Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tambellini Interview

I don't have time to comment yet, but here's a brief interview I did today with new Oilers GM Steve Tambellini for Mountain FM. He's a Trail native so we talked a bit about that. Check it out.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Drake Cup Celebrations

Had a fantastic time today at Dallas Drake's Stanley Cup celebrations in Rossland. I'll expand on this update later, but I just wanted to post a couple of clips from the event. Thanks to Kim Drake, the city of Rossland, the Chamber of Commerce and the Rossland Trail Minor Hockey Association for all the work they did putting the day together. I thought it went off without a hitch. Hundreds of loud, enthusiastic fans made for a great atmosphere. I was really glad to be a part of it.

Also quickly wanted to mention Castlegar's Shawn Horcoff (a former Smoke Eater!) getting a 6 year $33 million dollar contract extension with the Edmonton Oilers. Congrats to Horcoff on a well earned deal.

More later!

Drake Interview

The full audio of my interview with Dallas Drake is now up at Mountain FM's website.

He talks about his beginnings in Rossland, winning the Cup in Detroit, what to expect at the big event this morning, his retirement, and more. Today is now not only an opportunity to celebrate Drake's Cup victory, but also his career. Hopefully many of you can come up to Rossland for a couple of hours. The parade starts at 11am down Columbia Ave. There will be a ceremony at Pioneer Park, and the Rossland Trail Minor Hockey Association will be putting on a BBQ to raise a little cash. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Drake to Retire? (Updated)

UPDATE: Drake and the Red Wings made it official this afternoon.

DETROIT – After 15 grinding NHL seasons, Dallas Drake has heard the message that his aging 39-year-old body was telling him.

“I love the game as much as I ever have,” Drake said. “Mentally, I think I
really want to play, but my body has just gotten to the point where I just don’t
recover very well anymore and I don’t play up to a level that you become used to
playing, a physical level that I was used to playing. I think the years kind of
wore me out a little bit. You keep telling yourself to play as long as you can,
and I think I’ve done that.”

It looks like Rossland's Dallas Drake has played his final NHL game. He isn't making an announcement yet, but told Mountain FM it's almost a sure thing. Drake says he'll let the Red Wings make it official. He told me that winning the Stanley Cup is the best possible way to end his career. Drake has a one year old son and wants to spend a lot more time with his wife and all four of his children. The 16 year NHL veteran will parade with the Cup in Rossland on Wednesday. He'll be a guest on Mountain FM's Overtime Tuesday night.
"I'm pretty sure. There's probably going to be an announcement in
the next couple of days what I'm going to do. I'm just going to let the
Red Wings handle that though, I've talked to them. I've played a long time
now... 16 years. Being away from my family last year was hard, and I
won a Stanley Cup. That was something I always wanted to do. If I do
leave, which most likely that's going to be the case, then there's no better
way to end. I'd hate to come back and just not win again. It's so
hard to repeat. If you ask me Detroit's the favourite to win it again
next year. But I think it's time for me to sail off into the
- Dallas Drake

Alumni Weekend

What a fantastic weekend in Trail! This year's Trail Smoke Eaters Alumni Weekend linked up with the Gene Lenardon ALS Society to raise money for two worthy causes. It was amazing to see the outpouring of support for the Lenardon family. Tom Gawryletz told me that Norm Lenardon filled the entire head table at the banquet himself. Norm is a very easy guy to like, and clearly he's made a lot of great friends throughout his life in hockey. Check out just some of the names I got a chance to interview live at the dinner on Friday:

A lot of people will call Anaheim GM Brian Burke a lot of things. As a guy who has grown up an Edmonton Oilers fan I know there have been a few times when I disagreed with something he said. However, Burke showed how much of a loyal and generous person he is. He once made a promise to Norm Lenardon that if he ever needed him for a charity, Burke would be there. Norm made the call this year, and true to his word Burke flew in to Trail on the one night he was able to make available. The outspoken Anaheim GM donated his time, money and several auction items to bring in cash to the two local charities. It was something to watch him during the auction. At one point Burke didn't like the bid on the Scott Niedermayer jersey so he threw in four tickets to a Ducks/Canucks game, a pre-game meal, a chance to meet the Ducks and the opportunity to hang out in his private box. He also gave the room hell when they wouldn't put up a good enough price. That's how you work an auction. You don't have to agree with everything he says, but you don't hear enough about that charitable side of Burke in all the media coverage.

He also commented a little bit on the war of words with Kevin Lowe. No, he didn't add anything that might get him in trouble with the NHL. Burke merely stated that he wouldn't take back a single thing he said. Not a word, not a verb, not a noun, not an adverb, etc.

An interesting part of our conversation was about the Stanley Cup hangover. If you look back at most of the recent winners and finalists in the NHL, they usually end up missing the playoffs or losing in the first round. Burke believes it's just hard to get back into gear after working that extra two months and spending the summer partying. We'll see if Detroit and Pittsburgh suffer the same fate.

Another local name that you can always count on for Smokies fundraisers is New York Rangers Coach Tom Renney. I know at the very least he was also in town for last year's dinner. Renney is one of the friendliest, well spoken men I've met in hockey circles. He clearly still appreciates the years he had coaching and working in Trail. That's where he met his wife and became connected to the Gare family. You often hear Renney got his start in the WHL, but he truly got his start behind the Smoke Eaters bench. He definitely doesn't forget that.

As for his Rangers, Renney likes the moves they've made. He says you can't hope to replace Jagr with one player, but the additions they've made should help turn them into a faster paced, puck possession team. The Rangers have had two good runs to the second round in a row. Now it's time for them to take the next step. With their young players developing and some new veteran additions in Naslund and Redden things could be interesting in New York this year. If they do make it to the big dance, it'd be great to see Renney holding the Cup.

