On the Road Again

February 3, 2010

The Halifax Mooseheads just returned from one of their longest road trips of the season.

Six days, 3 games, more than 2,200 km, 1 shootout win.  I kept a log during the trip and here are some of my entries and conversations.

Wednesday – 10:30 pm at the Longhorn Steak House in Auburn, Maine.

It was a spacious but relatively quiet restaurant as we were escorted to our reserved tables. The room quickly filled with lively banter as the team was relieved to have the 8 hour bus ride over.  Garrett Clarke was cutting into his 8 ounce tenderloin and the red juice oozed onto his place.  He knew he would be a target tomorrow night for his old teammates and the fans as this was his first trip back to Lewiston since demanding a trade.  To cap off the night, a huge sundae was presented to birthday boy Travis Randall who turned 19.  He shared with linemate Tomas Knotek and Clarke.  (Editor’s note: Thursday night, Clarke battled fiercely all game long in a 6-5 shootout win.  He finished with 3 points and was named the game’s 2nd star.)

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Clarke, Delmas Retrun to Lewiston

January 27, 2010

“Get back on that bus,” barked an angry female US Customs Officer.

GM Cam Russell and several team staff had just stepped off the team bus after a 6 hour ride from Halifax. We retreated somewhat confused as our driver claimed he had been instructed to have everyone come inside the MIlltown border crossing with passports and completed declaration forms. Eventually, Russell accompanied Europeans Tomas Knotek, Konrad Abeltshauser and trainer Ian Cox inside.

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Coffee and Elevators

January 21, 2010

Sean Couturier and the 5th ranked Drummondville Voltigeurs were 20 minutes late Sunday.  I was nervously pacing at ice level, checking my watch when I felt a tap on my shoulder.  It was Hockey Canada Chief Scout Al Murray.  I always enjoy talking with Murray, who was the LA Kings Director of Amateur Scouting for 12 years before joining our national program 3 years ago.

We exchanged greetings and walked over to the elevator on the ground floor.  We touched on Team Canada’s Silver medal performance at the WJC.  Colour man Chris Tremblay joined us just as the door was about to close.

“Where’s my coffee?” Chris blurted out with a smile.

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Old Friends in New Places

January 12, 2010

For more inside info and a look at the Moose behind-the-scenes check out www.sportsandmoore.com

The roads were clear and dry as our bus rumbled past the New Brunswick border.  We were headed to Moncton for an afternoon game with Robert Irving’s recently stacked Wildcats.  The Cats are the odds on favorites to win the President’s Cup after acquiring a slew of players (Gabriel Bourque, Kelsey Tessier, Alex Wall and Spencer Metcalfe) during the trading period.

Sawyer Hannay stretched out his 6 foot 4 athletic frame over two seats and gazed out the window.  The 17 year old  rookie defenceman’s thoughts were clearly on the upcoming game.  He was scratched Friday and Saturday due to a nasty cut just above his Achilles.  He was itching to get back in the lineup.

“I sure hope I can play today.  My family is coming,” stated the rugged Moncton native.  “and it will also be great to see Spencer again.”  I interjected.  “I’m not sure he will be playing, he may be suspended after picking up a fighting major and game misconduct last night.”

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Rough Roads

January 5, 2010

Falling snow swirled about the bus as it slowly rolled to a stop outside the Charlottetown Civic Centre Sunday afternoon.    We had arrived – with frazzled nerves but safe.

As we filed off we thanked our driver for managing the snow covered roads and stormy conditions.  Our game the night before in Bathurst had been postponed.  Little did we know – this road trip would only get worse.

I scrambled upstairs to meet Rocket President Serge Savard Jr.  He looked like he was in the midst of his own storm.  A tired looking Savard in a very candid interview explained why his team had unloaded 7 players during the trading period in a season when they were promising to make a playoff run.  (View video at sportsandmoore.com) The fans were angry and he understood.    As I gazed down from my broadcast perch, I estimated there may have been 500 fans in attendance.

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Lots of Room on the Bus

January 3, 2010

The Halifax Mooseheads bus sped across the Murray MacKay bridge Tuesday morning heading to Sydney. It was the first road trip since the Christmas break and the bus was lighter and much younger than usual.

