Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Port Huron granted NAHL franchise

The North American Hockey League has announced that its Board of Governors has accepted the membership application for an expansion team in Port Huron.

The team will begin play this coming season and play its home games out of the 3,373-seat McMorran Place Sports & Entertainment Center in Port Huron.

“From both a geographical and historical perspective, Michigan is such an integral part of our league and we’re excited to welcome a market like Port Huron that champions such a long and storied hockey tradition,” said NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld. “And, with an ownership group committed to both its players’ and the community’s success, along with a first-rate facility, we’re looking forward to carrying on that proud tradition for years to come.”

Hat Trick Hockey, LLC, which is led by Maribeth Hayes, the organization’s chief executive officer, and Ernie Hicke, who will serve as the club head coach and general manager, owns the team.

“Maribeth and I are excited about the upcoming hockey season in the beautiful city of Port Huron and are fortunate to have established a great working relationship with (McMorran Place Sports & Entertainment Center general manager) Randy Fernandez and all the people of McMorran Place,” said Hicke.“We look forward to the challenge of initiating a new team in the NAHL and working with the people in the community. Our goal is to produce a competitive team and one that Port Huron will be proud to support.”

Hicke, a Regina, Saskatchewan native, has been involved in hockey for over 50 years as a player, coach, scout and owner. He enjoyed a 14-year professional playing career, most notably in the NHL with the Oakland Seals, Atlanta Flames, New York Islanders, Minnesota North Stars and Los Angeles Kings.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the McMorran Place Sports & Entertainment Center is a three building complex consisting of an arena, pavilion and theatre. It annually hosts hundreds of successful conventions, trade shows, concerts, banquets, ice shows, corporate meetings and seminars, as well as hockey for all ages.

“We’re very fortunate and pleased to welcome the North American Hockey League to the Port Huron community and the McMorran Place Sports & Entertainment Center,” said Fernandez. “The NAHL offers an exciting brand of hockey and we couldn’t be happier to serve as home to a team that will boast some of the best up-and-coming players in the world.”

“The NAHL is lucky to showcase many of the top facilities in all of junior hockey and the McMorran Place Sports & Entertainment Center is no exception,” said Frankenfeld. “From its size to its aesthetics, it’s an ideal venue for our league backed by a first-class management team.”

Port Huron is the fourth NAHL team to call Michigan home, joining the first-year Michigan Warriors, Motor City Metal Jackets and Traverse City North Stars.

“The addition of Port Huron fortifies our Michigan partners and provides another great hockey community for the North Division,” said Bill McCoshen, the NAHL’s North Division executive committee member and president of the Janesville Jets.

“Not only does the addition of Port Huron strengthen our North Division footprint, it brings more opportunities for players in a region that year after year develops some of the brightest young collegiate and professional prospects,” said Frankenfeld.

For more information on the NAHL’s Port Huron team, visit

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Whalers draft pair at CHL Import Draft

The Plymouth Whalers selected two players in today’s Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, held via the internet throughout the CHL.

With the 41st overall selection, the Whalers took 17-year-old right wing Rickard Rakell (top left), who played last season for AIK in Sweden. Skating for the J-18 and J-20 teams of AIK in 2009-10, Rakell scored 28 goals and 17 assists for 45 points over 38 games. Rakell also played in international competition for Sweden, scoring eight goals with three assists for 11 points in 19 games last year in three tournaments.

Rakell – (pronounced ree-CARD ra-KELL) at 6-feet and 185 pounds and from Stockholm – was born on May 5, 1993 and is eligible for the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft.

With the 50th pick, Plymouth selected 17-year-old defenseman Dario Trutmann (top right), who played last season for EV Zug in Switzerland. Trutmann scored eight goals with 15 assists for 23 points and 78 PIM’s in 28 regular season games while contributing a goal and an assist in 10 playoff games. Trutmann – 6-feet and 183 pounds – scored five assists in six games in international competition last year for Switzerland.

Trutmann is eligible for the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft due to his late birthday (September 17, 1992).

“We like both players,” Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci said. “They should fit right in with our team. We look for both of them to be impact players right away.”

“I’m very excited to be coming to Plymouth,” Rakell said in a phone interview. “It’s going to be fun. I don’t copy any one player, but I would say I’m a physical player with a good shot. So many Swedish players play for the Red Wings, it’s an inspiration. They are very successful.”

Rakell was to the point when speaking about his attraction to the CHL.

“I think it’s the best junior league in the world,” he said. “And my goal is to reach the National Hockey League.”

Trutmann expressed the same sentiments about the CHL.

“It’s the best junior league in the world,” Trutmann said in a phone interview. “It’s a dream come true to play in it. I pattern myself after Mark Streit, a Swiss who plays for the New York Islanders.”

CHL teams are allowed to carry two imports of their roster. With veteran defenseman Michal Jordan signing with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, Rakell and Trutmann fill Plymouth’s import quota.

Rakell and Trutmann are expected to report to Plymouth’s training camp in late August.

Metal Jackets sign CSHL star Aldag

St. Louis Jr. Blues defenseman Eric Aldag has committed to play for the Motor City Metal Jackets of the NAHL.

Aldag just completed his third year with the CSHL's Jr. Blues, appearing in 118 games in that time.

According to former Jr. Blues head coach Jack Behan, "Eric is going to be an impact player at the next level. He has the tools and the mental approach to be successful."

Aldag committed after skating with the Metal Jackets earlier this month.

