Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Center Tyler Skworchinski re-signs with the Texas Brahmas

The Texas Brahmas Insider has learned that Tyler Skworchinski has re-signed with the Texas Brahmas for the 2008-09 season. The Marathon, Ontario native is the third rookie player from the 2007-08 season to re-sign for his second year as a professional.

Acquired on November 11th, Skworchinski had an impressive rookie season with the Brahmas. The 5-foot-11, 196 pound center logged 47 points (24 G, 23 A) in 55 games played, including 17 points (8 G, 9 A) in his last 12 games. He scored 9 points (2 G, 7 A) in 13 games during the playoffs.

On special teams, Skworchinski had 5 powerplay goals, 10 powerplay assists, 2 shorthanded goals and a team-leading 3 shorthanded assists. He also led the Brahmas in shooting percentage.

In March, Skworchinski was named to the 2007-08 Central Hockey League All-Rookie team. He was tied for 8th place in rookie scoring and 3rd among rookies in the "3 Star Leaders", a category created by the CHL to identify superior play on a single game basis.

Skworchinski played four seasons at Michigan Tech while earning a degree in Business Administration. He notched 22 points (12 G, 10 A) in 113 games played with the Huskies.

Skworchinski's smart play and lighting fast speed will be an enormous asset to the team this season as the Brahmas work towards their goal of winning a championship.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith

Monday, July 28, 2008

A conversation with...Anders Strome

The Insider speaks with the former Texas Brahma about playing at NYTEX and the decision to sign with a team in Denmark

Anders Strome by all measures had a fantastic season with the Texas Brahmas during the 2007-08 campaign. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, the popular forward brought a strong offensive game to the ice, registering 60 points (34 g, 26 a) and 88 penalty minutes in 64 games played. Strome played all 14 playoff games tallying 14 points (9 g, 5 a) with 10 penalty minutes.

The Winnipeg, Manitoba native played three seasons with the University of Massachusetts-Lowell before turning professional. He scored 35 points (20g, 15 a) in 91 games played with the River Hawks.

Strome spent much of his CHL career with the Lubbock Cotton Kings. During the 2004-05 season, he led the team in scoring with 57 points (35 goals, 22 assists) in 60 games played.

Due to his offensive flair, Strome participated in the 2004-05 CHL All Star game and led the Cotton Kings to the postseason. At season's end, the Cotton Kings named Strome their “Offensive Player of the Year”.

During the 2005-06 season, Strome played in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) with three teams (Long Beach Ice Dogs, Florida Everblades and South Carolina Stingrays). In 54 games, he recorded 35 points (14 goals, 21 assists) and 26 penalty minutes.

In 188 games in the CHL over four seasons, Strome posted 227 points (126 goals, 101 assists) and 261 penalty minutes.

I spoke to Anders about playing with the Brahmas and making the decision to sign with a Danish team for the upcoming season.

Q: The Brahmas signed you at the end of August 2007. How did you come to join the team?

A: I ended up talking to Dan and Forbes on the phone; you know, I had played against both of them and with my old team Lubbock folding at the end of the previous season, I got in touch with those guys. I had talked to a number of different teams but that was the situation that sounded like the best fit for myself and for the Brahmas.

Q: Dan, at the time, said that you would add the “offensive punch” that they were looking for and that definitely happened. You had a great year with the Brahmas; 60 points scored in 64 games played and then through the playoffs, can you talk a little bit about your season with the Brahmas, how you felt everything came together?

A: Well, we had a great bunch of guys, you know. I was playing with some really good players, and we came together as a team. You’re right, I was brought in to be an offensive player and I got put in key situations. We were fortunate enough to get off to a good start and we just kept it rolling. You know, we had some ups and downs at times during the season. The coaches had confidence in me and we had a pretty good run there at the end – it’s too bad we lost to Colorado.

Q: Tell me about the final game in Colorado; did you guys really think you could win it?

A: Oh, it was a tough loss; we really thought we were going to win that game. We battled back from being down three games to one in the series, as you know. And then we won game six in Colorado and we had a really good game. In game seven we battled really hard. We just came up against their goalie who was really hot that night. It was one of those games where both teams played well, but they capitalized on a few things and won it.

Q: Were you surprised that Arizona beat Colorado so handily, sweeping the Eagles in the championship?

A: I was a little, you know. We didn’t see Arizona all year, so it was tough to judge, but obviously they were a good team. Colorado had a lot of experience and they were the defending champs. I thought they would’ve done better but maybe we wore them out a little bit; we gave them a pretty tough series. Maybe that played a bit of a factor in it.

Q: We got the news this off-season that you’ve signed with the Danish team in the Premier League, the Odense Bulldogs. Can you talk a little bit about how that came about?

A: The coach (Dean Fedorchuk) got in touch with me from over there. He’s from the same hometown I’m from and he just took the head coaching job with this team, Odense. He said I was the kind of player he was looking for. He had done his homework and he heard good things about me and he was interested in bringing me over there.

Obviously it was a tough decision to leave Texas because I really enjoyed it there; I really liked playing for Dan and Forbes. I thought the whole organization was a class organization. It was a tough decision to make but the way I sort of looked at it was, it’s a step up for me as far as my career goes and it was just an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.

Q: You’re going to be playing primarily with Scandinavian teammates outside of a few Canadians – Brad Rooney, who you played with at UMass, Tyler Redenbach from the Arizona Sundogs, Dwayne Zinger and a few Americans - Felipe Larranaga, Peter Metcalf and John Laliberte. How do you feel about integrating yourself into the team?

A: It’ll be like anything; It’s nice to know a few guys on the team. I played with Brad Rooney there in college; I was a freshman, he was a senior, so it’ll be nice to catch up with him a bit. I believe the rule is, there’s ten imports, which I think they’ve bumped it up; I’m not 100% sure, but more and more guys are going over there, a lot of good players that I recognize through the Central League and the East Coast League and even the American Hockey League, so they’re doing something to recruit these guys there and I think they want to bring their league up a level.

