Happy 17th Birthday to my oldest son Fisher (@fisheroakes). I love you and I am very proud of you.
After what seemed like an endless Summer, live on the ice hockey, has finally returned. More about the Predators opening weekend will appear below.
First up today, we are thrilled with our special guest on POTG Radio tonight. I was asked to do a book review of famed broadcaster, Eli Gold's new autobiography, Peanuts to the Pressbox, that is being released tomorrow and we ended up getting a live interview to go with it.
Predator fans may remember Eli Gold for his radio play-by-play duties a couple of seasons back. Nationally, he is more widely known for hosting the NASCAR Live Radio Show and being the Voice of the Alabama Crimson Tide. His broadcasting roots were in hockey having done play-by-play in the WHL for Birmingham, for the St. Louis Blues as well as the Preds.
I have been reading the book and will have a complete review soon and it is a real gem. It has kept me up way too late at night because I've really had a hard time putting it down.
Eli is a couple of years older than I am so we grew up in the same era where it was common to have a transistor radio with you at all times in order to follow sports. The World Series was always a critical time since it always played during the day, so sneaking a radio in to class was always required.
Eli solved that problem by not going to class. I'm afraid of the advice he may give Jackson as to how to further his potential sports media career. Tune in to see what Eli has to say about that and a lot more.
I also have about 30 minutes of interviews from the Preds camp that we will run in their entirety. More than likely, it will run over into the non-live portion of the show that will be available on podcast.
Barry Trotz was especially candid on several topics including the rumors about the Preds having interest in Phil Kessel. We also talked briefly to to Sully, Pekka, Joel Ward, Kevin Klein, Nolan Yonkman, Ben Guite, Shea Weber, Jon Blum and Colin Wilson.
Weekend at Camp...
The first two days of camp were very intense for the players and a lot of fun for the fans that attended, especially on Sunday.
Saturday's drills were a part of David Good's new conditioning tests that he designed to see what type of shape each player was in when they reported to camp. During the summer, each player had been provided the outline of what to expect so they would be prepared for the drills.
The easiest way to describe what they went through was that it was a full circle of the ice bag drill with a few cuts and turns in the middle. Each player did that six times with only a few seconds of rest in between each lap. Times were generally in the mid twenty second range and were a bit slower with each turn. Colin Wilson said that "It was good to get the worst part of camp over on the first day."
Sunday's action was more along the lines of traditional practices with players separated into three groups. The first two were composed of more veteran and AHL players and the last group was the Rookie squad that will go to Atlanta for games tonight and Tuesday afternoon.
The first line of Jason Arnott, J P Dumont and Steve Sullivan looked good together. I'm not sure that I've ever seen a veteran as excited to be on the ice and playing full out on the first day as Steve Sullivan did.
I spoke with Sully afterwords and he was thrilled to be doing ongoing conditioning instead of rehab over the summer. He really looks like he is ready to go right now. Barry Trotz related that having Sully on board on day one should really improve the Pred's power play right from the start.
A few of the new Preds were impressive on Sunday. Physically, Ben Eaves reminds you a lot of Sully and is a quick skater who is not afraid to fire the puck from anywhere. Ben Guite and Marcel Goc were also impressive and should more than adequately make up for the loss of Fiddler, Bonk, and Nichol on the penalty kill.
One disappointment was some uneven play on the Pred's second line pairing of Erat and Legwand. Marty is really slating smooth and looks ready to play while Leggy doesn't seem to be hitting on all cylinders quite yet. I wouldn't worry after one day of practice because I do believe that this will be a breakout year for both. (Jackson even drafted Leggy in a fantasy draft last night)
The Preds also named permanent Alternate Captains for the season with Sully and Shea Weber wearing the "A" for the duration and Arnott continuing to captain the team. Barry Trotz said that the players preferred that. He also said that while it was proper recognition for the guys with the letters that there was no less respect for the guys that rotated last season.
