Sunday, 7 June 2015

People who rock

    Wherever my life travels have taken me, I have found outstanding individuals.
    For just a plain feel good exercise, I thought I would list a few people who are “beauties” and make life just so much better. By no means is this list complete or even in any sort of order. I am just hoping it creates some good, upbeat and positive energy.

Kabree Howard

Kabree Howard in action for the Huskies.
    The University of Saskatchewan Huskies are so going to miss her.
    For five seasons, Howard was more than just a point guard on the Huskies women’s basketball team. She just made life better for everyone at the U of Saskatchewan.
    The Regina product was the heart of the Huskies program, who was everyone’s best friend and always knew the right thing to say to pick up someone’s spirits and motivate them. She also seemed to get out to every community event the Huskies held, and volunteered to help out numerous other community projects.
    When her final season was complete, Howard won the Huskies team award as the program’s all-around female athlete of the year. The 23-year-old has also excelled in the classroom being constant academic all-Canadian.
    While she has exhausted her playing eligibility, the Huskies would be wise to find a permanent position for her within their athletic department. All Howard has done is make the Huskies look good, and you can’t put a price on that.

Bob Ridley

Bob Ridley calls a Tigers game at The Arena.
  Ridley has been the play-by-play voice of the Medicine Hat Tigers for all 45 seasons of their existence and drove the team bus for the majority of that time.
    Les Lazaruk, who is the play-by-play voice of the Saskatoon Blades, called Ridley the dean of all WHL broadcasters, and the label fits.
    Between the regular season and post-season, Ridley has called all but one of the Tigers games. He has worked 3,219 of the team’s 3,220 regular season contests, all 388 of the club’s contests in the WHL playoffs and all 20 games the team has played in at the Memorial Cup tournament for a total of 3,627 contests.
    Ridley, 70, is a WHL legend and icon. Back in 2006, he was the recipient of the WHL’s Distinguished Service Award. There is hope that one day he will find his way into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and he is deserving of a spot with the game’s all-time greats.
    The best part about Rids is he has always taken all the accolades that have come his way in a humble manner, and he has never made himself that big of a deal. The press box in the new Medicine Hat Regional Event Centre, which is nearing completion, will be named after Ridley.
    Last season was the first campaign Ridley wasn’t the full-time bus driver for the Tigers since the early 1970s. He does admit he is getting older, and he needed to depart from that role.
    Ridley has been blessed with great health for his whole life, and here is hoping he will still be calling Tigers for a few more season’s in the future. When the day comes you no longer get to hear “he scooorrrreeeesss” on the radio, it will feel like something is missing.

Cody Smuk and Stephanie Vause

Cody Smuk and Stephanie Vause watch a Huskies men's hockey game.
    The former U of Saskatchewan Huskies athletes, who are engaged to me married, never cease to be inspiring.
    When Smuk was diagnosed with cancer just over a year ago, the resolve this young couple has displayed has been breathtaking. Smuk, who was a forward with the Huskies men’s hockey team, has always been a hard-working and ultimate team guy. Vause, who was a member of the Huskies track and field team, never wavered as a source of outstanding support for Smuk.
    She started the Gofundme page to raise money to help Smuk in cancer battle. The funds have been used to send Smuk to Germany for an alternative vaccine treatment. The doctors took a sample from the cancerous tumour in Smuk’s chest and created a vaccine for it, and the initial news is that the treatment is working.
    Smuk proposed to Vause in late December of last year. In February, the couple won a Dream Wedding Contest, which was organized by Crystal MacLeod of RSVP Event Design.
    Smuk and Vause have impressed all of their supports throughout Smuk’s cancer battle. They deserve nothing but good things to keep coming their way.

Steve Hogle

Steve Hogle, right, works the card table at the Blades Vegas night.
    The president of the Saskatoon Blades has become the public face of the hockey club.
    Hogle arrived in Saskatoon in September of 2013 and became Blades president under the club’s new owner Mike Priestner. Since landing in the Bridge City, Hogle hit the ground running to do his best to become part of his new community.
    Any time the Blades are engaged in a community event, Hogle is front and centre ensuring that everything is organized. He has represented the team in all sorts of forums, and on game nights, he can always be found on the concourse level interacting with fans.
    He has developed a reputation for being fun and energetic, and he helps add a lot of spark to the club’s various nightly promotions. That includes have a very noticeable joy of being part of the hoopla during the club’s Las Vegas night, where Hogle can be found working a card table.
    Away from the Blades, Hogle can be found wandering Saskatoon doing various other activities like taking in other sporting events like the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Men’s Volleyball Championships at the U of Saskatchewan or checking out a Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan play performance.
    Once thought to be a lifer with CTV News in Edmonton, Hogle has found a home in Saskatoon.

Kandace Cook

Kandace Cook zips down the ice for the Huskies.
    The gritty and hard-working forward in hockey always finds a place in your heart, and no one in the Canada West women’s conference was a feisty as Kandace Cook.
    She stands only 5-foot-2 but played the game like she was 6-foot-2. The Lloydminster product was spectacular in her fifth and final season with the U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team. For the third straight season, Cook appeared in all of the Huskies 28 regular season games, and she had career highs in goals (13) and points (22).
    For her efforts, Cook was named the most valuable player of the Huskies women’s hockey team.
    When she is on the ice, you can tell Cook loves the game. She is not afraid to go in front of the net or into the corners, where players do still take a physical beating in the women’s game. Away from the rink, she is energetic, outgoing and is very popular with the rest of her teammates.
    Now that she has exhausted her university eligibility, the Huskies will definitely miss Cook next season, and could only wish to find five more players just like her.
    Away from the rink, you don’t have to know Cook long to learn that her other big passion is farming, and she can usually be found helping out the family farm operation.

Peter Anholt

Peter Anholt.
    It was a big lift for the WHL, when Peter Anholt once again became employed with one of the league’s member teams in a role as a manager or coach.
    The Naicam, Sask., product was a respected, accountable and personable career coach in the WHL for much of his life. After guiding the Prince Albert Raiders to the playoffs in the 2006-07 campaign as head coach, Anholt parted ways with the club when his contract was allowed to expire in the off-season.
    Anholt had huge ties to the Raiders and to the Prince Albert community, and it was strange that he was no longer the team’s head coach. He was a defenceman on two national championship teams with the Raiders in 1979 and 1981, when the club was still a member of the junior A ranks. It seemed like he was meant to coach that team forever.
    The former defenceman with the U of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team 1983 University Cup national championship team was hired by the struggling Lethbridge Hurricanes as an assistant general manager in June of 2014. The Hurricanes last made the WHL playoffs in 2009. Anholt’s arrival was the first huge positive step forward the team took in some time.
    In December of last year, the Hurricanes cleaned house firing general manager Brad Robson and head coach Drake Berehowsky.
    Anholt became the club’s new head coach and general manager. For the rest of the 2014-15 regular season, the Hurricanes were no longer an easy win for every other team in the league. The Hurricanes played inspired hockey and started rolling off some winning streaks.
    The coaching veteran treated the players with respect but still held them accountable. His biggest strength is his ability to instill confidence, and that could be seen when the Hurricanes took the ice. They still finished second last in the league at 20-44-5-3, but hope had returned to Lethbridge.
    In May, the Hurricanes signed Anholt to a three-year extension as the team’s general manager. On Thursday, Anholt hired long time Calgary Hitmen assistant coach Brent Kisio as the Hurricanes new head coach. The hire was a forward thinking move by Anholt bringing in an eager 32-year-old bench boss, who had been part of a winning program.
    Not so long ago, the Hurricanes were a franchise players wanted to leave. Under Anholt, players are now excited about the prospect of joining the Hurricanes.

Kris Russell

A Kris Russell card from his Tigers days.
    The Caroline, Alta., product is living proof that talent, hard work and persistence can take you a long way.
    During his major junior days with the Medicine Hat Tigers, Russell was viewed as one of the most exciting players in the entire Canadian Hockey League helping Canada win gold at the world junior championships in 2006 and 2007 and being named the WHL’s MVP in the 2006-07 campaign. He also accumulated numerous other accolades in his four seasons with the Tigers from 2003 to 2007, and he was key in helping Medicine Hat win WHL championships in 2004 and 2007.
    Russell started his NHL career with an extended stay with the Columbus Blue Jackets before being dealt to the St. Louis Blues. The Blues built a deep back end, and traded Russell to the struggling Calgary Flames in July of 2013.
    With the Flames, the dynamic Russell was given a full out shot to excel, and he didn’t disappoint. This past season, Russell cemented a reputation for being a standout on the blue-line at the NHL level.
    In helping the Flames make the playoffs for the first time in six years, Russell established a new NHL record for most blocked shots in a season at 283, which broke the old mark of 274 set back Anton Volchenkov in the 2006-07 campaign with the Ottawa Senators.
    Russell, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 173 pounds, also set career highs in assists (30), points (34) and plus-minus rating (plus-18) playing 79 regular season games with the Flames. In the playoffs, Russell netted two goals, seven assists and blocked 54 shots in 11 games.
    Away from the rink, Russell has always been well mannered and has treated others with lots of respect. He is a good guy, and it is great to see success at the NHL level come to a good guy.

David Schlemko

David Schlemko back in 2007.
    During his whole professional hockey career, David Schlemko proved that you can make it into the NHL as an undrafted player.
    The Edmonton product was never selected in the NHL Entry Draft, but he made it to the professional ranks after signing an NHL entry-level contract with the Arizona Coyotes in 2007. An offensive defenceman in his major junior career with the Medicine Hat Tigers, Schlemko was being molded into a power-play specialist as a member of the Coyotes franchise.
    He started in the Central Hockey League ranks, worked his way up through the American Hockey League ranks and joined the Coyotes on a full-time basis for the 2010-11 campaign.
    For a time, it seemed like Schlemko would be a career member of the Coyotes franchise. That all changed this season, when the Coyotes decided to go in another direction dumping a number of veterans to get younger.
    With his contact set to expire at the end of the season, he was placed on waivers after playing 20 regular season games with the Coyotes and claimed by the Dallas Stars in January. He played five games with the Stars before again being placed of waivers, and he was claimed by the Calgary Flames in early March.
    Joining his third team in the final year of his contact, you had to wonder if Schlemko would be cycled out of the NHL. He turned 28 in May, but lots of players get cycled out of the league at that age to make room for younger prospects.
    Schlemko has a good understanding of the realities of the business side of hockey, but he showed he still has a lot to offer at the NHL level in his time with the Flames. He made an immediate impact in his first game with the Flames.
    Locked in a 2-2 draw against the Bruins in Boston on March 5, the Flames sent Schlemko on the ice to win the contest in the eighth round of a tiebreaking shootout.
    He scored on a sick move to give the Flames a 3-2 victory. He appeared in 19 regular season games with the Flames posting a plus-six rating helping the club earn a post-season berth for the first time in six years.
    With star defenceman and captain Mark Giordano gone for the season with a torn biceps tendon, Schlemko provided a calming influence on the Flames back end. He also suited up for all 11 of Calgary’s post-season games posting an assist and a plus-one rating.
    Between the Coyotes, Stars and Flames, Schlemko appeared in 44 regular season games last season posting one goal, three assists and a plus-one rating. He is reliable on the back end, and the Flames would be wise to resign him. If the Flames believe they will have depth on defence, they could convert Schlemko into a forward. He has play making skills that would allow his to flourish at that position.
    Schlemko can still contribute at the NHL level, and hopefully he will get another contract with some team in the show. If he does get cycled out, he would depart on a high note.

Valkyries eye up playoffs

Julene Friesen runs to daylight for the Valkyries
    The Saskatoon Valkyries are heading into the Western Women’s Canadian Football League playoffs on a high note.
    On Sunday in Winnipeg, the Valkyries closed the regular season dumping the Manitoba Fearless 36-15. Saskatoon finished at 3-1, while Manitoba closed out at 0-4. Valkyries running back Julene Friesen had one of the biggest plays of the contest scoring on a 49-yard romp.
    The Valkyries finished second in the WWCFL’s Prairie Conference to the 3-1 Regina Riot. The Valkyries and Riot split their two head-to-head meetings, but the Riot held the standings tiebreaker outscoring the Valkyries 68-37 in their two regular season tilts.
    Regina closed the regular season by dumping the Wolfpack in Winnipeg 47-3. The Wolfpack finished off at 2-2.
    After a bye week, the WWCFL Prairie Conference semifinal games are slated for June 21. The Valkyries will host the Wolfpack, while the Riot host the Fearless. The start times for those matches are still to be announced.
    On June 13 at 7 p.m., the Valkyries are hosting a fundraising cabaret at the #38 Anavets – Army, Navy and Airforce Veterans club. It is an 18+ event. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased from any Valkyries player.

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