"Slap Shot" meets "A Season on the Brink" in this twisted tale of minor league hockey in the place with more pro teams than any place in North America: TEXAS!

CHL All-Star Notebook

by Jason Cohen

For players, the All-Star game is a vacation and a showcase. But if you're coaching in it, it's an opportunity to scout opposing players.

"Guys are here because they're skilled, so you see their strengths, but you might see a weakness too," Memphis's Doug Shedden, the Northern Conference coach, said. "Especially the goaltenders -- it's great to see what weaknesses they may have in practice."

At the same time, heated rivalries are put aside. Two weeks ago, San Antonio defenseman Mark DeSantis drew Austin's ire because of a little rough stuff with Dan Price; this week he is Brent Hughes' Southern Conference captain.

"Playing against Austin as much as we do, that's a great honor," DeSantis said.

The Northern Conference won Thursday's skills competition. Ice Bat Daniel Tetrault hit 87mph in the hardest shot round, which Fort Worth Brahma Mike Tilson won handily at 97mph. Brett Seguin helped the South win the accuracy shootout round by hitting four targets on eight shots, though Memphis forward Don Parsons took the individual crown by doing it on five shots. Fort Worth's Kory Cooper bested Austin's Bryan McMullen and Odessa's Mike Gorman in the three rounds that featured scorers vs. goaltenders.

Being selected to the all-star game is a reward. But for a goalie, playing in it can feel like punishment. Last season in Odessa, Austin's Bryan McMullen jokingly shook his head "no" when Hughes first waved him in for starter Ken Carroll, who gave up 7 goals.

"I was kind of hiding in the corner there, saying, no, I don't want any piece of this action," McMullen said. "You're facing the best forwards in the league. Even the defensemen are scorers. You're gonna let in a few goals. You can't let it bust your confidence any."

Ken Hitchcock, the featured speaker at Wednesday's banquet, said the CHL reminds him of his days coaching junior hockey in Alberta.

"I feel that the grass roots part of the game is here," Hitchcock said. "This is where it's fun, where you don't make a great living but you coach for the enjoyment, you coach for the challenge. You and your family have to make sacrifices every day. I went through those things 15 years ago, so I appreciate what you're going through. It's good to get back to the world that made me what I am."

CHL media czar Steve Cherwonak got in the banquet's best verbal jab, after hometown All-Stars Kurt Wickenheiser and Layne Roland made a late post-dinner entrance. "The two guys who were out getting beer, what place are you in?" he cracked. It was the first of many good-natured shots at the cellar-dwelling Ice Rays.

"It's been a rough season," acknowledged Roland, who brightened it up by scoring five goals in a single game last week. "The fans have held in there pretty well for us, so this is a nice little showcase for them."

NOTE: In addition to the online broadcast from Ice Rays radio team Mike Modugno and Rick Dames, fans can follow tonight's action at the real-time scoring site www.pointstreak.com.

Site designed by Rusty/CMW Consulting ©2002 Content ©2002 Jason Cohen