Posts Tagged ‘hockey’

Rockets Over-Agers Look Ahead to Memorial Cup

June 10, 2015 Leave a comment

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

Photo Credits: Marissa Baecker @

Photo Credits: Marissa Baecker @

“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 and listen to his podcast at

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]


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.”

XP PSP Podcast episodes 18-20

May 4, 2015 Leave a comment

To catch up on the latest 3 episodes of XP PSP: the eXPat Pro Sports Podcast that I fell behind on posting, have a look at the episode summaries and links below for episodes 18-20 — and take a listen while you’re at it!


Episode 18 – Guest: Bernie Nicholls, 19 season NHL veteran, 3 time all-star.

BernieASMBernie and I discussed the All Sports Market Free App (the new sports stock market app Bernie is helping develop and promote), the world of sports gambling and what sports are easiest/most difficult to fix, the LA Kings waiving Mike Richards and whether we will see him in the NHL again, Bernie’s thoughts on the Slava Voynov legal situation, who the Kings should trade for prior to the NHL trade deadline to hopefully improve their chances of making the playoffs, why he engages social media more so than many older generation athletes, whether he wants to resume coaching in the NHL again, and a whole bunch more.




Episode 19 – Guest: Jim Paek, first Korean born hockey player to both play in the NHL, and win the Stanley Cup. Current head coach for the South Korean national hockey team.

jimpaekpicJim and I spoke about how he’s perceived in Korea’s hockey community and his desire to improve hockey in his home nation, the freedom he has to make team decisions, his Korean skills, the language barrier, and how he works through communication issues on the team, the use of foreign born naturalized players to better South Korea’s chances and the pros and cons of that approach, the pressure and expectations for the national team that his resume brings, how the team can compete against the world’s best nations in 2018 while currently ranked two divisions down from their level and the fairness of them being in the tournament, how hard it was to make it to the NHL as a Korean and how he got there, playing with Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky, playing under Scotty Bowman and working with Mike Babcock, what he learned from them, returning to the NHL as a coach, juggling being a husband and parent while being continents away from his family, and he makes a verbal commitment to help hockey in Jeju continue to grow!




Episode 20 – Guest: Aleksandar Jovanović, defender for Jeju United FC (K-League soccer in Korea).

AleksAleks and I discuss him playing on a team where virtually no one else speaks English and other cultural challenges of living/playing in Korea, the performance expectations placed upon import players, how the K-League stacks up against other pro soccer leagues, how many languages he speaks, Jeju United’s recent coaching change and what they need to do to become a Asian Cup qualifying team this season, his goals and aspirations for the team and himself this year, and lots more.




Podcast homepage:

Download XP PSP on iTunes

Product Review: Don Cherry’s Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Hockey 26!!

April 13, 2015 Leave a comment

If you’re an LA Kings fan like me, you’re probably having trouble finding silver linings to the Kings’ failure to make the 2014-15 Stanley Cup Playoffs. While there’s very few positives to mine from this atrocity, one thing that we can cling to is their Stanley Cup victory last year, immortalized on video, as part of Don Cherry’s Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Hockey 26, on DVD and Blu-Ray. We can watch Alec Martinez shake his jazz hands after potting the Cup winning goal in double OT over, and over, and over. And over.

RS26 pairs an epic sounding soundtrack with the best plays the NHL had to offer in 2013-14. You’ll relive the season’s best goals, hits, saves, bloopers, and fights; plus you also get playoff highlights of all 4 rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs, minor hockey tips for parents and kids, highlights from CBC’s Coach’s Corner segment during Hockey Night in Canada, Don telling stories from hockey’s yesteryear, Don wearing flowery high-collared suits, Don dancing and lip syncing in Times Square with old guy glasses on, Don saying “bawango!”, Don saying “trolley tracks” and “look out!”, and everything else you hope Don Cherry would do for you in a 65 minute span.

