Thursday, October 31, 2002
The ITC Power Poll jinx never fails. Of course, the CHL's last undefeated team has only played four games, as Austin rarely skates on weekdays (never at home).
The new league website is finally here. Go play.
Ok, altogether now: BOOOOOOOOOUUUUSH! BOOOOOOOOUUUUSH!
If it's (almost) November, it must be time for roster shake-ups. El Paso has cut Tommy Bolduc and brought back Derek McKinlay. Jason Fricker heads to Fort Worth from OKC, and the Brahmas also get Matt Mullin off IR. Laredo has a new Norwegian player, Morten Ask (leaving Sandis Girvitch on the Bucks roster for all of 2 days). And to make room for Quebec league scorer Sebastien Thinel, Odessa let go of Charlie Daniels, who really ought to change his name to Chuck (bet he's never heard that one before).
The Bats fine-tuned as well, replacing Jaroslav Kresac with Mike Olynyk and Kevin Fournier with Scott McCallum. McCallum is an ECHL refugee whom Brent Hughes has been talking to since camp, while Olynyk, the last guy cut before the season, could evolve into a fan-favorite do-it-all third-liner. Kresac's plight was similar to Dominic Forget's -- to justify his presence on the second line, he had to put up numbers. For defensive play, Olynyk is a better fit. Not to mention that last Saturday in Amarillo, Shawn Legault had a two-point night in Kresac's place.
Guess everyone's feeling ornery of late. A 20-game suspension in the UHL. An all-out brawl in the British Superleague. Two ECHL coaches looking for each other in the parking lot.
Then of course, in Lubbock, a goalie fight in front of schoolchildren. That should ensure the CHL some great new fans for years to come (seriously). And give Jure Penko credit for keeping up the shutout. I seem to recall Jonathan Forest doing the same for Bryan McMullen a couple of years ago, after Mully went with Jason Renard (He lost. McMullen, I mean).
"We had a game in Amarillo where we weren't 6-0 better than them, they were just over-pumped up, made some mistakes, and we capitalized," Lubbock coach Bill McDonald told me a week ago. Maybe he was wrong.
They didn't win, but Tulsa still showed pluck tonight, getting back into a 4-1 game before Bossier tacked on a penalty shot goal. If Unger's boys can get that sixth win this weekend, it will come a full month sooner than last season...Anybody see where Kory Baker got to? I can think of several CHL teams who could make use of his services.
I can't tell you if the Blazers traded the right goalie, but in answer to this question, when a team has three of 'em, they won't often do better than futures or an unsigned player, especially when you have to factor in not just the perceived value of the player, but cap, rookie and vet restrictions, as well as overall team make-up. And don't make too much of the notion that Sauter runs a charity placement service for former Blazers. Winning coaches take advantage of their status to lure more (and better) players into camp, and stockpiling rights and futures is good business.
Also, listing Tulsa as a bad place to play, especially for a former Blazers goalie, doesn't really wash right now. Should be a good one Saturday eh? The other big divisional supremacy clash is that night at the Igloo, where the IceRays hope to usher in a new era for the Corpus-Austin rivalry. Or rather, they hope to start the rivalry -- the Bats are 33-13-1 in the all-time series. Hughes will usually admit -- after the fact -- that he's happy with four points when the Bats play three-in-three, but I think he plans to wake up undefeated Monday. Losing to Wichita is not acceptable, Saturday sets the tone for the whole season (just look at Bats-Iguanas last year), and Hughesy certainly doesn't want to see his old assistant win on Sunday (Suggested inflammatory pep-talk fodder for McRae: "I's seen it with my own two eyes: Austin hasn't had a power play since March!").
Of course, Al Sims has other plans -- especially after losing Thursday.
Hayley Wickenheiser suggests the ECHL might be too tough and claustrophobic for her, which is fair enough, given she plays the international game. But apparently, there's a chance she'll sign on with Port Huron. Hey, she can't float around anymore than Jason Firth, and she's just as dominant for her level. Still, if publicity's the goal, the CHL should have grabbed her when it had an in.
The latest salvo in the battle of 2004, courtesy of Gary Selig... On the other hand, Toronto columnist Mike Ulmer blames the South. But unfortunately, raw attendance figures aren't the issue, and comparing Calgary's fan support to Carolina's is kind of like comparing the Mets to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Better Marty Turco learns this lesson now, not in April...Good news for Dave Babych. Bad news for teams and doctors and insurance companies (like they aren't causing enough trouble already)... Is there any way to get the San Angelo city fathers elected to the El Paso County Commisioner's Court?
NHL All-Star balloting begins November 1... Think Rod Brind'Amour and Keith Primeau will have more points than Big E all season? I can only hope. That said, I really do wish nothing but the best for Boucher.
Tuesday, October 29, 2002
Did Rhett Dudley really say, "they may beat us on the scoreboard, but they won't beat us in the alley"? Where's Conn Smythe when you need him?
Tom Hicks still expects us to believe he doesn't need the cash?... And my god, if this person thinks the the Flyers are underexposed, they ought to try following the Ice Bats or the Buzzards.
Lubbock boss Bill McDonald thinks 19 year-old rookie Matic Kralj could be the Central Hockey League's first-ever NHL draft pick... It's not often a goaltender's GAA and SP are almost the same number... Ok, I think I got this figured out: shopping malls are to this hockey team as blackjack and peeler bars are to others.
Six Puck Drill
The first of what I hope will be a regular occurrence. This week, current Ice Ray and former Iguana/Channel Cat Ken Richardson
What prompted you to join the Rays
Close to home for my wife, lots of support here for her. Austin looked stacked -- maybe more ice time here.
What are you studying in school?
I'm taking a power engineering class that will certify me to work in refinery plants.
