Monday, June 29, 2009

Barclay Traded

(Barclay and Dyck)

In a move that became almost obvious after Trail acquired Devon Murtagh from Westside, the Smokies have dealt goaltender Paul Barclay to Surrey for forward Darnell Dyck. Both Barclay and Murtagh will take up 20 year old spots next season while Dyck is a 1991 born forward. While Dyck only had 11 points in 53 games as a rookie, he showed his scoring touch with 41 points in 40 games for Fraser Valley in Major Midget as a 16 year old. He's also listed at 6'2 and 180lbs. Good luck to Barclay who gets to return close to home. I'll have more on this deal later as I'm pressed for time.

Warriors Announce Trade with Smokies

The Westside Warriors have announced that they've traded goaltender Devon Murtagh to Trail for future considerations:
The Westside Warriors continue to make off season moves, trading 20 year goaltender Devon Murtagh to the Trail Smoke Eaters for future considerations. Murtagh, a Kelowna resident, played in 13 games, recording 8 wins, 2.80 goals against and save percentage of 0.894.

"Devon is a great teammate, works very hard and as a 20 year deserves a chance to play. With Kevin Jebson retuning we felt it was important to trade Devon before the start of the season. The entire organization thanks Devon for his contribution and commitment and wish him the very best in Trail,” stated GM Gary Gelinas.
That again is from Westside's website. There's no official word from the Smoke Eaters on this deal. I expect to talk to Jim Ingram about it later this afternoon. Murtagh is another former Nelson Leafs goaltender along with new recruit Garrett Beckwith and former Smokie Grant Rollheiser. Obviously the Smokies have a lot of confidence in the way they develop goalies in Nelson!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Merritt Sale Application Being Considered

Just finished a long and informative interview with BCHL Commissioner John Grisdale. I still had ten questions I could have asked but it was already over half an hour. I'll be airing a portion of it tonight on Mountain FM's Overtime where we'll discuss the USHL raid of BCHL rosters this summer. However, at the end of our interview he mentioned the league is currently considering an application to buy the Merritt Centennials. Grisdale told me the sale would move the Cents from being a society into private ownership.

On May 12th Brian over at the Making Cents blog posted about how Brent Stark may be looking to buy the Merritt franchise. Stark owns the Whitecourt Wolverines Junior B team in Alberta. That's the team new Merritt Coach Joey Bouchard worked for before coming to the Cents. While Grisdale didn't say that Stark was the one making the application to buy the Cents it seems pretty obvious.

It sounds like great news for Merritt. It appears Stark and company are ready and willing to invest in making the franchise work there. Grisdale says this is the best condition he's seen the Merritt franchise in since he started working for the BCHL. However, this is also probably their last chance. If they can't make it work in Merritt with private ownership now in place then their new ownership likely wouldn't hesitate to move. Moving from a society to private ownership makes some things easier but it also means the commitment to the community basically depends on one man.

I'll keep my eyes on this one and I'm sure Brian will have all the news as it happens. I'm hoping this is a good development. Just think it was only a few months ago we thought the Cents were done in Merritt. They've come a long way from rumours the team would be headed for Kamloops or worse. Stark, Bouchard and company sure seem to be giving Merritt a second life.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Schedule Released, Raley Gone

The BCHL schedule is available here. As I said before it is going to be a busy fall for the Smokies bus driver. 2/3 of the road schedule will be done before we hit December. That's not as balanced as anyone would like, but I can see the positives.

Since the Smokies do have to deal with more travel than most teams it'll be good to get it over with early. With fresh legs and new enthusiasm perhaps the road grind won't be as tough as it might have been in January or February after months of hockey. It will also mean they are more likely to battle injury troubles at the start of the season as opposed to the end. The road trips in December/January/February in the past two seasons seemed to contribute to having an injury riddled squad come playoff time and two extended losing streaks. Maybe by being at home more often in that period they can be healthier when it really matters.

As for the financial aspect, isn't it better to have more hockey games at home during the winter months than during the summer? That's something Trail Times Sports Editor Guy Bertrand brought up to me on Overtime last week. Early in the season it's still warm outside and tougher to get people into a hockey rink. More games the later months of the season could make it easier to attract fans and build momentum. That is if the team is able to survive the early road schedule with a reasonable record!

What do you think?

The regular season starts where it ended last season... in Merritt. I'm glad to see some new enthusiasm and passion among Cents fans. The last time we were there I thought it might be for the last time. What better way for them to start fresh than against the team some thought might be their last opponent? The first home game will be against Montrose's Jones twins and the defending RBC Cup champion Vernon Vipers.

