THE MUSIC MAN:
Which brings us to Prince George’s CN Centre, the home of the Cougars who, if you aren't aware, are under new ownership this season.
The Cougars’ new owners are hoping for a revival in their community this season.
And like the hosts to a good revival meeting, they see nothing wrong with a little organ music at their games.
It used to be that an organist was almost the entire stoppage-time
entertainment at a lot of hockey games. However, with the growth of computers, more and more teams have gone to pre-packaged music and the organs got squeezed out.
In Prince George, the Cougars have done something to reverse that. Yes, a keyboardist has become a big part of their game presentation.
"Apart from our relatively good improvements on the ice, the thing we are most happy about is that an exciting, electric atmosphere has once again returned to the CN Centre, and the fans are having an extremely good time attending our games," Andy Beesley, the Cougars' vice-president business, told Taking Note via email. "We’ve made some dramatic changes to the ‘fan experience’, including our incredible pre-game light/laser show, and, of course, our music upgrades."
The Cougars have hired Curtis Abriel as their music director. A resident of Prince George who is from Kitimat, Abriel is a well-known figure on the city's music scene.
With the Cougars, Abriel controls all music and sound effects, and also plays a live keyboard which, according to Beesley, is "mostly organ" and is used a lot throughout a game.
"Curtis has a natural ability to read the crowd, and get them clapping and cheering with various musical punctuations to mimic the mood of the crowd during stoppages in play," Beesley added. "Curtis has made a major contribution to the atmosphere inside the CN Centre . . . the power of a live keyboard with a skilled musician cannot be overstated."
How popular has the addition of Abriel proven to be?
The Cougars, who are at home to the Kamloops Blazers on Saturday (7 p.m.) and Sunday (2 p.m.), now have added a camera inside the video control room where Abriel operates from "so we can show live shots of him on the video scoreboard from time to time," Beesley writes.
The Cougars are using a lot of live music on game nights. On opening night, they had a local band, Out of Alba, on the roof of the CN Centre to welcome fans to the game; Out of Alba also played inside during 90-second timeouts during the game.
During a recent Saturday game, the Cougars had a live DJ -- DJ Ant -- doing his thing during stoppages in play and intermissions. Beesley reports that the DJ was "set up in the stands and was a huge hit."
In fact, DJ Ant was so popular, according to Beesley, "that we have arranged to have him set up in the stands again and play ALL the music for an upcoming game, with Curtis also playing live organ from time to time."
The Cougars, Beesley reports, also plan to include more live musicians during future games, including, yes, a trumpet player.
MORE PLAYER DEPARTURES:Two more players have chosen to leave their WHL teams.
D Connor Hobbs, 17, has asked to be traded and has left the Medicine Hat Tigers, while D Tyler Green, 19, has decided to leave the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Hobbs, from Saskatoon, had two assists in five games with Canada at last summer's Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament. He had a goal and an assist in 12 games with the Tigers this season. Last season, he had three points, including a goal, in 10 games. He had been one of eight defencemen on the Tigers' roster.
Hobbs was a fourth-round pick by the Prince Albert Raiders in the 2012 bantam draft. The Tigers acquired Hobbs on Jan. 1, 2013. Along with Hobbs, they got D Zach Hodder, then 19, F Logan McVeigh, 18, and a second-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft for D Dylan Busenius, 19, F Jayden Hart, 18, and a sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft.
Green, meanwhile, apparently told the Warriors that he wants to get on with his education.
“He contacted us (Wednesday) and asked to meet with Tim (Hunter) and I,” Alan Millar, the Warriors' general manager, told Katie Brickman of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald. “He just explained to us that he has lost the passion for the game and didn’t feel like he wanted to play any longer.”
Green, 19, is from Port Coquitlam, B.C. He was a second-round selection by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the 2010 bantam draft. Seattle dealt him to the Brandon Wheat Kings and they, in turn, traded him to Moose Jaw on Oct. 5 for a fifth-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft.
The Warriors acquired the 6-foot-7, 220-pound Green after D Austin Adam, a 6-foot-5, 200-pounder, suffered a shoulder injury. Adam is back skating but isn't expected to play for a couple of weeks.
Green's departure leaves the Warriors with six defencemen.
Green is at least the third player to walk away from the Warriors this season. Veteran forwards Brandon Potomak, 19, and Scott Cooke, 20, left after having played just two games each.
On Wednesday, the Kootenay Ice and D Jordan Steenbergen, 18, parted company by mutual agreement. He was pointless in 12 games this season.
The Prince Albert Raiders had two players -- F Dakota Conroy and F Colton McCarthy -- leave the club earlier this month. Conroy, 20, had two points in 10 games, while McCarthy, 18, was pointless in eight games.
