The BCHL revealed on Saturday afternoon that one player with the Penticton Vees has tested positive. . . . From a news release: “At this point, all of the Vees have been placed in a 14-day quarantine and all other billets, team personnel and staff that have been in contact with the player will be tested as soon as possible. The Provincial Health Office will dictate any further measures they may feel are necessary, based on the results of those additional tests.” . . . The Vees last played on Nov. 14 when they beat the visiting Vernon Vipers, 3-2, in an exhibition game. . . . This is believed to be the second BCHL team to deal with a positive test. The league announced on Oct. 30 that a player with the Surrey Eagles had tested positive. . . . The BCHL has been shut down since Nov. 19. It had hoped to begin its regular season on Dec. 2, but has pushed that back to Dec. 8.
The Saskatchewan government’s daily COVID-19 news statement included a couple of interesting notes. . . . 1. A recent outbreak on a teenage hockey team resulted in nine players and one coach testing positive. Multiple teams are currently self-isolating as a result. . . . 2. A recent outbreak at a curling bonspiel resulted in positive cases on teams from several cities and towns across the province.
The junior hockey season in Sweden, just like in Western Canada, is on hold thanks to COVID-19. That means that F Connor Bedard’s stint with HV71 is over. Bedard, the first player in history to be granted exceptional status to play in the WHL at 15, will be joining the Regina Pats. In Sweden, he had three goals and three assists in five games with HV71’s U-20 and U-18 teams. . . . Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post has more right here on Bedard’s stint in Sweden. . . .
If you’re wondering what Bedard thought of his experience in Sweden, Harder’s got you covered on that, too. It’s all right here.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
For all the “it’s just a flu” and/or “it’s only impacting the elderly” crowd out there: A boy under the age of 10 is among the latest deaths in Manitoba due to COVID-19.
Bartley Kives, CBC Manitoba: Manitoba announced 487 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 more deaths on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. . . . Active cases: 9,024* . . . Total caseload: 16,118. . . . Recovered: 6,804. . . . Deaths: 290. . . . *Inflated due to data-entry backlog.
Global News: Boy under 10 years old the youngest COVID-19 death in Manitoba.
Global News: 197 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death reported in Saskatchewan. This brings the province’s COVID-19 death toll to 45 since the pandemic began, with 20 people having died just this month. The province’s total caseload rose to 7,888.
CBC Saskatchewan: Self-isolation ordered after COVID-19 exposures at Christopher Lake, Shellbrook curling rinks: SHA.
CBC News: Alberta reports a record 1,731 new COVID-19 cases. The province also reports 5 deaths, 1,012 new recoveries.
rdnewsNOW: Red Deer with 170 active COVID-19 cases.
CTV Calgary: Several hundred people gather in Calgary in protest of the province’s COVID-19 rules.
The same afternoon Alberta reported a record-high 1,731 COVID-19 cases, approximately 1,000 gathered in front of Calgary City Hall for a protest against masks and other public-health measures.#COVID19AB#yychttps://t.co/cxnffSLYT8
Looking for numbers from B.C.? As usual, it’s crickets until Monday afternoon when numbers will be ugly because the virus doesn’t take weekends off to go skiing. . . . But the clown cars were more than full in some locations on Saturday.
castanet.net: Hundreds protested B.C. COVID-19 restrictions in Kelowna on Saturday.
Castanet Kamloops: Some 80 people gathered in Vernon to protest infringement of rights.
CBC News: Ontario reported 1,822 new cases on Saturday. The province has announced 29 new deaths linked to the illness. So far this month, 479 people with COVID-19 have died in the province.
CBC News: Quebec reported 1,480 new cases and 37 additional deaths on Saturday. New infections have topped 1,450 twice in the last 3 days. The province also passed a grim milestone: more than 7,000 Quebecers have died since the beginning of the pandemic.
CBC News: 2 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in N.L., for a total of 32 known active cases in the province. No one is in hospital due to the virus. 1 of the new cases is travel-related; the other shares a household with a previously identified case.
Taryn Grant, CBC Nova Scotia: 14 new COVID cases in Nova Scotia Saturday. 12 in Central zone, 1 in Western, 1 in Northern. That makes for 125 active cases in the province. New record-high for testing with 3,644 tests completed, plus 670 rapid tests (3 positives)
CBC News: New Brunswick is reporting 4 new cases of COVID-19, all in the Fredericton region. All of the new cases are under investigation, and all 4 people are self-isolating. There are now 111 known active cases in the province. No one is in hospital.
CBC News: Prince Edward Island reports 2 new cases of COVID-19.
CBC News: Nunavut reports 5 more COVID-19 cases in Arviat.
CBC News: Canada’s chief medical health officer says Canada is on a ‘troubling’ track with COVID-19. Dr. Theresa Tam says at the current pace, there could be up to 10,000 new cases a day by the middle of December.
CBS News: U.S. hospitalizations top 90,000 for the first time; approximately 50 Americans now are dying every hour.
CBS News: U.S. tops 13 million COVID-19 cases as experts fear holiday “surge upon surge upon surge.”
Reuters U.S. News: China reports 11 new COVID-19 cases vs six a day earlier.
Santa Clara County public health officials issued an order on Saturday that temporarily prohibits activities “that involve physical contact or close proximity to persons outside one’s household, including all contact sports.” This will come into effect on Monday and impacts professional and college sports through at least Dec. 21. . . . The NFL’s San Francisco 49ers play in Santa Clara County and have two home games scheduled before Dec. 21. Under the order, they also won’t be allowed to practice at Levi’s Stadium. . . . Teams from Stanford U and San Jose State also play in Santa Clara County. . . . According to the San Francisco Chronicle: “Santa Clara County reported 760 new cases of the coronavirus and 239 COVID-related hospitalizations on Saturday, both single-day records since the onset of the pandemic.” . . .
Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos placed their three quarterbacks on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday and are expected to start WR Kendall Hinton at QB against the visiting New Orleans Saints today (Sunday). . . . This all began Thursday when QB Jeff Driskel tested positive. Three other QBs — Blake Bortles, Drew Lock and Brett Rypien — didn’t wear masks and have been deemed high-risk close contacts so can’t play against the Saints. . . . Denver LB Von Miller tweeted that he is ready to take a turn at QB: “Been waiting my whole life for this moment. ‘Von ELWAY.’ ” . . .
By now you will be aware of the problems the NFL has had getting the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers on the field for a scheduled game. They were to have played on Thursday, but the game was moved to Sunday and then to Tuesday. All of that juggling was because the Ravens had a number of positive tests, including one to QB Lamar Jackson. . . . The Ravens, who apparently have three defensive lineman and one QB available now, had 18 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list as of Saturday and there are reports that at least two more will be added on Sunday. . . . On Friday, the Steelers placed three players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and they had more positives on Saturday, including RB James Conner, who as a cancer survivor is high-risk. . . . You can be excused for thinking Tuesday’s game may be at risk. . . .
LT Terron Armstead, a Pro-Bowler, has been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list by the New Orleans Saints. He won’t play Sunday against the Denver Broncos. . . . The Indianapolis Colts have three starters on the reserve-COVID-19 list, including RB Jonathan Taylor. They won’t play against the visiting Tennessee Titans today. . . .
Honestly believe if the #NFL was down to 2 non-Covid players in February, they'd go ahead with the Super Bowl anyway — and it would look something like this: pic.twitter.com/r2sMCzePTZ
The U of Minnesota revealed on Saturday that it has had more than 40 positives with it’s football team since Nov. 19. That includes at least 20 players. On Wednesday, the school had said it had 25 positives. . . . The Golden Gophers’ game against Wisconsin on Saturday was cancelled; they are scheduled to Northwestern on Dec. 5. . . .
The Florida State Seminoles’ football game against Virginia didn’t happen on Saturday. It was dumped Saturday morning — yes, the morning of the game — due to “positive tests, subsequent quarantining, and contact tracing within the Florida State football team.” One week earlier, FSU wasn’t able to play Clemson after a positive test on the Tigers. . . . Also scratched Saturday was the scheduled game between San Jose State and Boise State after the latter had COVID-19 issues.
Ken Squier Update: Ken is being moved from the hospital to a rehab facility today to continue his recovery. Continued thanks for all the prayers.
JUST NOTES: Tali Campbell now is the general manager of the BCHL’s Coquitlam Express. Campbell had been the Nanaimo Clippers’ GM before leaving in October and joining the Express as vice-president. Brian Wiebe of bchlnetwork.ca reported that Campbell “takes over the Express’s GM role from Dave McLellan. There’s no mention of Coquitlam parting ways with McLellan, but he is no longer listed under the hockey or business staff on the team’s website. Express head coach Dan Cioffi is listed as assistant general manager.”
Here is the fifth and final piece on the WHL’s first 25 years. The five stories were written in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I have done just that over the past couple of weeks. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here, then, is Part 5 of 5. Thanks for reading along. I hope you have enjoyed these stories, and thank you for all of the positive feedback. . . .
The fifth five-year segment was easily the best of the WHL’s first 25 years.
There was success in the stands, particularly in the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States, and in Saskatoon where the Blades welcomed a new facility.
There was stability, too. Recent additions, like the Tri-City Americans and Lethbridge Hurricanes, settled in for what appeared to be long stays.
But the greatest success came on the ice where the WHL won four Memorial Cup championships during the five seasons, opening with three in a row and closing with a victory by the Spokane Chiefs.
The 1986-87 season actually started on something of a strange note. The Regina Pats signed Doug Sauter, who was under contract to the Medicine Hat Tigers, to a two-year deal as general manager/head coach. The result was that the Pats agreed to compensate the Tigers.
The compensation turned into two veteran players — defenceman Kevin Ekdahl and forward Kevin Clemens. It was the first time in WHL history that a coach had, in effect, been traded.
The Pats also welcomed back another familiar face with Dennis Sobchuk, the greatest and most-popular player in franchise history, signing on as assistant coach/assistant manager.
This was a time of great change in the front offices and behind the benches. Barry Trapp left the Moose Jaw Warriors, saying, “I wasn’t fired. It was just a mutual agreement. It was a very friendly parting.”
Medicine Hat signed Bryan Maxwell to replace Sauter, while Peter Esdale was the new coach in Spokane and Wayne Naka took over the Cougars in Victoria. In New Westminster, John Olver was the GM, with Ernie McLean the coach. Harvey Roy was out as the Bruins’ director of marketing, but he would surface in Moose Jaw as the GM and would hire Greg Kvisle to coach the Warriors. In Prince Albert, GM/head coach Terry Simpson left to coach the NHL’s New York Islanders and Rick Wilson took over.
Perhaps the biggest news in the summer of 1986 came on June 2 when the WHL announced it was doing away with round-robin playoff series in the East Division. Instead, the top two teams would get first- round byes.
In the WHL office, Richard Doerksen’s title was upgraded from executive assistant/referee-in-chief to vice-president.
There was trouble in Brandon, where the Bank of Nova Scotia called in a $77,000 demand loan, asking for payment on July 31. This resulted in the Wheat Kings’ board recommending to shareholders that the franchise be sold.
In August, shareholders voted 1,411-404 in favour of selling the Wheat Kings. Offers were received from two groups — one in Edmonton headed by Vic Mah, the other comprising Brandon businessmen Bob Cornell and Stuart Craig, and Winnipeg businessman Dave Laing.
Cornell’s group purchased the Wheat Kings for more than $300,000 and then added a unique twist to the situation by signing a 10-year working agreement with the Keystone Centre. The Keystone took over operation of the club, and hired Bill Shinske to run the front office. Shinske hired Marc Pezzin as coach.
The WHL also welcomed the Swift Current Broncos to the fold. Behind the bench was Graham James, who had recently reached an out-of-court settlement with the Warriors over a lawsuit he had started the previous year.
“If we continue to average close to 2,000, we’ll have a real successful year and we’ll show a profit of about $80,000,” Gary Bollinger, the Broncos’ vice-president and alternate governor, said. “That doesn’t include playoff revenue. We were budgeting for an average of 1,600. If we averaged that, we’d still make a bit of a profit.”
The first coaching change of the 1986-87 season took place on Dec. 8 in Seattle when Sheldon Ferguson gave up the Thunderbirds’ coaching reins, but stayed on as GM. Dan McDonald was the new head coach, with former Portland Winter Hawks star Jim Dobson as the assistant.
Disaster struck on Dec. 30 when the Broncos, en route to Regina to play the Pats, were involved in a bus accident. Four players — Scott Kruger, Trent Kresse, Brent Ruff and Chris Mantyka — were killed.
“There has never been anything more devastating that has happened to me personally,” Ed Chynoweth, the WHL president, said. “The question I keep asking myself is ‘Why?’ My heart goes out to all the parents and the people involved. I wish someone would call and say this is all a mistake.”
John Foster, the Broncos’ publicity director, said: “This team will band together and win it for those guys who died. The (survivors) were absolutely professional under stress. If the people of Swift Current could have seen them, they would have been proud.”
There was never any thought of the team not continuing. As team president John Rittinger said: “It’s up to the players and the fans now. We aren’t ready to throw in the towel.”
Defenceman Ed Brost, talking about the club’s next game, stated: “It will be difficult. To go right back out on the ice would be cheating ourselves emotionally and physically. Right now people have to remember athletes are human beings, not robots.”
Moose Jaw centre Theoren Fleury was in Czechoslovakia with Canada’s national junior team at the time of the accident.
“I just can’t believe it,” Fleury said. “I just sat on the bus all the way to practice today thinking about what’s going on with all those guys on that team right now. It just blows me away. I don’t know what to say. There’s nothing we can do about it and I think being helpless is the most frustrating thing about it.”
As if losing four players in the accident wasn’t enough, Herman Kruger, 67, suffered a fatal heart attack as he entered the church for his great-grandson’s funeral.
And later the same day, Sauter and Regina trainer Stan Szumlak came to the rescue of Keith Giles, a member of the Prince Albert executive, who was choking on some food.
Donations in memory of the players poured into the Broncos’ office and an education fund was set up in their memory. Another fund was started to raise money that would go towards the cost of replacing the bus.
On Feb. 2, a longtime veteran of the WHL’s coaching wars returned for one last fling when John Chapman replaced Wally Kozak behind the bench of the Calgary Wranglers. Chapman also was the Calgary GM.
On Feb. 15, Portland won a game in Spokane and Ken Hodge took over as the winningest coach in WHL history. His 547 victories were one more than Ernie McLean.
Tragedy struck the WHL again on March 1 when Regina centre Brad Hornung was checked into the end boards at the Agridome and suffered a broken neck.
Dr. Chris Ekong, a neurosurgeon, said Hornung suffered a burst fracture of the third cervical vertebrae and a crushed spinal cord. “Brad has no feelings in his arms and legs,” Dr. Ekong said. “He is completely paralysed from the neck down.”
Hornung would never regain the use of his arms and legs, but that didn’t stop him from going on with his life.
As the WHL completed its 25th season, Hornung was continuing with his education, taking courses at the University of Regina.
Despite the bus accident, Swift Current made the playoffs in its first season. But there wouldn’t be a Cinderella story as the Broncos dropped a best-of-five series to Prince Albert, 3-1.
April was highlighted by three coaching changes — Esdale’s contract wasn’t renewed by Spokane, Kvisle resigned in Moose Jaw and McLean stepped aside in New Westminster.
And Medicine Hat won the WHL championship. The Tigers faced elimination twice in each of their last two series, and dumped visiting Portland 7-2 in the seventh game of the championship final.
The Tigers would win their first of two consecutive Memorial Cup championships, the first under Maxwell, the second under Barry Melrose. Both came with Russ Farwell as general manager.
John Van Horlick took over as coach in New Westminster for 1987-88, with
Butch Goring the coach in Spokane. Jim Harrison was the new head coach in Moose Jaw, with Ed Staniowski his assistant. Harrison and Roy, the GM, were friends from their days in Estevan, while Staniowski was a former all-star goaltender with Regina.
And the WHL was returning to Lethbridge. The Tier One Junior Hockey Club of Lethbridge purchased the Wranglers for about $350,000 from Brian Ekstrom. The Lethbridge franchise would be called the Hurricanes, causing Lethbridge Herald columnist Pat Sullivan to wonder if the logo would be an overturned mobile home.
The sale also meant that there wouldn’t be a franchise in the city in which the WHL office was located. But the office wasn’t about to be moved.
“It was decided that it was certainly the most central location for our league,” Chynoweth said.
Going into the new season, the WHL passed a rule cracking down on checking from behind.
“We do use (NHL) rules and the NHL doesn’t have hitting from behind instituted in its rule book,” Chynoweth said, “but I predict that within two years the NHL will have the same rule.”
That is exactly what happened.
There was change in the WHL’s boardroom, too, as Portland’s Brian Shaw stepped down as chairman of the board and was replaced by Saskatoon’s Rick Brodsky.
On June 5, Swift Current celebrated its first birthday by revealing the franchise was no longer in debt.
Rittinger said: “We bought the franchise and we borrowed money to buy the franchise. So we took the season-ticket money to pay the bank loan off. The bank loan is paid off. We don’t owe the bank anything. And that’s incredible because we just got the franchise last year.”
Maxwell left Medicine Hat, joining the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach. Lethbridge named Glen Hawker as its first GM/head coach. Before the season started, Lethbridge reorganized, with Wayne Simpson taking over as GM.
On July 6, Hornung, in his first interview since being injured, told the Regina Leader-Post: “You have to accept it. Life goes on and you do the best with what you have. At first, it was a time of change, shock really, but right now, it’s actually gotten easier because you get used to the adjustments. Like everybody else, I have my good days and bad days. But I don’t have many bad days.”
Separate pregame warmups came to the WHL on Sept. 28.
With Seattle off to a 2-15-0 start, owner Earl Hale told Ferguson, the GM, to take a leave of absence. On Nov. 16, Ferguson was fired. A couple of weeks later, Hawker was fired in Lethbridge, where Blaine Galbraith took over. And on Dec. 8, Moose Jaw fired Harrison and hired Gerry James, the only person to have played in a Grey Cup game and Stanley Cup final in the same season.
On Feb. 2, Saskatoon beat Regina 7-2 before 3,308 fans in the final game at the Saskatoon Arena. Regina coach Doug Sauter, for one, was glad to see the end of the old barn: “I get screwed every time I come in here and I haven’t been kissed yet.”
One week later, on Feb. 9, Saskatoon beat Brandon 4-3 in front of 9,343 fans at Saskatchewan Place. Chynoweth announced prior to the game that the 1989 Memorial Cup would be played in Saskatoon.
On March 11, amidst rumours that the Warriors were on the verge of major financial problems, it was announced that Roy’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.
WHL attendance figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that Swift Current drew 82,080 fans to 36 home games, which was 99 per cent of capacity. Portland led in total attendance — 200,911. The league drew 1,405,874 fans, an increase of almost 80,000 over the previous season.
For the first time in league history, the scoring race ended in a dead heat.
Two centres — Fleury and Swift Current’s Joe Sakic — finished the regular season with 160 points. Sakic had 78 goals, Fleury 68. But there was nothing in the WHL bylaws to deal with the situation so the scoring race was ruled a tie.
The rumours were true — there were financial problems in Moose Jaw. The Warriors began sorting things out by separating the hockey side of things from the business side. With an accumulated debt of $234,000, Joe Celentano, a former referee with basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters, was hired as business manager.
On April 17, Medicine Hat beat visiting Saskatoon 3-0 to win its third straight East Division title. The only other team to win three consecutive East titles was the Flin Flon Bombers, beginning in 1968-69.
On May 3, the Tigers beat visiting Kamloops 5-2 to win their second straight WHL title, this one in six games.
The very next day, Bob Vranckaert, who was in the construction business in Alaska, said he would like to put an expansion franchise in Anchorage in time for the 1990-91 season. Born in Drumheller, Alta., and raised in Burnaby, B.C., Vranckaert spent more than 20 years in general commercial construction 800 miles north of Anchorage.
The WHL said it would play two exhibition and four regular-season games in Anchorage and use that, plus the 1989 world junior championship, which was to be held in Anchorage, as a barometer.
On May 8, the Pats announced that Sauter’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.
A week later, Sauter’s old team, the Tigers, beat the Windsor Spitfires 7-6 in Chicoutimi to become the sixth team in the 70-year history of the Memorial Cup to win back-to-back championships.
The board in Moose Jaw put H.J. (Toby) Tobias in charge and then resigned en masse. Tobias was empowered to chair a committee whose immediate responsibility was to carry on a fund-raising campaign aimed at erasing the club’s debt. The immediate goal was to raise $150,000.
Tobias said he would look into the team’s accounting procedures, recommend constitutional changes and appoint an auditor to present a year-end statement at the club’s annual meeting.
“To me it’s a four-stage project,” Tobias said. “Stage 1: Solve the immediate debt crisis and give us some breathing room. Step 2: Have a look at the front office and see if there are some things we can tighten up. Stage 3: Come up with a budget we can live with in years to come. Stage 4: Make sure fund-raising becomes a year-round effort.”
In mid-May, Pezzin resigned as coach in Brandon. He would be replaced by Sauter, who was reunited with Shinske. The two were old friends, going back to the Estevan and New Westminster Bruins. Sobchuk replaced Sauter in Regina.
Celentano resigned in Moose Jaw, saying: “By my staying I become just another liability, one of those accounts payable that they have to make every day, and they don’t have the money.”
On May 31, Tobias announced that the Warriors had reached their goal of $151,800. That figure covered debts accrued up until March 31. Tobias said: “The phoenix has risen from the ashes. The financial health of the club remains fragile . . . but it’s business as usual from here on in.”
Indications were that New Westminster owner Ron Dixon would move the franchise to the Tri-Cities area of Washington State. He just happened to be building an arena, the Tri-Cities Coliseum, there.
In July, Farwell and Melrose resigned in Medicine Hat. Shortly after, they signed in Seattle. Wes Phillips was named GM in Medicine Hat and hired Ron Kennedy, a former Estevan player, as coach. Before the season started, Phillips quit, citing business and family pressures, and Tim Speltz replaced him.
Peter Anholt was named head coach in Prince Albert, where Wilson quit to join the L.A. Kings as an assistant coach. Brad Tippett was the GM in Prince Albert.
The WHL arrived in Anchorage on the weekend of Sept. 24 and 25, 1988.
Kamloops and Portland played two exhibition games in Anchorage, drawing 2,100 to the first game and 1,750 the next night.
A shakeup occurred in Spokane. It started on Oct. 14 when Spokane GM Bob Strumm acquired six players while giving up four others in trades that involved three other teams. The Chiefs were 1-4-0 and had given up 33 goals in those five games.
Twelve days later, with the Chiefs 2-9-0, Strumm relieved Goring of his duties. Strumm, with a three-year contract extension that would take him through the 1991-92 season, went behind the bench, went 2-4-0 and immediately installed Gary Braun as coach.
On Nov. 11, Moose Jaw dumped Gerry James and installed Kvisle as head coach/director of hockey operations.
Three days later, Regina shook up things. Sobchuk moved from coach to GM, with Bernie Lynch moving up from assistant coach to head coach.
It was announced on Nov. 17 that Vranckaert had purchased the Victoria Cougars from Fraser McColl. Ownership actually had changed hands 10 days after the end of the season.
“Bob has been after me for a long time,” McColl said. “He wants to get into the business with a passion. And, perhaps, that’s the type of enthusiasm this team needs right now.”
On Nov. 20, the Tri-City Americans, having played their first 17 games on the road because the Coliseum wasn’t ready, opened at home with a 4-3 overtime victory over Seattle in front of a sellout crowd of 6,004.
Swift Current started the season with 12 straight victories, and went into the Christmas break at 28-5-0 and on a 10-game winning streak. Referring to the bus accident of two years previous, James said: “I think the bus accident galvanized the spirit of the community. I think that was a catalyst. Since then we’ve had to provide a product that’s been worthy of fans coming, but I think that incident certainly rallied the community.”
Added centre Tim Tisdale: “That’s all anybody in town talks about. It’s hard to believe. You go downtown and you’re eating in a restaurant and everybody at the next table is talking about the Broncos. It definitely helps your hockey.”
There was big news out of Calgary on Jan. 3, 1989, when Petr Nedved, a centre with a midget team from Litvinov, Czechoslovakia, defected after a midget tournament. His WHL rights belonged to Moose Jaw, but the Warriors would deal them to Seattle.
The season wasn’t over when Spokane owner Vic Fitzgerald said that Braun wouldn’t be returning.
On March 14, Chynoweth revealed that the WHL “had an inquiry from Terry Simpson about putting a team in Red Deer. They would have to get a new building.” A conditional franchise was sold to Simpson on Aug. 12, 1991. The Rebels would begin play in the fall of 1992.
Attendance figures compiled by The Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance was up 232,951 over 1987-88. Most of that was attributable to the first-year Americans who attracted 203,532 fans, which was 156,149 more than they drew the previous season in New Westminster.
There was a change in Seattle on April 11 when Medicine Hat businessman Bill Yuill bought the Thunderbirds from Earl Hale of Calgary.
The usual spate of front-office changes began in earnest with the news that: 1. Galbraith would not be back in Lethbridge; 2. Al Patterson, who quit in Victoria after the season ended, had signed as Tri-City’s GM; 3. Ron Byrne had signed as the GM in Victoria; 4. Sobchuk had resigned as GM in Regina; 5. Shinske had resigned in Brandon; and, 6. Tippett had quit in P.A.
Swift Current won 4-1 in Portland on April 30 to sweep the Winter Hawks in the championship final. The Broncos became the first team to sweep its way to the WHL championship — they also got past Moose Jaw and Saskatoon in four games each. The Broncos, just a season and a half after having four players killed in a bus accident, went 55-16-1, the best record in the CHL.
“This is a great accomplishment for our franchise,” James said. “But I don’t want the Memorial Cup to decide if we had a great year.”
Tisdale added: “We have the team to do it this year. If we can’t get up for four games, we don’t belong there. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win the Memorial Cup.”
On May 14, Tisdale’s goal at 3:25 of the first sudden-death overtime period gave the Broncos a 4-3 victory over Saskatoon in the final game of the Memorial Cup. The game was played in front of 9.078 fans in Saskatchewan Place and brought to an end the most successful Memorial Cup tournament ever played.
Shortly after the Memorial Cup, the changes continued: 1. Lynch found out his contract in Regina wouldn’t be renewed; 2. Rick Kozuback signed a two-year contract as coach with Tri-City; 3. Simpson returned to Prince Albert as GM/head coach; 4. Bill Hicke was named GM in Regina; 5. Tippett signed as Regina’s head coach; 5. Maxwell returned from L.A. to sign as co-coach and director of hockey operations in Spokane; 6. Braun was Spokane’s co-coach and assistant director of hockey operations; 7. Melrose left Seattle to become head coach of the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings; 8. Marcel Comeau signed a two-year deal in Saskatoon but shortly after resigned to become head coach of the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks; 9. Anholt quit in P.A. to join Seattle as head coach; 10. Rob Daum signed as assistant coach/assistant manager in P.A.; and, 11. Terry Ruskowski signed to coach the Blades.
On June 14, 1989, Moose Jaw, so close to financial ruin just one year earlier, revealed at its annual meeting that there was a paper profit of $119,722 and that the Warriors had about $40,000 in the bank.
At its annual meeting, the WHL had two major announcements. It had decided for the first time to use full-time referees. “We’re hoping it leads to more consistent, professional refereeing,” Regina governor Ted Knight said. By the time all was said and done, the WHL had hired eight full-time and four part-time referees.
The WHL also said it would no longer allow teams to list 13-year-old players. From that point on, 14-year-olds would count for two spots on a list, players 15 and older for one.
Seattle set a single-game attendance record on Oct. 7 when 12,173 fans showed up to watch the Thunderbirds edge Portland, 4-3. “We could have sold 2,000 more tickets,” Seth Landau, the club’s director of marketing and public relations, said. “We were sold out the day before the game.” The previous attendance record belonged to Portland, which had attracted capacity crowds of 10,437 to Memorial Coliseum on numerous occasions.
The first coaching change came on Oct. 15 when Naka resigned in Victoria. Lyle Moffat replaced him.
On Nov. 1, Ken Hitchcock, 36 years of age and in the neighbourhood of 400 pounds, went public with the news that he was going on a serious diet.
“There comes a time in life when it becomes a case of now or never,” said the popular coach of the Kamloops Blazers. “I look down the road four or five years from now, what do I want to be doing? If that’s what I have to do to move up the ladder, that’s what I have to do.”
Victoria made another coaching change on Nov. 13 with Garry Cunningham becoming the Cougars’ third coach of the season. Moffat stayed on as marketing director.
A lawsuit launched by Hornung was settled out of court in November. Thirteen defendants, including the WHL, were named in the suit launched in July of 1987. Details of the settlement weren’t made public.
At a WHL board of governors’ meeting on Nov. 20, the chair switched bodies again. It was a case of deja vu, with Shaw taking over from Brodsky.
On Dec. 17, Sauter was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder that strikes at the central nervous system. He would not return to coaching until late in the 1990-91 season when he finished the winter with the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins. Brandon GM Kelly McCrimmon moved in behind Brandon’s bench.
There was a player revolt in Tri-City when Dixon named Bill LaForge director of player personnel. LaForge said he had a five-year contract.
On Dec. 31, with Portland scheduled to play in Tri-City, the Americans players refused. A statement signed by 19 players read in part: “We will definitely not participate in any further games without the termination of Mr. Bill LaForge from the Americans organization.”
The players ended their holdout the next day, winning 8-4 in Portland. Dixon had contacted players earlier in the day and said LaForge would no longer have any contact with them.
Defenceman Colin Ruck later explained the Tri-City deal: “He came into the dressing room screaming and cutting guys down. To get to us, he said we had to call him Coach. He had (coach) Rick Kozuback picking up pucks during practice. That really upset us. Bill came out and ran a really brutal practice. We felt we had to do something.”
Byrne was gone as Victoria’s GM before January ended, while Cunningham was out as coach on Feb. 5. Moffat went back behind the bench. The Cougars would set a CHL record, losing 29 in a row.
On Feb. 7, Seattle centre Glen Goodall had an assist in a 5-3 victory over visiting Tri-City to break the WHL record for most points in a career. That lifted his point total to 530, one more than Craig Endean, who had played with Seattle and Regina.
Two nights later, Seattle broke the WHL single-game attendance record as 12,253 fans watched a 5-3 victory over Spokane.
Figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance totalled 1,678,651, up about 40,000 over the previous season. Tri-City, which sold out every home game, led the way with total attendance of 216,360. Saskatoon, in its first full season in Saskatchewan Place, played in front of 209,542 fans. Seattle, which finished with its best-ever record (52-17-3; the best previous was 32-28-12 in 1977-78), drew 181,211 fans, up 66,189 from a year previous.
On March 28, Chynoweth admitted that two groups had applied for an expansion franchise for Tacoma, Wash.
The Spokane franchise changed hands on April 10, with Fitzgerald selling to the Brett brothers — Bobby, George and Ken — for more than $600,000. Bob Brett wouldn’t say what they paid, other than to say it was “too much.”
The postseason changes started in April when Speltz and Kennedy learned that Medicine Hat wouldn’t renew their contracts, and Rick Hopper was named head coach/director of hockey operations in Victoria. Jack Shupe, the Tigers’ first GM/head coach in 1970-71, was the new GM in Medicine Hat. He hired Tim Bothwell as coach.
On April 29, Kamloops scored a 6-5 overtime victory in Lethbridge to win the WHL final in five games. Kamloops lost the opener and then won four straight. The Blazers struck out at the Memorial Cup, though, as the Oshawa Generals, with Eric Lindros, won it all in Hamilton.
There was much expansion talk in the WHL, resulting in this comment from Brodsky: “It’s sort of like being in love. If you have to ask yourself whether you’re in love, you’re probably not. If we’re wondering why we should expand, then maybe we’re forcing the issue a bit. If expansion is right, we’ll know it.”
Farwell left Seattle to become GM of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Anholt added the GM’s nameplate to his door, and hired assistant GM Dennis Beyak from Saskatoon. Beyak had been in Saskatoon since 1981 and was the person deemed most responsible for the success of the 1989 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon.
Simpson left Prince Albert again, this time to become an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets. Daum was promoted to replace him.
There were shockwaves in Kamloops when Hitchcock resigned after six seasons with the Blazers. He signed as an assistant coach with Philadelphia. Tom Renney replaced Hitchcock, who left with a 291-125-15 regular-season record over six seasons, his .693 winning percentage the highest of any coach in WHL history.
Leaving wasn’t easy for Hitchcock, who said: “I got cold feet a couple of times. I almost went into (GM) Bob Brown’s office and said, ‘Call the whole thing off, I don’t want to go.’ ”
On Sept. 30, Chynoweth chatted about expansion: “There are what I like to call tire-kickers in Boise, Idaho; Eugene, Oregon; and, Tacoma, Washington. The WHL is in good shape and we’re aggressive to expand by one, possibly two teams in the West Division sometime soon. We are coming off our second record-setting attendance season. We’re also proud of the fact that this is the third year in a row we aren’t opening a new site. Believe it or not, but we’re stable.”
Bruce Hamilton, a former player and scout with the Blades, headed a group of Saskatoon and Tacoma investors who were eventually granted a franchise for Tacoma to start with the 1991-92 season.
On Oct. 30, with the 1990-91 season one month old, one night before Halloween, James went wild in Swift Current. Upset with referee Kevin Muench after the Broncos turned a 7-3 second-period lead into a 9-8 loss to visiting Medicine Hat, James went on to the ice in pursuit of Muench, then returned to the bench and threw sticks and water bottles onto the ice. James then removed his jacket, tie, shirt and one shoe and threw them onto the ice before his players escorted him to the dressing room.
Bothwell summed it up: “All I can say is, ‘Wow.’ I don’t know what words can describe what happened out there, from a lot of different aspects.”
James was suspended for six games and fined $2,000. “At least they didn’t ask me for the shirt off my back,” he said. The incident would show up on video on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and the David Letterman Show among others.
There was some silliness in Spokane, too. On Dec. 6, with Tri-City visiting Spokane, Maxwell and Americans assistant Gerry Johannson got into it after first period.
Here’s Maxwell: “He was waiting for me. He was yapping at me. He challenged me and I accepted the challenge.” Maxwell was said to have out-punched his opponent, 4-0.
Here’s Johansson: “He throws punches like marshmallows.”
Maxwell was suspended for three games and fined $500. Johansson got hit for $1,000 and four games.
Remember that $1 parking fee in Regina? Well, on Dec. 17, Regina Exhibition Park announced it was doubling it to $2. “I don’t think our fans will take very kindly to it if it does happen,” said co-owner/GM Bill Hicke. “If that’s the case it’ll drive another nail in the coffin.”
The Pats’ lease would expire after the 1990-91 season and Hicke had already made at least one trip into the Pacific Northwest to scout buildings.
A change in Prince Albert had Dale Engel move in as GM, with Rob Daum giving up that title but staying on as coach. It was no surprise when Daum left P.A. for Swift Current at season’s end.
On Feb. 4, Saskatoon fired head coach Terry Ruskowski, replacing him with former Blades defenceman Bob Hoffmeyer.
On March 17, Seattle was awarded the 1992 Memorial Cup.
The Leader-Post’s attendance figures showed that Tri-City, with 36 sellouts, again topped the WHL with 216,360 fans. Seattle was next at 215,248, up 34,037 from the season previous. But overall attendance was down 22,861 to 1,655,790.
On April 17, Marcel Comeau was named the first head coach of the Tacoma Rockets. Hamilton would be the GM, with Lorne Frey, most recently with Swift Current, as director of player personnel.
Spokane scored a 7-2 victory over home-town Lethbridge to sweep the WHL final. The Chiefs would go on to win the Memorial Cup, with goaltender Trevor Kidd and right-winger Pat Falloon wrapping up dream seasons. Both played for the Canadian junior team that won the gold medal in Saskatoon.
