Catching Up…

Been a bit since my last post…some random thoughts…

— Congrats to the Windsor Spitfires for their dominating performance at the Memorial Cup in Brandon.  They showed from the first shift of the first game that they were the team to beat and none of the other three teams could do that and in the end, the best team in the tournament won.

Sure, it would have been great to see Mike Williamson and the Calgary Hitmen raise the Cup, or the Brandon Wheat Kings, but it just wasn’t meant to be.   Thanks to the NHL Network for showing the Rogers SportsNet feed here in the U.S. so I could watch the games.

— The NHL Combine is going on this week in Toronto with Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Johanson, Brad Ross and Troy Rutkowski all taking part.  The combine is a week of interviews and physical testing (all off the ice) with all 30 NHL teams taking part to do their best to narrow down which prospects they want to go after in late June.

You can watch some NHL Draft prospect profiles of the four Hawks (and other prospects as well) on the NHL website here.

— The announcement that the CHL teams will be part of the NHL ’11 EA Sports game coming out in September brought some interesting reactions – fans love it, but the NCAA supporters saw it as the league patronizing their players.  Since that came out, we find out that the NCAA is looking at doing the same thing.

Either way…the addition of CHL teams in the game changes nothing for the players as far as their playing status, WHL education plans or their ability to be drafted and pursue their dreams of playing professional hockey.  To suggest that the players are “slaves” is absolutely mind boggling at the least and downright assinine at the most.

The battle between Paul Kelly and the CHL is becoming very interesting and should give both sides ample opportunities to trash the other in the future.   Makes for some fun reading…

— The Stanley Cup Final is now set and it is certain that a former Hawk will have his name engraved on the Cup at the conclusion of the series with Marian Hossa playing for Chicago and Braydon Coburn playing for Philadelphia.

Hossa will have now played in three straight Stanley Cup Final, having lost the last two seasons with Pittsburgh (beat by Detroit) and Detroit (beat by Pittsburgh).  This is Coburn’s first trip to the Final.

One of them will join Adam Deadmarsh, Nolan Pratt, Glen Wesley and John Kordic as former Hawks on the Cup.  Mark Messier and Mike Vernon also donned Hawks jerseys at some point, but they weren’t full time Hawks, but they each have their name on the Cup multiple times.

—  It has been a good year for Hawks and/or former Hawks in the various championships this year with a number being on the winning side, a rundown:

Luke Walker – Gold Medal World Junior Championships with Team USA

Brenden Morrow – Gold Medal Olympics  with Team Canada

Either Marian Hossa or Braydon Coburn – Stanley Cup

Mike Williamson – Ed Chynoweth Cup with Calgary Hitmen

Jakub Klepis – Gold Medal World Championships with the Czech Republic

Ryan Kerr – AJHL Championship with the Spruce Grove Saints

Patrick Wellar (Hershey) and Colton Sceviour (Texas) are both still alive in the Calder Cup race in the AHL

Did I miss any???

— Don’t forget the NHL Draft Party will be coming up on June 25th at Buffalo Wild Wings in downtown Portland starting at 3:00 PM with yours truly, Dean and Todd Vrooman and Dan Folwick amongst other guests.  For more information, visit the Hawks website.

That’s it for now…

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Separated at Birth?

You decide…

Mel Bridgeman

and…Dale Mitchell of the Windsor Spitfires…

Week In Review – May 17…

I’m going to try and make Monday a blog update day during the off-season, while filling in with other “breaking news” as it happens during the off-season…so, lets look back at the week that was…

— The Memorial  Cup is now three games old and it was been full of twists and turns as the opening weekend saw a blowout on Friday, a herculean comeback on Saturday and then a shutout on Sunday.

The Brandon Wheat Kings looked like two different teams on Friday ( a 9-3 loss to Windsor) and Sunday (a 4-0 win over Moncton) as the host team is now 1-1 in the tournament waiting to finish out the round-robin schedule tomorrow vs. Calgary.

