With Gavin Holcomb heading to Melfort as the new head coach of the Melfort Mustangs, the Ice Wolves had an assistant coach vacancy to fill.

Today the Ice Wolves announce the hiring of Ron Holloway as Bob Beatty's assistant for the upcoming hockey season.

Holloway was the head coach of the Praire Junior Hockey League's Ochapowace Thunder last season.  The Thunder put together a record of 12-22-6 for fourth in the South division.

In the playoffs, they ousted the first placed Regina Capitals in seven games to move on to the South Finals where they fell to the eventual league champion Pilot Butte Storm.

Holloway was previously with the Wolves as a trainer and spent time with the team late in the playoffs and Anavet Cup last season.

He's very popular with the players and his familiarity with the team will be a bonus to the position as he steps in.

I'm looking forward to talking with Ron in post game shows for the upcoming season.  I actually had him on after Game 2 of the Anavet Cup and it went pretty well.

Going to try and get a hold of him today, so there may be a short interview posted later.

UPDATE:  I got the chance to talk to Ron, here's the quick interview.

I also stumbled across this video of Ronnie "The Piston" Holloway in action  in my internet travels. Enjoy!

-D
 
We'll start with the Ice Wolves release:

The Credit Union Cup champion La Ronge Ice Wolves are proud to announce that forward Doug Lindensmith is moving to play NCAA Division 3 hockey with Norwich University in Vermont.

Lindensmith was a major reason as to why the Ice Wolves won the SJHL championship for a second straight season as he had 98 points in the regular season to finish 3rd overall behind teammates Travis Eggum and Marc-Andre Carre.  Despite being bothered in the playoffs and the ANAVET Cup with a concussion, the Sterling Heights, Michigan native still managed to collect 12 points in 11 games and was one of the Ice Wolves top players in their seven game defeat to Portage in the ANAVET Cup.

Lindensmith will see several SJHL alumni at Norwich as former Notre Dame Hound Travis Janke plays there as do former Humboldt Broncos Scott and Steve Schroeder and Tory Allan.

The Ice Wolves wish Doug all the best at Norwich and thank him for his years of service with the organization.

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Lindensmith was one of the few remainders from that 11-win season prior to the back-back championships.  Over his career, he was one of the Ice Wolves most prolific scorers and a decided fan favourite.  If there's one thing Lindensmith could do aside from his natural ability on the ice, it was work the crowd.  While I'm sure he annoyed more than one opposing player, the fans loved it and it definitely made for an entertaining night.

Number 22 will also be remembered for scoring one of the biggest goals in Ice Wolves history in Game 6 of the Bauer Conference Final to send La Ronge to it's first Credit Union Cup Final.

Doug was always a great guy to talk to on the bus, and in interviews.  He currently holds the distinction of best overtime winner prediction on an MBC broadcast, saying Devin Peters (G) would score the winner for Yorkton in Game 6 of this year's Credit Union Cup Final.  Nice...

Here are Lindensmith's stat-lines from his time in La Ronge.

Year          G     A   PTS   PIM
2010-11      33     65      98       50
2009-10     28     34      62       85
2008-09    16      15       31       57
Totals:     77     114     191    192

With those numbers, Lindensmith finished as the Wolves all-time assist leader and sits third on the franchise scoring list behind Jordie Johnston (197) and Justin Rohr (195).

Best of luck at school next year, Doug!

-D

NHL Realignment

5/20/2011

 
Holy cow what a storm Stephen Brunt whipped up during Game 3 of the East Final.  First the ecstasy of the NHL returning to Winnipeg, then the frowny faces when Bob and Darren's sources on ATL --> WPG denied a done deal.  Then the all out media/twitter war with people picking sides between TSN and Sportsnet/Globe and Mail.  Then the partying got going on Portage and Main. Calm yourselves people!!  We've all been pretty certain TNSE was going to get the Thrashers and move 'em to Winnipeg, so it's not really an if but when.

That said, it will be a fantastic moment in Canada when the impossible seventh franchise returns reversing about a decade of Sunbelt expansion dogma for the NHL.  On that note, my heart goes out to the fans in Atlanta.  I know there are some very loyal and avid fans in the city and they deserve a lot of sympathy as they watch another team leaving.  They were let down by poor ownership and team management.

My thoughts on last night's (and today's I guess) gongshow?  There is a verbal agreement in place creating the proverbial done deal, but nobody has signed on the dotted line, hence the ease of denial.  So, in fact, every body is right.  It's all in the semantics, gotta love those semantics.  In my opinion, both outlets could have chosen their words more carefully as they seemed to do through the night and into today.

So, that opens up everybody's next two favourite items.  The Winnipeg _______ name and conference realignment.  As much as I would love to see the Jets back, it won't happen.  The ownership wants to distance itself from mediocrity while the NHL is happy to keep making money off Jets jersey sales. Likely the team will become the Manitoba Moose.  As my friend Alex pointed out last night, True North has put a lot into that Moose branding and would probably like to see it remain.  As Kelly pointed out today in the newsroom, it's amazing what including the entire province/state in a name can do for marketing a la Saskatchewan Roughriders.

So with all of that taken care of, lets take a look at realignment.  Fun pictures and colours included after the break.

 
The SJHL announced the hiring of Bill Chow as the new president of the SJHL today.

Here's a link to the release:
http://www.sjhl.ca/news_item.aspx?news_id=2104

I'm hoping to speak with Mr. Chow today as well as the Chairman of the SJHL Board of Governors, Rick Schultz so I'll add more to this post once I've had the opportunity to speak with both.

While at first, WHL Scout and member of the Police Service may seem like an odd combo at first, it could be a very effective mix for the SJHL.  Bill Chow has been around hockey for 25+ years so he's no stranger to the game.  His background with the police means there's someone in the office that knows how to handle unruly coaches diplomatically and effectively.  It will be interesting to see how the next three years progress for Bill Chow as SJHL President.

UPDATE:  I got the opportunity to speak with Mr. Chow, and I will get that audio up in the afternoon.  First impressions were great from the new President and I was excited to hear he hopes to be in La Ronge next season when the Ice Wolves raise their championship banner.  That and more when I get the interview posted.

My interview with SJHL President, Bill Chow is now up on the site.  Please excuse some of the weird audio on my voice, there's a hum when I record at my desk.  I think Mr. Chow has been pretty busy with interviews as his voice sounded pretty raw.  A very busy day for him I'm guessing.

Click Here to Listen 
(My first question was cut off by recorder, it was about the emotions of the day as the announcement of his hiring became official.)

He had some interesting things to say I was especially keen on the comments about consistency with how new rules about head shots and the like are applied.  It was also good to hear that he's not rolling into the league meetings with the mindset of, "this is how we're doing things now."  He wants to build the future of the league with all 12 franchises collaborating on what goes on.

UPDATE: This has seriously been one of my more cobbled together posts, mainly because of the progression of the story releasing, and getting the interviews done through the day.  I just got off the phone with the Chairman of the SJHL's Board of Governors, Rick Schultz.

While many are focused on the SJHL Meetings coming up in Nipawin, Schultz says the president had to be in place sooner, "There's Hockey Canada meetings coming up on May 26th in Calgary and we needed to have our new president at (those) meetings because there (are) a lot of things happening at those meetings and it influences our league."

"The Governors were looking for some stability and Bill is retiring from the Prince Albert Police Department and he brings with him years of experience with people and (is a) good communicator"

From the sounds of things the board is pleased with their decision and Bill Chow sounds excited for the opportunity this position presents.  It will be an intriguing year for sure in the SJHL

-D
 
Reports are out today that the Calgary Flames went ahead and re-signed forward Curtis Glencross to a new deal.  I wasn't exactly expecting that to happen.  The Flames have a bunch of money tied up in other players and have some key guys like Alex Tanguay to ink.

Bob McKenzie has the specifics at four years, 10.2 million dollars which works out to a 2.55 million cap hit.  I'm actually surprised by the number as I thought he could have snagged around 3 million on the open market.  Something to the tune of a Colby Armstrong contract.  It's also why I thought Calgary should have moved him, but if they can keep him at 2.55, great.

What I am very surprised to see with the contract is another one of those darn "no movement clauses", cue the rant.

 
With the RBC Cup all wrapped up, congratulations to the Pembroke Lumber Kings, the flurry of 'futures' deals are becoming present deals.  Teams giving up players for this season get to evaluate and say, "was it worth it?".  For one of those teams, Yorkton, I would say no question it was.  You get within 3 goals of an SJHL Championship and I don't think you can say anything but.  For Melfort, they went to the Bauer Conference final, but those new additions weren't quite enough to get over the hump.  So was it worth it?  We'll find out in the next couple of seasons.

If you want more information on the deals that have come through over the last week, check out some of the other blogs.  Especially Craig Stein's because they all seem to be coming from the teams he covers.

Seeing as the Ice Wolves don't have a ton going on 'Futures'-wise; in this post I'll take a quick look at what the Ice Wolves have for next season and what they'll likely be looking to address heading into the 2011-2012 campaign.

WHL Bantam Draft

5/5/2011

 
Today is a big one for WHL teams an the Bantam players they draft.  The kids get the excitement of having their name called while the teams look forward to a bright future.

A great new feature the 'Dub added this season was a live webcast of the first round.  I'm pretty sure that had a lot to do with the fact that 'WHL Bantam Draft' and 'Jake Virtanen' (the first overall pick by the Calgary Hitmen) were both trending on Twitter today.  The WHL uses social media very well and those efforts came through today as the Canadian 'Twitterverse' was alive with Western League talk.

Here's a quick recap of some of the picks by the Raiders, Blades and Pats (the teams I keep an eye on for MBC) along with some thoughts on the SJHL.

