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Monday, October 31, 2005

A hockey fan ranting

Regardless of what you think of Simon Gamache, the guy knew how to play and score on his terms in a league that was a lot less merci'ful to people standing in front of the pipes. Why is the "new" and "better" hockey not allowing people with skills to play? Waivers? That's b*llsh*t. In the AHL there are people who are not playing this year because of the National Hockey League's Collective Bargaining Agreement. I know, I know... broken record... The hardcore fan is getting sick of this. It's the rules, it's the CBA, it's new hockey and it s*cks.

They've taken some good steps in getting rid of the trap and replaced it with stuff that is apparently more appealing to someone, though the hard-core fan hasn't a clue who this mythical spectator is. Why not share the demographic target with us? Are those of us who watch too blue-collar to understand the musings of the gods of hockey?

In the minors, the situation is even more desperate. This (Gamache not being allowed to play in Milwaukee is an example of "this") minor league game has become what the AHL's East Coast fans have been calling for: a development league. Every team I've profiled so far is full of juniors and people two or three years out of the juniors.

Take this development league philosophy and shove it. It isn't leading to team loyalty, that comes from exciting games and player and fan chemistry. These new rules are excluding that. I don't follow the NHL. I follow the AHL. I follow the Chicago Wolves, the Belfast Giants and that is it. I only follow the NHL with regard to the people I've seen who have played HERE. (HEY BHAWKS, LISTEN UP)

If you want to talk about AHL excitement and development league philosophy, you must be from Wilkes-Barre, because there is more and better entertainment choices in Chicago, and a slew of sports entertainment choices too, that places like Wilkes-Barre envy.

Scouting the Milwaukee Admirals

The Ads enter the game on a two game streak. The Ads have had a two streaks this year, first a four game losing streak, now a two game winning streak. Claude Noel continues as the Ads head coach. Since starting as the head coach two years ago, Noel has a 93-48-12-7 record and has taken the Ads to the post-season each year. With a skilled goalie backed by a veteran goalie, the Ads have no problems in the pipes. So why are they so slow to start this year?

The Ads currently have the number one penalty killing team at home. Doug Pettit may end up replacing Kyle Schultz in the broadcast booth. That role is currently filled with an apparent rotation of local talent.

Simon Gamache has not produced in the NHL and will not clear waivers and is therefore not expected back in Milwaukee. Here is a quote apparently from a Nashville source: “Short-shifted: Forward Simon Gamache barely saw the ice in Wednesday's loss to the Blue Jackets, getting just four shifts and 2:02 ice time.

"He had a couple shifts early and I didn't feel very confident in his game, so I made that decision early," Trotz said. "The way the game was going, with all the special teams, I just thought I'd need other personnel more.

"We do have a large amount of small, skilled guys, so he's looking at the time guys like (Martin Erat, Paul Kariya and Steve Sullivan) would get. That limits Simon's abilities."

Pekka Rinne (Does anyone know how to pronounce Pekka?) is a fresh-faced Finn who has been the Ads mainstay in the pipes. He has scored a very respectable 1.76 GAA so far this year. That is the fourth-best in the AHL this season. Matched by his save percentage of .937. Milwaukee fans are already comparing him to Kari Lehtonen.

He is backed by Brian Finley. Finley hasn’t spent much time playing this season yet. He was a first round, number six overall pick for the Predators. Last season he had 2.29 GAA.

Scottie Upshall played for the Kamloops Blazers and the Silver-medal winning Canadian juniors in 2002. He is turning into a Milwaukee fan favorite. Shea Weber was a leading defenseman on the 2004 and 2003 cup winning Kelowna Rockets. He had 32 points in the Kelowna 2003-4 campaign and 41 points while on the 2004-5 campaign. He was also on the 2005 Canadian gold medal junior team. Jordin Tootoo, whose seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings noted 214 Pims, 172, 272 and 216 Pims, remains a 182 pounder unable to make it in the NHL. He went up to Nashville earlier this season, but has been sent down. He had 266 Pims last season in the Ads and started in two games this year with 27 Pims. For some reason, perhaps his Inuit background, he remains a fan favorite.

Juniors of interest include Timofei Shishkanov a Russian who played with the Quebec Remparts during juniors, earned 35 points last year with the Ads and 43 points the year before. Paul Brown played two years ago for the Kamloops Blazers. He had 229 and 222 Pims there in his last two years, with 56 and 31 points respectively. Marco Rosa played last season with the Long Beach Ice Dogs after time at Merrimack College. The ECHL was good to Marco as he more than doubled his point production to 65 from 25. Greg Zanon played on the University of Nebraska-Omaha team before skating with the Ads two years ago. He is wearing the C.

Brandon Segal played with the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL. Kevin Klein played on the Guelph Storm and the Toronto St. Michael's Majors. Robert Snowball played with the Victoriaville Tigres until two seasons ago. He has played most of the season with the Toledo Storm and has not yet played a game with the Ads. Libor Pivko is two years out of the Czech leagues has been generally unremarkable, except for a hat trick scored against Chicago last year. Ryan Glenn has not been an entity since graduating from St. Lawrence University.

