- After a 28 day hiatus from this blog, we have much to talk about since the Kelowna Rockets were eliminated from the WHL playoffs. The Seattle Thunderbirds were a worthy league champion who played with the urgency needed when the regular season ended. They rode a hot rookie goaltender and received massive contributions from secondary sources on their way to the Ed Chynoweth Cup. Seattle's best players were their best players, but they were also given massive contributions from lesser players when the heavy lifting was necessary. It was impressive to watch. The Ed Chynoweth Cup is one of the toughest trophies to win because of the length of a WHL schedule (72 games) and the travel over a large geographical area. The T-Birds simply didn't have anymore to give when they landed in Windsor, Ontario and no one can second guess how good of a team they were. At their best, they could score, skate, play physical and were a determined group. They were the best the WHL had to offer in 2017 - period..
- Colton Sissons and Vern Fiddler will play for the Stanley Cup. How cool is it to see two former Kelowna Rockets attempting to win hockey's ultimate prize? Sissons has only 109 NHL regular season games under his belt, but it is a much different story for grizzled Fiddler. The 37 year-old has played about 800 regular season games and is close to retirement. Could this be his last season? Of course on the other side is Justin Schultz. Born in Kelowna and raised in West Kelowna, Schultz will be going after his second cup, hoping to match the one he earned with the Penguins in 2016.
- This big story this week was the revelation that 15 year-old forward Ethan Bowen, the Kelowna Rockets first pick in the WHL bantam draft, has committed to playing with the University of North Dakota. That essentially shuts the door on the Chillwack resident playing a game wearing Kelowna Rockets colours. Or does it? Despite Bowen's VERBAL commitment to NCAA hockey in the future, the skilled forward will attend Rockets rookie camp this fall. Bowen can attend a WHL training camp without jeopardizing his NCAA eligibility. It is an encouraging sign and a class move on behalf of the Bowen's to give the Rockets a chance. Why wouldn't they? It's like buying a car. It doesn't hurt to look around, kick the tires, take a test drive and look at all the options in front of you. There is no need to make a hasty decision one way or the other.
- As mentioned, Bowen has made a verbal commitment to play at the University of North Dakota in the 2020 season. If he signs a letter of intent, that essentially slams the door shut on the prospect choosing to play in the Okanagan in the near future.
- Can you imagine being a 14/15 year-old player trying to make a decision on whether to play junior hockey or go the U.S college route? It can't be easy for the family, who wants to make the best decision for their son. The Bowen's are no strangers to the WHL, considering Ethan's older brother Ryan is a member of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The Bowen's know the process. They know what the WHL has to offer. Ryan Bowen was originally drafted by the Moose Jaw Warriors before being traded to the Hurricanes last season. I don't know what the Bowen's WHL experience has been like to this point, but Kelowna has to be regarded as one of the premiere organizations to be a part of. I've witnessed how the players are coached and how they are treated on a daily basis and it is clearly a breeding ground for hockey success.
- The Kelowna Rockets do not use pressure tactics to obtain players. Never have, never will. This organization is about building good people. General Manager Bruce Hamilton says it every year before the start of rookie camp. It isn't empty words. Hamilton wants every player, whether you are a top end guy or a fourth line grinder, to excel in all areas of life. Completing high school is a must. Sure, winning is a big part of why the Rockets are so attractive too, but Hamilton wants to see the player leave the organization at 19 or 20 as a better person from the one that stepped inside the dressing room as a rookie. The common theme among players traded away from Kelowna is they didn't realize how well they were treated while playing here. As the old saying goes - 'You don't know what you've got until it's gone'.
- The list of players that left the NCAA route to play for the Kelowna Rockets is not a long one. Duncan Keith left the University of Michigan as a 19 year-old and ended up winning a WHL championship in 2003. Chuck Kobasew left Boston College in 2001 and went on to score 41 times as the Rockets lost to eventual Memorial Cup champion Kootenay. The last player the Rockets shook the dice on with heavy leanings towards NCAA hockey was Luke Moffatt. Chosen 2nd overall in 1997, Moffatt played four seasons with the University of Michigan where he was eventually selected in the 7th round of the 2010 NHL draft by the Colorado Avalanche. Moffatt never attended Rockets training camp. The 24 year old is now playing in Europe.
- Bruce Hamilton has a busy winter ahead of him. The General Manager of the Kelowna Rockets will be on the management team for Hockey Canada's Under 18 squad, which includes the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It is a similar role to the one he held with Hockey Canada in 2014 and against in 2015 at the World Junior Hockey Championships.
- A bombshell this week when the Rochester Americans elected to part ways with head coach Dan Lambert. Lambert lasted only one season with the Americans, who failed to make the playoffs. With one more year remaining on his contract, I can't see the personable Lambert from being out of work long. 'Lambo' is best know in these parts as an assistant coach to Ryan Huska for 5 years before leading the team to a WHL title in 2015 as head coach.