2001 A.C. – After Comrie

By Jeff Bromley
Mike Comrie has left the building, and the city and the area, all for the bright lights and greener pastures of
the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. Turn out the lights, stick a fork in ‘em, the Kootenay ICE are done, right?
Wrong, and there are twenty-four other hockey players in the ICE dressing room who are out to prove it.

The post Mike Comrie era began last week in haste as the Kootenay ICE took a possible three of four points
from the Brandon Wheat Kings in a two game doubleheader over the weekend at the RecPlex. In the
4-1Friday night win and 3-2 overtime loss on Saturday, the ICE proved two things. That they indeed have
depth to spare and that the club can play an in-your-face, physical, mucking in the corners brand of hockey.

Skating with a line-up depleted of no less than seven skaters on Friday and nine on Saturday with the loss
of Bret DeCecco to a concussion and Cole Fischer midway through the first frame with re-aggravated back
spasms that also caused him to miss Friday’s contest, from a sheer count of so-called impact players, things
did not look good for the ICE. Missing Jarret Stoll and Zdenek Blatny at the World Junior Championships,
Comrie signing with the Oilers, Svatos still out with transfer problems from Slovakia, standout rookies Andy
Thompson and Adam Taylor at the under-17 tournament in Truro, Nova Scotia and Aaron Rome going
down Friday night with a shoulder injury, needless to say, there was a lot of room on the bench. Do the
math and the ICE were missing seven of their top eleven scorers on the club. A precarious situation to say
the least.

But if the shorthanded Kootenay ICE showed anything in front 4002 and 3785 fans both nights is that they
can play with grit and heart as opposed to the speed and finesse that has been evident for the better part of
the season. With upcoming games against Medicine Hat and a home and home series against the Calgary
Hitmen on the weekend it will again be another test of the ICE mettle as both Stoll and Blatny, regardless of
their national club’s outcome at the World Juniors, won’t be back in the ICE line-up until at least the 10th of
January. Thompson and Taylor will more than likely be out until next week as the under-17 tournament goes
until the 3rd.

Trade Deadline approaching – If there is a bright side to the ICE losing Mike Comrie it is the fact the he was
a overage player. The vacated twenty-yr-old spot presents an unusual opportunity for the ICE as it
augments their position at the bargaining table when it comes to the trade deadline on January 15th. Most
clubs of the WHL, having already filled their quota of three overage players don’t usually have the luxury of
filling a twenty-yr-old spot. Unless of course they want to part with one, which they seldom do. Some
names being bandied about throughout the league as possible trade candidates; defense-man Christian
Chartier, an overager with the Prince George Cougars – Center Blake Evans of the Tri-City Americans, also
an overage player – Defense-man Nick Schultz age 19, of the Prince Albert Raiders – Center Nathan Barrett,
19, of the Lethbridge Hurricanes – Forward Martin Erat, 20, and D-man Garnett Exelby, 19 of the Saskatoon
Blades and even Pavel Brendl’s name of the Hitmen has been included in the rumor mill. Truth be told, this
season’s trade deadline madness that usually accompany’s the weeks leading up to the deadline will in all
likelihood be rather quiet compared to the rumored deals that are talked about. Having one look at the
standings tells a lot. In the West almost every team has a shot at either finishing first or missing the playoffs
entirely. With only fourteen points separating first from worst, a slump or two in the coming weeks could
mean disaster for a number of teams. In the East the point-spread is more but the story is much of the same.
The only guarantee about the trade talk is what the Regina Pats plan to do to bolster their roster for their
Memorial Cup berth. It’s a seller’s market this year. With all clubs’ still thinking playoff’s thanks to that
wonderful factor of parity among the WHL’s member clubs, any desperate buyers could be in for a flaying
as the lower echelon club’s seemingly hold all the cards. Wading into the marker for established players
could prove costly for clubs down the road.

Captaincy on hold – with the departure of Mike Comrie, replacing the captaincy on the Kootenay squad isn’t
high on the agenda at this particular time. With the possibility of Steve McCarthy returning after the World
Junior’s, the ‘C’ would be his as the Trail native was the captain when he went down to injury last season.
That being said, there is no shortage of leadership candidates on the ICE who could fill the bill. Dean
Arsene, senior member of the ICE with the longest tenure is an obvious candidate. Bret DeCecco was a
leader with his previous club, the Seattle Thunderbirds. Also due strong consideration is Jason Jaffray, who
leads purely by example on the ice. Jaffray, who by Saturday’s example of a sure leg injury that everyone in
the building thought would put Jaffray down for the count, only to have him back on the ICE less than ten
minutes later and is seemingly impervious to pain, would have to be considered a candidate just on his play
alone. If there was ever a more complete player in junior, I don’t think I’ve seen him….. One of the best
rivalries in the league face-off this weekend as the Calgary Hitmen are in town to face the ICE. 7PM at the
Plex.