May 28, 2008

Memorial Cup - Wrap-Up

Well, I wasn’t able to blog as much as I had hoped to. Not having easy access to the internet was the major issue. The fact that the spousal unit wanted to play golf rather than watch me work away at some internet hotspot complicated it a bit too (not that I blame him – he was a really good sport about the times that I did take to update).

By now everyone knows the results, the highlights, the mishaps so there’s no point in going over all of that at this late date. So I will wrap-up with some Random Thoughts about the whole event.

  • Chatted with a lot of really friendly people: Frank and his daughters (I forget their names), Spiderman (aka Walter), Rob Faulds from TSN, Jorg from Vaughn sports, Mr. Jig from The Noof, Admiral the dog and his handler, our usher, the guy who wore the Penguins jersey, linesman 61, the Team Host for the Spokane Chiefs, McGinn fan and others I can’t remember. Did not run into a single unpleasant person at the Aud.
  • Well, maybe one unpleasant person – the security guy who said I couldn’t take pictures with my camera gear. I guess he was doing his job. The CHL only wanted accredited photographers taking pictures. The two photographer positions in front of us were unused for the rest of the game I was busted at (Tuesday?) until the final. Sorry to the Spokane fans who were hoping to see more pictures of their team.
  • It was interesting to watch a bunch of hockey where I really wasn’t emotionally committed to the outcome. One on the one hand, it was less nerve-wracking. On the other hand, it was hard to get all worked up and I realize that that’s a big part of what I like about watching hockey (which is largely why it’s easy to be distracted during the SCF right now – I don’t really care who wins).
  • It was LOUD in the Aud for the semi-final and the final.
  • Mike Murphy was lights-out during the round robin game against Kitchener. Our host, Larry, thought it was a bad move on the part of the Bulls to play him in that game. He thought it was highly unlikely that Murphy would be able to repeat that performance in the semi-final. He was right.
  • About that semi-final….after about the 8th goal, several of us noticed Beleskey and Pepe chatting as they skated to their respective benches. Pepe gave Beleskey a tap with his stick in a “man I know this must suck” kind of gesture.
  • in the “what goes around maybe comes around” category…after their 9-0 blowout over the Bulls, we wondered if Kitchener had used up all their goals. Apparently so.
  • Spokane was good. Calm, purposeful, committed to the system. Tokarski wasn’t half bad either in the third period.
  • As I mentioned earlier, for a region that can organize Oktoberfest, they really didn’t put much together for the fans. We were chatting with a fellow for whom this is his 5th Memorial Cup and in his estimation this was the worst from a non-game perspective.
    • To get parking, you had to be there at least an hour and a half before the game.
    • The Molson Haus was in a downstairs arena area and for the pre-game we were “entertained” by watching some radio personality do his radio show which basically involved introducing songs. Even the videos were just some Molson ads on a loop. Nothing at all to get the fans engaged.
    • The entire food selection: hotdogs, hamburgers and pizza. There isn’t anywhere near the Aud to go eat.
    • We weren’t allowed in the arena until an hour before puck drop. The outdoor area for beer and food didn’t have any tables so you had to hold your beer with one hand and try to eat your hotdog/hamburger with the other hand and somehow hang onto to the bag of chips that came with the “meal”.
    • the Stanley Cup arrived one day but none of the announcements said where it was. No real advance notice that it was coming (well, one day’s notice).
    • I had a chance to chat briefly with one of the Rimouski officials there to observe and learn for their Memorial Cup next year. I mentioned (in my best government French) that they need to plan many more fan-involvements before each game. This standing around was kinda boring.
  • Well worth the time and money invested. Not sure I would do this every year but this worked out well for us. Got to do some golfing too which made it a really good vacation. The Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge region is beautiful and really easy to get around.
  • volunteers make a big difference. For the readers in the National Capital Region, if you have not already done so, you should consider volunteering for the 2009 WJHC in Ottawa. I’m already signed up.
So that wraps up the 2007-2008 Major Junior hockey season. The Memorial Cup stays out west for another year as teams, fans and players turn their thoughts to next year.

