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Game Day Blog Archive

Summer Blog Entry: May 31

05/31/2013 2:28 PM - Adam Turner

After winning eight of their last 11 playoff games, Utah’s Trevor Lewis and the Los Angeles Kings are another four wins away from their second-straight Stanley Cup Final appearance. I couldn’t believe how often NBC Sports play-by-play announcer John Forslund was saying “Trevor Lewis” during Sunday night’s game six. It was almost excessive. The Utah native played very well in that series and when a broadcaster is constantly saying a particular player’s name, he’s being active, involved and usually doing something right. Sunday night, I was hearing “Trevor Lewis” at least three times a shift.

On the contrary, over the years, I’ve noticed that when I’m not noticing a player and not calling his name on the broadcast, my definition of invisible, usually adds up to what his Head Coach thinks of his play too. The players playing well are easy to pick out and jump out in the play.

I’m also sticking by my preseason pick of a Boston/LA Stanley Cup Final with LA becoming the first team to repeat since Detroit in 1997 and 1998.

We have some exciting things coming up digitally over the next four weeks. First, we have a two part YouTube interview with Head Coach/General Manager Kevin Colley, who assumes GM duties for 2013-2014 with the promotion of Ian Greenwald to Director of Hockey Operations/Video Coordinator after he served this past season in hockey operations as Video/Hockey operations assistant. Kevin will give us some great insight on the roster he’s putting together as far as captaincy and leadership, what he aims to do when assembling a roster, goaltending, culture, character and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And that’s only part one of the conversation. In part two, he discusses recruiting rookies, the types of players from last year’s team that will be invited back, the promotion of Greenwald, the just completed Kelly Cup Finals and everything “underdog Stockton” accomplished with goaltending and leadership.

Between the two part interviews, we will show you the recruiting video we just produced for 2013-2014. The video showcases Utah, Maverik Center, the organization and our resources that prospective players can view as they prepare to sign with the team.

Finally, the four week YouTube series will feature an interview with Grizzlies Vice President Jared Youngman on the business side of the organization, the 27-percent attendance increase over the last four years and what it takes to stay competitive in this sports landscape on the Wasatch Front.

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Summer Blog Entry: May 24

05/24/2013 9:35 AM - Adam Turner

Continuing  with my blog trend this summer, Bakersfield Condors broadcaster Ryan Holt writes his blog on Thursday and I counter it on Friday. Yesterday, he looked at the 20 or so “types” of fans in sports. Today, in a different spin, I am going to break down the fan bases in the ECHL.

Every week, I plan on giving an offseason update from Kevin Colley, but these weekly topics keep getting longer and longer. Kevin has some really good stuff on the go, more on that later.

My first goal in this list of every market we play in is to not offend anyone in any ECHL city, but I’m going to be honest. I really respect and can definitely relate to any fan that chooses to spend their hard earned money on sporting events and hockey, because I do so myself. So here is the breakdown of what I see when we go on the road to hopefully give you a sense of being there when we hit these respective markets next season.

Alaska: Long are the days where the Anchorage Aces were for sale on eBay in 2002 and the Sullivan Arena was empty. This generation of Aces fans expect a winner and view opposing ECHL teams as the Washington Generals, a mere opponent that will be quickly dispatched of on their way to two more easy standings points. When Alaska is winning, Aces fans just want more, get louder and continue to feed off of every instance on the ice that Alaska does well. However, when visiting teams win or have any kind of lead in Alaska, the arena is shocked and silent.

Bakersfield: Unlike any other Western Conference market, the Condors are the thing in Bakersfield. Rabobank Arena is the place to be seen on Friday and Saturday nights and their players are celebrities in Kern County. The fans are into the game and support their team whether they are good, mediocre or bad. Bakersfield is a real hockey market. The minor league baseball team and NBDL team there aren’t even on the radar compared to the buzz the Condors have in town.

Colorado: See everything in the Alaska paragraph, but without question Colorado Eagles fans are the hardest on the officials of any building in the ECHL. Loveland, is not a good place for a referee to have an off night, the fans will ruin his weekend. That being said, they might be the most knowledgeable/savvy fan base in the Western Conference that Utah visits.

