|The ice and boards at Prospera Place underwent minor surgery this week, with the 6,007-seat rink playing host to the CHL's Top Prospects Game this week. The Skills Competition goes Tuesday, with the game itself on Wednesday.|
When Ryan Murray steps onto the ice at Prospera Place this evening, it’ll likely be accompanied with cheers, not the normal jeers he regularly hears.
The CHL’s Top Prospects Game starts tonight with its Skills Competition, followed by the game itself on Wednesday. Both events start at 7 p.m., and Murray, who plays defence for the Everett Silvertips, is amongst the marquee names in the two-day affair for CHL players who are eligible for the NHL’s 2012 draft.
“I’m extremely excited and it’s going to be a lot of fun getting to meet all the guys,” said Murray, who is the WHL’s top-rated defenceman for the draft. “I can tell you that there’s already a lot of excitement in the dressing room and everybody’s looking forward to it.”
Of course, Murray wasn’t around in 2004 when Everett pulled off arguably the biggest playoff upset in WHL history, as the expansion Silvertips stunned the defending league champion Kelowna Rockets in seven games for the Western Conference championship. Though that took place almost eight years ago, fans have long memories, and although the Tips aren’t considered a rival in the Okanagan, they’re certainly not well liked.
“Yeah, that’d be nice . . . and a little unusual,” Murray laughed on possibly being cheered. “Kelowna has a some great fans here, though I’ve never really been booed here. But I’ve certainly been booed in other rinks, that’s for sure.”
Cheers and jeers aside, Murray was wearing a constant and genuine smile during Monday’s media session, a sure sign he’s enjoying being part of this event. Mind you, with its fun, almost high-school reunion-like atmosphere, it’s easy to see why smiles were abundant last night.
“Guys you play against, some of your rivals — guys you don’t get along with on the ice — you can come and shake hands here and you’re friends with them for a few days,” said Murray. “I think that’s one of the coolest things about this whole experience.”
|Members of Team Orr autograph jerseys on Monday.|
Red Deer Rebels defenceman Mat Dumba concurred that this event does have a friendly feel to it, even though the game itself can produce hard, unforgiving moments as players try to climb over each other for higher draft rankings.
“I guess it is like a reunion,” said Dumba. “You play with or against a lot of these guys at one point or another. For me, some guys I played with at U-17 and U-18, I’m seeing them again. It’s nice to talk and reminisce about that stuff and see how they’re doing this season.”
For the Skills Competition, Murray will be in the hardest-shot event, while Dumba will be in the fastest-skater event.
“I’ll be working hard, but it’ll be wait-and-see what happens,” said Dumba. “There’s so many great guys here with so much talent that all you can do is work hard and showcase what you have.”
Murray, meanwhile, said he was “looking forward to the shootout and seeing what those guys come up with. I’m really looking forward to that.”
Approximately 600 tickets are available for today’s Skills Competition, while 1,500 tickets are available for Wednesday’s Top Prospects Game, which will attract around 250 NHL personnel.