You can watch Sportscentre highlights on repeat loop all you want, but this video series always shows even the most dedicated fan that there were so many more amazing plays that happened during the NHL season than they ever realized went down. Here’s a preview:

Don Cherry’s Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Hockey 26 is a great addition to any hockey fan’s video library, and it makes a great gift too. Find it on DVD or Blu-Ray on Amazon, or at your local video retailer.

Below is the official press release:


Video Services Corp., presents:

Don Cherry’s Rock’em Sock’em — In its 26th Year!

 There have been a lot of changes in Canadian hockey broadcasting recently, but one beloved tradition continues with the release of Rock’em Sock’em Hockey 26 on DVD and Blu-ray.

20150413_055546339_iOSThe best goals, saves and hits from the 2013-2014 season, including what many considered to be the best playoffs in years, are combined with the best of Coach’s Corner to create the perfect gift for the hockey lover on your list.

Don Cherry’s Rock’em Sock’em Hockey was first released in 1989, quickly became a huge success in the marketplace and is now the bestselling sports video franchise in Canadian history. To date the franchise has sold over two million units and continues to be one of the highest selling sports videos during the holiday season.

For the third consecutive year Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Hockey is being distributed by Video Services Corp (VSC).

“We’ve had an amazing experience working with Don and Tim Cherry to bring Rock’em Sock’em to Canadians,” declared VSC President Jonathan Gross. “We’re proud to be part of an institution!”

“We’re so happy to be working with old and new partners to keep the series going for a 26th year,” said Executive Producer Tim Cherry, “so many Canadians have grown up with this every year, we don’t want to disappoint them!”



SRP: $19.98 | TRT: 65 min

UPC: 7-78854-21609-9| Catalog: CHE2160


SRP: $24.98 | TRT: 65 min

UPC: 7-78854-21619-8| Catalog: CHE2161


About Video Services Corp.

Founded in 1993 by former rock critic Jonathan Gross, Video Services Corp. (VSC) is a leading independent all-platform film distributor with offices in Toronto and Los Angeles. VSC’s DVD catalogue includes “Corner Gas,” Sharknado, “Comedy Now! Starring Russell Peters” and “Spectacle: Elvis Costello With….” Recent theatrical releases include Union Square, with Oscar® winner Mira Sorvino, Alan Partridge, starring Steve Coogan, and the Israeli horror sensation Big Bad Wolves. VSC has an eclectic 2014 slate that features Cannes Selection Life Itself, TIFF Midnight Madness People’s Choice Award Winner What We Do In The Shadows, Sundance Festival favourite White Bird In A Blizzard, and the horror film ABCs of Death 2. VSC is also restoring the historic 1984 Canada Cup o DVD in late 2014. For more information visit, or


Book Review: “Shoot To Thrill: The History of Hockey’s Shootout” by Mark Roseman & Howie Karpin

April 12, 2015 6 comments

There are not too many hockey fans without strong sentiments on the NHL shootout – one half lauds it as an exciting way to conclude a match-up, while the other half calls for it to die a quick and very painful death. At the moment, I personally am tempted to side with the latter, as my LA Kings’ abysmal 2-8 shootout record this season arguably cost them a playoff spot. But despite the disparity in mass opinion, both sides of the issue surely can agree that shootouts capture the full attention of fans when they happen, whether they’re at the rink or in front of a TV screen.

But why does the NHL use a shootout? And where did it come from? For fans seeking answers to those hockey showdown related questions and more, there is a great new book that goes above and beyond to not only satisfy your queries, but to provide you with further elucidation that you didn’t even know you needed. “Shoot To Thrill: The History of Hockey’s Shootout” by Mark Rosenman and Howie Karpin is sure to smarten you Shoot to Thrillup when it comes to shootouts.

The authors tell of the shootout’s evolution from its introduction at the 1988 Winter Olympics, and details the differences between the Olympic version and the NHL’s incarnation. Furthermore, other sports appear to have influenced it as well. They contend it’s an offshoot from soccer, who adopted penalty kicks to determine game outcomes in the 1980’s (yes, even the world’s most popular sport had to evolve at one point). Roots even spread deeper to basketball, from a one-on-one competition that ABC aired on television in the early 1970’s, which NBC mimicked in return, airing a hockey version in the following years until the 1980’s. This “Showdown” as it was dubbed, was intermission entertainment, and draws striking similarities to modern day reality TV – eliminating competitors, and awarding prize money to the victors.

