Thursday, July 31, 2008

Scotty Bowman to Join Chicago Blackhawks

As soon as I can stop hyperventilating I'll come up with a witty comment. For now I'm speechless, will we again hear "Here come the Hawks, the mighty Hawks." This is proving to be a most exciting off season!

Article courtesy of TSN, I'm having trouble typing breathing into a brown bag....

"The Chicago Blackhawks are naming legendary coach Scotty Bowman as a Senior Advisor, Hockey Operations on Thursday.

Ranking first among all NHL coaches in games coached (2,141), wins (1,244) and Stanley Cups (nine), Bowman is revered as an all-time great behind the bench.

Bowman, 75, was a head coach for thirty NHL seasons with the St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings and has served as a consultant with the Red Wings since he retired after winning the 2002 Stanley Cup.

He'll join a talented young Blackhawks franchise that is led on the ice by reigning NHL Rookie of the Year Patrick Kane, as well as first-line centre Jonathan Toews, providing support to the front office team headed by President John McDonough and General Manager Dale Tallon.

Bowman's son Stan is an Assistant GM, Hockey Operations with the Blackhawks."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Favorite Images and Moments of Blackhawks Prospect Camp

It's 85-90 sunny degrees in the forecast with the occasional thunder storm, typical midwest weather. This summer Chicago seems different however. For those of us who love our icy sport hockey in the past we have had to seek out our passion in beer and pewee leagues during the warmer months. The word "hockey" never even appearing in the three major papers in the area. This off season is markedly different, the Hawks under Rocky Wirtz's stewardship is turning heads, with the announcement last week of the Winter Classic Game to be played in Wrigley Field next January first, yes Virgina, times if not hockey have changed in Chicago. The Chicago Blackhawks are appearing regularly in local papers, on the front of the sports page, a far cry from the 2-3" burried in the back the team warranted in past seasons. It is still early days yet but it looks like the Blackhawks fallow garden is starting to blossom, rookie camp is but a few weeks away and the season beckons in a few longer. Oh, I can't wait to see how this story will be written and am looking forward to being one of the citizen journalists who will be there every step of the way to see this phoenix rise or keep warm in the ashes.

Just to keep things interesting here are a few of my favorite images of the Blackhawks Prospect Camp taken earlier this month. I'll say it again, hockey in July, it doesn't get sweeter than that!


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Blackhawk Rookie Camp 08', Day V.

Friday and the last day of Rookie Camp, it seemed surreal opening my trunk in 90 degree heat and donning a heavy sweater to put over a tank top. That's hockey in July, dressing for both extremes. Friday's game was the abbreviated two 25 minute periods with a 25 minute break. Goalies were switched at the 12 minute mark and remaining netties were given a last chance to impress. Antti Niemi of the Finish Pelicans and a student of Passi Nurmien impressed most in the house. It would not be surprising to see him backing up Corey Crawford in Rockford next October. Utica native Joe Palmer also looks solidly in the pipeline. Give him another year or two of hard work at Ohio State and he will look better still. Link to follow the colegate teams is at right, should you wish to follow Palmer's development along with other college results and rankings.

Another player to set your tickler file for, Kruise Reddick, 18 just last week, plays for Tri-City in the WHL. For the youngest kid in camp he looked very mature.

The end of camp is a study in contrasts. For the small slice, the few that will move up to the pros, either to the Hawks or through Rockford it is the culmination of years of hard work. For the majority of players restricted by age (a player must be 20 to play in the AHL per an agreement with the Major Juniors, meaning a 19 year old makes it to the NHL or goes back to his Junior/Elite team) or college standings it is an invaluable week spent with professional coaches who will give them advice on how to take it to the next level. Work hard and with perseverance you will be back next year showing us how you follow through. The looks on the faces of the players not moving up was not disappointment as one might expect but of pride and determination.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Blackhawks Rookie Camp, Episode IV

In a galaxy far far away there is hockey in July. Hockey filled with desire passion and the need to impress. You will find it for the last day of camp on Friday July 11 at 10:00 at the Edge in Bensonville. Be there or wait until the leaves turn until for more Blackhawk hockey.

