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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.”

[Archive] 2014 interview with Troy Bodie

August 20, 2014 Leave a comment

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My interview with Toronto Maple Leafs’ forward Troy Bodie posted on The Score’s Backhand Shelf blog on January 15th, 2014. The Leafs were hoping to earn themselves a repeat playoff appearance, but ultimately their bid was not to be. Bodie appeared in 47 games with the Leafs that year — his second highest single season games played tally. 

Bodie signed a one year/$600,000 deal with the Leafs in the off-season, and will no doubt be playing next season to prove he belongs with the big club rather than their AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies — especially now that his father-in-law, MLSE president and CEO Tim Lieweke, will be moving on from the club. Bodie finished 2nd in Leafs’ +/- in 2013-14 with a +6 rating, his 10 points put him ahead of 16 of his teammates, and his 7 assists were his highest in an NHL season to date, so it no one should be surprised if Bodie becomes a more permanent fixture on Toronto’s bottom six forward lines in 2014-15. 

You can hear the audio of this interview here on  XP PSP: the eXPat Pro Sports Podcast or on iTunes

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Interview: Troy Bodie of the Toronto Maple Leafs on 24/7, life as a bubble guy & more

Bodie 2

Toronto Maple Leafs fans may not have seen a whole lot of Troy Bodie this season, but he’s no stranger to the NHL, and probably more familiar with Randy Carlyle as a coach than most of the Leafs’ current roster.

The 2003 Edmonton Oilers draft pick is a four year NHL veteran who has suited up for 121 games between the Anaheim Ducks (where he played 57 games in three seasons under Carlyle), Carolina Hurricanes, and now the Toronto Maple Leafs. Over those four seasons, he has amassed seven goals, seven assists, fourteen points, and 156 PIM. He’s been a pro for twice as long though, logging 368 games in the minors with eight different teams since 2006-07. He also played four seasons with my hometown Kelowna Rockets of the WHL, where he won the Memorial Cup with the team in 2004.

Though Leafs fans may remember him best from episodes two and three of the HBO 24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs: Road to the Winter Classic series (Bodie put up 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 fights and 15 PIM in that time), he’s now primarily playing with the Leafs’ AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies. So far, the 6’4” winger has appeared in 16 games, scored 4 goals, 4 assists, and registered 9 PIM. His reassignment to the AHL cost him an appearance in the 2014 NHL Winter Classic, but he still got to play in an outdoor game, as the Marlies bested the Grand Rapids Griffins 4-3 outside at Comerica Park on December 30, 2013.

I caught up with Bodie recently during a Marlies’ road swing to St. John’s, Newfoundland, where the team was marooned and at the mercy of the polar vortex that had delayed the team’s trip home to Toronto.

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Playing in 14 Leafs games this season also means that you’ve missed more than 30 of their games. What factors go into Randy Carlyle giving you the call and putting you in the Leafs lineup or not from night to night? 

Bodie: “I believe that one was strictly numbers. Colton Orr, who plays primarily the fourth line right wing, was down with an injury. That’s the kind of role I play. It was nice to get the call and get up there, but it was strictly just to fill a role. He got healthy, and then I went back down.”

Most opinions from players who have played or are playing for Randy seem to concur that he can be a tough coach. This is now the fourth season you’ve played under him, how is he to play for? 

Bodie: “Randy and I actually get along fine. He’s a tough coach. He expects a lot out of his players. At the same time, I think he’s fair. If you work hard for him and play the systems, he likes you. But if you go astray and do your own thing he can be pretty rough on you.”

During the 24/7 series, there was a scene at a Leafs practice where Randy pulls Mark Fraser and Paul Ranger aside and says, “…you’re not playing tonight, you’re not giving us what we need…if you’re going to play with our hockey club, your level of play has to go up.” Did you get a talk like that from Randy when you were reassigned, or how did your exit interview go?

Bodie: “Randy doesn’t do a whole lot of that on his own. He doesn’t talk to guys really, he kind of stays to his own. The one that actually told me was assistant GM Claude Loiselle. It’s usually just, ‘hey you know we liked your game… it’s a numbers game… go down to the minors and do your thing.’ That’s usually about it.”

