Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Mike Commodore, the Fort Saskatchewan, AB, native, was drafted 42nd overall to the New Jersey Devils in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. By then, he had two seasons in at North Dakota, tallying up 5 goals, 8 assists and 228 penalty minutes for the Sioux. He turned pro after helping the Sioux win the 2000 NCAA Frozen Four, defeating Boston College 4-2.
“We won a national title my last year, that was probably real similar to winning the Stanley Cup; not as big but real similar. I just had a great time at the University. The three years I spent there was the time of my life. I had a really good time in Grand Forks and had a good time with the people I met there.”
Commodore won the Stanley Cup in 2006 while setting a fashion statement of sorts at the same time. The crowd in red afro wigs and white bathrobes seemed to be more of a sight for a spa rather than a hockey rink in Raleigh, North Carolina, but that is exactly what you would’ve seen if you were in attendance for the Stanley Cup finals at RBC Center. Commodore, the 6’4” defenseman now with Columbus was just as notorious on the ice while suited with the Sioux.
“I thought it may be popular because of my time at UND, it was pretty popular with the students there. I figured the opportunity may be there, but I didn’t think it would take off like that.”
Asked if he would consider bringing back the post-season garb; “I don’t know about the robe, I don’t know what I will do with that. The hair for sure and the crocs for sure; I still have the same pair. I’ll think of something. I try to think of something new each year.”
As all young players grow up, they have the idols they look up to. It’s the point in time in their career when they begin to play with those idols that things sink in. “My first games were with the New Jersey Devils and I was playing with Martin Brodeur, Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer; there some Hall of Famers in that group. For the first little while you are a little star-stuck your first trip around the league. But once the game starts, you have to get over it because they’re not going to take it easy on you because you’re new. It’s a dream to be able to compete and stand among them, but you can’t be star-stricken for too long.”
Commodore is likely to be the one recognized now by the younger players and fans for his creative antics. A stand-up guy now with his 5th professional team, Commodore takes pride in his time at UND as well as his time in the league. Like in college, he sticks to the same routine before a game, and takes the mentality of a top-defenseman to the ice. In his first year of a three-year deal with Columbus, we can hope to see more of the Commodore play-off garb in the future.
Photo courtesy NHL.com
Welcome Sioux Hockey fans!! Have you ever wondered what happens when the Sioux leave school to start their professional career? Well, here is my chance to get inside their heads, ask them hockey questions, some non-hockey questions, and bring those interviews to you eager readers! First one in the line-up is Buffalo Sabres forward, Drew Stafford.
Drew Stafford, the 22 year old Shattuck-St. Mary’s product played at UND for three years before joining the Buffalo Sabres who drafted him 13th overall in the first round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut in November 2006, scoring his first goal in his first game against the New York Rangers and eventually making it to post-season that same year. While he doesn’t have any notable milestones yet in his career, he credits just making the league a huge accomplishment.
“I think making the team is a big step. Last year was my first full season on the team so that was an accomplishment in itself. The first year I made it to the playoffs so we did pretty well.”
The Sabres, one of the up and coming young teams in the league join the likes of the Blackhawks, Blues, and Devils in showcasing their young talent. The connection with all of these teams is the core of this young talent is UND players whom Stafford played with and still keeps in contact with.
The young energy in the locker room is just that, as our interview is often playfully interrupted with tape balls being thrown, small whoots in response to questions, but the main distraction is when a teammate puts on a familiar song to Stafford. “It’s one of my songs. In my spare time between training and all that stuff; I take a couple of days off and fire off a couple songs with Jord and a couple other buddies doing it with me”.
Jordan Parise, band-mate and former teammate, is playing overseas in Austria, making practice a little tough during the season. They are working on a demo with a couple of songs now, hoping for a full album next summer. Stafford recognizes this is his off-season hobby so things are on hold now. From what I’ve heard, these guys have some talent off the ice too. Look for them in the music stores and on-line in the future!
The Milwaukee, WI native was excited to get back into the Midwest. Stafford was sure he would have plenty of family and friends watching him while he played against the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks in late October, both being in close proximity. His teammate, Thomas Vanek, played at Minnesota during the same time Stafford was at UND. As Minnesota and Wisconsin two of his favorite college opponents to play, he has the utmost respect and admiration for Vanek now as his teammate. “I’m happy for him; he’s off to a great start. I’m fortunate to play with him. The past few years when the Gophers play the Sioux, we go and watch the games and we’re laughing about it”.