"The staff at Motor City called him in for a three-day skate with some of their returning veterans," said Behan. "They commented to me on his abilities which were impressive and his obvious character that stood out. For me personally, it has been a great three years coaching Eric, a coach's dream."

After three years, there are plenty of memories, but one stands out, according to Behan.

"I will remember much about his play here, but mostly how he was so good at nationals this year," Behan said. "Time and time again, he skated us out of trouble leaving those EJ players in his wake. Of course, the most memorable was his pass in the third period on the game-winning goal that set up a two-man breakaway in the national championship game.

"Motor City is getting a gem and we couldn't be happier for Eric."

Monday, June 28, 2010

Saginaw swaps draft picks with Majors

The Saginaw Spirit conducted a trade with the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors Monday afternoon.

The Spirit sent the Majors the 17th overall pick in the 2010 CHL Import Draft, which was obtained by the Spirit via an earlier trade with the Niagara IceDogs, and in return, the Spirit received the Majors fourth round pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection, the Kitchener Rangers' fifth round pick in the 2012 OHL Priority Selection and the Majors' third round pick in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection.

The CHL Import Draft is the primary method for CHL teams to acquire players from outside of Canada and the United States. Each team is allowed to have a maximum of two non-North American players on their roster, with the Spirit currently having on its active roster forward Ivan Telegin (pictured) and goalie Tadeas Galansky.

Additional terms of the trade were not disclosed.

Telegin photo by Walt Dmoch

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Michigan connections - Rounds 2-7

32nd overall, Boston - Jared Knight, C, London Knights (Battle Creek)
37th overall, Carolina - Justin Faulk, D, U.S. NTDP
38th overall, New Jersey - Jon Merrill, D, U.S. NTDP (Brighton)
59th overall, Minnesota - Jason Zucker, LW, U.S. NTDP
60th overall, Chicago - Stephen Johns, D, U.S. NTDP

80th overall, Pittsburgh - Bryan Rust, RW, U.S. NTDP (Bloomfield Hills)
84th overall, New Jersey - Scott Wedgewood, G, Plymouth Whalers
85th overall, Carolina - Austin Levi, D, Plymouth Whalers (Farmington Hills)

94th overall, Columbus - Brandon Archibald, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (Port Huron)
101st overall, Atlanta - Ivan Telegin, LW, Saginaw Spirit
108th overall, Calgary - Bill Arnold, C, U.S. NTDP

135th overall, Boston - Justin Florek, LW, Northern Michigan (Marquette)
148th overall, Los Angeles - Kevin Gravel, D, Sioux City Musketeers (Kingsford)


197th overall, Colorado - Luke Moffatt, C, U.S. NTDP
210th overall, Boston - Zach Trotman, D, Lake Superior State (Novi)

Knight photo by Walt Dmoch

Friday, June 25, 2010

Plymouth's Seguin goes No. 2 to B's

Players with Michigan connections will be drafted this weekend at the NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles.

The comprehensive list, by round, will be updated all weekend. The first round is tonight, while rounds 2-7 start tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time.

2nd overall, Boston - Tyler Seguin, C, Plymouth Whalers
11th overall, Dallas - Jack Campbell, G, U.S. NTDP (Port Huron)
12th overall, Anaheim - Cam Fowler, D, Windsor Spitfires (Farmington Hills)
15th overall, Los Angeles - Derek Forbort, D, U.S. NTDP
18th overall, Nashville - Austin Watson, F, Peterborough Petes (Ann Arbor)
22nd overall, Montreal - Jarred Tinordi, D, U.S. NTDP

Seguin photo by Walt Dmoch

North Stars host tryout this weekend

The 2010-11 North American Hockey League schedule won’t be released until early next month, and the puck won’t drop on the regular season until September, but the Traverse City North Stars will celebrate the de facto opening of the new campaign this weekend at Centre ICE Arena.

And they’re looking for a few good men.

The North Stars enjoyed a veteran-laden roster last year, riding a wealth of experience to a North Division playoff championship and Robertson Cup tournament berth. This summer, however, head coach-GM Anthony Palumbo is seeking to fill a number of roster slots starting with this weekend’s open tryout camp, following the matriculation of better than half the roster to the college hockey ranks, USHL and aging out.

“It’s a bit of a different scenario, but every team goes through these kinds of cycles, especially in junior hockey,” Palumbo explained. “It’s not like we don’t have anyone coming back – there’s a lot of talent among the returning players – but we’ll be looking for some guys to be that next crop of talent, the next wave of North Stars.”

Among those eligible to return is captain and two-time all-star defenseman Travis White, along with fellow blueliners Travis Campbell and Curtis Heinz. Up front, Kelin Ainsworth, Ryan Amin, 2009-10 leading scorer Doug Clifford, Tim Opie, Eric Rivard and Alec Shields are in the mix. The club must replace its top two goalies – Chris Paliafito and Drew Strandberg – but picked up Tyler Marble in May’s NAHL Draft. Marble saw action with the club last year, but the Stars had to draft him to retain his rights.

“We’re going to be younger overall, that seems fairly certain,” Palumbo continued. “That will come with a different set of challenges. I’d liken it to our first year coaching here, when the staff didn’t know exactly what we had to work with going in. It requires a little more patience, because the hockey we might play at the beginning of the season probably won’t be as good as the hockey we’re playing in November and December.”

This weekend’s three-day camp will be among the most scrutinized in Palumbo’s tenure. With a hornblende of veterans, tenders, draft choices, and talented hopefuls battling it out for invitations to the team’s July training camp, the action should be especially crisp and intense.

