Tag Archives: Jason Kurylo

So you’re saying there’s a chance?

The Vancouver Giants took three of a possible four points during WHL action this weekend, keeping their slender playoff hopes alive.  Sitting tenth and last in the Western Conference, the G-Men are nonetheless within an unconverted touchdown of the 8th and final post-season berth at the moment held by the dirty, rotten, stinkin’ Portland Winterhawks. That said, the Hawks have two games in hand, and have put daggers in Vancouver hearts just too many times to think they’ll roll over and die for us in the final 20 games.

Ryan Kubic under a spotlight during player introductions. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Ryan Kubic has been one of the bright spots for the Vancouver Giants this season. His team dropped a 3-2 decision to the Calgary Hitmen in overtime at the Pacific Coliseum. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

They’ll need a run of strong play and serious puck luck, but the Giants are more likely to catch the equally slimy, smarmy, lecherous Kamloops Blazers, who currently sit in seventh place. Not only are Loops on a horrid run at the moment — having won just two of their last ten games — but the Giants play them head-to-head five times in the final few weeks of the season. That’s ten points up for grabs. Sweep that series, and the Giants are almost guaranteed a playoff spot.

The Vancouver Giants dropped a 3-2 decision to the Calgary Hitmen in overtime at the Pacific Coliseum. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
The Vancouver Giants dropped a 3-2 decision to the Calgary Hitmen in overtime at the Pacific Coliseum. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The thing is, much like their NHL cousins up the road at Rogers Arena, the Giants just haven’t shown any kind of consistency to inspire hope for this season. Sure, injuries have played a part — a projected first-round pick in the NHL draft this summer, Tyler Benson has missed most of the season with lower body injuries — but there are games when entire platoons of Giants seem to take the night off.

After a dismal 5-16-4 start to the season, General Manager Scott Bonner started making some roster moves to change the vibe in the dressing room. It seemed to work, as Vancouver put together a remarkable run. They won 12 of the next 18 games. Buzz started circulating about goaltender Ryan Kubic, who rose as one of the team’s more solid pieces. Recent addition Chase Lang has provided timely offence, and a skilful grit around the end boards that the team hasn’t seen since Milan Lucic wore Vancouver colours.

Defenseman Brennan Menell has been wonderful through most of the year — let’s not count his -4 performance against Victoria two weekends ago, because everyone on the team took a nap that night — and has chipped in a respectable 38 points in 52 games from the blueline.

Ty Ronning at the CHL Top Prospects Game. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Ty Ronning scored early, and raised a few eyebrows with his gutsy play, at the CHL Top Prospects Game at the Pacific Coliseum. Team Orr took a 3-2 decision over Team Cherry in an entertaining, skill-filled game. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Forward Ty Ronning has also scored at a wicked pace, earning a place at the CHL Top Prospects game held here a couple of weeks ago. He scored even in that heady arena, with Don Cherry, Bobby Orr and countless hockey pundits in the building, and raised his stock in the June draft immeasurably.

But something clicked off mid-January. Momentum shifted, somehow, and gone are the three- and four-game win streaks. Instead, it’s been .500 hockey for the past dozen or so games. When you’re trying to catch teams in the standings, you need to string together a few Ws. Unfortunately for Vancouver, there’s just been too much reliance upon Ronning and Lang up front, and Kubic at the back end. Without a legitimate second line to help outscore their mistakes, the Giants pretty much have to play perfect hockey to have a hope of extending their season.

Centre Carter Popoff had 64 points two seasons ago, but dropped off to 50 last year and has just 29 this season. Behind him, Alec Baer has a career best 33 points, but he’s a bit of a defensive adventure; Baer is -15 through 52 games, and has a tendency to wander away from his check through the rear two zones of the ice. Slovak winger Radovan Bondra has shown flashes of promise, but only has 18 points in 42 games and an abysmal -18 plus/minus rating.