The shootout also seems to be the step-brother of the penalty shot, which was implemented in the 1920’s in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, and later adopted into the NHL in 1934. What began as a stationary shot, then morphed to a shot from a confined area, and all the way to the center ice breakaway version we see nowadays during both penalty shots and shootout attempts.

The book also provides Interesting statistics from memorable Olympic and NHL shootouts and penalty shots, detailing the shooters, the outcome of each attempt, and deeper trivia like who the first ever shootout shooters and scorers were, longest, players who have had two penalty shots in a game, two in a period, and who’s had a penalty shot goal disallowed because of an illegal curve.  You also get some insider intel from players and goalies on how they prepare for shootouts, and which goalies and shooters they themselves would pick. Nearly 100 opinions come out from former and current players, broadcasters and officials on whether they like the shootout or not. The book also includes a handy appendix of team shootout records, detailing each NHL team’s top three most successful shooters, and goaltender with the best shootout record.

Whether you’re a casual fan, hockey stats and history junkie, or somewhere in between, “Shoot To Thrill” is a real page turner that I’m sure you’ll enjoy and learn from.

You can find it online as a hardcover or e-book on Amazon, or at your local bookstore, with any luck.

Below is the official press release from Sports Publishing, and imprint of Skyhorse Publishing:


Shoot to Thrill:

The History of Hockey’s Shootout

By Mark Rosenman and Howie Karpin

Some maintain that hockey’s shootout erases a sixty-five-minute emotional roller coaster between two teams and that it’s wrong for games to be decided based on a one-on-one battle between a shooter and a goalie.

Others argue that shootouts provide edge-of-your seat excitement as two supremely skilled players go head-to-head for all the marbles.

“The anecdotes and notes [in this book] will enlighten any hockey fan and will give you a perspective into how and why this rule was added from those who were and are still directly involved.”  – from the foreword by “Jiggs” McDonald

In 2005, the National Hockey League adopted the shootout to settle ties in regular season games. Some rule changes are instituted without anyone’s noticing. Others shake the game to its very foundations. Ten years after its introduction, the shootout remains one of the most significant and controversial rule changes in all of sports.

Shoot to Thrill blends history, stats, and personal perspectives from players, coaches, officials, and broadcasters. Mark Rosenman and Howie Karpin explore how players and coaches prepare forshootouts, what they think of them, and how shootouts have helped shape hockey history over the past decade.

Like the designated-hitter rule in baseball, hockey’s shootout has left no fan impartial to it.

Love the rule or hate it, no one stops watching when it’s time for a shootout!


About the Authors

MARK ROSENMAN has been covering sports since 1979, as an on air talk show host on Cablevision, WGLI, and WGBB. He is currently the host and producer of WLIE 540 a.m. SportsTalkNY. He is credentialed with the NHL and covers both the Islanders and Rangers and is credentialed with MLB and covers the New York Mets. He lives in Commack, New York.

HOWIE KARPIN has been a sports reporter for more than thirty years and has covered everything from the World Series to the Stanley Cup Finals. He is an accredited official scorer for Major League Baseball in New York and is a contributor to Mad Dog Radio, MLB Radio, and NFL Radio. He lives in the Bronx, New York.

Sports Publishing hardcover, also available as an ebook

Pub Date: March 17, 2015

ISBN 978-1-61321-797-9

Price: $19.99


*****Wanna win your own copy of “Shoot To Thrill”? Be the first to tell me in a comment who scored the most NHL shootout goals in the 2014-15 regular season, and I’ll send you your own hardcover version of the book!******

XP PSP s01e17: Warrior Hockey brand manager, Keith Perera

February 1, 2015 Leave a comment

Perera1Warrior Hockey’s Brand Manager, Keith Perera, calls in for episode 17 to talk about Warrior’s generous equipment donation to the Jeju Islanders Hockey Club in Jeju, South Korea last year, the evolution and maturing of Warrior’s products, the difference between marketing to hockey and lacrosse players, the role social media plays in product sales and brand loyalty, the hockey equipment business, Warrior’s presence in the NHL and other hockey leagues, what guys like Dustin Byfuglien and Ryan Smyth request from them, why the Oilers and Sabres are so bad and how to fix them, and a whole bunch more.

