Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Winterhawks make it official . . . Down to five for 2018 WJC . . . Veteran WHL coach heads east

Veteran WHL coach Ryan McGill is headed to the OHL.








F Wacey Rabbit (Saskatoon, Vancouver, 2001-07) signed a one-year contract with the Nippon Paper Cranes Kushiro (Japan, Aisa HL). Last season, with Lørenskog (Norway, GET-Ligaen), he had 11 goals and 22 assists in 36 games. . . .
F Kyle Beach (Everett, Lethbridge, Spokane, 2005-10) signed a one-year extension with Red Bull Salzburg (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, in 53 regular-season games, he had 12 goals and 13 assists. In 13 playoff games, he scored a league-high 10 goals and added three assists as his club won the championship. . . .
D Jesse Craige (Lethbridge, Chilliwack, 2004-10) signed a one-year contract with the Nippon Paper Cranes Kushiro (Japan, Aisa HL). Last season, with the University of Alberta (CIS), he had five goals and 14 assists in 26 games. He was an alternate captain and was named the CIS defence man of the year. He also was named a first-team All-Canadian.
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The Portland Winterhawks have signed D Jack Dougherty, 19, who was a second-round selection by the Nashville Predators in the NHL’s 2014 draft. He signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Predators on Friday. . . . Dougherty was a freshman with the U of Wisconsin Badgers last season, putting up two goals and seven assists in 33 games. . . . Before heading to Portland, Dougherty will take part in USA Hockey’s national junior team evaluation camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. It runs from Saturday through Aug. 8. . . . Portland will have four players at that camp, veteran forwards Paul Bittner and Dominic Turgeon and freshman D Caleb Jones being the others. . . . Dougherty, from St. Paul, joins Bittner, D Nick Heid, D Blake Heinrich and F Keegan Iverson as fellow Minnesotans on the Winterhawks’ roster.
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The 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship will be held in Buffalo, Chicago, Pittsburgh, St. Louis or Tampa. USA Hockey announced Tuesday that those cities are the finalists to play host to the tournament. . . . Detroit, which has billed itself as Hockeytown USA, didn’t make the cut, although it was one of at least 12 cities that had expressed an interest. . . . The list will be shortened even more over the next two months, with the host city to be selected before year’s end. . . . The fact that five major cities are left in the running tells you just how big this tournament has become in North America. As Chicago Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz said yesterday: "Next to the Olympics, I think that’s the biggest hockey event there is out there.” . . . The 2016 tournament is to be held in Helsinki, Finland, while the 2017 event is scheduled for Montreal and Toronto. . . . Chris Peters of cbssports.com takes a really good look at the picture right here.
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Got a tip or some information you feel could be useful to me, feel free to send an email to greggdrinnan@gmail.com.
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Coaching Game

OHLRyan McGill, a veteran WHL head coach, is on his way to the OHL, having signed a two-year contract as head coach of the Owen Sound Attack. . . . He replaces Greg Ireland, who resigned earlier this month and now is the head coach of Adler Mannheim in Germany. . . . McGill, 46, spent the past three seasons as head coach of the WHL’s Kootenay Ice. His contract wasn’t renewed at season’s end. He is the second coach to move from the Ice to the OHL, following Kris Knoblauch, who has coached the Erie Otters for two-plus seasons. . . . “To get a head coach of Ryan’s calibre, in the time frame we were working under is unbelievable,” Attack general manager Dale DeGray said in a news release. “Ryan brings with him a wealth of experience and success, both at the professional and junior levels. He’s a competitor who knows how to win. Our organization is extremely lucky to have him.” DeGray also likes McGill’s familiarity with small-market franchises. “Ryan played in Swift Current, coached in Kootenay and now being the head coach of the Owen Sound Attack means that he has been a part of three of the smaller markets in the Canadian Hockey League,” DeGray added. “Performing in a small-market in front of a very loyal fan base will be nothing new to him and something he is comfortable with. The man knows how to win.” . . . The Attack also signed Derek King, 48, to a two-year deal as assistant coach. He spent the past six seasons on the coaching staff of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. . . . Daniel Nugent-Bowman, who now is doing some writing for Yahoo! Sports Canada, has more right here.
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Here’s hoping that Charlie’s birthday cake was one huge Nanaimo bar.
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The Vancouver Giants are preparing for their 15th season in the WHL. On Tuesday, they released a 15th-anniversary patch that will adorn each sweater in the 2015-16 season. It will be worn on the upper left chest area and also will be visible on the ice at Pacific Coliseum.
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The gang at bgsuhockey.com has put together an interesting bit of work detailing salaries and bonuses, etc., of hockey coaches in the WCHA. If you want to give it a look -- hello, WHL coaches -- it’s right here.
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Monday, July 27, 2015

