Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oilers forward John McInnis

It didn’t take long for Okotoks Junior A Oiler forward John McInnis to find out that he was no longer playing prep school hockey.

“My first shift with the Oilers we got scored on — it wasn’t a very good start,” said the 18-year-old McInnis. “But on my second shift, I got a goal.”

McInnis, who hails from Plymouth, Mass. (the place where American Thanksgiving got started) played hockey at Lawrence Academy in New England on a scholarship last season.

“In New England, the public schools’ hockey teams aren’t all that strong,” he said. “So if you want to play a higher level of hockey, you either have to go to a private school or the Eastern Junior Hockey League.”
Baseball is America’s national sport, but hockey isn’t too far behind in the Beantown area.

“Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and the Boston area is where hockey is the biggest in the U.S,” McInnis said. “But in our league, the talent level dropped off after the first four or five teams.” He found out quickly that wasn’t the case in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. “The players are a lot bigger and stronger and everybody can play at a high level,” McInnis said.“In high school, there are maybe one or two lines that can play at a high level.”

He said he had another wake up call when he got checked in Fort McMurray.“This one guy hit me and I hurt my shoulder — and he was smaller than me,” McInnis said with a laugh. “I was one of the bigger guys (last year), but here it doesn’t matter — the smaller guys will give it right back.”

He already has that Western Canadian hockey toughness — he had his shoulder taped up in Fort Mac and was back on the ice to finish the game.

At six-foot-one, 195 pounds playing physical is a large part of his game. However, he does have a scoring touch. He is the second leading scorer on the Oilers with 11 goals and eight assists.“It’s a lot easier to get points when you are playing on a line with Corban Knight,” he quipped.

Oilers general manager Dan MacDonald said that McInnis brings not only size, but also speed to the team.

McInnis was discovered at a tournament in Toronto in the spring attended by the Oilers director of player personnel Garry VanHereweghe and scout Gord Jones, who operates the Black Elk Hockey School.

McInnis is settling into Okotoks and recently enjoyed watching the heroics of a fellow New Englander who did fairly well in southern Alberta.

“Yeah, I knew Doug Flutie played in Canada, but I didn’t know it was in Calgary,” he said while decked out in a Boston College t-shirt. “My mom was up here and we watched his famous Hail Mary pass on ESPN Classics.”

by Bruce Campbell, sports writer
Okotoks Western Wheel local newspaper.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Oilers forward James Bannister

By Bruce Campbell, sports writer
Okotoks Western Wheel newpaper

Okotoks Junior A Oiler forward James Bannister is tired of being a head case.
No, the affable forward isn’t a detriment in the locker room or having delusions of Stephan Dion living at 24 Sussex Drive, the 19-year-old Bannister is tired of missing games because of concussions.
Bannister missed several games at the beginning of the season with a concussion suffered on the second day of training camp. It was the sixth time he has had a concussion.
“I turned at the middle of the ice and somebody hit me — just somebody out there working hard,” Bannister said, “And because it was my sixth one, that’s why it took so long to come back.”
Bannister suffered a concussion in the playoffs last year so neither he nor the Oilers were about to take any chances when he hurt himself at training camp.
A minor concussion is like having minor surgery — it’s only minor if it’s happening to someone else.
Bannister said the concussion could cause nausea and dizzy spells and headaches from doing things as simple as reading a book, so he took his rehabilitation slowly.
“You have to wait a week being symptom-free and then you can start doing stages of things,” Bannister said. “If your symptoms come back during any of those steps, you have to wait another week.”
He started with a 15-minute bike ride, before slowly getting back on the ice.
His first game was Oct. 2, a 6-0 Oilers’ victory in which he got a goal and an assist.
He said despite his injury history he doesn’t step on the ice worrying about the possibility of a concussion.
Dan MacDonald, Okotoks coach and general manager, said Bannister has played with a high-impact helmet since returning to the line-up. As well, he had to be cleared by the Oilers’ team physician Dr. Simon James and then a concussion specialist before being allowed to play.
Bannister has had bad luck this season. Shortly after returning to the Oilers’ lineup, he suffered a shoulder injury and twisted his knee in a recent game. He didn’t miss a game due to the knee injury.
“Our trainer always says to me that I’m always down because I am injured so much,” he said. “This time I am staying positive, iced my knee and got ready.”
When he’s in the line-up he’s a bolt of energy for the team.
He provided a scoring surge for the Oilers two years ago as an affiliated Midget by scoring some big goals for Okotoks when they beat the Brooks Bandits in the playoffs. Bannister had 16 goals and 18 assists in 46 games last year.
He has four goals and an assist in the eight games he’s played this year. He’s playing on a high-scoring line with Kyle Reynolds and Brandon Hoogenboom.

The Oilers sit in fourth-place in the AJHL Southern Conference with a 15-11 record.
They are in Brooks Saturday to take on the Bandits before heading to Calgary for another tilt with the Canucks on Tuesday.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Injury stops Derek Rodwell from playing with Team Canada

After playing a couple of warm-up games with the Team Canada Junior team, Derek Rodwell could not carry on and had to pullout of this years Team Canada Juniors tournament with an injury.
There is a good story on Derek on the AJHL website, and we have copied it over to the Okotoks Oilers website.
Derek actually sustained the injury a few games before the tournament started, but thought he had sufficently recovered to play.
Tough break Derek, but get healthy and come back to help the Okotoks teams soon.