 
It's been a good week for Ice Wolves coaches.  First Assistant Coach Gavin Holcomb was hired on as the Melfort Mustangs' Head Coach and GM, and now Ice Wolves Head Coach Bob Beatty is making news.

The SHA Announced Coach Beatty and Melville Millionaires Head Coach Jamie Fiesel are both part of Team Canada West's coaching staff at the 2012 U17 Championships in Winnipeg.

Coach Beatty was a member of the U17 coaching staff last year in Winnipeg when the team went 2-3 in the round robin and finished in sixth place.  Team Ontario topped Team USA 5-3 to take the gold in that tournament.  Being a part of that coaching staff made Beatty a pretty busy guy last season, and I noticed his phone wasn't nearly as active after the tournament finished shortly into the second leg of the season.

Coach Fiesel has some experience with the U17 team as well.  He was a part of the staff in 2009 and 2010.  

Both coaches are excellent choices for the team as they've shown in their every day SJHL jobs.  Hopefully they can help get Team Canada West back into medal contention.  Canada West hasn't taken a medal since 2008 when it won Bronze.

Thanks to Josh Lewis from the Estevan Mercury steering me towards this story.  

Click here to read the SHA News Release.
 
Melfort Mustangs play-by-play man, Darryl Skender reported just a few minutes ago that now former Ice Wolves Assistant Coach Gavin Holcomb is the new Head Coach for the Melfort Mustangs.

First off, congratulations to Gavin.  His has time definitely come, which was very evident after the glowing comments made by players and Head Coach Bob Beatty about the new Mustangs bench boss at the Ice Wolves Banquet.  I had my suspicions after the banquet when I reflected on how he was talked about in the speeches on the night.  I just got the sense that people were saying their thank you's for his time with the team.

It was a successful time in La Ronge with back to back championships as Coach Beatty and Holcomb worked together to build the Ice Wolves into a power in the SJHL.  Coach Holcomb places a strong emphasis on conditioning so you can expect Melfort to be a very fit team next season. 

It's tough for the Ice Wolves to lose the services of this young and talented coach, but what an excellent opportunity for him.  The team is in an overall rebuild, including the board, so it's the perfect time for a young coach with a pretty good track record to step in.  It's sure to be an exciting time in Melfort.

So the trend also continues of Bob Beatty not just helping along players, but coaches as well.  Two SJHL Head Coaches (Holcomb, Dean Brockman) served with Coach Beatty as assistant coaches.  Not too shabby if you ask me, he knows how to pick his assistants for sure.  We were talking about the news at the station, and Kelly says this is the first time an Ice Wolves assistant has gone straight to a head coaching position with another team.

While the Mustangs have filled their job opening, it creates one for the Ice Wolves.  La Ronge will be in search of a new Assistant Coach for next season.  The front runner in my eyes, and many around town is Scott Haggarty.  He was behind the Ice Wolves bench a bunch on home ice and on the road late in the season.  He was a great player in the SJHL and isn't too far removed from his playing days, giving him that connection to the players.  Another option with Ice Wolves connections is Ochapowace Thunder Head Coach, Ron Holloway.  He was with the Ice Wolves as a trainer during the Anavet Cup and last year's RBC run.  However, Coach Holloway has a good gig going with the Thunder and calls Southern Saskatchewan home so that's more unlikely.

I'm sure the Ice Wolves will look at their options and we'll eagerly await who will step in to fill the void left by Gavin moving on.

Good luck in Melfort, Gavin!  

-D
 
The Ice Wolves year ended with their 13th Annual Banquet Saturday night and just like the rest of the season, it was a great success.

The MC was passable, but we won't get on him too much.  The night really shone when he passed the mic off to the speakers of the evening.  Nolan Souchotte got a standing ovation as he used crutches to make his way to the podium to give the Players Address.  He thanked everyone for their support for the team, and got another standing ovation when he said to Ice Wolves Assistant Coach Gavin Holcomb, "it wouldn't hurt for you to smile more."

Ice Wolves Head Coach Bob Beatty gave an emotional speech talking about the team assembled this year.  He apologized to those in attendance for the Ice Wolves being unable to bring home a National Championship, but expressed his pride for the season the team had.

I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone in La Ronge that would even for an instant hold it against the Ice Wolves for not playing in the RBC Cup right now.  Like Coach Beatty said, the character of the Ice Wolves and the quality guys in that dressing room is fantastic.  They gave everything and a little more to the team and the community.  Nobody should hang their head about this amazing season.

The final speech of the night came from Ice Wolves President Terry Helary, where he announced that Bob Beatty will be back for next season to try and guide the Ice Wolves to a third consecutive SJHL Championship.  As Nolan Souchotte put it, if you've won SJHL Coach of the Year four times, you must be doing something right.  It's great for the Ice Wolves to keep him on for another year which I imagine many are already looking forward to.

Now, here are the player awards.