Vancan Outta The Blue


Wrangling from the play-by-play booth
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Home playoff game #1 (Game 3 vs, Chase Heat) February 28th, 2014

It’s not a level of hockey too many of us are familiar with but it’s one that in the past seven months I’ve come to know is very competitive and full of driven young men.

Junior B hockey is played in BC via the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL), Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League (VIJHL), and Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL).  The latter is the one I was privileged enough to be engaged with. Specifically this past season, I called play-by-play for the expansion/relocated 100 Mile House Wranglers.

The Wranglers organization was staffed by completely different people from the previous season, from the General Manager to the skate sharpener to the backup goalie. You could count on one hand the number of players who weren’t KIJHL rookies. It was Penticton, the former home of the Lakers, where the franchise moved from by the way. For all intents and purposes though, they were expansion.

In their first season, the 100 Mile Wranglers had the best attendance in the league, and squashed all expectations of them. They not only had a winning record and narrowly missed out on home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, they won a playoff series.  To give you some perspective, the team they beat, the Chase Heat had made the post-season for the first time in that franchise’s three year history. In Chase’s first season, 2011-12, they won 5 of 52 games. The Wranglers won 23 in their inaugural campaign.

Even I, a rookie broadcaster, was skeptical of how the team would do, but there I was, up in the ‘booth’ for every home goal and every home win this team racked up to kick off its franchise history. I put booth in quotation marks because it wasn’t truly one. The South Cariboo Rec. Centre was not particularly set up for a junior team at first, so an actual booth, rather than a table at the top of Section C just inches right of dead centre ice, is likely still a few years away. I’m not complaining, though what’s unreal was the amount of times the 3rd period Canadian 2-for-1 fan pizza delivery promotion wound up going to someone just seats away from me, usually in the aforementioned Section C. I didn’t hesitate to comment on that during the webcasts either because oh were the aromas palpable?!

How can I forget the OT controversies, or the first broken pane of glass which occurred during warm-up of a mid-season game? To this day, I still don’t know who shot it. How about ‘Kick-start My Heart to begin each warm-up? Or getting player pronunciations from opposing team members? Or that time all the players bleached their hair for playoffs and I asked the Head Coach, “Why isn’t your hair blonde?” He said, “Because I’m not 18.” Meanwhile, Assistant Coach Richard Duff is q-tipped. Ah the memories.

What’s weird is for as much as I want to be some great sportscaster one day, covering the Canucks from somewhere other than my, “mom’s basement,” I always said play-by-play was one thing I’d never do, or that I was more of a colour man. By the end of the season, my head could have been larger than Rob Ford’s gut, but I harkened back to my days at Columbia Academy where many an instructor told me to never let that happen. I was humbled by the bushels of unexpected compliments the rest of my webcast team and I received. You know what? I think play-by-play may be a path I can take in the future and I’m super excited about that. A tidbit of information I’ll always hold dear was that the first hockey game I ever called , a pre-season matchup Hundred Mile won 7-2 over Kamloops, was on the eve of what would have been my dad’s 47th birthday, September 11th. He would be proud.

As mentioned, I was wary of the Wranglers’ chances this season so I can say with certainty I would have had just as much fun and got just as much, if not more out of it, had they gone on to win just five games all year. I got lucky.

And I didn’t just learn how to become a better broadcaster, I learned more about the game. Someone told me during the course of the season that you should never think you know everything about something, in my case, hockey. I took that to heart and asked questions and listened intently and educated myself on the inner workings of junior hockey. It’s not an easy venture for these kids. You don’t just grab your hockey gear, hop in your car, fill up the gas tank, drive to _________ (insert town here), try out, make the team, and play all year. That sounds like a lot but that would actually make it super easy. Again, we’re talking about kids, teenagers, high schoolers, who are provinces, sometimes even a country away from their parents, and as anyone who’s in the know about how junior hockey works, they’re paying to play, sometimes a pretty nice chunk of change, but they do it because they’re passionate and love the game of hockey, and because they were raised right, driven to the rinks sometimes hours away (a la Carey Price), just for practice, let alone games and/or tournaments. #RunOnSentence

One young gentleman I had the pleasure of meeting this season was the Wranglers first ever Captain, #11 Jaidan Ward. Ward was devastated by season’s end because he never even got to appear in a single playoff game in his final season of junior. The weekend before playoffs began, he suffered another concussion, his 2nd or 3rd of the season. I saw him at the rink before, during, and after each home game of the playoffs and his head was high, and he said he still talked to his teammates before and after every game, like a great Captain should have. He’s 20 years old now and won’t play junior hockey ever again. Those games, those moments on the ice were stolen from him and I felt for him during the final fleeting moments of the season. He is one hockey player I will never forget meeting.

