Sunday, March 28, 2010

Grisdale Rates Signings:

This is in todays Morning Star Newspaper:

Grisdale rates signings

By Kevin Mitchell - Vernon Morning Star

Published: March 27, 2010

John Grisdale took the university route to the NHL so he’s been stoked seeing a handful of B.C. Hockey League grads sign pro contracts in the last two weeks.

I sat beside the former Vancouver Canuck and Toronto Maple Leaf defenceman during the second intermission of the Vipers-Vees playoff game Wednesday night at the stunning South Okanagan Events Centre.

A graduate of the Michigan Tech Huskies, Grisdale is commissioner of the 17-team BCHL, known as the top junior A league in the nation.

Former Vipers Hunter Bishop (Montreal) and Aaron Volpatti (Vancouver) last week joined Zac Dalpe (Carolina), Lee Baldwin (NY Rangers) and Josh Lunden (Phoenix) as BCHL alumni earning NHL deals.

“It’s one of the things our league strives to do is give players a chance to develop late and it’s just another example,” said Grisdale, 61. “It’s great news.”

The BCHL has a record number of players secure NCAA university scholarships each year, and a few get plucked in the NHL entry draft.

Vipers’ head coach/GM Mark Ferner, who took the major junior journey to the show, says the draft does not guarantee you’re a sure thing.

“Just because you get drafted doesn’t mean you’re going to play,” said Ferner “But if you’re good enough, they’re going to find you, so just continue to work hard and put yourself in those situations where you’re going to be identified.”

Grisdale, like most hockey observers, feels the BCHL is getting quicker by the week.

“In the NHL, the games we watch on television are any indication, the athletes are getting better so it translates right down to junior A hockey and certainly we’re seeing the recognition of the players getting signed to pro contracts so we must be doing something right.”

Grisdale, who played alongside Harold Snepsts, Dennis Kearns and Lars Lindgren during his last season (1978-79) with the Canucks, wants to see the league improving its product in all 17 markets.

“Certainly, we’ve got some work to do in our franchises. Our attendance is down a bit this year so we’re undergoing on developing some standards to raise the profile of all of our teams. I’m very, very optimistic about the continued growth of our league. These are tough economic teams but I’m pleased with where our governors are and our franchises are.”

Vernon led the league with an average attendance of 2,004 per game. Penticton was second at 1,720 and Langley third at 1,656.

Grisdale is highly impressed with the talent level of the final-four playoff teams.

“This is a pretty darn good game. The top four teams in the league are in the Conference Finals and that’s kind of what you expect when you start the playoffs but you’re never sure if it’s going to happen.”

As for head shots and cheap shots, Grisdale said the four western junior A leagues are meeting and working on a document to target such hits.

“We don’t want to see any player come into our league and get injured. We want to be pre-emptive. If we can do something now, our four western leagues will be a leader in this sort of thing. We may not see any in this series, but we’ve seen them throughout the year.”

Formerly in energy company and arena management, Grisdale is having a blast in his ninth season as BCHL boss.

“I love junior A hockey. I love what it brings. I really love the interaction with our community and governors and fans. I’m been a staunch supporter of the B.C. Hockey League for a long time. Like any job, when you’re in the administrative part, you’ve got things that you like and don’t like, but you take the good with the bad and I’m all about moving the league ahead and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

n Matt Hughes, 30, took the high road after being fired by the Salmon Arm SilverBacks.

“I guess anytime you get fired, it’s a bit of a surprise but it wasn’t totally out of left field,” he told Black Press Sports. “I appreciate the opportunity that was given to me; I would have liked an opportunity to see it out.”

The ’Backs went 29-25-3-3 but stumbled into the playoffs, eliminated in the first round by the Quesnel Millionaires.

“We all have to take some blame and I said I’ll take a lot of blame for this,” said GM Rylan Ferster. “I think this is a real unfair business too at times.”

Ferster, who plans to return as head coach, informed Hughes of the team’s decision last week.

“You never feel good when you see another coach lose their job,” he said. “You certainly feel for that guy no matter what level.”

Ferster was fired after his first stint as Salmon Arm’s head coach at the end of the 2004 season and he said that was easier to take than telling Hughes what was happening.

“It’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to be a part of in hockey, to be on that side of the desk,” he said. “Being on this side is really difficult.”

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