I’m excited to get over there and see what it’s all about. I don’t know how to speak Danish but I think they speak English, or at least can communicate pretty well. And my name, I think they’re going to think I’m a Dane, because of my name.

Q: You’re engaged…when is the wedding?

A: In August, August 22nd.

Q: My understanding is that the Premier League in Denmark starts up a lot earlier than in the U.S., do you have an idea of when you are heading over there?

A: Yeah, I head over next week, actually.

Q: Are you getting married out there or are you coming back to Canada?

A: They’re flying me back for my wedding. I’ll be home for two weeks. That was part of the deal; I said I had to be home for that. So, I’m coming home a week before the wedding and my soon-to-be-wife and I will be going back to Denmark a week after the wedding. She’s really looking forward to it. It’s going to be a new experience for both of us.

Q: It’s a shorter season over there; I think it’s 45 regular season games and then the post-season. Technically, depending on what happens, you could come back to the Brahmas late in the season. Do you have any thoughts about that?

A: Yeah, you never know, that was something I talked about with Dan. Again, it was a really tough call for me, leaving a good situation like we had in Texas with the coaching staff and the bunch of guys we had. But we definitely left in good terms, as far as the team being supportive of my decision and it bodes well for the Brahmas that we’ve had some guys that have gotten some opportunities. But yeah, I’m always open to going back there. I really liked it, so you never know.

Q: How do you feel about the Texas Brahmas fans, the type of support that you had over the year and how you felt about playing at NYTEX?

A: The whole season was a great experience. The fans were awesome; you know we didn’t have a huge rink, but it was pretty much packed every night and they were as loud as can be. I got to know a lot of the fans really well and the people in North Richland Hills there and I’ve got nothing but good things to say. I know that Dan and Forbes are going to put together another great team this year and I’ll be cheering them on and keeping tabs from over in Denmark. But again, it was an awesome year and it was something I’ll never forget.

We wish Anders and Meagan the best on their upcoming wedding and also the best of luck on his season with the Odense Bulldogs. Training Camp will begin August 1st. The first game will be played at home on August 8th against Frederikshavn.

Photo Credit: Ann N. (lb_ice_dogs_fan)

Texas Brahmas re-sign two forwards

Mark Carragher and Greg McConnell to return for the 2008-09 campaign

The Texas Brahmas have announced that forwards Mark Carragher and Greg McConnell have re-signed for the 2008-09 season. Both players are entering their second year pro after a successful rookie season.

"It's nice to have Carragher and McConnell back on the roster, and we expect them to have breakout seasons next year," said Brahmas Head Coach Dan Wildfong. "It is because of character players like these guys that we were as successful as we were last season."

Mark Carragher joined the Brahmas after four years at the University of Southern Maine. The 24-year-old native of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island served as team captain his senior year and led the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) East in scoring with 37 points (18 g, 19 a) in 19 league games. Carragher racked up a school record 47 points (22 g, 25 a) in 26 games, and became the program's all-time leading scorer. He set or tied seven school single-season or career records during the campaign. Carragher led the Huskies in goals, assists and power-play goals (12), and was one of the top penalty killers in the league. He was also named on the New England Hockey Writers ECAC East/NESCAC All-Star Team. He tallied 130 points (63 g, 67 a) in 104 games played during his college career.

The 5-foot-8, 165 pound center had 19 points (7 g, 12 a) in 63 games played in the regular season with the Brahmas. In the post season, Carragher played in 12 games and posted a +2 rating, tied for the best on the team.

Greg McConnell, also a 24-year-old native of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, joined the Brahmas after four years at Bowdoin College, playing in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC). In his senior year, McConnell and the Polar Bears reached the NESCAC Championship for the third straight year. He notched 79 points (36 goals, 43 assists) in 98 games played in his college career.

McConnell led the Brahmas in shooting percentage and tallied 20 points (11 g, 9 a) in 51 games played. McConnell became a clutch player as three of his 11 goals were game winners. In the playoffs, the 6-foot-1, 219 pound forward played in 12 games and scored three points (2 g, 1 a), including the game winning goal in the second game in the series against the Mississippi RiverKings.

Photo Credit: Texas Brahmas

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A conversation with...Jordan Cameron

The ex-Brahma talks about the playoffs and signing to play in Germany

After a terrific season with the Texas Brahmas, forward Jordan Cameron decided to sign with a team in Germany, the EC Hannover Indians, who celebrate their 60th year this season.

The 26-year-old right wing played in 57 games with the Brahmas last season and tallied 64 points (30g, 34a). Cameron played in all 14 playoff games with 13 points (3g, 10a) scored. His three playoff goals secured a victory for the Brahmas in game two of the conference semi-finals against the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs.

I spoke to Jordan on Monday afternoon about playing with the Brahmas and how he came to sign with the Indians.

Q: You came to the Brahmas kind of on short notice; your signing was announced three days before the training camp last year. Can you talk a little bit about that?

A: Dan and Forbes did a really good job recruiting me. They were on the phone with me almost every single day until I signed with them. They had some good things to say about what they were going to try and get going down there and it sounded pretty good so I jumped on board. Things worked out pretty good for me and for the team. I had a good season and the team, I felt, we should have beat Colorado in the semi-finals but we fell a little short.

Q: I remember in particular the hat trick in the second game of the playoffs with the Mudbugs; four seconds left on the clock and you put one over DeCaro’s shoulder and won the game. What do you remember about that moment?

A: That was one of my most memorable goals, probably ever. Time was running out our D got the puck up at the point, I think it was Minard, I can’t remember, he looked like he was going to take a shot and I just yelled at him to pass me the puck and he took like a slap shot pass to me and I looked up and I had like almost the whole net to shoot at and put it in.

Q: Having swept Shreveport and advancing to play Colorado in the conference finals and then nearly making it to the championship was quite a feat. Overall how do you feel about your play in particular and the year that the Brahmas had?

