Meet the Owners Profile: Grizzlies

Meet Connie and Andrea.

Franchise Name: Grizzlies

Status: Original Owner

Owner/GM: Connie Charanduk/Andrea Charanduk

Ages: Old enough

Occupations: SLGA Employee

Current Town: Farm near Kelliher, Sask.

Hometown: Spruce Grove, Alta.

Favourite NHL Team(s): Edmonton Oilers

Favourite NHL Player(s) Past: Wayne Gretzky

Favourite NHL Player(s) Present: Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl

Bio: Spruce Grove, Alberta (hometown of Grant Fuhr) was where I was born and raised. I am proud to be from Alberta and I love my Edmonton Oilers! I met my husband in Edmonton and he was, and still is, a Saskatchewan farm boy and I moved out to Saskatchewan to farm with him. We have lived in Saskatchewan on our farm for many years, but I am still an Alberta girl at heart — can’t beat those Rocky Mountains.

I am a mother of 3 wonderful children and a grandmother to 6 grandkids, soon to be 7 in November. I love living on the farm, I mostly love the peace and quiet that you do not get in the city. I work for SLGA, I am currently an employee at the Yorkton SLGA Store.

I have a passion for hockey. All 3 of my children played hockey, we would travel all over the province for practices and games, hockey was our life in the winter. As a kid, I remember watching Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday with my grandpa, a Leaf fan, when the NHL was still the Original Six. Then with my own family, every Saturday night (that we weren’t busy with hockey) we would always watch Hockey Night in Canada. Still to this day, when our family gathers, there is always hockey on the TV. Our family is split very evenly between Edmonton Oiler fans and Toronto Maple Leafs fans. Needless to say, there is always some banter going on about each other’s teams!

I am excited to be the owner of the Grizzlies in the UFHL!

QUESTION: First off, congratulations on capturing the Founders’ Trophy as the inaugural regular-season champion for the Ultimate Fantasy Hockey League. That accomplishment kind of went unheralded because of COVID, with the NHL season ending so abruptly and amid so much uncertainty. So it’s important that we take a moment to celebrate the success of your Grizzlies — and let you bask in the spotlight for a minute or two. Better late than never! All that watching Hockey Night in Canada finally paid off, eh? Are you proud of this title or do you feel like there should be an asterisk attached to it since the season was cut short? Regardless, you’ll be going into the UFHL record books and that is pretty neat, right?

ANSWER: Thank you very much, we were very excited to win the inaugural Founders’ Trophy! We are definitely proud of it, there probably should be an asterisk attached to it since there were 12-15 games left, but the way Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins were rolling and the way Hellebuyck was carrying the Jets, we are confident we would have had a great shot at the Founder’s Trophy even if the season was played in full. Regardless, it is cool being in the UFHL record books.

QUESTION: There is a saying that nobody remembers who won the Presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s regular-season champion — that the Stanley Cup is the only trophy that matters — but are you going to make sure everybody in the UFHL remembers who won the Founders’ Trophy? Or is it all about the Klein Cup now? You are the favourite entering the playoffs — and the playoff draft — so are you embracing that target on your back as the top seed? Or are you feeling the pressure? Perhaps a little bit of rust? Or are you raring to go again? Are you confident regular-season success will translate to playoff success? Or are you cautiously optimistic since anything can happen in the playoffs?

ANSWER: I would say it is all about the Klein Cup now. It is great winning the Founders’ Trophy, we will bask in that until the playoffs start, but from that moment on, we move our focus to the Klein Cup. Definitely embracing the target on our backs! We have brushed off any rust we may have and we are raring to go again, we cannot wait! We think we have to be cautiously optimistic because even in a regular playoff season anything can happen, but this year? Well, it is hard to even predict how each team will come out of the gates after such a long break.

