Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On We Go.

Good morning,

I hope that your week is off to a great start, and as the month of May draws nearer, I hope that you've been able to take advantage of the outdoors. My goal during the spring and summer is to at least provide a weekly update on the blog. It's a slower time for the local stuff, but things are bound to pick up once baseball, and track get into full swing.

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Most loyal readers are aware of the fact that I'm originally from the Vancouver area, and have considered myself a die-hard Canucks fan for as long as I remember. Naturally the past two weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions, which all blew up when Alex Burrows fired a knuckler through Corey Crawford to win Game Seven in overtime. Overall I truly feel like the better team won. I think Henrik Sedin said it best when he said that the Canucks were the better team in five of the seven games. That being said, the Chicago Blackhawks deserve all the credit in the world for turning a dud of a series into one of the best in recent memory. Right now I'm mulling over whether Alex Burrow's O.T. goal is a bigger goal than Pavel Bure's double-overtime winner in 1994. Right now, I'll say yes. The Nashville Predators are next, and there is no doubt in my mind that the Canucks will be in tough. They may lack the flash up front, but they've got a world-class goaltender and a great group of defensemen. This series could very-well go the distance, and I expect a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 type of games.

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I admit that being a Canucks fan isn't easy at the best of times, but there are a lot of jerks out there who are making it especially difficult lately. I'm referring to the current twitter-feud taking place between former Calgary Flame's forward Theo Fleury and some alleged fans of the Canucks. For those who are unaware, Fleury predicted that the Canucks would choke in the first-round of the playoffs, and his remarks were received poorly by some Vancouver fans.

While most fans are able to brush those opinions off and take them with a grain of salt, other fans decided to respond harshly to Fleury and bring up some of his past demons and publicly tried to ridicule him through Twitter. Fleury has not been shy of posting some of the harsh tweets for his followers to read, and quite frankly I am shocked with how insensitive and stupid some folks are.

Any fan who feels the need to bring up somebody's addictions, and past traumas due to a playoff prediction is an idiot. The actions from these Canuck fans is classless, completely distasteful and frankly it's embarrassing to all real Canuck fans out there. I guess that's the curse and the blessing of the internet. Anybody can log on, and talk smack with full anonymity without fearing the consequences. That's why I always appreciate the posters on this blog who include their names.

I think that Fleury's story is inspiring, and he deserves full respect from hockey fans everywhere.

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Yesterday I ran 4.6 miles in 46 minutes. I only have 1.6 more to go until I get to 10K. Yesterday's run was difficult, but the important thing is that I finished it. By the end of May I hope to be running 5-miles comfortably. We'll see how it goes.

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Earlier this week I went to the driving-range for the first time since my golf-trip to Phoenix in January. I'm in the midst of a grip-change, and honestly things went better than I expected on the range. I'm still not ready for my first round of the year yet, but hopefully by early next week I'll be comfortable enough with the adjustments that I can take them onto the course and actually enjoy myself.

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Two more Game Sevens tonight! I love this time of year.

That's all for now, but as always you are welcome to weigh in and share your thoughts on anything going on in the sporting world. I appreciate all of your readership, and I hope you continue to feel welcomed as a part of the North Star Nation community.

DO

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sports Fix Recap.

Good morning,

I hope your week is off to a great start, and here's hoping by the end of this week that golf courses across this great province of ours will be open and good to go. I know for a fact that the North Battleford Golf and Country Club is opening it's doors tomorrow (Wednesday) and the Jackfish Lodge Golf Course hopes to be open by the weekend.

I want to start by recapping last night's edition of the Co-Op Leisure Time Sports Fix where I spoke with La Ronge Ice Wolves' goaltender Adam Bartko.

Bartko (as many know) is originally from the Battlefords, and started his junior career with the North Stars in 2008-2009. When the 08-09 season came to an end, Bartko was a member of the Notre Dame Hounds and was expected to challenge for a starting job with Notre Dame in 2009-2010. Things changed with Todd Mathews turned up in Notre Dame and all of a sudden Bartko was the odd-man out. He headed home, and hoped for a phone call.

He could have sulked, and he could have given up. Instead, Bartko got that phone call a few days later from Ice Wolves' coach and G.M. Bob Beatty. Fast forward two years later, and he's got two championships under his belt, and likely some solid scholarship options to come later this summer.

I thought Adam spoke very professionally, and didn't appear to hold any grudges. I respect that. Bartko and the Ice Wolves will face the Portage Terriers tonight in Game Three of the Anavet Cup. Puck drops at 7:30 from the Mel.

