Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ryan Howse Called to the Big Show

The 2009 NHL Entry Draft heard 211 players called by 30 teams through seven rounds. On Saturday, the Calgary Flames used the 13th spot of the third round to call Prince George minor hockey product Ryan Howse as the 74th overall selection. Following the draft, I sent Ryan a quick text message not expecting to hear much back ... afterall he would be spending time with family and friends in the aftermath of a life changing moment.

A few minutes later my BlackBerry made that all too familiar sound to notify me of a text message, it was from Ryan. The message contained a thank you for me and a thank you for the entire Spruce Kings organization for getting him ready for the Western Hockey League. This was quite unexpected for me so I had to respond seeking permission to use his text message as a quote on the Spruce Kings website. Again he responded quickly and asked if I would also include a thank you to Ed Dempsey for playing him during the RBC Royal Bank Cup.

I just want to say congratulations to Ryan Howse, for all his hard work and determination to work through obstacles to become the latest Prince George minor hockey product and Spruce Kings alumni to go on to the National Hockey League. Of course there is still a process for Ryan to go through before he will play in his first official NHL game with a team that boosts of players that include Jarome Iginla, Dion Phaneuf, Todd Bertuzzi and now Jay Bouwmeester.

I think its safe to say that Calgary believes they got their man; in fact, on the Calgary Flames website the names of Bouwmeester and Howse are used in the same sentence. After acquiring the defenceman from Florida, the Flames also made a deal that saw them move up ten spots in the third round to secure Ryan Howse. The Flames are quite high on their second overall pick, who they describe as a "sniper" with "really good offensive skills."

It was a bit of a bitter sweet day in the draft as the hope of hearing Wes McLeod's name called never came to fruition. I also had a chance to text Wes, who admitted that he was okay with not being drafted. He was prepared for it either way and is just planning on making this next season the best one he can. The good news in all of this is that Wes has chosen to defer going to the University of Alaska-Anchorage to play for the Spruce Kings for one more season. Wes made the decision saying he wants to be better prepared to play hockey at the NCAA level.

President's Report - 2008/09

by Darcy Buryn, President, Prince George Spruce Kings Junior A Hockey Club.

On ice, our team finished fifth in the regular season in a very competitive Interior Conference and then went on to an exciting five game first round series loss to the Penticton Vees.

Coming out of the 2007/08 season, I set out the following two overriding principles that we as a board use to guide us in the decisions that we make and the issues that we face:

Make the Prince George Spruce Kings a team of choice for players who want to play in the British Columbia Hockey League.

Develop an organizational culture whereby those players expect of themselves, and feel a responsibility on behalf of the entire organization, to play every shift of every game until there are no games left on the schedule.

We are making progress in this regard, but look forward to the opportunity to continue.

As evidence of the progress we are making in the development of our program, six players on our roster this season received scholarship commitments to NCAA schools to date. I had the opportunity to watch two NCAA games in Denver this past season and the players graduating from our program to that level are in for a exciting phase of their hockey careers.

Also former Spruce Kings goaltender, Brad Thiessen signed a professional contract this season at the conclusion of his third NCAA season and then had the opportunity to travel with the Pittsburgh Penguins on their road to the Stanley Cup, culminating in joining the team for their on-ice celebration and being handed the Cup by Sidney Crosby.

Wes McLeod committed to the University of Alaska-Anchorage, attracted the attention of the NHL's central scouting bureau and we are hoping to hear his name called in this weekend's NHL Entry Draft in Montreal.

We have recently committed to Ed Dempsey and Mike Hawes for the next two seasons to continue their efforts to push our hockey program forward.

We held our second consecutive evaluation camp in April, with players attending from throughout the Province of BC as well as Alberta and Ontario. There were also a number of players that came from California, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Washington, Alaska and Arizona. Several players from that camp have received invitations to the 2009 main camp in August. Four players from the Spring camp have also accepted cards to join our roster for the 2009/10 season.

The 2009 Show Home lottery brought us the second consecutive sell-out of available tickets. Despite the revenue generated from the sell-out, we continue to be challenged by the rising construction and land development costs. Also, the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation has informed us that they are going to run a house lottery of their own. They tried to get it together for the Spring of 2009, but were not successful and will try again in Spring 2010.

The dates of the 2010 Spruce Kings Show Home Lottery period will commence again in October with the draw to be held again on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2010. We have also decided to increase the tickets to be sold in the coming Lottery to 7,499.

I would like to commend the efforts of Jim Young and his sales staff, including my dad Wally, who is celebrating his 70th birthday tonight, in leading us to a sell-out of tickets.

As the governor of the team, I have attended several league meetings and conference calls. I have given up my role as the Chair of the Education Committee for the League to focus on the League financial and budgeting process, working closely with David Sales, executive director of the BCHL.