How hard is it being a guy on the bubble? You’re good enough to play in the NHL, but have struggled to stay there. Obviously you’re a team guy, but to be the one who gets to play in a call-up scenario over others, it seems like you’d almost secretly have to root for guys to get hurt, or something. Can you describe what that situation is like? 

Bodie: “You definitely want to be there. I wouldn’t say you secretly hope for injuries or anything like that, that’s bad karma. But you definitely pay attention to that kind of thing. Playing in the minors and being a bubble guy, you want to get up there and you obviously think about it quite a bit, but it’s something where you just worry about your game, play hard, and let the chips fall where they may kind of thing.”

In your opinion, is there more value from an ice-time and development standpoint to be playing in the minors regularly where you’ve played 16 games this year – and there may not be considering you’ve played more than 300 AHL games already — or is there more value for you to be practicing with the big club regularly but only playing sporadically? 

Bodie: “I think there’s definitely value to both. Being up in the NHL with the big players, going through those practices, having the expert level coaching and being treated completely first class is very valuable. But if you’re not playing up there, it’s good for a guy like myself to continue playing by coming down to the minors and getting good minutes, getting the work in and being ready for when they do need you up.”

What are those little differences between the NHL and AHL that make them such different worlds? You mentioned the Leafs being first class, and I imagine the Marlies are top notch too.  

Bodie: “In most organizations, the AHL and NHL are very different. In Toronto, we get treated very well in the minor leagues, so it’s tough to complain about much at all. The subtle differences are definitely the travel – in the minor leagues, you travel a lot by bus. In the NHL you really get anything you need. There are meals at every point you would need a meal. There’s always someone available, even if you need a Band-Aid, or an ice bag, or something like that. In the minor leagues, it’s a little more limited. Those little differences are big when you need them.”

Is there a level of frustration that comes with repeatedly getting called up and sent down, as you have over the last five seasons, rather than sticking? 

Bodie: “Yeah, there’s definitely a level of frustration. You want to be a full-time player in the NHL. That’s your goal ever since you were a kid. So achieving your goal of getting to the NHL and then being sent down to the minors without any sort of timetable, then getting called up and everything’s good again, and then sent back down – it gets very frustrating, but it is what it is. It’s all part of being professional, I guess.”

How is it playing in the “centre of the hockey universe”, especially after playing in markets like Anaheim and Carolina? The scrutiny that comes with playing under that kind of microscope has proved to be too much for some players. How do you handle it, and how much pressure do you feel to be successful in Toronto and win the team’s first Stanley Cup in nearly 50 years?  

Bodie: “Yeah, it is very different. In Carolina and Anaheim, you’re very under the radar. You’re not bothered at all if you go out somewhere or anything like that. People don’t give you the third degree about “…that turnover in the third period…” kind of thing. But in Toronto, that happens. It’s tough at times to get away from the game and just relax, but that’s more of something for the bigger time players like the Phaneufs and the Kessels of the world than the players like myself and the Marlies guys.”

So far this season, you appeared in 14 games with the Leafs, scored one goal and two assists, had three fights and 15 PIM. With the Marlies, you’ve played 16 games, have four goals and four assists, and nine PIM. You have 121 career NHL games played, seven goals, seven assists, 14 total points, and 156 PIM. With your penalty minutes outweighing your point totals as much as they do, is it fair to classify you as a fighter? 

Bodie: “I don’t think a lot of players anymore really classify themselves as fighters. That’s something that doesn’t happen as much anymore, because in this day and age in the game you have to be able to play in order to get out there. There aren’t many guys that cannot play the game. Fighting is something I definitely think is part of my game and will be for the rest of my career, but I definitely wouldn’t consider myself a fighter. I think if you do that, you limit yourself.”

What do you think of the scrutiny that has been placed on fighters and fighting in hockey recently with respect to their relationship to concussions?

Bodie: “It’s a tough topic for the average fan, or mom or dad to really comment on because they don’t play the game. Fighting is very much a part of the game. It’s a way for the players to police themselves. People say things like injuries result from fighting… well of course they do. But if there wasn’t fighting, we all believe there would be more injuries from players taking liberties, knowing that there wasn’t that level of policing going on.”

Is it fair to assume that, if fighting were removed, some players may never get their break in the NHL? That doesn’t necessarily just mean the fighters, it could be guys who will just fight when they need to, and do whatever it takes to get into the lineup from night to night. What kind of players would we see getting their break into the league instead of guys who fight if that part of the game were taken out?  

Bodie: “If that part of the game was taken out I think you’d find a more skilled fourth line. I think you’d see maybe more younger players getting their shot up there, in and out of the lineup. Maybe they’d call a young guy up for some experience in a spot that otherwise might have been held onto by a guy with more of a fighting role. I think the young guys might get a little more opportunity, but it’s tough to really say.”

What would happen to you and your game if fighting were to be removed from hockey? What elements of your game would you change to make sure you kept getting those call-ups? 

Bodie: “I don’t think there would be much that I would personally change. As a player, you always want to get better. I work on my game. Every day I’m on the ice. But I don’t think there’s anything I would change. I’d more or less just hope the rest of my game would be adequate.”

You got called up to play with the Leafs during an interesting time, with the HBO 24/7 series being filmed and all, and you coming into their lineup on Dec 14th. You debuted in episode two, with the narrator mentioning you were filling in for David Clarkson. You fought twice that night, and we saw you get four stitches and return to action. Episode three saw you score your first NHL goal of the season in a win over Phoenix to open the show. Talk about that experience – how was it having the camera crews behind the scenes with you? 

Bodie: “The HBO stuff was kind of cool. I thought maybe it’d be a bit of a nuisance with them around and being in your face and stuff. Like I said earlier, I think it was geared more towards the big time players — the Phaneufs, the Kessels, they got it the worst. But they were all good guys and they were respectful. It was a good experience having them around.”

With so many guys on the roster, they surely couldn’t feature everyone on camera, but you got significantly more screen time than a lot of your teammates. How did it play out that you got the TV time that you did? 

Bodie: “I don’t know, just dumb luck I guess. Obviously it’s a TV show, so they’re looking for some sort of excitement. In the second or third game I got in two scraps, and they got some good footage of me getting stitches. That was maybe something they were looking for. It wasn’t something I was prepared for, but it is what it is.”

When you play in the NHL you have cameras on you all the time anyway, but is there any additional pressure in having a show like that present as well? Did it change the dynamic in the dressing room, or anything else? 

Bodie: “There were times when you didn’t really notice them, I’d say. They kind of just sat in the middle of the room with the camera on. You saw them there obviously, and the camera moving, and the microphone around, but it wasn’t something that was overbearing or annoying. Like I said, I thought they were respectful in our space, so it was good.”

Did they have microphones on every guy all the time, or how did they pick up everything? Was it bothersome at all to skate with a microphone on? 

Bodie: “For games and practices they’d pick a few guys and put a microphone on them. I had it once, and I didn’t even notice it for the game I had it on. You don’t think twice about it. You maybe mind your p’s and q’s a little more, but you don’t really notice it.”

Did you watch the show? What did you think of it?

Bodie: “I saw a little bit of it, yeah. Not all of it. I saw the little parts that I was in, but I didn’t get a chance to watch the whole thing. The parts I did see, I thought they did a great job. We were represented well. I thought it was good.”

You didn’t get to play outdoors at the Big House in Ann Arbor at the Winter Classic as you were returned to the Marlies on Dec 23rd, but you did appear in the Marlies outdoor game against Grand Rapids at Comerica Park in Detroit instead. How was that experience? How different is the outdoor game compared to a regular indoor game? Did you take time to enjoy it, or did you and the team just focus on getting the win?

Bodie: “It was an outdoor game, so it was pretty cool. I’d never played in one of those. I thought it was really neat how they did it. You definitely are thinking about the conditions, the cold, and whatnot, but it wasn’t that cold. Once you got into the heat of the game after the first few shifts it was just like another game. To win that game was more special than anything, but it was a good experience all around.”