Strat-O-Matic memories . . . Winterhawks sign two key forwards . . . Raiders D-man gets NHL deal

I have heard from an amazing number of people since Friday night when word got out that the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame had honoured me with its Bernie Pascall Media Award.
Friends and acquaintances have contacted me via Twitter, email, Facebook, text and the good old-fashioned telephone.
Two people I heard from on Monday brought back some terrific memories.
It began when Les Lazaruk, a long-time friend who is the veteran — that means old! — radio voice of the Saskatoon Blades tweeted this:

Les then followed that with:

Darrell Davis, with whom I shared more than a few good times while we both were at the Regina Leader-Post, chimed in with:
If you aren’t familiar, Strato refers to Strat-O-Matic baseball. Back in the day, a bunch of us, including Bill O’Donovan, now the news anchor at CFJC-TV in Kamloops, were involved in a Strat-O-Matic league that was, well, let’s just say it was interesting.
How intense was it? I remember driving home one night on Regina’s Ring Road — I lived in the east end and had been playing in the south end — after betting my butt kicked. If you haven’t played Strat-O-Matic, it involves dice and player cards. Well, on this night I decided it was time to teach the dice a lesson. So I stopped alongside a farmer’s field and threw them as far as I could. (A 1-5 meant home run with my best guys and I don't think I rolled enough of them on that night.)
I hadn’t thought of that night for a long, long time . . . before hearing from Les and Darrell. Yes, I chuckled at the memory.
However, I also remember the season in which I won the championship, my Top Cats beating John Chaput’s Zoo 4-3 with a run in the bottom of the ninth. The championship-winning blow — the Top Cats won the best-of-seven final in six games — was a sacrifice fly by Fred Lynn that scored Alan Trammell, who had reached on a fielder’s choice.
You can bet the memory of that night kept me warm all that winter.
I was going through some storage containers in our shed on Saturday when I came upon the Game 6 scoresheet. Yes, I kept it. Unfortunately, I have no idea what year that was.
All I know is that, although Les and Darrell may not agree, it was a very good year.
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F Ian McDonald (Tri-City, 2000-06) signed a one-year contract with MAC Budapest (Hungary, MOL Liga). Last season, with Briançon (France, Ligue Magnus), he had 12 goals and 10 assists in 26 games. . . .
KHLD Juraj Valach (Tri-City, Vancouver, Regina, Red Deer, 2006-08) signed a one-year contract with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, KHL). He had been on a tryout with Medveščak Zagreb (Croatia, KHL). Last season, with Slavia Prague (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had six goals and seven assists in 43 games. . . .

Czech-ELH
F Jakub Klepiš (Portland, 2001-02) signed a one-year extension with Třinec (Czech Republic, Extraliga). Last season, he had six goals and five assists in 21 games with Färjestad Karlstad (Sweden, SHL) and 21 points, including seven goals, in 17 games with Třinec. . . .


KHLF Edgars Kulda (Edmonton, 2012-15) signed a one-year contract with Dinamo Riga (Latvia, KHL) after a successful tryout. Last season, with the Edmonton Oil Kings, he had 13 goals and 17 assists in 47 games. On Thursday, he played in a 3-1 exhibition game victory over Lada Togliatti. He was on the first line with Lauris Dārziņš (Kelowna, 2004-06) and ex-NJ Devils C Tim Sestito.
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The Portland Winterhawks have signed both of their 2015 CHL import draft selections. . . . Both players — Latvian Rodrigo Abols and Swede Carl Ericson — are forwards. . . . Abols, 19, had 38 points, 20 of them goals, in 35 games last season with HK Riga of the Molodezhnaya Hockey League. He also got into 15 games with Dinamo Riga of the KHL, putting up a goal and four assists. He also played for Latvia at the IIHF World championship. . . . Ericson, 19, had 42 points, including 16 goals, in 43 games with Leksand’s U-20 side. He also got into 11 games with the Leksand team in the SHL, a Swedish pro league. . . . The Winterhawks may lose their top three scorers from last season — Oliver Bjorkstrand, Nic Petan and Chase De Leo — which means Abols and Ericson will be looked to for some offence. The Winterhawks will be wanting both to be in their top six forwards.
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Meanwhile, Vojtech Budik tweeted on Monday afternoon: “Next season I will play for @PARaidersHockey.” . . . Budik, a 17-year-old defenceman, is from Czech Republic. He was selected by the Raiders in the CHL’s 2015 import draft. . . . Last season, he had 12 points, including three goals, in 12 games with the Czech U-18 team, and added five assists in 19 games with the Czech U-20 side.
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If you are a Brandon Wheat Kings fan living in Manitoba, you are able to purchase a specialty license plate that salutes your favourite team. Brian Smiley, a spokesman with Manitoba Public Insurance, has told Brandon radio station CKLQ that almost 800 Manitoba motorists have purchased the plates, which go for $70 apiece. . . . CKLQ reports that “part of the proceeds from Wheat Kings plates go towards supporting the Brandon Humane Society.”
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Got a tip or some information you feel could be useful to me, feel free to send an email to greggdrinnan@gmail.com.
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Coaching

