Welcome back.


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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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).

  1. HELLO, (BIG LEAGUE) HOCKEY WORLD: The Tips were pretty busy – former and current – making some noise at respective rookie camps.

Noah Juulsen:

Nikita Scherbak (just keep playing this as long as you’d like):

Eetu Tuulola:

Ben Betker:

Carson Stadnyk

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.

  1. 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).

  1. 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

MONDAY MATTERS: Intermission

In an effort to keep you updated with what’s happening, and yet meet the responsibilities of my full time job (I get paid to do more than just be on the air, and the regular season is approaching us as fast as a speeding bullet train), we’re bringing “Monday Matters” back soon on a consistent basis. Among the topics you’ll be seeing:

  • Preseason wrap / roster report
  • Hockey Show details
  • An ode to Vin Scully (there is relevance here)
  • A commercial we shot last weekend (you should hear the chirps)
  • Road trips (there will be more of them)
  • Tristen Pfeifer getting engaged

Before closing this post, here’s ode to a swell guy, friendly face, gentle spirit, and honest worker Brandon Ralph:

As he was passed through the waiver wire and then let into the world as a free agent, it’s comforting to know his next step in life will be in his own original backyard.

Thanks, Ralphy. You’re a great man, and all the best.

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


MONDAY MATTERS: Benton Photo Dump


A picture tells a thousand words. So how many words can the camera lens of a 64 gb iPhone capture through one hockey season?

If you’re a packrat like me, it’ll dwarf a reading of War and Peace.

Thus, we release the rarely or never-before-seen photos of the 2015-16 season, all for your eyes to capture. Curl up and enjoy.

Camp opens in three days. Before we get on with the new, it’s time for “out with the old.”



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

MONDAY MATTERS: Return of the Rink


Take that, Monday.


  1. IT’S COMING: Let’s just all take in the fact that a new icy canvas, devoid of cuts and smooth as glass, is on the way in just a few days. We hope you survived the offseason, because it’s swiftly coming to a close. Once the Silvertips logo, lines and sponsor ads are painted and the final layer is installed, we’re officially good to go in downtown Everett. Expect the proceedings to be frozen over (pun not intended by Thursday night).

Now just add ice. 🏒🏒

A post shared by Everett Silvertips (@everett_silvertips) on



  1. NIGHTHAWK TRAIN COMING: We’re getting close to a nickname for the Las Vegas NHL team (the “Fighting McCrimmons” are apparently not in the mix). If it comes to fruition: I’m just curious how many confused folks will be in the seats when the Blackhawks come to town.


  1. THE GREAT 8, THE DOUGH HE’LL RAKE: Just take in the fact that the payout for a size-58 Reebok worn by Alexander Ovechkin (it was the first jersey he ever wore in an NHL game) could land you a new car.


  1. OFFSEASON TWEETS: We like movies. We like to be entertained. We like to ingest a good story. We like to be inspired. We like to laugh. A few friends in the business, and yours truly, present you with the Twitter inspired #fav7films …







  1. GOODBYE JOHN: Last week presented the unfathomable, with the departure of longtime personality John Saunders from this earth. I never met him. I know of a few who had the privilege. To be admired:
  • His versatility (ESPN National Hockey Night, College Football studio host, The Sports Reporters host chair, Toronto Raptors Play-by-Play)
  • His transparent and disarming delivery
  • His ability to be “compelling” without being “overbearing.” It’s becoming a lost art these days in some parts of TV land.


He made ESPN good TV. As many are saddened to see him pass, so am I. And to paraphrase the perfectly articulated Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press, “he will now be a memory, living in our hearts.”


(John appears at the 4:50 mark.)

John: you were a face of my youth. Thanks for making every telecast enjoyable.

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




Couldn’t resist.

  1. HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAWSON BUTT: One of four 2000-born Silvertip players signed for training camp, the Pacific Northwest native turns 16 today. We last saw him this summer’s street hockey extravaganza, rocking sweet throwback Emerald City threads. As camp is two and a half weeks away (more below), it’ll be fascinating to see him attack each day with opportunity knocking.



