Tentative Schedule Released…

If you haven’t already, go to www.winterhawks.com and you will find the 2009-10 tentative Winterhawks schedule, one that starts on Friday, September 19 at the ShoWare Center in Kent against the Seattle Thunderbirds and ends on Saturday, March 13, 2010, in the very same building.  What happens in the 70 games between those visits to Kent should be quite interesting as the Hawks look to make the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.

The schedule is road heavy at the start with the Hawks playing only five home games in the first quarter of the season, a stretch where the long Central Swing takes place from October 15-23, starting in the Northernmost locale of Edmonton against the Oil Kings and wrapping in the Southernmost city of Cranbrook, taking on the Kootenay Ice.

A breakdown by quarters:

Q1 – 5 home/13 away

Q2 – 10 home/8 away

Q3 – 11 home/7 away

Q4 – 10 home/8 away

Of the first 18 games, only eight will be against U.S. Divison Rivals.

A breakdown by month:

September – 4 games (2 home/2 away)

October – 13 games (3 home/10 away)

November – 13 games (8 home/5 away)

December – 11 games (7 home/4 away)

January – 13 games (7 home/6 away)

February – 12 games (6 home/6 away)

March – 6 games (4 home/2 away)

A few games of note:

Sunday, October 18 @ Calgary – The first game for former Hawk Head Coach Mike Williamson against his former team at the Saddledome and I believe that this will be a 2:00 (Mountain time, 1:00 Pacific time) afternoon start.

Tuesday, October 27 vs. Brandon – One of these teams for sure will be in the 2010 Memorial Cup…the Wheat Kings bring Brayden Schenn and a host of others into Portland for what should be one of the more entertaining games this year.

Saturday, November 14 vs. Kelowna – The first visit of the WHL Champs.

Thursday, December 31 vs. Seattle – The annual New Years Eve game with a later start this year – 8:00 PM.

Sunday, January 31 @ Vancouver – This game will be played at the Langley Events Centre instead of the Pacific Coliseum as the Giants are being forced out of their home due to the 2010 Winter Olympics invading Vancouver from early January through early March.

Friday, February 12 and Saturday, February 13 @ Prince George – The lone visit to Prince George…nothing like a Friday night in PG in February…

Only four three game in three night stretches…

Sept 25-27 (@ TC, vs. Sea, vs. PG)

Oct 9-11 (vs. TC, vs. PA, @ Evt)

Jan 22-24 (vs. Evt, @ Sea, vs. Van)

Jan 29-31 (@ Evt, vs. Sea, @ Van)

Worst two game stretch…Friday, Jan 15 @ Kelowna followed by Saturday, Jan 16 @ Tri City…we did this last year as well and the drive between the Okanagan and Kennewick is a long one overnight.  Hopefully the weather will be decent and the number of deer in the road will be less (the bus hit two deer last year on this stretch in Northern Washington!).

Lastly, good luck to Brad Ross and Troy Rutkowski as they will be taking part in the Canada U18 camp starting tomorrow in Calgary, trying to earn a spot on Team Canada that will take part in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament  in Czech/Slovakia in mid-August.

That’s it for now…

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Ready For Winter…

Remember December?

Remember December?

Save View...80 degrees warmer...

Save View...80 degrees warmer...

I’ve been thinking about making the snow picture my desktop background on my laptop…right now, snow and 20 degree weather doesn’t seem that bad of an option.

Although, I’m lucky…the AC works great and while it is 105 outside, the house stays a comfy 74 inside.  The only person in our house who has exerted in this heat has been my daughter with golf lessons during the day and swim practice in the evenings…she’s young, though, and has handled it really well.

I will say this…if I hear KGW’s Matt Zaffino say “hotter than biscuits” one more time, I just may lose it.

On the hockey front, there isn’t much to talk about as we are now officially in the build-up to training camp in just over three weeks.

In the meantime, I’m going to try and play a little more golf (playing at Witch Hollow at Pumpkin Ridge on Sunday and then next weekend at Crosswater in Sunriver, so I’d better bring my “A” game) and get ready to spend some quality time around the rink preparing for what will hopefully be an exciting 2009-10 season for the Winterhawks.

I’ve been mulling over doing a “season preview” post, but that will have to wait until after my vacation in Bend next week with the family.

The Western Conference scheduling meetings are going on right now in Kelowna, so by this time next week, we should have at least a tentative schedule for the Hawks.  You can peruse some of the Eastern Conference teams websites and garner at least a few dates already – like the Hawks traveling to Alberta in late October, but the majority of the schedule will be determined in the next two days.

That’s it for now…stay cool, Portland…

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Willy in Calgary…Bennett Interview…Babych in BCHHF


Mike Williamson was officially named as the new Head Coach of the Calgary Hitmen, replacing Dave Lowry who moved up to the Calgary Flames as an Assistant Coach.

It is hard to imagine Willy wearing a logo other than the Hawks, but it is great to see him back in the WHL and behind the bench of one of the premier franchises in the league.