Dale DeGray, the general manager of the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack, has yet to hire a head coach, but he is OHLdown to a short list of three candidates. . . . DeGray is looking to replace Greg Ireland, who resigned earlier this month and now is the head coach of Adler Mannheim in Germany. . . . DeGray told Bill Walker of the Owen Sound Sun Times that he heard from more than 60 applicants. . . . DeGray hopes to have a coach in place before Aug. 6. He is managing Canada’s U-18 team that leaves then for Europe and the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament. . . . DeGray also told Walker that “I don't hire friends . . . I would prefer to keep friendships than to have to fire a coach and lose a friend. There are lots of qualified guys out there.” . . . Walker’s complete story is right here.
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The Buffalo Sabres have signed D Brendan Guhle of the Prince Albert Raiders to a three-year entry-level contract. The Sabres selected Gulhe, who turns 18 on Wednesday, in the second round of the NHL’s 2015 draft. . . . Guhle had 32 points, 27 of them assists, in 72 games with the Raiders last season. He has 42 points, including five goals, in 123 games over two seasons with Prince Albert. He is from Sherwood Park, Alta.
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Sunday, July 26, 2015

An alligator in the dugout . . . WHL players turning cheerleaders? . . . Shark survives encounter with surfer







The Toronto Maple Leafs stunned the hockey world Thursday when they announced they had signed Lou Lamoriello to a three-year deal as their general manager. It couldn’t have been that much of a story, though, as the Toronto Sun only did 10 pages on the Leafs in Friday’s paper. . . . Lamoriello never met a media person with whom he wanted to deal. The Maple Leafs are owned by media conglomerates Bell and Rogers, so, like, what could go wrong? . . . There are reports that retired New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and gal pal Hannah Davis — she of the commercials with the talking horse — went Dutch on a pizza while in Italy. Which caused RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com to ask:“What kind of people report on these things? The pizzarazzi?” . . .
“Tiger Woods said he still has his sights on Nicklaus’ record 18 majors,” Currie writes. “It was so inspiring, I mailed another marriage proposal to Anne Hathaway.” . . . One more from Currie: “Ex-Blackhawks defenceman Johnny Oduya has signed with the Dallas Stars — a two-year, US$7.5-million deal. Which is a fine-how-do-you-Oduya.” . . . TC Chong, who blogs out of Richmond, B.C., writes: “Sen. Lindsay Graham posted a video on YouTube of him destroying his cell phone with a bat, chainsaw and golf club after Donald Trump gave out his number. Hope he wasn’t driving at the time.” . . .
“Santa Claus threw a terrible first pitch at a recent Tigers game,” reports Bill Littlejohn, our South Lake Tahoe, Calif., correspondent. “The good news for him is that it wasn't in Philadelphia.” . . . Littlejohn also reports that “an alligator was found in the dugout prior to a minor league game between the Daytona Tortugas and Charlotte Stone Crabs in Port Charlotte, Fla. Animal control reportedly tranquilized the gator and returned him to his natural habitat at the local golf course.” . . . One more from Littlejohn: “In Cooperstown, Reggie Jackson reportedly got into a heated confrontation with a fan who was in line for a second autograph. Reggie reportedly told him, 'Just one straw per drink!’ ” . . .
Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times isn’t too hyped for the release of Creed, the seventh instalment in the Rocky movie series. “Not that Rocky Balboa is showing his age or anything in Creed,” Perry writes, “but the eye of the Tiger now has cataracts.” . . . Forward Josh Smith signed with the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers the other day, getting only the veterans’ minimum. “At the end of the day, you know, I do have a family,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “So it is going to be a little harder on me this year. But I’m going to push through it, you know.” . . . Smith, who has made about US$91 million in his career, and his family will have to get by on $6.9 million for 2015-16. . . .
You may recall earlier this year when Washington legislators voted that the state’s four WHL teams don’t have to pay minimum wage to their players. Well, the state of California is enacting legislation under which professional sports teams must pay at least minimum wage to their cheerleaders. . . . A number of WHL players are said to be considering career changes. . . . Take the worst thing you have ever seen on TV and then multiply that by 10. What do you get? Those horrid attack ads paid for by Stephen Harper and his friends. . . . Never mind Justin Trudeau; those ads just aren’t ready for anything but the garbage. . . .
Taking note of the drought situation in Vancouver, comic Torben Rolfsen points out: “We are at Stage 3 water restrictions in Vancouver (no lawn watering). Stage 4 is no showers in strip joints.” . . . Rolfsen also wondered: “Has PETA complained about that surfer punching the shark yet?” . . . Headline at SportsPickle.com: Shark just grateful to be uninjured after terrifying encounter with surfer. . . .
Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald has a question: “Do we really need the ‘heat index?’ Isn't it bad enough knowing that it's 100 degrees without being told it ‘feels like’ 112?” . . . Dickson, again: “President Obama just became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison. He hasn't seen that many inmates since he welcomed the national-champion Florida State football team to the White House.” . . . “In Idaho,” writes Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe, “a cyclist stopped to defecate in a ravine and decided it would be a good idea to light his toilet paper on fire afterwards rather than littering with it. And he accidentally started a 73-acre wildfire. Talk about a dumb shit.”

