Scattershooting: Hawks, Bruins all even in SJHL final . . . Gotta love D.J. Kennington’s car . . . Broncos and Warriors to decide it tonight

Scattershooting


The SJHL’s championship final is all even after the host Nipawin Hawks posted a 4-1 victory over the Estevan Bruins before 1,122 fans on Sunday night. . . . The Bruins had SJHLwon the opener, 5-2, in Nipawin on Saturday night. . . . Last night, F Adam Beckman led the Hawks with two goals, his first two of the playoffs. Beckman, a fifth-round selection by the Spokane Chiefs in the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft, played this season for the midget AAA Battlefords Stars. . . . Beckman has played three playoff games with the Hawks. He had one goal and one assist in the only regular-season game he played with Nipawin. . . . The Hawks also got two goals from F Logan Casavant, who has six in the playoffs. . . . F Arthur Miller had Estevan’s lone goal, his seventh. . . . The teams combined to take 24 minors. . . . Nipawin got 23 saves from G Declan Hobbs, while Estevan’s Bo Didur stopped 34 shots. . . . They’ll play the next two games in Estevan on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, with a fifth game back in Nipawin on Friday night.


The Estevan Bruins climbed on their bus Friday and headed for Nipawin, where they were scheduled to start the SJHL’s championship final against the Hawks on Saturday night. En route, the Hawks made a stop — they spent 30 minutes at the site where the Humboldt Broncos’ bus crashed into a big rig on the afternoon of April 6. . . . Chris Lewgood, the Bruins’ general manager and head coach, told Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post that stop was “the first step for a lot of the guys toward closure.” . . . The Bruins went on to win Game 1, 5-2. . . . Vanstone has more on the Bruins right here.


More from Vanstone:

“The Humboldt Broncos went into overtime and, as a result, so did two thoughtful employees at the Domo C-Store (in Nipawin).

“Just as March 30 was becoming March 31, a weary band of Broncos walked into a convenience store near the southern outskirts of Nipawin.

“Earlier that evening, the host Hawks had outlasted Humboldt 3-2 to open a best-of-seven SJHL semi-final. Michael Grant had scored the winner for Nipawin at 2:33 of the second overtime session.

Due to the marathon contest, the Broncos did not arrive at the Domo C-Store until just before midnight — closing time, in other words.

Four Humboldt players barely beat the buzzer, arriving at 11:59 p.m. With the team bus parked outside, the rest of the Broncos trickled in.”

The rest of the story, which is right here, is well worth your time.



If they put this beauty — it’s D.J. Kennington’s Castrol Edge Dodge — on toy shelves as a die-cast car, I really wonder how many thousands would be sold . . .


The Moose Jaw Warriors and Swift Current Broncos will decide their second-round WHL series tonight (Monday) when they meet for a seventh game. . . . The Warriors forced Game 7 with a 3-2 victory in triple OT in Swift Current on Saturday night. Moose Jaw got 58 saves from G Brody Willms, with F Jayden Halbgewachs, the WHL’s leading sniper in the regular season, scoring the winner, on a PP, 74 seconds into the third period. . . . The Broncos had a 1-0 lead and a 28-9 edge in shots through two periods, then took a 2-0 lead at 3:35 of the third period. . . . G Stuart Skinner stopped 35 shots for the Broncos. . . . The winner of Game 7 will meet the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference final. . . . Darren Steinke, the travelling blogger, was at Game 6 and writes about it right here.


When I was a youngster, oh, how I loved my table hockey game, the one with the metal players, all of whom played for the Montreal Canadiens or the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hey, there weren’t any other options with my game. . . . It turns out that the likeness for those players actually had a model. As Tom Hawthorn writes in The Globe and Mail, the likeness was that of Dick Gamble, a long-time pro hockey player who died on March 22. . . . Hawthorn’s obituary for Gamble is right here.