He is inheriting a team that won 59 games last season and should be a favorite in the Central Division once again.

One interesting note (to me, anyways) is that Williamson is a huge Edmonton Oilers fan…and the Hitmen are owned by the Oilers main rival, the Calgary Flames…I wonder if they made Willy turn in his Oilers cap at the door when he arrived at the Saddledome???

One of my favorite Willy stories happened during my first year as the color guy for the Hawks and I went on the Central swing with the team.  It was an off day for the Hawks in Medicine Hat and Willy, Scooter and I decided to walk from the hotel in the Hat across the street to Montana’s Steakhouse for a late dinner.

As we were finshing the meal, I announced that I was paying for the meal as Willy wouldn’t let me pay for anything on the trip.   As I expected, Willy immediately said “no, you’re not” and we had a bit of an argument over who would pay for dinner.  After a few minutes, Willy won and he paid for the meal.

As we were walking back to the hotel, I noticed that I was missing something…my wallet.   I realized then that I had left it on the nightstand in the hotel.  I started to chuckle and told Willy and Scooter about it and needless to say I was given a ration of crap about offering to pay for dinner with no money.  I’m glad that I didn’t win the argument at the restaurant…

And lastly, the other prominent memory of that trip happened, oddly enough, in the Saddledome…the Hawks had just finished the trip with a 4-2 loss to Calgary, a trip where they went 0-6.  The bus was getting ready to head back to Portland and Willy (as well as Assistant Brian Pellerin) loaded the vast majority of the bus so the players could spend a last few minutes with families and friends in the lower recesses of the ‘dome.  A great gesture that was typical of Willy…I wish him the best of luck in Calgary and I look forward to seeing him when the ‘Hawks invade the Saddledome sometime in the upcoming season…

The Calgary Flames are holding their prospect camp this week in Calgary and Flames TV had an interview with Spencer Bennett, who will be joining the Hawks for the 2009-10 season…

You can view the interview here

babych2713541381_ae9eb58a7bCongratulations are also in order for former Winterhawk d-man David Babych, as he will be inducted into the British Columbia Hockey Hall of Fame tonight in Penticton, BC.

Babych just may be the most complete defenseman to ever don a Hawks sweater, playing in 123 games in Portland, scoring 43-122-165 with 138 PIM’s.  He was a big, physical player who could skate and had a great slapshot.

One of the great stories about Babych is that he only got into one fight in his WHL career (in an era when fighting was more prominent), with Torrie Robertson of the Victoria Cougars.  Babych laid such a beating on Robertson that the word got around the league and no one would fight him.  Babych was known for laying out tremendous hip-checks while a Hawk and he was the #2 overall selection of the Winnipeg Jets of the NHL in 1980.

Babych never played in the minors in the pros, playing 1195 games in the NHL, second most of any Winterhawk graduate (behind Glen Wesley).  He accumulated 142-581-723 with 970 PIM’s in the NHL.  The 581 assists and 723 points are the most of any Winterhawk graduate in the NHL.

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In Spokane…

040603-094.A view of the Spokane River that disects the Lilac City…and time for me to catch up on a few things…

Hopefully you got a chance to hear Mike Johnston on 95.5 in Portland this afternoon.  I barely made it back to the hotel room to catch it on the web and it is great to hear sports talk radio in Portland discussing Hawks and hockey in general.

They talked about the upcoming Alumni Association Golf Tournament as well as the upcoming season a bit.

All in all, good exposure for the Hawks and just another part of what has been a busy summer…

Best of luck to Dan Folwick, who is stepping down as the Hawks PA Announcer after many years of service.  I’ve heard a lot of PA announcers around the league and Dan was up there among the best.

I’m sure I’ll see him around the rink this season but I’ll miss the pre-game conversations in the media room with The Voice.

With Don Nachbaur moving on from Tri City, that leaves just Rob Sumner as the only Head Coach in the U.S. Division that started the 2006-07 season in that realm.  Obviously, Mike Johnston replaced Rich Kromm in Portland; Hardy Sauter took over for Bill Peters in Spokane;  Craig Hartsburg has been hired to replace John Becanic in Everett; and now the open position in Kennewick.

Is the recently retired (and Ams owner) Stu Barnes a candidate for the Head Coach in Tri?  An interesting thought…

I’ve read the reports on Mike Williamson heading to Calgary and if so, I am very happy for Willy as he is, and always will be, one of the great guys in the game.  I was so glad to hear that he was back in the Hawks fold with the Alumni Association and he is one guy that I miss a lot around the game.

I will wait to send congratulations until it is made official by Calgary…and I hope that the “source” didn’t get it wrong…

I hope everyone is able to stand the heat the next few days…try and stay cool…I’ll be returning to Portland tomorrow evening.

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A New Sidekick…

I am pleased to announce (in conjunction with the Winterhawks) that Todd Vrooman will be the new color analyst for all home games for the Winterhawks in 2009-10.

Jason Vondersmith with the Portland Tribune had a nice write-up on it this morning.

Todd is Dean’s son and is someone that I think will bring a fresh perspective to the broadcasts – one of youth and coming from someone who has spent a lot of his youth in the locker room and around junior hockey players.  He has spent time on the bench during games and can offer a perspective that not many have.

I also want to thank Mark Ertle for his hard work and dedication for the past two seasons and I know that he will do an incredible job as the new Executive Director of the Winterhawks Amateur Hockey Association.  Don’t be surprised to hear his voice a time or two on the broadcasts this season as he fills all of us in on what is happening in the WAHA.

This is something that Scooter, Todd and I discussed after the season ended and after going over what the job entailed and what would be expected of the person to take that role, Todd showed excitement and anticipation to get going.  For those that aren’t aware, there is a ton of work to prepare for broadcasts as I want the tradition of knowing just as much about the other team as the Winterhawks to continue and I’ll expect Todd to do the work necessary to make our broadcasts not only entertaining, but informative as well.

Todd and I will do a practice game during the August 29 preseason game at the MC…a game that people can hear by bringing a radio to the arena and listening in on the FM transmitter at 96.5 FM.  We will just be calling the action, no pre-game, intermission features or post-game show…but a chance to work on our chemistry calling game action.  Preseason games are tough due to a roster full of names that you’re not familiar with, but we’ll do our best.

After that, the plan is for Todd to be in Everett and Kennewick for the preseason tournaments and we’ll determine after that first game if we need to do more practice broadcasts after August 29.  When Scooter and I started we planned on doing all the preseason games as practice and wound up doing one because we felt comfortable that the combination will work…I wouldn’t be surprised for that to happen again with Todd.

By simply having the Vrooman surname, the expectations for Todd by some will be high, but given time, I think that he will show that he is own person and step out of his Dad’s shadow behind the mic and I believe that the pairing of myself and Todd could be together for a very long time.

Please join me in welcoming Todd to the Hawks broadcast team…we are both eager to get the season going and for what the 2009-10 edition of the Winterhawk will bring.

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Hawks Announce Major Signings…

At www.winterhawks.com

The Portland Winterhawks have signed 18 year old defenseman Taylor Aronson, 19 year old forward Spencer Bennett and 16 year old forward Seth Swenson.

Bennett may be the biggest signee as he was slated to attend the University of Alaska Anchorage after playing the last couple of seasons in the BCHL.  He is a big winger at 6’3, 185, and from all reports has good hands and scoring touch and should bring a veteran presence to the Hawks young roster.

Bennett was a 5th round (#141 overall) selection of the Calgary Flames in the most recent NHL Draft and alluded at that time in a radio interview in Calgary that he would do whatever the Flames thought best for his NHL preparations, and it appears that the WHL was the choice.  It helps having a WHL owner as the Head Coach in Calgary in Brent Sutter.

Aronson helps fill a void on the Hawks depth chart on defense as the only other 91 born d-man on the roster would be Brett Ponich, but Aronson is a late birthdate (Dec. 30) meaning he is draft eligible in 2010.

Aronson played for the LA Jr. Kings last year and was a highly touted draft pick (#11 overall) in the most recent USHL draft.

Swenson was a 10th round pick in the 2008 Bantam Draft by the Hawks and he probably would have been drafted higher if not for the fact that he is from Colorado and the NCAA question mark.  He is a big kid as a 16 year old, 6’1 185, and has great numbers for the Colorado Thunderbirds (48-41-89 in 72 games).

I got a chance to see Swenson at the recent prospect camp and I was impressed with his skating and skill and without putting too much pressure on the kid, he reminded me of another recent Colorado born player in the WHL – Drayson Bowman.

Swenson now joins Ty Rattie and Tyler Wotherspoon as the most logical choices to make the team as 16 year old players for 2009-10.

All in all, a great day for the Hawks not only looking forward to 2009-10 but down the road as well.

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Ryan Kerr Dealt to Calgary…

dsc_2574The Portland Winterhawks dealt overage defenseman Ryan Kerr to the Calgary Hitmen today for a conditional pick in the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft.

Kerr came to Portland in the big trade with Lethbridge in November of 2007 and was hampered by shoulder injuries during his time in Portland, only appearing in 71 games, posting 1-7-8 and 133 PIM’s as a Hawk.

With the move, and Travis Ehrhardt’s signing, the Hawks overage situation is getting clearer.  Right now, it looks like Kurtis Mucha, Chris Francis and Stefan Schneider have the inside path as the other two remaining options (Brock Cornish and Radim Valchar) appear as longer shots due to Cornish’s injury problems and the incoming new import players.

If Kerr makes the Hitmen, it will be his fourth team in the WHL as he started in Prince George, moved to Lethbridge and then onto Portland.

Kerr will be missed for his leadership, work ethic and willingness to stand up for his teammates.

Best of luck in Calgary, Kerrsie…

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  • Questions?

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