(Gregg Drinnan is a former sports editor of the Regina Leader-Post and the late Kamloops Daily News. He is at gdrinnan.blogspot.ca and twitter.com/gdrinnan. Keeping Score appears here on weekends, except when it doesn’t.)

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Goaltender heads for Austria . . . Blades add a scout . . . Portland lands defenceman from Preds








F David Hájek (Spokane, 1998-99) signed a one-year contract with Heilbronner Falken (Germany, DEL2). Last season, with Bad Nauheim (Germany, DEL2), he had two goals and five assists in 12 games, and in 16 games with Löwen Frankfurt (Germany, DEL2), he had two goals and six assists. . . .
F Igor Baček (Tri-City, 2005-06) signed a one-year contract with the Hannover Scorpions (Germany, Oberliga). Last season, with Rostock (Germany, Oberliga), he put up 14 goals and 56 assists in 30 games. He led his team and division (Oberliga North) in assists. . . .
F Grant Toulmin (Swift Current, 2005-07, 2008-09) signed a one-year contract with the Manchester Storm (England, UK Elite). Last season, with Heilbronner Falken (Germany, DEL2), he had nine goals and 15 assists in 45 games.
F Jerred Smithson (Calgary, 1995-2000) signed a one-year contract with Herning (Denmark, Metal Ligaen). Smithson didn’t play last season. In 2013-14, with the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL), he was pointless in 19 games. He had two goals and nine assists in 51 games with the Toronto Marlies (AHL).
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Another American-born player is headed for Austria and the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization.
On Friday, G Nick Vilardo tweeted: “Excited to announce I've signed with EC Red Bull Salzburg Aus-HLorganization in Austria. Thankful for the opportunity. All glory to Jesus #RedBull”
Vilardo is an 18-year-old from Clarence, N.Y., who played last season with the U-18 Buffalo Jr. Sabres. In 50 games, he was 1.93 and .923. He also was 2.30 and .901 with the U-18 Jr. Sabres. This season, he appeared ticketed for the NAHL’s Topeka Roadrunners, until choosing to head for Austria.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that F Ryan Savage and F Carson Dimoff, both of Scottsdale, Ariz., had agreed to join the Red Bulls organization.
Meanwhile, F Riley Stotts of Winnipeg, a first-round-selection by the Swift Current Broncos in the 2015 bantam draft, is pondering an offer to join Red Bull but apparently has yet to make a decision.
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The Saskatoon Blades have added Cody Nickolet to their scouting staff. This is an excellent more for the Blades and, of course, for Nickolet, but likely not for WHL fans.
Nickolet, whose Twitter handle is @CodyNickolet, had a banner 2014-15 hockey season. An avid WHL follower, he took it upon himself to make available line combinations and defence pairings for both teams in every regular-season game. He also has tweeted all kinds of WHL-related.
And anyone who took a look at his 2015 NHL draft rankings, well, was there anything available to the general public that was more comprehensive?
One day, Nickolet will be working for an NHL team. Bet on it being sooner than later.
In the meantime, the Blades will be the beneficiaries of his expertise.
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The Portland Winterhawks received an enormous boost on Friday with the news that D Jack Dougherty, 19, had signed with the NHL’s Nashville Predators. Dougherty, a second-round pick by Nashville in the NHL’s 2014 draft, played last season with the U of Wisconsin Badgers.
Upon signing Dougherty, the Predators announced that he is expected to start the season in Portland. Because he was drafted off an NCAA team’s roster, and not a major junior team, Dougherty is eligible to play in the AHL at 19.
Dougherty, from St. Paul, Minn., had nine points, two of them goals, in 33 games during his freshman season with the Badgers.
In 2013-14, he was in the U.S. National Team Development Program. In 23 USHL games, he had 12 points, including four goals, in 23 games. In 55 games with the U-18 national team, he had 22 points, including six goals, in 55 games. He is a candidate to play for the U.S. national junior team this time around.
Here’s Future Considerations on Dougherty: “Dougherty is an intelligent defenseman who tries to blend strong positioning while trying to inflict a physical dimension on his opponent. He isn't the fleetest of foot, but does get where he needs to go. He also makes a strong first pass and has solid offensive instincts.”
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Got a tip or some information you feel could be useful to me, feel free to send an email to greggdrinnan@gmail.com.
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Coaching

