“Between The Benches” Featuring Grand Rapids vs. OKC

Are you ready for some quality minor league video footage? Like spotting an albino zebra, things like really good videography in minor league hockey does exist. One of the places where this occurs the most is within the confines of the Grand Rapids Griffins organization, where they unleash some powerful images in a very nicely tied package.

Exhibit A is with the “Between The Benches” series which featured the WCF between the Grand Rapids Griffins and the Oklahoma City Barons. Hockey during tornado season, some great homage to the spirit of OKC, and an insidery view of the whole thing. It’s so well done, that we wanted to share it with you here at Tend the Farm. Well done, Griffs video squad, well done.


Between the Benches: Calder Cup Playoffs – THE PROCESS from griffinshockey on Vimeo.

Thanks to Bob G for the link. (He’s awesome!)

BBG&CS Dog Days of Summer: Two Weddings & A Signing, Goalie Gear & Soccer!

| Two Weddings & A Signing:

1. Congratulations to former OKC Barons Alex Plante and Fanny who married in Sweden in early July. — via Twitter. In the midst of his honeymoon in Greece, Alex went to Austria for a short trip to meet with his new team Dornbirner EC. His signing with Dornbirn was announced on July 18th.

“Als ich das Angebot von Dornbirn bekommen habe, begann ich im Internet etwas zu recherchieren. Von der Liga weiß ich nicht viel. Umso aufgeregter bin ich, sie bald kennenzulernen”, so Plante. Seine Verbindungen nach Europa sind vielmehr privater Natur. Seit wenigen Wochen ist der Kanadier mit einer Schwedin verheiratet. Für seinen neuen Auftraggeber unterbrach der Eishockeyprofi kurzfristig seine Flitterwochen und kam für wenige Stunden ins Ländle. “Meine Frau und ich haben in unseren Flitterwochen von der Chance, in Dornbirn spielen zu können, erfahren. Wir sind sehr aufgeregt auf unsere Zukunft in Österreich”, erklärt Plante kurz vor seinem Rückflug nach Griechenland.” — via Sport Report.

2. Another former OKC Barons player’s marriage took place over the summer as well in Sweden — Congratulations to Linus Omark and his wife Linnea. — via Twitter and Twitter.

| The Eakins Get Fit Plan for the Edmonton Oilers:

https://twitter.com/dallaseakins/status/356265091437563906

| U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2013 Unveiled: 

“This is an extraordinary class that each have contributed in a remarkable fashion to the advancement of our sport. It’s a truly remarkable collection of individuals, all so very deserving of earning the pinnacle of accomplishment in hockey in the U.S.” Ron DeGregorio – USA Hockey President — via U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame

| Goalie Gear Change Coming: 

“It appears the National Hockey League isn’t ready to accept a generic 10 per cent reduction in the top of goaltender pads as the only change to equipment for the upcoming season.  As InGoal reported last week, the NHL Players’ Association already approved a change in the maximum sizing chart allotment for each goaltender’s knee to hip measurement from 55 per cent to 45 per cent. With the average NHL goalie measuring around 20 inches, that amounts to a two-inch trim off the top of each pad and, in theory, a four-inch opening of their 5-hole.” — via InGoal Magazine

| Home, Sweet, Hockey Billet Home:

“At age 16, Brennan left his home in Smithtown, N.Y., to play at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. But he would soon find that this wasn’t a journey he’d have to make on his own [….] “Those two years were pretty important years in my life,” recalls Brennan, who would go on to a four-year career at Boston College. “Moving away from home at an early age, you don’t know what to expect. You’re still maturing and getting ready to go to college.” — via USA Hockey Magazine

| OKC’s Brewing Soccer Battle:

“Sources said the downtown stadium will have a capacity in the range of 9,000-14,000 seats and be part of a larger complex. The complex will include 10 youth soccer fields and team practice facilities, our sources added. Further, sources indicate that the site the group has in mind will be close to Oklahoma City’s future Downtown Public Park that is part of the 2009 MAPS 3 initiative.” — via EastWord News.

