Tuesday, September 20, 2011

F Brad Schell (Spokane, 1999-2004) signed a one-month tryout contract with Dornbirn (Austria, Nationalliga). He didn’t play last season, and had 18 assists in 12 games with the Gwinnett Gladiators (ECHL) two seasons ago.
You may have heard of the EDGE Program — or EDGE Project, as it is sometimes referred to — and wondered what it is.
In brief, it involves various WHL teams who send players to Vancouver’s downtown east side, accompanied by RCMP officers, to experience the other side of life. The players return to their communities and in school visits recount what they have seen and experienced.
What follows, however, explains it better than I could. It is from the parent of a WHL player and it arrived in my inbox on Tuesday morning. More than anything, it sheds some light on what this kind of experience can mean to a teenager who, for the most part, enjoys the good life.
“Reading your column today — re: the Blazers players who took part in the EDGE program with the Vancouver Police — reminded me of my son's experience last year doing the same thing. He was completely overwhelmed by the experience and to this day speaks about it with his friends and anyone who will listen.
“Perhaps the most amazing thing he experienced was speaking with a ‘tired old beaten up guy’ who lived on the street day to day, begging and grovelling for cash to support his crystal meth addiction.
“My son was, at first, judgmental and unable to see how someone could allow himself to fall so far into a life of despair and emptiness. He was even more stunned as the police officer, moments later and once alone with my son, spoke more about the fellow.
“As my son listened in stunned silence, the officer explained why he had spent, what seemed like an unusual amount of time speaking with the guy and just spending time.
“It turns out the guy had been the young officer's science teacher no more than four years earlier — a happily married father of two with a home, a career and a future. Out of sheer curiosity, one evening he decided to see what all the fuss was about and made a fateful, tragic decision. Immediately hooked, he spent the next few weeks sneaking about to feed the dragon. Within months, he was penniless and deeply in debt.
“Upon discovering the terrible truth when the family home was seized, his wife and children moved back in with her family and then she did everything anyone could possibly do to help him find his way back. Nothing worked.
“My son told me that this fellow is completely aware of what he has done. He is obviously bright, yet also knows that for him it is over. He has neither the ability nor strength to fight this demon. It is tragic.
“Until seeing something like that first hand, my son was like many of us. His opinion of street people was that they should just get their shit together, that there is no reason for them to be where they are. All they need to do is put their minds to it and quit bothering everyone.
“He now knows that things are not quite that simple; that it can happen to anyone, and that few ‘choose’ a life of quiet desperation.
“The EDGE Program deserves our utmost respect.”
The Portland Winterhawks, obviously wondering how many veteran players won’t be returning from NHL camps in the next little while, have acquired F Charles Wells, 20, from the Prince Albert Raiders.
In exchange, the Winterhawks gave up a fourth-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft.
The Raiders acquired Wells from the Seattle Thunderbirds last season. All told, he put up 36 points in 63 games. He has played 234 regular-season games and has 113 points, including 41 goals.
Portland now shows six 20-year-olds on its roster, with Wells joining F Oliver Gabriel, F Riley Boychuk, D Brett Ponich, D Taylor Aronson and D William Wrenn. Of that group, only Wrenn is back with the Winterhawks after a stint at an NHL camp.
JUST NOTES: The Prince George Cougars have signed F Carson Bolduc, a 15-year-old from Kamloops who was the 59th overall selection in the 2011 bantam draft. He had 98 points in 61 games with the bantam Tier 1 Kamloops Jardine’s Blazers. Bolduc is scheduled to make his WHL debut on Jan. 1 when the Cougars meet the Blazers in Kamloops. . . . The Regina Pats have returned D Brody Luhning, 19, to the SJHL’s Battlefords North Stars. He had three assists in three exhibition games. The Pats are down to 24 players, including two goaltenders and eight defencemen. That total doesn’t include three players at NHL camps — F Jordan Weal (Los Angeles Kings), D Brandon Davidson (Edmonton Oilers) and F Garrett Mitchell (Washington Capitals). . . . F Brenden Walker of the Brandon Wheat Kings has received medical clearance to resume workouts. He hasn’t played since suffering a concussion during the playoffs last spring.
A few more players headed from NHL camps back to the WHL . . . D Darren Dietz, Montreal to Saskatoon; F Mark Stone, Ottawa to Brandon; D Jordan Fransoo, Ottawa to Brandon; F Kevin Sundher, from Buffalo to Victoria; D Mark Pysyk, from Buffalo to Edmonton; G Nathan Lieuwen, Buffalo to Kootenay; and F Josh Birkholz, Florida to Everett.
“The Victoria Royals still haven’t played a regular season game,” writes Darren Kloster of the Victoria Times Colonist, “but the Western Hockey League team is already flying high on fan response and an eager corporate community willing to back them.
“In dramatic fashion Tuesday afternoon, a Harbour Air seaplane painted in Royals logo and colours deftly touched down in Victoria Harbour, unloading a dozen smiling players in freshly unwrapped uniforms.”
Check out Kloster’s story and a photo right here.
The Royals also announced that their home-opener — the Vancouver Giants come calling on Saturday night — is sold out.
Neate Sager at Yahoo! Sports has put up an interesting piece involving David Branch, the commissioner of the OHL, and his views on fighting.
That piece is right here.
Jeff Blair of The Globe and Mail writes about Boston Bruins centre Patrice Bergeron and his thoughts on concussions in hockey. That piece is right here.

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