I can't wait.


As you may have heard elsewhere at the VDHF blog or the BCHL message board, Patrick Raley is also leaving the Trail Smoke Eaters for the USHL. Raley informed me of his decision on Friday and I have to admit I kind of held off discussing it for a few days because Danny DeKeyser's defection was still fresh. Raley is a terrific young man who is from Chicago and will be playing for his home team in the USHL. He informed me that he's very thankful for the opportunities he was given in Trail and the terrific treatment he got from Coach Jim Ingram to his billets and the fans. It's just hard for a Chicago boy to say no to a chance to play at home in a league that scouts consider as good or better than the BCHL.

You can check out the Chicago roster here.

Raley came to Trail from Vernon for future considerations at the 2008 trade deadline. He was good for the Smokies down the stretch, but he made a much bigger contribution last season. Raley came into camp in much better shape. He was stronger, faster and much improved by the time the 2008-09 season came to a close. I would say both Raley and DeKeyser can point to their time in Trail as significant steps in their hockey careers. They worked hard to improve while here and obviously the coaching staff played a big part in that as well.

With word that Sahir Gill may leave the Vipers for Chicago and a number of other players could be defecting from the BCHL to the USHL... this is turning into a significant issue for our league. I'm planning to have a chat with Commissioner John Grisdale today or tomorrow to see where the BCHL stands on what has been happening this off season. Given the fact that USHL players are still NCAA eligible and they are much closer to NCAA schools they are a significant threat to the BCHL's talent pool. Especially if they decide to expand the number of imports on their rosters.

I certainly wish DeKeyser and Raley all the best. This just may force the Smokies to look into making a move or two for veterans before the season or early in the fall. It'll also put some more work on the shoulders of returning defencemen Graeme Strukoff and Steve Koshey. Thank goodness there are quite a few quality young defenceman coming to camp. We'll have more details on those guys in the coming weeks and months. There's still lots of reason for optimism.

Kootenay Major Midget Ice Survive

A news release from the Major Midget Kootenay Ice announced today that the team will continue on for the 2009-10 season. Even in their own press release the Ice admitted the upcoming season was in doubt. It's tough to make this program work in a sparsely populated and geographically large region. We're not talking about a bunch of Vancouver kids driving to practice with their parents. Since the ice are based in the West Kootenay any players from the East Kootenay end up having to billet for the season. We also have a lot of popular KIJHL teams and lower tier midget teams for them to compete for players with. The deck is stacked against having a winning team.

That being said, the main reason to continue on with the program is so our region's players can develop against the top talent in the province. We've seen some terrific players come out of the Major Midget program over its' brief existence. The 06-07 team included current Smokies Justin Brown and Steve Koshey, Williams Lake forward Anthony DeLong, Logan Proulx of the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings and several players who have played at least in the KIJHL. The 07-08 team included current Smokies Travis St. Denis and Sam Mellor, new Vee Isaac MacLeod, DeLong again and several players who moved on to the KIJHL. For a team with so few wins that's a pretty decent success rate. Former Ice Head Coach Jake Postnikoff deserves a lot of credit for working hard with what he had and helping those players along.

Now the Ice are turning their team over to Nelson's Brent Petrick. He has several years of Rep level coaching experience and took the West Kootenay Female Midget AAA team to a Provincial Championship in 2007.

Good luck to Brent. I hope he can continue to produce some great talent for the future of our local teams. Anyone interested in their camp can register by getting the form off the Major Midget website.

Monday, June 22, 2009

2008-09 Smokies Alumni Update (Rollheiser and Limbert Audio)

(Rollheiser with BU)

It was quite a season for Smoke Eaters alumni throughout the hockey world. Brett Skinner made his NHL debut with the New York Islanders, Wade Dubielewicz and Steve McCarthy tried out the new KHL, Jess Newman was in some early Hobey Baker award discussions, Scott Jago, Miles Houston and Brock Monroe won the KIJHL championship with Nelson, Cam Brodie won the Royal Bank Cup with Vernon, Lucas Bloodoff won the WHL championship with Kelowna and Grant Rollheiser won the NCAA championship with BU. That's just the tip of the iceberg.After Rollheiser and company won the NCAA's top prize I had the chance to chat with him on Mountain FM's Overtime.

Grant Rollheiser on BU's Championship

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Meanwhile, former Smokies Captain and Fruitvale native Kevin Limbert played a big part in Yale's most successful season in years. I chatted with Kevin on Overtime about his first season away from home.

