This week at the Blazers Ice Centre was one of the most anticipated times of the hockey season, the beginning of training camp. Training camp provides coaches and fans alike the opportunity to get a look at their new team as they get set for the upcoming season. For the Oklahoma city Blazers in particular, it brought together some familiar faces and new faces to the locker room.
Oklahoma City saw a total of 14 players age out at the end of last season, resulting in many positions needing to be filled by head coach Tyler Fleck for 2016-17. This season, a new crop of skilled and speedy players have made their way to Oklahoma City.
A lot has been made over the last few months regarding the breakup between the Evansville IceMen and the city of Evansville, Indiana. Lease negotiations took place during pretty much the entire ECHL season as the team looked to stay in Evansville, but talks broke down and the IceMen ultimately decided to move to Owensboro, Kentucky.
What had originally looked to be a move that would take effect next season, the IceMen later announced that due to the facility that was to be their new home in Owensboro needing extensive renovations, the team would be dormant for next season with a plan to begin anew in the 2017-18 season.
I like Canada.
There is no denying that there are places around the globe that are beautiful. From the peaks of the Swiss Alps to the sandy beaches of Brazil to the great religious monuments of Northern Cambodia, both divine created and man-made, we live in a beautiful world. Yet some of my favorite places on the planet fall within the borders of Canada. Inspiring in its existence and spatially enormous, it is a frontier that is vastly untouched. Kelowna has those unique beaches. Banff has its majesty. Jasper has its ruggedness. For the traveling I’ve done, in Western Canada in particular, there are few places I would rather sojourn. And from what I have seen and heard, the central and eastern provinces are equally as spectacular even if they are comparatively different. In short, Canada is a fabulous country to visit. Please do so.
I consider myself an optimist. I champion the down-trodden to a fault. I have often found light in the dark (cell phones help with this). I have been known to find the good in nearly every circumstance. I have my grandmother to blame (who passed away this weekend). When watching scary news transpire or when reading disheartening things she was always quick to remind me that there was still good in the world. Although this viewpoint is particularly rare these days, I have grown accustom to applying this to every day life.
Even in the world of hockey I see things like Kris Russell becoming a Dallas Star and find hopefulness (maybe in shot-blocking or better defending beyond the blue line or my desire to see him ride a horse). I think to myself, “Maybe there is a reason Hamhuis remains a Canuck for a while. Yeah, maybe there is a reason.” Through it all the optimistic, good-natured version of my psyche is finely tuned to pluck the “good” from potentially “bad” — even when it comes to hockey.
Have you met Auston Matthews? No, that first name isn’t spelled incorrectly, and no, that’s not a millennial car salesman’s name (none that I know). He’s actually a pretty solid hockey player – US born, US bred – with a good bit of international hockey experience even at the young age of 18.
He grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona where his favorite player was Shane Doan. Yes, Coyotes fans exist, and the team has existed long enough that the impact is fully realized in this 6’2″ multi World Junior Champ.
Earlier this week Steve Yzerman made a bold declaration in favor of Steven Stamkos remaining a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. At first glance I assumed this was an old man (he’s only 50) insisting to change toothpaste or hair tonic. And I suppose that is typically how NHL GM’s work — make a bold statement that is as wobbly as a china shop table post bull. But Yzerman is a smart, shrewd manager, and I think he had good intentions here beyond hanging on to one of the most important Bolts in the last ten years.
With the Tampa Bay Lightning dancing the line between playoffs and off season (it’s only February, mind you) the announcement perhaps is a stamp of approval that his squad is really pushing for the playoffs and beyond.
Connor McDavid is a jewel.
Like superstar hockey players before him there is a motivation to his game that is on a higher level compared to those around him. He can elevate others, sometimes a whole team, and he is barely 19 years old. The whisper-worth of games he has played in the National Hockey League isn’t enough to call him “one of the greats”, but he definitely has the makings of a truly special player. One that perhaps we have not seen in a while.
But while we await his coronation into greatness I can’t help but watch this man-child play, and think fondly of one of my all-time favorite hockey players — Pavel Bure.
Three years ago, around Christmas time, I was hit in the head by a falling two by four. Rising nearly 20 feet in the air, the board came out of nowhere, and just grazed the back portion of my head. It forced my neck downwards with the top of my spine and shoulders receiving the brunt of the blow. I felt okay for about 30 seconds, then the room began to spin. I shrugged it off, pulled out my phone, and realized I couldn’t see the numbers to dial someone to come and help. I think I panicked because I started to feel sick, so much so that I had to lay prostrate on the floor. Finally my wife found me, and apparently more time had passed than I realized. My symptoms remained the same — dizzy, sick to my stomach, trouble focusing with eyes, sleepy — which quickly prompted a trip to the hospital.
A scan of my upper half revealed no broken bones. A CT scan revealed no major brain trauma. In the end the diagnosis was simple, but symptomatic — I had a concussion.
The world is currently swept up in the discussion of head trauma mainly because we really don’t know a ton of things about it. Prevention is difficult, symptoms vary, and diagnosis is problematic. But in the end it is a topic that we will have a firm grasp on in the next 10 years, this feels inevitable. But as we wait for true answers in the world of sports head trauma we continue to see odd things happen. Like Dennis Wideman cross-checking an official.
Cliff Rucker, a converted hockey fan and business man, is in the throws of a bid to bring the ECHL to Worcester. He is meeting with the ECHL Board of Governors to hear their decision on the matter in the coming days. Why is this important? Simply put, it demonstrates the potential hoops that Oklahoma City would need to jump in order to bring the East Coast Hockey League (wink wink) to the Sooner State.