Tag Archives: Vancouver


by Ron Spence

A team falters all season – mired in controversy – gets it together, squeaks into the playoffs, and then makes a run for the Stanley Cup….

A player improves, flourishes, falters, and then gains redemption, when he returns to his roots – to the team where he started his career – as he makes a comeback….

Most of us love these stories. They remind us of different elements of our own lives.

The NHL is playing out variations on the second plot line.

Jeff Friesen is trying to resurrect his career in San Jose, and Jeff O’Neil is attempting to return to the NHL, with Carolina.

Friesen was chosen 11th overall, in the 1994 Draft. He played part of the 1994-95 season with the Sharks, and full seasons until 2000-01, when he was part of the Selanne trade, with the Ducks. During his time in San Jose, he scored 22, 26, 28 and 31 goals.

Friesen played one season in Anaheim, and two in New Jersey, where he helped to win the Stanley Cup – by scoring 10 playoff goals. He played two part seasons for the Capitals and Ducks –  following the lockout – and one full year for the Flames.

Last season, he played in only five games in the AHL, before hanging up his skates due to injury.

Jeff O’Neil was selected 5th overall by Hartford, in 1994.

He started playing for the Whalers in 1995-96, and scored 8, 14 and 19 goals, before 25 goals, and 41 goals in 2000-01. He helped Carolina to win the Cup, and by 2002-03, he had his third consecutive 30 goal season.

O’Neil was injured and had a subpar year, there was the lockout, and then he was traded to the Leafs. In Toronto, he played for two seasons, and his production slowly fell off, largely due to personal problems.

Petr Nedved’s colourful NHL career has been well documented. Sportsillustrated.cnn.com wrote.

The Sports Illustrated highlights didn’t mention Nedved’s unpopularity in New York – after he’d been sent there from St. Louis.

John Dellapina, of the Daily News, provides some details of Nedved’s first tenure in the Big Apple:

People are pulling for the east and west Jeffs.

“What a great story it would be if Jeff could continue his career with the team he started with, and contribute and the team has success,” the San Jose coach said. “But so many things have to happen prior to that.”

“He did nothing to hurt himself,” McLellan continued. “But did he climb the ladder to the top? No, he didn’t do that either.”

Bryan Thiel of the Bleacher Report wrote of O’Neil: “For his sake, I hope he can prove that he’s earned a spot on the Carolina Hurricanes roster. Or at least proves to the league that, after everything he’s been through, he can still play, and still be a factor, maybe prove that he’s still that mullet-wearing, hockey-loving kid he used to be, with the same passion anyone brings to the game—just now with a little added fire.”

Friesen and O’Neil are still at the Sharks’ and Hurricanes’ camps, but Nedved has been released by the Rangers.

He played well enough, but there weren’t any roster spots available.

But, had the talented Czech made the New York squad, it wouldn’t have been a feel good story.

Friesen and O’Neil had lost their way – due to injuries and personal problems – whereas, Nedved has always been just plain greedy.

He has never had any loyalty.

He wasn’t playing for redemption. He wanted more money.

Few have any sympathy for Petr Nedved. He has burned his many Karmatic bridges behind him, so to speak.


P.S. And now, Claude Lemieux wants to make a comeback. Well, at least it won’t be for the money.

The following from the newsobserver.com:


In 2000-01 Jeff O'Neill was the only player to lead his team in both goals and hits.

Alas, Jeff Friesen was in shape, but the San Jose Sharks were chockablocked full of forwards. It was the same sitaution, in a way, as Nedved’s in New York.

The San jose Mercury reports:

Word is obviously already out that the Sharks ended Jeff Friesen’s tryout without adding him to the roster. I won’t pretend this is breaking news.

In hindsight, there were hints along the way that was how this might wind up, but I know a lot of longtime Sharks fans were hoping it would work out differently.

Midway through training camp, for example, Todd McLellan said he recognized what a good story it would be if Friesen could continue his career where it began, if he’d be able to contribute to the Sharks’ season much the same way Dallas Drake did in his homecoming to Detroit a year ago. Then the coach added: “But it’s up to Jeff.”

Coaches are rarely forthcoming with detailed explanations when players are cut or benched. They’ve got their reasons, but it’s usually not in their best interest to spell them out.

Today, McLellan seemed to be following the traditional tack.

“We now went through a couple days where we sorted out as an orgazniation where we wanted to be and made a decision on the 23-man roster,” the coach said. “In fairness to Jeff, he had a good camp, he competed very well, he did everything he could. But for us to continue to hold onto him and to linger with hm wasn’t going to help him in his attempt to come back.”

GM Doug Wilson said earlier in the week that the staff was waiting for a medical update on Marcel Goc’s injury before having to make a decision on Friesen. McLellan said today that Goc was back on the ice for a light skate today, but that his possible availability was only “somewhat” of a factor in the Friesen decision.

