What I’ve discovered about the voice and how it meets needs:


Have you ever called a business on the phone, listened to a commercial, or heard a presentation? What’s typically the first thing that makes an impression?

It’s what hits you between the ears: the voice that talks to you.

Chances are, it’s soothing, friendly, relatable, and conversational. But depending on what you’re going to be dealing with, it can also be firm, serious, and intense.

Isn’t it nice to listen to a voice that’s relatable when you’re seeking help, or intense when  you’re fired up and in the mood for an adventure?

Throughout different avenues of life, a particularly useful voice helps deliver a powerful impact in:

  • Advertising
  • Voice mail greetings / IVR
  • Audiobooks
  • Animated content
  • Video games / eSports presentations
  • Internal company tutorials / explainer videos
  • Public address announcements
  • News, sports, additional broadcasting
  • Movie / media trailers
  • And, more.

That’s the power of the voice, and why businesses choose carefully on the right voice to put in front of their name, whether it’s for you to hear on a commercial, listen to a company phone greeting, or getting started on a project and your boss has meticulously placed a presentation in front of you to understand the do’s and don’ts.

Some of what you read above are obvious uses for the voice. They’ve been useful for a long time. Others? Well, you maybe haven’t considered this, but here’s useful math on how this need is erupting*:

  • The educational category of using voices for presentations saw a growth of 10.4% in just a year (ending in 2018)
  • eLearning is expected to become a $200 billion industry by 2024
  • Content designed for internet use jumped 13% for the third consecutive year
  • 71% of survey respondents said using a voice over helps capture a target audience longer than if a project didn’t use a voice over.
  • 64% of projects generally perform better than those without voice over.

* Published by voices.com 

So where do you go?

There are many terrific resources, freelancers, agencies, and more who can help connect you with the right voice. As for one you may be familiar with, I’ve begun to explore the world of voice over acting and how my voice can fit the needs of others.

As a refresher: I’ve been using my voice for a long time, but in a different form. For 15 years and counting, I’ve handled play-by-play and reporting in sports, mainly within hockey on radio and television. That continues to be the primary pursuit of my career, but this opportunity delivers another stream of service where I can provide satisfaction for individuals and companies who need experience and expertise in vocal delivery to enhance their commercial, voice over system, audio presentation, and more.

In other words, if my career was a cake, this is an additional topping I’m looking forward to adding.

So, you need help? Reach me for:

  • A neutral, male, American voice for your commercial, how-to presentation, or tutorial
  • Recording of your next IVR / phone system greeting
  • eSports or recorded Play-by-Play announcer voice for your commercial or project

I’m looking forward to connecting with you on your next great voice over project.

Connect with me at this link and let’s get started!

 

ROAD TIPPIN! 9 Days Through A New Set of Twists, Turns

 


Hey, we’re back. Nine days on the road with the Silvertips, Dec. 28-Jan. 5, covers New Year’s, four Canadian cities, an NHL run-in, and a whole lot of driving.

Let’s recap what’s happened:

DAY 1: SATURDAY, DEC. 28
KAMLOOPS, BC
DISTANCE TRAVELED: 260 miles (4.5 hour drive)

 Last time the Silvertips will see the Kamloops Blazers for the regular season. The quick trip was nothing out of the ordinary: late arrival into B.C. after the Tips final home game of the decade against Prince George, late out of bed and right to work after the 4pm hour.

Among the esteemed guests in the house: Tips prospect forward Austin Roest and father Stacy, currently assistant general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Austin joined us on air for a few minutes during the second intermission, and is honing his game in West Kelowna before his first full eligible WHL season next year.

One Tips win and 12 goals later, they’re off and running to a 1-0 start. There’s a day off the following day, so no rush to get out of town: a full night’s sleep is the best medicine for a six-game, nine-day sprint out of the gate following the holiday break.


DAY 2: SUNDAY, DEC. 29
KAMLOOPS TO RED DEER, ALBERTA
DISTANCE TRAVELED: 470 miles (8 hours)

By the time we got into Red Deer, Sunday night football was underway between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. And if you, dear reader, are a diehard member of the 12s, you’re already interested in skipping this part. Just move onto day three.

The restaurant was packed with the entire Silvertips team enjoying dinner, and a separate table for hockey staff to take in every snap, including no bigger Seahawk fan than longtime Puget Sound resident and Tips equipment manager James Stucki. He handled the goal-line stand defeat in stride, and the entire team retired for the night.


DAY 3: RED DEER, ALBERTA
DISTANCE TRAVELED: 0 MILES (HERE ALL DAY)

My visits to the Enmax Centrium are always a treat with a visit to esteemed colleague and fellow Los Angeles Dodgers fan Cam Moon. He is a great listen, a great hockey mind, has been in the actual trenches, and runs a smooth operation.

Of course, he warns me about the climb up the stairs at the Centrium. There’s no elevator in the building. Otherwise, it’s one of my favorite venues: pristine sightlines, first class press box amenities, and a well-polished building from the inside that hosted the Memorial Cup only 3.5 years ago.

Doug Sinclair, Tips senior scout (MB), who’s never dry of a word, was great joining me on air.

Tough scene for the Silvertips: up 2-0, then Red Deer storms back with six unanswered in the last two periods (topped with a pair of empty netters). Time to forget this one and move onto Edmonton for three days.


DAY 4: RED DEER TO EDMONTON, ALBERTA
DISTANCE TRAVELED: 95 miles (1.5 hours)

The Tips got in overnight, and a good idea for reasons: 1) more time to sleep in a hotel bed, 2) the Edmonton Oilers were preparing for a home game against the New York Rangers, so getting shop set up made the day run smoother, and 3) enjoying the hub of convenience in downtown Edmonton. Everything’s there.

The Tips will be spectators after their late morning practice at Rogers Place’s practice sheet for the Rangers and Oilers. More on that in a bit. Getting through the morning was akin to rubbing shoulders with some of hockey’s finest. A few players snuck a peek at Connor McDavid doing his thing in morning skate. The Tips dressing room was only 30 feet away. It was hard to avoid it. Henrik Lundqvist scooted on by in a peacoat and scarf I’m very certain cost more than my bi-weekly paycheck.

As the Tips made their way to the ice, they moved right past the pearly gates of the Oilers dressing room, and patiently awaiting media scrum. Oilers broadcast voice (and good seeing a longtime friend in the business) Jack Michaels was present, bumping into Tips assistant coach Louis Mass for a wide-smile, friendly hello – the two were together with the Alaska Aces of the ECHL from 2003-10. James Stucky, Tips equipment manager, enjoyed a few moments with colleagues from the New York Rangers side.

Garry Davidson crossed paths with Tips alumnus Jujhar Khaira (more on him, soon), tending to morning business in the Oilers equipment storage room. I bumped into Oilers color analyst Drew Remenda, previously working very close by, during time in Northern California. Finally, Oilers head coach and former NHL Seattle senior advisor Dave Tippett popped out of the hallway as I was moving along to Tips practice, and exchanged a delightful hello/catch-up for a few moments with me before moving onto the news of the day with the awaiting media scrum.

I won’t forget his time visiting downtown Everett last season, and the people who back up Tippett with the appropriate label, “world class” are never wrong about him.

As they say in this game, the hockey world’s a small world.

The night for the Silvertips begins at 5:30pm, where the entire team meets in the lobby of the nearby hotel, two blocks away for a quick photo op, then off to the game to enjoy in the lower bowl of Rogers Place. The tickets aren’t cheap, and the night was made possible by several out-of-this-world generous members of the Silvertips booster club, who funded the experience.

Did you know? Olen Zellweger walked away as a new, proud owner of a Connor McDavid autographed jersey, won in a Rogers Place concourse stickhandling attraction. He had to surpass obstacles within 30 seconds. He won the race. And random spectators got an up close and personal look at a Silvertip defensemen, mingling with the common folk, who has an extremely bright future.

The Oilers held off the Rangers, 7-5 in one of the wildest regular season games I’ve ever seen. By the second period, the Oilers went up 6-0, James Neal had a hat trick, and perhaps the only question left about the game at that moment was “could the Oilers get to 10?”