“We need to add a lot to what we already have,” Palumbo surmised. “We’re looking for a crew of defensemen, a group of forwards, and we’re still building at goaltender, too. There are spots up for grabs. Last year, we were really looking for four or five or maybe six guys to add. This year, it’s far more of a wide-open affair.”

NHL Draft - 7pm - VERSUS - Los Angeles

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Two more Metal Jackets off to D-I ranks

Two Motor City Metal Jackets forwards have committed to Division I schools for next year as Patrick Sullivan is off to Canisius College (Atlantic Hockey) and Brice Geoffrion will play for independent Alabama-Huntsville.

Three players from last season's Motor City squad, goalie Jason Torf (Air Force/Atlantic Hockey) was the first, have now chosen their college hockey destinations for the future.

“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to be going to such a great institution, and especially one with such a great hockey tradition,” said Sullivan. “I’m also very fortunate that I will get to play my college career close to home in front of my friends and family."

Sullivan posted 22 points with 12 goals (seven on the power play) last season.

Geoffrion was a key component to the team's successful run to the playoffs and played an important role at both ends of the ice. He tallied three goals and eight points for the Metal Jackets.

Ex-Indians goalie named NHL's best

Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who played in the North American Hockey League for the Soo Indians from 1997-99, won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender.

Miller won the award Wednesday at the NHL Awards ceremony in Las Vegas, beating out the New Jersey Devils’ Martin Brodeur and the Phoenix Coyotes’ Ilya Bryzgalov.

Miller was also the recipient of the NHL Foundation Player Award, given annually to the player who applies the core values of ice hockey - commitment, perseverance and teamwork - to enrich the lives of people in his community.

This past season, Miller led the Sabres to the Northeast Division title for the second time in the past four seasons. He set a franchise record and ranked fourth among NHL goaltenders with 41 wins, placed second in the league in goals-against average (2.22) and save percentage (.929) and tied a career high with five shutouts.

In February, Miller, from East Lansing, was named the Most Valuable Player of the men’s ice hockey tournament by both the tournament directorate and the media at the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver after backstopping the U.S. team to a silver medal.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Spirit inks 2010 first-rounder Kea

The Saginaw Spirit have announced the signing of forward Justin Kea, the 13th overall pick in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection.

Kea is the first player from Saginaw’s 2010 draft class signed by the team.

Kea native tallied 22 goals and 22 assists in 51 games with the minor midget Central Ontario Wolves this past season. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound center hails from Woodville, Ont., and will be wearing No. 9 for the Spirit.

“Justin is a big, strong, skilled forward that can skate,” said Spirit Director of Scouting Jim Paliafito. “He reminds me of a Joe Thornton type.”

According to OHL Central Scouting, "Kea is a forward that has all the tools to develop into a very good player at the next level. He has legitimate size, a very good touch and hands for a bigger man and he has better than average feet. When he is really moving his feet he displays a long, powerful stride that can generate some real speed and quickness. Kea has the potential to really fill out as he matures. He prefers to play more of a finesse game, jumping into holes, always looking for the open ice and circling away from the puck."

The Spirit will be introducing Kea and the other new Spirit players at a special ceremony to be held in the immediate future.

Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Warriors announce '10-11 ticket plans

The Michigan Warriors today announced the availability of season ticket packages for the upcoming 2010-11 season.

Season ticket packages for all 27 home games start at $7 per game and include $2 in “Arena Bucks” per game. “Arena Bucks” are redeemable for concessions and merchandise at each game.

In addition to tickets and “Arena Bucks” for each Warriors inaugural season home game, each season ticket holder also will receive an invitation to a meet the players reception and the team’s post-season banquet. Season ticket holders also receive priority for playoff ticket sales, a discounted parking option and the opportunity to select a seat in Perani Arena from which to enjoy the entire season of Warriors hockey.

Warriors fans purchasing season tickets before August 1 will receive a team t-shirt for each seat purchased and a commemorative Warriors season ticket booklet, while supplies last.

Individuals who held Flint Generals season tickets for the recently completed 2009-10 season will have the opportunity to retain their seat selections in Perani Arena. These individuals should note their seat preferences when purchasing Warriors season tickets for the 2010-11 season.

To purchase season tickets, or for more information, contact the Michigan Warriors and Perani Arena at (810) 744-0580 or visit the Perani Arena box office during business hours.

“In opening season ticket sales, we’re giving hockey fans in Flint and throughout Mid-Michigan an early opportunity to be part of a new and exciting chapter in this region’s rich hockey history,” said Pat McEachern, a member of the Warriors ownership group. “The family-friendly atmosphere, the budget-friendly ticket pricing and planned improvements to Perani will ensure our fans get a great value for their entertainment dollar as they cheer on their Michigan Warriors.”

Packages for the entire 27-game season start at $189 for upper level seats and $243 for lower-level seating. Payment plans are available to help make tickets even more affordable.

Individual and single-game group tickets are scheduled to go on sale in September. Upper level individual game tickets will be available for $8, with lower level individual tickets available for $10. All individual game tickets will include $2 in “Arena Bucks.” Tickets for groups of 20 or more will be available for $7 or $9, for upper and lower level seats, respectively.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Whalers hosting draft party Friday

Soo Eagles staying in the spotlight

Team gets new owners

First-ever signee Adam Phillips commits to Massachusetts

Eric Cox makes his college choice

Port Huron to join NAHL next?

According to the Flint Journal and the Times Herald, a new NAHL franchise in Port Huron may possibly join the league this fall. If not this fall, then perhaps next fall.

