Monday, March 24, 2014

My worst hockey nightmare comes true: The T-Birds and Silvertips face EACH OTHER in WHL playoff action

I like to be able to cheer for a team in the playoffs freely, without stress, conflict or dare I say, guilt. So, when the WHL released its playoff bracket, I let out a loud groan as I saw who the Seattle Thunderbirds (@SeattleTBirds) and Everett Silvertips (@WHLSilvertips) would be facing in the first round: EACH OTHER.

My first reaction was, "Really, WHL? Why??????" 

Then I realized the league had absolutely nothing to do with the match-up. Their nearly identical records placed them at 4th (T-Birds) and 5th (Silvertips) in the Western Conference, which meant they would have to battle each other for the chance to advance to the Round 2.

Well, two games are in the books and it's been brutal trying to be Switzerland (aka: impartial). It's been damn hard to be happy for the team that won both games (Seattle) and sad for the team that lost (Everett). Because at the end of this series, whether it goes 4, 5, 6 or 7 games, one team's players will jubilantly advance to the next round, and one team's players will go home for the summer, utterly deflated.

I've written little tidbits about Game 1 and Game 2 for the KING 5 Sports site. They're nothing more than overviews of the game for casual fans perusing our website. But I've been reading juicier recaps courtesy of Andy Eide (@AndyEide) and Tim Pigulski (@tpigulski) on (T-Birds) and Nick Patterson (@NickHPatterson) at The Herald of Everett (Silvertips), as well as admiring the stellar action shots captured by photographer Christopher Mast (@MastImages) (click here to check out the ingenious "goal cam" he set up before last night's Game 2 at Comcast Arena in Everett)
(Game 2: Kozun robs Khaira of a goal/Photo: Christopher Mast)

Game 3 takes place tomorrow night (Tuesday, March 25) at ShoWare Center in Kent. The puck drops at 7:05pm, and a few minutes before that, I'll do what I've done about half a dozen times at T-Birds games during the regular season: sing the national anthem. And I'll be wearing a T-Birds jersey because that's what anthem singers do. But for the minute or so it takes to get through the anthem, I hope all the fans inside the arena will unite as one and sing with me. 

After that, when the puck drops, you're welcome to retreat to your corners and cheer your little hearts out for your team until the final buzzer sounds. Then, maybe we can unite again-- not just as T-Birds or Silvertips fans, but as hockey fans.

At least, until Game 4 (Friday, March 28 - 7:35pm at Comcast Arena in Everett).

The rest of the schedule (if necessary):

Game 5 – Saturday, March 29, 7:05pm – Everett at Seattle (ShoWare Center, Kent)

Game 6 – Monday, March 31, 7:05pm – Seattle at Everett (Comcast Arena, Everett)

Game 7 – Wednesday, April 2, 7:05pm – Everett at Seattle (ShoWare Center, Kent)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Heartbreaking week for hockey

It's been a heavy week for hockey fans, as tragedy struck players from four teams. Fans pushed rivalries aside to unite on Twitter and other social media, offering prayers, support, sharing tears and comfort. Meanwhile, four players' families, friends and teammates struggle to make sense of the heartbreak in their midst.

Saturday, March 1, 2014 - TIM BOZON
Tim Bozon, a forward with the Kootenay ICE (WHL), was rushed to a hospital in Saskatoon, the day after helping the ICE beat the Blades 4-2 the night before. Doctors determined Tim was suffering from Neisseria Meningitis, a serious inflammation of the tissue around the brain and spine, and placed him in a coma earlier this week to help him heal. His parents flew in from Switzerland and have been constantly at his side. 

