Sunday, 14 December 2014

Gonna Fly Now: Grizzlies 5-2 Over Kings

Remember that scene in Rocky?  You know the one.  His life is in the toilet but he wants things to change. He gets up in the dark, drinks down that cup of raw eggs and sets out alone into the cold Philadelphia streets to run alone, to try and get back in shape.  Set to a melodic piano, that famous theme starts ever so slowly but you can't quite make out the tune, not yet anyway. Ultimately the scene ends with Rocky out of breath and in pain. He is bent over and in self-disgust at the top of those steps, as he accepts the sad state of not only his fitness as a prize fighter but over his life as a whole.  That was Rocky's bottom.  And its funny because you ask most fans of that movie and they can't remember that scene, but in many ways, it was the most important moment of the film.

Well forget that scene, because that's not where the Grizzlies are at the moment, that scene is well in the past and may have happened for the team several weeks ago.  Maybe it was that 10-4 loss in Trail, maybe it was the 4-1 loss in Vernon and that long Sunday bus ride back to Victoria. Maybe that depressing scene in Rocky, at least for the Grizzlies this year, might have been that last loss in Nanaimo, that OT loss where after the game then Head Coach Brad Knight collected all the water bottles and towels himself and walked down the player's tunnel alone, for the last time. But make no mistake, somewhere, at some point, that sad scene in Rocky has already occurred in this 2014/15 Grizzlies campaign.

I was reminded of that scene again last night. In fact, I haven't told anybody this yet, but I have been hearing that piano and that famous melody in my head a lot this year as I have watched this team struggle. Later in the movie comes that even more iconic scene. It takes place after Rocky does a lot of training and work. That's the scene everybody remembers. Rocky finally reaches the top of the steps of The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the building with all those steps. Few who visit Philadelphia today pass up the chance to climb those steps known affectionately as the "Rocky Steps".  There are 72 of them in case you were interested. The top of the steps offers a commanding view of the city itself and of course,  Philadelphia City Hall. When you jog to the top of them and I have BTW (pretty sure I am not the first geek to try it), you feel pretty winded, but you always hear that music, from the song Gonna Fly Now in your ears.

You can't explain it, you just sort of hear it.


But I don't see the Grizzlies at the top of the steps.  Not yet anyway.  They are indeed somewhere in that movie's running montage, but definitely before the part where Rocky gets to the top of the steps. Maybe its that part of his jog where that Philadelphia street merchant, calls out to him and tosses him a piece of fruit as the hero, runs faster and faster through the city streets. "Getting strong now".

And that was the Grizzlies team I saw last night. Down 1-0 early after a Jordan Burns Power Play goal, the Grizzlies would answer quickly. On the PP themselves, it would be Matt Kennedy scoring his 12th goal of the year after a nice set up by Dane Gibson and red hot defenseman, playing forward on the night, Kevin Massy. Just three minutes later the Grizzlies would take the lead themselves and this time for good. It was Duluth Minn native, Meirs Moore with the go ahead goal after his laser beam point shot found the top of the net over the shoulder of Kings net minder, Stefan Wornig. Newcomer, forward Nick Guiney would pick up an assist on the play, recording his first ever point in the BCHL. "Won't be long now".

The second period would see that Grizzlies lead extended further just a minute into the frame with another defenseman contributing to the offense. This time it was Cody Van Lierop, scoring his 4th of the season, his goal coming via even strength after more Grizzlies slick passing by Dane Gibson and Brett Gruber. This goal would see Kings Coach Kent Lewis elect for a change in net, swapping out Wornig for veteran Brett Magnus. But slick Grizzlies passing was the story of the entire evening, as the 3rd period would see the home team do more of the same, this time scoring two more goals on the Powerplay. The first was Jake Emilio with one of his trademark left sided one timer slap-shots which beat Magnus. Then Jay Mackie doing the same late in the period on the PP with an open net available to him after a Garret Forster rebound.  That Mackie marker put the game out of reach. It was his 12th goal on the season and it came just one minute after a "too little too late goal" by Powell River forward Liam Lawson which at the time had temporarily made the score 4-2.  "Gonna Fly Now".

But 5-2 was how the game would end to the delight of the 972 fans on hand.  It was the second consecutive Grizzlies home game to see another modest bump in attendance.  This much maligned but financially vital statistic has been the source of much local media concern over the first half of the season.  But the nearly 1,000 fans who filed into the Q Centre were there to support their home team as they do every year. Plus, it all occurred on a Saturday night with the Vancouver Canucks hosting the New York Rangers on Hockey Night In Canada. On most nights that can hurt the size of the walk up crowd. But not on this night. Instead, a very loud and well attended game was what the evening held for everyone involved and all left the building properly entertained. "Getting Higher".

The Grizzlies went 3 for 6 on the PP and looked dangerous all night including when they were at even strength.  The team's PP now sits at 26.66% which is good enough for 2nd Place in league standings.  Meirs Moore, Michael Stiliadis and Jake Emilio were all game stars 1st through 3rd respectively, along with P.J. Conlon as the Fortis Energy Player of the Game.  But the real unsung hero in my view was #5 Chris Harpur who pounded bodies all night and had arguably his strongest game of the season. "Getting Higher".

So that's about how I see the Grizzlies right at the moment in mid December. They aren't at the top of the steps just yet but they are getting there, one step at a time. I was always a big fan of the theme of redemption in films, it just kind of grabs something inside me and I am not sure why. Rocky along with the 2014/15 Grizzlies are both stories of redemption and I would put this club right now somewhere around step #53 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Not a bad place to be, two weeks before Christmas."Gonna Fly Now".

And a special shout out and thanks to last year's Team Captain, Mark McLellan who joined myself and Scott Didmon in the Broadcast Booth during the Second Period Intermission to share his thoughts on the Grizzlies, hockey and his new life in the NCAA. Thanks again Mark. The Grizzlies host the Cowichan Valley Capitals at The Q Centre on Tuesday night. Don't forget it will be the club's first "Tooney Tuesday" and that means that anyone can get in as a walk-up fan for only $2.

Now if you will excuse me but its a picture perfect Sunday afternoon in Langford today. And I am not sure why, but I suddenly had a craving for a big glass of raw eggs followed by a quick jog up Mill Hill behind my house. There is a great view when you get to the top.

I won't forget my MP3 Player either, I think I know just the song. -CC

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