Friday, April 23, 2010

"Believe In Yourself"

While at the 2010 Allan Cup, I've had the opportunity to meet up with a handful of Spruce Kings alumni that are playing at the tournament. By far the most heavily ladened team, with players that wore the crown in seasons past, are on the host team's roster. There is one other team in the six team tournament featuring teams from across Canada that has three names that drum up memories from their time in Prince George.

The Powell River Regals roster has goaltender Mike Legg and forwards Mike Stutzel and Troy Dalton. Unfortunately Mike Legg was unable to travel to Fort St. John to play in this year's national senior amateur hockey tournament. I did get a chance to talk with Mike Stutzel who spent a pair of seasons with the Spruce Kings and was named the team's Most Improved Player in his first year and went on to earn the regular season MVP award.

As for Troy Dalton, he spent three very memorable seasons with the Spruce Kings including the year they won it all in the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League. That is one memory he shared with me as well as some candid thoughts about the game of hockey and what it has meant to him over the years and how his years with the Spruce Kings were instrumental in shaping his future. He talked a little bit about how the game of hockey has changed, not so much on the ice as much as it has changed off the ice.

The interview was conducted a short time after he arrived at the rink with his current team, the Powell River Regals for their quarter final game against the Bentley Generals. I started the interview there asking Troy about he and the rest of the team were preparing for a game against defending Allan Cup champions and a team that they had some history with.

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Troy Dalton and Mike Stutzel played strong roles for the Powell River Regals on this night, but the night belonged to the Bentley Generals who advanced to the semi finals and ended the Regals season. Friday at the 2010 Allan Cup the Fort St. John Flyers with five alumni on the roster will look to move past the South East Prairie Thunder and advance to the Championship game on Saturday.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Alumni at 2010 Allan Cup

As the voice behind the microphone at the Spruce Kings games, I've had an opportunity to watch a number of players show their stuff in the Coliseum and watched them move on to the next level. Sometimes it is easy to follow a player and other times you lose track of them. It is always nice to catch up to them again somewhere down the road. For me this week, that road or roads have led to Fort St. John for the 2010 Allan Cup.

The Allan Cup is the holy grail for senior men's amateur hockey and has been around since before the Stanley Cup. Based around a six team two division tournament, the Allan Cup is more in common with the RBC Royal Bank Cup as teams play a round robin series and then move through an elimination series before going to a single championship game.

Every year a different city is selected to host the Allan Cup with the team playing in that city getting an automatic spot in the tournament while five other regional spots are determined through playoffs and regional championships. The closest the Allan Cup tournament has ever been to Prince George is 1993 when it was held in Quesnel. The 102nd edition of the tournament is being held in Fort St. John with the Flyers the host team.

There are five Spruce Kings alumni on the FSJ team with Chris Stevens, Matt Shuya and Tyler Loney the most recent to have worn the crown. Adam Loncan and Gerard Dicaire are the other three that local fans will remember having played in Prince George. Dicaire, a true defenceman, was with the Spruce Kings for the 1998-99 season. Playing in 51 games, he finished with a record of 6 goals and 16 assists; he also played in 11 playoff games that year and picked up a game winning goal and one assist.

Adam Loncan played two seasons with the Spruce Kings, one in the Rocky Mountain Junior Hockey League and the other in the first year that the Spruce Kings joined the British Columbia Hockey League as a Junior A team. Loncan finished fifth in team scoring in that inaugural season in the BCHL with 17 goals and 28 assists through 58 games. Loncan went on to play for the Prince George Cougars the following year and also had five years of CIS hockey in Alberta before playing as a pro for two seasons in the CHL.

Tyler Loney played three seasons with the Spruce Kings; although he played as a defenceman in his rookie year, he found a great deal of success up front and especially on the top of the crease where it was next to impossible to move him. Loney wore the 'C' in his graduating year and holds many franchise records from his time with the team including the most penalty minutes in a single season with 242 and in a career with 578. Loney wasn't just a physical player though and finished his three years with 156 games played, 45 goals and 68 assists.

Chris Stevens was sixteen when he first started playing for the Spruce Kings and over the course of three seasons found a spot on the team's record books in the categories of games played (9th - 169), goals (2nd - 82), assists (6th - 100), points (4th - 181), power play goals (7th - 21), short handed goals (5th - 5) and game winning goals (2nd - 13). At the end of the 2004-05 season, when the Spruce Kings lost to the Vernon Vipers in the Interior Conference finals, Stevens received a call to finish the season out with the Medicine Hat Tigers.

Matt Shuya played four seasons and the second most games with the Spruce Kings with 208, 17 behind Derek Dinelle. Had it not been for a blockbuster trade at the trading deadline, Shuya would have been eligible to play in twenty more regular season games wearing the crown and may have been able to pass Dinelle. Shuya's name is also in multiple categories for career and single season records including fifth for goals scored with 69, tenth for points with 141 and third for penalty minutes with 374.

Besides these five, the Powell River Regals have another three Spruce Kings alumni with Troy Dalton, Mike Stutzel and Mike Legg. Legg, a goaltender, played three seasons with the Spruce Kings between 1985 and 1988 in the Peace Caribou Junior Hockey League. Dalton was with the team for three seasons as well between the years of 1993 and 1996 which spanned both the PCJHL and the RMJHL. Stutzel's spent time with the Spruce Kings from 1997 to 1999, the team's second and third seasons in the BCHL.

