WinterHawks’ & Cougars’ four player deal shakes up Western Conference

By Tom Hoffert
Last Sunday night appeared to be another night of celebration for the
Western Conference’s come-back team of the year, yet not all in Portland
were celebrating.

A dramatic third period goal by Florida Panther draft pick Josh Olson took
the Portland WinterHawks to another victory, leaving them undefeated at home
this season. The victory Sunday night was also against Western Conference
powerhouse Kamloops Blazers, led by Constantine Panov and Jared Aulin. So
everything was great in Hawk-land, right?

Unfortunately, in Blake Robson’s eyes, all was not well. Following the
Hawks victory, Robson went to Portland General Manager Ken Hodge’s office
with commentary on lack of playing time and a need for a change. What
resulted was a request for a trade. Final answer: Prince George Cougars,
make room for crafty center Blake Robson and raw defenseman Chad Grisdale.
Portland WinterHawks, please welcome power-play wiz-kid Willy Glover and
rookie defenseman Joey Hope. And the grand prize winner . . . everyone!

Let’s face it folks, if you have a player in the locker room who just
doesn’t want to be there, GET HIM OUT! This is major junior hockey, not
some scrub league where old-timers are trying to live their lives
vicariously through their kids. These players are the top prospects for
their age. No disrespect to the college ranks or foreign elite leagues, but
the CHL is where players experience the closest thing to a real NHL season,
including a tough travel schedule and a 72 game season. In light of these
facts, don’t let one kid be a cancer in the locker room, do as the
management of the WinterHawks did, ship them right out the door and never
look back.

Both Blake and Chad will be missed by each of the WinterHawks fans, but it
is now a time of opportunity as the Hawks gain a very skilled power-play
specialist and an 18 year old rookie defenseman hailing from Alaska. Prince
George now has a legitimate second-line center with decent size and above
average skill. Let’s hope the mental aspect of his game picks up. The
bottom line . . .

Prince George gets:
Blake Robson            5-11    190 lbs         Center          Calgary, AB
GP      G       A       PTS     PIM     +/-     PPG             18 year old
9       5       2       7       8       -1      2

Chad Grisdale   6-3     210 lbs                 Defense Coquitlam, BC
GP      G       A       PTS     PIM     +/-     PPG             19 year old
8       0       0       0       20      1       0

Portland gets:
Willy Glover            5-11    180 lbs         Center          Calgary, AB
GP      G       A       PTS     PIM     +/-     PPG             18 year old
14      6       5       11      18      -3      5

Joey Hope               6-0     175 lbs         Defense Anchorage, AK
GP      G       A       PTS     PIM     +/-     PPG             18 year old
13      1       3       4       6       -6      0
Let me editorialize for a minute what has transpired over the last week in
Portland . . . The Robson request for a trade may not be a direct result of
Blake’s own thought process. Insider sources suggest that Brad Robson,
Blake’s father and pro scout for the Dallas Stars, may have had something to
do with the trade request. The Atlanta Thrashers selected Blake with the
108th pick in last year’s entry draft in Blake’s hometown of Calgary. Blake
cited playing time on both the power-play and penalty kill as significant
reasons for a trade request, yet the real reason may be a lack of exposure
on Portland’s superstar laden lineup. Kootenay’s Mike Comrie, Zednik
Blatny, and Jarret Stoll will probably be the most dominate line in the WHL
this season, however Portland possesses a close runner-up. The line of
Josef Balej, Josh Olson, and Marcel Hossa are just destined to command most
of the spotlight shone on the WinterHawks this year. Both Balej and Hossa
were selected by the Montreal Canadiens in last year’s draft and scouts
marvel at Josef’s speed and Marcel’s passing abilities. So where does a
fourth round draft pick requesting additional time on the PP and PK begin to
be at center stage for the scouts? The answer was probably not in Portland.
Balej’s wheels and Hossa’s hockey sense make them top liners on both the
power-play and penalty kill. Blake could find his requests answered in
Prince George and Chad Grisdale is an excellent addition to any line-up and
may just need a boost in confidence to become a physical presence in the
Cougars’ defensive system.

Alas, we must remember that we are talking about the lives of very young
adults going through a very publicized teenage existence. Certainly in
larger cities such as Portland, Seattle, and Calgary, these young hockey
players may begin to feel a disconnect to the smaller towns they may have
grown up in. There can be many benefits to playing in a large metropolitan
city, but the distractions away from the game are numerous and often players
must develop the strong friendships with each other to feel like they are
not awash in the fast-paced city lifestyle. I remember sitting in traffic
for only a couple of minutes in downtown Kelowna last year during their 5:00
p.m. rush hour. Let me assure you, just the difference between driving in
Kelowna, Tri-Cities, or Kamloops instead of bumper to bumper on I-5 in
Seattle is two worlds apart. As fans, we put the lives of these young
prospects under a microscope in hopes of discovering the next Mike Keane,
Adam Deadmarsh, or Derek Parker (trust me, this guy will scare the bejeebers
out of you). Yet we forget how far away from home they are at such a young
age and the countless hours they spend on a bus touring Western Canada and
the NW United States. For they are chasing a dream so few ever realize, and
for many, this is the last stop on the tour. I think as fans, we owe it to
these young men to respect the maturing they go through and thank each of
them for giving us a reason to get excited about October, Friday night home
games, road trips, and losing our voices. This is our time of year, and I
hope each WHL player is having as great of a time as all of us! On behalf
of the fans in Portland, we wish Blake and Chad the very best in their
careers and extend open arms to both Willy and Joey.

Portland General Manager Ken Hodge was put into a challenging situation this
week and, as he has orchestrated so many times before, he showed his trade
savvy. Please check back for an upcoming article on Ken Hodge’s greatest
trades . . . “Tyler who for Mike Hurley?”

John and Marilyn Ellis are the greatest fans (except when Greg Black is in
the box) and special thanks to Dean “Scooter” Vrooman, Broadcaster of the
WinterHawks, for spreading the word about Hockeysfuture.com
I love to hear back from the readers, so please send me an email with
comments to tom@salemchamber.org

P.S.- DROP THE GLOVES!