QUESTION: You can sit back and enjoy the play-in round — stress free as one of the eight franchises earning byes to the first round of the Klein Cup playoffs — but are you already looking ahead to the playoff draft and eyeing that potential player pool? You’ll have the first overall pick there, so does that give you a rooting interest? Do you want Pittsburgh to beat Montreal in order to pick Sidney Crosby, for example? There are 45 players already in that pool from the NHL bye teams, including the likes of Brayden Point and Claude Giroux, so that playoff draft should be all kinds of fun. Are you counting down the days until August 10th?

ANSWER: Oh, we have already been looking ahead to the playoff draft. Since we do have the first pick, we are keeping a close eye on a few of the series in the NHL and the UFHL. We have the teams we want to move on and the teams we wouldn’t mind losing out — just to set up who we want for our first pick in the playoff draft. Everyone can be sure that we will be keeping a close eye on every playoff game and every playoff matchup in the UFHL.

QUESTION: How about those Oilers? Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had a huge hand in your Grizzlies getting their paws on the Founders’ Trophy, so obviously you’ll be rooting for Edmonton to beat Chicago — thus ensuring those two remain on your playoff roster. Any predictions for that series? Maybe the play-in round won’t be so stress free after all?

ANSWER: We cannot say enough about Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins, the chemistry they formed together, along with Kailer Yamamoto, was fun to watch and hopefully that will continue into the playoff series versus Chicago. We do predict that Edmonton will advance from the play-in round, but being Oiler fans for years, we know not to get too ahead of ourselves with thinking that way. You never know what Oiler team will show up, however this season seemed to be different. Once Ken Holland and Dave Tippett arrived, it just seemed to instantly change the culture within the team. They were a team that looked hungry to win and wouldn’t accept anything less. If they can carry that into this series with Chicago, they will advance. There will be no way the play-in series will be stress-free, from a Grizzlies perspective or Oiler fan perspective haha!

QUESTION: Taking a closer look at your roster, the Grizzlies only have one non-playoff player in Ottawa forward Jayce Hawryluk. Winnipeg’s Bryan Little and Pittsburgh’s Nick Bjugstad won’t be back from injuries, so they can be scratched off too. But you’ve already got eight players locked in — those from NHL bye teams — so you appear to be in pretty good shape on paper. You need that Oilers win for the dynamic duo as well as Ethan Bear on defence and a Winnipeg win over Calgary would be extra sweet with Connor Hellebuyck as your goaltender. How enjoyable will that be — cheering for Edmonton to win and Calgary to lose? I guess you also have to cheer for the Leafs since you have Alex Kerfoot from Toronto and nobody from Columbus — or not? Can we all agree that the playoff draft implications are going to make this play-in round that much more exciting? And that the playoff draft format — with the loaning of players maintaining everyone’s interest — is going to make the UFHL the absolute best fantasy experience?

ANSWER: Oh, having even more reasons for Edmonton to win and Calgary to lose is always a good thing! Notice there are no Calgary players on the Grizzlies? As for cheering for the Leafs, that may be a bit of a stretch haha but cheering for the Leafs won’t be as painful as if we had to cheer for Calgary! But we do definitely need Hellebuyck to advance, he is another big reason we won the Founders’ Trophy and will be key to our playoff run. The fantasy experience the UFHL has set up is by far the best and most exciting experience any fantasy hockey person will ever have. The whole playoff set up puts it in a league of its own!

QUESTION: UFF Sports and the UFHL has become a real family affair for the Charanduks, with three generations involved in some capacity! How cool is that? For Connie and Andy, do you get a great sense of pride seeing your children, Tony and Andrea, teaming up for this venture — becoming the driving force behind this emerging fantasy platform? Talk about small town, big dreams! Last but not least, the question everyone wants answered — are we going to see Andy scouting for the Grizzlies? Or is he content following the UFHL from the sidelines? Perhaps Andy can take some credit for the Grizzlies’ regular-season title as a consultant of sorts? Or at least for teaching Tony and Andrea everything they know about hockey — or did Connie get the whole family into the sport?