Flint Journal article HERE
Times Herald article HERE

NTDP names Cole new head coach

USA Hockey Press Release

Danton Cole, who most recently served as the head coach at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, was today named a head coach at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. As one of two head coaches at the NTDP, Cole will guide the U.S. National Under-17 Team during the upcoming 2010-11 season.

“We’re excited to bring someone with Danton’s qualifications to our National Team Development Program,” said Jim Johannson, USA Hockey assistant executive director of hockey operations. “He will be a great contributor in the overall development of our elite American players.”

“Danton has a wealth of experience at the professional, collegiate and international levels,” said Scott Monaghan, director of operations for the NTDP. “He’ll be a great asset in preparing our players to compete on all stages.”

Last summer, Cole served as the assistant coach for the U.S. Under-18 Select Team at the 2009 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament in Slovakia. In addition, his international résumé goes beyond coaching, as he played for Team USA at three International Ice Hockey Federation World Men’s Championships (1990-91, 1994).

Cole spent the past three seasons as the head coach and associate athletic director at UAH, where he guided the Chargers to their second-ever College Hockey America championship in 2010, as well as the second NCAA Division I tournament berth in program history.

Cole also brings experience coaching at the professional level, having previously served as the head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, from 2002-05. During that span, he became the winningest coach in team history with a 116-72-17-3 record, while guiding the Griffins to the Calder Cup Playoffs in both 2002-03 and 2003-04.

Cole then spent part of 2004-05 and all of the 2005-06 season as the head coach of the United Hockey League’s Motor City Mechanics, before joining the college realm as an assistant coach at Bowling Green State University in 2006-07.

The Pontiac native’s coaching career began in the 1999-2000 season when he was named an assistant coach for Grand Rapids, then of the International Hockey League. He spent one more season with the Griffins before earning his first job as a head coach with the Muskegon Fury of the United Hockey League in 2001.

During the 2001-02 season, he guided the Fury to a 48-22-0 record and the Colonial Cup Championship.

As a player, Cole appeared in 318 games in the National Hockey League from 1989-96, including stints with the Winnipeg Jets, Tampa Bay Lightning, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Chicago Blackhawks. Cole was part of the Devils squad that earned its first Stanley Cup in 1995.

Prior to embarking on his pro career, Cole was a four-year letter winner at Michigan State University from 1985-89. While a Spartan, Cole appeared in 180 games and compiled 163 points (69-94). He was part of the Ron Mason-led Michigan State squad that captured the 1986 NCAA National Championship. In 1989, he received the Big Ten Medal of Honor as MSU’s top student-athlete in both scholarship and achievement.

Photo by Doug Eagan/UAH

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Michigan natives galore at USAH camp

USA Hockey today announced the 44 players invited to take part in the 2010 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp this summer in Lake Placid, N.Y.

The players will be auditioning for a spot on the U.S. National Junior Team that will take part in the 2011 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, Dec. 26, 2010-Jan. 5, 2011, in Buffalo, N.Y.

Michigan connections:
Jack Campbell, G, Port Huron, U.S. NTDP
Brandon Archibald, D, Port Huron, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Cam Fowler, D, Farmington Hills, Windsor (OHL) - pictured
Jon Merrill, D, Brighton, U.S. NTDP
Kevin Lynch, F, Grosse Pointe, Michigan (CCHA)
Bryan Rust, F, Bloomfield Hills, U.S. NTDP
Austin Watson, F, Ann Arbor, Peterborough (OHL)

"It will be a very competitive camp and give our staff a good opportunity to evaluate players as we start our preparations to defend the gold medal in Buffalo," said Jim Johannson, USA Hockey's assistant executive director of hockey operations and general manager of the 2011 U.S. National Junior Team. "We look forward to our return to Lake Placid and utilizing the Olympic Training Center and the Olympic Regional Development Authority facilities that do a great job in hosting our camp. ”

For the full list of players invited to the 2010 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp, click here.

The camp, which will take place at Lake Placid's Olympic Center from July 30-Aug. 7, will feature practices, intra-squad scrimmages and international games featuring Finland, Sweden and the United States.

Saad finally signs with Saginaw

Though not officially announced by the Saginaw Spirit, the team has reportedly signed 2008 first round pick Brandon Saad.

In an article in the Saginaw News, Spirit coach-GM Todd Watson commented on the rugged forward who was the NAHL's top rookie in 2009 with the Mahoning Valley Phantoms and a member of the U.S. National Team Development Program last season.

"He's an all around player (and) he brings a lot to the table," said Watson. "He can play in all situations. He can score. He's a power forward. He can score goals, he has good hands, he can play physical, and will be a great asset to our program."

*** UPDATE - Spirit makes signing official ***

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Warriors sign 5-year lease at Perani

The Michigan Warriors, North American Hockey League and Firland Management, which operates Flint’s Perani Arena, today announced they have agreed to terms on a five-year lease.

Under the lease terms, the Warriors will play junior hockey at Perani Arena as the facility’s anchor tenant through the 2014-2015 season.

“For at least the next five years, Mid-Michigan will have the opportunity to cheer for a Flint-based team of talented young men, including many hometown products, as they work toward collegiate and NHL opportunities,” said Pat McEachern, a member of the Warriors ownership group. “Today, we committed to building a team for a community that appreciates hard work and skilled play at an arena in the process of returning to its heyday. Continuing the hockey tradition here in Flint means new opportunities for many young men from the heart of this state to continue their careers.”

