Thursday, December 24, 2015

Notes, quotes and anecdotes

AC Kris Mallette playing the role of elf at Secret Santa
  • Santa seems to visit the Kelowna Rockets during every pre-Christmas road trip. The team holds its 'Secret Santa' in a hotel banquet room where Christmas dinner is served and players buy gag gifts which they share with team-mates. Some of the gifts are inside jokes that I don't even get, while others are funny but inappropriate for this blog. The ones I will mention is Tyson Baillie unwrapping a gift that was leaking of water. It turned out, Baillie is the proud owner of a new gold fish. Rookie Cal Foote was given a white t-shirt with black sharpie writing on it that had in big bold letters 'Nice Guy #52' on it. I guess his team-mates are making fun of his polite demeanour. The shirt is appropriate. Foote is respectful to others and Adam and Jennifer, Cal's dad and mom, deserve major credit for guiding him as a person first and a hockey player second. Assistant Kris Mallette is always in the Christmas spirit by dressing up in some festive outfit while presiding over the event.
  • I'm feeling old. I met Kole Lind's dad the other day. Man, he looked young. It is painful that now I look older than the players parents. It was awfully nice of Ashley and Marcia to invite the team to their Shaunavon home for a home cooked meal.       
  • I was really impressed by Swift Current Broncos Jake DeBrusk when I met him last week. I had to ask DeBrusk the white elephant in the room question of the trade rumours where the Broncos may move him to a contending team before or at the trade deadline. "I have been hearing a lot of stuff these days. While I am here I am focusing on the Swift Current Broncos. I know it is a possibility, but when I am on the ice, I am on the ice giving it my all.", DeBrusk told me. DeBrusk added, "Every player in the WHL wants to win a Memorial Cup and I am no different". 
  • Speaking of the Swift Current Broncos, a high five to 'Butter', head athletic trainer Jamie LeBlanc. 'Butter', as he is known in WHL circles, always treats our team well when we arrive at the IPlex in Swift Current. Always with a smile on his face, he is happy to help visiting teams coming into town. It is quite impressive considering 'Butter' is a one man show. Most teams carry both an athletic therapist and equipment guy. LeBlanc...I mean 'Butter'....can do the job of two men! Great guy. Merry Christmas to him and his family.
  • I've made this Saskatchewan road trip many times over my 21 years in the WHL.  I have never seen this group of players so sick. Did they get flu shots? If they didn't...get them. If they did, avoid doing it next season. Sickness like this affects personal and team performance. I don't like to make excuses, but many players were playing excessively ill and playing short-staffed only made matters worse. As a broadcaster, I never get a flu shot. I am around the players and on the bus enough to get sick if I am not careful. My only plan to fight sickness are two things, washing my hands before I eat and taking vitamin C at the first sign of symptoms. Knock on wood, but I think it works! After saying that, I will probably get severely ill in January. 
  • How can Saskatoon have less snow than Kelowna? When I was there last week, you couldn't find a white flake on the side-walk.   
  • Gas in Saskatoon was 87.9 cents a litre. While on the road trip, I heard the price went up 12 cents a litre in Kelowna. How does that work?
  • Drinking Starbucks in Swift Current. It felt like a dream. I lived in Swift Current for 32 years of my life where getting a latte was unheard of. Not any more! I remember in the 80's my father going to the Pioneer Coop coffee shop in the Wheatland Mall and getting a cup of 'Joe' for 75 cents. My latte at Starbucks costs five times as much. 
  • I am thinking of Ryan Huska and his family at Christmas. The winningest coach in Kelowna Rockets history is spending the festive season in California. Tough gig. 
  • On the prairie road trip, so many great interviews involving former Rockets now playing in Prince Albert and Saskatoon. I loved Jesse Lees' comment when I asked him about the trade from PA to Kelowna last December. The 20 year-old's honesty was refreshing. "That (the trade) was probably one of the hardest things I have had to do in my life. I was there since I was 16. I pretty much grew up there and matured into the person I am now. It was tough with the team we had and you could see the run they went on last year. I was happy for them but their was also that disappointment that I wasn't there for it". 
  • Austin Glover, also traded to Prince Albert in the Josh Morrissey/Gage Quinney deal, had some good comments when reflecting on the trade on December 10, 2014. "It was weird seeing the bus (Rockets bus) drive in to Prince Albert. The trade caught me by surprise. It was my first game back after spending a month injured, so my focus was more about getting back in the line-up and getting my feet wet again. It has worked out good for me. I am thankful for the opportunity I have been give here", Glover added.    
  • If you are a Eastern Division team, the travel for the most part is a breeze. A good example was the bus ride from Moose Jaw to Saskatoon. It took us a little over 2 hours. Let me point out that the road conditions were excellent and so driving at the posted speed limit was common place with no delays. Outside of games in Vancouver and Kamloops, the Rockets leave a day in advance of playing an opponent in the Western Conference. 
  • Speaking of driving...a high five to Kelowna Rockets bus driver Rick Windsor for the job he did on the trip getting us from city to city. No problems, outside of a small detour in Prince Albert, we made it flawlessly to every arena on time. Impressive, considering neither Windsor or any of the coaching staff (Ralph/Mallette/Crickard) had ever experienced the Saskatchewan road trip as a staff member.
  • Our stop in Moose Jaw allowed assistant coach Kris Mallette to reflect on his 19 and 20 year-old season spent in the city of 33 thousand. Mallette was traded from Kelowna to Moose Jaw in a three team deal where the Rockets landed goaltender Kevin Swanson. Mallette was involved in 32 fighting majors in the old Moose Jaw Civic Centre (ie: the Crush Can) before it was demolished recently with the completion of Mosaic Place. Mallette says his junior career came to an end the way it started with a fight. The now 36 year-old fought Red Deer's Stephen Peat in his final game in a Warriors uniform. Peat was as tough as they come. Don't believe me?
  • The Brandt Centre in Regina is still one of my favourite buildings to call a game. Great sight lines and the Western Pizza in the media room.....SO GOOD!!!
  • Best player on the trip? I thought Reid Gardiner was very good in Prince Albert. Gardiner played hard and has high end skill. I thought he competed extremely hard.   
  • How is Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton spending Christmas? Hamilton is overseas visiting his son Curtis. Curtis Hamilton is playing with Sparta Praha in the Czech Republic. Hamilton is a team-mate of former Kamloops Blazers defenceman Marek Hrbas.
  • I wanted to wish all of those that stop by and read my blog on a semi regular basis a Merry Christmas. Blog's are not what they once were with the development of Twitter, but it gives me a chance to inform fans of what is going on with the Kelowna Rockets without being forced to condense it into 140 characters. We will talk to you December 27th from Kamloops as the Rockets and Blazers renew acquaintances in what will be an exciting second half of the season. 

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