Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Foote wants to follow in fathers footsteps

Cal Foote
A 15 year-old rookie defenceman attending Kelowna Rockets main camp this week has a parent who knows something about the game. Denver, Colorado's Cal Foote has a father named Adam Foote. Ever hear of him? Yep, Adam Foote, who played over 11 hundred games in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets.
"Since he stopped playing and retired he has been on the bench most games. He has coached me for two years and he has helped out assistant coach this last year", the younger Foote told me this morning after the first on-ice scrimmage of Kelowna Rockets main camp.
Much like his dad, Cal Foote is a stay at home defenceman with some impressive size for a player that doesn't turn 16 until mid December.
"I like to have his tough gritty game but I like to see myself more as a two way guy. I see myself more on the offensive side than he was".
Well spoken for one of the youngest players at main camp, Foote is impressed by what he has seen both on and off the ice.
"It kind of blew my mind how awesome it is here. Just the town and how great it is....its nice. The rink here is amazing and the facility is just great too".
A second round pick of the Rockets two draft ago, Cal Foote was unable to attend rookie camp last season because of any injury.
If you watch real close this week, the number on his helmet at training camp is 52, the same digits his father Adam donned in a hockey career which will likely see him in the Hockey Hall of Fame in the not so distant future.           

Friday, August 22, 2014

Tai attempt to make Rockets roster

Christopher Tai
  • Recognize the player on the right? His name is Christopher Tai. The 18 year-old goaltender will be attending the Kelowna Rockets main camp next week. Tai has played with three teams over his WHL career including two seasons with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and one game each with Brandon and Medicine Hat. The Delta, BC resident spent the majority of last season in the AJHL with the Lloydminster Bobcats. Tai will attempt to challenge for the vacant back up position to veteran Jackson Whistle.
  • Speaking of Whistle; have you seen the new signage outside the Rockets office? It says 'Welcome to Rocketland' and has a face shot of Whistle with his mask on. That is proof in itself that the West Kelowna resident is indeed the teams #1 goaltender heading into the season.
  • There is nothing worse than not having your first round bantam pick attend training camp. The Kelowna Rockets felt it in the fall of 2008 when first round pick Luke Moffatt didn't show. Moffatt never played a game with the Rockets, who selected the Arizona product second overall. This season the Everett Silvertips feel the pain as 16 year-old Tyson Jost is a no-show and will instead go to camp with the Penticton Vees this season. Jost was the Okanagan Rockets leading scorer last season and would pretty much be a guarantee to make any WHL roster as a rookie.
  • What is with all of these WHL veteran players pulling the pin on their junior careers? The Spokane Chiefs have been hit the hardest when captain Reid Gow decided he didn't want to return for his 20 year-old season. When your captain losses his heart to play the game, that sends an ugly message to his now former teammates. Since then, no less than four veterans including one more from the Chiefs and one each from the Swift Current Broncos, Moose Jaw Warriors and Red Deer Rebels have had a change of heart. Now we hear word that Macoy Erkamps of the Lethbridge Hurricanes won't report to training camp and wants to be traded. We've heard that song played before when it comes to the 'Cane Train'. While you can joke by saying that is typical for the Hurricanes at this time of the year, the WHL isn't laughing at whats happening league wide.
  • The Rockets had a similar situation last season, when in November, Swedish forward Henrik Nyberg walked into the coaches office and told them he wanted to go home. It put the team in a tough spot. I would think it is better that a player announce his intentions to walk away from the team prior to the start of training camp rather than two months into the season. With Nyberg's departure and rosters pretty much set, the Rockets were essentially short a forward for the entire season. They attempted to fill that void at the trade deadline by acquiring Marc McCoy from Regina. McCoy was a no-show.
  • If I am feeling for one WHL coach at training camp this week its John Paddock in Regina. Named the head coach earlier this month, Paddock is going to have to rely heavily on those around him to formulate his team. With no prior knowledge of what a player did or did not do with the Pats last season, the 60 year-old can only look at a stats sheet to gauge what a veteran is capable of doing.
  • How much gas in the tank does Seattle Thunderbirds Mathew Barzal have after attending and winning gold for Canada at the Ivan Hlinka tournament in the Czech Republic earlier this month?  While Barzal may not be rewarded with a few days off when he arrives in Kent for main camp, fellow Team Canada and Kelowna Rockets teammate Nick Merkley will. GM Bruce Hamilton says Merkley, the WHL rookie of the year, will not participate in the early stages of main camp. The 17 year-old forward doesn't have much to prove and will sit out of few days of main camp to recharge his batteries. 
  • The veterans hate it, but it is a clear indication of who was committed to working out over the summer. Fitness testing is always an interesting component of main camp. Rourke Chartier is a rock star when it comes to conditioning. The now 18 year-old is the player to beat. We won't report on who was sucking air in fitness testing in fear of embarrassment, but I anticipate some veteran players doing much better than a year ago under the watchful eye of Athletic Therapist Scott Hoyer.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Smart/Sandhu worth watching as rookie camp opens

