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Vancouver Province article (Lucic almost quit in 2003)

October 28 2008 at 7:39 AM
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Lucic almost quit in 2003

He cried after being passed up in the bantam draft

Steve Ewen, The Province

Published: Tuesday, October 28, 2008

There was a time it looked like Milan Lucic's hockey career might end in tears on the dinner table.

Her son may be part of revitalizing the Boston Bruins now but Snezana Lucic says he wanted to quit the sport after being passed over in the 2003 WHL bantam draft.

"He'd look at the computer every five minutes to see if anyone would pick him up," she said. "Nobody picked him and at the dinner table that night he started crying. I asked what was wrong and he said, 'Nobody drafted me. I feel like quitting. I'm going to quit.'

"I told him that he was so much better than that. I told him that his father and I were here to support him. If that's [playing in the WHL] what you want to do, someone is going to notice you, someone is going to pick you up.

"It was touch and go then. He was really disappointed."

The story, of course, has a happy ending, as Lucic caught the eye of the BCHL's Coquitlam Express, then the WHL's Vancouver Giants and finally the NHL's Boston Bruins.

There was another tough chapter along the way, though. Lucic admits that he nearly quit after he was initially cut by the Express from rookie camp. Sean Crowther, the team's coach then, opted to bring him to main camp after all and then got Lucic to agree to play for a time in Junior B with the Delta Ice Hawks. He joined the Express full time later on in the season.

"I had a great rookie camp and then they cut me," said Lucic, who's now 20 years old. "I was so down, because there wasn't much more I could do, I thought, and there were people who were putting me down also. Then I got the call a week later from Sean Crowther about main camp and from there I took it seriously.

"I don't know what I'd be doing right now if it wasn't hockey. It just goes to show that if you want it real bad and you work at it, it can happen."

Crowther would later become an assistant coach with the Giants. He heard the story from Lucic about wanting to quit only after the team won the Memorial Cup in 2007.

"He worked his way to camp with us that year and he worked his way on to the team," said Crowther, who's taking a break from coaching these days.

"With Milan, first and foremost, he's a good person and good things happen to good people. He flat-out works and he works that hard with a smile on his face all the time."

sewen@theprovince.com




The Vancouver Province 2008

 
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Vancouver Province article (Enter Milan)

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October 28 2008, 7:42 AM 

Enter Milan

He may one of the hottest players in the NHL, but he's still the kid from East Van

Steve Ewen, The Province

Published: Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Milan Lucic isn't getting caught up in how much he seems to be catching on in the hockey world.

The burly Boston Bruins winger is hot off a hat trick Saturday. His glass-shattering check on Mike Van Ryn from Thursday is still on the minds of many, evidenced by the fact that, as of Monday afternoon, it had been viewed more than 500,000 times on YouTube.

And Lucic, 20, who leads the Bruins against the Canucks tonight in his first NHL game at GM Place, has marquee sportscasters and columnists stating that he's the next big thing in Beantown.

What's Lucic talking about most right now? The Vancouver Giants are still somewhere near the top.

Lucic text-messages Giants general manager Scott Bonner regularly to check in on his old junior team. He and former Giants teammate Spencer Machacek, who is now playing for the Atlanta Thrashers' AHL affiliate in Chicago, had a half-hour phone conversation Sunday and a good part of it was on the Giants' WHL-leading 10-0-0-3 start.

There are guys in the NHL who forgot their junior teams 10 minutes after their final games with them. Not Lucic. He's a big deal but isn't big-leaguing anybody. He's still this kid from East Vancouver who had to outwork everyone in his path to make it.

"He follows our scores and always inquires about how things are with the club and me personally," said Bonner. "He's an extremely loyal person. He just comes from good stock. His parents are quality people."

"That's the best part about him," Machacek added, "he's still the same guy he's always been."

There were two young children who were hurt when the glass broke on the Van Ryn check. Lucic visited them at a hotel and gave them jerseys, hats and T-shirts.

That's standard Lucic. He's the guy who made sure the mentally challenged man who regularly takes in Giants practices in Ladner could get past security on the ice at the end of the 2007 Memorial Cup win to celebrate with the team.

Later that summer, while in Russia with Team Canada for the Super Series, he took the time to fire off a congratulatory e-mail to Giants trainer Cory Cameron his birthday.

It all sounds simple. True enough. The fact is people forget, especially people who seemed destined to get their faces plastered across national newspapers and TVs for the next decade.

Even after his big first season in the NHL, Lucic isn't showing any of that. He was at Giants training camp for several days this season. He could have sported Bruins garb when he was off the ice. No one would have given it a second thought. Instead, though, he was showing off Giants gear.

"You watch a movie and you want the good guy to get what's coming to him and the bad guy to get what's coming to him," said Giants strength and conditioning coach Ian Gallagher, who works with Lucic in the summers. "Lucic's the good guy. And people are enjoying what's happening to him. And they should be. You don't often see guys play Junior B and then Junior A and then Major Junior and then the NHL and continue to improve every step.

"He remembers his roots. He's the same guy he's always been and I expect him to be the same 10 years from now. He's got good values. That's a credit to his parents and a credit to him."

LUCIC QUOTES

On whether he gets recognized more in Vancouver or Boston: "I'd say now more in Boston. It's still cool to get recognized and I just try to be nice to everyone I meet."

On rumours he bought a house in Boston: "No, I'm still renting for another year and then I'll see where I'm at. I'm living with [Bruins defenceman] Mark Stuart again."

On how many friends and family he expects at GM Place tonight: "There's going to be a lot, maybe 80 or more."

On his first game in Vancouver as a pro, tonight: "I've played in bigger games in Vancouver, like in the Memorial Cup finals. But this is definitely going to be a special one."

- - -

MORE ON THE WEB

You've seen his baby picture. You've seen Milan Lucic as a Boston Bruin.

Want more on the East Van sensation? Visit theprovince.com and click on "Editor's Picks" for a photo gallery of Lucic, from his childhood years through his Vancouver Giants career, right up to Saturday's glorious hat trick.

There you'll also find six great YouTube videos of Lucic in one package. They feature:

- "The Shift" from the Memorial Cup.

- Lucic puts Van Ryn through the glass last week in Boston -- a highlight-reel hit if there ever was one.

- A wee scrap we like to call "Milan vs. Jarkko."

- And his first career hat trick.

- - -

The Province would like to thank the Lucic family for the loan of the photo album




The Vancouver Province 2008

 
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Vancouver Province article (Time to pick up the slack)

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October 28 2008, 7:46 AM 

Time to pick up the slack

Life after Moller an adjustment for Bruins

Marc Weber, The Province

Published: Tuesday, October 28, 2008

This week, the L.A. Kings will decide whether or not to keep Oscar Moller. Two weeks ago, the Chilliwack Bruins decided to let him go.

Bruins forward Matt Meropoulis said life after Moller, their Swedish star, began following a team meeting aimed at focussing the responsibility of winning on those in the dressing room.

Some players, Meropoulis said, were in la-la land, thinking life would be glamorous once Moller returned. The truth is, Moller's L.A. story is rapidly moving along, and the Kings' 2007 second-round pick is expected to stick in the NHL beyond the nine-game mark that comes Thursday.

Chilliwack forward Matt Meropoulis was concerned that some Bruins were waiting for the Los Angeles Kings to send Oscar Moller back to the WHL club.
Bob Frid, www.freemotionphotography.ca

After that, the first year of Moller's contract kicks in, which, given how well he's played on the second line, is the only reason to send him back.

"I think some guys were sitting back, thinking, 'When we get Oscar back we're going to be really good,'" said Meropoulis, Moller's billet-mate last season who talks or e-mails with him every day. "[Coach] Jim [Hiller] called the meeting but I kind of brought it to his attention -- I thought that's how the mood in the room was.

"Some of us maybe thought he wasn't going to get there this year, but we should be happy for him. I think we're just getting over the fact he's not coming back. It would be a big shock [if he came back]."

Making up for Moller's 39 goals and 82 points, and the emotional lift his play provides, is clearly a work in progress for the Bruins. His absence has been exacerbated by a spate of injuries, the most damaging being defenceman Jesse Craige's broken jaw.

