Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Notes, quotes and anecdotes

Rockets and Wheat Kings collide in WHL final -Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • The Kelowna Rockets have something in common with the Brandon Wheat Kings and it has nothing to do with both team's successes this season. The Rockets and Wheat Kings were both eliminated in the Memorial Cup in subsequent years by the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires. The Rockets lost 4-1 in the 2009 final to Taylor Hall in Rimouski, Quebec while the Wheat Kings fell victim to Hall again at the 2010 tournament which was hosted in Brandon.
  • I am excited to announce former Kelowna Rockets goaltender Kristopher Westblom will join me in the broadcast booth for both games in Brandon. Westblom will essentially be Gord McGarva...ok not as funny. Westblom is now working in the Brandon area as an accountant, finance and project management. The Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan resident just retired from hockey and should provide an interesting perspective. You may remember he was the starting goaltender in four of the five games for the Rockets in the WHL Championship back in 2005.
  • Injuries. There are no injuries in the playoffs are there? 
  • Name the Wheat Kings defenceman who took out Rockets starting goaltender Derek Yeomans in game one of the 2005 WHL Championship? The answer at the bottom of the page.
  • Cole Linaker has never played for a championship. Now, the 19 year-old is getting his first taste of winning the elusive Ed Chynoweth Cup. "I have never been on any winning team. I never did much growing up. I was always on one of the weaker teams", Linaker told me at practice on Tuesday. "I am really excited to be on this team now and being in the position we are in".
  • The captain of Ryan Huska's American Hockey League's Adirondack Flames split his duties playing junior hockey in Kelowna and Brandon. Thirty-four year-old Nolan Yonkman played a full three seasons in the Okanagan from 1997-2000 before being traded to the Wheat Kings where he played 51 games in 2000-2001.
  • Time change. Is it a factor? It can be. The two hour time difference is small, but the Rockets management recognizes that it would be best to get into Brandon two days in advance of the league final.  BC is two hours behind Manitoba. Make sense?
  • The use of Kevlar socks was up for hot debate after an interview I did with Vice President of Hockey for the WHL, Richard Doerksen, on Sunday night. The issue surfaced after Tyrell Goulbourne was cut by a skate of Keegan Iverson in game five of the Western Conference Championship. Doerksen says it is not mandatory for players to wear them, yet the Spokane Chiefs, Edmonton Oil Kings and Regina Pats all do. I think it is fair to say many of the Kelowna Rockets don't and risk injury. The Kevlar socks are supposedly thick, so players don't like the feel of them in the boot of their skate. What happens if the socks that all WHL teams wear over their shin pads had the Kevlar material on the back of them? It may look slightly bulky, but sounds like an easy fix to me? Seeing Goulbourne injured that way was tough to take.
  • Small thing, but it really tells me what Leon Draisaitl is all about. The 19 year-old's apparent goal in the second period of game six, which looked tipped in from a pass from line-mate Justin Kirkland, was in fact Kirkland's goal. Draisaitl immediately noted to the officials that the puck indeed went off a defenders stick and past Winterhawks goalie Adin Hill. It did not go off Draisaitl and he wasn't afraid to admit it. The German is all about putting up points and loves earning an assist on a play as much as he does scoring a goal. In the end though, that small gesture showed me he is buying in to the team concept all the way.
  • It is slim pickings on the Rockets roster when it comes to Manitoba talent, but the three that do reside from the province are significant. Head Coach Dan Lambert was born in St. Malo, which is three hours East of Brandon. Defenceman Madison Bowey is from Winnipeg. I don't need to explain to you where Winnipeg is do I? Injured forward Tanner Wishnowski, who is cleared for contact, is from Oakbank, Manitoba. Oakbank is just outside of Winnipeg.
  • Air travel is a must in this series. Both centres are separated by just under 18 hours of travel - one way. In the QMJHL final between Rimouski and the host Quebec Remparts, it is just a three hour drive. In the OHL, Erie and Oshawa are fairly close in proximity. The driving distance is three hours and 47 minutes.
  • I love Rourke Chartier's response when I asked him about attempting to win the WHL Sportsmanlike Player of the Year Award. His answer? "It (playing clean) has always been a part of my game. I've never liked to take penalties. When I was little I used to cry when I got one in novice, so maybe that is where it comes from", Chartier said with a chuckle. The 19 year-old had just 18 penalty minutes in 51 regular season games.
  • The answer to the trivia was Steven Later. The 19 year-old, at the time, was the Wheat Kings leading scorer on defense. Later crashed into Derek Yeomans in game one and his season was over. In an emergency, the WHL allowed the Rockets to dress Mike Wall as a back up at the Memorial Cup to Kristopher Westblom. Wall was the Everett Silvertips starting goalie in 2004-2005.


g.k said...

Hey Regan hope you have a nice trip east, also hope they let you travel with the team for this series!! Sure don't know much about this Wheat King team, so it would be nice if you could give a little insight into their strengths & weaknesses & who we should be watching for etc. I know the team likes to keep injuries hush-hush but I think it would be imperative that Chartier is in the lineup for this series. All the best to the Rockets & good luck!!

Regan Bartel said...

Wheat Kings have many strengths and few weaknesses. Score goals. High end skill. Skate like Portland but with more depth. Better offense from d-men as well. Wonder how they will handle the physical play? I guess we will see. Toughest challenge for them was likely Edmonton in round one. Second and third round seemed easy for them.