Thursday, May 28, 2009

Smokies trade Reardon for Lidster, Zmurchyk to Merritt

(Lidster and Reardon)

The Trail Smoke Eaters have made a deal with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Trail sent 1990 born defenceman Jayson Reardon to the Silverbacks for big 1989 born forward Colin Lidster. Lidster is listed at 6'4 and 225lbs. He's committed to play for Quinnipiac after next season so perhaps he and fellow future Quinnipiac star Travis St. Denis can get to know each other pretty well and develop some chemistry over this season.

My first impression is that Lidster is a player with a lot of potential who can contribute more than he has offensively if he's given a bigger opportunity to do it. In talking to Lidster today he also believes that he has a lot more to offer, but it's up to him to play with more consistency and emotion game in and game out.

Of note, Lidster is the son of former Vancouver Canuck Doug Lidster.

As for Reardon, he had some rookie struggles like everyone else on the team. However, Jayson really improved his play and decision making as the season progressed. He's a strong and physical player who is at his best when he's throwing his body around. Reardon didn't do much offensively last year, but he will be a strong stay at home option for the Silverbacks.

He's also got a big shot that we didn't see enough of in Trail. Reardon will drop the mits to stand up for the boys as well. Backs fans will like what they see when he throws that purple uniform on. He's a quiet but hard working, classy player. Reardon also has a lot of potential to become a real force in the BCHL. He'll get an opportunity to do that closer to home in Salmon Arm. Good luck Jayson!

Smokies Coach and GM Jim Ingram will join me on Mountain FM's Overtime tonight to discuss the deal. Lidster will be on the show tomorrow night. We're on from 6pm to 10pm at 104.1 FM in Trail. I'll have more information and analysis later.



The Smokies also shipped 1990 born defenceman Jeff Zmurchyk to Merritt as the future considerations in the Scott Jacklin trade. Check out Brian's post on the Making Cents blog. Zmurchyk also didn't contribute much offensively as a rookie defenceman, but the Fernie native showed a lot of improvement especially late in the season. The biggest difference in Jeff from October to February appeared to be confidence. Once he got some of it his game improved tremendously. Zmurchyk is a very smooth skater who has a good first pass and made smart, simple decisions when he was playing well. He's never put up a ton of points whether it's with Trail or with Fernie in the KIJHL. Jeff generally seems to lean towards making the safe play rather than taking a risk.

The 19 year old showed his versatility when the Smokies were battling some injury concerns and Zmurchyk was able to move up and play forward. He showed a lot of battle and grit when playing up front. While Zmurchyk didn't seem to have a lot of finish around the net, he caused some havoc and created a lot of chances.

I think Jeff will be a calming presence on the Merritt blue line and someone who will benefit from some additional responsibility in a new setting. He's got a year under his belt and he'll be a reliable member of the Cents. Good luck Jeff!

Zmurchyk and Reardon were usually two of the quieter players on the bus rides, but they're both class acts. They're not flashy players but I think both Salmon Arm and Merritt should be confident they're getting players who will get the job done.

I've heard word that the Smokies have a lot of very interesting new defencemen coming to camp in August. There won't be any shortage of options available when trying to replace Jeff and Jayson come fall. I've heard a few names but I'll leave any talk about those players specifically to the team.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Malenstyn Interview

(Malenstyn at spring camp - Photo Randy Emery)

I told you last week about the addition of big defenceman turned forward Matt Malenstyn. The 6'7, 255lbs Surrey native was my guest on Mountain FM's Overtime recently. I also had a chance to talk to Smokies Coach and GM Jim Ingram on Malenstyn's addition.

Malenstyn on Mountain FM's Overtime

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Jim Ingram on Malenstyn

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...Word from a couple of sources today that former Smokies Coach Tom Renney is not only the associate coach for the Edmonton Oilers, but he is lined up as the heir apparent for Pat Quinn's inevitable retirement. I read a couple of reports that indicate if Quinn steps down before or after the three years in his new contract are up, Renney will be given the head coaching job. Of course that's easy for them to say now. A lot of that will depend on how the team does with Quinn and Renney at the helm. I'm looking forward to watching. That's a lot of experience behind one bench. A lot of class too!

