Wednesday, June 23, 2010

NHL Great Says Thanks ...

During a press conference to announce his retirement from professional hockey, Scott Niedermayer took a moment to reflect on those that were influential in his hockey career. Included in that well thought out and inclusive list was current Spruce Kings head coach and general manager, Ed Dempsey. Along with Ken Hitchcock, Tom Renney and Don Hay, Dempsey coached Niedermayer when he played for the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League.

Scott Niedermayer played three seasons with the Kamloops Blazers with Ed Dempsey on the bench as part of the coaching staff. During those three years Niedermayer was selected twice to the WHL All Star team, was named the CHL Scholastic Player of the Year and was selected third overall in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft by the New Jersey Devils. He also received the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as the MVP of the 1992 Memorial Cup tournament.

The list of accomplishments for Scott Niedermayer is long with Niedermayer being the only player to win every major North American and International championship during his career. The Memorial Cup with the Blazers came one year after winning gold at the World Juniors with Team Canada in 1991. In 2004, he won gold in both the World Cup of Hockey and the IIHF World Championship. Niedermayer has also won two Olympic gold medals and has four Stanley Cups to his name, three with the New Jersey Devils and one with the Anaheim Ducks.

For a player with a resume as impressive as Scott Niedermayer's to take a moment to remember a coach from his junior days is nothing short of humbling and a true honour. In a carefully prepared and thoughtfully scripted retirement announcement, Niedermayer went through the coaching staff of the Anahiem Ducks and New Jersey Devils before recognizing his influences that led him to professional hockey.

"Looking back on the last eighteen years I can not have dreamed of such an amazing journey," said Niedermayer as he began his announcement by reflecting over pivotal points in his career. "From being drafted in 1991 by the Devils in Buffalo to playing in my first NHL game in Madison Square Garden. Getting five opportunities to compete for a Stanley Cup in the Finals, winning four of those. As well playing for Team Canada in many international events, has been more than I ever could have asked for."

"None of this happens without the help and support of a lot of people," continued Niedermayer. "I feel it's very important that I just thank a lot of people. I've had a lot of help and been supported by many great people and made a lot of great friends."

"I'd also like to mention four of my junior hockey coaches," said Niedermayer after he went through the list of coaches from the Anahiem Ducks and New Jersey Devils. "Ken Hitchcock, Tom Renney, Don Hay and Ed Dempsey as well taught me a lot about the game and again I was very lucky to have them as my coaches in junior hockey."

Scott Niedermayer was drafted in the first round of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft and, after playing one more year in the junior ranks, joined the New Jersey Devils in the fall of 1992. In his first season in the NHL, Niedermayer was named to the NHL All Rookie team and then two years later would hoist the Stanley Cup for the first of four times.

Always characterized by his skating stride and ability to read the play and contribute offensively, Niedermayer lived up to his billing from his junior years and went on to have a very rich and rewarding professional career. Congratulations, good luck and of course a big thank you to the man affectionately known as Captain Canada – Scott Niedermayer.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Coaching Change in Salmon Arm

Earlier today I learned that Rylan Fester resigned from his roles with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Although that might not be news that directly affects the Spruce Kings, Rylan has left a lasting impression on me from his passion for the game.

While traveling to the many rinks around the BCHL to provide the call of the game, I had many opportunities to speak with and interview Rylan. He would always accomodate me with my requests and provide candid and informative answers no matter the question.

On a few occassions, while in the unique sitation that is the broadcast location in Salmon Arm, Rylan would sit beside me in the press box. It was interesting to witness a general manager of one team react the same way for a good play or bad play from either side of the ice.

Rylan Ferster is a true fan of the game and I don't see him being very far from the rink. He is a big promoter of the players and wants nothing less than the absolute most that a player is willing to achieve and work for himself.

I hope I have more opportunities to cross paths with Rylan Ferster. What follows is the press release from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Good luck and all the best to you Rylan.

Salmon Arm SilverBacks owner Randy Williams has announced a leadership change in the team’s Hockey Operations department following the resignation of Head Coach and General Manager Rylan Ferster on Wednesday. Rylan will remain with the club until the end of June and assist in the transition process of hiring a new coach.

Ferster re-joined the SilverBacks organization in October of 2007 and spent two seasons as Head Coach and three as General Manager. The club finished with a record of 92-56-7-7 over that span, including a fourth-place finish in the Interior Conference during the 2009/10 season.

Ferster was also a member of the coaching staff for the club’s first three seasons where he led the 2003-2004 team to the League Finals. That same year, Salmon Arm finished 1st overall in the BCHL with 42 wins. 2008-2009 was another successful year as Ferster coached the roster to 40 wins and onto the Interior Finals versus the rival Vernon Vipers.

In addition, Rylan has represented the SilverBacks on an international level the past two years with Team Canada West at the World Junior "A" Championships. During his first appearance at the tournament, Ferster was an Assistant Coach. Last year, Team Canada appointed Ferster as the Head Coach. Each roster skated to silver medals.

"On behalf of the Salmon Arm SilverBacks Hockey Club, I would like to thank Rylan for his contributions to our organization over the past three years," says Williams. "He and I have worked very closely since his hiring and I’m fully supportive of him moving on to an opportunity that I feel is in the best interests of Rylan and his family."

"I’ve always believed that helping players and staff reach their personal goals is the hallmark of a great organization. We’ll now move forward by filling the vacancy left by Rylan and working harder than ever to build the Championship team that SilverBacks fans and the community of Salmon Arm deserve."