Chilliwack (5-8-1-1) has dropped six straight coming into Wednesday's home clash with the Lethbridge Hurricanes (8-6-0-0) at Prospera Centre. Last week, the Bruins suffered through a 150-minute scoring drought, and they've allowed 22 goals in their last four games.

Stopping the bleeding starts with stopping forward Zach Boychuk on Wednesday. The Carolina Hurricanes' 14th overall pick in 2008 was sent back to Lethbridge last Monday and the role of shutdown centre falls to Meropoulis. The two played together growing up in Alberta.

"It'll be a big test for me and whoever I'm playing with," Meropoulis said. "When guys come back down from the NHL, sometimes their head's kind of a little high and sometimes guys don't prepare for junior guys coming hard at them. Our team's going to go hard at him."




The Vancouver Province 2008

 
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Vancouver Province article (Injury-plagued forward Fuller leaves Chilliwack a man short)

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October 28 2008, 7:48 AM 

Injury-plagued forward Fuller leaves Chilliwack a man short

Marc Weber, The Province

Published: Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Chilliwack Bruins general manager Darrell May might want a Moose Jaw mulligan.

Three weeks ago, May traded forward Brayden Metz, along with fifth- and sixth-round bantam draft picks, to the Moose Jaw Warriors for 20-year-old defenceman Brett Ward and 20-year-old forward Evan Fuller.

Monday, May confirmed that Fuller had quit the Bruins and said he was retiring from hockey.

Fuller recorded only a single assist in four games with Chilliwack, who are mired in a six-game slide. He was expected to add experience and a checking presence, but came with some nagging injuries, said May.

"He had a bad groin and just decided that he didn't want to play through it," said the GM. "He didn't feel like he was going anywhere. From the day he got here we had to tape him up."

May acknowledged Monday that he'll be pursuing this further, though he wouldn't go into details. If he feels the severity of Fuller's injury was played down before the trade, he might have a case for compensation.

mweber@theprovince.com




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Re: Vancouver Province article (Injury-plagued forward Fuller leaves Chilliwack a man short)

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October 28 2008, 4:22 PM 

May a meat head and should stay under the rock he came from. TRI City started to turn there fortunes around as soon as he was gone. Chilliwack will always be brutal as long as he is there.

 
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Vancouver Sun article (Lucic finally at home)

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October 28 2008, 7:52 AM 

Lucic finally at home

Former Giant makes first appearance for Bruins against Canucks at GM Place

Cam Cole, Vancouver Sun

Published: Tuesday, October 28, 2008

There isn't enough evidence yet to say he's as tough as Terry O'Reilly, he may never be as skilled as Cam Neely, and no one seriously thinks he's going to be as productive as Phil Esposito.

But it says something about Milan Lucic that in his rookie season in Beantown, fans were already making those first two comparisons to Boston Bruin icons of yore -- and when Lucic scored a hat trick to beat the Atlanta Thrashers the other night, eight games into his second NHL campaign, no less a source than the Boston Globe's Hall of Fame hockey writer, Kevin Dupont, evoked the name of the great Espo ... if only tongue-in-cheek.

"Take all three of Lucic's shots, put them end to end, and the total yardage would not have come close to a first down," Dupont wrote. "Just as the aforementioned Esposito constructed his Hall-of-Fame career on knowing the art and nuance of positioning in front of the net, the 6-foot-4-inch, 220-pound Lucic found a home all night long within a stick length and a wink of Atlanta goalie Johan Hedberg. He parked. He popped. And three times, he lifted high his arms to rejoice...."

Milan Lucic is starting to draw comparisons with some former Boston Bruin greats after scoring his first hat trick against Atlanta Thrashers last week. Lucic, who won a Memorial Cup with Vancouver Giants, skates with the Bruins against Vancouver Canucks tonight at GM Place.
Adam Hunger, Reuters

You should not conclude from all this that the road to stardom -- which passes through GM Place tonight -- has been, or will be, without a few bumps for the 20-year-old from Vancouver, whose impressive rookie campaign was followed by a difficult training camp that had him on the Bruins' fourth line at the start of the season.

But consider his rapid rise, from trying out for a junior B team as an awkward 16-year-old to playing a regular shift in the NHL at 19, and the former Vancouver Giants star is a long way ahead of the game. With his own hotel room on the road, even ... though that's not as impressive as it sounds.