Michigan-born players who developed their skills in the NAHL on the road to the highest level of professional hockey include Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller of East Lansing and Detroit Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski of Dearborn. The task of developing the talent of Michigan players looking to follow in the footsteps of NAHL alumni like Miller and Rafalski belongs to general manager and former NHL player Moe Mantha.

Mantha brings to the Warriors a wealth of experience in developing young hockey talent. He has coached and managed at the junior and professional levels for 15 years, including coaching the USA Hockey National Team Development Program and is active in the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association. Many of Mantha’s players have graduated to NHL and other professional hockey opportunities. A player as well as a coach, Mantha patrolled the blue line for five teams over 12 NHL seasons and was an assistant captain of the 1992 U.S. Olympic team.

“Moe is here to create an exciting brand of hockey, while helping a talented group of Michigan Warriors players continue developing their abilities as they work to advance to the next level,” McEachern said. “He has been part of the game at all levels for a long time and will use that experience to help our players realize their potential right before the eyes of our fans.”

Perani Arena, which opened in 1969, has a long and storied history of hosting professional hockey. Under Firland Management, which assumed operations at Perani Arena earlier this year, the facility already has seen initial improvements, including enhanced lighting, as investments in the fan experience. Additional upgrades to the 4,000-seat facility are planned.

“Over the past 40 years, Perani Arena has been home to some of Mid-Michigan’s most exciting hockey moments,” said Firland Management CEO Jim Cain, who oversees operations at the facility. “The addition of the Warriors to this venue is another important step toward our goal of providing this community the arena experience it expects and deserves.”

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Metal Jackets bring tryouts to Japan


It’s not an uncommon practice for North American Hockey League teams to have summer tryouts outside of their home base, as most teams schedule them all across the United States.

Then there’s the Motor City Metal Jackets, who had an open tryout last weekend in Tokyo and another this upcoming weekend in Osaka, Japan.

Yes, Japan.

“Our tryout camps have been well received in Japan and have drawn huge interest among hockey players,” Metal Jackets owner Kenji Yamada said. “In reality, we may not be able to find many players who can make our team immediately, but I hope that our effort will become a good stimulus for the Japanese hockey society and younger players will start looking at more opportunities for their hockey career.”

Yamada also has hopes that he can one day see a Japanese import or two playing for Motor City.

“I dream that a Japanese player can be developed in our program, go to college, and ultimately advance to a professional career in North America,” said Yamada. “It’s not my goal to have a Japanese-born player on the roster, but rather to develop a top-level hockey development program in the most advanced hockey market, like in the USA. Of course, in the course of our journey, if (a) Japanese player or players can make my team and part of our roster, I’m more than happy to see that.”

With pro hockey prevalent in the Land of the Rising Sun, junior hockey is not even a blip on the hockey radar overseas, but, over time, that should change for the better.

“In Japan, the number of players in urban areas has increased in recent years,” explained Yamada. “I strongly believe in a future of Japanese junior hockey. However, they have a serious problem in top teams (Asian league teams) because they’re financially struggling, and young Japanese players cannot foresee their future in a hockey career. I hope that our hockey club can become a bridge for those players.”

Back in Michigan, the Metal Jackets took huge strides this year and advanced to the North Division finals, where the Traverse City North Stars ultimately eliminated them from the postseason.

“I think our first year (with the new ownership group) was very successful, like 120 percent more than we expected,” beamed Yamada. “I really appreciate the effort and dedication of all our staff, players and supporters around us, especially the effort and commitment from our head coach, David Cole. Of course, we have a lot of areas for improvements, but as a starting year, we were in pretty good shape.

“Last year, we had a lot of new players to the Junior A level and we were struggling to implement our game plans toward the middle of the season. This year, we have many players coming back from last year’s team and we can have a jumpstart from the beginning.

“We learned a lot from last year’s experience about how to run the game, how to entertain the audience, and how to make an effective TV broadcast. Next year is going to be a very exciting year for fans who come and watch our games in our arena and who watch the game on TV.

“We are also moving to a new arena (Kennedy Recreation Center in Trenton, Mich.) with more seating capacity and more traffic. I hope we’ll be able attract more fans to our games this year.”

Never one to pat himself on the back, but a great deal of credit goes to Yamada and his group for providing some stability to the Metal Jackets organization.

It remains to be seen if a foreign ownership group will become commonplace in the NAHL, though Yamada thinks there is more to it than where the owners come from.

“I think the question is not the nationality, but more towards the quality of ownership,” stated Yamada. “I may be saying this message to myself, that the good ownership should have strong commitment, financial stability, hockey knowledge, network and dedication towards young player development. If we have more foreign ownership with those aspects, then we’ll see more foreign ownership in our league.”

Another Chelios commits to Spartans

Chicago Steel forward Jake Chelios has committed to play collegiate hockey at Michigan State University following his USHL career.

Chelios, 19, finished third in scoring for the Steel during the 2009-10 season with 34 points (12g, 22a) in 52 games. His three game-winning goals led the team. The Bloomfield Hills native tallied two points (1g, 1a), including his first USHL goal in just his second game, a 10-5 win vs. Team USA on Oct. 3, 2009.

Five other USHL players from the 2009-10 season are also committed to attend Michigan State University: Greg Wolfe (Omaha Lancers), Brent Darnell (Sioux Falls Stampede), David Johnstone (Indiana Ice), Andrew Sinelli (Sioux City Musketeers) and Willie Yanakeff (Waterloo Black Hawks).

At Michigan State, Jake Chelios will join his brother, Dean, who completed his freshman season with the Spartans in 2009-10 after a two-year USHL career (2007-09). The Chelios brothers are the sons of Chris Chelios, a veteran defenseman of 26 NHL seasons.

Michigan State is a member of the CCHA and had 13 USHL alumni on the roster during the 2009-10 campaign: Dean Chelios (Chicago Steel), Jeff Petry (Des Moines Buccaneers), Andrew Rowe (Sioux City Musketeers), Tim Buttery (Chicago Steel), Chris Forfar (Lincoln Stars), Dustin Gazley (Sioux City Musketeers), Jay Sprague (Indiana Ice), Anthony Hayes (Green Bay Gamblers), Matt Crandell (Sioux City Musketeers), Corey Tropp (Sioux Falls Stampede), Drew Palmisano (Omaha Lancers), Torey Krug (Indiana Ice) and Zach Golembiewski (Indiana Ice).

Photo courtesy USHL Images

Plymouth players going camping

Tyler Seguin
is named to Hockey Canada's National Junior Team Development Camp.

Garrett Meurs is named to Canada's Men's Under-18
Selection Camp.

Matt Mahalak, Stefan Noesen and rookie orientation invitee Michael Ferrantino are named to the USA Hockey Select 17 Festival.

Plymouth draft choices Max Iafrate, Joe Cox, Sheldon Dries, Ryan Lowney and Mark Yanis are named to the USA Hockey Select 16 Festival.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Spirit and Wolves make swap today

The Saginaw Spirit have acquired the rights to 1991-born center Brandon Pirri, a second round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, following a trade with the Sudbury Wolves today.

In return, the Wolves acquire the rights to 1991-born Robert Visca.

The Wolves had selected Pirri 143rd overall in the 2007 OHL Priority Selection out of the Toronto Young Nationals Minor Midget program. Pirri played last year for RPI where he was third on the team in goals (11), first in assists (32) and second in points (43). He spent the previous season in the OJHL with the Georgetown Raiders where he tallied 46 goals and 48 assists for 94 points in 44 games.

Pirri also played in the 2008 and 2009 OJHL All-Star game. The Toronto native was selected by the Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks 59th overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Saginaw had selected Visca with the 96th overall pick in the 2007 OHL Priority Selection out of the Barrie Colts Minor Midget program. The Hamilton, Ont., native was a member of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell program last season.

Donnay brothers sign with London

The London Knights announced today that they have signed defensemen Cody Donnay and Troy Donnay to Ontario Hockey League contracts.

Cody Donnay, 18, was acquired on June 11 from the Peterborough Petes in exchange for a fourth round selection in the 2011 OHL draft. Donnay stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 185 pounds. He had six assists to go along with 73 penalty minutes in 53 games for the Marquette Rangers of the North American Hockey League during the 2009-2010 season.

Troy Donnay, 16, was selected in the fourth round of the 2010 OHL draft from the Belle Tire U-16 AAA team. Donnay is 6-foot-7 and weighs 180 pounds. He had three goals and 18 assists to go along with 91 penalty minutes in 65 games during the 2009-2010 season.

Both players are from Fenton and both will attend London's training camp in August.

Whalers' alumni game goes Aug. 7

An event that started last season to celebrate the start of the franchise's 20th season is picking up major steam this year.

The Plymouth Whalers will play their second annual alumni game on Saturday, August 7 at Compuware Arena. Much like last season, the game will feature alumni from all eras of the team, going back to the team’s early days as the Detroit Compuware Ambassadors and Detroit Junior Red Wings to the Detroit and Plymouth Whalers.

The Whalers’ second annual alumni game will feature the return of several alumni with local ties now playing in the National Hockey League. Canton native James Wisniewski (2000-04) – now with the Anaheim Ducks – will be joined by Fraser native Chad LaRose (2000-03; Carolina Hurricanes) and Grosse Pointe Woods native David Legwand (1997-99; Nashville Predators) in the game.

Other Whalers alumni who have committed include former captains Mike Morrone (1994-97), Randy Fitzgerald (1996-00), John Vigilante (2002-06) and Chris Terry (2005-09), as well as J.D. Eaton (1990-93), Kevin Paden (1992-94), Jeff Mitchell (1992-95), Mike Rucinski (1992-96), Dan Pawlaczyk (1993-97), James Ramsay (1998-01), Damian Surma (1998-02), Gino Pisellini (2003-06) and Scott Fletcher (2008-09). More alumni are expected to commit to the game as the summer rolls on.

Last year’s first game featured 26 players in a game that ended 12-11 for the Whites over the Blues.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Windsor signs first-rounder Webermin

The Windsor Spitfires today announced the signing of U.S defenseman Grant Webermin, Windsor’s first round pick (20th overall) in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection to an OHL contract and education package.

Webermin, a Southfield native listed at 6-foot and 170 pounds, scored 12 goals and 29 assists for 41 points with 62 penalty minutes in 52 games played last year with the Honeybaked Minor Midget team.

“Leading up to this year’s OHL Priority Selection, I had several great options to choose from in terms of playing either in Canada or in the U.S.," said Webermin. "I feel very privileged to have been considered by all the teams that approached me, but at the end of the day, home is where the heart is and that’s what coming to the Windsor Spitfires meant to me. I’m proud to call Windsor my home and officially becoming a Spitfire today is something that I will not soon forget.”

“We’re proud to bring in a quality player and young man like Grant to the Windsor Spitfires family," Windsor GM Warren Rychel said. "I see Grant contributing to our lineup right away in September and he will be an anchor for us on the back end for years to come. The Windsor Spitfires organization is thrilled to have a player of Grant’s caliber join the hockey club.”

