Thursday, September 20, 2018

Things that make me go hmm....

  • It only seems fitting that the Kelowna Rockets open the season against the Kamloops Blazers in a battle of BC Division rivals. The two organizations will fight it out on the ice this weekend before attempting to out duel one another in the boardroom in an effort to win the bid to host the 2020 Mastercard Memorial Cup. The Rockets haven't hosted since 2004. The Blazers haven't since 1995. It is been a long time for both franchises. Heck, Lethbridge, the third competing bid has never hosted. But will the Memorial Cup be again hosted by an Eastern Conference team after similar stops in Saskatoon, Red Deer and Regina? My hope is one of Kelowna or Kamloops wins the bid. Selfishly, I'd love see Kelowna host it again. Wouldn't you?  
  • When I first heard that Kamloops was bidding for the 2020 Memorial Cup, I thought they were a shoe-in to host the 10 day tournament. If they were granted the games, it would mark 25 years since they last hosted and won major junior hockey's ultimate prize. Do the Blazers have a leg up on the other two bids with that silver anniversary looming large? Pump the brakes for a second. If you haven't been paying attention, the Kelowna Rockets will be celebrating 25 seasons in Kelowna in 2019-2020. The team re-located from Tacoma to the Okanagan for the start of the 1995-96 season. Next season is an extremely special anniversary for this team. Wouldn't hosting the Memorial Cup be a tremendous way to celebrate?
  • One more thought about the Memorial Cup bids. If Kamloops wanted to outbid the other two on the revenue generated from the tournament, they could do it in a heartbeat. Let's remember the majority owner of the team is Tom Gaglardi. Gaglardi has deep pockets (family net worth is pegged at 3.92 billion) and could easily throw in a couple of million bucks if he really wanted too. How could that not persuade the other WHL governors that the event, if hosted in Kamloops, would indeed turn not just a profit, but a significant one that would be shared with the other 21 teams. Will he do it? That is uncertain, but when you own the Dallas Stars, run the Moxie Restaurant empire among other things, it is hard to ignore when significant cash is thrown on the table. 
  • Again I am biased here, but I see Kelowna being the right choice for one reason and one reason only. Bruce Hamilton. A foot soldier for years in the Western Hockey League as Chairman of the Board, Hamilton has stood up and represented the league for years. My understanding is his colleagues vote him in as chairman, this is not a power hungry position that he thirst for. Like Ed Chynoweth before him, Hamilton has helped make tough decisions over the years in a quest to build the league into what we see today. Would it not be a form of payback, or a thank you if the governors put a check mark by Kelowna's bid on October 3rd? And let's be honest, we are all getting older, including Hamilton, who turned 61 in June. This will be Bruce's final time EVER in hosting the Memorial Cup as a league owner. It won't come back to Kelowna in his lifetime. It's the truth. So when you see a faithful owner, who has looked after the affairs of the WHL for so many years, is the Kelowna Rockets bid not the obvious choice in 2020?  
  • I am very intrigued to see what type of season 20 year-old Ryan Bowen has in 2018-2019.  Never a producer of points at the WHL level, I have talked to many hockey people about him and everyone says, "He can skate". Many observers say there must be more there. My hope is Bowen will show his true colours this season. I've seen 20 year-old castoffs from other teams flourish here. Brady Leavold, Mark Guggenberger, Kelly Guard, Dylan McKinley, Cody Fowlie and Geordie Wudrick to name a few. Marek Tvrdon....not so much. I am intrigued to see what Ryan Bowen brings to the table. 
  • What can we expect from Ethan Ernst this season? At 16, he will take his lumps. The WHL is a hard league. You are playing against older competition and its a significantly upgrade from what he witnessed in midget. It will be up to the coaches to make sure Ernst finds the rest he needs so when he is injected into the line-up, he can succeed and has the energy to compete. Sometimes being a healthy scratch is an ok move. The player should look at it that way too. While he must dress for a minimum of 40 games (WHL requirements) as a 16 year-old, the grind of the season takes its toll and off ice rest is crucial.  
  • Again, the goaltending situation in Kelowna is more than sufficient to compete this season. I am not saying that Roman Basran and James Porter Junior won't have nights that will be forgettable, but I'd go to war with that duo. For the first time in forever, it appears the goaltending situation is not a question mark with an 18 and 17 year-old providing the last line of defense. Knowing that those two can return next season and no changes need to be made at that crucial position is comforting.
  • Can Nolan Foote score 30 goals? If healthy, and a year older, while playing on last year's team, I'd say without a shadow of a doubt he can hit that mark. I am wondering if the supporting cast around him with this year's roster will give him the best chance to achieve that milestone? Foote needs to find a passer, but who has the ability to get the puck on Foote's blade? Liam Kindree? Kyle Crosbie? Kyle Topping is a shooter not a passer. It will be interesting to watch to see who the coaches put with the draft eligible prospect. 
  • I had an interesting conversation the other day with a hockey dad who works for an NHL team. I asked why he decided that the WHL was the right place for his son, who will cut his teeth this season at the major junior level at 16. The thought process was his son was physically mature enough to handle the rigors of the WHL. Looking into the crystal ball, the hope is the 16 year-old, in four years' time, will be able to compete for a spot on an NHL roster when he is 20. That is a four year window of development. This player, now 16, can play in the WHL, against elite competition in his 16, 17, 18 and 19 year-old seasons. Plus, this 16 year-old can play a prominent role on his team right now, not when he has two years of junior eligibility left when he is 18 or 19. I won't reveal who this hockey dad is right now, but if you listen to 'The Kelowna Rockets This Week' (Saturday's from 6 pm until 6:30 pm on AM 1150) you will figure it out awfully quick.    
  • I have been so impressed with my conversations with parents I've chosen to interview about their sons experience in the game of hockey. Last week I called Shaun Gardiner, the father of Erik Gardiner. Shaun was so well spoken and explained in great detail about how he and his family dealt with the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. I also called Darby Melville, the mother of forward Liam Kindree. She explains with great excitement in her voice when recalling WHL bantam draft day and how thrilled the family was that Liam was chosen by the Rockets in the fourth round. It makes for terrific radio. We will feature those interviews this season. 
  • The Rockets raise another BC Division banner high to the rafters Saturday night. It will be the teams 19th banner in its 23 seasons in Kelowna. 
  • Colour analyst Gord McGarva will join me in Kamloops for Friday's opening game. We are on the air on AM 1150 at 6:30 pm with the puck drop a touch after 7:05 pm Pacific Standard time.   

No comments: