B.C. MINOR HOCKEY

by Ron Spence

Senior and minor league hockey have experienced a reversal of fortune over the past eighty years. The B.C. Amateur Hockey Association was formed in 1919 and minor hockey was given a back seat. There were a limited number of covered arenas and it was reasoned that transportation was too slow and expensive for the kids to travel to playoffs. So minor hockey wasn’t encouraged.

Even Junior hockey was supported largley because of the efforts of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association. They were farsighted enough to realize that adult amateur and professional hockey needed a foundation of junior prospects. So during the 1925-26 season the CAHA gave the B.C.A.H.A. $200 to promote Junior Hockey.

B.C. had thirteen junior teams five years later, but the CAHA wasn’t happy with B.C.’s minor hockey progress and threatened to cut the Junior grant. So the BCAHA started registering Midget and Juvenile teams that 1932-33 season. There were four Juvenile sides by the 1934-35 season, and the CAHA alotted another $500.

Then minor hockey received a grass roots boost. New Westminster built the Queen’s Park Arena prior to the 1937-38 season and formed a Pee Wee Hockey Association. Two years later the Vancouver Minor Hockey Association was also formed. It became known as the PNE Minor Hockey and Hastings Minor Hockey Association and is today called the Vancouver Hastings Minor Hockey Association.

B.C.’s minor programs were further promoted when trophies were donated. The Cromie Cup was first given to the Midget champions the 1937-38 season. By then there were four Midget teams and nine Juniors but the Juveniles had fallen off to just one team.

Minor hockey grew and the next year there were two additional Junior sides, a second Juvenile squad and seven more Midget teams. The Monarch Life Cup was awarded that season to the Juveniles’ champion.

Following the war the BCAHA started registering Bantam teams but discouraged travel to tournaments (There would be no Bantam playoffs until 1960-61.). The association also discouraged inter-provincial playdowns, reasoning that that playoffs would interfere with the players’ schooling.

Minor hockey received a further boost in February, 1954 when the BCAHA promoted “Minor Hockey Week” (Two years later they presented a resolution to the CAHA to have Minor Hockey Week recognized across Canada and later convinced Imperial Oil to promote Minor Hockey Week on Hockey Night in Canada.). The BCAHA kept the ball rolling when they started handing out Minor Hockey awards in 1958-59.

Pee Wee hockey was finally recognized by the BCAHA in 1955-56 and considered a division two years later. The Pee Wees were allowed district playdowns, but had to wait until 1969-70 for semi-finals, or finals, because the Pee Wees were again considered too young (The older Bantams were allowed to compete for a B.C. championship the 1960-61 season.).

During the 1950s the BCAHA introduced unique legislation. The Trail Minor Hockey Association sponsored a resolution – the 1954-55 season – banning body checking in Minor Hockey. The logic was that players would become better playmakers and stickhandlers if they weren’t concerned with bodychecking. This rule lasted until 1966.

From the late 1950s, until the early 1970s, minor hockey grew in leaps and bounds. By 1960-61 there were 108 Minor hockey teams in the BCAHA and there were 8,000 B.C. minor leaguers playing the next year.

During the 1960s the reversal of fortune was apparent. The BCAHA had an enrollment of 4809 Pee Wees, 2169 Bantams, 1444 Midgets, 621 Juveniles, 294 Juniors, and 224 Intermediates. But there were only 67 Seniors.

Minor hockey was declining by 1980, however. There had been 52,000 players in 1974 but only 36,000 in 1980. Reasons given were: Equipment was getting too expensive; The kids had other interests; Televised games had given hockey a negative image; And there was too much of a focus on the allstars, rather than the rest of the players.

By the late 1980s, however, minor hockey was growing once again. The Pacific Coast Amateur Hockey Association doubled their enrollment from 1989 to 1998. There was even a shortage of ice time for many minor league players.

But this time it wasn’t because the Senior leagues were excluding the minor hockey players. The reversal of fortune had taken place.

GAME 8: CHEAP TALK

by Bill Heintz

Most sports have trash talk.

Football is notorious for it, with D-backs constantly reminding wide receivers about the loose morals of their sisters.

Hockey is much the same. Guys like Sean Avery raised (lowered?) the bar set by guys like Mathew Barnaby a few years back.

On the Canucks we have Kesler and Burrows getting involved in chirping at the opponents. Ray Ferraro said he heard five short jokes in a skirmish with the Nucks and Habs recently. And he was pleased to report that he hadn’t heard three of them before!

After the Minnesota game the Canucks were saying all the right things about team effort and such. The newspapers concurred the next day. And that’s a head scratcher for me. I maybe watched a different game. I thought the Canuck efforts on the weekend bordered on the pathetic.

They didn’t look anything like a team. As my friend Gord said, “we were supposed to have great depth! A couple of injuries and we look like a bad high school team.”

Certainly we have a couple or three key injuries. But good teams pull together at times like these. We aren’t pulling together and the quest for the Stanley Cup is falling apart before the season even gets going.

No need to panic, true, but when I see rival teams playing with twice the intensity of our guys, it brings up some serious questions. And I mention the quest for the Stanley Cup only because the leadership of this team spoke openly about it before the season began. The last time we did that we didn’t make the playoffs.

The good thing about the collective malaise is that it is early. This attitude thing can be turned around. I’ve seen other teams do it and I know we can. But attitude is amorphous. It’s difficult to identify the exact problem affecting the team. But for my money, I see a sense of entitlement in this group and that is an infection that may be difficult to cure.

Will it help that we are playing another division rival tonight?

The Edmonton fans are salivating at the prospect. They love to refer to the Sedins as the sisters, but that kind of ridiculous bravado belies the fact that Daniel and Henrik have absolutely owned these stubble jumpers from the oil sands for a few years now.

Now, with Daniel out, the Edmonton fans see a ray of hope, built both on our injuries and the fact that Edmonton hasn’t stunk out their own arena this season…much like they did for most of last year.

But talk is cheap. Our boys are all singing the same tune about work ethic and commitment to sixty minute hockey.

I just need to see it on the ice.

VS. MINNY

by Ron Spence

I used to get this knot in my stomach: whenever Brent Sopel had the puck; and when Felix Potvin and Dan Cloutier were in goal.

I now have this same feeling when Roberto is between the pipes.

It’s not a conscious reaction – it’s the result of Roberto’s suspect play – so far this season – and against the Blackhawks during the playoffs.

My respect for Henrik continues. He was only 41 % in faceoffs, but logged 21 minutes, including a minute and a half when the team was shorthanded. He played hard and looks somewhat injured.

Mikael Samuelsson continues to show his patience and scored another goal – his 4th (He now has 7 points in 7 games – but is -2.).

I am very happy with the speed line.

Coach V is giving Michael Grabner the opportunity to play his game. Led by Ryan Kesler’s grit and 11 wins vs. 7 losses in the playoff circle, they played well. Ryan had 8 shots on net, Mason Raymond 6 and Grabner 3.

Alexandre Bolduc was a good callup, and I believe plays smarter than Glass.

Both Alexandre Burrows and Kevin Bieksa had better games. Both were +2, and Burrows had 20:51 in ice time and Bieksa blocked two shots.

Aaron Rome was quicker – albeit against slower forecheckers – and blocked 3 shots, and had some good zingers from the point.

Ryan Johnson did what he does best, was 5 and 2 in the faceoff circle, but only blocked one shot.

Alexander Edler continued to play his somewhat uneven game, but logged a team high 26:50 minutes.

Steve Bernier used to lead San Jose in hits, but never touched anyone during the Calgary or Minnesota games.

bernierheading

vs. Calgary

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vs. Minnesota

bernierminny

vs. Dallas

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And yet, the power forward had four hits against Dallas.

If Bernier wants ice time on the top two lines, he has to play a consistent physical game.

VS. CALGARY

by Ron Spence

In their defense, the Canucks had a five day layoff and were facing one of the NHL’s best defenses.

But still, they looked really bad for most of the game.

I wanted to note a few points based on the past two contests.

Kevin Bieksa has been terrible.

Aaron Rome didn’t have the game that he wanted – was -3 – mainly because he wasn’t moving fast enough. In a game of time and space, he was playing at an AHL level. But, I know that he has a 6th Dman’s skills and speed and just has to uptempo his game. He doesn’t concern me.

Alex Edler – -2 – improves and then levels off. That’s his learning curve and his game against Calgary wasn’t a move upwards.

Willie Mitchell was playing his usual game, but was better against Dallas than Calgary.

Christian Ehrhoff is playing better than I thought he would – based on comments from San Jose after he was traded.

Shane O’Brien hasn’t improved his game from last season to this campaign. However, in a rough game he didn’t retaliate, which is a positive sign.

Vancouver misses my man Mattias, and Sami Salo.

And Henrik, who had 2 points last night – and was plus 2 – misses Daniel. It would have been a different game had both the twins been playing.

Alex Burrows has to give his head a shake. He had mental lapses in both the Dallas and Calgary games.

Both Steve Bernier and Mason Raymond had moments when they were playing well, but didn’t sustain.

Kyle Wellwood has really impressed me in his own end. He will get his offense going soon.

I liked what I saw of Michael Grabner. He was tentative but didn’t look out of place.

Is Ryan Kesler injured?

Mikael Samuelsson has played like a pro – even, game in and game out.

Roberto disturbs me, based on the occasional lapses that I have seen over the past three or four seasons.

He has had two so so games in this young season. He can forget about a spot in the Olympics.

I think that Mike Gillis has to re-evaluate his fourth line.

In two games against Calgary – this season – they were soundly beaten by their opponents. Hordichuk and Tanner Glass were -2 last night.

It’s my hope that Matt Pettinger plays well in Manitoba and can be signed for the minimum and replace Glass who is clearly an AHL player.

To me, the plus from the Calgary game was that Andrew Raycroft had his second outing as a Canuck and I thought that he played well. Confidence is what he needs, and Roberto’s play has given him some ice time.

NUCKS’ “KRANK” ZONE

by Ron Spence

Take soccer’s better behaved hooligans – not the burn them down and bag their ashes ones – and you’ll have baseball’s kranks from 125 years ago.

They got drunk during games, threw their containers at – and ran onto the fields and assaulted – rivals, plus the umps.

And, of course they always had a lot to say.

The press wrote that: “kranks in the bleaching boards think they know more about the sport than do its participants.”

Bleaching boards was the precursor of today’s bleachers, and referred  to people bleaching in the sun.

The first baseball book was called The Kranks: His Language and What It Means and was written by Thomas Lawson.

Photographer

In 1562, a krank was an “inaccessible hole or crevice.”

By 1594 the word had been elevated to “a twist or fanciful turn of speech.”

Then, two centuries plus later – in 1821 – a krank was “cross-tempered, irritable.”

And a decade after that – 1833 – a crank was an irrationally fixated person, who like a barrel organ, kept playing the same tune over and over again.

Kranking it out so to speak….

Then the November 8, 1906 edition of Nature magazine wrote that: “A crank is defined as a man who cannot be turned.”

By this time, kranks were being called fans, and the phrase “turning a crank” was being applied to turning a motor over until it started (1908).

Kranks had been called “fans” since the mid-1880s and continued to think that they knew more about the sport than its participants.

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krankstopkranksmiddlekranksbottom

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Summation of The Kranks: His Language and What It Means, courtesy of  American Baseball: From Gentleman’s Sport to the Commissioner System, by David Quentin Voigt.


REVAMPING THE NHLPA

by Ron Spence

Alexander Ovechkin is earning $9,000,000 this season.

This is in contrast to a number of NHLers who are earning the league’s minimum salary – $500,000.

All of the 715 players listed by nhlnumbers.com can afford a cell phone.

And yet, the NHLPA has difficulty electronically assembling their membership to vote – or discuss problems.

This is just one of the numerous difficulties that the players currently face.

The following is my summary included in The Fischler Report:

FISCH.ER

A thorough review – plus a new constitution and infrastructure – should assure the players that their organization represents them in a competent manner.

B.C. ROOKIE JAMIE BENN

Many who watched the Stars vs. Canucks game last sunday were impressed by the play of 20-year-old Victoria rookie Jamie Benn.

*****

“Benn, who grew up playing hockey and baseball on the Saanich Peninsula,” wrote Cleve Dheensaw, “was just a fifth-round draft selection taken 129th overall in 2007 out of the Victoria Grizzlies of the B.C. Hockey League. Now only 20 years old and not far removed from the Junior ‘B’ Peninsula Panthers, his ascension has been as meteoric as it has been surprising.

In a Canadian junior hockey system simply not designed for the burgeoning number of undrafted or lower-rounds late bloomers now signing pro contracts, Benn went from five-foot-seven in Junior ‘B’ with the Panthers to his current six-foot-two.

“My dad told me to keep working hard and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it,” Benn said recently.

“I wasn’t the tallest guy back in the day. But I kept going with it and it paid off.”

*****

When Dallas Stars rookie Jamie Benn of Victoria scored his dramatic first NHL goal Sunday night at GM Place, with one minute and 33 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the Vancouver Canucks 3-3, mother Heather Benn admitted the family contingent in the stands “forgot where we were.”

After jumping, clapping and hollering, the Benn supporters sat down to find the rest of the building silent and those around them staring.

“But we could hear and see patches of Jamie’s supporters — old high school buddies [from Stelly’s Secondary] — in other sections of the arena,” beamed Heather Benn.

About the only time Island hockey fans turn against the Canucks is when one of their own comes into GM Place. That’s when the enemy becomes the home side.

“We were talking before the game about how incredible it would be if Jamie could score his first NHL goal in his home province in front of his family and friends,” said Heather Benn.

“He was coming close and you could see it building. And when it happened, it was simply unbelievable.”

Some of Benn’s nearly 100 family and friends from the Island pressed up to the glass during warm-ups holding signs welcoming the Stars’ prize rookie discovery to his home province.

The six-foot-two left-winger, who has a goal and two assists in his first four NHL games, couldn’t help but notice.

“During the warm-up, they were banging on the end glass,” Benn told reporters, after the game won 4-3 by the Canucks in a shoot-out.

“I tried not to look up so I wouldn’t start laughing but it’s great that I have the support like that. It means a lot. I had a lot of friends and family here so it was a good time to get the goal, too. It meant a lot to me. It took me four games to get it but hopefully I’ll start rolling from here.”

Many of those buddies were the ones Benn played street hockey with in no-holds-barred games that would last deep into the evenings on a Central Saanich neighbour’s tennis court.

It may be in the genes. Dad Randy Benn of Victoria was an outstanding softball player who represented Canada, winning gold medals at the 1976 world championships in New Zealand and 1979 Pan American Games in Puerto Rico. Jamie’s older brother and blueliner Jordie Benn is also a pro hockey player in the Stars system with the Allen, Texas, Americans of the Central League after skating his rookie campaign last season with the Victoria Salmon Kings of the ECHL under AHL contract with the Manitoba Moose.

“Jamie has always had natural ability in any sport he tried,” said Heather Benn. “But he’s never had any big jumps. It’s always been step by step.”

Only after proving himself with the Junior ‘A’ Grizzlies did get Benn get an offer from the Kelowna Rockets of the major-junior WHL, which led to 2009 world junior gold with Canada and now the NHL.

“Those progressive steps were why we thought a year in the AHL would be good for Jamie and better in the long term,” noted mom Heather.

“But, of course, Jamie wanted to make it right from the start.”

So far, that’s exactly what he’s doing.