...A couple more coaches have been hired in the BCHL over the last week or two. Victoria hired Victor Gervais to take over for Geoff Courtnall. Gervais had been an assistant with the Grizz. I've read some comments from unhappy fans who wish the search had been extended outside of the organization. That being said, those in the know obviously got a pretty good look at how Gervais handled himself and they liked what they saw. He'll certainly get his chance with a whole new group of players after Victoria tried to load up for the RBC Cup this past season.

...The Williams Lake Timberwolves have hired their first or second head coach depending how you view it. Brad Fox was going to be in charge there before they parted ways at the start of the off season. Fox went back to Revelstoke in KIJHL and appears to be out of the job there too. Troy Mick's group bought the team and Mick is now going to be the Coach and GM there. The KIJHL is sure collected a talented group of coaches. As for the Timberwolves, they hired Okanagan Rockets Major Midget Coach Dave Dupas. It's taken Williams Lake a while to get their man in place, but he certainly sounds qualified and driven.

...As a result of Dupas leaving the Rockets for Williams Lake, Westside assistant coach Misko Antisin will be leaving the Warriors to take over the Major Midget job. Congrats to Misko who was always very easy to deal with and clearly knows the game. I know he'll be missed in Westside.

...It's interesting to note that in both Victoria and Williams Lake these new coaches won't be handling the GM duties. That makes it easier for them to concentrate on coaching, but they won't necessarily have the guys they want in the dressing room. I wonder sometimes which way is the best way to go at this level. It seems like most of the coaches want to control the roster as well.

...I believe all of this movement leaves Quesnel as the only team who has yet to name their Coach. The Mills seem to have new ownership in place and the hope of a new building. They have Trevor Hertz and Jeff Malcom coming back to form a great duo to build around. They also don't have a coach and it's nearly June! Get moving, guys! (Unless I missed the announcement in which case I'm the dolt... it happens)

...It looks like the playoff format is changing for the 2009-10 season. The first round should end up being a best of seven. There is also talk that the league will change how many teams qualify for the playoffs as well. Details should emerge when they ratify those changes at league meetings. I think it's a great move. In the two years I've called Smokies games they've ended up losing money from making the playoffs because they didn't get at least two home games. Of course you don't aim to get swept, but if teams can at least get two home games each they can more reasonably budget for that.

...A quick note about attendance. After the recent AGM, the Smokies have said they could likely guarantee a profit every year if only they could pack a 100 more fans into the Cominco Arena for each home game. It seems like the attendance every year has been within the mid 900s but never really above 1000 recently. Outside of simply winning games does anyone have some thoughts on ways to encourage more people to come check out the best junior hockey in the region? Shoot me an e-mail at and I'll pass it along to the team. There are no bad ideas, right? OK maybe there are... but it's worth a shot.

Renney to Edmonton

TSN is reporting that former Smoke Eaters coach Tom Renney will be joining the Edmonton Oilers as an associate coach under new head coach Pat Quinn. They have a press conference scheduled in the next couple of hours. Renney continues what has been quite a connection between the Oilers and Trail. Former Smoke Eater and Castlegar native Shawn Horcoff is Edmonton's #1 center. Trail native Steve Tambellini is Edmonton's General Manager. Now add a former Smoke Eaters coach to the mix and they might as well put a couple of smoke stacks on that Oilers jersey!