"Two games in the league and I already had my own room because of my snoring," Lucic told the Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson at Monday's morning skate in the Alberta capital. "With this nose, it gets pretty loud and it's been broken twice. I was with Chuck Kobasew last year in a game in Dallas and he was complaining I kept him up all night. Then they put me with [Vladimir] Sobotka and he couldn't sleep either. So they kiboshed sharing a room, and I'm the lucky one."

There may be nothing science can do for the nose, but his eyes got an instant fix from wearing contact lenses, which he finally agreed to do because his teammates badgered him into it, after watching him squint on the ice and in the video room. He was fitted for them last week, and wore them Thursday against Toronto, but one of them popped out when he got facewashed in a scrum.

He tried again against the Thrashers, and scored three.

"It's like going from an old TV to high-definition," he said. "I wore them in junior A four years ago for, like, four games, and I got punched in a fight and it [lens] popped out. That's why I didn't go back to them, but the other day I decided to try them again. They're in for good now."

Lucic was expected to be back with the Giants last season, once the Bruins returned him to junior. Only they never did. And because the Bruins and Canucks didn't meet in 2007-08, tonight will be his first game in Vancouver since the Giants' victory in the 2007 Memorial Cup final. The family tickets for tonight's game might be a bit costlier.

"Obviously it'll be a big game," he said. "A lot of friends and family will be out there. I told everybody, though, they had to take care of themselves when the tickets come out because they're pretty pricey. I just have to buy a couple."

Bruins defenceman Andrew Ference said Lucic has been a delight to be around.

"Physically he's not 20 years old. He's huge and strong -- but the good thing about him is he came into the league and still is the happiest guy I've ever seen to be in the NHL," Ference told The Journal. "Out west, he's pumped to see his family and play against the Canucks.

"He still cheers for the Canucks and knows all the stats of all the games there. He's a really big fan and it's refreshing to see a young guy who easily could be so cocky and expect people to bow down to him be a really, really good kid."

Lucic, said Giants coach Don Hay, hasn't changed one iota.

"He's such a down-to-earth type of kid, and such a hard worker, and so coachable. He works out with our guys here in Ladner in the summertime," said Hay. "He's a Boston Bruin, but he's a big Vancouver Giant, I can tell you that."

The Canucks, naturally, take their lumps for not drafting Lucic in 2006 when he played right in their backyard, but even Hay admits no one truly thought he'd go higher than the third round, and the Bruins got him with their third pick, 50th overall. Vancouver, which took Michael Grabner 14th overall, didn't have another pick until No. 83.

"I give Boston a lot of credit. Obviously, they saw something in him that they really wanted, even using a pick that people think should be more for a skilled type of forward, instead of a player like Milan," said Hay. "It's too bad the Canucks didn't draft him, but they had their reasons. Being a local kid, right from downtown Vancouver, that would be a heck of a story."

It's a heck of a story, anyway, it's just not playing out nightly at GM Place.

Neely, the long-ago Canuck from Comox, whose 1986 trade to the Bruins remains a sore spot in Vancouver's hockey history -- Neely and the first-round pick that would turn out to be Glen Wesley, in exchange for Barry Pederson -- is now a Bruins VP and is on the trip with the team.

"It's unfair to compare Looch to anybody," said Neely, 43. "He's his own player and his own person. Playing physical obviously appeals to me, though. Helps us win games and creates space for his linemates. He has a unique skill-set. You don't see a lot of guys with his size and skating ability, which has improved."

Chances are the hat-trick will not be an every-game occurrence, although Bruins coach Claude Julien hopes Lucic takes the right lesson from it.

"Time will tell but if he learned anything, it's you get rewarded going to the dirty areas and sticking it out," said the coach.

And before long, someone is going to ask Lucic -- who had a dozen scraps last year, but none this fall, heading into last night's Edmonton game -- to reaffirm the part of his skill set that drew the O'Reilly comparison.

"Nobody's asked me. But this is probably the longest I've ever gone without a fight," Lucic said.

Maybe tonight, as a little pre-Hallowe'en treat for the old hometown.

ccole@vancouversun.com




The Vancouver Sun 2008

 
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Edmonton Journal article (Contact lenses help NHL's 'happiest guy' find the net)

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October 28 2008, 7:55 AM 

Contact lenses help NHL's 'happiest guy' find the net

Bruins winger Lucic scoring with regularity

The Edmonton Journal

Published: 2:05 am

EDMONTON - Boston Bruins winger Milan Lucic was fairly gushing when he arrived at The House That Gretzky Built for Monday's game against the Oilers, staring at all the Stanley Cup banners and retired jerseys.

He'll float even higher on Cloud Nine when he flies into Vancouver to play the Canucks tonight, his favourite NHL team growing up on the West Coast.

At 20 years of age, drafted only 50th in the 2006 NHL entry draft, Lucic still pinches himself everyday, 85 games into his NHL career with the Boston Bruins.

Bruins left-winger Milan Lucic celebrates his first NHL hat trick against the Atlanta Thrashers in Boston on Saturday night.

Reuters

"It's refreshing to see a young guy who could be so cocky and expect people to bow down to him, but he's a really, really good kid," said Boston Bruins teammate Andrew Ference.

"He's huge and strong and physically he's a man, even though he's only 20 years old, but the good thing about him is he came into the league last year and still is the happiest guy I've ever seen to be in the NHL."

That enthusiasm is beginning to show its rewards for Lucic and the Bruins.

After notching his share of a Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist, fight) in his first NHL campaign, Lucic managed his first real hat trick last Saturday when he scored three goals against the Atlanta Thrashers in a 5-4 victory.

After deciding to wear contact lenses during his games this season, the near-sighted Lucic is literally seeing the net better than he ever has, and the goals are coming.

He has four goals, three assists in eight games so far this season after garnering eight goals and 19 assists in 77 games in 2007-08.

"They (contacts) are staying in now ... they make things look more high-def," said Lucic, who stubbornly had squinted his way through major junior with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League and in his first NHL season with the Bruins.

"I did wear contacts in junior A (Coquitlam) about four years ago, but I got into a fight and one of the lenses popped out. I didn't go back to them. They're in for good now, though."

Whether or not the heightened vision contributed to his recent hat trick is debatable. But he is learning the secrets to success in the NHL -- that good things will happen to big bodies (he's six-foot-three and weighs 228 pounds) when he's willing to go into high-traffic areas in front of the net and along the boards.

He may never have the hands of Cam Neely, the former Bruins' Hall of Famer who is now club vice-president, but Lucic is a handful for opposing players. As Kevin Dupont of the Boston Globe said, "If you added up the distance of his three goals (vs. Atlanta), it might not add up to a first down."

Mind you, that's how Phil Esposito scored 700 goals, many of them in Beantown.

"You learn that you'll get rewarded going to the dirty areas and sticking it out," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien, who's playing Lucic about 16 minutes a game.

Despite the hat trick, Lucic's MO from last season -- physical play -- is ever-present. He belted Toronto's Mike Van Ryn so viciously last Thursday that the glass along the side boards in Boston exploded. Four patrons were cut, two of them picking up shards of glass. Van Ryn was badly shaken. The hit looked like one of Neely's old ones with the Bruins.

Boston fans are already talking that "Looch" reminds them of Neely's penchant for abrasive play.

"I know in Boston there's a lot of talk about myself and (Terry) O'Reilly," said Neely, who's on the trip west with the club. "But he's his own player and his own person. Playing physically obviously appeals to me though. He has a unique skill set. You don't see a lot of guys with his size and skating ability, which is improving."

Lucic admittedly is a big Neely fan. When Lucic led the junior Giants to the Memorial Cup in 2007, Neely called him up out of the blue to congratulate him. "I was, uh, a little tongue-tied ... I didn't know what to say," said Lucic.

In addition to his tongue, Lucic is having a few troubles with his ample nose. His penchant for snoring means that he sleeps in a room by himself on the road, a perk not normally accorded players in only their second season.

Teammates liken the noise to a jackhammer, suggesting walls vibrate when he falls asleep.

"Two games in the league and I already had my own room because of my snoring," said Lucic. "I feel very lucky and very privileged.