Owen Hardy punching Bryce Platt. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
I’m not a fan of fisticuffs, but holy hand grenade did Owen Hardy ever pop Bryce Platt in the kisser in this bout. The Vancouver Giants dropped a 3-2 decision to the Calgary Hitmen in overtime at the Pacific Coliseum. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Overall, let’s be honest, this is a team that probably should be on the bubble. With the man-games they’ve lost to injury, it’s no surprise Vancouver is on the outside looking in again this year. It’s a long shot, but if they put together a few strong outings, especially in those five games against the Blazers, there might just be some post-season play to come.

Chase Lang and Jackson Houck face off at the Pacific Coliseum. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Chase Lang and Jackson Houck were traded for each other earlier this season. The Vancouver Giants dropped a 3-2 decision to the Calgary Hitmen in overtime at the Pacific Coliseum. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Super Rat is now a super Cap

Say what you will, but you can’t complain that the Whitecaps have been idle this off-season. After acquiring Japanese striker Masato Kudo and Costa Rican midfielder Christian Bolaños, the Caps went out and landed… Blas Pérez?!?!?

The man people love to hate is on his way to Tuscon to suit up for the blue and white in some early pre-season matches. In case you don’t remember, this is the guy who elbowed Jordan Harvey in the head, drew fouls on Kendall Waston with blatant dives, and got under the skin of Pa Madou Kah. Still not convinced? His twitter handle is @superraton7, for crying out loud — that’s just Spanish for, you guessed it, Super Rat 7.

Blas Perez, now a member of Whitecaps FC, fires a left footer past Steven Beitashour, who is not. Outdated photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Blas Pérez, now a member of Whitecaps FC, fires a left footer past Steven Beitashour, who is not. Outdated photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Pérez inspires, shall we say, extreme reactions:

For

Against

The fact is, Blas Pérez has scored at a respectable clip during his MLS tenure, netting 37 goals in 103 appearances for FC Dallas. Yes, he is renowned for diving, and for no shortage of dirty play in tight against defenders, but advantages threefold exist in having him in Whitecaps colours:

1) If he’s not scoring against the Whitecaps, which he has been known to do, maybe, just maybe he’ll be scoring for them. David Ousted, for one, will be mighty happy to hear that.

2) Carl Robinson doesn’t go in for simulation, and no doubt will do his best to limit the bullshit.

3) Who’s to say the Whitecaps might just need a little side of nasty on the roster now and again. Waston can’t get all the yellow cards, can he?

Love him or hate him — and there are plenty of people who do the latter round these parts — the addition of Blas Pérez makes the Whitecaps a better team. Who knows, if we see the goat horns ten or fifteen times this season, maybe even the Southsiders might come around and like Super Rat.

In closing, let me quote soccer poet Russell Arbuthnot:

“If nothing else, [the addition of] Pérez signifies the end of the Darren Mattocks experiment, which is a good enough return for me.”

Ronning & Laberge level up

Ty Ronning was a last-minute addition to the CHL Top Prospects Game — Giants teammate Tyler Benson was unable to go due to injury — but the diminutive winger proved he could run with the big boys on Thursday night at the Pacific Coliseum in front of more than 10,000 fans, media and hockey brass.

Pierre-Luc Dubois stopped by Evan Fitzpatrick
Pierre-Luc Dubois is stopped by Evan Fitzpatrick during second period action in the CHL Top Prospects Game. Team Orr took a 3-2 decision over Team Cherry at the Pacific Coliseum. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The annual junior hockey showcase started 14 years ago as a friendly $100 wager between Don Cherry and Bobby Orr, but has since grown into one of the premier hockey events in the country. Every NHL team sends a team of scouts and management, and a horde of media representing outlets from across the hockey world descend upon the host venue for three days of testing, promotion and draft day speculation.