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Scattershooting: Ex-player starts Hockey Gives Blood . . . Bruins win emotional opener . . . Holick signs with Yale

Scattershooting


Stu Middleton was playing for the junior B Revelstoke Grizzlies in 2000-01 when his father was killed in a car accident in the Rogers Pass while en route to a game. Since then, Middleton has been wanting to do something with his father’s memory in mind. Following the tragedy involving the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos, Middleton hooked up with some former teammates and now a project is underway. It involves the Canadian Blood Services Partners for Life Program and a website — hockeygivesblood.ca. . . . If you are with a team or league, you will want to check this out and you also will want to make this a full-time part of your program. . . . Pam Cowan of the Regina Leader-Post has more right here.



The SJHL issued its players-of-the-week news release on Friday. . . . If you haven’t yet read the news release, it’s right here and it is well worth your time.


When there are tragedies such as the one involving the Humboldt Broncos, major media outlets often send in long-form writers who will attempt to capture the atmosphere in the community. Sports Illustrated assigned Greg Bishop to the story. . . . The top reads: “An unthinkable tragedy struck Humboldt when a bus crash killed 16 members of the Broncos junior hockey team. As the small city recovers, it doesn’t want to be defined by the crash; it wants to be defined by how its heartbroken community responds.” . . . If you haven’t seen it, Bishop’s piece is right here.

Meanwhile, The Globe and Mail gave the assignment to Marty Klinkenberg, who writes that these days “there is no normal” in Humbolt. His piece is right here.


The Estevan Bruins opened the SJHL’s best-of-seven championship final with a 5-2 victory over the Hawks in Nipawin on Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 1,199 fans. They’ll play Game 2 tonight (Sunday) in Nipawin. . . . The Bruins put the game away with two late empty-net goals. . . . This was the first game for both teams since the Humboldt Broncos’ bus crashed en route to Nipawin for a playoff game on April 6. . . . Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post was in Nipawin and filed two pieces. His game story is right here, while a piece looking at the overall scene is right here.



Meanwhile, there is quite a story being written in the AJHL where the Spruce Grove Saints have taken a 2-0 lead over the Okotoks Oilers in the best-of-seven championship final. . . . On Saturday night, the visiting Saints got an OT goal from F Chris Van Os-Shaw, who played the previous two seasons with the Humboldt Broncos, to beat the Oilers, 3-2. That was his second goal of the game. The Saints had tied the game on goal from F Josh Harris with 47 seconds left in the third period. . . . Van Os-Shaw, a 20-year-old from Regina, is ticketed for Minnesota State-Mankato next season. . . . One night earlier, Van Os-Shaw, the AJHL’s regular-season MVP, scored on a penalty shot and drew an assist on Harris’s OT winner in a 4-3 victory. . . . They’ll play Games 3 and 4 in Spruce Grove on Monday and Tuesday nights.



TheCoachingGame

Mark Holick is back in the coaching game, this time in Canada. He has been named head coach of the Yale Hockey Academy’s midget prep team and the director of the midget programs. According to a news release, Holick “will also be working with students this off-season on skill development and will be assisting with student recruitment.” . . . Holick has extensive coaching experience, including more than six seasons as a WHL head coach. . . . Most recently, he spent more than one season as the head coach of Pustertal/Val Pusteria, an Italian entry in the Alps Hockey League. . . . The Yale Hockey Academy is located in Abbotsford, B.C.


The AJHL’s Olds Grizzlys have signed Garry VanHereweghe to a two-year deal as general manager and associate coach, while removing the interim head coach tag from Joe Murphy, who also got a two-year deal. . . . The Grizzlys finished last in the South Division, at 18-37-5, this season, and head coach Adam Redmond and Doug Hergenhein, the director of player personnel and head coach left late in the season. Murphy, who had been associate coach and assistant GM, was named interim head coach at that time. . . . VanHereweghe had been the vice-president of hockey operations with the AJHL’s Canmore Eagles.


The junior B Ridge Meadow Flames of the Pacific Junior Hockey League have signed Derek Bedard as their new general manager, replacing Jamie Fiset, who has joined the Valley West Hawks of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League. Fiset, who had been with the Flames through 12 seasons, starting as the goaltending coach, will be the Hawks’ general manager. . . . The Flames also announced that Bayne Ryshak will return as head coach.


