Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Eve of the RBC

In August and September this date was but a destination in mind for over three hundred Junior A players in the BCHL. Some eight months later it has become a reality for just over forty of them including twenty plus that rode the host train. Of course for many Spruce Kings fans, volunteers, players and staff that ride is a familiar ride that brings back many cherished memories. I personally remember spending countless hours working on the website, breaking down stats and trying to coordinate the webcast.

That was just two years ago and to see the improvements that have been made in the delivery of the game for the fans is truly remarkable. Technology doesn't come cheap, but something inside me cries foul when I see the price to be paid to listen to the games that should be widely disturbed to the masses of fans that enjoy amateur hockey at its best. To make matters worse, the broadcasts are only for the round robin and semi final games ... the championship game will be presented live and in full colour on TSN.

Why would we not want to use the first twelve games to help generate interest for each successive game and of course the Championship game? The RBC Royal Bank Cup is a national championship earning the respect of a national audience that is growing both in the attendance numbers in the host rink, listeners to the webcast and television viewers.

My vision in 2007 was to find a sponsor or sponsors that would offset the measurable costs of the broadcast and then to offer the broadcast for free. It seems to me that we may have gotten away from the ideal that Junior A hockey is to be played at the amateur level. A level where players play for the love of the game and fans get to enjoy the raw talent and energy at the most affordable prices possible.

I know it is too late for this year, but I hope that we can reverse this for the years to come and avoid it becoming a precedent setting situation.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Vernon Advances to RBC Royal Bank Cup

A sweep in the Doyle Cup ... just one of those things that make you go hmmmm. First thought is what does that say about the comparison between the two leagues. I suppose when you go deep into the playoffs, there has to be some consideration given to extenuating circumstances such as injuries. Another consideration might be the layoff between the AJHL Championship to the start of the Doyle Cup. I'm not sure either holds enough weight simply because that is all part of the process.

I would rather say that it is a result of all the little things being done right by a team that has been conditioned to win by its peers. The Vernon Vipers were pushed hard all season long by the seven other teams in the Interior Division of the BCHL. For the first third to the midway mark of the season there was a see-saw battle going on for the top spots in the division, with no one team having a clear handle on the pole position.

The parity in the BCHL Interior Conference was so pronounced that I believe it is what shaped the Vernon Vipers into the Pacific Region Champions that they are heading into the national championship in May. The RBC Royal Bank Cup allows for the four teams that can emerge out of their respective regions as champions to meet a host team in a five team round robin tournament. After playing each team once, one team is eliminated from the tournament setting the stage for a pair of semi-final games that lead into the championship game on Mother's Day.

The Prince George Spruce Kings were there two years ago as the host team and they certainly did not disappoint. 15 hours after setting a record for the longest game played in tournament history, the Spruce Kings laid claim to a silver medal. That year the host team handed the Alberta champions a devastating loss that left the Camrose Kodiaks head coach one win shy of tying the all time winning record at the tournament. When looking for turning points in a franchise, that win by Prince George would be one for serious consideration. As seen recently in the Prospects Camp, the Spruce Kings are showing that they are a destination of choice for players looking to prove their place at the Junior A level.

Back to the Vernon Vipers, the team didn't exactly start out as a house on fire but, with the pressure to maintain position in the standings, they did find a way to make all the pieces of the puzzle come together. The success of the Vipers speaks volumes for the level of skill and talent and the compete level of the teams that pushed them and helped shape their winning ways. Now that the Vipers have moved through the BCHL and the AJHL ... it’s hard not to consider them heavy favourites at the RBC Royal Bank Cup.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

NHL Radar Map

Well it is the final time that the prospective list of players eligible for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft will be sorted and Wes McLeod still finds himself on that list. The Spruce Kings haven't had a player drafted straight off their roster since 1999 when Brad Fast was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes. My fingers and toes will be sore by the time the July draft date hits, but if that is what it takes to hear Wes McLeod's name called out ... that would be a small price to pay. Wes has worked hard to get to where he is and he is the stereo typical good Canadian boy. This past season was a pivotal one with the second year defenceman signing a NCAA Division I scholarship, being selected to play in the Canadian Junior A Prospects Game and also the BCHL All Star Game. The only unfortunate in the season was the inability to get through that deciding game against the Penticton Vees and move deeper into the BCHL Playoffs. Speaking with Wes since the end of the season, he remains grounded and committed to making himself a better player every season.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Final Chance for a Lasting Impression