15 year-old Jordan Sandhu is small but skilled
  • Eight of the ten players the Kelowna Rockets selected in the WHL bantam draft in May are attending rookie camp. Among those on the ice Thursday morning will be 15 year-old defenceman Jonathan Smart. Smart was taken 22nd overall by Director of Player Personnel Lorne Frey. The only two drafted players that won't be attending rookie camp are Americans Cooper Haar from Huntington Beach, California and Colby Bukes from Littleton, Colorado. 
  • The camp isn't about who's not here but who is. No ones eligibility is hurt by attending rookie camp and its a nice way for these young players to dip their feet into the WHL waters so to speak. I hope all of them consider participating in the rookie camp as an honour. These players are getting a look-see from one of the most successful major junior franchises in Canada. When I was 15, I would have given my left leg to have a chance of setting my skates on Prospera Place ice. For the 100 or so attending rookie camp, the next four days should be nothing short of a thrill.
  • Of the eight Canadian born players the Rockets drafted in May, all eight are from BC. Fifteen year-old Kyle Topping is from Ganges, BC. Where the heck is that, I asked  myself? Hello Google Maps. Ganges, BC is on Salt Spring Island which is near Duncan ...Kim Dillabaugh's hometown. Still confused? Ganges is known for Salt Spring Coffee which is sold on BC Ferries. What more do you need to know? Topping was an 11th round bantam pick.
  • I have never seen Jonathan Smart play. I will get that chance at rookie camp and I anticipate the Kelowna resident will also see time with the 'big boys' at main camp next week. What I want to see is how dominant he can be in his age group. It is a massive step for a 15 year-old player when he challenges himself against older players that are 16 to 20. Smart should be one of the best players on the ice at rookie camp.
  • One player of interest for me at rookie camp will be 15 year-old Richmond forward Jordan Sandhu. Sandhu is the younger brother of a terrific player with the Everett Silvertips - Tyler Sandhu. Tyler scored 19 goals in his second season in Everett. I anticipate the younger Jordan to have the same skill set as his older brother. Both are small but obviously crafty. My belief is Jordan has a greater chance of showing off his offensive talents in Kelowna, where down the road Tyler Sandhu likely wouldn't receive the same freedom in the offensive zone under coach Kevin Constantine.
  • Tyler Mosienko and Ryan Cuthbert are just two undrafted rookies that attending Rockets camp and eventually made the team. Those were two terrific players that will go down in franchise history as having played over 300 games in the WHL.
  • Can an undrafted, unlisted player at rookie camp make an impact and catch the eye of the scouts? Just ask current Rockets d-man Dalton Yorke. Yorke came to camp and was eventually listed. The 17 year-old made an impact last season playing in 40 WHL games and getting into 10 fights.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Things that make me go hmm....

  • Can you believe it? The Kelowna Rockets rookie camp is just around the corner and the summer of 2014 is almost at an end. The time away from the rink is refreshing for all involved as the franchise officially celebrates its 20th season in the Okanagan in 2014-2015. The regular season starts in just over a month.
  • Director of Player Personnel Lorne Frey will be participating in his 24th Kelowna Rockets rookie camp this week. That is mind boggling. Funny thing is he loves every minute of it. 
  • Rookie camp is always interesting. It gives the Rockets brass a chance to see all ten players they selected in the 2014 WHL bantam draft on the same ice surface. It will be my first look at 1st round pick Jonathan Smart. Two other prospects to watch out for are Cooper Haar and Jordan Sandhu. Haar is the younger brother of former Portland Winterhawks d-man Garrett Haar and Sandu's older Tyler plays with the Everett Silvertips. 
  • Rookie camp will look at lot different this time around. No Ryan Huska. No Kim Dillabaugh. Both move on making way for new assistant coaches Kris Mallette and goaltending coach Travis Crickard. 
  • I have heard some negative vibe over the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Many have suggested it is a waste of time and no real strides are made in bringing awareness or funding towards the deadly disease. I have participated after a challenge from  Ryan Huska and believe strongly in the movement. Ross Ruttle, the Kelowna Rockets anthem singer at home games for years, was inflicted with ALS and I saw him struggling in a Kelowna hospice. It wasn't pretty. It was painful to watch as a man with such a strong singing voice was gasping for air and could only whisper when he spoke. That brings home the message of  the importance of getting the word out about ALS and the terrible way it takes so many peoples lives.     
  • Over the next few weeks we will break down the rookies that are impressing at camp and the veterans that are fighting for spots on this years team. But for now, its good to reflecting back to last season where the team won a league high and franchise record 57 games. With 118 points, a Western Hockey League regular season title will be raised to the Prospera Place rafters before the puck drops on September 20th.  The team was an incredible 57-11-0-4 last season. But as good as they were during the regular season, most fans I spoke to this summer remember the Winterhawks eliminating the Rockets in five games in the Western Conference final.
  • No Bell. No Cooke. No Severson. No Olson. The Rockets top three point producers from one season ago and are no longer with the team and that includes their starting goaltender. Myles Bell, Ryan Olsen and Damon Severson were 1,2,3 in team scoring last season. All three are moving on to pro hockey. Jordon Cooke, a WHL first team all-star and CHL Goaltender of the Year, will play with the U of S Huskies this fall. The loss of Bell, Olson and Severson is taking a combined 202 points out of the line up.  
  • The Rockets scored 310 goals last season. That was the second most of any team in the WHL. Last years squad was as good on defense too. The Rockets allowed 182 goals against - second best in the 22 team circuit.  
  • Plenty of offense returns for 2014-2015 thought. Madison Bowey had 60 points and a franchise record 21 goals from the blue line. WHL rookie of the year Nick Merkley had 58 points, including 25 goals and Rourke Chartier had 58 points with a career high 24 pucks finding the back of the net.    
  • Many forget the team managed an incredible 29 road wins last season. That was not only a franchise record but tied a WHL record too. At home the Rockets won 28 times. 
  • The Rockets penalty killing unit was the best in the league (86.2%) while the power play was a respectable 5th with 68 goals scored with the extra man.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