First thing you noticed or were impressed with about Al Sims.
"Simmer"'s knowledge of the game, and his drive to make a disciplined, competitive team.
Which NHLer inspired you?
I grew up an Oiler fan and loved the way the Moose played the game.
Will it be odd going up against former teammates in Odessa, Oklahoma City and Amarillo?
Only against OKC -- I hate them, but Duby is one of my best friends. As well as a rat to play against.
Favorite road trip movie?
Everyone loves Slap Shot, but I don't mind watching re-runs of The Sopranos.
Saturday, October 26, 2002
Well, first of all, congratulations to the Blazers. You guys can exhale now.
And how 'bout those Tulsa Oilers?
Here in Austin, things were crazy at the Cave. The Bats went into OT needing to kill off 80 seconds of four-on-three and, most likely, hold on for the shootout against Lubbock. Instead, Kelly Smart, the only Ice Bats forward on the ice, got a good bounce and a great jump for a shorthanded breakaway, patiently waiting out Mike Brusseau to complete a night in which he scored all of Austin's goals. Smart's hat trick in the 3-2 win also included a PP tally and an almost-PP goal (seconds after one expired). The do-everything center worked from the left point for both of those. Smart, who had 32 markers in '00-'01 but just 14 last year, now leads the Ice Bats in that category, which may not be statistically significant this early in the year, but is surely a good omen.
Blaz Emersic had two for Lubbock, which slithered up from a 2-0 hole in a choppy battle of defensive play and toughness that, like almost every game in every league these days, was decided by the special teams. Lubbock was 0-for-10, and minus-1 to boot. "Obviously our power play sucked tonight," C-Kings coach Bill McDonald said, not unpleasantly.
Both teams dodged a few officiating bullets --Mike Dawson's complaint about an early hooking call got him an extra two for unsportsmanlike, but both penalties were immediately negated by an Ian Larocque double-minor for high sticking. And with less than 10 minutes to go, Dave Ambler snookered Austin rookie Randy Ponte into an unsportsmanlike minor when he refused to drop the gloves after a face-off. Ordinarily you'd expect the older tough guy to give the naif a chance, but then again, it was a 2-2 game. "When it's the third period, you've got to make sure the other guy is ready to go too," Ice Bats coach Brent Hughes said. "I know those two were banging heads all night. Ambler had a hard time playing in this league last year, so you'd think he'd want to show what he could do, but if I was his coach, I'd take the power play."
Further comments from Bill McDonald
- His son Walker started the season in Hartford and is now with Charlotte of the East Coast league. "He's doing very well, they played tonight, in four games he's got two goals, three assists and I think a fight. Speaking selfishly, I hope he does well, but I'd sure like to have him in this line-up."
- Indeed, the coach acknowledges Lubbock could still use another 20-25 goal forward, but hey, who couldn't? "The other guys are playing well, and obviously our trademark, once 'Holly' gets back, is defense. I like what I see."
- That includes Dawson, the guy Lubbock acquired for Cosmo DuPaul. "He's a real good player, and we get a future pick in that deal too. Every time Corpus makes a roster move they've got to phone me first."
- Lubbock goes home to face the Laredo Bucks and former goalie Lance Leslie tonight. "A quality guy," McDonald said. "It was tough moving him on in the expansion draft. He'll probably go in there and try to stick it to us."
Further comments from Brent Hughes
- On Smart: "He's really well-rounded in his defensive game. When you put a forward back on D you've got to feel confident in that. I really felt he was the best player on the ice tonight, and not just 'cause he scored three goals -- he was out there winning big faceoffs, killing penalties and playing the last minutes of each period."
- On Austin's new captain, Brett Seguin. "Me and [former captain Jeff Greenlaw] decided on that together. 'Segs' carries a lot of clout in the dressing room and he's a veteran guy. He came to me afterwards and said he was honored to wear it -- I think he'll do a great job."
- The alternate captains are Smart, defenseman Mike Rees (for road games) and Dan Price (for home games). "Pricer's been around, he's seen a few things," Hughes said. "Adding the "A" will make him a better player. He's got to live up to being a leader now."
I can't help it -- every time Brent Hughes says "Segs," I'm like, "who?" He'll always be "Pig" to longtime Ice Bats fans.
Guess Friday was Kori Davison's night for minors, not scoring. It's such a fine line for nasty power forwards.
Name that team: Conquistadors, Killer Bees, Revolution, River Hawks or Southern Freeze? I hate 'em all, but if I have to, go Bees!
Zambeauties, anyone? (link courtesy the Farm Report).
Friday, October 25, 2002
Another weekend of hockey means an end to the suspense. Will El Paso win a game? (Yes). Will Laredo? (Doubt it). Will the entire Blazers roster pass Laredo's in the goals department? (Probably not, but hey, the Bucks have two in hand). I gotta believe the Bugs will keep the end-is-nigh segment of the OKC fan base thriving for another night (but just one more). All I could think as I read Thursday's Indy-Bossier boxscore, was "geez, Ken McRae must feel like he's still with Austin."
I might have nominated John Murphy as the player least likely to hook up with Todd Lalonde again, despite their lengthy history. After TL left Central Texas for Fort Worth and the Stampede had that awful gong show of a final game, Murphy was the most angry/honest player in the room. But time heals all wounds, even ones not caused by sticks or pucks. Anyway, all I really want to know is, why the divorce from Kim Deal?
Shaun Fairweather and Chris Hollens are now ex-Ice Rays...A future addition to the family is why Ken Richardson and his wife came back to Texas from Quebec. So congratulations, welcome back and just FYI, Shawn Legault wears #21 (ah, if only Legs could put up 20-30 goals)... So is it too soon to wonder how many ex-Iggies Colorado can trade for in the spring? Guess there was no way Chris Stewart could take a page from Taylor Hall, who had five members of his '96-'97 Scorps team conveniently stashed in Europe or another league so they could come to Corpus free and clear (that would be the second thing Stewart didn't take from the Rays GM, if you're keeping score).