Then there was the GM and Head Coach Doug Rogers, who’d formerly coached in this league but was away from it for several years before returning to take the helm of the 100 Mile House Wranglers. What a task but what an amazing job he did. He taught me many things but probably the easiest to pick out is that hard work isn’t just a cliché. That was the mantra all season long, preached by him, the players, and the fans who bought into it. Why not hard work? Hockey isn’t easy, and this is a competitive league. Hard work is all you have to lean on at times. One thing is for sure, each and every single one of the 700+ fans that attended each of those four home playoff games appreciated the hard work Rogers, his fellow coaches, trainers and players exerted on the ice. It wasn’t a championship team but they earned their respect very early on, and from all 19 other teams who realized that the Wranglers were here to play, not to be kicked around.

My whole point is that Junior B hockey, the KIJHL, is surrounded by great people who’ll teach you things when you least expect it. It was through reporting on this team, doing the play-by-play for them, and simply being a fan that I learned more about respecting  the game, especially in the sense that while it’s competitive and that, “you play to win the game,” it’s a fun game. It sounds so cliché, but from being a minor hockey coach who tells his players to always have fun right up to being a play-by-play broadcaster who was witnessed by many people on multiple nights waving his playoff towel while calling a goal at the same time, this game is fun.

I could not have been more honoured to be a part of the 100 Mile Wranglers first ever season in the KIJHL, and then to MC their awards banquet just two days after the team was eliminated. It was sad to see it end and without a doubt, I’d love if the team were still playing and I could be back up there in the ‘booth’ right now, but that will have to wait a few months, coincidentally around the same time I’ll become a father and be planning a wedding that will be less than a year away when the new season starts. I hope my kid one day plays hockey and sees the fun I’ve been able to find in it, because there aren’t many other types of fun like the one you’ll discover on the ice, top shelf, along the half-boards, at the point, in the neutral zone, and behind the mic, calling a hockey game.



NWSB – Draft grades and analysis for Canucks 1st round
July 2, 2013, 10:39
Filed under: General

Twitter-Full-LogoNWSB Canucks blogger Josh Hall recaps the 2013 NHL draft for the Vancouver Canucks two first round picks. Josh points out it finally happened Sunday as the Canucks traded away goalie Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils.In return they got to pick Bo Horvat, then with their second 1st round pick they chose Hunter Shinkaruk. A good day for Van City. Mike Gillis certainly isn’t making it easy to form an opinion on him. Time will tell all.

READ FULL STORY: Draft grades and analysis for Canucks 1st round



NWSB – It’s time to believe in Torts

Twitter-Full-LogoNWSB Canucks contributor Josh Hall is as optimistic as ever and at the same time cautious about the potential for new Vancouver Canucks Head Coach John Tortorella. What effect will he have on the likes of Ryan Kesler and Daniel Sedin & Henrik Sedin? Does his presence effect the decision to move either Roberto Luongo or Cory Schneider? These are all things Canucks will have to be patient for but the new era of Torts has dawned and fans need to practice as they preach and believe.

Read FULL Article on NWSB: It’s time to Believe in Torts



NWSB – Remembering Alain Vigneault’s time with the Vancouver Canucks
May 23, 2013, 16:23
Filed under: Canucks & NHL

Twitter-Full-LogoWill he be remembered as a hero or a villain? Better question: what SHOULD he be remembered as? Alain Vigneault was once on the cusp of becoming the greatest Coach this province had seen in any sport that we could say we had a team competing in.

Alain Vigneault unfortunately became staler than a salad at McDonalds waiting to be served in the last two years but do his successes outweigh his failures?

Give me your take in the comments section in the following link.

Remembering Alain Vigneault’s time with the Vancouver Canucks



NWSB – Catching up with BC Lions WR Marco Iannuzzi
May 14, 2013, 08:37
Filed under: BC Lions

Marco IannuzziJust one month are we from the kick-off of the 2013 CFL season. It will be a pre-season game against Calgary but it’s CFL action nonetheless. So we caught up with Wide Receiver Marco Iannuzzi via Twitter and he talks about how the Boston Bombing affected him having played in Massachusetts as well as what a recent mini camp did for players heading into main camp. There may be some other stuff thrown in there too.  Enjoy and Roar you Lions Roar!

RIGHT HERE: Catching up with BC Lions WR Marco Iannuzzi



NWSB – Announcements GM Gillis might make Thursday

Twitter-Full-LogoNWSB Vancouver Canucks insider Josh Hall speculates what Thursday’s off-season press conference could possibly be about. Does Zack Kassian’s do have anything TO DO with it? Are Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin and Alex Edler looking for one more linemate to take over to Sweden with them? The answer is probably pretty obvious. Tell us in the comments section what you think. Hit us back at NWSB today.

Yup, click right here – Top 5 Announcements Gilly M could make



NWSB – The NWSB Canucks year-end awards
April 27, 2013, 08:54
Filed under: Canucks & NHL

Twitter-Full-LogoThe truncated season has been an interesting one to say the least. Canucks Nation has come within a few feet of the panic button and been as far away from it as possible at different points. In the end though, a 5th straight division championship and home ice to start the playoffs are things fans can look to for solace. But who deserves the most credit? Click the link to find out.

RIGHT HERE…THIS LINK: NWSB Canucks year-end awards




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