Returning to the Ads are Darren Haydar. He scored 59 points in the Ads Calder winning season and 50 points last year. And also, Vernon Fiddler scored 42 points last season while with the Ads. He was recalled to Nashville on October 28 due to an injury to Greg Johnson. He is expected to return soon.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Scouting the Houston Aeros

The Aeros come into the 2005-6 campaign with new experience at the helm: Rob Daum,a new coach to the AHL, has lots of great experience and it will be exciting to watch. Rob was formerly an assistant with Team Canada, and has a great record coaching the University of Alberta Golden Bears. His record there since 2001 is 120-9-11. WOW! The Golden Bears under Daum won 3 back-to-back national titles and six Canada West titles in ten seasons.

He’s backed by Matt Shaw. Shaw coached for the Wolves, though most locals will remember his time with the Quad City Mallards, where he led the team to a 53-15-5 season in 1999-00.

It should be apparent that Daum has an ability to motivate young players and the AHL has lots of them this year. The Aeros most exciting young prospect is the unlikely fellow in the adjoining photo. He’s a Belarus named Roman Voloshenko. Voloshenko played in Russia’s Krylja Sovetov last season. He played on the silver medal Russian U-18 team. He scored 9 points in 8 games so far this year.

Josh Harding is in goal. Two seasons out of the juniors, where he played most recently for the Brandon Wheat Kings and the Regina Pats, he had a 2.01 GAA in the previous season.

The back-up goalie is Czech Miroslav Kopriva.

Kurtis Foster, a one time Wolf, is back playing D. He was traded for Niclas Havelid. Foster 42 points in the 2002-3 Wolves campaign, 30 points in the 2003-4 Wolves campaign and 42 points in the Cincy Ducks final season.

Here’s a rundown of the rest of the youngsters. Adam Courchaine is fresh from the Vancouver Giants where he scored at least 78 points in each of the last three seasons. Patrick O’Sullivan from the Mississauga Ice Dogs
Last four seasons where he scored 92, 81 82 and 90 points in each of the last four seasons. Clayton Stoner is fresh from the Tri-City Americans. He scored 31 and 46 points in the last two seasons there. Petr Taticek is two years out of the Sault-Ste.-Marie Greyhounds where he scored 63 points and 53 points in the last two seasons. Last year in San Antonio he scored 22 points.

Joel Ward is fresh from the University of Prince Edward Island. Bill Kinkel has played for the Kingston Frontenacs in the 2003-4 campaign. More recently he has taken on the role of goon, racking up 180 Pims in 30 ECHL games in 2004-5, 41 Pims in the 2004-5 Aeros season of 12 games and 28 Pims so far this year. Peter Olvecky last year in Slovakia Dukla Trencin. Ryan Stokes played with the Mississauga Ice Dogs in the 2003-4 campaign.

Finally there is Curtis Murphy who won two Eddie Shore (old time hockey) D man awards in the AHL. He earned 53 points with the Admirals in their championship season, last year he played in Russia for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv. And, Chris Heid is two years out of the Spokane Chiefs. He had 45 points in the 2002-3 campaign.


Monday, October 24, 2005

Looking the Elephant in the eye

The elephant. Or maybe the Elephant.

My family has called it the elephant for years. I don’t know why. It is a metaphor. A big stinky animal that occupies your house. You ignore it. You share your house with it and step over it on the way through a room.

I remember James Michener in Colorado said Western pioneers stopped on their way west when they saw the elephant. Maybe they settled in Wyoming or Missouri. Maybe they turned back. Different animal. Same idea: fear.

And, I know that some people who I talk to refer to the same thing as the monkey or the giraffe. I guess the monkey clings to you. It won’t let go of you. The giraffe is probably easier to describe than an elephant, just as hard to acknowledge.

I think elephants are things someone else brings into the house: alcoholism, a classic. Maybe I have a monkey. A monkey, it’s brought into the house by you. Whatever it is, it is something I don’t want to discuss. I’m trying to look the monkey in the eye. I’m trying to blog the monkey.

The monkey is in my right kidney. The urologist said he doesn’t know what the monkey is. Technically it is a cyst. It is a liquid-filled body that may be inside my kidney, or may be on top of it. It may have a blood supply. That would be bad, but it doesn’t appear to have a supply. It may be cancerous. That would be very bad. The urologist doesn’t know. He doesn’t want to biopsy it.

My hand actually stuttered there. I actually typed “bbe cancerous…”

If there is nervousness, I guess it just manifested itself.

I haven’t fully recovered, as I write this, from an appendectomy. It, the appendectomy, has occupied my thoughts for most of the last few weeks. It became infected. The infection delayed my full recovery. And, on top of that, I had just started a job at the Chicago Tribune eight days before I was admitted to the hospital. I’ve been worried about a new job. I was worried about whether I even had a job as the days-off blew through all my personal days and sick days and vacation days.

I have no days left till January. I am back at work. I can’t get sick again this year.