I'm pleased to report that the player injured on Wednesday Simon Danis-Pepin was diagnosed with a strain and a neck contusion and released from the hospital. Good news indeed, he is not expected to return to camp however. Danis-Pepin is one player I would place on the short list to appear on the Hogs line up in October, this Maine Black Bear had an impressive camp previous to the injury.

Yesterdays game the White team had Joseph Palmer in goal, born and raised in the heart of Central New York, attending Ohio State Columbus as a communications major in his junior year. He is a player I was interested in observing and meeting. The goalie competition is tough in the camp this year, already Mike Brodour has been dropped from the roster. Joseph Palmer looks good, yesterday he appeared poised controlled and as one plain speaking observer concisely stated "did not have a case of the floppies". I got a chance to talk to Palmer when he was "cooling down" this thoughtful goalie made an important point. That rookie camps are not just about making the team, it is about comparing yourself to the other players, showing the coaches and staff the gains you have made in the last year. It's all about preparation for the next level and showing that your are ready or in the serious process of training for next level. Palmer looks good now, but the competition is steep, he will be stronger for another season in Columbus. Wherever Palmer is in net this season they will have a level headed nettie, lucky team.

Another player I wanted to watch was the Swedish defenceman Jonathan Carlsson. He is one pretty skater and yes, he is an aggressive guy. He has the endearing quality of protecting his goalie and reminds me of Nathyan Oystrick on the ice at times. If the Hawks don't bite I hope the Wolves will.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Blackhawk Rookie camp Day III, the Hitting starts...

The first sound heard as I entered The Edge on day three was a hit, a lovely palpable hit.Yes, the camp intensity is decidedly picking up. The math is pretty clear there are 45 names remaining on the roster this morning of these 1,2 possibly 3 may make it to the Hawks.Then an equal number may be protected under AHL only contracts with Rockford Icehogs. Pretty tough odds, but these are tough "kids" the majority coming from the Canadian Major Juniors or US collegiate teams.

Wednesday's action was short lived, one of the more difficult aspects of the sport that we love raised its head. A standout player Simon Danis-Pepin of University of Maine was injured. I didn't have a clear view of the contact so I have no first hand knowledge of the mechanism of injury. I did see the fall and his struggle to lift his torso and legs off of the ice. Regular readers of this blog are aware that in my other life I'm a RN and an old EMT. Because of this I look at injuries and their on ice treatment with different eyes than most sports photographers. Although I understand the need for getting the injured player off of the ice quickly it bothers me so many players with obvious symptoms of concussions are walked off of the ice. The fact is 15% of all concussions carry the risk of neck/spine injuries. If it was your kid would you want them walked off?

When Danis-Pepin hit the ice he was in obvious trouble, trainers quickly came out, assessed him and started treatment. He was able to move his arms,lift his legs from the knee down but seemed in pain. As reported by Blackhawks Trainer, Mike Gapski, Danis-Pepin was experiencing pain down his trapezious muscle and left arm. The full spinal precautions were taken as just that precautions until he could be cleared by definitive care at a hospital. In short the on ice treatment of this injured young man could have been videotaped for any first responder class and titled "This is how to handle suspected cervical injury in an athlete."Bravo! The Blackhawks on ice response team can treat me and mine anytime, a nurses highest praise.

Enough of this Valentine, would you like to see the images of the game?


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Chicago Blackhawks Rookie Camp Day II, first contact?

Day two and most of the spectators have figured that baby it is cold inside of "The Edge" nobody turned blue watching the boys on the ice today.

Today's big activity was the scrimmage game between "Blackhawk Vets" and the new guys. This scrimmage game consisted of two 25 minute periods with a long break between. It was a low contact and no fisticuffs seemed to be allowed or encouraged. Goalies were changed at 12 minute marks during the periods to give each rookie a chance at playing. This system gives a taste of each players ability but unlike Traverse City and the Red Wings Rookie Tournament it lacks intensity. Perhaps I'm too quick to judge, we will see what day three will show us.

