GAME 12: NOT TOTALLY CONVINCED

By Bill Heintz

Despite the modest winning streak that includes the shutout against Edmonton, I’m not convinced the Canuck Super Tanker has turned things around.

Certainly we are better than we were, but it could be argued that we were lucky to take two points from Toronto. I haven’t seen the Canucks pinned in their own zone for an entire period since mark messier was collecting six million bucks for not back checking.

And the Edmonton squad we handed the goosegg to was about as healthy as Lindsay Lohan on a Saturday night in the Viper Room.
Oh, we’ve had our own squad decimated by injuries and unlike some, I’m certainly willing to use the broken and sprained limbs as an excuse. You cannot lose two of your top six (I include Demitra) and arguably your best D-man without seeing a dip in the quality of play. Add in Kyle Wellood’s toe and Rick Rypien’s groin and you have one key member of each of the four lines out of the game.

Yep, it’s going to hurt.

But the injury depletion isn’t what I’ve noticed the most.

I still see a lack of attention to detail. I still see decision making that is often over complicated by the “better idea” strategy. What I mean by that, is that on any given play, when a guy like Bieksa just needs to chip it off the glass for a safe play out, and then decides to fool the opposition with a “better idea” we have run into big problemas. Like maybe the old quick reversal where he runs into the second fore checker he didn’t see and then loses the puck. Or maybe Edler is in trouble with two guys on him and we don’t offer proper puck support and we get outnumbered. That should never happen in your own zone.

These kind of mistakes lead to the Afghani fire drill where we run around in our own zone chasing phantoms and panicking for about 30 seconds. Now trying to just get the damned puck out of our zone becomes a monumental challenge. The kind of shifts that Hughson often says, leads to a goal or a penalty.

Of course, Roberto’s game seems to be rounding into shape so he’s been available to bail us out recently…unless he’s forced to handle the puck.

Yikes!

He can say what he wants in his own defense, but as great a tender as he is, he may well be the worst I’ve ever seen handling the puck outside the blue paint. If the NHL banned goaltenders from touching the puck outside their own crease, Luongo might never ever lose another game.
So we play the once mighty Wings of Hocketown tonight. As much as they’ve fallen back into the pack, they will be a far better test for the vaunted Canuck turnaround than the flu-ridden Oilers or the Burke-ridden Leafs.

And the game is not without excitement.

I was probably more bummed by Michael Grabner’s pre-season performance than I was about the Cody Hodgson injury. At least Hodgson’s injury can (hopefully) be solved. With Grabner, it looked like we had a guy who clearly did not have the skills to play in the NHL. The fact that I had him penciled in before the season in a top nine role seemed to add to my own disappointment. To see his performance the last few games is one of the best Canuck stories of the early season. Grabs is playing the kind of hockey that should see him stick even after Sedin and Wellwood return.

So yeah, maybe we will have a Dave Nonis draft pick who will work out for us.

NUCKS AND WINGS DRESSING ROOMS

“In the old Montreal Forum days,” Ryan Walter said, “it was a small room, you couldn’t believe how small that [dressing] room was.”

“The one thing I think misses with the big dressing rooms is that intimacy…” Walter continued. “So round dressing room, smaller space, more intimate.”

canucks

courtesy of canucks.nhl.com

The Vancouver Canucks spared no expense when designing and constructing the home team’s new dressing room.

It’s a beautiful new state of the art room designed to bring the team together.

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courtesy of blog.mlive.com

The Detroit Red Wings don’t have a circular dressing room, but they stress their team’s heritage.

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courtesy of detroitnews..com

Pictures of Red Wings from the past have been placed above the players’ cubicles.

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There are also replicas of Stanley Cups that Detroit has won in past years.

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Hall of Fame plaques are placed out in the hallways.

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courtesy of onassignment.tonyding.com

The nucks’ and Red Wings’ dressing rooms differ in style, but both try to bring out the best in their players – using the elements of intimacy and team pride.

SHIROKOV BACK IN THE BIG TENT

The Manitoba Moose have lost their top offensive weapon.

The parent Vancouver Canucks recalled high-scoring Russian winger Sergei Shirokov on Sunday morning. There’s a chance the 23-year-old could play tonight in Vancouver when the Canucks host…the Edmonton Oilers.

Shirokov is Manitoba’s leading scorer after recording four goals and six assists in 10 games after being assigned to the Moose earlier this month.

*****

courtesy of the Sun Media

TRIVIA: GOALIE RECORDS

by Ron Spence

Martin Brodeur holds the NHL record for the most careers wins. As of October 25, 2009, he has 563 Ws, and Patrick Roy is second with 551.

Who is the goalie – who played for the Canucks, Capitals and Penguins – and never won one NHL contest?

Martin Brochu.

He played in 6 games wearing a ‘nucks’ unform in 2001-02.

Previoulsy, he had played 2 games for the Capitals in 1998-99, and later played 1 game for the Penguins in 2003-04.

His NHL averages were: a 3.58 GAA, with a .876 Save Percentage.

His AHL records were a respectable 2.95 GAA and a .904 Save Percentage.

Brochu was claimed by Vancouver from Minnesota in the September 28, 2001 waiver draft.

After Brochu’s NHL shelling, the Canucks signed Peter Skudra as a free agent on November 7.

GAME 10: WHY WE HATE THE LEAFS

By Bill Heintz

Well, you could start with the mis-use of the plural on Leafs. As every school child and anti-Toronto wag will tell you: it should be the The Leaves.

Okay, how lame.

And it doesn’t even scratch the surface of why we hate the boys in blue and white. To do that, you have to travel in the Way Back Machine. Back before there were thirty NHL Teams. Back before twenty…back before twelve teams. Way back to the six team NHL when The Leafs were often described as Canada’s Team. Which really was a snub to Les Habitants, BTW, a team with so many Stanley Cups (I mean, doesn’t Henri Richard have 11 Cup rings?) that the great Spring tradition was the simple ceremony of awarding Lord Stanley to the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge.

But somehow, Canada’s Team (English Canada, that is) was supposed to represent the real Canadian spirit…well, at least the spirit that was decided by the Battle on The Plains of Abraham. Montreal may have been bigger in those days, but there was never any doubt in the minds of the brokers of Bay Street where the real power in Canada resided. And it wasn’t on Mount Royal. Nor even Sussex Drive. Toronto was then and still considers itself today, the center of the Canadian universe…and therefore the center of the hockey universe.

Easy to hate the center of the Empire.

So when lowly Vancouver was ushered into the league and began play in 1970, Toronto took great pleasure in kicking our expansionist arse. But strangely, we always played them pretty tough on the wet coast. Check the stats for the Pacific Colliseum when T.O. was in town. We did well, damned well.

Yeah, it was always great to beat Toronto but two images stick in my mind. The first was when Tiger Williams rode his stick down the ice after the Big Trade…that bit of circus was after he scored a goal for us in the old Maple Leaf Garden. Brought most of us out of our chairs. And then there was one of the great moments in Canuck history, against a Leaf team that felt entitled by Doug Gilmour and Felix Potvin to finally bring a Stanley Cup home to hog town.

The Canucks were ahead in the series but the Leafs were clawing their way back in. But after coming back from a three nothing deficit in the first period the Canucks headed into OT against the Leafs in what was to be the final game of the 1994 Western Conference Championship. Greg Adams backhander past a slowly splitting Felix the Cat had Jim Robson waxing poetic while the rest of us jumped around our living rooms.

Ah yes, those magical words from Robson…“The Canucks are going to the Stanley Cup finals!”

Still warms my heart to this day.

So that’s why the hatred. Because Toronto really is the center of the hockey universe. Toronto GM Lord Voldemort said as much when he took the job after claming he would not leave Anaheim. And like I said, when you are going up against the Power, the center of the empire, it is easy to hate.

But the ragtag group of red-headed step children that are limping into town for this weekend’s contest should not be underestimated. A team that hasn’t won, that could hardly wait to escape the Town Without Pity, could indeed be dangerous on Saturday afternoon (because of course we have to adjust our schedule for them) and we cannot afford to take them lightly. The brilliant performance against the Hawks notwithstanding, the Canucks are still a fragile group. We need to outwork them and check them all over the ice. And Bob Luongo has to be one of our best players. Cause if we loose…

Man, I’m going to hate those Leafs all over again.

Game 9: BACK IN THE WINDY CITY

by Ron Spence

I watched the game in a liquor establishment – the Fifth St. Bar and Grill – in Victoria.

And, the cliental weren’t kind to Roberto during the first part of the game. It was as though he had been personally letting them down.

This had changed, however, by the end of the contest.

Willie Mitchell’s big hit sends a message to future opponents and Shane O’Brien was +1 and took only one penalty in a game that would have provoked his lack of discipline in the past. He has only 10 penalty minutes in 9 games – this season – and is a team best +4.

I’m still happy with the Ehrhoff trade – although he was -2 last night – and see Aaron Rome coming along – at a 6th man level.

Bieksa and Edler are horses with 24.55 and 23.58 minutes for the contest, and when they get their games this season, the D will be what I thought it would be.

Mikael Samuelsson continues to impress, as does Henrik.

I’ve enjoyed watching coach V’s speed line, but wish that Mason Raymond would focus on his defense.

I have really enjoyed watching Michael Grabner over the past three games – seeing brief glimpses in his first contest, then bursts of speed in his second and success in his third.

I had heard that he stayed out of traffic, but with Kesler and Raymond leading the charge he is willing to take hits. And, his shot is as good as it was billed.

The Chicago game was a key one for both Roberto and the Canucks – something for the captain to build on.

*****

I hope that Andrew Raycroft gets to face his former team – the Leafs.

I think that the boys would play really hard to help him win.

KAMLOOPS: HOCKEYTOWN

by Ron Spence

A number of B.C. teams have excelled in hockey.