Well, if you count “combined goals,” it happened. The Rangers – after putting Lundqvist in for Alexandar Georgiev, ripped off five straight goals between the second and third period, and nearly tied it in the last 30 seconds of regulation as Mika Zibanejad narrowly missed going “bar down” on a snap shot from the right circle. Ethan Bear and Khaira (funny we mention here) teamed up to get the puck to Kailer Yamamoto (six degrees of WHL separation!) for an empty netter, and as we heard Michaels close the final seconds of the game on radio in the press workroom, “crisis averted.”

Time to head to the Oilers dressing room to get a few official words with Khaira. Have you ever seen photos of the place that looks like the size of Montana? It’s a perfectly symmetrical, state-of-the-art designed team hub chiseled with a fine steel, and darkened wood motif. Khaira shows up for a quick chat, fit into a perfectly tailored suit and still carrying the demeanor of poise, calm, and professionalism. While waiting, cool moment – James Neal was one of the last out of the Oilers dressing room for good reason, he waited before 3 bags of hats were hauled nearby his stall, where he picked out one random hat (actually, two: appropriately, it was a New Year’s black top hat) to pose for photography.

We aired the full conversation the next day during the intermission of the New Year’s Day matinee versus the Oil Kings, and have a brief snippet here, but will have the full length on the Tips website / YouTube soon. Khaira waxed plenty of nostalgia about his time and development in Everett, and his evolution as an Oiler now into year five as an NHL forward.

Time to leave and get out for a moment to say “Happy New Year” to fellow colleagues and get right to bed. The workday begins at 9am, anyway!


DAY 5: EDMONTON, ALBERTA
DISTANCE TRAVELED: 0 MILES

 Weren’t we just here?

As a 2pm game awaits the Tips and Oil Kings – and this one’s a marquee quality as two CHL Top 10 teams butt heads – the day has “condensed preparations” written all over it. 

Out of bed by 8am (my back has been ailing last three weeks) for a quick yoga session and right to breakfast by 9:30, complete with brunch style offerings, lends to getting to Rogers Place at around 10am. It feels like there’s still plenty of residue left from the wild night between the Oilers and Rangers.

Nonetheless, a great WHL matchup is ready to go – and the scoresheet and box office doesn’t disappoint. Over 9,100 took this game in (the upper bowl is usually curtained off for Oil Kings games, unless it’s “Teddy Bear Toss” night) for a 4-3 Tips shootout loss. The decade began with a bang: the Tips earned a pair of goals in the first five-plus minutes and were terrific at five-on-five. Edmonton tied the game on a pair of power play goals in the second period, then took the lead on a Liam Keeler rebound off the rush, only to see it disappear next shift on a Bryce Kindopp rebound goal. He led the entire league in goals for the 2019 calendar year, and picked up where he left off.

The Oil Kings had one more than the Tips, and by the time the game was over, there was plenty of time for the late afternoon / early evening to see friends / family for many players.

Matt Fonteyne is one of them – a consummate Silvertip over the course of five years and nearly leading the Tips to a WHL title in 2017-18, he put the pro aspirations in moth balls this season to redshirt at U. of Alberta (where he’ll play next year after last season’s AHL campaign in San Jose) and cash in his WHL scholarship chips for a higher education.

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Great to see “Fonzie”, looking sprite and full of life.


DAY 6:
EDMONTON TO PRINCE GEORGE, BC
DISTANCE TRAVELED: 458 MILES (over 7.5 hours)

Get your movies, podcasts, popcorn, snacks, water, whatever ready. It’s a long journey, and the Tips made it into Prince George by about 6pm PT after a nine hour ride.

Stopping in Jasper, Alberta for lunch was a noteworthy. The clean, crisp air blended with the sizzling white snowcaps was a treat for the eyesight. Not to mention, the apple chicken ciabatta sandwich with Caesar salad at Earl’s.

Along the way: off the bus to stretch the legs. Mt. Robson’s perfectly slow laced grounds, majestic mountains, and wide open spaces were a prefect match.

Short evening: a team dinner at a local steakhouse was just blocks away, then time for bed.


DAY 7: PRINCE GEORGE, BC
DISTANCE TRAVELED: 0 MILES

It’s the only time the Tips will get into Prince George this season. as this running entry has now surpassed 1710 words and counting, let’s keep it brief:

A routine day was followed up with a not-so-routine defeat: 4-3. It stalled the first win of Braden Holt’s career, earning the net for his first career WHL start on this evening. His family made the trip (they’ve been on it the whole time) and it’s a good thing because of the following evening:


DAY 8:
PRINCE GEORGE, BC
DISTANCE TRAVELED: 0 MILES

It’ll be Holt’s net again because the Tips swung a post-game trade to shore up their goaltending situation: Keegan Karki moved to Prince Albert for a fourth round pick in 2020, teaming Holt with third year Tips goaltender Dustin Wolf, nearly back from the World Juniors.

The Tips hadn’t won in three games, and the fire and brimstone was burning hot inside them from the drop of the puck. They scored two goals in the first 2:03 – Ronan Seeley and Jake Christiansen had the honors – and the Tips never looked back in a 5-2 win.

It reminded me of a story on Holt, who got his first career win this evening – his love for the game developed as far back as near infancy when mother, Melody took him in the stroller to the local rink in the Denver area to watch his older brother, Evan, play.

This time, with all three in the venue, it was Evan enjoying the scene with younger brother, Braden, taking in the milestone win.

The Tips littered the stat sheet with points across the board, and it’s time to come home.


DAY 9:
PRINCE GEORGE TO HOME
DISTANCE TRAVELED: 527 MILES (9.5 miles)

 Back in downtown Everett and the familiar, cozy, damp, and mild Puget Sound weather by 8:45am.

We all slept overnight on a bus, and found our own level of comfort. Time flies: I’m out by midnight, and the next thing I know, it’s 6:45am and we’re ready for a border crossing.

Time to decompress. It’s been a slice, road trip.

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton is in his fifth season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 15th in the game.  Tweet at him here.

ROAD TIPPIN: Central Swing, Updates (Dec. 2-8)

 

 


Welcome to “Road Tippin,” a continuously updated blog illustrating life on the road and updates from the Everett Silvertips journey through the Central Division for the 2019-20 season.

As two of my predecessors, Jon Rosen and Travis Huntington, have documented here and allowed me to carry their torch starting four years ago, this is intended solely to give further texture to the adventurous life in hockey. Some days: routine. Other days: unpredictable and spontaneous.

We’ll be hitting in the next six days: Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Swift Current, and Calgary (the rest of the Central comes around New Year’s Day).

Without further delay, updates:

DAY 1
EVERETT, WA. TO LETHBRIDGE, AB.
MILES: 672 (15 hour drive, including stops)

This one’s the longest. Bring a pillow (double stuffed for me) and a good blanket, or you will exit the bus in worse shape than a ripped book from a child’s playroom.

Exiting downtown Everett, breakfast for the entire team (in convenient “to go” boxes) came from the hands of Jim Staniford, owner of Vintage Cafe off Hewitt:

An egg scramble with meat, onions, peppers, potatoes (biscuit and jam too, if you’re hungry).

I was up at 4:30am to get my daily workout in – probably explains my coma between 7-8:30.

Want a cool bus movie throwback? The classic, “Rudy” was on screen before we hit a lunch stop. Fact: did you know? This was Vince Vaughn’s film debut.

We’re cruising after we cross the border into the mountain time zone. Work, music, film, and news sites help pass the time. Before we step into dinner at a local Boston Pizza, there’s a quick FaceTime session with the family.

Into Lethbridge by 10:30pm, and the first time we’ll see Enmax Centre in two years, last with a team that had names like Bajkov, Fonteyne, Hart (off the trip: illness), and Davis.


DAY 2
LETHBRIDGE, AB.
MILES: 0 (didn’t have to drive anywhere)

You can call it routine.

For the first time on this trip, the daily ritual of a road stop finally hits the Silvertips schedule: breakfast, bus, arena, two hours surrounding practice and preparations, booth set up (for me), and enjoying a few personalities from outside the glass.

Time to give James Stucky, Tips equipment manager from day one (and the double-duty team travel coordinator) his annual due – he laces together a set of unbelievable travel / food accommodations. Tonight’s cuisine, at an unnamed italian restaurant, served family style portions: flatbread pizza, penne pasta dishes (meat sauce and white sauce with mushroom options), and one of the best caesar salads I’ve ever had.

Back to the hotel for the night prep session, while pulling father double-duty: Lukas (my oldest, almost 5) had his pre-kindergarten Christmas program, so the computer had an extra pop-up screen for the streamed presentation!

Time to get ready for another gear, Wednesday, against Dylan Cozens, Calen Addison, and the Lethbridge Hurricanes.


DAY 3
LETHBRIDGE, AB.
MILES: 0 (didn’t have to drive anywhere)

Pretty routine, once we get into the day: a first class breakfast is prepared for the entire team in the hotel lobby, then it’s off to the morning skate session – since my booth is prepared, there’s no sense in heading up where instead I can perch up at a local “rinkside” club seat table, and attend to several off-ice duties.

Everyone’s on the ice today, and Tips assistant coaches Louis Mass and Mike Lysyj have the players moving at top speed through drills lasting approximately 45 minutes.

The Tips addressed a pretty big challenge tonight and knocked off the Hurricanes, 3-1 at Enmax Centre. Dustin Wolf and crew were excellent at neutralizing Dylan Cozens (the league’s top scorer) and Calen Addison, who have been dynamite for the Hurricanes this season.

From the gondola, the opportunity to see plays break out right below you give a new view on how the Tips wrapped up this one: Gage Goncalves, who scored two goals, was all over a turnover at center ice for an early first period goal.

After the game: a quick out to Medicine Hat, Alberta where we’re staking out for a few days.


DAY 4
LETHBRIDGE, AB TO MEDICINE HAT, AB
MILES: 104 (drive: 1 hour, 53 minutes) 

Laying our belongings down in the hotel room late at night, I looked at our trainer Blake Draughon (my roommate: and I hope I’ve been a good one, heh) and said “well, essentially this is it” (we’ll have one more stop – and it’s a short one, in Calgary).

Canalta Centre brings an afternoon practice at relatively shiny, new venue still letting go of it’s “new car smell” – it’s got awhile to build up to the history of the old Medicine Hat Arena, but all of the Tigers history has been transferred over to the countless banners lined up in a row behind the end zone to the right of the press box. Linden, Hrudey, Osgood, and more are alive and well from those relics.

Silvertips owner and chairman/CEO of Consolidated Sports Holdings, Bill Yuill, made his first appearance at practice today and will host a gathering for the Silvertips at a private lodge within town this evening.

UPDATE: The holiday party was an absolute smash. Video is coming, and the team-bonding element delivered a holiday party sing-a-long battle. Michal Gut brought the house down: the first year forward out of the Czech Republic was elected “maestro” for his group, and conducted with essentials: a fork and knife.

Whatever works!


DAY 5
MEDICINE HAT, AB TO SWIFT CURRENT, SK
MILES (round trip): 280 (drive: 2 hours, 10 minutes, one-way)

This day began on a challenging note.

The blessing of Jake Christiansen, returning from the American Hockey League (who was  embraced by his teammates, one-by-one, late Thursday night), also delivered a tough decision on the Silvertips roster. They have four overage players, and are only allowed to keep three.

Early Thursday morning, a deal was done: the Seattle Thunderbirds acquired Max Patterson from the Silvertips in exchange for a fourth round draft pick in 2020.

The Tips, by league rules, had two weeks to figure out the roster situation. As Garry Davidson pointed out in a team news release, the timing delivered an opportunity to find a home for Max (he can finish his WHL career in an established role), while the Silvertips got a return element from the transaction: another mid-round WHL draft pick, where they’ve been very successful at finding future talent.

Max is a “heart-and-soul” player who’s logged a ton of ice time as a WHL forward. The good-bye was emotional. Since I speak from the heart, he’ll always be considered a part of the Silvertips family.

With the Tips roster situation locked in place, the day called for a commute to Swift Current for game night, and back to Medicine Hat immediately after. There’s no ice available at Canalta Centre because of a concert. You manage with what you have: the Tips got a workout and stretch at the hotel, then hopped the bus for the two-hour drive (which almost felt like three, because time speeds up: crossing the border into Saskatchewan, you lose an hour and move to the central time zone).

Ah yes, that building:

It’s a motivating piece for Tips players still here from two years ago. With Jake Christiansen returning, they belted the Broncos for a 5-1 victory (Fonstad to Christiansen, saucer pass, cross-ice, one-timer was pretty sweet).

As for me: be careful in choosing your office.

Innovation Credit Union iPlex is famous for it’s unilateral method of press box entry:

by ladder.

My equipment is stored in a steel framed trunk. It weighs 45 pounds.

Kids, never skip leg day.

In the past, I’ve required help to get the thing up the ladder. I’m once told my dear friend and predecessor Travis Huntington almost had the thing fall out of the booth as he was moving it, and land on his head.

Today, I felt brave. I had a master plan. I had nobody in sight across the entire venue when we arrived at 4:45pm. I was going to get that thing up by myself.

It required some moving parts: first, dismantle the components inside and lift onto the loft, one by one (the soundboard, the phone unit that gets us connected to the radio station, headsets, cables, and more) so the case is lighter in weight.

Then, hoist the case myself, using body weight. After some teetering, I did it.

Then, up the ladder I go.

Then, look at my door, thinking “this isn’t familiar.”

I look at another loft to my right: “RADIO PLAY-BY-PLAY.”

I went up the wrong ladder. And I could have spit nails.

Oh well. Big thanks to Broncos associate Ryan Switzer for helping me loft the case up a 2nd time.


DAY 6
MEDICINE HAT, AB
MILES: 0 (here all day)

With late night travel bringing the Silvertips back into Medicine Hat, the day was kept very low key. A light morning skate session was followed by team meetings, a stretch, and then into the afternoon prep for the game that night.

I’m pumped every visit here. Bob Ridley, about to finish his fifth (!) decade as voice of the Tigers, has his name plastered on the press box and delivers youthful exuberance. We catch up for about 20 minutes, go over name pronunciations, and what’s to come (two teams that love to push pace, and the Tips who will try to tame a Tiger team under the return of Willie Desjardins).

Let’s say that went off with flying colors. They stunned the Tigers with a 2-0 lead, and a highlight reel save by Wolf in the first period on Cole Sillinger. They went onto run away with it and hand the Tigers their largest margin of defeat all season.

I could see Tips head coach Dennis Williams visibly applaud after the team left the bench with a 4-0 lead after the second period. This effort was very, very good.

Late finish (7:30pm MT game): onto Calgary.


DAY 7
MEDICINE HAT, AB TO CALGARY, AB
MILES: 182 (drive: 3 hours)

Well, it says three because my Google.com research told me, but it’s longer because of snow packing the hills. We had to slow down. Safety first.

With that, we didn’t get into Calgary until about 3am. Typically, these trips mean a team drop off at the arena, while equipment James Stucky (who tirelessly works his tail off) gets a helping hand by Draughon and me to haul bags off the bus and deposit into the visiting dressing room, inhabited only hours ago by the Los Angeles Kings in their 4-3 loss to the Flames. That meant a 4am “lights out” time for the Draughon/Benton room.

The turnaround was swift, and if you’re into a comfortable walk around an NHL building to soak in the history of the Flames before the game, you’ll lose ground. The 4pm puck drop time meant condensed preparations: I took a 12:30pm cab over after brunch just to make up for the long elevator and walk to the press gondola, and efficiently prepare the broadcast in an office environment because of the early start time.

(Note: ask James Stucky or any players about the meal in Calgary. It was good, and delivered something for everyone: I combined chicken breasts with french toast and syrup, an ode to the “chicken and waffles” combo. Hmmmmm, good.)

Oh and that gondola: you can get there by taking an elevator from the dressing room side of Scotiabank Saddledome and right over the press box, where doom awaits with one false move. No big deal.

The Tips had to shake off sleepy first period, down 2-0, and eventually a 3-1 deficit in the second period. Once they did, there was no stopping them.

Five unanswered goals, including four in the third period brought a memorable 6-3 comeback win against a very good Hitmen team, better than their record indicates at fourth in the Central. To finish four games in five days with a gut-check victory brought on a strong indication of team progress, and resolve when not much was left in the tank.

Time to come home. Once the 12 hour drive is complete, it’ll be good to be back.

(Just in time, too: December 9 means oldest, Lukas, has his 5th birthday.)

Four wins, five days, and plenty of memories in the books.