The fifth and final session is underway at the Prince George Coliseum with the first of the final four scrimmages underway featuring Team Orange and Team White. Both squads are full of talented players that are looking for a chance to play at a higher level from where they left off this past season. For some the level of play is surprising and for others it is what they have been looking for. Six of the eight squads are led by a Spruce Kings player for this past season; including both the Morgan twins, Tyson Hall, Sam Muchalla and Nick DeSousa. Watching Geoff Morgan this weekend has been a treat as he has really stepped up his game and shown a confident offensive side. Joe Morgan has stepped into a leadership role and taken on the task of making sure that players unfamiliar to the size and tempo of the game know what to expect. Tyson Hall has also been the spark plug for his Team White and has been showing off his ability to see the ice with crisp passing and accurate shooting. Sam Muchalla is always a pleasure to watch on the ice, and the Prospects Camp is no exception with Muchalla showing off all of the traits that earned him his scholarship to Northern Michigan. Nick DeSousa started the weekend with the comment that he was rusty ... well he found the oil that night because he has been a slick speedster and a scoring threat everytime he has been on the ice. In one game alone he tallied six goals while playing on a line with his younger brother - Dylan. In an unexpected twist following a tie game, the decision came down to allow for a shootout scenario. For a player in a league that doesn't have to practice for a potential shootout, Nick put on some of the nicest moves and fired a bullet five-hole to score on his shot. For the record, the DeSousa Team Green went on to win the shoot out. Its easy to watch the guys that have been playing for the Spruce Kings all season, the hard part is having to find the next crew that will don the Crown, and that is the job of the scouts, coaches and management staff; but getting a taste of it and being treated to it is for the fans to enjoy as all prospects undertake their final chance to make a lasting impression.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

No Rust

Day one is behind them and just three opportunities remain to impress. The early indication at the start of game two is that the rust is off. Not to say there weren't any players that didn't impress on day one, but the tempo and intensity being shown in Sesssion There is definitely higher. It makes for a great day at the Spruce Kings Prospects Camp being held at the Prince George Coliseum with every team/player getting two ice times on Saturday and one final game scrimmage on Sunday before the difficult task of identifing the players to return for the main camp must be addressed. There is no reason to suspect that the level of play will continue to rise and that might be the catalyst for some players to step up while others will be left knowing what is at stake and what needs to be done to make the jump to the next level.

Friday, April 10, 2009

What it takes

I've already had a chance to meet a lot of the prospects for the camp. These players bring a wealth of experience and that now leaves the only question to be answered - is it enough to play Junior A hockey? The answer to that question will at least be partially answered over the course of the weekend with every player assigned a total of 5 ice times, including 4 scrimmages. The process will allow the players to play their game and show everyone in attendance what they are capable of doing for the team. A few of those eyes will be the Spruce Kings coaches, management and scouting staff who will be identifying players to attend the main camp in August.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Testing from my BlackBerry

While I'm testing my ability to add a post to the Spruce Kings Crusader blog from my BlackBerry, I can't help but think how much busier people have become trying to stay connected. Technology was supposed to make tasks easier to perform and manage. Although that is the case, it is the amount of technology that we have at our fingertips that is making it overwhelming. From trying to keep up with family and friends on Facebook and Twitter to checking email and web pages from smart phones to publishing random thoughts and ramblings for the world to read, finding the time to do it all is quickly diminishing. To make matters worse, or better depending on your point of view, it is becoming increasingly necessary to do it all. It is the new way to promote. So in the interests of promoting the Spruce Kings I now know that I will be able to post here while travelling on the team bus or while waiting at the airport to shuttle participants of the Prospects Camp to the rink.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Prospects Camp just around the corner

An impressive turnout of players looking to make the 2009-10 Spruce Kings roster are packing their bags with the Prince George Coliseum their destination this weekend. The Prospects Camp is a chance to get a good look at upcoming players that are ready to make the jump into the Junior A game ... not just for the scouts and coaching staff, but for the players themselves. 120+ players are expected at this year's edition of the camp with ice times running all weekend long starting on Friday afternoon until late Sunday afternoon. Players will participate in a high tempo practice to shake off the rust and then four game situations. Throughout the weekend, I will be "ringing the posts" with some quick thoughts and impressions from the rink.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Welcome to our blogspot

Is it peer pressure, or something else? Well as always, time will tell. For right now, this is it ... a place for some thoughts and insights from and about the Prince George Spruce Kings to be posted. I foresee the evolution into something a lot more that allows for players, coaches and fans a chance to post their ramblings as well. This blog will be used to preview, update and wrapup games and special events. In other words, anything that is Spruce Kings can come to life here.