Month: April 2011

SABRES ALUMNI REUNION WAS FUN!

The Buffalo Sabres Alumni reunion I attended earlier this month as part of the 40th Anniversary of the Sabres was a “Blast”. I reunited with some former teammates, former opponents and some former players I had never met. The NHL is such a small circle of people, a hockey family. Former players, management, trainers have a special bond or connection.

The Sabres new owner, Terry Pegula and his wife Kim were very gracious hosts. On the first night, the cocktail reception for the players only was filled with lots of stories and jokes and a few gibes on looks and weights. . .

On game day, we had a luncheon with season ticket holders and sponsors. The renewed energy created by the new ownership could be felt in the crowd. There was positive vibes in the air even though the pressure of making the playoffs weighed heavily on a win against my other alumni team, the Philadelphia Flyers.

Before the game, we were picked up in limousines and dropped off in front of the HSBC arena for a Red Carpet Walk. It really felt like Hollywood Stars on Oscar night. As we climbed out of the Limo and walked through a very loud crowd gathered to get a glimpse of their favorite former Sabre. There was a big cheer when I climbed out of the car. I waved and smiled, but I knew that the cheer was directed to Pat Lafontaine who was right behind me. Thousands of enthusiastic, loyal fans stood outside the roped area cheering us on and getting autographs.

Before the big game against the Flyers, we were all introduced on the ice one at a time. Rip Simonick, the Sabres equipment manager was honored as the only original Sabres. Rick Rick Jeanneret was also cited for his 39 years as radio play by play announcer. There was an emotional moment when Gilbert Perreault, Rene Robert and former coach Joe Crozier walked on the ice holding a Richard Martin jersey. Rick Martin, who passed away two weeks prior to this event, was a member of the famous FRENCH CONNECTION with Perreault and Robert. The whole ceremony can be seen on Youtube.

The 70’s included players like Larry Carriere, Joe Daley, Gerry Desjardins, Danny Gare, Gerry Korab, Jimmy Lorenz, Don Luce, Terry Martin, Dereck Smith, Gary MacAdam, Paul MacIntosh, John Gould, Jocelyn Guevremont, Perreault and Robert and more.

The players from the 80’s who walked on the ice counted Adam Creighton, (I looked like a “shrimp” standing beside him on the ice) Steve Dykstra, Phil Housley, Tony Mackegney, Wilf Paiment, Larry Playfair, Darren Puppa, Jody Robertson, Donald Audette, Randy Burridge . . .

The 90’s highlighted players like Pat Lafontaine, Grant Ledyard, Brad May, Craig Muni, Mike Peca, Wayne Primeau, Rick Vaive, Brett Warrener, Jay Wells, Jason Wooley etc..

Finally, Jay McKee, Teppo Numminen and Andrew Peters closed out the 2000’s.

I met with several members of the Goalie’s Union. Gerry Desjardins played for the Los Angeles Kings expansion team in the late sixties and was behind Tony Esposito in Chicago for several years.

I met Joe Daley, one of the last goalies to play without a mask.

Darren Puppa and I had an interesting conversation (yes goalies can do that). We had never met but after just a few minutes, we were exchanging common stories.

Rocky Farr who has the best “Show Biz” name in hockey was there, former London Knights goalie.

I always enjoy meeting with Don Luce and Mike Robitaille because I have bragging rights to the Memorial Cup in 1968 with the Niagara Falls Flyers for whom Rick Jeanneret was the play by play announcer. Don and Mike played for the powerful Kitchener Rangers which we upset in 8 hard fought games.

Phil Housley was just a young “pup” coming out of high school hockey when I was with the Sabres organization is now a high school coach.

Larry Playfair, the President of the Sabres Alumni, one of my favorite people in Pro Hockey was very hospitable to all the alumni members. As a good host, he made sure that he was always around even until “last call”.

Steve Dykstra, Jody Robertson, Jim Weimer, Gary MacAdam were all members of the Rochester Americans who won the Calder Cup with me as their assistant coach.