Follow Warrior Hockey on TwitterFacebookTumblr, and Instagram.
Download XP PSP on iTunes

Product Review: The Mission Belt

January 26, 2015 2 comments


It’s impressive when a company can re-invent a basic product, and actually have their new approach reach beyond the label of total gimmick. Take the belt and belt buckle for example – l mean, since forever (actually only since the Bronze Age, says Wikipedia), anyone who has ever had a need to keep their pants from falling down has accepted that a belt strap wraps around your waist, heads through a buckle, and then is affixed with a prong securing itself in a hole on the belt’s opposite end. The belt buckle strays a little from this method, but is still conceptually the same. So it is, so it was, so it always will be, right?

Enter The Mission Belt Company. Mission Belt has, without a doubt, changed the belt game. For the better. Not only do they make a better belt than what we’re all used to, they’re helping make the world a better place too. So beat that, conventional belt makers.

muralThe major conceptual reinvention Mission Belt employs with their leather belts and buckles is a ratchet system, built into both the buckle and the leather strap. They’ve completely bypassed the standard holes and prong approach, instead giving you a completely different fastening experience. Conversely, Mission’s belt does away with the leather puncturing holes and replaces them with gear-like teeth on the underside of the strap. When this section hits the buckle after insertion, it’s met by the pawl on the backside of the connection point. The wearer simply slides the belt in as far as necessary, and the belt locks in place. When escape is necessary, freedom is only a release knob lift away. Readjustment requires only a push in on the strap – unlike the traditional belt that requires an entire unlatch and re-latch to get where you need to be. Don’t expect readjustment to be overly necessary though – unlike old style belts that can loosen over time through wear and tear, the Mission Belt stays locked in place all day unless you tell it otherwise.

Still need help with this new concept? Here’s a video walkthrough: 

Mission Belts are resizable too — here’s another video walkthrough on how to shorten the leather strap.

IMG_7524Further, you can (likely) get a buckle with your favorite team’s logo on it. 22 NHL teams are available, alongside squads from the NCAA and NBA. Each team has 2-4 pre-set leather color options, but if none of them strike your combo fancy, you can mix and match your buckle with one of the 17 leather colors the company offers. And if sports belts aren’t your thing, they have a whole line of other fashionable belts to peruse instead. A standard belt/leather combo set runs $54.95, but alternatively you can pick your own buckle for $34.95, and then pay $20 for leather of your choice, to get the combination you desire or to switch up another setup you already have in play. Sizes fit small to large, accommodating 32” to 42” waists within those standard sizes, or you can customize a belt to fit up to a 56” waist.

Beyond all that, “Mission” is not only the company’s name, it’s also part of their business plan. For every Mission Belt sold, $1 is donated to Kiva, a non-profit peer-to-peer “micro-lending” organization that helps provide opportunities to support economic development and entrepreneurship around the globe. To learn more about how Mission Belt’s team up with Kiva helps fight global hunger and poverty through micro-lending, read Mission’s statement on their practices here, visit Kiva’s website, and visit Mission Belt’s Kiva lender profile here.

Additionally, find Mission on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, YouTube, and their website

Look good with Mission Belts, and feel good about looking so good too!


Wanna win your own Mission Belt? I am giving away a size medium (up to 35″ waist) LA Kings buckle with “Cool Grey” strap to the first commenter who can correctly answer the following question:

Wayne Gretzky finished his NHL career with 2,857 regular season points and 382 playoff points. What is the combined total of regular season AND playoff points he scored for the LA Kings?

The first person to leave the correct total in a comment will win! Good luck!



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