  1. SHAVE AND A HAIRCUT, TWO BITS: Razor broke? Own an electric and it ran out of juice? No problem … your garden variety Bauer will do.



  1. WELCOME ROB: The Silvertips rounded out their hockey staff last week with the official naming of Rob Tagle as new trainer, succeeding Wayne Duncan. Rob’s a great guy and a legit athlete – he played lacrosse at the NCAA level for Neumann. He’s already got the resume in his mid-20’s. Last season, he worked on the training staff of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins – at the first part of the season for head coach Mike Sullivan – and a few of those players Tagle worked with went onto some big things in June. No big deal.

    Rob will most likely be my new roommate on the road, so we’ll look forward to the inevitable story swapping.


  1. SMOOTH, SEGUIN: Players who take time out of their day to make a kid’s day deserve a massive stick tap. Next up is Tyler Seguin.


  1. CAMP TIPS: Anybody want free hockey? XFINITY Arena is open for training camp soon, and you’ll find first touches of ice extremely fascinating. Consider the names Hart, Juulsen, Browne, Fonteyne and more … as my one-year anniversary with the organization is coming up, my hope and dream is to see your familiar face around when we get after it.


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

The Pfeifer I Know, Tips Canada, Helping Somebody You Don’t Know


That’s coming together, no?

As Monday’s blog was delayed for developing news, this will probably be the last entry before training camp that includes even as much of a milligram’s dosage of non-hockey material (hey, the days get slow by August), but at least the sights of training camp are right around the corner.

We can see a light!

  1. ONE OF MY FAVORITES: As the Silvertips and WHL made the news official, he’s now gone but never forgotten. And now, a distinguished member of the Silvertips Alumni (@TipsAlumni) worldwide chapter. He was charisma, compassion, and professionalism rolled into one. And he’s wished well.

    As the benefits of playing in the WHL go, Tristen Pfeifer already has a future secured even though competitive hockey will be in the rear view mirror. His scholarship fund will go to a double major in finance and economics at Grand Canyon (Ariz.) University, and an MBA or masters in finance after finishing his undergrad degree in two years.

    So, well done, Tristen Pfeifer – you’re a gem.

  1. NOT MANY OF THESE DAYS LEFT: It’s August, so we’re on the cusp of training camp for the 14th season in Silvertip Country. As a result, approximately 3 weekends are left to: take the family to Seattle or any garden variety scenic Snohomish County park, play golf, take in food at a favorite “hole in the wall” establishment. But hey, it’s hockey season coming at us full speed ahead, and every training camp is like a fresh, sunny, dew-kissed morning for the season. It feels majestic and energizes the soul.


  1. KELLY GOES VEGAS: For the first time since 1988, and before TSN Insider Darren Dreger served as their team’s voice, the Brandon Wheat Kings will not be employing Kelly McCrimmon at all. The longtime owner, GM, and head coach had a door crack open to the NHL. He responded by busting it wide open. He’ll be going to Las Vegas as the club’s new assistant general manager.

  1. HART, JUULSEN ON THE GO: The road to the World Junior Championships starts now, and Carter Hart (still yet 18 and already a Flyers pick and reigning CHL Goalie of the Year) and Noah Juulsen are front and center of the budding Silvertips national representation.


  1. RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS MONTH: Famed author Mark Twain was attributed to a quote, “kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” When it comes to everyday dialogue, I’m a firm believer in sweet sayings over salty sarcasm, and smiles over sneers. It’s difficult to avoid this all the time (hey, it’s why “chirping” is associated with a psychological advantage on the ice). But while I’m a broadcaster at work, I’m a viewer at home. On Monday morning, the TV happened to be on Q13 Fox, and Liz Dueweke (@LizDueweke) shared this pretty incredible thing (relayed on Twitter):


So, for #OneKindThing – make it a good one. Even if it’s offering to help a stranger behind you in line at the post office with boxes as high as a skyscraper, the smile you get from the end is worth it. Or, sharing your Silvertips tickets with a neighbor? Or their kids, who need a good time out? You feel pretty good inside.

