Lorne Molleken is the fifth head coach in WHL history to reach 500 victories. He got there Wednesday night when his Saskatoon Blades got past the Oil Kings 4-3 in Edmonton.
The other four are Ken Hodge, Ernie McLean, Pat Ginnell and Don Hay. Only Hay, the head coach of the Vancouver Giants, is still active.
(Interestingly, Molleken’s first coaching job (1985-86) was with the SJHL’s Swift Current Indians. He replaced Ginnell, who had moved on to the WHL’s New Westminster Bruins. The assistant GM with the Indians was Lorne Frey, now the assistant GM, head scout and director of player personnel with the Kelowna Rockets.)
The fact that Molleken is on that list is testament to the manner in which he now lives his life.
To say that Molleken was a free spirit is something of an understatement.
My favourite Molleken story goes back to the mid-1970s when he was a hard-living goaltender with the Winnipeg Clubs, who were coached by the gravelly voiced Muzz MacPherson.
Legend has it that Molleken was doing the scarecrow routine in goal during a practice session one day in the Winnipeg Arena.
MacPherson was at centre ice running drills and looking on with more and more smoke coming out of his ears.
Finally, MacPherson yelled at Molleken: “Hey, Mooner, you going to try to stop some pucks today?”
Molleken replied: “Muzz, see that thing up above you?”
MacPherson, in telling the story, would say, “Like a fool I looked up.”
And he saw the score clock.
Seeing MacPherson look up, Molleken said: “When it starts, I start.”
Over the years, Molleken hasn’t lost his sense of humour. He did, however, manage to lose a few bad habits. He has grown into one of those coaches whose players will go to the wall for him.
You just know that Molleken, 54, will be spending a lot of time today on the phone and the computer, returning congratulatory messages.
It couldn’t happen to a better man.
Dave Shoalts of The Globe and Mail reports: “Len Barrie’s misadventures in leading the Bear Mountain golf resort and real-estate development into bankruptcy left more than 100 angry investors and creditors in his wake, including 18 current and former National Hockey League players who lost a total of more than $13-million.” . . . That story is right here.
Tony Gallagher, a sports columnist with the Vancouver Province, checks in with former Portland Winterhawks player and coach Brent Peterson. Now an assistant coach with the NHL’s Nashville Predators, Peterson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease eight years ago. That piece is right here. If you read one thing today, make this your choice.
JUST NOTES: With G James Reid (ankle) on the shelf, the Spokane Chiefs have brought in Adam Iwan, 17, to back up Mac Engel. Iwan was a 10th-round selection of the Saskatoon Blades in the 2008 bantam draft. He has been playing with the MJHL’s Neepawa Natives. . . . Did you know: The WHL weekly update of roster moves that is dated Jan. 25 includes 11 players listed as being out with concussions and seven others with head injuries. . . . One of those players with a concussion is F Steve Oursov of the Chilliwack Bruins. He is attempting something of a comeback after battling post-concussion syndrome. . . .
SOME HIGHLIGHTS FROM WEDNESDAY’S GAMES:
In Prince Albert, F Linden Vey, the WHL’s scoring leader, broke a 2-2 tie at 9:46 of the second period as the Medicine Hat Tigers beat the Raiders, 3-2. . . . Vey has 33 goals. With 82 points, he holds a two-point lead over Spokane Chiefs F Tyler Johnson. . . . Medicine Hat G Tyler Bunz stopped 35 shots, one more than Prince Albert's Jamie Tucker. . . . The Tigers led this one 2-0 on first-period PP goals by F Kellan Tochkin, his 19th, and F Kale Kessy, his eighth. . . . The Raiders scored twice early in the second, with F Brandon Herrod getting his 20th at 3:37 and F Jonathan Parker his 29th just 29 seconds later. . . . Attendance was 2,066. . . . Medicine Hat F Tyler Pitlick didn’t play. . . .
In Edmonton, F Marek Viedensky broke a 3-3 tie at 7:28 of the third period as the Saskatoon Blades skated to a 4-3 victory over the Oil Kings. . . . The victory was No. 500 as a WHL head coach for Saskatoon’s Lorne Molleken. He is the fifth coach in WHL history to reach that milestone. . . . The Blades held 2-0 and 3-2 leads, only to have Edmonton tie it 2-2 and 3-3. . . . Viedensky and F Brayden Schenn each had a goal and an assist for Saskatoon, with F Chris Collins getting two assists. . . . Edmonton F Jordan Hickmott was ejected with a boarding major, so could be looking at a WHL suspension. . . . Attendance was 4,711. . . .
In Cranbrook, the Brandon Wheat Kings scored three times in the third period and skated away with a 5-4 victory over the host Kootenay Ice. . . . The victory lifted Brandon to within one point of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot. . . . F Brenden Walker scored three goals for Brandon, giving him 19. He tied the score 2-2 at 18:03 of the second and gave Brandon a 3-2 lead at 2:33 of the third. . . . Brandon F Scott Glennie upped that to 4-2 with a shorthanded score at 8:45. . . . Ice F Elgin Pearce made it 4-3 on the PP at 9:29. . . . Brandon F Matt MacKay provided some breathing room at 11:07. . . . Ice F Cody Eakin got his 21st at 13:53 to make things interesting. He also had two assists. . . Brandon G Corbin Boes stopped 34 shots. . . . The Ice has lost three in a rwo for the first time this season. . . . Attendance was 2,220. . . .
In Red Deer, the Rebels went 4-for-9 on the PP as they romped to a 10-2 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . Red Deer, which has won nine in a row, led 9-0 early in the third period before F Cam Braes scored two PP goals for the visitors. . . . F Turner Elson scored three times and added an assist for Red Deer. He’s got 15 goals this season. He scored twice on the PP and once while shorthanded. . . . F Daulton Siwak added a goal and three assists for the Rebels, while F Byron Froese scored twice, giving him 24. F Brett Ferguson had a goal and two assists. . . . Attendance was 3,859. . . .
In Portland, four Winterhawks forwards had four-point games in a 9-2 thrashing of the Chilliwack Bruins. . . . Brendan Leipsic had two goals and two assists, while Craig Cunningham, Riley Boychuk and Sven Bartschi each had a goal and three helpers. . . . F Ty Rattie also scored twice for Portland. . . . Roman Horak, Ryan Howse and Robin Soudek, who are Chilliwack linemates, were a combined minus-17. . . . Portland D Taylor Aronson and D William Wrenn didn’t have a point between them but each was plus-5. . . . Portland has won six in a row. . . . The Winterhawks’ nine goals was a season-high; they have twice scored eight times. . . . Portland’s 51 shots also was a season-high. . . . Attendance was 2,346. . . .
In Prince George, F Brett Connolly returned to the Cougars’ lineup and enjoyed a four-point outing in a 9-5 victory over the Kamloops Blazers. . . . That was a single-game high for the Cougars’ offence this season. . . . A knee injury had kept Connolly sidelined since Jan. 12. . . . Connolly scored twice, giving him 27, and added two assists. . . . F Nick Buonassisi and F Charles Inglis each had a goal and three assists. . . . F Greg Fraser had two goals for the Cougars, with D Cody Carlson scoring once and adding two assists. . . . Prince George D Daniel Gibb got his first goal of the season. He has a goal and three assists in 46 games. Last season, he had a goal and three assists in 69 games. . . . Kamloops F Brendan Ranford scored twice, giving him 32. He hadn’t scored in his previous 10 games. . . . Prince George was 4-for-7 on the PP; the Blazers were 3-for-5. . . . Kamloops has lost four in a row and eight of nine. . . . The Cougars are 5-1 against the Blazers, with a 32-20 edge in scoring. . . . Attendance was 1,789. . . .
In Spokane, G Mac Engel earned his first WHL victory as the Chiefs blanked the Everett Silvertips, 3-0. . . . Engel is playing in place of injured starter James Reid. . . . Engel went into the game with a 0-4-3 record in 13 appearances. . . . A 17-year-old from Red Deer, he stopped 18 shots in earning his first shutout. . . . It was Spokane’s fifth shutout of the season; the other four belong to Reid. . . . Everett has been blanked a WHL-leading seven times. . . . Everett G Kent Simpson stopped 45 shots. . . . Spokane F Matt Marantz opened the scoring with his 14th of the season at 4:56 of the second period. . . . Spokane F Tyler Johnson ran his point streak to 15 games with an assist on F Levko Koper’s empty-netter. . . . Attendance was 3,758.
WEDNESDAY’S CHECKING-FROM-BEHIND COUNT:
Red Deer F Josh Cowen
Kamloops F Thomas Frazee
Spokane F Mike Aviani