I was awake last night, late. There is nothing unusual about that, I’ve worked a third shift for about 17 years. I often wake-up at 2 A.M. But, last night I stayed up, looking at bills. Can I pay all my bills? Well, no. Some bills will have to wait.

So, already, the medical problems are starting. As the case with many Americans, they are manifesting themselves as financial problems. I have disability insurance. It kicks in at 30 days. But I know now that the problems start before that.

Blogging the monkey won’t make it go away. The urologist, said he may take the right kidney away. The kidney seems to be functioning. Why does it have to be removed if it is working and there is no sign of cancer? I don’t know. How did it start?

Larger question, that one. About three years ago I had my second serious kidney stone attack. There were several procedures. One of the procedures may have knicked my kidney. Perhaps something was left behind in the procedure and the cyst developed, like a pearl that surrounds a grain of dirt.

I don’t think of this cyst as pearl-like.

Perhaps it is just a cyst. I’m told that about half of adults over 50 have cysts.

In February the urologist will have another look at the cyst. In the meantime, he said to forget about it. He forgot to prescribe the medicine that will allow that to happen.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Scouting the Iowa Stars

I’m torn, but I compare the Iowa Stars to the Childrens Crusade. In total, there were 23 members on their roster, one is wanted in several states and provinces, 18 are less than three years out of the juniors, and only four played in professional hockey, ECHL, AHL or NHL more than three years ago. Where is the store of wisdom? Whom do they go to learn from? The coaching staff?

Director of hockey operations Scott White has no NHL experience and has spent the last four years at the Columbia Inferno where he went to the finals twice (finished second once), and prior to that a year at the Greensboro Generals and five years at Michigan Tech.

Dave Allison, Iowa’s head coach, is an old friend of the Wolves from IHL days with Milwaukee. He also coached the Griffins and before that the Ottawa Senators for a year, where they made the playoffs. So there! He may know his way around the rink.

But what a group. It’s almost all kids. Or like kids. Because, there, among the children, the innocent ones, is the one called the Cave-man, Garrett Burnett. In only two games he has already accumulated 43 Pims. This is on pace to be a record year, I guess those magic pills for anger management aren’t working. The 43 minutes in two games this year are way above the pace set at the UHL Danbury Trashers of 48 Pims in seven games last year, or the 184 Pims in 39 games with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, the 346 Pims in the previous year with the Hartford Wolf Pack or the astounding 506 Pims in 58 games set back in 1999-2000 with the Kentucky Thoroughblades.

What does he have to be angry about? Without interviewing the 230, 6’2” lefty, I’d have to say… I don’t know. And I don’t want to get within swinging distance of this southie. Here’s the widely acclaimed Hockeyfights.com description of a 2003 bout with Kip Brennan: “They drop the gloves after a faceoff and have a decent squareoff. Burnett throws a decent jab that connects just before they grab onto each other. Brennan is definitely the busier fighter as Burnett is caught in his jersey. Both go to their knees and the refs actually let them get back up on their skates. Burnett now has his jersey totally over his head and both go down.” There is another fight there with Brennan in which Brennan draws blood and Burnett gets up and goes after the Kipper again. Enjoy.

The other “kids”, BJ Crombeen, fresh from being the captain Of the Barrie Colts, has more than 46 points in each of the last 3 seasons. Francis Walthier a junior from the Gatineau Olympiques was on the President’s Cup team. He has earned at least 25 points a season in the last three years, 35 points last year.

I think everyone remembers Junior Lessard. The curly red-head from PQ played for the Aeros last season where he earned 22 points. A recent grad of the University of Minnesota- Duluth, he earned 67 points in his senior year there, almost equaling the 30 and 37, respectively in the two previous years.

Kyle Brodziak played for the Roadrunners last year where he notched 32 points. His junior record with the Moosejaw Warriors, though, should have us worried. He increased his seasonal points from 0 to 10 to 20 to 62 and finally to 93 two years ago. Clearly, something is clicking with this guy. So far this year he has 1 point.

Loui Eriksson was a 2003 1st round (33rd overall) draft pick by the Stars. One of five Swedes on the Iowa team, he is two years out of the minors. He last played in the Bofors IK, but most of his time in the Swedish clubs has been with the Vastra Frolunda HC. He has 3 points so far this year. Dan Baum has played for the Roadrunners in their various towns, and the Prince George Cougars in juniors. Janos Vas, a Hungarian, this is his first year playing professional hockey in the US. He was drafted #32 in 2002 by Houston. He spent most of the last few years, including his juniors, playing hockey in Sweden, particularly for the Halmstad Hammers. D man Matt Greene is fresh from the University of North Dakota. Named to the USHL all-star team, he played for the U-18 national team. Vojtech Polak played for Karlovy Vary and Dukla Jihlava in the Czech leagues last year. He played in a junior team, Karlovy Vary Jr before that. He was drafted 2nd choice, second round, and 36th overall in NHL Entry Draft. Yan Stastny, played for Notre Dame University before moving to the German Elite League’s Nurnberg Ice Tigers where he scored 54 points last year. Yared Hagos played in the Swedish league team Timra IK He was a 2001 2nd choice by the Stars, third round, 70th overall in NHL Entry Draft. Jason Platt has played for the Roadrunners since getting out of Providence College.

