1 – It’s opening weekend in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs and something that struck me was how littered the NHL coaching staffs and management teams are with WHL grads (and for that matter, the SJHL too). Obviously most hockey fans are spellbound with the talent on the ice but some of us are just as interested in who’s behind the bench or wearing a headset in the press box. Check this out:
2 – Among the head coaches, consider Vancouver’s Travis Green (Spokane, Medicine Hat), St. Louis’s Craig Berube (Kamloops, New Westminster, Medicine Hat), Chicago’s Jeremy Colliton (Prince Albert), Colorado’s Jared Bednar (Saskatoon, Spokane, Medicine Hat, Prince Albert), and the New York Islanders’ Barry Trotz (Regina).
3 – The list of NHL General Managers who’ve come from the Dub is at least as impressive, if not moreso. How about Vegas’s Kelly McCrimmon (Brandon), Colorado’s Joe Sakic (Swift Current), Vancouver’s Jim Benning (Portland), Calgary’s Brad Treliving (Portland, Brandon, Spokane, Regina), Winnipeg’s Kevin Cheveldayoff (Brandon) and Edmonton’s Ken Holland (Medicine Hat).
4 – Don’t stop there. I’m sure I’m missing a few but the list of NHL assistant coaches in these playoffs reads like a Who’s Who of the WHL Hall of Fame such as: Edmonton’s Glen Gulutzan (Moose Jaw, Brandon, Saskatoon), Vegas’s Ryan McGill (Lethbridge, Swift Current, Medicine Hat, Edmonton, Kootenay), Pittsburgh’s Mark Recchi (Kamloops), Columbus’s Brad Larsen (Swift Current), and Nashville’s Dan Lambert (Swift Current, Kelowna, Spokane).
5 – The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League is tremendously represented by alum in these Stanley Cup Playoffs coaching ranks including Edmonton’s Dave Tippett (Prince Albert), Carolina’s Rod Brind’Amour (Notre Dame), Kelly McCrimmon again (Prince Albert) and Arizona’s Jeff Ulmer (Notre Dame). Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper was a Notre Dame Hound, however, he didn’t suit up for the Junior A club. Count the Islanders’ Barry Trotz as a former Hound too. Never Lose Heart Hounds.
6 – The WHL isn’t missing anything other than some extra promotion, daily media coverage, and a TV/streaming deal. The product has always been fantastic. Now, all we need is to start on time, or as soon as possible this fall.
7 – Winnipeg ICE forward Peyton Krebs is getting a taste of the big-time after being named to the Vegas Golden Knights expanded playoff roster. The Okotoks, AB product was taken 17thoverall by the VGK in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and has earned the spot.
“Obviously in my mind, Peyton is one of the best players in the league,” said Winnipeg ICE head coach James Patrick. “He’s as competitive and entertaining as there is if you’re a hockey fan.”
Krebs notched 60 points in 38 games this past season for the ICE and Patrick expects to have him back for 2020-21 to lead the Winnipeg club.
“No doubt,” Patrick continued. “Making strides as a team, the group that came back from Cranbrook showed a lot of improvement. The 16- and 17-year olds were led by Peyton, plus guys like Connor McLennon, Cole Muir, and Nolan Orzek. The value for the fans was there and noticeable. Mathew Savoie, Conor Geekie, and Carson Lambos – those three guys – they’re gonna make this a real good team for a long time.”
8 – Regina Pats and Toronto Maple Leafs fans in this area were a little surprised AHL Marlies forward Adam Brooks was left off Toronto’s NHL playoff roster. The Winnipeg product notched three assists in seven games with the big club this season, plus 20 points in 29 games with the Marlies.
“He still remains a work in progress,” Paul Hendrick of LeafsTV told The Rod Pedersen Show this week. “That first year of pro hockey after that tremendous overage year with Regina (43G 87A 130P) was a learning experience. Adam’s going to thicken out a bit but will only get so big. But his ability to see the ice, his skating, his playmaking, is outstanding. The Marlies still need him to continue to season but he’s very much in Toronto’s plans. Centres aren’t deep in the Toronto organization when you get beyond the top two. Adam’s time in the National Hockey League isn’t too far away.”
9 – COVID-19 has been nothing short of hell-sent for sports leagues and teams. It’s wreaking havoc on everything from scheduling to staffing to, most importantly, peoples’ health. I was told this week “the smart money is on a November start” for the Dub, who knows? Rest-assured all kinds of flexible schedules are being drawn up.
“Oh yeah,” reported insider Kelly Remple on The Rod Pedersen Show. “I don’t know if the WHL will start on time but here’s what I’ve learned and believe is going to happen: where there’s a will, there’s a way, usually. From everything I’ve heard from people in the league, there is a real appetite to get the league going. Everybody connected, from Commissioner Ron Robison on down, is 1000% committed to having hockey this year. There are challenges, obviously. Traveling across the border is going to be very different. There’s no way there will be training camps with 80 kids. 30 is the number I heard. There’s a lot to figure out but I think they’ll play.
10 – We finish with a quote from a very entertaining interview with Philadelphia Flyers team ambassador and Wheat Kings legend Brian Propp on his historic days in Brandon. The Neudorf, SK product netted a mind-blowing 511 points in three seasons with the Wheat Kings (1976-1979) before playing 1,016 games with the Flyers, Bruins, and North Stars.
“I came from the SJHL where I was the league MVP in Melville as a 15-year old,” Propp smiled from his home in New Jersey. “Then I got to Brandon where three of us finished 1,2,3 in league scoring my first year. Dunc McCallum was a great coach for all of us. And of course having Brad McCrimmon, Ray Allison, Bill Derlago, Glen Hanlon, Dave Semenko, Laurie Boschman and people like that, it made it easier because we learned how to win early.”
The Propp-Allison-Derlago line is one of the greatest, if not THE greatest in Western Hockey League history.
(The Rod Pedersen Show airs daily at 10:00 am MT on Game+ TV Network in over one million homes in Canada and the US and on Facebook Live. Contact your cable provider for subscription details!)