Darcy Buryn.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Busy Week for Hockey Operations

It turned into a busy week for the Spruce Kings this week with an AGM, contract signings, the acquisition of three players and the release of the 2009-10 schedule. The AGM on Wednesday night was a chance for the community owned team to put a wrap on the 2008-09 season and start looking ahead to 2009-10 with the usual reports from the president, treasurer and a few other committees. I was unable to attend in person, but heard afterwards that it was a fairly constructive and positive AGM with yours truly getting recognized for putting out all those game day reports and other email newsletters.

Thank you is all I can say as it is important in this day of instant access to information to make sure the information is actually out there for everyone to access. Perhaps now is a good time for a shameless plug, if you are interested in receiving these newsletters just drop me an email with your name and email address so that I can add you to my distribution list.

The team also announced the signing of two year contracts for both Ed Dempsey and Mike Hawes. Over the past few seasons I have had the opportunity to see both of these guys work and can honestly tell you that they are driven by a desire to be competitive and a deep passion for the Spruce Kings as a whole. One thing that sometimes gets lost in the win loss column is the human side of it all.

The players that put on the crown and go out there to compete are equally passionate of winning as a team, but also of achieving their own personal goals of furthering their hockey careers. Ed and Mike have enlisted the help of some highly respected hockey minds as their scouts all over the western half of North American for the benefit of the team and the players. The list of scouts for Prince George isn't limited to just those listed on the Spruce Kings website either, they include scouts from NCAA, CIS and NHL teams all over North America.

In all the games I have attended on the road as a broadcaster, I have come to learn that when I need Ed for an interview I can find him in one corner of the rink or another talking about this player or that one to more scouts than I will ever be able to keep track of. They all know Ed and Ed knows each and every one of them and the teams that they scout for. He learns what they are looking for and is able to give them information on the Spruce Kings that would fill that order.

Allan Bristowe of CKPG television had an opportunity to speak with both Darcy Bury and Ed Dempsey about the contract signings and filed this story on the CKPG News that aired on Thursday June 25, 2009.

At the end of that story was the mention of the Spruce Kings acquiring three twenty year olds with Evan Smith and Matt Betker coming by way of the Nanaimo Clippers and Neil Chambers from the Powell River Kings. I haven't had a chance to speak directly with any of the players but am looking forward to doing so in the coming days.

The 2009-10 schedule was also released this week and I'm sure everybody will have their thoughts on the makeup of the regular season. A breakdown of the games can be found on the Spruce Kings main website with the article titled 2009-10 Schedule Highlights. I'm sure others will have their thoughts on the schedule and I encourage you to leave them with me here ... just click on the comments link on the next line.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Spruce Kings AGM

If you have never been to an AGM for the Prince George Spruce Kings, now might be a good time to think about going for the first time. The Annual General Meeting is a mandatory event that must be held in accordance to a society's bylaws ... in this case, that society is the Prince George Spruce Kings. With the team being community owned all members of the community are welcome to attend and get the straight goods from the Board of Directors.

The AGM, among other things, is an opportunity for the team to present its reports from the past season and to share the expectations of years to come. The first real myth that must be debunked here though is that this isn't just a recap of the season on the ice. In fact it is more about what happened off the ice and what lessons were learned through the course of the year.

The volunteer board of directors are comprised of business people from the community that share a passion for the entity that has been a fixture on the sports and entertainment scene of Prince George for nearly four decades. What was once a dream turned into a reality in the early 70's has proven to be a viable vehicle for aspiring hockey players to realize their dreams. Much thanks has to go to the people who sit on the board of directors and draw from their experiences in life and business in Prince George to meet the challenges faced by the hockey club.

Although open to the general public, only members in good standing are eligible to vote on any motions presented at the AGM. Memberships can be purchased at the meeting which will be held at the Civic Centre on Wednesday June 24th beginning at 7:00pm. For more information, contact the Spruce Kings office between the hours of 10:00am and 2:00pm.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Memories of 2009 Stanley Cup

I love this kind of stuff ... it doesn't include everything you or I remember from the Stanley Cup playoffs, but it does have a lot of memories of one of the best Stanley Cup playoffs in a long time. A big thank you to the CBC for doing up a high definition video and allowing it to be embedded here for you.

Stanley Cup Playoffs 2009 CBC Tribute Video

Friday, June 12, 2009

Spruce King Touches the Stanley Cup

Well I'm sure there are a number of people happy that the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup on Friday night and I am one of them. Yeah there are the usual reasons for picking a team and cheering for them, but here is another one that every Spruce Kings fan should be proud of. With Mario Lemieux being interviewd on the ice, the CBC cameras found former Spruce Kings netminder Brad Thiessen hoisting the Cup after receiving it from Sidney Crosby.

