Monday, December 11, 2017

Things that make me go hmm...

James Porter Junior - Shoot the Breeze Photography
  • The weather has to be the single biggest story outside of the Kelowna Rockets performance on this Eastern Division road trip. It has been incredibly mild in Saskatchewan. You are hard pressed to find snow on the streets of Regina. All you can see today is small clumps of dirty snow, mainly filled with gravel, washed up on the side of boulevards. The temperature today in Regina, as an example, is +1. The wind is always noticeable here, but when the temperatures are this mild, it's really quite manageable. When the team heads north for games in Prince Albert and Saskatoon on the weekend, the forecast is for a high of between 0 and +1 degree. For this time of the year, it's tropical in these parts.
  • How friendly are Saskatchewan people? While the Kelowna Rockets were wrapping up practice at Brandt Centre in Regina, I was engaged in a conversation with Kamloops Blazers GM Stu McGregor. As is often the case, I lost track of time and noticed the Rockets bus had left the arena without me. As I quickly walked out of the arena in an attempt to catch it, an elderly lady walking out of the Pats souvenir store asking if I needed a ride. Indeed I did. After exchanged names and telling her my story about missing the bus, she gladly gave me a lift back to the hotel. I told her I was the Kelowna Rockets broadcaster and was originally from Swift Current. I am not sure which part of my story resonated with her, but she obviously felt picking up a stranger and letting him into her vehicle wasn't going to put her life in danger. In speaking with her, I found out her husband, confined to a wheel chair, has been a Pats season ticket holder for 20 years and she would be returning home with a unique story of chauffeuring the Kelowna Rockets radio broadcaster back to his hotel. Saskatchewan people have a heart of gold. I generally believe people look after one another, even complete strangers, but what we often hear is the negative side of people in this world that bring pain upon others. I wanted to share this story to remind you that people are indeed good, you just have to treat them with kindness and they will often reciprocate. 
  • Speaking of good people, I had a chance the other day to meet James Hilendager's parents on the way to Brandon. When the team stopped for a pre-game meal in Moosomin, two couples at an adjacent table asked if we/I was an official for the game that night against the Wheat Kings. I introduced myself to the Hilsendager's, who didn't know the face, yet knew the voice. 
  • It is a sure sign I am getting old. I often find great interest in gasoline prices from province to province. Gas prices range greatly  here in Regina. One gas bar is offering regular unleaded gasoline for $91.9 cents a litre while another pump price reads $98.4 cents a litre. Regardless of where you fill up, anything under $1.00 a litre is music to my ears.
  • While in Regina, did I visit the Riders Store? Do pigs like mud?  
  • Let's talk some hockey! As you may have heard or read, rookie goaltender James Porter Junior has been pulled twice on this Eastern Division road trip. Porter allowed 4 goals on 14 shots against Regina before being yanked after surrendering 4 goals on 11 shots against the Brandon Wheat Kings. Being pulled in back-to-back starts is nothing new for a Kelowna Rockets goalie prior to Christmas. Last season, on an Alberta road trip, starter Michael Herringer was pulled after giving up 3 goals on 4 shots against Lethbridge before getting pulled two nights later in Medicine Hat after surrendering 6 goals on 21 shots. For James Porter Junior to be rattled by early struggles on this road trip is unwarranted. No goaltender is immune to adversity and soft goals. The good ones are able to find the mental resolve to bounce back from them quickly.
  • With the loss of Kole Lind, Dillon Dube and Cal Foote, the Rockets clearly lose an abundance of skill with four games remaining on this road trip. I've seen it time and time again. As Kevin Constantine was quoted as saying in his short stint as a coach in the NHL, 'Will beats skill'. Hard work and determined play goes a long way even against an opponent that has a greater degree of talent. The players that I anticipate playing the hardest are the three 20 year-old's on the roster. If I see maximum effort from Carsen Twarynski, Gordie Ballhorn and James Hilsendager, the younger players will follow. Those three are worth watching over the next four games. If they 'bring it', the Rockets have a fighting chance.
  • When the team losses good players to Hockey Canada at this time of the year, lesser skilled players often make an impact. Look at last December's game in Lethbridge when Connor Bruggen-Cate and James Hilsendager scored their first goals of the season. Two nights later, Braydyn Chizen, Leif Mattson and Kyle Topping were involved in the scoring in an overtime win in Medicine Hat. All three were rookies at the time. To say first year players can't make an impact in the remaining four games of this road trip would be foolish.
  • For the first time in recent memory, no prospects have joined the team for practice on this road trip. It has been common place for a underage player like Tyler Myers, Shane McColgan or Damon Severson to skate with the team at least once.   
  • What have I noticed in the first two games on this Eastern swing? My belief is the referee's out here call a looser game. They don't call the petty hooking and holding penalties like we see in the Western Conference. 
  • Leif Mattson is a real good interview. I spoke to him before Saturday's game in Brandon. Mattson has a good delivery, always sounds engaged in the conversation and it appears his fake interviews with teammate Liam Kindree on the bench before game time are paying off. Honestly, I often notice Kindree being the interviewer and Mattson being the interviewee while sitting on the Rockets bench with about 30 minutes left before pre-game warm-up. As they say, practice makes perfect and both players are solid behind the microphone.  
  • Are the Regina Pats in trouble? As hosts for the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup, they need
    Bus driver Greg Link's Xmas tree
    help in a number of areas if they want to be competitive in the 10 day tournament. They look eerily similar to the Saskatoon Blades from 2013. That was a mess. It didn't look much better in 2016 in Red Deer. I am sure Pats GM John Paddock has a few tricks up his sleeve come trade deadline day, but he is going to have to make a massive splash in an effort for the host team to be competitive against the champions of the three leagues. 
  • The radio set-up in Brandon was excellent. Hard line Internet, wireless Internet and a PA feed. Speaking of the PA announcer in Brandon, how good is he? The clarity in his voice is outstanding. Not over the top, even if the Wheat Kings score, his pronunciation of the visiting players was textbook terrific. Where opposition players names are often butchered, it doesn't happen in Brandon. Internet high 5!!!
  • The Rockets had a team building exercise when they went curling Monday afternoon. Have you ever tried curling or believe those that participate at the highest level are not athletes? Think again and try it yourself. It isn't easy.
  • Does the WHL hand out a fine for comments made by Prince George head coach Richard Matvichuk towards two referee's following Sunday's overtime loss to the Victoria Royals? In the radio post game show, Matvichuk teed off on both Chris Crich and Nick Swaine. My takeaway from his comments? He wouldn't want either to do a pee-wee game. Have a good day and keep warm!

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