Thursday, June 20, 2013

Christian Klein (@christian9klein) tweeted this photo on Wednesday night,
with this note: "Classy move by the folks at #Holstens where the famous
final scene of #TheSopranos was filmed. Reserved tonight
for #TonySoprano and Co. A true #NJ treasure. #HBO."
D Tomas Fojtik (Portland, 2003-04) signed a one-year contract with the Slough Jets (England, Premier). He had six goals and 20 assists in 46 games with the Basingstoke Bison, Telford Tigers, and Swindon Wildcats (all England, Premier) this season.
Regrets? I’ve had a few.
One of them is that during my career as a sports journalist, Lorne Molleken and I were never in the same city at the same time, at least not for any length of time.
We have known each other since the mid-1970s, but I never had the opportunity to cover any of his teams on a daily basis.
Molleken, who stepped aside as head coach of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades on Wednesday, spent 17 winters as a
(Steve Hiscock photo)
WHL head coach. He also worked as head coach of the Regina Pats and Moose Jaw Warriors.
However, Molleken’s history with the WHL goes back a whole lot farther than that.
A goaltender, the Regina native played with the Swift Current Broncos in 1972-73 and 1973-74, making the move to Lethbridge with the franchise for the start of the 1974-75 season. However, he found himself in Winnipeg with the Clubs – you can bet Molleken learned a lot about dysfunctional families there – during that season and also played there in 1975-76 before going on to a professional career that took him to such minor league outposts as Philadelphia, Saginaw, Springfield, Binghamton, Indianapolis and Toledo.
The roadmap of his coaching career is that of a man who loves the game. Moose Jaw. Saskatoon. Cape Breton. Hamilton, Chicago. Regina. San Jose. Pittsburgh. Saskatoon.
We are a society that loves to catalogue people, to put them in slots and leave them there. So that means Molleken, who turned 57 on June 11, is an “old school” coach. If you watched any of the TV series On The Edge that chronicled the Blades; 2012-13 season, you witnessed that first hand.
But you also saw the tears when circumstances called on him to inform players they had been traded away, so wouldn’t be part of the host team for the Memorial Cup.
Yes, Molleken is an emotional man.
But the thing I enjoy the most about Molleken is that, unlike so many people in hockey today, he understands the game within the game. He understands the role of the media, that we are a necessary evil so he may as well deal with us. He understands that it isn’t our job to sell tickets for him and his organization. But, at the same time, he knows that if he cultivates relationships in the correct fashion that’s exactly what happens.
Which is why, whenever I would approach him, he had that glint in his eye and a story to tell.
So here’s a story about Molleken.
In that 1974-75 season, he played for the legendary Muzz MacPherson with the Clubs, who played out of the old Winnipeg Arena.
One morning, a bleary-eyed Molleken was on the ice for practice but wasn’t moving too many muscles. He stood in one net looking like a Shooter Tutor before its time.
“Hey, Mooner,” yelled MacPherson, who was stationed at centre ice. “Are you going to at least try to stop some pucks?”
Molleken replied: “Muzz, you see that thing up above you?”
MacPherson, in telling the story in his gravely voice, would say: “Like a fool, I looked up. And there was the clock.”
Molleken, noticing that MacPherson had looked up, offered: “When it starts, I start.”
If it wasn’t official, it is now. Hockey Canada has jumped the shark with the world junior hockey championship.
Our country’s hockey pooh-bahs, the same ones who came up with the idea of banning European goaltenders from the major junior game, will announce today that Toronto and Montreal will share the 2015 and 2017 world junior tournaments.
Bob McKenzie of TSN tweeted yesterday that “MTL will host preliminary round and TOR the medal round in 2015. Then it reverses in 2017 with MTL getting medal round and TOR preliminary.”
Never mind that Toronto and Montreal have been graveyards for major junior hockey. That doesn’t matter. Hockey Canada has morphed into a gigantic business and the world junior championship is its cash cow.
You will recall that Calgary and Edmonton shared the 2012 tournament and the profit was $22 million. The bar, then, has been raised so high that junior hockey cities without NHL arenas have zero chance of seeing this tournament again.
As Neate Sager of Yahoo! Sports wrote:
“Who knows how high the revenue target will be for the two tournaments that will be held in the Bell Centre and Air Canada Centre, which are both newer buildings with a greater combined seating capacity than the NHL venues in Calgary and Edmonton. It's just the way it is; it doesn't matter that Montreal and Toronto are so gung-ho about junior hockey during the other 50 weeks of the year that a combined four CHL teams have pulled up stakes from those markets in the past decade — the Brampton Battalion (North Bay), Montreal Juniors (suburban Blainville-Boisbriand), Mississauga IceDogs (St. Catharines) and Montreal Rocket (Charlottetown, P.E.I.).”
Should the 2015 and 2017 tournaments raise the profit bar even higher, perhaps to $30 million, what happens? Do Toronto and Montreal become the permanent host cities whenever the tournament is played in Canada?
Because these days it’s all about the money.
We live in a sporting world with its priorities so far out of whack that it has become painful. Some junior hockey teams in our country, their expenses far exceeding revenues, are going to charge players a few thousand dollars to play. The 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, are going to cost someone US$51 billion.
One of these days, the bubble is going to burst and when that day comes it is going to be noisy.
But when it happens perhaps places like Red Deer will have the opportunity to play host to things like the world junior tournament again.
James Gandolfini died on Wednesday while vacationing in Italy.
Here’s Alan Sepinwall of writing about Gandolfini as Tony Soprano: “His work on the show made possible Vic Mackey, Al Swearengen, Walter White, Don Draper and every complicated, riveting anti-hero (or worse) who followed him. ‘The Sopranos’ was an enormous hit, and told the business that the old rules need no longer apply.”
That complete piece, and it’s a great read, is right here.
G Alex Wakaluk, the son of Calgary Hitmen goaltending coach Darcy Wakaluk, has signed to play for the U of Massachusetts Minutemen. Alex, who turns 20 on Aug. 20, played the last two seasons with the SJHL’s Melville Millionaires. This season, he was named the SJHL’s most valuable player and was a finalist for the junior A goaltender-of-the-year award. He was selected by the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the ninth round of the 2008 WHL bantam draft.
Two former WHLers — F Andrew Rieder and D Tyler Hart — have committed to Dalhouse University in Halifax and will play for the Tigers. . . . Rieder (Regina, 2009-12) has his WHL career derailed by shoulder problems. A Regina native, he then played five games this season with the OHL’s Peterborough Petes but his comeback was halted by more shoulder problems. . . . Hart (Vancouver, Prince Albert, 2010-12) is from Spruce Grove, Alta. He played this season for the AJHL’s Drayton Valley Thunder.
Lorne Molleken, the second-winningest head coach in WHL history, has stepped aside. The Saskatoon Blades announced Wednesday that Molleken will remain as the general manager and alternate governor, with associate coach David Struch taking over as head coach. . . . Curtis Leschyshyn and Jerome Engele will stay on as assistant coaches, and Tim Cheveldave remains as the goaltending coach. . . . "Our organization has full confidence in what David can do with this team going forward,” Molleken said in a news release. “He has been a part of this coaching staff for the past seven years. He's done the necessary work to become a head coach in this league. He's passionate about coaching, the city of Saskatoon and the Blades. We feel that he'll be a great fit as we enter a new and exciting era as an organization.” . . . Struck is a former Blades player (1988-92). . . . Molleken has been a WHL coach for 17 seasons, 13 of them with the Blades. With 603 career victories, he is second only to Ken Hodge (742) on the WHL’s all-time list.

