Recreation

Pacific Football Weekly premieres Monday night

Webcast begins at 9 pm on UStream.tv
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

The drama and entertainment of minor league football is front and center on Pacific Football Weekly, a live webcast debuting Monday night on oregonsports.com and UStream.tv/oregonsports.

Cliff Pfenning, publishe of oregonsports.com, and Charlie Latt, All-American lineman for the Portland Monarchs, are the hosts for the show, which includes a live chat room.

The show begins at 9 p.m. on oregonsports.com, and UStream.tv.oregonsports.

Minor league football returns to Oregon in April starting with three weeks of preseason games, ending with the second annual Border War at Battle Ground, Wash., High School, April 16.

The Pacific Football League is the result of an offseason of collaboration between administrators from leagues throughout Oregon and Washington to merge and form one league.

Seven teams from the Oregon Football League, including the three-time defending champion Portland Monarchs, moved into the league.

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Online video chat by Ustream

2011 SEASON
April 2
Portland Raiders at Vancouver*

April 9
Porland Monarchs at Umatilla Panthers*

April 16
BORDER WAR at Battle Ground High
Southern Oregon vs. Vancouver*
South Sound Shockers vs. Rogue Warriors*
Yakima Mavericks vs. Portland Monarchs*
 
April 23
Oregon Outlaws at Springfield
Portland Monarchs at Klamath
Portland Raiders at High Desert
Southern Oregon at Rogue Warriors

April 30
Springfield at Southern Oregon
Klamath at Rogue Warriors
High Desert at Oregon Outlaws
Portland Raiders at Portland Monarchs

May 7
Rogue Warriors at Springfield
Southern Oregon at Klamath
Portland Monarchs at High Desert
Oregon Outlaws at Portland Raiders

May 14
Klamath at Springfield
High Desert at Rogue Warriors
Oregon Outlaws at Portland Monarchs
Southern Oregon at Portland Raiders

May 21
Springfield at High Desert
Klamath at Portland Raiders
Portland Monarchs at Southern Oregon
Rogue Warriors at Oregon Outlaws

May 28
Bye

June 4
Springfield at Grays Harbor
Vancouver at Klamath
Yakima at High Desert
Portland Monarchs at Bellingham
Kitsap Bears at Oregon Outlaws
Portland Raiders at Snohomish Vikings
South Sound Shockers at Southern Oregon
Rogue Warriors at South King Colts

June 11
Snohomish Vikings at Springfield
Klamath at Yakima
High Desert at Kitsap Bears
South King Colts at Portland Monarchs
Oregon Outlaws at South Sound Shockers
Bellingham at Portland Raiders
Southern Oregon at Vancouver
Grays Harbor at Rogue Warriors

June 18
Springfield at Portland Monarchs
Klamath at High Desert
Southern Oregon at Oregon Outlaws
Rogue Warriors at Portland Raiders

June 25
Portland Raiders at Springfield
Oregon Outlaws at Klamath
High Desert at Southern Oregon
Rogue Warriors at Portland Monarchs

July 9
Springfield at Oregon Outlaws
High Desert at Klamath
Portland Monarchs at Portland Raiders
Rogue Warriors at Southern Oregon

JULY 16
Playoff Quarterfinals

JULY 23
Playoffs Semifinals

JULY 30
Championship Game

Pounders claim sectional title, head to nationals

No. 3 Portland set to challenge for first championship
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

The road to a first national championship goes directly to Birmingham, Ala., for the Portland Pounders after they swept the Pacific Sectional Championships of the US Quad Rugby Association Sunday at Reynolds Middle School.

A year after a runner-up finish, the Pounders will head to Birmingham likely as the No. 3 seed of the 16-team national tournament, April 15-17.

“That’s our goal every year and we’ve been close,” Portland forward Will Groulx said. “We’ve got a lot of experience on our team, and that’s an advantage we have over some of the other top teams.”

Portland won all four of its games, including the final against the Utah Scorpions. Utah scored the upset of the tournament by beating San Diego’s Sharp Edge 60-53 in the semifinals.

Sharp Edge beat Portland in the national title game last year.