It’s hard to see what they see or saw in this guy: Zach Stortini played for the Sudbury Wolves last season. I’m not sure what’s going on here, his production fell in his final year at the Wolves, despite having more games played… Oh! Wait! He’s goon number 2. And, what’s better is goon two has fought numero primo goon in a preseason game this year.

Nicklas Grossman was named captain of the Swedish junior team, Sodertalje SK Jr. He plays defense. Shawn Belle D man. Won a gold medal with Team Canada at 2005 World Junior Championships. Won a silver medal with Team Canada at 2004 World Juniors. Won Bobby Orr Fastest Skater Award at 2003 CHL Top Prospects Skills Competition. He played for the Tri-City Americans in last years junior league, where he scored 45 points. St. Louis' 1st choice, first round, 30th overall in NHL Entry Draft in 2003. Brian Fahey of Glenview, has played for the Worcester Ice Cats and the Hershey Bears, but has not been able to make the points to get noticed by the big guys. He plays D.

Dan Jancevski, a D-man, already has 4 points and 10 Pims in 4 games. He’s a refugee from Utah and more recently was playing in Hamilton.

Mario Scalzo is just out of Rimouski Oceanic last year. He also played for the Victoriaville Tigers last year. He scored 74 points in the Quebec juniors last year; 73 the year before. He already has 3 points this year. He plays D.

Goalie Mike Smith played for the Aeros and the Grizzlies since coming out of the Sudbury Wolves. He let 11 pucks slip by in two games this season. If there wasn’t a shortage of goalies…. Dan Ellis, Goalie, from the University of Nebraska has played for the Bulldogs and Grizzlies. He won a game in Dallas in 2003-4 season. So far this year, 1-1.

Patrick Traverse has the most extensive NHL experience so far on the team. A D man, Canadiens had him in 2002-3 and the Aeros since then. However, his production is going south, 26 points two years ago, 15 last year, admittedly on a smaller base. He looks to be on the way out. Although he scored 5 points so far this season.


Saturday, October 15, 2005

Post game Moose 10.15

Moose 3. Chicago 1.

Neumenko was respectable in the pipes. He didn't get bombed and that is to the good. Real bad news about D Mac, our captain broke his ankle and is out for several months. And, we need to get the PP together. Goals are getting scored on the PP and without it, there is no offence.

Goaltending-- well, we are just in big trouble there. But everyone knows that.

The Moose-- McVicker was a great acquisition by the parent club. It will be exciting watching him develop. The rest of the Manitoba team is up to the tough standard set by preceeding years. I'm sort of glad they're not in our division.

Officiating needs to be standardized. Stuff gets called, doesn't get called, minor stuff called, stuff that should be called missed--- on and on it goes. I stand by my statement, they need another on-ice official. The new off-ice official is not enough.

Last point on this game, the Omaha goon who "rubbed out" Mojzis earlier this week, Lynn Loyns, has been suspended for five games. That means he'll be back... let's see (3... 4 is Grand Rapids...) just in time to play us.


Friday, October 14, 2005

Scouting the Chicago Wolves

The constant loss of goalies in the NHL affiliate Thrashers is causing serious problems for the Wolves. Now, people who follow the ECHL affiliate of the Thrashers/Wolves, the Gwinett Gladiators, say the well has run dry: the next guy up isn’t up to the job.

The Thrashers are in trouble enough, they at least have our good goalies. Who have the Wolves got left? I guess that remains to be seen. In net for the Wolves as of today is Gregg Naumenko. Naumenko, a Chicago native, played two games for the Disney-owned Mighty Ducks in 2000-1, but has spent most of his time in ECHL clubs in the last few years. His best GA was 3.09 in this period.

I don’t want to slight Naumenko, but we are accustomed to better stuff here.

Lord help the Wolves. Here’s a rundown of the rest of the team. Obviously, we’ll need some decent defense (and the new rules are crippling the defense). All the Black Aces of the championship-run team from last year are gone. That includes Greg Hawgood. Hawgood wasn’t loved by the fans and I remember even screaming from my seat to stop dumping the puck when no one was chasing it in. But, he is missed now.

Chris Tamer an NHL vet with 85 points in 644 is anchoring the d. He also had 1183 Pims. He sat last season out. Travis Roche put 50 points on the board last year. He has some NHL experience and I think is a bit underappreciated. They are backed by two guys from the juniors, Pat Dwyer of the University of Michigan and professional AHL player Nick Naumenko, a Chicago native and brother of Greg, our goalie.

This thin line of defense is protecting us, but backing a strong offense, you’d think. Well, Steve Maltais is simply missing. The organization is not discussing plans for Maltais, who was the captain for several years. Rumors fly that Maltais is retiring or headed for Europe. I think the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement is to blame, though I could be wrong, it could be the cap of four AHL “veterans” on each team. Maltais is one of the few active players in the world who meet the definition of veteran as defined by the AHL. So he may be hung up on either losing tens of thousands of dollars to play with the Wolves, or a bureaucratic definition that seems to have been almost aimed at him. Jezz Steve, it’s only money, get over it.