"With this nose, it (snoring) gets pretty loud and it's been broken twice which doesn't help. I was rooming with Chuck Kobasew last year in a game in Dallas and he was complaining that I kept him up all night. Then they put me with (Vladimir) Sobotka and he couldn't sleep either. So they kiboshed sharing a room and I'm the lucky one."

Lucic feels lucky to be doing what he's doing for a living and tonight will be a special treat.

"Coming out west, he's pumped to see his family and play against the Canucks." said Ference. "He still cheers for the Canucks and knows all the stats of all the guys there. He's a real fan."




The Edmonton Journal 2008

 
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Leader-Post article (Strueby is Pats' go-to garbage man)

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October 28 2008, 8:00 AM 

Strueby is Pats' go-to garbage man

Greg Harder, The Leader-Post

Published: Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Matt Strueby's goals will rarely be found on a highlight reel, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

"They're not ugly," insisted Regina Pats head coach Dale Derkatch. "I like those goals. I ask him probably every day in front of all the guys, 'Struebs, how far away from the net were you on that goal?' to let the other guys know that's where the goals are. If you want to score, that's where they are. They're a stick-length away from the net."

Strueby chuckles about his status as the Pats' resident garbage man. That said, he knows there's a method to Derkatch's madness.

Pats forward Matt Strueby has made a career of depositing garbage goals from the crease. He leads the team with 12 goals this season.
Troy Fleece, Leader-Post

"It's kind of funny," said Strueby. "He always says it to me and everyone has a laugh with it but he's just trying to stress that we need guys going to the net and good things happen when you do."

It certainly has for Strueby, who leads the Pats with 12 goals (tied for second in the league) and 21 points (tied for seventh) after 16 games. Those totals include a two-goal, one-assist performance in Sunday's 8-3 win over the Prince Albert Raiders.

"It's a great feeling to put the puck in the net, that's for sure," Strueby said with a smile. "I'm just keeping things simple, getting pucks deep and battling, going to the net and things are going my way. Some of the best goals are those garbage goals. You're not going to always have the tic-tac-toe goals. It's always good to get those garbage goals."

Strueby has been a revelation for the Pats, already surpassing his point total from all of last season (17) and nearly doubling his number of goals (seven). That said, not everyone is surprised by the sudden jump in production.

Pats right-winger Garrett Mitchell witnessed a similar showing two seasons ago when he and Strueby were teammates with the midget AAA Regina Pat Canadians. Strueby was named the co-MVP of the Saskatchewan midget AAA loop that season after scoring a league-high 36 goals in 43 games.

"I think he has a gold horseshoe right now," Mitchell said with a laugh. "That stuck with him all the way through midget. I've seen Struebs put a lot of those pucks in the net -- two-three feet off the goal line. That's what Strueby did. The kid's good around the net."

As a result, he's also in Derkatch's good books.

"Guys are probably sick of me saying it," added the head coach, "but I will keep saying it because we have about five or six other guys in the room who want to score but aren't going to those spots. They have to get to the net. I haven't seen Strueby have an injury yet from being around the net. So maybe guys should take notice. It's a tough place to go to, but you're rewarded and the reward is way better than anything."

NOTE: The Pats raised over $10,000 from Friday's Breast Cancer Awareness night. The main source of funds was a silent auction for the team's special game-worn pink-trimmed jerseys. In total over the past three seasons, the Pats have raised over $35,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society's Reach to Recovery Fund.




The Leader-Post (Regina) 2008

 
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Leader-Post article (Buffalo to host 2011 world junior hockey championship)

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October 28 2008, 8:01 AM 

Buffalo to host 2011 world junior hockey championship

Canwest News Service

Published: Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Buffalo was named Monday as the host city for the 2011 International Ice Hockey Federation world junior hockey championship.

The city and the National Hockey League's Buffalo Sabres beat out Grand Forks, N.D., and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn., for the right to host the event.

"Buffalo is a wonderful city and we could not be more pleased to be bringing the world juniors to Western New York," said Ron DeGregorio, president of USA Hockey. "The Sabres are a first-class organization and the participants and fans from around the world will have the chance to experience that first-hand."

The 10-team tournament, featuring the top under-20 hockey players in the world, is tentatively slated to begin Dec. 26, 2010 and run through Jan. 5, 2011.