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton is in his fifth season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 15th in the game.  Tweet at him here.

LIVE BLOG: NHL Draft, 2019


Greetings from the NHL Draft in Vancouver, where three Silvertips enter the weekend on the final rankings with NHL Central Scouting: Gianni Fairbrother (D), Dustin Wolf (G), and Bryce Kindopp (RW).

Though no Silvertips were selected in day one, the three hours of showtime displayed plenty of bump for the WHL and its crop of talent, and its new NHL neighbor on a day that Jack Hughes went first overall to the New Jersey Devils. A total of seven players from the WHL were off the board in the first round, with forward Kirby Dach (Saskatoon) the first to go off the board to the Chicago Blackhawks, 3rd overall.

Tod Leiweke, CEO of NHL Seattle, joined owner Jerry Bruckheimer and was asked about the NHL Draft, and its potential to come to Seattle Center. It’s been documented the new team will be in on both drafts in 2021: expansion, and NHL Entry.

“Perhaps in two years we’ll be hosting a very similar conference like this,” said Leiweke. “Instead of projecting we’ll have one of the most beautiful buildings, you’re going to be asking us questions like ‘wow, how did this happen’?”

DAY TWO:

9AM: Time to settle back in. Longtime friend Doug Plagens (my onetime ECHL broadcast-mate with the Idaho Steelheads, now radio voice of the Florida Panthers) is getting busy with nearly 10 picks to document. The Panthers are loaded with forwards and picked goaltender Spencer Knight at 13th overall, so they’re zeroing in on defense. We’ll see if Gianni Fairbrother is a fit.

10AM: After 15 minutes of a delay to open the ceremonies, were underway. Goaltender Mads Sogaard (37th overall to Ottawa) is the first WHL player off the board in day two.

11:35AM: Gianni Fairbrother’s name is called (3rd round by Montreal) and cheers erupt from the seats of Rogers Arena, much to do with the Tips contingent of fans and Fairbrother’s family. It’s the culmination of Fairbrother’s year of sweat equity into his game and physique. It paid off. The sturdy, two-way defenseman with a mean streak, who potted 10 goals this past season, makes his rounds through the Montreal media gauntlet before being swarmed by nearly 20 members of the media (including yours truly) at the draft podium. And he answered every question like it was the end of a quiet day after practice. He’s as cool as a cucumber.

Montreal entered the draft with a need to replenish their defensive depth, and Fairbrother’s left shot complexion, heavy blast from the point, and hard-edged two-way approach helps fill the need.

Fairbrother mentioned Montreal’s potential interest and a few off-hand conversations he’s had with Noah Juulsen, who only crossed paths with Fairbrother for a few games between 2015-17, but still maintains a unique connection as Silvertips drafted into the Montreal system.

2:00pm: We’re getting into the seventh round. Wolf is still on the board, and the plot is taking to Twitter.

2:30pm: An ENORMOUS scream is heard from the bowl of Rogers Arena (audible, all the way to the press workroom and interview podiums). It sounded like Tiger Woods won a golf tournament.

The Flames made their selection.

Thus began the Dustin Wolf power hour. After being shuttled from his seats were a hoard of Tips fans and Wolf’s family went into party mode, he made his way to the draft podium where he met Tips TV, Calgary media, John Barr of NHLtoSeattle, and more.

Time was running short so we had no availability to get a “one on one” with Dustin. At this point, I don’t think it would have told more of the story. His raw, unbridled, true emotion on the podium told the entire story. He battles like Carter Hart, and today he had to battle the unknown: when was his name going to be called?

I asked about what he learned under Carter Hart for a season, his first, before this one:

Wolf: “it ain’t over til it’s over.”

He’s a battler.

Afterwards, the final stop was to suite level where we were granted access to speak to Mike (father) and Michelle (mother), in a piece you’ll see tomorrow along with the Fairbrother family. I texted Michelle back and forth during the weekend, apparent that anxiety was a tough thing to shake off. Now that the Wolf family hit the finish line in the draft victorious, it was apparent a wave of emotion overcame the entire family, nearly shedding a tear:

Perseverance, resiliency, and accomplishment, all rolled into one day.

We had a blast in Vancouver.

Stanley Cup Comebacks, Stacked Up


3-0.

Just like that, like lightning, a snap of the fingers, a flip of a switch …

Gone.

Have you ever seen anything like it?

First, have you been to a hockey game in San Jose?

On a normal occasion, the “Shark Tank” is loud. It’s virtually AC/DC concert loud. I’ve sat in the seats for a playoff game. I’ve witnessed them from their press box. My first time: 2005, game three of the first round, and serving as statistician in the booth for a Nashville Predators telecast. I took my headset off during the lineups and felt the place shake. Eight years ago, Dany Heatley scored on the first shift of game one of the first round against the Los Angeles Kings. From the auxiliary press box, I could’ve sworn the roof was going to cave in.

Now, take last night’s circumstances, nothing short of a miracle. I can only imagine what my friendly colleagues Randy Hahn, Dan Rusanowsky, and Jon Root felt – nothing short of goosebumps.

After helping put the kids to bed, I watched the entire third period and overtime from the comfort of the couch. For the next 90 minutes, I don’t remember blinking.

Was it the “greatest” comeback in Stanley Cup Playoff history?


Here’s the good company, with established history:

  • 1982: AKA, the “Miracle on Manchester.” The Los Angeles Kings rallied from down 5-0 in the third period to beat a juggernaut in its infancy, the Edmonton Oilers (Gretzky era), 6-5 in overtime at the Forum. The Kings finished 48 points behind Edmonton. The Oilers, at one point in the game,were laughing on the bench. The Kings beat the Oilers, 3-2 in the series. By pure game score margin, it’s the largest comeback in Stanley Cup Playoff history. To note: the “Team of the 80’s” Oilers went onto win five Cups in a seven-year span. They would be fine. This game/series was a growing pain.

This was also Game 3 of the first round.

  • 1997: The Oilers were on the right side of this one. Down 3-0 in the third period to the Dallas Stars in their first home playoff game in five years, they raced back with three goals in the final four minutes of regulation and tying the game in a span of only 1:56. Kelly Buchberger won it at 9:56 of overtime, and the Oilers eventually eliminated the Stars in seven games. On this particular evening, they became the first team in Stanley Cup Playoff history (the second happened in 2017: see below) to overcome a three-goal deficit in the final four minutes of regulation to win a game.

This was Game 3 of the first round.

The Blues – who possessed a murderer’s row group of Brett Hull, Pierre Turgeon, Al MacInnis, and Chris Pronger – ended up with a five minute major power play. They scored four goals on the five minute major and won, 4-3. I was in the seats for this one as a youngster, and the place turned pin-drop silent. The Blues went onto sweep the Kings in four games.

This was Game 3 of the first round.

  • 2001: Kings, again (trust me, this is pure coincidence). This time, it’s the “Frenzy on Figueroa.”They rallied down 3-0 against the juggernaut Detroit Red Wings with six minutes left in regulation, tied the game on a Bryan Smolinski extra attacker goal with less than a minute left in regulation, then won it on an Eric Belanger OT goal – that also included the tension of video review.

The Kings needed this one. If they lost, they would’ve trailed 3-1, with Game 5 looming in Detroit. The Kings won the series, 4-2 for their first series victory since Gretzky was there in ’93 (note: I remember witnessing this from press box – Staples Center was as loud as an aircraft carrier).

This was Game 4 of the first round.

This was Game 3 of the first round.

This was Game 5 of the second round.

  • Last night: The Sharks were almost dead in the water, going down 3-0 on Max Pacioretty’s early third period goal. Admit: at that point, how many of you were tempted to turn the TV off? Then, “the penalty.”

Cody Eakin – who already had a goal upheld with video review for a potential high stick – became entangled with Sharks captain Joe Pavelski after an end-zone face-off. Pavelski violently fell to the ice and began to bleed. When the team doctors are rushed onto the ice – you know it’s serious. After much deliberation– and, this is where it turns into a raging debate even to this hour– Eakin was given a five-minute major for cross-checking and a game misconduct.

This to me felt like 1998, Blues vs. Kings all over again.

The Sharks stormed to life, urged by veteran Joe Thornton to “get out and score three (expletive) goals right now,”and scored just six seconds into the major. I felt it at that point. They completely stormed back to tie it just 3:40 into the major power play, and miraculously took the lead, 4-3 on Kevin LaBanc’s blast with 6:39 left in regulation.

Amazingly, a total of 52 seconds still remained on the power play.Amazingly over six minutes remained where anything could happen.

Another plot twist, indeed, happened. Vegas pulled Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater. Down to their last breath, Jonathan Marchessault tied the game with 47 seconds left. At that point, if you were left to just slam your keys on the smartphone or keyboard, it would’ve made total sense.

Then, with 1:41 left in overtime, Barclay Goodrow beat Brayden McNabb with speed and slipped a forehand deke past Fleury to shock the world.

The Sharks came back down 3-1 in the series to win this mind-boggling, jaw-dropping finish.

This was Game 7 of the first round. I repeat, this was GAME 7 of the first round.

Others you might remember/heard of:

  • 2018: we had to bring up the WHL for this exact reason. Game 6, Kevin Davis, OT winner, Conference championship. The Tips were down 5-2 in the third period at Tri-City. They erased it in the blink of an eye and nearly won it too, late in regulation. It remains, arguably, the greatest goal in Tips history.
  • 2013: if you follow deep into the minor pro and ECHL ranks, this one’s for you. The Stockton Thunder (now, Stockton Heat of the AHL) trailed the Las Vegas Wranglers in the third period, 3-0 in Game 6 at Stockton Arena. They were over 15 minutes away from doom. The Thunder ripped off five unanswered goals (ex-Prince George Cougar Daniel Gibb scored the eventual winner with 3:20 left) to win 5-3, and knock out the Wranglers in seven games en route to the Western Conference title. The first eight years of my career behind the mic were in Stockton, a place with many fond memories. This is one of them.
  • 1985: the Minnesota North Stars (led by eventual Tips head coach and North Stars captain Craig Hartsburg) rallied from down 4-0 in Game 5 to beat the Chicago Blackhawks, 5-4 at Chicago Stadium. Chicago recovered though, winning the second round, 4-2.
  • 1971: Some will say it’s the greatest comeback in Montreal Canadiens playoff history (and they’ve won an NHL record 26 Cups – that’s saying something). Montreal finished 24 points behind their series opponent, Boston (who had Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito) in the regular season. The Bruins built a 5-1 lead Game 2 in the second period and appeared to be running away with it. The Canadiens stormed back to win 7-5. Montreal won the first round series in seven games.

Last night’s affair in San Jose happened with two seasons on the line, Game 7, with multiple, wild plot twists in the third period. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like it, and I’m not sure I will ever again.

But then again, that’s hockey, and that’s live sports.

Who knows?

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton is in his fourth season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 14th in the game.  Tweet at him here.

ROAD TIPPIN’ / To the East and Back (UPDATED FREQUENTLY)


In lieu of “take me through it,” which appears every Wednesday, “Road Tippin'” makes its annual return for the next week and a half. In case you’re new to the concept, it’s a long-running tradition by Silvertips play-by-play voices designed to bring the Silvertips road trips to the Eastern Conference to life.

Sometimes people don’t want to watch a video or are in too noisy of a setting to put on earbuds and hear us talk about it. Sometimes the written word will do just fine. This is one of those times.

Here’s what’s happened:


EasternSwing_Day1DAY 1: EVERETT, WA TO LETHBRIDGE, AB
DISTANCE: 674 miles
DRIVE TIME: Approximately 15 hours (including stops) 

The alarm went off Tuesday morning, Oct. 16 at 2:45am. And 2:50am. And 3am. By that time, if I wasn’t out of bed, I fully gave my wife rights to punch me in the arm for two reasons: 1) because I was lazy getting out of bed, and 2) she’s up enough for our 10-month old son, Liam.

I had to get to the arena by 4am. Bus was to pull out at 5am. Mission accomplished. By this time, I’m so doped up on coffee that it’s impossible to fall asleep. There are a few items to handle on the laptop, and by 7:15am the caffeine wears off enough that crash-and-burn is unavoidable.

The Silvertips make 3 stops on the way, scripted: 1) crossing the Canadian border, 2) stop at Tim Hortons (you know you would too), and 3) brunch at a local diner – where the team has the option of a sit down restaurant, Taco Bell, or McDonald’s at 11am.

Fernie, BC is the next stop, where Boston’s Pizza awaits. Ask Dennis Williams: he’s a fan of the “Great White North.” But you can’t go wrong with any flavor of slice at Boston’s. There’s a pie called “The Meateor.” You can guess what kind of protein is on it. Delish.

Finally into Lethbridge, several of us among coaches and staff settle in for the riveting 13-inning Game 4 of the NLCS, won by the Dodgers on Cody Bellinger’s RBI single. We had a famous guest stop into say hello, if you’re familiar with the Sutter clan, while hanging out with nephew Riley.

Rich is good people.


Canalta CentreDAY 2: LETHBRIDGE, AB TO BRANDON, MB (stop in Medicine Hat, AB)
DISTANCE: 10 hours
DRIVE TIME: Approximately 9 hours 

Why waste time: 8:30am is the perfect time to jump back on the bus after a relaxing night’s sleep.

By the time we hit Medicine Hat at 10:45am, it’s the perfect time to shake off the legs and get a full skate in. At the same time, the league breaks news of the upcoming Canada Russia Series roster, and for the fourth straight year, the Tips will have their own on it – this time it’s Connor Dewar and Riley Sutter.

Me: “Connor, congratulations!”

Dewar (deadpan): “…. Thank you.”

(This is why he’s captain: little emotion invested in something that’s still several weeks away.)

We’ve only been in the door for 30 seconds when we’re approached by Mr. Bill Yuill, the owner and head of the Silvertips as CEO / Chairman of parent company, Consolidated Sports Holdings. It’s enough for a several hellos, including Williams, Dewar and Jake Christiansen, then back to the office for more of the work day.

I’ll always have a soft spot for Canalta Centre. Yes, as a 3+ year old building, it still has some “new car smell” that’s the direct antithesis of charm, storied, and nostalgic. I never set foot in Medicine Hat Arena. I’m aware of all the detailed stories surrounding it’s mystique, aura, and at times, intimidation factor. I still love Canalta Centre for it’s modernization, comfort, and amenities. It’s a new building that doesn’t feel “cookie cutter.” I’ve seen much worse, much more bland, much more vanilla.

We’re gone, off to dinner in Regina, SK, and back on the bus. Brandon, Manitoba is right around the corner. We’ll probably get in at 10pm (I’m still filing this on the bus). I need to workout. I’ve been challenged it may not happen tonight. I still have some fight left. We’ll see.

By the way, it’s assistant coach Louie Mass’ birthday. He’s 42 going on what seems 32 (and keeps in incredible shape — he owns an athletic training facility in Anchorage, Alaska).


DpzUcrSXUAM1IqsDAY 3: TO BRANDON, MB
DISTANCE: 0 miles (we’re here all day)
DRIVE TIME: Same as above 

Finally – a day where everyone can stretch out the legs. The drill is pretty simple and routine: breakfast, practice, meetings, study hall (for those under 18), dinner, unwind.

This brings us to Keystone Centre Westman Place Westoba Place, built in the 1970’s and on the golden years side of longevity and amenities. But ask some folks, not all hockey barns are designed to cater to modern, new, and freshly unwrapped.

This is the town where Brian Propp, Brad McCrimmon, Jordin Tootoo, Ray Ferraro, Ron Hextall, Brayden Schenn, Ivan Provorov, and Nolan Patrick honed their craft before jumping to the NHL. It drips history, heritage, and charm. Just walking through the concourse delivers a pretty special feeling.

Westoba Place is one of the few left over “old school barns,” and by that I mean even down to bench / penalty box logistics. Like Swift Current, the team benches are positioned opposite ends of the ice: while each respective team’s penalty boxes are located adjunct to their bench.

After dinner, guess who we bumped into: the man himself, Jordin Tootoo.

He’ll be honored before Friday’s game participating in a pre-game ceremony honoring his career in Brandon and a homecoming for him. Beginning in 2003-04 and leading up to his last journey recently through the NHL in 2016-17 with the Chicago Blackhawks, Tootoo was a pillar of strength whenever inserted into the lineup. He was fearless, strong, never met a check he didn’t like, and provided the necessary elements of grit that teams often talk about seeking. In other words, as I like to sometimes call  it, he was “nails.”

