Lanny Ramage, Krister Toews double up in the nets
You'd think Portland Winter Hawks goaltenders Lanny Ramage and Krister Toews could find something more worldly to talk about other than hockey.
'We brag about Triple-A midget teams,' Toews says.
Toews played for Eastman Selects. Ramage for Pembina Valley Hawks.
This means nothing to Portlanders, but it means the world to two guys who grew up on farms in the Manitoba, Canada, outback.
'He played a year after me, and his team won the provincial championship. He always throws that ring in my face,' Ramage says. 'The year before, we had a good team, and we kicked his butt.'
Actually, just to see Ramage and Toews getting along, rooming together on road trips and becoming good friends, thrills Portland coach Mike Williamson. The 20-year-old Ramage, a fourth-year player, has had to step back and relinquish some playing time to Toews, 19.
Ramage was the man in Portland the past two seasons, leading the Winter Hawks to the WHL Finals in 2001 and the WHL's U.S. Division title last season. Toews, acquired last year, got some playing time, but not in big games. It was still Ramage's team. In fact, Ramage is three games away from becoming Portland's all-time leader in games played by a goaltender (152, Darrel May).
Even today, it still stings Ramage to sit, as he did Wednesday against Prince George. But Ramage and Toews have buddied up, and when guys buddy up, it makes playing, practicing and traveling the roads of junior hockey much more fun.
'We're lucky, because both guys are very popular, top-end conditioned athletes who interact well with the team,' Williamson says. 'Lanny's more outgoing and emotional, and Krister's more levelheaded and calm. Both push themselves and each other. It's a competitive situation, like Lanny had with (Jomar) Cruz. It's competitive, but they're good friends.'
For now, Williamson goes with 'the hot guy,' which usually means the two goalies alternate.
'We control our own destiny,' Toews says.
Trading time looms
Both realize that another WHL team could come calling anytime for an older goalie. In junior hockey, it is somewhat unusual for a second-division team such as Portland, with so much youth, to sport goalies ages 19 and 20.
Guaranteed, if General Manager Ken Hodge gets the right offer, either Toews or Ramage would go. In a way, both goalies are auditioning for other teams. Both have been playing well, too. Ramage has aÊ.904 save-percentage and 2.88 goals-against average, and Toews has .877 and 3.64.
'Neither of us is really scared. I've been traded before, I know what it's like,' Toews says.
Ramage expects rumors to heat up again near the Jan. 10 WHL's trading deadline, when contending teams fish for goalies.
'I don't want to be traded,' he says, 'but if it happens, hopefully it's not because they want to get rid of you, but because another team wants you really badly. I don't want to leave this place; it's been good to me.'
Besides, if either gets traded, who would pick up the slack and want to talk about life in Kleefeld, population 500 (Toews' hometown), or Baldur, population 350 (Ramage's hometown)?
'It keeps us from missing home,' Toews says.
NOTES: Defenseman Braydon Coburn was ranked as the No. 2 NHL prospect in the most recent Red Line Report, an independent scouting service. The 6-5 Coburn has skills, but the ranking stems more from 'his character and work ethic,' Williamson says. 'If you're going to draft a guy that high, it has to be someone you can build your organization around. He's a captain type.' Coburn also has amped up the toughness, not backing down from fights.