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


MONDAY MATTERS: The Recharged Roundup


Here’s to this Monday as a driver + five iron in two.

I’m back from vacation. As a fella who’s Californian by growth and Washingtonian by choice, the stretch of eight days away to see family serves the purposes of:

  • Replenishing
  • Reconnecting
  • Recharging

Mission accomplished in the categories of In-N-Out, La Tolteca (childhood hometown of Azusa, CA baby!), Mom, Dad, In Laws, seeing friends, the beach, the city by the bay, and where I got my start in hockey.

Consider my engine revved for 2016-17. Here’s what went on in the meantime:

  1. BROWNE / HOLLOWAY: As if no surprise, two Silvertips prospect (one’s signed already) have made the cut for Hockey Alberta’s U16 Challenge Cup. The shortlist contains 1st rounder and signed Ethan Browne, along with Dylan Holloway.

    As a refresher, here are texts from Silvertips scouting guru Bil LaForge on both players in the initial Hockey Alberta camp (as blogged, two weeks ago):

    BROWNE: “Displayed the elite offensive ability we expected.  Natural hat trick in the second period of a game on Saturday. [Had] 2 of the biggest hits in the camp.  Really growing now, 5’11” and over 185 lbs.”

    HOLLOWAY: “Coaches dream. Wins face-offs, kills penalties, very good on the power play. Hockey sense is evident every shift.”

  1. NO STANDING “PAT”: Dawson Leedahl respectfully will move on after four seasons in green, and is now a respected member of the Silvertips Alumni worldwide chapter after last week’s trade. Headed with him to the Regina Pats are the rights to forward Tyson Jost, and the Silvertips get a forward to stock the 98-born column in forward Sean Richards, who’s pumped to come to Everett.
  1. OUR CALL TO HELP: “Silvertip Country” is more than a phrase, it’s a meaning to connect those across this beloved game. It now calls for your help, if you can, to the family of defenseman Tristen Pfeifer who tragically lost a beloved uncle. Full details here and, if you’re led, a way to help financially.
  1. ANOTHER MENTION FOR KC: The Players Tribune has ascended to one of the iconic and en vogue “must reads” on the internet today, famously for its first person accounts from athletes across all major sports. This time they tabbed Joel Ward, whose rise to fame has already been incredibly documented, and again illustrates the dynamic impact Kevin Constantine had on his growth as a player.
  1. TWITTER STREAMING (NHL): Well, technically it happened my first day back on the job, but this has been something in the works for awhile. NHL teams (at least, one game per week) will be streamed on Twitter, further enabling the convenience of live hockey viewing right from the hands of you, dear smartphone / mobile device user. It’s the world we live in: while terrestrial radio remains a high-impact (not to mention, vital) reach for the listener, the convenience and routine usage of the online channel are making this stuff more common.

    Hey, last season’s Silvertips Awards Ceremony was streamed on Facebook Live, and it drew nearly 3,000 viewers.

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

MONDAY MATTERS: Everyone’s En Fuego.


“Mondays can either be the start to a struggle week or a fresh reminder that this week, you will be strong.”
– Unknown

The Silvertips have a strong future, a deeper goaltending pipeline, another Hart who could turn famous (potentially to join these two?) and a broadcaster with sore ankles.

  1. OUTBREAK IN ALBERTA: We documented on an earlier occasion of a whopping five Silvertips prospects latching onto the prestigious Hockey Alberta U16 Summer Camp (those who make the cut are in line for the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup in Calgary):
  • Ethan Browne
  • Dylan Holloway
  • Conrad Mitchell
  • Aaron Hladiuk
  • Alex Young

    I texted Bil La Forge, Silvertips director of player personnel about all of them. He was in Camrose and saw them in person. He said “all five were very impressive.”
    More texts from Bil on each player:

  • BROWNE: “Displayed the elite offensive ability we expected.  Natural hat trick in the second period of a game on Saturday. [Had] 2 of the biggest hits in the camp.  Really growing now, 5’11” and over 185 lbs.”
  • HOLLOWAY: “Coaches dream. Wins face-offs, kills penalties, very good on the power play. Hockey sense is evident every shift.”
  • HLADIUK: “Plays with edge, but also has the skill to lug the puck up the ice. Not easy to play against. Looks like a player that has just begun to tap into his potential.”
  • MITCHELL: “Has continued to grow and is now a solid 6’4” (editor’s note: !!!).  Used his size well. Undervalued skill. Sees the ice very well. Reach makes him very effective in the defensive zone.”
  • YOUNG: “Opportunistic scorer. Scored in both games on the weekend. Finds goal scoring areas in the offensive zone. Responsible all over the ice. Not always flashy but very productive.”
  1. WHAT A SAVAGE: The numbers don’t lie, and they back up the skills. The narrative and resume continue to blossom for Silvertips prospect forward Ryan Savage, selected in last year’s WHL Bantam Draft and off to a roaring start with USA Hockey at their U16 development camp. He’s doing pretty well:

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 8.50.46 PM

No surprise here. Ryan began the games with a two-goal, one-assist effort on July 9. Remember that he’ll be draft eligible in 2018. And Savage’s father Brian, you won’t forget, forged a 12-year NHL career as a left winger for Montreal, Phoenix, St. Louis, and Philadelphia. This is quite a talent with a terrific numbers inside a prestigious program.

    1. DEVELOPMENT CAMPS: Silvertips of present and past continue to make their mark in NHL development camps. Of note: Noah Juulsen and Nikita Scherbak are with Montreal, Carter Hart’s with Philadelphia, Brycen Martin with the Buffalo Sabres, and Austin Lotz who continues to battle back after last season with the Winnipeg Jets.Hart, who turns 18 next month, has engaged digitally with a great read. Check out his blog on the Flyers website here.
    2. SPEAKING OF GOALTENDING: You may have heard of today’s trade that landed 6-foot-2 goaltender Lasse Petersen from the Spokane Chiefs, costing just a sixth round pick in next year’s Bantam Draft. Many on social media have understood the context of the trade, considering that Hart has started to move up the Hockey Canada elevator again this year. The top floor would be the World Junior Championships, this winter in Toronto and Montreal. Should he make the final roster, it would mean, maximum, a projected a partial or whole five of nine weeks he would be absent from the Silvertips for Team Canada commitments. The Silvertips now have three goaltenders on their roster with WHL experience: Hart, Mario Petit, and Petersen.



    3. EASY AS ONE, (EE)TU, THREE: Seen Eetu Tuulola lately? The Silvertips secured him in the CHL Import Draft, shortly after he was picked by the Calgary Flames in the NHL Entry Draft. Then he met the Flames Development Camp. This is what happened:






6. TAKING IT TO THE STREETS: I haven’t played in a game of competitive hockey since probably before the lockout (the 2004 one). Last Saturday at 122-year old Clark Park was a great venue to shake off the rust  – yours truly with one goal, two assists, a flubbed breakaway, a near-miss “put it all the way into my own goal” (errant pass from corner to blueline, we’ll leave it at that), and a tweaked ankle that calmed down after one hour of walking for the 1-2-1 Team Dunder Mifflin. Felt like Jim or Pam had more offensive touch than me, but that’s not what matters.


Next week: this space will take a break. I’m on vacation to California to see my parents in Los Angeles and my wife’s in the Stockton area. Fresh entry coming July 25!

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 

Can’t Miss Games of 2016-17

“Do what you love and you’ll never have a problem with Monday.”

