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Rockets Over-Agers Look Ahead to Memorial Cup

June 10, 2015 Leave a comment


[originally published in the Kelowna Capital News, and on kelownarockets.com]
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Posted: May 19, 2015 – 23:01 PDT |
Written By: Dave Cunning

Photo Credits: Marissa Baecker @ shootthebreeze.ca

Photo Credits: Marissa Baecker @ shootthebreeze.ca

“We’re not done yet. We’ve still got the Memorial Cup.”

Even amidst the jubilation of capturing their club’s fourth WHL championship last week, Chance Braid and the rest of the Kelowna Rockets knew that they still have much work ahead – and even more glory left for them to attain.

“The Memorial Cup was our goal from the start of the season,” said Rockets’ injured left winger, Tyrell Goulbourne. “To make it there and win it.”

The reigning WHL champions will next face their rival league equals – OHL champion Oshawa Generals, QMJHL champion Rimouski Oceanic, and tournament host Quebec Remparts — in the quest to declare ultimate major junior supremacy. Kelowna’s sweep of the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL final – including a shutout in the series clinching game – was unquestionably impressive, but when the Rockets collide with the OHL and QMJHL champs, can they produce equally dominant results?

“They’re the top teams in each of their leagues, so it’s going to be tough,” said Goulbourne, whose return date from injury is still unknown heading into the Memorial Cup. “I feel like if we play our game and our way, I like our chances in that tournament.”

“It’ll be interesting to see how we stack up,” said assistant captain, Cole Martin. “I feel pretty confident in our group in there. We’ve got a lot of heart in that room and I think that’ll help us be successful.”

“When we go up there, we’re going to work our butts off and hopefully get the win,” added Braid. “We won the WHL championship, and we know we can do more. We’ve got role players, we’ve got goal scorers, we’ve got a goalie – with the team we’ve got, I think we’re going to do just fine.”

The Rockets are certainly bringing a capable group to the dance. Jackson Whistle’s four shutouts lead the CHL through the playoffs, as do Leon Draisitl’s three short-handed goals. The team should be well rested too – winning the WHL in only 19 games means they have played up to three less games than their upcoming opponents. After only losing three games in their WHL playoff stretch, the Rockets earned a winning percentage of 0.842% – both of those statistics top the Generals, Ramparts, and Oceanic.

Further, their expedited championship also granted them four more days of rest than the competing QMJHL teams, whose final series went to seven games.

While the Rockets will unquestionably match their eastern rivals in potency, a bigger question will be whether Kelowna can counter what their opposition brings to the table. They will have to put pucks past Goals-Against and Goals-Against-Average leader, Louis-Phiip Guindon of Rimouski (25; 0.184), and save percentage leader, Zachary Fucale of Quebec (.913%). They will also have to deactivate top point producers, Cole Cassels and Michael Dal Colle of Oshawa (31), and goal scoring leader, Adam Erne of Quebec (21).

For Goulbourne, Martin, and Braid – the Rockets’ three eldest statesmen – the Memorial Cup tournament is uncharted waters, as it is for the rest of Kelowna’s current roster. Aside from the club’s long term staff, no current Rockets have experience from the team’s last Memorial Cup appearance in 2009 to mine, nor from their tournament win in 2004. With that in mind, all three veterans will be looked to by their teammates for their savvy leadership in Quebec – on and off the ice – and not just because of their age. Goulbourne and Martin both recorded career highs in regular season goals, assists, and points this year, and Braid has never been more productive in the post-season in any statistical category.

Rockets fans will have to wait until May 31st to find out whether this trio of 20 year olds in their swan song season of junior hockey will help lead Kelowna to their second Memorial Cup title in franchise history, or not. One thing that is for certain though – no matter how the tournament plays out, none of the three will ever forget how their junior hockey careers concluded.

Follow Dave Cunning on Twitter @davecunning, read his blog at https://davecunning.wordpress.com and listen to his podcast at http://xppsp.podbean.com

Johansen brothers enjoy banter, but team up for success

June 10, 2015 Leave a comment

[originally published in the Kelowna Daily Courier on May 4, 2015]
[The extended audio version of this interview can be heard on my podcast]

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Rockets defenceman’s older brother is former Winterhawks star, NHLer

Posted: Monday, May 4, 2015 11:20 pm | by Dave Cunning

The Kelowna Rockets may have just beaten the Portland Winterhawks for the WHL’s Western Conference title, but while the two hockey teams were engaged in battle, there was a separate, smaller scale match-up also taking place in the background.

Ryan LucasDuring the series, Rockets defenceman Lucas Johansen was fighting a war of words with his brother, Columbus Blue Jackets centre Ryan Johansen, a Portland Winterhawks alumni. Due to conflicting season schedules, Ryan is rarely able to attend Lucas’ games in person, so the Johansen’s generally communicate through text or phone call. While generally supportive in nature through those mediums, the siblings made sure to mix in their share of barbs while Ryan’s former team squared off against Lucas’s current club.

“I’m always giving him a hard time,” said the elder Johansen, who turns 23 in July. “I told him I’m cheering for the Hawks. I’ve got texts from him saying, ‘I can’t wait to beat the Hawks tonight’ and stuff like that to rub it in on me. Deep down though, when I’m watching the games, one hundred percent I want to see him and his team be successful.”

Lucas was nearly convinced his brother was truly on his side all along.

