|Don Hay is about to become a familiar figure in Kamloops again.|
(Photo by Christopher Mast / www.mastimages.com)
D Lukáš Pulpán (Vancouver, 2003-04) has signed a three-year contract with Plzeň (Czech Republic, Extraliga). This season with Chomutov (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had 13 points, two of them goals, in 42 games. . . .
F Antonín Honejsek (Moose Jaw, 2009-11) has signed a one-year contract with the Espoo Blues (Finland, Liiga). This season with Zlin (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had 24 points, 15 of them goals, in 45 games. . . .
F Alex Leavitt (Swift Current, Everett, 2003-05) has signed a one-year contract with the Ravensburg Towerstars (Germany, DEL2). Leavitt started this season with Oskarshamn (Sweden, Allsvenskan), earning three points, including a goal, in 10 games. He signed with Aalborg (Denmakr, Metal Ligaen) on Oct. 22 and went on record 61 points, including 22 goals, in 32 games. He led the Metal Ligaen in scoring and was named to the second all-star team.
For those who were wondering, there wasn’t a parade in Kamloops on Friday.
With the announcement by the Vancouver Giants on Thursday that Don Hay was leaving their organization after 10 years to return to coaching the Kamloops Blazers, perhaps you expected something of a celebration, say a party topped off with cake and fireworks at Riverside Park.
After all, Hay, one of the legendary figures in Kamloops’ history, is on his way home. He is a member of the Kamloops Sports Hall of Fame and the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame.
If you missed it, the Giants have let Hay out of the last year of his contract, allowing him to return to his hometown and try to restore the lustre to a franchise that won three Memorial Cup titles with him on the coaching staff. Hay was an assistant coach, under Tom Renney, in 1992 and the head coach in 1994 and 1995.
(Interestingly, the Giants made the announcement on Thursday, at 5 p.m. The Blazers didn’t issue a news release until Friday morning and have yet to hold a news conference to re-introduce him to a city where he, Ken Hitchcock or Bob Brown could be mayor should any one of them choose to run.
(Exactly how is Hay looked upon in these parts? My wife and I had coffee with an old friend last night. She hasn’t been to any more than a handful of Blazers games in recent years, but now is talking about buying a season ticket. Why? “Because,” she said, “it was so much fun back then.”)
These days, however, the Blazers aren’t even a shadow of the Memorial Cup teams.
After making a run to the Western Conference final a year ago, the Blazers have just suffered through the worst season in franchise history. They went 10-29-5 with Dave Hunchak as head coach, 0-1-0 with Mark Ferner running the bench, and finished up 4-23-0 with Guy Charron in charge. Add it up and the Blazers were 14-53-5.
What it means is that Hay has stepped into a job that is going to offer him the biggest challenge of his career.
The first time Hay stepped in as the Blazers’ head coach, after six seasons as an assistant, he took over a team that had gone 51-17-4 before winning the WHL championship and the Memorial Cup.
In 1998-99, he moved in as head coach of the Tri-City Americans, a team that was 17-49-6 (that’s six ties) the previous season, and they went 43-23-6. That team was swept from the Western Conference final by a Blazers team under head coach Marc Habscheid.
In 2004-05, Hay was back in the WHL as head coach of the Vancouver Giants, a team that was 33-24-9-6 (nine ties and six overtime losses) the previous season. His first season there was the franchise’s fourth and the Giants finished 34-30-4-4 before losing a first-round series in six games to the Kelowna Rockets.
Now, Hay takes over a team that scored 175 goals, the second-poorest total in the 22-team league. Sheesh, his two Memorial Cup-championship teams scored 381 and 375 goals. Yes, that was then and this is now, but that’s a 200-goal differential.
This season’s Blazers also gave up 305 goals and only two teams were poorer defensively.
Still, Hay proved in his first season with the Americans that, yes, miracles do happen on ice. Perhaps he can pull off another one in Kamloops.
At the end of the day, though, Blazers’ fans, especially those who continue to revel in those Memorial Cup victories of the mid-1990s, are going to have to realize that this isn’t about next season. It’s a cliché but this about Hay having to change the culture, to get this team playing Hay hockey, which means a team that is incredibly hard to play against, and then taking it from there.
That’s something that seemed to disappear in Vancouver about the time that gritty and pesky Brendan Gallagher graduated to the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens, and perhaps that wasn’t a coincidence.
Time will tell whether Hay, the winningest active coach in the WHL, still has that magic.
The great part of this story is that should this be the last stop of the 60-year-old Hay‘s coaching career, he will finish up among friends and family.
His mother, along with a brother and a sister, live in Kamloops, as do various relatives and in-laws. Hay and his wife, Vicki, have twin daughters -- Angela, who is married to former WHL goaltender Thomas Vicars, lives in Salmon Arm with their two daughters; Ashly lives in Kamloops with her fiancé. You bet that Grandpa is going to love being closer to his granddaughters.
