In this little adventure of a writing career I’ve forayed into over the last couple of years, I’ve had a lot of fun talking to all sorts of interesting people and writing interviews and features for various outlets. It didn’t really occur to me that anyone would ever be interested in turning the microphone around towards my face to record what I was saying, but that’s exactly what the Jeju Weekly did recently, when I sat down with Darryl Coote for my first formal interview. It appears in the August edition of their printed paper, and is available online. And below, for your reading pleasure.
Also, I was recently a guest of Thomas Holzerman on The Wrestling Podcast, from the makers of The Wrestling Blog. I talked about WWE-related stuff for a long time, and even got a little hockey talk in at the end. If that sounds like your cup of tea, click right here to listen, or you can click here to listen/download the show on iTunes.
Enjoy the SDC smorgasbord!
Writing and hockey, passion and practice
Dave Cunning, a teacher and freelancer, is likely Jeju’s only former pro hockey player
Friday, August 17, 2012, 09:46:07 Darryl Coote firstname.lastname@example.org
I met Dave Cunning a couple weeks back. He came to The Weekly’s office looking to write about sports.
Usually I meet people about town and ask them if they want to write for us. But with Dave, he was one of the few who actually came to me.
Soon after, I learned that Dave and I have some things in common. We’re both Canadian, we both write for newspapers, and we both played hockey — though, impressively, Dave played professionally.
|▲ Dave Cunning. Photo by Darryl Coote|
In early August I sat down with Dave over a couple of beers to talk shop.
“Well, if you want to get technical,” Dave said, “I started writing in college. I mean it was something that everybody does. You’re writing a hundred papers a year and it just gets to the point where either you get good at it or you don’t.”
And then he found blogging. The freedom it offered him to express whatever was on his mind was a nice break from the rigidity of essays.
In 2006, Dave, who only recently became engaged, took blogging with him to France where he went to play professional hockey for Lyon H.C.
“That was one of the things I wrote [about]; I was writing about my experience. I was away from everyone I knew … and I was just alone with a computer and I wanted to tell people what was going on and I just wrote.”
To play hockey at the professional level, he said, was one of his greatest accomplishments.
“I always wanted to play pro hockey. It’s not something that everybody gets to say [they did].”
After that season he went home to Kelowna, British Columbia, where the transition from sport to a regular job wasn’t easy.
“It’s tough when you’ve spent your life pursuing a dream and … [it’s] the only thing that matters and then you’re doing something that couldn’t matter less. You’re working for a paycheck, you’re working to get by. And it’s awful.”
Since he hung up his skates, writing has been a way for Dave to stay in touch with the game he loves. He is still just as invested he said, it’s just from a different perspective.
And though it may not seem like it at first, for Dave there are two main similarities between writing and hockey — passion and practice.
“When you latch on to a story that you love, your best comes out. It’s not that different from the game of hockey. When you’re tuned into the game, you’ve trained, you’ve practiced, you’ve done a million pushups, you’ve done a million wind sprints, you‘ve done everything because you want to be the best at the game.”
The same is true with writing.
“If you half-ass a story it’s going to show up pretty quick,” he said.
The first story Dave wrote (and was paid for) for the Kelowna Daily Courier shows where these two disciplines intersect.
He visited a Kelowna Rockets practice and saw the players in line, just stick handling. “It was just like a hockey school,” he said. Just the basic back and forth from foot to foot.
And for Dave that was the hook for his story. These players, who were one step below the NHL, were doing drills for children just learning the game and he wanted to show that the game doesn’t change much from minor to professional hockey.
“And it’s not that different from writing,” he said. “The best writers probably write every day, probably two or three times a day, or more. We put this crazy interpretation or perception on professionals of any genre that they’re doing these mystical things that normal people can’t do and at the end of the day they just have been doing them consistently, and long enough, to be in really good practice to do them well.”
Along with The Weekly, Dave writes as a contributor for the Kelowna Daily Courier, BetOnHockey.com, and The Score’s Backhand Shelf. For these publications he’s interviewed some pretty big names in the hockey world like Pat Quinn and Mark Recchi. But to Dave, “I like to think every interview is my biggest one. You never know what you’re going to hear, you never know what you get to write, and you never know who is going to read what you get to write.”
