Toni Rajala signs with HC Ugra (KHL)

(Photo courtesy of Steven Christy. All rights reserved.)

Today it was announced that HC Ugra Khanty-Mansiysk (KHL) has signed former OKC Barons and Oilers forward Toni Rajala to a 3-year contract. This isn’t a huge surprise considering yesterday Lokomotiv Yaroslavl traded Toni Rajala’s rights to Ugra in return for a 1st-round pick in the 2015 draft. Lokomotiv had drafted Rajala in the 2009 KHL draft.

Last summer, in a rather odd move as we tried to explain last August, Rajala was released from the Edmonton Oilers organization via a “Mutual Termination of Contract” on August 25. Rajala later joined the Swedish team HK71 in mid October 2013, where he played 37 games with 30 points.

This signing is great news for Toni. Ugra needs a player like Rajala and with his skill he will be a top player for the team. Ugra will certainly be a team to watch next season!  Our good friend Patrick () will be keeping tabs on the team and Rajala next season so give him a follow. 

BBG&CS: Calming Florida Beaches, Seth Jones, Chelios, Emery’s Craziness, & those sad Oilers

Cocoa Beach, FL (Photo: Patricia Teter. All Rights Reserved.)

We are back to BBG&CS this week following my return from another road trip which, yes, included some hockey in Georgia and Florida, along with a lot of seafood and a few beaches. Can you seriously blame me for this break? Take a good look at that photo of the beautiful sand at Cocoa Beach, Florida. It was the end of October and warm enough to enjoy the water and soft white sand along the coast of Florida. I keep asking myself why I returned so quickly!

| Outstanding article on Seth Jones — I MUST get to a Nashville game soon to watch this kid play in person!

“Jones eyed this tangle in his path and, with his long arms, he smartly pulled the puck a few inches toward him and easily maneuvered to his left, deftly changing the shooting angle. In the same smooth motion, as Moen dove in vain behind him, Jones whipped the puck past Price’s stick, bulging the net.

Twenty-one thousand sat stunned. A manchild in enemy clothes had effectively ended the game. The entire sequence had taken all of five seconds, a complicated play made to look easy, something that a number of NHLers 10 years his senior could not have done.

Welcome to the NHL, Seth Jones.” — via Stu Hackel at Sports on Earth.

| Chris Chelios’ Lucky Break into hockey:

“The never-ending career of Chris Chelios never should have begun. At age 17 he tried to walk on a startup college hockey program in San Diego, of all places. He had mononucleosis. He got cut. If he was a prospect at that point, it was for a beer-and-pizza league. He was working, going to school, bumming around the beach.” — via Nickholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo! Sports. See also David Perron’s comment about Chelios below.

| Ray Emery’s crackpot beating of Braden Holtby:

“Holtby’s not the first player to get jumped and be an unwilling participant in a fight. But Holtby didn’t deliver a questionable hit. This wasn’t about retribution. This was about Ray Emery attacking a guy because he figured that’s what the locals wanted to see and because he’s terrible without the Blackhawks’ security blanket.” — via Greg Wyshynski at Yahoo! Sports Puck Daddy. See also my opinion on this issue, Emery’s Debacle — A Sad Night for Hockey at ArtfulPuck; and see Gary Lawless’ tweet below about possible NHL rule changes related to this event.

| And for a much needed laugh …. Where’s Waldo? er, the Capitals?

| And what about those Oilers, folks?

There is a great deal of frustration at all levels of the organization all the way down to the fans, even OKC fans since the farm team is continually hit with reassignments. It’s part of the business, but it is hard to cheer when these farm boys are called up anymore. NHL games with the Oilers are not a great deal of fun at the moment. So, good luck to any callups (looking at you Fedun!) and the Oilers themselves, and may the future brighten considerably in the coming days, weeks and months. Something’s got to give, right? No, I’m not going to link to anything, I’ll just mourn them for a while, however, I will leave you with this calming moment … just listen to the soft crash of surf along the beach and feel the cool sea breeze against your face. Nice, isn’t it! — PT.

Sea Oats in sand dunes. Ponte Vedra, FL. (Photo: Patricia Teter. All Rights Reserved.)

 

– You know that place in The Daily Oklahoman? The one between Big Game & Club Soccer? That’s where you may find some Barons coverage. For the rest of the news, check out BBG&CS every weekend.  –

Celebrating Life

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Opening night for the Oklahoma City Barons is always exciting and thrilling – it gives those of us who have waited all summer for hockey a chance to view the new team, the new players and also be there to witness the opening of a brand new season.

