by HOWIE STALWICK & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & revor Glass is just 20 years old and no longer attends school, but in the eyes of his Spokane Chiefs teammates, he's a wily old professor. Glass, you see, is the only Chief with Memorial Cup experience, and teammates are hitting him up for all the insight he can offer about the Holy Grail of junior hockey in North America.
"They've all asked questions to get me to explain what it's all about," Glass says. "It's really something that is tough to explain.
"I could always try, but until you really get there, you don't get to really enjoy it. You can't really explain it in words. It's just something that's unbelievable."
Glass played in last year's Memorial Cup with the Medicine Hat (Alberta) Tigers. The Tigers beat Vancouver for the Western Hockey League championship, but the Giants edged Medicine Hat 3-1 in the Memorial Cup title game in Vancouver.
"We got there, and it was all first-class," Glass recalls. "You get flown in, and you get treated like kings.
"All your focus is playing hockey. It's awesome."
"Awesome" is a fitting description for Glass' play since he arrived in Spokane in early January. The Chiefs acquired Glass from Medicine Hat at the WHL trade deadline for the express purpose of making a run at the Memorial Cup, and the 6-foot, 190-pound defenseman has not disappointed.
"He leads by his play, and his work ethic in games and practice is unbelievable," coach Bill Peters says. "He wins one-on-one battles, and he gets to loose pucks first so many times when there's no common sense to how he's able to get there first other than pure effort and desire."
"He's pretty much the whole package," adds Spokane assistant coach Hardy Sauter, a pretty fair defenseman for the Chiefs in his playing days. "And he's fearless, which is a nice touch."
Glass says he's grateful for the trade that brought him to Spokane, but Glass and Medicine Hat coach-general manager Willie Desjardins both said they experienced "mixed emotions" when the deal was made. Glass had spent all three seasons of his WHL career with the Tigers; his first three teams won division titles; and Glass had never lived outside Alberta.
"I really didn't know what to think," Glass says. "It was something I didn't really expect.
"I got the call about an hour before the trade deadline. I was told to come to the coach's office, so I knew what was happening. The five-minute drive to the rink seemed like about an hour."
"Trevor has been a big part of our glue for the past four years and was key in our run at the playoffs last year," Desjardins said after trading for two high Bantam Draft (under-16) picks. "We felt a new environment might be beneficial for him and the best thing for his career."
Indeed, Glass says the trade provided "a great career change for me." He admits to experiencing a bit of "culture shock" after leaving a small Canadian city and arena to play in a much bigger American city and arena, but he's made the adjustment look seamless.
"Since I came to Spokane, it's been unreal," Glass says. "The city, the fans, the rink -- everything's been first-class. I've loved it."
Glass finished the regular season with eight goals, 24 points, 41 penalty minutes and a plus-19 rating (basically, goals for and against his team when he was on the ice) in 62 games. In the WHL playoffs, he added a goal, nine points, eight penalty minutes and a plus-10 in 21 games.
"He's a veteran guy -- he's got a lot of poise," Peters says. "He plays on our power play and he logs a lot of minutes on the penalty kill, but where he's excellent is five-on-five -- he's so quick to the puck, and he works so hard. There's not many guys in the league who are as good as he is one-on-one."
"His foot speed is outstanding," Sauter points out. "He moves the puck quick and early [from the defensive zone] like we like him to do, and another thing he does is he talks in our zone, so everybody knows what he's thinking."
Glass was selected 10th overall with Medicine Hat's first pick in the 2003 Bantam Draft, but a severe concussion and knee problems slowed his development. He has yet to be drafted by an NHL team, but the St. Louis Blues brought him to their rookie camp last fall. ("I felt like I could play at that level," he says.) He could turn pro or return to junior next season.
Glass says Spokane's players, coaches and fans made him feel welcome from the start. The move was made easier when Justin McCrae, a childhood friend and summer golfing/tubing/wakeboarding buddy from back home in Cochrane, Alberta, joined the Chiefs at the same time as Glass.
The trades for both players were made with the Memorial Cup in mind. After coming so close to winning it all last year, Glass thinks he knows what it takes to return from Ontario with the Cup in hand.
"We have a really good team coming in," he says. "Last year, we [the Tigers] were all about speed. This year, it's pretty much the same. I mean, it's a very similar team.
"The only difference I can see is our fourth line has been unbelievable. Last year, Medicine Hat was pretty small, and I think sometimes we got taken advantage of. We didn't really have that fourth line -- a checking line that could go out and take control of things."
THE SCOUTING REPORT
Location: Kitchener, Ontario
League: Ontario Hockey League
Opening face-off: The Ontario League champs, ranked No. 1 in the final major junior poll last month, are led by OHL Most Outstanding Player Justin Azevedo and OHL Goaltender of the Year Mike Murphy The Rangers posted the OHL's best record (53-11-1-3) and finished just one short of the league lead in goals for and against.
Location: Belleville, Ontario
League: Ontario Hockey League
Opening face-off: The Bulls, who lost to Kitchener in the league finals, were ranked third in the final major junior poll. Matt Beleskey, a 6-foot, 202-pound left wing, led a balanced offense with 41 goals and 90 points in the regular season. The Bulls finished the regular season with the second-best record in the OHL (48-14-4-2).