Impressively, from Jeju’s shores he is writing once a month for the Kelowna Daily Courier.
For Dave and his wife, Karma, this has been their second foray to Korea to teach English. They were originally in Geoje Island, near the mainland. They left for a year and came to Jeju this past March, and so far it seems to be agreeing with him.
“I want to keep writing. I want to keep training. I want to keep doing the things I love. I want to keep doing the things I’m passionate about. If there’s an opportunity to keep doing that on Jeju then yeah we very well might stay longer. Like I said this place is beautiful. Jeju has so many things to offer for my wife and myself; everybody really.”
After tough season, Paddock sets sights on Europe
FRIDAY, 22 JUNE 2012 02:00 DAVE CUNNING
Had things played out a little differently this past season, a former Kelowna Rocket could have had his name on the Stanley Cup this year.
Unfortunately for Cam Paddock, things didn’t quite work out that way.
Two years prior, he had appeared in 16 games with the St. Louis Blues, until being sent back to the AHL. This past season, it seemed Paddock had been given his second chance in the NHL.
Looks can be deceiving though, and the deal turned out to be too good to be true – L.A. released him two days later, and reassigned him to their AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs.
“They basically offered me the contract and cut me at the same time,” said Paddock. “I came back to Vancouver and mulled the offer over at home before I signed it.
“I jumped in my car and drove 52 hours out to Manchester the next day.”
After a strong showing at L.A.’s training camp, and a contract offer from them, Paddock felt he was lined up for a season ripe with opportunity with the Kings’ affiliate.
However, Paddock’s hope slowly dwindled. After scoring two goals, three assists for five points with 44 penalty minutes and a minus-10 rating in 39 games, Paddock seemed to be a fixture on the team’s fourth line.
“I thought that I had a really good training camp,” said Paddock, 29. “I was told certain things by L.A., got sent to Manchester and then had their coach looking at me like I was playing with the wrong-handed stick.
“I assumed I was going to be the same third-line centre that I had been the past four years that I’d played in the league, but it didn’t work out that way. The coaches were feeding me the ‘work hard and you’ll get your opportunity’ rhetoric you get told when you’re a 21-year-old starting out in pro hockey, and playing me on the fourth line. I haven’t done that in five years. It was discouraging. I already know how to work hard, and what kind of player I am.”
“On some teams, you can do no wrong in the eyes of the coach. On other teams, it seems you can do no right,” continued Paddock. “It was the latter in Manchester for me. That’s just how it goes sometimes. It was a weird year.”
Playing with the Monarchs did, however, offer him the chance to play with Dwight King (his older brother D.J. played with Paddock in Kelowna), Slava Voynov, Jordan Nolan and Andrei Loktionov – all whom were recalled by L.A. and were contributors to the Kings’ Stanley Cup victory.
“They were all very good players with a ton of NHL ability,” Paddock said. “Dwight’s a really good guy and probably an even better hockey player. Loktionov and Voynov are both super-skilled. Slava’s nickname was Slava-bomb because his slapshot is about as hard as they come. Jordan is one of the toughest kids I’ve ever seen in the AHL. I was happy to see them all get a chance to go up there, and do as well as they did.”
As good as they are, though, none of them are household names on the Kings’ roster. In fact, one could make the case that other Monarchs could have done as good of a job as those call-ups had they got the call instead.
“Sometimes it comes down to whether you had a good week, or if a certain person saw you play a good game somewhere,” Paddock said. “Those guys are their young draft picks that they are developing. They deserve it, they work hard.
“But as far as them getting a chance instead of me, it’s a pretty fine line when you get down to it. In a lot of cases, it’s youth and size more than anything, I’d say.”
Perhaps if Darryl Sutter, who replaced Terry Murray as L.A.’s head coach back in December, had seen Paddock in training camp, things might have worked out differently.
“I thought about that when he got the job,” said Paddock. “I don’t know if it would have really made a difference, but the Sutter brothers are from Western Canada, and I know Darryl had seen me play when he was with Calgary and I was with St. Louis. I’d like to think that maybe it would have helped me out. But in saying that, he had only come to L.A. in a coaching role rather than a managerial one.