The 2009 event is being held in Ottawa, while the 2010 championship is being co-hosted by Regina and Saskatoon, and the 2012 showdown being co-hosted by Calgary and Edmonton.




The Leader-Post (Regina) 2008

 
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StarPhoenix article (The odd couple)

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October 28 2008, 8:12 AM 

The odd couple

Cory Wolfe, The StarPhoenix

Published: Tuesday, October 28, 2008

BRONCOS (10-5-0-0) AT BLADES (11-4-1-0),

7 p.m., Credit Union Centre

- - -

Defence partners Stefan Elliott and Sam Klassen are an odd couple indeed.

On the ice, Elliott is the offensive dynamo who draws NHL scouts wherever he goes. Klassen, conversely, is the stay-at-home type.

But take their skates off and they reverse roles. Elliott becomes the conservative one and Klassen is the extrovert. The soft-spoken Elliott rarely volunteers information, but Klassen is often quick with a quip.

"It's a love-hate relationship," Klassen deadpanned Monday.

Saskatoon Blades coach-GM Lorne Molleken looks at the partnership more like a marriage made in hockey heaven. He first teamed them together last December and they've been first-rate contributors ever since.

"Elliott is playing 30-plus minutes a game and Sam is always out there in the last minute of a game because he's very dependable," Molleken said as his team prepared for tonight's first-place showdown with the Swift Current Broncos.

At 19, Klassen is one of the elders on defence. The Watrous product has been a steadfast mentor for Elliott, the 17-year-old wunderkind who was nicknamed "Franchise" by his teammates last year. As a sophomore, Elliott ranks second among WHL defencemen with six goals in 16 games.

"Sometimes I take risks that I feel comfortable taking because I know (Klassen) will be there for me," said Elliott.

For Klassen, though, risk is seemingly one of those bad four-letter words. He's a merciless shutdown type and he wouldn't have it any other way.

"I was a forward (in minor hockey) but I was never a big goal-getter," said Klassen, who has two goals in 126 WHL games. "I wasn't one of the guys who'd be your top scorer. Even as a forward, I prided myself on being a two-way player.

"My favourite stat is plus-minus. I love keeping our goals-against down."

Klassen was a team-leading plus-nine last week, but he's since slipped two points and Elliott leads the way at plus-nine. Being minus-two in his last three starts doesn't sit well with Klassen. However, his coach has unwavering faith in him.

"Sammy understands that the less you do, the more you accomplish," said Molleken. "Lots of times you don't notice Sam Klassen in a hockey game because he's mistake-free."

Elliott, meanwhile, is noticeable nightly because of his ability to lead the rush and be opportunistic when offensive chances arise. He also plays a prominent role on the power play.

However, to label the North Vancouver product as a one-dimensional player would be a mistake. Molleken and Klassen both rave about the youngster's ability to disrupt opposing forwards with an active stick.

"I'm a little bigger, so obviously I like to play the body a little more," said the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Klassen, "but Stef has one of the best sticks and he plays body position very well."

Molleken started to rebuild the defence three years ago when he drafted Teigan Zahn in the first round of the 2005 bantam draft. He subsequently pried Elliott away from the Prince George Cougars as part of the Devin Setoguchi trade. Add Ryan Funk, Colin Joe and Jyri Niemi to the mix and the Blades have a bounty of blue-line riches.

"We finally got to a point here where we feel comfortable playing our top-six defencemen against anybody," said Molleken. "If you go back two years ago, we had to use (forwards) Colton Gillies and Gaelan Patterson as defencemen.

"Now we've got some depth on defence."

BLADE BITS: After reassigning Tanner Sohn, 17, to the AJHL's Lloydminster Bobcats, Molleken has settled on Brendon Wall, 18, as his seventh defenceman . . . The East-leading Blades are 10-0-1-0 in their last 11 starts.

cwolfe@sp.canwest.com




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StarPhoenix article (Schenn era officially underway in Leaftown)

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October 28 2008, 8:14 AM 

Schenn era officially underway in Leaftown

Michael Traikos, Canwest News Service

Published: Tuesday, October 28, 2008

TORONTO -- The Rocket Room, located in the basement of Barry and Ingrid Davidson's bungalow in Kelowna, B.C., is for hockey players only.

