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.

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