BellStar Hotels and Resorts don't disappoint

What a terrific two night stay in the Canmore/Banff area.

My family and I returned this week to the Alberta Rockies after an absence of seven years and decided to look for accommodations near the town of just over 12 thousand. Having stayed at one of BellStar's  excellent properties in Osoyoos, Spirit Ridge, we were pleased to learn the leading developer and operator of resort properties in the region offered accommodations in the Canmore area too.

We elected to stay at Solara Resort and Spa in Canmore, which can be easily found just off the Trans Canada Highway. Solara was nothing short of spectacular. From registration to checkout, the entire process was simple. More importantly, the two bedroom suite we enjoyed exceeded our expectations. King size beds in both rooms, a full kitchen with stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops was a clear signal that BellStar is committed to providing high end comfort for travelers who are able to enjoy amenities that they may not be able to experience at home. That is what made our stay at BellStar's Solara Resort and Spa  so enjoyable. It truly felt like a vacation and when it ended we didn't want to leave. 

A shower that featured three separate heads that hit you from every angle and a deep sinker tub that my wife enjoyed were some of the luxuries inside the room. Outside of the room, did I mention the fully functioning gym that had all the free weights and cardio equipment anyone needs for a good workout? Free bike rentals and even a movie theater inside the resort were some of the other activities that were offered during our stay. 

If you are ever considering accommodations in Canmore/Banff area, I highly recommend Solara Resort and Spa or any of the BellStars spectacular properties in Osoyoos, Kicking Horse, Crawford Bay, Vancouver Island or here in Canmore. http://www.bellstar.ca/resorts

Without a shadow of a doubt, you won't be disappointed when you stay with BellStar.   

Monday, August 4, 2014

Weber worth watching in weightroom

Shea Weber is a beast in the gym according to Almond
Cody Almond never played with Shea Weber.

The two Kelowna Rockets alumni have seen each other many times in the gym during the summer though.  

"He is an absolute freak", Almond told me last week before playing at one of a number of excellent golf course in the Kelowna area.

While Almond has never worked out with the Nashville Predators defenceman, he has watched with amazement from across the room at what the Sicamous resident is able to do in the gym. 

"He doesn't look like the biggest most ripped guy in the world. He looks like an athlete and you can tell that he is strong. When you see him work out, you appreciate the level he is at and the strength that he has. I don't think I have ever seen someone at that level before. He is jump squatting what everyone else is dead-lifting. He is a machine, that guy. He is something else," Almond added.

Almond is preparing to earn a spot with the NHL's Minnesota Wild this fall.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Adolph pleased that Cooke commits to Huskies

Dave Adolph in action.
University of Saskatchewan Huskies head coach Dave Adolph didn't aggressively recruit Kelowna Rockets goaltender Jordon Cooke.

It appears that laid back approach paid off.

The U of S men's hockey program reeled in a big fish this summer from the list of graduating players from the Western Hockey League when the 21 year-old Leduc Alberta product committed for the upcoming CIS season.

Adolph says Cooke should be a good fit with his team.

"We have a guy who is going into his fifth year, Ryan Holfeld, who I think is one of the best goalies in the Canadian University league but he graduates this year. He is in the college of law.  We were looking for someone else to come in and be a one 'A' and then take over everything for the next three or four years."