Congrats to Renney who is a huge class act. I've met him twice at the Smoke Eaters summer banquet and he's easily one of the nicest and sharpest hockey people I've encountered. Quinn also took some time to visit Trail during the World Junior A Challenge. I didn't get the opportunity to meet him, but I heard he made quite a positive impression. You don't get much more qualified than these two! They should make a heck of a tandem for Edmonton.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Smokies AGM Tonight

The Trail Smoke Eaters Annual General Meeting is tonight at 7pm at the Cominco Arena. For more details listen to my interview with Tom Gawryletz that aired Wednesday on Mountain FM's Overtime.

Smokies President Tom Gawryletz

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Look Up - WAAAAY UP (Malenstyn to Trail)

(Malenstyn on

The Trail Smoke Eaters just got a lot bigger. 6'7, 255lbs Matthew Malenstyn committed to the Smokies after attending their spring camp. Malenstyn impressed me with his play as an AP for Trail during the coastal trip this past season. For someone who hadn't played at the Junior A level, he stepped into the line-up and didn't look out of place. He made several good plays and I can only think of one specific time when someone was able to use their speed to beat him. One Trail player told me at the time that Malenstyn had outperformed several of the veterans on the club in those games.

Malenstyn moves well for a big man and one of the first things Jim Ingram told me about him when we discussed the commitment was how good of an athlete the Surrey native was. Ingram believes there is a lot of untapped potential in him. Malenstyn believes it as well. He's busting his butt in the gym and on the ice already this summer. He's also working hard with coaches and trainers on the coast to learn a new position as the Smokies plan on using Malenstyn primarily as a forward.

That's certainly a change for Matt after spending the past two seasons as a defenceman in the PIJHL. However, Malenstyn and Ingram are confident he'll be able to learn the new position and provide versatility in case of injuries or penalty trouble. A player is hurt or kicked out of the game? Malenstyn can drop back to the blue line. Injuries build up on defence? Malenstyn can play a few games on the back end to fill in.

As for why Ingram is moving him up front, part of it is the depth that Trail has on the back end (with returning players and strong recruits) and the other part seems to be the physical element that Malenstyn can bring. Ingram expects Malenstyn to win a lot of battles in the corners, toss out some big bruising hits and clog up the front of the net. Who is going to be able to move a man that big when he parks his butt in front of the goal? We saw how well that can work in the Chicago/Vancouver series.

A couple of people I've talked to about Malenstyn instantly said "oh this guy is just going to be a goon." That's not the case. Certainly he'll be willing to stand up for his team. His 177 penalty minutes should show that. However, he's not one dimensional. He put up 13 points and scored 6 times from the blue line last season. Malenstyn tells me he's working on a shot that clocked in the 90s. The raw skills he has were enough to get him some invites to WHL camps that he passed up to come to Trail. This is someone who only really started taking hockey seriously in the past few seasons and that dedication is moving him in the right direction.

I'll have an interview with Jim Ingram on Malenstyn tonight on Overtime. Matthew will join me on the show tomorrow or Thursday.


...Congrats to former Smoke Eater Lucas Bloodoff and the Kelowna Rockets for earning a spot in the Memorial Cup finals. The big game is on Sunday and I'm sure everyone out here will be cheering for the Bloodoff Brothers and Kyle St. Denis in that one.

...Seems like the USHL is trying to raid the BCHL talent pool this off season. Their draft included a number of BCHL players. Can you really blame them? The BCHL is proving itself to be the top Junior A league in Canada with loads of talent that will move on to the NCAA and eventually pro hockey. That being said, it's a little frustrating that a team could conceivably come along and just pluck someone away that another team developed. We're not talking about Major Junior vs. Junior A here. If the USHL is a Junior A league and we're partnering with them in ventures like the World Junior A Challenge perhaps we should work out a more reasonable player transfer agreement that isn't just a little bit of cash. Might even be fun to set up a battle between the USHL champs and the RBC Cup winners. I just don't think it should be open season on CJHL players for them. Of course I say that from a slightly biased position.

...Look for the BCHL to go back to a schedule that includes a visit to each team in the league for this coming season. Thank goodness! It didn't seem right that we didn't get to visit Vancouver Island last year.