Up close, he’s engaging, warm, and articulate. We’ll have on Tootoo sprinkled throughout Friday night’s broadcast, where the Tips are aiming for their seventh win in eight games.


DAY 4: TO BRANDON, MB
DISTANCE: 0 miles (we’re here all day)
DRIVE TIME: Same as above 

For a pretty routine day, the Silvertips prepared for the first game of the trip in a pretty routine fashion: breakfast, ice time, meetings, game.

They had a pretty big theatre to play with:

Jordin Tootoo carved a 13-year career on guts, aggression, and a kamikaze like approach mainly with the Nashville Predators. Before that, he spent his entire WHL career with the Brandon Wheat Kings, and picked the appropriate time/place to announce his retirement.

Click the link to read more on what he delivered for a career, and the touch he has with a community that will benefit from his humanitarian approach. Before the game, I took a seat in the second row of the press conference, just behind his wife, Jennifer and their two girls, Siena Rose and Avery Grace. What happened in that press conference is something that was so human and special, it almost made me break down.

At one point, Jordin paused to thank his family for being there and after his wife, he acknowledged his two girls:

Tootoo (smiling): “to my lovely daughter Siena Rose … hi Siena.”

Siena: “Hi Daddy!”

Tootoo: “I love you Siena.”

Siena “I love you too Daddy …. are you finished yet?”

Laughter in the room could be then heard all the way to Winnipeg. It brought the house down.

Tootoo said in our post-conference conversation that being a Dad is the “ultimate victory” (I have two young boys, Lukas and Liam – fully agreed). Most of his time will be spent with them for now. You could see the whites of his eyes just light up every time he discusses Siena and Avery, where their victories are like what winning feels like after 60 minutes on ice. What a touching moment, followed by the pre-game ceremonial face-off where a tribute video was followed by the Brandon crowd saluting Tootoo at center ice to Tina Turner’s “Simply The Best” (Tootoo is arguably the most popular Wheat King in franchise history).

Even more fitting: the Tips had Connor Dewar involved at the captain’s handshake / photo spot, in a place where Dewar played youth hockey, and had his father Jade there, and later scored a goal.

The Tips took a 5-2 defeat, and then moved on to the next one: Sunday at Regina after a day of rest.


DAY 5: BRANDON, MB TO REGINA, SK
DISTANCE: 225 miles
DRIVE TIME: 4 hours 

After breakfast, the Silvertips prepared for a day of travel with a team building exercise and 2.5 hour seminar, then prepared for the road to Regina – coincidentally a place they narrowly fell short by two wins on traveling to with hotel / playing conditions (Memorial Cup).

Last time here in 2016-17, the Tips – en route to the division title – beat a loaded Pats squad, 4-2. The return is under Sunday afternoon game conditions, giving the night for a relaxed team meal and walk back through a gorgeous downtown.

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That evening, there’s no work, no Tips game, so naturally where do I find myself?

It’s necessary homework: the Tips get the Pats tomorrow, it’s productive to get a look at Moose Jaw (who the Tips will see on Friday, Oct. 26), and there’s really no more engaging environment to handle broadcast homework.


DAY 6: REGINA, SK
DISTANCE: 0 miles (we’re here all day)
DRIVE TIME: None

With a 4pm game: the goal is simple. Rest, eat, and prepare accordingly because it’s a condensed work environment.

With the Tips missing the nearly clean track-record Dewar to a four-game suspension, the focus shifts onto those who can fill the gaps. You could tell from the get-go that Sean Richards, an ex-Pat, was due for a big game – he just returned to the lineup after serving a five game suspension.

Richards wasted little time. As the Tips were aiming to answer Nick Henry’s power play goal in the first period, Richards danced into the slot after speeding into the zone from a neutral zone giveaway, and uncorked a shot, bar down, on Max Paddock. That set the tone for a five-unanswered goal Tips win over a Regina team that fell to 0-7 at home, a numerical result from a team that’s in a rebuilding mode after gunning for titles the last two seasons and serving as a Memorial Cup host.

I almost didn’t make the bus – or so it seemed. Brandt Centre is a multi-layered complex, so the bus has to pull into a side building where a large warehouse leads to the arena downhill ramp.

Waling out of Brandt Centre with my equipment, the expectations were to find the door leading to the warehouse. No such door was spotted after 20 minutes, where I began to feel as if time was of the essence before getting a text from someone ready to leave on the bus reading, “hey, bus is pulling out.”

As luck would have it: a Brandt Centre staffer led me into a back hallway that transitioned to the warehouse and loading ramp. Made it with time to spare. Happy days are here again.


DAY 7: REGINA, SK TO SASKATOON, SK
DISTANCE: 160 miles
DRIVE TIME: 2.5 hours 

Getting into SaskTel Centre meant one sure-fire rendez-vous:

Bumping into this old friend.

Just a simple stop before the hotel to let hockey laundry dry out meant a quick 10 minute walk through the hallway, scoping the facility, and by chance – spotting the familiar smile and rich, baritone voice of the famed Tips alumnus and newly minted WHL head coach of Saskatoon.

There’s more of these coming possibly this week: Kohl Bauml and Carson Stadnyk currently are suiting up for the University of Saskatchewan.


DAY 8: SASKATOON TO PRINCE ALBERT, SK
DISTANCE: 88 miles
DRIVE TIME: 1.5 hours 

The benefit of staying in a hotel for a few days is simplicity. There’s less bags to pack, less moving around, and less moving parts. For the Everett Silvertips, their road game in Prince Albert means just a 1.5 hour bus trip into the small and cozy confines of Art Hauser Centre, the home of the Raiders.

It’s not a building you’ll mistake for Bell Centre in Montreal. With a capacity of just over 2,500, you can simply walk in the door and be at a distance from the glass that would cost you well over $100 for an NHL ticket. It’s a “barn,” in other words.

There’s a lot of pride for this barn, but also dripping with history. Banners from the rafters tell the story of when Mike Modano and Dave Manson suited up for the Raiders before they went onto lengthy-to-superstar careers in the NHL.

I won’t get any closer than this view in my life, unless there’s an assignment to wear a headset in the penalty box.

The Tips lost a game to Prince Albert, 3-0 (and to the top ranked team in the CHL Top 10) in a game that was closer than the score indicated. Prince Albert comes at you relentlessly every shift. Brett Leason, traded from Tri-City for a draft pick, reportedly dropped 10 pounds in the offseason and elevated his skill development to become a 6-foot-4 draft eligible behemoth who can toe-drag out of a phone booth. He’s good.

The Tips fell short on three consecutive power plays in the second period, with the game scoreless and kept it 1-0 as deep as three minutes left in regulation. Chalk that one up for an “almost,” and for the night, they tried to walk away with many positives.


DAY 9: SASKATOON, SK (here all day)
DISTANCE: 0 miles
DRIVE TIME: 0

Right back to home base where bags were dropped off at SaskTel Centre after the Prince Albert game, and then time to settle in for as much sleep as possible for Wednesday’s battle against Mitch Love’s Blades.

I don’t mind SaskTel Centre. The building continues to age, but the gondola brings a tremendous view of the action (similar to Calgary) with ice microphones that make the audio sound like we’re live with you, right on top of the glass. Banners of Howe, Federko, Wendel Clark, and more also tell a tremendous tale of WHL grads or Saskatoon natives who went onto greatness.

About Howe: he’s got a banner in the rafters, a statue outside of the building, a bridge named after him, and a complex going up in Saskatoon. “Legend” to describe a hometown guy doesn’t seem to begin to cover it.

The Tips spoke of positives before the game. They were close the previous night in Prince Albert. They generated several high grade scoring chances that could have turned the game around in a different manner.

And heading into the game at Saskatoon, they felt good.

The scoreboard showed. After the routine game day preparations, the Tips came out with a 1-0 lead after the first period while Dustin Wolf – who looked sharp the previous night in Prince Albert – was even better with no goals allowed through 40 minutes. The Tips smothered Kirby Dach, a consensus first round NHL draft pick this next June.

Dawson Butt came an assist short of a Gordie Howe Hat Trick and put up a key third period goal that steepened the chase for Saskatoon and put the Tips up, 2-0. By the end of the evening, Wolf had his 5th career shutout and dipped his goals against under two per game.

Back to the hotel for the late post-game meal, and to bed.


DAY 10: SASKATOON, SK (here all day)
DISTANCE: 0 miles
DRIVE TIME: 0

Off day. There’s four games in five days the Tips are getting through, not to mention the back end of the East Division swing, so a day of rest means small ice time for a few players to shake off the cobwebs, eat, sleep, and take a brisk walk around town.

I’m a big Pita Pit fan. I haven’t had Pita Pit in a long time. That was a definite lunch stop. The necessary fuel provided enough for a 30-minute round trip walk, sprinkled in with a couple of errand stops at the Saskatoon mall along the way.

Riley Sutter celebrates his 19th birthday today. He’s got Dad (you all know Ron), Mom, and family in town. It’s obvious the hockey commitments for this week call for a strict regiment, but the off was enough for Sutter to get out for a quick bite to eat. He told me there was no birthday cake involved, and the blend of indulgence / discipline involved eggs, other protein, and carbs as well. He’s a Capitals prospect now. No jumping off the “deep end.” So when it comes to nutrition, it’s all about sticking to the plan.

One more team meal at an undisclosed place in downtown Saskatoon had a lovely selection of pasta and meat sauce, chicken alfredo, or tortellini and mushroom in a light cream sauce as well.

Walking out of the restaurant, I noticed a team of over 20 players who were unbelievably connected and engaged with each other. It’s a good sign with just two days left on the trip.


DAY 11: SASKATOON TO MOOSE JAW (pit stop) TO SWIFT CURRENT, SK
DISTANCE: 167 miles
DRIVE TIME: 2 hours, 50 minutes

We see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I hope it’s not a train. The end of the Silvertips odyssey is in sight, and by the end of this evening they will be sleeping in the final bed before going back home.

Onto Moose Jaw. Population: nearly 34,000 and the fourth largest city in Saskatchewan (larger: Prince Albert, Regina, and the largest… no shocker, Saskatoon). There’s no sense in staying overnight because the Tips have a road game a couple hours away after this one.

The visit is to Mosaic Place, my second of the WHL career. It seats nearly 5,000, so it’s not larger than life. But it’s the perfect size venue for the team and city demands. It replaced the Moose Jaw Civic Centre, aka the “Crushed Can.” And many stories about the archaic nature of the old building still flow.

Tips win in overtime, 2-1 on Wyatte Wylie’s 3-on-3 snipe. After a dinner stop at the Mad Greek (my favorite on the trip), it was onto Swift Current. Uneventful drive, except for the fact that Game 3 of the World Series was on full blast with several players tuned in.

The fact that Game 3 was the longest in World Series history, take into account of how much you can cover in seven hours: I walked into the press room for coffee an hour before puck drop, and up on the monitor was the pre-game introductions.

We were nestled in our hotel beds – in Swift Current – a good 20-30 minutes by the time Max Muncy hit his signature walk-off homer in the 18th inning.


DAY 12: SWIFT CURRENT (here all day, sort of)
DISTANCE: 0 miles
DRIVE TIME: 0

Ah yes, here we are again – the place where the Tips magical and deep playoff run ended two wins shy of the Ed Chynoweth Cup five months ago. No player on game day will admit that series loss fueled them for this rematch, but you can tell by the energy in warm-ups, this was a very special game with unique ambitions.

Even more so, for Connor Dewar. The Tips captain just finished a four-game suspension, eligible to come back for this one. Our conversation from a past radio show indicated he let the Finals loss stick around and fuel his summer training regimen.

Here we go.

From the start, Dewar seized the stage. It was incredible to watch it unfold from the booth. Just less than 3 minutes into the game: boom, shorthanded goal.

Dewar finished the night with a fat two-goal, two-assist effort, factoring in every Tips goal to earn payback in the regular season rematch, 4-1. They faced a Swift Current team completely remodeled after last year: many of those playing key roles in the WHL title had moved onto the pros or elsewhere. A few remain. But the atmosphere set the mood, and the Tips embraced the challenge.

Off and running, on the bus, by 11pm. No Dennis Williams or Ronan Seeley on the way back: both were headed to New Brunswick for Hockey Canada. They’re back Nov. 11.

Then, finally, after 4-5 hours of as much shuteye as possible and a quick breakfast stop in Idaho, the finish line.

The tally: 5-2 in seven games, nearly 3,000 miles, and a ton of memories in the books for the Silvertips.

You can’t complain about that kind of an experience.


Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton is in his fourth season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 14th in the game.  Tweet at him here.

 

Mid-Week Details, 10.10

As the Everett Silvertips prepare for another “three-in-three” (it’s a test of endurance, focus, and sleep patterns) this weekend, their 3-3-0-0 record has them currently fourth in the U.S. Division (tightly packed, mind you), but also just six games into a 68 game slate.

That’s hardly enough to judge a team for a week, let alone for a full season.

Remember where the Tips were towards Halloween, last season: 4-9-1-0. Remember where they finished: playing hockey into mid-May.

Here’s where we’re at, halfway to playing hockey again on Friday (after five days off again):

  • Dustin Wolf has played in every minute of Tips action this season. He’s currently sixth in the WHL with a 1.68 goals-against-average and ninth with a .932 save percentage. For the questions on filling the shoes of Carter Hart, he’s off to a great start. Blake Lyda, who was impressive early on last season as an AP call-up, is also waiting in the wings.
  • Defensively as a whole, the Tips are showing good numbers already: sixth in the WHL for goals against average (2.3) and lowest in the league for shots allowed (25.0). They’re fourth in penalty killing (86.2).
  • No questions on the buy-in of the Silvertips captain. Well, really, as if you needed to question the buy-in of Connor Dewar? He’s leading the Tips with seven points in six games, has goals in four of the last five games, but also gave a pretty assertive answer in his usually confident, direct, but grounded tone of voice, to the dangers of players paying attention to personal stats:

 

“It’s the disease of ‘me’. It takes away from the team. Whenever you’re [getting consumed by statistics] it’s not good for you or anything.”

             Dewar helped lead the Tips to the Western Conference title and then was drafted by Minnesota in the third round of the NHL Draft one month later. That quote was from last night on the Silvertips Hockey Show. I also asked him about the best player on the team, nobody is talking about:

“Bryce Kindopp. He does everything for us, everything so well. He doesn’t get a lot of credit.”

  • Did you know: Kindopp hit the 20-goal mark last season for the first time in his career, and was one of seven Silvertips who did so. As a 19-year old this season, the challenge is on to look for more. He earned his second goal in as many nights last Saturday, a breakaway against Portland that unfortunately showed up as the only goal for the Tips in a 4-1 defeat (a game that was actually closer than the score indicated due to a pair of Joachim Blichfeld empty netters.)

I asked Kindopp about the breakaway goal, easy to unpack (a simple steal near the neutral zone, take-off, and deke) but also with complex layers of how the mental and physical side react:

            “I don’t who it was, a defenseman or forward [it was forward Jake Gricius] was bringing it across the blueline and I was seeing myself ready to make a play and poke the puck. I think was lucky getting a breakaway. From there I just used my speed, saw an opening and shot it.”

Kindopp said it’s a play that unfolds, once he has the puck, resulting in a combo of movements that develop form plenty of skill-building the Tips find useful at the end of practice. It adds to the arsenal.

  • Sean Richards update: in case you don’t see #15 in the next week and a half, he’s missing in action. The checking to the head penalty he was given (five minutes + game) at 14:02 of the third period last Friday resulted in a five-game suspension. He retroactively served his first game on Saturday vs. Portland, and is eligible to return during the six-game eastern swing, Oct. 21 at Regina.

 

 

COVERAGE:

  • Friday at 7pm (KKXA 1520 AM / 101.1 FM / Tips App)
  • Saturday at 6:30pm (KRKO 1380 AM / 95.3 FM / Tips App)
  • Sunday at 4:30pm (KRKO, same as above)

 

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton is in his fourth season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 14th in the game.  Tweet at him here.

DAY 3 // Everything Coming Together


We’ve got a training camp champion, we’ve got more read on prospects, we’ve got stories.

5 takeaways from day 3:

  1. RUN AND GUN: Team Green cruised to an 8-1 victory in the bronze medal game at bright and early, 8:15am. Several contributors hit the scoreboard, which featured goals from the dazzling (Brayden Morrison) to the simple. Team Green was everywhere.
  2. DEWAR IN RED: You surprised the Tips captain was behind a 2-1 gold medal, Volunteer Cup win? Team Red, despite a series of masterful saves by Braden Holt, trailed 1-0 with goaltender Blake Lyda wheeling in the second half. Dylan Anderson knotted the game on a jaw-dropping, never-quit, highlight reel goal. It gets better. Connor Dewar, who reportedly said on the ice, “we’re not going to overtime, boys”, came through on his promise. He earned the winner on a snap shot off an end zone face-off and Team Red preserved the one goal victory. Not bad to start off the season as captain.
  3. MORE MORRISON: Brayden Morrison is a budding 16-year old prospect back for his second trip to Silvertips training camp, drafted in 2017. The NHL bloodlines are thick. His father, Brendan, was a star center for the Vancouver Canucks in the 2000’s, teaming with linemates Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi to form the “West Coast Express.” Both are in camp with the Silvertips – Brayden as a player, Brendan as a coach. The latter has another connection: Brendan played in the BCHL for Tips GM Garry Davidson. So yes, we have a full interview and feature coming later: everything from Brayden’s time on ice with the Washington Capitals as a youngster, watching Alex Ovechkin, to Brendan’s hilarious ode to Naslund and Bertuzzi.
  4. ROOKIE GAME RUNAWAY: So how about the Stanick twins? Brothers Sloan (Tips draft pick in 2018) and Slade (camp invitee) were a part of a show-stealing effort in Team White’s 6-3 victory. The more the game progressed, the more they were confident with the puck. They took advantage of gaps. They got into prime scoring areas. They had an ear-to-ear grin after the game – it’ll be one they won’t forget for a long time.
  5. HOLT(ING) THE FORT DOWN: Get to know Braden Holt, taken by the Tips in the 2018 Draft, in this conversation below. He looked incredibly sharp in camp. As a U.S.-born goaltender, he’s jumped around with family from Montana, to Colorado, and Michigan to reach the next level. He’s as well spoken as Mom and Dad. Nothing got by him (13 saves) in his Rookie Game appearance. He spoke more below, before heading out to dinner in downtown Everett with family:

 

Green vs. Grey Game on Sunday: 1:30pm.

CAMP ENTRY // Day 2, Speeding to This Day


Day 2 of Everett Silvertips training camp is no different: the first day of “school” is out of the way, the pleasantries are in the past, and everyone is down to business from the first drop of the puck not to far away from dawn.

By dusk, everyone has a better indication of who’s made their big push for a roster spot, and what teams we’ll see in a competitive environment.

Two games have turned into four, and we’re set for a Volunteer Cup showdown (given to the scrimmage champion) and Rookie Game at 4:45.

Here are five things from the day:

  1. IMPORTED, GOOD (TO GO): Peter Melcher suited up for the first day of training camp on Friday, amazingly after getting off the plane on Thursday following 48 hours of straight travel from Europe. He is amazingly fluent in English too, previously taking a course last season. He’s now trilingual, and fluent in Czech, English, and Russian.
  2. THE OTHER ONE?: That would be Martin Fasko-Rudas, you all know about him, and he’ll get into downtown Everett on Saturday.
  3. BRYCE YOURSELVES: Bryce Kindopp had a hat trick in one scrimmage game on Friday, and by the time I was able to get along the glass for a taste of Team Red’s scrimmage in the morning, 10 seconds later he popped in a Connor Dewar centering pass from the mid slot.
  4. WALKER WEIGHS IN, WEIGHS DOWN: Kyle Walker is one of many Tips who committed to a rigid workout program in the offseason, and the result is a more lean and trim defenseman who dropped 15 pounds since clean-out day, a little over three months ago. Walker attributed the achievement to a restrictive diet, limiting the amount of grain carbohydrates (read: bread, spaghetti, other traditional pasta) for his daily intake and loading up on proteins, vegetables, and fruit.
  5. THE CAPTAIN WEIGHS IN: Connor Dewar (with another year to go after a 38-goal campaign and NHL Draft selection in Minnesota) sat down after day two.

 

See you in the seats for day 3. Rookie Game at 4:45pm.

CAMP ENTRY // Day 1, Speeding to This Day


DAY 1 – ANGEL OF THE WINDS ARENA (Thursday, Aug. 23) 

Well, did we all have a good offseason?

It was short, needless to say.

So short, it was the shortest in franchise history.

Since the Silvertips – entering this season as defending Western Conference champions – left for the calmer pastures of summer following the WHL Championship Series, to the point of getting back on ice, the short summer lasted a little under a minuscule 100 days. That’s a compact amount of time, say, if you’re Connor Dewar, Riley Sutter, Wyatte Wylie, or other Silvertips going through the NHL development camp process, competing in summer tournaments, or working to bulk up or get faster.

Hey, there’s not a lot of time to get bored.

For Silvertips fans, the short offseason is something of a treat. Hockey is back in the blink of an eye.

For day one of camp, here are five things from Thursday:

  1. What’s new: A.O.T.W. Arena and Silvertips home ice got a slight makeover during the offseason. A brand new, “NHL style” plexiglass system has been installed, accompanied by necessary dasherboard upgrades. The Silvertips (like several other teams) have long used tempered “seamless” glass for years – mainly along the side boards with more flexible plexiglass behind the net (where a majority of thunderous checks occur), but the current system in place strikes more of a balance to accommodate player safety, and maintain optimal sightlines for fans in the first few rows. The new system includes a curved “turnbuckle” beside the players bench, first introduced by the Vancouver Canucks seven years ago and later mandated for every NHL venue. It’s now standard across the WHL starting this season.

    2. Dipping the toe in the water: Thursday introduced four games on the Silvertips training camp schedule, continuing Friday until a “scrimmage champion” is crowned by late Saturday afternoon in the Volunteer Cup. Team Blue rocketed out to a 5-0 victory in the early game, and the Red squad edge Team Grey, 4-2 by the end of the early afternoon game (of note: Dawson Butt, Riley Sutter, Jameson Murray, and Jake Christiansen each scored of the returning players), with promising 16-year old defenseman Dylan Anderson bagging a goal along with brother Carter. It’s premature to make conclusions on any prospect through Day 1, but the always insightful Nick Patterson offers a more concentrated look from The Herald.

(Of note, among the new faces – but with a familiar name – is overage defenseman Sahvan Khaira. Built like a tank at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, and not too far off from brother Jujhar, Sahvan was on the other side only 3 months ago with Swift Current, battling the Silvertips for the Ed Chynoweth Cup. I asked Sahvan tongue in cheek, “but let’s be real, it isn’t that funny, is it?” He returned the reply with a slight grin, “no, no not at all.” The Khaira only live hours away in B.C., which means possibly more of their warm visits soon.)

3. Chat of the day: Riley Sutter, three months removed from WHL Championship Series experience and two months removed from the draft as a new Washington Capitals prospect. He entered last season fresh off a summer of rigid skating drills, and went right back to the well again this past offseason. His summer was a “whirlwind.” More below.

4. Guest coaches: A chance to give additional hockey minds of Silvertips hockey operations a chance to lead the way behind the bench, several Silvertips scouts and even a pair of NHL alumni are gracing the bench. Brendan Morrison, among many teams a famous Vancouver Canucks alumnus (remember the Naslund/Bertuzzi years?), is behind the bench for Team Red, while Pacific Northwest native Turner Stevenson (a Stanley Cup winner with New Jersey in 2003) is behind the bench for Team Blue and also smoothly runs the Silvertips Elite and U16 programs during the winter months. Amazingly, their careers overlapped and both involved the Devils, but they were never teammates.

5. Arena information: As a reminder, all scrimmages, including Saturday’s Rookie Game and Sunday’s Green vs. Grey Game are free. Doors will open 15 minutes before each scrimmage, and 45 minutes before the Rookie Game and the Sunday 1:30pm finale. A.O.T.W. Arena will offer Team Store accessibility for those in attendance looking for a shopping trip, while general admission seating is available in the lower bowl behind the team benches.

As I maneuver around from spot to spot, I hope to bump into you.

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton is in his fourth season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 14th in the game.  Tweet at him here.