One thing more than any other summed up the WHL as it headed into its second 25 years. When the 1991-92 season opened, the league not only had the same 14 teams for the fourth consecutive season, but it had welcomed the Tacoma Rockets to the fold.
Milne says he's thankful the team had a tight social bubble and he hopes to see the AJHL finish out the season- but only if it's safe to do so. He's open to extending the season or condensing it if current restrictions lift and and a strong return plan is in place.
Hockey’s worst nightmare showed up in Canmore, Alta., the picturesque Alberta community that is home to the AJHL’s Eagles and is located just over an hour west of Calgary.
On Nov. 19, the AJHL reported “a member of the Canmore Eagles has tested positive for COVID-19.”
On Friday, reports indicated that at least 16 members of the Eagles have tested positive, along with an untold number of their contacts. For example, general manager/head coach Andrew Milne tested positive, as did his wife and one of their sons.
According to Milne, a former WHL player and coach, the first indication that something might be wrong came on Nov. 14 during a game in Drumheller against the Dragons. It was then that one player began to feel ill.
That player tested positive on Nov. 19 at which time all team members were isolated, including those living with billets.
“We tested everybody,” Milne told Calgary Eyeopener, “and that’s when obviously the number started climbing. And . . . it was evident that we had massive outbreak in our club.
“I think part of the reason for the large numbers was the fact that we were just on a bus and there was very limited ability for us to move about in some recycled air.”
One of the things that seems to have caught Milne by surprise was the quickness with which the virus chewed through his roster.
“It’s amazing how fast the web can unwind and get going,” he said. “You can see how fast it moves and how quickly it gets from one guy to the next.”
The AJHL has three other teams believed to be dealing with positives. The league announced on Nov. 20 that the Calgary Canucks had a positive test, then, the next day, said the Dragons also had one positive. Then, on Nov. 22, the league revealed a positive test with the Okotoks Oilers.
The AJHL season was paused on Tuesday as a result of restrictions implemented by the Alberta government. The league’s board of governors is to meet on Dec. 19 to study its options.
Milne’s interview with Calgary Eyeopener is right here.
The No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes won’t be playing their football game at Illinois today (Saturday) after the game was cancelled because of positive tests. Those positives include Ohio State head coach Ryan Day, who also will miss a game next Saturday at Michigan State. Conference protocols call for coaches who test positive to sit out for 10 days. . . . Nick Saban, the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, also is sideline this weekend after testing positive. . . . And yet you watch NCAA college football, like the Thursday game that had Nebraska at Iowa, and you see head coaches with their facemasks constantly around their chins. You really would think that the pooh-bahs at these universities would have a word with these men about being better. Of course, the other side of the coin is that there are few people in the sporting world who are more oblivious to their surroundings than football coaches.
CBC News: Manitoba is reporting 344 new cases of COVID-19 and 14 additional deaths related to the virus. 178 of the new cases are in the Winnipeg region. The 5-day test positivity rate is 14.5%. A record 322 people are in hospital, including 45 in intensive care.
CBC News: Saskatchewan is reporting 4 more deaths and 329 new COVID-19 cases, an increase from the previous 7-day average of 244. Concern is also growing about the impact on hospitals, which are up 400% in the last 30 days and forecast to continue accelerating.
CBC News: Alberta is reporting 1,227 new cases of COVID-19 and 9 new deaths. There are 14,217 active cases in the province. 405 people are in hospital, including 86 in intensive care.
CBC News: Elementary school order to close after COVID-19 outbreak leads to 16 cases in Surrey, B.C.
iNFOnews Kamloops: Anti-masker throws hot coffee on Kelowna IGA employee.
CBC News: Ontario reports over 58,000 more COVID-19 tests completed. Data shows 541 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario, 151 are in ICU and 101 are on a ventilator.
CBC News: 38 additional deaths, 1,269 new COVID-19 cases reported in Quebec. That’s higher than the previous 7-day average of 1,208. Currently, 669 people are in hospital, and 90 of them are in intensive care.
CBC News: New Brunswick is reporting 12 new cases of COVID-19 and 3 new recoveries. The province has seen a total of 477 cases and 356 recoveries since the pandemic began.
CBC News: Nova Scotia is reporting 9 new cases of COVID-19, all in the central zone. The provincial state of emergency has been renewed, and will now extend to noon on Dec. 13.
CBC News: 4 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Newfoundland and Labrador, bringing province’s total case number to 331. There are currently 31 active cases.
I laugh whenever the "Visit Sioux Falls" commercial comes on TV. Nobody in their right mind would vacation in South Dakota right now. It's safer in the Middle East and inside most active volcanoes.
Ryan Struyk, CNN: Today is the 25th consecutive day that the United States has reported at least 100,000 new coronavirus cases, according to data from CNN and Johns Hopkins University.
CBC News: Los Angeles County announces a stay-home order as COVID-19 cases surge in the most populous county in the U.S. The order, which takes effect Monday, comes as the county confirms 24 new deaths and 4,544 new coronavirus cases.
The New York Times: Coronavirus cases in the U.S. topped 13 million on Friday, even as many Americans ignored Thanksgiving travel warnings.
Oh my, but the NFL is a messy place these days. . . . With the Baltimore Ravens fighting an outbreak — QB Lamar Jackson is on the reserve/COVID-19 list — their game at the Pittsburgh Steelers that was to have been played Thursday night and then was moved to Sunday afternoon now is scheduled for Tuesday night on NBC. Got that? . . . On the original schedule, Baltimore was to have played at Dallas on Thursday (Dec. 3). That game now will be played on Monday, Dec. 7 (FOX). The regular Monday Night Football game (San Francisco at Buffalo, ESPN) will follow to give us a doubleheader. . . . On top of all that, the Steelers played three players on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos had a player and two staffers test positive so shut down their facility on Friday. This was the third time this season that the Broncos have had to cancel a practice. The New Orleans are scheduled to visit Denver on Sunday. . . . The Los Angeles Rams also shut things down, saying the move was made out of an “abundance of caution.” One player and a staff member tested positive, but later twice tested negative. . . . Assistant coaches Nick Eason and Steve Jackson of the Cincinnati Bengals will miss Sunday’s game against the New York Giants for what the team says is COVID-19 related reasons. . . . The Arizona Cardinals, who allowed 1,200 fans at each of their previous two games, won’t be allowing fans at their Dec. 6 game against the Rams as numbers rise in the state. . . . The Cardinals will be without veteran WR Larry Fitzgerald when they meet the New England Patriots on Sunday. He and WR Trent Sherfield are on the reserve/COVID-19 list. . . .
UFC Fight Night on Saturday was to have been headlined by a heavyweight scrap featuring Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis. That won’t happen, however, because Blaydes has tested positive. . . .
Scratch the Pinstripe Bowl off your schedule of football bowl games. The game, which was to have featured teams from the Big Ten and ACC in Yankee Stadium, was dumped because of an increase in positive cases and travel restrictions that are in place in New York. . . . Eight bowl games now have been scratched. But you can relax because there still are 35 on the schedule. For now. . . .
The Gonzaga men’s basketball team, ranked No. 1 in the NCAA, played Friday morning in Fort Myers, Fla., despite learning that one of its players had tested positive. “We had people out for quarantine due to contact tracing, we had a positive test on an administrative staff, then we had a positive test on a player,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said after a 90-67 victory over Auburn. “It’s how the preseason has went. You just wait to get the news on testing, then you have to react, have to stay agile. We followed COVID protocols with the tournament, and the Florida health board down here have all been great. Our guys have been incredibly diligent about following all the rules.” . . .
