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.

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NWSB – Canucks winning on sheer volition
March 25, 2013, 11:48
Filed under: Canucks & NHL | Tags: , , , , ,

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Following a 3-2 victory in Denver, the Canucks head home for two as they try to extend this somewhat unexpected winning streak.

Excerpt:

“Let’s not forget about how before the Vancouver Canucks became devastatingly riddled with injuries, they were outscored in the initial nine game stretch to begin March by a count of 27-24 and at this point only have a +2 goal differential on the regular season…The Canucks now fly home for a two-gamer against teams they should squash, apparently even with all the injuries. Those teams are Columbus and Colorado. Seriously, Columbus’ recent run is a mirage and they don’t just need water, they need a reality check too.”

Read More: Canucks winning on sheer volition



NWSB – Canucks are some kinda blunderful
March 19, 2013, 08:55
Filed under: Canucks & NHL | Tags: , , , ,

ImageVigneault has the audacity to say the team is, “trying their best,” and, “playing well,” after Monday’s game? Why don’t we just plan the parade route  Alain?

The Canucks are some kinda blunderful



A Locked Out Fan: Volume One
September 17, 2012, 21:03
Filed under: General | Tags: , , , , ,

Josh Hall, 100 Mile House – They say there’s a first for everything and as the title suggests, this is the first volume in what shall be a periodic update from a lonesome and locked out fan.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time in our lifetime we’ve had to sit and ponder the meaning of life while our heroes on ice battle with their bosses.

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A shot to the heart is what this lockout is. Higgy knows…

If this is the first time in your lifetime, you’re too young to be on the internet, so get off of it now.

If you heard your older sibling talking about my writing and asked them to print it off for you, then you are very resourceful for a 6 year old and I predict that you shall do well in life.

Anyways, what I would like this (hopefully short) series to be about is what hockey means to a guy like me, a fan of the game and my team until the day I drop dead in a doughnut factory.

Don Koharski would be proud.

Seriously though, it’s been 48 hours since the NHL locked out its players and that is a travesty. It never should have gone this far. Regardless of which side you are on at this very moment, the two sides have had months and months to negotiate a new deal.

Yet for some reason they decided to wait until a month and a half ago to commence the needed deliberations.

I stand firmly on the side of the players though. Today on Facebook, I got into a debate with someone as I am almost certain many of you reading this have as well, again regardless of which side you’re on.

This was my penultimate comment that pretty much sums up why I take the side of the players:

“The issue is that players have signed contracts and are being asked to take major pay cuts of around 20%. The issue here is the NHLPA bowed to the NHL’s commands already 7 years ago. The issue is that now the NHL is asking the NHLPA once again to take less money. The NHLPA should be commended because they have offered to take less than what they’ve been receiving the last 7 years which is 57%. They have actually offered to take around 52%. The issue here is the greedy Mr. Bettman and the owners who even the week leading up the lockout officially being announced were handing out huge contract extensions to star players (Alex Burrows, Evander Kane, Kari Lehtonen) and yet they complain that players are making too much. People wouldn’t have jobs if there were no customers, we get that but that is not the major issue. Check out TSN, you’ll see a video of Carey Price telling the fans how much they just want to get back on the ice and play the game because without they feel lost. I firmly stand by the players because they have done nothing but concede and concede more.”

Maybe you agree with me and maybe you don’t but we all as fans have a common desire. That would be to see some hockey games.

Perhaps I am biased because at one point I wanted to be in the NHL, albeit when I was very young.

Perhaps it’s the straight up fact that players like the Leafs’ James Reimer and Habs’ Mathieu Darche stating that they want to play simultaneous to a new CBA being negotiated. However, the owners won’t have any of that.

I mean who cares about pre-season really? Not this guy! To be perfectly honest, I’m happy to see the Canucks just skating together right now so I’m not even too concerned about a training camp.

Of course if a deal is to be reached in time for the regular season to start on time, there’s still the case of Roberto Luongo to be dealt with. What an off-season eh?! It’d sure be funny if it were more eventful than the 2012-13 regular season.

[random thoughts due to lost and confused hockey mind = dangerous]

To close, I’ll just say that I remain optimistic although I certainly don’t have any reason to be. I’m not a TSN Hockey Insider and I don’t yet have Mike Gillis on speed-dial so I can’t dish you the latest rumours and secrets from the bargaining table.

I will have Mike Gillis on speed-dial. Oh yes, I will have Mike Gillis on speed-dial.

Maybe I am optimistic because I see too much good that can be lost if the owners and players don’t get their scheisse together.