“The best-case scenario for me with Sutter would have been him putting a bug in someone’s ear about me when I was down the depth chart in Manchester and not playing. I’m sure he had enough to worry about in L.A. and wouldn’t have been too concerned.
“It definitely worked out good for Colin Fraser, though, who played for Brent Sutter in Red Deer. When Darryl got there, he knew exactly what kind of player he was and he trusted him. Colin is a good player – I played against him all over and I respect him -Â but to be candid, I think he’s six of one and I’m half a dozen of the other.”
On Jan. 26th, Kings president Dean Lombardi released a statement saying Paddock’s contract had been terminated – freeing him to return to play in Germany’s DEL.
In 13 games with the Augsburger Panther, Paddock recorded three goals, five assists for eight points, plus 20 PIMs and a plus-five rating.
“For my career, I had to make a move,” Paddock said. “Going back to Europe became the best option for me. It sucks to say, but as far as the NHL goes, with as disappointing as the year was this year, I’m done with it.
“To have the experience I had in Manchester, you realize the team really has nothing invested in you. I’m happy I got my 16 NHL games in, but now I’m looking forward to playing more years in Europe. It’s a cool lifestyle, it’s a different culture and there’s opportunity to climb the ranks over there instead.
“I really liked Augsburger’s coach. He was a very honest guy that told me exactly what I was there to do and didn’t make any promises he didn’t keep. I got along with him well. I really liked the fans, and we had a good group of guys on the team. It will be a lot of fun going back to that, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Before signing his next overseas contract, Paddock will have to wait until the NHL’s CBA is worked out – the result of which will determine whether an import spot will be available for him, rather than a North American orphan looking for a European team. It’ll give him more time to ponder his future.
“If I could play for another five or six years, I’d be happy,” Paddock said. “But it has to make sense. I feel really good, I’m as healthy as I’ve ever been, and I still really like playing and being around the guys. Playing the game’s still fun for me, and that’s the main thing.”
Follow Cam Paddock on Twitter: Follow @CPads18
Brody Sutter of the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes and the famous Sutter family signed an 3 year entry-level contract with the Carolina Hurricanes on June 1/2012 , where his cousins Brandon and Brett are awaiting his arrival– I thought it’d be interesting to post my interview with him, his coach, and his uncle from January of this year that was printed in the Kelowna Daily Courier. Enjoy!
[originally printed in the Kelowna Daily Courier on January 26, 2012 ]
THURSDAY, 26 JANUARY 2012 02:00 by DAVE CUNNING
Players in the WHL are used to having media surround their team, and even more so are players who have been drafted and/or have played games for NHL clubs. But when you have a famous last name stitched on the back of your
jersey, such as “Sutter”, the microscope focus intensifies.
For Lethbridge Hurricanes captain Brody Sutter, though, the bright media lights are part and parcel of belonging to his well-known hockey clan.
“It’s been like this my whole life, so I’m used to it,” said the 6-foot-4 and 205-pound Sutter. “It’d be weird if there wasn’t a lot of media and stuff. I’ve grown up with it and gotten used to it. It’s not that bad. I just try to put it all to the side.”
Hurricanes associate coach Matt Kabayama is used to the attention the Sutter name brings to his club.
“It’s fairly natural,” Kabayama said. “A lot of his uncles played in the Lethbridge area and his cousins played just up the road in Red Deer. There’s a lot of Sutters in our area, so we’re used to it.”
Along with the attention comes opportunity. Brody was the Carolina Hurricanes’ seventh-round pick in in 2011, even after being omitted from Central Scouting’s player listings.
If he were to crack the Hurricanes’ lineup next season, following what is his last season of junior eligibility, it would unite him with his cousin Brandon, and possibly Brett (currently playing in Carolina’s farm system). It would also make him the ninth Sutter to play in the NHL, behind his father Duane (who won four Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders and now scouts for the Edmonton Oilers) and five other uncles.
