By PATRICK KING
The Windsor Spitfires honoured the memory of their fallen leader the best way they knew how: with a win.
The Spitfires held a ceremony prior to last Thursday’s home opener to retire the number of former captain Mickey Renaud, who died suddenly from a heart condition after collapsing in his home in Tecumseh, Ont. on Feb. 18.
“It was very special for Mickey and what he left here and his legacy. He truly deserved a good ceremony,” Spitfires general manager Warren Rychel told Sportsnet.ca. “It was touching and it was tough to play a game right after … but we played for Mickey and we got the win.”
Perhaps buoyed by the presentation, the Spitfires dominated the Sarnia Sting 5-0, en route to a perfect 4-0 record so far this season.
The Spitfires will wear a No. 18 patch on their jerseys this season while Renaud’s jersey hangs in his dressing room stall. In addition to his number hanging at the rafters at the Windsor Arena, Windsor mayor Eddie Francis announced the naming of ‘Mickey Renaud Way,’ a street that leads to the team’s new rink that will open in December.
“He deserves it,” Rychel said. “Not only was he a leader on the ice but he was (a leader) off the ice with the team and the community in Windsor and Tecumseh. He left his mark wherever he went with school teachers, underprivileged kids. He was just a great kid; no question about it.”
The Spitfires elected not to name another captain last season after Renaud’s death. The team, however, named forward Joshua Bailey their captain for this season but have yet to see him in their lineup as he remains at the New York Islanders’ camp.
Rychel said he is in contact with Islanders general manager Garth Snow, who appears intent on affording Bailey the opportunity to crack the National Hockey League team’s roster this season. The Islanders’ only other option would be to return Bailey to the Spitfires as he is ineligible to play in the American Hockey League this season.
As Rychel sees it, returning Bailey to Windsor would be a win-win situation for both franchises.
“I feel that if he came back it would only benefit his career in the long run,” he said. “He would come back to our team, be a captain, be a leader, be a 100-point guy and it would only help his development more as an all-around player which, in turn, will help the Islanders in the long run.”
The Spitfires are also hopeful that import forward Andrei Loktionov will be in their lineup this season. The team has had difficulty reaching an agreement with his Russian team but the situation appears to be nearing a conclusion as a hearing was held in Bern, Switzerland on Tuesday.
“I’m anxiously awaiting to see what’s happened and what our next step is to get him here to Windsor,” Rychel said. “I’m confident due diligence will take place and we’ll get our player in the end.”
No goalie controversy in Vancouver
If Vancouver Giants goaltender Tyson Sexsmith is looking for motivation this season, he won’t need to look further than the play of his backup Jamie Tucker.
The 17-year-old Tucker has had an impressive start to his Western Hockey League career, recording two shutout wins in two of his first three starts. Tucker also took home the season’s first Canadian Hockey League goaltender of the week award.
“He’s going to be the goalie of the future for us,” Giants head coach Don Hay said. “He’s been working hard in practice and he’s been getting good support from his teammates and making the saves that are needed for him to have success.”
While Hay says Sexsmith will remain the team’s starting goaltender, he’s hopeful his two goaltenders will push each other to succeed.
“They’re both competitive young men and they both want to do well for themselves and their team,” he said. “I think that’s a real good combination to have competition between the goaltenders.”
If it seems as though the Giants have been spoiled with solid goaltending over the years, it’s because they have. The organization’s expectations from the position are high.
“Is it a little surprising (Tucker) got two shutouts? Yes,” Hay said. “Is it surprising that he’s playing well? No. I mean, that’s what’s expected of him.”
Part of the reason the Giants have enjoyed such success is their succession planning. One of Hay’s goals this season is for Tucker to emerge as a dependable backup and prepare himself to handle the starter’s role next season once Sexsmith moves on to professional hockey.
“Much like when we had Tyson as a 17-year-old, we tried to make sure he played lots so he would be ready to play full time when he was 18,” he said, adding that Tucker will play at least 20 to 25 games this season. “That’s the same mindset we have for Jamie that when he’s 18 he’ll be ready to be the No. 1 goalie.”
Wheat Kings add Priestner
Another 17-year-old goaltender was making headlines in the WHL this week but for different reasons.
The Brandon Wheat Kings acquired James Priestner from the Kamloops Blazers on Monday in exchange for a third-round draft pick. As Wheat Kings head coach and general manager Kelly McCrimmon said, Priestner’s combination of talent and potential were too much to overlook.
“We felt all along that James was one of the top goaltenders in his age group,” McCrimmon told Sportsnet.ca. “Our scouting staff liked him a lot the year he was drafted.
“It’s not often that you get a chance to trade for a young player that has that kind of upside.”
Priestner practised with his new team in Brandon on Tuesday. He is one of three goalies the team is carrying, along with last year’s tandem of Joe Caligiuri and Andrew Hayes.
“We have 26 players in camp so right now we have decisions to make at all positions,” McCrimmon stated.
Otters forward sets record
Erie Otters forward Anthony Luciani placed his name in the OHL record-books during the opening weekend of the season when he became the first player to score two penalty-shot goals in the same game.
The two penalty shot goals came in the third period of a 6-1 victory over the Plymouth Whalers on Sept. 20.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only once has that happened before and that in the NHL. In 2005, Carolina’s Erik Cole scored on one penalty shot and missed on the other.