A: You know, I think as a team, we had a phenomenal year. When things were going bad we didn’t get too down on ourselves, and we tried to bounce back. It showed, I think in December, late December, we won like two of fourteen games or something and after that we went twenty-three and five, so it showed the character that the team had. We went into the playoffs and squeaked by Mississippi, that was a pretty tough series. And then we played Shreveport and I think that, like that goal you were talking about, game two was the biggest game of the series because it let us take both games in Bossier. From there on I think we gained a lot of momentum; won the series and went into Colorado feeling pretty good about ourselves. I think we just ran into a really hot goalie and they got the better ending.

Q: This season, you’re going to be wearing number forty-one for EC Hannover, a club that has a long history, celebrating 60 years. This is your first time playing in Europe. Was there a particular draw in playing over there?

A: I have a couple of friends from my hometown that play over there. Both of them play in the First League in Germany and one guy’s been telling me for like three years to go over there. And the other guy was on me really hard this year to go over there and one of the coaches over there had contacted one of my buddies and it pretty much got set up that way. You know, my wife and I were talking about it last year before I signed with the Brahmas, maybe going over to Europe and you know, seeing the world. That was one of the big draws, you know? Obviously, you go over there and there’s better money too, but in the long run it’s that seeing Europe would be nice; we’ll take our daughter over there and it’ll be pretty fun.

Q: Were you initially contacted directly by the team, or was this done through your friend?

A: It was pretty much done through my friend. He plays on the Hannover team in the First League. I guess their coach was watching our playoffs and had seen that we were from the same town. And that’s pretty much how it all got started. He started asking him some questions, and some guys I played with in the ECHL that were over in Germany, asked them some questions about me and stuff like that and that’s pretty much how it all worked out. Another guy, his name is John Smith, I played with him the season before I went with the Brahmas and he went over to Germany this year while I was with the Brahmas. He really liked it over there and that was another reason you know, me and the wife thought it would be fun to go over there. He said it was a really nice country and the people are nice and they’ve got good beer (laughing).

Q: Do you speak any German or are you going to brush up on some basic skills before you head over?

A: We bought a German-speaking book for dummies or whatever and a translation dictionary…they say that most Germans know a little bit of English and stuff so it shouldn’t be too bad.

Q: Are you familiar with the Indians’ coach, Joe West and his career?

A: No, not at all. We spoke a couple of times and that’s about it.

Q: He was also a right wing. He played at Northern Michigan and played five seasons in Germany, including four seasons with the Hannover Scorpions before he got a chance to coach. I read some comments by him in a German newspaper when you were signed. He said: “(Cameron) is the type of player that I wanted...dangerous at the goal, a good technician and strong penetrator...Like all players who come to Europe, he'll need some time to acclimate but I'm sure he will be a strong addition.” Do you think he described you pretty well?

A: Well, I don’t know; I’m pretty good around the net. I think I showed this year that I had some offensive talents or whatever and as a big guy, I can control the puck pretty good. I think he’s right, it’s going to take a little bit to adjust, you know. Going over there, it’s a different language, a different culture, and different food. Even like, going to the market and not knowing what to get for food. I think they have bigger ice surfaces over there, stuff like that so, obviously it’s going to be a big adjustment, and hopefully it won’t take too long. I think they have a month of training, so I hope to be able to adjust in that time.

Q: Do you know when you’re heading over?

A: The first week of August.

Q: How do you feel about playing there; are you excited about the opportunity?

A: Yeah, really excited. It’s a total change. It’s something different. You know, hockey’s hockey. You do it for the love of the game, right?

The Indian’s made it to the playoffs the last five seasons in a row in Germany’s Upper League; quarter-finals three times and semi-finals twice. It looks like they’re trying to build a strong team this year and Jordan Cameron is definitely going to be a great addition. We wish the best of luck to Jordan.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith


Thanks to Stephan at the EC Hannover Indians News Blog for his kind words about our interview with Jordan Cameron. The interview is featured on the blog and can be viewed here

Sunday, July 20, 2008

One on One - with the Texas Brahmas' Lance Galbraith

The Brahmas's new player/assistant coach talks to the Insider

On June 5th, the Texas Brahmas announced the team’s first official player signing with veteran forward Lance Galbraith for the 2008-09 season.

Brahmas Head Coach Dan Wildfong believes Galbraith’s past successes and off-ice performance will bring a strong presence to the organization.

“Lance comes to our program with two championships; he knows what it takes to win. He will play a strong leadership role for us as well as being a key player in the community. He will be the epitome of all-around player for the Brahmas organization,” said Wildfong.

The 28-year-old right wing from Brampton, Ontario spent last season with the Idaho Steelheads (ECHL) and tallied 67 points (22 G, 45 A) in 66 games played. Galbraith spent six seasons in the ECHL playing in 354 games and appearing in four postseasons.

Galbraith led the ECHL in scoring in the playoffs in 2006-07 with 27 points as he led the Steelheads in the Kelly Cup Championship, the second in his career. Galbraith won his first Kelly Cup with the Steelheads in 2005.

Galbraith’s career include six seasons in the ECHL, one season in the United Hockey League (UHL) and 19 games in the American Hockey League (AHL).

Prior to going professional, Galbraith played junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Ottawa 67’s from 1996-2001. The Brampton, Ontario native won two championships with the 67’s (1999 and 2001) and also led the league in the playoffs with 28 points in 2001.

At 5-foot-10, 190 lbs, Galbraith has a reputation for toughness. He has accumulated 2,001 penalty minutes in his professional career. In the past seven years, he has averaged just over 285 penalty minutes a season.

I recently spoke to Lance Galbraith from his home in Ontario, Canada.

Q: Can you tell me a little about your interest in signing with the Texas Brahmas?

A: I got in contact with Dan Wildfong. I’d seen his track record as a player, it seemed like we approached the game in a similar way. You look at his first year as a head coach; he was put into a position where he didn’t really have much time to put a team together, and what he did with the team, taking them to the semi-finals, game seven, a game away from going to the finals. Who knows what would have happened? But you know, just his hard work and dedication got me real excited to be part of what he’s putting together.

Q: Did you have a lot of familiarity with the Central Hockey League?