The top contenders for the national title are from Tucson and Phoenix, Ariz., with the Tucson Pterodactyls seeded No. 1 based on their connection with the US National team.

The Pterodactyls have three Team USA players as well as two others who are in the developmental program.

Portland features two national team players: Groulx and Seth McBride; and also have a member of the Canadian national team: Ian Chan.

Tucson beat Portland by two goals earlier in the current season.

 

VIDEO OF THE 2010 NATIONAL TITLE GAME

 

 

Bridgman's four goals boost Spartans to West Final

Southern Oregon beats Eugene 5-3, faces Seattle in Best-of-5 series
Staff Report

Vance Bridgman scored four goals, including one unassisted with 2:53 left in regulation, to lead Southern Oregon past Eugene 5-3 Saturday at Lane EC Rink and into the North Pacific Hockey League West Division finals.

Southern Oregon beat Eugene 3-1 in their best-of-5 series and next face defending West champion Seattle in a best-of-5 series with the winner playing in the league final against either Helena, Mont., or Missoula, Mont.

The series schedule has yet to be announced.

Bridgman, from Northpole, Alaska, tied for the team lead in goals scored with 50 iin 50 games, and has continued to produce in the playoffs. His four goals Saturday gives him six in the playoffs.

 

EUGENE 7, SOUTHERN OREGON 6 (OT)

Southern Oregon's route to the Norpac West Division title series hit a pothole Friday when the visiting Eugene Generals scored in the final minute of regulation and then tallied in overtime for a 7-6 win that kept their best-of-five series headed to Game 4.

Eugene forced overtime when Kirby Carlson scored his third powerplay goal of the game at 19:49 of the third period, and won on Justin Huelsman's second goal of the game played before a packed house at The RRRink in Medford.

The Spartans got two goals each from Mike O'Brien and Casey Skolnik in the loss.

Southern Oregon still leads the series 2-1 as it heads back to Eugene Saturday night.

The series winner plays Seattle, which finished off its series with River City 9-0 in Vancouver Friday.

In the other two Norpac series, Helena, Mont., swept Yellowstone, Wyo., and Missoula, Mont., swept Billings, Mont.

 

GAME 3 PREVIEW

The Southern Oregon Spartans look to close out their best-of-three North Pacific Hockey League playoff series with the Eugene Generals on their home ice tonight, and then get busy preparing for their biggest challenge of the season – the Seattle Totems.

Eugene isn’t going quietly. The Generals have played like they also want to play Seattle for a shot at the national championship tournament.

Eugene plays Southern Oregon at The RRRink in Medford tonight starting at 7:30 p.m.

Seattle leads River City 2-0 as the teams meet for Game 3 tonight at Valley Ice Arena in Vancouver, Wash. Seattle won the first two games 4-1 and 15-0.

Southern Oregon beat Eugene 6-2 on Tuesday in Medford, then 4-2 Wednesday in Eugene. They’ve been extremely productive on power plays, scoring goals on four of 10 chances.

In other series, Helena, Mont., leads Yellowstone, Wyo., 2-0, and Missoula, Mont., leads Billings, Mont., 2-0. Those series also continue tonight.

 

 

Medford strives to become 'Hockeytown'

Chelios, spirited owners dream of national success
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

It might be hard to think of Southern Oregon as a hockey haven, but it is … for Oregon.

And after three years of supporting a losing junior team, fans in Medford are finally able to pull for an up-and-coming team with a mission: bring Southern Oregon hockey to the attention of the state, then the world.

All it took was an ownership change to ignite a franchise thirsting for success.

The Southern Oregon Spartans, who won just 12 games in their first three years in the Northern Pacific Hockey League, are 31-14 with three games left in the regular season, which runs through March 1. They've clinched second place in the Southern Division, which comes with the home ice edge in the first round of the league playoffs.

But, the owners, coaches and players dream of getting to and even winning a national title in Tier III of USA Hockey’s Junior A division.

“We want to compete with the big boys of the Eastern hockey leagues,” says Forrest Sexton, who bought the team with business partner Troy Irving in February. “We want to put (the NPHL) on the map and have the Northwest be known for good hockey.”