Ramzi Abid played for the Penguins since being traded by the Coyotes. 23 pts in 49 games. Welcome to town Ramzi. Can you please stay out of the sin bin? Since starting with the Wolves, Abid has sat out 11 minutes in two games. Fans are crying, why take STUPID penalties? Looking over the Internet Hockey Database of his career, you have to go back to the days he was a junior to find him racking up Pims like this. He comes from some tough teams that like to get physical. Abid needs to stay focused on the game.

Scott Barney, was with the Monarchs and Kings in 2003-4. He has already scored 5 pts in 2 games. In his last year he scored 45 points, some at the NHL level, in 63 games. He has been all over the offense and will be very exciting to see for the first time on Saturday. Captain Derek MacKenzie is a fan favorite. Several veterans from last years team return to help him bring the biscuit to the five hole. Karl Stewart is back. There are lots of continuing concern about his concussion last year in the playoff when he was slashed, while unconsious. Remember the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks responsible for this? It was a team effort by ????? and ?????
Stewart is just out of the Plymouth Whalers, it must be remembered. Last year he had 226 Pims and 26 pts in the regular season and 32 Pims and 6 pts in his abbreviated post season. He is an agitator, and a fan favorite. Colin Stuart, a native of Oak Park, is out of Colorado College. last year he scored 9 pts in 44 games in Gwinett and at the Wolves. Brian Maloney has played two seasons with the Wolves without being called and Brad Larsen, an NHL veteran whose time to move up is about expired, join former Cincy Duck Mark Popovic and another NHL vet who played 2004-5 in the Czech leagues, Tomas Kloucek. Together they will back D Mac on the offense.

The remaining juniors on the team include Guillaume Desbiens, is a 20-year old junior out of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Guillaume has fans very excited. Jim Slater is fresh from Michigan State where he scored more than 44 points in each of the last 3 seasons. This guy looks great. He is a 1st round Thrashers pick and #30 pick overall.

Jimmy Sharrow was with the Halifax Mooseheads last year. Data is difficult to get on Sharrow, but it appears he was a good scorer. And finally, Adam Smyth was with the Gladiators last year. He had 217 Pims and 16 pts in 49 games.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Scouting the Manitoba Moose

It wouldn’t be the Manitoba Moose without Jimmy Roy. A professional AHLer, Jimmy is back, still hoping, perhaps, for that crack at the big game. Known as an agitator and as “Mr. May,” Roy joins a Moose team that is full of younger players and a few old friends.

The Moose have said they plan on being fast and pursuing the puck this year. As a result of that, and the changes caused by the end of the lock-out, lots of young players and a few older pros are playing. It looks like they mean to season their young team with the experienced players, especially between the pipes. Here’s the down and dirty. They look strong in the pipes, but inexperienced on defense. They may be relying to much on older players for their offence.

The Moose are rebuilding their their defense line this year. Two go-to guys on d are gone and six younger men, some from last year, are two years or less from juniors or college. They are D man Kevin Bieksa, two years out of Bowling Green, and expected NHL Canucks pick was injured in pre-season play when a intra-squad game tangle-up sprained his ankle.

D man Tomas Mojzis two years out of the Seattle Thunderbirds WHL has been a disappointment for the club. There is a report on the Moose board that he was injured in play on Wednesday against the Knights. D man Brett Skinner, fresh out of the University of Denver. D man Prestin Ryan, two years with the Crunch and prior to that with the University of Maine. He had 161 Pims with the Crunch last season.

Defense man Nathan McIver from the Toronto St. Michael's Majors joins this year. And, James DeMone from the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns joins defense this year.

Mike Keane, hasn’t played in the minor leagues since 1988. He apparently didn’t play at all last year, but two years ago played 64 games in Vancouver, scoring 8 goals and 17 assists. A reporter, at his first drill in 17 months, said Keane was ready to go. Keane will be challenged, by the new rules, but said he is ready to go. Keane is a Manitoba guy and a fan favorite.

Three veterans of the ice are wearing a rack, Josh Green returns, the NHL vet had good numbers with several NHL teams in the past few years, but at 38 may be considered to old for the big game. He will be a continuing threat with good numbers (more than 21 goals last year with the Moose, plus 19 assists.)

Jason Jaffray is on a Professional try out with the Moose. Last year he earned 14 goals in 44 AHL games, plus 6 goals in 23 ECHL games. Or 20 goals plus 16 assists in 67 games.

Craig Darby, 33, has played up and down the IHL, the AHL and for the Canadiens and New Jersey.

Jozef Balej’s trade for Fedor Fedorov has been praised by Moose fans, who think the Czech will allow greater club house cohesion this year. Coming out of the Portland Winter Hawks WHL in 2002, he joined the Hamilton Bulldogs. He played 17 games in the big circus, had 42 points with Hartford last season.