The junior B Osoyoos Coyotes of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League need a new head coach after Ken Law’s contract wasn’t renewed. The Coyotes have been in Osoyoos for eight years, and Law had been there from the beginning. Owner Randy Bedard told Richard McGuire of the Osoyoos Times that “it’s just sometimes you know when it’s time to make a change. You get that feeling where it’s time to freshen up.” . . . Law told McGuire: “I was planning on coming back and was negotiating my contract. Randy just said that he decided to change things up. These things happen.” . . . This season, the Coyotes finished 32-11-2, with two ties, leaving them atop the Okanagan Division, nine points ahead of the Kelowna Chiefs. Osoyoos dropped the Okanagan/Shuswap Conference final in seven games to the Revelstoke Grizzlies. . . . McGuire’s story is right here.

Scattershooting: Blades’ voice has idea to honour Tyler Bieber . . . Guy Charron? Call him commissioner . . . Virden up 2-0 in MJHL final

Scattershooting

Les Lazaruk, the veteran radio voice of the Saskatoon Blades, caught a ride with Blades assistant coach Jerome Engele on Thursday morning and the two headed for Humboldt.

They went to the Elgar Petersen Arena for the funeral of Broncos’ radio voice Tyler Bieber, who was killed in Friday’s bus crash.

While in the seats, just prior to the service starting, Lazaruk had an idea.

“One other thing I feel as I sit and look at Tyler Bieber’s spot in the 107.5 Bolt FM broadcast booth,” he tweeted, “. . . I want to honour Tyler’s memory by calling Humboldt Broncos game on Bolt-FM. For free! No talent fee! No gas money! No meal money! I don’t care where the game is.

“There are 58 regular-season games in 2018-19 and I hope 57 other broadcasters step up and do the same in Tyler’s memory.”

If there is a way to make this work, you can bet on it happening.

Chris Cuthbert, Gord Miller, Peter Loubardias, Phil Andrews, Kelly Moore, Shawn Mullin, Ryan Switzer, James Gallo, Troy Gillard, Dave Randorf, John Fraser, Ben Holden, Joey Kenward, Tim Edmonds, Jason Gregor, Lee Jones, Tony Brar, Rob Mahon, Nick Gismondi, Brendan Parker, Peter Mills, Pete Krupsky and Cameron Birnie were among those to respond in a resoundingly positive fashion.


Tyler Bieber was a huge fan of the NFL’s New England Patriots.

Upon hearing that, Robert Kraft, the Patriots’ owner, called Bieber’s family — he ended up leaving a voicemail expressing condolences, according to ESPN’s Emily Kaplan — and also made sure that flowers were sent.



Bob Wilkie was a defenceman with the 1986-87 Swift Current Broncos. He survived the Broncos’ bus crash on Dec. 30, 1986, and went on to win the 1989 Memorial Cup with SCBroncosthem.

Wilkie later co-authored a book about the Broncos and that accident — Sudden Death: The Incredible Saga of the 1986 Swift Current Broncos.

On Sunday, he was in Saskatoon and Humboldt as he, Sheldon Kennedy, Peter Soberlak and Darren Kruger worked to spread hope among those impacted by the Humboldt bus crash.

This week, Wilkie dug up a souvenir of that 1989 Memorial Cup championship.



Elsewhere . . .

The Spokane Chiefs have signed three members of their organization to contract extensions, the lengths of which weren’t released. Assistant coach Scott Burt, equipment manager Tim Lindblade and Chris Baird, the assistant director of hockey operations, all have new deals. . . . Burt is preparing for his sixth season with the Chiefs. . . . Lindblade joined the Chiefs for the 2013-14 season. . . . Baird just completed his first season as equipment manager after 10 seasons as the Chiefs’ video co-ordinator.


Jeff Wagner is the new general manager and head coach of the junior B Fernie Ghostriders of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. He had been assistant GM/associate coach with the KIJHL’s Creston Valley Thunder Cats. . . . Wagner replaces Craig Mohr, whose contract wasn’t renewed after the Ghostriders were first-round playoff casualties. This was his fourth season as the club’s GM/head coach.