Dave Dupas, 53, has signed on as an assistant coach with the AJHL’s Fort McMurray Oil Barons. Dupas, who is from Burnaby, B.C., was the head coach of the BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings for the previous four-plus seasons. . . . In Fort McMurray, he will work with GM/head coach Tom Keca.
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An evening fit for a Hockey Hall of Fame

We were sitting in the Dairy Queen in Armstrong, B.C., when the email arrived.
We were there with our best friends, the female half of whom had donated a kidney in order to allow my wife, Dorothy, to undergo a transplant almost two years ago now.
Three days earlier, our son, an only child, had married Joanna Kwan in Vancouver.
These were special days and the fact that our friends were with us when the email arrived made it that much more special.
It was from Bruce Judd, the executive director of the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame. He was informing me that I had been nominated for the Bernie Pascall Media Award and that the selection committee had decided to honour me.
And so it was that Dorothy and I were in Penticton on Friday evening for the 24th annual B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame induction gala at the gorgeous South Okanagan Events Centre.
Believe me, I was thrilled to play a small part.
On a night when former NHL players Curt Fraser, Markus Naslund and Rob Niedermayer, along with Cam Kerr, a familiar face in B.C. hockey circles, and Team B.C. that won the 1979 Canada Winter Games title were inducted, Pascall handed me the plaque.
(As an aside, the 1979 Canada Winter Games were held in Brandon. While I didn’t cover the hockey, I was at the Brandon Sun at the time and Dorothy volunteered. She spent most of her time in cafeteria, so you can bet she crossed paths with the guys from that hockey team.)
The award recognizes “an individual with an excellent reputation, commitment and dedication” for their efforts aimed at “promotion within the game of hockey.”
The award was presented for the first time last year when it was given to Vancouver broadcaster Dan Russell. He’s a friend and I feel privileged to follow in his shadow.
I have been given a few awards in my time but none more meaningful to me than this one. Considering that my writing hasn’t appeared regularly in a newspaper in more than 19 months, I feel this award validates the work I do right here with Taking Note.
But it’s about more than that.
It’s all about the number of people who approached me on Friday and mentioned that they are Taking Note readers. It’s all about the tweets, retweets and DMs of congratulations from friends and acquaintances. (Thanks to David Michaud for getting that ball rolling.)
It’s all about a couple of Saturday morning phone calls from people who mean a whole lot to me.
Yes, that email from Judd was just the beginning of a beautiful experience.
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I can’t leave Friday’s extravaganza without mentioning the other award winners.
Jordan Rauser, the captain of the junior B Campbell River Storm, received the Patricia Carter Award, which comes in the form of a bursary. Rauser played out his junior eligibility last season.
Luke Burzan of the North Shore Winter Club was honoured as the Hockey Now B.C. minor hockey player of the year. His WHL rights belong to the Moose Jaw Warriors, who selected him sixth overall. In an on-stage chat with emcee Dennis Beyak, Burzan didn’t let slip anything about his future plans.
The legendary Fred Sasakamoose was on hand to receive the Okanagan Hockey School’s Pioneer Award.
What a wonderful moment it was as a tremendously touching video chronicling Sasakamoose’s life was played and an emotional Sasakamoose made his way to the stage.
If you aren’t aware of Sasakamoose and all that he has done, get thee to Google and prepare to spend an hour or two.
At one point, Sasakamoose talked to what was a thoroughly captivated audience about how lonely it was being an aboriginal — he is from the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation — on the way to the NHL.
On this night, Sasakamoose was anything but lonely. He was on the receiving end of two emotionally charged standing ovations as he made a roomful of new friends and admirers.
That is the kind of night it was, and I will long remember being a small part of it.


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