So how many games do you think the Lightning will lose their first-round playoff series in? I'm gonna say five... Blazers fans, you should know the folks at SMG are just as loved in England. What happened at last night's Manchester Storm-Belfast Giants game sounds a lot like that Stampede finale, come to think of it... Even Tom Schettino wonders why Tim Findlay doesn't have a job.
Hockey Enforcers has an article on Laredo's Dion Hyman...Pat Burns without the mustache is just plain wrong. The fact that I can't find a picture of him without the mustache, even wronger. There's one in the latest Hockey News, along with a must-read obit of goaltender Chuck Rayner. I don't know what's cooler, that he scored (essentially) on a breakaway, in full gear, or that he was part of a platoon that rotated every several shifts.
And I can't decide how I want to follow up that thought, so choose your own kicker:
A) Who knew? I thought that only happened when the Brahmas needed to rest their forwards.
B) Right now at least one Blazers season ticketholder is stroking his chin and going, "hmmmh."
C) Isn't that how the Flyers did it in 1997? That wasn't on purpose?
Wednesday, October 23, 2002
No player in his right mind would choose to play in the Quebec Semi-Pro League rather than the CHL, Alamo says, responding to the news that "former Buzzard" Aaron Boh has landed with Mission St. Jean. He joins erstwhile Abilene Aviator Daniel Archambault and long-ago Oiler (and long-time AHLer) Sasha Lakovic. (And, sacre bleu, the hockey player also known as Luscious Larry Lava is on his way.) Granted, most of the players who do it are not superstars, and often past their prime, but in this era of shrinking leagues and stricter vet rules, it's become a legit option. I've been told some players actually make more dough up in Quebec, crazy as that may seem given the exchange rate. Check out the bottom of this thread (from a forum for the London Knights -- the British London Knights, that is, a team Boh used to play for) for further insights.
Of course, sometimes a player goes there for the money and things don't go as planned. So he comes back to Texas and changes the complexion of the Southeast race. Ain't that right, Mr. Richardson?
Anyway, it's amazing just how many WPHL/CHLers are in Quebec, even those who don't speak French. Laval's roster includes Mike Henderson, Mike DeGurse, Mathieu Raby, Mike Tobin, Mike Bajurny, Dan Kopec, Eric Morin and Steve "Roller Hockey Scandal" Vezina, as well as former NHLer Bobby Dollas. The Verdun Dragons have Pierre Gagnon, Patrick Charbonneau, Christian Lariviere, Jean Francois Bouchard and former NHLer Dennis Vial. The likes of Stephane LaRocque, Carl Boudreau, Carl Paradis, J.F. Gregoire and Charles Poulin are also in the league. No doubt I missed a few.
Gotta love that Eric Schneider. Some teams have one line of offense. Laredo has one guy. Guess that makes him the CHL's Paul Kariya. Bucks, Ducks, same diff. (Ok, ok...in truth, Laredo has been nothing but impressive, all things considered).
So on the one hand, the Amarillo paper messed up the score of Saturday's win over Wichita. On the other, at least they know his name's not 'Harry.' (credit for those links goes to TFR).
San Angelo fans won't like the latest Hockey News, in which Amarillo-based correspondent David Henry picks the Saints dead last. And that was before Laredo signed Schneider (and before Corpus got DuPaul and Richardson, for that matter)...Bats and Bucks fans, check out Shelly Kanter's pics from last weekend's game... How much do I love this affectionate but extremely bitter New York Rangers piece? The sad thing is, so much of it rings true (except for Blackburn. We'll see about Holik).
Peter Brearley's stats so far: 1 G, 0As, 0.16 BA.
Ooh, sorry, was that "Warrioresque" of me? I was thinking there's a void to fill, now that Howard's got himself a straight job with the Buzzards. As for Brearley, it goes without saying that drunk driving is both serious and thoughtless. Not informing the Scorpions just compounded the mistake.
Why isn't Hayley Wickenheiser playing in our league? Or at least down in Jacksonville for cousin Kurt. And yes, that's Jason Arnott's brother who's her agent. Y'know, if I had a nickel for every time Jason's been traded for Kovalev this season, I'd make as much as Buccigross.
Finally, you gotta feel bad for those disenfranchised Iggie fans. Some are so determined not to support the Rampage that they've begun visiting the courthouse for entertainment. "It's not as exciting as an Ice Bats game," this devotee, who asked not to be identified, told Hockeyblog.com. "But there's a better chance my side will win." (Just funnin' with ya Gar!)
Monday, October 21, 2002
My first road trip to San Angelo was inadvertent. I had just started working on Zamboni Rodeo, and the Bats had a Thursday home game, followed by a four-city, 10-day Western swing. San Angelo is only three hours from Austin, so I presumed the team would skate the Expo Center Friday, then hit the road. But during post-game interviews, I found out the bus was leaving in an hour. With no laptop and no clothing, I did not get on it. Instead I got myself a one-way rental car on Friday afternoon and made what became the first of many happy journeys.
At the time, the other nearby hockey cities -- Waco, Central Texas and Fort Worth -- meant IH-35 and traffic (when the Bats played Waco on the day before Thanksgiving, the bus left five hours before game time for what would usually be a 90 minute trip). Austin to Llano to Brady is mostly hills and green; the last hour is West Texas flatland and an unlikely four-lane highway. As I've already mentioned, a stop at Cooper's BBQ is mandatory. Before Christmas, the Brady town square sparkles after dark. And one of these days, I'm going to spend more than two minutes in Eden, a town of approximately 1500 people that is also home to nearly as many federal prisoners at the private detention center. Eden also means Venison World, which reminds me -- drivers need to be especially alert after a night game, lest you make your own venison tartare with the front end of your vehicle. I once passed more than 100 deer in two hours heading home.