Talking to Nelson's Danny Gare you could tell how important the connection to the ALS Society was to him as well. Gare's father Ernie died of ALS in the 80s and he's done a lot of work raising money for the cause. He's one of the greatest players in this region's history. Gare now works as a colour commentator for the Columbus Blue Jackets. He told me they made some strong moves and should be a fun team to watch. Hard not to like seeing Rick Nash 82 times a year!

Ceasare Maniago was also there. He made the point that you never lose your connection to Trail. Even living in Vancouver he says he's always getting together with gangs of people from home. Ceasare never turns down a chance to help out the Smokies. He owes them after taking the Allan Cup from them back in '61! Ceasare's jersey was also the highest selling item at the auction. There may have been prizes with more actual worth, but the sentimental value was enough to bring in $5000 for Maniago's duds. The jersey will proudly hang at the Terra Nova in Trail for years to come.

That's just the beginning of all the guys who were there. Harold Snepsts, Ron Delorme, Pat Price, etc. The Lenardon name and the Smoke Eaters name lured some big fish to town and raised some big money.

I also want to give some props to former Smoke Eater Kevin Koopman. The other guys left him all by himself displaying the auction items. You're a trooper, Kevin. Good luck at Brown next year! If the NHL and being a doctor doesn't pan out, maybe you could go work on the Price is Right. I should also mention that Koop won a closest to the pin at Birchbank on Saturday. I still think he rigged it.

At the golf tournament I got the chance to play with Ray St. Jean and the former voice of the Smokies Ian Douglas. They both put me to shame. Ray especially is an unbelievably good golfer. Sadly the best we were able to do as a team was match his handicap with a round of even par. I'm not sure if any of my drives landed in the fairway on Saturday. Ian's actually a pretty darn good golfer himself. Especially given the fact that he hadn't played all year before the Travis Green and Smokies events. It says something about the connection people can feel to this community that Ian keeps coming back. We saw him at the World Junior A Challenge in the fall and he's back again a few months later. Hopefully I'll be able to retain that connection if I ever move on. I'd like to think I would.

Congrats and thanks to all the Smokies volunteers who made this event possible again this year. Word from Tom is that they've done great business this year. The community again proved that when worth causes come calling, you can always count on the Kootenays.

Travis Green Tournament

This year we had three big hockey nights back to back to back. Obviously the Smoke Eaters Alumni events on Friday and Saturday, but it all started with the Travis Green charity golf tournament in Castlegar on Thursday. Green has been heading this event up for a decade now. The future of the tournament is a little bit cloudy now that he's no longer playing in the NHL. Travis told me while it might be time to change the name on the marquee, he will work to make sure there at least some form of the tournament next year. I also found out that he isn't necessarily set on retiring. Check out my interview with Travis:
Green used his pull to bring in all sorts of local celebs and business people. I had a nice chance to get to know Trail's Jay Luknowsky who played and is now and agent in Germany. He's a really good guy who seems to have really found a good spot for himself in Europe. Also had a nice brief chat with Trail hockey legend Ray Ferraro who told me his son Matt has moved on from hockey and was working to become an electrician. Matt had a some good years in the KIJHL and looked good to start the season in Cowichan Valley last year. We can definitely use more trades people though! Sometimes I wish I had jumped into that, the money and jobs available are tremendous. Very cool to hear some of Bob Bourne's stories too. How many people can say they won the Stanley Cup four straight times? That's a pretty exclusive club. It was another sold out year of the tournament raising money for more than 20 charities in the region.

I'm also proud to say I hit a drive nearly 300 yards on one of the holes. Given the fact that 95% of my drives have a massive slice and the other 5% are rolling along the ground... this was a big accomplishment. These hockey people can golf! I'm unfortunately not one of them.

Thanks to those at the event for the invite. I sincerely hope they can get something together for next year's tournament. The whole volunteer group did a group job putting it all together. It's a very important fundraiser in Castlegar, and it would be a shame if it just faded away. Maybe someone new will step up and take over. Travis certainly has earned the right to walk away after his decade of service. The community owes him a debt of gratitude.

Johns Retires

Just a quick update on something that happened while I was on holidays. Smokies defenceman Tyler Johns decided to quit hockey and become a police officer. Johns told Mountain FM's Jeff Sargeant that if he had continued to play he would've loved to play in Trail. The former Merritt player says he just wasn't as happy playing in the BCHL as he expected. Johns was part of the five player deal that brought Chad Gehon and Shane Oatway to the Smokies for Cam Brodie and Brad Davis. Johns says he hadn't informed Merritt of his decision before the trade was made. Jeff did interviews with Johns and Ingram on the issue. Just follow the links:
In two BCHL seasons with Cowichan Valley and Merritt, Johns scored 5 goals, 21 points and had 91 minutes in penalties. Good luck in your new career, Tyler! We can always use more good cops.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Great Night!

I have to get to sleep for the golf tournament tomorrow, but I just want to say how fantastic the Smoke Eaters banquet was tonight. The people of Trail and the hockey community from small town BC to the NHL came together to raise money for the Smoke Eaters and the ALS Society. You had to be proud to be associated with the community and the organization on this night. The Lenardon family and the Smoke Eaters did a fantastic job. Brian Burke came as advertised and did a ton to raise money for both causes. You can take whatever you want from his public persona, but Burke is clearly a genrous and loyal person. Everyone from Danny Gare, Ceasar Maniago, Tom Renney, Harold Snepts, Pat Price... just a great line-up of guests and great guys. It makes you proud to be just a small part of the hockey community.

A big thumbs up from me to all of you who spent your hard earned money on dinner tickets and auction items. Great job by one and all. Just a classy night and a credit to this region.