Ty Ronning
Ty Ronning did not look out of place, even with Luke Green watching closely on ice and Bobby Orr doing so from the bench. Team Orr took a 3-2 decision over Team Cherry at the Pacific Coliseum. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

With all that high-level talent in the room, pro teams use this event as a sketchpad for future planning. This year’s class of athlete was no exception, with several players shining big time in the spotlight. Pascal Laberge of the Victoriaville Tigers had his stock go way, way up after netting two goals and setting up the game-winner for Team Orr. Ronning, for his part, skated well and opened the scoring early in the first period. “It was maybe the loudest cheer I’ve ever had,” said Ronning after the game. “It was a real thrill, for sure.”

Dylan Wells in net for Team Orr.
All that talent; you can’t stop ’em all. Dylan Wells allowed this shot past him, high blocker. Team Orr took a 3-2 decision over Team Cherry at the Pacific Coliseum. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Perhaps the most common refrain of the night: “Good lord, Logan Stanley is a large man.” The 17-year-old from Waterloo, Ontario plays defense for the Windsor Spitfires. He’s listed at 6’7.25″, 225lbs. Put him next to Ty Ronning (5’8.75″, 163lbs),  and you’re not even sure if they’re the same species.

Logan Stanley is a large man.
Logan Stanley is a large man. Team Orr took a 3-2 decision over Team Cherry at the Pacific Coliseum. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Of course, for old time hockey fans, the figureheads of Don Cherry and Bobby Orr are irresistible. They’re great spokesmen for the game, and especially for the junior game on display here. “I thought every kid here tonight played wonderful hockey. These players, many of them, will be on Hockey Night in Canada for years to come,” said Orr after the game (and after signing countless autographs for excited fans and collectors). “They’re just so well prepared, so well coached, so well conditioned these days.”

Number Four Bobby Orr
Bobby Orr wades through dozens of autograph seekers just to get from the bench to the tunnel to the dressing room. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

When asked what he thinks about the state of the game today, he said there’s a lot to like: “I don’t mind the 3-on-3 overtime. I think that’s exciting. I don’t want to see 3-on-3 games, mind you, but it’s going to be a lot of fun at the All-Star Game. There’s going to be lots of goals scored, I’m sure lots of 3-on-nothings. For an All-Star Game, a special occasion like this, it’s fun.”

What about the Legends? “For the old guys we’d better put more bodies out there. Maybe like rugby, you know, sevens.”

Silvertips waltz away with two points

The Vancouver Giants relied on hustle, muscle, and a little luck on Friday night. However, it wasn’t enough to overcome a fast, skilled Everett Silvertips team at the Pacific Coliseum. The Giants got two goals in quick succession in the first period to briefly hold a 2-1 lead, but let Everett slip away with the two points.

Let’s be honest: the Silvertips should win this game. They’re first in the US Division, and came into the night on a seven-game unbeaten streak. This is a good hockey team.

The Vancouver Giants dropped an entertaining 3-2 decision to the Everett Silvertips in the first home game of 2016. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Sixteen-year-old Riley Sutter hits defenseman Brennan Menell during second period action at the Pacific Coliseum. You read that right: ANOTHER SUTTER. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Ryan Kubic might want the winning goal back, but he can’t be blamed for the loss. He allowed three pucks by him on 22 shots, but good gravy the Tips looked dangerous on just about every rush up the ice.

For his part, Silvertips goalie Carter Hart spent long stretches of the game idle, but made the stops necessary to win the game. The Giants pushed and prodded late, swarming the net and crashing the boards. They even drew a penalty late, and spent the final minute of the game with a 6-on-4 man advantage. It was tense, with most of the 4,000+ fans in the building screaming “SHOOOOOOT” — it was shades of Thomas Gradin here at the Coliseum for a while there — but in the end, the Tips held out for their 25th win of the year.

Ty Ronning nearly potted one in the second period, but he was held to just one assist in a 3-2 loss to the Silvertips. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Ty Ronning nearly potted one in the second period, but he was held to just one assist in a 3-2 loss to the Silvertips. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Want some clichés? The best players on the Tips roster were their best players tonight. Remi Laurencelle got on the board early with a deft redirect from the slot, and had two assists. For the Giants, Chase Lang and Ty Ronning were held goalless — although Lang did hit one hell of a post with 90 seconds left in regulation, and Ronning nearly potted one in the second period — and secondary scoring just didn’t pick up the slack.