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My second guest on the Sports Fix was Midget AAA Stars Governor Bruce Yockey. Together we recapped the Midget AAA Spring-Camp which took place this past weekend, and also we talked about High School football at great length.

Yockey will be the head-coach of the JP 2 Crusaders Nine-Man Football squad that has just joined the Northwest Nine-Man Conference for 2011. I love the fact that JP 2 has entered the fray, and has provided football fans with another local high-school team to go out and support. Yockey expects that his team will take some lumps through the first year or two, but there is no doubt in my mind that with some patience, and appropriate enrollment that JP 2 can field a competitive squad.

I always appreciate Yockey's visits to the show. He's welcome anytime.

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I enjoy the NHL playoffs as much or more than most people, but it's been really difficult to fully embrace them this year due to all of the dirty hits, and suspension talk that seems unavoidable.

Julie asked me last night whether hockey has "always been this way?" or whether it's only a big-deal because "everybody seems to be talking about it now." I do know that five years ago there was very little conversation regarding 'head-shots' and suspensions were by no means theconstant source of conversation.

What I wouldn't give to hear a TSN or CBC panel discussing the players, the saves and the goals rather than dirty hits and Colin Campbell. Perhaps tonight?

Feel free to weigh in if you feel so compelled.

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So far, so good as far as the 10 k training goes. I'm up to 40 minutes without stopping, and I'm feeling good about my speed and my conditioning to this point. Tomorrow I'm shooting for 43 minutes. We'll see how it goes.

Have a great Tuesday!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mid-Week Thoughts.

Good morning,

First and foremost I would like to congratulate the La Ronge Ice Wolves and Yorkton Terriers for providing fans across the province with some outstanding, riveting hockey over the past week or so. One team had to win, and last night the Ice Wolves were able to hold on at home.

I think that all of the praise towards head-coach and G.M. Bob Beatty is entirely appropriate. He'll be the first to shrug it off, but when you consider what he's done up North to not only build a winner, but to maintain a winner, it certainly is commendable. He found a goaltender that nobody else wanted (Bartko) and gave him the window to become a two-time champion and a co-playoff M.V.P. Under his reign, Travis Eggum transformed himself from a third-line grinder to a 58 goal scorer. The list goes on.

I think that the Ice Wolves organization as a whole needs to be recognized for their success, and I wish them all of the best in the Anavet Cup and beyond should they get there.

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The Yorkton Terriers put forth a tremendous effort all series, and had it not been for Adam Bartko, perhaps they are off to Manitoba for an all-Terrier battle. Trent Cassan did a marvelous job at holding this team together through hords of injuries, and certainly deserves strong recognition for what he has been able to accomplish in his first two years as a head-coach.

The loss will sting for awhile I'm sure, but in the bigger picture, the city of Yorkton has to be extremely proud of the Terriers, and I hope they are welcomed with open-arms.

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I also want to commend the job that Access 7 did covering this series. Over the years I have gotten to know some of the staff at Access pretty well, and I tip my cap to both the Northern and Southern crews that filmed, produced and pieced together a solid production that would make any fan proud.

I felt that Mike Stackhouse and Jay Boyd were tremendous. Both provided solid balance, knowledge and personality to the series, and I take pride on calling myself a colleague of both men. Mitchell Blair's ice-level reporting was top-notch as well. I would jump at the chance to call a game alongside any of those three men. It's always easier to hate on a broadcaster than it is to compliment one, and I feel like those three
were in top-form throughout the series, and I am grateful for that.

Sticking with the broadcasters, I didn't get to listen to any of the radio coverage. But I wanted to congratulate both Daniel Fink and Craig Stein on their solid coverage both on and off the air. I've really enjoyed reading their blogs, and tweets surrounding the series. Both are extremely dedicated, with a great sound, and both are salt-of-the-earth guys away from the microphone who have never once hesitated to help me out. Congrats fellas on a job well done, and I'd love to buy you both a pint or two if we can meet up at some point this summer.

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I imagine that there will be at least one more edition of the SJHL This Week Radio Show that will be published on the website at some point. The overall purpose of the show will be to recap the Ice Wolves' run to the Credit Union Cup. I'll keep you posted once I've been given some instructions.

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The NHL playoffs begin tonight, and there are five games going tonight. Those who know me well know that I'll be glued to the Vancouver-Chicago game. I'm not going to make any bold playoff predictions, because I'd rather not set myself up ridicule and disappointment. What I will say though is that I'm a big fan of hockey-pools, and I've selected a lot of Canucks, Sharks and Bruins in those respective drafts.