Kevin Limbert on his first NCAA season at Yale

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Kevin and Grant are just two of the success stories this organization has produced. Hopefully all those who leave the Smokies organization this year will find what they're looking for from their post BCHL life. I'll do my best to keep tabs on them next season as well. Here's a final look at the Smokies alumni for the 08-09 season:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mellor to Trail

Smokies Coach and General Manager Jim Ingram announced the addition of 1992 born forward Sam Mellor to next season's roster. Here's Ingram discussing Mellor on Mountain FM's Overtime:

Jim Ingram on Mellor

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Mellor is a nice catch for the Smokies as his play last season and at a U17 impressed Alaska-Anchorage enough that they committed to him for the 2011-2012 season. He scored 40 points in 51 games as a 16 year old rookie in the KIJHL. Howver, as Ingram said he put up a lot of those points later in the year. Mellor scored 19 points in his final 20 regular season games and had 8 points in 10 playoff games. Ingram was especially impressed with the way the young player handled himself when the games got tougher come playoff time.

Mellor didn't just put up points on a bunch of assists. 19 of his 40 points were goals. He also put up points as a member of the Major Midget Kootenay Ice in his 15 year old season. Mellor was the team's second leading scorer with 28 points in 38 games on a team that struggled badly. He has a nose for the net and Ingram says he's also a determined two-way player who loves to battle for pucks.

Mellor joins fellow Kimberley Dynamiter Matt Wilkins in making the jump to the Smokies. Trail also added Kimberley native Scott Jacklin at last season's trade deadline. It seems like the Smokies are trying the make an obvious connected to talented East Kootenay players. Why not build a base there as Trail is easily the closest BCHL franchise to that region. Mellor went to some other spring camps but told me the additions of Wilkins and Jacklin made him more comfortable in chosing Trail because he knows those guys and knows they're talented players.

Mellor will join me tonight for his first interview as a Smoke Eater on Mountain FM's Overtime. Tune in between 6pm and 10pm at 104.1 FM in Trail.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Legassic Interview, Ingram on DeKeyser


I had the chance to chat with former Smokies forward CJ Legassic about his decision to leave Trail so he can start school. Legassic wanted to make sure the fans understood that he loved his time with the Smoke Eaters but simply could not risk missing out on the opportunity to follow his career ambitions. CJ's a class act and we'll miss him next year on the ice and off.

CJ Legassic on leaving Trail

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I also had the chance to talk to Smokies Coach and GM Jim Ingram on losing Danny DeKeyser to Sioux City of the USHL. Ingram was full of praise for DeKeyser's character and work ethic, but it's obvious how disappointed he was with the decision.

Ingram on DeKeyser

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You can't blame Ingram for being choked that he's losing last year's Smokies defenceman of the year award winner for absolutely nothing. This isn't the first time or the last the USHL will poach top talent from the BCHL. Last season Ryan Hill decided to stay home and play there. Two seasons ago the Smokies lost a top defenceman who had come over from Merritt. The USHL is obviously an attractive destination for Junior A players as there's more money in the league and they play closer to the NCAA schools.

I've heard some comments from fans who hope this will mean that BCHL teams stay away from American kids. If Carsen Chubak leaves Powell River for the USHL does that mean BCHL teams should stay away from prairie kids too?

It does seem like this is happening more this year than in previous season, but what can the BCHL do about it? There is a serious risk that if this pattern continues to grow people could try and label the BCHL and other Canadian Junior A leagues as developmental leagues for the USHL. Just wait for the best young talent to emerge and pluck them away after Canadian teams take them through the growing pains. Does the league have an answer for it? Is there anything they can do?

Nothing that happens in the future can help Trail. For now they'll have to hope that Ingram can land another top end defenceman in a deal, that the returning core (Koshey/Strukoff/Raley) can pick up the slack and that the new recruits are ready for prime time.


...I was sitting up late one night in April unable to sleep and thinking about the changes the BCHL should make to their schedule. I felt they should move to a playoff system with seven teams making it from each conference (the top team gets a bye) and a best of seven in each round. In the regular season I felt they had to go back to visiting and hosting every team at least once. I also thought the northern teams should play each other ten times and the rest of the Interior four times. Great minds think alike! The BCHL governors came up with the same solution I was thinking of so obviously I approve of their decision. If only I could take credit for it! I should've blogged about it then I could claim that they stole the idea from me. Instead I think the playoff format is actually similar to what they do in the AJHL.

