I shook my head at the decisions that were made this off season. Between drafting a player who had already signed for another league, drafting kids from junior A who 9 times out of 10 will play pro somewhere else in the world before the LNAH, signing guys whose highest level of play is junior B, and so on.
You can’t blame the players; they’re busting their asses no matter their skill level. But this is not a developmental league. You’re playing and drafting to win. Not to develop. And I’ve said it before but you’re either a hockey guy or you’re not.
Of course I was met with the opposition of “Give them a chance! They haven’t even played a game yet!” and rightfully so.
But take a look at the standings right now.
The River Kings, at the time of writing this, are 2-12-1 with a total of 5 points. Obviously last place. The next team ahead of them, Laval, currently have 17. Recipe for disaster? You bet.
You see when teams don’t win, fans don’t show up to games. And when fans don’t show up to games, owners lose money. Mr. Moreau said he needed between 1500-2000 fans at each home game just to break even this season. Tonight’s game (a 6-2 loss to Trois Rivieres), had not even 1000.
When Steve Moreau bought the Cornwall River Kings and became the fan base’s saviour, there was a glimmer of hope in the struggling semi pro hockey club.
That is until he kept Rick Lalonde as coach and gave him the General Manager position at the same time. Giving someone both of those positions is a HUGE red flag. Who, from a hockey mind or hockey guy stand point is going to hold him accountable for his decisions? Sure, he had his “advisors”, but he has the final say.
What’s he going to do, fire himself if things go sour?
Rick Lalonde may be a great junior coach and had a great junior career. But he is not capable of keeping a locker room at the pro level in the LNAH. Former players have expressed to me their distaste of his coaching style. If it would be one thing if it was just one or two guys, but I could ice a full line of players.
Some trades have been made for a couple of up and comers, which is great and a positive step in the right direction. However, I feel it might be too late. Not just for the season but the team in general. I’d say to prove me wrong but how many times have I said it in the past? Something needs to be done. The hardcore fans who have stuck by this team through thick and thin don’t deserve this.
Where the hell is Steve Simoes when you need him?
(P.S. I know I shouldn’t have to say this but I know people will twist my words. This is nothing personal against Rick Lalonde, obviously. It’s strictly hockey.)
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(Originally published in the October 2015 edition of On Fire, the Coventry Blaze match night program)
The Coventry Blaze are embarking on an already busy schedule for the 2015-2016 season. This October, the schedule will throw a dagger into what the players are used too. Having won the league championship, the year before, the Blaze earned themselves a spot to compete in the IIHF Continental Cup. Coventry’s group play will be held in Tychy, Poland and the Continental Cup tournament will see the top teams in European countries play for the title of Europe’s best.
No team from the UK has won the Continental Cup since its creation in 1997. However, many teams have entered. The 2001 London Knights squad came close having lost in the finals to the ZSC Lions from Zurich, Switzerland. The Blaze are no strangers to the tournament. This will mark the fifth time that Coventry has entered into the challenge since the cup’s inception in 1997. They’ve finished in some very respectable places as well, no doubt a nod to the fine recruiting the brass does each year.
One person on this year’s Coventry squad has graced European ice with Continental Cup experience.
That man is your captain.
Ashley Tait was apart of the 2005-2006 Blaze squad that traveled over to Grenoble, France for their group action. Their bracket included the Amstel Tigers from the Netherlands, the Herning Blue Fox out of Denmark and the hosts, Bruleurs de Loups Grenoble. Coventry eventually lost to Grenoble in the last round of their group play and it signaled a start to the decline of the rest of the season as the Blaze fell into injury after injury. Nevertheless, it is an experience that Tait holds dear to his heart. “I’ve been fortunate enough to play in two Continental Cups and enjoyed them both,” remembers Tait fondly. “I always enjoy experiencing foreign cultures and generally just getting to play in and see another part of the world is a nice perk that being a hockey player gives you.”
As the underdogs, the 2005 Blaze had no pressure going into the tournament. It will likely be the same for the 2015 Blaze when they commence their journey as well. Tait holds the key to leadership. If you don’t believe me just look at this stat: Ashley Tait has iced for the Blaze for eight seasons and he’s been named captain for all of them. “Obviously I’m very proud to be in that position,” said Tait. “But I’d like to think how I play and conduct myself on and off the ice wouldn’t differ if I was wearing a letter or not.” There are a lot of fresh faces on this Blaze roster who are new to not only the EIHL but to Continental Cup play as well. will be a good place to test skills and determination; come back to the homeland as better players. Tait will be called upon to keep the locker room calm and rally the troops to burst when needed. He’s also tasked with keeping the players in check. No partying on game night, right? The players will listen. Why?
Because Ashley Tait is well respected.
Tait has had quite a career thus far in British ice hockey. At 40 years old, the man can fly up and down the rink like the latest North American import who has just gotten off the plane. He has a vast amount of championships written to his name including IIHF World Silver and Bronze medals. His accomplishments allowed him to be chosen on a side that played against the Boston Bruins. Tait literally has no down side to his game. His work ethic is applauded by many and desired by all.
As the Blaze make their way over to the Stadion Zimowy in Tychy, Poland, all areas of the game must be addressed. Will travel and fatigue become a factor in the tournament? Tait doesn’t think so. “Not especially. It’s not too far for us to travel and we’ll travel on a day we don’t play.” The extra rest will help but there’s another thing that gives Tait a minor worry. “I think adjusting to the bigger ice will be more of a concern initially.”
“It’s generally (the tournament) a very quick 3 games in 3 days. It’s really all about being ready for the games, not worrying about being tired and making sure you enjoy it.” This year’s Cup presents another challenge for Ashley as well. “Unfortunately I’ve haven’t been able to progress beyond the first round. Hopefully I can help change that this time.” The Coventry Blaze have been pooled in group C in the second round of the Challenge Cup competition. In their bracket, the Blaze will face GKS Tychy (Poland), CSM Dunarea Galati (Romania) and the winner of group A. The second round of the Continental Cup tournament takes place October 23-25 in Tychy, Poland.
An exciting three day tournament is being held in the city of Cornwall, Ontario that is sure to showcase the best of Junior A hockey this side of the Manitoba border. The Eastern Canada All Star Challenge is set to take place November 16-18 at the Benson Centre.
Returning to it’s founding league of the CCHL, the Challenge is slated to have numerous NCAA and NHL scouts in attendance to watch the nine teams battle it out. The CCHL will supply two teams, Team Yzerman and Team Robinson with Cornwall Colts bench boss Ian MacInnis headmanning the latter. The Nothern Ontario Hockey League will send one along with the Quebec and Maritime Junior Hockey Leagues.
The Ontario Junior Hockey League based in and around Toronto will send four squads to Cornwall, a total of 80 players with 20 of those committed to Division 1 NCAA schools.
Since I’ve finally been able to put a few Ontario Junior Hockey League games underneath my belt, it’s time to give praise where it’s due. The most recent game I’ve had a chance to catch was last Friday’s tilt between the Trenton Golden Hawks and Newmarket Hurricanes.
Despite the injury bug taking a bite out of the Hawks towards the end of the game, they still managed to fire shot after shot towards Hurricanes netminder, Connor Ryckman. I happened to notice that if there’s one thing the Golden Hawks do extremely well, it’s get out of their own end in a flash. No matter what the rush, at times it feels like there’s no point in back-checking for their opponents and if you can’t catch up your last line of defence is your goaltending.
And what a treat it was to watch Ryckman.
I come from years of watching the CCHL and that league does not hold a candle in terms of skill level to the OJHL. It was a bit of an eye opener for me to see the bar set high by goaltenders in this league. Ryckman, a former Barrie Colts draft pick, turned away an impressive 32 of 34 shots but what stood out the most was his aggressiveness to cut down the angle on any quick Trenton rush. As the game went through two overtimes to only end in a 2-2 tie, the goals Ryckman gave up were out of his control. This did not rattle him at all.
That’s not to take away from his goalie opposition on Friday night. Daniel Urbani who, when he’s hot, he’s smoking, currently leads the OJHL with a 929% save percentage and 1.62 goals against average. A far cry from what I’m used to in the CCHL. He picked up Goaltender of the Month honours and was also instrumental in eliminating Trenton during last season’s playoffs when he was a member of the Kingston Voyageurs. It’ll be interesting to see how deep of a playoff push he can help make with the Hawks.