“I stayed at (Brandon’s) house during training camp for a couple nights,” recalled Brody. “He’s got a pretty nice place and lives a pretty good lifestyle. That’s the dream, and it’d be even sweeter to play with a family member. Everyone in our family seems to want to blaze their own path and go their separate ways, but it’s fun to play with family.
“I grew up playing street hockey and thinking about it, and it’d be pretty cool if it became a reality. I don’t know if I’ll make an NHL lineup next year. I’m hoping to make the AHL and work my way up. It’s a big jump that’s not easy to make, but, hopefully, I can take it one step at a time.”
His uncle, Gary Sutter, a Kelowna resident and the only first generation Sutter to not play in the NHL – though his brothers contend he was the best of them all – believes his nephew Brody is on the right path, despite an injury-hampered slow start to his junior career.
“What goes around comes around,” said the eldest Sutter. “He’s just like his dad and his uncles. He works hard and plays the game with a lot of passion. He started his WHL career fairly slow because of his development in Florida, but he’s been more or less carrying his team as of late. He’s a late bloomer, and I think he’s still got great potential.”
That potential is beginning to reveal itself, and Lethbridge’s coaching staff is among the many who have noticed.
“Brody’s come such a long way,” said Kabayama. “When he first came to us from Saskatoon, he went through some injuries and wasn’t your typical Sutter the way he played. He needed to add more grit to his game, and he’s come along by leaps and bounds. If you compared him now to then, you wouldn’t know it was the same kid. He’s always been tall, but he was only 170 pounds when he came to us. He’s gotten stronger and he’s skating like a man now, not like a gangly kid anymore. He’s just now realizing what he can do – with his size, it’s tough for guys to take the puck away from him in this league when he protects it. He’s understanding the game and working well with his linemates.”
Brody knows input on his game from the most famous family in hockey is never hard to access.
“When I’m struggling, there’s input,” said Lethbridge’s leading scorer. “When I need advice, it’s always only a phone call away. When I’m playing well, everyone just sits back and watches, but if they see something they think I can improve on, they let me know.”
Sutter currently leads his team in goals (20), assists (20), and points (40). The Hurricanes are currently two spots out of a playoff berth, with just over 20 games remaining in their regular season schedule.
Just a quick one…..
Got a chance to see Gerry Dee’s stand-up set in Kelowna on Sunday night…. great show by Mr.D — hilarious as expected. If you live in Kelowna, did you go to the show? If so, what did you think? Leave a comment below.
I got to meet Gerry after the show, and he even remembered our interview from a few weeks prior, which was cool. I got him to sign the Kelowna Daily Courier article that I wrote to promo the event, and even got a pic. Great guy, great show. Great interaction with fans too. If you missed him this time, don’t next time! Watch Mr.D Monday nights on CBC in the mean time. He’s a good follow on Twitter too. @gerrydee @mrd_on_cbc
Below is the article.
Originally published in the Kelowna Daily Courier, Saturday January 21st, 2012
They say laughter is the best medicine. With a new show on the air, a nationwide stand-up comedy tour in progress, and a new book soon to hit store shelves, Gerry Dee might be the cure for anyone’s seasonal ailments.
Gerry’s “Life After Teaching” tour makes a stop at the Kelowna Community Theatre on January 22nd. I was able to catch his last performance in town, and let me tell you from experience, the guy is hilarious and worth the price of admission.
“It’ll be my third time in Kelowna,” recollected Dee. “I always look forward to it – such a beautiful city. I only get to stay for a day, but I think it’s gorgeous there.”
Dee’s family friendly material will be refreshing to experience for anyone who’s been turned off from live stand-up comedy by overly explicit and crass comedians in the past.
“I’ve got a lot of new material since last time I was in town,” Dee said. “There’s a lot of stuff about being a parent and a husband. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m going to say. Sometimes I talk to the crowd a bit, sometimes I mix it up – there’ll be a little bit of everything.”
Interestingly, Gerry was born Gerard Donoghue, but later changed his name to Gerry Dee to conceal his identity while performing stand-up.
“When I really started standup, I just didn’t want anyone to know,” admitted Dee. “I wanted to be quiet about it because I was teaching still. It was easier to say and spell. I thought it was good to separate myself so people I knew didn’t know I was doing it when I started.”
Dee was a school teacher in Ontario when we decided to wanted to take a shot at pursuing his passion for comedy. Gerry gained some traction in the field – appearances at comedy festivals eventually turned into TV and movie parts. Now being viewed all over the world, remaining anonymous has become a whole lot tougher for him.
“Stand-up comedy started to take off for me,” said Dee. “If I really wanted to give it a chance, and pursue the whole spectrum of comedy, I needed to get away from teaching to try it. It was something I always felt like I wanted to try. I didn’t just quit teaching, I did both for a while, and then I took a chance when I started to make a little money at it. It definitely worked out.”
Gerry’s new show, “Mr.D”, airs Monday nights on CBC, and drew 1.23 million viewers of its debut episode. The show draws influence from Dee’s days as an educator in Ontario. Fans of his stand-up may recognize some of his comedy bits integrated into the script as well. The show’s third episode of twelve will air the night after Gerry’s Kelowna performance.
“We’re pleased with it,” Dee remarked. “We’ve had some great results as far as numbers from the first night, so we hope that continues. It’s loosely based on my life as a teacher. Some of it is exaggerated truth, some of it’s exactly how it was, some of it we just made up. It goes back and forth through the series.”
Gerry Dee fans may also recognize him from his regular gig as “Gerry Dee: Sports Reporter” on The Score sports network. Dee conducts humorous interviews with pro athletes, and usually forgets their names, spews bogus stats, or requires five or six takes to make the discussion air-worthy.
“It’s done on purpose,” Dee conceded. “Just having fun and playing with them; and throwing something at them they might not expect. It’s always been pretty positive with the guys. Most want to do it. My favorite interview was with Charles Barkley. My least favorite was John Daly, who wouldn’t even do the interview. I don’t know why he wouldn’t, you’d have to ask him. Sometimes they get a lot of requests, and people aren’t always respectful and bombard them sometimes.”
Dee has interviewed some of the biggest names in sports, such as Peyton Manning, Michael Jordan, and Wayne Gretzky. He even got “The Great One” to remember his name.
“Well, I just interviewed him ten minutes earlier, so that’s the only reason he knew who I was,” Dee acknowledged. “He’s a good guy and a legend. He was one of my heroes growing up, so it was cool to interview him.”
With plenty of 2012 remaining, expect to see much more from Gerry Dee this year. Follow him on Twitter @gerrydee and check out his official website www.gerrydee.com to keep afloat!
Listen to this interview in its entirety online at https://davecunning.wordpress.com
Follow me on Twitter: Follow @davecunning
The Kelowna Rockets are going to be well represented during the 2012 World Junior Championships this December and January in Calgary and Edmonton.
Not just on the ice, and not just for Team Canada – Brett Bulmer is the only Rockets’ player invited to try out for the home team. Kelowna’s head coach Ryan Huska will backup Don Hay behind Canada’s bench, Rockets’ athletic therapist Jeff Thorburn will be on Canada’s medical staff, and Filip Vasko will be contending for a spot on Slovakia’s national roster.
Coach Huska is just as excited as the players to be representing Canada.
“It’s a thrill,” Huska said. “The players are always excited to put the jersey on and play for Canada, and it’s no different for coaches – I’m honoured to be part of this team again this year. You get a chance to coach some of the best young players in our country and you get a chance to work with and learn from some great coaches. I’m very excited, and looking forward to it.”
Even though Canada’s won the tournament more than any other country (15 times), they haven’t won gold since 2009, and the country has been chomping at the bit to re-take the throne ever since. Huska’s well aware of the pressure to win on home ice that the club will endure.
“Expectations are to win gold,” Huska stated. “Everybody knows that coming in. Canada has a lot of pride in the teams it puts into international competitions, and they expect to win. There are a lot of countries right now that could win instead of us. Our players need to understand that there will be a lot of pressure on them – especially since we are playing at home – but they have to use it in the right way. We’ll need our group to buy in and play as a team as soon as possible. If we can do that, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win. We all know the expectation is for a gold medal.”
Forty-one of Canada’s top junior players have been invited to take part in Team Canada’s Selection Camp from Dec. 10 to 14 in Calgary. Thirty-six of them are NHL draft picks. Trying to cut another 19 of the country’s best players to get the roster to 22 won’t be any easier than it was to whittle down to the current number.
“Getting down to 41 was a challenge,” explained Huska. “There were probably 15 other guys that were very close to being invited as well. It comes down to putting together the guys that make up the best team. Sometimes that most skilled or most offensive players might not be there in the end, because it’s about having the proper mix of guys that are going to generate offence, but also guys who going to be workers – guys that can kill penalties and bring energy to your team. In a short period of time, you have to find a group of players that are willing to do whatever’s necessary to make this team, and for some that might mean filling different roles than they’re used to. Our job is to find the best 22 guys that can do that.”
Kelowna forward Brett Bulmer is hoping to be one of those final 22 players. Despite being one of only a small handful of other invitees with NHL experience, and playing for Canada’s assistant coach during the season, Bulmer will have to earn his spot just like everyone else.
“The coaches have seen me a lot over the last few years,” said Bulmer. “They know as a big body I can bring a physical element. I want to go in there and be on the body a lot, because I know the European teams probably won’t be able to handle the hitting. I can add offence too though. They have a lot of depth when it comes to scoring – a lot of small, skilled guys – but I can add as much offence as anyone. They’re going to have to cut a lot of great players. I have to show my best at camp and make sure I stand out. I’ll do anything they ask of me – if they tell me to play a certain role, I’ll do it. I can’t go in thinking I have an advantage. I have to work hard, play well and show I deserve to be on the team. I have to make sure I’m ready for it. It’s a huge opportunity for me, and I’m going to make the most of it. I really want to make that team, and I’m excited about my opportunity.
“He needs to be prepared to earn a spot, just the same as the other 40 guys coming to camp. There are no free rides – he’s got to earn a spot just like everyone else. The best way for him to do that will be to use his speed and size. He makes it very difficult for defenceman to handle his size. If he can play to those strengths, he’ll give himself a chance to be on that team. It’s good for me to know him already. I’ve got to know him very well over the last three years. His NHL experience helps too. He’s been in situations in the NHL where he’s played in front of 19,000 people, so he knows every play is important and he can’t have off shifts. It’ll be the same way come Christmas time.”
Rockets’ forward Filip Vasko is excited for his chance to play for his home country of Slovakia as well. Vasko departs on Dec. 15 to join a field of 29 Slovakian players competing to wear their country’s colours on their uniform.
“I think it’s amazing for every guy who gets to play for their nation,” Vasko said. “It’s the same for me. I’m just going to try and play the best I can. I’m very proud.”
The Rockets’ leading scorer Shane McColgan was in contention for Team USA, but was recently announced as being omitted from their roster.
Of the 30 players invited to the American selection camp, 75 per cent were current NCAA players – and only one skater is from the WHL. If players of McColgan’s calibre are not being added to their roster, one has to think Team USA will again be a gold medal contender, and a threat to Canada’s chances.
“It’s a little frustrating for me,” McColgan said. “I’m just going to keep working hard the rest of the season, and try to make that team next year. You can’t really dwell on it though. We have an exciting road trip coming up, and that’s my main focus right now. When I was at the summer evaluation camp, I saw the level of the guys that will be on the final roster. They’re definitely a contender, and I wish them the best of luck. It would have been nice to represent my country, but maybe next year. I hope to be there in the future. It’ll give me time to relax over Christmas, and be fresh for the second half of the season.”
Canada will play intrasquad games on Dec. 11 and 12 and one exhibition game against a CIS all-star team, before finalizing their roster on Dec. 14.
They’ll then play in three exhibition games prior to the tournament, and then open the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship on December 26th against Finland.
***[UPDATE: DEC 14/11]***
For Immediate Release – Dec. 14, 2011
Kelowna Rockets forward Brett Bulmer is heading back to join the Rockets after narrowly missing out on making the Team Canada World Junior Tournament.
Bulmer was among the cuts Wednesday morning as Team Canada named its 22 man roster for the 2012 World Junior Hockey Championship in Calgary and Edmonton.