So I’ll sit here on my couch, writing these things, watching Monday Night Raw (don’t judge me), continuing to hit the twit (tweet) and hope that there really are Hockey Gods because with the distance between both sides right now, it seems that maybe they’re the only ones who can save us now.



The Skills Competition
December 14, 2011, 15:09
Filed under: Canucks & NHL, Definitions | Tags: , , , ,

 

CompetitionThe act of competing, as for profit or a prize; rivalry; A test of skill or ability; a contest.

The opening drop of the puck and two players jostle to skillfully obtain the puck for their team. Who’s quicker to get their stick on the puck? Who has defter hands?

Play goes on as players glide across the ice at great speeds. Skating; a skill these men learned at such a young age and one that is essential to being a good hockey player at the NHL level.

A saucer pass over not one but two sticks; not only that, but it’s right on the tape, leaving the receiver of the pass with an open net. The saucer pass and passing in general is a skill very few players can say they are great at.

It’s mid-way through the 2nd period now and a talented winger drifts down the right side boards, his skating sleek as silk. He’s got company; one defenseman. The winger cuts to the middle and undressed the d-man. He left all his finesse skills out on the ice with that dipsy doodle. It doesn’t end there though; no that winger put the puck on the toe of his blade and snipes it top shelf above the goalies glove hand. He was aiming right where he put it. Now tell me that is not pure skill.

The score is tied 2-2, both goalies having put on a clinic the entire night; a clinic of their skills that is. Stopping pucks, snagging point shots and hot dogging it once or twice are just a sample of what they managed to do this night.

The play is down in one team’s end for the final 60 seconds of regulation. The pressure being withheld like none other during that game. The puck finds its way to the right of the net, 15 feet out. The D turn to that man as he threads the needle to his teammate, unmanned, 20 feet away on the other side of the net. The goalie is down, but not out. The forward who took the pass takes a shot and somehow, someway, the goalie lunges back, stretches his stick out into the gaping void that is the open net. Some will call that luck. I call that a skill of strength and determination and never giving up on a play.

Regulation ends with the squads deadlocked at 2 goals apiece.

OT is played and chanced are traded back and forth, with both teams coming close to ending it on numerous occasions. It was a tremendous display of pure hockey skill.

Then comes the hated and loved shootout. It’s what many call the skills competition. “How ignorant,” I say to myself just about every time a colour commentator blurts out those two words upon the ending of OT. Were we not all just treated to a skills competition? Who can shoot the puck better? Who can make crisper passes? Who can maintain possession by constantly winning faceoffs? Even the act of throwing a hipcheck a la Ballard would be considered a skill.

Yet some of us are so quick to judge the shootout as something different, when really it’s just not.

The moral of the story is…Don’t judge a shootout by its cover!

Follow me on Twitter @vancan19

Original Post on VSBN



Eulogy: RIP KB3’s Tooth
December 7, 2011, 15:03
Filed under: Canucks & NHL | Tags: , , , , ,

Photo courtesy of Canucks.com

By Josh Hall

A gap now suffices for thee

Whom a mouth was not enough.

Dense, United, Shiny, Elven.

Conference Finals History.

32 Teeth.

The Sneaky Shot King.

He Scored As They Watched.

Nay was it the man housing the tooth,

Hath made glory rain on the house of Roger,

But the tooth itself shining bright upon the fans,

And let out a burst of brilliance matched by only those wiser.

It did it the hard way.

Dodging vulcanized rubber hither and tither.

It did what any tooth would do for its Elven master.

Took one for the team.

It is on this day we remember Kevin Bieksa’s tooth. Glorious were its days as the d-man’s best friend. Kevin looked down on no one more fluoride…I mean fondly than his left front tooth. A mighty part of the mandible it was, providing Kevin with a safe environment for chewing other player’s fingers should he have ever chosen to follow the steps of team-mates Burr and Lappy. Dentist Recchi would be so proud (everyone knows dentists aren’t real doctors).

Word is that Todd Bertuzzi was in attendance and he said simply, “It is what it is.” And how filling…I mean, uh, fitting that is for him to be there on a night that Kevin Bieksa’s fine and fandangled tooth was attacked viciously by an elbow (and against Colorado). Ironically David Jones claims the tooth only fell out because of Bieksa clutching at his mouth with all his little fingers jamming away at it. Go figure.

Alas, the days of the tooth need not be over. Sometime when the Canucks ice team brushed…DAMMIT I mean shoveled the on ice snow, that poor, lost chomper was moved to his new residence, via said shovel. His new home now being a giant pile of ice and snow in the bowels of Rogers Arena. Reportedly the shovel used was none other than the one used by Marty McSorley to hit Donald Brashear in the skull…rest his career.

The attention at long last turns back to the Elven one, ears and all. Well he must not be forgotten for he must now live a life that forces him to try and fill a void everyday….with his tongue.

Rest in peace little Tooth and may you find friendship in the arms of Brendan Morrison’s lost bit.

#RIPKevinBieksasTooth



The Fans
November 19, 2011, 14:58
Filed under: Canucks & NHL, Definitions, Replace The KB | Tags: , , , ,

 

**Author’s note: This post is ANOTHER in Josh Hall’s bid to Replace the KB as part of The Province Newspaper’s Hockey Blogger Competition. When sharing on twitter or facebook, please use the hashtags #ReplaceTheKB and #ProvNeedsVancan. Thank you for supporting Josh in his quest! For more info on the details of the contest and other bloggers, click HERE!**

By Josh Hall

Fan (noun): A person who has a strong interest in or admiration for a particular sport, art or entertainment form, or famous person.

By now, anyone who’s followed my journey through the twitterverse and/or blogosphere will know that I am an undying Canucks fan. By that I mean my love for them will never die, regardless of the outcome to a game or an entire season.

Going through this Replace The KB competition has been fun and it’s been a challenge. That being said, I’ve had the opportunity to share my stories and opinions with a much larger audience than usual. With that has come the chance to get to know more Canucks fans and find out exactly why it is that they love this team and also why they may love the game of hockey in general.

I have collected a few testimonials from followers, friends and fans alike to share with you, the beloved reader, on why they love the Vancouver Canucks. Without further ado, I thank you all for your support throughout this competition; I will continue blogging about the Canucks regardless of the outcome and Go Canucks Go.

Here are the responses (give these fans a follow on twitter [click their names]):

@jrcaptain91 I’ve grown up watching hockey with my Dad and loved it since I was a baby. I’m a fan through thick and thin ‘til the end.”

JH: Arguably, there is no better reason than family.

@tpoole00 It’s because they play hard most nights whistle to whistle. Also, it’s exciting watching the finesse of the Sedins and Salo/Edler/Bieksa/Rome blasting point shots. In my opinion Luongo is the best goalie in the league. Go Canucks go and bring home the cup!”

JH: I don’t know how much longer Rome’s luck is going to run but for sure, the depth we have on defense is on most nights a treat to watch. 

“@vancitybeerguy The Canucks represent courage and perseverance, guts and glory.  The excitement of a break-away, the exhilaration of a last minute goal is why I love our team. The magic that is generated through the Sedins alone is worth the price of admission. They are a brotherhood in Vancouver and I couldn’t turn my back on that. I love the Canucks because I feel like I am part of the team, just like the strangers high-fiving me after another brilliant goal or a huge save by Luongo.”

JH: I couldn’t agree more with the brotherhood comment…but let’s not forget the sister Canucks fans. Those high fives you reference too, totally awesome after the game as well.

 @nuckiiee It’s impossible to describe the reasons why I love and support the Canucks. Being a Canucks fan and a hockey fan in general isn’t just a hobby; it’s a way of life. Supporting the Canucks has been like an emotional roller coaster for me these past couple years, but I know I’ll never give up on them. They’re more than a hockey team; they’re community heroes who we can all learn from.”

JH: Took the words right of my mouth; It’s a way of life. And hey, roller coasters are fun right? Scary and they make you panic, but at the same time, tons of fun…right?

 @GB_Canuck I’m a long time football (soccer) fan but in the last couple of years my love of the game over here in England has started to dwindle. I’ve always had a ‘passing interest’ in the NHL and as I’ve been to Vancouver before, I’ve decided to follow the Canucks. It’s not particularly easy to do that over here because of the time difference but I’m determined to stay committed whether we’re winning or losing.” 

JH: Well here’s to hoping you stay ON the bandwagon. Good on ya for not becoming a fLames fan.

@kenny_M_on_mars My family moved from N. Ontario to Kelowna in 1970 and I was a Leafs fan. It took a couple years but the Canucks won me over in 78/79. I loved the tough workman style hockey they played. Now we finally have ‘committed to winning’ ownership and it’s a great time for all true fans. Regardless I will pull for them win or lose but yes there are more important things, it is just a game after all. When that cup does come, Oh how amazing that day will be!?”

JH: I’ll forgive the “It’s just a game” remark because there’s something about the way you put it that makes me agree more than usual. But yes, how special and worth the wait that day will be when we finally lift the Cup.

So it’s clear; many things attribute to being a loyal fan, whether it’s of the Canucks, the Leafs, another team or just hockey in general. The most important thing to always remember as a fan is that as a true fan, you have that commitment to remaining as loyal as possible for as long as possible.

Once again, thank you and rock on Canucks fans.

Haters Be Learners!




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