The Vancouver Millionaires won the Stanley Cup in 1915, and the Victoria Cougars repeated ten years later. The Kimberly Dynamiters won the World Championships in 1937, and the Penticton Vees in 1955. The Trail Smoke Eaters won the Worlds both in 1939 and 1961. And the Vernon Lakers/Vipers topped Canadian Junior A hockey, when they won the Centennial/Royal Cups in 1990, 1991, 1996 and 1999.

B.C.’s consistent success story has been the Kamloops Blasers. They have achieved eight 50 win seasons, and eleven WHL championships, during their twenty-six year history. The Blasers have made six Memorial Cup appearances, and have the most tournament wins – nineteen.

Kamloops also won the Memorial Cup three times in four years, from 1991-92 to 1994-95, which is a record. During these years, three Blasers were named Cup MVPs: Darcy Tucker, Shane Doan and Scott Niedermayer. Sixty-eight Blaser grads have moved on to play in the NHL.

Also, five Kamloops coaches have graduated to the NHL. Ken Hitchcock (Columbus), Tom Renney (New York) and Don Hay have been head coaches, and Dean Evason (Washington) and Marc Habscheid have been NHL Assistants.

Why has this small B.C. city repeatedly beaten higher budgeted teams, in larger centres across Canada, and the U.S.?

First of all, the Blasers have the community support of eighty-four thousand fans.

Tom Renney states: “There is a tremendous sense of pride in the community that collectively supports the tradition of the team.”

The Kamloops tradition started nearly seventy-five years ago, when they first registered a team with the B.C.A.H.A. during the 1927-28 season. Their teams played on natural ice until Kamloops built a 2200 seat Memorial Arena during the 1948-49 season. The first championship Kamloops team, the Elks played the following year in the new Mainland Okanagan Amateur Hockey League. The champs had three of the league’s top five scorers (in a five team league), and went on to win the Savage Cup. A few years later the Kamloops Loggers, a Senior AA team, won the Coy Cup.

Another Kamloops team, the Chiefs played in the Okanagan Senior Hockey League during the late 1950s. The Chiefs won the Coy Cup in 1963 and 1964, while the Kamloops Rockets, a Junior A team, won the Mowat Cup in 1962, 1964 and 1971.

In 1973, the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League’s Vancouver Nats relocated to Kamloops. They adopted the Chiefs’ name, and featured future NHLers Ryan Walter and Reg Kerr. Unfortunately, the twenty-five year old Memorial Arena was too small, and the Chiefs moved to Seattle in 1977.

Kamloops’ next team was the B.C. Junior Hockey League’s Braves, who were a development team for Major Junior. Future NHLers Andy Moog and Tim Watters started their careers with the Braves, who also folded. Following the Braves came the Tier 11 Rockets, who also left Kamloops, but to Revelstoke this time.

Then Kamloops’ big break came in 1981, when the New Westminster Bruins moved north. The Kamloops Junior Oilers – as they were next called – were owned by the Edmonton Oilers, who soon considered relocating to the prairies. That was when the Kamloops community pride stepped in and raised, and borrowed, enough money to buy their own team.

Another reason for the Blasers’ success has been their management. Don Hay stated: “The strength of the Organization starts at the top with guys like Colin Day, Bob Brown, Stu McGregor and the scouts. As a result, we all believed in the same philosophy and what it took to be successful.”

Blasers’ new management was smart enough to hire the best minor league coach in Canada. Ken Hitchcock, from Edmonton, led the Blasers from their inception in 1984, until 1990. He established the Blasers’ philosophy, before moving on to the International League, and a Stanley Cup in Dallas in 1999.

Hitchcock’s first W.H.L. season, the Blasers placed third, and the second year they won the championship, and finished third at the Memorial Cup. Kamloops roared to first place in 1987 and 1988, and went to the Division Finals in 1989. The 1989-90 season, the Blazers again won the WHL Championship, and played for the Memorial Cup for the third time in their seven year history.

Hitchcock left Kamloops with a .693 winning percentage (291-125-15), and had been named the league’s Coach – of – the – Year in 1986-87 and again in 1989-90. Hitch was also voted Canadian Major Junior Hockey’s top coach that same season.

Tom Renney, from Cranbrook, followed in Hitchcock’s footsteps. His first season, the Blasers finished in first place, with a 50-20-2 record, but injuries kept them from the Memorial Cup. In 1991-92 they compiled a 51-17-4 season (Their third consecutive 50 win season, a C.H.L. record.), won the WHL Championship, and went to their fourth Memorial Cup in nine seasons. The Blazers won their first Cup, defeating the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds.

Renney was named the Coach-of-the-Year his rookie season, and earned a .731 win percentage over two seasons, the highest in W.H.L. history.

It was also in 1992, that the new Riverside Coliseum – renamed the Interior Savings Centre – was built.

Kamloops homeboy Don Hay succeeded Renney, and won two Memorial Cups over the next four years, and achieved a .699 winning percentage.

Since Kamloops’ golden years, the Blasers have had their ups and downs. However, one thing has remained the same.

“…hard work has been the common denominator,” Don Hay summarized, “with each successful Blazer team over the years.”

It’s this common denominator, that many believe will lead the Blasers to a Memorial Cup championship once again.

*****

The preceding blog was written for the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame: