Friday, July 31, 2009
Little more than a year removed from his triumphant career-capping Cup quest with the Detroit Red Wings, Drake has set his sights on yet another icy goblet – the NAHL’s Robertson Cup – as a member of the Traverse City North Stars' new ownership consortium.
“The thing that jumped out at me right away when this opportunity came along was that it was a chance to make sure local kids had a place to play at this level,” said Drake, who spent 15 seasons in the National Hockey League. “It’s a great brand of hockey and a great stepping stone for the college game and beyond. We all want to see junior hockey remain viable right here in Traverse City and we’ll do anything we can to promote the team and the game.”
Drake joins founding owners Steve and Susan Fournier, along with area businessmen Peter Jones and Blaine Vadeboncoeur, Jim Jalovec and majority owners Raj and Rick Wiener, in assuming the reins of the fifth-year Traverse City franchise. Head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo and his coaching staff will also return.
“I think what we all saw was an opportunity to come together to help build on what Steve and Sue had started,” said Raj Wiener, a governmental affairs attorney and longtime Traverse City homeowner. “The North Stars could have been sold but we waned to make sure it stayed here. Now there’s a new energy to an already great, affordable, family-friendly product. From right here in Traverse City we can create opportunities for young players and business owners as we move our players on to colleges and the professional hockey ranks.”
Wiener and husband/law partner Richard Weiner have served the state of Michigan in a variety of regulatory and governmental capacities.
“Raj brings a ton of leadership experience and her work ethic is legendary,” said Fournier, who helped found the club with wife Susan back in 2004. “All these people are in it (ownership) for the right reasons. We’re very excited about it – excited to have some assistance – and we’d like to be able to devote more time to the construction business (Grand Traverse Construction) and spend more time with our grandkids, while still remaining a part of the team.”
Jones, owner of Great Lakes Forge, Inc. – a Traverse City concern that provides raw materials to aerospace, oil and gas, and other heavy manufacturing industries – says the chance to reciprocate drew him to the group.
“Hockey has been such a special and important part of my own kids’ lives these past 10-12 years,” explained Jones, a Binghamton, N.Y. native. “And it’s been guys like Anthony, Steve, and Chad (Fournier) that have given so much, it just seemed like a natural way to give something back. I think having the team here is an important influence on the development of our local players. It gives them exposure to that next level of the game, something to shoot for.”
Vadeboncoeur, a longtime North Stars housing parent, is owner of Top Line Electric, LLC, in Traverse City. His wife, Christy, serves as the team’s academic advisor.
“First of all, I think it’s a tribute to how hard Steve and Sue have worked for four years that you have a group who was interested in joining in,” said Vadeboncoeur, a Manistee native. “It’s only because of what they built and the foundation they laid that the product was so attractive. The opportunity was presented for us to be a part of something special here, and help keep the shine on Hockeytown North.”
Jalovec, friend of hockey and of the Wieners, currently residing in Florida added, “I just wish I lived closer to be part of all the fun.”
The reorganization has already yielded additional personnel, including marketing and advertising manager Wendy Nienhouse and husband, Todd Nienhouse, who will serve as volunteer group services outreach coordinator. Ted Price will return as head of the North Stars housing program and Dave Glazier as head of gamenight operations.
While each member of the new ownership association brings a wealth of commerce-savvy perspective to the proverbial table, Drake wields a comprehensive hockey pedigree. He first garnered acclaim at age 15 with Rossland of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League where he secured three consecutive league MVP awards. After a season with the BCJHL’s Vernon Lakers, Drake headed to Northern Michigan University where he powered the Wildcats to the 1991 NCAA title.
“I had great experiences at the junior level and even played in a place that was a lot like Traverse City when I was with Vernon,” Drake explained. “It’s a time of great development on and off the ice and we think it’s an important resource that the area should retain.”
While at NMU, Drake logged 108 goals and 123 assists over four years. Following his senior season, Drake skated onto the Red Wings roster right out of training camp, forgoing the minors on his way to an 18-goal, 26-assist rookie campaign.
Drake’s professional hockey career took him to the Winnipeg Jets in 1993, with whom he would spend the next seven years (the Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996), and to St. Louis, where he served as captain for three of the six subsequent seasons with the Blues, setting up his championship Motown reprisal.
“Dallas is a guy with an impressive hockey resume, to say the least,” Palumbo offered. “And our players are in a pretty unique position to be able to draw upon the experiences of a guy like that. We’re very fortunate as an organization to add the caliber of people to the fold that we have. We’re all very much looking forward to a great season and beyond.”
Wiener has already begun to spearhead enhancements to the North Stars gamenight experience, from a family ticket option to pre-game buffets and charitable tie-ins – such as a pink-ice Breast Cancer Awareness Month series in October. Additionally, Wiener says she’s looking forward to a hockey dad barbeque to open the NHL Prospects Tournament on Sept. 6 to benefit children’s hospitals in Michigan.
“We see a lot of wonderful opportunities to come together as hockey fans and civic-minded members of our community,” she explained. “The whole organization, from the players to the front office, get better and stronger every year and the 2009 season promises great fun for everyone.”
The North Stars open their three-day training camp on Friday at Centre ICE arena, with the top players from each of the previous camps vying for 25 available roster spots. The camp, which is open to the public, will culminate on Sunday with the Blue & White all-star game, featuring the weekend’s top performers.
“There’s real momentum here,” Drake added. “The team was right there last year, both in the regular season and throughout a tough playoff series. As an ownership group, I know we’ll do everything we can to support the coaching staff and build a team in Traverse City that can compete for a championship.”
-Amassed 435 points over four years of junior hockey, winning three KIJHL MVPs with Rossland and a BCJHL title with Vernon
-Registered 231 points over four seasons at Northern Michigan University; Won 1991 NCAA championship with Wildcats
-Played 15 seasons in the NHL with Detroit, Winnipeg/Phoenix, and St. Louis; Won 2008 Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in final pro campaign
-GTHA coach; Brought Stanley Cup to Traverse City on Labor Day 2008 for wildly successful GTHA New Skater Fund benefit event
-Longtime resident of Traverse City; Married (Amy) with four children
Richard & Raj Weiner (rahj WEE-nurr)
-A partner at Weiner Associates; Admitted to the practice of law in 1984
-Long career in regulatory and governmental affairs
-Graduate of Saginaw Valley State University and Columbus School of Law
Richard (Rick) Weiner
-Founder of Weiner Associates; Admitted to bar in 1976
-Graduate of Wayne State University and Michigan State University College of Law
-Longtime Traverse City area homeowners; Married with two children
Steve & Susan Fournier (FOURN-yurr)
-Founding owners of the Traverse City North Stars (2004)
-Owner, Grand Traverse Construction (Steve); Retired educator (Susan)
-Both graduated from Central Michigan University
-Married 37 years; Two children, three grandchildren
-Owner, Great Lakes Forge, Inc. in Traverse City
-Binghamton, N.Y. native
-Graduated from Miami (OH) University
-Married (Mel) for 20 years with three children
Blaine Vadeboncoeur (vah-deh-bon-COOR)
-Owner, Top Line Electric, LLC in Traverse City
-Petty Officer in U.S. Navy 1983-87
-Native of Manistee
-Married (Christy) with two children
James Jalovec (JAL-uh-veck)
-Retired businessman; Friend of hockey
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
The Ontario Hockey League announced yesterday that forward Austin Watson of the Windsor Spitfires and defenceman Brandon Archibald of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds are two of 21 American players selected by USA Hockey to represent Team USA. The Under-18 squad will compete at the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament taking place August 11-15 in Piestany, Slovakia.
The players were selected following a development camp that was held July 7-13 in Rochester, N.Y.
In his rookie season with the Spitfires, Watson, a native of Ann Arbor, was part of the team’s MasterCard Memorial Cup and OHL championship performances. The 6-foot-3, 183-pound right-winger scored 10 goals and 29 points with a plus-15 plus/minus rating in 63 regular-season games with Windsor this past season. He also recorded four assists in 25 playoff games for the Spitfires.
Archibald, who is set to enter his second season with the Hounds, is coming off a rookie OHL campaign that saw the Port Huron native dress for 61 of the teams' regular-season games where he had eight assists on the year. He later capped off the season by being named Hounds co-rookie of the year.
Team USA is set to compete in Group B along with Russia, Finland and Slovakia.
Marquette Rangers defenseman Kevin Gravel was one of 21 players who participated at USA Hockey's Select 17 Player Development Camp to have been selected for the 2009 U.S. Under-18 Select Team that will compete at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial from August 11-15 in Piestany, Slovakia.
Gravel, a 17-year-old from Kingsford, totaled three goals and 14 points in 58 regular-season games for the Rangers in 2008-09.
No stranger to international competition, Gravel, a St. Cloud State University recruit, played on the U.S. National Under-17 Team that competed in February’s Vlad Dzurilla Under-18 Tournament in Piestany, Slovakia.
Earlier this week, Gravel was recognized by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau on a North American players-to-watch list leading into the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.Watson photo courtesy Windsor Spitfires
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The 19-year-old was drafted by the Flames in the fourth round (114th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
Brodie is scheduled to attend Saginaw’s training camp in the fall and has spent the past three seasons as a member of the Spirit, notching 16 goals and 68 assists in 151 games.
The Dresden, Ont., native has been invited to attend Team Canada’s World Junior Camp in Saskatoon, Sask., later this summer.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Malysa, from Bridgewater, N.J., scored a goal with 10 assists for 11 points in 21 games last season for the North Jersey Avalanche.
"I like to play a stay-at-home style of 'D'," Malysa said. "I like to style myself after Tom Poti."
Malysa was already familiar with Plymouth and Compuware Arena, having played in a friendship tournament here last season with his North Jersey team against the Compuware, Belle Tire and Little Caesars programs.
“I’m very, very happy and very excited,” Malysa said about signing. “At rookie camp, I got to see more of the rink and more behind the scenes about the program. The Whalers are a well-run organization. My education package helps out my family, so you get excellent hockey with the education. It’s a good deal. I’m happy to get started.”
Malysa will be attending school this fall at the Plymouth-Canton Educational Park.
Malysa is the third selection signed from the Whalers’ 2009 draft class and the fifth player signed by Plymouth this off-season. Earlier, Plymouth signed forwards Garrett Meurs (first round, 13th overall, 2009) and Stefan Noesen (fourth round, 64th overall, 2009), along with free-agent right wing Austin Mattson (Livonia) and defenseman Colin MacDonald, who was taken by the Whalers in 14th round (270th overall) in the 2008 OHL draft.
Friday, July 17, 2009
By Roger Lajoie/Oshawa Generals
The Oshawa Generals have landed a defenceman that obviously believes the Ontario Hockey League is a perfect fit for him.
Oshawa coach-GM Chris DePiero announced on Wednesday that the club had come to terms with Jimmy McDowell, who played last season for the Detroit Little Caesars Under-16 team.
McDowell was the Generals' 12th-round draft pick in May’s OHL Priority Selection after turning in a strong season with the Little Caesars team. The promising young defenceman had a scholarship opportunity to go to Michigan State, so teams were leery about taking him with a high draft pick despite his strong potential.
But McDowell has decided to join the Generals and forgo Michigan State , as he’ll report to the Generals training camp next month.
“We’re absolutely delighted that Jimmy is joining our hockey club,” DePiero said. “He’s a promising young player with a lot of upside and we’re pleased he has decided to play in the OHL.
"This is a great coup for our organization. Jimmy’s family lives just 15 minutes from Michigan State, which has an excellent program, but he has opted to join us to pursue his hockey career. That speaks volumes about his commitment to making himself a better player, and says a lot about what the Generals and the OHL can offer a young player as well.”
McDowell goes 6-feet and 165 pounds and is a 1993 birthdate. DePiero says he will be given every chance to develop his game with the Generals as he learns to adjust to life in the OHL.
“We’ll make sure this is the best decision for Jimmy and his family and we’ll welcome him with open arms at training camp,” DePiero says.
The Generals are at work getting more players under contract for next season as they get set for the 2009-10 OHL season. The club has already come to terms with Boone Jenner (younger brother of Plymouth Whalers' defenseman Leo Jenner), their first-round pick, and Colin Suellentrop (Compuware U-16), their third-round selection.
On a side note, Jimmy's twin brother, Jacob, remains committed to MSU for 2011 and was not drafted by any OHL club in May.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
The Ontario Hockey League and Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires have signed American blueliner Craig Duininck to an OHL contract and education package.
The Spitfires selected Duininck in the fourth round of this year’s OHL Priority Selection.
A 6-foot-1, 200-pounder, Duininck helped lead the Detroit Compuware Minor Midgets to the U.S Under-16 title this past season, scoring 24 goals and 50 points in 55 games.
“Craig is an excellent two-way player who will compete for the No. 5 spot on our defensive corps," said Windsor GM Warren Rychel, pictured above with Duininck. "He’s also an excellent student and a great kid. I’m really glad we were able to have Craig join our organization."
Duininck, a Minnesota native whosa family moved to Plymouth last fall, will continue his studies at St. Anne’s High School in Lakeshore, Ont., next year.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
The Metro Jets held their second open tryout camp of the summer last weekend at Lakeland Arena and now, more than ever, optimism is sky-high with the season opener less than two months away.
