Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Bulldogs win the Calder Cup


On a team with no superstars, it's only fitting that the Hamilton Bulldogs' championship-winning goal came from one of their checking fowards.

Ajay Baines scored a short-handed goal at 9:33 of the third period, giving the Bulldogs their first American Hockey League title Thursday with a 2-1 win over the Hershey Bears.
Hey, I know just as well as anyone where the AHL's championship ranks on the sports hierarchy, but it's not every day a 'friend of the blog' nets the winner in a big game like this (or has any athletic accomplishment, come to think of it).

It's great to see that fans in Hamilton came out en masse tonight — more than 14,000 were on hand — after the team drew poorly through the early rounds, as there are an awful lot of good people in the Bulldogs organization.

I was able to chat with head coach Don Lever earlier in the week, and he strikes me as a sharp hockey man and a guy utterly committed to developing the Canadiens prospects into solid pros. The Bulldogs were an extremely young team this season, even by AHL standards, and at 29, Ajay is the second-oldest player on the team.

At the other end of the scale, Hamilton has the likes of Carey Price (19), Matt D'Agostini (20), Kyle Chipchura (21), Maxim Lapierre (22), Cory Urquhart (22), Ryan O'Byrne (22), Michael Lambert (23), Andre Benoit (23), Mikhail Grabovsky (23), Corey Locke (23) and Duncan Milroy (24) who are in that 25-and-under group, and more than a few of these kids will be in the NHL in the next couple of years.

Price, in particular, sounds like a real winner, as he won the MVP of the AHL playoffs despite the fact he only played two regular season games before taking over the starter's role. Both Lever and Baines had nothing but good things to say about Price, and the head coach even intimated that a role with the Canadiens next season for the youngster is not out of the question.

Chipchura, meanwhile, is the other prized pup on the Bulldogs and will get a look at training camp in the fall, while O'Byrne is positively enormous on the blue line (6 foot 5, 235 pounds) and has developed well since leaving Cornell.

It's a real shame that minor-league hockey hasn't been more of a success in Canadian markets, as what's happened with the Marlies here in Toronto is a travesty. The Manitoba Moose have consistently been one of the top drawing teams in the AHL over their existence, a testament to the strength of the Winnipeg market, but here's hoping the league can make more inroads with franchises in medium-sized cities north of the border.

In any event — a Calder Cup is good news if you're a Canadiens fan.

And with that, I think we've reached the end of the on-ice portion of the hockey happenings for the year. Finally.

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6 Comments:

At 11:02 PM, June 07, 2007, Blogger sager said...

Nice for Ajay.

 
At 9:04 AM, June 08, 2007, Blogger Chemmy said...

That's an amazing playoff beard.

 
At 11:48 AM, June 08, 2007, Blogger El Brucio said...

Check out their playoff beards here:

http://www.hamiltonspectator.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=hamilton/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1180672069580&call_pageid=1112274690688&col=1112274690756

The reality of this is that more players on Hershey will suit up for the Capitals than Hamilton players for the Habs next year, but still expect quite a number to get good looks with Montreal next year and in the years to come.

The Bulldogs also did this without Andrei Kostitsyn, who was injured in the first round and was their top PPG player during the regular season.

Montreal fans want management to open up a D spot, possibly for O'Byrne, next year. Lost in the Price hype is Chipchura, who also captained a Canadian WJC champion in his final junior season as well as won a Calder Cup as a professional rookie, playing a key role shutting down some high scoring lines (including Chicago's dominant line of Sterling-Krog-Haydar). Championships seem to follow Chipchura and Price... it's definitely a good sign for Habs fans.

 
At 12:03 PM, June 08, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

" Championships seem to follow Chipchura and Price... it's definitely a good sign for Habs fans."

Let's hope not!

 
At 12:34 PM, June 08, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice to see Franco Harris win a Calder Cup to go with the Super Bowl rings.

 
At 3:52 PM, June 08, 2007, Blogger Sherry said...

Those playoff beards are hideous and sadly they kept them for the reception at city hall today. They must have been melting since they were forced to wear their jerseys as well.

Sadly not pictured, O'Byrne and Phil Sauve's awesome awesome porn 'staches.

 

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