Monday, July 28, 2014

Gow decides to end his WHL career

F Michal Řepík (Vancouver, 2005-08) has signed a one-year contract with the Lahti Pelicans (Finland, Liiga). Last season, with Lev Prague (Czech Republic, KHL), he had 12 points, eight of them goals, in 51 games. . . .
F Vladimir Dolnik (Everett, 2011-12) has signed a tryout contract with Kitzbühel (Austria, Inter-National-League). Last season, with Banská Bystrica U20 (Slovakia, U20 Extraliga), he had 10 points, including five goals, in eight games. He also was pointless in 19 games with Banská Bystrica (Slovakia, Extraliga), and had three goals and three assists in 16 games with Detva (Slovakia, 1. Liga). . . .
D Kenton Smith (Calgary, 1995-2000) has signed a one-year contract with the Swindon Wildcats (England, Premier). Last season, with the Braehead Clan Glasgow (Scotland, UK Elite), he had 14 points, including five goals, in 41 games. Smith signed with Swindon to be closer to his family in Cardiff, Wales.

The Spokane Chiefs have taken something of a roster hit with the news that D Reid Gow has decided not to return for his 20-year-old season.
Gow, who is from Killarney, Man., also was the team captain. The 16th overall selection in the 2009 bantam draft, he played four seasons with the Chiefs. Last season, he had 62 points, including 56 assists in 65 games. Only four defencemen finished with more points, while he was the Chiefs’ third-leading scorer, behind F Mitch Holmberg and F Mike Aviani, both of whom were 20 last season.
In 229 regular-season games, Gow had 146 points, including 129 assists.
“I have spoken with Reid numerous times over the summer and he has informed me that he does not want to play in the WHL for his overage year,” Tim Speltz, the Chiefs’ general manager, said in a news release. “Reid said he has lost his desire to compete and does not have the drive to play in this league. He has decided to stay home and be close to family and friends.
“As an organization, we hope Reid reconsiders, but at this time, it is important for us to be prepared to move forward without him. He was a huge part of our team last year, but we understand the commitment and dedication it takes for a player to play at this level of competition.
"Although I do not agree with Reid's decision, our organization must accept and respect it. I will continue to have communication with him, but I am not confident any change in his decision is imminent."
The Chiefs’ roster now is down to three 20-year-olds -- F Connor Chartier, F Marcus Messier and F Liam Stewart.
Not that long ago, the Chiefs had six 20s on their roster, but Gow now is out of the picture, while D Cole Wedman was dealt to the Moose Jaw Warriors and F Carter Proft has signed with the Kassel Huskies (Germany, DEL).
You may be aware that there has been a huge hue and cry in the U.S., over comments made by talking head Stephen A. Smith on an ESPN yap fest last week. It all had to do with the two-game suspension issued by the NFL to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice following an incident of domestic abuse.
Smith, who gives all of us a good reason not to watch those talk shows, spoke without thinking, as he is wont to do.
Anyway . . . Cathal Kelly of The Globe and Mail takes a good look at that situation right here.
Meanwhile, Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post makes sure that she’s not on Smith’s Christmas card list with this piece right here. When Jenkins got through with Smith, he was more done than a Christmas turkey.
The junior B Nelson Leafs, who play in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, have lost their head coach before they played even one game with him behind their bench. . . . Matt Hughes, who was hired in May, resigned on the weekend and now is with the Kelowna-based Pursuit of Excellence. . . . Bruce Fuhr of the Nelson Daily has more right here.
Shayne Toporowski (Prince Albert, 1991-95) is the new head coach of the Worcester State Lancers. Toporowski, 38, takes over from John Guiney, who resigned after 22 seasons as head coach. . . . Jennifer Toland of the Worcester Telegram has more right here.
Former NHL D Todd Gill has signed on with the Adirondack Flames as an assistant coach. The Flames are the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Calgary Flames. . . . Gill had been the head coach of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs for three seasons. However, he was dumped after last season, when his side blew a 3-0 lead to the Peterborough Petes in a first-round playoff series. . . . In Adirondack, he’ll work alongside head coach Ryan Huska, formerly of the Kelowna Rockets.

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Unifor continuing drive to unionize major juniors

F Tyler Mosienko (Kelowna, 2000-05) signed a one-year contract with the Sheffield Steelers (England, UK Elite). Last season, with Esbjerg (Denmark, Metal Ligaen), he had 43 points, including 16 goals, in 31 games. He also played 25 games with the Alaska Aces (ECHL), putting up 20 points, 17 of them assists. . . .
F Jade Galbraith (Saskatoon, 2000-01) has signed a one-year contract with the Dundee Stars (Scotland, UK Elite). Last season, with the Heerenveen Flyers (Netherlands, Eredivisie), he had 38 points, including 17 goals, in 22 games.

Rick Westhead, who recently joined TSN as its senior correspondent, has filed his first piece and it deals with Unifor and its bid to unionize major junior hockey. The union, Westhead reports, is to meet today with Ontario’s minister of labour. . . . Westhead’s piece is right here.
It was Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y., as the world of baseball saluted a few of its greats. That included Roger Angell, perhaps the best of all the baseball essayists. Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated has more on Angell right here, and you won’t want to miss it.
Now here’s a real treat. In celebration of Angell, The New Yorker, the magazine for which he writes, has posted links to “eight Angell classics.” Those links are right here.
The Portland Mavericks were an independent baseball team that lasted just five seasons. But what a five seasons of fun they were! Larry Stone of the Seattle Times chronicles that team right here. The Mavericks, by the way, were owned by Bing Russell. You may have heard of his son, Kurt.
“After football, hockey is the sport that produces the highest reate of concussion,” notes Dr. Stefan M. Duma, the head of the biomedical engineering department at Virginia Tech. . . . Which is why, as Jeff Z. Klein of The New York Times reports, hockey helmets “may be on the verge of a radical makeover.” . . . Klein’s piece is right here.
No doubt you are aware of the political unrest in the Russian area of the world. Perhaps you have been wondering how that will impact the approaching KHL season. Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star tackles that question right here.

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Terry Siebert, a Toronto Maple Leafs fan of long-standing, died in Hamilton on Monday, and his obituary appeared in the Hamilton Spectator. The last line read: “It was Terry’s last wish that his pallbearers be the Toronto Maple Leafs so they could let him down one last time.” . . . Well, none of the Maple Leafs showed up, but the six pals who served as pallbearers all wore Maple Leafs jerseys. . . . The Regina Pats are the only team in the WHL without a head coach. Oh, they also need a couple of assistant coaches. Should we tell the new owners that training camp opens in about a month? . . .

“Germany’s World Cup trophy somehow got a piece chipped off during the title celebration,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “Conspiracy theorists immediately claimed that Luis Suarez bit it.” . . . You have to love the eastern side of the CFL, where all four teams are tied for first place, each at 1-3. That would be the Toronto BlueWhites, the Hamilton GoldBlacks, the Montreal BlueRedWhites and, of course, the Ottawa RedBlacks. . . .

Headline at Report: Most Americans Have Enough Saved For Retirement To Live Comfortably On Streets. . . . Why did the Los Angeles Kings win the Stanley Cup? Because, as head coach Darryl Sutter, says: “We had four centres no one can match up against.” Which explains why the Boston Bruins have signed Spencer Asuchak to a PTO and an invitation to rookie camp. Asuchak, who is from Kamloops and played last season with the Central league-champion Allen Americans, is 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds and can skate. . . . Don’t be surprised if Asuchak starts the season with the AHL’s Providence Bruins. . . .

Here’s Ron Judd in the Seattle Times: “The recent national kerfuffle over customer service, or lack thereof, by U.S. corporations — not to mention any names, such as COMCAST — is a blunt reminder of an indisputable fact: Corporate America has confused the art of talking about customer service with the practice of actually providing it.” . . . That’s hard to believe, isn’t it? . . . Here’s Judd, again using a skewer to point out something of an injustice: “Former U-Dub boss Mark Emmert, currently El Presidente of the cartel known as the NCAA, saw his pay soar to $1.7 million last year as he trotted around the country explaining why college football players should continue to be paid nothing.” . . . BTW, U-Dub would be U of Washington, not the U of Western Hockey League. . .

In the U.S., more than 1,000 golf courses have disappeared over the past eight years. As realtor Steve Ekovich told HBO: “There’s people that had this idea that build it and they will come. They didn’t come.” . . . The Calgary Stampeders visited the Edmonton Eskimos in CFL action on Thursday night and it seems the fans in attendance paid more attention to the 50-50 draw than they did to the game. Does that sound like the CFL, or what? . . . Connor Croken had the winning ticket and will pick up his cheque, for $348,534, on Tuesday. Croken now has more friends than any other 20-year-old in Edmonton. . . .

After centre Pau Gasol left the Los Angeles Lakers for Chicago, RJ Currie of put it this way: “He’ll just be another Spaniard running with the Bulls.” . . . Receiver Chad Johnson of the Montreal Alouettes was bemoaning the fact that he had received 15 parking tickets because he is unable to read French. Currie had a message for him: “Here’s a tip: A French fire hydrant looks just like an English one.” . . .

You may have heard that Fox Sports has bumped Pam Oliver off its No. 1 NFL crew, with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, and replaced her with Erin Andrews. Oliver reacted by saying that she felt blindsided. To which Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald wrote: “We have about 314 million Americans. I’m pretty sure the other 313,999,999 saw this one coming.” . . . With Byron Scott said to be pondering an offer to coach the NBA’s Lakers, Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register tweeted: “Byron Scott obviously trying to balance prestige of coaching the Lakers against the chore of coaching Nick Young.” . . . Nick Young? Perhaps you know him better as Swaggy P. . . . OK, maybe not. . . .

Somehow, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was handed only a two-game suspension for allegedly knocking unconscious the woman who now is his wife. “Maybe it’s for the best,” reasoned Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe. “If instead of fighting, the couple had just mellowed out with a joint, he’d have been suspended at least four games.” . . . DJ Gallo of writes that you are a professional golfer if “your only shots that roll on the ground the whole way are putts” and “your Buick is a source of income, not personal shame” and “none of your playing partners loudly belch in your backswing.” . . .

There now is a move afoot to take the 2018 World Cup away from Russia. Yeah, like FIFA is going to put itself in front of Vladimir Putin and do that. . . . The other day, wondered “what if every NHL player went home like LeBron?” . . . answered its own question with: “No American team would win the cup ever again.” . . . You know it was a slow weekend in sports when the biggest story in some places had to do with LeBron deciding what number he will wear with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

(Gregg Drinnan is a former sports editor of the Regina Leader-Post and the late Kamloops Daily News. He is at and Keeping Score appears here on weekends, except when it doesn’t.)

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Tweet! Tweet! Virtanen breaks the news

D Ryan Button (Prince Albert, Seattle, 2007-11) has signed a one-year contract with the Iserlohn Roosters (Germany, DEL). Last season, with the Texas Stars (AHL), he had three goals in 26 games. He also had 23 points, including seven goals in 26 games with the Idaho Steelheads (ECHL).

1. WHL teams will start training camps in about four weeks time, and the Regina Pats still don’t have a head coach. In fact, they are the only WHL team without a head coach. They are short two assistant coaches, as well. . . . Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post has the latest right here.
2. The Vancouver Canucks have signed F Jake Virtanen of the Calgary Hitmen to a three-year entry-level contract. Virtanen, from Abbotsford, B.C., was the sixth overall selection in the NHL’s 2014 draft. He had 71 points, including 45 goals, in 71 games with the Hitmen last season, his second in the WHL. The Hitmen selected him with the first overall pick in the 2011 bantam draft. . . . In what surely is a sign of the times, Virtanen broke the news of his signing via his Twitter account.
3. The Saskatoon Blades have signed F Wyatt Sloboshan, 17, to a WHL contract. Sloboshan was a third-round selection by the Swift Current Broncos in the 2012 bantam draft. The Blades acquired him in January as part of a deal in which F Nathan Burns went to Swift Current. From Vanscoy, Sask., Sloboshan had 77 points, including 27 goals, in 45 games with a midget team at the Okanagan Hockey Academy.
4. The Edmonton Oil Kings have added Ryan Marsh to their coaching staff as the lead assistant under head coach Steve Hamilton. Marsh 39, has been an assistant coach with the U of Alberta Golden Bears for the past two seasons and the hockey director for Vimy Ridge Academy for 12 years. . . . Hamilton and Marsh are friends, having coached together with the AJHL’s Spruce Grove Saints and Fort Saskatchewan Traders. They also worked together at Vimy Ridge.
5. Dustin Forbes is the new play-by-play voice of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. He takes over from Pat Siedlecki, who lost his spot when CJOC chose not to get involved in bidding for a new contract. . . . The Hurricanes will be heard on Rock 106 when the new season begins. . . . Forbes spent last season with the BCHL’s Cowichan Capitals. He also has done play-by-play for the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves and the junior B Richmond Sockeyes and Comox Valley Glacier Kings.
6. The CFL hit the big time on Friday . . . the really, really big time. carried a story on the goings-on Thursday in Edmonton that culminated Friday morning when Connor Croken, 20, claimed the winnings from the 50-50 draw that was held during the game between the Eskimos and Calgary Stampeders. Croken showed up to let them know the $322,216 was his. He'll be back Tuesday to pick up his cheque. . . . The ESPN piece is right here.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Oil Kings sign assistant coach . . . Clouston, Speltz to U-18 team

F Juraj Rožník (Swift Current, Regina, 2010-11) has signed a tryout contract with Dukla Trenčín (Slovakia, Extraliga). Last season, with Martin (Slovakia, Extraliga), he had 10 points, including six goals, in 41 games. . . .
F David Hruška (Red Deer, 1995-96) has signed a one-year contract with Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic, Extraliga) after Karlovy Vary negotiated his release from Orli Znjomo (Czech Republic, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, with Chomutov (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had 32 points, 18 of them goals, in 52 games. . . .
F Radek Duda (Regina, Lethbridge, 1998-2000) has signed a one-year contract with Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic, Extraliga). Duda played last season with Plzen (Czech Republic, Extraliga), leading the team in scoring with 41 points, including 17 goals, in 47 games. He was second in the league with 141 penalty minutes. . . .
F Grant Toulmin (Swift Current, 2005-07, 2008-09) has signed a one-year contract with Heilbronner Falken (Germany, DEL2). Last season, with Nipissing University (CIS) in North Bay, Ont., he had 38 points, including 16 goals, in 28 games. . . .
D Kalvin Sagert (Kamloops, Lethbridge, Prince George, 2002-08) has signed a one-year contract with Miskolci Jegesmedvék (Hungary, MOL-Liga). Last season, he had one assist in 11 games with the Wichita Thunder (CHL), 10 assists in 24 games with the San Francisco Bulls (ECHL), and a goal and three assists in 32 games with the Kalamazoo Wings (ECHL).

1. Ryan Marsh has signed on with the Memorial Cup-champion Edmonton Oil Kings as an assistant coach. Marsh (Tri-City, 1992-95) played four seasons at the U of Alberta in Edmonton before going on to a brief pro career. He has been with Vimy Ridge Academy in Edmonton for 15 years, the past 10 as campus director. He also was an assistant coach with the U of Alberta Golden Bears. . . . The 39-year-old native of Quesnel, B.C., moves into the spot created when Steve Hamilton was promoted from assistant coach to head coach. Hamilton took over from Derek Laxdal, now the head coach of the AHL’s Texas Stars. . . . Sean Brown also is on the Oil Kings’ staff as an assistant coach.
2. Shaun Clouston, the general manager and head coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers, has been added to the coaching staff of the Canadian U-18 team that will play in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament next month. . . . Clouston replaces Eric Veilleux, who now is the head coach of the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals. . . . Clouston, 46, has been with the Tigers since 2003-04. He has been the head coach for four seasons and the GM for the past two. . . . At the same time, Tim Speltz, the general manager of the Spokane Chiefs, has been added to the Program of Excellence management group. Speltz, 56, replaces Mark Hunter, the GM of the OHL’s London Knights, who isn’t available for the Ivan Hlinka Memorial. Speltz has been the Chiefs’ GM since 1990. . . . Team Canada’s selection camp is scheduled for Calgary’s Markin MacPhail Centre, Aug. 2-5. There should be 44 players in attendance, with 22 of them going on to play for Canada. The tournament is to run Aug. 11-16 in Breclav, Czech Republic, and Piestany, Slovakia.
3. It’s hardly scientific and it’s a far cry from being official, but readers of this blog have spoken. Asked which of three teams should play host to the 2016 Memorial Cup, 47.9 per cent of respondents voted for the Red Deer Rebels. The Victoria Royals drew 34.1 per cent, with the Vancouver Giants at 17.9 per cent. . . . The 2016 Memorial Cup tournament is to be played in a WHL city; those three teams have said they will be involved in the bidding. . . . The Memorial Cup hasn’t been decided in Alberta since 1974 when the Regina Pats won it in the Calgary Corral.
4. F Tim Bozon of the Kootenay Ice, who spent March in a Saskatoon hospital battling Neisseria meningitis, is preparing to play in a competitive game for the first time since Feb. 28. Bozon, 20, will play for France’s U-23 team at a tournament in Ostrava, Czech Republic, next week. . . . Tal Pinchevsky of has more right here.
5. Earlier in the week, Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada posted his final 30 Thoughts of the season, which means 2013-14 finally is over. Because it was his last post for the season, Friedman actually had at least 54 thoughts. . . . It’s all right here.
6. So there’s this beer league in Buffalo . . . it’s the Performax Hockey League. And when the guys got together the other night, they had a visitor. This guy lit it up for five goals. He also had five assists. Patrick Kane. You may have heard of him. . . . There’s more right here, including a great post-game tweet.
7. Running back Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens has been suspended for, uhh, two games for precipitating an incident of domestic abuse. The disciplinary move has come in for considerable criticism, none of it any harsher than this column right here by Michael Powell of The New York Times.

Alan Caldwell, over at Small Thoughts at Large, tweeted this on Thursday: “The annual WHL prospects postings are coming to the blog soon, likely starting later today.” You will find them on his blog and there’s a link over there on the right. . . . Former Portand Winterhawks D Brad Symes has died in his hometown of Edmonton, where he was a firefighter. He was 38. There is more right here. . . . The Simon Fraser U men’s hockey team will play exhibition road games against the Bowling Green Falcons on Oct. 4 and the Miami U RedHawks on Oct. 5. Those games are scheduled for Bowling Green, Ohio, and Oxford, Ohio.

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Asuchak gets phone call, PTO with Bruins

Spencer Asuchak, shown here with the CHL's Allen Americans, has signed
a PTO with the NHL's Boston Bruins.

(Photo courtesy Spencer Asuchak)

Spencer Asuchak had waited most of his 22-plus years on this earth for THE phone call.
It came last month, and now he’s preparing for a taste of the big time.
After being part of a Central Hockey League championship with the Allen Americans, Asuchak, who is from Kamloops, has signed a PTO (professional tryout agreement) with the Boston Bruins and NHLwill attend the NHL team’s rookie camp in September.
It all began with that phone call. On the other end of the line was Don Sweeney, the Bruins’ assistant general manager.
“It was about how well my season went and how they would like me to come to camp,” Asuchak said. “As you could imagine, I was pretty emotional after receiving a call like that.
“I have been waiting my entire life for an opportunity like this. I feel like I’ve definitely earned it and am going to do absolutely whatever I can to take full advantage of the chance I’m being given to prove myself and earn a spot within the Bruins organization.”
In hockey circles, it often is said that the deeper a team gets into its playoff season, the better chance its players have for advancement. The theory is simply the opposite of out of sight, out of mind.
Asuchak played in the WHL with the Tri-City Americans and Prince George Cougars (2008-12). Late in 2011-12, he got into three games with the ECHL’s Ontario Reign, then chose to attend Mount Royal College in Calgary for a year.
Through it all, he wasn’t able to rid himself of the itch to play professionally, so he signed with the Americans, who play out of Allen, Texas.
The 6-foot-5, 232-pound Asuchak has always seen himself as a hockey player. According to his agent, Darren Hermiston of Points West Sports and Entertainment, that wasn’t always the way coaches saw him.
“Spencer is a hulking forward,” Hermiston said, “and, as sometimes happens in junior hockey with players that size, he was pigeon-holed into a specific role -- a north-south winger who needs to hit and fight and not do much else. This role was not ideal for Spencer's skill set, but no junior coach saw that.”
Hermiston, like Asuchak, is from Kamloops. One thing led to another and Hermiston now represents Asuchak.

“We were able to find him a situation with the Allen Americans where the coach (Steve Martinson) loved Spencer's size and skating ability and was willing to gave him a shot,” Hermiston said.
According to Hermiston, Martinson “realized what junior coaches didn't . . . that Spencer and his great skating ability should be given an opportunity at centre and in a different role than the one that hadn’t worked out overly well for the better part of five years.”
Asuchak has always taken pride in his conditioning, so he showed up in Allen ready to go. He did get off to a shaky start -- he had three points and was minus-3 through nine games. But then he was moved to centre and, yes, the move agreed with him. Not only did he begin to put up points, but Martinson turned to him as his club’s shutdown centre.
“He played against the opposition’s top lines and was a first-line penalty-killer,” Hermiston said, “and won 60 per cent of his faceoffs.”
While playing centre, Asuchak put up 53 points in 57 games and was plus-6. He had 18 points over his final nine regular-season games. In all, he had 56 points, 21 of them goals, in 66 games. He also led the CHL with five shorthanded goals and twice was the league’s player of the week.
He added 11 points, four of them goals, as the Americans went on a 17-game run to the CHL title.
“Winning the championship in Allen was definitely the most fun I’ve ever had,” Asuchak said. “So many amazing people and teammates were involved . . . friends and memories I will never forget. Being able to hoist the trophy over my head with a group of guys that you’d do absolutely anything for was amazing and there is no better feeling.”
What made it that much sweeter was that it was Asuchak’s “first championship at any level.”
After giving it some thought, he allowed that “I do think I won a B.C. roller hockey championship when I was about 14 playing for the Prince George Reapers . . . if that counts.”
The exposure that Asuchak received in 2013-14, combined with his size and skating ability, has paid off. The Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks have combined to win the last four NHL titles and the foundation of each of those teams is its strength up the middle.
As Hermiston put it, “every NHL general manager now wants to be ‘big and heavy down the middle.’ ” That is right up Asuchak’s alley.
“So after a few conversations with Don Sweeney, we were able to secure a PTO for Spencer to attend the Bruins’ rookie camp in September with the goal of earning an entry-level contract,” Hermiston said.
Asuchak, who never has been a stranger to off-ice conditioning, now is working hard to get ready for camp, even if it is almost two months away. Like many athletes in the Kamloops area, and as he has done in the past, he is working with Greg Kozoris at Kozoris Acceleration.
If you’re looking for Asuchak, chances are that you’ll find him there. He said his days comprise sprints at 7 a.m., soccer at 8 and then up to three hours of weight training. He does that five or six days a week, and also finds time to skate three or four times a week. On the ice, he has been working with Aaron Konescni, a Kelowna-based power-skating coach; Ron Johnson, a skills coach from Vancouver who works with various NHLers; and former pro Ed Patterson, the head coach of the junior B Kamloops Storm, who runs practice sessions.
Asuchak’s training group includes the likes of the Nash brothers, Brendon and Riley, Shane Doan, the afore-mentioned Blair Riley, Peter Mueller, Tyler Redenbach, Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Devin Gannon, James Friedel and Ryan Gropp.
“Our training group is pretty good . . . so the pace is very high and very competitive,” Asuchak said.
In past summers, Asuchak often would find time for the lake and a few golf games.
This summer is different.
“There’s not really much time for anything else,” he said.

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Trotz a family guy, then a coach

Every head coach has an expiry date, especially at the NHL level.
Since the Nashville Predators entered the NHL in 1998-99, they have had only one head coach, Barry Trotz.
He was the longest-tenured head coach with one team, but after Nashville missed the playoffs in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, management felt it might have a need to go in a different direction.
However, Trotz was given one last shot.
“I talked to David Poile, the general manager, prior to the beginning of the (2013-14) season,” said Trotz, who presented at The Coaches Site's 2014 conference at UBC last weekend. “Depending on what happened, it was likely
going to be my last season with the Predators.”
The Predators failed to get into the playoffs again, and he was indeed relieved of his duties.
“I was in Nashville for 17 years,” Trotz stated. “It's home for me, it's a wonderful city. I worked for David for a long time and it was just time. I've signed one-year deals with them for about eight seasons or so. David and I have a good relationship. Going into last season, I knew that we needed a bounce-back season for the franchise.
“When you're in a non-traditional market, which Nashville still is, you need to have success and be in the playoffs every season. We sold the Shea Weber signing that he was going to be with the team for a long time. But last season, by not making the playoffs, they really didn't have anything to sell. The only thing they could sell was change.”
That change was Peter Laviolette, who was named as Trotz's replacement on May 6.
Meanwhile, the Washington Capitals also had failed to reach the playoffs and decided that a shakeup was needed. They chose not to re-sign general manager George McPhee after 17 seasons and also fired head coach Adam Oates.
The Capitals knew what their plan was, as they promoted Brian MacLellan to senior vice-president and general manager on May 26.
As well, they named Trotz their head coach on the same day.
“It was pretty simple for me,” Trotz said. “I started with the Capitals. I actually went to their training camp in 1982 as a player and then was a scout for them and coached in their farm system prior to getting hired by Nashville.
“When I looked at where the Capitals were in terms of the core and age of the
team, I thought that that was pretty intriguing. I thought that there was a lot of talent there, and a team that I felt could do some damage in the future.”
That they do, being led by 28-year-old sniper Alex Ovechkin.
But Trotz's decision to join the Capitals was based on more than the team’s talent and skill levels. It was more than just having connections with Washington.
“Being in the Eastern market was really important to me,” he revealed. “I have a 13-year-old son with Down syndrome. His name is Nolan. We're moving to Arlington, and I really felt that being on the East coast with his siblings working in Nashville and going to school there, it'd really make sense for them to travel.
“Based on our family, one of the things that I always found, and it's a reality of having a child with special needs, is that sometimes you're worried about your child having friends, because sometimes they don't come knocking at the door. So, as parents, we have to facilitate that.
“His siblings love him to death, they have sleepovers with him, all those things. I wanted to be able to be in a position and a city so they could come visit him.”
Trotz has needed to adapt for Nolan. In return, Nolan has helped bring something his father didn't have.
“Anybody with Down syndrome, what I found is that they have an extra gene,” Barry explained. “I think it's 'the love gene.' Before my son was born, I was obviously coaching, and I thought everything I said and everything I did was the most important thing in the world. However, when he was born, I realized that it wasn't. I realized that I needed balance in my life, and he's given me balance.
“So I look at teaching young people with a lot more balance in my life. Because of that, I think I'm a better coach and a better person for it. Nolan's made me a better dad, a better husband, and a better coach.
“My wife and I looked at having a child with special needs as a blessing. Everybody worries about how kids with disabilities can affect their lives, but it's an absolute blessing, and most people don't get that. My wife and I get it. If God decided that he was going to give us a special needs son, we felt honoured that he would pick us.”
Many coaches spend the majority of their time with their team or in an office. For Trotz, Nolan is just as big a priority as anything else.
“It's tough when I'm away from him,” Trotz said. “It's tougher in the Western Conference because the travel is a lot more. That's why you have to have balance. There's times when I know when he's got an event to take part in so I will leave the office early and take my work home to do at night instead of during the office hours.
“He wasn't around the team a lot when I was with the Predators because we practised downtown. After the home games, he was really good. He's done a couple of press conferences with me. A game could go really poorly for me and the team, and I walk down the hall and Nolan would run around and give me a big hug. It puts everything into perspective: we had a bad night, let's get over it, and let's be better the next day. It lets me let go of things.”
And so it is that a new chapter begins for the Trotz family.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mpofu lays down the law . . . Cameron back in coaching game

Some old, some new . . . as I try to catch up after a few days away . . .

F Carter Proft (Brandon, Spokane, 2010-14) signed a one-year contract with the Kassel Huskies (Germany, DEL). Last season, with Spokane, he had 23 points, 11 of them goals, in 72 games. He has dual Canadian-German citizenship. . . .
D Petr Šenkeřík (Kootenay, Prince George, 2009-10) signed a tryout contract with Vitkovice Ostrava (Czech Republic, Extraliga). Last season, with Slavia Prague (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had a goal and two assists in 24 games. In 17 games with Berounští Medvědi (Czech Republic, 1. Liga), he had 11 points, four of them goals. . . .
F Gal Koren (Kelowna, 2010-11) signed a one-year contract with Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, with Medveščak Zagreb (Croatia, KHL), he had one goal in 23 games. He had four goals and four assists in 15 games with Olimpija Ljubljana, and was pointless in four games with Zvolen (Slovakia, Extraliga). . . .
D Dmitri Sinitsyn (Regina, 2013-14) has signed a two-year, two-way contract with Dynamo Moscow (Russia, KHL). Last season, he had 44 points, including 10 goals, in 69 games with Regina. . . .
F Michal Pšurný (Medicine Hat, Kootenay, 2005-06) signed a one-year extension with the Manchester Phoenix (England, Premier). Last season, he led the league in scoring, putting up 99 points, including 45 goals, in 54 games. He was a first-team all-star. . . .
D Jace Coyle (Spokane, Medicine Hat, 2007-11) signed a one-year contract with Aalborg (Denmark, Metal Ligaen). Last season, with the Fort Wayne Komets (ECHL), he had 31 points, including eight goals. He was pointless in three games on loan to the Lake Erie Monsters (AHL). . . .
D Tomáš Troliga (Calgary, 2003-04) signed a tryout contract with Hradec Králové (Czech Republic, Extraliga). Last season, with Dukla Trenčín (Slovakia, Extraliga), he had 24 points, 13 of them goals, in 46 games.

F Vukie Mpofu, the 87th selection in the WHL’s 2011 bantam draft, has informed the Red Deer Rebels that he won’t be returning for a second season. Mpofu, 18, is a native of Saskatoon, who had 15 points, including nine goals, in 65 games last season.
He has decided to attend the U of Saskatchewan and study business and marketing as he works toward a law degree.
“He called me and told me he’d thought about it all summer and that his goal was to attend law school,” Brent Sutter, the Rebels’ owner/GM/head coach, told Greg Meachem of the Red Deer Advocate. “He felt it was important for him to start his schooling now (at the U of S) and then in four years enrol in law school in Toronto.”
Sutter told Meachem that he wasn’t surprised to hear from Mpofu.
“I don’t know how driven he was to be a hockey player and I told him that over the phone . . . that if his heart wasn’t in it then it was better to move on to school,” Sutter said. “I kind of had a feeling that something was up at the end of the season. After he got hurt he never had the same drive. His emotion for the game wasn’t the same when he came back and at our year-end meeting I had a feeling he really wasn’t all-in to being a player.”
Mpofu struggled in the second half of the season after returning from a lower-back injury.
 Mpofu told Meachem there wouldn’t be any looking back.
“I’ve had everything I could have ever asked for out of hockey and I’m at a point in my life — now that I’m out of high school — that every decision I make from here on in should be building toward my long-term goals and where I would eventually like to see myself in five to 10 years. That’s pretty much the basis of my decision,” Mpofu said.
“Hockey was a lot of fun for me, but I had to make a decision now for my future.”
And now for some self-promotion . . .
Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, is a friend who writes daily on his blog. He also offers up some recommended readings for his followers.
The other day, he posted this right here:
“Here is one to put on your ‘Wish List’ so that folks can get you a book for your birthday or for Christmas…"
Meanwhile, The Sports Curmudgeon also took time to dissect a claim by someone that the return of LeBron could put $500 million into the Cleveland economy. I always cringe when people, mostly of a political bent, start talking about how much a tournament or an event will mean to a city’s economy because there always seem to be a lot of numbers thrown around without a whole lot of proof. . . . Well, The Sports Curmudgeon explains the whole thing awfully well right here. Give this a read and the next time you hear/read about how much economic benefit there will be from an event coming to your town, you will feel a bit better informed.
The Saskatoon Blades, under relatively new ownership and a freshman GM/head coach in Bob Woods, have realigned their scouting department. Doug Molleken, their head scout, now is director of scouting, eastern region, and will be responsible for Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the U.S. Molleken, 54, has signed a two-year extension. . . . Dan Tencer, 28, has been promoted from regional scout to director of scouting, western region, and will focus on Alberta and B.C. . . . Molleken and Tencer will report to Colin Priestner, the franchise’s managing partner who will oversee the bantam and European drafts. . . . There is more on the Blades’ scouting staff right here.
“Wilfred Rose, 58, spent a career studying the pants pockets of New Yorkers,” writes Joseph Goldstein in The New York Times, “always on the lookout for ‘a nice stiff wallet’ full of cash, or better yet, the fainter outline of a dozen folded bills.” . . . This is the story of a man who may have been the greatest pickpocket in New York City’s history, and you won’t want to miss it. It’s right here.

The Montreal Canadiens have signed F Nikita Scherbak, their first-round pick in the NHL’s 2014 draft, to a three-year, entry-level contract. Scherbak, from Russia, had 78 points, including 28 goals, in 65 games as a freshman with the Saskatoon Blades last season. Under terms of the CBA between the NHL and NHLPA, Scherbak, who doesn’t turn 19 until Dec. 30, has to play with the Canadiens or the Blades in 2014-15. Of course, the Blades could also choose to trade him. . . .
As you will have noticed in The MacBeth Report, D Dmitry Sinitsyn of the Regina Pats has signed with the KHL’s Dynamo Moscow. Sinitsyn, who turned 20 on June 17, may not have returned to the Pats anyway, as the Moscow native would have been a two-spotter -- a 20-year-old and an import. He was a seventh-round pick by the Dallas Stars in the NHL’s 2012 draft. The Pats’ roster also includes German F Maximilian Kammerer, who is preparing for his second WHL season, and Russian D Sergey Zborovsky, who was selected last month in the CHL import draft. . . . Regina finished last season with five other players who could be 20-year-olds on the 2014-15 roster -- F Braden Christoffer, F Patrick D’Amico, G Dawson MacAuley, F Logan McVeigh and F Chandler Stephenson. . . . Another note from The MacBeth Report has F Carter Proft (Brandon, Spokane, 2011-14) having signed with the Kassel Huskies of the German DEL. Proft, who turns 20 on Aug. 30, had 23 points, 11 of them goals, in 72 games last season with the Chiefs. Other 20-year-olds on Spokane’s roster are F Liam Stewart, F Marcus Messier, F Connor Chartier and D Reid Gow. . . .
The Portland Winterhawks have signed D Brendan De Jong, a seventh-round selection in the 2013 bantam draft out of Victoria. De Jong, 16, had 13 points in 32 games with the Pacific Sea Devils, an elite 15 team at the Pacific Coast Academy.
Malcolm Cameron, who spent last season as head coach of the Regina Pats, now is on staff at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton, B.C. Cameron, 44, guided the Pats to WHL East Division regular-season title last season, but was fired by the franchise’s new owners last month. Prior to last season, he was an assistant coach with the Pats for two seasons. . . . Before joining the Pats, Cameron was an ECHL head coach for eight season. . . .

ECHLJean-François (J.F.) Houle is the new head coach of the ECHL’s Bakersfield Condors, who are owned by the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. He takes over from Troy Mann, now the head coach of the AHL’s Hershey Bears. . . . For the past three seasons, Houle, 39, has been head coach of the QMJHL’s Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. . . . He is the son of former Montreal Canadiens F Réjean Houle. . . . The Armada is working on finding a new head coach. . . .

The QMJHL’s Baie-Comeau Drakkar is looking for a head coach after Eric Veilleux left to become head coach of the Norfolk Admirals, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks. Veilleux, who had been with the Drakkar for two seasons, replaces Trent Yawney, who now is an assistant coach with the Ducks. The Drakkar reached the QMJHL final in each of Veilleux’s seasons. . . .

The Saskatoon Blades have added Shane Endicott (Seattle, 1997-2001) to their staff as the franchise’s first skills coach. Endicott, who is from Saskatoon, spent six seasons in the AHL after being the Pittsburgh Penguins selected him 52nd overall in the NHL’s 2000 draft. He retired after playing in Europe and opened On Ice Connections in Saskatoon. Last season, he helped the U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s team to its first conference title. . . .

BCHLKevin Kraus (Kamloops, Tri-City, 2006-08) is returning to Vernon as an assistant coach with the BCHL’s Vipers. He will work alongside GM/head coach Jason Williamson. A defenceman from Garden Grove, Calif., Kraus played 130 regular-season and 44 playoff games with the Vipers, helping them to two national championships. Kraus, 24, spent last season as an assistant coach with the BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks. With the Vipers, he replaces Kris Mallette, now an assistant coach with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets. . . .

Kim Dillabaugh has left the Kelowna Rockets after 11 seasons as their goaltending coach. Dillabaugh is moving on to work full-time with the Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings. While working with the Rockets, he also has helped the Kings for the past eight seasons in the area of goaltending development. He will continue in that area with the Kings, but now also will scout for them. The Rockets plan is to hire a goaltending coach to replace Dillabaugh.

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