– Unknown

So in case you missed it:

One day closer to every game with you in the seats, and our booth warmed up for your ears on Fox Sports 1380. Games of utter significance:

1. SILVERTIPS at VANCOUVER (9/23/16 – 7:05pm): Obvious reason, it’s the season opener. The Silvertips will lift the lid a little closer to home than last year – just a two hour trek for #SilvertipCountry to make north this time, versus roughly 12 to Prince George. Bajkov, Millar, Gerth, Juulsen, Christiansen, Davis, and Fairbrother: names from B.C., with families ready to visit should they make the trip. Assistant coach Brennan Sonne is from that neck of the woods. The boys in green also get to the be the first visitors to help give the Langley Events Center a spin, an interesting move for the Giants by downgrading from the spacious and historic but costly 17,000+ seat Pacific Coliseum to the modernized but smaller 5,276-seat Langley Events Centre. All I just hope for is the Giants transfer of the incredible Tim Hortons press room spread to the new township.

2. SILVERTIPS vs. VANCOUVER (9/24/16 – 7:05pm): Opening Night in your backyard is always special. For months, I’ve encountered individuals with Silvertips ties to the seats, expressing how much they’ve missed the electricity at the 8,150+ seat venue on the corner of Hewitt and Broadway, the roar of the goal horn, the smells from the concourse, and the splash of green cruising across the icy tapestry of XFINITY Arena. Vancouver didn’t make the playoffs last year, but they have a new direction with head coach Jason McKee, hired by new GM Glen Hanlon.

3. SILVERTIPS at PORTLAND (9/30/16 – 7:00pm): Funny how we’re 3 of 3 for games into the season (no, we’re not covering 72 of 72 – I don’t have all day)? This will be the first matchup since last season’s first round of the playoffs. The Winterhawks may have several players moving on who felt the sting of the Silvertips sweep in the opening round, but Mike Johnston has returned as head coach after being let go by the Penguins, which needless to say should make things a little on the competitive side. Whether we’re at Moda Center or the Coliseum, things have manufactured a tendency to end on the knee-knocking and fun side.

4. SILVERTIPS vs SEATTLE (10/15/16 – 7:05pm): First time the Tips and T-Birds play for keeps since meeting in the second round, last season. And understanding these games tend to pack the corner of Hewitt and Broadway to the brim, the extra promotional decorum of the Silvertips’ annual breast cancer fundraising tends to elevate the ticket demand. Good seats will not last long here. My hope is the place is electric again for the denizens of Snohomish County and Kent, and everybody wins (in the name of pink) for a great night out. October may still provide a “getting to know you” process when it comes to new players, but it doesn’t matter what season – these two teams, separated minutes through the 405, always bring the heat.

5. SILVERTIPS at BRANDON (2/10/17 – 5:30pm PT): First time in two years the Silvertips will visit Westman Place (my first). By this time, the glow of a WHL championship will have faded from Brandon’s complexion and all you’ll most likely hear about is “the playoff push.” Nonetheless, the sole matchup of the season against last season’s WHL champions will still retain a degree of charm, the names you could hear from have thick NHL potential (Juulsen? Hart? Patrick? Clague?). Devon Skoleski, Connor Dewar, Lucas Skrumeda, and Mario Petit will probably bring a thick ticket list as MB residents. And it’ll be the start of a six-game odyssey through every team in the East Division (I’ve been told to not pack the board shorts) in February. Plenty of team bonding time ahead.

HONORABLE MENTION: Any other game against Portland, Seattle, Kelowna (take note too: MLK Day home game at 2:05pm). There will be passion and fire in the stands, there will be force and intensity from the ice, and there will probably be plenty of one-goal games. That’s just the way these things tend to work. There were 14 of them between all of those teams last year. That’s plenty of juice.

Drink it up!

NEXT WEEK: Hart’s drafted, the CHL Import Draft has passed, and more. We’ll have a lot to cover.