Guy Charron, a former NHLer who did a couple of turns as the head coach of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, is the new commissioner of the Thompson Okanagan Junior Lacrosse League. . . . You can bet that Charron will be a busy man because, as Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week writes, “The league has never been short on fiery personalities and hot-button issues — and this year is no different.” . . . Hastings has more right here.


JUST NOTES: If you’re following the WHL playoffs, you will be aware that the Tri-City Americans completed a four-game sweep of the Victoria Royals on Wednesday night. The Americans play in the U.S. Division and were a wild-card entry into the playoffs. They have swept the B.C. Division’s top two teams — the Kelowna Rockets, who finished atop the division, and the Royals, who were second. Does this mean the Americans get to hoist a B.C. Division championship pennant prior to next season? . . . In the MJHL, Rylee Zimmer had a goal and two assists to help the host Virden Oil Capitals to a 4-3 victory over the Steinbach Pistons. Zimmer tied the game at 14:07 of the third period and drew an assist on Landyn Cochrane’s winner at 15:48. . . . Virden won the opener, 2-1, in Steinbach on April 6. Game 2 had been scheduled for Sunday, but was postponed out of respect for the Humboldt Broncos. Game 3 is scheduled for Saturday in Steinbach. . . . The winner of the MJHL championship will meet the SJHL champ, either the Estevan Bruins or Nipawin Hawks, in the ANAVET Cup series. The SJHL final opens Saturday in Nipawin. . . .


A really interesting hockey book was published a year ago, but somehow I missed it. That book is Father Bauer and the Great Experiment: The Genesis of Canadian Olympic Hockey. I came upon it last month, and simply devoured it. Written by Greg Oliver, it details all that went on as Canadian hockey moved into the national team era and beyond. When I was growing up in northern Manitoba, among my hockey heroes were the likes of Roger Bourbonnais, Terry O’Malley, Barry MacKenzie, Fran Huck, Seth Martin, Ken Broderick, Jean Cusson et al. These were the Canadian players who would venture to Europe and get in the face of the great Soviet machine. The stories of all that went into getting the national program off the ground — no, Clarence Campbell’s NHL didn’t like it at all — all are right here. Great stuff!

Scattershooting: The SJHL “will play hockey” . . . Big day for Beaudry . . . Willie helps out

Scattershooting

The SJHL’s board of governors voted unanimously on Wednesday afternoon to have the league’s playoffs played to a conclusion. The best-of-seven final will open Saturday with SJHLthe Estevan Bruins visiting the Hawks in Nipawin.

The league has been in a holding pattern since Friday when the bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos to Nipawin for a game that night was involved in a crash in which 16 people died. The Hawks led that series, 3-1, at the time.

“We had a gruelling decision to make with respects on how we can pay tribute and honour the Humboldt Broncos,” SJHL president Bill Chow said in a statement. “On behalf of the board of governors, this intensive decision has been made and that decision is to carry through and finish off the 2017-18 season.

“The league will play hockey.”

The winner of the final will win the Canalta Cup and go on to play the Manitoba Junior Hockey League champion for the ANAVET Cup.

If you’re wonder, the Broncos’ organization is onside with the decision to play the final series.

“In my opinion, I think that hockey is important in our world, and it’s part of the healing process,” Broncos president Kevin Garinger told The Canadian Press. “I think it’s important to recognize that it is part of the healing process for everyone involved in this tragedy.”

Garinger also repeated that the Broncos expect to be one of the SJHL’s 12 teams when the 2018-19 season arrives.

“We know that hockey is critical for our Humboldt Broncos family,” he said. “We know that moving forward it will take time but we fully expect that the Humboldt Broncos organization will be part of the 2018-19 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League schedule. We will look toward that when the time is right to consider it.”

——

SJHL final (best-of-seven):

Saturday: at Nipawin

Sunday: at Nipawin

Tuesday: at Estevan

Wednesday: at Estevan

If necessary:

Friday, April 20: at Nipawin

Sunday, April 22: at Estevan

Tuesday, April 24: at Nipawin


The Nipawin Hawks began preparations for the SJHL final at practice Wednesday afternoon, and they had a new assistant coach on the ice with them. Humboldt assistant coach Chris Beaudry, who wasn’t on the Broncos’ bus on Friday because he was driving himself to the game, had on his coaching gear and was helping the Hawks.

Later in the day, Beaudry hit send on the following tweet:


If you follow the WHL, you know that the Saskatoon Blades didn’t qualify for the playoffs and, subsequently, head coach Dean Brockman was fired.

If you are one of those people who believes that things happen for a reason, well, before joining the Blades as an assistant coach, Brockman spent 17 seasons with the Broncos, the last 10 as general manager and head coach.

With that in mind, might Brockman end up back there, charged with putting the franchise back together?

Only time will tell. In the meantime, Brockman’s thoughts on the tragedy and what has transpired are right here in a piece from CBC.


On Tuesday afternoon, I posted a piece here — The boys grab some sticks and win a game — and the response has blown me away. On Wednesday morning, Cam Hutchinson, the editor of the Saskatoon Express, asked for permission to print the story in the next issue of that newspaper. Of course, I told him to go ahead. So, if you’re in the Saskatoon area, you can watch for it in print on Monday and online on Tuesday. . . . On Wednesday afternoon, following the death of Broncos athletic therapist Dayna Brons, I updated the story to include her.



There are stories everywhere involving victims of Friday’s bus accident. Here’s one that I absolutely love. . . . Graysen Cameron is one of the Humboldt players who was hospitalized after the accident. His brother, Bretton, is the captain of the ECHL’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits. He played three seasons (2007-10) with the Medicine Hat Tigers, while Willie Desjardins was the general manager and head coach. . . . Bretton badly wanted to get to Saskatoon in order to be with Graysen, but was having visa problems. It just happened that Desjardins called on Saturday to ask about Graysen. During the conversation, Bretton mentioned the visa issues. Well, it seems that Desjardins knows a lawyer through his NHL connections and, well, Bretton was on a plane to Saskatoon on Sunday. . . . These are the kinds of relationships that are forged while buses carry teams across this land.


Scattershooting . . . Drawing goes viral . . . Big League for Broncos . . . Vandekamp back in coaching game

Scattershooting

A drawing showing players from the Humboldt Broncos asking Jonathan Pitre to join them in a game of shinny has exploded on social media. If you haven’t seen it, it’s in the tweet below. . . . It is the work of Kerry MacGregor, whose father, Roy, writes for The Globe and Mail and whose essay on the Broncos’ tragedy was linked to here on Monday. . . . The father and daughter have been in the news this year because of the release of their children’s book The Ice Chips and the Magical Rink.


Logan Boulet, a defenceman who didn’t survive the crash involving the Humboldt Broncos’ bus on Friday, registered as an organ donor as he turned 21 on March 2. That story became most popular on social media when the information was made public by his family. But who was Logan Boulet? Dylan Purcell has the answer right here as he visits with folks who knew Boulet in his hometown of Lethbridge.



There are wordsmiths and there are wordsmiths . . . and then there is Charles P. Pierce. On Tuesday, SI.com posted a Pierce essay that is well worth your time. Yes, it’s about hockey and Humboldt and billet families and a whole lot more, and it’s all right here.


On that subject, here is Doug Johnson, the general manager and head coach of the Nipawin Hawks, talking to Postmedia’s Nick Faris:

“The people (who) are no longer with us were on that bus to play. They were on that bus to chase a dream and make it to the Canalta Cup final. If we don’t play, we do them a huge disservice. To me, the only way to truly honour Humboldt is to play.

“I think it’ll help our players with the grieving process. Will it be tough? Absolutely. Will sometimes it not make sense? Absolutely. But talking with people (who) have been through tragedies, to a person, they just say, ‘Get back and honour them through play. That’s what they would want.”

That conference call is scheduled for today (Wednesday).



Tom Cochrane, who really should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, paid a visit to TSN on Tuesday evening. Cochrane, the pride of Lynn Lake, Man., took the time to treat viewers to a special version of his hit song Big League.


Thank you so much to all who commented on the story I posted here earlier on Tuesday. I am thrilled that so many people read it, and were able to get something positive out of it.