Son Darrell, who played for his father in Tri-City, is 34 now and is a free agent, waiting to see whether there will another season in his career. After three seasons in Europe, he played this season in Japan, and will split the summer between Kamloops and Boise, Idaho.
Darrell is at the stage of his career where he is trying to look ahead. What about coaching?
“I would love to try it to see if I have the chops for it one day,” he told me yesterday.
Well, he played two seasons for his father with the Americans. Maybe the two could co-exist on the same coaching staff. It would be in their hometown and how neat would that be?
1. Is it just me, or does it seem like a month has passed since the WHL’s conference finals came to an end? In other words, Game 1 of the final can’t come soon enough.
2. The OHL’s championship final is 1-1 after the visiting North Bay Battalion beat the Guelph Storm 4-3 in OT on Friday night. . . . F Barclay Goodrow won it at 2:30 of extra time with his 12th goal of these playoffs. . . . The Storm had won the opener, 3-2 in OT, on Thursday night. That one needed just 57 seconds of extra time. . . . Last night, the Storm held a 2-0 lead in the first period and was up 3-2 in the third. . . . F Robby Fabbri scored twice for the Storm. . . . The Battalion forced OT when F Nick Paul scored on the PP at 14:32 of the third period. . . . Game 3 is scheduled for Tuesday in North Bay.
3. In the QMJHL final, G Philippe Cadorette stopped 19 shots and F Charles Hudon had two goals as the host Baie-Comeau Drakkar beat the Val-d’Or Foreurs 3-0 on Friday night in Game 1 of the final. . . . F Jeremy Gregoire helped out with a goal and two assists. . . . Game 2 is scheduled for tonight in Baie-Comeau.
4. How do you feel if you are a long-time fan of the Houston Rockets? . . . A tweet from ESPN Stats and Info after last night’s game in Portland: “The last 2 buzzer-beaters to win playoff series both came vs Rockets -- Damian Lillard tonight & John Stockton in 1997. @EliasSports”
5. Dan Russell and his son, Ben, were in the crowd for last night’s NBA game in Portland. What a way for Russell to spend his first night after signing off on a 30-year career as host of Sportstalk, his Vancouver-based radio show. . . . Russell will be calling the play tonight as the Edmonton Oil Kings and host Portland Winterhawks open the WHL’s championship final for the Ed Chynoweth Cup on Shaw TV.
6. Here’s an interesting Friday tweet from an interesting guy, Kyle Beach (@KBeachy12): “Congrats to all the players selected in the @TheWHL #BantamDraft! In particular the ones joining the @WHLsilvertips and @chiefs hockey.” . . . Beach also played for the Lethbridge Hurricanes, but perhaps he didn’t enjoy himself there as much as he did in Spokane and Everett.
The Spokane Chiefs have acquired G Alex Moodie from the Saskatoon Blades for a fourth-round selection in the 2016 bantam draft. Moodie was a fifth-round pick by the Blades in 2010. . . . Moodie, 19, is from Winnipeg. He got into 28 games with the Blades this season, going 7-18-2, 4.29, .894 on a team that didn’t come close to making the playoffs. . . . The Chiefs are looking to fill the vacancy created by the graduation of G Eric Williams. . . . "We feel Garret Hughson has earned the opportunity to be a starter in the WHL and if Alex Moodie can regain the form he showed as a young goaltender, we'll have two capable starting goaltenders,” Spokane GM Tim Speltz said in a news release. “We also expect Tyson Verhelst is ready to make the jump to the WHL, so we have good depth and competition for our goaltending position." . . . Verhelst, from Brandon, is prepping for his 17-year-old season. He was a third-round selection in the 2012 bantam draft. . . . Moodie’s best stint with the Blades came in 2011-12 when he joined them from his midget AAA team in Winnipeg in December and went 9-3-0, 3.42, .895.
Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has more on this trade right here.
THE COACHING GAME:
The AJHL’s Grande Prairie Storm fired general manager and head coach Matt Hughes on Friday. The moves come after the Storm went 21-36-3-1 in his first season as GM/head coach and missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. . . . Logan Clow of the Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune has more right here.
THE FOURTH ROUND (best-of-seven; all times local):
WHL final, for the Ed Chynoweth Cup
(x - if necessary)
(All games televised live by Shaw)
(All games televised by Root Sports -- Game 2 live, others on delayed basis)
PORTLAND (2, West) vs. Edmonton (1, East)
Season series: Portland, 0-0-1; Edmonton, 1-0-0.
Saturday: Edmonton at Portland, 7 p.m. (Moda Center)
Sunday: Edmonton at Portland, 5 p.m. (Moda Center)
Tuesday: Portland at Edmonton, 7 p.m.
Wednesday: Portland at Edmonton, 7 p.m.
x-Friday: Edmonton at Portland, 7 p.m. (Moda Center)
x-Sunday, May 11: Portland at Edmonton, 4 p.m.
x-Monday, May 12: Edmonton at Portland, 7 p.m. (Moda Center)
No game scheduled.
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