The Spartans are on the map in Medford, where hockey is blossoming. Young skaters who are committed to the sport are growing, the high school level rivals that of the Portland area, and the Spartans pack the local arena, The RRRink, every home game.

In the hockey world, Medford is beginning to fall into the Canadian model of developing hockey families, not just players.

“There’s kids on the Spartans who have younger brothers and they just look at mom and dad and say ‘that’s what I want to do,’” says Jon Andrews, the hockey director at The RRRink. “Just a few years ago, we had two in-house teams and a couple adult teams. Now, we have four in-house teams, four adult teams, five high school teams, and three travel teams.

“Even with the economy down, hockey is still growing.”

And, the Spartans aren’t even a year old.

 

Everybody loves a winner

Junior hockey in Southern Oregon is on a roll after three years of hardcore struggles.

As the expansion Rogue Valley Wranglers, the franchise won just three games in 2007-08, and followed that up with a disastrous 1-47 campaign that included a 44-game losing streak.

The Wranglers sprang up under 25-year-old founder Kevin Schwartz, who grew up in Eugene and had started a club hockey team at Western Illinois University. But he had only been an intern at a junior team in Chicago before partnering with his father to buy into the NPHL (Norpac), which was a Junior B league at the time.

When the Wranglers arrived along with an expansion team in Missoula, Mont., the league moved to Junior A and the talent level demands went up. With a young owner, who hired a head coach from the community on a part-time basis, and without proven success or substantial funds for recruiting, the team attracted who it could.

“When you have a team that loses a lot, you get players from other losing teams and the attitudes that go with that,” Andrews says. “There were players here the past couple years I did not want to deal with.”

At the end of the 2008-09 season, the Wranglers dressed just 11 players.

Last season, Schwartz hired Steve Chelios as full-time coach and put more funds into recruiting. On the ice, the Wranglers improved to 8-40, but were on the verge of folding when Sexton and Irving stepped in with two games left on the schedule. They immediately re-named the team and set out to build a franchise that would consistently attract fans and scouts alike.

Both Sexton, who owns Spectrum Orthotics & Prosthetics, Inc., and Irving, who owns several Papa Murphy’s franchises, have sons on the team, but also have a deep love for the game, and its role in the community and didn’t want to see it end.

“Having a son on the team is how I got into the game, but it’s not the only reason we bought the team,” Sexton says. “We bought the team to keep junior hockey around in Medford. I definitely wanted to see this level of hockey stay in Southern Oregon.”

Chelios, the younger brother of NHL legend Chris Chelios, has been a key to upgrading the team as coach, scout and recruiter. With Chelios and Sexton heading the scouting effort, the Spartans recruited a roster full of players hungry to showcase their skills for scouts and coaches at higher levels of the hockey pyramid.

The Spartans have players from Massachusetts to Alaska, as well as six local players.

The recruitment effort, Chelios says, has immediately raised the team’s level of play.

“Last year, we had a lot of first-year players, guys who got too much ice time they weren’t ready for,” he says. “The guys who stayed are a year older and bigger and we’ve got a lot of other big, strong kids so we’re able to sit players out when they’re not doing their jobs. That’s a good tool to have.”

As the team has won on the ice, it’s won in the stands. The Wranglers reported an average attendance of 242 fans per game in their inaugural season and reported an average of 380 last season. This season, the team is up to 464 fans per game, which is close to capacity at The RRRink.

“They sell out every game,” says Andrews. “There’s a lot of excitement around the team. They’ve really put a spark into hockey here.”

 

The hockey pyramid

To earn their ice time, the Spartans not only have to show up every practice and outplay their teammates, they have a monetary task, too – they pay to play. They pay a lot, $3,500. The player fee is part of the Tier III economic model set up by USA Hockey’s as it works to improve the quality of play in the nation to better compete with Canada and the world.

The American Development Model focuses on U.S. players by limiting teams to just two import players, and has divisions based on skill level for Junior players, who are all ages 16 to 20. Teams play at Tier I, II or III. Tier III has three levels as well, A, B and C.