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In addition to all of this hockey-watching, I'm also in the midst of deciding on a summer workout goal. I'm happy to report that I am 23 pounds lighter today than I was back on September 1st, and I think I'm ready for a new challenge. I'm toying with the idea of signing up for a 10K run in late August of this year.

I've never attempted to run that kind of distance before, but I think it's an achievable goal that would also help me shed some more weight and gain some more athletic confidence. As it stands right now, I can run for 40 minutes (approx 6.5 K) comfortably at a slow to medium pace. I think that with 4.5 months of consistent training, I should be able to get there.

Before I officially decide, I'm going to consult both my doctor and my trainer. Here's hoping that I get their stamps of approval before I undertake something like this. I know that there are likely some readers that are thinking, "10 K is easy!" Believe me, not when your name is Dan O'Connor.

Enjoy the hockey tonight, and I'll check in again sooner than later!

DO

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring Camp Recap.

While the Yorkton Terriers and La Ronge Ice Wolves duke it out for SJHL supremacy, the Battlefords North Stars are hard at work making preparations for next season.

This weekend the Stars held their annual spring camp, where handfuls of North Star hopefuls tried to strut their stuff in front of the coaching staff and fans.

The camp wrapped up Sunday with Green defeating White 7-6 in regulation time.

I spoke with coach Ken Pearson after camp ended. Here is a transcript of our conversation.

DO: Overall are you and the rest of the staff impressed with what you saw?

KP: Throughout the weekend it got better. Sunday here was the best day. Saturday we did some skill stuff, and today we cut teams down, went with two, and saw some kids compete hard. We'd have to say it was a success. We're certainly going to have some kids from this camp that will be invited back in the fall.

DO: Let's start up front. Obviously one of the main areas that this team is going to address is adding some more grit. Did you enough of that out there that you feel you have a solid enough foundation?

KP: There were a couple of guys we liked, with the energy that they played with. For the most part I think that there was a guy or two here this weekend that will bring that ingredient to our forward group come fall.

DO: Defensively are you happy with what you saw?

KP: There were a couple of kids from out of province that we are pretty happy with. Some Alberta kids brought some good mobility and physicality. That's something that we are really going to try and improve on, especially on the back end. We want to make it tougher to play in front of our own end. Most importantly we want a good stay-at-home guy or two that's tough to play against. There are a couple of guys here that I thought had a good weekend with that.

DO: In goal did you see any promise from these kids. Someone who may challenge (Graham Hildebrand) next year?

KP: Two of the three are probably going to need another year of AAA, but lots can change between now and then. We liked what we've seen from the three goaltenders. They competed hard, and were given lots of ice-time and opportunity to see some pucks. Certainly we have to make some decisions on which guys we'll bring back to our fall camp.

DO: Is there anybody you want to single out for their strong efforts this week:

KP: Not at this point. I think we had some guys that had some good games, and it was kind of a different group of guys every night and every game. It wasn't one guy who stood out every game. You can't find out guy and say 'he was the best every time.' It's kind of nice, but at the same time you would like to see the guys play with a little more consistency. But that's going to happen with these guys. They're all
rookies, all competing for a chance to come back to camp in the fall. They're going to find out over the next day or two what they need to improve on in order to come back and compete for a job in the fall.

Keep in mind, I wasn't there for the entire weekend, but a few players certainly stood out for me.

Up front, Colby Cave was one of the stand-outs. Cave has all of the tools to be a go-to guy in the SJHL He can skate, he can shoot, and he has strong drive and hustle. Keep in mind that Cave is property of the Swift Current Broncos, and will likely be given every opportunity to crack that squad as a 17-year-old next season.

I really liked the hustle of forward Jaimen Yakubowski. The 16-year-old was the captain of the Beardys Blackhawks last season, and brought a lot of physicality and grit to the table. I know that he impressed the coaching staff, and also some of the players who were in attendance as well. Boyd Wakelin even joked that Yakubowski could be the left-winger next year with him and Robbie Newton. Yakubowski is property of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, and I imagine that he will be strongly considered for a spot on next year's team.

Another forward that I was impressed with was Jared Samborski. Samborski never quits. He certainly brings that 'sand-paper' element to the table, and could be given a strong look come the fall assuming he's invited to training-camp.

Defensively there were two that I really liked. One was Dillon Forbes. Forbes played last season with the North Stars during the playoffs, and was solid. With a little more seasoning and strength, there is no doubt in my mind that Forbes could be a mainstay on any blue-line for the next three years. Here's hoping it's in the Battlefords.