The final final event for me will be the NHL Entry draft on June 20th here in Ottawa. The tickets are ordered and I’m good to go to at least the first round.
Until then….Cheers!

May 20, 2008

Memorial Cup - Game 4

Belleville 6


Gatineau 3

Well, it sure seems like this is not Gatineau’s year. This was a tough game for them. Both teams started with the hits but it seemed that Belleville had the edge early. On his first shift out, Gatineau’s Labrie seemed to reinjure his knee but was soon back out there skating.

As a portent of things to come, Gatineau got into early penalty trouble and gave Belleville a 5-on-3 for 1:32 which was followed by a 5-on-4. Gatineau was defending really well but just as the penalties expired Jan Murzak deflected a shot by PK Subban to put Belleville on the board first on their 11th shot of the game.

But the groaner of the game came on Gatineau’s first power play kill when Mior felt it necessary to come out of his crease to play the puck. He mishandled it and Shawn Matthias was there to take it and score the short handed goal and put Belleville up by 2. It happened right in front of me and I was too shocked at what I was seeing to take a picture. Claude Giroux skated up to Mior and it looked like he was reassuring his goalie.

But les Olympiques were not about to go quietly into the night. Hugo Laporte got a wrist shot through from the point to make it a 2 – 1 game. And before the period was over they tied it up on a pretty 2-on-1 play Michael Stiniziani took a nice feed from Darryl Smith and beat Murphy short side.

Both teams traded goals in the second period (Cory Tanaka - another shortie - for Belleville and Claude Giroux for Gatineau) and it seemed like the could still go either way. And it stayed that way until just under seven minutes left in the game when it all fell apart for Gatineau. Three unanswered goals in under 5 minutes including a power play goal just put it away. It actually was sad to see.

The three stars of the game: Claude Giroux (3), Nigel Williams (Belleville – 2) and Shawn Matthias (Belleville – first star).

Random Thoughts:
  • Interesting how you can “sense” the karma of a team. Gatineau is just not giving off the vibes of world-beaters. They certainly are playing heard, with heart, are skilled and fast and everything else you would expect from a team that is representing their league but they do not have the je ne sais quoi to bring it all together. They will be home by tomorrow night.
  • Belleville certainly didn’t make it easy for themselves with all the off-setting penalties. That was just stupid.
  • Belleville’s stretch passes were crazy-good. I am so glad that the red line has been taken out of play for passes.
  • First time I’ve seen a goal called for interference. Murphy deliberately got in Claude Giroux’s way.

  • ”Spiderman” from the previous game dropped by to take some pictures. He is a long time fan of the rangers (45 years – bleeds blue and white) and is getting back into photography now that the kids are getting into university. It was great chatting with him during the game and taking pictures.
  • Each of the tickets features an OHL player from great Memorial Cup games. The tickets for this game featured Brian Campbell from the 1999 Memorial Cup.
  • Akim Aliu came out of the tunnel and was escorted to a seat. He doesn’t look as big as he does on skates. He could lose the Don King look. I heard on the radio that Steve Downie is expected to show up in support of his team mate Claude Giroux.
  • First golf game of the season. Played at the beautiful Glencairn in the Halton Hills. My game stunk but the walk was good.
More pictures (remember that you can click on any picture in the blog to see a larger image)

May 19, 2008

Memorial Cup Jersey Watch

Decided to keep a list of all the jerseys we have seen during the tournament. So far:

Kitchener Rangers Belleville Bulls Gatineau Olympiques
Spokane Chiefs Ottawa 67s Plymouth Whalers
Peterborough Petes Calgary Hitmen Kamloops Blazers
Sudbury Wolves Brampton Battalion St. John Fog Devil
Acadia-Bathurst Titans Cape Breton Screaming Eagles Oshawa Generals
Soo Greyhounds London Knights

Detroit Red Wings Boston Bruins Edmonton Oilers
New York Rangers Pittsburgh Penguins Philadelphia Flyers
Vancouver Canuks Toronto Maple Leafs Chicago Blackhawks
Dallas Stars

Tretiak (in Russian)Binghampton Senators Team Canada (various versions)

Will keep updating as we see them.

Memorial Cup - Game 3

Kitchener 1


Spokane 2

Spokane was returning to the ice after their overtime win against Belleville the day before. The arena was loud with the large number of Ranger fans making lots of noise but the small Chiefs contingent held their own quite nicely.

Unlike the first two games of the tournament, this one was not going to be a high-scoring affair. Both teams started fast but Kitchener came out stronger and drew first blood with a short-handed goal less than 5 minutes into the game. Matt Halischuk intercepted a pass at the blue line, skated in hard and beat Tokarski 5-hole. And they had at least a couple of other scoring chances on the penalty kill. It looked like the Chiefs were unsettled for a bit but they soon recovered.

Kitchener had a couple more penalties to kill before the period was over but they were also very good at limiting the scoring chances; there may have been a total of three shots on goal for all the man-advantages.

After the third penalty kill, Kitchener was putting some serious pressure on the Chiefs generating many oohs and ahhs with close calls and near misses. This was at the other end of the rink so we weren’t in all the ooh’ing and ahh’ing.

But it was Justin Falk who got the even-up goal with just over 4 minutes to play beating Unice top shelf. And that’s how the opening frame ended.

Both teams started the second period much slower than the first period. But that didn’t last long and just over 5 minutes into the game Drayson Bowman scored his fourth of the tournament and what would eventually stand up as the game winning goal. Kitchener tried hard to get even again and at the end of the period they had the power play and another penalty was called just as the period ended. So they opened the third period with a 45 second 5-on-3 to be followed up with a 5-on-4 for about 1:30. You would think that they might get the tying goal with al this time but…nope…they didn’t even get one shot on net for all that time.

The third period was more of the same with both teams playing hard and this is where we thought that the game before might take its toll on Spokane but that was not the case. Their legs seemed as strong at the finish as they did from the start. With just under a minute left and in possession of the puck, the Rangers pulled Unice for the extra attacker. Spokane gained possession and almost sealed it but as the time ran out the Chiefs won 2 – 1.

Random Thoughts:
  • Meet Admiral. He’s in training but I’m not sure whether he is being trained to assist a visually impaired person or simply a personal aide. In any event, he is usually a regular in the Ranger’s dressing room but this time he came down to the ice to supervise the warm-up. More than one player noticed him and tapped the glass.

  • Very different game from last night – a different Spokane altogether. More hitting (although I think the Chiefs bounced off the Rangers more than the other way around). But they did a great job considering that they played just 24 hours previously while Kitchener was resting.
  • Was chatting with one of the off-duty referees and he was saying that the ice was in pretty bad shape. It seemed so from all the non-induced tumbles that players were taking yesterday and today. I think that that’s what caused Duco to take a tumble early in the game.
  • Speaking of refereeing, it seemed that the non-calls were pretty equally distributed (although some Rangers fans would disagree). Both teams were pretty engaged in various acts of holding, interference and the odd late hit. But the refs let them play through it and decide the outcome of the game.
  • Had a chance to briefly chat with Jason Akeson’s dad during the warm-up. Jason is Jeremy Akeson’s (former Ottawa 67s) cousin. (We are in a very good spot – right near the tunnel to the area behind the Kitchener bench so get a lot of folks coming and going from back there. Everyone is up for a chat.)
  • Chatted with a fellow from Mississauga for whom this is his fifth Memorial Cup. He’s already making plans for the Rimouski event – accommodations being his biggest concern.
  • We have McGinn fan, they have Spiderman. We chatted about Michael Latta – he’s a big fan.

  • Something I missed reporting from the first game. Again saw some young men who looked like they weren’t your average hockey fans. The escort said that they were this year’s draft picks. They were getting an early taste of the objective. Seems like a good idea.
  • For the opening videos from the Spokane – Belleville game, they kept showing clips of goals scored against the 67s. Like that was the only team they scored against all year. harrumph!

More pictures (remember that you can click on any picture in the blog to see a larger image)

May 18, 2008

Memorial Cup - Game 2

Belleville 4


Spokane 5 (OT)

Yesterday’s game featured the only team in the tournament that we have not seen before – the Spokane Chiefs. They are supported by a small but energetic crowd of family/fans.

The game started with some thundering hits by both teams and we thought we were in for a really physical game but neither team kept it up. It was as if each wanted to set a tone or send a message that they could hit if necessary. There were still some good hits but just not constant. Which is fine by me.

As with the Kitchener Rangers on Friday, the Spokane Chiefs got the early lead. Goals from Drayson Bowman, Mitch Wahl and again Drayson Bowman had the Chiefs up by 3 by the end of the first. Belleville was plain ol’ flat through that period and gave the puck up way too many times. At least one of the turnovers resulted in a goal (the second one I think).

The Chiefs fans have a score “song”. A little Italian (?!) ditty is played (you’d know it if you heard it) and at the key punctuation points the fans all yell “Chiefs!!”.

Up to this point, all the goals were at the OTHER end of the rink so we really didn’t see them (the disadvantage of being so close to the ice). So when the second period started, we all said “just watch, Belleville will turn it on and start scoring – at the OTHER end of the ice”. And sure enough – that’s what happened. This time it was Bryan Cameron scoring early in the period (on Belleville’s 5th shot of the game), Shawn Matthias scoring in the middle of the frame on the first powerplay of the game, and Cory Tanaka scoring in the final minute to make it a game! The Chiefs fans were noticeably quieter. The Belleville fans were not as organized (nor concentrated by location) in their cheering but they were there.

Belleville finally took the lead on Cory Tanaka’s second goal of the game before the halfway mark of the frame. By now Belleville was playing better and getting more shots through although they were still badly outshot overall. It looked like they might hold off the Chiefs….but Drayson Bowman got his hat trick when he tied it up during a scramble in front of the net with just under 3 minutes remaining.

Both teams played the last three minutes hard, trying for that game winning goal in regulation but time ran out. After 60 minutes it was tied at 4 with SOGs: 50 – 25 for Spokane.

Belleville came out strong in the overtime period, keeping the pressure on and getting 7 shots through before it all ended. But it was Spokane’s Levko Koper who was the right guy in the right spot to put it into an empty side when he took a nice cross-crease feed from Justin McRae at 4:46 of the OT period.

This was one of the two goals that we actually saw at our end of the ice. Final shots on goal were 54 – 32 for Spokane.

Random Thoughts:
  • A good game but not as entertaining as the Gatineau – Ranger game. Neither of the teams seemed to contest the ice in front of the net very much (at least from what we saw at our end of the rink) and, while both teams were skilled, it seemed a little sloppier to me overall.
  • Was standing behind some young men in the tunnel waiting for a break in play. They were in suits and so were obviously not just fans. They were the Spokane Chiefs scratches for the game (I asked). They looked like they were the rookies – not even a whisper of playoff beard. They were very polite (said “thank you” in unison when I wished them good luck).
  • Neither of these teams play a “dirty” game – only 5 penalties called all game. I know you can’t count on the refs to call all of the shenanigans but there really wasn’t much to call that we could see.
  • Spokane has the quick turn-around as they play a rested Kitchener Rangers today. This should be an interesting game.
  • Getting our money’s worth – two come-from-behind efforts to tie the games and go into overtime. 11 goals in the first game, 9 in this one. High shot-counts by both winning teams. Some spectacular saves by all goalies (although I don’t think Unice was as tested as Mior).
  • Ran into McGinn-Fan at the game. Had a quick chat before the game.

