Saturday, November 23, 2002
My fun prediction for the day -- Buzzards over Jacks.
Hey, look, at least one Tulsa fan is already taking the team's success for granted. Yup, given that the Jacks didn't have a very good team last year, and aren't known for good goaltending and defense, it must have been pure luck.
It's the Good, the Bad and the Ugly for San Angelo right now. Good is the team's community outreach, taking a page from both Michael Vick and the Wichita Thunder to have players calling season ticketholders. Bad? Well eight losses in a row speaks for itself. It's kind of sweet, in a deluded sort of way, that this fan is all worked up over Brent Hughes' week-old comments -- as if he said anything about the Saints that night Brent Scott didn't say in his own locker room, 10 times worse. As for the ugly, hey, why print rumors when you can link to 'em? It will be interesting to learn what truth the game tape holds on that one.
Former Ice Bat Bobby Brown is on his annual call-up. And poor Brett Draney -- one minute you're getting cross-checked by an NHL superstar, the next you're back in AA... In other transaction news, Matt Smith is no longer a Buck, as he's been traded by the AHL Rampage to Wilkes-Barre Scranton (and assigned to Wheeling of the ECHL)... What do Mike Hampton and Manute Bol have in common? (Nothing, actually).
Thanks to the Central Texas Blackhawks for having me the other night. The hockey was scrambly but fun, and it was kind of a nostalgic bummer, making that familiar road trip without a Bats-Stampede game at the end. Great to see familiar faces, particularly old pals of every hockey fan's spiritual leader (for always). Hockey South boss Jay Johnson tells me he's still looking at markets like Abilene and Lake Charles, and they've sold more than 1000 season tickets in Wichita Falls, where play begins shortly (pioneering member Tupelo, however, still hasn't won a game).
They call it the "dreaded vote of confidence" when it's about a coach's future, but in this case, the cliche just might apply to Corpus Christi ownership. Stay tuned.
Thursday, November 21, 2002
What are you doing here? The real action is at Nekkid Amazon Hockey, where rumors of major change in Corpus Christi are not without foundation. There's also a thread there with some info on the long-running lawsuit.
I will say this -- despite the rep, including talk of unpaid employees in Corpus now and unpaid Buzzards bills last year, I personally had no problem collecting money owed to me by those two teams. Bill Davidson's brother was especially accomodating in El Paso, and the Rays cut me a check without much trouble. Guess they're smart enough to know you don't want to owe money to a journalist, unlike, oh, say, former Ice Bats merchandiser Marketing Xtreme. Personal to Mike Jones: I'll be at the Bell County Expo Center tonight. Bring cash.
Oops, sorry... can't help ranting. But as long as we're on the subject, yes, the Zamboni Rodeo book tour is finally rolling into Belton. I can only hope Peter Zurba, Jacques Mailhot and the Warrior (whatever happened to him, anyway?) will be there as the Central Texas Blackhawks take on the Phoenix Polar Bears. Looking forward to checking out the junior action.
Continuing with the self-promotion... those of you who you haven't bought a signed, personalized copy of my book, or have been meaning to buy it as a gift, there's no time like the present! I've cut the price to $19.95 for Christmas. Remember, Zamboni Rodeo is only available in Canada and directly from me (by mail, at the Bat Cave or on the road). If you've seen the listing on Amazon ignore it -- that edition will never be released, as the original U.S. publisher... well, let's just say they were the Corpus Christi Ice Rays of the book world.
How much do I have to pay the ECHL to change its name to the "ZRHL"? I got ten bucks. Or how 'bout this -- Global Entertainment could buy the naming rights!... Bossier-Shreveport's Willie Hubloo's gotta be an early candidate for the Rick Kozuback Award...There aren't many CHL players who get to break a record that's stood since 1929... My usual credit to The Farm Report for some of those.
- Brent Scott, October 17: “A mistake I felt (former coach) Eddie (Johnstone) made was he built around (Paul) Vincent and (Robin) Bouchard. We have 18 guys, we have depth. Our third line can be our first line on any night."
- Brent Scott, November 20: “In any business, if you take out your four best personnel, you’ll see what happens. It’s hard on everyone else.”
Congratulations to Chris Due and Billy Welker on new additions to their family. Chris, hope the kid doesn't grow up a Tech fan. Billy, make sure yours doesn't learn too many words from "Uncle Gunner."
Yup, apparently it was a bad goal. Who says Wichita can't get a break? This is not, however, evidence of the league's ongoing anti-Bugs conspiracy. Everybody knows that was only against Plaman.