...All the junior leagues are following the NHL's lead when it comes to the first face off of a power play being moved to the defending team's zone. It makes sense to follow the NHL's lead when you're a developmental league. Of course that makes me wonder why the BCHL doesn't use a shoot out and why the KIJHL has now followed the BCHL's lead. 4 on 4 and 3 on 3 is great. Why not just follow that with the shoot out? If the NHL and other junior leagues are doing it the BCHL should be.

...How good was game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals? Glad to see a different result this year. I was cheering for the Wings last spring because Rossland's Dallas Drake was on the team and looking for his first cup. This time around I wanted to see someone else get to lift the history mug. It couldn't have been more dramatic. I will always dream about getting to call a game like that someday.

...I had even more fun today with game 5 of the NBA finals. As an unapologetic Lakers fan I've got a pretty damn big smile on my face tonight.

...Tune in tomorrow night on Mountain FM's Overtime (104.1 in Trail) to hear the latest player announcement from the Smokies. This 1992 born forward has something in common with the first forward we told you about this off season. Tune in to Mountain FM from 6pm to 10pm tomorrow for that news, local baseball results, rugby results and all the reaction from the NHL and NBA finals.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

DeKeyser and Legassic Leave Trail

(DeKeyser in a Plymouth Whalers jersey during an OHL try out)

The Trail Smoke Eaters got some bad news today. Last year's winner of the Smokies top defenceman award, Danny DeKeyser is leaving Trail to join Sioux City of the USHL. They picked DeKeyser in the 12th round of their draft. He decided to go to their camp to check things out, and after camp made the call to play there next season.

This is obviously a huge blow to the Smokies as DeKeyser was expected to be one of their top players for the 2009-10 season. We all know Danny is a good enough player to earn an NCAA scholarship no matter where he plays, so I would suspect this will be his last year of junior hockey regardless. I will have Smokies Coach and GM Jim Ingram on Overtime tonight to discuss Danny's decision and what that means to Trail. Tune in to Mountain FM between 6pm and 10pm tonight. That's 104.1 FM in Trail.

Needless to say I'll be cheering for the Penguins on Friday!

DeKeyser's departure isn't the only bad news the Smokies got today. Forward CJ Legassic has decided to start school in the fall and is (from what I understand) giving up his BCHL career. It's unfortunate that we won't get to see CJ continue to evolve into a real go to guy with the Smokies. We only really got a hint of what CJ could due because his season was derailed by injuries. I know if he had come back Legassic would've been one of the most annoying guys to play against in the league. He also had the potential to put up some serious points. From my perspective the bus is losing two fun, character guys.

Sometimes we have to remember that these young men are trying to do what's best for their future. As a fan or broadcaster we're focused on the team, but guys like CJ and Danny obviously are thinking about what these decisions mean their personal lives, their future and their education. Agree or disagree we certainly can't put ourselves in their shoes, so I defer to them and hope things turn out exactly as they hope they will.

Again we'll have more about this with Jim Ingram on Overtime tonight and I'll have more to say on the USHL subject in the future. For now I just want to say thanks to Danny and CJ for what they contributed to the team and to my show/broadcasts last year. They're both classy young men and deserve all the success in the world. I know we'll all miss them.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Rebels Dominate Timberwolves Roster


The Williams Lake Timberwolves recently announced their initial roster of commitments for their return to the BCHL in 2009-10. The first thing that stands out to me on that list is the strong representation for the KIJHL's Castlegar Rebels. Four players from the Rebels will be part of the new Williams Lake team and three of them are actually from Castlegar. Locals Anthony DeLong, Darren Tarasoff and Keagan Little will join Kelowna native Erik Wentzel as former Rebels making the leap to the BCHL for next season.

What's the connection? Apparently former Rebels assistant coach and assistant GM Jesse Dorrans has connections with the organization and got someone to come down and watch the team. That turned into invites to spring camp and now roster spots for a big part of the KIJHL team's core. They had a strong season as a group that included their first recent playoff series win over Beaver Valley. The success earned Coach and GM Brent Heaven a contract extension, but he's sure going to have a lot of work to do now that most of his top players are gone due to age limits or BCHL commitments.

I talked to DeLong about his move up north recently on Mountain FM's Overtime...