Zach Braziller of the New York Post pointed out that some schools have paused their men’s basketball teams for less than what happened with Gonzaga.
“Meanwhile, several programs have shut down for less than what is happening with Gonzaga,” he wrote. “Those schools seem to understand what experts have said, that someone can test negative and not show symptoms, yet still be able to transmit the virus to others because the incubation period can last up to 14 days, according to the CDC.
“Not everyone seems to get that. Playing college basketball during a pandemic is a risk. It’s an even greater risk not to be extra safe.”
You want more? Arizona’s men’s basketball game against visiting UTEP on Sunday won’t happen. UTEP has had a positive test. Arizona was to have opened Wednesday but there Northern Arizona had someone come up positive. . . . Middle Tennessee’s football game today against Florida Atlantic has been postponed. . . . In hockey, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) will begin its schedule in an Omaha bubble on Tuesday, but has had to move Colorado College’s first four games because of a positive test with the Tigers. . . . The Georgetown women’s basketball team experienced a positive test so their opener at Richmond on Sunday has been postponed. . . . Northern Kentucky’s men’s basketball program is on hold after a positive test. . . . The Temple Owls also have paused team activities after a positive test in their men’s basketball team. . . . The Western Collegiate Hockey Association is having to make scheduling adjustments after positive tests in the Ferris State, Minnesota State and Northern Michigan programs. . . . UMass Lowell was to have opened its men’s hockey season on Saturday but that won’t happen after a positive test was discovered in its program on Friday. The university has halted team activities while team members are tested. . . . The River Hawks game with Providence will be rescheduled.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
During Kevin Kaminski’s playing career, his nickname was ‘Killer’ and he didn’t take any prisoners. Yes, he was tough and he played hard.
These days, Kaminski is the general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves and he hasn’t changed — he still shoots from the hip, and good for him.
With the SJHL about to shut down until after Christmas because of restrictions being implemented by the Saskatchewan government and health officials, Kaminski didn’t tiptoe around the issue.
“I don’t understand how casinos and bingos, and everything else can stay open,” Kaminski told MBC Radio’s Braden Malsbury, who does the play-by-play of Ice Wolves’ games. “If you’re going to shut it down, let’s shut it down and let’s do this right. Let’s just don’t put a Band-Aid on for two weeks and then it’s going to come back again after we get a little break from it.
“I don’t understand — it would be probably pretty easy to be a health official and just make up your own rules as you go along.”
Kaminski has hit the nail squarely on the head. By not shutting things down at the first sign of trouble a couple of months ago, we find ourselves where we are today. And the way these things have been handled since March, you can almost bet that we will get to a stage where restrictions will be loosened . . . and we will end up going through all of this again.
As Kaminski said, “If you’re going to shut it down, let’s shut it down . . .”
Kaminski has every right to be disappointed, too. His Ice Wolves are playing well, having won four straight after a season-opening setback.
“I’m very disappointed, saddened for the players,” Kaminski told Malsbury.
Doug Johnson, the general manager and head coach of the Nipawin Hawks, also is sounding frustrated.
“In March, we didn’t know . . . everything was uncertain,” Johnson told Aaron Schulze of northeastNOW, referring to the 2019-20 season’s premature end. “Right now, with all the restrictions in place and protocols we followed, we were told we did nothing wrong. There’s not one case from hockey transmission within the SJHL. We have our guys following all the protocols, basically putting their social life on hold, just to get through this and make it work, and we get shut down even when we’ve done everything right. Yet, other things are able to stay open.
“It’s a double standard, 100 per cent. It has nothing to do with us not taking COVID-19 serious. We have 27 guys for three months and there’s not been one case within our locker room. Within the league, 12 teams, there’s been one case. We’ve done things right and proven it can work, but we’re getting throttled right now.
“Government makes money off their bars and casinos, the liquor and gambling. They’re not making a ton of money off the SJHL or hockey. Yet, our communities . . . the Nipawin Hawks bring in roughly $1.5 to $1.8 million into Nipawin and that’s on hold right now. The mental health of our young people . . . the outing, just a little sense of normalcy for our fans . . . the pride that the players’ parents can have watching their kids play and do what they love. We’re not lumped in the same.”
Meanwhile, Jason Tatarnic, the general manager and head coach of the Estevan Bruins, was on The Rod Pedersen Show on Thursday, and he was pretty much echoing Johnson, wondering why junior hockey gets shut down while people are still allowed to go to casinos and stores.
“”It’s definitely disappointed and very sad for our players,” Tatarnic told Pedersen. “It’s heartbreaking for them.”
Tatarnic also touched on the financial side of things, saying that these teams have a “big economic impact on all the communities. Our operating budget for each team between is between $500,000 to $1 million, probably more so in the middle of that for each team. . . . tremendous economic impact on our communities.”
As for the Bruins, Tatarnic said the organization is “probably projected to lose anywhere betwen $300,000 and $400,000 this (season) already. That’s a huge loss for anybody . . . you look at our organization . . . that’s tremendous. We have six full-time staff. You look at 12 teams . . . that’s a big impact.”
With Canada’s national junior team dealing with three positive tests at its selection camp in Red Deer, the question has to be asked: Is the 2021 World Junior Championship at risk? . . . Ilan Schwartz, an associate professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of Alberta, has told Donna Spencer of The Canadian Press that he isn’t sure bring 10 teams into an Edmonton bubble at this point in time is such a good idea. . . . “The NHL showed that it can be done, but the stops that were pulled out in order to create and maintain a bubble for the NHL playoffs were enormous,” Schwartz said. “It’s not safe for the players to be coming into a place where there’s a surge in infections. While the players themselves are going to be young and healthy and low risk of serious complications from the virus, they are still very much able to transmit it to those people around them.” . . . The tournament is scheduled to open on Dec. 25 and run through Jan. 5. . . . Infections rates now are 10 times higher in Alberta than when the NHL was concluding its playoff run in Edmonton. . . . Spencer’s story is right here.
What’s happening with Canada’s national junior team as the players at the selection camp in Red Deer are early in 14-day quarantine sessions? Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News takes a look at the situation right here.
The five-team B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League has cancelled its 2020-21 season. Earlier, the league had said that it hoped to begin on Jan. 15. . . . From a news release: “League organizers worked closely with BC Hockey and member schools in pursuing a shortened season, but with recent restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the BCIHL made the decision to cancel official competition until the start of the 2021-22 season.” . . . Chris Munshaw, the BCIHL president, said: “It’s not a decision we took lightly. Many of our coaches, staff, and volunteers have been with the league since it began in 2005. More importantly, this has a big impact on the lives of our student-athletes.” . . . Also from the release: “The BCIHL’s decision does not prevent member teams from pursuing exhibition games or tournaments within the guidelines allowed by their institutions, facilities and the provincial government.” . . . The last paragraph of the release indicated that the BCIHL is continuing to prepare for a “full” 2021-22 season, “including the pursuit of league expansion.”
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
CBC News: 383 new COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed in Manitoba, virtually unchanged from the previous 7-day average of 386. The province is also reporting 10 additional deaths.