A: I’ve never played there; I’ve actually played in every pro league except for the Central Hockey League. Dan and I talked a lot about the league and it’s going to be a new challenge in my hockey career and I’m really excited about it.

Q: There’s been an exodus of players to Europe this off-season. I’m wondering if you had any thoughts on playing in Europe versus playing in North America; had you entertained that?

A: Well, I’ve had several offers in the last three or four years. You hear some good stories, but you also hear the stories you don’t want to hear. I think we had a lot of guys last year in the East Coast league come Christmas time; I’d say maybe 10-12 guys come back and you hear about them fighting about money and they didn’t get paid and this, this and that. You know I guess you hear so many different stories with kind of like raised eyebrows. So, yeah, I did have offers over there but when this player/assistant deal came up with the Brahmas, I thought this is something that can give me an opportunity to maybe in a couple of years, to coach at some point. And that’s what I was trying to set myself up with for when I have to hang up my gear.

Q: I had read in an article in the Idaho Statesman that you had concerns that ECHL referees seemed to be singling you out because of your aggressive play. Is that true?

A: Yeah, it was getting tough the last 15 or 20 games and into the playoffs. I’m not saying I’m an angel out on the ice; I play as hard as I possibly can. I’m one of those guys that, whatever it takes to win, you do what you have to do. It seemed like everything I was doing, I was always going to the box. And it was wearing on me mentally. I was taking it home with me. There were some rough nights there where you feel like you’re letting your team down. Earlier in the season you’re playing the same way and it was working and you weren’t getting put in the penalty box so that was another reason for the change. Maybe, you know, a fresh start in a different league, but I’m going to play the same way and we’re going to have to go from there and see how the refereeing goes against me.

Q: Do you plan to tone down your style of play or are you going to play as aggressively as you always have?

A: I’m going to play the same way I have since day one, I don’t think I’d still be involved with the game if I toned it down. Obviously, you know there’s going to be times when people are going to be shaking their heads. But at the same time I have to play that way - that’s why I was signed with the Brahmas - to play that way.

Q: Talking to Dan Wildfong, he stressed your leadership abilities and the fact that you’ve been around and you’ve done it all, you’ve won championships; you’ve played in numerous leagues. I think he’s really looking forward to have you there to provide leadership on and off the ice for some of the younger players; how do you feel about approaching your teammates in that sense, not just as a teammate but also as a player coach?

A: The last three years I’ve played, I didn’t have this title, but I feel like I was kind of doing the same thing. I’ve always tried to be a leader, to lead by example. I kind of want to be a guy who, when I talk, everyone listens but at the same time, I’m always everyone’s best friend. But come game time, come practice, I expect everybody to come out there and work as hard as the next guy. At the end of the day, if everyone’s working that hard and working hard for each other, you’re just going to get better as a person, as a player and as a team.

Q: Lance, at 28-years old, how do you feel physically and looking at the next couple of years, how do you feel about continuing to play versus if you get an opportunity to be an assistant coach?

A: Well, I enjoy the game. Actually, being 28, I feel better now than I did when I was 20. I take better care of myself physically. I think the biggest challenge is playing against 22 to 23-year old guys. You know it drives me every day to go to the rink and work on getting better, just to try to keep up and perform with these guys. If I was setting a goal, I’d like to play two more years and hopefully get an opportunity to coach. It’ll be a sad day, because I love the game so much. Like I said, I enjoy getting up in the morning, going to the rink, working on something that makes myself better as a player and helping a team mate or helping my team out.

Q: You’ve had a lot of success with the Idaho Steelheads, are you going to miss those guys; are you going to miss that team?

A: I’m going to miss everything about that team. I enjoyed it. You know, it was a tough decision for me. The fans were great to me. It was tough the first time I left, and its definitely going to be tough this time. I have a lot of friends out there, not just on the rink but also in the community. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I think it’s the right one at this point in my life.

Q: Did you have a good relationship with Head Coach Derek Laxdal?

A: Yeah, I really liked playing for Derek. He’s a player’s coach. He’s a great guy; I enjoyed my two years with him. I think he made me a better player and a better person. I just can’t say enough about that organization and the two coaches that I had when I was there.

Q: They call you “The Rooster”. Can you tell me a little about how you got that nickname?

A: I have no idea how I got that nickname, I don’t know (laughing). I thought it was my hair at one point. Our first radio guy when I was there my first year made it up; I’d have to get him to tell you the story. I don’t know; it was something about a rooster on a farm or something; he would have to tell you.

Q: Are you fond of that nickname?

A: Well, the fans knew me by it, you know if I ever scored or got an assist, they would call me “The Rooster”, so it was good for the fans, and there were probably 10 to 15 people I knew in Boise that would call me that.

Q: You’ve played in some larger rinks than you’ll be playing in at the NYTEX Sports Centre. I know you’ve seen the rink in person; how do you feel about playing in a smaller facility?

A: I’ve never really played in a smaller facility. I guess it’s another challenge. I thought the rink was great, I’ve seen some pictures of the fans, it seems they’re on top of you It seems like there’s a good vibe there in Texas with the fans. When Dan and I were going out for dinner there, you know, meeting up with the guys, you know, fans, they got a good buzz going around town, so I’m excited. I tell Dan every time we talk that I just wish I could pack up my car and let’s get it started. I’m pretty pumped with the decision that I made. You know, every year when I played and signed a contract, coaches would always ask my goal and I only had one goal and that was to win a championship; that doesn’t get old.

Q: Speaking of fans, one of the things about the Central Hockey League is that the fans are very close with the players. It’s not uncommon for the fans to take players out to dinner. I see fans delivering food to support the guys. The fan support is really good. Was it the same for you in the ECHL or some of the other leagues?

A: We were pretty tight with our fans, in Boise Idaho. I’m pretty close to the fans. You know, fans are a big part of the game. I’ll never turn a fan away if they want to go for a beer; if they want to go out for some chicken wings or something or if they just want to get to know me. I think I have more friends outside of the game of hockey in all of the cities I played just because I’m a pretty happy-go-lucky guy. I never turn anybody away. I’m pretty excited. The fan base In Texas is getting bigger and they’re all about the players. I think at the same time, the players have to be all about the fans.

