Thursday, August 4, 2011

North Star Reflections - Part 1

Good morning,

The reality of my move to Prince George is starting to take effect. I gave my one-month notice for my apartment on Sunday, and now I get to start costing out U-Hauls, and figuring out the logistics of a move to B.C. between now and the 12th of August (my last day at CJNB).

For those curious about the future of this blog, let me address that situation right now.

The Prince George Cougars have very kindly given me the 'green light' to continue this blog. Naturally my writing focus will soon shift to the Prince George Cougars and the Western Hockey League, but I will certainly be following the SJHL from B.C. and will happily throw in some thoughts and opinions when necessary. The site's address will not change, but the colors, the title and the focus will all be different by August 14th. I encourage everybody who's become a loyal reader over the past three years to continue to follow the blog. I also want to take this time to welcome any new readers.


The cool thing about my four years in the Battlefords is that all four years were profoundly different. I wanted to se my final days in the Battlefords to reflect on those years, and help provide some insight into what each of those four years meant to me on a personal level. I can't help but look at the growth of the North Stars over the past four years, and feel like I've grown up right along with them.

Season One:

I arrived in the Battlefords on July 23, 2007 after a year in Chetwynd/Dawson Creek B.C. The first time I had ever visited Saskatchewan was for my interview at CJNB//CJNS. I was a B.C. boy with no real Saskatchewan connections, and I quickly learned what it took to survive in this province: A warm jacket, and a lot of green t-shirts. (Yes, I am a Rider's fan, and that won't change when I move back to B.C.)

The 2006-2007 Battlefords North Stars had been bounced in the first-round by the Nipawin Hawks, and the 2007-2008 group was hungry for a better result. Head-Coach Gary Clark was bringing back some impressive veterans like: Nick Kalnicki, Jason Walker, Barrett Penner, and Rick Cey up front. The defense looked promising with Corey Demko, Jesse Lebreton, Ryan Scheafer and Brody Malek in the fold, and Clark had two promising 18-year-old goaltenders (Adrian Lemay and Ryan Kerpan) who would battle for playing time.

It was relatively clear from the start that the 07-08 North Stars would be in tough. They started with a 3-2 overtime loss to Kindersley at home, and then followed that up with a 12-3 loss on the road the next night. At the end of September, the team had only won twice, and it seemed like the only solution was to start rebuilding.

In early October Gary Clark traded Barrett Penner, Scott Day, Corey Demko and Trent Lizzee away in separate deals, and while the losses kept mounting - The team remained as positive as possible. Players like Jesse Lebreton, Mitch Wall, Tony Oak, Coleman Brodbin, and Brody Malek were getting valuable ice-time which would prove to be key for their long-term development. In December the Star's traded Nick Kalnicki and Jason Walker to Melfort, which signaled that the Stars were in a full rebuild mode, and a month later Gary Clark was relieved of his duties as Coach and G.M.

Still to this day I have nothing but kind things to say about Gary Clark. He made every effort to make me feel welcome in a new city, and even when the losses kept mouthing, he never quit on his team. The popular consensus was that Clark was a great coach but simply didn't have the greatest grasp of being a team's General Manager. I'm not defending or rebuking him, but the Star's list wasn't exactly in the greatest shape to begin with.

The Stars finished the season with only five wins, but again the thing that truly sticks out for me was the fact that the guys never quit. They always battled, kept a great attitude, and it was almost like they knew that better days were ahead for them.

Jesse Lebreton even went so far as refusing a trade to a Sherwood Conference team simply because he enjoyed the Battlefords so much.

Thinking back, my first season in the broadcast booth for the Battlefords North Stars was likely choppy, inconsistent and 'all over the place!' But by the end of Year One, I felt like I was beginning to gain a stronger understanding of the league, the players and the way that everything was setup.

Some personal highlights from Year One included:

- Calling a game on a cell-phone at the Showcase in Saskatoon.
- Getting introduced to the likes of: Rob Hart, Craig Stein, Darryl Skender, Kenny Trenton, Dallas Hicks, Darren Dupont, Blaine Weyland and Kevin Smith.
- Getting to know the parents, fans and players on a friendly level.

I can proudly say that after one full season in the Battlefords I was more comfortable and better acquainted with the goings on of the SJHL. Year Two would provide a series of new challenges and excitement. I'll hit on those reflections this weekend at some point.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear that your leaving the Battlefords Dan.. I will still follow your blog on a daily basis.. Have you heard who your replacement will be at CJNB?? I will try and listen to some Prince George games on the net..