It was also a night to honor Kristians Pelss who tragically died earlier in the summer, and that did happen in the form of a frozen image on the jumbotron accompanied by a moment of silence. I am told that was the organization’s wishes – and I respect that – however, I have to wonder if they gave any thought to the fans. The team – and all that encompasses, the coaches, teammates, and organization – have had time to share their grief and loss together, as a group, through a series of training camps this summer, but last night was the first opportunity for the fans in Oklahoma City to actually pay tribute to Kristians Pelss. This was our first opportunity to honor and celebrate his all too short life and a moment of silence fell far too short.

OKC fans might not have known Kristians personally like his teammates, but we were nonetheless tremendously devastated and heartbroken by the news of his death. We cheered most wholeheartedly for this young man who played with such a sparkle in his eyes. We chatted with him briefly during post-game skates as he posed for photos and signed autographs, smiling, joking and laughing. We shook his hand and admired this young man who came to North America all the way from Latvia to play hockey. We might not have held a personal friendship with him, but we held such heartfelt goodwill for him. That is how I wish to celebrate Kristians’ life — remembering that sparkle in his eye, his laughter and jokes, and above all his fiery enthusiasm for the game of hockey.

BBG&CS: Tributes to Kristians Pelss (1992-2013)

(Photo courtesy Steven Christy. All Rights Reserved.)

| This weekend the Edmonton Oil Kings paid tribute to their former teammate and friend Kristiāns Pelšs who died tragically in Latvia this summer following his return from Oklahoma City. The Oil Kings coaches, trainers and teammates remember him fondly and talk about his time with the team and what impact he made upon their lives and team. The entire team wore Pelss’ number 26 jersey for warm-ups. What a lovely, magnificent sight — an entire team of number 26, viewed through tear-filled eyes.

“On a night when they honoured the life of teammate and friend Kristians Pelss, it was only fitting the Edmonton Oil Kings pull off a victory. […] The game began with an emotional pregame ceremony honouring Pelss, the former Oil King and Edmonton Oilers draft pick who died tragically in his home country of Latvia this summer. Oil Kings players wore Pelss’ number 26 jersey for warm-ups, with those jerseys being auctioned off in support of the Oil Kings Education Association.” — via Edmonton Oil Kings

Pelss, also an Edmonton Oilers draft pick, passed away this summer in his home country of Latvia at the age of 20. Over two seasons with the Oil Kings from 2009-2011, Pelss played 126 games and scored 42 goals and 83 points with the team. He also played in 21 career playoff games, racking up 12 points, including 10 in 17 games en route to the 2011-12 WHL Championship. In 2012-13, Pelss played in the Oilers farm system for the Oklahoma City Barons and Stockton Thunder.

The Oil Kings have dedicated the season to Pelss’ memory, adopting the motto “Play for Pelssy.” A patch worn inside their jerseys displays the credo, and Pelss is also honoured with a helmet sticker featuring his number and initials and the Latvian flag.

The Oil Kings will all don Pelss’ number 26 jersey for warm-ups against the Tigers, and those jerseys will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to the Edmonton Oil Kings Education Fund. There will be a pregame tribute to some of the highlights of Pelss’ time in Edmonton and a moment of silence.” — via Edmonton Oil Kings

Pelss Tribute Video via the Edmonton Oil Kings

Memories of Pelssy via the Edmonton Oil Kings

Play for Pelssy via the Edmonton Oil Kings

Remembering Pelssy via the Edmonton Oil Kings

I have thought often of Kristiāns over this summer. In Oklahoma City we knew him only a short portion of a season but even in that time he found a place in all of our hearts. At OKC Barons training camp this week a sticker appeared on the Barons helmet with Pelss’ initials “KP” — a remembrance of a special teammate and friend.

(Photo courtesy Steven Christy. All Rights Reserved.)

On Friday at the Edmonton Oilers NHL preseason game in Oklahoma City, the OKC Hockey Booster Club offered Pelss buttons and wristbands for donations to be made in his name to Special Olympics of Oklahoma. (Contact Josie Newton on twitter at @Jo_Jo1_ for more information.)


Dec. 29 Barons Outdoor Skate with Fans. (Photo courtesy Steven Christy. All Rights Reserved.)

 

Making Ice in OKC! — “We Bring Ice to Life”

Making Ice for the 2013-14 OKC Barons Season

If you know me at all, you know that I love the nuts and bolts of hockey — everything about it, from how pucks are made, skate blade details, goaltender masks to equipment design. All of it fascinates me! And this week I was able to satisfy a missing piece to my hockey quest – I watched the process of making ice for a hockey rink. And what fun!

