An average day for me begins at around 6 a.m. when my dog, Stafford, wakes me up for her eary-morning walk. Then, after breakfast and a shower, I'm in my second-floor office with its picturesque view of lower Pine St. in Sault Ste. Marie by 7:30 a.m. Which is when I mix and match and ponder and peruse the material that will serve as column content for the various publications and sites that I write for on both sides of the Canada-United States border.
Spent part of Monday afternoon at a local sports bar, sipping a few beer and swapping a few stories with Chris Mei, an assistant coach with Corpus Christi IceRays of the North American Hockey League and Charly Murray, who scouts for the Elliot Lake Bobcats of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
Mei, who was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, is home for a visit this week, while Murray, a retired steelworker, has lived his entire life in the Soo.
The 33-year old Mei and the 60-something Murray have a history that dates back about 18 years when Mei was trying out as a forward for a Soo midget team that Murray was assisting as a coach and manager.
The team had enough forwards so Murray convinced Mei to switch to defence, which he did. Mei would later graduate to play in the Metro Toronto Jr. Hockey League, the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League and at the Canadian University level before turning pro and ending up in Corpus Christi. Mei played four seasons for Corpus Christi when it was a part of the minor pro, Central Hockey League before retiring and turning to coaching as the IceRays became a part of the NAHL.
Mei credits his old friend Murray for helping him make a career out of hockey and Murray calls Mei "one of the best young men who I have ever known. He's a natural leader who, as a player, was often the captain of the teams he played for. I'm very happy that he has stayed with hockey as a coach."
Mei, to be sure, has a good name throughout the NAHL from folks such as Corpus Christi owner Tim Lange, Fairbanks Ice Dogs general manager Rob Proffitt et al.
As for Murray, he has devoted a lifetime to hockey as a volunteer coach, manager and scout. His current gig with Elliot Lake is his latest NOJHL afffiliation, having also scouted for Parry Sound Shamrocks, Northern Michigan Black Bears, Blind River Beavers, Soo Thunderbirds and Soo Eagles.
I am hearing that an NAHL rookie to keep an eye on this coming season is 5-foot-10 forward Layne Martin, who was tendered by Soo Eagles and has a commitment to play with the first-year franchise.
The speedy Martin was the leading scorer with Detroit Belle Tire major midgets last season and a National Hockey League contact of mine said he saw the 1993 birth year forward play at a prospects event earlier this summer and was both surprised and impressed with his development.
"This is a kid who wants to be a hockey player and who has been improving in leaps and bounds since his days as a high school player in Ohio,'' the NHL scout told me.
University of Alaska-Fairbanks is one Division 1 school that reportedly already has Martin on its radar for 2013-14 or 2014-15 as the two-way forward gets set to begin his NAHL career in the Soo.
FALCONS IN FLIGHT
Defending NAHL North Division champion Port Huron Fighting Falcons will be holding their main camp this weekend at Mount Clemens Ice Arena.
Under new coach-general manager Steve Shannon, the Fighting Falcons can return as many as 15 players from the 2011-12 North Division title team including goalie Max Milosek, defencemen Nolan Valleau and Alex Archibald and scoring leaders Alex Globke, Ian Miller and Easton Powers.
Interestingly, Archibald is a brother-in-law to former Port Huron coach-GM Bill Warren.
Cody Milan, a 6-foot-3 forward who Soo Greyhounds selected in the fourth round of the 2012 Ontario Hockey League draft, is going the National Collegiate Athletic Association route.
Milan, who played prep school hockey at Orchard Lake St. Mary's (just outside Detroit) during the 2011-12 season, has a commitment to play at the Division 1, NCAA level for Michigan State University effective the 2014-15 campaign.
Thus, Milan won't be suiting up in the OHL for the Greyhounds and will instead hone his skills during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons with either Soo Eagles of the Tier 2, NAHL or Sioux Falls Stampede of the Tier 1, United States Hockey League.
The Eagles took Milan in the second round of the 2012 NAHL draft. Sioux Falls made Milan its first-round pick of the 2012 USHL futures draft.
Meanwhile, the Greyhounds have also lost out -- at least for now -- on their fifth-round pick from the 2012 OHL draft, forward-turned-defenceman Ryan Mantha.
Mantha, a mammoth 6-foot-4, 205 pounder from Detroit Belle Tire midgets, has signed a tender with Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL and will spend the 2012-13 season with them.
Soo Thunderbirds begin defence of their 2011-12 Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League championship when the first puck of their 2012-13 regular-season schedule drops on Friday, September 7.
One of the big questions facing the rebuilding Birds is who will be the team's no. 1 goalie with the graduation of NOJHL all-star and playoff most valuable player John Kleinhans.
As we reported earlier, Thunderbirds general manager Kevin Cain has tapped American-born Steve Dombrosky as the heir apparent to Kleinhans. But Cain admitted to me that Dombrosky has yet to be signed to an NOJHL card. And sources have told me that the 1993 birth year goalie has received at least one invitation to a North American Hockey League main camp.
Dombrosky began the 2011-12 season in the NOJHL with Soo Eagles before finishing the campaign with the AAA midget Soo Indians.