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

TUESDAY’S TAKES: Canada Tips, Rule Changes, Oilers Hart Check


“I only need coffee on days ending in -Y.”
– Unknown

The countdown is on: 95 days until opening night at XFINITY Arena. This is filed on a Tuesday – a rarity – because we had sudden news hit the desk regarding four Silvertips and the door opening to Hockey Canada. So, a day late but not a buck short, here we go:

  • DRAFT DAY: T-minus three days and counting for Carter Hart. The latest, from the Edmonton Oilers (who’ve been doing a lot of profiling on the Sherwood Park native and Tips goaltender lately). I’ll have a conversation ready with Carter Hart later this week, the final one he’ll provide the Silvertips website before NHL Draft Day (keep in mind, we’ll have more with him as he prepares for the 2016-17 season here in Everett … but it’s our last before a career-defining seminal moment).

  • A GIANT OPENER: Last week, the Silvertips announced the home opener on Sept. 24 against the Vancouver Giants at XFINITY Arena, completing a “home-and-home” series with Vancouver and featuring back-to-back home openers (the Giants will open their new digs in Langley, the night prior against the Tips). While this is totally not uncommon, the announcement delivers a new dynamic in the Silvertips home schedule: opening fresh out of the starting blocks – something that hasn’t happened this early since the start of the 2013-14 season. Tips fans won’t have to wait two weeks to see the evolved squad, in living color, in the home digs. On top of it, Langley is roughly a two hour drive north, providing an accessible outlet for Tips fans on the road.

  • RULE CHANGES: Important to note – you’ll be subject to rule changes that mimic the evolution of the NHL next season, and no joke – they’re outstanding.

    – I love the introduction of hybrid icing (bottom line, the concept of “icing” only comes into play when a player for one team is first to the face-off dot – nearby his defending goal line – when chasing a cleared puck by the opposing team. The whistle would then blow as normal. If the team who cleared the puck has a player first to the face-off dot, then icing is waved off and play continues). This is all done in respect to safety, and eliminating dangerous and potentially violent and career-threatening injuries that result from collisions at the end boards from “foot races” for pucks – that was at least the NHL’s case when they used to have full blown foot races determine icing. Here, it prepares players for NHL-like conditions.

  • A kicked-in puck? That’s now OK (on one condition) … I realize Silvertips fans have sore spots after Josh Uhrich’s goal in Game 4 of the second round last season (as a reminder: the goal – admittedly much to some chagrin – was legal). Now, the interpretation is supposed to be as clear as crystal. If you’re in the crease, no skates allowed. Period. If you’re not in the crease, using skates to deflect pucks in: totally fine. Maybe it’s a tactic to be more clear in defining the legality of a goal (because, previously you’d have two human beings in stripes using subjective argument to decide if a puck was kicked in or not). Now, it’s a rule intended to be more clear. Not to mention, intended to increase scoring.

Note: this is a rule currently nonexistent in the NHL, AHL, ECHL and NCAA. This is potentially a trendsetter.

  • Let’s have a review upstairs (with more bells and whistles) … this one will fly right over the heads of fans night after night, simply because they won’t be able to see “behind the curtain.” But believe me, this is a big one, with Hawk-Eye Innovations (manufacturer of the video replay system used in the NHL and MLB) now providing enhanced video replay to all WHL teams in time for the upcoming season. “Improved capabilities” for all video replay will be available, to which, if you’re aligning your forces and resources with the NHL, that’s a good thing.

  • HOCKEY CANADA GETS A SHADE OF GREEN: Four Silvertips were named to the Hockey Canada “Summer Showcase”, which launched last year and splits into three different age groups: the U-20 main World Junior Camp, the U-18 camp, and the U17 development camp. Importantly, Hart and Noah Juulsen return to no one’s surprise at the U-20 camp. Both came within smelling distance of nailing a roster spot at the World Junior Championships, and coincidentally avoided the experience of the much-documented shortfall in Finland. There’s a new head coach in Dominique Ducharme who wants to change the current narrative.

For those who are confused on how this works: the WJC roster selection process works now in “stages.”

