Monday, June 29, 2009

Battlefords North Stars Award Winners 08/09 - Part 1

Friday night, the Battlefords North Stars held their annual banquet and awards ceremony. Normally the event is held days after the season, but the coaching staff went in a different direction this time by uniting the awards with the annual Golf tournament. I had the pleasure of hosting the event, and it gives me great pleasure announcing the winners:

Most Valuable Player, Top Scorer, Rookie of the Year


Muench turned many heads during the 08/09 season and is a "slam dunk" for at least two of the three awards that he walked away with. Not only was Dane the team's only all-star, but his absence was definitely felt when he was out of the lineup. Earlier today, Blair Atcheynum defended the coaching staff's decision by saying, "We definitely were a different team without Dane in the lineup." He led the team with 24 goals in the regular season, and was a solid contributor in the playoffs too. Had Muench played in Game 5 against Humboldt, who knows what might have been..

Playoff MVP


Mitch Wall, Alex Leclerc and Troy Watt could have all been seriously considered for this award, but realistically nobody was more deserving than Birch. After an up-and-down regular season, Birch started Game One of the postseason and never really looked back. The 18-year-old showed incredible poise, and was one of the main reasons why the Stars had the playoff that they did. This award was extremely well deserved.

Other Award Winners:

Top Defenceman: Jesse Lebreton / Tom Kleidon

It's simple: Once Kleidon arrived, Lebreton became a much better player. Kleidon provided some much needed depth and experience to the backend, and both players fed off of one another. Jesse will be the first to admit that he tried to do "too much" in the early portion of the season, but once he settled down the Stars became a much more consistent team defensively.

It's midnight, and I'm off to bed. I promise I'll update the rest of the winners tomorrow. It's been a very busy day, and I'm already up way past my bedtime!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

AGM Recap

The Battlefords North Stars held their AGM on Monday, June 22 at the North Battleford Civic Center. Here's what we now know thanks to the AGM:

- The North Stars have technically made a profit from their 08-09 season. They came up nearly 6000$ dollars in the black, and are gunning for an even more promising season in 09-10.

- Ken Pearson's contract has been extended for another season, and Star's fans can look forward to at least two more seasons with Ken Pearson manning the helm.

- Former President Greg Gryba will remain on the Board of Directors, and Ray Adelman will take over the duties as Board President.

- The new boards and glass at the N.B. Civic Center have been isntalled (almost completely) and fans can look forward to a better view and better visual presentation of the hockey product. The black netting that once surrounded the penalty box's and player's benches will be GONE when hockey season begins.


My Personal Take on the AGM

- The Battlefords North Stars need YOU! Seriously. The Stars came (approxomitely) $125,000 short of breaking even this season because of hockey operation costs. The only reason why the Stars are making a profit is thanks to the volunteers who help facilitate the Fishing Derby, Ag Project and Golf Tournament. If 400 more fans decide to attend North Star games on a regular basis, this team will be in much better shape! The team seemed to average around 600 fans per game last year and I think you and I both know that we as a community can do better.

You're claiming that tickets are too expensive? Give your head a shake. Compared to other teams throughout the league, the Stars have one of the cheapest season ticket packages available.

During the playoffs there was close to 1200 people in the Civic Center for Game 6 of the Itech Semi-Final against Humboldt? Where were these people during the regular season?

Ask the Humboldt Broncos how much their fan support has helped their success over the years. How about in Flin Flon where they have some of the most passionate fans in the game? Have you ever watched a game in Melville? The rink might be shabby, but the fans are loud and numerous! I've been in the Battlefords now for nearly two full years, and I know that we are capable of more than what we have been giving. I assure you, if the Stars could average 1000 fans per game during the regular season, this team would wlll themselves to the top 3 of the Itech Conference. Quote me.

- I think it's awesome that Ken Pearson's contract has been extended. He's proven to be fearless, passionate and determined to make the Stars a contender again. I'm stoked that the Board of Directors agrees, and it will be great to have at least two more seasons of Ken Pearson hockey in our area.