Here are some images of the eager beavers on their summer vacations...


Monday, July 7, 2008

Early days yet...

It seemed things would never start today at Blackhawk rookie camp, the team was late, very late. None of the "suits" seemed to be there only a pair of ticket reps doing their level best to keep the 100 or so fans happy and questions answered. The concession stand kept the eager crowd sated with cups of Cheli's Chili, which is not a bad lunch in a cold arena. The vets were off ice and the prospects hit the rink for drills at 2:30. Better late than never.

Standouts in today's events were Evan Brophy, Simon Danis-Papin, and Richard Greenup. The goalies today Corey Crawford and Sebastian Dahm did not dazzle, Dahm looked pressured during the drills, Crawford looked tired. Currently the Blackhawks have a full stable of goalies, first there is Nikolai Khabibulin, Cristobal Huet, signed, sealed and delivered as the NHL team according to management. OK, that leaves Cory Crawford, who backed up the NHL team last year from Rockford. The "new guys" a Fin 24 year old Aitti Niemi, Mike Brodeur, who backed up Corey Crawford last year in Rockford and the other invitees, Joseph Fallon, Joseph Palmer and last but not least Josh Unice. That makes six juggling for the positions in Rockford and two signed for Chicago. That's too many goalies IMHO, look to see changes at the top to move Crawford up or four young goalies are going to be looking to impress scouts elsewhere this summer.

Tomorrows schedule is for the Blackhawks to hit the ice 10:00-11:00, rookies 11:00-12:15 with a group A scrimmage at 12:30-2:00 PM. Hockey in July, sweet, be there or be square.

No rest for the Wicked....Hockey in July, Sweet!

Two hours until I smell ice again sweet year round hockey ice....I know it was only a few days ago Kissane and I toured the Team Ireland/Dundalk Bulls facility in Armagh, Ireland but this will be NHL prospects hockey. To me the best stuff, a house of dreams, blood sweat and tears.

It has been a season of change for the Chicago Blackhawks,a new coach and with the death of Bill Wirtz his son Rocky at the helm of the ship a new course seems to be in place. Yes, this gardener is going to take her kit and look for the snowdrops, the new growth in this storied franchise. Congratulations Rocky Wirtz, you did it, I'm back interested in local NHL hockey from the bottom up thanks to your new perspective on making hockey more accessible to the common fan. Thanks to the Rockford IceHogs and their organization and product. A team that is consistently fun to watch and the best arena atmosphere in the AHL.

Today Blackhawk prospects will gather for rookie camp at "The Edge" arena in Bensonville it will be a week of practice skates and scrimmage games against Blackhawk and Icehog vets. The new kids will be eager to strut their stuff and prove themselves. The Hogs class of 07' will be looking to move up to the Hawks, this is the stuff dreams are made of.

The guys with stars in their eyes that I will be keeping my peepers on today will be...
#11, Akim Aliu, forward, played a few shifts with Rockford last season, has a bit of a colourful past. But Aliu could be the find of the decade for the Hawks, give this kid a chance to prove himself!

#17 Evan Brophy, forward, played with the Hogs last season, born Kitchner Ont, a real hockey town.I expect to see him move up.

#48, Jonathan Carlsson, any Swede playing defence interests me, coming from Sweden he probably has the skating skills but will he be aggressive enough for the North American game?

#24 Peter Leblanc, born in Hamiton, Ont, playing currently for New Hampshire.A col legate program that consistently develops quality players, also watch fellow Green Mountion Boy # 54 Kruise Reddick.

Lastly, a goalie: # 34, Joseph Palmer from Utica NY the foot of the Adirondack Mountains, has came up through the ranks of NY junior teams around Syracuse and Utica. Presently playing for Ohio State, Toledo.

Two hours to go, I can just smell the ice now.....Hockey in July, who says it's just a winter sport?