I awoke Tuesday at 3 a.m., after having been asleep for about two hours. I was wide awake, but couldn’t figure out why. As I poked and prodded the depths of my mind, it came to me. Anyone who has written will understand when I suggest that I didn’t get much sleep for the rest of the night.

Again, thank you so much for the reaction. I would respond individually but this, I think, is better than cluttering up timelines.


And now for a couple of BCHL-related items . . .

Mike Vandekamp is back in the coaching game as the general manager and head coach Cowichanof the BCHL’s Cowichan Capitals.

Vandekamp was in his seventh season as the Nanaimo Clippers’ GM/head coach when he was fired by new owner Wes Mussio on Dec. 22. Mussio cited “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for the move.

With the Capitals, Vandekamp takes over from Brian Passmore, who will stay on in the area of hockey development, working, according to a news release, with the team’s U-16 program and other youth hockey initiatives.

This season, the Capitals finished 10-41-5, with two ties, and didn’t make the playoffs.

Meanwhile, in Trail, the Smoke Eaters, who are owned by Minnesota businessman Rich Murphy, have fired Cam Keith, their general manager and head coach, after a season in Trailwhich they went 32-21-4, with one tie, and reached the league’s final four for the first time since 2003.

In the second round of the playoffs, the Smokies won a seven-game series from the Penticton Vees, who had finished 17 points ahead of them in the Interior Division. Trail then lost the conference final in five games to the Wenatchee Wild.

Keith’s departure was announced via a one-paragraph, two-sentence, 46-word news release.

Jim Bailey of the Trail Times reported that Keith, who is from Nelson, “was conspicuously absent at the City of Trail ceremony that honoured the team Monday afternoon, and it was revealed later in a press release that Keith had been relieved of his duties that morning.”

Keith completed two seasons in Trail. In 2016-17, they finished 26-26-5, with one tie, good for third in the division.

 

The boys grab some sticks and win a game

The boys played a hockey game last night. Yes, they shook off the rust and away they went.

They did pretty well, too, getting 37 saves from goaltender Parker Tobin in posting an 8-0 victory before a world-wide audience.

Tobin was making his first appearance with his new team, having been acquired from the junior A Humboldt Broncos in exchange for defenceman Xavier Labelle earlier in the day.

“We were fortunate we got a great performance from Tobin and our top scorers scored,” said general manager/head coach Darcy Haugan.

The boys were led by the line of Jaxon Joseph, Logan Schatz and Evan Thomas, who combined for 12 points, including six goals.

There was a scary moment early in the second period when Schatz appeared to catch an edge as he cut behind Tobin’s net. Schatz crumpled to the ice and for a moment it looked as though he had suffered a knee injury. Athletic therapist Dayna Brons, the only girl on the boys team, was quick to the scene. She helped Schatz to the dressing room and was able to get him back to the bench before too much time had elapsed.

“She’s got magic fingers and she’s great with tape,” said Schatz, who also is the team captain. “If there’s an MVP on this team, she’s it. I don’t know where we’d be without her.”

Haugan was thrilled when Schatz returned to the bench and Brons signalled that the captain was OK to go.

“That allowed us to keep our lines intact and to execute our game plan to a T,” Haugan said. “We wanted our power play to obviously be big. We didn’t expect it to be that big so we’re very fortunate. You need your top guys to be your best guys and they were.”

The boys counted five times on eight power-play opportunities and that really was huge.

Joseph finished with three goals and an assist, with Schatz chipping in two of each, and Thomas putting up a goal and three helpers.

Defenceman Adam Herold, the youngest player on the team, and forward Conner Lukan also scored. Lukan was skating alongside Jacob Leicht and Logan Hunter, and that threesome easily could have had four or five more goals. Hunter recorded two assists, with Leicht getting one. Defenceman Stephen Wack also had one assist.

As for the opposition, Haugan said, they “stepped up all night, they were relentless. Obviously our guys did a good job of keeping everything to the outside and didn’t allow them to penetrate to the middle of the ice. We did get a couple of breaks so we did get lucky but all-in-all to escape with a 1-0 lead after one, we’ll gladly take it.”

Defenceman Logan Boulet showed a lot of heart and leadership in earning six assists for the boys.