“As it stands, the city’s soccer fans look to be in line for a front row seat at a shootout at the OK corral. The USL PRO and NASL are, essentially, on the same level when it comes to soccer hierarchy in the U.S., meaning the two companies could end up competing for the same fans, media attention and commercial revenue.” — via The Express Star

|RedHawks Baseball — vs. Iowa Cubs 10-6

“Iowa manager Marty Pevey and Cubs hitting coach Brian Harper were ejected in the second inning following a bizarre play.” — via NewsOK

| And in case you did not know — Hockey’s Better than Baseball

https://twitter.com/CoreyHirsch/status/360975527097540609

– You know that place in The Daily Oklahoman? The one between Big Game & Club Soccer? That’s where you may find some Barons coverage. For the rest of the news, check out BBG&CS every weekend. –

Another Four Year “U” Player, Nicholas Tremblay, Signs In OKC

Needing another center (hhhmmmm, I wonder who mentioned that earlier this week), the Oklahoma City Barons have prowled around, and signed a guy to fill this role. They found a pretty interesting player in Nicholas Tremblay, who is a four year Clarkson University graduate. A guy who famously scored 110 points in 57 games in the CJHL before being sidelines with an injury, Tremblay has been a mixed bag in his collegiate years, and pretty adequate in ECHL games with the Bakersfield Condors last season (where his 29 points in 29 games are pretty solid).

Originally drafted by the Boston Bruins, Tremblay’s college numbers are not offensively eye-popping except for his senior year where he nearly averaged a point per game in 37. And perhaps the tendency is to believe in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately, and I suppose that is okay. Having never played more than 37 games in college, you always wonder how a player responds to the grueling haul of a 70+ game season in the pros. Double the games, double the chance for injury, double the fatigue. More than Euro players adjusting to ice size, sometimes games-played-per-season is a larger hurdle to jump. However, his ECHL numbers were famous enough to earn him a “Player of the Week” nod in 2012-13. Maybe there’s more to Tremblay than we see on paper.

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After 20 Years, Bryan Helmer Hangs up his Skates to Coach

On July 22nd the Peterborough Petes announced the hiring of Bryan Helmer as their assistant coach. After 20 years of professional hockey — 1,117 AHL regular season games, 50 IHL games and 146 NHL games — Helmer has finally decided to retire, however, he will remain at least for now the AHL’s all-time leading scorer amongst defencemen with 564 points. Bryan Helmer will forever be remembered here in OKC as the consummate professional, and the ultimate Captain. And it came as no surprise when Helmer was deservedly recognized for his sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey as the winner of the 2010-11 Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award.

It is difficult to even begin to list Helmer’s accomplishments over his 20 years of professional hockey. The AHL’s notes on Helmer include, among many others:

Entered 2012-2013 season as the all-time AHL leader with 158 Calder Cup Playoff games played…Entered 2012-2013 season third all-time in AHL history with 1,093 games played…Named Oklahoma City’s winner of IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the YEar Award in 2011-2012…Served as captain of Oklahoma City in 2011-2012…Named recipient of AHL’s Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award in 2010-2011…Served as captain and member of Calder Cup champion Hershey in 2009-2010…Served as captain and member of Calder Cup champion Hershey in 2008-2009…Scored first NHL goal with Vancouver in 2000-2001…Made NHL debut with Phoenix in 1998-1999…Member of Calder Cup champion Albany in 1994-1995…Scored first professional goal with Albany in 1993-1994.

Bryan Helmer’s teams over 20 seasons of professional hockey include 8 AHL teams, 2 IHL teams and 4 NHL teams:

Albany River Rats | Worcester IceCats | Las Vegas Thunder | Phoenix Coyotes | St. Louis Blues | Kansas City Blades | Vancouver Canucks | Manitoba Moose | Springfield Falcons | Grand Rapids Griffins | San Antonio Rampage | Hershey Bears | Washington Capitals | Oklahoma City Barons

Helmer Petes

We wish you all the best, Bryan Helmer! What an incredible 20 years!

Articles on Helmer’s retirement and coaching position:

Petes Announce Bryan Helmer as Assistant Coach (Peterborough Petes):

Peterborough Petes General Manager Mike Oke and Head Coach Jody Hull are pleased to announce the addition of Bryan Helmer to the Petes coaching staff. [….] “Bryan has tremendous character, dedication and passion for the game” says Petes Head Coach Jody Hull.  “His accolades from his playing days speak volumes, over 1100 AHL games, 3 Calder Cups, and all-time leader for points by a defenseman in the AHL.”

Former Hershey Bears captain Bryan Helmer heads into coaching career after epic playing career (PennLive.com)

“I just enjoyed what I did for 20 years and the people that I met along the way and the friendships that I made and the teams that I played with,” Helmer said. “It really hasn’t sunk in what I did yet. I’m really proud of what I did in my career and I would never change it for the world.”

Helmer, Last Active Player from inaugural Rats Team, Retires (TimesUnion.com):

Former Albany River Rats defenseman and AHL legend Bryan Helmer has retired after a 20-year professional hockey career. The final player from the River Rats’ 1993-94 inaugural team to retire, Helmer will serve as an assistant coach for the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League next season. Helmer, 41, began his pro hockey career with the Rats in 1993, putting up four goals and 19 assists in 65 games for Albany during his rookie campaign. The next season he contributed seven goals and 36 assists in 77 games, helping the River Rats to their lone Calder Cup championship in 1995. …

Petes Name Hockey Vet to Assistant Coaching Post (PeterboroughExaminer.com)

Jody Hull took his time to find the right assistant coach and he’s glad he did.

The Peterborough Petes head coach believes he’s found the perfect fit in Bryan Helmer who just retired after a 20-year pro hockey career as a defencemen who played 146 NHL games, won three AHL Calder Cup titles and is the highest scoring defencemen in AHL history. …

Helmer Retires to Join Coaching Ranks (TheAHL.com)

Bryan Helmer, who played more games and recorded more assists and points than any defenseman in the 77-year history of the American Hockey League, has retired to become an assistant coach with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League. …

Helmer, 41, played 20 seasons of professional hockey from 1993-2013, including 19 in the AHL. His 1,117 regular-season AHL games rank third all-time behind only forwards Willie Marshall (1,205) and Fred Glover (1,201), and his 435 assists and 564 points are both the most ever by an AHL defenseman. …

Helmer also played 159 postseason games in the AHL, most all-time, and his 60 Calder Cup Playoff points are the most by a blueliner. Helmer won Calder Cup championships in 1995 with the Albany River Rats, and in 2009 and 2010 as captain of the Hershey Bears. …

Bryan Helmer Walks Away after Great Career (American Hockey Blog):

After nearly 1300 AHL games, veteran defenceman Bryan Helmer has decided to hang them up. Helmer, 41, has accepted an assistant coaching position with the Peterborough Petes . The AHL’s all-time leader in points by a defenceman, Helmer has racked up 564 regular season points (129-435) and another 69 (15-54) in the playoffs. …

 

Center Depth, Depth Center, & Cepth Denter, Denter Cepth

AHL Hockey: Apr 20 Barons vs Heat
Will Markobello get more NHL minutes this season? Photo by Steven Christy.

The center position for the Edmonton Oilers has been problematic for years. This is why they hogtied Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, signed Ryan Smyth, and extended Sam Gagner. Those three alone are nice pieces, some nicer than others, but there just isn’t enough depth in that center well to quench our thirst. This is made more problematic when you realize that the center position has also become tepid in the AHL.

Jason Gregor, via his radio show yesterday and again today via Oilers Nation, brought up this topic with Craig MacTavish. When discussing adding an additional centerman, he responded by saying:

No, I think we’re good there. We’ve got some depth with Arcobello, we’ve got Will Acton. Andrew Miller is a guy who I’m expecting will have a very good training camp as well, until Nuge is ready to play. I mean, injuries are a part of it. You look at any other team’s depth chart; there are always gaps in their depth chart. Sometimes these gaps allow players and opportunity to step in and really establish themselves as NHL players. You need a chance if you’re a young guy on the outside looking in. This could potentially be that chance if Nuge isn’t ready to go October 1st, but I don’t anticipate doing much more.

Assuming that Nugent-Hopkins isn’t game-ready by October. The going theory is that there are four options to temporary replace him – Anton Lander, Mark Arcobello, Will Acton, and Andrew Miller.

