Tavares gives Gens only bright spot

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:51 PM ET

Ramblings while watching the London Knights run up the score last night against the Oshawa Generals.

Thank goodness for John Tavares, the 15-year-old star of the Generals, or that once-proud franchise would be in a really sorry state.

Tavares is the real deal, as witnessed by the fans at the John Labatt Centre.

Here's an interesting stat. In this day and age of special teams hockey, who leads the OHL in even-strength goals?

Tavares has scored nine of his 11 goals at even strength, which speaks volumes for the kid's talent.

He's been dubbed the Next Next One. (Sidney Crosby is the Next One.) The OHL changed a rule that allowed the Generals to draft Tavares a year early. He's not eligible for the NHL draft until 2009. Wonder if the NHL is contemplating doing the same?

How can Windsor Spitfires owner Steve Riolo and coach/general manager Moe Mantha claim they sat at the front of the bus and didn't hear the commotion at the back?

When four rookies are ordered by veterans to strip and cram into the washroom, there's going to be all sorts of whooping and hollering. This from someone who spent years riding a team bus.

And for the life of me, it's difficult to rationalize commissioner David Branch's decision to suspend Mantha the GM for the rest of the season plus playoffs for the hazing incident, but to suspend Mantha the coach for only 40 games.

Will somebody please explain? Address it to jcressman@lfpress.com

And how will Branch police the suspension to Mantha the GM? It was a toothless suspension when the Knights' Mark Hunter was given a year off by the commissioner.

The early numbers are in on the OHL's new standard of rules enforcement.

Goals are up a whopping 1.76 a game. It was 6.12 last season and now 7.88 in games through Wednesday.

The clampdown was done to increase the scoring chances at the NHL level, but there have always been 100 scoring chances a game in junior, many of those created by mistakes.

Granted, some of the garbage in the junior game needed to be cleaned up. The stars now have an opportunity to do what they do best.

Penalty minutes, on average per team, have gone from 21.67 last season to 26.50 through Wednesday.

Power plays are running 9.45 a game per team. The league doesn't have data for last season.

And good news for those who want to get home to catch the highlights on the late-night sportscasts. The time it takes to play an OHL game has been reduced by three minutes, from two hours 19 minutes to 2:16

There may be more penalties but contrary to complaints from some Knights fans who said they were going to dump their season tickets, the new standard of enforcement and the new rules in general -- such as the tagup offside -- speak to a quicker flow to the game.

One observation, however. The players are well aware when it's only one referee and they try to take advantage of the fact it's two eyes watching them instead of four.

The OHL has gone with two referees for 50 per cent of its regular season games and two refs for all playoff games.

Unless the league can invent a referee with eyes in the back of his helmet, it should consider going with two for all games.

And still on the topic of zebras, referee Sean Reid of London has been assigned by Hockey Canada to officiate at the IIHF world junior championship, Division 1, Group B, in Riga, Latvia, in late March.

Reid, a Level VI official in the Hockey Canada program, is in his third season as an OHL referee, while also working the East Coast and United leagues as well as the OHA.

Last, but not least, the only thing colder than the Generals' sticks last night was the temperature in Level 300.

Brrr.


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