With so much focus on Tulsa and Austin it's worth mentioning that Odessa, Memphis and Bossier all seem to be just fine. New Mexico too. The standings really knock home a timeless hockey truth: if you're a bad team on the road, you're a bad team... See, unlike some people, Shawn Bradley can skate.
Monday, November 18, 2002
Kudos to former Ice Bat and all-around good guy Dan McIntyre, the first ACHLer to be Tom Schettino's player of the week... Let's take a moment to congratulate Mike Modano, too. Also, nice to see Pierre Turgeon and Scott Young have finally arrived... Good analytical, nuts-and-bolts piece on the penalty kill out in Midland last week...Thanks as usual to The Farm Report for some of these links.
Sunday, November 17, 2002
My latest CHL round-up for Faceoff.com is up.
More to come on Monday.
Friday, November 15, 2002
Next time you think Blazers fans are too demanding...or Buzzards fans too cheerful...or Mudbugs fans too smug (three straight Cups gave them the right)... just remember, there's nothing like a Leafs nut.
CHL transactions-watchers will have noticed that, despite local news reports and message board chatter, Kyle Reeves was never given his release. Question #1 -- did the paper get it wrong, or did TL say he released Reeves on purpose, figuring everyone would take his word for it? Maybe it was just semantics -- using the word "release" to confirm that the "indefinite" suspension was permanent, even though the Brahmas held on to his rights. Question #2 -- is talk of Reeves being content to hang 'em up legit, or a bit of misdirection to get free of Lalonde?
As far as I can figure, New Mexico's 10 wins at the beginning of the first-ever WPHL season now stands as the CHL record for best start. Any of you old-timers know different? The record for longest winning streak is 12, held by Huntsville ('96-'97), Shreveport (no "Bossier" back then, in '98-'99) and Memphis (last season). 9-0 Austin plays three-in-three this weekend. Brent Hughes has all but said Matt Barnes will be out there every game. Friday and Saturday are division contests, and it's hard to imagine Barnes not playing against his former Central Texas coach and teammates Sunday, when the Brahmas come to town.
With Craig Johnson and John Murphy on the opposing bench for that one, Austin fight fans should hope the Bats jump out to a big lead. Why? "The cat wants out of the bag real bad," Hughes says. "Over nine tight hockey games he's been a disciplined player. I know he wants the team to get up four or five goals so he can do his business." (Bulletin-board disclaimer: Hughes was not speaking about Fort Worth, or any club in particular, when he said that.)
SIX PUCK DRILL: Wichita's Jeff Leiter
The only thing worse than being on a last place squad is not being in the line-up to do something about it. Thunder captain Jeff Leiter has been on the shelf with a broken wrist since early in the season (he's due back in a week or two). The third year pro, whose father Bobby played in the NHL, embodies a common hockey phenomenon, where the tough guys on the ice are the smart ones in real life. Leiter has 37 majors in two CHL campaigns and a Master's in biomechanics.
What will you do with your degree?
I actually got into a PhD program back home, at the University of Manitoba. I don't want to think about it too much, but at the end of the season I'll contemplate going on with school, or maybe try and go a year or two more with hockey.
It's basically physics of the body. We have to know the anatomy of the body in quite a bit of detail, and then we apply physics to human motion, whether it's sports skills, or looking at orthopedics and joint replacements.
Why did you play one game in the UHL last year?
Bruce Ramsay was player/assistant coach in Wichita the year before. I went with him to Muskegon, unfortunately things didn't work out, they have a very good squad there, they ended up winning it. But I definitely have no regrets, it's good to be back in Wichita. It's easy to get down in a situation like this, but we're working hard. We've got to turn this thing around.
Any memories of your Dad's career?
My only memory of my Dad playing is after he finished. They had a benefit game for an ex player in Winnipeg. Bobby Orr and a few other stars were playing in it and my dad got a hat trick in that game. I guess he got all the talent in the family.
Which do you prefer yourself, Gordie Howe hat trick or regular hat trick?
I don't mind the Gordie Howe hat tricks. I know what my role is on the ice.
Favorite road trip movie?
I'm a big Kingpin fan. The guys get sick of me quoting it. I've probably seen it 16 or 17 times.
Wednesday, November 13, 2002
Paging Mike Barack. Shawn Bradley on line one... Help me out here -- doesn't El Paso still have the rights to Boh?... Thing is, Manute is just the kind of player Ken McRae likes best: defense first...You know who must be loving this? Kyle Reeves & Todd Lalonde. And Terry Ruskowski & Pat Dunn. Remember them?