Another player that caught my eye was defenceman John Larre. Larre played Midget AA last year, and also played some Senior hockey in St. Walburg. Larre moves the puck really well, and has a really hard shot from the point.

Coach Pearson is now going to be taking a little bit of time off to recharge the batteries before hitting the ground hard for recruiting purposes soon.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Neurauter Signs With S.A.I.T.

 The Battlefords North Stars hockey club is pleased to announce Cris Neurauter (10-11)will join SAIT and the Men’s Hockey team for the 2011/12 season. SAIT plays in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference. 

Neurauter joined the North Stars in October 2010 and finished the regular season with 6goals, 33 assists and 101 penalty minutes in 52 games. He was named the North Stars Humanitarian award at their banquet in February.
  
Neurauter will enrol in power engineering.  The North Stars would like to thank Crisfor his contribution to the hockey team and wish him well in his future endeavours.

 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

She Said Yes!

I sincerely apologize for the lack of blogging as of late, but in this instance, I feel like I have some good reasoning.

It is with great pleasure that I announce the fact that I am now engaged to my girlfriend of (nearly) three years, Julie Larson.



Julie and I went to Edmonton earlier this week to watch the Canucks and Oilers play. For those interested, here is a brief summary of our trip together.

We left for Edmonton on Monday night. En route I told Julie that we would be staying for two nights at the Fantasyland Hotel in Edmonton. Originally I told her that we were staying with family friends in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. She was thrilled with the surprise.

When we got to Edmonton I was told that we had received a free room upgrade at the hotel. Instead of a normal Executive Suite, we were moved to a Roman theme-room.

That night, Julie and I went to Bourbon Street at the mall, and had a few drinks to celebrate our arrival.

The next day we enjoyed a buffet breakfast, and some shopping at the mall. We ate lunch at one of the finest establishments ever created, Hooters!




After lunch, we headed to Rexall Place. We got there nice and early so that Julie could take photos of the warmup. We also got some photos with The Great One!









After the game, we went to Whyte Ave. with my good friend Mitch Czibere. Together the three of us had some laughs, shared some stories and killed some time before the big moment.

Right around this point in the evening, I'm starting to feel very nervous, knowing full well what's about to happen.

Mitch very kindly dropped us off at the hotel, and as we went up the elevator I knew that it was time.

Julie walked into the room first, and immediately she noticed the champagne on ice, and the rose petals scattered throughout the room. When her back was turned, I grabbed a small box out of my backpack.

I got down on one knee, and asked Julie to marry me. She said Yes and we officially became engaged!

I gave her a ring that used to be long to my Mom. Before my Mom passed away, she made it clear that she wanted me to give her ring to Julie. I told Julie that my Mom's ring was to be a 'symbol' of our engagement, before she got her engagement ring.

Several phone calls were made, and statuses were changed on faceook. We capped the night off with some champagne and a jacuzzi.

The next morning we ate breakfast, made some more calls, and we decided to head back into the mall to investigate how much if would cost to size the first ring.

We decided to go to Peoples in the mall, and while we were heading towards the store, I told Julie to look at some rings, and if she saw THE ONE, that I would get it for her.

She did:



So Julie ended up getting two rings instead of one! But the one posted above is her engagement ring. This weekend we're off to Saskatoon to get both rings sized, so that she can wear her engagement ring, and my Mom's ring as a symbol of her approval and love.

We got back into North Battleford last night at around 5:30, and we were both back at work today.

The two of us continue to be peppered with congratulatory phone calls and messages, and for that we are extremely grateful. We've agreed that we're going to tie the knot during the summer of 2013. This way we have plenty of time to plan and get set for the big day.

I want to say thanks again to everybody who has supported our relationship. Julie and I have so many fond memories here in the Battlefords, and I felt compelled to share this good news with you via the blog. Hope you enjoyed reading it, as much as I enjoyed living it earlier this week.

Dan and Julie

Star's Spring Camp Schedule.

Battlefords North Stars Spring Camp Schedule

Friday April 8th

Registration

4:00-5:00 Civic Centre
5:00-5:45- Practice Team 1 Black
6:00-6:45- Practice Team 2 White
7:30-9:00- Team 1 vs Team 2

Saturday April 9th

10:00-11:15- Team 1 vs Team 2

1:00-2:00 Practice Team 2

2:45-3:45 Practice Team 1

6:30-8:00 Team 1 vs Team 2

Sunday April 10th

10:30-12:00- Team 1 vs Team 2