Whoever thinks making ice for a hockey rink is a quick process is wrong. Completely wrong! This is not simply a case of flooding an arena with water and calling it done! While it’s certainly not rocket science, it is a complicated, detailed, and very long process, and every person in charge of making ice for a hockey club has their own tricks of the trade. On Monday, I joined the Cox arena ice crew making this season’s ice for the OKC Barons and the entire process was great fun to watch. By the way, I highly encourage all fans to submit your names to the team drawing to participate in this event every year! It is a wonderful team tradition and it gives fans a much better understanding of this crucial behind-the-scenes process.

When we arrived early that morning (with coffee in hand!) the cement base known as the “ice slab” had been chilled to specifications by the “Chiller” (the refrigeration system) used for ice rinks. This system works the same way your refrigerator or air conditioner works, however in this case the “ice slab” is what is being chilled to freezing temperatures. A system of pipes, filled with a brinewater solution, run through the cement slab chilling it to the necessary temperature and once this stage is reached the fun begins!

To create a good skating surface that can withstand a season, the ice must be laid down in very thin layers, around 8 to 10 layers about 1/16th-inch thick, beginning with clear layers, followed by white paint layers. After the thin layers are applied, the lines, circles and faceoff circles are painted, the team logo and sponsor logos fixed in place, and the goalie crease is painted. Once that is complete – all to perfection! – the ice surface is then flooded with additional clear water making the entire ice thickness about 1-inch deep.

The first step is laying down several layers of plain water – at the Cox this is accomplished in a hands-on method with a long horizontal sprayer mechanism (see photos), followed by a crew supporting and moving the water hose to keep up with the lead fellow. Think in terms of “crack the whip” or a “Conga line” and you will get the picture. The crew is continually moving to keep off the freshly sprayed surface, allowing it to freeze, while moving onto the next section. And with each new layer, the direction of application is changed – East to West, North to South, even varying which corner the application begins, therefore it is necessary to a keep written record of the process, to note where you’ve been, and where you are going.

Following the application of about 3 to 4 thin layers of water (and a tasty hot lunch of BBQ served to the crew and hangers-on like us!) the excitement builds among the crew when the 40-pound bags of dry white paint powder is added into the large mixing container and then pumped through the long hose to the sprayer. It’s a messy process, as indicated by the laughter, splatters and splashes as the mixer is turned on. To give you a better idea — it’s like a large kitchen mixer that splashes cake batter on you if you’ve turned the mixer on too high – and even with a heavy lid this mixer manages to splash a bit of the white paint out onto the floor and surrounding crew!

Don’t be fooled! This is not your average ordinary white paint! This is “Jet Ice” which proclaims “We Bring Ice to Life” – and if there are any questions about it, it says right on the side that this is the “Preferred Rink Equipment Provider of the NHL.” The moment the white paint layer begins to cover the frozen slab, the arena brightens very rapidly as the ceiling lights are reflected off the white surface, and increases as the white layers are applied.

Believe it or not, the next stage involves string! The lines, logos, and goal crease placement are all dictated by AHL rules and regulations, which provide spacing and dimensions for ice rinks (see the official AHL diagrams in the photos). In order to find center of the rink, the crews work off the two sets of goal post holes and configure the lines using string. Rink boards are not always even, so measurements are based off the goalie posts to make the inner rink measurements accurate. The string is then “frozen” to the surface acting as guidelines for the line painting. Once the center of the ice is determined, a stick with a marker attached to the end is tied to a string attached to the center of the ice and a fellow “walks” the stick-marker around in a circle – a human-scale compass of sorts. This provides the location for the center ice logo layout. If the strings are off by any amount, they are pulled up, re-measured and re-frozen.

By this point most of a day had passed and sadly I had to depart not long after 4pm, before the actual painting started, however Baron’s photographer Steven Christie documented the entire process and his photographs show how the painting process is accomplished. Perhaps I will be able to return in February when they do this all over again just to watch the painting portion of the process – and perhaps I can beg to paint a goalie crease? The Cox Center Arena ice is removed in February every season for a gymnastics event and then reapplied to continue the Barons season. Perhaps by that point the team will also want a penny or two set into the goal crease? To pass along good luck for the playoffs? Come on Barons! Let’s do this!

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Thanks to the Cox Arena Ice Crew for letting us join them on Monday and for patiently answering all of my questions! Thanks also to Josh, Cassie, and Steven as well! It was such a fun day.