Monday, January 26, 2015

Notes, Quotes and Anecdotes

    • Sheldon Kennedy was a great junior hockey player. I had the privilege of watching him every step of the way as #12 skated with abandon on the ice as a member of the Swift Current Broncos. But more importantly, Sheldon Kennedy is an inspiration. I know his story. So do you. It is well documented. But I honestly have an even greater appreciation for the man after he spoke to the Kelowna Rockets players at a Canmore hotel last night. I had the privilege of interviewing him afterwards and will share that with you on Tuesday night's broadcast. “If we look at the situation the Kelowna Rockets find themselves in, there is an expectation, a big expectation for them to win", Kennedy told me. "How are you going to respond to that? For me, it was a candid conversation and a chance to share some of my experience, strength and hope”.Kennedy spoke to the players for 30 minutes before opening the floor to questions. Kennedy knows something about adversity. For years he was sexual abused by junior hockey coach Graham James but was able to win a Memorial Cup with the Swift Current Broncos in 1989. “Sometimes when we miss a shift, or we miss a game or we sit out the power play, it almost takes us out. But each guy has to ask themselves how they are going to respond to that”, Kennedy added. Again the entire conversation with Sheldon Kennedy can be heard on our broacast in the 1st intermission Tuesday night from Red Deer.
    • Kelowna Rockets Director of Player Personnel Lorne Frey seems to be taking everything in stride after the team gave away a first round bantam pick to the Prince Albert Raiders in the Leon Draisaitl trade. It marked the first time in franchise history the team doesn’t have a first round pick. How does Frey feel about not having that coveted first round selection? “I guess on draft day we can show up after lunch now”, the personable Frey said with a chuckle.
    • The NHL and the AHL have skills competitions. Why doesn’t the ECHL? If they did would Myles Bell have won the hardest shooter competion? Shea Weber won the hardest shot competition in the NHL. Bell has one of the hardest shots I've ever seen in junior.
    • What does Everett Silvertips head coach Kevin Constantine think of the Rockets? "There is certain competitiveness in each of the players ...that is what I like most about that team. Most people want to talk skill, but the bottom line still is the game is a game of passion and so the compete level at each of the positions is so strong. I think that Rockets team has a chance to play against skilled teams but also against teams big and physical too.”
    • Where is Luke Moffatt? Remember him? A first round bantam pick of the Kelowna Rockets in 2007, the resident of Phoenix Arizona never once stepped on Prospera Place ice. Instead, the highly coveted player attended the University of Michigan for four years and was eventually drafted by the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche in the 7thround in 2010. Where is he now? Moffatt, now 22, is playing professional hockey in Sweden with the Frolunda Indians. Do you ever wonder what would have happened to Moffatt had he chosen the WHL over Michigan and where his hockey career would have taken him? Without question, Moffatt would have received top quality minutes early in his career with the Rockets. High draft picks, specifically first rounders do in Kelowna. Moffatt would have won a WHL championship in 2009. Had Moffatt chosen the CHL, he would have the chance to play 288 regular season games. In the NCAA he played 140 fewer games. But if you asked him, Moffatt would likely tell you he wouldn't have changed a thing. Living with regrets is wasted energy.
    • I’ve been asked numerous times if I believe Leon Draisaitl’s heart is truly in winning a WHL championship and a Memorial Cup. My answer is yes. Did you notice the 19 year-olds shot blocking Friday night against the Tips? Did you notice the one shot he took off the side of his arm or rib in the first period of that game? You don’t do that if you are not committed. Did you also notice him track back hard in his own zone against Seattle to negate a good scoring chance? If gifted offensive players have discrepancies in their game it is usually a commitment to defense and Draisaitl falls into that category to a certain degree. He, like other skilled players, seem to be more interested in the offensive zone. But watch the good things he does, especially at the face-off circle, and appreciate the chance to see one of the best players in the WHL wearing Kelowna Rockets colours.
    • I liked Kevin Constantine’s approach with his players, specifically when playing four games in five nights. “You would like to make adjustments but the challenge is you don’t want to put too much stress on the thinking process of the players. If you introduce too many things they can get too caught up in those changes and it freezes a bit of your own game. If you can’t practice those things and give those adjustments to a fresh mind there is a fear of over coaching.” I could listen to Constantine talk about coaching all night long. I think he is a smart man and love every interview I conduct with him.
    • Rookie Devante Stephens loves making an impact on this year’s edition of the Kelowna Rockets. “In the off-season I had to train hard because the season before I broke my femur. Every day is a day I have to prove I belong here. It’s an honour”, Stephens told colour analyst Gord McGarva before Saturday night's game against the Tips. Stephens was never drafted in the WHL bantam draft but could be taken in the NHL draft after being named to NHL Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings. “It feels real good. You are not expecting this to happen. When it happens you say, wow, people are looking at me. It gives me more confidence going into games.``
    • Talk about getting lucky a second time. The Kelowna Rockets arrived in Canmore Alberta last night to warm temperatures. When the bus rolled into town it was a balmy +8. The weather is expected to hold throughout the week. Anything remotely close to the freezing mark is music to our ears. It is expected to hit 15 in Lethbridge tomorrow.

No comments: