July 18, 2010

Summer Re-Runs: Then and Now with Gary Roberts

We're deep in the doldrums of the hockey off-season so I have decided to re-run a few articles about former players that I wrote for the Ottawa 67's news letter last season.  

The first one is with Gary Roberts. He was great to interview - relaxed, unhurried and chatty. Turns out he keeps an eye on major junior.


Gary Roberts left his North York home in 1982 to join the Ottawa 67’s and was on the road pretty much ever since until his retirement in 2009.  He recalls that it was a bit of a shock going to the draft and getting picked in the second round.  It was also a pretty big deal at the time being the only guy from among his crowd to leave home to play hockey.  His good friend Joe Nieuwendyk stayed in town and went to the NHL via college.

According to Gary, he barely made it through his first year. It wasn’t his on-ice performance but rather his off-ice antics that landed him in hot water. He says he was a bit of a follower at that time and followed the 20-year olds into places he ought not to have been. He also got into a couple of fights at school that almost got him a bus ride home. A couple of teachers stood up for him, he stayed in Ottawa and he stayed out of trouble.

In his four seasons with the 67’s he scored 122 goals, 140 assists and spent 587 minutes in the penalty box. He played in all 5 games in the 1984 Memorial Cup tournament, scoring 1 goal and adding 4 assists as the club won its first national major junior hockey championship. Among his teammates were Darren Pang and Adam Creighton who also went on to NHL careers.

Gary has great memories of his time in Ottawa. He credits Brian Kilrea as being the most influential person in his hockey career and he fondly remembers his billets, Mary and Cliff Kelly as a second set of parents.


Gary’s career is well documented: traded to the Guelph Platers late in the 84-85 season where he won his second Memorial Cup; drafted by the Calgary Flames as their first round pick in the 1984 draft (12th overall), spent 12 years with the club, winning the Stanley Cup in 1989; won the Bill Masterton trophy in 1996 for his remarkable perseverance after going through potentially career-ending surgery on his neck; and played for 5 more NHL teams before announcing his retirement in March 2009.

And so, for the first time in well over 20 years, Gary found himself out of the usual rhythm of going to camp, preparing for and starting a new season.  He admits it was hard at first and was glad that September was great for golfing to occupy his mind. As the co-owner of the Wooden Sticks golf course in Uxbridge, he had ample access to tee times.

Gary enjoys spending time with his two young sons (ages 6 months and 4 years), including using them as an excuse to get in the afternoon nap that he has been used to for so many years.

He has still has a passion for the game and sees himself getting back into hockey in some form or another in the future. His current thinking is that he would really like to work with the young men who have their eyes on the NHL. They are now entering the league with so much preparation and he would like to contribute.

In the meantime, he is really enjoying time with his family that he was not able to when he played in the NHL and preparing to become a hockey dad.

July 14, 2010

Coming to a Theater Near You in October...

In case you missed the news, here's a trailer for "Score: A Hockey Musical" scheduled for release in October. It looks like a campy Glee-inspired laugh at all the cliches. If you can stifle the cringes, it might actually be funny.

July 10, 2010

Martindale at Oilers Camp - Day 4

I made the trek to the east end of Edmonton to catch the last day of Ryan Martindale at the Oilers development camp.

The 27 prospects were divided into four teams and played half-ice 3-on-3 scrimmages with two games going on at the same time. The scrimmages were 3 5-minute running clock periods. Ryan was on the Red Team with D Brandon Davidson (WHL), D Damon Kip (NCAA), Jordan Eblerle (WHL), Anton Lander (Swe) and Drew Czerwonka (WHL). His linemates were Brandon and Drew and for the game I watched, they were up against the Blue Team made up of D Jeff Petry, Mike Connolly, Taylor Hall, Tyler Pitlick, Kellen Jones and Cameron Abney.

Eberle and Pitlick were clearly the most intense players in that scrimmage. The Red Team won and moved to the other end of the rink to take on the Grey Team who apparently also won their game. Based on their reaction at the end of regulation time, it looked like Team Red may have won that one too.

It will be really interesting to see what Ryan takes from his time at camp. He certainly didn't look like one of the more intense players on the ice. It might have been the awe of being at his first professional camp or perhaps he's one of those players who tends not to look all that intense. His development will be interesting to follow.

Some pictures:

Prospects saluting their avid fans

Team Photo of the Oilers 2010 Development Camp

July 08, 2010

Ryan Martindale at Oilers Development Camp

In the 30+ years since I left Edmonton, I have made that long trip from the airport countless times without giving the scenery a second thought. This trip I tried to see it through the eyes of the Oilers prospects coming to town for this week’s development camp. This is definitely a blue-collar city with the attendant industrial look and feel.

Having played in Windsor for the last three years, this might look a little more familiar to Taylor Hall than it does for Brooklin native Ryan Martindale who played in white-collar Ottawa for the last three years. But it’s likely that neither of them looked past their hopes to worry what the scenery looks like. This is the big league and this is a hockey city as evidenced by another full house to watch the 28 hopeful prospects do their best to impress.

I just happened to be in Edmonton visiting family and thought I would check out how Ryan Martindale was doing.

The Oilers certainly have favoured western Canada in their drafting with 12 of the prospects coming from the WHL or BCHL. There are three guys from the Q and two from the O (Hall and Martindale). The rest are from Europe, NCAA, one out of high school or already in the AHL.

It was a fast-paced hour and a half of skating and team drills led by Steve Serdachny for the first 40 minutes or so and then on to the other pad at the Clareview Arena with all of the coaching staff, including Head Coach Tom Renney, leading the rest of the on-ice workout.

They ran out of player lists and there are no names on the jerseys so it was really hard to figure out who was who. I recognized Ryan, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle but was at a loss for the rest of them. The D wore red jerseys and the forwards were divided between grey and blue jerseys.

I am certainly no expert but you could tell there is a range of skill out there. Again, not knowing the prospects out there, I couldn’t tell you who did well other than Eberle is pretty darn good as is pretty much a lock to make the team. Ryan did not look out of place but I would not be surprised if his take-home instructions centre on skating and gaining weight and strength and sustained intensity (given the scouting reports).

Rob Thomas from the Oilers organization politely advised me that they were unable to allow full media access to “alternate” media outlets (i.e. bloggers) but he was kind enough to allow me behind the media lines at the rinks to get decent shots through the glass for which I am grateful. It was packed in there and it would have been impossible to get a good spot otherwise.

So, without further ado, here are some shots of Ryan Martindale, first pick in the third round at his first professional hockey camp. Blue and Copper looks good on him. Last day of camp is on Friday and scrimmages are planned. I may make it out for that.

Best of luck to Ryan as he does his best to stand out from 27 other prospects.

Eager Oilers fans

Skating and skills drills with Steve Serdachny

Practicing fancy moves around an opposing player

Getting instructions for the next set of drills

Paying close attention to Head Coach Tom Renney

July 01, 2010

67's in the NHL Entry Draft - Petr Mrazek to Detroit

Petr Mrazek went to the storied, original 6 Detroit Red Wings in the fifth round (141st overall) and just the second European goalie taken in the draft.

The brouhaha definitely diminishes in the later rounds and I don't think Petr was even at the draft so there are no draft day pictures or interviews. And pretty much all the commentary involves stuff like "don't know anything about this kid but his stats look good".

An article about their pick from Redwingcentral.com. More info from that site.

A few articles I read noted that Detroit looks to take a goalie with each draft, if there's a good one available. This article expands on that and provides some context for choosing Petr.

So, Petr is going to a solid franchise that has a good reputation for treating its players well. No idea when their development camp is (if they even have one). The Red Wings have a good reputation of finding gems and let's home they've hit a big one with this pick.

The one think I find interesting to read consistently in the few articles I have found is that Petr will be the starter for the 67's next season. Does that mean that a trade involving Perugini is in the works? Hmmm.

67's in the NHL Entry Draft - Dalton Smith to the Columbus Blue Jackets

This was a surprise...while we all expected Dalton to be picked up in the draft, I am pretty sure very few folks saw him going before Tyler Toffoli and Ryan Martindale. But that's what happened when the Columbus Blue Jackets picked him early in the second round (34th overall).

Here's his prospect summary from NHL.com.

The CBJ (their name is just too long to type in all the time) were really intent on getting Dalton, noting his hard work and focus. Here's an article from a Columbus newspaper on the club's choice.

A very brief video post-draft:

Pictures from the draft are here.

Here's the draft summary from the Blue Jackets' site. Their development camp started yesterday and runs until July 4th. Nothing posted yet on yesterday's activities.

If you are not a member of facebook, go to the facebook spot on the Team1200 site to hear a good post-draft interview with the Summer Scratches.

There's no doubt that Dalton will improve his play this year. This is one focused kid.

67's in the NHL Entry Draft - Tyler Toffoli to LA

The LA Kings traded up to pick Tyler Toffoli in the second round (47th overall).

His "Getting to Know...video from the combine:

And here's his pre-draft summary from NHL.com.

Here's his interview after being drafted:

An article on LA's draft day from the LA Kings site.

More stuff from the LA Site: Five Questions with Tyler Toffoli.

LA's development camp is underway but Tyler isn't partaking in on-ice (at least he didn't yesterday) apparently due to a minor injury. Not sure if it will keep him off the ice for the entire camp.

The pre- and post-draft chatter about Tyler was all pretty good but of course, like all players, he needs to improve. The one consistent knock on Tyler is on his commitment to conditioning. We all saw the Citizen article before the draft that mentioned his focus on this now. If the Kings organization could make a hard-body out of dough-boy Doughty, they will certainly know how to get Tyler into the shape he needs to be in (if he's committed to the program).

And this can only lead to good things while he is still here in Ottawa.

67's in the NHL Entry Draft - Ryan Martindale to Edmonton

Ryan Martindale was the first pick of the third round (61st overall) and went to the Edmonton Oilers (my home town).

Here's a video of Ryan from the combine:

And here's a pre-draft write-up from NHL.com.

The Oilers homepage features pictures of all their draft picks last weekend.

Here's the Oiler management take on Ryan:

Here's Ryan's interview:

Some draft day pictures.

And a picture from Life.com.

He's in some good company (Eberle, Hall, Pitlick) and tough competition to boot. He will have to work hard to make the Oiler club which is clearly rebuilding. Reading the various post-draft commentary pretty much repeats what the Oiler management had to say. He now has even more motivation to improve his consistency and show that he belongs in the NHL with the other Oiler prospects. And this can only benefit the Ottawa 67's next season. It will be a pleasure watching him work hard to improve and get a serious shot at the next level.

I don't know when the Oiler's development camp is. I will be in Edmonton next week visiting family so if they are running camp then and anything is open to the public, I just might drop in for a peek.