The Prince Albert Raiders have agreed to contract extensions with associate coach Dave Manson and assistant coach Tim Leonard. . . . Manson, a former Raiders defenceman, is in his second stint as an assistant coach, having rejoined the team as an assistant coach for the 2010-11 season. He was named associate coach after that season. . . . Leonard, who spent 10 seasons on the coaching staff of the midget AAA Prince Albert Mintos, is preparing for his second season with the Raiders. . . . Manson and Leonard now are signed through 2014-15, along with the rest of the club’s hockey operations staff. . . . Dave Leaderhouse of the Prince Albert Daily Herald has more right here.

John Goodwin, a former OHL scoring champion, has signed on as an assistant coach with the North Bay Battalion. Goodwin, 51, will work with fellow assistant Ryan Oulahen alongside GM/head coach Stan Butler. . . . Goodwin replaces Jason Ward, who chose not to make the move from Brampton to North Bay. . . . Goodwin has previous OHL coaching experience, with the Oshawa Generals. He was the head coach there for three seasons and also spent two seasons there as an assistant under Butler. . . . Goodwin won the OHL scoring title in 1980-81.

From Portland freelancer Scott Sepich (@SSepich): “2015 and 2017 WJCs to be in Montreal and Toronto. I've heard European teams won't even be allowed to USE goalies.”
From Mitch Callahan (@emcy1five): “Sorry to the city of Grand Rapids for dropping the ‘F’ bomb on stage with the microphone at city park. Just a little excited”

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