...Geoff Courtnall stepped down as coach of the Victoria Grizzlies. Now that it seems obvious he wasn't staying for the long term I wonder if it wouldn't have been better for the team to hire a career coach for their important RBC Cup season. Just another team now looking for a new coach. It's been much busier on that front this off season than it was last.

...Pittsburgh in 6 and Detroit in 5.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Busy Day!

We've had lots to talk about today on the Smoke Eaters blog.

Finally I just wanted to mention that Penticton play by play man Ryan Pinder made fun of my cheesy "thank you" graphic in the comments of my post back in March. Guess where that picture is now? Great minds think alike, Ryan! Check out Pinder's Vees Blog for some great coverage of the Royal Bank Cup with Dan Marshall and continuing coverage of the Vees in the off season.

I will get those Limbert and Rollheiser interviews on the blog soon I swear it! Other things just keep coming up. Don't forget to vote tonight in the BC Election (polls close at 8pm with election coverage on Mountain FM) and the Smoke Eaters AGM next Thursday night.

Gehon to Alaska Fairbanks

(#26 Gehon with Trail - Photo Randy Emery)

Congratulations are in order today for former Smoke Eater Chad Gehon. He's earned himself a spot with the NCAA Division 1 squad at Alaska Fairbanks. Click here to read the article at the BCHL website. Gehon finished the season with Westside, but he played his best hockey as a member of the Trail Smoke Eaters. After being moved to Trail from Merritt in the off season, Gehon went from a point a game player to a top 10 scorer in the league. He worked hard on his game throughout the summer and during the season to continue his evolution into a dominant performer at this level. Gehon was a huge part of Trail's early success which included a stint in first place and a few weeks in the national rankings. His early chemistry with Andrew Pickering and Nick Sandor was a pleasure to watch. Later on Gehon would help elevate Travis St. Denis' game when they played together.

The Smokies ended up moving Gehon to Westside (through Merritt) at the trade deadline so they could add Scott Jacklin to their line-up. Jacklin will be eligible to play for two more seasons and Trail's slide in the standings at the time likely made it easier to see the future Jacklin could bring when Gehon would be done. That being said, Trail did miss Gehon's presence as they struggled to find goals down the stretch.

It took Gehon a while to fit in with Westside as they had established units in their top 6. When he eventually found chemistry with Cam Reid they made up 2/3 of the Warriors' most dangerous line in the series against Trail. Westside looked poised to make a serious run at Salmon Arm in the second round until injuries really took the wind out of their sails.

After all the improvements Gehon made over the last season I'm very glad to see he was rewarded with this opportunity to play at the highest level of NCAA hockey. Congrats Chad, you deserve it! He may not be committing to Alaska Fairbanks as a member of the Smoke Eaters, but everyone in Trail is surely very proud of what he's achieved after a great season here. Plus when you're a Smoke Eater, you're a Smoke Eater for life.

BCHL Player Draft Rankings

(Kyle Bigos)

Congrats to the six BCHL players who have landed on Central Scouting's prospect list for the NHL draft. It was really exciting for everyone involved with the Smoke Eaters last year when Grant Rollheiser got picked by the Toronto Maple Leafs. I'm sure fans from these other teams are crossing their fingers for their guys. Here's where the BCHL guys stand:

89 - Curtis McKenzie (Penticton)
115 - Curtis Gedig (Cowichan Valley)
117 - Cory Kane (Vernon)
142 - Spencer Bennet (Surrey)
169 - Kyle Bigos (Vernon)
200 - Wes McLeod (Prince George)

McKenzie being the top prospect is not a surprise after the huge leap forward he made with the Vees this year. Bigos being on their radar despite being an 89 tells you how terrific he was this season. Year after year there's more great BCHL talent showing up on the NHL's radar. Maybe that's why the league, Hockey Canada and the CJHL are trying to form closer ties. Read this article to see what I'm talking about. Mind you there are so few specifics in the article it's very difficult to tell what they actually have planned. I'm just glad they're playing attention.