The WHL has set up a fund to help Tim and his family with expenses during his recovery process. Fans in Canada can donate at any BMO Bank of Montreal branch in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Fans in the U.S. can mail donations to:

Tim Bozon Fund
c/o Western Hockey League
Father David Bauer Arena
2424 University Dr. NW
Calgary, Alberta T2N 3Y9

Anyone looking to send get well wishes to Tim can either send them to the above address, or directly to the team:

The Kootenay ICE Hockey Club
c/o Western Financial Place
#2 - 1777 - 2nd Street North
Cranbrook, BC V1C 7G9

Monday, March 3, 2014 - MATT STAJAN
On Monday, March 3, Calgary Flames center Matt Stajan and his wife Katie welcomed their son Emerson into the world, then grieved as the newborn passed away a short time later. Matt has taken a leave of absence from the team to be with this wife, but the Calgary Sun reports, teammates and their wives have rallied around the heartbroken couple in a show of love and support. 

Fans who want to show love and support for Matt and Katie Stajan can send cards to:

Matt & Katie Stajan
c/o Calgary Flames
PO Box 1540 Stn. M.
Calgary, Alberta T2P 3B9

Friday, March 7, 2014 - RYAN FISCHER
 17-year-old Ryan Fischer was found unresponsive in his bed on the morning of Friday, March 7. It was later determined he had died from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (an enlarged heart). His team, the Grandville High School Bulldogs, were scheduled to play in the Michigan State semi-finals that evening. According to a story in The United State of Hockey blog, Ryan's parents, Scott and Roni, visited the team and urged the players to play that night. (They lost to Detroit Catholic 3-0 in an arena filled with emotional fans from both teams supporting Ryan and his teammates).

Ryan was laid to rest on Wednesday, March 12, following a memorial service where he was remembered as kind, passionate and dedicated to doing "what's right." He had been accepted to both the US Naval Academy and West Point (he had decided to attend West Point), and dreamed of serving his country.

Fans wanting to send condolences to Ryan's family (parents Scott and Roni, siblings Kelsea and Connor) can mail them to:

The Fischer Family
c/o Grandville High School
4700 Canal Ave. SW
Grandville, MI 49418

Monday, March 10 - RICH PEVERLEY
Six minutes into the game between the Dallas Stars and Columbus Blue Jackets, Rich Peverley skated to the Stars bench following a shift... then collapsed. Teammates quickly carried him into the tunnel as head coach Lindy Ruff screamed for a doctor - the entire drama broadcast live on TV. We later learned emergency crews treated Rich for a racing heartbeat and a stopped heart before rushing him to the hospital. 

Now, we learn Rich will miss the rest of the season as he undergoes surgery for atrial fibrillation, a condition that causes an irregular and rapid heartbeat that makes it difficult to send blood throughout the body. He missed the preseason because of heart issues, but had been given the green light to play following treatment - and worked with team doctors to monitor his heart and took medication regularly. 

A return to the ice remains unclear.

Fans wanting to send Rich encouragement and "get well" cards can mail them to:

Rich Peverley
c/o Dallas Stars
2601 Avenue of the Stars
Frisco, TX 75034

Many people have tweeted well-wishes to/about all of the players mentioned above, but sometimes, a good old "snail mail" letter or card can brighten things up even more. Or am I really old fashioned?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Puckpourri for Sunday, March 8: Prayers, playoffs and a whole lotta pride

This is a drive-by entry filled with links to stories that have caught my eye, gathered in one spot for you. I don't have time lately to write long and thoughtful posts, but still want to share what's making my brain hum and heart sing. Think of it as a many-course meal that's chock-full of flavor but doesn't fill you up and leaves room for that wafer-thin mint at the end...

