The 2001-02 Western Hockey League regular season was a smashing success. Record smashing, that is.
A season in which geographical realignment was the big story, the WHL topped the 2.5 million mark in attendance for the seventh straight year, finishing with an eye-popping 2.95 million to eclipse last year’s total of 2.7 million.
With the help of the popular Vancouver Giants, who were a huge hit at the gate in their first season, an average of 4,250 people watched Western Canada’s top junior hockey players compete each night. Other success stories include the Kamloops Blazers, who topped 200,000 for the first time in their history, and reigning Memorial Cup champion Red Deer Rebels, who played to a 99-per-cent capacity at the Centrium.
The addition of the Giants led to some division shuffling and the creation of an all-United States grouping, and an all-British Columbia Division, less travel and more intense play brought about by the rejuvenation of some heated rivalries.
It all makes for some interesting first-round playoff match-ups starting Friday.
In the West, the Western Conference’s top team, the Portland Winter Hawks square off against nearby Seattle Thunderbirds in a best-of-seven that opens at Portland’s Rose Garden. The Winter Hawks, led by 51-goal scorer Josef Balej, were 6-0 at home this year against the Thunderbirds, the WHL’s most penalized team.
Last year at this time the Winter Hawks had to travel into B.C. to start the playoffs against the Prince George Cougars while the Thunderbirds did likewise against the Kelo Read more »
Here’s a report on the Rangers prospects. Some continued to be pleasant surprises while others were disappointing, but all in all this is still a solid system despite some of the Rangers deadline dealings.Jamie Lundmark has made great strides since the beginning of the year. His awareness on the ice is perhaps what has made the greatest improvment over the season, which allows him to better use his skills to his advantage. There’s whispers about him being a bust but it’s not fair to say just yet. While Lundmark would best be served to come to camp with the greatest physical and mental preparation possible, the Rangers understand he is a work in progress. Lundmark didn’t adjust immediately to his added bulk over the summer and at times it looked as if he added too much a la Christian Dube, however in time he seemingly made the necessary changes and has played a very encouraging second half of the season. Lundmark needs to concentrate better on his positioning with opponents so that they don’t steam role over him, and if he can make this necessary change he could be an effective two way center. If he doesn’t though, he’ll have a very difficult time making the jump to the NHL. Garth Murray showed a bit more of a scoring touch then hoped for in his last junior season. Not a natural scorer, Murray topped the 30 goal plateau and averaged over a point per game for the Regina Pats. Murray is the ultimate team player and is a safe bet for becoming an NHL player. He likely needs a season in the AHL before challenging for a spot but he could Read more »
In the USHL as well as any other league, goaltending is the key element to success. It’s been proven in many a league that you can win with sub-par goaltending during the regular season relying solely on your offense and defense. But if your goaltender can’t make a stop to save his life, it becomes a different story in the postseason. The USHL is a league that is continually broadening its horizons and the level of play continues to get better with each year, as has its goaltenders. It sounds somewhat like a broken record but this season’s crop of goaltenders appears to be one of the best groups to come through the league.
To back up the fact the USHL has sent quality netminders on to the Division I level you need to look no further than players such as Josh Blackburn(Dubuque/Lincoln), Michael Ayers (Dubuque), Darren Gastrock (Waterloo), Matt Carney (Des Moines), Bernd Buckler (Tri-City), Dan Ellis (Omaha) and David Bowen (Sioux Falls). Each of these goalies has made a contribution at the college level. A few have already seen NHL ice. John Grahame (Sioux City), Scott Clemmensen (Des Moines) and Ty Conklin (Green Bay) have all seen action this season in NHL rinks.
Below is the list of the elite in the league this season. All of whom should become names you’ll hear regularly in the hockey world in the coming years.
1.Bobby Goepfert (Cedar Rapids RoughRiders) Read more »
Name: Markus Seikola
Height: 6 ft 2 ” (185 cm)
Weight: 185 lbs (84 kg)
Born: May 6, 1982 / Laitila, Finland
Drafted: 7th Round, 209th Overall (2000 NHL Entry Draft)
European League (Regular Season)
TPS TurkuJr. C SM-Sarja96/97410124
TPS TurkuJr. B SM-Sarja97/98200000
TPS TurkuJr. B SM-Sarja98/993621012324
TPS TurkuJr. A SM-Sarja99/009213-26
TPS Turku Jr. A SM-Sarja00/012613720146
European League (Playoffs)
TPS TurkuJr. C SM-Sarja96/97100000
TPS TurkuJr. B SM-Sarja97/98100012
TPS TurkuJr. A SM-Sarja99/0013101-50
TPS TurkuSM – Liiga00/011010150
TPS TurkuJr. A SM-Sarja00/01310100
Team FinlandWJC Under-182000714534 Read more »
There’s only one thing better than seeing two rivals battle it out in a game during the regular season…
Seeing two rivals battle it out in a playoff series.
The I-5 rivalry will heat up yet again when the Portland Winter Hawks play the Seattle Thunderbirds in game 1 of their WHL 1st round series on Friday. Portland has had a decisive edge in this series, winning nine games, losing once in regulation, losing once in overtime and getting one tie against them. Portland has outscored Seattle 55 goals to 35 goals in the 12 game series. With all this as evidence, it’s clear that Portland should have absolutely no trouble with the Thunderbirds, right?
Realistically, the Hawks should take this series as long as they come to play. But lets not forget, this is the playoffs. There are no definites in the playoffs. Just take a look at last year, and you’ll see how unpredictable the playoffs truly can be. Seattle was the sixth seed in last year’s Western Conference playoffs, back when they only had six teams in the West. They played the first seed Kelowna Rockets in the first round, and subsequently beat them. This gave the Hawks the bye in the second round, as they were the highest seeded team to make it past the first round. This year, however, there are no byes. With the addition of two teams to the Western Conference, there are 8 teams in this year’s playoffs, and no byes will be given to any team. Portland finished 3rd overall in the West, but they’ll play Seattle in the first round because the first round matchups are divisional.
These teams are not Read more »
Hockey players do not live in a vacuum. Their play can be affected by many factors within the game itself. Who they play with, what position they play and how much ice-time they receive are important factors to take into account when judging a player’s performance on the ice.To say that Mike Ribeiro played himself off the Montréal Canadiens’ roster is irresponsible, as it doesn’t take into account the circumstances that contributed to his poor play.The 22-year-old natural center’s last goal in the NHL dates back to a January 19th game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Ribeiro played just under 14 minutes in that game. Two nights earlier he had played almost 17 minutes against the Carolina Hurricanes, he would go on to play over 18 minutes two nights later against the Florida Panthers.By this time the Montréal native had become comfortable playing left wing. He had played center throughout his junior career, but left wing afforded Ribeiro the opportunity to develop without the defensive-zone responsibility that comes with pivoting a line.In hindsight, the acquisition of Sergei Berezin was likely the overwhelming factor in the eventual demotion of Ribeiro. Berezin is a right-handed shot who plays the left side. His arrival forced Ribeiro, still in his rookie campaign, to move to his third position this season (right wing).The new position brought with it one main difficulty; the defensive zone. The Canadiens’ coaching staff wants the team’s wingers to chip the puck out of the defensive zone when pressured by the opp Read more »
The defenseman who was coveted by both Glen Sather and Ron Low as well as the Islanders and Bruins was finally landed at the cost of hard working Mike York. Poti a monster of a young man at 6-3 215(liberally given) has a smooth skating style, strong work ethic and laser guided passing ability. His one downside is that he is not as physical as his size would otherwise indicate. But then again for those of you who remember… he is not Willie Huber either.
Poti will be counted on to anchor the Rangers 2nd defense and power play units. Now with Brian Leetch and Vladimir Malakhov in tow the Rangers have three legit powerplay defenders. If Bryan Berard continues to RE-develop then that would mean four. The problem however with the Rangers is guys that can “stay at home” and play defense. While Poti will never be confused with a pure stay at home defenseman or again Willie “the whale” Huber the Rangers are still in need for a physical stay at homer but the move to acquire Poti fixed a couple problems, one the rival Islanders and their persuit and the Rangers quest for Brian Leetch`s successor.
Read more »
Regular season over, bring on the post season.
The Western Hockey League held a press conference on Wednesday morning to announce the awards for the regular season and to welcome the playoffs starting March 22nd.
The playoff matchups in the first round look great with many rivalries set to be stirred.
“One of the objectives we had in establishing four new divisions within the Western Hockey League was to create a greater level of rivalry and interest delivering what the fans are looking for. That is more intense games, more meaningful games with their closest rivals and I think when you look at the matchups in the playoffs this year these playoff rounds are going to be just outstanding,” said Western Hockey League commissioner Ron Robison.
The matchups in the B.C. divison are quite possibly the most heated with Kelowna taking on archrivals the Kamloops Blazers. Blazers have home ice advantage first.
Prince George is also on the road to face Kootenay in the B.C. division.
Brian Maxwell discussed next the Lethbridge Hurricanes series with Red Deer now that Calgary has taken over third in the division.
“Obviously taking on Red Deer again this year, we had real good success against them last year,” said Maxwell sarcastically. “We won the first one, all we did was delay it longer we had to play them five times.”
Head coach for the Hitmen, Richard Kromm, strictly stated at the conference he feels his team is ready for their matchup with Swift Current.
“Our guys have basically been in playoff mode for two to three months now, reall Read more »
Below is the transcript of my chat with 2001 Philadelphia Flyers draft pick , and Red Deer Rebels defenseman Jeff Woywitka.
Hockey’s Future : Red Deer finished the season as the top ranked junior team in Canada , what do you think contributed to you guys having such a great season?
Jeff Woywitka : Everyone on the team really stayed with the program during the course of the season. We had a goal at the begining of the season and that was to be number one at the end of the regular season , we accomplished that. Now it is time to focus on the playoffs.
HF : What were your feelings when you were drafted by the Flyers in the first round last summer? , Was there any one team you wanted to really be drafted by?
JW : I was happy to be picked by a first class team like the Flyers. They have a winning tradition , and I hope to be part of their plans in the near future. There wasn’t any one team I wanted to be drafted by , just to be selected was such an honor.
HF : Mikhail Yakubov , a rookie in the WHL was your leading goal scorer and point leader this season , how much did he contribute to your success’ this year?
JW : Mikhail was a huge part of our team and got better as the season wore on. His is a great leader in his own way.
HF : How is it playing in Red Deer? , So many NHL prospects come out of that program , does that really help your development playing up there?
JW : Red Deer is a terrific place to play. Brent Sutter , has taught me about what it takes to succeed on and off the ice. Playing here in Red Deer really does help Read more »
Kris Beech : Right at the start the pressure was on for the young Kris
Beech. He made the team after a strong camp, was put on a line with “Le
Magnifique” and was THE story in Pittsburgh. There was some Calder hope at
that point, but now that the season is coming to an end, it’s time to ask if
hopes were unrealistic for Kris Beech. When you think about it, Beech was
fresh from the Junior where he played only 40 games due to injury, he had
only 4 NHL games to his resume and he was already on a must-produce
situation. Yes, Beech’s expectations were too high for this season, but it
was part of his development. He learned a lot, played some good games
and showed that he has his place in this league. Here are his main skills : puck control, skating abilities, shot and play along the boards. On the
mental aspect you look at hard-working kid with good hockey sense and vision
of the ice. However, the British Colombia native will need to be more
consistent offensively and he needs to keep working on his game. Hopefully
Beech will come up faster, quicker and stronger for next year’s training
camp. If he does so, look up for him next year and forget about the second
Below is a table which shows the stats of this year’s NHL Rookies
coming from the CHL. These poor stats are encouraging for Beech’s future,
but it’s not a good sign for the Canadian Hockey League to have only 4
graduated in the top 30 rookie leading scorers.
Name Age Rank DraftedJunior League/TeamLast Year Stats
This Read more »