  • Had dinner at Kelsey’s (wait time was too long at Moose Wisnewski’s – but we’ll get there before the week is done). We didn’t wear our jerseys into the restaurant but some fans did. There was a table with fans wearing Wolves, Bulls, Rangers, Fyers, Fog Devils jerseys and a couple wearing Chiefs jerseys stopped on their way out for a friendly chat.
  • Did I mention how friendly everyone is? Not that I expected a brawl or anything – it’s just really nice to see everyone starting up conversations all over the place.
  • Found a free hot-spot. Buh-bye Starbucks and bell hot-spot and hello Williams Coffee Pub (but the connection is sooo slow - guess you get what you pay for).
More pictures (remember that you can click on any picture in the blog to see a larger image)

May 17, 2008

Memorial Cup - Game 1

Gatineau 5 - Kitchener 6 (OT)

The Memorial Cup opened with the host and OHL Champions playing the Gatineau Olympiques. Our “seats” are actually reserved standing room positions behind the first row of seats at ice level. This is a great spot to be if you like the close-up and personal view of the game – especially the part where they smear each other into the glass. We are right in front of Section 7, which for this game is the end that Gatineau attacked twice.

I don’t have access to internet at the B&B so I’m enjoying a cup of tea at Starbucks as I get this update updated. So it will be quick too as the spousal unit is impatiently waiting.

It looked like a rout in the making when Kitchener went up 3 – zip really quickly but those sneaky Olympiques made it a game when they got two back in the first period on only 7 shots. But you could see that Kitchener really was the better team overall as they continued to take the game more to Gatineau than the other way around.

It was fast, hard-hitting with casualties along the way and a fight too. The ‘Piques kept pressing and sure enough they tied it up late in the third period to make it really interesting. For some reason, Gatineau lost all the momentum they ended the game with. The Rangers on the other hand came out firing on all cylinders and almost ended the game on a number of shots.

The refs were letting the players play but it ended on a powerplay when Gatineau was called for too many men on the ice. It’s a cheesy way to lose an important game (only second to a puck going over the glass) but Kitchener really deserved to win the game. But they may be worried about Unice as he let in 5 goals on only 28 shots (the fourth goal being a real softie). Mior saw 53 shots.

Random Thoughts:
  • certainly a lot of Ranger fans as expected but also a fair sprinkling of fan from other clubs. Lots of out of town jerseys. I’m wearing a 67s third jersey from 2005 and several folks have commented on what a nice jersey it is.
  • everyone is really friendly – lots of casual conversations.
  • for a region that can organize Oktoberfest, they certainly have missed the boat here. The parking is notoriously bad here and with many folks, me included, picking up their ticket packages at the box office, there were a lot of people here reasonably early. If you wanted a pre-game beer and something to eat, you had to pay $5.00 to go underground to another rink on the premises. Otherwise you had to line up and wait for access to the arena to open (not before an hour before the game). I was starving when I got to my “spot” which was another adventure in itself – the ushers really didn’t know where the reserved standing room was.
  • here's the game sheet

Gotta run now. Here are some pictures.

Now that's a playoff beard!

May 15, 2008

Road Trip! Off to the Memorial Cup!

Well, we are taking to the road to Kitchener to partake in the Memorial Cup and play a little golf (that's was the deal to get the spousal unit to agree to the trip). We will be staying at the Fordleigh Farm B&B in the Cambridge area which we discovered during our golf and wine tour vacation last summer.  Larry is a Kitchener Ranger season ticket holder and a serious Detroit Red Wing fan, including a Steve Yzerman shrine in his house.  Guess Larry will have the bragging rights this year as both my teams are out of the playoffs.

I'll be wearing my Ottawa 67s jerseys but cheering for the Gatineau Olympiques - gotta cheer for the hockey country representative.

I hope to post a few updates from "down south" to share my experiences with you.  It will all depend on getting an internet connection.  

If you're watching on TV, look for the Battochio third jersy from 2005 (black).  That will likely be me.  Looking foward to seeing some great hockey.  

May 03, 2008

Draft Day

First Round: Ottawa 67s picking 7th (7th overall) select:

Tyler Toffoli from the Junior Canadians
RW 5.11 175
GP:83, G:68, A:106, Points:174, PIMS: 72
Lead his team in points this year

Scouting Report (from the OHL Prospects Guide):
Toffoli is a skilled forward that regularly plays both center and the wing. He possess quickness and keeps his feet moving all the time. He has great hockey sense and feel for the game. Toffoli has excellent puck skills, displays very soft hands and has a great touch when moving the puck. He has the ability to make plays at top speed. When in possession of the puck Toffoli displays a ton of composure and confidence, especially in the offensive zone.