One of the biggest differences in the OJHL compared to it’s Eastern Ontario counterpart is the players actually want to play physical. They attempt body checks whether they land them or not. They are not afraid to get dirty and get into the corners. That is what helps get people in the doors and spend money on your team. Of course, for Trenton, it helps when your team is currently 3rd in the country too.
Goaltending in the OJHL is a step above and is great for fans of the position. The development of every position however, keeps the OJHL remaining the “League of Choice” for many NCAA prospects.
The Colgate University Raiders skated to a 5-2 victory over the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers on Friday night but it was a lone maroon senior that stole the show.
Williamstown’s Tyson Spink recorded two goals and an assist in the win with the assist coming on on a slapper from his brother Tyler. The three point night puts the senior into some select Colgate company.
Spink becomes the 51st player in Colgate history to reach the 100 career point milestone. He joins fellow local Colgate Raider, Jesse Winchester in the feat.
The Colgate University Raiders are based in Hamilton, New York. They currently sit third in the ECAC Hockey conference.
(Printed in the September 2015 edition of On Fire, the match night program of the Coventry Blaze)
By: Ashley March
When the Coventry Blaze were looking to fill another defensive slot for their 2015/2016 season, an unfamiliar name popped up on their radar. A 28 year old Canadian out of Sparwood, British Columbia, came into the forefront of the Blaze roster picture. Having just spent a full season with one of the best teams in the East Coast Hockey League, the Tulsa Oilers, Kevin Noble had started earning himself a reputation. No, it wasn’t on the scoresheet but it was with his fists.
Noble connected for 125 penalty minutes in 68 games with the Oilers. His 6’1 frame saw him collide with fellow ECHL tough guys, Garrett Clarke and Jean Phillip Chabot, earning him respect during his first full professional season. With every squad he’s had the chance of icing with, Noble has been one of the top leaders in penalty minutes. Don’t let that stat deter you though. Those penalties were taken for a reason and not for granted. As signings in the Elite Ice Hockey League continued to get stronger with rival teams signings ex-NHL tough guys this summer, the Blaze needed toughness. With Noble, that’s exactly what they’ll get and fans in the SkyDome will be sure to be entertained.
For Noble, a spot on the Blaze gives him the chance to learn from some of the best in professional hockey; not only with the team but the league itself. Already a proven leader, Noble was granted captaincy of the NCAA’s Mercyhurst College Lakers in his senior year. Majoring in Sport Business, Noble majored in assists on the ice. His natural play-making ability combined with his skill to be two steps ahead of the play worked in his favour on his quest to the professional ranks. While he bounced around the ECHL and the now defunct Central Hockey League, Noble found himself at home with the Oilers In Tulsa, Oklahoma. As the state of minor hockey in North America got shuffled around, rosters were changed and some players were left without a home. With changes come new jerseys and for Noble, the perfect fit was Coventry blue.
From his Junior A days on the west coast of Canada with the Nanaimo Clippers, Noble has been an exceptional ray of light on any team he’s been a part of; especially when the course went down the stretch and into the playoffs. Noble helped the Clippers to a playoff berth 42 points in 59 games during his last season. All 200 pounds of him on the blue line kept opponents in check and as always, something an EIHL playoff bound team will need.
Noble also has the chance to learn from one of the best coaches the sport of hockey has ever seen, Chuck Weber. However, in return, Weber gets to mold a fresh, young and newly professional player and have him fit to his game plan however he wants. That’s very unique for an import in the league to be fairly new to professional hockey. Noble will be ready, willing and extremely eager to prove to not only Weber, but to the Blaze ‘Blue Army’ that he has what it takes to make an impact in UK hockey.
The past off season has seen Noble run a hockey school with two other fellow BC native hockey players. Based in Invermere, British Columbia, the Columbia Valley Hockey School is thriving with helping churn out the next generation of junior hockey players in Canada.