Brodie Reid traded to Alberta

(John Stimson)

As pointed out today on the BCHL message board, the AJHL transactions page lists a deal that sends Brodie Reid from Nanaimo to Brooks for John Stimson. So what stands out for you about that transaction? How about that Brodie Reid was last seen playing for the Penticton Vees in the second round of the BCHL playoffs. How did Reid end up as Nanaimo's property? Wasn't he scheduled to start his scholarship at Northwestern this year? I believe he had delayed it to play last season so perhaps it got delayed again after what must be considered a somewhat disappointing season for him. After lighting it up with Burnaby the year before, Reid got dealt to what should have been a good situation in Penticton playing with the likes of Denver Manderson. However, his point and goal totals dipped as Reid ended up surprisingly under a point a game pace with the high powered Vees.

What happened? Perhaps the chemistry was just never quite there. Reid is a terrific finisher, but when I saw the Vees he didn't really seem to always be on the same page as his linemates. If he has to delay that scholarship for another year perhaps it's good for Reid to get a fresh start somewhere new.

As for Stimson, he scored at a 0.8 points per game pace in Brooks last season as a 19 year old. That's double his pace from the year before. Certainly anyone who shows that kind of improvement has to be intriguing. Can he take his game to another level? He goes to Nanaimo and will fill up a 20 year old spot there, so they must be expecting him to make a leap forward. He's listed at 6'1 and 180lbs so he's not a small player either.

The big question out of all this is how did Reid get from Penticton to Nanaimo and what was involved in that deal? I'm just excited that the off season wheeling and dealing is starting already.

I'm having trouble getting to the BCHL website right now so I'll try and update later.

Interviews with Naka, Ingram, Jones and Bloodoff

(Naka in the yellow at spring camp, Paul Mailey in the grey - Photo Randy Emery)

A whole bunch of audio for you tonight. First of all, I had the chance to chat with new Smoke Eater Brett Naka at Kootenay Chrysler Bull-A-Rama. I also talked to Smokies Coach and GM Jim Ingram on the addition of Naka. Here are the interviews from Mountain FM's Overtime:

New Smoke Eater Brett Naka

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Jim Ingram on Naka

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(Kelowna after winning the WHL Championship -

Five West Kootenay junior hockey players are celebrating championships this week. Montrose's Jones twins are RBC Cup champions while Castlegar's Bloodoff brothers and Trail's Kyle St. Denis are WHL champions. Congrats to all of them for representing the region so well. Tonight on Mountain FM's Overtime I talked to Connor Jones and former Smoke Eater Lucas Bloodoff:

Connor Jones on winning the RBC Cup

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Lucas Bloodoff on winning the WHL Championship

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Good luck to the Bloodoffs and St. Denis at the Memorial Cup!


...Did Dan Cloutier somehow pull a Freaky Friday and put himself into Roberto Luongo's body tonight? Yikes!

...As usual a lot of Canucks fans are saying the Sedins aren't good enough to win. They are at the very least among the top 20 forwards in the game. Those guys don't grow on trees! I think most teams would love to have two automatic point per game producers on their team. Are they Steve Yzerman leadership types? No, so surround them with those kinds of guys.

...Usually when the media (including me so I'm guilty too) hype something up too much it never delivers. If it's possible, the Washington/Pittsburgh series has exceeded expectations. I've been talking to some friends who are justifiably on the Ovechkin bandwagon but really underrated Crosby. I think some of those people are starting to realize just how great Crosby is. He has more hockey sense than anyone in the game. Put the two of them together and you'd have the ultimate hockey player. It's a fantastic battle between two superstars who are very different in almost every way. Throw in the other elite talent like Malkin, Semin, Gonchar, Green, Varlamov, Fleury and some super vets like Guerin and Fedorov. How about the role players like Steckle and Cooke making big plays and scoring big goals? How about the calm, young Bylsma against the emotional Boudreau? This series is awesome. As much as today's game must hurt for Pittsburgh fans, there is no way this series should end in 6.