The Preds rookies will play in Atlanta tonight and during the day on Tuesday. There will be little coverage as the Preds are not even running video of the scrimmages. Barry Trotz explained that they had full confidence in the reports of the coaches and scouts to bring the story home. Unfortunately, it doesn't do much for the hockey starved fans.
In Preds Nation...
I spent most of the weekend at camp around Jeremy Gover of Section303.com and he had quite an exciting time working overtime to bring Pred Nation the news. He provides a good wrap-up of camp.
Jeremy and his partner Codey's big coup of the weekend was getting the first pictures of the Pred's new third jersey. Check out their site for pictures and a poor quality crowd video from youtube. Going to a Taylor Swift concert for Predator's coverage was above and beyond the call of duty. They even made when big time with a mention on Puck Daddy's site.
Almost lost in the shuffle was a new edition of the 303:30 podcast that came out Saturday featuring comedian Mike Birbiglia. It's a good show that's not 100% hockey, but it's done with a hockey attitude which makes it OK.
The Preds allowing Taylor Swift to wear the jersey first as a leaked sneak preview was marketing genius. It all started Saturday afternoon when Steve Sullivan tweeted @Sully26: "Preds fans going to see Taylor Swift tonight, pay very close attention to her encore.... might be a very special surprise for you guys!!"
That led to the 303 guys getting pictures that went viral on the internet and made Predator fans out of millions of young girls nationwide that may not know anything else about hockey. In a non-traditional market, things can be done in a different way to spread the gospel of Predator hockey. This was a home run!
The other big rumor over the weekend that hasn't gone away is the discussion of Phil Kessel possibly ending up in Nashville. John Glennon wrote about it Saturday and Sports Illustrated did a big piece on the posibility.
Toronto is the odds on favorite in the Kessel sweepstakes as he has indicated that he wanted to play for Brian Burke and Ron Wilson who happen to also be in charge of the US Olympic effort.
John Glennon has also been doing a yeoman's job at camp at the Tennessean as well as his blog, Inside Predators. We are looking forward to John learning to "tweet" this week.
Brandon Felder did a good job of covering the first days of rookie camp and has an interesting thought on the third jersey with a post at Hockey Buzz. Rachel Raines of What The Puck also has a good round-up of Sunday's camp action.
Jim Diamond has a post at the Examiner about Ryan Ellis wanting to stay with the Preds, this year.
Dirk the Forechecker should be back home soon but had more entries in the Meet the Pred Blogger series with pieces on Jeremy Gover and Paul McCann. Dirk promised to do one on himself so hopefully we have that to look forward to. I have really enjoyed the series of posts.
Scott Cullen at TSN has a fantasy outlook for Preds players.
Around the NHL...
For a change, most of our news is about the Preds. I hope that doesn't mean we will lose our readers from other places but we will refocus our efforts on the local stuff while hitting the high points on the national level as the season progresses.
The biggest news of the weekend was undoubtedly the end of the three month Dany Heatley trade saga. Heatley and a draft pick went to San Jose in return for Jonathan Cheechoo, Milan Michalek and a pick. Thank goodness this is one story that can be put to bed.
In the saga that we can't get away from, the on ice story in Phoenix is somewhat confusing as Wayne Gretzky was not participated in drills or practice to this point. You would assume that his situation is in limbo, at best, after the hearings last week.
The courtroom action closed down Friday with the NHL as well as Jim Ballsillie adding to their offers. There is still little clue as to what he outcome will be or when it will be announced. One thing is guaranteed, one or both sides will appeal regardless of how it goes down. There is even word that the Canadian Competition Bureau may get involved if Ballsillie is stiffed. I hope the Canadian press likes Phoenix because they will see a lot of it in the future.
For those in the Toronto area, our friends at Hockey54.com (The Face of the Game) are having a big party to kick off their web site on October 1. Click here for your free ticket. We hope to have Larry "The"Schwartz on POTG Radio befor the big kickoff.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass