The Battlefords North Stars officially kick off their training camp on Friday. That leaves us with five more days to speculate and debate before all things become official.
Tonight we'll get an early glimpse of the upcoming season when I chat with North Star's President Ray Adelman. Adelman will be a first-time guest on the program, and together we'll talk about some of the finer points of last year, and tee up the 2010-2011 season. Adelman has worked tirelessly over the years behind the scenes to help bring this team back to respectability and I am looking forward to our conversation. You should too.
I hope that you can make it to the Black and White game on Sunday. The North Stars have wisely chosen to start the game at 12:00, giving people. a chance to also watch the Labour Day Classic which starts at 3:00. Last week I promised that I'd reveal a new 'nugget' of information regarding the Black and White game, and I still will. I'm just waiting for the official confirmation. I can confirm that Trent Cey will coach one team, and I will be coaching the other.
Lately a lot of people have been asking whether the SJ This Week will be running again this season. The answer is a resounding YES. Barring any last-minute chances, Martin Smith and I will be back hosting the program for a third straight year. I really enjoy co-hosting that program. I've taken some flak from fans over the years for some of my comments and opinions, but I enjoy the fact that I get to provide the 'color' on that show. It's always nice traveling to other rinks in the SJ and getting compliments about the program.
Right now I am in the midst of determining which members of the Battlefords North Stars are away at Western Hockey League camps. At this stage I'm aware of only two: Dane Muench (Regina Pats) and Kyle Schmidt (Calgary Hitmen). Muench scored a goal during an intra-squad game on Saturday and I'm thinking he's got just as good a chance as any to crack the Pats' roster. I really like Dane both as a player and as a person, and I'd love to see him back in North Star colors again. That being said. I sincerely wish him the best in Regina and I will be one of the first to call and congratulate him if when he makes the team.
As for Kyle Schmidt, I haven't seen him play a lot. But I do remember watching him at the North Star's spring camp, and he was easily one of the best players on the ice. Ken Pearson is very high on Kyle Schmidt, and for good reason: He was a third-round draft pick in the WHL, and I'd say has a fine chance of making the team in Calgary.
I will do my best to keep you updated on both kids and their status within their respective WHL training-camps.
Josh Lewis (Kindersley Clarion) is also a guest on the Sports Fix tonight. Lewis and I will discuss the rival Kindersley Klippers and what will be expected from them this season. Lewis will also give us the latest details on the West Central Events Center, and when we can expect hockey to return there.
On a personal note: I'm starting with a trainer on September 1st. I'll be on a 10-week program designed to help me lose 25 pounds. The goal is to work-out at least four times a week with a food plan featuring a lot of veggies, chicken, and water. It's going to be tough, but I'm ready for the challenge.
Enjoy your Monday, and thanks again for reading. I'm looking forward to visiting with you at the rink in a matter of days.
Eight days. Can you believe it? Training camp begins in eight days, and it's safe to say that the emotional roller coaster has already started moving.
For Ken Pearson, this will be a pivotal camp and a telling season. In just two seasons he has transformed a five-win team (in 07-08) into a championship threat - And now it's time to crank it up a notch.
I'll be very interested to speak with Pearson after the first day of camp and ask him about the 'message' of camp. If the Ken Perason era has taught us anything it is that nobody will have a free-ride. Any veterans who feel like they can coast through camp will be in for a rude awakening.
Here's the thing though: For the first time in my four years of covering the team, I am hard-pressed to think of any veterans who are 'on the bubble.' I am of the opinion that the all of the returning players will make this team if they want to.
Without naming names, I can cite at least four examples from previous seasons where second-year players did not make the final roster due to a poor training camp. Here's hoping that this year is different.
I want to wish a hearty congratulations to CJNB's Cody Nickolet. Nickolet will be leaving our radio family in mid-September to take over the color-commentary duties for the Saskatoon Blades. Cody did a brilliant job with color commentary last season for our broadcasts, and I wish him all of the best in Saskatoon. Our loss is truly their gain. Congratulations pal - This is well deserved.
That being said - Matt Ryan will be my main-man this season for color. Matt is a total pro, and loves this team so much. His energy on the radio is contagious, and I am blessed to share the booth on a regular basis with him. Not a day goes by where Matt and I don't communicate our mutual excitement for the upcoming season and the broadcasts.
As usual, the Annual Black vs. White game will be taking place on Sunday, September 5 at 12:00 noon from the Civic Center. I confirmed with coach Pearson yesterday, and I will be one of the coaches for that game. I imagine that Battlefords News Optimist sports reporter Trent Cey will oppose me again. Team White (coached by Trent) defeated Team Black (coached by me) last year 10-9 in O.T. and I'm anticipating a much different result this time around! I've coached in two of these games, and I have a record of 1-1.
Trent and I will have to discuss our wager for this year. I've also heard that there could be a new 'wrinkle' in the game this season. That's all I can say for now.
So far I've found the current poll question to be rather intriguing. It comes as no surprise that Brett Miller is leading, and Matt Spafford and Andrew Dommett are still battling for second - But I'm curious to know what 'OTHER' players you feel will be candidates for league leader.
Some other names that come to mind are Josh Daley, Dane Muench, Braudon Adamyk, John Calkins, Justin Buzzeo, Deven Stillar, Marc-Andre Carre, Shawn or Rodney Cowie and Taylor Duzan. Did I miss anybody?
Josh Lewis is the latest SJHL media member to create a blog. He's the sports reporter for the Kindersley Clarion paper, and in my opinion does a GREAT job! You can find the link to his blog on the right side of mine. I urge you to check it out because he truly knows his stuff.
I've made it no secret that I expect big things from Kindersley this season, and if you feel the same, this is a blog that you'll need to check and read regularly.
Are you going to Bridgefest this weekend? If so, I'll see you there. Thanks for reading, and as always your insight and comments are appreciated.
Training camp is just over two-weeks away, and the Battlefords North Stars have several question-marks heading into the season. I thought I'd instigate some discussion and throw these questions out there for all to ponder. You're comments and thoughts are certainly welcome.
1) Who is going to be the Captain/Assistant Captain(s) of the 2010-2011 Battlefords North Stars?
Earlier in the summer I had a poll-question on the blog which asked this very question. Tony Oak and Woody Klassen received the most votes, but Blake Tatchell and Brett Miller also garnered some serious consideration among the readers. Ken Pearson says that he's going to let things play out naturally over the course of training-camp. Mitch Wall was a phenomenal captain, and replacing that kind of leadership will be no easy feat. Would any of you be in favor of a rotating captaincy? What about a team without a true captain? Personally, I'd much rather see somebody with a permanent C on their sweater, but it's also something that cannot be forced. Your thoughts?
2) What do the Stars do about goaltending?
This very topic garnered the most response throughout last season, and I'm willing to bet that it's only going to pick-up. Both Kyle Birch (90) and Graham Hildebrand (91) are eligible to return, and both could EASILY be full-time starters in this league (or any for that matter). These two have platooned together for the past two seasons, and could very well be willing to do so for a third season - But knowing how competitive both guys are, I'd be shocked if that were the case. The stone cold fact is that Ken Pearson has two number-one goaltenders on his roster, and a very difficult decision to make. Have at it! What do you think the solution is for the Star's in goal?
3) Who will be the Go to Guy Line for the Stars this season?
Ken Pearson has always prided himself on fielding a four line team. He's never been one to lean too heavily on a particular line or player to get the job done. But for the sake of debate, lets assess what the Stars have up front, and how it could all work.
Josh Daley (90) Shay Neufeld (90) Tony Oak (90) Colin Phaneuf (90) Nathan Tomac (91) Boyd Wakelin (91) Brett Miller (91) Blake Tatchell (91) Dane Muench (92) Calder Neufeld (92) Tanner Schwab (92) Shayne Morrissey (92) Tim Rollins (92) Kyle Hall (92)
14 eligible forwards (before training camp) with 12 available spots up front per game. If you feel compelled to share your napkin line combos, go right ahead. Bare in mind that this is all supposed to be FUN.
4) What are the Star's lacking heading into 2010?
A number one defenceman? Defensive depth? Toughness? Special-teams? Nothing?
5) Which returning player will have a 'break-out' year?
Last year it was Brett Miller. Which sophmore player are you expecting better things from this time around?
One more time, these questions are not here to provoke controversy - They are here for FUN. I look forward to your responses.
You're going to want to tune into Monday's Co-Op Leisure Time Sports Fix. La Ronge Ice Wolve's coach and GM Bob Beatty, and Melfort Mustang's coach and DHO Darrell Mann are my confirmed guests.
The Battlefords North Stars have acquired defenceman Jacob Chiblow (1990) from the Orangeville Crushers of the OJHL (Junior A) in exchange for future considerations.
Two years ago Chiblow played in the R.B.C. tournament, and will bring some much needed experience and depth to the North Star's blueline. In 2008-2009, Chiblow tallied 22 points in 45 games. Chiblow is listed at 5'8, and 178lbs.
The Battlefords North Stars Junior A Hockey Club is pleased to announce that graduating player and assistant captain Jesse Lebreton has signed a contract with Neuilly-sur-marne Bisons, based in Paris France and play in the 1st division in France.
Lebreton will leave this Wednesday August 18th to begin training camp.
Last season with the North Stars Lebreton compiled 13 goals along with 23 helpers and had 28 PIM in 56 games.
The North Stars organization would like to congratulate Lebreton and thank him for his 3 years in the Battlefords.
The Battlefords North Stars Junior A Hockey Club is pleased to announce that graduating players, captain Mitch Wall, and assistant captain Brody Malek have signed contracts with the Columbus Cottonmouths of the Southern Professional Hockey League.
Both Wall and Malek will begin the task of playing pro starting at training camp October 9th, with their season opening October 22 in Columbus vs the Pensecola Ice Flyers.
Last season with the North Stars Wall compiled 14 goals along with 22 helpers and had 93 PIM in 46 games, while Malek had 7 goals and 6 assists in 52 games, along with 37 PIM.
The North Stars organization would like to congratulate both Mitch and Brody and thank them for their 3 years in the Battlefords.
Guest one will be a good friend of the show: The head-coach of the Battlefords Midget AAA Stars, Martin Smith.
Smith and his staff held training camp this weekend for the AAA Stars which wrapped up yesterday with the Black and White game. It's an important season for the Stars, who are trying to get back into the playoff picture. Smith is adamant that expectations are higher this year, and that simply getting to the playoffs won't be good enough.
Together we'll recap training camp, and get his take on some of the players who really impressed. We'll also talk about some of the veterans, and who he feels could be due for a breakout season.
Guest two will be the play-by-play voice of the AJHL's Bonnyville Pontiacs, Robb Hunter. Hunter has covered the Pontiacs for the last handful of seasons, and really knows his stuff when it comes to Junior Hockey across Canada. Together we'll tee up the upcoming season from an Alberta perspective and give you a glimpse of how Junior Hockey works outside of Saskatchewan. I've had the good fortune of watching some AJHL in recent years, and I've always been impressed with their product.
Finally, I'll be talking CFL - More specifically about the struggles of the Edmonton Eskimos and the BC Lions.
The poll-question for tonight's program is:
At this point of the season, would you rather be The BC Lions or the Edmonton Eskimos?
Which of these two teams has the better 'upside?' Is there one team who's glass is half-full? Does either team have a chance at making the playoffs in your opinion?
I know this blog is usually reserved for hockey, but if you feel compelled, I'd love to read your answers.
BC or Edmonton - Who would you rather be right now, if you had to choose?
Send me your responses quickly, and I'll do my best to read them on the program. You can also e-mail me a response at email@example.com
Late last week I reported that the Battlefords North Stars had acquired a veteran defenceman from out-of province. I can tell you that the deal has been approved by the SJHL, but we are still waiting on approval from the other league that's involved. I apologize for the lengthy delay in making this news public, but surely you can understand where I'm coming from.
North Star fans can also look forward to another announcement coming soon involving three 20-year-olds from year's club.
In closing, I want to commend the many fans, parents and friends who came out to the Civic Center yesterday in the afternoon to watch the Black vs. White game at AAA Camp. People don't always realize it, but fan support can make a huge difference to a player's comfort level and motivation.
Bottom line: The Battlefords and surrounding area have some dynamite fans.
Enjoy your week, and don't forget to tune into the show tonight. It starts at 8:00 on 1050 CJNB/ 102.3 FM CJNS.
Yesterday I caught up with North Star's coach and GM Ken Pearson. Here's a small transcript of our chat:
DO: Any other irons in the fire that you can give us a hint towards:
KP: With us losing the physical presence of Mitch Wall, and Troy Watt and his sand-paper type style up front - We're still maybe looking to add that type of forward to our group. We really like our skill up front, but I still think we still need to add a little more grit to our lineup. Our backend, right now that's the main thing that I've tried to hone in on. Trying to make us more experienced, and more mobile and physical back there at the same time.
DO: You want to shed some light on your own personal optimism knowing that Training Camp is just around the corner?
KP: Our Camp (for myself) starts this weekend with the AAA's. We're going to have a number of prospects there which will move onto our camp at the beginning of September. I'm really excited. I really like our 50-man list. I like some of the free-agent guys that we've attracted to our camp. I think we're sitting as best as we have in the short time that I've been apart of the organization. I think we're going to have some real battles for spots on our hockey club.
DO: Have you given any thought moving forward as to which players on the current roster you feel can fill the void of a captain or an assistant captain?
KP: I think we're going to let it play out through the pre-season. There are some obvious candidates, but until we're ready to name our four guys (our captain and three assistants), we're going to let it play out and see which guys do step up to the forefront and take on those leadership roles. I think we've got a good core of guys in that room, and there's (again) going to be some tough choices to make.
I can also confirm that the North Stars have acquired a veteran defenceman from out-of-province. Details to come once everything has been approved by the league.
Happy Friday the 13th. Don't forget to buy a lotto ticket!
I am back from vacation, and read to rock. It may sound strange, but I am elated to be back, knowing full well that hockey season will soon be upon us. Don't get me wrong, I love the summer - But once the fall strikes, I'm back in my element and at my happiest.
Battlefords North Stars season-tickets are on sale now. Adult tickets are $239, Students are $145 and a children's pass is $100. This may seemed biased, but I defy anybody to find 'better value' anywhere else in the area. The Stars front-office has worked tirelessly over the last handful of years to improve the game-day presentation for the fan, and given how promising this season appears to be, you won't want to miss out.
The 2010/2011 Broadcasting Schedule is posted below this entry. I apologize for the delay in posting it, but it's up now, and we can begin the analysis. Is there a particular game or section of the schedule that you're especially looking forward to?
A former Battlefords North Star has been rewarded for his strong play at the NHL level.
Defenceman Jordan Hendry has resigned with the Chicago Blackhawks for another year. The 26-year-old recorded eight points for the Blackhawks. In 43 games last season, and also dressed in 15 playoff games during their run to the Stanley Cup.
Hendry has been a three-time guest on the Co-Op Leisure Time Sports Fix.
I want to thank Yorkton Terrier's Head-Coach and Associate GM Trent Cassan for taking the time to come on the Co-Op Leisure Time Sports Fix on Monday. It was the first time I've had him on the program, but it won't be the last. Cassan led the Terriers on a tremendous run to the SJHL Finals, and it'll be interesting to see how the Sherwood Conference plays out this season. It's always hard to analyze teams on paper, but I feel like the Sherwood (one through six) may be the stronger division this season.
That's all for now, but don't be surprised if you get another entry from me later today. I know for a fact that coach Ken Pearson has some 'irons in the fire' and there could be a player announcement on the blog before the week ends.