Q: I want to go back a little into your past starting your career with the Ottawa 67’s, even back before that. What was your introduction to hockey?

A: My mother and father here in Canada, they put me through hockey. I never thought I’d take it this far. I can remember playing competitive Triple A here in town and one of my coaches told me, or told my father, that I was on the draft list for the OHL draft and then I got drafted and it just took off. It was pretty exciting time, especially when I played junior, we won a couple of championships there too. That’s where they started stressing that it’s all about winning and I think I just took to everything and ingested it into my blood and that’s the big thing with me, all I want to do is just win. You know, if every guy has that attitude, we’ll get the results we’re looking for.

Q: You were with the Ottawa 67’s for five seasons and then moved on to several different AHL and ECHL teams and then you were with the Komets in the UHL for a season. Was there a league that you preferred as a player?

A: Well, I liked the ECHL. You meet a lot of guys that you know, one minute they’re in your locker room, and then they’re in an AHL locker room and then an NHL locker room, so its pretty cool to see them develop. It’s pretty exciting – one minute you’re having dinner with a guy and he gets a call to go up and the next thing you know he’s at the NHL level.

Q: On a sad note, one of your teammates from the Komets, Rob Guinn passed away about a week ago. Did you know Rob very well?

A: Yeah, Rob and I were assistant captains in Fort Wayne. I saw that and I’m deeply saddened. He was a great guy away from the ice, a great stand-up guy. I know he just got married, I think maybe three years ago and just had a baby and that stuff just hits home when that happens and you can’t put it in words. It was a sad day when I heard that and he’ll be deeply missed.

Q: When you’re not on the ice, what are your favorite things to do?

A: Well, usually I’m on the ice. What happens here is when I come home from work, I run hockey schools pretty much all year round for the young kids in the Toronto area. I’m pretty busy and I try to keep myself active, and it usually all has to do with sports. In the summer especially, I try to see all my friends, enjoy their friendships and enjoy their time.

Q: Coming into Texas, into North Richland Hills, the fans know of you but they don’t know you, is there anything in particular you would like to say to the Texas Brahmas fans?

A: I want to be the hardest worker on the team. I’d like to be the guy who, if my team wins, is looked upon as having played a good game. And if my team loses, I expect to take the blame, because obviously I should be pulling my weight. I also want be one of the guys known in the community. Whether its visiting a school, if there’s a charity event, anybody that needs help, I think I’d be the guy to approach, and if there’s anything I can do to help the next person, I think I’m that guy.

Photo Credit: Idaho Steelheads

It's time to give back - Three tragedies in the off-season, three families in need

At the risk of sounding like every other donation pitch you've ever heard, I want to implore anyone who reads this to make a donation to three families who need your help.

It doesn't matter how much you can give, it just matters that you give. Please, get out your checkbook and write a check for any amount you can afford and mail it today. It's too easy to want to help but never get around to doing it.

Rob Guinn

Rob Guinn passed away on the evening of July 12th after a tragic car accident. The accident happened near Jefferson, Iowa when a driver ran a stop sign and hit Guinn’s car. Guinn, who is survived by his wife Brooke and five-month old daughter Olivia, was 32 years-old.

Guinn began his career with the WPHL’s Central Texas Stampede in 2000 and played 74 games in the CHL seeing action with New Mexico and Tulsa. During the 2006-07 season with the Scorpions, Guinn scored seven goals with 49 assists ranking sixth among all defensemen with 56 points. He was selected as a member of the CHL’s Southern Conference All-Star Team in 2007. Last season, Guinn played 10 games with the Tulsa Oilers. He returned to Illinois to be closer to his family and finished his career as a member of the Bloomington Prairie Thunder of the International Hockey League.

"He touched a lot of people in the time he was here in Tulsa," Oilers coach Dan Hodge said. "Rob was a consummate professional and the thoughts and prayers of all of us are with his family."

His family has set up the Rob Guinn Memorial Fund to support 5-month-old daughter Olivia's future education. Donations should be mailed to:

The Leighton Legal Law Firm, 802 N. Clinton Street, Suite 1, Bloomington, IL 61701

Jason Baird

Former Youngstown SteelHounds player Jason Baird was seriously burned on July 17th when the lawn mower he was riding exploded. Baird, 27, of Cayuga, Ontario, was working with a private landscaping company when the accident occurred.

Baird is in stable condition at the Akron Burn Center. His wife, Bethany, said Saturday that despite suffering burns over 60-65 percent of his body, he is responding to those around him.
“He is fully aware of his situation,” she said. “He’s responded very well, letting us know that he knows we’re here. He is holding his own.”

Baird began his professional hockey career seven years ago with the Cincinnati Cyclones. He came to Youngstown last November as part of a trade with the Corpus Christi Rayz. He played 45 games for the SteelHounds, scoring 13 goals and making 23 assists. His 36 points made him the fifth-leading scorer on the team.

Six days before the accident, Baird signed with the Muskegon Fury of the International Hockey League.

Baird and his wife have a daughter and the family includes her two sons from her first marriage.

Donations should be mailed to:

Baird Family Fund Account c/o Bank of America 8612 Davis Blvd. North Richland Hills, TX 76180. You can also transfer funds to the Baird Family Fund Account #2614 if you have an account with Bank of America. You can use the Bill Pay feature if you have online access set up for your account.

Les Borsheim

Colorado Eagles defenseman Les Borsheim, 29, was critically injured in a motorcycle accident on June 1st. Borsheim was riding with two other motorcyclists when he failed to make a right-hand turn and went off the left side of the road, according to a release from the Colorado State Patrol. He was ejected from the motorcycle and suffered a broken neck and other injuries. He was airlifted to North Colorado Medical Center where he underwent surgery that night to fuse two vertebrae in his neck and reduce swelling his spinal cord.

A fan favorite, Borsheim scored a career-high 22 points last season, helping the Eagles reach the President's Cup Finals for the third time in its five-year history.