If you’re looking to simply replace Nuge, and I don’t think that’s the mentality to take, you’d have to adhere to the theory that Gregor (and perhaps MacTavish) is mentioning and that’s to place Arcobello, Miller or Acton in that 2C role. Slow your role just a bit, because between those three fellas only one NHL game has been played. This is a pipe dream of sorts. Likewise, neither Miller nor Arcobello is equipped to play tough third/fourth line minutes. The Oil will do the obvious, and that’s put Anton Lander in 4C, and bump everyone up the ladder from that point forward.

Arcobello and Lander ended the season as 1C and 2C on the farm. Both had equally good wingers to work with, and both produced solid points and minutes. They’ll continue that role this season if the Oilers don’t snatch at least one in October, and from the looks of it, they will do just that. Acton is a darkhorse, with Arcobello-like skills. Miller is untested. Arcobello is still on the iffy side of things.

This leaves Ryan Martindale, C.J. Stretch (AHL contracted), and Travis Ewanyk on the farm as legit centermen. Gone are Chris VandeVelde, Tanner House, Josh Green, and Eric Hunter. Clearly both the Oilers and Barons are hurting down the middle, and will continue to do so.

The fact that Lander is your only NHL-minute-taking centerman with experience should cause a shudder heard throughout Western Canada. He’s a good player, and I’ll even say he’s a great AHL player. But asking him to play above the third line in the NHL is still asking too much.

What do you think? Lander the obvious choice? Arcobello, Acton, Miller – will they get a shot? Should they? How do you solve a problem like “No Nuge”? Anxious to hear your thoughts.

Finnish Olympic Hockey Camp Includes Hartikainen and Petrell

Teemu-Ufa
Teemu. At a coffee shop. No commentary necessary.

A group of 54 players made the Finnish Olympic hockey camp, which was the most by an country announcing their invitees this week. Included on that list are some great players, primarily in net. Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne, Niklas Backstrom, Antti Niemi, and Kari Lehtonen between the lead pipes is enough to cause heart palpitations for opposing countries. Yet there are two forwards with interesting ties both to the Edmonton Oilers and Oklahoma City Barons, and I couldn’t be happier for the both of them.

Teemu Hartikainen and Lennart Petrell have both received invites after tours through the annals of Oilerdom (with stops in Oklahoma City). This is huge for both gentleman as they have an opportunity to battle for their country as very few have a chance to do. The problem is this, they’ve not made the team just yet, but if they do they’ll play in a tough grouping that features Canada and Norway (and to a much lesser extent, Austria). “Group B” will be entertaining to watch, not only because these two players could be involved, but because Finland has had incredible success in recent international play taking silver in 2006 and bronze in 2010. The mighty gold medal still alludes them, but they are getting closer.

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Fyten, Fedun, & ‘Filliation

AHL Hockey: Feb 26 Barons vs Stars
Austin Fyten by Steven Christy. All rights reserved.

After nearly a five day hiatus, I’m back to writing about the Barons. In that brief span we’ve had three major announcements come our way that have an immediate impact on the Oilers farm team residing in Oklahoma City. It’s that moment within the hockey off-season that things get dicey both for player signings and team dynamics as we trudge through the summer months en route to September/October.

The first bit of news comes via our good friend 100 Degree Hockey (the finest Texas Stars blog you’ll read). Per his sources, former Idaho Steelhound and recent Texas Stars player, has signed the dotted line on an AHL contract with the Oklahoma City Barons.

A one-year, one-way deal seems appropriate for the left winger. He was just too much to take in for the Stars, who are pretty stacked at this point, and thus he lands on a forward squad in OKC where some “thinning” will need to take place.

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Oklahoma City Soccer Battleground Explained, and What Effect That Could Have on the Barons

In case you hadn’t heard. Oklahoma City is in the midst of a war between rival professional soccer leagues. In one corner, we have Sold Out Strategies, a group that currently runs Oklahoma City FC, a fourth-tier soccer team currently playing in the Premier Development League. Heading up Sold Out Strategies is a name that many OKC hockey fans are familiar with in Brad Lund. Lund was a lead executive for much of the run of the old Oklahoma City Blazers hockey team with Express Sports. After his departure with the Barons, he moved on to the Missouri Mavericks and their start.

In the other corner, we have Prodigal Sports Management. Prodigal is of course the lead management group for the Oklahoma City Barons, running the tickets and promotions of the team for the Edmonton Oilers-owned team. Prodigal is owned by Bob Funk Jr., the man who took over the reins of the Oklahoma City Blazers for their final year before shutting down the team for financial reasons.

So we have two gentlemen, very ensconced in the recent history of hockey in Oklahoma City, both trying to create the foundation of professional soccer in OKC. Lund and SOS are looking to bring a North American Soccer League team to the city, a second-tier league that features teams in the US, Canada (Edmonton), and Puerto Rico. Prodigal on the other hand is bringing in a United Soccer Leagues PRO team, which was announced officially a few weeks ago.

Leaving out the hockey aspect, why is this such a big deal?

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Nesbitt & Ford Help Complete Right Wing Position For Barons

Derek Nesbitt
“Nezzy” or you might know him as Derek Nesbitt.

The expected Oklahoma City Barons roster is starting to take shape. Sure it’s a lumpy ball of play-doh until October rolls around, but the grand designer is at work. If you simply look at the potential left wing versus right wing options for the Barons you will notice an imbalance of sorts. On the left wing, the projected players might be Curtis Hamilton, Kale Kessy, Ryan Hamilton, Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk, Toni Rajala. On the right wing, it’s simply Tyler Pitlick and Eric Lizon. Thus the need for dedicated right wingers leaves GM Bill Scott with some signings to be made. He would do just that.

Announced last week, the Barons have agreed to terms with two right wingers. Derek Nesbitt and Matthew Ford have both signed AHL contracts in Oklahoma City.

The skinny on both players is that they are both experienced, and not just at the pro level. Both are four year collegiate guys, and that’s always a bonus in my book.

Nesbitt, a product of Ferris State University, twice played at a point per game for the season arc. His collegiate career high in points was in 2002-03 where, as a sophomore, he notched a +38 in 42 games earning 20 goals and 33 assists. As he began his undrafted professional years, he’d arrive in the ECHL where he dominated, and would eventually graduate to the AHL. Having never played in consecutive seasons for the same team, Nesbitt continued to be a journeyman throughout the minor leagues until he found a landing spot with the Peoria Rivermen for three straight seasons. He was traded to the WBS Penguins towards the end of last season after recovering from a lower body injury. The trade was for future considerations, and was believed to have gone down to keep Nesbitt under the vet rule, which is 320 games. Details of the transaction can be read here.

Nesbitt is that guy. He knows how to score goals, and is unafraid to be highly chancy. I like what he offers, and he just might fit into a top two scoring line position based on his recent stats.

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Interesting AHL Re-Alignment; Playoff Format Stays The Same

The Board of Governors of the American Hockey League has announced the re-alignment and playoff format for the upcoming 2013-2014 season. It’s a bit interesting for two new franchises, and thus interesting for everyone else in their divisions. Here is the new alignment chart:

NHL-Re-Alignment-2013-2014

The changes (versus last season) are obvious. The Houston Aeros no longer exist, and are now the Iowa Wild. They’ve moved to the Midwest Division. Also added to the North are the Utica Comets, the newly established Vancouver Canucks affiliate (yes, that’s a long geographical distance between NHL and AHL). For teams in the “South” there is quite a bit of change. First, they changed the name from south to west which is odd considering Charlotte isn’t in either one of those directions on the map unless your perspective is from the Eastern Conference. Second, Abbotsford joins the West Division where their travel schedule continues to be brutal. In all honesty, they are a team hard to place because they are truly west. As mentioned by someone on twitter, the time difference alone between Charlotte and Abbotsford will be confusing considering how often they’ll play in division.

Charlotte will always be a better fit in the Eastern Conference, and Abbotsford will continue to want a Pacific Northwest team to play so that their travel schedule could be slightly eased. In the end, nothing too wild and crazy going on. Likewise, no changes have been made to the playoff format. Still best of five first round, re-seeding from that point forward, then best of seven.