- I'd like to thank Greg Gryba for his two years of sevice as the Board President. Those that have followed this team passionately over the past two years know that Greg's job wasn't easy. This team won 20 games in the regular season over the past two-years, and he continued to be positive and supportive. Greg never once turned down an interview with me, and I look forward to speaking with you further. You're service to this team will not be forgotten, and I'm grateful that you decided to let your name stand for another year.

- The new boards and glass at the Civic Center look amazing. The Civic Center looks better than ever, and I hope that fans will make the effort to come and check out the changes. A big recognition is in order for Martin Smith and Stew Demmons who approached City Council in order to kick-start these changes. You both deserve a ton of recognition, as does the City. It will be much easier to see the action from the broadcast booth know that there is much less black netting surrounding the ice surface.


Midget AAA's Announce Their New Assistant Coach

The Battlefords Midget AAA Stars have announced today that Derek Schmidt (North Battelford) has been named the Assistant Coach to the newly named head-coach Martin Smith.

"Derek and I share the same hockey philosophy. Years back, I was given an opportunity, and it feels good to provide somebody else this type of opprotunity," said Smith earlier this morning.

The Midget AAA's will certainly have their work cut out for them in order to get back into the playoffs in a very tough Midget AAA league, but I wish these two the best, and I'm looking forward to the upcoming hockey season on both levels. It's only June!!! Yikes.


I played slow-pitch tonight and went 2-3 at the plate with 3 RBI's. I think I've already contributed more in five games this year than I did in 10 last year! I've got a great team, and a fun group of guys.

I've shaming myself tonight by admitting that I split my shorts tonight when I tried to dig out a grounder at 3rd base. We won the game though, so that's all that matters!


I'm thrilled with the early traffic volume that this blog has accumulated. Tell your friends, and keep visiting. I assure you that updates will keep coming as long as their is something relevant and cool to talk about.

I'm still waiting for my first official follower though, Who wants to be the first??

Goodnight, and thank you for reading.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stars AGM is fast approaching, Hawks continue to Shuffle the Deck.

The Battlefords North Stars AGM is set for Monday, June 22 at 7:00 at the Civic Center. The board of directors will release the financial details from last season, and Ken Pearson will be on hand to shed some light on some of the "one ice" stuff that can be expected for next year.

Anybody from the public that wants to attend is welcome to do so.

From Earlier Today:

The Nipawin Hawks and Winkler Flyers have completed a significant three player trade that sees the Hawks acquire depth up front and on the back end.

Nipawin added 1989 F Kory Kimpinski (Brandon MB) and 1990 D Kyle Hamm (Brandon MB) in exchange for 1989 F Shael Hechter (Winnipeg MB).

The key to the deal may be Hamm, who scored 2-goals and 14-assists in 39-games. He is a smooth skating defenseman with excellent offensive ability. “He is the type of player we can build a defense around,” said Hawks head coach Colin O'Hara.

Kimpinski had 11-goals and 26-assists in 48-games with Winkler and O'Hara envisions him fitting into a top six role. “When the Flyers asked about Hechter, we felt that we needed to get a player who could step into a similar role. He's got good skill and he skates well.”

Hechter had 7-goals and 17-assists in 28-games with Nipawin after being brought over from the Dauphin Kings at midseason.

The Stars may have made the most noise at the start of the offseason, yet it's definitely safe to say that Nipawin has made the most noise over the past two weeks.

Shael Hechter is a good hockey player, yet I must admit I was dissapointed in his playoff performance against the Stars. O'Hara stated numerous times during that series that Hechter was a player that needed to get going, and he could never seem to find enough space to be effective.

Maybe O'Hara noticed the same thing and that's why this trade occured. The Hawks have seemingly picked up two players that will make an immediate impact on their club.

Kimpinski had some decent numbers last year with Winkler, and given the right amount of ice-time could really contribute to Nipawin. I like the addition of Hamm because he seems to be another offensive defenceman who can compliment captain Taylor Thiessen.

Thumbs up to Colin O'Hara for pulling the trigger on a deal like this.


Is anybody else surprised at the lack of activity from Humboldt and Melfort? What about the six southern teams?

The Stars, Bombers, Wolves and Hawks have all made moves, but none are what I'd consider a true blockbuster.

Which team is going to make the first enormous splash of the offseason?

Monday, June 15, 2009

A quiet week in the Battlefords, but not in Nipawin and La Ronge.

Things have been quiet this week in the Battlefords. The club made an early offseason splash with the signings of Szucki, Speiss, Lane and Tatchell and now things are just... quiet.

Maybe a little too quiet.

Ken Pearson told me that he's done for the moment, and that fans shouldn't expect anything major within the next few weeks. With the Additions of Lane, Szucki and Tatchell, the Stars have 13 forwards plus several listed players that are going to challenge for spots. The only forwards not eligable to return are Josh Clare and Chris Jung because of age.

Can we logically assume that Pearson is 100% satisfied with the players he's got, and that the Stars are done?


But I think you and I both know that there's going to be more changes. Ryan Anderson, Dane Meunch and Brett Miller all have a tremendous shot to play in the DUB next season if they choose too.

Defensively it wouldn't be that suprising to see a guy like Klaussen start the season with the Saskatoon Blades.

The addition of Speiss to the blueline gives the Stars 7 defenceman that are all capable of cracking an SJHL roster. The only defenceman not coming back for sure would be Nick Martin (age).

It's no secret that the Stars need more scoring, and with almost "too many" sure things coming back, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if we saw some type of blockbuster deal for a skilled forward.

Any trade ideas?


Tonight on the Co-Op Leisure Time Sports Fix, I spoke to Nipawin Hawks Coach and GM Colin O'Hara. Colin is one of my favourite people to deal with in the league. He's candid, honest and always accomodating.

It's the first time I've spoken with him since the Stars/Hawks survivor series, and it was clear from the get-go of the interview that O'Hara was still very dissapointed with the result.

He confessed that his team wasn't tough enough during that series and that the Hawks weren't able to implement their game-plan on the Stars.

The Hawks have added two forwards to their club so far this season: Matt Spafford and Zachary Baba.

If memory serves correctly, Spafford was once listed with the Battlefords North Stars. I believe he was acquired in November 07 as part of the Flin-Flon trade that sent Barrett Penner to the Bombers. I'm not sure what happened with Spafford and the North Stars, but O'Hara is extremely optomistic that he can step in and be a top-six forward with Nipawin. O'Hara projected to have Spafford play on a line with Mike Rey.

Zach Baba is a tough kid. 37 games in a BC Junior B league, and he had over 300 minutes in penalty minutes. Tony Oak and Jordan Lane may have a tougher time being physical next season with a guy like Baba on the ice. I think the Hawks are really onto something with these two players.

O'Hara also talked in great detail about defenceman Taylor Thiessen. O'Hara announced early in the offseason that Thiessen would serve as the Hawk's captain for his final SJ season, and this was the only real choice that he had.

Taylor was the best Nipawin Hawk during the Survivor Series last year, and in my opinion is an early favourite to be the best defenceman in the SJHL next season.

Overall I was very pleased with my interview with O'Hara, and I wish him and the Hawks all the best.


The La Ronge Ice Wolves hope they've made a pair of transactions that will accelerate their rebuilding process.

The Ice Wolves acquired 1990 F Taylor Piller (Saskatoon SK) from the Humboldt Broncos to complete the January 10th trade that saw Joel Belair go to the Broncos. Piller had 13-goals and 11-assists in 38-games with Humboldt this past season. He added another goal and five helpers in 13-playoff contests and has been a member of two SJHL championship teams.

La Ronge head coach Bob Beatty is very happy to secure Piller, who has two more years of junior eligibility. “He's a solid two-way player and we feel he has even more offensive upside. He is going to see a lot of ice time for us and he is a proven winner. We are excited to have his positive attitude and proven experience come into our dressing room.”

The Ice Wolves also took care of some loose ends on a trade that saw Notre Dame pick up Kyle Ireland in the 2007-08 season by getting 1989 D Kirk Moore (Saskatoon SK). Moore had 4-goals and 18-assists in 44-games with the Hounds last year. “He's a veteran defenseman that can move the puck really well and he's responsible in all three zones. He has an excellent work ethic and Kirk is a real good team player,” said Beatty.

Also included from the Hounds were the CJHL list rights to 1989 G Garrett Zemlak (Saskatoon SK), who has been in the Western Hockey League for the last three years with Saskatoon and, more recently, Prince Albert.