The Winterhawks play at the Major Junior level of the Canadian Hockey League, which has two other Major Junior Leagues.

USA Hockey’s Tier III has five other leagues beyond the Norpac, which are spread across the nation with teams from Portland, Maine to Fresno, Calif., to Alaska. The six leagues have a combined 70 teams. Annually, the top two teams from each league play in a national championship tournament. Last season, the St. Louis Jr. Blues won.

The 26 Tier II teams all play in the North American Hockey League, which includes Wenatchee, Wash. At Tier II, though, players don’t pay to play anymore. As the playing level goes up, so do the crowds. The Wenatchee Wild regularly draw crowds of 3,000 or more to the $52 million, 4,5000-seat Town Toyota Center, built in 2008. The league average attendance is 1,224 per game.

There are 16 teams in the Tier I United States Hockey League, which attracts an average of 2,460 fans per game. Tier I is the USA Hockey level closest to Major Junior, which is the Canadian Hockey League’s top level and includes four teams in Washington: Everett, Seattle, Tri-City and Spokane as well as the Hawks.

The USHL and NAHL promote the number of alumni they have who’ve reached the NHL or current players who’ve signed with a college. At the Tier III level, getting the attention of a scout from a college or Tier I or II team is the goal for all the sweat and bruises and cost of getting on the ice.

At Tier III, the college scouts come from schools without big names. While the Spartans and Jaguars played they were scouted by a representative of Fitchburg State, which is located in central Massachusetts. The current Falcons, who play NCAA Div. III, feature two players from the NPHL and a slew of others from Tier III teams. The NCAA’s top division features a number of larger schools, such as Michigan and Michigan State, but most schools are relatively unknown to sports fans who only follow college football and basketball.

Currently, North Dakota, St. Cloud State, Bemidji State and Ferris State are all in the Top 10 of the NCAA Div. I power rankings.

A number of larger schools, such as Oklahoma, have well-organized club teams that can play for a national title.

Getting the attention of colleges and Tier I and II teams has been a challenge for Norpac teams because of the league’s image, but that image is changing as the Spartans improve and the league gets set to expand further into Montana. League teams all produce a live web cast of games and have online player bios available. The league has an annual showcase tournament for recruiters just as other leagues do.

The next big step for the 11-year-old league is success at the national level.

 

Building a champion

Southern Oregon’s two import players, Mike Feagan and Saylor Preston, have produced at the level they’ve been expected, which has been a key to the Spartans’ success. With their play and overall hockey leadership, the team becomes more like a Canadian hockey team with every practice.

“Their experience bleeds through the team in a positive way, the intensity they bring to the game and the commitment,” Chelios says. “Not only are they good players, but they’re good leaders and good guys.”

Feagan, who played in Medford last season, says the ownership change and energy put into recruiting has shown up on the ice with every game.

“The will to win really improved,” Feagan says. “This group is like a big family, we’ve really bonded together.”

Feagan, who grew up in St. Albert, Alberta, says the local players have done their part to improve on the ice much like players from his hometown, where there are as many as 30 outdoor rinks in winter.

“Every chance they get to be out on the ice, they pounce on it,” he says.

“There’s a lot more guys with a lot more skill, and the guys just have a lot more passion for the game,” says Dane Irving, a senior at Medford’s St. Mary’s High who also played for the team last year. “Practices are intense.”

Having a close team is a key element to building the franchise into a long-term success because of the Tier III recruiting challenges regardless of the team’s geographic location.

“It’s a battle for any coach at this level because when you have to get kids who have to pay to play, they want to go where they don’t have to pay,” Chelios says. “You’re the second or third choice sometimes.

“Realistically, a lot of guys belong at this level until they prove that they don’t. That’s something that’s hard to convince them about, but our guys are starting to get it.”

 

Selling the brand

The best way for players on the Southern Oregon roster to prove they belong at a higher level is to win under the kind of pressure that comes with playoff games. With the Norpac’s East and West playoff alignment, they’re tantalizingly close to the national tournament. Two teams qualify for the tournament from the Norpac – one from the East and one from the West. With just five teams in the West, the Spartans would need to win just two best-of-five series to advance to the Norpac Championship Series and a guaranteed spot in the 12-team national tournament, April 1-5, in Rochester, Minn.