Webermin will continue his studies at St. Anne’s High School in Lakeshore, Ont., next season.

Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Canton native Hope commits to Sarnia

The Sarnia Sting announced this week that goaltender Brandon Hope has been signed to an OHL contract and education package.

A third round selection in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection, Hope, a Canton native, played for the Honeybaked Midget program last season. In 32 games with Honeybaked, Hope had a goals-against average of 3.25 and posted two shutouts.

Sarnia coach-GM Dave MacQueen is pleased with Hope’s decision to join the organization.

“Brandon was a guy we had rated as one of the top goaltenders in the draft," said MacQueen. "We are extremely excited to get him signed and believe he will be a strong part of our future as we continue to build this team through the draft. He now will come into training camp looking to compete with the other goaltenders in our organization for a spot on this year’s team.”

MacQueen gives a lot of credit to the Sting’s educational consultant Caroline White in helping sign Hope.

“Brandon is one of the top 1994-born goaltenders available in our draft and he is also an American-born player whose mother is an educator," MacQueen said. "He was very well aware that he had options available to him if he chose to go the NCAA route. Caroline White sat down with Brandon and his family and explained to them the importance of education in our league. That combined with the first-class education package that we are able to offer Brandon and he and his family realized the Ontario Hockey League and the Sarnia Sting would be the best option to them for Brandon’s development both on and off the ice.”

Photo courtesy Metcalfe Photography

Friday, June 11, 2010

NAHL icon Robertson passes away

NAHL Press Release

Chuck Robertson, for whom the North American Hockey League’s Robertson Cup is named, passed away last weekend.

The Robertson Cup crowns the NAHL’s playoff champion, which also represents USA Hockey’s Tier II Junior A national champion.

A pioneer of junior and youth hockey in the state of Michigan, Robertson was the owner of the NAHL’s Paddock Pools Saints when they won a record seven straight championships from 1976-83.

“Chuck Robertson championed an unparalleled spirit of giving, all in an effort to see young hockey players realize their dreams, on and off the ice,” said NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld. “His contributions to the game of hockey, specifically the North American Hockey League, have had a lasting effect on so many of our players, past and present, and his legacy won’t be forgotten.”

Former NAHL commissioner Tom Anastos, now the commissioner of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, echoed those sentiments.

“Chuck’s passion for hockey and incredible generosity made it possible for so many players to enjoy an incredible experience and, in many cases, extended careers into the higher levels of hockey,” said Anastos. “In all of my years involved in our sport - as a player, coach and now as an administrator - I have never met a better man.

“Chuck was passionate about hockey, was a man of great integrity and cared deeply for those who played on his teams. He contributed a great deal of money - with no expectation of a return on his investment - but simply enjoyed seeing the benefits kids gained through the experience he was offering. He was incredibly generous.”

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Grand Rapids native picks Ferris State

NAHL Press Release

Bismarck Bobcats forward Dominic Panetta became the 10th member of the 2009-10 Robertson Cup championship squad to secure a place to play hockey at the Division I level, committing to Ferris State University for the 2011-12 season.

“It’s definitely a huge relief to know that I’ll be playing at the D-I level,” said Panetta, who led the North American Hockey League in playoff scoring with 17 points on six goals and 11 assists. “Now that I have my deal in place, I can really focus on becoming the best player possible over the next year.”

Panetta was the second-highest scoring rookie in the NAHL during the regular season with 24 goals and 28 assists, just two points behind top-scoring rookie Bryce Johnson, a St. Cloud State University recruit, of the Topeka Roadrunners (54 points).

For the Michigan native, the decision was natural to not only play his collegiate hockey close to home, but also with a program with which he had a long-standing relationship.

“When everything was said and done, it was a pretty easy call to pick Ferris,” noted Panetta, who resides in Grand Rapids. “I was talking to a lot of great programs, but I grew up in Big Rapids and I’ve known (Bulldogs head) Coach (Bob) Daniels since I was three years old. It’s a really comfortable fit for me.”

“Bobcat Hockey is extremely happy for Dominic and his family that he has earned such a great opportunity at the Division I level,” said Bobcats head coach Layne Sedevie. “We couldn’t be more proud of Dom and we know he’ll be a big-time player for the Bulldogs in the CCHA.”

Panetta plans to study Green Technology at Ferris State.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Torf decides on Air Force Academy

The Motor City Metal Jackets have announced that goaltender Jason Torf has commited to the Air Force Academy for next season.

"We are extremely proud of Jason's intent to attend Air Force." noted Jackets head coach David Cole. "Jason has worked extremly hard and was a key addition to our organization. We believe he is going to a great program with a wonderful coach and staff."

Torf's 2009-10 season saw him post a 9-10 record, a 2.85 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Plymouth signs '09 pick Restoule

The Plymouth Whalers announced the signing today of 17-year-old left wing Adam Restoule, who was selected by the Whalers in the 11th round (213th overall) of the 2009 Ontario Hockey League draft.

“I feel very lucky and excited to come to Plymouth,” said Restoule. “It’s a great organization, I like the rink and I’ve seen the city (of Plymouth). I’m very fortunate to get signed.”

“We like Adam a lot,” said Plymouth coach-GM Mike Vellucci. “At 16, he played on a championship team in a league that is filled with older players. Adam has size and skill and played very good in a tough league.”

