During the season, Checkers broadcaster Jason Shaya checks in each week with his 10 Thoughts - a series of observations about the team and the hockey world in general.
1. Nick Schilkey is one of the best Checkers players going right now. With six points in his last six games, he's made his case to stay as a top six forward for Charlotte. The rest of the team needs to start following the lead of the Ohio State product because he is one of the few players scoring consistently.
2. In the earlier months this season there were many contributors the cause. All the goal scoring, which was well documented, overshadowed the goaltending excellence of Alex Nedeljkovic. While the majority of the team has slumped lately, Nedeljkovic is only getting better. Without him, this team could literally be fighting for a playoff position rather than still on top of the Atlantic Division.
3. Hockey Night in Canada legend Don Cherry, a critic of the Hurricanes’ postgame celebration, was recently quoted saying, "We in Canada, at least most of the people I know in Canada, revere the game. I don't think there's any secret there. I guess I'm the only guy who said it, but that's why I said it. I mean it, I mean every word." It's fairly clear he's always had an innate animus towards non-Canadian based teams. In his eyes, it's "Canada's game." The rest of the world is only borrowing what Canada gave the world. I've watched Coach's Corner since I was a kid back home in Detroit on CBC Channel 9. Sometimes I agree with him and sometimes I don't. But his reaction to this is unsurprising. Of course, there's just one glaring issue:
4. Cherry routinely dresses in loud suits styled in a fashion that you'd find on a 1970's era living room couch. Every week he pounds the desk on television and screams his opinions in front of the camera. He's a showman. He's an entertainer. You don't become a household name for 40-plus years on TV without learning how to attract attention in an effort to garner viewership. Before he lectures everyone on the dignity of the game and the professionalism players should carry themselves with, maybe he should first take off the leopard print suit jacket. I've written this dozens of times and I'm happy to do it again: We are in the entertainment business. I doubt that the many volumes of Rock'em Sock'em Hockey would've sold as well if it was a lecture series rather than a highlight reel compilation. Finally, I am not shocked at all by the number of smug hockey media members who jumped on the bandwagon with Cherry if only so they could publicly look down on North Carolina hockey fans. Pathetic.
5. Does anyone do third jerseys better than the Charlotte Checkers? I have been around this league many times over and the answer is no. The Miracle On Ice jerseys to be worn this weekend are phenomenal and worth the price of admission on Friday.
6. Charlotte Checkers legend Chris Terry recently played his 700th professional game. At 29 years old, Terry still averages a point per game in the AHL and currently leads the Grand Rapids Griffins in scoring. He is one of the best hockey players to ever put on a Checkers sweater and he is still talked about to this day by those in the hockey staff who knew him. One thing has eluded Terry in his career and that's a Calder Cup. I'd suspect this is his best chance. Congratulations to Chris and his beautiful wife Chelsea.
7. Lehigh Valley is in town this weekend. They are currently on the outside of a playoff position. They are winless in their last two games and have to try and keep pace with the surging Hershey Bears and Providence Bruins. Bridgeport has taken points in five straight games so the Atlantic Division is going to be insanity until the last day of the season. Charlotte desperately needs to find consistency or it's going to get ugly quick.
8. Drafted by the Canes in the seventh round in 2015, Steven Lorentz has worked incredibly hard to get into the Checkers lineup. He has done everything the coaching staff has asked of him and when he got his shot, he made the most of it. Scoring a goal last Friday against Springfield was just one of the many great things he did in that game. The six-foot-three forward is a big body who skates well and has solid offensive instincts. Good for Steven, who is a terrific kid.
9. I've been calling games for a long time but I've never lost my voice until this previous week. My voice was faltering going into the Canes’ game in New Jersey but I survived. When I woke up the next day, I couldn't say a word. By the time the weekend came and I had two games to call, it was only moderately better. The worst part was that I couldn't elevate my call in big moments for the last NHL game and when I tried, it sounded pretty awful. However, calling a win for Charlotte on Friday and for Carolina on Saturday was a good consolation prize. Nevertheless, it was one of the most frustrating weeks of my professional career.
10. I think earlier this year I made the case that if the Canes make the postseason, Sebastian Aho should be in the conversation for Hart Trophy as league MVP. No one listens to me but I feel the need to reiterate myself!
Happy 70th birthday to Checkers owner Michael Kahn. He's been my boss for the last 12 years and in all those years, we've never had a single argument. That's mostly because when he gets mad at me, I just stand there and take it. No one wants to win more than Michael and he's unquestionably the best guy to have in your corner. The entire broadcast department wishes you many more birthdays to come.
Since landing home on Monday morning, the Checkers will play only four times in 18 days. All four of those games are at home. There will be no excuses but to play their best games at the Coliseum against both the Phantoms and the Devils. Broadcast begins at 6:45 p.m. this Friday night. It's good to be home.