T-minus four days and counting until we play for real. T-minus five days until downtown Everett comes alive again. I can type with full honesty, even with the Tips getting into the second round, that the summer flew by quickly.
When you help provide the narrative of a team that had its season come to a close unfortunately in late April, we tend to mentally prepare for an offseason that’s way too long.
(Fortunately, there was Carter Hart, a slam dunk of an Import Draft, the big day signing of Ethan Browne, and voila – training camp snuck up on us.)
So it brings me great pleasure to deliver the four words we’ve waited to hear for a while:
Training camp is in the rear view mirror, at 2-3-0-2. We love to predict, but the purpose of preseason is experimentation and manpower maneuvering, so with the auxiliary dressing rooms empty, the roster is a little more defined, and the real calendar upon us, you can’t judge preseason on the connection to regular season success / sluggishness. It’s time to get it going. Among the elements setting the scene (we’ll be quick) this week:
- NEW BLOOD: It’s obvious we start with the roster. Goaltender Lasse Petersen, acquired from Spokane, helps strengthen goaltending depth with all-world / Flyers prospect Carter Hart coming off a ridiculously decorated season. Mario Petit earned a shutout in his playoff debut. Safe to say, the Tips are solid here this season.
Then, there are fresh faces up front, aiming to fill the gaps left by the departed (Laurencelle, Leedahl, Stadnyk, etc). Eetu Tuulola was over a point per game and dazzled on every shift in preseason (he’s back soon presumably from Flames camp). Brett Kemp, the first player off the board for the Tips in the 2015 draft, earned a legit goal in the preseason finale on a power play wrister. Gianni Fairbrother (on the Hockey Canada radar), Everett native Wyatte Wylie, Montana Onyebuchi, and Ian Walker have taken siginifcant turns on the blueline. They haven’t looked out of place.
Taking into account the returning Matt Fonteyne, Patrick Bajkov, Noah Juulsen (soon, from Montreal), Graham Millar, Lucas Skrumeda and more, the hybrid of grizzled veterans and youth with be a fascinating development starting Friday.
- FRIDAY STARTS ANEW, FOR MANY REASONS: Vancouver Giants, Langley version makes its debut at the new (soft number) 5,000-seat venue just across the border. That’s easier access for traveling Tips fans than say, the commute, through bustling downtown. It’s also a more diminutive venue than the Pacific Coliseum.
Gordie Howe will be honored (former co-owner of the Giants, mind you) during the evening. Expect many of these tributes this season, the first following his passing (family will be in Saskatoon the following evening to spread his ashes outside the SaskTel Centre).
- HELLO, (BIG LEAGUE) HOCKEY WORLD: The Tips were pretty busy – former and current – making some noise at respective rookie camps.
Nikita Scherbak (just keep playing this as long as you’d like):
I had the following text exchange with Carson Stadnyk, who has a deal with U. of Saskatchewan waiting in the wings, after today’s finale vs. Winnipeg. He’s pretty pumped from the experience with the Oilers.
Stadnyk ended last season in the top five of all-time Silvertips games played. All signs point to a long and continuous future in hockey.
- HOCKEY SHOW! It’s bigger, badder, tastier. With Tuesday delivering the season debut of the Silvertips hockey show, I am reminded how at this time last year, admittedly I fostered some butterflies. It felt like the first day of school.
Now it feels like the first day, but with the same friends in the same classroom. We’re back at Sporty’s, the 20-year olds (Skrumeda, Millar) get the mic first, we debut new segments, we give you a new sound, we have the same unbelievable food (trust me, the $1 soft tacos taste priceless).
Tweet a question in response to the following below, and you may win my opening night tickets (I have a full slate to give away this year).
- SATURDAY: My favorite booth gets opened again. The same passionate, friendly, and courteous faces decked in green return. We play for keeps. There’s anticipation in the air. The blast of the Silvertips goal horn awaits the first snipe. The changeover in the booth (the spirit of Al K. lives on, while Justin M. had a slam dunk “dry run” last weekend with yours truly … he’ll be good). It’s opening night baby, and I can’t wait for the energy. Hope to see you there (or, on the radio – at Fox Sports 1380 or the Tips App)!
Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton will be entering his second season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips. Tweet at him here.