G Jared Rathjen, who has yet to play this season, is joining the Prince George Cougars. Rathjen, 20, is from Prince George. He was placed on waivers by the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . Rathjen opened training camp with the Tigers and got into two exhibition games. However, he was sidelined when a health issue was discovered. He recently received medical clearance to return to action but has yet to play, although he has been practising with the Tigers. . . . Rathjen was acquired by the Tigers from the Vancouver Giants over the summer. The Tigers gave up a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft in the exchange. . . . In 74 regular-season games with the Victoria Royals and the Giants, he is 20-30-8/3.81/.873. Last season, he was 13-8-5/2.98/.898. . . . The acquisition of Rathjen leaves the Cougars with three goaltenders, the other two being sophomore Ty Edmonds, 18, and freshman Tavin Grant, 16. . . . Edmonds is 7-7-0/4.04/.875, while Grant is 1-1-0/5.75/.828. . . .
In order to make room for Rathjen, the Cougars have waived D Wil Tomchuk, who is joining the AJHL's Fort McMurray Oil Barons. He is from Fort McMurray. . . . The Cougars are left with Rathjen, F Jari Ericsson and F Chance Braid as their 20-year-olds. . . . Tomchuk have five assists in 26 games with the Cougars last season, after coming over from the Tri-City Americans. This season, he had two assists in 15 games. In 131 regular-season games, he had a goal and 10 assists. . . . The Tigers are down to 23 players, including eight defencemen and 13 forwards. Their 20s are D Tyler Lewington, D Kyle Becker and Czech G Marek Langhamer. Lewington turns 20 on Dec. 5.
Scoop Cooper, who writes at hockeybuzz.com, has known Gordie and Mark Howe for a number of years. With Gordie having suffered a stroke, Cooper writes right here about Mr. Hockey
Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal chatted with former Portland Winterhawks head coach Brent Peterson about Gordie Howe, Andrew Ference and more. It's all right here. . . .
F Alex Forsberg, who suffered an undisclosed injury a week ago, practised with the Saskatoon Blades on Thursday. He is listed as questionable for tonight's game against the Pats in Regina. Saskatoon D Ryan Coghlan has been out since Oct. 22 and will sit for at least another month. He suffered a separated shoulder during a fight. . . . The Blades will make a move on defence before too long because they are down to six healthy defenders. . . .
There was an interesting revelation from the NHL's St. Louis Blues on Thursday morning. In an era when hockey teams are reluctant to release information regarding injuries, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock told reports that forwards David Backes and T.J. Oshie have concussions and are out indefinitely. . . . "Backes is concussed, out ... Oshie is concussed, out," Hitchcock said.
THE COACHING GAME:There is an interesting story developing in Cold Lake, Alta., where the board of the directors of the Ice, a junior B team, has fired head coach Neil Langridge. The Ice was 10-2 when Langridge was fired on Tuesday. Furthermore, the Ice is coming off four straight league titles and is to be the host team for the 2015 Keystone Cup. Theresa Seraphim and Peter Lozinski of the Cold Lake Sun have more right here. "I can say that I will be leaving this organization with my head held allot higher then others involved," Langridge tweeted.
THURSDAY'S GAMES:In Portland, G Jackson Whistle stopped 29 shots to lead the Kelowna Rockets to a 5-0 victory over the Winterhawks. . . . It was Whistle's second shutout in his last three starts. He's got three shutouts this season and six in his career. . . . The Rockets (13-1-0) have won three in a row. . . . F Rourke Chartier scored twice, giving him 11 goals this season. . . . F Justin Kirkland added a goal, his sixth, and two assists, while F Austin Glover drew three assists. . . . The Winterhawks hadn't been shut out at home since Oct. 9, 2011, when Ty Rimmer of the Tri-City Americans stopped 43 shots in a 4-0 victory. . . . The Americans also blanked Portland on Dec. 11, 2011, the last time the Winterhawks have gone without a goal. On that night, Rimmer turned aside 29 shots in a 3-0 victory. . . . With eight defencemen dressed, the Rockets had Jesse Lees playing on a forward line at times. . . . The Rockets were without head coach Dan Lambert, who is in Sarnia, Ont., preparing to coach one of Canada's entries in the U-17 World Hockey Challenge. . . . If you keep track of such things, the coaching victory belongs to assistant coach Kris Mallette, his first. . . . The Rockets and Winterhawks (5-10-2) will meet again Saturday in Portland, where the Winterhawks are 0-5-2. . . .
In Seattle, F Lane Pederson scored his first two WHL goals to help the Thunderbirds to a 5-2 victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . Pederson, a 17-year-old from Saskatoon, was playing in his 14th game of the season. He was pointless in two regular-season and three playoff games last season. . . . Seattle scored the game's first four goals and took a 5-1 lead into the third period. . . . Seattle G Taran Kozun stopped 22 shots, three more than Edmonton's Patrick Dea. . . . F Mathew Barzal and F Ryan Gropp each scored his seventh goal of the season for Seattle. . . . “I thought they just outworked us,” Oil Kings head coach Steve Hamilton said on the team’s website. “We need to play with more pace to our game. We have to be harder to play against. We got our show run by a team that was aggressive and in our face.”
198 - With tonight's 5-0 victory, the @Kelowna_Rockets have ended Portland's streak at 198 straight reg season games with at least one goal
— WHL Facts (@WHLFacts) October 31, 2014