He has the book smarts and he has the ice smarts. The future of professional hockey for Kevin Noble is clear sailing and the sky is the limit. Just make sure that sky is blue.
(Originally posted for the Seaway News on Sept 22nd, 2015. Reprinted with permission. Special thanks to Todd for reaching out.)
By Todd Lihou
CORNWALL, Ontario – Where would the Montreal Canadiens be today without the likes of superstars like Georges Vezina and Cornwall’s own Edouard ‘Newsy’ Lalonde?
To put it bluntly – maybe nowhere.
The fabled National Hockey League team that has won more Stanley Cups than any other franchise can, in large measure, thank the exploits of Vezina and Lalonde for helping to solidify a foundation of greatness that later spawned the legends of household names like Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau and Guy Lafleur.
“When he (Lalonde) was signed, all the other players signed with the Canadiens too, because they knew it would be a success,” said Andre Rivest, a sports journalist who specializes in history with La Presse in Montreal.
Ambrose O’Brien, the owner of the team, had hired Jack Laviolette to build the Canadiens and one of the first names on the short list of players was Lalonde.
“The name he really wanted was Newsy Lalonde,” said Rivest. “Without him, there would be no Montreal Canadiens.”
While Vezina has a trophy named after him, which is awarded to the league’s best goaltender every season, there’s relatively little else left for the likes of Lalonde – a man who scored more goals than any other Canadien from 1917 to 1922 when hockey had none of the stability and name-recognition of today.
Perhaps that is why his exploits have been relegated to history.
There’s a small bronze plaque at one of the entrances to the Bell Centre in Montreal, the home of the Canadiens, that bears Lalonde’s name. His visage is also included among a row of others in a banner in the Habs locker room that speaks the immortal words: “To you from failing hands, we throw the torch.” He’s also a member of the ring of honour that circles the Bell Centre – the list of Canadiens players and builders in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
But that’s it. While other superstars have had jerseys retired, statues erected and numbers immortalized, Lalonde appears to some to be an afterthought in a city, and hockey temple, where former glory is discussed on a daily basis.
It was pointed out to Lalonde’s grandson Richard Quintal, who lives in Montreal, that Newsy shares some select company when it comes to the number he wore with the Canadiens, the 4 immortalized by Beliveau.
“Yes, but how many number 1s are up there?” said Quintal. “There are more than one number duplicates hanging from the ceiling. I don’t think it would be a problem.”
Well, kind of…and not really.
There is only a single number 1 retired by the Canadiens – Jacques Plante. The number 4 was thought by some to be “co-retired”…once for the great Beliveau and again for Aurele Joliat. But you won’t find Joliat’s name hanging from the rafters, only that of Le Gros Bill. Joliat attended the retirement ceremony in 1984 for Beliveau and got his own jersey with number 4 and “Joliat” on the back…but the jersey retirement belongs strictly to Beliveau.
In Cornwall the city finally got around to paying some respect to Lalonde, naming the paved entrance to the Cornwall Civic Complex off of Water Street ‘Newsy Lalonde Way’ back in 2010.
The dedication ceremony was attended by throngs of fans and Canadiens greats including Henri Richard and Rejean Houle.
CANADIENS FIRST SUPERSTAR?
Lalonde lived in Cornwall until he was 16, and then rode the boxcars out to Renfrew and Sault Ste. Marie to play hockey….when he wasn’t on the lacrosse field.
Before playing professional ice hockey, he worked in a newspaper plant, where he acquired the “Newsy” moniker and was regarded by many as one of hockey’s and lacrosse’s greatest assets of the first half of the 20th century.
“He used to say that he played hockey in between lacrosse seasons,” laughed Quintal.
Lalonde scored 124 NHL goals for the Canadiens, beginning in the 1917-1918 season, including a remarkable 37 in 1919-1920 in just 23 games.
It is said that he even scored the first goal in Canadiens’ history in 1910. In the 1919 playoffs he scored 17 goals in just 10 games.
“Let’s be honest: he was a puck hog,” said Quintal, chuckling. “His goals versus assists is insane.”
Indeed, Lalonde ‘only’ had 41 assists in his five NHL seasons with the Canadiens. But he was also a champion, winning the Stanley Cup with the Habs (the first in team history) in 1916 as a playing coach. He scored 28 goals that season, in 24 games.