Borsheim is now in rehabilitation at the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado. He has demonstrated some movement in his hands and legs, giving his family, friends and teammates hope that he will not be paralyzed.

Borsheim did not have health insurance coverage at the time of the accident. The part-year insurance from the Central Hockey League ran out eight days before the accident.

Please visit TeamBorsheim.com, a website set up and managed by Borsheim's former teammate, Tyler Fleck. The site features updates on Borsheim's condition and has a place for people to leave well-wishes. The site also takes donations via PayPal and features online auctions and merchandise that can be purchased to help raise money.

Donations should be mailed to:

Les Borsheim Recovery Fund c/o Tyler Fleck, 17 S. Trail Ridge Road, Edmond, OK 73012. Checks should be made payable to Conrad Borsheim.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

One on One – with the Texas Brahmas’ Andrew Leach

Exclusive Interview with the Newest member of the team

The Texas Brahmas announced the signing of forward Andrew Leach on July 17th. I spoke to Andrew at his family's summer home on Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire this morning.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about being recruited by the Brahmas?

A: I got a call from Steve Papple, the team’s scout. I think it was right around July 1st or the 2nd. He talked to me about possibly coming out to Texas. I didn’t know much about it, about the team. I looked into it. He sent me a couple of packages about the area and what the team’s all about. And then I talked to the head coach, Dan Wildfong. He called me a couple of days later and talking to him got me interested. I knew this was a winning team and it was kind of what I was looking for as well as a good setup and a good all around organization.

Q: Did you have a lot of familiarity with the Central Hockey League?

A: Not really. I played with a couple of kids that had played in the league, but I didn’t have much familiarity with it. I know that it is very similar to the leagues that I’ve been playing in and I had heard nothing but good things about it. When I ended the season last year, I kind of thought that maybe that was the step that I was going to take and it just so happened that Texas had called me. I had been talking to a few other teams but I kind of narrowed down to Texas because of where they’re located and what I’d heard about the team.

Q: Have you ever been to this part of the country before?

A: No, this will be my first time. I’ve never been to Texas but I know that there are several different teams in the league from Texas and I heard that the one in the Dallas/Fort Worth area was the best.

Q: Let’s talk a little bit about your background. You come from a great hockey family, your dad, Chris Leach, played for St. Lawrence and your Uncle Steve, 14 seasons in the NHL, your brother Jay, of course…where did the hockey tradition start with your family?

A: Well, it started with my Dad’s family. They grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts. He has four brothers and two sisters, so they were a huge family. I think my grandfather brought them up in hockey in Lexington and it took off. My Uncle Jay is an assistant coach for the Washington Capitals (NHL), My Uncle Mark, just won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings. He’s one of their head amateur scouts. They all played in college. The Leach family, when they were growing up, kind of just took over in the Boston area.

I grew up in Albany, New York. My father re-located to Albany, took a job there, and that’s where Jay and I grew up. He obviously got us into hockey. I don’t know if I had a choice when I was younger, but I’m glad that he brought us up there, in hockey. I guess it’s just that we’re one of those families, that’s just the sport that we play.

Q: I’ve heard that you’ve been on the ice since you were two years old, is that true?

A: Yep, pretty much! As soon as I could walk, I was pretty much on the ice.

Q: What do you like most about hockey?

A: It’s taken me to seven different places, in the states and in Canada. It’s a game that I’ve grown up to love to play. All the kids play sports growing up and hockey just happened to be the one that we grew up with and I just love it. I love the atmosphere in the rinks and everything about it.

Q: In High School and such, did you play any other sports?

A: I played golf and tennis in High School, baseball growing up. But pretty much when I hit 17, all of my focus went to hockey.

Q: Who was your biggest influence in hockey? This is a two-part question. Tell me about one personally and one professionally.

A: Personally, that would be my older brother, Jay. He’s kind of been a mentor for me. He played at Providence, this will be his eighth year as a professional; he’s kind of been through everything. He’s battled from the East Coast Hockey League all the way up to the NHL. He’s been there for me, through my college years and beyond.

Professionally, there’s many. I’ve had many contacts with people that have helped me. I’d say my first year with the Kalamazoo Wings (IHL); I played for a guy named Mark Reeds, the Head Coach there. He has probably been the most helpful to me, in teaching me how to play the professional game.

Q: How would you describe your style of play? You were described in the Brahmas’ press release as a “gritty” player.

A: You know, I’ve been labeled as kind of a forechecker power forward. You know, I’m going to chip in with my points, I’ve never really been a big points scorer. I’m hoping to change that when I come to Texas. I’m not the type of guy that’s going to go out and fight fifteen to twenty times. I get in my fair share of fights.

My real asset is my skating and getting in on the floor check and just hitting and being a good power forward, trying to get some turnovers in the offensive zone for us. I’ll chip in with my fair share of “battles”. I like to consider myself as a pretty big power forward.

Q: Looking at your numbers over the last several years, you look like you’re poised for a real breakout season. What’s your excitement level in coming in and playing in this league and contributing with the Brahmas?

A: I’m very excited. My first two years, I put up similar numbers in my pro ranks and I really am looking forward to an opportunity to just come in there and get a chance to really contribute offensively as well as defensively. I’m a pretty solid defensive player. That’s kind of what I was doing in college, all four years, so I just want to come in there and work hard and bring something to the table. Obviously, I’m really excited to get working with the Brahmas and like any hockey player, the main goal is to win a championship and that was kind of what I was thinking when I signed.

Q: As far as your skills, where do you feel you need the most work? Is there anywhere that you feel you need improvement or you are not particularly satisfied with your play?

A: Obviously, at this level, we all need some kind of improvement. For myself, I’d say, scoring…I’d like to get, you know, 15 to 20 goals a year, instead of 8 to 10. I’m not going to come in there just focus on trying to score goals. I think if you’re just trying to score goals, it’s not going to happen. I think you just go in there and play your game and hopefully with the players that play around you, we can all benefit from each other. Improvement-wise, obviously yeah, I’d like to score more goals but I just want to come in there and do whatever I can to help the team.