Restoule – 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, from Thunder Bay, Ont. – played last season for the Fort William North Stars as one of the youngest players to skate in the Superior International Junior League. Restoule scored eight goals with three assists for 11 points at 61 penalty minutes in 37 games as the North Stars finished with a regular season record of 45-5-2-0. Restoule added two goals and three assists in 10 games in the SIJL playoffs as the North Stars won the league championship in five games over the Dryden Ice Dogs.

“Most of my teammates were 19 and 20-years-old and I was nervous at first,” said Restoule. “But they helped me out a lot. My coach (Todd Howarth) was hard to play for at first. He was up front and honest with me in terms of ice time.

“In midget (Thunder Bay midgets in 2008-09), I got a lot of ice time and points. My role was different in Fort William. I learned a team game and how to work hard to get my ice time.”

Restoule skated for the Whalers in the 2009 and 2010 rookie orientations at Compuware Arena.

Ironically, the Whalers have historically enjoyed good success in selecting players in the 11th round, including Sean Myers (2008), Tyler G. Brown (2007), Frank Grzeszczak (2005), Andrew Fournier (2003), John Vigilante (2001), Jamie Lalonde (1997), Scott Blair (1994) and Dan Pawlaczyk (1993).

Friday, June 04, 2010

Whalers participate in special Camp Day

The Plymouth Whalers took a shift away from Compuware Arena and other Ontario Hockey League rinks on Wednesday - for a good cause.

The Whalers participated in Tim Hortons Camp Day on Wednesday at four Detroit-area locations as the various Tim Hortons stores raised money for the Tim Hortons Children's Foundation.

A portion of each beverage purchased at Tim Hortons during Camp Day send children from all over Canada and the United States to camp. In 2009, Camp Day raised more than $8.5 million U.S.

Although Monroe natives Matt and RJ Mahalak were scheduled for a two-hour appearance at the Monroe Tim Hortons on North Telegraph road, they stayed another 90 minutes for the cause (pictured above).

“We’re sending eight families from Monroe County to camp this year," said Janelle Summers, manager at Tim Hortons in Monroe. "(Based on the advanced publicity), everyone is making sure they come through today and they are making a point to tell us they are helping."

Summers is no stranger to the synergy between Tim Hortons, hockey and the Whalers. She grew up and went to school in Trenton and coached competitive cheerleading there later.

“All my friends played hockey for Trenton,” she said. “We went to the REPLAY game (Trenton-Catholic Central May 9 at Compuware Arena) with my kids and it was awesome.”

Tim Hortons store owner Brian Reicker grew up in Canada, but lives in Monroe.

“It makes a difference in our store when two local boys make an appearance," he said. "A lot of people know the Mahalaks since they first started up in youth hockey many, many years ago. There are Whaler fans here in Monroe County, even though we may be 45 minutes from (Compuware) arena."

As the father of two children, Reicker has a unique perspective about the draw of the Whalers to families.

“As a consumer and parent, I have two young kids (Ben, 6 and Sarah, 8) and I’m also a Red Wings season ticket holder," Reicker said. "My kids are actually indifferent to the Red Wings or Whalers (as individuals), but to be honest, they have a better experience attending Whalers games. They love going to Plymouth.

“The events that go on (in the arena), the pucks that go to center ice (Chuck-a-Puck), the involvement with the players after the game in the dressing room – those things are huge for kids. And that’s how you build your brand. The players are your product and they are used properly. They aren’t used in a stand-offish way – they are used in a very interactive and engaging interactive way. And that’s big as to how you connect with people.”

While the Mahalaks made their appearance in Monroe, Tyler Seguin, Nick Malysa and Plymouth mascot Shooter worked at the Tim Hortons on Michigan Avenue in Canton, Stefan Noesen, Max Iafrate and Scott Wedgewood worked the Tim Hortons on Ford Road in Canton and Austin Levi and Garrett Meurs took a shift on Plymouth Road in Plymouth.

The Whalers - and everyone working at Tim Hortons on Camp Day - connected well for a great cause.

Photo by Pete Krupsky

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Eagles hosting tryout camp June 18-20

The Soo Eagles are entering their third year of operations and they are looking for dedicated players who want to develop themselves, both on and off the ice.

The Eagles will be holding their first tryout camp June 18-20 at the Taffy Abel Arena, which is located in the Norris Center of Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste Marie.

The cost for the tryout camp is $125. This guarantees all participants a minimum of three games, as well as a sweater after the camp.

Find more information and tryout forms on the new Soo Eagles website or you can email

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Wojtala commits to Bowling Green

Omaha Lancers forward Camden Wojtala has committed to play collegiate hockey at Bowling Green State University beginning this fall.

Playing in his first USHL season, Wojtala collected 19 points (8g, 11a) while appearing in all but one of the Lancers' 60 games during the regular season.

The 18-year-old native of Trenton also registered a plus-12 rating in helping the Lancers finish first in the USHL West Division. He also contributed four points (1g, 3a) and a plus-four rating in eight playoff contests.

Three other USHL players from the 2009-10 season are also committed to attend Bowling Green State University - Mike Fink, Brett Mohler and Howell native Michael Montrose.

Photo courtesy USHL Images

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Saginaw acquires Ashman from Knights

The Saginaw Spirit have completed a trade with the London Knights, dealing the 35th overall pick in the 2010 CHL Import Draft for overage defenseman Matt Ashman.

Ashman played four seasons with the Knights, accumulating one goal and 13 assists for 14 points in 124 games. He posted a combined plus-25 during that span. The London native tallied one goal and six assists for seven points, as well as a plus-22, in 52 games during the 2009-2010 regular season and notched three assists in 12 games during the 2010 playoffs.

Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images