I’m trying to reach Friesen. So far, no luck.”


by Ron Spence


British Columbia hockey was alive and well by the time that the West Coast Hockey League folded in 1926. B.C.’s first junior hockey championships were scheduled the following season, when the Vancouver Terminals beat Salmon Arm. The next year, when the Mowat Cup was introduced, there were nine eligible teams from the Kootenays, Okanagan, Prince George, Victoria and Vancouver.

Talent was evenly distributed, and Fernie won the first cup, Nelson the second and Vancouver the third and fourth.

There were thirteen junior teams by the 1930-31 season, and Trail won the fifth and sixth cups.

The Okanagan Junior “A” Hockey League was formed the 1961-62 season, with the Kelowna Buckaroos, Vernon Canadians, Kamloops Rockets and the Penticton Vees competing. The Kootenay Junior “B” Hockey League was started the 1969-70 season.


BCHL Graduate Carey Price - courtesy of Tri-City

BCHL Grad Carey Price - courtesy of Tri-City Americans

The B.C. Junior Hockey League was formed the year before NHL expansion, and included teams from Kamloops, Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton, New Westminster and Victoria.

Fewer teams were included to maintain a higher standard. Additional junior teams were relegated to B circuits.

Three years later, Vancouver and Chilliwack joined the league in 1970, and the BCJHL was divided into Coast and Okanagan divisions.

The league’s first major problem arose when some owners wanted to split from the B.C. Amateur Hockey Association (Only three of eight attended the Association’s annual meeting.). These owners wanted over-age players, and didn’t want Memorial Cup playdowns interfering with their lengthy seasons. The Association compromised, allowing the owners to have four over-age players. The teams had to compete in Tier Two Provincial playdowns, however, and were told to discontinue any affiliation with prairie teams. A second problem resulted when some prairie teams started signing B.C. players without proper releases.

Nanaimo and Bellingham next joined the BCJHL, and New West, Vancouver and Victoria left for the WCHL the following season.

In August, 1972 the rival Pacific International Junior “A” Hockey League was formed. It consisted of six teams, expanded to eight, and became the Pacific Junior Hockey League two years later, when Seattle and Portland left. The league folded the 1980-81 season, and several of the Pacific teams joined the BCJHL.

With teams coming and going, the BCJHL formed two different divisions. The interior teams were Kelowna, Merritt, Penticton and Vernon, and the coast teams were Bellingham, Chilliwack, Langley and Nanaimo.

Some of the BCJHL’s best players starred during the early and mid-eighties.

Ray Ferraro of Penticton, Dan Hodgson of Cowichan Valley, and Craig Redmond of Abbotsford led the league in scoring. And during the 1983-84 season, Brett Hull of Penticton set a league record with 105 goals and 188 points.

Other NHLers, who once played in the BCHL include: Boston’s Chuck Kobasew (Penticton Panthers), the Rangers’ Scott Gomez (South Surrey Eagles), St. Louis’ Paul Kariya (Penticton), and Montreal’s Carey Price (Quesnel Millionaires).

The B.C. Hockey League has expanded into three divisions and developed into Canada’s best Junior A circuit. Three lower mainland teams and Powell River have been grouped with four island teams to form the Coastal Conference.

The eight Interior Conference teams range from Prince George, through the Cariboo plateau, and Okanagan valley to the Kootenays.

The winner of the BCHL playoffs is awarded the Fred Page Cup, and continues on to play for the Doyle Cup against the champion of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. The winner of the Doyle Cup then competes in the Junior “A” National Championship for the Royal Bank Cup (formerly called the Centennial Cup).

Over the past two decades, the Vernon Lakers (later called the Vipers), won the Royal Bank Cup in 1990, 1991, 1996 and 1999. The Kelowna Spartans won it in 1993, the South Surrey Eagles in 1998 and the Burnaby Express in 2006.

Courtesy of Hockey Canada

Courtesy of Hockey Canada

It’s great for the B.C. Hockey League, because four other provinces/areas have been giving them a run for their money.

The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League won the Royal Bank Cup in 2003, 2008 (both times Humboldt Broncos), and in 2005 (Weyburn Red Wings). The Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League won the Cup in 2004 and 2007 (Aurora Tigers twice) and the Maritimes Junior “A” Hockey League twice in 1997 (Summerside Western Capitals) and in 2002 (Halifax Exports). And two Alberta teams, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons, and Camrose Kodiaks won the Royal Bank Cup in 2000 and 2001.


This article was first written for the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame.


by Ron Spence

Eveleth, Minnesota and Duncan, British Columbia have been involved in a teacup battle straight out of The Mouse That Roared.

Eveleth, about three hours north of Minneapolis-St. Paul, on US Highway 53, has a population of 3593 – and falling. Duncan, west of Vancouver on Vancouver Island, has approximately 4700 people.,

They are both small towns, with large hockey sticks, and both believe that they have the World’s Largest Hockey Stick – referred to as “The Big Stick” in Eveleth.



