Vancan Outta The Blue


Wranglers camp day 1: Hard-nosed style ‘makes me work harder’
April 26, 2014, 09:48
Filed under: 100 Mile Wranglers, KIJHL | Tags: , , , ,

Day one is in the books at 100 Mile Wranglers spring camp.

In game 1, team red and team green finished deadlocked at three goals apiece, albeit playing a two period (21 minutes each) game. Game 2 featured teams Blue and Gold also tying 1-1. I caught up with a few of the players post-game 1 to talk about the competition level.

Cam Flinton, one of three players here from Notre Dame, Saskatchewan says, “I’ve been to some other camps and by far this is the most up-paced. The Coach pushed the pace in the kills sesh too so that was pretty good.”

The all around consensus is that Coach Dale Hladun’s style was totally appropriate.’Duner’ as he’s known, a 9 year KIJHL coaching veteran, was loud, boisterous, and hard-nosed during the opening skills session (practice).

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Game 1 between Green & Red which ended in a 3-3 tie (Photo by Josh Hall)

“I like that. It makes me work harder,” says Quesnel native Kyle Riley. He also says, “I felt normal,” out there, even after a bit of a break.

Riley was in 100 Mile House in March for the Midget Tier 3 Provincials where his team finished 3rd.

We also caught Dylan Haney of Notre Dame in the hallway following Game 1. He tells us their team won their Provincial tournament in Saskatchewan this past season.

That said, “you can tell a lot of seasons have ended so a lot of guys haven’t been on the ice but the pace was still pretty good.” Haney says he hadn’t done any prior research about Duner’ but that he, “seems intense, and I like that.”

Kyle Haugo, a 1998 born from Elkford says, “the coaching’s pretty good. I’ve practiced with him a few times this year.” Elkford (or Elk Valley) is near Fernie where Coach Hladun was behind the bench last season. Haugo says that’s how he got invited to this camp. He says, “It’s a little intimidating being a first year midget.”

Player-wise, we spoke lastly to veteran Wrangler Mathieu Longhurst, a Prince George native who turned 18 in January. He was optimistic about the season to come, which is still months and a main camp away.”

“During the skills, I felt like I was getting my legs back and hands back,” he says. “It’s going to be a good year for the Wranglers. There’s a lot of good talent out here.”

Prior to the opening skills session at 4 o’ clock, Coach Hladun held an orientation in the lobby of the South Cariboo Rec Centre. In the talk, he says he spoke about all of the players being Wranglers, “until you don’t make the team. So act accordingly,” he says.

“I told them to act well off the ice, make sure the dressing rooms are clean and no chewing tobacco, that kind of stuff, and there’s a no fight rule. I dont want passive guys though. By Sunday, it’ll be a little more intense. The first day of any camp, guys dont know each other and for some, it’s their first camp but by Sunday, they’ll be full of piss and vinegar.”

READ MORE: WRANGLERS SPRING CAMP OPENS AT SCRC

Bookmark 100MileWranglers.com and follow @100MHWranglers on Twitter for more updates throughout and following the weekend.

The remaining schedule will see teams Red and Gold participate in a skills session followed by a game at 9am Saturday. After that, teams Green and Blue will do the same thing beginning at 11am.

In the afternoon, beginning at 4pm, Green will play Blue and Gold will play Red with no skills session in between. We also expect to speak with a member of the BCHL Merritt Centennials coaching staff who’s here coaching one of the four teams.

Sunday morning at 9am and 11:30am will be two final all-star games.



Wranglers spring camp opens at SCRC

The 100 Mile House Wranglers surprised the entire KIJHL in their inaugural season, and this weekend is where the quest to top that feat begins.

Wranglers Camp 1

Head Coach Dale Hladun leads a skills session to kick off 2014/15 Wranglers spring camp at the SCRC in 100 Mile House. (Photo by Josh Hall)

It’s been said before, but it’s worth saying again: this is Junior ‘B’ hockey. A lot of people will go to their first ‘B’ game and not be expecting much because they think if these kids were any good, they’d be playing ‘A,’ Major Junior or within the college ranks. This notion couldn’t be further from the truth. The young men who step on the ice in Junior ‘B’ rinks are skilled, some supremely.

In March, the Wranglers were eliminated in four games by the Kamloops Storm from the second round of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, so named due to the fact there is one team based in Washington State, the Spokane Braves. A month and half later, it’s time for spring camp. It honestly feels like we just finished the season, and yet there is change in the form of a new coach and general manager, and only a handful of players returning for this camp. Granted, some are off at Junior ‘A’ camps and will still get a shot at a later date should they express a desire to, but we’ll leave those players for another day.

Friday night will consist of two skills sessions and two games between the four teams, totalling 47 players and 8 goalies. One of those players is West Kelowna native Connor Sloan who tallied 19 goals and 22 assists for 41 points in 50 games played last season. That point total was good enough for third best on the ‘expansion’ team, and Sloan was voted fan favourite player at the end of the year.

On how it may be different for him compared to all the fresh faces at the South Cariboo Rec. Centre, Sloan says, “It’s different coming in, you have more experience right. You know how it’s going to be, but you still have to work hard and take it seriously.”

Sloan, 19, says he is far from presumptuous about having a roster spot on lockdown. He says he still has to earn it.

Somewhat of a different story last year was Riley Harder, a Lillooet native that began the season as a carded player for 100 Mile, but would wind up an AP at the end of November, not making another appearance until the new year and in the playoffs.

Having been on and off the roster, he says, “I just have to come back with a different mindset, make sure I give it my all and everything I can out on the ice.” He says for him to be better, his mental game has to be running on all cylinders.

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Parents of prospective players watch on during Spring Camp (Photo by Josh Hall)

Both players, forwards in their own right, say they loved playing for this community last season and that it wasn’t a difficult decision to come back.

It’s important to keep in mind this is spring camp. The KIJHL champion Beaver Valley Nitehawks just finished off a Keystone Cup victory in the lower mainland, and we are months away from not only the 2014/15 regular season, but the main camp, to be held likely in September. There are nearly 60 players in the South Cariboo for the weekend and despite the time between now and actual meaningful hockey, it’s a chance for them to show all that they’ve got. There may not be another scenario, especially for the kids here that want to move up from the KI, that represents a bigger opportunity. You make an impression now and you can run with it down the road. If you don’t, you’ll have your work cut out for you come late summer trying to find a team to play for.

2013/14 Wranglers present for this camp are Kenny Nordstrom (Terrace), Matt Longhurst (Prince  George), Lane Van de Wetering (Quesnel), Cole Zimmerman (Lone Butte), Derek Popadinac (100 Mile-AP, played one game), Rick Mack (Quesnel-AP, played seven games), Tristan Sailor (Williams Lake-AP, played one game) and of course Sloan and Harder.

Other local products taking the ice include Reece Forman, who played with the Nipawin Hawks of the SJHL last season. There’s also Micky Turner who played for Bellingham of the Northern Pacific Hockey League last year. Finally, we have a few 100 Mile Midget Tier 3 players trying out, those being Lynden Jeffery (born 1997), Patrick Walker (1999), goaltender Michael Toews (1998), and Emmett Collens (1998). Other locales represented include Williams Lake, Vanderhoof, Kamloops, Prince George, Fort St. James, Merritt, Surrey, Vancouver, Chase, Fernie, Smithers, Lillooet and even a BC kid who played in Sweden last year.

Bookmark 100MileWranglers.com and follow @100MHWranglers on Twitter for more updates throughout and following the weekend.



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.




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