Adolph says the University of Saskatchewan has a lot to offer outside of the game of hockey.

"We have a great business school. That is what he would like to do. One of his goals, he told me, was to secure four years of post secondary education if hockey didn't work out. We had a spot for him. I don't think he wanted to go to the big money and live in Atlantic Canada. That is a long, long way away."

The last Kelowna Rockets alumni to wear Huskies colours was defenceman Zach Stebner, who completed his three year business degree.



Saturday, July 26, 2014

What an honour

  • What a night! The Kelowna Rockets 2004 Memorial Cup championship team was inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame Friday night in Penticton. The Rockets - in the Team Category - were recognized for their 2-1 win over Gatineau, winning all four games at the four team tournament. Here are some of the highlites of the evening. 
  • Eleven players from the 2004 Memorial Cup winning team were there. Captain Josh Gorges, Shea Weber, Blake Comeau, Cam Paddock, Brett Palin, Darren Deschamps, Tyler Mosienko, Nolan Waker, Chris Ray, Justin Keller and Simon Ferguson.
  • The coaching staff was well represented as then head coach Marc Habscheid was joined by assistants Jeff Truitt, Ryan Huska, Larry Keating and Kim Dillabaugh.
  • Also on hand for the induction ceremony was Paul Mitchell and Bill Winters. These two gentlemen were co-chairs for the Kelowna Rockets bid committee for the 2004 Memorial Cup. The lawyer and accountant were rock stars during the teams presentation to WHL governors back in  November of 2002. They did enough to sway the governors to pick their bid over the one presented by the Vancouver Giants.
  • It was nice to see Gavin Hamilton Senior on the Rockets bus as we made our way down to Penticton for the ceremony. Hamilton SR. has been the chairman of the board for the Kelowna Rockets for 23 years. Hamilton SR. is the father of Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton. Hamilton SR. was presented the hall of fame plaque on stage from Calgary Flames President of Hockey Operations Brian Burke.
  • One of the highlites of the evening was the speech given by captain Josh Gorges. It didn't surprise me that Gorges pulled it off like a true pro. The Buffalo Sabres defenceman spoke straight from the heart and didn't read a word of what he said. 
  • Gorges had one word to describe the Kelowna Rockets organization. 'Class' was the word he used. The now 29 year-old also paid tribute to athletic therapist Scott Hoyer. Gorges spoke glowingly about Hoyer, a trainer that every player loves. Hoyer was a friend. Hoyer provided a listening ear. Hoyer gave advice to the players when they asked. It was nice to see Hoyer recognized in that way for being the bridge between the players and the coaching staff and being more than just an employee who tapes ankles and orders new sticks. I thought it was a great tribute to Hoyer, who is quietly going about his business behind the scenes.
  • Among the heavy hitters from the NHL that were in attendance were Brian Burke, Trevor Linden (President of the Vancouver Canucks), Patrick LaForge (Oilers President and COO), Bob Nicholson (Oilers Vice Chairman) and Brad Treliving (GM Calgary Flames) to name a few.
  • Speaking of Linden, is there any NHL upper management type more accessible than him? Since taking on his role with the Canucks, Linden is a p-r machine. The ex-Canuck captain was offering himself up in the auction portion of the Hall of Fame ceremony last night where fans could bid on a package that including dinner before a Canucks game with him. He also sweetened the pot half way through the bidding process by allowing the winning bid to meet two players after the Canucks game. It seems that Linden has been given the green light to do whatever he wants to do to get the fans back on their side.
  • Maybe Linden realizes that Canuck fans in BC are fading. An auction package at the ceremony last night for the Calgary Flames went for more than the Canucks package. To be fair, the Flames package did include flights to the game. The Canucks did not.
  • Congratulations to colleague Dan Russell for picking up the first ever Bernie Pascall award. It will be given yearly for broadcasting excellence in BC.  
  • On the ride back home on the Rockets bus, it was interesting talking to Josh Gorges about his fallout with the Montreal Canadiens. That will remain confidential. It was also pretty cool to see him wearing his 2004 Memorial Cup ring with pride.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Where are they now - Brent Howarth



Brent Howarth was one of nine, 1986 born players on the Kelowna Rockets roster in 2003-2004. 
A 9th round bantam draft pick in 2001, the Selkirk Manitoba product was in the same draft class as Tyler Spurgeon (1st rd), Blake Comeau (2nd rd), and Mike Card (4th rd). What a draft!!
Howarth played three seasons with the Rockets before playing his 20 year-old year with the Selkirk Steelers where he scored 49 goals in 2006-07.
No longer playing the game, Howarth is living in Selkirk, married to his high school girlfriend Jodi. Howarth is a locomotive engineer at CN Rail.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Where are they now - DJ King

Kelowna Rockets General Manager Bruce Hamilton believed his team needed an enforcer to 'keep the flies off' his skilled players if they wanted to seriously challenge for a Memorial Cup championship in 2004.
Insert 19 year-old DJ King in a trade with the Lethbridge Hurricanes that season.
'Kinger' could intimidate. The Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan product could fight and most importantly he could skate good enough to keep up with his line mates.
King would drop the gloves eight times in 28 regular season games with the Rockets, squaring off with Kamloops Blazers enforcer Cam McCaffrey three times. His most memorable scrap was a heavyweight tilt with Seattle's Zack Fitzgerald at the Key Arena in his Rockets debut on January 10, 2004. Oh ya, he also fought at the Memorial Cup. Remember this? 