While he misses the college atmosphere and the student section going wild, Stafford embraces the professional play of the National Hockey League. “You gotta have fun with it, it’s your job. But you have to learn how to be professional about a few things. Those are things I’ve been learning over the past few years”.
Photo courtesy NHL.com
The 2008-2009 sports season has come and gone. While my beloved Fighting Sioux Hockey team won the McNaughton Cup (the trophy given to the team with the best regular-season record) in a nail-biting-last-game-of-the-season, they faced tough competition in the post-season that withheld them from taking the voyage out to Washington D.C. to play in the NCAA Frozen Four (their first time not present in 5 years). The good news is that all of the juniors will be returning to lead the team next year, and those 8 graduating seniors have almost all found their professional team in which they will take their next jump in life.
A new venture that we’re starting at the arena is an elite hockey academy. The Hockey Academy is being spearhead by former UND Assistant Coach (and former AHL Manitoba Moose Head Coach), Brad Berry with the assisting in the program by former professional player and UND alumnus Erik Fabian.
The Hockey Academy will train the local hockey athletes beyond that of what their high school may be able to do. Watching the transformation in the room downstairs; from a store room to the new home of a hockey treadmill and synthetic ice complete with shooting stations, was quite unbelievable. Officially starting in a couple of weeks but there have already been some students already taking advantage of some of the training. For more information on the Hockey Academy, check out their website.
The arena quiets down a lot after the school year finishes up. The 2:00 ice practice is no longer; the Friday night anticipation of the weekend’s game has dissolved. The sun is shining both when you get to work in the morning AND leave for the day. In a time of off-season prepping and rejuvenation, it sometimes leaves the office with a much-needed time of relaxation. Finding a department with its entire staff in the office for the week is almost unheard of; family vacations, weekend rendezvous, or even just wasting a day to enjoy the day to yourself. On one hand, it’s kind of like our Zen; on the other hand, it’s the calm before the storm.
It is always fun to see which of the student athletes stick around for the summer to further their training and take part in UND’s Hockey Camp. Sometimes, this could be trouble (like running into some of the guys “after hours”) or it just brings you back to reality; they’re just another person, as are you. No one is invincible; you only work for each other despite the lack of face-to-face contact. It’s not as much of a deal to “know” the hockey players for the sake of name-dropping. I’m older than many of them by at least 5 years; but knowing who they truly are, their life stories, their dreams and hopes for the future; that in itself is what I take pride in.
With that, expect to see some stories of former Sioux players in the future and how they have made a name for themselves in the professional world; whether that is hockey or business.
My first concert has come and gone; and it went off without too many snags! Being in the post of Event Manager for 5 months now, I have tackled the Sioux games (hockey and basketball); midget tournaments (ages 14-16, not the height-challenged people) and now, concerts.
The planning stages for concerts differ from the previously mentioned events; an example would be the rider. The rider is the production/artists way of telling each venue what it needs and wants in relation to stage set-up, speaker positions, manpower, locker room set-ups, etc. It is their “Bible” that each venue must follow; even if we don’t agree with it.
While many have heard horror stories of these so-called riders; J-Lo only wants white; white carpet, white flowers, white linens, etc. Ozzy Osborne can’t have anything green in sight (this would provide our venue with a HUGE headache!)*. I can say, however, that Sugarland was AWESOME! The only request that could have been a problem was their organic shopping list; and this is only because Grand Forks does not have a Whole Foods. The “pick a little, take a little” game was played around town at different grocery stores, but the deed was accomplished.
The concert that Sugarland put on was absolutely amazing! On the working side, it seemed to be a night-mare with a “controlled release”, the artists walking through the crowd to sing in the stairwell; the artists climbing into big balls that replicated that of a gerbil’s work-out plan. From the guests point of view; however, it was non-stop entertainment. From the second they took the stage with the spotlights shooting from the stage up to capture the silhouette of svelte Jennifer Nettles, to Kristian Bush’s fedora and banjo outfit.
All in all, from this Rock 'n Roll lover, the country duo surely has made me a fan of theirs…all the way down to their hit “It Happens”: the little ditty about taking life as it comes and never fretting the bad incidences.
The 30 hour work day was quite a drain, and the rest of the weekend will be non-stop as well. In 5 hours, I have to be back to unlock doors for the aforementioned midget hockey tournament, with a basketball tournament and March of Dimes taking place later in the afternoon. I have just one thing to say… “Pssht, it happens”!
*These are not hard-based facts; just hearsay.
Photo courtesy of Shawna Noel Photography