Idaho:  It depends on how the team is doing. When Idaho was coached by Derek Laxdal and close to a dynasty in the ECHL’s Western Conference, there was no harder place to play than Boise. However, from 2010-2012, when the team dropped off significantly under a new coach, playing in Idaho was pretty vanilla. However, this year, we immediately noticed a difference starting with the first preseason game as the Steelheads returned to “run the table” status and a better style of play under Brad Ralph. CenturyLink Arena didn’t quite get to the Laxdal level this year, but they were close. I think Boise State football has trained fans in the Treasure Valley to expect a winner, and when a team is not elite, just look at the other sports in town; people stop showing up and lose interest.

Las Vegas: I hate to go here, but the only thing I’ve heard about Wranglers fans is that they can be the meanest in the conference. Grizzlies fans at the Orleans Arena, always seem to have some kind of horror story(ies) of some kind of in-game confrontation with Las Vegas fans. There are two sides to every story, but that’s just what I hear from the Utah side after every game in Las Vegas. Of course, the 95-percent of Wranglers fans that go to games and mind their own business are being stereotyped unfairly, but I’m listing distinct characteristics in this blog to separate every market.

Ontario: The Reign have a very energetic and upbeat public address announcer that keeps the fans into the action.

San Francisco: There isn’t a fan base that I’ve noticed that enjoys being on the video board more than San Francisco Bulls fans and they get plenty of chances.

Stockton: With their team playing in the Kelly Cup Finals, kind of strange timing to bring this up. But unlike any market, Thunder fans like the rough and tough stuff. I think it’s what kept the team so competitive attendance wise when they struggled in the standings from 2005-2008 in their first four seasons. So if the Thunder do lose, but put on a show, people still seem to leave happy.

Utah: No other market in the Western Conference has even come close to having professional hockey continuously since 1969 like Utah. With over 40 years of hockey, Grizzlies fans understand the game and are about as even keeled as fans come. However, the Grizzlies also rank near the top of the ECHL in group sales and individual ticket sales, so on good nights, you may have half of the arena who has never been to a hockey game, but watching the veteran fans, they quickly pickup on what it’s all about. Another thing, I really appreciate about Grizzlies fans; I don’t ever hear booing in the Maverik Center. I cringe anytime I hear booing from home town fans directed towards their teams. However, I wonder about "meanness." I hope Grizzlies fans aren’t as mean to visiting patrons as some of the local fans I see at other sporting events around Salt Lake, because I think the state of Utah in general can be a showcase for poor sportsmanship. But, I can’t see this coming from Grizzlies fans.

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Summer Blog Entry: May 17

05/17/2013 11:12 AM - Adam Turner

ESPN has done a great job with their “30 for 30” documentaries over the last few years. The documentaries have chronicled interesting moments on and off the playing surface in sports.

This week, to continue the theme of countering the blogs and lists of Bakersfield broadcaster Ryan Holt (@broadcastholt), I have come up with five Grizzlies stories over the years that would make for interesting documentaries. Here is Ryan’s list over the history of the Condors and below is mine covering five of the more interesting happenings in the 18 year history of the Grizzlies.

The Grand Entrance
In their first year in Utah, the 1995-96 Grizzlies went 0-7-1 down the stretch before beating Milwaukee by a combined score of 12-3 in the final two games to head into the playoffs on a two-game winning streak. At one point during the winless streak, radio broadcaster Kyle Schultz, who passed away in 2005 said something to the effect of “this team better figure it out or they’ll be a quick out in the playoffs.” That statement was taken to heart by the team and coaches. In the playoffs, Utah had to comeback from a 2-1 series deficit to beat Kansas City three games to two in round one. In round two, the Grizzlies had a 3-1 series lead on Peoria, but the series still took seven games. In the conference finals, against hated and I mean hated rival Las Vegas, Utah lost game one 6-2 to despised Head Coach Chris McSorely, before winning four of the next five. In the Turner Cup Finals,  Utah seemingly had an easy series sweeping Orlando four games to none, but three of the four wins came in overtime, including the clinching game on June 8, 1996.

In 2002, when Utah was hosting the Winter Olympics, the Grizzlies hit the road for 44-straight days and a 17-game road trip. The team had a great trip, going 9-6-2, starting off 7-2-2 and finishing 2-4 as the time on the road took its toll. Grizzlies Equipment Manager Richard “Shakey” Krause, who’s currently with the New York Islanders, was definitely most affected by this. He couldn’t leave any extra sticks, skates or equipment back in Utah so it all had to be shipped to the road or left in Houston or Grand Rapids; where the team had some temporary storage areas because they went back and forth to those spots most during the trip.

Come On Down
In January of 2007, the entire Grizzlies team attended a taping of the game show The Price Is Right. The day started at 2 a.m. with the bus leaving Bakersfield and driving to Los Angeles. After the team dropped off Mikael Zettergren, who Head Coach Jason Christie had just told to get lost, at Los Angeles International Airport, it was then on to CBS Studios. Arriving around 5 a.m., the team stood in line after line before finally being cleared on a show. Then it was on to another line for the screening process, where each player and staff member was asked questions by a producer. Once the show started, all was calm, until veteran Ed Campbell was called to contestant’s row. He won a bid on the final round of the day, went to the big wheel, where he again won, before capturing the grand prize in the Showcase Showdown, which sent the whole team racing to the stage to celebrate with Ed and Bob, who quickly exited after seeing the herd racing towards him.

Pipeline To The Show
During the 2008-2009 season, Joel Rechlicz went from the Grizzlies to the New York Islanders in less than a month after playing 45 games with Utah to start the year. He made his debut at Madison Square Garden on March 4, 2009 against the Rangers and picked up an assist in the game. A week later, Rechlicz recorded his first fight in Montreal against Tom Kostopoulos, on the same day that goaltender Peter Mannino also got recalled to the Islanders. Rechlicz joined former Grizzlies Andrew MacDonald and Trevor Smith who also debuted with New York in 2008-2009.

Ten Days With Trevor Lewis
The State of Utah was blessed over a six month stretch in 2012 where Utah native Trevor Lewis won the Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings, brought the cup home to Utah to share with fans and then suited up six games with the Grizzlies just prior to the lockout ending. Lewis scored in all six games he played with Utah and happily accommodated every public relations request ever asked while here. He flew on Southwest Airlines with the team from Salt Lake to Ontario, ate the $18 team meal at the hotel prior to games and even bussed from Ontario to Las Vegas with the team between games. During the course of his stay with the Grizzlies, he did everything just like any other Grizzly playing at the ECHL level, even though he was used to catered chartered jets, five-star hotels and over $100 a day in per diem, compared to $38 a day in the ECHL. It was a special time in Utah hockey and Grizzlies history and again illustrated Trevor’s commitment to give back to hockey in his home state,  which has all been out of the goodness of his heart.

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Summer Blog Entry: May 10

05/10/2013 10:08 AM - Adam Turner

During the regular season in hockey, getting to overtime sometimes means you can exhale, collect your standings point and aim for the second in overtime or a shootout. If you don’t get the win, you at least got something. In the playoffs, it means if you don’t win that game, you will likely lose the series regardless of being at the ECHL, AHL or NHL level.

The ECHL’s conference finals enter game fours tonight with five of six of the first six combined games between Idaho/Stockton and Reading/Cincinnati going to overtime.

In two of the Grizzlies last three series losses, going back to 2011, they have lost two of the four games in each series in overtime. In 2008, two overtime wins and a 2-0 overtime record against Fresno in the first round, sent Utah onward and eventually to the conference finals.

Entering the conference finals where they have each now split a game, Idaho was 4-1 in overtime and Stockton 4-0. They have each split an overtime game so far in the series.

Reading (2-1) and Cincinnati (2-0) each had good overtime records entering their series where all three games have gone to overtime and the Royals hold a 2-1 lead.

Goaltending in the Stanley Cup playoffs thus far has been a little rough for one reason or another. Last week, I took on Bakersfield broadcaster Ryan Holt’s (@broadcastholt) list of the best broadcasters in the NHL. This week, I counter his best goaltenders in the playoffs so far.

The Rankings By Numbers 
1.    Craig Anderson, Ottawa: Didn’t get many headlines amongst the hatred/nastiness in “upset” of Montreal
2.    Corey Crawford, Chicago: Easy 1 Vs 8 series win, but his work was preview for upcoming series
3.    Tomas Vokoun, Pittsburgh: Just saved the series for Pittsburgh in place of Marc-Andre Fleury
4.    Antti Niemi, San Jose: Unassumingly just did his job.
5.    Whoever wins the Los Angeles/St. Louis series

Ryan Holt’s Top 5 Playoff Goaltenders

Keep in mind, I don’t have a favorite NHL team like Ryan, so emotions don’t get in the way. He ranked Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask second. Seriously? I’m surprised he didn’t rank Boston backup Anton Khudobin number 3 and he hasn’t even played in the playoffs yet.

What dark horse almost cracked the list? Roberto Luongo: He was solid in relief in game three and if he played at all in game four that series with San Jose is still going.

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Summer Blog Entry: May 3

05/03/2013 8:45 AM - Adam Turner

There is a team in the ECHL’s conference finals that is currently on a run that I think would make any coach or fan envious.

The Stockton Thunder, who seemingly should have been knocked out easily in the first round, will face Idaho after knocking off top seeded Alaska on Tuesday in overtime in yet another come from behind win.

The Thunder have advanced to the conference finals after giving up the first goal in seven of their eight wins and coming from behind in the third period in six of their eight playoff wins. Looking at Stockton’s playoff roster, Head Coach Matt Thomas appeared to be planning on getting players back from the AHL for their stretch run, but none of the six playoff eligible AHL players have returned and in turn Stockton has competed with a roster 2 short following an injury to top defenseman Ryan Constant a few weeks ago.

Recapping the run, Stockton came back from back-to-back 2-0 third period deficits for overtime wins in games 1 and 2 of their first round series against Las Vegas. Facing elimination and down 3-0 in the third period of game six on April 12, Stockton stormed back for a 5-3 win.
In the second round, after a 5-2 loss in game 1 in Alaska, Stockton responded the next night, down 2-0 and 3-2 in the third period, before eventually winning 5-3. It snapped a stretch of 123-straight games in which Alaska had not lost in regulation when leading after 2 periods. Flash forward to game six in Alaska, the Aces jumped up 2-0 6:41 into the first period before Stockton again rallied. They tied the game at the buzzer in the third period and won in overtime, which sets up a Western Conference Final with Idaho.

Back to Stockton, how does this happen with a barebones group against a team that went to the finals last year in Las Vegas and a team with the ECHL’s best regular season record three-straight games in Alaska. So often we talk about leadership and character. Stockton has this and it starts with captain Garet Hunt, who is not a favorite in Western Conference arenas because of the way he plays.

Head Coach Matt Thomas pretty much summed things up to the Anchorage Daily News: “Here’s the reality — we’ve had to earn it, we’ve scratched and clawed, with guys hurt and guys out of the lineup. Here’s one thing: I made the best choice for our captain. Garet Hunt gets this team motivated, excited to play. And there he was, digging out a puck for the goal with five seconds left in regulation. Give the Aces credit — they kicked our asses at times tonight. I can’t believe we won. But there’s no quit in this group. Sometimes in life, things just happen to you. Scary thing — we’ve got to go through this again to get where we want to be.’’

Sounds kind of reminiscent of the Utah group that finished the regular season after three trades completely changed the culture in the locker room and the games became enjoyable again with the new fresh faces who came to play hockey. During a nine-game unbeaten streak from March 8-27, Utah had to come from behind in eight-straight games, erasing 13 total deficits. They came from behind in the third period five times and in the final 2:06 of a game to tie twice during the streak. March 16 in San Francisco, Utah rallied back to tie three separate times in the third period and four total times in the game.

You hear or see the phrase “work over skill” in the Utah locker room all season, every season for a reason.

Shifting gears, yesterday in his blog; Bakersfield Condors broadcaster Ryan Holt named his top 5 NHL broadcasters. I thought his list was complete nonsense, so I came up with my own, while also ranking my top five color commentators in the NHL.

Top 5 NHL Play-By-Play Broadcasters
1.    Pat Foley, Chicago Blackhawks
2.    Dave Strader, Phoenix Coyotes, NBC
3.    Randy Hahn, San Jose Sharks
4.    Mike Haynes, Colorado Avalanche
5.    Pete Weber, Nashville Predators

Top 5 NHL Color Commentators
1.    Eddie Olczyk, Chicago Blackhawks, NBC
2.    Jim Fox, Los Angeles Kings
3.    Darren Pang, St. Louis Blues, NBC
4.    Drew Remenda, San Jose Sharks
5.    Terry Crisp, Nashville Predators

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