So, San Angelo. Many thought this town would go the way of Abilene and Waco -- it's the smallest market in the CHL, and attendance numbers weren't good. The place absolutely rocked the first two seasons, with vocal crowds, the WPHL's first signature line and everybody's favorite back-up goalie. It would be easy to assume the novelty wore off. But in reality owner Dick Moore wore out everybody's trust and patience. On the ice, Moore and his son Skeeter "won" a power struggle with Shaun Clouston. That cost them the coach who got their franchise to the finals, and many players along with him. Behind the scenes, management found a way to tick off lots of other folks. San Angelo is not a big place. If you alienate the insurance agent who has two season tickets, or the restaurant owner who used to buy an ad, chances are you've alienated a dozen of their friends and colleagues too.
By last year, crowds (actual, not announced) often hovered at 1000. But the team was decent, and the core fans' passion never waned. They loved the game, and weren't going to punish the players for how they felt about the owner. Because of that enthusiastic support (as well as the best corner sightlines in the league) the Coliseum remained a fun place to watch hockey. On a personal note, I sold more books there than any other city besides Austin, which, on a per capita basis, is pretty darn amazing.
I'm not going to recap the Outlaws to Saints saga any further. Rick Taylor wrote a very evenhanded summary of the Moore regime over the summer. Hans Hornstein's previous version of the Death Pool includes further Standard-Times links that reconstruct what happened. And if you missed the Moores' final salvo, in which they (legally) repossessed most of the rink and (ludicrously) tried to sell it to the new team for almost a million bucks, then hijacked Ronayne's misdelivered goalie gear, go back to last week's Farm Report.
On Friday, there were definitely more people milling and longer ticket lines than I'd seen in a long time. But what I noticed most was the near-total lack of Outlaws jerseys. Either there were a lot of casual fans, which is great, or people had already put the old behind them. Some wore their Outlaws gear with tape X-ing out the logo. And lots of folks expected to see a member of the Moore family about, ready to make trouble, or claim ownership of a random chair or block of wood.
I'd be lying if I said the night lived up to my sky-high expectations. Reported attendance was just under 3000, but that's understandable. There were two football games that night (one next door), and even teams that don't have to recapture an entire fan base don't draw as well in October as they might after Thanksgiving (look at Oklahoma City's weekend numbers -- you know you've got it good when less than 10,000 feels like a disappointment). Instead of a unified, hysterical crowd, you had a mix of die-hard fans, as happy and enthused as ever, and curiousity-seekers, there for a little fun and unfamiliar with the tortured saga ("So why aren't they the Outlaws anymore?" I heard a guy in the men's room say).
Overall, I think people were just happy to see hockey and maybe a little dazed, like they weren't gonna believe things actually worked out until the first game ran its course. I'm sure the 10 men and women of the new Saints ownership felt much the same. The organization deserves a big round of applause for getting the night off without a hitch, considering they had no boards, glass or ice two weeks ago. Center ice was still unpainted, and the team wore white sweaters in the old color scheme, with just a diagonal "San Angelo" down the chest (actual Saints jerseys will show up in November). The PA announcer accidentally said "Outlaws" only once that I noticed, drawing a lighthearted mix of laughs and boos. The only thing they couldn't control was weather -- thunder and lightning caused a power outage with less than three minutes remaining in the final period, a bizarre moment that had everybody wondering if the Moores were outside with wire cutters.
As for the game, everyone was impressed with rookie Cory Pecush, who did not look out of place among the scorers. And after a solid season last year, Kori Davison looks primed to up his offense even further, while still tending to the rough stuff. He scored the first Saints goal, and set up the third with a no-quit, on-his-knees attempt that Jarett Metz cleaned up. Jamie Thompson was merely another solid player for two periods. Then, just as Shea Harris turned to me and said, "I really want to see Thompson do something special," he zipped the fourth goal past Matt Carmichael, then added on an empty-netter.
El Paso showed the same hustle that characterized the last two Buzzards squads, but were simply undermanned. Having officially begun the season with 16 players, coach Craig Coxe added defensemen Pat Glenday (waived by Austin, partly because of the Bats' rookie/veteran mix) and Jeff Potter (waived by Corpus Christi). But with more than half the game on special teams, top blueliners Jason Tessier and Rhett Dudley put in playoff-level minutes and the top two forward groups also double-shifted, with Joe Gray spotting here and there. Jeff Scharf and captain Russ Guzior looked good on the first line and Troy Linna and Derrell Upton, who formed the second line with Jeremy Vokes, are the same dedicated guys I remember from last year's Conference Finals. But I'm guessing Coxe is not done making roster changes (not that any coach is ever done with that, especially at this level). The Buzz need another scoring forward, which could allow either Linna or Upton to team with Gray and a rookie for a useful checking unit. Barring that, Coxe needs a third-liner or two that he can trust to eat up ice time.
Brahmas rookie Lee Jacobson in the Dallas Morning News: "I think what we as young players bring to the team is that we know playing hockey is the best job in the world. How can you argue with that?" Can't argue with two wins, either.
SLAM! hockey columnist Steve Simmons: "'Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?' In court, Bobby Clarke said: 'I do.' And nobody laughed." We did now!
Talk about coincidence -- earlier this month, Shaun Clouston (with the Tri-City Amerks) and Cory Clouston (with the Kootenay Ice) became the first brothers in 24 years to coach against each other in the WHL. The last two? Doug and Mike Sauter.
I kinda figure everybody's seen the naked guy already, but maybe not (thanks to Blazer_Dad for the link).
And finally, how excited is this fan gonna be about the Buzzards' new play-by-play man? (Hint: it's not me).
Guess I'll get to the Ice Bats' weekend Tuesday.
Friday, October 18, 2002
Ok, show of hands, who thought Laredo would outshoot Corpus Christi? And how 'bout Memphis-Bossier, was that Game 8 of last year's playoff round or what? All I can say about Pointstreak is, where has it been all our lives? Real-time scores are good. Real-time box scores, awesome. Full box scores with individual shots and plus/minus ratings, really cool. And calling it "fisticuffs" -- a nice scrupulous traditionalist touch.
Hard to believe Ryan Anderson is going to be on a team not called the Austin Ice Bats. Saturday at the Bat Cave, they'll be raising conference and division banners. They should also announce the retirement of #11. "Skinny" can come back for a formal ceremony later, preferably against Tulsa and his brother... Glad to see Ice fans already know what a good thing they have in Ken McRae.... Also pretty neat that the Ice have roped in erstwhile IHLer Darren Pang to help out with the goalies (and give the team a mention on TV)...The Ice Bats' former doctor and ownership group is facing a lawsuit similar to the Dave Babych case, filed by Bats (and Memphis) great Mike Jackson...Too bad for Rampage fans that Stephen Weiss isn't old enough to be an AHL guy... Hey, has Craig Johnson taken his first minor yet?
I can't decide who I would rather be less on Friday: El Paso, coming into that tiny building filled to the brim with ravenous San Angelo hockey nuts ready to embrace their team again, or the Ice Bats, putting themselves in front of god knows how many (12,000? 15,000?) at Oklahoma City's Ford Center. Guess I'd rather be the Bats -- if the Blazers get dazzled by their own atmosphere and look to give the fans a show, the game could easily turn out like the only two previous meetings between these clubs, both in OKC, both convincing Austin wins. Hopefully it will be as good as the Bugs-Kings game was, regardless of who gets the points.
And I can decide where I'd rather be. Pretty sure this will be the first time I've missed Austin's opener, but given the choice between the dawn of a new building in Oklahoma City or the dawn of a new era in the Concho Valley, I'm heading for West Texas. It's three hours closer and I get to stop at Cooper's for a pork chop. I'll have a report from "The Sanctuary" sometime Saturday (could be 3am, could be 3pm).
Finally, for those who might be interested here's Ice Bats player capsules from yesterday's print edition of the Statesman.
Thursday, October 17, 2002
While someone hit me with a last-minute Brahmas rumor earlier today, Cosmo DuPaul is now a Corpus Christi Ice Ray. His girlfriend lives in San Antonio, so that would explain why CC, Austin and perhaps San Angelo were the cities in the mix.
My major contribution for the day comes via this Faceoff season preview.
A clarification: Bats forward Jaroslav Kresac is not a rookie in the "less than 25 games" department, because of his pro career back home. But I'm thinking he should still be eligible for Rookie of the Year, a la 1998 WPHL sniper Sami Laine. Or Ichiro.
I sure as hell won't do this every day, but... Corpus over Laredo, 4-2. The Rays are looking better and better (see below). But I also think the Bucks will open a few eyes. In the other contest, home ice+revenge=a Bossier win.
Have you entered Black Flag Video's preseason picks contest yet? The deadline is the 21st, but if there's a tie, early entry wins...Hope there's a place for Roger Lewis in the ACHL, if he wants one. Anyone could use him on their team, though that doesn't mean they should. The vet rule is a demanding mistress... Good to see former Central Texas Stampede chronicler Greg Rajan co-working the beat in Corpus.
We have our first publicly identified bidder for the Dallas Stars... If you haven't already, head over to the league web site. You'll find all the individual team rosters at the right-hand margin, part of the new Pointstreak statistics package.
Have I mentioned my new children's puzzle book, Where's Cosmo? Wagging e-tongues have had the former Lubbock all-star traded to every Southeast team besides Laredo. I suspect this might be the final word, but then again, who knows. Maybe he'll end up in the Northern Conference yet.
Wednesday, October 16, 2002
Ice Bats-only content -- the final cuts were Pat Glenday, Matt Kohansky, Alex Dennis and Mike Olnyk, leaving Randy Ponte, Jaroslav Kresac and Kevin Fournier as the rookies on the team (plus goalie Peter Brady). The big x-factor with Kresac is he doesn't speak the language. But at least his brother has been through the same thing.
Make sure you head over to the new defunct teams forum. Here are my memories of Tucson: The expansion draft. That day in July when it was rumored that the team would fold. That day in August when it was still rumored. The day the league made the players free agents instead of having a dispersal draft. Hey, at least Border City played some games! And still has hockey.
Rosters are due at 5pm today. Amarillo will have Brandon Carper on theirs, a major coup. And I bet Cosmo DuPaul is still walking around with an extra cell phone battery, so he doesn't miss a single call.
Things are always changing in this league. In May, Memphis won the President's Cup, "awarded in recognition of Ray Miron, the CHL's founding father". But according to the league's official preview, "Northern Conference Champion Memphis RiverKings stopped the Southern Conference Champion Austin Ice Bats to claim the Ray Miron President’s Cup." Does it have to go back to the engraver?
If I were Larry King, I'd say that "when you look up class in the dictionary, there's a picture of Dick Moore." And I'd be lying.
Here's a little more on that ECHL forfeit. Charlotte played a guy who'd been released from the AHL but was still on South Carolina's protected list. They lose two standing points, and they can't even acquire him from the Stingrays, because the two teams share ownership. So the guy gets shipped to Trenton. Now, if the ECHL had the same rules as the CHL, Trenton could then sneak him back to Charlotte. But they don't even permit third-party trades between shared-owner teams. This sort of thing is one reason why Express Sports and Horn Chen buying into the Iguanas might not have been so great. Oklahoma City, Indy, Wichita, Memphis (since sold) and San Antonio could have all been banned from dealing for each other's players, even on waiver claims.