“I think he was cheering for me, but I don’t really know,” admitted Lucas, 17. “He bugs me sometimes. He’ll send me the odd text saying ‘Go Hawks!’ as a joke, but for the most part, he’s rooting for the Rockets, I think.”

Beyond the give-and-take, Lucas has found his brother to be a well of experience and knowledge that he’s constantly able to draw from, especially during the Rockets’ series with Portland.

“He watched the games,” said Lucas. “When he played for Portland, they won the Western Conference as well, so he’s been through it. He can definitely give me pointers on what I can do better, and he definitely has. It’s good to have a guy like that in your family.”

Despite being five years apart in age, and thousands of miles away from each other at all times during the hockey season, Lucas and Ryan managed to become closer than ever this past year.

“Last year was really the first year my brother and I got really close,” Ryan recalled. “We basically did everything together. He started training with me every day. He’d stay over a lot of the time at my place. We really became close friends.

“It’s awesome that I can guide him. Whenever he needs an answer to a question, I can help him out, or show him how to do things differently.”

While mining all he can from big brother, Lucas also wants to put in his own work, and blaze his own trail in hockey. Ryan is in full support of that approach.

“Lucas is one of those kids that really drives himself,” said Ryan. “He’s got that inner drive where he wakes up every day and asks, ‘What can I do to get better at hockey?’ Whether it’s going to the gym, playing road hockey — anything that would help him be a better hockey player, he wants to do.”

“The thing I tell everyone about him is that his work ethic is non-stop,” Ryan continued in his praise for Lucas. “He’s doing everything he can right now to get in my position and play in the NHL. As an older brother and seeing him go through the process, I couldn’t be more proud of him and the way he works and carries himself.

“I love the way he plays the game. I think he can be a heck of a player. The way he’s been working, and the way he cares about the game and prepares himself, he’s definitely on the right track. He’s one of those kids that really wants to do it himself, and prove to people that he can be a great hockey player. Me playing in the NHL for a few years and having gone through the WHL, he’s got a lot of motivation to be successful. Seeing him do his own thing, I’m really proud of the way he’s developed, the way this year’s gone for him, and the way their team’s been playing. It’s been an absolute blast watching him and hearing about him grow.”

Beyond game-play matters, Ryan’s also been able to provide counsel on Lucas’ choice to play major junior rather than pursue an NCAA scholarship — a decision Ryan had to make for himself in 2009.

“Leaving a full ride scholarship is probably is the toughest hockey decision I’ve ever made in my life,” Ryan said. “To have a path set up, and to throw it all behind and just take a shot at hockey — the way I felt about my game, to me it was always the right decision. It was the thing I always wanted to do, and I just went with my gut feeling. I had the confidence that I could play with those players, and be successful out there. It didn’t happen overnight — it took a lot of hard work and a lot of teaching, but like my brother, we’re both motivated to be the best players we can be. I put my mind to it and found ways to get better. I had a lot of great players and people there to guide me through it, and so does Lucas now. He’s got a great organization in Kelowna, and he’s surrounded with great players and great coaches. That’s how kids become successful. The sky’s the limit for him, just like it is for me. It’s such a fun process to go through, and one of the things I always tell him is to enjoy it.”

With the likes of Rick Nash, Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik all departing Columbus while he was on the Blue Jackets’ roster, Ryan found himself in a position where the team needed him to step up and fill holes.

In response, Johansen set career highs in assists and points last season, was voted into the NHL All-Star Game, and outscored all three of the aforementioned names.

With the Rockets now battling for the WHL championship, Kelowna will demand the same of their players if they are to capture the Ed Chynoweth Cup — Lucas included.

“They looked at me as a guy who needed to elevate his game and take that next step to be an elite player,” said Ryan. “The opportunity was mine. It was right in front of me, and I had to go grab it. I’ve still got so much room to improve. I feel I can grow a lot still as a player, and that’s what they’ve been telling me leaving Columbus to come back home, they still want to see another level, and I do as well. I prepare to do the things that make me successful on the ice, and that’s what I tell Lucas — that those experiences that I go through are what made me better.

“Everything’s not going to be the same for the both of us, but at least I can share those experiences with him, which hopefully will make us both better.”

Self Promotion Is So Much Easier When Others Do It For You….

August 24, 2012 1 comment

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!

-SDC

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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  darrylcoote@jejuweekly.com

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.”

Cam Paddock Content To Continue Hockey Career Abroad

July 4, 2012 Leave a comment

[Originally published in the Kelowna Daily Courier newspaper on Friday, June 22/2012]

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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.

Paddock, who played five seasons with the Rockets from 1999 to 2004 and won a Memorial Cup with them, signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings on Sept. 26, 2011.

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.”

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Brody Sutter NHL Bound — Repost of My January Interview With Him

June 3, 2012 Leave a comment

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!

-SDC

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[originally printed in the Kelowna Daily Courier on January 26, 2012 ]

Late-blooming Sutter showing NHL potential

THURSDAY, 26 JANUARY 2012 02:00 by DAVE CUNNING

photo courtesy of sportphotographers.ca

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.

Gerry Dee Kelowna Stand-Up Wrap-Up

January 24, 2012 1 comment

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.

-Dave

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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

World Junior Tournament Well-Stocked With Rockets

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

[originally printed in The Kelowna Daily Courier on December 8/2011]

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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
Kelowna Rockets
Call or text: 250-491-8407
E-mail: kevin@kelownarockets.com

Online:
kelownarockets.com
twitter.com/Kelowna_Rockets
facebook.com/Kelowna-Rockets

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