren't anticipating giving him a job. I think it is a great lesson for young guys who come to camp.  There is a door there and you don't knock and politely come in. You bust the door down and give the coaches no choice but to play you and that's exactly what he has done." Thanks to my colleague Brian Munz in Winnipeg for that quote. 
  • I know it is a peril of coaching in the American Hockey League, but I feel for Adirondack head coach Ryan Huska. You are at the mercy of the NHL team above you who is able to call up players from their AHL affiliate at a moment's notice. Trying to win games is tough to do for Huska when the Flames call up Michael Ferland, Adirondack's leading scorer, and then Sven Baertschi also heads to Calgary with injury woes hitting the big club. Huska and the Adirondack Flames have just three wins in ten games this season. 
  • What an anthem Saturday night at the Moda Centre. My American friends probably don't bat an eye when it is done well because they are used to it!! I have never heard the American national anthem sung with a lack of passion and heart. Never. I think American singers do 'bring it' a bit more than their Canadian cousins. The American national anthem does lend itself to allow the singer to bellow out and show off their vocal talents while O' Canada is more of a reserved song. I thought the anthem singer in Portland was top drawer in delivering both anthems Saturday night with the passion and honour that they so deserve. Some say singing the anthems before a sporting event is a waste of time. When it is sung like that, I disagree!!   
  • It had to have felt odd when Lucas Johansen took to Veterans Memorial Coliseum ice Thursday in Portland. The rookie Kelowna Rockets defenceman told me he made many trips to Portland to watch his older brother Ryan, who starred with the Portland Winterhawks for three seasons. Now that his older brother Ryan is in the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets, does Lucas feel pressure to also get there? "You just have to focus on what you have to do. I want to be there someday. I think I have made some footsteps so far and just want to stay consistent."
  • Who is the best PA announcer in the WHL? I can tell you two of my favorites in the Western Conference is Sean Norris in Portland and Vancouver's Don Andrews. Both are excellent at what they do. What both do that stands out from many is they don't sound like their dog just died when announcing the scoring details for the visiting team. While both get excited when announcing the home team's goal scorer, they are steady and sharp even for the opponent. Take a listen to these guys. Both are solid. 
  • Myles Bell is starting the season in the East Coast Hockey League. While I was told he signed an American Hockey League deal, Bell will have to work his way up from there. On Halloween night, Bell had two goals and an assist plus 11 shots on goal in his second game with the Evansville Icemen.  
  • Why do I love Portland? No, it has nothing to do with my relationship with colleagues Todd Vrooman or Andy Kemper. 1) Clean city. 2) Friendly people. 3) Great drinking establishments (coffee and other). 4) Healthy lifestyle. Bike riders everywhere. 5) The downtown core is beautiful. Old buildings but a certain charm to them. 6) Spectacular city with several bridges crossing the river. Like any big city it has its share of wildlife and crazies, but it receives my vote as the best stop on the WHL circuit.

1 comment:

GZ said...

And...we love having you and the Rockets in town. Class acts all around.