Ok, I challenge every fan of every team (besides the Blazers) to come up with a post this detailed.
So who's ready for no hockey in 2004? I can't decide if that would hurt or help the minors. Probably help.
Tuesday, October 15, 2002
Here's a new one -- Charlotte of the ECHL forfeited its opener after suiting up a player that they didn't have the rights to. Hope they had a translator explain that to the Japanese guy with the hat trick ... Then you've got Mr. Kristi Yamiguchi, who spent 6 minutes in the box even though no penalties were called on him. And Brendan Shanahan, who was credited with a second-period empty netter off of Adam Oates' stick. Wings coach Dave Lewis said he hadn't seen anything like that since the '70s, but Martin Brodeur did something similar two years ago-- and he's a goalie!
Hockey lives on in Bell County. And Tupelo for that matter... Unfortunately for him, Alec Stojanov will be famous forever... Former Austin/Little Rock/Tucson coach Jim Burton is doing nicely in Augusta, where he's become pals with Scotty Bowman... Can you imagine how minor league medical procedure might change if Dave Babych wins his lawsuit?
Austin's secret recruiting weapon? Texas women. Four key players are either married or engaged to locals, and would probably retire rather than skate for someone else. The funny thing is, three of the four met their mates while playing for Central Texas or Waco, not the Bats...You know things are tough when a team as big as Austin won't spring for home game radio. I understand it's money wasted, but at least scrape up a webcast... Guess I put the hex on Maser... And finally, all I can say to this is, take off, hoser!
Austin's Ian Larocque, on his potential role this year:
If they want me on the second line, to try and put up some numbers, that's what I'll try and do. If they want me on the third line, to carry the puck and grind it out, that's what I'll do. If they want me as the tenth forward, that's what I'll do. If they want me on the power play that's what I'll do. If they want me on the PK that's what I'll do. I just want to be part of winning a championship. We've got a pretty deep team, and there's no room for egos in this room.
I have always told players that when they have the puck, they are allowed to do what they want. But when the other team has the puck, they have to do what I want. That's how simple it is.
Monday, October 14, 2002
Um, the "CFL?"
Attention Texas hockey fans: please report to the first possible Stars-Flames game to boo the hell out of Jordan Leopold. (But not Blake Sloan. He's still cool.)
Every player suspension story I've seen lately seems to involve former WPHL or CHL players. On the bright side, not all of our alums get drummed out of the East Coast league, so congratulations to Josh Maser and Kory Baker.
Those in San Antonio who weren't interested in the AHL because they thought the team would feature nothing but marginal performers (never mind that a marginal NHL prospect or AHL journeyman is still better than most CHLers) ought to take an honest gander at the Rampage roster. You've got four legit (if tarnished) NHLers in Ulanov, Toms, Flaherty, and Campbell, two highly touted European defensemen in Filip Novakand Vladimir Sapozhnikov, an intriguing, still unproven talent in Pierre Dagenais and a first-round pick in Kyle Rossiter. I just hope about-to-be-announced Ice Bats/Houston Aeros signing Shawn Legault gets called up November 3 to take on Jeremy Thompson's brother in the first game at the SBC.
I was lucky enough to be in a part of the U.S. (Detroit) where they have the CBC this past weekend (if you have a dish and NHL Center Ice you saw it too). Why do I get such a kick out of hearing the HNIC announcers casually say things like, "Marty Murray, former Brandon Wheat King?"... I don't know if "Home of the Blazers" is unpatriotic. I do know it's not as natural as Dallas "STARS!," nor as clever as "Plouffe through the night."
While pondering the mystery of Tim Findlay, who got a long look in the "A" (on the last Panthers' affiliate) two years ago but just cleared waivers in the UHL, I suddenly wondered, where the hell is Jean LaForest? Then I found out... There's been a Mike Tilson sighting. By the time you read this, he could be signed... And finally, it's not every week a guy gets to buy into a second hockey team, have the local paper bring up your bad memories and get voted off the CHL island. Well done!
Friday, October 11, 2002
My first CHL report for Faceoff.com will stand as Friday's entry (what can I say, I can only write so many words a week).
Thursday, October 10, 2002
Ok, the Stars looked pretty good. Kapanen's goal was sweet, and no worries re: Turco, or the guys on the PK. Darren Pang totally jinxed Jason Arnott by talking about all that depth at center. More offense would be nice, but worry not -- finer hockey minds than I have picked Modano for the Hart, so they obviously believe Tippett's coaching and the new additions will have a big effect.
Melrose without the mullet was bad enough -- Buccigross just looks wrong without the glasses! What I can't figure out is, how can someone like both the White Stripes AND Creed? And I'm onto him about the "Landslide" thing -- when the column was first posted, all it said was "Smashing Pumpkins." Does that mean John is under 30? Anyway, those links are to his season previews; his weekly round-up is always a good read. He picks the Rangers for the Cup, but what the hell, it's more fun for me to hate them if they're good -- as long as Eric still plays soft.
Meanwhile, Al Morganti says Kings over Islanders. My standard pick sounds normal by comparison. That's right, Flyers over Stars -- based entirely on wishful thinking. I would enjoy my season tickets that much more wearing a black-and-orange sweater. And how great would it be to hear the AA Center "welcome" Hitch?
Was I dreaming, or did Gary Bettman actually say something funny at the Kings game? What's next, an ESPN commercial, like his mentor? Before the broadcast, Bettman pointed out that when Wayne got to L.A., it was the NHL's southernmost city. The next southernmost? Landover, MD. A lot has changed in 14 years, not all of it good.