That much is made clear by the door.

Made to resemble an ice pad, it features painted goal lines, faceoff circles and an actual puck. Step inside and it feels as though you were in a dressing room rather than a boys' bedroom. Banners from every Western Hockey League team hang from the ceiling and the Kelowna Rockets' logo is pasted on the wall.

Luke Schenn has impressed the Maple Leafs brass so far in his rookie season

Getty Images, File

This is where former Rockets Carsen Germyn, Nick Marach and Shea Weber used to sleep. And for the past three years, it is where Luke Schenn has rested his head.

Not anymore.

Though photos of his family and friends are still on the nightstand and some of his clothes are in the closet, the Toronto Maple Leafs officially announced Monday that the 18-year-old native of Saskatoon is not returning to Kelowna.

Tuesday night's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning will be Schenn's ninth for the Leafs. If he plays one more game after that, the youngster must remain in the NHL this season.

The Rockets have already approached the Davidsons about taking in another player. But for now, Schenn's room remains as he left it.

"The ninth game hasn't been played yet," said Ingrid Davidson. "I know that Luke's heart is down there, but the room hasn't been given up yet.

"I'll know on the 29th if the room is available."

Whether it is his billet parents or his actual parents, his former general manager or his current general manager, everyone seems to have an opinion about where Schenn should play this season.

It is a decision that concerns his development. Is it better for the teenager to dominate against players his own age or to be challenged against the best in the world? There may not be a right or wrong answer.

"The fatherly advice is whatever works best for Luke. And that's the truth," said Luke's father, Jeff. "If he's going to stay there and play minutes, I don't know why he would go back to Kelowna."

Neither do the Leafs.

Sure, the franchise's history books are filled with examples of what can go wrong by rushing a teenager into the NHL. But the team has decided to keep the rookie.

"It's becoming more obvious with each passing game that he belongs here," said Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher, who traded up two spots in the 2008 NHL entry draft in order to select Schenn fifth overall.

"You reach a certain stage where you can do only so much by returning back to junior. The way he's acquitted himself on the ice in all situations is a pretty good indicator that he's adjusting to prime time pretty well."

After eight games Schenn has been Toronto's most consistent, if not its best, defenceman. Only Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina are averaging more ice time. And though Schenn has yet to record a point, the stay-at-home rearguard has already made his presence felt with either his body or his fists.

He is second on the Leafs with 19 hits and he has filled the team's vacant role of policeman by twice coming to the defence of teammate Matt Stajan.

"We played in Detroit, he was one of our best players on the ice," head coach Ron Wilson said. "We had Anaheim here, he was one of our best players on the ice. He's been our best player, our best defenceman defensively, in almost every game. And that's good enough for me."

When he was playing midget hockey in Saskatoon, the stocky Schenn was not the best player on his national championship-winning team the Saskatoon Contacts in 2005. But he was the biggest.

"I was probably the same weight at 14 that I am now," said the 6-foot-2, 216-pound Schenn. "It was then that I became more serious and started working out and stuff. I wanted to be the best on my team."

Schenn dropped the pounds and was selected 20th overall by the Rockets in the 2004 WHL draft. The following year, he arrived in Kelowna where he was told by management not to expect much in the way of playing time.

"I remember them saying that they could get me 50 games," Schenn said. "I was a little bit hesitant, because you always want to be playing and stuff. But by Christmastime, I had worked myself into the top two or three defencemen. From there, the rest is kind of history."

And history tends to repeat itself.

Schenn headed into his first NHL training camp as the 10th defenceman on the Leafs' depth chart. Today, he is among the top four.

"Luke's a special player in the way that he plays the game," said Fletcher.

(National Post)




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StarPhoenix article (Benn week's best in WHL)

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October 28 2008, 8:15 AM 

Benn week's best in WHL

The StarPhoenix

Published: Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Kelowna Rockets forward Jamie Benn is the Western Hockey League player of the week.

Benn picked up nine points, scoring five goals and four assists to go with a plus-one rating, in three games, helping the Rockets post a 2-1 record.

Benn, a 19-year-old Victoria native, was selected in the fifth round by the Dallas Stars in the 2007 NHL entry draft.



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