Anthony De Long on Mountain FM's Overtime

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While DeLong seems to be the prize of the group due to his performance as a KIJHL rookie, age and potential; Keagan Little might end up being the biggest contributor next season. Smokies fans might be familiar with Little because he was an AP for Trail in the 2007-08 season. I'm not sure any of us want to remember how decimated by injury that Trail team was, but Little played hard and didn't look out of place. Even when he suited up in the playoffs. Little might have made the leap to the BCHL much sooner if not for what has been a harsh battle with injuries. There was a time when he thought his junior hockey career might be over. Now Little is getting a rare chance to start his Junior A career as a 20 year old. He does it a year after being one of the top scorers in the KIJHL and his team's offensive catalyst.

Would all of the players on that initial roster get a chance to play in the BCHL if Williams Lake wasn't starting from scratch? That's hard to say. I know there has been some pretty harsh criticism of the roster in some circles, but sometimes the players who have been counted out will surprise you. Nobody is expecting much from them and that might play right into their hands. I'm certainly hoping to see big things from the former Rebels who now get a chance to ply their trade in the best Junior A league in Canada.

They certainly won't be the only local KIJHL players who get a shot at the BCHL next season. For example, former Smokes AP and Nelson Leaf Dylan Walchuk will be skating for Vernon next year. He and Garrett Beckwith (who will play for Trail) won't be the only former Leafs in the Interior Conference. Just wait and see! There will also be some representation from Grand Forks and Beaver Valley. It's only a matter of time before we find out where they're all headed.


...Congratulations to former Westside Coach Mark Howell on his new job as the Head Coach for the University of Calgary. Howell's Warriors knocked Trail out of the first round in three games this past season so I know Smokies fans aren't sorry to see him go! He was always very easy for me to deal with and professional so I wish him the best of luck in his new position. It'll be interesting to see what happens with the Warriors now that they are turning over so much of their roster (including key players Schultz, Pritz, Gehon, Gagne...) and now they have to find a new bench boss. It could put Westside behind the 8-ball.

...Check out Ron Gallo's Spruce Kings blog for more information on the BCHL league meetings. Ron has interviews up that recap each day of the important weekend. Of course they can only reveal so much at this point. The key information? As we've heard for some time now we will be going back to a full interlock schedule. We'll see every BCHL team in Trail and visit them all as well. That's great news for fans, but will probably add to the harsh travel costs a team like the Smokies endures. I think it's the right move. It also appears the BCHL will adopt the new NHL rule for power play face offs. Every man advantage will start in the penalized team's zone no matter where the puck is touched. I like the rule and I generally think the league should do what it can to emulate the way the game is played at the highest level. Of course that doesn't mean they should follow the NHL on everything, but I would like to see the shoot out. It seems strange that our players won't be using a skill that they'll require in basically every other league.

...Mountain FM's Overtime is back with brand new shows this week after I had a short holiday. I'm hoping to get in touch with the Smokies for their take in the league meeting and anything else that might be on the horizon. Stay tuned to Mountain FM for all the latest Smokies news. As soon as anything happens with the Smokies we've got in for you in our sportscasts and on Overtime. We're your home of the Smoke Eaters even in the off season.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Lidster Interviews

(Lidster with Salmon Arm - Photo Randy Emery)

I'm on holidays this week so it took me a little longer to get the interviews up. Here's Lidster discussing the trade and his career. I also talked to Jim Ingram about the motivation behind the deal. He also talked about losing Jayson Reardon and Jeff Zmurchyk in separate deals.

Colin Lidster on Mountain FM's Overtime

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Jim Ingram on the Lidster for Reardon deal

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...After I recently mentioned that Quesnel might want to hurray up and hire a coach they almost immediately announced the hiring of their new bench boss. I take full credit for the announcement. Seriously though, Glen Watson sounds like a very experienced and accomplished Coach and General Manager at the Junior A level. Good luck to him in Quesnel.

...I know a few of the Smoke Eaters are having a fun time talking trash about the Stanley Cup finals. Off the top of my head I know that Steve Koshey and Danny DeKeyser are both big Red Wings fans while Travis St. Denis is a Penguins backer. Stats and photo guru Randy Emery is also one of the biggest Pittsburgh fans I know. So far it looks like Steve and Danny have the bragging rights. Don't forget though that the Penguins were down 2-0 in their series against Washington too. I've never seen a team get fewer bounces than Pittsburgh has so far in the series. The Wings are hard enough to beat when luck is on your side!

...Since I'm on holidays this week we're airing a "best of" Overtime every night. Wednesday is a Smokies 08-09 year in review show. Tune in from 6pm to 10pm on Mountain FM.