“It’s pretty disappointing,” Bulmer said in a media scrum at the team hotel after hearing the news. “I thought I worked hard, did everything they asked of me at camp so it’s really disappointing. I thought I had a good shot. I worked hard, got on the body and did everything they asked but…”
Bulmer was in the Rockets lineup Wednesday when the team faced Regina.
The Kelowna Rockets defeated the Regina Pats 3-2 in overtime on Wednesday night. Wednesday’s game began with a bang when Brett Bulmer scored just 19 seconds into the game, less than 10 hours after being released from Team Canada’s World Junior program. After getting the news, Bulmer made the trip from Calgary to Regina, joining the Rockets and making an immediate impact. For Bulmer it was his 12th goal of the season.
For More Information:
Kevin Parnell, media relations
Call or text: 250-491-8407
Hi folks! Below is the companion piece to the last article I wrote about WHL players leaving their junior teams for NHL clubs. Brett Bulmer played 9 games with the Minnesota Wild this season, before being sent back down to the Kelowna Rockets. I talked with him a few days later. Enjoy. -SDC
Playing in the NHL may be the dream of every young Canadian kid, but with only 690 spots available, there definitely isn’t room for everyone.
Kelowna Rockets forward Brett Bulmer got to live the dream this fall, playing nine games for the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.
In those nine games, he registered three points and six penalty minutes. It was even reported Bulmer had beaten out six-season veteran Eric Nystrom for his spot on the Wild’s main roster in training camp.
“It was amazing,” Bulmer said of his stay with the Wild before his season debut with Kelowna on Friday. “To play the nine games and to be around all the NHLers was pretty cool. Everyone there was really good to me. It was cool to be around guys who have been there a long time. It’s something you dream of as a kid. To play in the NHL as a 19-year-old was very special.”
One can imagine that playing against men in the world’s most highly regarded hockey league is a little different pace than competing against players who are 20 years old and younger in major junior.
“You don’t really have too much time with the puck, and you’ve got to make quicker decisions,” Bulmer said. “I just jumped into it and I got better as I went along. It’s actually almost easier at that level because the passes are always on your tape. You always know where you have to be because they’ll let you know. It’s very professional and everyone wants to win every night.”
Minnesota elected to send Bulmer back to Kelowna before playing a 10th game, which meant the Wild avoided having to count the first of Bulmer’s three-year contract towards their salary cap this season.
Although a little disappointed to not have stuck with the big club, Minnesota left Bulmer optimistic that’d he’d be back.
Brett has his sights set on returning to the Wild next season, after he carries out the marching orders given to him by Minnesota with the Rockets this season.
“I’m disappointed because I did a lot of work to try and stay there,” Bulmer said. “It’s not a bad thing, though, because it’s just a year to grow. It was a matter of them wanting me to get lots of playing time this year. I probably could have made it as a third or fourth liner, but they want me to be a guy that can play more diverse roles once I make it for good. Nineteen is a big year to develop, and I can still get a lot better. They told me I’m a big part of their future. I want to be a guy they can build their team around one day, but I need to work hard here this year to make that a possibility.”
Bulmer took the Wild’s orders seriously, scoring four points in his first game back (two goals and two assists). He also averaged a plus-one rating over the Rockets’ two-game weekend homestand against Portland.
The output was welcomed by Ryan Huska, Kelowna’s head coach.
“It’s important, of course,” Huska said. “He’s a guy that brings a lot to the table for us – not only with his offensive ability, but with his size up front. It’s something that we had missed and it’s nice to have him back.”
Bulmer’s return also adds leadership to the team. He wore an ‘A’ on his jersey in both games this past weekend against Portland.
“He’s going to be a part of our leadership group,” said Huska. “He has to be because he’s the guy with a lot of experience for us.”
Now as a WHL player with NHL experience, Brett is also fully aware of the extra pressure and high expectations on him to perform. Especially on a team that desperately needs offensive production and wins.
“I love pressure,” said Bulmer. “I thrive on it, so it’s not something I worry about. I like to be the go-to guy. I’m glad to have everyone look to me to do something. Every night I’m going to go out and do my best for the team and try to help us win. I’ve got a leadership role here, and I’m happy to do it.”