Standing in the way of the national tournament are the Seattle Totems. Seattle enters the weekend with a division-leading 35-4 record. During the past three-plus seasons, the Totems, who have a significant recruiting advantage with their metropolitan surroundings, are a combined 161-24 and played in the league final in 2008, ‘09 and ‘10. They're 9-2 against Southern Oregon.

Both Southern Oregon wins over the Totems were in Medford, but six of the other eight games were decided by two goals or less, including one that went to a shootout. On Friday, the Spartans lost 6-3 to Seattle, but gave up two goals in the final 40 seconds into an empty net after pulling their goalie trailing 4-3 in front of a packed areana.

Chelios says the Spartans are improving enough to be capable of beating the Totems in a best-of-five series.

“We’ve got a good team in place,” he says. “We’re just about ready to give Seattle a run.”

One of the biggest advantages the Spartans have over the Totems is fan support. The RRRink is regularly packed with up to 600 fans, while Seattle rarely plays before as many as 100 fans.

“That’s the best part of playing is that there’s a lot of people at games,” Dane Irving says. “When there’s a goal scored, people go crazy.”

“It’s great hearing the fans cheer,” says team scoring leader Chris Whitten, who’s from Vacaville, Calif. “Back home it was mostly just the parents and a few friends, but we have such great support. It’s definitely the most people I’ve ever played in front of.”

Sexton, whose son Jake is on the team, says the team’s success on and off the ice has been personally fulfilling, especially as he’s focused on simply playing a leadership role within the area’s athletic community.

“More than anything, Southern Oregon needs this caliber of athletics,” he says. “I wanted to keep good competitive athletics available in the area so young kids to see what they can become.”

The Spartans are doing their part to use their potential success as motivation for continued improvement.

“We’re shooting for it all,” says Jake Sexton, a junior at St. Mary’s. “We want to go to nationals and win nationals, whatever our team can carry us to.”

 

Imagine the Winter or Summer Olympics in Oregon

Yes, Oregonians have dreamed of playing host to both
Staff Report

Fortius Oregon is the story of how one man dreamed of bringing the Olympic Winter Games to Oregon and how that dream turned into Oergon Sports Action, a non-profit organization that has quietly affected the sports legacy of the state for more than two decades.

Follow the story from its inception - Sam Lackaff, a general manager at a potato chip company - inventing the idea while watching the 1984 Winter Olympics from Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, on television. In just three short months, and only working part-time, he had the state on the national map as being a host site for the 1996 Winter Games.

From there, it's off to the state's Olympic history, which includes a bid by Portland to host the 1968 Summer Olympics, and the frustration that has followed both attempts.

The book moves from the dream of the Winter Games to the reality of creating an organization to represent the state to sporting events on a national and international level, an organization that became the Oregon Sports Authority.

There's much more, all regarding the state's sports history and it's future, all for $14.96.

 

Fortius Oregon

Porter heads 2010 Hall of Fame class

Evening at the MAC honors eight inductees
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

PORTLAND – Oregon welcomed back Terry Porter, one of its favorite adopted sons, Tuesday as part of the annual Oregon Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and he talked up that he’s staying.

Porter, who grew up in Wisconsin and played basketball for Wisconsin Stevens-Point (an NAIA school), spent 10 seasons in Portland as point guard for the Trail Blazers, helping lead the team to the NBA Finals twice (1990, ’92). He played seven more seasons in the league and was a head coach twice, but most Oregonians know and respect him for his durability – he never played fewer than 35 games in a season, and commitment to community – the NBA honored him with its J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 1993.

Porter, selected with the last pick of the first round in the ’85 Draft – when the league had just 23 teams, now resides in Portland and is an ambassador for the Blazers.

Porter anchored a class of eight inductees during the ceremony at the Multnomah Athletic Club.