Ferster plans to remain in junior hockey and expects details of his new position to be announced shortly.

"It was a difficult decision to leave the SilverBacks after three very enjoyable seasons," says Ferster. "First, I would like to thank owners Randy and Terry Williams for giving me the opportunity to return to Salmon Arm and be a part of the SilverBacks organization. I’ve had an excellent working relationship with Randy, the team’s staff and the hockey fans of Salmon Arm. I leave knowing that the club will continue to be one of the top organizations in Junior A hockey for years to come."

"Secondly, I would like to recognize some people that I have had the pleasure of working with over the past six years. My friendship with Shawn Rogers, the team’s Director of Marketing, made it an easy decision to return to the SilverBacks for a second time. It goes without saying that I need to thank trainer Jamie Walters for the dedication and time that he has committed to the organization."

"I also want to recognize both Mickey and Heather Sims for their friendship during our time together with the team and my friend Myron Crown for being our home game announcer and a personal mentor. I cannot thank team Chaplin Dave Penner enough for all his guidance and wisdom he offers to our players. Thanks to Jill Bingham as the billet coordinator and to Ken Wood, who has been the club’s educational coordinator. Jill and Ken have been involved since the team’s inaugural season. And thank you to Gerry Hay for organizing all the game night officials every time we played at home. And of course Ron Flockhart for being such a great role model while helping the players improve their game during practice".

"I would also like to offer huge thanks to every billet family for opening up your homes and allowing our players to be a part of your day-to-day lives. Thanks for the countless hours from all of the volunteers who allow us to open the doors on game night. Thanks to Roy Sakaki and Salmon Arm Minor Hockey plus Dale Berger and the Sunwave Centre staff for being so supportive and a part of our hockey family. We would not be able to operate without the financial contribution from all of our corporate sponsors, many of whom I know firsthand. And last but not least, thank you to the players. The commitment you put forth being a SilverBack and a member of our community is unparalleled."

"Salmon Arm has become home and my family and I will continue to live here. My wife owns a business in this community and it’s where we want to raise our daughters."

Meanwhile, Williams says that the search for a new Head Coach will begin immediately.

"I’m committed to selecting a candidate who will meet our high standards on the ice while continuing to make the SilverBacks an excellent stepping stone for student athletes on their path to university hockey and the NHL."

Monday, June 7, 2010

From the Desk of Mike Hawes

I had the opportunity to stop by the Spruce Kings office earlier today, well actually it was designed as I wanted to talk to the hockey operations staff about some of the latest news surrounding the team and the league.

This past weekend marked the BCHL AGM and I'm told it covered a lot of league business and planning for the future. It also covered the usual items such as reviewing proposed rule changes and drafting up the coming schedule. Much of the meeting is about getting the chance to meet as representatives of the individual teams without the distraction of competitive games getting in the way.

On June 1st, Hockey Canada released to the teams their allotment of cards so that teams could go out and start actively filling spots for the 2010-11 season. The process of recruiting is an ongoing process that is completed when a player signs one of the cards belonging to a team. For players it adds security in knowing where they will be playing to start the coming season and for teams it is a chance to breathe a little easier knowing that the players they want to build around are in place.

That is where I started my conversation with Mike Hawes, the assistant general manager and director of player personnel for the Spruce Kings. With the announcement last week of the signing of four players, I asked Mike about the players and what qualities they bring to the Spruce Kings.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Four Player Signings Announced


PRINCE GEORGE, BC - The Prince George Spruce Kings are excited to announce the signing of four players for the 2010-11 season. The first of a number of signings during the off-season were made after the team received commitments from Riley Spraggs (F), Faiz Khan (F), Trevor Esau (D) and Chris Bodo (F).

Spraggs, Khan and Esau were all members of the Revelstoke Grizzlies of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) winning the 2009-10 league championship, the Cyclone Taylor Cup and the Keystone Cup. Bodo comes via the Strathroy Rockets of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL) where he finished the season third in league scoring with 97 points.

Riley Spraggs, who played five games with the Spruce Kings last season, is a '91 forward 5' 9" 175 lbs from Vernon, BC. In 47 regular season games, Spraggs had a record of 25 goals, 23 assists and 41 PIMs.

Faiz Khan, from Santa Clarita, California is a '90 forward 5' 9" 160 lbs. As a rookie last season, Khan led the Grizzlies in scoring with 27 goals and 41 assists in 42 games played.

Trevor Esau comes in as an 18 year old defenceman born in 1992, 6' 4" 205 lbs from Abbotsford, BC. Esau finished last season with a record of 1 goal, 6 assists and 95 PIMs in 48 games.

Chris Bodo is a 5' 9" 185 lbs '91 born forward from St. Thomas, Ontario. Playing on the right side, Bodo was the 2009-10 Strathroy Rockets regular season and playoffs scoring champion recording 49 goals and 48 assists in 50 regular season games. Bodo comes with a NCAA Division I scholarship to Mercyhurst College for the 2011-12 season.

"We are extremely happy as an organization that we were able to secure commitments from these four players," said Spruce Kings assistant general manager and director of player personnel, Mike Hawes. "Spraggs, Khan and Bodo are extremely gifted forwards with great numbers to show from last season and Esau is a key addition to our defence next year and for years down the road."

For more information, please contact the Prince George Spruce Kings at 250.564.1747.