Evelth has had two large sticks. The old stick was built in 1995, of white and yellow aspen. It was 7,000 pounds and 107 feet long. The accompanying puck was 700 pounds and 5 feet in diameter. It was designed and built by Christian Brothers Hockey Sticks, Warroad, Minnesota. The new stick is 10,000 pounds and 110 feet in length, and was designed and built by Sentinel Structures Inc. of Peshtigo, Wisconsin.

It cost $60,000 to construct and replace the first one, and complements a Hockey Plaza, where you can buy pieces of the old stick at the gift shop



Whereas, the Evelth stick was paid for by local businesses and residents, the Duncan stick was built in Penticton, British Columbia, and paid for by the Canadian government. It was shipped to Vancouver – in two pieces – and installed in the Worlds Fair, called Expo 86, which coincidentally was held in 1986.

After the fair, a contest was held, and Duncan was awarded the stick.

The Duncan stick weighs 61,000 pounds and is 205 feet long. It was built from Douglas Fir wooden beams, reinforced with steel, and was shipped on three flat bed trucks.

In Duncan, the World’s Largest Hockey Stick Society was formed, and raised over $150,000 in cash. This was for on-site preparation, dismantling, shipping, and reassembly. Then, seven years later, the ownership was transferred to the Cowichan Valley Regional District.



Some Duncan residents contacted the Guinness Book of Records, who agreed to investigate their claim that they had the World’s Largest Hockey Stick.

“They came out and took pictures and then went away and then low and behold we saw that Minnesota has the largest stick,” said Dick Drew, who used to own CKAY Radio in Duncan. “It always annoyed us and frustrated us. No matter how you measure it, ours is bigger.”

The Duncan contingent appealed to Guinness several times, but were told that the Minnesota stick was in one piece, and thus the biggest stick per se.

Meanwhile, Duncan continued to call their piece of wood, the “World’s Largest Hockey Stick” anyways.

As luck would have it – from the Duncan point of view – Jimmy Pattison purchased the Guinness World Book Company, and they contacted him. Pattison, of course, was the Vancouver billionaire, who had spearheaded Expo 86, where the stick had resided for over a year, and he quickly told his employees that Duncan’s was the biggest stick.



So, Duncan has The World’s Largest Hockey Stick & Puck.

But, some just won’t let the tempest die.

Vancouver Island.com, wrote:

“The Guinness Book of World Records officially bestowed the title of the world’s largest hockey stick on July 14, 2008 after a 20-year battle for recognition. At one third the length of Duncan‘s stick, residents of Minnesota can no longer claim their 21-metre wooden hockey stick to be the biggest.”

Now, for the life of me, I can’t understand why a publication – which wants to bring tourists to Duncan and Vancouver Island – would be insulting the people of Minnesota – and indirectly,  other Americans.

It’s not good business.

And then the media has also gotten involved.

Tiffany Crawford, from Canwest News Service wrote a piece, published last June 27th, which she started with “Stick this Minnesota.”

She used loaded phrases like “20-year battle … a small community … [and] getting its wish.”

And, “…Minnesota’s 21-metre wooden hockey stick will no longer be No. 1.”

The only person she interviewed was Dick Drew, who now lives in Maple Ridge. It would be like having lived in Evelth, and now residing in St. Paul.

Tiffany didn’t interview anyone who is still living in Duncan.

“If you Google the world’s largest hockey stick, it brings you to Duncan,” said Drew, chuckling.

“Dick Drew,” she continued, “said there will be celebrating and dancing in Duncan, B.C.”

Well, if Dick and Tiffany were to check on Google, there’s no record of any “celebrating and dancing” in Duncan.

And if anyone sneezes in Duncan, it’s in the newspaper and thus on Google.

And the people of Duncan like “celebrating and dancing.” I know, I have relatives who live there.

Also, not everyone living in Duncan is enamoured with the stick.


Duncan is located next to a First Nations community, and Hai-Etlik, a First Nations artist says this about their stick:


And if Duncan’s “Big Stick” is an eyesore, so is Eveleth’s. One tourist wrote on a travel website:



The people of Eveleth are at least more pragmatic than their Duncan counterparts. They now call their attraction “The World’s Largest Authentic Hockey Stick,” or the World’s Largest Free-Standing Hockey Stick and Puck.”

Besides, they have more things on their minds besides semantics.

“The Big Stick” isn’t visible from U.S. Highway #53, and some businesses would like to move it, so that the tourists can see it as they are driving through Minnesota, and maybe stop.

But, the downtown Eveleth business owners don’t like this idea, because the tourists who stop at the stick located on the highway, won’t bother coming into town and spending their tourist dollars.


The editors of Roadside America.com have a simple solution for this situation.


A second post-script story concerns an ebay purchase, and points out another problem that Eveleth has:


So, it’s much ado about a couple of pieces of wood.

Perhaps the best perspective comes from Eveleth’s Melinda St. Sauver.

“So… it boils down to this,” she wrote. “They have the largest sculpture, and we have the largest real hockey stick. So if any giants ever need to play hockey… our stick is the one they will use.”