Another face from the past, “Flats” Wade Flaherty is returning in goal. Flats is now 37, and will be important in any Moose run for the Calder Cup as he has loads of experience. Last year he had a 2.33 GA, which is an improvement on his AHL career. In Milwaukee, during their Calder Cup victory, he had a 2.18 GA. He’s never been fun to face and will make it a tough team to beat again.

He is backed by a goalie from the Brandon Wheat Kings, Robert McVicar. McVicar ended his time with the juniors with a 2.7 GA in 2003.

My favorite for Ritalin poster child, is Rick Rypien. Rypien. An agitator and fiesty addition to last year’s line-up is back. It’s hard to believe, after the effect he had in the previous season that he spent most of last year in the WHL at Regina Pats. Here’s a great pix of him in a fight with Ole-Kristian Tollefsen Despite all the press and hoopla, he scored no points in post season, but did collect 40 Pims. I hope he’s adoptable, because his style of play is being forced out by enforcement of the rules.

There are lots of people out of the juniors and college on offence. Some making the second trip with the Moose this winter. They include Mike Brown, a local from Northbrook, IL, he played with the University of Michigan last year. Jesse Shultz, of the Kelowna Rockets, returns. Shultz scored 24 points last regular season, plus 5 in post-season play. Marc-Andre Bernier comes up from the Halifax Mooseheads this year. He scored 50 points in 67 games there last year. Brandon Nolan, of the Oshawa Generals, returns to his 2nd season with the Moose. Maxime Fortunus returns to the Moose for a 2nd season, he had played minors with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar (the Vikings).

Brett Lysak played the 2004-5 season in the DEL (German Elite League) Frankfort Iserlohn (Lions), where he collected 18 points. At Lowell, in 2004 he collected 35 points. Alexandre Burrows, named the 2004-5 team’s hardest working player, returns again. He collected 26 points last season in the AHL, plus six in the ECHL, he also had 3 post season points.

A recent addition to the D line is Jason Doig, 28. The Moose signed Doig to a professional try out contract early this month. He brings some needed experience from the NHL, although he took last year off. His previous NHL experience was with the Capitals in 2003-4. Sven Butenschon fills out the D men ranks. He comes with big game resume, 132 NHL games. Last season he played for the DEL Mannheim Adler (Eagles). He is 29.

The Moose will be ending a five game opening road trip. They’ll have been in Milwaukee on Friday. As I write this, they’ve lost two to the Rivermen, by one goal each. But defeated Omaha by one goal.


Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Bob Greene column

There's something about Italian beef. Here in Chicago, it is a local sandwich, a layer of marinated roast beef, some juice on a French baggette. Simple? As I've gotten older I've realized it's not all the same. Jays does a good job. Romas, on Milwaukee, (there is another unrelated Romas on Cicero that I continue to like), unfortunately fell out of favor with me this year. The texture of the beef and ultimately its taste was lacking. A little place in Cicero, Freddy's Grocery is the best place I've ever had.

I don't think the beef has to be Scala's, I'm not even sure if that helps. But I know it has to be real beef (sorry Arby's, whatever the roast beef cut you serve is, it's not the same cut), thinly sliced and marinated overnight.

Really, Italian beef, because it is often a restaurant by restaurant product, is much more a local product than the hot dog. Even the choice of bread, often a bakery product delivered in the morning, seems regional, based on the which of the local bakeries delivers in that area.

I've had the impression that South Side and West Side beef, including Cicero, are the best. I'm from the North Side, and we have good beef joints here. But, they aren't the best. Part of that strength is that there is a strong Italian community in parts of the city that enjoy a good beef.

On the North Side, my neighbors enjoy Korean, Thai and Mexican rather than Italian dinners. It's so chic to be eating stuff you can't make at home I guess. And, they have the impression that a dog or a beef are bad for you.

Dipped, wet or dry (try to find a common explanation of that, please), hot, sweet, giardinara or without. I'll choose Italian beef.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Scouting San Antonio Rampage

It was hard to get excited by last years games against the San Antonio Rampage and maybe you weren’t. But then again, this year’s Rampage aren’t last year’s Rampage, they are a lot of last years Utah Grizzlies instead. Isn’t that better?

Yes, friends, its true, all your hope for some exciting AHL Texas hockey lie again in Houston, where there are some cool things happening. Wayne Gretzky and Steve Passmore are about the best things on the horizon coming out of the river city right now, and Gretzky won’t be coaching the Rampage, he’s off coaching the NHL affiliate Coyotes.

Where is the Gretzky touch? What is the Gretzky touch? Will we ever see a lean and mean Rampage in our lives?

As I’m writing this, the Rampage are 1-1, having defeated the Aeros at home through power play goals. Passmore, who spent time with the Wolves in 2000, and is mainly known here for his time with the Blackhawks took the lockout as a chance to bone up on his German, playing with the DEL (German Elite League) Adler Mannheim (Mannheim Eagles).

The local newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, in a preseason feature, indicated that Gretzky and Rampage coach Pat Conacher plan on using a fast-paced style of play on offense and an ice-clogging defence. “We want to play that up-tempo game as much as we can,” Conacher told the Express-News.

Conacher said the disappointing Utah record, where he coached for one year, was due to having a slow start, “it’s tough for a team like that, with young guys, when you start out like that… By the end of the season, we were competitive with anyone in the league,” he told the Express-News.

Just as a fact check, the Grizzlies ended the 2004-5 season 23-50-2-5. In their last ten games they were 4-6-0-1. The slow start? 1-9. (click here for 2004-5 results)

It’s a young team, no doubt, the old men of the group is 34 year old Passmore, who the team is placing a lot of hope on. Passmore and Jarrod Skalde. Skalde is one of ten players who once wore a grizzly on their chest, but now playing for the Rampage. Some people may remember his stints here in Chicago with the Wolves and the Blackhawks.

Two players with extensive NHL experience are joining the team, d man Chris McAllister has played for the played for the Rangers, the Avalanche, the Flyers, the Maple Leafs and the Canucks. During the lockout he played in the BNL for the Newcastle Vipers. Another d man from the big game is Brad Ference. He played for les Pingouins of Morzine-Avoriaz (France) last season and for the Coyotes and Panthers prior to that.

Joe Callahan, a 2004 graduate of Yale, Matt Jones, a graduate of the University of North Dakota, Lance Monych a junior from the Brandon Wheat Kings, and Kiel McLeod of Kelowna round out the young talent. As I’m writing this, the team announced it assigned Tim Jackman, a former Crunch to the Rampage.


Wolves take opener against Knights

The Chicago Wolves won their season opener against the Omaha Knights 5-2. It was a great night for the Chicago goalie, Adam Berkhoel, who had 40 saves. Brian Maloney earned a Gordie Howe hat trick and new comers Scott Barney and Ramzi Abid punched in goals too. Derek MacKenzie was named the team captain, he follows Steve Maltais.

Friday, October 07, 2005

One lucky SOB

It all started about a month ago. I asked for a refill on a prescription for Imitrex, it treats migraines. My doctor being a thorough guy approved one more refill, but told me there would be no more till I came in for a check-up.

It seems that over the years my blood pressure has risen moderately and I’ve put on some weight. So, he had some concern that the Imitrex, combined with the blood pressure medication and too much weight, would cause more problems.

That request for a refill led to an appendicitis operation on Wednesday morning.

There’s no guessing about this, I’m one lucky son-of-a-bitch. I have a high threshold for pain, I have a history of kidney stones and I was assigned in my first week at work to a new company to work an area about 50 miles from home, and literally, in the corn fields.

So, although there were some signs of something going wrong, particularly on Monday, I ignored them. The signs were gas and the movement of a kidney stone…

But, I’m getting ahead of myself here. About two weeks ago I reported to the doctor as requested. High blood pressure and overweight, neither of them extreme, was concerning my doctor. That would be Edward Blumen. I doubt he’ll mind my mentioning him here as he clearly comes out knowledgeable and thorough. A hero of my little story.

Blumen ordered me to undergo a stress test and return to the office afterwards. I think everyone knows a stress test involves getting your heart using 85 percent of its estimated capacity. Maybe you forgot that they are using ultrasound imaging on you in the process. The down and dirty was that my stress test came out okay. My heart is strong, thanks.

However, a radiologist at Evanston Hospital noticed that I have a cyst in my right kidney. Now the kidney is not the focus of the stress test, so this radiologist noticed something in a part of the ultrasound that wasn’t the focus of the work. That’s worth noting, good work…

A cyst is a fluid filled body, in this case smaller than a billiard ball and larger than a buckeye. They can be cancerous. I didn’t tell my wife, though I talked to my daughter, who is undergoing her own ordeal with kidney stones.

Blumen now orders me back to an urologist and before I get there, could I get a CAT scan of the kidney.

I don’t know what a CAT scan is, though I’ve had them several times. The machine consists of a ring which allows your body to enter, it spins around you and takes very detailed images of your body in such a way that a three-dimensional representation of the inside can be formed.

That was Tuesday at about Noon. In the meantime, I’ve been coming home from work tired. Tired to the point of dropping immediately into bed from exhaustion. Plus, there was the slight pain in my kidney and some night sweats. So, on Tuesday, I went to bed for several hours.

At this point my wife still didn’t know about the kidney exam. Could it have been the same radiologist? Anyway, while I was sleeping, the radiologist had gotten on the telephone with Blumen and told him to get me in immediately, he or she saw an enflamed appendix.

Again, nice work. The kidney was the focus of the exam, not the appendix.

These aren’t the easiest calls to take right after you’ve woken up, a nurse somewhere saying the doctor thinks you are suffering appendicitis. Did I hurt? No, not particularly. Just some back pain (not usually associated with appendicitis). Fever? No, just a bit of night sweats. Vomiting, nausea, anything? No, no and no.

The nurse and I paused… I said, “my wife is an RN, it’s time to bring her into this. We’ll call you back in a few minutes.”

Jane had had an exhausting day at work. The beginning of the school year is like that. So, she was laying down, listening to some program when I walked in to have this discussion. She says that she thought I was pulling her leg, but realized I wasn’t when she saw my eyes. I’d fessed up about the cyst, why else could I explain that the doctor’s office was calling about my appendix?

Anyway, down on the bed and some poking around and I hit the ceiling. My symptoms weren’t normal, but that would be explained later by the surgeon. I had one classic hot point for appendicitis. We were spending the night at the ER.

Am I the only person who takes a shower before going into the ER? Am I the only person who packs two MP3 players, books and a change in clothes, as well as their toothbrush? That night, I was ready for an operation. I was ready to stay. At that point, I was hoping I could return to work by late week. After all, I’d just started and I have no sick time this year.

The ER triage nurse asked why I was there. I knew it was going to be a long night… “I have appendicitis.” Did I hurt? No, not particularly. Just some back pain. Fever? No, just a bit of night sweats. Vomiting, nausea, anything? No, no and no. What gave me the idea I was suffering appendicitis? “My doctor told me I was.” And did he do an exam? No.

Okay, wait (for several hours) out there, till we call you.

It was about four hours after I entered the ER when the ER doctor saw me. Did I hurt? No, not particularly. Just some back pain. Fever? No, just a bit of night sweats. Vomiting, nausea, anything? No, no and no. Lift your shirt. OUCH! How did your doctor know? The long story of the prescription refill, the stress test, the ultra sound, the CAT scan.

Evanston hospital has something way cool. These images are associated with my file electronically, so that any doctor who is seeing me can see my tests and office visits. So, the ER had access to the CAT.

Okay, there is a way for this to happen, I’m calling in the surgeon, he’ll be here soon.

Surgeon gets there just a few minutes later. There are no more questions now. A brief exam, he says there’s a third year med-student and a resident who will interview me, he’ll be back in a bit. He went to call Blumen.

When the surgeon returns he says he’s 80 percent certain I’ve appendicitis. My blood work doesn’t show it yet, and the pain shouldn’t be on the back, unless my appendix is tucked into my back. I can undergo surgery now, in the morning or go home and wait. Waiting increases the certainty of the problem.

My only question was, at nearly midnight, how fresh is the surgery team? Should we wait for a fresh team in the morning? No, they are ready.

The cut for this surgery is only a few inches. I compare it now to the C-Section that allowed my first wife to give birth to my daughter. For two days now I’ve struggled to straighten myself, to stand, and I’ve shuffled along like an old man. Good god, they’ve got me out for a week, and I have no sick time left.

But, frankly, I feel very fortunate. This could have been much worse. Two good radiology readings and a thorough doctor. I think they may have saved my life.

Omaha Knights

It’s a brand new campaign for the Wolves, starting with a game against a new rival, the Ak-Sar-Ben Knights'. The Knights are getting some great media coverage in Omaha, in part due to the inspired invitation of Gordie Howe, to the opening festivities.

Howe, 77 years old now, was a former Knight before making it to the big game. More than 1,000 fans are reported to have stood in line to meet the NHL great.

The Knights marketing effort is based in part on recalling the days when another Knights played in Omaha. Known now more for fanatical football than hockey, the club is also being heavily advertised as an affiliate of the Calgary Flames.

The Knights themselves are a recreated St. Johns Flames, St. Johns not having played a hockey game since the 2002-3 campaign. That team won the 2001 Calder Cup at home against the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Several of the Knights staff were previously with the Mississippi Sea Wolves and the Beaumont Wildcatters. The Omaha World-Herald reports equipment manager Greg Sieg left Mississippi just prior to Katrina landing, while Rita effected athletic trainer D.J. Amadio.

The Flames sent Brent Krahn down to fill the pipes this week. The Knights had been concerned about their lack of strength there, especially following a food poisoning of prospect goalie Paulo Colaiacovo earlier this week. Krahn has time in the NHL at Calgary and the AHL in Lowell and San Antonio. At Lowell last year he racked up a 20-11-2 record, with 6 shut outs and a 2.49 average. Back-up goalie for the game is Curtis McElhinney.

Craig MacDonald played for Florida and Boston in the NHL recently, as well as putting in time in Lowell and San Antonio. MacDonald will be wearing the C for the team.

Brett Palin will be moving up from the juniors this year to play for the Knights. He helped the Kelowna Rockets take home the Memorial Cup twice while playing defence.

Richie Regehr is the younger brother of Robyn Regehr. Also from Kelowna, he played with the Lock Monsters last season, he finished in the top ten in team scoring with a goal and seven points in eleven games during the Calder Cup finals.

Eric Nystrom was the captain of the 2004-5 University of Michigan team. He is also the son of Bob Nystrom.

Cam Severson is an alum of our friends the Sads. Playing 63 games, he racked up 255 Pims in 2004-5.

Brandon Prust was on the London Knights 2005 Memorial Cup team. He has 174 Pims in just 48 games.

Defenceman Steve Marr played for the WHL Medicine Hat Tigers in 2004, helping them in a bid for the Memorial Cup.

The ECHL affiliate of the Knights is the Las Vegas Wranglers.