In my next posting, I will take a closer look at the players today and how they are faring at the 2010 Allan Cup. If time permits, between games, I hope to be able to sit down with at least a couple of them and just talk about those days when they wore the crown with pride and played in the Coliseum as members of the Prince George Spruce Kings.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring Camp 2010: Lasting Memories

In the words of the Spruce Kings assistant general manager and director of player personnel, Mike Hawes, it was a good camp that showed off a lot of talented players that are looking for a roster spot on the 2010-11 Spruce Kings team. There were the players that met pre-camp expectations and there were those that exceeded and others still that surprised leaving scouts, coaches and fans asking "who is that?"

Now that the camp is done, the boys behind closed doors have a better idea of who they want to see at the team's main camp and the picture that is the 2010-11 team is coming in to focus. It is safe to say that most of those thoughts and conversations will remain behind closed doors until at least June 1st when teams receive their allotment of player cards and players can officially commit to a team for the coming season.

But if I can be so bold as to say that what I saw has left me excited for the possibilities that lay in wait starting in the month of September. I'm sure the fans that had an opportunity to take in the camp have their eyes set on a few new prospects as well considering the number of players that were on hand this weekend. Over 140 players started the weekend by being assigned to one of eight teams that were each coached by team representatives not normally found on the bench. I had the privilege of coaching Team Orange that featured RJay Berra as the only Spruce Kings veteran player.

Other vets included Sam Muchalla (Team Blue), Jeff Datoff (Team Maroon), Reid Blinkhorn (Team Red), Nic deSousa (Team Green), Kyle Manlow (Team Red), Justin Fillion (Team Green), Jeremy Wiebe (Team Blue) and Luke Hannas (Team Grey). There was a large group of players that were AP'ed with the team through the season and players that have been seen at previous camps. Along with the familiar faces, there was also a few recognizable family names on the list. Rounding it out, was a large group of players that were new to the Spruce Kings. All of them had one objective of standing out from the crowd and attracting the attention of the coaching and scouting staff.

As mentioned earlier, I had the opportunity of coaching Team Orange through the round robin portion of the Spring Prospects Camp. I'm happy to report back that the team finished second with a record of three wins and one loss and with a positive goal differential of seven. That's important because the coaching record for at least a few of us was fuel for bragging rights in the camp. The Spruce Kings marketing manager, Jim Young won those rights going undefeated in the camp including a win over Team Orange. Although Team Grey was the only team to have two coaches on the bench; Young enlisted the help of Randy Buffie, a scout with the team based on Vancouver Island.

Team Orange battled hard in their final game on Sunday morning giving me the chance to brag a little bit too with a win over Team White. Coached by Spruce Kings alumni Garry Vallentgoed, Team White had a 3-0 record heading into their final game and had a 2-0 lead after the first period of play. Standing on the bench normally occupied by the Spruce Kings in the regular season, I must have absorbed some of the magic from over the years and said something profoundly inspirational.

Team Orange scored three times in the second and three more times in the third while keeping Team White off the score sheet in those final forty minutes. What did I say you ask, well the answer is "one word. shots!" Seriously, that's what I told them while standing on that bench looking down at them as they rehydrated themselves. The players did the rest and rallied themselves on. One player in particular that impressed me was 6' 1" 200lbs Charlie Lake resident, Beaudon Lancaster.

Here was a kid that came to work hard as a sixteen year old and earn a look and maybe pick up an idea of what he would need to do to improve his game. Well if I can speak candidly, Beaudon showed that he had the right attitude. After the first game, Team Orange lost two of its five defencemen to minor injuries and Beaudon was the first to step up and offer to play on the back end.

Of all the pictures I took this weekend, the one I wish I could have captured came after Beaudon scored in the second period of that final game to open the scoring for Team Orange. I had been giving this big forward, who was filling in on defence, a couple of shifts up front with the instruction to go to the net and make it difficult for the other team. On this particular play, I told him again to go to the net off the faceoff. Winning the offensive draw, Dylan Lynum shot the puck towards the net and, after a short battle in front of the net, the puck found its way in to the back of the net off Lancaster's stick.

The lasting image I have is of a this big guy letting out a quiet "yes" and giving a short draw fist pump; it was the loudness of his smile that made it all worthwhile. With his job accomplished, he came back to the bench; when the ref came by to confirm who scored the goal, it was his teammates that all chimed in with his jersey number. Beaudon Lancaster never made it to the Top Prospects Game, but that one moment will be his lasting memory of the camp and made it all worthwhile. That one moment also bonded a group of players in to a team and provided the spark that resulted in the team picking up its third win of the weekend.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spring Camp 2010: Schedule

With over 120 players now registered for the Annual Spruce Kings Spring Prospects Camp, this coming weekend is going to be busy around the rink. Earlier today, the schedule of practices and games was made available showing a total of eight teams competing against each other in hour long sessions. Speaking with Mike Hawes, Spruce Kings Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel, this camp is expected to be one of the best the team has hosted with players coming from near and far.

For hockey fans in the city of Prince George, this weekend is expected to provide a full slate of competitive high-intensity mini games with the biggest game coming on Sunday afternoon. After every team gets their fair share of ice time, forty two players will be highlighted in a top prospects game. The game will be a full game and with parents, other players and fans in the stands, the feeling in the arena will be that of one so many have come to expect when visiting the Coliseum.

CLICK HERE to view the schedule on the Spruce Kings main website.

With all the registrations now in, the next step is to process all of those names with player stats and create the eight teams. The coaching and scouting staff will be busy balancing the teams in preparation for the arrival of the players on Friday morning. That task will begin in earnest Tuesday in the Spruce Kings office, but don't expect to see a roster list until Friday.The coaching and scouting staff will be busy balancing the teams in preparation for the arrival of the players on Friday morning.

Hope to see you at the rink ...