The now 30 year-old would go on to play in 118 games at the NHL level with St. Louis and Washington. King was originally drafted in the 6th round in 2002 by the Blues.
What is King up to now? After retiring following the 2012-2013 season,  DJ tells me after taking a year off he is now the co-owner of Tawaw Cabins (Waterhen Lake) near Meadow Lake.
The older brother of Dwight King of the LA Kings, DJ will become a first time father in August when his wife Chantal gives birth.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tough loss at goalie coach position

Kim Dillabaugh was like a good mechanic. 
If the Kelowna Rockets had a goaltending problem, he was there to fix it.
Over 11 seasons, Dillabaugh quietly went about his way.
The soft spoken Duncan, BC resident wouldn't overhaul what a goalie prospect brought to camp, but like a good technician (they are called technicians not mechanics right?), he tweaked in an effort to make them better.
Dillabaugh first worked with Kelly Guard in 2002-2003. Guard is a Memorial Cup champion. 'Dilly', as he is known around the Rockets dressing room, also worked closely with Derek Yeomans, Kristofer Westblom, Torrie Jung, Adam Brown and most recently CHL Goaltender of the Year Jordon Cooke to name a few.
Dillabaugh made those players better. He made the rest of the coaching staff better.
He listened to the goalies. He worked as much on the mental side of their game than the physical side. He was always in their corner. I would often speak with 'Dilly' about the teams goaltending, specifically when things weren't going well, which by the way was a rarity. Almost every single time, Dillabaugh defended the player and the position he knows best.
You knew the marriage between Dillabaugh and the Rockets wouldn't last long though. Dillabaugh was having too much success helping LA Kings prospects Jonathon Quick and Martin Jones with their game.
The Kings took notice and finally offered him an expanded role with the NHL team. Had they not, Dillabaugh would have been picked up by another team. He is just that good.
On the surface, many fans won't see the loss of Dillabaugh as significant. Trust me, when it comes to the most important position on the ice - goaltending - the Rockets couldn't have had a better person in place.
It is safe to say the new goaltending coach, whoever he may be, will have massive shoes to fill with the departure of Dillabaugh.
I wish 'Dilly' all the best!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Where are they now - Kevin Reinholt

During the 2003-2004 Memorial Cup winning season, the Kelowna Rockets iced a team with three 16 year-old's. Kevin Reinholt (pictured right) was joined by Kyle Cumiskey and Brent Howarth.
Reinholt was the Rockets first round pick from the 2002 WHL bantam draft. Call it bad timing, but Reinholt entered his rookie season in the WHL playing on a solid d-core that included the likes of Josh Gorges, Shea Weber, Brett Palin, Mike Card and Darren Deschamps.
Reinholt would play just 32 games that season and none in the playoffs or the Memorial Cup. The lack of playing time that year may have stunted his growth as a player.
The Toefield Alberta product would win a Memorial Cup title in his first of three seasons with the Rockets before eventually being traded to the Calgary Hitmen in the 2006-07 season.
Now 27, Reinholt is living in Sherwood Park, Alberta where he is a project manager in the construction industry. Reinholt is due to marry his fiance Anna on September 27th. While no longer playing the game of hockey, Reinholt tells me he plays competitive softball and big game hunts in his spare time.    

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Where are they now - Chris Ray

Chris Ray
The Kelowna Rockets 2003-2004 Memorial Cup championship team will be inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame this Friday. I thought it would be interesting this week to look at where some of the players that season are now hanging their hats.
Let's look back at forward Chris Ray, who was a fresh face on the Rockets roster that season.  
What a rookie season for Chris Ray. In 2003-2004, the West Kelowna product was playing for his home town team as a 17 year-old.
Ray would play in 54 games that season collecting just five goals. Despite the modest totals, Ray would play four full seasons with the Rockets including the 2006-2007 campaign when he was named the team captain.
Following his WHL career, the well spoken forward would spend five years at the University of Waterloo.  
What is Chris Ray up to now? The 28 year-old is a father of a three year old boy (London) and a 15 month old daughter (Matilda).
Ray works in Vernon but lives in Kelowna as an Environmental Scientist.

