Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Rockets make roster move

Shoot the Breeze Photography

The Kelowna Rockets have parted ways with 18 year-old forward Marek Skrvne. 
Selected in the second round, 111th overall in the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, the Czech born forward dressed in 69 regular season games as a WHL rookie, scoring 4 times and collecting 13 points.
General Manager Bruce Hamilton says they must build for the future, necessitating Skrvne's release.
"We feel we need to upgrade the defensive side of things and that's what we are looking for".
The Rockets will make one selection in the CHL Import Draft, with 17 year-old Libor Zabransky returning from the Czech Republic in 2018-2019 for his sophomore season.
"Marek was a wonderful man. Marek did nothing to cause the direction we are headed except for the fact that I think we need a defenceman back there as we are trying to build a team for 2020", Hamilton added. 
The CHL Import Draft is traditionally held shortly after the NHL Entry Draft.  

Monday, May 14, 2018

Dream season for Kelowna hockey player

Connor Horning
The Swift Current Broncos are Western Hockey League champions and they can thank an Okanagan hockey player for helping them achieve that goal.

Kelowna born Connor Horning never envisioned his rookie season in the Western Hockey League going this well though.

The Broncos third round bantam pick from 2016 made the team out of training camp.

The 6'3, 180 pound rookie defenceman played in 50 of the Broncos 72 regular season games before dressing in 12 playoff games in the quest for the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

The just turned 17 year-old (May 11th) knew his playing time would be reduced after the Broncos went out and made a series of deals at the trade deadline.

"As a young guy, you have to learn from them (veteran players). I knew after the trade deadline that maybe I wouldn't play that much, but at the end of the day,  it is all worth it because we are champions now".     

Horning told AM 1150 News that the playoff run, which saw the Broncos play a league record 26 games in post season, is something he will never forget.

"Everyone knows you if you play for the Broncos. Just walking down the street in downtown Swift Current, random people will come up to you and say 'Good luck tonight' or 'Go get that win'. The fans here are unbelievable", Horning added.   

Barring an injury, Horning will likely be a healthy scratch at the Memorial Cup, which starts Saturday night for the Broncos against the QMJHL champion, but Horning will do whatever he can to support his teammates.

"In that locker room we have such a strong bond. We are so close. We are such good buddies and we have so many leaders on our team. If we were having a rough game, we would have all 20 guys stepping up to try to take charge and that really helped us".

Horning will be joined in the press box in Regina by 15 year-old Ben King, the Broncos first round WHL bantam pick in 2017 who played this past season with the Okanagan Midget Rockets and calls Vernon his off season home.

The Broncos won the WHL championship Sunday night with a 3-0 victory over the Everett Silvertips, captured the league title for the first time since 1993.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Rockets raise money for Humboldt

Erik Gardiner grieves at Humboldt Broncos vigil    
Vancouver Canucks prospect Kole Lind is one of the high profile players participating this weekend in a fundraising hockey tournament for the Humboldt Strong Foundation. 

The Foundation was set up to support the players and families involved in a tragic bus crash April 6th that the claimed the lives of 15 players, coaches and team personnel when a semi trailer failed to stop at a flashing stop sign. 

Lind's team includes former Kelowna Rockets Reid and Erik Gardiner, who were born and raised in Humboldt and knew many of those killed or injured.

"It means a bit more for me and Erik. We knew lots of the kids on that bus and it is our hometown. I think it will be good (the tournament) for everybody and will help with the healing process", said Reid Gardiner.     

Brodan Salmond, Leif Mattson, James Hilsendager and former Rockets captain Rodney Southam will also participate in the 'Hockey for Humboldt' non-contact tournament, where each team had to make a minimum donation of 15 hundred dollars to participate.

All the games will be played at the Credit Union Iplex, the home of the Swift Current Broncos, who are currently in Everett participating in the WHL final.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Rockets do no 'Wong' by selecting skilled forward

Trevor Wong
It is anyone's guess what Trevor Wong wants for a gift when he turns 15 tomorrow, but the product of Vancouver, BC may have received an early birthday gift. The 5'8, 135 pound forward was chosen in the first round of Thursday's WHL bantam draft.
Wong was taken 18th overall by the Kelowna Rockets, a team that took a gamble on a prospect who has already verbally committed to playing NCAA hockey in Denver down the road.
It should come as no surprise that Wong is getting attention from teams both north and south of the border. Despite being small, many are comparing him to NHL hall of famer Paul Kariya. Sure, Wong's father, Ed, is of Chinese decent and his mother is Indonesian, but the comparison has more to do with where both grew up (Kariya was born in North Vancouver) and how the two are undersized yet are mesmerizing with the puck.
Here are a few takeaways from my conversation with Trevor, who is competing with St. George's (the prep team he plays with) at a hockey tournament in Philadelphia this week. I also spoke to his father Ed, who seemed awfully pleased his sons WHL playing rights are owned by the Kelowna Rockets.

  • Trevor's father Ed called it a 'proud moment' when I asked him to describe his thoughts about his son being taken by the Rockets.  
  • Ed Wong is no stranger to the Western Hockey League. Born in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan, he went to the University of Manitoba before moving to Vancouver in 1992.  
  • While Trevor Wong has committed to NCAA Denver, it appears from my conversation that they have not closed the door on the WHL. 
  • Wong was invited down to Denver in November to take a better look at the program and the facilities there.
  • Ed Wong admitted that he talked to several WHL teams, but the Rockets were not one of those teams.
  • Trevor told me 'it was pretty cool' to be drafted by the Rockets and he has heard 'nothing but good things' about the organization.   
  • The Rockets selected 11 players in the 2018 WHL bantam draft. Of those 11, 7 were forwards, 3 were defenceman and one was a goalie.