ANSWER: We never really thought about the three-generation involvement until you mentioned it, but it is actually really cool — something unique. We have always been proud of our kids, Tony and Andrea have worked together in the past in a different capacity and they worked well together. Now seeing them take on this venture, we have a great sense of pride because we know with them working together, having the close relationship that they have, and never letting anything get in the way of that close relationship, that they will be successful. As for Andy doing some scouting, we are positive he will be doing so quietly in the background, hinting here and there who we should take a look at. Andy did make some suggestions when drafting the Grizzlies, so we can give him a bit of the credit as well, and I am sure we will turn to his expertise from time to time! We would have to say that both myself and Andy had our fair share of getting the whole family into the sport, hence why the family is split fairly evenly with Oiler fans and Leaf fans!

Grizzlies Current Roster

Forwards

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Leon Draisaitl-Jaden Schwartz

Alexander Kerfoot-Nazem Kadri-J.T. Compher

Jared McCann-William Karlsson-Warren Foegele

Jayce Hawryluk-Sean Kuraly-Noel Acciari

Defencemen

Mikhail Sergachev-Justin Schultz

Ryan Graves-Ethan Bear

Carson Soucy-Tucker Poolman

Goaltenders

Connor Hellebuyck

Alexandar Georgiev

Extra Skaters: Bryan Little (F/IR), Nick Bjugstad (F/IR), Sam Lafferty (F), Nick Holden (D)

Protected List: Morgan Geekie (F), Cale Fleury (D)

Fisher’s Thoughts

This is such a cool success story to start the UFHL and I do believe the Grizzlies would have held on to the Founders’ Trophy had the season finished, for the reasons mentioned — they had the hottest line in hockey, with Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins, and the Vezina favourite in Hellebuyck. So I feel that title is totally justified, asterisk or no asterisk!

The Grizzlies are in good shape going forward too, with most of their roster just entering their prime. So I wouldn’t rule out a repeat in the first full season for the UFHL, but 30 other franchises will be out to get the Grizzlies next season!

But first, the Klein Cup playoffs are upon us and the Grizzlies will be in good shape there too if Edmonton and Winnipeg advance. Either way, the Grizzlies will have the first overall pick in the UFHL Playoff Draft and the first pick in every round. With a non-snaking format and no salary cap to worry about — the salary cap doesn’t apply to the NHL playoffs, so it doesn’t apply to the UFHL playoffs — the Grizzlies should still be the team to beat on paper heading into the first round.

But as we know from the NHL playoffs, anything can happen and the Presidents’ Trophy is sometimes the kiss of death or a bad omen — just look at Tampa Bay getting upset by Columbus in last year’s first round. The last Presidents’ Trophy-winning team to also win the Stanley Cup in the same year was the Chicago Blackhawks back in 2013. The Grizzlies will be hoping the Founders’ Trophy doesn’t come with the same fate!

As alluded to in Episode 4 of the UFF Sports Podcast, the Grizzlies have to be cheering for Edmonton over Chicago in the NHL and the Royals over the Yetis in the UFHL for the play-in round. Those results would pave the way for the Grizzlies to select Connor McDavid as the first overall pick in the UFHL Playoff Draft — giving the Grizzlies a formidable trio with McDavid, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins. That would be a no-brainer even if they weren’t Oilers fans. As for the quip about no Flames on the Grizzlies’ roster, that made me laugh out loud and reminded me of my younger years when I also had a ‘no Flames’ rule for my fantasy teams. I can relate there and it is always more fun when you win with players from your favourite teams.

If the Grizzlies do get McDavid first overall and the Oilers do go deep in the NHL playoffs, the Klein Cup could be theirs to lose. But the Yetis are looking strong and Chicago’s core has won three Stanley Cups together, so things could be very different come August 10 when we all show up for the UFHL Playoff Draft. That’s why they play the games, as they say, and the Grizzlies will be on the edge of their seats (or sofas) in the meantime. So let the games begin!

Since we do have the first pick (in the playoff draft), we are keeping a close eye on a few of the series in the NHL and the UFHL.

— Connie C.