Friday, July 18, 2014

All aboard! Rockets bus heading to induction ceremony

Kelly Guard was the MVP in 04 Memorial Cup
  • Next week the Kelowna Rockets 2004 Memorial Cup winning team will be inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame. The ceremony is a week from today in Penticton (the site of the BCHHF) and I wouldn't miss it for the world. I had the pleasure of calling that memorable moment in May of 2004 when the Rockets earned a 2-1 win over the Gatineau Olympiques. I've been invited on the team bus as many of the coaches and players from that squad head down - in mass - for the special night. It should be an enjoyable 40 minute ride down to Penticton with former coaches Marc Habscheid and Jeff Truitt. It will be odd though, seeing Shea Weber and Josh Gorges sitting at the back of the bus. They didn't look out of place back in 2004, but fast forward 10 years and these two integral pieces of the Rockets success that season are now making big money and making solid careers at the NHL level. They could drive their own limos to the event.  
  • The Rockets social and auction Thursday night at the Eldorado was a massive success. Close to 20 grand was raised for the Kelowna General Hospital. One of the new features of the social evening, which is held a day in advance of the alumni golf tournament, was the auctioning off of several players. The auction allows fans to play with the likes of NHLers Shea Weber, Josh Gorges, Jamie Benn and Tyson Barrie.  
  • This year the alumni hockey game, which is traditionally held on a Sunday has been cancelled. The game was called off with a lack of players being available. I can see the game being scrapped all together. I think if you can get alumni together for two days (Thursday and Friday) it is more workable in every ones schedule rather than the four days (Thursday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday) when the alumni hockey game is part of the puzzle. The fans won't like it, but if the alumni hockey game can't attract the bigger names that once wore a Rockets jersey, is it worth having it? Will people want to come out to watch if Weber, Myers, Schenn and Gorges don't play?    
  • My gut says Victoria. My heart says Red Deer. It is a three horse race to see which WHL centre hosts the 2016 Memorial Cup. Vancouver, Red Deer and Victoria are the three vying for the 10 day tournament. All three have great buildings to host the on-ice portion of the event with the Giants having the leg up on the other two when it comes to a larger venue. The bigger building with more seats means more $$$! But is it all about money? Sadly, in most cases it is. Somehow that needs to change. The Memorial Cup has to be profitable, but the event needs to be attainable for those who want to host it... big or small. In this case, I think Red Deer deserves to host 2016. Why? Because they have made previous bids and have lost. That and Red Deer has never hosted. I like Victoria as a second option, but they are new to the process and would be a good fit down the road in 2019. Vancouver hosted in 2007, which was only 8 years ago, so I think it's far too early to go back there. Saskatoon (2013), Brandon (2010), Vancouver (2007), Kelowna (2004), Regina (2001) and Spokane (1998) are the last six WHL cities to host the MC.
  • Simon Ferguson is back in the game. The Kelowna Rockets alumni, who retired two seasons ago after a short stint in Europe, is the new head coach of the Okanagan Rockets. Ferguson is an interesting choice for the defending BCMMHL champions. 
  • There was so much talk about Tim Hunter being the front runner for the Vancouver Giants head coaching vacancy; one would have concluded the former NHL enforcer would have been the choice to guide the G-Men this season. That wasn't the case. The Giants hired Troy Ward instead so Hunter, who was a bridesmaid in the coaching sweepstakes in Vancouver, took the head coaching duties with the Moose Jaw Warriors instead.  
  • In listening to an interview with Hunter on Team 1040, it sure sounds as though he was the Giants top choice but the two sides couldn't come to an agreement on either money or length of contract. It blows me away that Moose Jaw would have offered Hunter a better deal. If that is indeed true, a high five to the Warriors for outbidding a large market franchise.        
  • Mitch Callahan has signed a one year deal with the Detroit Red Wings. The former Kelowna Rockets antagonizer will have to play well this season in order to get a longer term contract from the NHL team. Honestly, I was a bit surprised it was only a one year deal for the 22 year-old Callahan. Last season in the AHL, Callahan scored 26 goals and was a +23. 'Cally' also made his NHL debut with the Red Wings on March 25th against Columbus. Callahan was drafted by the Red Wings in the sixth round (180th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
  • Congrats to Brendan Batchelor for being named the full time radio voice of the Vancouver Giants. Batchelor did road games for the G-Men last season and the occasional home game. It only makes sense to have one consistent voice calling the games both home and away rather than three announcers wanting a piece of the 36 home dates that are available.
  • Bryan Maxwell is back in the WHL. 'Maxy' has joined the Lethbridge Hurricanes as an assistant coach. I haven't had many conversations with Maxwell over the years, but when I have his deep voice always stands out. It is raspy and low. I am sure a cigarette habit has something to do with that. One thing about Maxwell that also stands out is, while looking intimidating, he always has a friendly smile  on his face.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Things that make me go hmm...

