Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Great news from Ewen . . . Babcock: Road hockey by candlelight? . . . Canucks going to P.G.










F Waltteri Hopponen (Everett, 2013-14) signed a two-year-plus-option contract with HPK Hämeenlinna (Finland, Liiga). This season, with the Sioux City Musketeers (USHL), he had two goals and eight assists in 28 games; in 31 games with the Lincoln Stars (USHL), he had four goals and 14 assists. . . .
F Riley Holzapfel (Moose Jaw, 2004-08) signed a one-year contract with Karlskrona (Sweden, SHL). This season, with HV71 Jönköping (Sweden, SHL), he had seven goals and six assists in 49 games. Karlskrona won promotion to SHL from Allsvenskan this season.

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The really big news on Wednesday — yes, even bigger than Mike Babcock or David Letterman — came from long-time friend Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province.
It arrived via email:
“Today marks my four-year anniversary of being discharged from GF Strong. I also saw the cancer doctors this morning and I'm now officially four and a half years cancer free.
“I believe that the support Carol-Ann and I have received has been instrumental in what's been achieved to date. Thanks again.
“As a reminder, if you're free on Aug. 5, we're throwing a Ride To Conquer Cancer fundraiser at the Earls on Fir Street. There's a silent auction, plus we get a portion from some drinks and appetizers that night.”
It just doesn’t get any better than that.
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NHLF Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Lightning is the hot story, to date, of these NHL playoffs. Johnson was a free-agent signing by the Lightning after a terrific career with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs. Johnson stands 5-foot-8 and has had to overcome that throughout his career. It’s why no NHL team signed him until after his 20-year-old season. Al Murray, the Lightning’s head scout, had a lot to do with that, and Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post has more on that right here.
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Meanwhile, Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province talked with Spokane Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz and, yes, the subject was Tampa Bay Lightning F Tyler Johnson. . . . That piece is right here.
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We just witnessed two more days of social media at its best.
You might recall that on Tuesday, free-agent head coach Mike Babcock wasn’t going to Toronto, was NHLnegotiating with Buffalo, and perhaps was talking with San Jose, but almost certainly was going to stay in Detroit. Oh, and St. Louis might be interested.
So what happens?
Of course, he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs. (The news conference is scheduled for today, which means another day of Twitter exploding.)
This is great news for hockey fans who have long wondered just how much impact a coach can have on a team.
The Leafs have been, well, the Leafs for a long time now. It is going to be interesting to see how much of an impact Babcock has on them. After all, instead of dealing with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, he now has Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. Instead of Niklas Kronwall, he’s got Dion Phaneuf.
You have to think that the Leafs will hold the course with their rebuild, meaning there won’t be any huge free-agent signings in an attempt to speed up the process.
If they are going to contend for the Stanley Cup, they need to find a top-end goaltender and a minute-eating defenceman who will quarterback the PP. Perhaps Morgan Rielly will become capable of filling the latter role, but is there a big-time goaltender on the roster?
Anyway . . . Babcock, who once was fired by the Moose Jaw Warriors, now is by far the highest-paid coach in the NHL. His eight-year deal with Toronto averages out at $6.25 million per season. That is quite a bit more than the man who is No. 2 on the list. Joel Quenneville of the Chicago Blackhawks is paid $2.75 million per season. . . . Babcock spent two seasons (1991-93) in Moose Jaw, going 33-36-3 and 27-42-3. He was dumped after that second season and replaced by Al Tuer, who now is a pro scout for the Florida Panthers. . . . Babcock had been in Detroit for 10 seasons. The only active NHL head coaches who have been in position for more than four seasons are Claude Julien (Boston), Quenneville, Dave Tippett (Arizona) and Jack Capuano (New York Islanders). . . . Julien just completed his eighth season with the Bruins, while Quenneville is in his eighth season with the Blackhawks. Tippett has been the Coyotes’ head coach through seven seasons. Capuano has been the Islanders’ head coach since Nov. 15, 2010. . . . BTW, Babcock spent some of his childhood in Leaf Rapids, Man., which is a couple of slapshots from my hometown of Lynn Lake. Babcock has told stories of Leaf Rapids not having street lights so he and his friends put candles in the snowbanks in order to play road hockey at night. I don’t know about that, but I do know that my first skate every fall was on Eden Lake, which is right by Leaf Rapids. That first ice of the year on Eden Lake was the best I ever skated on.
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Here is the Memorial Cup schedule (all games on Sportsnet; all times Eastern):
Friday, May 22: Kelowna vs. Quebec, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 23: Rimouski vs. Oshawa, 4:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 24: Quebec vs. Oshawa, 4:30 p.m.
Monday, May 25: Rimouski vs. Kelowna, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 26: Oshawa vs. Kelowna, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, May 27: Quebec vs. Rimouski, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 28: Tiebreaker, if necessary, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, May 29: Semifina, 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 31: Championship game, TBA
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In the AHL, the host Utica Comets beat the Oklahoma City Barons 1-0 on Wednesday night in Game 7 of a AHLsecond-round series. . . . The Comets are affiliated with the Vancouver Canucks, the Barons with the Edmonton Oilers. . . . F Alexandre Grenier won it with his fourth goal at 7:11 of the third period. Here’s hoping he gets free Slurpees for life! . . . Utica G Jakob Markstrom stopped 35 shots. . . . Attendance was 3,835. . . . The Comets, under head coach Travis Green, will meet the Grand Rapids Griffins in the Western Conference final. Green, the former Portland Winterhawks assistant GM and assistant coach, is seen as one of the best young coaches in the game. . . . Griffins head coach Jeff Blashill may be the next head coach of the parent Detroit Red Wings. . . . That series, with a 2-3-2 format, opens with games in Utica on Sunday and Monday. . . . The Eastern Conference final features the Manchester Monarchs, under former Moose Jaw Warriors head coach Mike Stothers, against the Hartford Wolf Pack of head coach Ken Gernander. The Monarchs are hooked up with the Los Angeles Kings; the Wolf Pack with the New York Rangers. That series opens tonight in Manchester.
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Admit it. There are nights when you lay awake and wonder: What are Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 10 best movies?
Well, Rolling Stone has the list and it’s right here.
Did you know that a studio originally had O.J. Simpson tabbed as the Terminator, and not Arnold? That’s what it says in this story. . . . Check it out, and sleep well.
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THE COACHING GAME:

Jamie Kompon, the general manager and head coach of the Portland Winterhawks, will coach at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge later this year. Kompon has been named head coach of one of three Canadian teams that will play in the tournament, a host city and dates for which have yet to be announced. . . . Kompon will be head coach of Canada White. . . . Former Kootenay Ice coach Kris Knoblauch, now the head coach of the OHL’s Erie Otters, will be the head coach of Canada Red, with Marco Pietroniro, the head coach of the QMJHL’s Baie-Comeau Drakkar, running Canada Black. . . . Kompon’s assistant coaches will be Jamie Heward, who is an assistant with the Swift Current Broncos, and Serge Lajoie, the head coach of the Edmonton-based NAIT Ooks. . . . Wade Klippenstein, the Brandon Wheat Kings’ director of scouting, will be involved in team selection as he is Hockey Canada’s western regional scout.
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The Lethbridge Hurricanes have signed D Tyler Strath, who was a third-round selection in the 2015 bantam draft. . . . The 6-foot-2, 160-pound Strath, who is from Carseland, Alta., had 23 points, four of them goals, in 31 games with the bantam AAA Rocky Mountain Raiders this season. . . .


NHLThe Vancouver Canucks and Prince George Cougars announced Wednesday that the NHL team will hold its training camp at the CN Centre in Prince George, Sept. 18-20. . . . Medicals will take place Sept. 17 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, with on-ice work starting in Prince George on Sept. 18. . . . Canucks president Trevor Linden said in a news release that the team is “committed to holding future training camps in communities throughout B.C.” . . . Canucks D Dan Hamhuis is a part-owner of the Cougars.
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