The Friday shellacking was ugly…Windsor just dominated from the opening faceoff, but it was nice to see the WHL team respond so well yesterday.

For Mike Williamson and the Calgary Hitmen, their opening game, while a win, wasn’t quite what they envisioned…having to come from behind to defeat Moncton 5-4 on a fluky bounce that led to the game winner (game highlights can be found at www.whl.ca).  They will have a tough test tonight against Windsor in a game that could determine who gets the automatic bid into the Memorial Cup Final at 4 PM local time on Sunday.

— In International play, Nino Niederreiter’s Swiss National Team is having a good World Championships in Germany, having gone 4-1 through 5 games with one game remaining against Sweden before fighting it out for the medals.  Nino played 20 minutes combined in the first two games and then sat on the bench without getting  a shift against Canada and the Czech Republic.  He was a scratch for today’s game against Norway.

— In the same tournament, while it hasn’t been great for Team USA, being forced to play in the relegation rounds after dropping their first three games, it has been a good tournament for former Hawk Brandon Dubinsky.  Dubinsky posted a five point game against Kazahkstan and then a three point game against France.  Through Sunday, he led all scorers in the tournament with 2-6-8 in five games.  The USA will take on Italy tomorrow.

— On the Hawks front, it’s pretty quiet right now…lots of preparing going on for next season in the office as well as players preparing for the NHL combine and draft and training camp in August.

— Lastly, wanted to send best wishes to Rod Pederson, the former voice of the Regina Pats, who is moving on to bigger and better things in talk radio in Saskatchewan.  His blog is in the links on the left and he has good insights on a lot of subjects, including the WHL.

Monday Ramblings…

Some thoughts for a Monday…

— Congratulations to the Calgary Hitmen and their Head Coach Mike Williamson for winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup and earning a bid for the Memorial Cup to start on Friday evening in Brandon.  Willy will forever be a Portland Winterhawk and I got a chance to talk to him for a few minutes prior to Game 3 of the WHL Final in Kennewick and you could tell that the fire and spark that we saw in Portland never died and that he was having a ton of fun behind the bench again.

I told him that I had wished that Game 3 would have been in the Rose Garden and he got a sly grin on his face and said that next year he thinks Portland will be there…we can only hope.

— Also, congratulations to Nino Niederreiter for being named to the Swiss National Team for the World Championships going on in Germany.   While I haven’t checked all the rosters, I  believe that Nino is the youngest player taking part in the event.  The Swiss beat Latvia 3-1 in their opening game and then shutout Italy 3-0 today.

Niederreiter hasn’t scored yet, but has four penalty minutes and one shot in about 20 minutes of action in the two games.

The Swiss’ next game will be on Wednesday against Canada.

— Next up on the radar is the NHL Scouting Combine for Nino as well as Ryan Johansen, Brad Ross and Troy Rutkowski.  That will take place in Toronto from May 24-29.

The combine is a chance for NHL teams to meet and interview the top prospects as well put the players through a number of physical tests prior to the NHL Draft later in June.

The NHL Network does a good job of covering the combine for folks that have that channel.

— There will be a no Head Coach in Spokane next season as Hardy Sauter did not have his contract renewed by the Chiefs.  I got a chance to talk to Sauter quite a bit during our first round playoff series and, as a broadcaster, I found him very easy to work with.  He’ll get a chance to coach again, I’m sure…rumor has it he may be a front-runner in Brandon if Kelly McCrimmon decides to focus on his GM duties.

There has been lots of speculation on who the new guy will be with Spokane…I expect Tim Speltz to make a home-run swing at a replacement, only time will tell if he connects.

— There probably won’t be a lot to discuss in the next few weeks…I’ll be spending my free time at swim meets and hopefully a round or two of golf…bring on the summer as the faster it gets here, the sooner the 2010-11 season can begin.

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