Darnell Nurse is pulling double duty during his trip to Edmonton this weekend.
The defenceman was wearing his Oilers hat/helmet on Friday as a special guest at Hockey School in St. Albert, and on Sunday he’ll be in big brother mode at the Saville Sports Centre cheering on sister Kia and the Canadian women’s basketball team in their first game at the FIBA Americas Championship.
“It’s a pretty good lineup for the weekend,” Nurse said between on-ice sessions at Oilers Hockey School. “It’s an opportunity to get into the community and come to the Hockey School, and obviously (Kia) is here so I want to watch her play.”
|Kia Nurse (photo courtesy of Basketball Canada)
Kia has stolen the Nurse family spotlight this summer, leading Canada to a gold-medal performance at the Pan Am Games in Toronto with a remarkable 33 points in the championship game against the United States. The 19-year-old, who was picked as Canada’s flag-bearer for the Pan Am closing ceremonies, will look to continue her hot streak in Edmonton as the national team looks to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.
And it hasn’t just been national team success for Kia in 2015. Despite being a first-year player, she was also starter at the University of Connecticut this past season and helped the Huskies capture the NCAA championship.
Darnell and Kia are children of Richard and Cathy Nurse, who played pro football in the CFL and Canadian university basketball for McMaster, respectively. Their older sister Tamika also played at the NCAA level. That must mean Darnell has some basketball skills in his blood too, right?
“No, none… I wish,” he laughed. “I can jump, but putting a ball in the hoop is a lot harder than it looks.”
Nurse said the family plays two-on-two games when they’re all home together, but when was the last time he and Kia squared off one-on-one?
“When I knew I could beat her, so probably when we were like eight years old,” he laughed. “After that I knew I had no chance. I gave up on that dream.”
Nurse’s pursuit of his dream to become a full-time NHL blueliner will continue at Oilers training camp in September, but for this weekend he’ll support Kia’s dream of becoming an Olympian.
The FIBA Americas Championship runs Aug. 9-16 at the Saville Centre. Tickets are available on-site and through Ticketmaster. Canada opens its round-robin schedule Sunday at 6:30pm MT vs. Puerto Rico.
Oilers Hockey School presented by Rogers had another special guest stop by on Wednesday as the kids were treated with a visit from two-time Olympic gold medalist and Canadian National Women’s Hockey Team goaltender Shannon Szabados.
Edmonton native Szabados spoke of the privilege of giving back to the community where she grew up playing hockey.
“It’s nice to be home for the summer and I take any chance I get to come back to the rink, especially when it’s camps like these,” she said. “These camps were my favourite and always the highlights of my summer, so it’s nice to be able to help out and give back to the community in this way,”
After four seasons of collegiate men’s hockey with MacEwan and NAIT, Szabados just finished her second season with the Columbus Cottonmouths of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). She’s back in her hometown for the summer and talked about the minor pro experience so far.
“It’s been amazing. I didn’t quite know what to expect when I first went down there because it is so far south, but I’d say the majority of the league is Canadian. So I have played with and against a lot of the guys down there and that made the transition easier,” she said. “And as far the fans go, it’s been unbelievable. We have a lot of die-hard fans down there. The hockey is great and I am getting ice time and starting to feel more comfortable.”
As far her career progression goes, Szabados feels like she is right where she belongs following a 15-9-1 campaign with a 3.12 GAA and .907 save percentage.
“I think any hockey player’s goal is to play the highest level possible and I think right now the (SPHL) is a good fit for me.”
Being a local product, Szabados also spoke fondly of when she got to suit up and participate in an Oilers practice on March 5, 2014.
“That was so awesome and such an honour. Some of the kids were actually asking about that today,” she said. “The Oilers organization has been so great to me, so I feel it’s important to come out and help whenever I can. I was born and raised in Edmonton and will definitely always be an Oilers girl at heart.”
Szabados backstopped the Canadian National Women’s Hockey Team to two consecutive gold medals at the 2010 Vancouver & 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.
Oilers forward Luke Gazdic was in Edmonton on Tuesday making a guest appearance at Oilers Hockey School and sharing some of his thoughts about the upcoming season.
Gazdic expressed excitement as a result of the flurry of off-season changes the club has gone through recently, and what it could all mean moving forward.
“There’s definitely a lot of big changes happening, and there is a buzz in the city that I haven’t really felt since I’ve been here,” he said. "With the way things have gone over the last few years, I think change is to be expected and with change comes a lot of expectation. So it’s something that I know a lot of guys, including myself, are really looking forward to.”
With the off-season additions of fellow checking-line forwards Mark Letestu and Lauri Korpikoski, Gazdic is well aware the team make-up is bound to be different heading into the 2015-16 season. And given that notion of higher expectations, he knows what challenges lay ahead when it comes to the battle to make the lineup.