In your opinion, what will it take for you to get back on the Leafs roster this season and tally 50 or more NHL games again like you did in 2010-11? Have they given you any indication of what it will take for you to play more games with them this year?

Bodie: “No, they don’t really communicate like that. You’re more or less left on your own to play hard and do your thing. You’re expected to know what you have to do to get up. Other than that, they don’t say a whole lot.”

Have you had a chance to follow your WHL alma mater Kelowna Rockets this year? They’re ranked #1 in the CHL for the time being.

Bodie: “I haven’t kept the greatest tabs, but I knew they were doing well this year. I saw Bruce Hamilton earlier this year, in Toronto actually, and he spoke very highly of them – which was unusual because usually he just complains and complains. But he had good things to say about them, and I’m excited to see them go farther and hopefully bring home another championship.”

Just to have a little fun, how often does Dion Phaneuf wear bowties to games, and how many more games would you have to play to have enough clout in the room to change the post win song to something other than a Miley Cyrus song? 

Bodie: “To answer question number one, too often maybe. To answer the second one, I don’t worry about the music at all but that’s usually how it happens, you play some dumb win song and just go with it. It’s associated with good things, so you like it, right?”

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[Archive] 2013 interview with Wade Redden

August 18, 2014 Leave a comment

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This interview with Wade Redden posted to The Score’s Backhand Shelf blog on January 23, 2013. Redden was just about to return to the NHL after being bought out by the New York Rangers and signed by the St. Louis Blues. The move essentially rescued him from AHL purgatory, where he seemed to have been banished to. Redden went on to play 23 games (including tallying his 1,000th NHL game)  for the Blues and recorded 5 points, before being dealt to the Boston Bruins the same season for a conditional 7th round draft pick in 2014. The Beantown stop reunited Redden with his old Ottawa (and some say best) defense partner, Zdeno Chara. It was almost a storybook ending for Redden, as the Bruins advanced to the Stanley Cup final, but were bested by the Chicago Blackhawks, who spoiled his chance to have his name engraved on hockey’s richest prize. 

Redden did not sign an NHL contract with any club the following season, and announced his retirement in January of 2014. 

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Interview: Wade Redden talks with Backhand Shelf about his return to the NHL

Many NHL pundits and fans assumed they had seen the last of Wade Redden in the NHL, after the New York Rangers swept his $6.5 million cap hit under the rug by reassigning him to their AHL affiliate Connecticut Whale from 2010 to 2012.

But those critics were proved wrong after the Rangers cashed in one of their freshly CBA-approved accelerated compliance buyouts earlier this month, and used it to sever ties with Redden and the remaining two seasons of his six year deal with them. It posted him as an available, unrestricted free agent – something that the St. Louis Blues were quick to capitalize on the day after Redden hit the market.

The 35 year old veteran of 13 NHL seasons signed a one year deal with the Blues on January 20th for $800,000 plus another $200K in performance bonuses. That’s $4 million less than what he would have made with New York this year; though he will still earn a pro-rated $3.341 million for 2012-13, and just a little less than that for 2013-14 from the Rangers.

Redden passed a physical, dealt with immigration, and suddenly found himself to be an NHL player once again faster than you can say John Tortorella.

Redden has been skating with St. Louis in the interim, and accompanied them on their recent road trip through Nashville and Chicago. He is slated to resume NHL blue line patrol as early as Thursday, when the Blues take on the Predators at home.

In the meantime, Redden took a few minutes out to chat with me. Here’s what he had to say on his new contract, his time with the Rangers, and everything in between. 

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So you’ve passed your physical and signed your contract, how does it feel to officially be a member of the St. Louis Blues?

Redden: “It’s great. It’s a very exciting time. Last week was a whirlwind. It all happened pretty quick. But I’ve been here for a few days now, and have got to be around everyone and get on the ice with the whole team. I haven’t been on the ice with a group like this for a while. It’s great. I felt good out there. I’ve was on with the [Kelowna] Rockets before, and obviously they’re a great team and all that, but it’s great to get on the ice with this group of guys. We’ve got a great team here with a lot of great young guys. I’m excited to get rolling, and about the chance I have here.”