But seriously folks... I guess it's a sign that hockey has truly arrived when fans in the Southwest can pinch their nose and say a stunt seems bush league. When did we get so high and mighty? The CHL is a bush league (unpleasant though the word might be, it's still accurate. Kinda like "goon"). This promotion is worthy of Mike Veeck (if not Bill -- at least Eddie Gaedel provided a competitive advantage).
If you haven't noticed, business is tough right now, in the minors and the NHL. Anything that gets the CHL attention helps keep the sport you love alive. Anything that sells tickets to a minor league hockey game helps players continue their careers. I don't know if Indy will break its own all-time CHL attendance record, but I betcha 1000 people who've never seen the Ice before will check it out. And another 10,000 will say, "we have a hockey team in Indianapolis?" That's called publicity.
Look, they could have just had Bol come in, sign autographs and drop the puck -- but doing it this way, and taking the conceit as far as it can go, is what's driving all the coverage. Am I the only person who happened by ESPN.com at 2am to find it was the FRONT PAGE story? (not a righthand headline, the main feature). This thing made the TV news in Los Angeles, a newspaper in Hawaii, at least five ESPN broadcasts (Sportscenter, Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption, NHL 2Nite and between-periods of the Flyers-Panthers game) and the local sports talk.
Still not convinced? Maybe you should educate yourself about the the real reason Manute Bol does this kind of stuff. And as far as the integrity of the game goes, is it really any different from this heartwarming football tale?
The bottom line is, the guy's not gonna play. What he's doing is pretty much the same thing as a Hanson Brothers appearance, where they "run" the back-up goalie and pie a "referee." At first I thought Indy would really have to clear a roster spot for him, but now I kind of doubt it. How would you count his appearance fee, for charity or otherwise, against the cap? And how would McRae break it to the healthy scratch? "Randy, you're a great offensive player, but that .038 shooting percentage? We've got a guy who can beat it."
On the other hand, if he can keep his balance, this is a man who beat the Fridge in boxing. Ideally, Amarillo would bring in Mike "Tree" Varhaug to fight him, though ya gotta figure Screwy would have happily engaged him. At 225 lbs, Bol is heavier than the listed weight of every active player in the CHL except Neil Posillico, Mike Johnson, Craig Johnson, Anthony DiPalma, Scott Mahar, Paul Fioroni, Barry McKinlay and Scott McCallum. And he's still a stringbean!
BETWEEN THE DOTS
Funny thing is, Bol will be the second-most colorful player in the Northeast this weekend. That's right, hide the Manic Panic -- the Memphis RiverKings have brought back Luch Nasato.
Dear Miss Manners, My hockey team has the best record in the league. But I really felt the squad could use a chippy veteran with a little skill, someone who could kill penalties and make my checking line an even bigger pain to play against. So what's the appropriate gift for Taylor Hall, scotch, beer or a cigar? Sincerely, Brent Hughes.
A little bonus epilogue material for Zamboni Rodeo. Good luck, Burty... Nice story here about former WCHL defenseman Jamie Sokolsky. Ditto this little takeout on CHL superfan (and former Ice Pirates minority owner) Brian Slagel...I'm guessing Don Cherry has never been to West Virginia. I'm also guessing he's more worried about getting footage for another DVD than he is the state of hockey.
Austin's STP Fuel Line, which finished last year 1-2-4, is 36-67-93 in the league scoring race. Doubt anyone on the 9-0 Bats is too concerned... And how weird is this -- the guy who leads the CHL, Chris Peach, is 298th -- last -- in plus/minus. One reason why: 12 of his 13 assists (and 1 goal) are on the PP. And San Angelo has allowed seven shorties...5-1, 1.57, .936 is supposed to be impressive? Hell, that'd only be third-best in our league.
And finally, personal to Larry Linde: if you really need to find Manute a pair of skates, the Philadelphia 76ers' Todd MacCulloch got his custom-made in Winnipeg. He wears a size 19 sneaker.
Friday, November 08, 2002
No games has made the week feel slow, but Thursday sure was busy for transactions. Laredo got Dave Gilmore, a well-travelled WPHLer who was part of Bossier-Shreveport's last championship, and put up numbers in the UHL last year. And with Kholomeyev apparently out for the season, Corpus brought back Shaun Fairweather and cut Matt Sharuga.