“It’s always been my mindset that I am coming in to earn a roster spot, and I have had that same mindset since my first pro camp, so it’s nothing new for me. I know I am going to come into camp in the best shape possible and give myself every chance to be an effective player in the lineup.”
The 6'4” left-winger has made 107 appearances with the Oilers over the last two seasons, tallying four goals, three assists and racking up 127 penalty minutes with 22 fights.
The annual Oilers Hockey School presented by Rogers kicked off this week at Servus Credit Union Place in St. Albert, and the kids in attendance were treated with a special guest visit from Oilers winger Luke Gazdic on Tuesday.
Gazdic took part in some on-ice training sessions with a few lucky groups of seven to 15-year-olds and spoke about the privilege of being able to participate in the event.
“I am just happy to be here and happy to help,” he said. "I did camps like this when I was younger and for me it was always nice to see pro athletes come in. It’s awesome to be able to give back in this setting and help young kids develop their skill sets.".
This year’s Oilers Hockey School runs from July 19 to August 7 at Servus Credit Union Place in St. Albert and August 9-14 at Leduc Recreation Centre.
Special guest appearances continue this week with Olympic gold medallist Shannon Szabados, former Oilers goaltender Jeff Deslauriers and both current and former Edmonton Oil Kings WHL players. Current Oilers players will also be visiting in the coming weeks.
The Oilers ECHL affiliate Norfolk Admirals named Eric Veilleux as head coach for the upcoming season. From the Admirals press release:ADMIRALS NAME FORMER ASSISTANT ERIC VEILLEUX HEAD COACH FOR 2015-16
NORFOLK, Va. - The Norfolk Admirals, the Oilers ECHL affiliate, announce today that the team has named Eric Veilleux head coach for the upcoming season. The Admirals have also named Ben Boudreau as assistant coach to serve alongside Veilleux.
|Eric Veilleux coached the Shawinigan Cataractes to the 2012 Memorial Cup (Getty Images)
Veilleux, 43, makes his professional head coaching debut after nine seasons at the helm in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and one as assistant coach of the Admirals in 2014-15. Veilleux led the Shawinigan Cataractes to a Memorial Cup championship as the host in 2012 before moving on to Norfolk in 2014 following two seasons as bench boss of Baie-Comeau Drakkar. The Quebec City native compiled a 347-208-45 record and led his teams to the postseason in all nine campaigns during his QMJHL tenure.
A 5-foot-7, 148-pound forward in his playing days, Veilleux skated in 601 career games in three leagues and three different countries. He made 517 combined appearances in the AHL with the Cornwall Aces, Hershey Bears, Kentucky Thoroughblades, and Lowell Lock Monsters.
He skated in nine games in the Finnish SM-Liiga during the 1998-99 season, but returned to the United States for the 1999-2000 campaign in which he played 73 contests for the Manitoba Moose of the International Hockey League (IHL). Veilleux concluded his professional career in 2001, retiring with 106 goals, 174 assists, 280 points, and 850 penalty minutes.
Boudreau, 30, comes to Hampton Roads for his second season as a coach in professional hockey. The St. Catharine's, Ontario local was an assistant coach for the Bakersfield Condors in 2014-15 after a two-year playing career.
The Norfolk Admirals open the 2015-16 regular season at home versus the Wheeling Nailers on October 16 at 7:30 p.m. Admirals' 10-pack tickets for the 2015-16 season are on sale and start at $125. Visit the Admirals Administrative Office at Scope or click on the 'Tickets' tab at NorfolkAdmirals.com to purchase. Season tickets are available for purchase as well and begin at $400. Call 757-640-1212 for more information.
The Bakersfield Condors have named Gerry Fleming as the head coach of their squad as it enters its first season in the AHL. From the official Condors press release:GERRY FLEMING NAMED HEAD COACH OF THE BAKERSFIELD CONDORS
J-F Houle and Tony Borgford to serve as assistant coaches; staff announced
CONDORSTOWN, Calif. - The Bakersfield Condors, of the American Hockey League (AHL) and owned by the Edmonton Oilers, announced today that Gerry Fleming has been named the team's head coach. In addition, Jean-François (J-F) Houle and Tony Borgford have been named assistant coaches. Oilers Assistant General Manager Bill Scott will serve as the Condors general manager.
Other members of the hockey operations staff announced were Head Athletic Trainer Josh Bennett, Head Equipment Manager Al Oman, and Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Patrick Love.