...I read on a couple of websites that Canada is not under served as a hockey market because of population in Canadian markets compared to some of the American markets that aren't working right now. What some of these so called experts don't understand is that it's not about the population in the market, it's about the market available to you. Phoenix may be a huge market, but how many sports outrank hockey in that city? The NBA, the NFL and MLB at the very least are significantly more important to Phoenix residents than the NHL. How about NCAA football and basketball? So where does an NHL hockey team rank for sports fans in Phoenix? How much available market is there for a hockey team when you consider how much money people there already spend on those other sports?

Now compare that to some Canadian markets. Where would an NHL hockey team rank in Winnipeg? First. Quebec City? First. Southern Ontario? Second. Even with the Blue Jays, Raptors, FC and Argos there is no question in my mind that a new NHL team would instantly become the second most important sports franchise in Southern Ontario. That means in any of those markets there is likely more market available to an NHL team than there is in Phoenix or Atlanta. It's first on the list instead of fourth or fifth.

I understand the argument for places like Columbus, Raleigh and Nashville. Those markets aren't populated with other major sports franchises so the NHL has a real chance to become a priority there. Phoenix, Miami, Atlanta? Good luck.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Vipers Win, Kellen Interview, Merritt Coach

(The Vipers with the RBC Cup - From Hockey Canada's website)

I want to send out congrats to the whole Vernon Vipers organization today on their dominant Royal Bank Cup victory. While Humbolt put up a fight, there was really no doubt what team was going to come out on top in this tournament. Vernon won eleven consecutive games dating back to the Fred Page Cup series against Powell River. They swept the Doyle Cup and they swept through the national championship tournament as well. Vernon's biggest tests were in the BCHL playoffs themselves against Salmon Arm and Powell River. Their biggest test in the RBC Cup was against the host Victoria team in a game that went to overtime. What does that tell you about the quality of this year's BCHL teams? There is no doubt that the BCHL was the top junior a league in the country this year... if not every year!

How did Vernon do it? Depth and commitment to me are the biggest factors. They had four elite lines and three elite defensive pairings. You didn't get a shift off against the Vipers because there was never a weak group coming over the boards. They didn't get too fatigued during any game or during the playoff because they didn't have to double or triple shift their best players to be competitive. They also had a terrific goaltender who didn't give up bad goals at key times.

Having that kind of a line-up takes commitment from every player to put the team first. By that I mean there are guys on the Vipers who could have been challenging the league leaders in points if they had a short bench, but instead they bought into the system and didn't worry about their point totals. The Jones Twins, Braden Pimm, Mike Collins... those guys could have put up huge numbers if they were double shifting every game, but they played a team game in a system designed to win a championship. They were rewarded for it with four new banners to hang from rafters in Vernon. That's a lesson for other teams like the Smokies who play the four line strategy that it really can work if you buy in.

I remember thinking in the first month of the season that the Vipers had been a disappointment to that point. They had so much talent and so many returning players I had expected them to dominate the Interior and the BCHL. They went through some growing pains early but never made any panic moves. Coach Mark Ferner stuck with his guys, stuck with his systems and they rewarded him for it. He also made a huge move at the trade deadline in acquiring Cam Brodie and Mike Leidl. Their biggest need was a savvy veteran, physical presence on the blue line... so they got two of them in the same deal. There was no question in my mind at the time that it was a great move, and it seems to have put them over the top. It's great seeing the classy former Smoke Eater Brodie get that win to end his junior career.

I remember a lot of people were critical of some of these players last season. The Jones Twins were too soft to get it done in the playoffs? They were team leaders this year in the post-season. Andrew Hammond was just an average goalie and not good enough to get them to the dance? Hammond was a rock and took the Vipers on their drive for five. There aren't enough big, physical players up front and Vernon could get beat up? They not only survived the grind of the playoffs but they thrived in it.

