Saturday, August 18, 2007

The smell of Ice is oh so Close

Well as the dawn of another hockey season slowly begins, one has to wonder:

Who will win the Stanley Cup?
Who will win the Alberta Junior Hockey League Championship?
How will Obie Won, or Evan Oberg as you Duluthian Bulldog Fans would know him, fair in his initial season in the Div I NCAA hockey ranks? Or for that matter the other AJHL alumni recruit Justin Fontaine?

On the Alberta Front

As the training camps begin in Alberta this next week i am sure alot more "hockeytalk" will be hitting the numerous boards that are available in this internet netherland. In the Alberta ranks there has been some shuffling in the coaching ranks. Fran Gow, former head coach of the Grande Prairie Storm (and prior to that the Fort McMurray Oil Barons) has after 6 years in the Peace Country chosen to come back to Oil Sands capital of the world (Fort McMurray). His association with the Oil Barons this season will not be in a coaching capacity however, but rather as Director of Player Personnel. This could turn out to be a huge coup for this hockey club who lost their chief scout at the beginning of last season. What may be more interesting however, is what may happen if the Barons dont make leaps and bounds ahead of last years "average" performance. If this squad falters early, dont be surprised to see mr. Gow usurp current head coach Gord Thibodeau. The Board of Directors is always looking for a contender and with Gow the only coach in their history to bring them a national championship, one would have to wonder how patient this board will be if the Barons dont jump out of the gate from day one.

Another interesting development is the appointment of Mike Vanderkamp as Mr. Gow's replacement in Grande Prairie. Vanderkamp used to be the head coach of the Vernon Vipers in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League and had quite the reputation of being quite the hot head. It will be interesting to see if a cooler head prevails in the cooler climbs of Grande Prairie.

AND, what about the Bulldogs?????

With Evan Oberg making the jump to the college ranks a year earlier than anticipated, one would have to assume that Scott Sandelin is hoping that this offensive minded defenceman will be able to fill the void left by Niskanens departure to the professional ranks. Obie Won may be able to bolster the powerplay on the back end but I would not want the bulldog bretheren to feel that he will be able to fill Matt's skates in their entirety. And as an observation, there will have to be a huge step up in offensive prowess from the returning forwards in the lineup. Me thinks that the departure of Raymond will take a while for this years squad to adjust to. Once they realize they dont have that marquee threat to bail them out, and start working as units on the ice they should be fine. The question is whether they will figure that out in time to take a good run into the playoffs. Time will tell.

This fan is looking forward to the addition of Mike Connolly a year down the road. With the addition of Fontaine this year and Connolly the next, the bulldogs will have a couple of recruits who both see the ice real well and should develop into some excellent playmakers, if the right systems are used. Think of the Flames Conroy to Iginla in their Stanley Cup run a couple of years ago. Chow for now.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Kodiak Connection Alive and Well

In a surprise notice on the Heisenburg blog, it appears that the UMD Bulldogs Hockey Club has secured another committment from the Alberta Junior A Camrose Kodiaks. Mike Connolly has apparently verbally committed to the bulldog program for the 2008-2009 season. He will join Evan Oberg, another current Kodiak that year bringing the total compliment of Kodiaks in the UMD program up to 6.

What will be interesting to see however is what efforts the bulldog executive make in trying to entice early departures by either of these two recent recruits. Although most Bulldog fans would love to see WCHA allstar status bound Mason Raymond for another couple of years, one would think that the Vancouver Canucks may be calling on this young phenom to take the next step up and play for one of their farm teams in the not too distant future. If Raymond does decide to bolt early Sandelin and the boys will be struggling to fill that void.

Is young Connolly or Defenceman Oberg ready to make the jump a year early. This prognasticator says NO. They will be fine additions to the bulldog program but can use another year in the AJHL before making the jump. One has to look no further than the early departures of Danny Bertram and Tyler Swyston from that same Kodiak program to see that they left too early and struggled in the college ranks.
Hopefully, if Sandelin is intending to accelerate either of these players into his program, he has the wherewithall to communicate his intentions to Head Coach Boris Rybalka, who is always planning his team roster 1 to 2 years in advance. Early departures from the Rybalka program are more difficult to adjust from if players leave early without expressing their intentions to him. It would be a shame if the working relationship between these two coaches broke down as a result of no communication being shared between them regarding their mutual expectations. The Kodiak program has been a great pipeline for the Bulldogs and I as one blogger and fan of both clubs would hate to see that relationship breaking down because of that.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Denver Sucks,.... for a number of reasons

Now dont get me wrong here, I like the town, I really do. but when you travel 900 miles to watch your boy play hockey and he doesnt get into the lineup,..... well that just sucks. So I will blame that on Denver. I will also blame it on Denver that the Avalanche cant beat the teams I need them to, to take the pressure off of my surging Calgary Flames, ....... well when your in that tight division and you need Sakic and the boys to steal some points from the competition and they self implode in the third period,...... well that just sucks. And it also gets pretty depressing when the Jeckyl of a bulldog squad comes out on Friday night and just plain right doesnt show up so that the boys in the Pioneer Silks can quickly take the first game of the weekend set,...... well you know that just sucks, and it sucks when their captain falls like a beheaded chicken and is out the next shift after the powerplay has run its course, If you have seen the tv series House, they should call that kid vicodin, the painkiller that House uses to control his pain, he might not flop around so much on the ice if he was on some kind of painkiller,....... well you know those antics just sucked.

There were some good times at the ol colorado city but only thanks to those devoted and dedicated bulldog fans that travel far and wide just to support their hockey club. A good time was had by all even if we only split the series with the Pioneers, and you know, that split, well it just sucks.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Call it a Coincidence

This one is from the vault of the spooky and strange. It appears that some old antiquated hockey fans in the Duluth Minnesota area took it upon themselves a number of years ago to create a fan club for their beloved Bulldogs. This particular crew, not only travelled to the final four in Boston when they found some inspiration for the moniker attached to their club, but they also set a high precedent for what it means to be a bulldog fan. Led by the likes of the infamous tDHG (also known as the DrunkHockeyGuy, or when he is banned from other sites as somewhat inebriated hockey guy), tBeersong, and tBeard, they created an association known around the NCAA hockey circles as the Penalty Box. Not only do they have their own website, but they also sell to the current faculty enmasse their patented yellow and maroon fan club tshirts at all home games of the bulldogs. With their regular watering hole well established in the confines of the Curling Club, yes you do have to buy a membership to get in, even if you never throw a rock in your life, this group chose to call themselves The Penalty Box.

All of this was introduced to the mrs and myself this past year when the kid was asked to be a mainstay of the Bulldog hockey program. Of course we were welcomed with open arms, and some somewhat rather questionable shooters ( an attempt I am sure to try and get me to lose my faculties and actually become inebrieated). After a couple of encounters at this popular watering hole the family and I ( family including the kids billet hosts from his former hockey ramblings) have fond thoughts and memories of this very welcoming Penalty Box.

Needless to say, when I recently attended the Minor Hockey Week festivities in Fort McMurray at the local Minor Hockey Rink, a twinkle came to my eye, and a grin on my face, when I looked above the newly renovated and recently opened concession stand. For there in front of us was the newly placed sign to name the french fry and watering hole. If they only new the history associated with such a name. In any event I will of course have to pick up a couple of those highly coveted tshirts from the DECC on my next visit and provide them to the working staff at the concession stand in Fort McMurray. At least then their wardrobe would be consistent with the name that hangs above the counter.