Thursday, May 7, 2015

Welcome to Brandon!!

Josh Morrissey at practice in Brandon
  • Welcome to Friendly Manitoba!! We've arrived in the land of 'milk and honey' according to Kelowna Rockets head coach Dan Lambert. Lambert is from nearby St. Malo, which means his dad and mom and likely a few siblings will be in attendance at one or both games at Westman Place.
  • It is great to be here. Twenty other teams can only wish for the chance to compete for the Ed Chynoweth Cup. It is a hard trophy to win. In my opinion the hardest. I still believe it is the greatest prize despite those that feel the Memorial Cup holds that honour. The Memorial Cup is a crap shoot and it is essentially a one game showdown. Hockey turns into football where the best team on that day wins. In the Ed Chynoweth Cup, the best team is decided over a seven game series. If a team can beat another four times, I think that is a pretty good indication of who is better.
  • It is raining here. When the Rockets landed Wednesday afternoon at Brandon's 'air field', it was raining fairly significantly. As one local told me, "We need the rain. It has been very dry here. The farmers need it". I have heard that phrase a thousand times growing up in Saskatchewan. We never had enough rain and then when it was raining they would say "we have too much". 
  • Rourke Chartier practiced Thursday at Westman Place. Does he ever look good. Can skate. Can shoot. Looked fresh to be honest with you. Will we see him in this series? Oh, the element of surprise.
  • A nice vibe around the city for the WHL final. That is why the league must never look away at the smaller market teams. Is Brandon a smaller market? Probably not, but the hype in this city for the junior team is wide spread. Nothing against Edmonton, but isn't it nice that another team in the Eastern Conference can be involved in the championship final? Edmonton and Portland have owned this time of the year for what feels like years. Oh ya, for the Winterhawks it has been four straight appearance in the league final.
  • A high five to the Brandon Sun. The local newspaper is all about the Wheat Kings this week and rightfully so. An excellent read in the morning as we have breakfast at the hotel. Who reads the newspaper anymore? I do!! Speaking of media, this series is getting a lot of attention from those in nearby Winnipeg. The Winnipeg Sun is covering this series and I understand a solid TV contingent will also be here. Josh Morrissey is a first round pick of the Winnipeg Jets, so a story on him playing in the WHL Championship is enough to persuade those in the Manitoba capital.
  • Like the Canucks, the Kelowna Rockets again have two brother's that could potentially play on the team in the near future. Nolan Foote, the son of ex-NHLer Adam Foote, was drafted in the second round by Director of Player Personnel Lorne Frey. The Rockets picked Cal Foote in the second round last summer. The sense is the two will play with the Rockets. This is not a gamble on Frey's behalf. Both are American born players who appear to be committed to the Kelowna Rockets program. Cal attended camp this past fall but has not signed a player contract. My belief is now that both brothers are Rockets property, that will happen.
  • The ice at Westman Place is interesting. It reacts the same way outdoor ice would. It is extremely hard and quick but snows up easily. Wayne Pansegrau, Okanagan's version of the 'Ice Whisperer', would suggest that if the ice snows up easily the arena is too cold. If it was melting snow, that is bad news obviously. Pansegrau is an authority on ice after being part of the ice making crew at several NHL outdoor classic games. New logo's on the ice for the WHL final also means new ice has had to form over top of it, which could also factor in it snowing up easily. The more it's skated on, the better it will get.
  • Westman Place is an older facility but has a certain old school charm about it. The training staff like the relatively new visitors dressing room (it is the second time we've used it) which allows extra locker room seating for the 'Black Aces'. Who are the 'Black Aces'? They are considered the players that practice with the team but don't play. That would include Tate Coughlin, Jake Morrissey, Jordan Bortsmayer and Cole Lind.   

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