WHAT OILERS ASSISTANT GM BILL SCOTT SAYS:
"We are thrilled to announce our hockey operations staff, led by Head Coach Gerry Fleming, who will be a tremendous leader in Bakersfield. Gerry's attention to detail and ability to develop our young players made him a natural fit to return as head coach, By adding JF Houle as assistant coach and with the return of Assistant Coach Tony Borgford, we believe we have a tremendous coaching staff ready to take the Condors to the next level."
GERRY FLEMING (48 years old, from Montreal, Quebec)
- Replaced Todd Nelson as head coach in Oklahoma City (AHL) last season on December15, 2014 and posted a 26-21-3-1 (.549) record, leading the Barons to their fifth straight postseason appearance.
- Took the Barons to the second round after sweeping San Antonio in the Calder Cup Playoffs before falling in Game 7 to the eventual Western Conference Champions, Utica Comets.
- Served as an assistant coach for the Oilers AHL team since 2008-09, both in Springfield (2008-10) and Oklahoma City (2010-2014), prior to taking over as head coach last season.
- Spent eight seasons as a head coach in the ECHL from 2000-2008, with Tallahassee and most notably with the Florida Everblades from 2001-2008.
- Posted an overall record of 282-162-60 (.619) with Florida including back-to-back Kelly Cup Finals appearances in 2004 and 2005.
- Began his coaching career as an assistant coach in the AHL with Fredericton (1998-99) and Quebec (1999-2000) under current Montreal Canadiens Head Coach Michel Therrien.
- As a player, played seven seasons in the AHL with Fredericton and earned a call-up to Montreal on two occasions which totaled 11 games in the NHL.
|Head Coach Gerry Fleming (right) and Assistant Tony Borgford (left) will be joined by J-F Houle on the Bakersfield Condors coaching staff in 2015-16 (photo by Steven Christy/OKC Barons)
J-F HOULE (40 years old, from Charlesbourg, Quebec)
- Head coach of the 2014-15 ECHL Bakersfield Condors
- Compiled four consecutive 40-win seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with Lewiston and Blainville-Boisbriand
- Previously an assistant coach at his alma mater, Clarkson (NY) University, from 2003-2010.
- As a player, he played under Fleming twice. Once, in Fredericton in 1998-99 where Fleming was an assistant coach. Second, in 2000-01, where he captained Fleming's team in Tallahassee.
TONY BORGFORD (40 years old, from Regina, Saskatchewan)
- Joined the Oilers organization last season as an assistant coach with the Oklahoma City Barons.
- Worked three seasons with the NHL's Winnipeg Jets as a video coordinator/coach from 2011-2014.
- Was a video coordinator with the Atlanta Thrashers for eight seasons, from 1999 until the team relocated to Winnipeg in 2011.
- Played four seasons at Mercyhurst (Penn.) College from 1995-1999
- Al Oman (Head Equipment Manager) enters his 4th season with the Oilers organization. Josh Bennett, ATC (Head Athletic Trainer) enters his 3rd season and Patrick Love (Head Strength and Conditioning Coach) enters his 2nd campaign.
- Oman, originally from Florida, becomes the head equipment manager after serving as an assistant with the Barons.
- Bennett, from Maine, holds a Master's degree in Physical Education from Winthrop University.
- Love holds a Master's degree in Wellness Management - Exercise Science from the University of Central Oklahoma.
Fleming, Houle, and Borgford will be formally introduced to the public and media next week. Details on the event will follow.
BE A PART OF HISTORY!! - CONDORS OPENING NIGHT SATURDAY, OCT. 10
Join the Condors on their historic move to the American Hockey League in 2015-16. Become a ticket member and enjoy all of the great benefits by contacting the Condors at 324-PUCK (7825) or click here for more information.
His smirk is legendary. Former Oilers Head Coach and General Manager Glen Sather always had a confidence about him. That just so happened to be what the Hall of Famer passed on to his teams as well. The Oilers of the 80’s are a perfect example.
“He really instilled a belief in us,” said former Oilers defenceman Kevin Lowe. “A concept to believe that you’re good, to believe that you can be the best. I think back to the early days playing the likes of the Montreal Canadiens, the Philadelphia Flyers, the Boston Bruins, the New York Islanders, and he really emphasized that, ‘you guys can be every bit as good as these guys. You can be as good as the great, legendary Canadiens, and you will be.’
“It’s one thing to say that you can, but he always had a great deal of swagger and confidence and when he said, ‘you will be,’ we believed it.”
It was only a matter of time before Glen Sather saw his name raised into the rafters in Edmonton. The long-time player, coach and general manager will see his banner raised in Rexall Place at a game against the Rangers on December 11.
The wait was due to Sather’s tenure in New York as GM. He stepped down from that post on July 1.