  1. We’re at “stage 1”: the Summer Showcase with games against other countries. Rosters will then be narrowed.
  2. Stage 2 is the “Canada-Russia Series,” where both Hart and Juulsen played last year. Rosters will then be narrowed.
  3. Stage 3 is the final camp in December, whereupon the team will be picked.

For Brett Kemp and Gianni Fairbrother, it’s not just a landmark day in their careers to be selected among the elite to participate in camp for the World U-17 Hockey Challenge, but a testifying moment for the Silvertips program. They pick the good ones, the good ones stand out above the rest, and playing in the Silvertips program opens the door to magnificent country-representing opportunities. Incredible to consider, the leadership that’s involved in this: assistant coach Mitch Love was tabbed for the second straight year to serve as a coach for Hockey Canada in this section of the development corridor.

  • ON VEGAS: Hockey is pretty much good-to-go when it comes to Las Vegas, and its another terrific moment for the sport’s growth where it hasn’t reached as far as other cold-weather associated regions. Worth mentioning here, since this is a WHL blog, and there is a WHL connection. Props to Kelowna Rockets voice Regan Bartel for this fascinating chat with Tyler Mosienko, a former Rocket who forged several productive years in the ECHL and Europe (I had the pleasure of working with him in Alaska three seasons ago – he’s a gentleman).

    HOT TAKE ALERT: Vegas and the NHL will work, but on one condition – assuming it’s marketed heavily to tourism consumers, not just the loyal residents. Las Vegas is recovering from a housing market crash and receives strong visitor volume, most recently with over 41 million tourists (a new record) in 2014.  I had the pleasure of visiting Las Vegas on the road trip stop for the first nine years of my career when the ECHL’s Wranglers played at Orleans Arena, a venue seating a little under 9,000. Some nights: the place was packed (they even had a traditional “Midnight Game” there, which sold well and wrecked the sleeping pattern of yours truly for three days after, in 2011-12). Other nights, there would be crickets and an announced crowd of 3,000+, but no more than 1,500 in the building. It has the foundation of loyal die-hards who want to see major league entertainment, now the challenge will be to fill in the blanks with people “just passing through for a good time.” I think based on the right people they hire to sell the game, it will be fine.

  • FREE STROMBO: Disappointed to see George Stroumboulopoulos out as host of Hockey Night in Canada. This is in no way intended to be critical of the decision makers tied to Rogers, or even Ron MacLean (who is remarkable and synonymous with hockey on TV across the world as Bob Costas with baseball, Jim Nantz with college basketball, and syrup on ice cream), who will reportedly come back to the host position – a spot where he is proven, respected, and decorated. I live in the U.S. but, since moving to the Pacific Northwest, have gratefully gained access to Hockey Night in Canada thanks to my sweet Xfinity cable package. This is me as a TV viewer explaining this.

    What is this tied to is a fresh personality who delivered the game in a unique way. I didn’t mind it. And now it’s gone. He had massive shoes to fill when he took the role, and stick tap to him for his dedication to do his best. True, that “Strombo” had a different sense of fashion than the status quo. True, that Strombo wasn’t a big network or NHL team hockey host by origin (his VJ ties would be like Carson Daly chosen to host your *fill in the blank* sport on TV).

    Yes, he was different. But Strombo has a passion for the sport that translates to a host’s necessary duties. More importantly, his delivery and personality communicated authenticity. I like that. His interview skills were exceptional (note: disarming and comfortable). I appreciated that. Sometimes people don’t like “different.” Nothing wrong with that. But I embraced the approach of “fresh,” and hope to see Strombo pop up on another well deserving place soon.

    On a necessary extended note, I like MacLean and admire his style on TV. It’ll be great to see his return to the main host chair. His familiar and reverent approach engages countless viewers on television and has become interlaced with the game’s rich tapestry. Had the pleasure of shaking his hand at the NHL All-Star Game 15 years ago in Los Angeles. He’s as genuine and friendly in real life as through a TV screen. So here’s to wishing the viewer wins, George wins, and Ron wins, in the long run.

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