Friday, July 27, 2007

CHLers Going Pro

Quebec Remparts 20-year old defenceman Andrew Andricopoulos has signed a contract with the ECHL Texas Wildcatters. Andricopulous is solid in his own zone and can be an offensive threat. With nothing left to prove in the Q, this was a good signing for the undrafted blueliner.

It almost a sure thing that the Washington Caps will be signing former Niagara Ice Dogs winger Oskar Osala to an entry-level contract in the next few weeks. Already signed to play in Finland, Osala would rather become an AHLer this coming season. An ELC is on the way to help him do that.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Kane Signed to Entry-Level Contract

The Chicago Blackhawks signed Pat Kane to an entry-level NHL contract this morning. Kane was very impressive in the recent prospect development camp, and both the team and Kane both have expressed the hope that the young winger will earn a roster spot with the NHL team this fall.

Professional Signings of CHL Players and Other Musings

Late last week, the Vancouver Canucks signed Juraj Simek, who spent the 2006-07 season with the Brandon Wheaties. The Swiss national was the Canucks 6th round (#167 overall) selection in the 2006 entry draft (and is one of this site's favourite CHL players). Very determined, with lots of skill and hockey smarts, Simek is expected to join the Manitoba Moose this fall.

And on Monday the Philadelphia Flyers signed former first round selection, Claude Giroux. After seeing Giroux in prospect development camp 2 weeks ago, this was a completely expected development. Giroux was without a doubt one of the top 2 or 3 prospects in camp.

Around the OHL, the Belleville Bulls have announced the team captain and alternates for the upcoming season. Three-year Bulls veteran Matt Beleskey will wear the "C" this coming season. The winger was the Anaheim Ducks' 4th round pick (112th overall) in 2006. Shawn Matthias and Geoff Killing. Matthias is a top prospect, whose rights were recently traded from the Detroit Red Wings to the Florida Panthers. After an excellent post-season during 2006-07, Matthias is expected to really turn it on in his upcoming fourth and final OHL season.
Killing, a defenceman who will be in his fifth season with Belleville in 2007-08, is an overager that the team is hoping to showcase. A big tough defencive blueliner, Killing will be looking to parlay a very good performance this season into a professional contract.

News out of London abounds. After the formal signing of Pat Maroon last week, the Knights have now added an assistant coach to replace Todd Bidner, who left earlier this month. Monday the Knights announced that Pat Curcio, formerly the head coach of the Pickering Panthers (OPJHL), will join the team next month. Pickering had already scooped the Knights in this announcement. Late last week, the Junior A team informed the media that Curcio was going to London and that Mark Joslin would take his place. Joslin is also an OHL scout for the Barrie Colts.

In other London news, Dave Meckler has made it clear to the world that he wants to turn pro and not return to the Knights for what would be his final year. The LA Kings' prospect is hoping to join the Manchester Monarchs for the 2007-08 season.

On Monday the Niagara Ice Dogs formally made Mike McCourt an assistant coach. This will be McCourt's first stint with an OHL team, but he was the assistant head coach of Robert Morris University last year, and he is the former owner of the Brockville Braves of the Central Junior A Hockey League.

In the biggest OHL news however, yesterday the Plymouth Whalers announced that assistant GM and assistant coach Todd Watson resigned. The 11-year veteran in Plymouth was just this morning officially named head coach of the Saginaw Spirit. This is an excellent choice in Saginaw, and after the team's rocky several months (years?), it seems that the team may finally be on the right track.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

WHL Management Changes Now and on the Horizon

With most eyes on the British Open this morning, lets just turn back to junior hockey for a few minutes. The latter half of last week was full of WHL news, particularly changes in coaching and management. Here are a bunch of names and teams, and then a comment on the Kamloops Blazers' ownership situation.

The Edmonton Oil Kings announced that the team had hired Rocky Thompson to be an assistant coach during the team's inaugural 2007-08 season. And while the Oil Kings were hiring their new assistant, the Portland Winter Hawks decided to go forward without seven-year Head Coach Mike Williamson. The team is searching for a replacement. Vancouver Giants assistant coach Sean Crowther has also left for some unspecified greener pastures. No replacement has been announced.

The Swift Current Broncos announced Friday that Tim Kehler, former General Manager and Head Coach of the BCHL Trail Smoke Eaters, will become an assistant coach for the Broncos this coming season. He will join Swift Current this next week.

And then there is the Kamloops Blazers news. The team announced Wednesday that the GM and Head Coach Dean Clark, Asst. GM and Asst Coach Shane Zulyniak, Asst Coach Andrew Milne, and Marketing Director Dave Chyzowski had all re-signed to lead the team during the 2007-08 season.

But the Blazers announced an equally or more important development the same afternoon. The Blazers Sports Society, an entity that will determine whether the team should be sold (the Blazers are held in a limited partnership), revealed that it had received another offer to buy the team. In an ongoing saga, the entity "River City Hockey, Inc." has made a second offer in a year, this time for over $6.1 million.

The entity, allegedly led by "partners" Tom Gaglardi, Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla, Mark Recchi, and Darryl Sydor, seeks to change the operations of the team such that it will operate "under a business model rather than a non-profit model." Hmm. If they are looking to operate under a business model, why have they not first of all told us what type of entity the group is? Calling themselves an "Inc." and then saying that the group has "Partners" is itself deceptive, as legally, a corporation can't have partners.

Then take a look at their website at and see if it does not bother you just a little. Yes, it's a sales pitch, but it goes too far. Even the "Your say" section. According to the site, no one has posted any negative remarks about their possible takeover to them. Hard to believe, given the whole situation. Further, while there are many reasons that a non-profit model can be a preferable to a business model for a junior club, the site tries to indicate otherwise. It clearly says in their vision, "[i]t is a simple fact that for-profit management models outperform not-for-profit volunteer models in business -- and both the Kamloops Blazers, the League and junior hockey demand this level of business performance." Never mind that "the Kamloops Blazers, the League and junior hockey" are three things and not two, so the word "both" does not belong preceding them. It is important to remember that we are talking about junior hockey hockey here. Not just any old business. "Not-for-profit" managements have no other priorities than the club and the players. Yes, the idea is to balance the budget and make sure the money is there to perform your stated goal, but the whole idea of a "not-for-profit" CHL team is to put a good product on the ice and to develop young players, nothing else. The out-and-out idea behind "for-profit" entities is to make money. Not to develop players, not to give the fans a good show, but to make money. And if the team does not make money in the market, the need to make money dictates that the team should be moved to a better market. It's certainly a potential conflict, and one faced by very many of the CHL clubs. Some do a better job of balancing the clubs needs, but loyalty to markets, developing young players and making money can often be mutually exclusive.

The "Blazers Society" has called a meeting on August 7th to address the River City Hockey Group's proposal. Lots of money is on the table; let's hope that the Society can find a way to solve the Blazers' problems that doesn't involve selling the club to a group with a "for-profit" model. I am still hoping so, but the hockey gods are not on my side.