“I was really happy with the play of the guys that came out,” Metro assistant coach Ryan Skop said. “Guys were hungry. They were competitive. They want to be here. Right from the word ‘go’ on Friday night, guys were crashing and banging, trying to earn their spots on the team. It was fast paced, up-tempo hockey – the way it should be.”
One area of interest that Jets’ GM Butch Wolfe took note of was how far some of the players traveled to take part in the three-day camp.
“We had a very good turnout and are very excited with what we saw,” said Wolfe. “For the first time in a while, we were able to attract players from all over the country. Overall, six separate states were represented, as well as players from the Northern Ontario Junior League, North American League and Northern Pacific League.”
But perhaps the biggest news to result from the weekend was the fact Metro landed a veteran goaltender, RJ Heath (Holly), who has NAHL experience the past couple seasons in Alexandria and Motor City.
“Heath came out and looked good,” Skop said. “He's a big goalie who moves pretty well. We're very excited to have him on board with us.”Skop also said a couple previous free agent signings turned a few heads, as did some new signings and a draft pick from May.
"I was particularly impressed with the play of Shane Wheatley (free agent), John Elliott (2009 draft) and Mike Denston (free agent),” said Skop. “It's obvious these guys have been putting a lot of work in during the off-season and it really showed this weekend.”
The two new signings, forwards Mike Herter (Dexter) and James Ryerse (Cumming, Ga.), also earned solid praise from Skop and both should fill key roles for the Jets.
“Herter is a very fast, high-paced energy guy,” Skop said. “He probably won't be a huge scorer, but he's one of the guys who does all of the little things well. He's going to fill a very important role for us. With his grit and speed, I expect him to be one of the best penalty kill guys around.”
And while Herter is a Michigan native, Ryerse came a tad bit further to the tryout camp.
“Ryerse is a guy we saw at an exposure camp in Nashville and we liked him immediately,” said Skop. “He's very strong and very solid. He won't get pushed around. He's got soft hands and a quick, lethal shot. He's a guy who will be able to put the puck in the net.”
Metro’s roster now looks to be in good shape, with just some tweaking now to do before next season.
"Bottom line is we're happy with where we at right now, but not content with it,” added Skop. “We're going to continue to find ways to improve this team.”
Next up for Metro is their "last chance camp," scheduled for July 31-August 1 at Lakeland Arena.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
The Saginaw Spirit have signed defenseman Alex Lepkowski, a 1993-born prospect that was drafted by the Spirit 66th overall in the 2009 OHL Priority Selection.
The West Seneca, N.Y., native played with St. Francis Prep of the MPHL last season.
“Alex is a young kid that we’re bringing in to develop,” stated Spirit director of scouting Jim Paliafito. “He has tremendous character and he has a lot of upside with his size and skating ability.”
Lepkowski is expected to attend Saginaw’s August training camp.
Friday, July 03, 2009
The 21-year-old signed a three-year, two-way contract that could see him play for the Rangers or their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack.
Chappell spent four seasons with the Spirit, aging out of the Ontario Hockey League following the 2008-2009 season.
“I had some idea that the Rangers were looking at me during the season, but they waited until after the NHL draft before approaching me,” stated Chappell. “This has been very exciting and I look forward to attending the Traverse City training camp in the fall.”
Chappell led Saginaw in scoring with 38 goals and 38 assists in 68 regular-season games. The Pickering, Ont., native led the Spirit to their first second-round playoff appearance in team history and tallied two goals and six assists in eight playoff games. Chappell also represented Saginaw at the 2009 OHL All-Star Classic in Windsor.
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
This past Tuesday, forward Anthony Marrocco and defenseman Jonathan Wickersham, teammates last season on the Summit Plastics Midget AA team out of Fraser, signed on the dotted line.
Both should pay immediate dividends in Waterford.
"Rocco is a grinding-type forward," said Metro assistant coach Ryan Skop. "Not the quickest guy in the world, but he'll put a body on you if he gets the chance. He's a guy that isn't afraid to go to the net and can be pretty crafty when he gets there.
"Wick is a guy who can help us at both ends of the ice. He's got good size and is a very smart hockey player. He's another guy who's got good leadership qualities and I look for him to be a big contributor in the dressing room as well."
The Jets now have nine of their 2009 draft picks signed for the upcoming 2009-2010 season, have also signed five free agents and brought back tough defenseman Steve Lockwood from last year's team.