The Vipers are not favourites in the Trail area that's for sure. In some ways it's hard to see one of your rivals having so much success. However, in my dealings with the Vipers they've always been classy and professional, so I'm happy to see them bring the Royal Bank Cup back to the BCHL where it belongs. Congratulations to everybody involved in that organization for reaching the ultimate goal of any Junior A hockey team.

Here's an interview I did with Kellen Jones on Mountain FM's Overtime after Vernon started the tournament with three wins:

Kellen Jones at the RBC

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...Brian over at the Making Cents Blog says Merritt has hired a new coach. Credit to the Cents for acting fast after they officially announced they'd be back for next season. This is still very late in the recruiting season to have someone new doing the job, but it's better now than in June. It sounds like Joey Bouchard was a winner in Junior B. Hopefully fans and the executive will give him time and patience to put his stamp on a team that has been in the basement for the last two seasons. You won't win overnight.

...Congratulations also to the Kelowna Rockets for their win in the WHL finals. Former Smoke Eater Lucas Bloodoff nearly had the game winner in game 6 (he scored to make it 2-1) before Calgary tied things up. How cool is it to win a championship at home in overtime? It was an exciting and dramatic game that was unfortunately on TV at the same time as the Canucks' usual choke job so not enough people saw it. Congrats to Lucas, his brother Evan and Travis' brother Kyle St. Denis for their big win. Good luck to them at the Memorial Cup. I'll have an interview with Lucas tonight on Overtime.

...Sorry for the delay on the Naka interview, I'll have that up soon as well.

...I can't believe credible sports journalists and commentators are suggesting the NHL should expand into Southern Ontario so they can collect the big expansion fee. Isn't that kind of short sighted thinking part of what got the league into it's bloated current status? When you have dud franchises in Phoenix, Atlanta, Nashville, Florida and Long Island just to name a few it's not time to expand. It's time to find those teams new homes or to close up shop. More teams? How can they consider that when the house isn't in order. I believe in a team in Southern Ontario, but the league is insane if they don't achieve that by relocation when eventually some of these weak teams are going to go completely bust.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Evan Bloodoff on Overtime

(Evan Bloodoff - Photo by Wayne Moore)

I'll get the Naka and Ingram on Naka interviews up later tonight probably. Still have to do a final alumni update for the season with interviews from Rollheiser and Limbert that are overdue at this point. However, I talked to Evan Bloodoff (brother of former Smoke Eater Lucas Bloodoff) last night on Overtime. It's game 4 of the WHL finals tonight and the Bloodoffs (as well as Kyle St. Denis, brother of Travis) are one win away from their Kelowna Rockets beating Calgary for the league championship.

Here's what Evan had to say about it last night on Mountain Fm's Overtime.

Evan Bloodoff on the WHL Finals

Click here to download

As for the Royal Bank Cup, sounds like it was a hell of a game last night between Vernon and Victoria. The Grizz were up 4-2, but Vernon battled back and won in Overtime. Vipers are now 3-0 and have won 8 straight games dating back to the Fred Page Cup and Doyle Cup. It's hard to believe they're the same team that Trail handled so easily the first time they played in September. The Vipers appear to be the class of Junior A hockey, but the job isn't over yet.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Naka to Trail

(Naka from the Rockets website)

The Trail Smoke Eaters have added a promising young defenceman with a mean streak. 1992 born Brett Naka has committed to the Smokies from the Okanagan Rockets in BC Major Midget. What can we expect from Naka? Well in 37 games for the Rockets last year he scored once and had five points. I talked to him yesterday at Kootenay Chrysler Bull-A-Rama and he admits he's not going to score you many goals. Naka is a physical, defensive defenceman who told me he has a mean streak, likes to win battles in the corner, likes to block shots and is willing to drop the gloves.