In 1950 he was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Surely all that (and more) has to be worth something more than he’s received thus far by way of tributes?
“When you look at what he accomplished, it’s hard to argue against what he did in those seasons,” said Steve Dryden, senior managing editor of hockey content for TSN in Toronto and a sports journalist who honed his craft at the Standard-Freeholder in Cornwall before ultimately becoming editor-in-chief of The Hockey News.
Dryden suggested other great Canadiens from the era prior to the Second World War have had their numbers retired or been honoured in some way.
“You’ve got Howie Morenz – he was the Babe Ruth of hockey – Aurele Joliat, why not Newsy Lalonde?”
Quintal is a little blunter in his assessment of the team and the way it has honoured Lalonde.
“The team’s recognition of him is non-existent,” said Quintal. “Jean Beliveau once, many years ago, I was talking with him and he recalled me from Grandpa’s funeral. He said the team should do something for him.”
When Lalonde died in 1970 his Cornwall funeral was attended by most, if not all, of the Canadiens legends to that point.
But it was an event just a few years prior to that that may have set Lalonde and Canadiens just a little bit apart, said Quintal.
The Molson family, owners of the team then (and again today) made the decision in the mid-1960s to discontinue free tickets to former players like Lalonde. A rift, however small, was started.
“His lifetime tickets didn’t last his lifetime,” said Quintal. “He didn’t really forgive them for that.”
But in the same interview Quintal suggests there was still a connection with the team in spite of the perceived snub: “By the time my brother and I were born…he was already 64 or 65. He was always fond of the Canadiens. He loved the game.”
Would the lack of a retired jersey irritate Cornwall’s most famous hockey export?
Not on your life, suggests Quintal.
“Without a doubt, he was one of the most humble men you could meet,” he said. “He’d blush. To him hockey was his job…yes he loved doing it, but he was not self-centred to say he was the first (superstar).
“He’d talk about it because he enjoyed playing.”
To be fair, Lalonde’s is not the only debate the Canadiens have had to deal with when it comes to retiring the numbers of its stars. There’s been a campaign to have Toe Blake’s number 6 raised to the rafters. He enjoyed success and Stanley Cups on the ice with Maurice Richard and later as a coach.
Jacques Lemaire is the only player from the Habs’ dynasty of the 1970s that does not have his number retired. He notched 835 points in 853 games. Bill Durnan’s number one is missing from the Bell Centre rafters…all he did was win six Vezina trophies (there’s that name again) and serve as a first-team all-star six times.
Canadiens archives and team history manager Carl Lavigne said the Habs have done it to themselves in a lot of ways.
“Obviously we’re victims of our own success – there’s no way around it,” he said. “It’s just like the (selections) for the Hockey Hall of Fame. They’re dealing with the same thing.”
Lavigne shied away from addressing a specific question as to why Lalonde’s number has not been retired.
He suggested such a decision is made by a committee of alumnae, journalists and Canadiens owner Geoff Molson. Lavigne added no jersey retirements are planned for this season.
“They decide when to look at it, and when to review it,” said Lavigne.
In the meantime, the debate, not unlike the ups and downs of a hockey season, will continue.
If you would like to add your name to a list of people looking to see Lalonde’s jersey retired, click here to join a social media group with similar thoughts.
With another Ontario University Athletics hockey season back for another year, the Golden Gaels of Queen’s University will look towards the veteran presence of former major junior players to lead the team to victory.
Former Peterborough Pete and 2014 OHL Champion Guelph Storm defenceman, Steven Trojanovic, spent last season with the Huskies of St. Mary’s University out in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The 22 year old for Burlington, Ontario put up impressive numbers in the Ontario Hockey League and should have been drafted into the NHL. (Overlooked with a +/- of +42?!) That being said, the NHL’s loss is now Queen’s University’s’ gain. A tower of 6’2 on the blue line combined with his ability to produce in needed games is a fantastic addition to the Gaels.