Second Round: Ottawa 67s picking 3rd (23rd overall) select:

Derek Hartwick from the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs
LD 6.00 160
GP:66, G:9, A:34, Points:43, PIMS: -

A late-birth player that still needs to grow into his frame (looking at his numbers). No report in the prospect guide.

from the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs site

Second Round: Ottawa 67s picking 7th (27th overall) select: Pieter Schinkelshoek from the London Junio Knights
RC 6.00 185
GP:47, G:25, A:32, Points:57, PIMS:53

Scouting Report (from the OHL Prospects Guide): Schinkelshoek is a physically strong center that is a very offensively minded and productive player. He possesses good size and a fair amount of skill. He skates quite well displaying speed and quickness while being very tough to knock off stride. He has shown the ability to take control of the puck, skate hard off the wing and plow through traffic and defenders and get a shot on net. His speed and strength make him pretty tough to handle.

Third Round: Ottawa 67s picking 18th (59th overall) select: Ryan Hanes from the Ottawa Senators
LD 6.00 185
GP:53, G:7, A:24, Points:31, PIMS:76

A teaser from the Scouting News: Ryan Hanes, a 1992 born defenseman who played this past season with the Ottawa Senators minor midget hockey team, has every reason to look into his hockey future with optimism. See Hanes’ stock is on the rise! The youngster could be a major sleeper pick in this year’s OHL draft …

Fourth Round: Ottawa 67s picking 4th (65th overall) select: Dalton Smith from Oshawa
LW 6.01 170
GP:62, G:22, A:38, Points:60, PIMS:192

no scouting reports that I can find.

Here's what the Ottawa Sun had to say about the draft.

And here's what the Ottawa Citizen had to say.

Here's the entire list:

The Ottawa 67s 2008 OHL Priority Draft
1 7Tyler TollofliRW5.11175
2 3Derek HartwickLD6.01165
2 7Pieter SchinkelshoekRC6.00185
3 18Ryan HanesLD6.00195
44Dalton SmithLW6.01170
720Michael HawkriggLC5.08175
97Chris WilliamsRD6.02195
107Christopher LaneRD6.01170
12 7Dylan HuttonLW5.11150
137Joe JacksonLD6.01185
147James WatsonRD5.11170
154Elliot BurtonLW6.01190

May 02, 2008

Ducks Sign Beleskey, Bailey and De Gray to Contracts

The Ducks announced today that they have signed left wing Matt Beleskey, right wing Jason Bailey and defenseman John de Gray to three-year, entry-level contracts. Per club policy, financial terms were not disclosed.

Click here to read the rest of the article.

This was reported a week or so ago in the Ottawa Sun but there hadn't been any official announcement.

Congratulations Jason!

Getting Ready for the OHL Priority Draft

Teams are able to make trades up until 3:00 this afternoon in preparation for the Priority Draft tomorrow. According to the OHL site, the Ottawa67s have been in involved in a couple of trades this week.

On Wednesday Oshawa traded their 4th round pick in 2011 for Ottawa's 4th round pick this year. Until this trade, Oshawa only had 3 picks in the first 8 rounds. Now they have a 4th pick (a 4th round pick). Ottawa still has the 4th in the 4th round.

Then yesterday Ottawa traded their 2008 6th round pick to Windsor getting the Kitchener 7th round pick and Owen Sound 8th round picks for this year that Windsor held. This gives Windsor the 7th pick in the 6th round where they didn't previously have a pick. I would think there is more to this trade as now Ottawa does not have a 6th round pick at all and is left with a very late pick (20th) in the 7th round (but gains an early pick in the oh-so-critical 8th round - picking 3rd).

I made a mistake in my earlier accounting for Ottawa's picks this year. Ottawa picks 7th in the first round, 3rd and 7th in the second (I missed the 3rd pick), and until the trade with Oshawa, Ottawa had the 4th and 7th pick in the 4th round.

Could be more moves before the day is done.