Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Notes, quotes and anecdotes

  • What a start for Dillon Dube. The Kelowna Rockets first round bantam pick from 2013 is the real deal.  The 16 year-old has 5 goals in his first 9 regular season games. Dube says he is finding his groove after essentially missing the first 25 games with injury. "Dan Lambert has given me lots of tips to score goals. The biggest thing I have to do is get to the net and that is something he (Lambert) has pointed out in my game. I like to pass the puck and find open ice. I thinking finding the spot to score goals is something I'm improving at doing as I get more comfortable."     
  • It was an emotional time for the players after Wednesday's win in Lethbridge. The team learned that Jesse Lees and Austin Glover were traded to the Prince Albert Raiders. Veteran defenceman Cole Martin admitted it was a particularly tough time for him."It was hard for me. I have been a roommate with Austin Glover for three years. Everyday after practice we hung out together. We have been together a long time. We have had guys that have been together for four years. We have seven guys that have been together for a long time and then, bang, they are gone", Martin added. Despite the disappointment of seeing two close teammates traded away, Martin knows that its a businesses and sometimes changes are necessary to build a winner. "Like I said from the beginning of the year, I am here to win a Memorial Cup and that hasn't changed."
  • I had a chance Saturday night to watch the Calgary Hitmen's home game against the visiting Kamloops Blazers. It was nice to sit back and relax and observe different aspects of the game that normally go undetected when I'm mentally engaged in broadcasting the game. It was especially interesting watching Don Hay behind the Blazers bench. Hay was often seen banging his hand/fists against the glass after a missed opportunity or a bad pass, but he always, always had physical contact with his players with pats on the back/side as they were seated on the bench. I think the perception is Hay is a mean coach, who wouldn't be categorized exactly as 'player friendly'. The truth be told, Hay cares so much about his team and wants to succeed and his gestures on the bench are a clear indicator of that. Hay likely raises his voice when he wants to get the players attention, but also showed me Saturday night that he has adapted with gentle encouragement to get the best out of his group. Hay is reading his team as likely a fragile bunch and is taking the appropriate steps to bring them through this tough patch. I was impressed.    
  • It is hard to believe that the Kelowna Rockets played their final regular season game in the iconic Medicine Hat Arena. The Arena, built in 1970, will close its doors to the WHL at the end of this season. The new facility, opening in the fall of 2015, will cost 64 million dollars with additional cash going towards things like a high tech scoreboard. The Tigers senior director of marketing and public relations, Dave Andjelic, says the building will be significantly larger that the Arena. "The capacity of the building when it officially opens its doors will be 6140 with the chance to expand to an additional 930 seats down the road. So eventually it will seat 7 thousand and 70.", Andjelic told me prior to Friday's game. It had me wondering. If  the new building seats over 7 thousand down the road, is it too large for Medicine Hat, who currently play out of the Arena which seats 4,006? "For us, we would like to have a few less (seats), but we are not just building it for the Medicine Hat Tigers but for the community and concerts as well. Some say it is a little too big for us, but looking 50 years out, it should be fine.", Andjelic added. The larger building may give the Tigers a good chance of eventually hosting the Memorial Cup. "We are hoping down to the road we can look at that. With this building here, there is no way we could put a bid in". I had a chance to see the construction site of the new building, who's naming rights have yet to be sold to a big corporation. For now it is known as the Medicine Hat Events Centre. 
  • The new building is located just off the Trans Canada as you come in from the North from Calgary. "I would have preferred more of a central location for it", Andjelic added. "The city actually bought that land for one dollar, so it was a City of Medicine Hat decision. We started talking about a new arena in 1996 when the Medicine Hat Tigers were involved. It has taken a long time to get there". The Tigers had 100% control of designing the dressing rooms and office space.  
  • The best interview of the week goes to legendary Tigers radio broadcaster Bob Ridley. I hunted down Ridley to reflect on the 'Arena' closing its doors at seasons end. "I remember the first game in here. We had chicken wire at the ends. It was jam packed full. Women in their furs and men in their suits. The visitors called it the 'Smartie Box'. The wooden seats were yellow, blue and red. It was a party atmosphere. You could smoke in here that the air was blue that you couldn't see the other side of the ice", Ridley said with a chuckle. "The bars were full afterwards. The Tigers really put the city on the map. Before that, nobody knew where Medicine Hat was".  
  • One of the interesting stories of the Medicine Hat Arena was a section of fans known as the 'Section 2 Group'. That small collection of Tigers fans were ruthless against the visitors. "It got so bad that the Tigers organization had to slow them down a bit because the league was complaining", Ridley added. "The Regina Pats players got even with them by getting in early and greasing the seats with Vaseline, so the Section 2 group complained to the league. They would throw things at the opposition and their was no glass behind the visitors bench at the time". 
  • When you spend as much time on the road as we do over the course of the hockey season, people either rub you the wrong way or you find a greater appreciation for them. Rockets' athletic therapist Scott Hoyer is one such individual who really brings positive energy to the team. 'Scotty', as he is known to me and the 28 other people on the bus, is a leader in his own right. What a great example he is to this group of 16 to 20 year-old players. Hoyer doesn't just walk the walk. The 40 something father of two girls walks the walk. Oh, he is also my roommate.       
  • What is with the gas prices here in Alberta? In Red Deer, the pump reads 85.9 cents a litre. Gas it dirt cheap in Central Alberta. I never thought I would see the day of gas being this low. 85.9 cents a litre is nothing short of bizarre.    
  • An interesting conversation last week with Lethbridge Hurricanes assistant coach Bryan Maxwell. I asked the bass voiced Maxwell about the Hurricanes firing head coach Drake Berehowsky. "The changes have probably affected us (coaches) more than the players", Maxwell told me Wednesday. I asked the 59 year-old if he was considered for the head coaching job? "No, it wasn't asked. Nobody really approached me on it". Would he have accepted it had they asked him to be the new head coach of the Hurricanes? "I don't know. It would have been something I would have had to look at to see what my role would have been as far as with the general manager, if it would have remained the same, or what my relationship would have been. Obviously that is putting the cart before the horse so its a non issue", Maxwell added.  The veteran coach stays on with the Hurricanes as an assistant to new head skipper Peter Anholt.
  • Did you know that Rockets head coach Dan Lambert was a teammate of Ex-Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins? You do now. The two were d-partners with the Moncton Hawks in 1992-93. 

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