I knew from talking with Brad that after his season with Northeastern ended and he signed with the Pittsburg Penguins that he went on to be a member of the black aces with the team. He participated in practices and traveled with the team all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. At the end of the game there were a number of players on the ice that won't see their names etched onto the holy grail of hockey and Brad Thiessen was one of them. What Brad does get is to sip champagne from the cup and know what a team has to go through to win the big prize in hockey.

Following that thrilling game seven final, I had a quick opportunity to speak with Ed Dempsey who has always been one of Thiessen's biggest supporters and followers. The pride in Ed's voice was unmistakable when he explained to me that this is why he coaches - to see those players that he had an opportunity to work with go on to bigger and better things. They don't come much bigger than this and the smile on Thiessen's face said it all.

Congratulations to Brad Thiessen ... oh and of course the entire Pittsburgh Penguins organization. There is no better game than the great Canadian game and for the Spruce Kings there is no bigger thrill then seeing one of their own hoist the Stanley Cup.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Scheduling Highlights for 2009-10

It's no surprise that the specific details are still not available when it comes to the 2009-10 BCHL season; there are seventeen teams that each need to average ten games a month over six months. But after this weekend's BCHL AGM and specifically the scheduling meeting between the teams on Saturday, it is safe to say that the season is a lot closer to being finalized.

For a third and final day at the BCHL AGM, Darcy Buryn shared some thoughts about what goes on when representatives from seventeen teams get into a room with one another. Perhaps a little surprising was how quickly over one thousand games were scheduled. When I caught up with Darcy around 7:00pm, the meetings had already been wrapped up over four hours earlier, so I had to ask if it had wrapped up successfully?

download audio file

Without the specifics, there is no point in trying to figure out when different games will or wont be scheduled. So despite being only slightly ahead of where we were twenty four hours ago, it is safe to say that the 2009-10 season is a reality and now comes the task of making sure everything else is in place for the drop of the puck in a little over three months from now - less if you count the start of Main Camp on August 28th. Do you have your season tickets?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Thoughts from the BCHL AGM (part 2)

Following a second full day of meetings at the BCHL AGM in Surrey, it appears that all is well on the Junior A hockey front in British Columbia and that the 2009-10 season is starting to take shape. It also looks like at least one rule change is imminent as it starts to filter down from the NHL through the semi-pro and into the amateur leagues. This particular rule change would see a team on the power play given the added advantage of starting the odd man situation in the offensive zone.

Those weren't the only rules that were discussed on Friday night as the league handed out the rules of the game in advance of Saturday's scheduling session. Darcy Buryn, the Spruce Kings president, is one of three representatives for the team at the BCHL AGM and shared with me some of his thoughts following Friday's sessions. The first question for Darcy was to find out if everybody behaved themselves and whether or not the full agenda was dealt with.

download audio file

Depending on how long the scheduling portion of the AGM goes, a first realization of the 2009-10 schedule could be available here first on Saturday night. Already it is known that the schedule will feature a full interlock and I for one think that is a good thing. Despite last season's experiment with the half interlock that received mixed reviews, I think it is the fans that will benefit from being able to see every other team at least once in the regular season.

Although the full interlock schedule will mean a few more games spread around, the regional weighted approach will still ensure a few extra games against teams in close proximity to one another. For the Spruce Kings, the addition of the Williams Lake Timberwolves will inevitable bring down the higher total of games played against the Quesnel Millionaires and Merritt Centennials. With only complete speculation guiding me, my guess would be no more than eight games against the Millionaires and Timberwolves, six games against the Merritt Centennials and Vernon Vipers. That would leave four games against the remaining four teams in the Interior Division with an expectation of playing double headers against the Trail Smoke Eaters.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thoughts from the BCHL AGM (part 1)

The BCHL AGM is underway this weekend in Surrey and representing the Prince George Spruce Kings are Ed Dempsey, Mike Hawes and Darcy Buryn. The three will embark in discussions that will help to shape the season and perhaps seasons to come at the league level. But what really goes on at the Annual General Meeting when representatives from seventeen teams and the league itself get behind closed doors. I'm sure you can speculate as much as I can or wish you could be a fly on the wall, but perhaps then you would find out that it is more tedious than entertaining.

During the three days of meetings, I will be catching up with Darcy Buryn, the President of the Prince George Spruce Kings, for thoughts and comments from the league meetings and perhaps insight into some of the changes that can be expected. Following a full day of meetings on Thursday, I had a chance to ask Darcy what transpired.

download audio file

If everything goes according to plan, there will be a part two posted on Friday night and a final wrapup following an intense Saturday where all teams will be creating their sixty game schedules to make up the 2009/10 BCHL season.