Saturday, October 29, 2011


A few people have asked for my opinion on the hazing incident, seeing as how there have been a few stories about Neepawa on my blog in the last year or so.

Some may be surprised to hear I feel there is a place in sports for rookies to cut their teeth and pay their dues; although I stop well short of saying I condone hazing.

Having rookies clean a dressing room, load the bus, or sit in the most unattractive dressing room stalls is not hazing.  However, the politically correct lunatics out there may suggest it is.

Demeaning or embarrassing a player is hazing and that is the practice that has to be stopped.  The problem is that the line is blurry.  No question, making a 15-or-16 year-old walk around with a milk carton hanging from his scrotum is a major offense.  But, what about shaving a guy's head?  Is that hazing?  Or, how about singing an embarrassing song in a crowded restaurant?  I think a poll of 10 guys will result in mixed results. 

Furthermore, coaches are on the hook for making sure hazing does not occur, but I can tell you controlling a group of 20 teenagers/young men is a task easier said than done.  Most of us have a teenager as a child and most of us (if we are being honest with ourselves) has had that same teenager pull a wool over our eyes to commit an offense that he or she didn't want the parent to find out about.  That's a parent with 1 teenager.  Now, think of a coach who has 20 teenagers to manage or supervise.  Things happen and coaches are not always privy.

The real crime in the Neepawa situation right now is that the kid is not playing.  What bothers me more is the reason why he's not playing.  If the Natives are holding out for the proper compensation, the Commissioner needs to step in and solve the matter.  Personally, I don't think Neepawa should have any say in what they get in return for him.  The boy should be allowed to pick his team and go there.  But, what if teams are nervous about allowing a whistle blower into their room?  If that's the case, an even greater sin is being committed.  Easier said than done, but I'd take this young man in a heartbeat.  What he's done shows a tremendous amount of courage.  And, I'd want young men with courage on my hockey team.

Here's a real good piece on the whole incident and if the story about the victim being forced to apologize is true, then sweeping changes should be made.  I'd go so far as to say the operations of the hockey team should be suspended.


The Saskatchewan Roughriders closed out the home portion of their schedule today by beating the Hamilton Tiger Cats 19-3.

The Riders put some back-ups in against some Hamilton back-ups and I thought there were a few guys that showed they deserve an invite back next Spring to compete for a starting job, including running back Brandon West, and several defensive players (Ken Rowe, Tearrius George, and Tyron Brackenridge come immediately to mind).  By no means am I anointing these guys, but I didn't mind them today.  I don't share the same enthusiasm about Ryan Dinwiddie as some of the Regina media people are today.  I've seen enough to know he can't come back.  And, if Cole Bergquist ever turns out to be a decent quarterback on some other team...another black eye for the folks making decisions on playing time.  I guess I'll give Ken Miller the benefit of the doubt and agree Bergquist can't play.  However, I'm dumb founded as to why he has managed to stay on the roster for so long.

I left my season tickets in the cupboard for these last two games because I figure if the team has given up, I may as well too.  And, that's something more sports franchises have to understand.  You can't just say you have a team and expect fans to attend.  You have to try to put a competitive product on the field.  That didn't happen this year.  While it may be harsh to boycott the way fans did today, I think it's something worth noting for Jim Hopson as he rebuilds this program.  Either fix this mess, or you are going to have an abundance of empty seats. Fans should not apologize for that.  You can say the typical 'you can't win every year' excuse, but the fact is this team went from three Grey Cup appearances in four years to the toilet.  It's like landing on the 'Go To Jail' square in Monopoly.  Furthermore, when the season was lost, the coaching staff showed how stubborn they really are by continuing to play for 'now' and risking injury to the few keepers they have.  It's true, you don't have to win every year.  But, at least show us something other than a team that goes further and further off the rails with each passing game.

I suspect Hopson will have lots to say when the season is over and I look forward to hearing it.  I don't share some of the fans' opinions that Hopson has to go.  I think that, overall, he's done a real good job and I commend him for letting the football people run the team (even if it's done poorly) during the season and staying away from that aspect.  But, after next week's final game, I believe Hopson will have his say and it will spell the end for a number of players and coaches.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

STACKHOUSE SOAPBOX (Yorkton This Week Oct 19)

The September Showcase for the SJHL was held in Estevan over the weekend.  There were over two dozen scouts taking in the action, including eight National Hockey League teams that were represented.  For me, the real story is the beautiful Spectra Place and the show put on by the organizers.  Executives are constantly looking at ways to make their game more of an event and not just a sixty minute hockey game.  Well, the Bruins have it cased.  They have a jumbotron at centre ice where they are flashing Bruin highlights before the team skates out.  When they do, it’s accompanied by loud rock music and strobe lights.  The intermissions are busy too with pretty girls throwing stuff into the crowd and the camera guy is panning from section to section getting people to cheer as they see themselves on the big tv.  There is a sports door that keeps regular hours right inside the playing surface part of the arena and they stock Bruin merchandise.  Both sides of the ice are loaded with top of the line luxury suites.  To top it off, the food is super expensive so they can pay off the massive price tag to build this palace!

Estevan is a city that may be growing at a rate faster than what it can handle.  The downtown was bumper to bumper even on a Sunday morning.  And, if you get a chance to talk to anyone in Yorkton about what it is like to wait in line for a coffee at the drive-thru, you are likely to get nothing but unsatisfied customers.  Well, Yorkton has nothing on Estevan.  The coffee shop there had three ways to enter the parking lot.  All three were clogged with vehicles trying to merge into one line.  If you were inside the restaurant, good luck trying to get out.  I’m still not going to wait in the Yorkton line, but it made me realize it can be worse.  By the way, the franchise I’m talking about is one that should have more of its stores open in Yorkton.  I grew up in Fredericton, which is triple the size of Yorkton.  They have fifteen of these franchise outlets open for business.  We have one.  And, we have more disposable income than people from New Brunswick.

Long time Yorkton residents are likely familiar with the name Bob Rhinas.  Bob lives in British Columbia now and is 56-years-old, but is in need of a kidney transplant.  Monday, Brenda Walsh (his sister) donated one of hers in a life saving gesture.  I used to work for Brenda’s husband, Lyle, and he told me at the Terrier game last Wednesday of Brenda’s amazing decision to give the gift of life.  Lyle and Brenda are not the type of people who go around publicizing their good deeds, but I felt this is something folks should know about, especially if you don’t see Brenda around for awhile.  Lyle tells me it’s about a three month process for Bob and Brenda to fully recover.  Brenda will be in the hospital for about five days after the transplant and then will be an outpatient for a number of visits and then it’s hoped she can return to Yorkton. 

If fans want to send the Saskatchewan Roughriders a real message that means something, they will not attend the last home game of the season on October 29 against Hamilton, even if you already have a ticket.  The Riders make money in the food you eat, the drinks you consume, and the merchandise you wear.  If you don’t go, it will be reflected in their gate.  It’s not that I’m a Rider non-supporter, but this organization has to understand the fan base means business when it comes to putting a competitive product on the field.  If you accept the Riders as lovable losers, they are simply nothing more than the Toronto Maple Leafs of the CFL.  Rider brass has insulted the fan base by continuing to trot out the same bunch of losers week after week after week without major change.  Furthermore, they played injured quarterback Darian Durant and injured receiver Andy Fantuz (perhaps the two players they should make sure they keep) on Sunday despite the fact this team didn’t have a snowball’s chance in Cuba of making the playoffs.  I am imploring Jim Hopson to please FIX THIS MESS. 

I snapped a picture of a small sampling of what the Gallagher Centre parking lot looked like last Wednesday night at the Terrier game.  Oh boy do we have lots to learn.  Clearly, the stalls are marked and the row ends where indicated, but three more vehicles figured they’d squeeze in too just to get that much closer to the building and minimize the walk.  Of course three more vehicles parked behind those guys!

Nice person mentions this week to Dean Brockman, Becky Tait, Ron Holloway, and Rob Hart.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


This is totally off the top of my head from what I remember over the course of watching twelve teams in two and a half days.

Fraser Abdallah, Kindersley - I didn't see him on Sunday, but he was amazing on Saturday.  Jay Young should've had a hat trick, but ended up with a goose egg on the score sheet.

Steven Glass, Estevan - Very calm in there.  He had two pretty tough assignments, but handled Humboldt nicely on Friday night and then gave up only two against a Yorkton team that had defeated the Bruins twice earlier in the week.

Andy Desautels, Flin Flon - I didn't watch him on Sunday night, but I see he's now 5-and-0, 2.40, .912 and that bears watching.

Travis Sparrow, Battlefords - The team captain and he only has 1-assist this season; but he doesn't get beat much one-on-one.  Defense is the toughest position for me to evaluate because it's easy to look at the stats and just go with those guys.  But, Sparrow is a good one and he doesn't have to put up any numbers at all.

Brady Norrish, Yorkton - He scored a real nice goal on the rush on Saturday and as he gets more comfortable, I think you will see more offense from him and his twin brother.

John Stechyshyn, Melville - He's got five points in ten games and I really like his poise.  He doesn't appear to be a rookie out there.

Brandt Weldon, Flin Flon - Wow, can he shoot.

Jay Young, Flin Flon - In the words of Kindersley coach Rockie Zinger:  "He's a man".  Hits, scores, skates well. 

Dillan McCombie, Flin Flon - I get the feeling whenever this kid decides he's going to really do something.  He will do whatever he wants.

Blake Tatchell, Battlefords - He's always exciting every time I see the Stars play.

Kyle Threndyle, Melfort - It's a tall order to go from fourth line to first line the way he has.  On a struggling team, no less.  Still, Threndyle is a bonafide threat.

Michael Sagen, Melville - A lot of attention being paid to the top line and the goaltending situation in Melville.  Quietly, Sagen is a force on the PK and is collecting points.

Jamie Vlanich, Yorkton - He can't be more than 5'9", but he hits like he's 6'4" and scores regularly.

Justin Lund, Kindersley - He got cranked twice in the second period by Jay Young on Saturday, but the 17-year-old just kept on motoring.


This is the same article posted on the SJHL website:
BATTLEFORDS - Arguably, the most impressive team at the Showcase, the Stars appear to have two solid veteran goaltenders and head coach Kevin Hasselberg has done a terrific job with a defense that was, admittedly, a work in progress coming out of training camp. Captain Travis Sparrow, despite 1-assist in 13-games is a real force and needs to be watched to be truly appreciated.

ESTEVAN - They’ve done nothing to disprove the notion this is a young team contending earlier than anticipated. Steven Glass appears to have stolen the number one netminding job as he started both games at the Showcase and made upwards of 30-saves in both appearances. Dylan Smith is enjoying a coming out party and is the favorite to win the SJHL scoring title at the moment. Rookies Matt Brykaliuk and Taylor Reich also enjoyed good weeks and provide nice depth if they can continue to play well up front.

FLIN FLON - The top two lines of Riley Storzuk-Jay Young-Dylan Balaski and Cameron Blair-Dillan McCombie-Brett Penner are as good as any in the league. David Roper, Tanner Clark, and Brandt Weldon are three two-way defensemen that also belong in the upper class. Rookie goalies Andy Desautels and Devin Buffalo remind some of the Dan Bauer-Michael Clements combination from Nipawin a number of years ago. Lots to like and this team could be for real.

HUMBOLDT - The Broncos are above .500 despite running out three different goalies that have posted save percentages below .900. Don’t worry about them. They’ll be fine. Andrew Johnston and Robbie Ciolfi are continuing to develop chemistry, while there are a number of injuries and illnesses running through the roster right now too. The best is yet to come, but don’t expect massive changes. The core group is in place. They may add another forward with scoring punch, but expect the ship to be righted with the players on the current roster.

KINDERSLEY - The Klippers are better than the record indicates, although they’ll need to secure more consistency from the goaltending position. Fraser Abdallah gave the best netminding performance of the weekend on Saturday night against Flin Flon. Overall, the play of several returning veterans has to be somewhat disappointing; although rookies like Justin Lund, Troy Gedny, and Kyle Davies has to be encouraging. Tanner Kissick has taken a nice step forward too.

LA RONGE - Where’s the scoring? It’s smoke and mirrors for Bob Beatty right now. They went undefeated at the Showcase, but still don’t have a single player at 10-points despite playing 15-games. It’s difficult to see who’s going to emerge and lead this team. Skyler Hladun, Nathan Boyer, and Aaron Enns are key holdovers from last year and Enns was terrific against Nipawin on Saturday. Defenseman Matthew Weisensel is one to watch as his academics are, reportedly, very high and he’s attracted some NCAA interest already.

MELFORT - In a full rebuilding mode with new players, coaches, and executive members. Connor Bradshaw isn’t a natural goal scorer, but he’s going to be relied on heavily by Gavin Holcomb. Kyle Threndyle is a real nice surprise after seeing limited minutes last year. The acquisition of Godric Tham looks like a good one. Rookies Avery Vanblaricom and Landon Belchamber should continue to improve over time. Goaltending is one area where there are no concerns. Both Jesse Wilkins and Jesse Ehnisz have been as good as one could hope.

MELVILLE - If Alex Wakaluk is in goal, they are tough to beat (5-1-2). Take him out, and they are very beatable (0-3-1). The line of Mark Owen-Jesse Mireau-Ian McNulty may be the most dangerous in the league; although Mireau’s giveaway at centre late in the third on Saturday resulted in the game winning goal for Humboldt. So better two-way play is needed. Rookie defenseman John Stechyshyn, surely, had to come up on the radar of the scouts. When Lee Christensen comes back from a broken orbital bone, the defense should get a major lift. Michael Sagen’s offense is, quietly, coming around. And, this team has four players in the WHL that, at the moment, are part-timers and could come back at some point.

NIPAWIN - This weekend wasn’t a clear indication of how far this organization has come in a year. Doug Johnson is the runaway Coach Of The Year after the quarter pole of the season. Defenseman Jeff Datoff has been impressive at both ends of the ice and big steps forward from the likes fo Dan Szerlip and Brady Zerr have helped aid the progress of rookie Tad Kozun as opposing teams struggle to check a top line when there are actually four lines capable of scoring goals. Johnson has also gotten real good mileage from Justin Waskewitch and may get similar results from Wilson Dumais.

NOTRE DAME - At the moment, the Hounds have the best goalie in the league in Ty Reichenbach and may have the best all-around defenseman in Carson Grolla. Scoring has come from a number of sources, but Brandon Millin and Todd Christian are the two key guys. The players have bought into head coach Kevin White’s system and playing the Hounds is not an easy time. If they can find some scoring depth, possibly from within from the likes of Ben Morgan, Dayton Shaw, and Dillon Schwartzenberger, they’ll be closer to the top of the division than they will to the bottom of it.

WEYBURN - On paper, this isn’t a team to fear. But, Dwight McMillan is at it again. They slaughtered Nipawin on Sunday and looked like world beaters. Two days earlier, the rolled over for the Ice Wolves. Jack Kennelly is started to figure things out as he goes through the league a second time and looks like he’ll continue to be a scoring threat going forward. Of course, the big three of Jesse Ross, Coltyn Sanderson, and Keegan Bruce are as good as any. Ryan Whitell has developed nicely and is anchoring the defense. Local product Carter Struthers is playing well at the moment and the best is yet to come from goalie Mitch Kilgore. Kilgore won’t be asked to play every night anymore as Brett Teskey was added from the WHL and he should spell Kilgore a bit more than the previous back-ups.

YORKTON - They’ve been dogged by injuries, but it’s also clear they don’t have any gamebreakers up front and will need to score by committee. You can’t help but be entertained by Jamie Vlanich, who doesn’t have size, but someone forgot to tell him that. The defense is young with 18-year-old twins Brady and Chase Norrish playing big minutes with Devon McMullen. Sunday’s strong performance from Warren Shymko, who missed the previous 10-days with a groin injury, was encouraging. The return of Brent Struble, who had been out for the last seven months with injuries, was also welcomed and he paid immediate dividends with 5-points in 4-games over the course of 6-days.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


While I never like to see a story like this, I can't say I'm entirely shocked.  If you were to ask me about a seriously negative story arising from a junior hockey organization, I would have suggested if there was one out there, Neepawa would be on the top of my list.

As I've said before, all you have to do is log onto the Network 54 MJHL message forum and you can spend hours on end reading about the polarizing figures involved with that organization.  And, while message boards tend to have their fair share of garbage associated with the posts, there are a number that are also written by very well informed people, such as players, parents, and other coaches.

At the end of last season, I decided to 'sit' on a story where I talked to several former Neepawa players, who didn't speak highly of their experience there due to those involved with making on-ice decisions.  At the risk of identifying those players, I will say no more at this point in time.  What I had was a very one-sided story and it did not reflect well on the Natives.  I wanted them to have a chance to refute or explain the information I had gathered.

I submitted a list of questions via email to Bryant Perrier (head coach), who declined to answer and wished to speak with me on the phone.  We had a good chat and he invited me to come to Neepawa so he could show me all the good things he's doing with the organization.  I have not, to this point, taken him up on his offer.  I worked in Brandon for five years and spent considerable time in Neepawa covering the Natives through the Brad Wells, Jeff Pister, and Craig Atkinson (all excellent guys and good coaches) years.  I'm fairly familiar with how things are run.  We ended up not doing the interview.  Honestly, I wasn't comfortable taking words in a phone conversation with him and putting them on my blog as I'd risk taking him out of context.  I wanted it in writing so nothing could be confused or slanted.

Last summer, I stated publicly that their prized acquisition (goalie Wendell Vye) would be a good bet to not make the season, which he didn't.  He left in December, along with the Director of Player Personnel, who was dismissed somewhat controversially (depending on who you talk to).  Privately, I have told some other junior hockey observers that I have concern this franchise is going to struggle in a very serious way going forward and they are off to an 0-8-and-1 start.  They are scoring just two goals a game and giving up an average of over 4.50.  Because it was my 'home team' for five years, I want Neepawa to rebound and be a competitive team again.  At this point, they seem to have a very, very long way to go.


Where do you think this Gallagher Centre parking lot row should have ended and a new one begins?

I wish I could say I have a prize for the correct answer....but clearly not many in Yorkton know the answer it likely wouldn't matter.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Despite the score, I was pretty happy with the first half today.

Ryan Dinwiddie showed us he can't play quarterback in the Canadian Football League.  Really, that's all you need to see at this point in the season.  Any Roughrider management who felt as though this team still had a shot at the playoffs as recently as last week should be canned.  You have to look at reality, not mathematical formulas.

Next week, hopefully Cole Bergquist will give us a good answer as to whether or not he can play quarterback in the CFL.

As long as I see a sense of direction and an effort from the players on the field, consider me a fan.  I will not cheer or applaud what I've seen this season.  Forget the last three weeks.  This club sewered their year from the moment Edmonton scored the first touchdown of the season in week one.

Let's get some rookies in there at offensive line.  The old guys are...well...old.  Time to change the guard.  And, not just one of them.  All of them.  Remember, you can lose 40-3 with rookies and still be happy provided you see they are giving their all and you have a keeper or two amongst the bunch.  These last few weeks need to be an early look at next year.

I stand by previous remarks that aside from Durant, Dressler, Fantuz, Shologan, Butler, and Freeman; there should be no guaranteed roster spots next year.

If running backs are a dime a dozen, spend a nickel.  The Roughriders should have, at least, that much cash in the kitty.

Find a defensive end that can wreak havoc.

Jim Hopson:  please get down on your hands and knees and beg Joe Womack to return to the organization as General Manager and give him full control over football operations.

As far as a head coach goes, I don't know what the answer is.  It can't be Miller.  Is Marcus Crandell too raw?  I don't know about that.  Greg Marshall showed us teams were right to 'not' name him a head coach time and time again.  Maybe it's time to jump the gun and grab Crandell and let him learn on the job if you think he has the tools to be successful.  Scott Milanovich doesn't want to be a head coach bad enough if you ask me or else he'd already be doing it.  Mike Benevides is, possibly, headed to Toronto to clean up Jim Barker's mess.

People are wondering if this year is just a blip.  I'm concerned 2007, 2009, and 2010 were blips.  With three Grey Cups in 101 years, the only real constant through two of them was that Kent Austin was a quarterback for one and a coach for another.  In the 2009 and 2010 Grey Cup finalist years, there were still enough support staff and players left over from the Austin/Tillman regime.  As those players and staff members drop off, so too does the excellence to which this organization was held to for a brief time.  Hopson has his work cut out for him.

Monday, October 3, 2011


There is a pretty good chance that if my wife ever kicked me out of the house that I would take fewer bags for the rest of my life than what she takes for two days of scrap booking.  Furthermore, I'm pretty proud of my bench press as of late.  It's nothing compared to what these weigh.

STACKHOUSE SOAPBOX (Yorkton This Week Sept 28)

Sunday, October 2, 2011


The Saskatchewan Roughriders have lost 42-5 and 40-3 in the last two games.

Head coach Ken Miller said after the BC loss (42-5) that his team did not come out flat.  They played hard, but didn't play well as a unit.  For some reason, nobody even asked Miller (from what I've read) if he felt as though his team came out flat yesterday against Calgary.

At 4-and-9, this team's season is over.  Maybe not mathematically.  But, it's over.

It's now time to take a look at what you have at all positions, this includes quarterback.  I'm a supporter of Darian Durant, but the reality is that we need to see Ryan Dinwiddie and perhaps Cole Bergquist in a game against the opposing teams' first string defenses.  If you have no faith in either back-up, then cut them loose.  Otherwise, now is the time to see them.  There is no point in risking a serious injury to Durant.  Sit him down and see if quarterback is one position whether you have to actively recruit during the offseason or not.

On CKRM yesterday, it was mentioned that six players have been brought in from NFL camps.  Get them in the line-up.  Doesn't matter at who's expense.  Don't waste people's time by adding players and not ever looking at them in a meaningful way.  Practice is nice, but with the team being dreadful and showing no heart whatsoever, you have nothing to lose by dressing some raw rookies.  At 82-8 over two games, it's not possible to fare worse.

The fact that Miller says he's not planning wholesale changes says a great deal about this organization's accountability level.  I said around this time last year that I didn't think there was much accountability starting in the front office and filtering down.  Nothing has changed to make me think differently.  Miller's constant defending of players, who week after week show no loyalty to the logo whatsoever, is annoying.  If Calgary can sit Joffrey Reynolds, the Roughriders can (and should) sit a handful of guys.

There's a reason this franchise has won just three Grey Cups in 101 years.  You'd think they'd win six or seven just based on accident.  The league isn't that big.  I come into contact with fans all the time who suggest you have to cheer through thick and thin.  I don't buy it.  This team has more support and more money than any other CFL club.  Yet, they do nothing with it.  If the Riders want to continue their run of sell-out crowds and record selling merchandise, I would suggest they try this:  fix this mess.  Show the fans you are trying to rectify a disaster.  Saying you are not planning wholesale changes tells me you are content to let the rest of the season pass you by without any meaningful on-field evaluation.  I'll cheer a 4-and-14 season next year if I see measures of a rebuilding effort.  Right now, all I see is a front office in denial of how horribly terrible they are. Yes, the coaching is bad.  But, the players are worse.  And, they are not going to get better trotting the same guys out there (who, obviously don't care) week after week without recourse.

In my opinion, the following players can come back next year (everyone else should be fighting for a job):
Craig Butler, Weston Dressler, Darian Durant, Andy Fantuz, Jerrell Freeman, and Keith Shologan.

Dressler, Durant, Fantuz, and Shologan are players I would tell to take the rest of the year off.  Freeman and Butler should continue to play in order to improve as I still see even greater upside.

Of those keepers, only Dressler has shown me a willingness to compete week in and week out regardless of the score.

Which brings me to another area that should be of great concern:  leadership.  I don't think this team has it. Every team should have a strong leadership group amongst its players.

Good luck next week in Edmonton.  They are going to need it.