First: Prayers (positive thoughts, healing energy, chants or whatever means through which you express yourselves):
1. Tim Bozon from the Kootenay Ice (WHL), who is in critical condition at a Saskatoon hospital, fighting a nasty bout of bacterial meningitis. We understand his parents have flown from Switzerland to be with him and that all players who came in contact with him are being treated with antibiotics and booster shots. Our thoughts are with Tim, his family, friends and teammates. If you live in a city with a WHL team, see if your team has a get well card on hand for fans to sign. The regular season ends this weekend, so hurry. If you don't live in a city with a WHL team, you can send your get well wishes to Tim via Twitter: @WHLKootenayIce - use the hashtag #GetWellTim

(Tim Bozon #20/Photo: Kootenay Ice)

2. Ryan Fischer from Grandville High School, Michigan, who passed away Friday, on the eve of the state semi-finals. According to reports, Ryan was found "unresponsive" in his bed Friday morning. It was later determined he died from hyperthotic cardiomyopathy. His parents met with his teammates and urged them to go ahead and play. You can read the full account written by Chris Peters (@ChrisMPeters) on The United States of Hockey blog.

(Ryan Fischer/Photo: Jenn Bellgraph Photography)

(NOTE: Those of you who follow CCPT Hockey Show will notice this part of the post reads exactly like the one I wrote for the show's website. It's called "streamlining" (aka, I'm too busy/lazy to write different posts about the same subjects today)

NHL Trades:
1. Martin St. Louis - it was widely known that there were issues between Marty and the powers-that-be in Tampa Bay. I'd heard trade request rumors since Team Canada's hockey team roster was announced and his name wasn't on it. But... in chatting with Clark Brooks and my co-host Cassie McClellan on this weekend's CCPT Hockey Show, I learned those trade rumors have been swirling since 2009, making for some very unhappy fans who showed their displeasure in a myriad of ways, from canceling season tickets to more visual displays, like this photo, submitted to Puck Daddy's "Jersey Fouls" column.

(Marty's new gig/Photo: New York Rangers)

2. Roberto Luongo - Confession time. I knew nothing of Roberto's NHL history prior to him joining the Canucks. I thought he had sprung, fully-formed and in uniform, ready to play from Day One. A little on-air lesson from my CCPT Hockey Show co-host Cassie McClellan and a visit to revealed Luongo's full history - from his junior days in the Q, to being drafted #4 overall to the Islanders, then his stint in Florida before making that cross-country trip to Vancouver, BC during the 2006-2007 season. The return to Miami seems to have done Roberto a bit of good as he's off to a good start. However, veteran commentator (and flashy fashion guru) Don Cherry is all hot under the collar about a snarky comment tweeted out under his @Strombone1 account. 

(Roberto's new gig/Photo: Florida Panthers)

3. Michael Del Zotto - This story lit up my "feel good" radar, not because of his trade from the Rangers to Predators (back in January), but what happened last week. Seems Michael befriended a young fan with cerebral palsy several years ago. The two texted and talked daily, as well as spending time together when they could, playing video games and chatting. Young Liam didn't take the trade news too well, and Michael was also a bit bereft at leaving his little buddy. What happened next has been beautifully captured by James Murphy on

(Michael Del Zotto & his pal Liam)

We're heading into the final week of regular season play across the WHL and a number of teams have already clinched playoff spots (more so in the Western Conference than in the East):

Eastern Conference teams that have clinched playoff spots:
Edmonton Oil Kings
Regina Pats
Calgary Hitmen
Medicine Hat Tigers
Kootenay Ice

Western Conference teams that have clinched playoff spots:
Kelowna Rockets
Portland Winterhawks
Victoria Royals
Seattle Thunderbirds
Spokane Chiefs
Everett Silvertips
Vancouver Giants

Stay tuned for playoff brackets....

Those of you who know me know I attended the University of Alabama Huntsville in the early 90's and developed my love of hockey by cheering on the Chargers (and serving as the school's "official" national anthem singer). If you follow college hockey, you may also be aware of the rocky road the Chargers hockey program has traversed over the past few years, as well as being cancelled, resurrected (following a tidal wave of backlash) and finding a home with the WCHA. UAH wrapped up its current season yesterday with a 2-35-1 record, which may look dismal. Okay, it is dismal. Hopefully, the coaching staff can recruit some great talent and move on from here on firmer footing. 

On a positive note, the Chargers were featured in the New York Times, in a story about the team traveling to play teams in Alaska for the first time since I was at UAH.