Also inducted were Nick Robertson, one of the most successful Oregon high school basketball coaches of all time; Brian Henninger, USC golf All-American and PGA professional; Joy Selig-Petersen, OSU championship gymnast and NCAA record holder; Paul Brothers, who quarterbacked Oregon State to the 1965 Rose Bowl; Nate Jones, referee in the Pac-8 for football and basketball and long-time referee in the NFL; Dwight Jaynes, long-time Portland newspaper, radio and television personality, and Jack Elder, Olympian in the luge (1972) and long-time executive officer of Oregon Sports Action.

The evening also included an announcement that the Hall of Fame is planning a fund-raising auction and dinner at Memorial Coliseum, May 19, 2011. Proceeds from the event will help fund the establishment of a permanent home for the Hall of Fame, which inducted its first class in 1980.

 

Olympic Games head for Oregon, someday

New book chronicles the '80s attempt to host the Winter Games
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

It might have started in a sports bar, or around a campfire or even from a lounge chair - the 1980s campaign by Oregonians to host an Olympic Winter Games.

But, it happened.

Shortly after Sarajevo, Yugoslavia - a Communist nation, held the Winter Games in 1984, a somewhat randy Portland businessman named Sam Lackaff began talking up the Beaver State as being a perfect host for a future Winter Games.

Oregon, Lackaff thought, had a world class ski area at Mt. Bachelor, a major university with facilities just a short drive away in Eugene and a large urban area just another short drive away in Portland, Oregon had all the elements needed to play host to a Winter Games, it just needed to get inspired to make it happen.

So, Lackaff began working to inspire and unify the state behind a single goal: bring the 1996 Winter Olympics to Oregon.

“Fortius Oregon” follows the story of Lackaff recruiting a staff, creating a non-profit organization to raise money and submit a bid to host the 1996 Olympic Winter Games at Mt. Bachelor, Autzen Stadium and Mt. Hood.

A big plan? It turned out to be, but the non-profit survived and played a key role in helping create the Oregon Sports Authority, which today serves the purpose of marketing the state to the world as a venue for athletic events.

A dome on Autzen. George Steinbrenner in Portland. The Summer Olympics at Delta Park. They’re all chronicled by oregonsports.com publisher Cliff Pfenning in “Fortius Oregon,” available for $14.96 through oregonsports.com.

BUY FORTIUS OREGON

Weibring leads at The Tradition, Safeway Classic opens

SATURDAY ROUNDUP: Beavers can't avoid sweep, Vik alum wins Arena Bowl
Staff Report

D.A. Weibring has only two top-10 finishes the past two years on the Champions Tour. The second-round leader of the JELD-WEN Tradition thinks he'll remember how to handle the pressure of being in a final pairing.

Weibring shot his second-consecutive 5-under par 67 Friday at Crosswater Club to take a two-stroke lead over Tom Lehman.

The Tradition is the fourth of five majors on the Champions Tour.

Champions Tour kicks off in Sunriver

Safeway Classic begins today
Staff Report

D.A. Weibring rallied with birdies at Nos. 17 and 18 to shoot a 5-under 67 and share the first-round lead with Tom Lehman in Sunriver at the Jeld-Wen Tradition, the fourth of five majors on the PGA Champions Tour.

Weibring made his lone bogey of the day on the Crosswater Club course at the par-4, 468-yard 14th to slip to 3 under. But Weibring wiped that out and more by making a 12-foot birdie putt at the 244-yard, par-3 17th, then an 8-footer for birdie at the par-4, 456-yard 18th.

Warner Robins, Ga., defends its series title

WEDNESDAY NEWS: Beavers drop another as home games dwindle
Staff Report

Warner Robins, Ga., batted around in the first inning and survived a late rally to win its second-straight Little League Softball World Series title Wednesday with an 8-6 victory over Burbank, Calif., at Alpenrose Dairy.

Warner Robins, the Southeast Region champion, had just one hit in the first inning, but received five walks to take a 4-0 lead, and led 8-4 heading into the bottom of the sixth.

Burbank, the champion of the West Region, scored twice in the sixth and had the tying run at the plate when the game ended..

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