Hockey, in my mind, has to be one of the hardest dang sports created. Ever. Lets put a bunch of grown men in a ring of ice, give them sticks, give them a piece of hard rubber, and lets make sure the crowd really gets into the match when a fight breaks out. Oh, ok, you wimp. Put the men in pads. But not so much that a good body-check wont cripple the unwary. Of course, even with my limited understanding of the game, the skill required to play is obvious. Most of us cant even skate, much less do so with any skill, speed, or balance. And for that matter, even fewer mortals can use those sticks for the intended purpose of knocking a puck around with any hope of hitting the back of a hockey net. Even then, as RiverKings opponents are beginning to understand, those few with the skill to score wont be able to do so against goaltenders Sebastien Centomo (see ODDS & ENDS below) and Mark Richards. The pair have the RiverKings with the best goals against average in the CHL at 2.21 and league best save percentage of .928. Centomo is a CHL newcomer and a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect. The Maple Leafs, of course, are the NHL affiliate with the RiverKings. Richards is a veteran of the CHL. RiverKings coach Doug Shedden knows full-well the importance of these two in the net. I think the biggest reason [the squad is winning] is that the goal-tending has been unbelievable, Shedden says, noting that the two push each other. You have the young kid [Centomo] who wants to prove himself and make it to the NHL and someday he will get there. And you have an older guy in Richards who has been around and has always been one of the best goalies at this level whos being pushed by a young kid. And theyre playing every other game so theyre well rested. Theyre trying to duplicate what the guy before him did. The two goalies efforts have led to a startling 16-2-1 record for the season and an undefeated November. The record puts Memphis firmly at the top of the CHL, but Sedden says theres no pressure at such lofty heights. I dont feel theres pressure, he says. I think the great part is that we have a chance to jump-start and get a gap in the standings, you can get ahead of some teams. Bad things happen, youre going to go into a slump sometime during the season. That slump, according to Shedden, can come in December. I put the challenge in December, he says. Its Christmas month and everyone is worried about shopping, holidays, girlfriends, family flying in and out and doing whatever. Theres a thousand different excuses you can use for December. If I can keep my guys centered on winning hockey games in December, its another month we can make some space in the standings. Its just like the coach of a winning team to shrug off the remarkable nature of his teams play and look ahead to the challenges. As Shedden said, the season is long and this beginning is only that. And, as I said before, hockey is never easy. But still, this Christmas season, its good to be a King. ODDS & ENDS NOTABLE
- In last weeks Scene, Coach Danton Barto of the Memphis Arena2 Xplorers mentioned what a big part quarterback Tim Lester would be for the upcoming season. Scratch that. Lester just got signed by Arena1s Carolina Cobras. This is the first promotion from the Xplorers to Arena1. This is really good for Lester but a bad thing for the Xplorers who are now minus one starting QB. But thats just part of the game, says Barto. It sure would be nice to have Tim back with us for a full season, Barto says. But hey thats what were here for is to help players move along in their careers, Well said.
- RiverKings goalie Sebastien Centomo has been named the American Hockey Company goaltender of the month for the month of November. Centomo had a shut-out in November and held opponents to only 12 goals in eight games. This season, Centomo is 10-1-0 with 2.14 goals-per-game average. Centomo has also been named Player Of the Week two weeks in a row.
- Frustrated with the injury-depleted Memphis Grizzlies? According to the Newark Star Ledger, Cleveland Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas has been on injured reserve for the last three-and-a-half years. To make matters worse, the once-shiny star center has a $40 million dollar policy that states if the guy is hurt (again) in practice, his insurance company pays the bill. If Ilgauskas is hurt after playing a certain number of games, the Cavs are responsible to fulfill the rest of his contract.
- According to Harold Blooms Sports Business News, the Memphis Grizzlies court an average of 13,576 attendees per home game. The NBA average per game is 16,204, slightly down from last year. That 13,576 is above five other teams: Atlanta (12,715), Charlotte (10,359), Houston (11,393), New Jersey (9,470), and Seattle (13,331).