The minimum 20 players were aboard including 3 callups, 16 year old Matt Boudreau (Quebec Midget leading scorer) and a pair of 18 year olds Justin Belanger and Andrew Wigginton, both members of the Halifax Lions of the Maritime Junior Hockey League.

It was rather quiet as we headed out on the highway. Players were watching new Christmas videos or reading new publications but a phone call to Travis Randell would change all of that. The 2 hour bus ride to Antigonish was full of conversations.

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Moore on the Moose – Christmas Edition

December 23, 2009

The Halifax Mooseheads have scattered home for the holidays but before they left they shared what they wanted for Christmas.   Below is the wish list and  Saint Nick’s response in parentheses.

#2 Garrett Clarke – “a one on one date with Lester Brown.” (I’m confused.)

#3 Jamie Bishop – “unlimited tanning sessions and a laptop.” (Have you been a good boy?)

#5 Sawyer Hannay – “a 2009 red 2 door Lambourghini.” (Expensive taste for a rookie.)

#8 Spencer Metcalfe – “even though I know it’s a tall order, I would like to play on the half wall with Tomas (Knotek) and Travis (Randall).  (Not this Christmas).

#9 Linden Bahm – “an invitation to be the best man at Medical Trainer Brian Morrison’s upcoming marriage.”  (Then stay out of the clinic.)

#11 Jordon Costello – “an open heart from my teammates.  I just want to be accepted by my teammates and not ridiculed for being a farmer from Prince Edward Island.” (This one drips with sarcasm.)

#12 Matthew Stoddard – “a new car as the one I’m currently driving I bought for $150.” (Good possibility.)

#14 Tomas Knotek – “success at the World Juniors championships.” (Quite possible.)

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T’is the Season

December 16, 2009

Cam Russell will never forget the day.  The 10 year Black Hawk veteran was just sitting down for a team pre game meal in a St Louis hotel.  Head Coach Dirk Graham tapped him on the shoulder and told him GM Bob Murray wanted to see him immediately in his room.

Cam’s first ever NHL defensive partner didn’t mince words.  Russell had just been traded and needed to get to the airport within an hour to catch a flight to Phoenix in time to be inserted into the Colorado Avalanche lineup that night.

“I was in a state of shock.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was very comfortable in Chicago, but I also knew I wasn’t getting the amount of ice time I needed to continue my career.  I needed a change but it still came as a shock.”

The Head Coach and GM had removed his suit jacket and tie and was trying to get comfortable as the team bus rumbled home after a 6-1 loss Tuesday night in Moncton.  He was trying to digest the team’s latest performance but his thoughts raced ahead to the QMJHL trading period which officially opens Saturday.

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Lemieux puts team first

December 8, 2009

The floor of the bus was clean but hard.  Alex Lemieux rolled onto his side bumping up against a box of empty Gatorade and juice containers as the team rumbled home after Fridays’ 8-5 loss in Charlottetown.  Most of the players were sleeping as they had just finished back to back games. A few were on their computers watching videos.  Lemieux offered to sleep on the floor under the seat giving his seatmate, Carl Gelinas the chance to stretch out.  He expected they both would get better rest and they had good reason to be tired due to an increase in their ice time as of late.

Lemieux (17), Gelinas (17) and Brent Andrews (16) are beginning to come together as a line and the results are beginning to show for this extremely industrious trio of rookies.  Thursday night, the line scored the tying and winning goals in a 3-2 win over Gatineau and Friday, they scored 2 more goals in the loss to the Rocket.  It’s all a result of hard work says Lemieux.

“I love playing with those guys.  We don’t have a lot of skill but we all work hard and give all we can give.   We complement each other so well. Carl can score, Brent is a great passer and I try to bring a lot of energy.”

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Opportunity Knocks for Gillard

December 3, 2009

Opportunity knocked and Steve Gillard came crashing thru the door.

The 17 year old defenceman had all but given up on playing in the QMJHL and certainly never dreamed of  logging close to 25 minutes a game and quarterbacking the powerplay in his rookie season.   But that is exactly where the St John’s Newfoundlander finds himself after 3 months in the Q.

Two summers ago, Gillard was excited with the prospect of being drafted in the QMJHL midget draft however he was passed over and deeply disappointed.  He considered other options and the University of Maine became an attractive alternative.

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