Is he? Oh yeah, he did it three times at spring camp! I'm told he even took on a Smokies vet.

When I asked him about having a mean streak he smiled and laughed. From talking to people at the spring camp you could tell this kid loves to hit and loves to play physical. He's also got the size to do it. At 16 years old for the Rockets he was 6'1 and 180lbs. There's still lots of growing to do. Just talking to Jim Ingram about Naka I can tell the Smokies Coach and GM is excited about what he'll bring to the roster.

You have to like it when a player understands his strengths and doesn't try to turn himself into something he isn't. Naka knows he's not a finesse player, but he relishes what he can do well and puts everything he has into doing it. I'm looking forward to seeing him in the orange and black.

I'll have an interview with Naka as well as Matt Wilkins tomorrow on Mountain FM's Overtime. Wilkins was also a guest of the Smoke Eater at Bull-A-Rama. He seems like a good guy as well as a tremendous golfer. Coach Ingram told me that Wilkins just destroyed him at Birchbank. If you're not in our broadcast area you can stay tuned to the blog for those interviews in a couple of days.


...What a start to the WHL Championship for the Kelowna Rockets! Former Smoke Eater Lucas Bloodoff had two assists yesterday in Kelowna's 5-2 win over Calgary. Evan Bloodoff (Lucas' brother who is also from Castlegar) had a goal and a couple of helpers in the win. The Rockets now lead the series 2-0 after two road wins. Calgary hadn't lost a game in the entire playoffs before this weekend! People keep underestimating Kelowna while the Rockets just keep winning games.

...At the Royal Bank Cup the Vernon Vipers got off to a great start today with a 4-2 win over Summerside. Montrose's Connor Jones scored twice in the win. How clutch have the Jones twins been in the playoffs so far?

...You can vote for Trail's Jason Bay as the Major League Baseball clutch player of the month. Click here to vote for Bay against five other guys. The Boston Red Sox outfielder hit more clutch home runs in April than a lot of players ever hit.

...For the second straight year Claresholm, Alberta's Chad Besplug won the Kootenay Chrysler Bull-A-Rama. Congrats to Chad and to all the people who made it a great event again this year.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Brodie and Bloodoff on Overtime

Two huge junior hockey events start this weekend. Tonight in Calgary the Kelowna Rockets will take on the Hitmen in game 1 of the WHL finals while tomorrow in Victoria five teams will start to do battle for the Royal Bank Cup. A couple of former Smoke Eaters are right in the middle of both events. Lucas Bloodoff played his 16 year old season for Trail before heading to Kelowna. He, his brother Evan and Trail's Kyle St. Denis (brother of Travis) are all West Kootenay natives skating for the Rockets this season. It's going to be a tough test for Kelowna as Calgary has yet to lose a single game in the WHL playoffs. But the Rockets took down the Giants in the West so anything can happen. I talked to Lucas last night on Mountain FM's Overtime as he got set for a run at the big prize.

Lucas Bloodoff on the WHL Finals

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As for the Royal Bank Cup, there's also some local representation at the Junior A national championship in Victoria. Montrose natives Kellen and Connor Jones and former Smoke Eater Cam Brodie play for the BCHL and Doyle Cup champion Vernon Vipers. The BCHL is lucky enough to have two teams from our league at the event since Victoria is also the host. I told to Brodie about what has been a strange 20 year old season for him.

Cam Brodie on the RBC

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(Brodie as a BCHL All Star from the Vipers website)

Good luck to both Lucas and Cam as they attempt to make some junior hockey history. A couple of other former Smoke Eaters did make some history this spring. Later this weekend I'll post interviews with Grant Rollheiser and Kevin Limbert on their victorious NCAA seasons. Plus stay tuned for the latest on the Smokies off season. Don't forget to head to Kootenay Chrysler Bull-A-Rama tomorrow night. It's a great event and helps raise some funds for the hockey club too.