The Vancouver Giants dropped an entertaining 3-2 decision to the Everett Silvertips in the first home game of 2016. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Silvertips leading scorer Remi Laurencelle skates away from Giants best point-per-game guy Trevor Cox. The Vancouver Giants dropped an entertaining 3-2 decision to the Everett Silvertips in the first home game of 2016. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The Giants applied a disciplined, physical game, especially in the third period. It’s a good plan when they stick to it, because quick teams like Everett have a hard time adjusting. For the plan to work, however, they need to take advantage of the chances they manage to create. Several Giants had pucks in prime scoring positions, but either had shots blocked or put it right in Hart’s bread basket.

The next Giants game comes tomorrow night against the dirty, rotten, stinkin’ Prince George Cougars. Get your tickets here.

Giants offering more these days

It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Vancouver Giants. Between September 28 and December 6, the team won just six times in 28 tries. Since then, they’ve earned two points in 9 of the last 13 games. This last week alone, the G-men brought home a remarkable ten of twelve available points on a tricky road trip that saw them play five games in four different cities in just eight nights.

Whew. Numbers, right?

The changes started at the top. GM Scott Bonner announced that he would move on at the end of this season, then proceeded to make a schwack of moves to alter the chemistry in the locker room.  And while no one will give up the name(s) of the player(s) who were poison in the room, the team has been playing much better since the moves started.

Ty Ronning has been anything but ugly this season. His 25 goals leads the team. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Ty Ronning has been anything but ugly this season. His 25 goals leads the team. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Ty Ronning has been the very picture of consistency through all the turmoil; his 25 goals sees him among the league’s best snipers. Defenseman Brennan Menell has upped his game in his sophomore season, already eclipsing last year’s offensive output. Netminder Ryan Kubic has been a revelation in the second half, posting three consecutive shutouts at one point.

The much-heralded Tyler Benson has been a point-a-game guy when he’s in the lineup. Sadly, he’s yet to play at 100% this season — management hopes he’ll be back to form by the time the Top Prospects game rolls around later this month.

Tyler Benson has been a force when he's been in the lineup, despite playing at less than 100%. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Tyler Benson has been a force when he’s been in the lineup, despite playing at less than 100%. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The fact is, the G-Men are far more successful, and infinitely more entertaining to watch, when they crash and bang as a team.  They’re doing that right now. As they threaten to make the playoff race interesting, that makes the Coliseuma mighty fine place to be.

The next Giants home game is Friday at 7:30 against the dirty, rotten, stinkin’ Everett Silvertips. Get your tickets here.

Jacob Markstrom and the hooded fang

Jacob Markstrom is a large man.
Jacob Markstrom has found a groove since taking over the reins during the Christmas break. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

If you’re one of the fifteen people who regularly attended Abbotsford Heat games, you’re not surprised to learn that this Jacob Markstrom kid can tend goal. See, before he took the Utica Comets to the AHL championship series last season, Markstrom played three full seasons in the Florida Panthers system (with the Rochester Americans and San Antonio Rampage). Despite lacking a nickname of any sort, Jacob Markstrom seemed to have the local boys’ number.

Here is where a thoughtful writer would put in some research to get actual statistics, but I’m going to eschew that process in favour of made-up stuff. And I’ll also throw random nicknames at the wall in hopes something sticks. Jacob took two-two points out of the Valley like no hooded fang’s business. The Man They Call Mister Marley beat the Heat no fewer than 157 out of 158 games at the Abbotsford Sport and Entertainment Centre over a three-year period, and earned no fewer than seven thousand shutouts.

Okay, so numbers aren’t my strong suit. Suffice to say, the boy can play.

Continue reading Jacob Markstrom and the hooded fang

Houck, Stukel and Porter: Giants no longer

If you’ve spent any amount of time around the Pacific Coliseum this season, you’ve heard someone or other mutter that Vancouver Giants GM Scott Bonner has some tough choices to make. With franchise poster boy Tyler Benson back from off-season surgery to remove a cyst from his low back, not to mention three viable WHL goaltenders crowding the crease, the Giants just had too many hands on deck. A good problem to have, you may say, but with just 10 points in the first 12 games, the G-Men needed a change.

Jackson Houck in one of his last games as a Vancouver Giant. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Jackson Houck wore the captain’s C while Tyler Benson was on the injury list early this season. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Queue the Well-We’ve-Made-a-Bloody-Change music. Bonner has pulled the trigger on a five-player deal with the Calgary Hitmen., easing the strain on the bulging roster while bringing in two NHL draftees. Forwards Jackson Houck and Jakob Stukel head to Calgary, along with goaltender Cody Porter. Coming to Vancouver are defenseman Ben Thomas and right winger Chase Lang.

At 20 years of age, Houck is in his fifth WHL season, all of which have been spent in Vancouver. He has scored 91 goals and 108 assists for 199 points in 267 games, good for seventh spot on the franchise’s all-time scoring list. While Tyler Benson recovered from off-season surgery to remove a cyst from his low back, Houck wore the captain’s C. Houck was not offered a contract by the Edmonton Oilers, who drafted him 94th overall in 2013, and is now a free agent.

Jakob Stukel has four points in 11 games so far this season. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Jakob Stukel has four points in 11 games so far this season. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Left winger Jakob Stukel is probably looking forward to a change in scenery after scoring just 16 points in 49 games as a WHL rookie last season. Originally a blue-chip prospect, Stukel has struggled to find rhythm at the WHL level and isn’t listed on many scouts’ radar in this, his draft year. Cody Porter, for his part, likely welcomes a shift as well; he has made just two appearances in the Giants net this season after playing a full 40 games last year.

Coming to Vancouver are a pair of 19-year-old picks in the 2014 NHL Draft. Chosen 119th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ben Thomas offers some help to a Giants back end that has had difficulty closing out games in the third period so far this season. His challenge will be to fill the shoes vacated by Mason Geertsen, who anchored Vancouver defensively as well as quarterbacking the power play.

Chase Lang is a sixth-round pick of the Minnesota Wild (167th overall) who was just shy of a point a game with the high-flying Hitmen last season. Hopefully, he’ll appreciate being closer to his hometown of Nanaimo, and use that to put up some similar numbers at the Coliseum.

With Houck’s departure, the Giants are currently carrying only two overage (20-year-old) players; the WHL maximum is three, and it’s extremely unusual for teams to play a full season without taking advantage of those older bodies on the roster. Look for Scott Bonner to make at least one more deal in further efforts to shake up the lacklustre dressing room that has, frankly, lost too many games for too many seasons.

With the Top Prospects game mere weeks away, the full attention of the country’s best hockey minds will soon land on Vancouver; it’s in Bonner’s best interest to give Tyler Benson every opportunity to shine before then.

Running Playlist Song #3 — Common People

Playlist Song #3
William Shatner — Common People

I admit it: I’m a Trekkie through and through. Back in the day, I saw Vancouver TheatreSports League‘s Star Trick musical no fewer than two dozen times, and wrote a front page story for the WestEnder about it, to boot. I ain’t no fan of the Ferengi, but I’ve wasted more than my share of hours watching TV, movie and fan fiction productions of at least three different Star Trek shows. Hell, ask Chris: I’ve played William Shatner’s Rocket Man over public address systems at college basketball games.

It’s not the cheese factor, though, that brings me to pump William Shatner’s 2004 cover of Pulp’s Common People into my earbuds on the hoof.

Cover of William Shatner - Has Been
William Shatner’s 2004 Has Been is full of surprisingly solid tunes, thanks to imaginative the production of Ben Folds.