Two men from the east coast chose Queen’s as the educational destination that provided the most for the student-athlete. Former Mississauga Steelheads goaltender and a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Jacob Brennan looks to make the most of both his academic and hockey career. Enrolled in engineering, Brennan was the starting goaltender for four years with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Just down the highway with the Moncton Wildcats, forward Shawn Bourdeau will trade his hometown of Kentville, Nova Scotia for Kingston, Ontario.
Absolutely no stranger to the city of Kingston is Slater Doggett. The 6’0 forward called Kingston home for two years in his OHL career as he suited up for the Frontenacs. His last OHL season saw him go almost a point a game with the Windsor Spitfires. After a minor attempt at pro hockey with the Alaska Aces in the East Coast Hockey League, Doggett saw himself falling back in love with Kingston for both his academic and university athletic career and will be a welcome home of sorts when he returns to the ice. As an added bonus, Doggett has been invited to the Chicago Blackhawks’ rookie camp.
Queen’s will start off the 2015-2016 season down the road on October 9th as they take on the Royal Military College Palladins.
The big home opening weekend comes on October 16th as the Gaels welcome the York University Lions to the Memorial Centre and October 17th as they welcome the Brock University Badgers.
After a phenomenal pre-season showing that saw the Golden Hawks skate to wins against the CCHL’s Brockville Braves and last year’s number two ranked squad, the Carleton Place Canadiens, Trenton was heading into the home opener with bulldozing momentum.
The first installment of the Battle of Quinte West saw the Hawks glide to an 8-2 victory over rivals Wellington Dukes. The line of Lucas Brown, Kevin Lavoie and Liam Morgan led to knocking in a combined 6 goals and 10 assists. Impressed with the boys start, Coach Jerome DuPont stated that it was this line (and I’ll dub it, the MLB line) that was the deciding factor for Trenton in the game.
“The line of Lucas Brown, Kevin Lavoie (2G, 3A) and Liam Morgan (6A) were a force and led the team to victory tonight” said Coach Dupont
A native a Powassan, Ontario, Lucas Brown spent last season with the Eastern Hockey League’s New York Bobcats. Also an alumni of the Rocky Mountain Roughriders AAA program in Colorado, Brown sat second in point totals for New York come years end. Brown is one player that teams in the rest of the OJHL need to keep an eye. The quickness of his feet along with his quick release is a talent Trenton can rely on.
Out of St. Catherine’s, Ontario, comes over-ager Kevin Lavoie. The 5’10 centreman had a remarkable season for Trenton shining in the both the regular and playoffs. A hardworking two-way forward, Lavoie was offered a full ride scholarship to Robert Morris University near Pittsburgh. After this season he’ll join former Carleton Place Canadiens captain, Elie Ghantous with a spot on the Colonels. The brass from his former GOJHL team, the Thorold Blackhawks had nothing but the best compliments to give him.
17 year old Whitby native, Liam Morgan caps the end of the MLB line. After an explosive season with the Whitby Wildcats Minor Midget AAA, (40 points in 32 games), Morgan came to the Golden Hawks looking to make a name for himself. After one game, it looks like that reputation is coming. Morgan was drafted by the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League but chose to attempt to turn some heads in the NCAA. With 4 assists already bagged in and if he keeps up this play, there is no doubt a Division 1 school will come knocking.
The MLB line and the rest of the Trenton Golden Hawks will take the short trip down the 401 to Kingston where they will face the Canadiens on September 10th. Another test to challenge the squad in their young season. The Invista Centre should be rocking when the puck drops at 7:00pm.
The Cornwall Colts are pleased to announce their first ever combined Junior/Midget AAA training camp.
Midget and Junior aged players can register beginning Monday, August 10th.The first day of camp will be fitness testing at the Benson Centre on Friday, August 21st and players will begin skating on Saturday, August 22nd.
“It’s a good opportunity for the players to realize what it takes to play at a high level,” said Colts Coach Ian MacInnis.
The training camp schedule is as follows:
August 21st, Fitness Testing – Jiffy Auto Service Field House @ Benson Centre
August 22nd, daily on ice sessions begin
August 25th, Midget AAA Colts @ Hawkesbury
August 27th, Colts Jr. A Blue & White game 8pm @ Ed Lumley Arena