Q: One of the Brahma’s other signings, actually the first signing of the year was Lance Galbraith from the Idaho Steelheads. Are you familiar with Lance at all?

A: I’m not very familiar, I didn’t really get a chance to play against him but I know my brother Jay played with him down at Augusta, in my brothers second year pro, so I kind of know what type of player Lance is. I know Texas is really excited about that signing. He brings a lot of energy and grit and also he can score too. I think it’s a big signing and I’m sure we’re all glad to kind of get the team situated, fill in the holes and stuff like that so, I’m sure it’s exciting.

Q: They call Lance “The Rooster”. Do you have any kind of nickname that was given to you by fans or other players?

A: Not really, no. I haven’t been in one place for an extended period of time. I switched spots in each of my first two pro seasons. I haven’t really accrued a nickname just yet, but who knows?

Q: When you’re not playing hockey, what is your favorite thing to do?

A: There’s a lake in New Hampshire called Lake Winnipesaukee; it’s probably one of the nicest lakes I’ve ever seen. That’s where I spend my summer times. My whole family is up here. During the off-season, I hang out up here, going out in the boat and just relaxing.

Q: Water skiing and wakeboarding, stuff like that?

A: Oh yeah, water skiing…I’m a big water skier. Wakeboarding? Not so much anymore. I’m getting a little older and I don’t really want to blow out either of my knees doing jumps and stuff. But I’m a big water skier. New Hampshire’s got some pretty sweet beaches around here too, so that’s kind of what I’m into.

Q: The fans I’ve spoken to out here don’t know much about you, but they’re looking forward to meeting you. What do you have to say to the Texas Brahmas fans?

A: Obviously, I’m excited to come out there. I haven’t been out there yet. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the team and the area. That’s pretty much why I signed there. I’m really excited to come out there and start playing.

Photo Credit: Trenton Devils

Shoot to Score Player's Clinics and Goalie Camp concludes

Texas Brahmas Head Coach Dan Wildfong held his annual hockey camp this week at the NYTEX Sports Center. Coach Wildfong was assisted by professional hockey players Ron Vogel, Jason Deitsch, Aaron Davis, Blair Stayzner as well as goaltending coaches Bill Ivey and Francois Lemay. Brahmas goaltender Brett Jaeger and assistant coach Forbers Macpherson were also on hand.

The camp had over two dozen participants. Students had on and off ice training and took part in team building exercises to help improve the young athletes.

Keller resident Nikki Sibley brought her son Blake, 10, to attend the week-long camp.

"I think it' s a great value for the money. He's learning a whole lot. Two of his regular goaltending coaches are here, one as a student." she said.

Photos from the camp can be seen here.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Texas Brahmas 2008-09 Schedule Released

The Texas Brahmas' 2008-09 season schedule was made public today on Pointstreak.com. It will be released officially by the Central Hockey League tomorrow.

"The 2008-09 home schedule is perhaps the most favorable in the history of the franchise," Brahmas General Manager Mike Barack said. "We are excited to renew our rivalry against Bossier-Shreveport and introduce our fans to our new Southern Conference position".

The Brahmas will open their season on the road Friday, October 17th against the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs. The I-20 series is alive and well as the Brahmas and the Mudbugs will meet 11 times this season.

Last season, the Brahmas took 6 of 11 regular season games. The Brahmas and the 'bugs each won two games at the CenturyTel Center. Texas won 4 games at NYTEX Sports Centre while the 'bugs won 3.

This season will be a first for the Brahmas to play in the Southern Conference, as they will begin a new rivalry against Southeast division opponents Corpus Christi, Laredo and Rio Grande Valley. Despite the move, the Brahmas will still face Northern foes Bossier-Shreveport (11 times), Oklahoma City (7 times) and Tulsa (4 times).

The biggest rivalry created by the division realignment will be with the Laredo Bucks. Since their 2002-03 inaugural season, the Bucks have an 11-2-2 record against the Brahmas in 15 meetings. However, last season, Laredo came up short, going 0-1-1 against the resurgent Brahmas. The two teams will meet 7 times this season with three games at NYTEX and 4 games at the Laredo Entertainment Center.

"It will be good for our fans to see a lot more of Texas this season, to create that new rivalry for us…the Brahmas are a very successful organization, and always have been." Bucks Head Coach Terry Ruskowski said. "I'm sure Dan Wildfong will put another solid team on the ice this coming season."

Despite the move, the Brahmas will still face Northern foes Bossier-Shreveport (11 times), Oklahoma City (7 times) and Tulsa (4 times).

Once again, Brahmas fans will have a New Year's Eve game as Texas will take on the Corpus Christi Ice Rays at the NYTEX Sports Centre.

The Brahmas will host the defending President's Cup Champion Arizona Sundogs on January 16. This will be the first time that the two franchises have played each other in Texas.

Fans will also be able to see a rematch of the 2008 Northern Conference Finals as the Colorado Eagles come to town on February 6.

The Brahmas will play against 13 different teams this season. The following is the list of teams in order of the number of times they will meet:

Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs - 11 games
Laredo Bucks - 7 games
Oklahoma City Blazers - 7 games
Odessa Jackalopes - 6 games
Amarillo Gorillas - 5 games
Corpus Christi Rays - 5 games
Mississippi RiverKings - 5 games
Arizona Sundogs - 4 games
Tulsa Oilers - 4 games
Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees - 4 games
Wichita Thunder - 3 games
New Mexico Scorpions - 2 games
Colorado Eagles - 1 game

The 64-game schedule features 28 Friday, Saturday and Sunday games and two holiday dates (November 26 and December 31).

The Brahmas will have two four-game homestands on November 8-15 and December 26-January 2.

The Brahmas will have a six-game road trip in December. They will play 2 games against the Riverkings on the 12th and 13th. Then they will make the long trip to Arizona for a three-game series against the Sundogs on the 17th, 19th and 20th. A match against the Mudbugs will take place on the 23rd before the team returns home.