The rebuilding process in La Ronge will not be an easy one but they are definitely on the right track after these two acquisitions. Battlefords North Star fans are certainly familiar with Kirk Moore. He spent most of the 07/08 season in the Battlefords and was pretty consistent. He's tough, dependable and should definitely see some powerplay time. He's a good guy too, and he's definitely a player who could probably wear an 'A' on his jersey.

The major perk regarding Pillar is his experience. The guy has been a part of two SJHL championship teams, and arguably was never utilized to his full potential in Humboldt. Pillar is a talented hockey player that should definitely be a major factor in La Ronge's offence.

Bob Beatty recently signed a contract extension with the Wolves, and I commend the organization for doing so. Beatty has been a guest on the Sports Fix on multiple occsasions, and if there's anybody who can bring this La Ronge team back to respectability FAST, it's him.


From TSN earlier this evening.

The Coyotes are Staying Put (For Now)

The Phoenix Coyotes are staying put for now, Hamilton is still on the outside looking in, and the NHL has managed to turn away Jim Balsillie once again.

Arizona bankruptcy Judge Redfield T. Baum rejected the Canadian billionaire's bold bid for the insolvent team Monday, saying in a 21-page ruling that there wasn't enough time to deal with all the unresolved issues raised by the unprecedented case.

Balsillie had sought to buy the Coyotes out of Chapter 11 protection with a US$212.5 million offer that was conditional on being able to move the team to Hamilton. He had set a June 29 closing date for the sale in an attempt to speed through the process and have the club in place for the 2009-10 season.

But Baum wouldn't have it.

There were a myriad of legal issues to deal with, including how much the NHL would get as a relocation fee, and not much time to sort them out. There was also a tentative auction set for June 22 looming.

"Simply put, the court does not think there is sufficient time (14 days) for all of these issues to be fairly presented to the court given that deadline," Baum wrote.

The ruling is a victory for the NHL, which had argued that the bid was designed to skirt league rules on the transfer of ownership and relocation and should be rejected for that reason.

The league also believes the Coyotes are still viable in Phoenix, even though the team has lost over $300 million since moving to the desert in 1996, according to court documents.

"We're pleased the Court recognized the validity of league rules and our ability to apply them in a reasonable fashion," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "We will turn our attention now toward helping to facilitate an orderly sales process that will produce a local buyer who is committed to making the Coyotes' franchise viable and successful in the Phoenix/Glendale area.

"We are confident that we will be able to find such a buyer for the Coyotes and that the claims of legitimate creditors will be addressed."

Hamilton, which had lined up behind Balsillie and was ready to welcome him with open arms, ends up a jilted bridesmaid once more, its hopes of becoming home to the seventh Canadian NHL team falling short just like several other previous attempts.

And Balsillie must settle for a public relations victory with his intelligent and successful Make It Seven marketing campaign after failing to close the deal just like in his previous attempts to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators.

Not that he was ready to give up just yet.

"Jim Balsillie's bid to bring a seventh NHL team to Canada continues," spokesman Bill Walker said in a statement.

"The court still controls the sale process. As a result, we look forward to hearing from the NHL soon on its view of our relocation application and an appropriate relocation fee, so as to allow the court to determine if that fee is reasonable.

"We still think there is enough time for the NHL to approve Mr. Balsillie's application and move the team to Hamilton by September. The court invited mediation on these issues and Mr. Balsillie is willing to participate in such mediation if the NHL is also willing to do so."

The decision puts an end to more than a month of intense legal wrangling over the team's future, put into motion when Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes surprised the NHL and filed for Chapter 11 protection on May 5.

A ruling was expected last week after a nearly seven-hour hearing June 9 ended with Baum telling the parties he wanted to sleep on the matter before deciding how they should proceed.

Baum offered hints of where his thinking was at during the hearing when he said he believed the NHL was entitled to a relocation fee if the Coyotes are moved to Hamilton, and put the league on notice that it may be ordered to work quickly to determine exactly how much that would be.

There were suggestions the sides go to mediation for the matter, but Thursday the court issued a notice saying Baum "will not be setting a separate hearing on the relocation and fee issue. It will be dealt with in the court's ruling from the (June 9) hearing."

That raised speculation a decision was imminent.

The relocation fee became critical since it would eat away from the money available to creditors, making Balsillie's bid virtually worthless to them should he decide not to pay it.

One of the lawyers for the co-CEO of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion let slip during the hearing that they believe the NHL would charge $100 million for the move -- a figure redacted from court documents and not confirmed by the league.

There may also have been some sort of indemnity fees demanded by or due to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres as compensation for the incursion into their territory, and it's unclear whether Balsillie would have been willing to ante up.

Richard Rodier, his representative, noted outside the courthouse last Tuesday that the deal allows Balsillie to walk away if there's a relocation fee, but the billionaire said in a statement Wednesday that he was one step closer to his goal of a seventh NHL team in Canada.

The NHL had steadfastly stuck to its view that there can be no relocation fee discussion until both an owner and the move have been approved by its governors.

The NHL had said it has received four expressions of interest from potential buyers interested in operating the Coyotes in Phoenix -- including Toronto Argonauts owners Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon, and Chicago White Sox and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

But lacking a firm offer prompted Baum to dismiss them as little more than hearsay.

The true test of their interest comes now.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Offseason Moves to this point, and napkin lineup ideas for next season.

Consider this the first of many blogs heading into the upcoming SJHL season. I know it's only June 8, but honestly not a day goes by where I don't think about the upcoming season.

Since you last read me, a lot has changed with the Stars and with the SJHL in general. Lets start with the new additions to the club and what can be expected from them this season.

Blake Tatchell - F

Blake Tatchell is no stranger to the Battlefords, and members of the Battlefords should be no stranger to him either. He led the Midget AAA Stars in scoring last season, and contributed offence when he played with the Jr. A Stars in a handful of games last season.

'Tatch' was a guest of mine two weeks ago on The Sports Fix, and he seems really pleased with his decision to stay in the Battlefords. I asked him what his goals were, and he said that he hopes he can score 20 goals and improve defensively. Every encounter I've had with Blake has been pleasant and I'm very excited for Blake to continue his career.

Jordan Lane - F

At 6'7 and 250lbs, it's probably safe to say that Jordan Lane will be among the tallest players in the league next season. His skating and speed are obvious question marks, but Ken Pearson is "big" on on this kid (No pun intended). He scored 10 goals as an 18-year-old in Dauphin two years ago and could be a top-nine forward for the Stars this season. Not only can Lane contribute offensively, but his toughness is undeniable. Aside from Tony Oak, and Mitch Wall, the Stars were a rather small team last year and Lane certainly changes that dynamic in a hurry. There is a chance that Lane could crack a WHL roster, but barring that, the Stars will obtain his services.

Ward Szucki - F

This is another player that Ken Pearson was extremely happy to acquire. A 6'3 forward with some good speed, size and finish. He scored 16 goals for the Yellowhead Chiefs last season in the Manitoba Midget AAA League.

Devon Speiss - D

Speiss was an all-star with the Yellowhead Chiefs last season and is another player that comes highly regarded from Manitoba. He's 6'2, a right-handed shot and according to the coach has tremendous poise and patience with the puck.

When you consider the fact that the Stars only made two offseason commitments last season (Valleau and Anderson) one must be pretty happy about the early progress of the offseason. If you look at the players who are eligable to return, this team seems to have a ton of depth at their disposal. If all of the Stars were to miraculously return next season, here's what I think you'd see:

Peake - Graf - Meunch

Wall - Leclerc - Szucki

Anderson - Tatchell - Lane

Oak - Miller/Toporowski - Watt

Other options at this point would include: Tanner Schwab, Skylar Dunser, Erik Pedersen.

Defensively it might look like this:

Lebreton - Kleidon

Klaussen - Brodbin

Speiss - Malek


And in goal:

Birch - Hilldebrand

Now I'm not exactly sure how different this lineup will look in September, but when I look at the lineup as is right now I really like how the team breaks down defensively. Goaltending is rock-solid, and offensively I think we are almost there. I think we are a legit number one centerman away from making a real run at the division.

More blogs to come with more regularity, I promise!