Produced by Ben Folds for Shatner’s adventurous album Has Been, this track just plain kicks ass whether you’re at the gym, at the track, or driving the highway. Musically, rhythmically, socially, you name it — Common People is anything but a common track. Shatner delivers an angry fuck-you spoken-word vocal, perfectly set to irritable guitar, simplistic keyboard and indie rock drums. Folds blends Joe Jackson’s sublimely whiskeysour vocals into the chorus. Between the three of them, Folds, Jackson and Shatner make us believe they all have been trounced by some uppity rich chick who just wants to slum on the other side of the tracks.

I can’t get into the original Pulp version, musically, but damnation the lyrics here are fantastic. I’m a sucker for writing that tells a complete story effectively; if someone can do that in the context of a pop song, count me in. Jarvis Cocker nails the phenomenon of class tourism so predominant in the 80s and early 90s — think Fight Club for a participatory exploration of hitting bottom. Later, reality shows like Honey Boo-Boo would allow “normal” viewers to point and laugh at those they perceive as less intelligent, less developed, less rich or just less.

“Everybody hates a tourist, especially one who thinks it’s all such a laugh.”

“Laugh along, even though they’re laughing at you and the stupid things that you do because you think that poor is cool.”

Album: Has Been
Release date:
2004
Beats per minute: 178
Subject: Class / Money / Sex /
Content warning: None
Video (Shatner cover):

Video (Pulp original):

Previous songs on the playlist:
Lady Gaga – Poker Face
Gioachino Antonio Rossini – William Tell Overture Finale

 

On shiny helmets, short pants and not being a dick

There has been a lot of football in my life since last we spoke. Mine, my kid’s, The NWSS Hyacks and the BC Lions. This makes me happy. I won’t bore all y’all with endless dithering on things, so I’ll encapsulate with some highlights:

  • My women’s team sits at 4-0. Go Bomb Squad!
  • Farhan Lalji highlighted my son and his defensive efforts in the Hyacks football newsletter. Next stop, TSN. Or Broadway. Or a Nobel Prize.  It’s up in the air really. But my kid is a genius. Just saying.
  • I went to the NWSS Hyacks Homecoming game and didn’t stop smiling. Fun for all ages. Bouncy castles, shiny helmets and game ball was brought in by a skydiver. This should be a thing. Always.
skydiver
See that little thing under the light? That’s a skydiver with the game ball. Photo by Erin Jeffery
  • Went to an amazing football game on Saturday with the kid to watch the BC Lions trounce the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Jennings was cool, calm and collected, threw four touchdown passes (two to Arceneaux…who is still my favourite) and  CAUGHT A TD PASS FROM COLLIE!  Also, there was THIS KISS CAM (obviously a set up, but still brilliant) Richie Leone was…well…awful. I’m sorry Richie, but you were. You missed two converts and a 34 yard field goal. Not okay dude. And your pants are too short. Like really short. It’s weird. The Felions were severely shown up by the Washington Huskies Cheer Squad. WHICH HAD MEN IN IT TOO AND THEY WERE AMAZING! And we need more marching bands. Everywhere.
marching band
Washington State Husky’s Marching band and cheer squad. Rocking it at BC Place. The world needs more marching bands. Photo by Erin Jeffery
  • Did I mention my football team sits at 4-0. I KNOW RIGHT?
  • My son’s team played against another team and the coach was such a giant flaming asshole, it was all I could do not to punch him in the throat. Or walk off the field. Or both.

It is this last point that we will address in today’s missive.

Here’s a tip. If you are coaching kids…don’t be a dick. I’m going to let you in on a secret. If you are looking at coaching little kids as your pathway to fame and fortune, being a dick is NOT the way to do it. No adult remembers you fondly. They don’t say in their thank you speeches at the ESPY’s ‘my tyke coach was a complete ass hat and he was the best’. Or ‘I loved how he shamed us for being useless when we were seven. It was a totally life affirming moment that I will treasure always’.

That does not happen.

Ever.

Don’t get me wrong. I get coaches being intense and hard asses. I get Old School coach yelling. I’m a bit guilty of it myself. ‘FOR THE LOVE OF GODZILLA WHY WON’T YOU ALL RUN IN THE SAME DIRECTION?’ ‘DON’T GO BACKWARDS? WHY ARE YOU RUNNING BACKWARDS?’ ‘STOP TOUCHING EACH OTHER? WHY ARE YOU TOUCHING EACH OTHER?’ ‘WHY IS NO ONE LISTENING TO ME?’But that is different from shaming. That is different than winning at any cost.

At seven.

Or seventeen.

Or seventy.

That is different than running a hurry up offence because your defence is five tired six and seven year olds who have been playing iron man because there are no subs and then saying ‘WHAT ARE YOU COMPLAINING ABOUT? The offence controls the ball!’ That is different than yelling ‘I can’t work with this line up! THEY ARE USELESS’, and then sending five little kids with their heads bowed off the field.

That’s not coaching.  That’s being an asshole.

Here is the thing. I get where it is coming from. I am the most competitive human on the planet. Except for maybe my mother who once tried to kill me with a tennis ball. She said she was simply serving the ball,  but I’m pretty sure Federer serves slower.

But I digress. Now is not the time for mother issues.

I get being competitive. I get wanting to win. My co-coach and I discuss this before every game. Each kid touches the ball. Each kid gets a chance at everything. They deserve the chance to throw that winning touchdown or catch that interception, or sack their running back THREE TIMES IN A ROW (which my kid did. Just saying). But we also play to win. If we are down, our strongest QB will take the third down snap or our fastest runner will take the hand off. And if we are ahead, we pull back so the other team doesn’t get hammered. The focus should be getting them to love the game. To love sport. Sometimes they will win, which is great, and sometimes they will lose, which sucks, but everytime they play, they should still walk off that field with their heads held high because they had fun, they tried hard, and their coaches are really really proud of them.

At the end of every game, I tell each kid what he did that made me proud. Every single one. I have one who scores like a fiend, but my favourite thing about him is that he is the best sport on the field. So I tell him that. And I tell him I wish I could catch as well as he does. Because I do.

I don’t do this to make me special. I do this because I had coaches that did that with me and it’s how I learned. Mr. Dougan. Mr. Zinkan. Mr Alexander. My dad. My mom. So many others that I’m too old to remember their names. They coached loud and hard, but they also lifted us up every game.

I hope you are reading this sir, and I hope in my heart of hearts that you have figured out that I am directing this to you. I’m sure you aren’t a bad person. I’m sure you think you’re making them better football players, but here’s a secret. You aren’t. Because they are going to stop playing. They will quit and do something else. Anything else. And they may never touch a football again, which is sad because it’s the greatest sport ever played.

But rest assured, they will remember you. They’ll remember you like I remember Mr. Smythe. As that asshole who made our entire basketball team cry because we embarrassed him. We were an unbeaten team who didn’t win by enough and we embarrassed him. I still remember him thirty years later, and I remember it as the last year I played basketball.

 

Is that how you want to be remembered?

Throwback Thursday: Tyler Benson’s first game

Back on November 16, 2013, Tyler Benson made his WHL debut. He wore a full face cage, as rules stipulate Bantam-aged prospects must. He also stood 5’11” and weighed 185 pounds at the time, which should probably be against the rules when you’re 15 years old. Here’s a picture I took at that game, as Benson tried a shifty backdoor play. He didn’t get on the scoresheet that night, but he’s figured prominently in Vancouver ever since.

On the night of Tyler Benson's WHL debut, the Vancouver Giants defeated the Tri-City Americans 5-2 at the Pacific Coliseum. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
On the night of Tyler Benson’s WHL debut, the Vancouver Giants defeated the Tri-City Americans 5-2 at the Pacific Coliseum. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The Giants heralded his debut a full month in advance, and are still getting media attention on his decidedly broad shoulders. Benson is now a full six feet tall and sits much closer to 200 pounds of lean muscle, and he is projected to go as high as 8th in the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo. Despite sitting out tomorrow’s season opener (as he recovers from pre-season surgery that removed a cyst from his tailbone), Benson was today named the captain of the Vancouver Giants for the 2015-16 season.