I renewed connections with my (former) Pro Scouting colleagues, Paul MacIntosh (Dallas), Terry Martin (Colorado), Adam Creighton (Boston) and Larry Carriere (Montreal).

Gerry (King-Kong) Korab is always the life of the party. His gigantic frame makes him very noticeable and jovial behavior is contagious.

Dereck Smith won an award for the fewest games played (3) by an alumni present. Terry Pegula presented the award as a symbol that all alumni are important.

Gilbert Perreault was there. I love to listen to his Elvis voice. They play a video of Gilbert singing an Elvis song after each game at the HSBC.

There were 6 former captains of the Sabres at the celebrations: Gerry Meehan, Danny Gare, Gilbert Perreault, Lindy Ruff, Pat Lafontaine and Michael Peca.

The Sabres won the game and clinched a position in the Playoffs. Good luck to them!

HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!

Phil Myre (www.philmyretalkshockey.com)

E.J. MCGUIRE “ALL AROUND GOOD GUY”

The Hockey World lost a great guy and a friend last week. At 58, he was much too young to leave this world. But I remember the impact he had on many of us.

My friend E.J. McGuire passed away last week following a brief but courageous battle with cancer. Nicole and I attended the funeral in Oakville, Ontario on Tuesday. There were many people there honoring a man who defied the odds to make it to the NHL. People came from the Buffalo area where Ernest John was born. They came from his university background. Several NHL executives were there, including the Commissioner, Gary Bettman and his staff. Several NHL General Managers were also present to pay their respects. The funeral service was followed by a luncheon where Shawn McCrossan his long-time college friend, Mike Keenan, his mentor and friend and Rip Simonick, his brother-in-law and Buffalo Sabres equipment manager delivered very emotional tributes to a great guy.

I first met E.J. in 1983 when I was a player/assistant coach for the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League. Mike Keenan was the coach and also a friend of E.J’s. It was E.J.’s first encounter with Pro Hockey. Together, we coached the Amerks to the Calder Cup Championship.

E.J. was a fitness fanatic. He was the only person I witnessed to run a 5 minute mile. I dared to train with him a few times . . . We ran a ¼ mile track and both finished at the same time… He ran around the track twice while I ran it once.

E.J. was a scholar, gaining a Master’s Degree in Physical Education and a Doctorate in kinesiology and sports psychology. He showed respect to everybody. He felt comfortable talking and listening to all people, from the Commissioner to the Zamboni driver in the smallest rink.

He played college hockey at Brockport University. He never played professional but he had the vision of working in the NHL. He knew he wouldn’t make it as a player. One of his coaches once told him “You’re a small player and you’re slow too”. So, he found a way to make it through perseverance and hard work as a coach and a scout. His passion for the game made him a student of the game. He was a perfectionist. He analyzed plays very accurately and he would find a solution when things were tough.

He worked as a head coach at the college, junior and American Hockey League levels; he was as an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks and Ottawa Senators; He was a scout for the New York Rangers and Flyers. All those positions paved the way to his most recent post as V.P of Central Scouting for the NHL. His attention to details, his ability to express himself and his outstanding people skills made him a perfect candidate for the job. He cared about his staff, the kids they scouted and about his responsibilities to the NHL.

Despitehis demanding work schedule, he loved to spend time with his wive Terry and their two beautiful daughters. He had an impact on many people and influenced many lives. He made hockey and the NHL a better place. He will be missed.

HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!

Phil Myre (www.philmyretalkshockey.com)

PLAYOFF WEATHER IS HERE

Spring always reminds me of two things. April fool’s Day and the Hockey Playoffs.

April first in my household has always been a lot of fun with everybody trying to fool the other with wild stories. The best at it and the most consistent is my wife Nicole. She always manages to get my daughters Stephanie and Natalie and I with some scheme that seems so true and yet is just an illusion.

April also brings playoff fever for me and for many hockey fans. The milder weather generates new energy with the vision that the STANLEY CUP playoffs are almost here and that the race for the prize will soon begin. Sure, we love to play hockey in the winter when the weather is cold and the snow is on the ground. It reminds us of the roots of our sport. But nothing compares to playing hockey in the spring when the weather begins to warm up and the flowers start to bloom. If your team is still playing, it means that you have achieved a certain level of success. Although we can’t win a championship every season, we want to be playing beyond April and into May and June.

That feeling was engrained into me very early in my career. In five years of Junior Hockey we won the league championship four times, including the GRAND PRIZE in my final year, the MEMORIAL CUP.

As the NHL playoffs begin next week, I look forward to many exiting games and some hard fought series. Any team that makes it to the dance has a chance to win it all. That’s what parity in the NHL has created. Once on the dance floor, you want to be the last one standing, on a stage where only the strongest survive.

There will be many one on one battles to win. Emotions will run high. Players will go beyond their physical limitations. Energy and determination will often decide the winner. Players will camouflage their injuries to avoid giving their opponent an edge. Four series. . .28 possible grueling games. . .16 victories to win the ultimate Prize. The team who will stick together, stay the course, and above all, stay healthy through this demanding war on ice, with a little luck on their side, will prevail.

The challenge is great and only one team will lift the STANLEY CUP above their heads for all the fans to see. For everybody else who tried and didn’t win, it may feel like it was an April Fools illusion. . .

HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!

Phil Myre (www.philmyretalkshockey.com)

USA HOCKEY COACHING IN GOOD HANDS

Just recently, I attended a week-end long seminar as part of the Coaching Education Program for USA HOCKEY in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The purpose was to obtain my coaching certification, Level 4. The program requires coaches to follow certain instructions in order to qualify as a youth hockey coach. Different age groups and certain caliber of play require coaches to obtain specified Certification Levels. * (see levels at the conclusion)

Because of my involvement with youth hockey with the Michigan Warriors AAA program this year, I had to attend this clinic and get my Level 4. This particular session was very well attended. There were approximately 130-140 coaches seeking their level 4. The speakers were excellent and catered to the needs of the attendees. The main persons responsible for the success of the coaching certification program, Jack Witt and Don Moffat treated all the coaches to a very informative and entertaining week-end.  The staff of volunteers were very helpful and well-informed. Although the itinerary was full, speakers were on time, topics were appropriate ranging from USA hockey information to off ice conditioning to the art of skating. There were some presentations about system application but most of them dealt with “concepts” which is what the youth hockey coach really needs. Skill development and running an effective practice were and should be the main focus for coaches at this level.   

 I was in professional hockey for 43 years as a player, coach and scout. I have participated in many hockey seminars and coaching symposium over the years. I spoke and presented in many of them. I was also the first former player to apply for a Canadian coaching certification, level 4. I coached youth hockey for the first time this season. It has given me a new appreciation for people who give their time and knowledge to coach young hockey players.  Believe me, there is a big difference between coaching pros and coaching kids. The fundamentals are the same, the game is the same but the application and the behavior are different by a wide margin. A youth hockey coach must be attentive to the level at which his young players can execute. He must also pay special attention to his players’ level of comprehension and attention span.

Just because a coach knows a great drill or a special system of play that work at a higher level doesn’t mean it will work with younger players. Simplicity, small area play, repetition and consistency are qualities needed by a coach to succeed in the development of young hockey players.  Patience and organization are also prerequisites. My longtime friend Pat Quinn once described coaching very simply. He said: “ coaching  is constantly searching for new ways to say the same thing”. I find that to be very true and attending different coaching clinics is one strong step in achieving just that.

HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!

Phil Myre (www.philmyretalkshockey.com) TUESDAYS AND FRIDAY

*Check out the different Coaching Education Program Levels for USA HOCKEY below

 COACHING EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS

Level Of Play      Coaching Education Program Level

8 & Under (Mite)             Level 1

10 & Under (Squirt)         Level 2 (Prerequisite Level 1)

12 & Under (Pee Wee)  Level 3 (Prerequisite Level 1 and 2)

14 & Under (Bantam)     Level 3 (Prerequisite Level 1 and 2)

16 & Under (Midget)      Level 3 (Prerequisite Level 1 and 2)

18 & Under (Midget)      Level 3 (Prerequisite Level 1 and 2)

Midget I (Tier I & Tier II National Tournament-bound)    

Level 4 (Prerequisite Level 1, 2 and 3)

Level Of Play      Coaching Education Program Level

High School                         Level 3 (Prerequisite Level 1 and 2)

Level Of Play                      Coaching Education Program Level

Junior Tier I and II            Level 4

Junior Tier III                      Level 4

(Prerequisite Level 3 Required)

Level Of Play      Coaching Education Program Level

Girls/Women 8 & Under               Level 1

Girls/Women 10 & Under             Level 2 (Prerequisite Level 1)

Girls/Women 12 & Under             Level 3 (Prerequisite Level 1 and 2)

Girls/Women 14 & Under             Level 3 (Prerequisite Level 1 and 2)

Girls/Women 16 & Under             Level 3 (Prerequisite Level 1 and 2)

Girls/Women 19 & Under             Level 3 (Prerequisite Level 1 and 2)

Girls/Women 16/19 & Under National Tournament-bound

Level 4 (Prerequisite Level 1, 2 and 3)

DID YOU KNOW THAT. . .

–          The NHL was founded in 1917 including the following teams: the Montreal Canadiens, the Montreal Wanderers, the Ottawa Senators and the Toronto Arenas

–          The Boston Bruins were the first American team to be admitted to the NHL in 1924

–         Before being called the Redwings, Detroit came into the NHL as the Cougars and changed their name to the Falcons. They were named the Redwings in 1932.

–          In 1942, the Brooklyn Americans folded to make the NHL a SIX TEAM LEAGUE, creating what is now commonly referred to as the ORIGINAL SIX.

–          The next expansion came 25 years later when the NHL doubled its size. They added two teams from the East (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh), two teams from the Midwest (St-Louis, Minnesota) and two teams from the West (Los Angeles, Oakland) in an attempt to get National Exposure.

–          The expansion teams stayed in the same “expansion” division for three years until the Vancouver Canucks and the Buffalo Sabres were awarded franchises. Both those teams were placed in the “original division”, now called the “East” and Chicago transferred to the “expansion division” now called the West. That put Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the West Conference and Vancouver in the East division. Does that make sense to anybody?

–         The cost of the expansion in 1967 was $2.5 million dollars. The last expansion, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild cost $80 million dollars.

–          The cost of a dozen sticks in 1970 was around $40.00

–          The entire payroll for the expansion St-Louis Blues in 1967 was $300,000. And the highest paid player was making $55,000.

–          The payroll for the Detroit Redwings in 1982 was $2.8 Million. That’s about the salary of an average player in the NHL today.

–          While the expansion teams remained in the same division, the Montreal Canadiens missed the playoffs in 1969-70 with 92 points in the standings, while the Oakland Seals made the post season with 58 points in the Expansion division. I have vivid memories about this because I was playing for the Canadiens. We missed the playoffs because of a “goal for differential” tie breaker with the New York Rangers. On the last day of the season the Rangers easily beat the Detroit Redwings 9-2. to move even with the Habs in standings. We needed at least a tie or score 5 goals to clinch a playoff spot in the final game in Chicago.

In that  final game, less than 10 minutes remaining and down 5-2, coach Claude Ruel pulled goalie Rogatien Vachon in an attempt to get at least a tie or score 3 more goals.  The strategy failed as the Blackhawks add five unanswered goals to finish the game with a 10-2 win.

The result left the Canadiens tied in points with the Rangers, who had scored two more goals and claim the fourth and final playoff spot in the East. For one of the few times in league history, the defending Stanley Cup Champions missed the playoffs for the first time since 1947-48.  The rule for tie breakers was changed the next season.

HAVE A  GREAT HOCKEY DAY!

Phil Myre (www.philmyretalkshockey.com) BLOGS EVERY TUESDAYS AND FRIDAYS