Location: Gatineau, Quebec
League: Quebec Junior League
Opening face-off: The Olympiques won the Quebec League after coming in ninth in the major junior poll. Right wing Claude Giroux, a pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, has been spectacular. And center Paul Byron, has scored 21 playoff goals. Gatineau's Ryan Mior led the league with six shutouts.
League: Western Hockey League
Opening face-off: The Chiefs, ranked behind only Kitchener in the major junior poll, won their second WHL title since the franchise moved from Kelowna, B.C., in 1985. Left wing Drayson Bowman, who led the Chiefs with 42 goals and 82 points in the regular season, is the team's only all-star -- he made the WHL Western Conference second team. Dustin Tokarski led WHL playoff goalies with a 1.38 goals-against average.
MEMORIAL CUP Q & amp; A
Q. What is the Memorial Cup?
A. Think "Final Four" only colder. Four teams from North America's three major junior leagues play May 16-25 in Kitchener, Ont. The format usually involves the three league champions and a host team, but Kitchener beat Belleville in the Ontario League finals, so Belleville advanced because Kitchener is the host.
Q. What is major junior hockey?
A. The top level of amateur hockey for players 20 years old and under, as of Dec. 31 of the season. Junior A is the second-highest level of junior hockey, then comes Junior B (like the Spokane Braves).
Q. If major junior is amateur hockey, how come players get paid?
A. The NCAA has been asking the same question for years, which is why major junior players are banned from the NCAA. Major junior players receive small monthly "living stipends" (20-year-olds earn more than $1,000) during the season. Players also qualify for one year of college costs per season played, and players also receive money from NHL teams if they sign pro contracts while still playing major junior.
Q. When do the Spokane Chiefs play?
A. The second-ranked Chiefs, champions of the Western Hockey League, open against third-ranked Belleville, Ontario, on Saturday at 1 pm (Pacific). Spokane meets top-ranked Kitchener, Ont., on Sunday at 1:30 pm on Sunday, then finishes the round-robin portion of the tournament against ninth-ranked Gatineau, Quebec, on Tuesday at 4 pm. (The game times and spread-out schedule are the result of conflicts with NHL playoff telecasts.)
Q. Will the games be carried on local TV and radio?
A. All Memorial Cup games will be televised live in Canada and the United States, but U.S. viewers must have the NHL Network on their cable or satellite TV package. KGA (1510 AM) airs the Chiefs' games on radio. All games are sold out, even though tickets cost at least $450 -- no single-game tickets were sold -- at stately old Kitchener Memorial Auditorium. Built in 1950, the arena can cram in about 7,000 spectators, counting standing room. Comcast may televise the games on Ch. 78, but rebroadcasting hadn't been finalized at press time.
Q. Have the Chiefs ever won the Memorial Cup?
A. The Chiefs won the 1991 Memorial Cup in Quebec City. Pat Falloon, who was picked second overall behind Eric Lindros in the NHL draft later that year, was named MVP. Falloon and Ray Whitney (still playing in the NHL with Carolina) were high-scoring forwards on a club that also featured goaltender Trevor Kidd, defenseman Jon Klemm and enforcer Kerry Toporowski. Bryan Maxwell coached the team, and the general manager was current GM Tim Speltz.
Q. Has the Memorial Cup ever been played in Spokane?
A. The Chiefs were the host team in 1998. The Portland Winter Hawks defeated the Guelph (Ont.) Storm in the title game. Current NHL standouts who played before then-record Memorial Cup crowds at the Spokane Arena included Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo (Val-d'Or, Que.), Dallas Stars left wing Brenden Morrow (Portland) and Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Marian Hossa (Portland).
Q. Where do major junior players come from?
A: The vast majority of major junior players in North America are Canadian, with a smattering of Americans and Europeans thrown in the mix. Canada is home to 54 of the 60 major junior teams in North America. Lewiston, Maine, of the Quebec League is the only U.S. city with a major junior team besides the four in Washington and one in Oregon. Major junior hockey came to the U.S. when the Edmonton Oil Kings moved to Portland and became the Winter Hawks in 1976. The only Memorial Cup champions from the U.S. were the 1983 and 1998 Winter Hawks and the 1991 Chiefs.
Q. Has a Spokane-area native ever played in the Memorial Cup?
A. Spokane's Tommy Maxwell was a defenseman on the Medicine Hat (Alberta) Tigers when they played in the 2004 Memorial Cup. Liberty Lake's Tyler Johnson, a rookie forward on the Chiefs (and the Most Outstanding Player in the WHL finals), is set to become the second local product to play for the Cup.
Q. When did the Memorial Cup originate?
A. The Memorial Cup, named in honor of Canadian servicemen who died in World War I, began in 1919. The event originally involved just two games between two teams -- the best junior team from western Canada and the best junior team from eastern Canada. Since the Western, Ontario and Quebec leagues all started sending their champions to the Memorial Cup every year in 1972, the WHL has won 17 titles, the OHL 12 and the QMJHL seven.