Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Is the WHL in Babey's future? . . . Improvements in Spokane

F Tomáš Karpov (Moose Jaw, Calgary, 2007-09) has signed a three-year extension with the Basingstoke Bison (England, Premier). Last season, in 54 games, he had 76 points, including 37 goals. He was a first-team Premier League all-star, and led the Bison in goals and points, all while working on a degree at the University of Winchester.

1. On Tuesday, in this space, I mentioned something about Kingston Frontenacs F Sam Bennett’s inability to do one pull-up at the NHL Scouting Combine in Mississauga, Ont., last weekend.
That prompted an NHL scout to relate, via email, a couple of fitness testing-related anecdotes.
“Martin Havlat was at the Combine in his draft year,” the scout wrote. “He couldn’t do a single bench press. He ended up having a pretty good career and immediate success as a young player.
“I heard (Wayne) Gretzky tell a story one day. To paraphrase, he said: ‘Early in my career, we had testing. I did 10 sit-ups, but scored 60-plus goals that season. Near the end of my career, I could do 60-plus sit-ups, but only scored 10 goals during the season!’ ”
In closing, the scout wrote: “This entire Combine thing is about showcasing the league. Many of the tests that they do are irrelevant to hockey, but they ‘look’ good.”
So, kids, if you blow a test or two, don’t lose sleep over it because it’s what you do on the ice that the scouts will remember.

2. BTW, Wayne Gretzky looked good and sounded great as he appeared on Hockey Night in Canada prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final on Wednesday night. . . . The NHL should hang its head in shame because Gretzky is not actively employed in promoting their game. The fact that he isn't working for an individual team or out of the NHL office should be an embarrassment to the commissioner and the owners. . . . Contrast that with Major League Baseball and the NFL, both of which have numerous former players, many of them Hall of Famers, working to better and to promote their games in one fashion or another.

3. Let the speculation begin. The Calgary Hitmen have an opening for a head coach and Ken Babey, the face of athletics at SAIT in Calgary, is leaving the Trojans after 27 years as the hockey team’s head coach. He also has been the school’s athletic director since 1997. According to a news release: “A desire to pursue other interests, and to go out on on top, has been given as reasons for his decision to step down.” . . . Babey took over as the Trojans head coach in 1987. That followed one season as an assistant coach. . . . Under his guidance, the Trojans won 534 of 849 games. He leaves with a .629 winning percentage. . . . Vicki Hall of the Calgary Herald has more right here, including the revelation that Babey “hopes to find another coaching gig in the near future.” . . . Let the speculation begin.

4. There are at least three movies in the works involving concussions in football. . . . Will Smith may star in one that is based on the GQ story Game Brain that was written by Jeanne Marie Laskas. . . . Cindy Boren of the Washington Post has more right here.

5. D Evan Morden (Everett, Prince Albert, 2011-14) has committed to attend Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., and play for the Badgers. . . . Morden, from Swan River, Man., will attend the Goodman School of Business at Brock. . . . He played most of last season with the MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders. . . . He split 170 WHL games between Everett and Prince Albert, putting up 23 points, including six goals.

6. Yes, the Stanley Cup final started on Wednesday night. John Branch of The New York Times takes a look right here at the rivalry between Los Angeles and New York. Hey, any story in which there are quotes from Ed (Boxcar) Hospodar is a good one.

7. The way NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has it figured, if the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers are worth US$2 billion, “we have plenty of franchises that are worth that, if not more.” . . . OK. Stop laughing! . . . Bettman had that to say and a whole lot more prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final. Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times has more right here.

8. Fans of the Spokane Chiefs should be in for improved wireless service when they attend games in the Veterans Memorial Arena in the fall. Boingo Wireless, which bills itself as “the leading DAS and Wi-Fi provider that serves consumers, carriers and advertisers worldwide,” has been chosen to manage the facility’s Distributed Antenna System (DAS) “from design to deployment, multi-carrier access to ongoing management.” . . . According to a news release: “The DAS networks will provide enhanced cellular capacity, allowing fans to upload videos and photos of their event experiences in real time. Boingo’s neutral host approach to DAS networks allow for multiple carriers to access the network on behalf of their customers, ensuring that more fans are automatically connected to the state-of-the-art cellular network.”

9. Don Zimmer, one of the grand old men of baseball, has died at the age of 83. He played for Casey Stengel. He managed four teams on a full-time basis and was the New York Yankees’ interim manager for a bit. In all, he was involved in baseball for more than 60 years. In The Zen of Zim, written with New York writer Bill Madden and published in 2004, Zimmer says: “All I’ve ever been is a simple baseball man, but it’s never ceased to amaze me how so many far more accomplished people I’ve met in this life wanted to be one, too. What a game, this baseball!” . . . The New York Times obituary is right here.

10. The end of Donald Sterling’s days in the NBA is nigh, and it is going to happen without anyone ending up in court. The end result of his selling the Los Angeles Clippers for US$2 billion could be the raising of the NBA’s age limit to 20. Michael McCann of has all that and more right here. . . . If you want the inside info on the Sterling affair, this is a great read.

11. The World Cup doesn’t start until next week, but the mind game are underway. With Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo on the limp, a witch doctor from Ghana is claiming responsibility. The Guardian has more right here.
The AJHL’s Olds Grizzlys have signed Brett Hopfe, their director of hockey operations and head coach, and Dana Lattery, the manager of player development and assistant coach, to three-year contract extensions. The contracts run through the next three seasons. . . . Joel Hunter, the business operations manager, got a one-year extension.
The Detroit Red Wings have signed Jeff Blashill, the head coach of their AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, to a three-year contract that runs through 2016-17. Blashill, 40, just completed his second season with the Griffins. They won the Calder Cup as AHL champions in 2012-13. Last season, they finished with 99 points, an increase of seven, then went on to lose a conference semifinal series to the Texas Stars. . . . Last month, Blashill was honoured as the AHL’s coach of the year.

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