You hadn’t been playing for anyone else this year until now, but as you mentioned, you were skating with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets just prior to coming to St. Louis; what else did you do to keep in shape during the lockout? Do you think what you did was enough to keep you playing at the NHL pace, especially since you’ve been removed from NHL action for two seasons?  

Redden: “Yeah, definitely it was. There was a group of NHL guys through the whole lockout inKelowna that I skated with. We pushed ourselves pretty good. We kept busy, kept on the ice, and kept training. Obviously it’s a bit of an adjustment anytime you are away for that long, but I’ll get worked back into it pretty quick here, and I should be good to go.”

You’ll be playing under Ken Hitchcock, a Jack Adams Trophy and Stanley Cup winning coach, on a team that many feel is poised to win their first ever Stanley Cup – what are your thoughts on being a part of such a strongly positioned team upon your NHL return?

Redden: “It’s very exciting. The organization here has built a great team. The young guys here have been around a while, and they’re just starting to come into their own and find out what kind of team they are – and they’re a good team. I’m going to try to mix in and add what I can bring, and help the team to do as good as it can.”

You’re one of the oldest guys on this roster – what kind of role do you feel you have as a veteran on this team?

Redden: “I’ve got experience, and I’ve played a lot of games, but I think they just want me to come and play the way I usually play – try to be steady and make good plays. We’ve got a lot of talent up front, and to just try to get the puck to them and let them create things like they can. Just try to be solid, play a good all-around game, and help the team win that way. That’s what they’re expecting from me.”

A lot of people may have thought or assumed that they wouldn’t see Wade Redden in the NHL again after you were reassigned to Connecticut from 2010-12; did you think you would get another chance in the NHL while you were down there?

Redden: “I always felt that I went down there with a purpose. I obviously wasn’t happy about the demotion or getting sent there. And I played in this league for a long time, so I knew I could play. Obviously there were different circumstances that affected my reason for being there. I went down there, worked hard, played hard, tried to be a good teammate, and did all the things I usually do. I always felt like if I did those things, it’d be my best chance to get back. I’m happy and fortunate to have found another chance.”

Did you ever consider retiring while you were playing in the AHL? You’ve played in 994 games in 13 NHL seasons, tallied 450 points thus far, played for Canada 7 times – a very respectable career, and very respectable statistics to leave on. If you didn’t, why did you decide to keep at it?

Redden: “Yeah, I’ve played in a lot of games, but I didn’t feel good about finishing that way, that’s for sure. My time inNew York wasn’t great. I knew I could do better, and I wanted to prove that, not only to myself, but to other people too. I don’t want to rest on what I’ve done thus far. I think there are still good things to happen. I want to keep having fun, keep playing, and you never know – a lot of good things are available if you keep going. You never know what’s going to happen.”

In your opinion, what went wrong in New York? You were so successful in your early years with Ottawa, but you just didn’t seem to gel with the Rangers.

Redden: “I went in there on a big contract. I think maybe making that money there and being the player I am… I felt like the first little while, things were going pretty good, and then they kind of fell off. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, and like I should have been doing more. Once I started feeling that way, I think I just got away from the things that made me successful. Things just kind of snowballed from there. It wasn’t a good fit from early on, and they made a decision to make changes. I lived with that. It wasn’t a good fit, things didn’t work out, and I’ve moved on. I’m done there now, and am happy to have moved on.”

Sean Avery was in a comparable situation playing in Connecticut after being sent down from the Rangers while you were there; did you ever have any discussions with him about the similar scenarios you found yourselves in?

Redden: “Not really, no. We were both there – kind of buried down there – but our situations were a little different. We never really got into it too much. We were both just trying to make the most of it.”

Do you feel like you have something to prove this year in the NHL? Perhaps to prove the New York Rangers wrong for what they did with you, or something else – or do you just look at this season like business as usual?

Redden: “Yeah, I’m excited. Life goes on. Everyone’s focused on what they’ve got to do. I’ve just got to do what I do best. Yeah, I’ve got pride and I want to do well. But at the same time I’ve got to stay within myself and play the way I can play, do what I can do, and everything will work out just fine.”