“Never in doubt,” said Vice Chair of Oilers Entertainment Group Kevin Lowe. “There was a question of timing, but we’re certainly glad we waited this long because we think it’s that much more fitting. The last year of Rexall and the last year of the Oilers and Oil Kings in this building. I certainly don’t want to say last but not least, but… none of this would have happened without Glen Sather. It’s very fitting that he’ll be the final great moment of Rexall Place.”
The Oilers will be moving into their new downtown home at Rogers Place following this season. Sather will be the final banner raised at Rexall.
Lowe spoke with Sather before the club announced the decision.
“(He was) humble as you would expect and very honoured. Rightfully so. It’s been a long time, and for no other reason than we’ve had a bit of a mandate in terms of people doing their jobs,” said Lowe. “Now he’s not a general manager anymore, we can honour all the great things that he did.”
Kevin Lowe was playing for the Quebec Remparts in the QMJHL when he first met Glen Sather. Little did he know that the two would be seeing a lot more of each other over the coming years.
“For me personally, it was the year before I was drafted by the Oilers,” said Lowe. “I was being recruited by some of the WHA teams and I had a chance to meet with him in Quebec City on the bench during a practice. He had read in the paper I was thinking of signing with the Birmingham Bulls or the Quebec Nordiques and he said, ‘why would you want to sign with those teams, why wouldn’t you want to come out to Edmonton?’ And that was the first time I spoke with him.”
Lowe was taken 21st overall in 1979, joining the Oilers that rookie season. In the following years, Sather made an impact on the young defenceman that has stuck with him until today.
“Everything, for me personally,” Lowe said of what Sather meant to his career. “The support he gave me as a player and the encouragement he gave me in my later stages as a player to keep my eye on the long-term objectives, in terms of coaching and managing. When he brought me back from the Rangers, he brought me back with a contract that allowed me to play for another year and then to get into coaching afterwards. I don’t know if anybody else has ever signed a contract like that. Then when the EIG took over, Glen went to New York and they asked me to be manager. I asked his advice and he said, ‘there are three jobs in hockey. There’s playing, there’s coaching and there’s managing. Playing is the best and coaching is the second best and managing is the third best.’”
Sather will see his name raised into the rafters on December 11, as the Oilers honour the long-time player, coach and general manager. Sather becomes the ninth Oiler to have a banner raised by the team, joining Gretzky, Messier, Coffey, Anderson, Kurri, Hamilton, Fuhr and longtime radio broadcaster Rod Phillips.
On Thursday, the Oilers agreed to terms with 23-year-old Brandon Davidson on a one-year contract. After 12 games with the club last season, the defenceman's natural progression and development suggest he’s ready for more in 2015-16.
“Things were pretty smooth sailing I think,” Davidson told Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now. “With my situation and how things went last year, I think that this was reasonable and I’m glad that I’m able to stay on with the organization. I know I’ve had a taste there now and I feel like I’m ready more than ever. I’m real excited and can’t wait for the challenge ahead of me.”
His road to the NHL is lined with obstacles. The organization made it a point of emphasis to bolster their depth on the blueline this off-season. The competition is much stronger than a year ago. Edmonton traded for both Griffin Reinhart and Eric Gryba at the draft. General Manager Peter Chiarelli has said he expects both to be in Edmonton this season. There is also the competition with 2013 seventh-overall pick Darnell Nurse for a spot. And of course, you have the incumbent defencemen from last season as well as free agent signing Andrej Sekera.
It will be a tough task for a young defenceman like Davidson to unseat some of that competition. But he’s faced adversity before and the 2010 sixth-round pick won’t go down without a fight.
“I feel like I’ve done everything that I’ve been asked and I keep proving over and over again that I belong and that I can do this,” said Davidson. “For me, I know there’s a big challenge ahead of me, especially with what happened at the draft and Darnell Nurse might be ready as well. I know there’s a huge challenge ahead of me but I’ve been facing challenges my whole life and this is just another one. Hopefully I can break this one down too.”
Davidson has gotten bigger and stronger the last few years and last season he was a very important piece of the Oklahoma City Barons defence. Davidson was reliable enough that the coaches put him on the ice for big minutes and big responsibilities. He became more physical this past season, and it showed in his one-on-one battles with opposing players. Davidson says he would like to get a little quicker heading into the upcoming season.
If Davidson is to make the Oilers roster out of training camp, beginning the year as the seventh defenceman may be his best bet.
“That’s very fair,” said Davidson. “That’s my goal right now, to get my foot in that door and if that’s that seventh spot then I’m going to relish that and run with that. Any chance I can be there and stay there, I’m going to take it, make the best of it and work my way to through the ranks kind of thing.”
After signing on with the Oilers for another year, Davidson couldn’t be more happy to at least have that opportunity.
“I’m really excited. I can’t wait to get started this season. I want to start and finish with the Oilers and that’s the goal.”