NHL Stadium Series jerseys

This morning was the unveiling of the jerseys for the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks for next month’s Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium.

Taking a look at both, I think the Kings are the clear winners here. Their design mixes the crown (which I MUCH PREFER over their current home plate logo) with a gray as the dominant color (another nice touch) and black sleeves for a traditional look. LA is featured on the shoulder. My one beef is their website only posted a slow-loading unveiling video, not photos (at least not right away). You can check that out here. I would love to see the Kings turn this into their primary home/road jersey scheme and ditch the current models all together.

The Ducks went all in with the Orange while keeping the giant webbed-foot crest that inhabits their third jersey (which I think should become their primary one as their current home/road jerseys are among the drabbest in the league). The Ducks, who provided a photo gallery of their jersey, have OC on the shoulder and their current color scheme in stripes on the sleeves. It’s really bright but could make a nice third jersey in the future.

Nonetheless, both jerseys are winners and positive editions to the franchises’ jersey catalogs.


CAHA president’s balancing act

NHL.com published an interesting look at CAHA President Steve Laing over the weekend. As you can read here, the gist is how he has balanced an often-harrowing career in law enforcement with being a timekeeper for the Anaheim Ducks.

I’d have liked to seen more detail about his six years as CAHA’s president, because I hold the opinion that he has had a massive influence on the youth game in California, far beyond what many people realize. Two areas come to mind immediately.

Without Steve’s vision, we don’t have “pure” high school hockey in California, and we certainly don’t have it at the levels we do now (i.e. Santa Margarita winning a USA Hockey National Championship). Steve continued to champion that as an alternative (or addition) to travel hockey. High school hockey’s benefits are many: players play with their schoolmates, far less travel is required and the expenses tend to be significantly lower. At some schools, the JV programs serve as sort of an introduction to the sport for some players. (This fills a significant gap in youth hockey in California – there are plentiful programs for younger players who want to start, but what about ones in their teens?)

And high school hockey is only going to continue to grow. The Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League will announce the addition of several new schools in the coming days. Between varsity and JV programs, there could be at least 20 teams in the league this season.

Steve and the CAHA board (whose members also do not get near the recognition they deserve for their commitment to the sport and hard work on behalf of it) have championed measures to reduce hits to the head by increasing penalties for such hits. The transition was not always smooth (for players, coaches and refs), but greatly reducing opportunities for concussions is well worth the short-term growing pains.

Steve, like so many who work in our great game of hockey in California, is an example of someone who dedicates a lot of time to the sport while also working outside of it.

To him, and the many other coaches and administrators, I say, THANK YOU.


Deep playoff runs nothing new in California

Much has been made — and almost certainly will be made — of how California hockey is emerging, as if it’s a new phenomenon.

Let me dispell this right now. As I chronicle in my forthcoming book, California was producing college and pro players as far back as the 1960s and Olympians in the ’70s. Yes, the hockey is better than ever now at the grassroots level, and the numbers reinforce that. But this is NOT a new phenomenon.

Now, back to the Stanley Cup playoffs and the LA Kings’ marvelous run thus far.

Did you realized that in the past 10 seasons a California team has reached at least the Western Conference Finals seven times. The lockout in 2005 took care of one of those years, so it’s seven of nine seasons.

2003 — Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Stanley Cup Finalist

2004 — San Jose Sharks, conference finals

2005 — lockout

2006 — Mighty Ducks, conference finals

2007 — Anaheim Ducks, Stanley Cup champions

2008 — none, though Sharks reached Round 2

2009 — none, though Ducks reached Round 2

2010 — San Jose Sharks, conference finals

2011 — San Jose Sharks, conference finals

2012 — Los Angeles Kings, Stanley Cup Finals

Hockey-State, anyone?


New Year book update

I have a pile of California minor hockey news and stories to post, and I hope to do so in the next few days. But first I wanted to provide an update on the hockey book.

As some of you might be aware, for the past four years I’ve been researching and now writing a book about the history of hockey in California. During this process I’m continually learning more from the people I speak to, and so the direction of the book has changed from initially being one that solely examined the game’s growth here, to one that does that but points to key events, teams and people who were part of its emergence and growth along the way.

So while history is part of it, and there are nods to many of the state’s pro teams, it really focuses on how these events added more kindling to the “hockey fire”.

I’ve spoken to roughly 400 people associated with the game’s history from the late 1930s until now, and the words of many of them will appear in the book. Their stories — to me — are priceless.

At this point I’ve written or nearly written approximately 18 chapters. I hope to complete another 12-15 in the next 3-4 months. At that time, I’ll evaluate what I have (again) and submit it to an editor. As of yet, I do not have a publisher for it, but if it needs to be self-published, I’m preparing to do that.

As the Stanley Cup Playoffs commercial asks, “Is this the year?”

Happy New Year, and keep your head up and stick on the ice.

Defensemen going different directions

With the New Year came news about two moves being made by young defensemen with ties to California.

Former San Jose Jr. Sharks defenseman Ben Paulides has committed to Miami, Ohio. Paulides has brought a physical style of play to the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms the past two seasons. Read more about his season here. The RedHawks regularly reside near the top of the Division I polls.

Meanwhile, former LA Selects defenseman William Wrenn, a 2009 draft pick of the San Jose Sharks, decided to leave Denver University at the semester break and sign on with the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL, meaning his NCAA eligibility is gone. You can read Portland’s take here.

Wrenn will have the benefit of playing for former LA Kings assistant Mike Johnston in Portland, who has led the Winterhawks to the top of the U.S. Division.

Wrenn had played in 18 of DU’s first 22 games with one assist and a minus-7 rating for the nation’s No. 7 team. You can read the Denver take here.

Three with CA ties make U.S. WJC team

Congratulations are in order for forwards Mitch Callahan, Emerson Etem and Jason Zucker for making the U.S. World Junior Championship team on Wednesday.

The trio, as well as forwards Matt Nieto and Rocco Grimaldi, were in USA Hockey’s final evaluation camp.

Zucker, who is from Las Vegas but played a couple of seasons for the LA Selects, was a member of last season’s gold-medal-winning squad.

Etem, who led all WHL rookies in scoring last season, and Callahan, who has emerged as the Kelowna Rockets’ leading scorer this season, made it despite the presence of six returning forwards in camp.

Check back for more soon. … Also, look for a feature on the players in next month’s issue of California Rubber Magazine.

2010 Draft Prospects from California

This is from research I did for a story that appeared in the May issue of California Rubber Hockey Magazine.

The Bible of hockey has spoken, and it spoke favorably of California’s prospects for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Three players with ties to the state are among the top 54 prospects in The Hockey News’ annual Draft Preview issue, which hit newstands and mailboxes this past week.

The three are forwards Emerson Etem (Long Beach), Beau Bennett (Gardena) and Jason Zucker (LA Selects).

Etem is the publication’s 17th-ranked prospect, Bennett its 35th and Zucker its 54th.

Etem was the eighth ranked North American skater by the NHL Central Scouting Service in its final rankings after leading all Western Hockey League rookies with 37 goals (and 65 points) in 72 games for Medicine Hat. The 6-foot, 194-pound right wing played with LA Hockey’s ’92 birth year teams as well as the Jr. Ice Dogs.

Bennett led the BCHL in scoring as a rookie with 120 points (41 goals, 79 assists) in 56 games for Penticton. He was ranked 32nd by CSS. The 6-1, 180-pounder played for the Selects and the LA Jr. Kings.

Zucker was ranked 51st by CSS after helping Team USA win the World Jr. Championship. He spent the past two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program. The 5-10, 175-pound is from Las Vegas, but spent a couple of seasons playing for LA Hockey.

Here is a look at some other draft-eligible prospects from California:

C Jake Fallon (former LAHC player), Indiana of USHL
CSS Rank: 68
Key stats: The 5-10, 180-pounder split time between USNTDP U-18 team and Indiana this season

D Taylor Aronson (Placentia), Portland of the WHL
CSS Rank: 88
Key stats: The 6-1, 197-pounder had 31 points in 71 games to go with a plus-13 after a minor career with the Jr. Kings, California Wave, California Stars and Ontario Senators

D Brandon Underwood (San Marcos), Kamloops of WHL
CSS Rank: 196
Key stats: The 6-3, 210-pound former LA Jr. King and California Wave player had five points, but 128 PIMs

Others to watch
G Adam Brown (Yorba Linda), Kelowna of the WHL
Key stats: The 5-10, 165-pound stopper put together a 31-18-1-4 record with a .905 save percentage in his first full season as a starter. His six shutouts were third in the WHL, as were his 59 games played, and his 31 wins were sixth most.

F Cory Kane (Irvine), Vernon of BCHL
Key stats: The 6-3, 190-pounder had a career-high 55 points (22-33) in 60 games … has committed to Ferris State

D Matthew Konan (Tustin), Medicine Hat of WHL
Key stats: The 6-3, 182-pound blueliner had a career-high 20 points (5-15) and an impressive plus-24

C Tyler Maxwell (Manhattan Beach), Everett of WHL
Key stats: The 5-9, 179-pounder broke out with 69 points (33-36) in 72 games in his second WHL season

F Shane Sooth (Canyon Country), Texas of the NAHL
Key Stats: The 6-foot, 187-pounder finished the season with 8 points (2-6) in 12 NAHL games.

Etem tops California’s 2010 NHL Entry Draft prospects

In the May issue of California Rubber Hockey Magazine I identify 11 prospects who have good to reasonable chances of being selected during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in late June.

As you likely know, this year’s draft will be the first one held in California (at Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles), and it’s quite likely one of the state’s native sons will be picked in the top half of the first round, Long Beach’s Emerson Etem.

Various mock drafts have the powerful skater who scored a WHL-rookie-best 37 goals this season going anywhere from 8th to 15th. One intriguing prediction has the Anaheim Ducks selecting him with their first pick.

Etem is a solid 6-foot, 200 pounds and he was the first teen-ager allowed to train at TR Goodman‘s prestigious training center (popularized by star student Chris Chelios and now host to dozens of pro players). I spoke with Etem there last summer (click here to listen), and I came away impressed with his even-keeled and mature personality. I was equally impressed with what I observed during his workout – he has a non-stop motor and oozes athletic ability.

What it boils down to is an intense drive to succeed, and that’s why I think any team who selects Etem will not regret it for a minute. He has the drive and physical and personal maturity to thrive in the NHL much sooner than later.

How does this tie in with the hockey book? If Etem is selected in the first round (he’s NHL Central Scouting’s 8th-ranked North American skater), he’d be just the second Californian to be so honored. Rancho Santa Margarita’s Jonathon Blum, who recently finished a very good first pro season with Milwaukee in the AHL, was the first – going late in the first round to the Nashville Predators in 2007.

More progress reports on the book and on 2010 California prospects are on their way in the coming days.

Eight more players from CA are WHL Bantam picks

Last Thursday, the WHL held its annual Bantam draft, and eight players from California were selected.

The one that most people will talk about, and rightly so, is goaltender Eric Comrie, who has been the backbone of a very, very strong LA Selects 95s team for several years. Comrie was outstanding at the recent USA Hockey Nationals and will have no shortage of opportunities to further his career. Given his family’s ties to Edmonton (his father Bill founded The Brick chain of stores) it’s not unreasonable to think he could land in the Dub.

What also was notable, at least to me, is some of the players who were not selected – specifically the Selects’ entire top line of Adam Erne, Ryan Siroky and Max Becker. In some cases, the families made it known their sons won’t play in the league. Every scout and coach I’ve talked to over the past year projects all three to be high-end players in Junior and possibly beyond.

You have to admire the Tri-City American’s approach. In addition to selecting Comrie, they picked teammates Brian Williams and Andrew Oglevie. I see a package deal as highly unlikely because linemates Williams and Oglevie strongly favor the college route.

One player who was drafted, San Diego Jr. Gulls defenseman Alec McCrea (by Regina in the 10th round), already has a relative (cousin, we think) in the WHL – forward Markus McCrea of Everett.