***

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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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Movember Meltdown

December 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Upper lips, nationwide, are finally free.

So Movember is over. And with the end of Movember comes the shaving of the moustaches that plagued the faces of men for an entire month, and the immediate delight of wives and girlfriends everywhere.  While my wife was quite happy, I can not imagine that the wife of Ottawa Senators Captain Daniel Alfredsson is too pleased, as apparently no one gave Alfie the memo that the campaign is kaput. As you can tell by the photo on the right from December 5th, the Swede’s pushbroom still has plenty of sweeping to do. I’m sure he can always use the fall-back of “it’s European”, or “it’s the style right now in Sweden”, or some other excuse as to why it’s acceptable somewhere else that’s not where he is currently, so that should make it ok.

Now while I didn’t manage to raise any money for the Movember campaign, some groups did. Below is the press release I was sent from the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets:

For Immediate Release – Dec. 7, 2011
The Kelowna Rockets raised a modest $755 as part of this CHL campaign and we have set our goals higher for next year.
This year we started two weeks into Movember and used Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about men’s health and ask for donations from followers. Next year we are already planning to step up the campaign and raise more money.
 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

Check out the piece I wrote for the Kelowna Daily Courier on the Kelowna Rockets’ Movember efforts from November 18th, 2011 here.

And the WHL’s parent league, the CHL, took a tally from all the leagues under their umbrella. Here’s the report they sent me:

For Immediate Release – Dec. 7, 2011
Toronto, ON – The Canadian Hockey League today announced the results of a league-wide initiative where 39 teams consisting of 563 registered members raised $128,222 through their participation in Movember in support of men’s health and prostate cancer awareness.

During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces in Canada and around the world.  The annual month-long moustache growing and appreciation charity event helps raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer.

With the over $128,000 raised, the CHL Network ranked 14th among all registered Canadian networks.  The winning CHL team in terms of total fundraising dollars are the “MOfficials” consisting of Western Hockey League officials that raised $33,445 and finished as the 33rd ranked team in Canada.  Each of the regional leagues were represented in the CHL’s top four with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen raising $13,972, followed by the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs at $11,251 and the QMJHL’s P.E.I Rocket raising $9,805.

IceDogs owner Bill Burke was the CHL’s top individual fundraiser and finished 96th in Canada raising $6,170.  Rocket rookie Patrick McGrath, an 18-year-old native of Wilkes-Barre, PA, earned top spot among CHL players with $5,690 raised.

“On behalf of the Canadian Hockey League I would like to congratulate all participants for their incredible amount of energy and commitment to raising awareness and funds for Movember and thank the many friends, family, sponsors, and fans of the CHL that contributed to such a worthy cause,” said CHL President David Branch.  “It was outstanding to see the tremendous support our players and teams received across the CHL in our first year that we are already looking forwarded to next year’s campaign and a continued partnership with Movember.”

The CHL helped contribute to the over $38 million raised by participants across Canada and the $108 million raised worldwide with an increase of over $30 million over the 2010 campaign.

The funds raised are directed to programs run directly by Movember and men’s health partner, Prostate Cancer Canada.  Together the two channels work together to ensure that Movember funds are supporting a broad range of innovative, world-class programs in line with strategic goals in the areas of awareness and education, survivorship and research.

CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE CHL MOVEMBER NETWORK PAGE <http://ca.movember.com/mospace/network/view/id/18234>

Talking With Brett Bulmer: His 9 Game NHL Experience, Pressure to His Help Slumping WHL Team Win

November 10, 2011 Leave a comment

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

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[originally post in the Kelowna Daily Courier newspaper on November 7, 2011; also featured on www.kelownarockets.com on November 7,2011]

Tantalizingly close: Brett Bulmer discusses his brief stint in the NHL

MONDAY, 07 NOVEMBER 2011 02:00 DAVE CUNNING

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.”

Dave Cunning is a former semi-pro hockey player turned writer, coach and personal trainer. Read his blog on the web at https://davecunning.wordpress.com and follow him on Twitter.

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