“I felt great out there,” Boulet said. “I was using a Brad McCrimmon model stick and, man, I really was able to throw some great saucer passes out there. And I don’t know that the stick had anything to do with it, but I never wanted to leave the ice.”

Haugan added: “(Boulet) was a beast out there.”

Ahh, yes, the sticks.

Haugan said one of the toughest tasks he and assistant coach Mark Cross faced was getting the players to pick out the sticks they wanted to use.

“I have never seen or heard of a team having such a wide selection to choose from,” Haugan said. “There were sticks everywhere. We may have to build some kind of stick warehouse to house them all.”

After the game, the boys admitted to being quite excited about having been able to replace one of their travelling staples.

“One of the boys picked up a copy of Slap Shot,” Haugan said. “He got it from somewhere in Portland, I think. You can’t be on the road without Reggie Dunlop and Slap Shot, but our original DVD got broken somehow and, let me tell you, there were some broken hearts when that happened.

“But all’s well that ends well.”

It’s worth pointing out that the boys led 1-0 after the first period, which was played in Chicago Stadium. They were up 4-0 after the second, which was played in Maple Leaf Gardens. The teams played the final period in the Montreal Forum. The travel arrangements were all under the control of Glen Doerksen, the team’s travelling secretary.

So . . . what’s next for the boys?

Well, Haugan said, the coaches are well aware that focusing on one sport isn’t the way to go.

“The guys are talking about wanting to play some baseball,” Haugan said. “Apparently, some guy in Iowa built a ball diamond in a cornfield. So I think we’re wanting to give that a try.

“But we’ll have to scrounge some bats, balls and gloves first.”

JUST NOTES: There was a third man behind the bench with Haugan and Cross and Haugan later revealed that he has added Brock Hirsche to his coaching staff. Hirsche played in the WHL with the Prince George Cougars, then returned to his hometown to play with the U of Lethbridge Pronghorns. . . .

Also joining the boys is Jonathan Pitre, who is incredibly popular with the media and will handle public and media relations. . . .

Tyler Bieber, an up-and-coming play-by-play voice, called last night’s game on 107.5 FM (aka The Prayer), with sports fanatic Brody Hinz handling the analysis and statistics, including zone entries and Corsi. . . .

Christopher Lee of the Humboldt Journal may recognize some of the quotes here. Thanks for loaning them to me.

Mondays With Murray: Great Expectations Nearing Fulfillment

SUNDAY, JUNE 6, 1993 SPORTS

Copyright 1993/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Great Expectations Nearing Fulfillment

   When Bruce McNall traded for Wayne Gretzky in 1988, we all knew he wasn’t merely buying a hockey player, he was buying the Stanley Cup. It came attached to Gretzky. After all, he had won it four times for the Edmonton Oilers.

   And, when he didn’t win it, he was in it. The final, that is.

   No one in L.A. even knew what the Stanley Cup looked like. Or Gretzky, for that matter. All we ever saw of him was this guy skating around in a plastic helmet, waving a stick in mondaysmurray2the air after he had whipped in another goal against the Kings.

   He got 56 of them and 170 points in only 63 games against the Kings. He found them barely harder to get through than Kleenex.

   So, we hurried to the news conference when he was traded to get a fix on this new L.A. mega-star. I remember how startled we were at our first close-up at him. I don’t know what we pictured — your basic Canadian roughneck dripping tobacco juice, toothless, face stitched like a wall motto, parts of his ear missing. I guess. Something called “Boom Boom,” or “the Rocket,” or “the Gorilla.”

   Heck, this guy didn’t even look like Cowboy Flett. He had all his teeth, for cryin’ out loud! Didn’t have a stitch on him. He wasn’t big. He looked too frail to be a hockey player. Not a tattoo anywhere.

   He had this almost baby face, a nice smile, long blond hair. You would have figured him for a surfer if you’d run into him on the sand at Santa Monica. He could play the angel in a Christmas play.

   This was a guy who had scored the most goals, 92, in a single season? Who scored the most single-season points, 215? Who scored the most points in the history of the game?

   Our first thought was, those smart-alecks up in Canada had pulled a fast one. This couldn’t be the great Gretzky, this — this altar boy. This was a fax.