Meanwhile, what's up with Kyle Reeves, was he running a Brahmas booster club? Posting on a message board? According to Fort Worth's initial press release, the suspension is "indefinite" for "undisclosed reasons;" a second release mentions "a violation of team rules." All I know is, it's almost midnight and I just tried calling Todd Lalonde and Bill McDonald -- both their lines are busy.
Just kidding. For all I know the guy will suit up Saturday, but it seems to me Reeves never playing for the Bs again is just as possible (see Johnston, Chris). If that turns out to be the case, going back to the coach who knows him best -- for better and for worse -- makes as much sense as anything (if anything makes sense).
Glad I could start a conversation among Saints fans. I was just making a crack, but regardless of what anyone thinks of Scott as a player (big props from the Buzzards days, as far as I'm concerned) or coach (jury's still out), becoming known as the worst ref-baiter of 'em all in a league that also includes Brent Hughes and Don McKee is nothing to be proud of. The rules have changed -- no-tolerance for jawing is a new policy this season handed down from the NHL, along with the inconsistently enforced obstruction crackdown every coach wants to gripe about. It's all in the timing, and the tact. Do it right, and you get to entertain fans with the occasional outburst and work the refs successfully. Do it wrong, and you become a guy the linesmen tell funny stories about at Applebee's.
Thursday, November 07, 2002
I knew Houston's "Guaranteed Fight Night" was too good to be true. Of course, with four teams averaging two majors per game the CHL doesn't need a gimmick...The last thing I would have guessed is that El Paso's arena bond would get more votes Cedar Park's. Hell, www.starsandguitars.com is already down...Sure, the Sooners rule the football world, but do they have a hockey team?... Gotta like the fact that Dallas NHL writer Mike Heika continues to hold Ed Belfour accountable. And how 'bout that Ulf Dahlen?... The Streaker's mother is upset.
Wednesday, November 06, 2002
The Travis County Expo Center lives. So what happens now?
Let's hear it for Roger Neilson. "Just thank a few people, and cut up the Leafs, and that's about it," is how he summarized his speech. If you are not familiar with Captain Video's early coaching hijinks -- using defensemen for penalty shots, taking intentional too-many-men infractions -- read this.
Anybody wanna start a pool on Brent Scott's first suspension? I've got the day before Thanksgiving...Meet the CHL PiMs leader, circa 2018.
Can't blame the Iggie mourners who'd prefer a winning CHL team over a losing AHL squad, but don't kid yourself that the best Iguanas (or Ice Bats) roster could beat the Aeros or the Rampage, any more than the University of Texas could beat the Houston Texans. Maybe it would happen two times out of ten, but overall, there's no comparison. We'll see if the attendance numbers hold, but I have a hard time finding fault with 7 or 8000 people enjoying American Hockey League action in a brand new building for nine bucks a head (five bucks on the upper level)...Did anyone else notice Gord Dwyer worked in Houston Friday, Corpus Saturday and San Antonio Sunday? Does that make him the CHL's best ref?
I look at Lubbock in the standings and think they oughtta be a few points better, but the 3-3-2 start is actually the C-Kings' best under Bill McDonald. Austin's 7-0 mark is also a franchise record. The team was 6-0 in 1997. I read that in a book somewhere.
Speaking of good starts, his numbers are nothing special, but former Bat and CHL defenseman of the year Daniel Tetrault has 10 games with Bridgeport of the AHL under his belt... I was vaguely surprised to score Hockeyblog.com, but how the heck did Newlin get thefarmreport.com?
I'm thinking this is the first-ever hockey story to feature a menudo reference (For you non-Southwesterners, that's menudo with a a small "m", not Ricky Martin's former band)...How often does a hockey coach get to fire a football coach?
SIX PUCK DRILL with Adam Davis
The second year Fort Worth Brahmas defenseman didn't travel far to get to Cowtown -- he spent two seasons with the junior Texas Tornado, including the 2000-2001 NAHL championship campaign. Davis has 1 G, 2As and is a team-best +3 in seven games this year.
Did you ever think you'd play so much hockey in the state of Texas?
No I never thought I'd play hockey in Texas at all. I played one year of junior in Michigan, and then took a year off. When I decided to come back, the Texas Tornado offered me a great opportunity. It's been great, I love it here.
Favorite player growing up?
Mike Ricci--Colorado/San Jose--like the way he played, go out there do anything, go crazy, score, whatever was needed to win.
Favorite Dallas Star?
Sergei Zubov. Like watching the way he works on the point on the power play. Plus he makes such good decisions with the puck.
What's the biggest difference so far between this year's Brahmas team and last year's?
Guys are more of a team, better togetherness in the room. I like the youth on the roster, we seem hungrier to win.
An example of TL's softer side?
You're kidding right? He doesn't have a soft side. On the ice, I haven't seen it. Off the ice though, he's a great guy. Really easy to talk to.
Favorite road trip movie or CD?
I don't care, whatever's in the VCR I watch. I don't usually complain. Most of the time I'm asleep anyway.
Saturday, November 02, 2002
It's not every night you can find fault with a seven goal performance. But against woeful Wichita, Austin departed from its usual focused style.
"It was a win," Bats defenseman Doug Johnson summarized. "But we're not going to get many wins playing like that."
If not for two softies that put Patrik Lovisek on the bench midway through the first, this one might have been an actual contest. Instead, the Bats kept building up a two goal lead on Stephen Wagner, then giving it away. This might have continued indefinitely, but time expired, so Austin took it 7-5.
Dan Price had a pair, including a from-the-belly scythe shot that dribbled around Lovisek. Mike Gaffney and Brett Seguin both had three-point nights (and were both minus-1). Kelly Smart continued his offensive resurgence, with a power-play goal and a pinpoint pass to set up Shawn Legault's first tally of the year. The Austin power play struck twice, doubling its season output.
"It was an ugly win - I hope we don't have many more like that," Austin coach Brent Hughes said. "A bunch of our guys got caught up trying to get points -- taking chances, making risky passes. We kept turning the puck over, and every time we did they got back in the game. [Scoring seven goals] does build confidence on the offensive side, and it was nice to see our power play work a little bit better, but we gave up five goals tonight after giving up five goals in the first four games. We've got to forget all about this game and play like we did at the beginning of the season."
New defenseman Scott McCallum looked rusty, but forward Mike Olynyk plugged right in, playing third-line and PK. He also got credit for the second assist on what was actually a Price-Tallaire give-and-go.
Peter-Emmanuel Brady got the start in goal. He performed like a rookie back-up making his debut -- let in some bad ones, stopped some tough ones, got himself a "W" and a video to study.
"Obviously he didn't have his best game, but I think he made some key saves," Hughes said. "First shot of his career, he faced a breakaway and made that save. He's feeling things out a little bit. And he didn't have a whole lot of defense in front of him."
"It was a learning experience," Brady said. "We won, and that's all that matters."
Several fans couldn't help but point out that on a three-in-three weekend, the back-up often plays on Sunday afternoon. But with former Bats assistant Ken McRae in town with Indy then (and a key division game on Saturday) tonight was Matt Barnes' breather.
"We're going to go hard," Hughes said of taking on the Ice. "Obviously Mac and I, we have a lot of the same traits as coaches and we definitely want to beat each other. There's a lot of pride at stake."
Tom Gomes scored twice for Wichita, while Todd Johnson, Jeff Petruic and Travis Clayton each had a goal and an assist.
More comments from Brady
On his name: "I'm from Quebec, and when I moved to B.C. they just called me Pete -- they figured that was my first name because they're not used to French names, like Jean-Sebastien or something. It got dropped in juniors, and I never said anything. But when I came down here, I knew about the Brady Bunch thing, so I figured I'd throw another name in there."
On the difference between college and the pros: "The guys are so smart here, there's no liabilities on the ice. Every player knows what they are supposed to do compared to college. And the speed -- every time you go up a league it elevates a notch."
That Corpus Christi-Laredo box score didn't go final 'til after midnight. Must have been the penalties. 10 goals, home team wins, seven fights -- could they market hockey to a new place any better?... So Laredo, Indy and El Paso have all won twice. That's really gotta bum out Wichita.
Hughes on the IceRays: "They've got an experienced coach who knows that defense wins hockey games. Part of the problem in the past with that hockey club was they thought offense would win it for them every night."
Shades of Dallas Anderson in Corpus Christi (and go figure, that worked out well for everyone).
The Houston Aeros are offering guaranteed fight nights this season. If I'm top goon for the opposition, I'm asking for a payoff.
Good bit about the Stars in Friday's Dallas Morning News: "Marty Turco, who had two giveaways that turned into goals Wednesday, received some good-natured ribbing from his teammates as he found a bungee cord in his locker Thursday morning and the nets placed in the corners, because that's where he always seems to be."
Are there still gonna be Iguanas fans picketing the Rampage opener?... And finally, Tulsa and Lubbock are the subjects of my latest CHL article for Faceoff.com.