ICE caught looking ahead, now find themselves behind

By Jeff Bromley

ICE caught looking ahead, now find themselves behind

Perhaps I was erroneous in last week’s column in the statement that the ICE had yet to find any consistency after the big trade. The ICE have indeed found consistency – of the losing kind.

Barring the excuse of having arguably their two best players off at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Jarrett Stoll and Marek Svatos, the ICE haven’t played well even with the two sharpshooters in the lineup in going 1-4 in their last five games. Coincidentally the Swift Current Broncos are 5-1-0-1 since the trade and Jason Jaffray has scored 11 pts (7g, 4a)good for seventh in the WHL scoring race and seems bent on sending a message of why the ICE shouldn’t have traded the gritty forward. Some other telling stats since the trade; the club’s leading scorer, Tomas Plihal has but one goal; the club’s power-play, once the best in the league, has gone 1/24 since the deal, good for a 4 percent success rate. Now, usually five to seven games are not nearly enough to judge a major deal such as this. But one can’t help but think that the deal will be the major turning point in the ICE season – one way or the other. Right now, it’s the other . . .

While you were sleeping – Here’s the good news – Shane Bendera doesn’t play for the Red Deer Rebels any longer. Now for the bad news – the 19-yr-old Columbus BlueJacket draft pick and most recent ICE-melting nemesis was just traded to Kelowna for 19-yr-old goalie Jason Stone and a 19-yr-old high-scoring forward for the Rockets, Carsen Germyn. Kelowna, in case you’ve forgotten, is the club currently chasing Kootenay for third in the B.C. Division. Oh, and did I forget to mention that they also have five games in hand and that the biggest weakness on a club that was supposed to a powerhouse this season was their goaltending. Something tells me their weakness just became a strong point. That sound you are hearing is the balance of power slowly shifting within the B.C. Division . . .

Ban this – Why is that the WHL seems to approve franchise ownership based solely on the size of a pocketbook rather than any semblance of character? Case in point – Mark Wagstaff, the current owner of the Tri-City franchise and heralded savior of the desert franchise was so upset with the opinion of the Tri-City Herald sports columnist Jim Riley, that he actually had the audacity to try and ban the writer from Americans home games at the Tri-City Coliseum, which happens to be a publically owned facility. A strongly worded fax sent to the offices of the Herald has now turned into a bad publicity stunt the Americans, nor the league for that matter, neither wanted nor needed. The whole affair started over, you guessed it, the perception that Wagstaff has no desire to own/keep the Americans’ franchise in Central Washington any longer than he has to. Wagstaff, who lives in Victoria and owns the BCHL’s Salsa, took exception to Riley’s columns about Wagstaff’s perceived desire to one-day own a WHL franchise in the B.C. capital which doesn’t do anything for the floundering fortunes of the Americans.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before but after Ron Toigo left the Ams high and dry for the franchise in Vancouver and the Wayne Overland fiasco who threatened to move the team to Edmonton only two months into his ownership, Wagstaff seems to be content on the surly continuation of the wacky ownership of the Americans. For a club said to be lacking in tradition, bad ownership seems to be one of them. The problem is, Wagstaff doesn’t have the authority to withdraw Riley’s league-issued pass nor ban him from a publically owned facility. Needless to say that Wagstaff hasn’t endeared himself to the rest of the league press is somewhat of an understatement. Even former ICE G.M. Bob Tory and former Marketing Director Scott Clark who now perform those same duties with Tri-Cities weren’t informed of their owners antics. I don’t envy them – must be very tough to attract people to the rink on a regular basis when their owner is doing everything to drive them away. In case such a thing happened here there’s no need to worry about getting your friendly neighborhood WHL coverage, I’ve got season tickets . . .

Aye, Aye, Captain – Congratulations to Jarrett Stoll on being named captain of Canada’s World Junior team. Let’s hope the powers that be here in ICEland don’t dally on naming a new captain to replace the departed Jaffray. They could use it. Right now they’re a rudderless ship, desperately in need of one.