Bill Ranford - pictured right
  • Jordon Cooke is making the most of his opportunity to impress the Los Angeles Kings.
    The 21 year-old Kelowna Rockets goaltender is attending Kings prospects camp this week after receiving an invite from the Stanley Cup champions.
    Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford says the CHL goaltender of the year deserves a chance to prove himself at an NHL camp.
    "With what he has done the last two seasons in Kelowna, we had a spot in our camp open and just I felt like he had earned it to get a look and have an experience of going through a camp with an NHL team."   
    Cooke is one of the smaller goaltenders at Kings camp, but Ranford says he has made the adjustments to make himself appear bigger. "I am a little bit taller than he is. I talked about what I had to do throughout my career in the aspects of reading releases and trying to hold my feet a little bit longer.  And that's kind of the approach I am taking with him because every other aspect of his game is strong", Ranford added.  
  • It appears the Minnesota Wild have had a change of heart. So has Cody Almond. The Kelowna Rockets alumni has signed a one year contract with the NHL team after spending a few years playing in the Swiss Elite League. Almond was essentially forced overseas back in 2012 when the Wild didn't offer him a contract. Two years later, the 24 year-old is back in the NHL. Almond was drafted by the Wild in the 5th round in 2007 and played a total of 25 games with them in 2009-2010, 2010-2011 and most recently 10 games in 2011-2012. Almond's off season home is right here in Kelowna.
  • What is the next step in Kyle Beach's hockey career? The Kelowna resident did not receive a qualifying offer from the NHL New York Rangers at the end of the month meaning the 24 year-old is a free agent. Last season, Beach split time between playing in Sweden and with the Hartford Wolf Pack, the Rangers AHL affiliate. It is hard to imagine that the 1st round pick of the Chicago Black Hawks has not played one NHL game. Beach was taken 11th overall in 2008. Beach is getting married this summer.
  • Myles Bell is off to New Jersey Devils prospects camp today. The camp officially begins Monday. The Kelowna Rockets leading scorer the last two seasons is without a contract and must sign one in order to play in the Devils organization this upcoming season. Bell is unable to return to junior after playing as an overage this past season.
  • Tyrell Goulbourne is at Philadelphia Flyers prospects camp this week. Now 20, Goulbourne will want to make great strides this week by showing the organization that he was worthy of a third round pick in the 2013 NHL draft.  Goulbourne ideally is looking for a pro contract from the Flyers. If he doesn't get one, he is a sure bet to return to the Kelowna Rockets this season competing for one of three overage spots with Colton Heffley, Cole Martin and Carter Rigby.
  • You may have missed it, because I did. Ex-Kelowna Rockets forward/defenceman Brandon McMillan is going to salary arbitration with the Phoenix Coyotes. McMillan's arbitration hearing is July 29th. Under a two way contract, the WHL champion from 2009 was paid 709,500 at the NHL level.
  • Another transaction that slipped through the cracks last week was Blake Comeau signing a one year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 2nd round pick of the Islanders in 2004, Comeau has played 422 NHL games with the Islanders, Flames and Columbus Blue Jackets.
  • Troy Bodie signed a one year deal with the Leafs on July 3rd. Bodie was a member of the Kelowna Rockets MC winning team in 2004.
  • The Kelowna Rockets second round pick from the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft will indeed attend training camp this fall. Cal Foote, the 15 year-old (has late December birth date) son of ex-NHL'er Adam Foote will be in Kelowna in late August looking at earning a roster spot. I texted with Adam and he confirmed his son will be in the Okanagan. In case you are wondering, Adam Foote will be watching eagerly in the stands.
  • The Washington Capitals have been putting Madison Bowey to work in more ways than one at prospects camp this week. The Kelowna Rockets captain is writing a blog. 
  • We are 72 days away from the Rockets opening the 20014-2015 WHL regular season. It will mark the franchises 20th season in Kelowna.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Kris Mallette Quotes

Are you excited about joining the Rockets?
  
"I think joining the Kelowna Rockets is so beneficial for my development to ultimately get to where I want to be, like every coach, to the NHL". 
Kris Mallette

This is something you really wanted to do, be behind the Rockets bench as a coach?

"I have had conversations with other teams. I have always put my name out to let people know that I am interested. I am a Western Hockey League guy through and through. This is where I want to be. Kelowna is my home. The Rockets are my team. I bleed Rockets colours."

How about working with Dan Lambert? 

"We are both honest, brutally honest I think. If we have something on our mind we are going to speak it. It should be a very, very good friendship and I am thrilled to learn from a coach that won't be in this league very long".

Are you going to be the good cop and Lambert is going to be the bad cop as your role as an assistant coach?