Image Credit: Texas Brahmas

Texas Brahmas sign Forward Andrew Leach

Former Trenton Devils player joins the 2008-09 roster

The Texas Brahmas announced Andrew Leach as their fourth player signing for the upcoming season.

Leach comes from a great hockey family. His father, defenseman Chris Leach played two seasons at St. Lawrence University. He went on to play for two seasons with the Greensboro Generals in the Southern Hockey League. His brother, defenseman Jay Leach played four seasons at Providence College and has played for the past seven seasons with teams in the NHL, ECHL and AHL, most recently with the Portland Pirates. His Uncle, forward Steve Leach played two seasons at the University of New Hampshire and went on to play 14 seasons in the NHL. Andrew has been on the ice since he was two years old.

Last season, the 26-year-old from Altamont, New York played 57 games with the Trenton Devils (ECHL) and scored 21 points (8 Goals, 13 Assists) with 80 penalty minutes.

The 6-foot-1, 205 pound winger played for the Kalamazoo Wings and Elmira Jackals (IHL) during the 2006-07 season. He played 61 games and contributed 19 points (7 Goals, 12 Assists) with 56 penalty minutes.

Leach played for the University of New Hampshire Wildcats (NCAA Division I), from 2002-2006. He played 93 games with 16 points (6 Goals, 10 Assists). While with the Wildcats, Leach reached the NCAA tournament each season, and made it as far as the national championship game his freshman year. He was the assistant team captain in his senior year.

Prior to that, he played 89 games in the United States Hockey League (USHL-Juniors) with the Des Moines Buccaneers where he served as team captain. Leach had 18 points (6 Goals, 12 Assists) and 115 penalty minutes during his two seasons there.

Leach has good size and shows a lot of toughness. Although he has a laid back demeanor off the ice, he is not afraid to drop his gloves. He is known to be a hard worker with strong leadership capabilities. His "gritty" style of play attracted the attention of the Brahmas.

"Every team needs a grinder, and while we were recruiting, Leach seemed to fit that role. His size and skill will definitely be valuable assets to the team," said Brahmas Head Coach Dan Wildfong.

Andrew and his brother Jay run a summer hockey camp, The Leach Bros. Hockey Camp at the Dover Ice Arena in Dover, New Hampshire.

When not on the ice, Andrew enjoys weightlifting, golf and wakeboarding. He spends the summer in New Hampshire on Lake Winnepesaukee where his family has a house.

Photo Credit: Trenton Devils

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Central Hockey League 2008-09 schedule expected this week

Texas Brahmas fans are anxiously awaiting the release of the 2008-09 season schedule, expected to be made public this week. Brahmas management will be interested in seeing how road trips have been scheduled as the rising cost of travel expenses, especially the increase in diesel fuel prices have taken a bite out of the teams' bottom line.

The issue of travel costs was discussed at the league's annual summer conference. As these expenses take up a large segment of teams' budgets, the league has considered regional match ups and creating more "geographic rivalries" while putting together this season's schedule.

This season, the league has done its best to "cluster" road trips so that teams can play as many opponents as possible while away from home.

"We want each team to knock out as many games on the schedule as they can in one visit," CHL director of communications Bob Hoffman told the Greeley Tribune.

For example, last season, the league scheduled a December road trip for the Brahmas to play a three-game series against the Youngstown SteelHounds (1,241 miles away). That trip included a two-game series against the Mississippi RiverKings and a game against the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs on the way back home. Scheduling considerations like this will be common for all teams in the 2008-09 schedule.

The following are travel times and driving distances (according to MapQuest) between the Brahmas home ice and that of its opponents in order from the shortest to the longest trip:

Oklahoma City Blazers - 3 hours, 13 minutes - 201.74 miles
Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs - 3 hours, 39 minutes - 221.64 miles
Tulsa Oilers - 4 hours, 37 minutes - 270.35 miles
Odessa Jackalopes - 5 hours, 12 minutes - 334.75 miles
Amarillo Gorillas - 5 hours, 33 minutes - 340.19 miles
Wichita Thunder- 5 hours, 46 minutes - 369.11 miles
Corpus Christi IceRays - 6 hours, 39 minutes - 419.17 miles
Laredo Bucks - 6 hours, 56 minutes - 437.22 miles
Mississippi RiverKings - 7 hours, 44 minutes - 496.07 miles
Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees - 8 hours, 53 minutes - 528.24 miles
New Mexico Scorpions - 10 hours, 4 minutes - 649.70 miles
Rocky Mountain Rage - 12 hours, 28 minutes - 771.46 miles
Colorado Eagles - 12 hours, 51 minutes - 803.48 miles
Arizona Sundogs - 15 hours, 20 minutes - 1,030.57 miles
Rapid City Rush - 16 hours, 29 minutes - 1,057.51 miles

Longer home stands are also expected. Last season, the Brahmas enjoyed a nine-game home stand between November 17th and December 8th. In addition the team also had six weekends scheduled with at least two consecutive home games.

The Brahmas will also benefit from the fact that the league generally sets its schedule up so division opponents play at least one-third of their schedules against each other. Due to a realignment, the Brahmas have moved from the Northeast Division to the Southeast Division, all of whose teams are in Texas.

"We saw an opportunity to put more teams in closer proximity to some opponents than in years past," Hoffman said.

Image credit: Central Hockey League

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Please donate to the Les Borsheim Recovery fund

Colorado Eagles star seriously injured in motorcycle accident

I want to encourage you to make a donation to the Les Borsheim Recovery Fund. If you haven't done so already, please visit http://www.teamborsheim.com/. I cheered just as hard as anyone against Les when the Colorado Eagles played against the Brahmas. Now I'm cheering for his recovery from a catastrophic injury suffered in a motorcycle accident on June 1st.

The fund has raised over $25,000.00 towards their goal of $100,000.00. There are T-shirts and photos for sale and auction items available to bid on.

Les faces a long recovery and he will need all the support we can give. I can't afford a lot, but I gave what I could. Please consider doing the same. A little sacrifice from each of us will go a long way for Les.