Former Cents Forward Milan Gajic Becomes a Free Agent, Article on Former Cents AP Devin Gannon:

With the folding of the Victoria Salmon Kings, all of their players have become free agents, able to sign anywhere in the ECHL or elsewhere.

Former Centennials forward Milan Gajic is among five ex-BCHL players on the Salmon Kings. Others include Matt Butcher (Chilliwack, 2003-06), Rick Cleaver (Salmon Arm, 2003-04), Ryan MacMurchy (Vernon, 2000-01) and Matt Siddall (Victoria/Powell River/Langley, 2003-04).

Here’s the release from the Salmon Kings website:

For Immediate Release

Friday, May 6, 2011

Victoria, BC – The Victoria Salmon Kings, proud affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks and Manitoba Moose, announced today that the organization has withdrawn from the League with the full approval of the ECHL Board of Governors

The withdrawal effectively ends the Salmon Kings organization. The players have been awarded free-agency, and given the opportunity to choose the future direction of their hockey careers.

Mark Hunter of the Kamloops Daily News had a chat with former Cents AP Devin Gannon about his trip to Russia with a group of fellow BCHL players last month.

Here’s the article:

Daily News Sports Reporter

Devin Gannon’s last road trip with some of his former Salmon Arm Silverbacks teammates turned out to be a beauty.

But this certainly wasn’t any normal junior A hockey road trip.

Gannon, a 19-year-old Kamloops native, recently returned from Russia, where he and a group of B.C. Hockey League selects played in a tournament in Podolsk.

It was the trip of a lifetime for Gannon, and helped alleviate some of the pain he felt when the Silverbacks’ season ended.

It was something of a double-whammy – within a week of the Silverbacks being eliminated from the playoffs, Gannon learned that he was on the move, traded to the Cowichan Valley Capitals as part of a January deal that sent forward Mike Hammond to Salmon Arm.

It likely felt like being kicked in the shins after being punched in the throat – the Silverbacks’ defeat at the hands of the Vernon Vipers in the Interior Conference final would have been bad enough.

The Silverbacks won the first two games of the best-of-seven Interior final in Vernon, then lost four games in five days, three of them at home.

“It was devastating, the way we lost,” Gannon says. “We had them, then let them take it. It stung.”

During his exit meeting, Gannon was told he had been traded to Cowichan – the Capitals had written into the Hammond deal that Gannon and another player (in this case, Brandon Mistal, another Kamloops native) would be sent west after the season.

It was quite a shock, to say the least, but Salmon Arm head coach Tim Kehler asked Gannon to join the BCHL Selects for their Russian adventure.

Gannon didn’t waste any time in agreeing to join Kehler, assistant coach Colin O’Hara and eight of his former Silverbacks ‘mates on the trip.

“When I got traded, I was really shocked, especially since I had a lot of friends on the team,” Gannon said. “I looked at (the trip to Russia) as one last road trip with them.”

The trip started in the first week of April, when Gannon and his 19 teammates boarded a plane in Vancouver, flew to London, spent five hours checking out all the tourist stops, like Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, and then flew into Moscow.

They spent five days in Moscow, training at an Olympic facility with the likes of former NHLers Maxim Afinogenov and Evgeni Nabokov, both of whom play in Russia’s Continental Hockey League (KHL).

The BCHL selects headed to Podolsk, about 50 minutes south of Moscow, for their four-team tournament.

Gannon and his teammates finished second in the round-robin event, losing 6-2 to a team of Russian under-23 selects (featuring a few KHL players), and beating the Russian national junior team 5-3 and the Slovakian national junior team 6-3.

Gannon, a former Kamloops Storm junior, thought he played well, picking up “a couple of goals and a couple of assists” during the trip, but really soaked up the atmosphere of playing in Russia.

“It was fun to be a part of – the fans loved us,” Gannon says. “One fan hopped on the ice and went after one of our guys, but they loved us. We’d be sitting in the penalty box and they’d come over with signs, ‘Canada’s the best,’ and ‘We love Canada.’

“We’d go out to our bus and there would be 150 fans waiting for us, cheering.”

Wait, wait, wait – a fan hopped on the ice?

“One of our guys kind of rubbed out their goalie,” explains Gannon of Jayson Reardon, a Salmon Arm defenceman. “There was a scrum . . . and there was a student section . . . and some of them were pretty drunk.

“Someone hopped the glass and tried to jump (Reardon) . . . he was arrested. He got to watch the end of the game, then he was arrested.”

(A video of the incident has been viewed more than 400,000 times on YouTube).

During their down time, the Canadians got to check out the sites in Moscow, including the Kremlin and Red Square.

But that will be the last of the down time for Gannon this offseason – he already has started working out with Greg Kozoris at Acceleration Fitness, and will continue to do so until the end of August, when he heads to Duncan to join his new team.

“I don’t really need a break,” he says. “We didn’t really play a lot in Russia – it was almost like a vacation.”

If Gannon learned anything in March, when his team was knocked out of the playoffs and he was traded to a faraway town from one located only an hour from home, it’s that hockey can be a cruel, unsympathetic animal.

But he’s not jaded – it’s funny how a trip to Russia and a few games in a Team Canada jersey will do that.

“It was awesome . . . just a great honour to be able to represent Canada,” he says. “It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey.”

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