Thursday, 13 November 2014

Showing Up: A Preview of the Grizzlies Upcoming Interior Road Swing

Woody Allen once famously said that 80% of success is just showing up. Meaning with most things in life, well over half the battle is usually won if you simply show up on time and in the right place. After that, everything else just seems to sort itself out. The Grizzlies could have benefitted from those words of wisdom this past Saturday night before they emerged from the team's Dressing Room almost five minutes late, receiving an ensuing Bench Minor for Delay of Game and going down 1-0 early as a result. Oh well it was Parent’s Weekend after all and my guess is that there may have been one too many “Good luck out there tonight sons” in pre-game speeches but in the end the Grizzlies won 4-2 on the night.  No harm no foul.    

Funny enough though, I found myself thinking again on Tuesday about the famous New York comedian’s musings, at least so far as it pertains to the Grizzlies, when I stood as I do every November 11th, in my Canadian Navy No.1A dress uniform at the Langford Cenotaph. There right beside me, appearing in groups of ones and twos, stood each and every Grizzly player. Each were turned out smartly and on time for that hour long and usually cold ceremony, which we as Canadians have grown accustomed to every November. I had Meirs Moore, Jay Mackie and Chris Harpur near my immediate vicinity. I also noticed that there was nobody taking attendance, no coaches or training staff.  Likely that detail was left up to the Team Captain, Shawn McBride to manage and properly so. So there they all stood, each one cold but ever respectful of the occasion, even the "unnamed rookie player" who showed up in a shirt and tie and nearly froze to death. Ah the folly of youth. And they all asked good questions, especially those who were likely new to this Canadian tradition. Woody Allen would have been pleased. I certainly was impressed. 

And that got me thinking about success, meaning the team’s success over this coming weekend.  The Grizzlies departed the Q Centre Thursday to make their way to Trail for Friday night’s first game against the Smoke Eaters and follow that up with a visit to Royal LePage Place in West Kelowna on Saturday night to face the mighty Warriors. Then, thanks to the crazy schedule they head east again for a Sunday Matinee game vs the Vernon Vipers to round out the weekend's action. Three big games in three nights vs the dreaded Interior Division. Aside from the short trip to Prince George in January, it will mark the Grizzlies last major trip to the interior of the province this regular season.

So I thought, let's spend a quick minute or two here and go over the match-ups one by one:

Trail – Friday 7pm – Cominco Arena

Next to the hapless Surrey Eagles, the Smoke Eaters are coming off the BCHL’s longest current losing streak at five games coming into the contest. But the Smokies played hard at home on Tuesday night in a 2-1 loss vs the tough Merritt Centennials and with a large number of returning players from last year, the team features 8 players already committed to NCAA schools.  Third year forward, Jake Lucchini leads the Smokies in points this year with 23 points and 4 PP goals. He is supported by rookie 20 year old, Charlie Zuccarini and his 11 goals and 21 points along with Bryan Basilico’s 18 points in 18 games. The Smoke Eaters move the puck well and from what I saw of their game on Tuesday night, I expect a tight checking game with net minder Adam Todd and his 3.48 GAA.
Prediction: 4-3 Grizzlies
West Kelowna Warriors - Saturday 7pm - Royal LePage Place
Don't look now, but suddenly and in spite of one of the biggest trades of the season, (the acquisition on 3 Nov of Brayden Gelsinger from the Capitals), the Warriors have lost 2 of their last 3 games.  They will be ready for Victoria Saturday night for sure. But the Grizzlies won't forget the Warriors storming back from that 3-0, first period deficit to outscore the Grizzlies on home ice back on Sunday 26 Oct. That heartbreaking loss left a mark and I suspect  the Grizzlies will want major pay-back.  They will check much tighter the likes of Micheal Buonincontri, Liam Blackburn and Jonathan Desbiens, but even with what I sense will be a somewhat lower score this time, I feel this one will end in a tight Warriors 2OT win.
Prediction: 5-4 Warriors (2OT)
Vernon Vipers - Sunday 2pm - Kal Tire Place
This will be the game I am most interested in seeing this weekend, in part because we get to see Mitch Meek and Brandon Egli face their former team. But also because it is the end of a road trip to the interior and I want to see if we can close games out a little better than we did a month ago when we lost late in OT to Merritt. With a modest Vipers two game winning streak coming into this weekend's action, no matter which Vipers goalie gets the call, the Grizzlies will be in tough. The Grizzlies will be tired after four days on the bus and I worry this will be too much for them and the huge crowds the Vipers usually draw at The Kal. But I am going to go for a Grizzlies win in this one, with the kids digging deep on the road setting up for a fun and relaxing post game bus ride to Tswassen Ferry Terminals and on home to Victoria late Sunday night.
Prediction: 3-2 Grizzlies
So I am going for 5 points out of a possible 6 on the weekend and while that may seem a bit ambitious, especially vs Interior Division foes, I think the team is now primed for a nice big tough road trip. After the positive week they had last week with that win up in Alberni followed by a single but equally impressive OT point vs the powerhouse Vees, the week was complimented by that huge 4 goal comeback vs Powell River on Saturday. This well rested Grizzlies team is pulling on the leech just bit at the moment I feel. While almost all teams have hit the 20 game Quarter Pole on the season, the Grizzlies at 17 games played, won't be there until the end of the Vernon game. So as strange as the BCHL schedule is once again this year, my bet is that the team needs to go on the road now and build on many of the positives from the many team building events they have enjoyed in recent weeks. 
Finally, I read CFAX 1070's Steve Duffy's Blog from a few days ago about failing attendance numbers this year at the Q Centre. I like Steve Duffy, but what he said scared the hell out of me. He is as puzzled as any of us about, (let's face fact folks), the really obvious meager crowds we are seeing this season at home games. I get the fact that the high flying Triplets are now gone, I get the fact that there have been a large number of recent changes in ownership and management, but this team plays with one of the most dramatic styles of hockey I have seen in years. So I am calling on all West Shore fans, heck all Victoria fans to get out from behind your 70" TVs, to get away from your Canucks games and come down to the Q Centre next Friday night to welcome the boys back to our barn as we face the Nanaimo Clippers. After all, Woody Allen's famous words don't just apply to the fine young men in those Grizzlies uniforms, they apply to all of us.  If we want to enjoy that coveted 80% of success, we all need to just show up.

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