Melrose said he liked the Morris-for-Drury etc. deal 'cause a good d-man is much harder to come by than a scorer. Might be something to keep in mind as the Cosmo DuPaul rumor mill keeps churning. From what I can tell, fans in two different cities are sure the guy is coming to their club. Who knows, maybe he'll end up on a third.
If Peter Arvanitis really doesn't make the Blazers, there's gotta be a vet spot for him somewhere, assuming he's willing to move on. As for TJ's comparison to the STP line -- sure, Blair Manning is almost as good an assist man as Brett Seguin, and I hear that Burton guy can score, but it might be a little early to put a BCHL/AJHL rookie up there in the league Top Ten... Paul Vincent's dad is helping out the Rampage (he works for the Panthers), but where's Junior?... Ok, maybe my theory about the CHL starting a new version of the IHL isn't so far-fetched. No less an authority than Mike Barnett will back me up.
Wednesday, October 09, 2002
My pal Shea Harris is first out the box with preseason predictions (co-written by Jon Larson), and frankly, there's nothing I can add to his expected Southeast order -- Austin, San Angelo, Corpus Christi, Laredo.
In the Southwest, after Odessa, I'll take Lubbock over New Mexico. I'm just not sure what Pat Dunn has to work with, or rather, what the chemistry will be. 'Til we find out, I gotta favor Macker. His rebuilding job is not as big, and with all those rings and finals appearances, I give the closest thing the CHL has to Scotty Bowman the benefit of the doubt. Guys play hard for him, and do so as a team. That wins games in April (if not necessarily October). Last season was an aberration.
Onto the North. Because of the CHL's unbalanced schedule, I know the Northeast teams reasonably well (particularly Fort Worth and Shreveport) and the others not at all. I'll echo Jon's Northeast order -- Memphis and Bossier are top dogs 'til proven otherwise, but Indy and Fort Worth should not be taken lightly.
The Northwest? I must be crazy to say this on a site owned and populated by so many Oklahoma City fans (Dear Chris... please don't fire me...) but when I see how loaded up the Blazers are, all I can think is, last year's New York Rangers. Or Dallas Stars.
But I really don't believe that. A more plausible scenario is an absolutely stunning season, followed by a classic playoff upset.
I'm not handicapping the rest of the division 'cause I only saw Tulsa, Wichita and Amarillo play a total of two times (collectively) last season. But all three teams made excellent new pick-ups. I'm looking forward to seeing old Wiffle favorites Todd Marcellus and Regan Harper up in Tulsa, we're all curious about Wichita's Jeff Petruic and San Antonio's loss could be Amarillo's gain.
Oh, and to make up for what I just said about Oke City: Sooners by 9.
Mike Tilson is the latest CHL all-star turned ECHL waiver fodder. So there's still a chance he'll be there at the Ford Center to defend his hardest shot title. Roanoke's coach said that Tilson didn't make the squad because on the one hand, he isn't a true prospect (at 24, he's considered old), and on the other, he wouldn't put up 80-90 points. Didn't realize he was auditioning for the job of first-line winger.
It seems the Buzzards refused to trade Mike Rees to Austin, as ownership didn't want to help out the closest rival of that other team they own. Instead, they got Mike Sanderson from Odessa. How's that working out?
Don't want to get suspended, even when you take off for another league? Try not cross-checking people in meaningless late-season games...This probably goes without saying, but no matter how much time-wasting I do on the Internet myself, I always find something I missed thanks to The Farm Report. Make sure you visit every day... Separated at birth: Gord Dineen and Lyle Lovett.... Mike Minard is indeed in Memphis... Just think -- a few more days, and we'll never hear about the Dick Moore Crime Family (and by that I mean crimes against hockey, not the law) again...Poor Theo.
Tuesday, October 08, 2002
What I'm trying to figure out is, can you work the current Ice Bats logo into green and gold ? Austin's move to the American Hockey League in 2004 seems inevitable, but a lot still has to happen, from a successful Cedar Park referendum to an arrangement with the CHL, which has an enforceable franchise agreement with the Bats regardless of who owns 'em. No doubt this story ends with a marquee NHL team getting what it wants, but there should be various negotiations, fantasy scenarios or even potential lawsuits all along the way. There's one tidbit in today's Statesman article which suggests a wild possibility -- no sooner does the ECHL/WCHL merger reduce the CHL to a mostly unaffiliated "A" league than it flips its bigger markets (Austin, OKC, ABQ, IND, Bossier, expansion into KC, who knows where else) into a brand new "AAA" loop. Ridiculous, of course. But it would solve the eternal riddle of the Oklahoma lease. And the Coyotes have been sniffin' round New Mexico (though they could also replace the Stars in SLC).
What's amazing is how teeny-tiny Cedar Park is. Just over 30,000 people -- twice as many as there were five years ago. The Ice Bats' core fan base (2000 people, let's say) could pass or kill this bond issue by themselves, except they don't all live in Cedar Park. If you're interested in a little light reading, check out the memorandum between the city and the Dallas Stars. Although it's not a final, binding contract, it's a great deal for the Stars (in terms of revenue-splitting -- there ain't none!) and leaves little doubt what kind of team is gonna play there:
[The Stars] shall deliver an AHL hockey team, which shall practice, office, and play all regular season and play-off home games at the Facility until the earlier of (i) the end of the Primary Facility Lease or (ii) such time as the City’s general obligation debt, contract revenue debt, and other debt related to the Project have been paid in full. Such hockey team shall be the direct, primary, and formal AHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars. With respect to the AHL hockey team, DSLP shall provide such security provisions as may be acceptable to the City. In any event, such security provisions shall be in form and substance similar to those set forth in the Star Franchise Agreement dated July 28, 1998, between the City of Dallas and DSLP. The AHL hockey team shall commence play in the Facility at the outset of the 2004/2005 regular season. In the event that the above-referenced AHL hockey team does not commence play, interrupts play, or ceases play during any regular season or any post-season during the term of the Primary Facility Lease, DSLP shall pay a substantial monetary penalty(ies) to the City. Such monetary penalty(ies) shall be set forth in the Final Documentation. However, in no event will DSLP be penalized in the event of a league-wide labor dispute.
Ho-hum, the Colorado Eagles. I guess Larimer County's CHL team deserves credit for not upping the the Bush League Factor, but let's face it, we've grown accustomed to a bit more whimsy. Personally, I'm still peeved my San Angelo suggestion, Puckaroos, didn't make the cut -- even though I stole it from Amarillo's naming contest scrap heap. So I'm getting into the Hidalgo sweepstakes early. My nominations: Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros, or Rio Frio.
NHL to IHL to ECHL to CHL is a career trajectory everyone's familiar with, but isn't it usually for players? Al Sims is a great coaching hire who may well put the pride back in the Igloo. That's as bold as I'm gonna get for now, seeing as how I thought the Rays would make the playoffs last year (what can I say, I thought Dale could teach them defense). To quote the former governor of Texas, fool me once blah blah blah... can't get fooled again.
The long-awaited new edition of Tom Schettino's "Ice Pages" is out, with Memphis on the cover... So if Austin player/assistant Jeff Greenlaw hasn't (as of Monday night) signed a player contract, does that mean he takes the ice Tuesday with a jumpsuit and a whistle, or a practice sweater?... The NHL has finally caught up with the minors and jumped into the game-worn sweater business, big-time. Y'know, a couple of years ago, Ryan Anderson's Bats jersey fetched more than Patrick Roy's did at an Avs auction... One guy who's not on Lubbock's roster, or in any other league, is Cosmo DuPaul. If you happen to see Bill McDonald talking on his cell phone, ask him which opposing coach is on the line... And speaking of former C-King all-stars, guess Brandon Carper is looking for a gig.
Monday, October 07, 2002
Those are the numbers that jump out at ya when you look at Fort Worth's roster, and they aren't point totals. Todd Lalonde isn't merely paying lip service to the notion of development -- he has 11 players in training camp who were born in 1979 or later. That could be fun to watch, and the team does have two solid vets in Joe Van Volsen and Chad Michalchuk as well as super-sniper Kyle Reeves. Still, it's risky. Memphis, Bossier-Shreveport and Oklahoma City are sure to be their usual winning selves. Tulsa is ready to improve, Amarillo stocked up big with new arrivals and Indy's gotta be a factor under former Bats assistant Ken McRae. Can a line-up of young whippersnappers give the Brahmas games in April?
By the way, congratulations to Fort Worth mouthpiece Jeff Bowerman, who is third in the CHL scoring race with no games played, just behind "teammate" Van Volsen. (Point Streak, the league's new statistical provider, has been testing out their system).
Think hockey in Texas was unlikely? Check out hockey in Great Britain... On a related note, here's a picture of the Queen...It's never funny when an NHL player gets arrested for drunk driving, but I gotta admit, my first reaction was, Denis Arkhipov is Nashville's leading scorer? Who the heck is he? Alas, if you played for the Predators last year, 20 goals was good enough.... Hey, is Tulsa's Pat Hallett related to this guy? Just wondering.
Sunday, October 06, 2002
Then again, the Leafs are paying him $200,000, plus a $100,000 bonus over the next two seasons. Most players on the "AA"/"AAA" borderline would accept an assignment to the Memphis Xplorers for that kind of dough. And it only takes one injury or Toronto call-up to put him in St. John's again.
In any case, you gotta be impressed with Doug Shedden's Toronto hook-up (the Memphis coach finished his playing career with the organization). So many affiliated players are either long-term projects or emergency call-up fodder. Shedden's guys had an impact for St. John's last playoffs (while his own team won the Prez's Cup shorthanded). And Rookie of the Year Sebastien Centomo was obviously too good for the CHL right from the get-go. If he reports, Minard could be as well. He certainly provides one hell of a salary cap loophole!
Around the Underground
Regular readers of the El Paso forum know the argument has raged all summer -- are the Buzzards good or evil, I mean, good or bad?
It's still too early to know, of course. But it's not too early for fans of the non-Stepford variety to be impatient. You don't have to be a biased Buzzards-basher (i.e. close personal friend of former coach Trent Eigner) to agree with this pessimistic take on the Buzzards' fortunes. No doubt the roster will fill out over the next week, and change further as the ECHL makes all its cuts (hey, Troy Linna is available). Also, good goaltending goes a long way. But right now it's impossible to imagine El Paso beating four of Austin, Odessa, Lubbock, San Angelo, New Mexico and Corpus for a playoff spot.
Now, the more optimistic fans may say, "hey, screw you buddy, no one said the Buzzards had a chance against Odessa last year! And they gave the Bats a scare to boot!" But that was then, and that was under Eigner, with a different set of players. Don't get me wrong -- with that felony drug charge hanging over him, Eigner had to go (though the situation wasn't handled with much grace). But anyone who thinks the Buzz are better off without him purely for hockey reasons should realize anything less than an appearance in the finals means this year's team didn't live up to his standard. Time will tell.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall for this exchange between Daymond Langkow and Joe Burton... Speaking of Smokin Joe's NHL soujourn, while I stand apart from many CHL-Underground users in that I actually enjoy and understand The Warrior, I gotta wonder, if the Hockey Hall of Fame told him he could have a vote, would he turn it down, because he "hadn't earned it?"... Attention Ice Bats fans: the first thing you see on Memphis' web site is Kelly Smart. And then a bunch of painful memories.