Summer Blog Entry: June 27
06/27/2014 9:28 AM - Adrian Denny
With the NHL draft this weekend in Philadelphia, fans looking for future ECHL’ers don’t generally need to start paying attention until at least the third round. And then so, it will usually be at least two or three years before they make their professional debuts.
In the ECHL, there is no parallel to being drafted and having success at this level. On this year’s team; Aaron Dell, David Vallorani and Jamie MacQueen were among those with next level talent that were not selected by an NHL team.
Players on this year’s team that were drafted:
Igor Bobkov, 3rd Round, Anaheim, 2009
Mathieu Aubin, 5th round, Montreal, 2005
Drew Daniels, 7th round, San Jose, 2008
Brent Gwidt, 6th round, Washington, 2006
Kris Hogg, 4th round, Calgary, 2004
Andrew O’Brien, 4th round, Anaheim, 2012
Danick Paquette, 3rd round, Atlanta, 2008
Michael Pelech, 6th round, Los Angeles, 2004
Adam Pineault, 2nd round, Columbus, 2004
Teigan Zahn, 7th round, Tampa Bay, 2010
Make sure to watch the first two parts of our offseason YouTube series with Head Coach/GM Tim Branham. The final piece will be coming soon.
The ECHL announced playoff format and divisional realignment earlier this week. The Grizzlies will join Alaska, Idaho, Stockton, Ontario and Bakersfield in the Pacific Division. Colorado will move to the newly formed Midwest Division with Indy, Fort Wayne, Evansville and Kalamazoo. The first four teams in each division will make the divisional playoffs and play the winner of the other division in the Western Conference Finals.
The Grizzlies will be able to issue up to 8 qualifying offers on Tuesday to players from the 2013-2014 season. A signed qualifying offer will serve as a contract for 2014-2015.
The team will also announce the first signing of the year on Monday. Any player signed before July 1, will not need to be qualified.
Summer Blog Entry: June 13-26
06/13/2014 9:00 AM - Adrian Denny
Looking at the 2014-2015 schedule, the home portion will feature 12 series with the same team for two games or more and more flights/sleeper bus trips due to Las Vegas going on voluntary suspension for 2014-2015. Losing that regional opponent will mean less one offs with the Wranglers both in Las Vegas and here and will force the Grizzlies to travel further. Over 1/3 of their road games will be played in California. It also gives the ECHL fewer options on Western Conference games with one less team, thus more multigame series at Maverik Center. The Grizzlies eastern trip to Cincinnati and Wheeling (December 3-6) likely will see the team fly into Ohio for the match with the Cyclones on Wednesday, then bussing just over three hours to Wheeling, West Virginia before flying out of nearby Pittsburgh to come back home on December 7.
Two trades were completed this week to complete future considerations trades from the season. Martin Lee was selected by Cincinnati to complete the trade for Mathieu Aubin and Michael Pelech in November. Drew Daniels goes to Fort Wayne to complete the deal for Cody Reichard from January.
Speaking of Mathieu Aubin, he has recovered nicely after sustaining that injury on April 9 and is expected to be cleared for hockey action by training camp.
To this point, there have been no real changes to the landscape of the active teams in the Western Conference with no teams changing coaches or affiliations as of yet. Since the Grizzlies joined the ECHL in 2005, no summer has gone off without at least a change or two, so something will likely happen with some team at some point.
Teams can start submitting contracts to the ECHL on Monday for the 2014-2015 season.
Part 1 of my 3 part conversation with Tim Branham will be posted to social media and online Wednesday as we look back, at the summer and ahead to next season.
The blog will return on June 27 due to ECHL League Meetings in Las Vegas next week.
Summer Blog Entry: June 6
06/06/2014 9:58 AM - Adrian Denny
Things that happen in professional hockey “behind the scenes” don’t generally become public and they shouldn’t. In the age of social media, obviously more gets out than it used to. Team travel, goes smooth 99-percent of the time, the other 1-percent involves bad luck and uncontrollables. Major league teams even have issues of a different scale, when say there’s an issue with their jet. The Detroit Tigers had to spend an extra night in Boston about three weeks ago after sitting on the runway for hours trying to fly to Cleveland. The first place team has been a complete disaster ever since.
The Alaska Aces had a bad travel day(s) getting to Cincinnati for the Kelly Cup Finals earlier this week and their beat writer Doyle Woody was onboard to document and then share with the world. That got me thinking of some events during Utah Grizzlies travel over the last decade that now make a good story, but have never been shared with the world.
In 2005 coming back from Boise in a horrible snow storm, in the middle of the night, Interstate 84 was in awful condition. That didn’t stop the elderly driver from pushing 85 MPH. As he saw a car spinout on the other side of traffic, Head Coach Jason Christie suggested that Earl or Ernie might want to slowdown. Earl or Ernie grumbled and just kept cruising. Moments later, as late Grizzlies Equipment Manager Eddie Summers was standing up, getting something from an overhead compartment, Earl or Ernie slammed on the breaks. Eddie fell back first into Grizzlies star goaltender Alfie Michaud on the other side of the aisle. Anyone with any experience on a bus has had the thought “oh no, we’re all going to die” and that definitely was a thought of many on this night I’m sure. Earl or Ernie never took the Grizzlies anywhere again.
In 2008, on the way to start the second round of the playoffs in Victoria, the driver who was late to pick the Grizzlies up at the Seattle Airport, apparently decided to make up some time. She was hauling on a stretch of road that I had recently seen on the television show “Speeders”. Well sure enough, she cruised by a Washington State Policeman on the side of the road, and as she did, his eyes got as big as saucers. The woman continued driving at a torrid pace and finally looks up into her rearview mirror and says, “oh is he after me?” The officer comes onto the bus has an exchange with the woman about her speed and says “you’re driving a tour bus for cryin’ out loud.” He goes back to his car, she eventually got off the bus and went back to his car where I assume she continued to argue. As more and more time passed, Jason Christie exclaims something to the affect of “well where’d that old girl go?” He then got off the bus and went back to the patrol car. A few minutes later, Jason returned with the driver; citation in her hand and we continued on to Canada.
The Grizzlies trips to Victoria involved a flight to Seattle, a bus across the border to Vancouver, a ferry to Vancouver Island and then the bus would continue onto Victoria. It was an 11-hour day. The ferry ran every 2 hours, which if anything had gotten off schedule, would add another 2 hours to the trip. In 2-straight instances, the team’s bus pulled up right as the ferry reached bus occupancy. In 2010, Assistant Coach Pat Curcio got off the bus and negotiated for the team to exit the bus and just board the ferry anyway, leaving the bus for the next ferry. That left one problem, when the ferry arrived at Vancouver Island, how would the Grizzlies get to Victoria? After a quick phone call, the bus company agreed to send a bus to get the team upon arrival, so problem solved. When the ferry got to the island, there was a short yellow school bus sitting out front and everyone began to joke about that being the bus. Well, it wasn’t a joke and the traveling party of 25, crammed onto the short bus and continued the 30 minute ride to the hotel.
This past season as the Grizzlies battled in Colorado on March 29, their bus was scheduled to take them back to Utah right after the game. Slight problem, when the driver went out to start it across the street at the hotel, it had a dead battery. That was the game where Martin Lee scored at the buzzer to win 2-1. The driver said he needed to call a tow truck to jump the bus. The tow truck company said it’d be 60-90 minutes, but since it was a bus, who knows how long it would be. Not sure the team even knew how in jeopardy they were of spending another night in Loveland. Well, the driver eventually figured out a way to get the thing started while the players were eating their post-game meal and a few minutes later Derick Martin casually walked into the locker room and said “bus is here,” so we loaded the bus and left, with really no delay at all. That may have been the biggest miracle of the whole season, because it did not look good for a bit with no end in sight.
And finally more of a lighthearted moment after the Grizzlies beat Fresno to wrap up their first round series in 2008. Then Assistant Coach Kevin Colley came back to the hotel to print the team’s new boarding passes. As no game 7 would be necessary, the team arranged to fly back to Salt Lake the next morning. The printer in the hotel’s “business center” wasn’t working so the front desk clerk invited Kevin to print the boarding passes from behind the front desk. As he was doing this, that person disappeared and Kevin was all alone at the front desk at the Fresno Ramada. Still dressed in a suit, he looked professional and people assumed he was a hotel employee. Several went up and asked him questions, which he answered in a very friendly manner as Jason Christie and I looked on, laughing, from a couch in the lobby nearby.
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