   But L.A. fans were patient. They told him to take all the time he’d need. Take a year, if necessary. We’d wait.

   Then, they sat back to see how he would do it. Unfortunately, his teammates did, too. Some of them should have paid to get in. They didn’t think Gretzky needed any help. All of them would have qualified for the Lady Byng Trophy, which they give in this league to the player who tries to kill the fewest opponents during the season.

   Everybody figured this was Wayne’s world. They stood around waiting for him to do it all. All they wanted to do was take the bows.

   The public kept waiting, too. Each day it kept expecting to pick up the paper and see where Gretzky had exploded for eight or 10 goals, had performed a double hat trick — after all, 49 times in his career he has had three or more goals in a game.

   But first you need the puck. The Kings could never seem to find it, get it to him.

   Gretzky handled it well, tried his best. No one brought it up specifically, but as year piled on to year, you could feel the unspoken parts of the postgame interview as Gretzky would patiently account for another disappointment.

   “Er, ah, Wayne. It’s about the Cup. Er, ah, the — ahem — Stanley Cup? Er, when can we expect that?”

   When it looked as if it would be never, along came 1993. It had not been a good season for Gretzky. All those years of getting hammered into the boards had paid off in a herniated disk. He never even got on the ice till the season was half over.

   But that was the bad news. The good news was that the Gretzky who came back was the old whirlwind, the center iceman with the uncanny knack for being where the puck was, who could find the open man in the crowd at Times Square on New Year’s Eve and get the puck to him at the precise moment the goalie was looking the other way.

   There was also the likelihood the team had learned to fend for itself in Gretzky’s absence. It had matured. The chemistry was there. Gretzky only ignited it.

   The Cup playoffs were like old times. There was Gretzky making a playoff game look like an ice show, skating around and through the opposition, pulling hat tricks, slapping in winning goals.

   Suddenly, the Holy Grail of hockey was right there for grabbing. The upstart Kings rolled through the Montreal Canadiens in the first game like the German army through Belgium. The only score the Canadiens had was kicked in by Gretzky.

   The Canadiens coach, a sly fellow, found a way out with one minute to play to win a game with a rule book instead of a puck when he invoked a hockey version of the corked bat to remove from the lineup a key player at the critical time. Hockey is the only game that does not play on a level field personnel-wise, and the hole in the lineup was fatal.

   But if anyone doubted Gretzky’s importance to his hockey team, Game 5 of the test matches would have overcome them. As these ice follies came to Los Angeles for the first time in history Saturday night with the whole town waiting to form up for a ticker-tape parade, the Kings suddenly developed a case of what is known in the theater as flop sweat. They kept, so to speak, blowing their lines, falling into the scenery.

   They fell behind, 3-0, and seemed to be looking around to see where to go to surrender.

   Gretzky wouldn’t let them. Suddenly, there he was behind the net with the puck. He spotted the open Luc Robitaille, flicked the puck to him for the score. The Kings were back in the game, calling for cards.

   Nine minutes later, after Tony Granato made it 3-2, there was Gretzky weaving down center ice with the puck on his stick, a sight no goaltender wants to see. Aaron with a hanging curve. Gretzky slapped it in from 30 feet or so. The score was tied.

   It wasn’t enough. For the second game in a row, the Kings lost quickly (34 seconds) in overtime.

   But it couldn’t obscure a central fact for the Kings. When Gretzky is on the ice, they are a Stanley Cup team. When he isn’t they are — well, maybe not a buttercup team but at least a hiccup.

   He put them in the Stanley Cup final. Will they come back?

   Even if they don’t, the fact that they’re there means the community has now found out something the rest of hockey already knew. Wayne Gretzky is half a hockey team all by himself. Behind that choirboy exterior beats the heart of a train robber. The halo slips when he gets the puck.

   He has finally done what he came to do. When you think of the athletes who came to this town with flags waving and bands playing but who crept out whining and complaining, Gretzky stands up and stands out. He starred for his sport and spoke for his sport. He put hockey on Page 1 and Prime Time. That’s a hat trick all its own.

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

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