"No. No, I don't think I can. I have been successful because I am passionate about coaching. I am passionate about learning. I am passionate about winning. Am I going to be take losses well? No! If you are, you are content and I am not content. By no means am I going to be that pushover who is not going to hold our guys accountable.  I can have fun but I am going to be firm. I think that is the same message we both want to send".

How about the defensive core you will be overseeing?
"The ground work that has been laid is fantastic. I am going to tweak but this is a special group. I am looking forward to it".

Mallette named an assistant coach

The Kelowna Rockets have hired a former player as Dan Lambert's assistant coach.

Kris Mallette (Ma-let) will be behind the bench running the teams defensive core when the 2014-2015 season begins.

The 35 year-old played parts of three seasons with the Rockets from 1996 until 1999 before being traded to the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Mallette was a third round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 1997.  

Mallette was most recently an associate coach with the BCHL's Vernon Vipers.  



Saturday, June 28, 2014

It's not how you start, but how you finish

  • Justin Kirkland was grinning from ear to ear. Do you blame him? Kirkland became the third Kelowna Rockets player selected by the Nashville Predators when the NHL team grabbed the skilled forward Saturday with their opening pick in the third round. Kirkland also has the bragging rights of being the first draft eligible player taken in the Western Conference of the WHL. Kirkland is another example of a player that didn't necessarily start the season with a bang, but it isn't how you start in your draft year, its how you finish. The 17 year-old had just three goals in his first 16 games and went a full 15 games without a goal from late November to early December. Kirkland turned it on after Christmas though with 12 goals and 17 assists. The well spoken winger finished his rookie season with 17 goals.
  • Teammate Rourke Chartier also heard his name called on draft day. While not in attendance in Philadelphia like Kirkland was, the soft spoken Chartier was plucked in the 5th round by the San Jose Sharks. It is the first time since Scott Hannan was taken in the first round of the 1997 draft that the Sharks chose a Rockets player. Chartier started slow but ramped up his game as the season went along. With just three goals in his first 15 games, the Saskatoon resident would score 17 goals and would collect 26 assists after the Christmas break. Charter would finish the season with 24 goals and 28 more points than he did when he was named the Kelowna Rockets rookie of the year in 2012-2013. Chartier, while small at 5 foot 10, showed his durability by being one of just three Rockets to play in all 72 regular season games. Madison Bowey and Cole Martin also played ever game last season.
  • Only four NHL teams have never taken a player from the Kelowna Rockets organization. Those four teams are Montreal, St. Louis, Carolina and the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Kirkland is a Predator

Justin Kirkland will be taken in Saturday's NHL draft. It is just a question of what round and by whom.
The 17 year-old forward (He doesn't turn 18 until August 2nd) had a tremendous rookie season with 17 goals and had it not been for the spectacular play of 16 year-old teammate Nick Merkley, Kirkland would have been named the Kelowna Rockets rookie of the year.
Kirkland saw massive minutes in his first season in the WHL with time on the power play and playing on a line which often featured leading point producer Myles Bell.
Editors Note: Kirkland was taken in the 3rd round by the Nashville Predators this morning.
I had to question one reporter in Philadelphia who compared him to former Rockets sharp shooter Jamie Benn. Kirkland is a solid player yes, but Jamie Benn played with an edge which only added to his above average skill level. Kirkland is considerably more timid than Benn and will have to really increase his intensity level to be in the general ball park as the Dallas Stars captain. Kirkland has also been compared to former NHL'er Eric Cole. I would say that is more accurate.
Does Kirkland have the ability to play in the NHL down the road? When you possess that size and have that skill set, the Winnipeg born product has all the makings of being an impact player in the WHL and a solid second or third liner in the National Hockey League down the road.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rockets release 2014-2015 schedule

  • The 2014-2015 Western Hockey League regular season schedule for the Kelowna Rockets was released this morning. The team will raise two banners to the rafters when they open the season September 20th against the visiting Kamloops Blazers. The Rockets are BC Division champions and WHL regular season champs.
  • The Rockets make an earlier visit to Prince George with back to back games September 26th and 27th. I guess I am bringing my golf clubs. Al Bristowe, make the tee-time please!
  • 15 of the teams first 24 games will be played on the road.
  • The Rockets play one 'road' double header this season. The Rockets visit the Portland Winterhawks on October 30th and November 1st.
  • The Rockets host the Winterhawks in a double header at Prospera Place on November 21st and 22nd.
  • The Rockets enjoy two - five game home stands.
  • The most significant news out of the Rockets schedule is the team does not play three games in three nights. Nope..not even once.
  • The bad news? If you are a Rockets season ticket holder you won't see the defending WHL champion Edmonton Oil Kings at all at Prospera Place. The Rockets face the Oil Kings on their own turf on December 16th.
  • This is a little concerning. The Rockets play three games in four nights 12 times.

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