CBC News: Saskatchewan is reporting 299 new COVID-19 cases, which is significantly more than the province’s previous 7-day average of 209. 3 deaths are also being attributed to the virus. . . . Saskatchewan jail reports 72 new COVID-19 cases, including 68 offenders and 4 staff. There are now 85 active cases at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre, which normally houses about 450 inmates. Authorities say any new admissions to the facility will be redirected.
650 CKOM Saskatoon: ICU capacity is at nearly 100 per cent in Saskatchewan, with just three available beds in Saskatoon as of today.
Jason Herring, Postmedia, Alberta: 1,077 new cases (total now 51,878); 10 new deaths (total now 510); 383 currently in hospital, 84 in ICU (yesterday: 355 in hospital, 71 in ICU); 14,052 active cases (up from 13,719 yesterday); 15,644 tests conducted (~6.9% positive); since yesterday, hospitalizations rose by eight per cent in Alberta, and ICU admissions rose by 18 per cent.
Troy Gillard, rdnewNOW: Red Deer now with 158 active cases of COVID-19.
Christopher Foulds, Kamloops This Week: COVID-19 claims another 13 lives as province announces 887 new cases, including 65 in Interior; outbreak at The Hamlets long-term care home in Kamloops declared over.
James Peters, CFJC-TV Kamloops: Interior Health says there are 374 active cases of COVID-19 in the region, with nine people in hospital including two in intensive care.
Castanet Kamloops: Assault at Dawson Creek Walmart over wearing face mask.
INFOnews Kamloops: Walmart employee in Dawson Creek assaulted by man who refused to wear mask.
INFOnews Kamloops: Police identify woman alleged to have spit on Penticton liquor store employee in mask-wearing dispute.
CBC News: Ontario reports 21 additional COVID-19 deaths and 1,478 new cases. That’s higher than the previous 7-day average of 1,389. Of the new cases, 572 are in Peel Region, 356 are in Toronto and 111 are in York Region.
CBC Quebec: Quebec is reporting 32 additional COVID-19 deaths and has diagnosed 1,464 new cases. That appears to be the largest daily number of new reported cases since May 3, and a significant jump from the province’s previous 7-day average of 1,171.
CBC News: 12 new COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick. That’s higher than the average of 9 for the previous 7 days.
Alexander Quon, Global Halifax: Premier Blaine Higgs say that as off midnight anyone entering New Brunswick from another province, including Atlantic Canada, must now self isolate for 14 days. The Atlantic bubble is officially over.
CNN: 263,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus. . . . 12.8 million people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus.
Val-d'Or goalie Jonathan Lemieux in isolation after being in contact w/ someone who has Covid-19.
Lemieux had no contact w/ his teammates after being in contact with this person, so Foreurs will play as scheduled this weekend. https://t.co/K8HaKOiYgI
The NFL has a problem. With the Baltimore Ravens in the middle of an outbreak, the NFL moved their game with the host Pittsburgh Steelers from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon. On Thursday, it seems that the Ravens had four more players, including QB Lamar Jackson, and one staffer test positive. The Ravens have shut down their facility until at least Monday, so you have to think Sunday’s game won’t happen. . . . The Ravens really are up against it, too, because they are scheduled to face the Cowboys in Dallas in next week’s Thursday game. . . . Meanwhile, WR Larry Fitzgerald of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals tested positive and won’t play Sunday against the host New England Patriots. . . . The Cleveland Browns closed their facility on Thursday after getting their fifth positive in less than two weeks.
#Ravens QB Lamar Jackson tested positive for COVID-19, per @RapSheet. He’s out for Sunday’s game vs. Pittsburgh, assuming that game even happens as scheduled.
Like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, it seems that the Swift Current Broncos and Golden West Radio learned that they couldn’t live without each other. . . . The Broncos and Golden West have announced a deal that will put the play-by-play of the “majority” of the team’s games in the approaching season on the Eagle 94.1. . . . Craig Beauchemin will handle the play-by-play. . . . The parties weren’t able to reach an agreement prior to the 2019-20 season so the Broncos took their broadcasts online. . . . The WHL is hoping to start its next season on Jan. 8.
At some point in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post, I put together a brief history of the Western Hockey League. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I am doing just that. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here is Part 4 of 5, and it’s a long one (but not as long as Part 5). I hope you enjoy it. . . .
When the WHL headed into the 1981-82 season, which was the beginning of its fourth five-year segment, stability was not exactly a strong suit.
For example, of the 13 teams that came out of the gate in the fall of 1981, only two — the Portland Winter Hawks and Saskatoon Blades — wouldn’t undergo a change in ownership or location over the next 10 years.
But had you predicted the WHL would be as healthy and as stable as any league in existence just 10 years later, well, not many people wouldn’t have scoffed.
Hockey in the early 1980s was fighting to leave its fightin’ image behind.
The WHL was no different. The days of the Broad Street Bullies were coming to an end. Unfortunately for the WHL, it took some people longer than others to realize that.
For starters, the Regina Pats hired Bill LaForge as their head coach on May 20, 1981. At the time, he was under an OHL-imposed suspension that was to last until Jan. 1, 1982. LaForge, while with the Oshawa Generals, had become physically involved with Peterborough coach Dave Dryden and then with Petes player Doug Evans in a pregame brawl.
Neither the suspension nor LaForge’s reputation scared off Regina general manager Bob Strumm, who gave LaForge a two-year contract.
Of his OHL suspension, LaForge said: “I’ve never been suspended in 12 years of coaching and I have no intention of it ever happening again.”
Before the 1981-82 season ended, LaForge would be suspended three times. And he would also be in a Lethbridge courtroom, facing an assault charge.
At the same time, there were other changes that would mean a lot to this league as its history continued. For starters, Russ Farwell moved into
Calgary as the Wranglers assistant coach and assistant GM. He would later prove to be as astute as any hockey man who has ever sat behind a WHL desk.
An NHL team also became involved in the WHL at the ownership level. Peter Pocklington, the owner of the Edmonton Oilers, purchased the New Westminster franchise and moved it to Kamloops as the Junior Oilers.
Pocklington owned 70 per cent, with 35 shareholders holding the rest.
“They seem to be an enthusiastic group,” WHL president Ed Chynoweth said. “And a new building there in the future would be a plus for us. I know the franchise moved out of Kamloops in the past. But I think that was a case of people looking for greener pastures after seeing the success that was achieved in Portland.”
On Aug. 19, the WHL began shaping its office for the future when Richard Doerksen, the league statistician for three seasons who was named referee-in-chief midway in the 1980-81 season, was given the title of executive assistant.
There was an ugly incident in Medicine Hat on Oct. 14 when, during a bench-clearing brawl against the Lethbridge Broncos, Tigers general manager/coach Pat Ginnell got into it with linesman Gary Patzer. According to The Canadian Press, Ginnell “exchanged blows” with Patzer.
The next day, Medicine Hat RCMP laid an assault charge against Ginnell. One day later, Ginnell and Patzer were suspended indefinitely. Ginnell would later charge Patzer with assault, and both would plead not guilty. Ginnell eventually pleaded guilty and was fined $350, while the charge against Patzer was withdrawn by the Crown. Ginnell ended up serving a 36-game suspension.
There were serious problems in Spokane. And on Dec. 2, the WHL suspended the franchise. A proposed sale fell through and the 3-23-1 Flyers were done for the season.
One of the WHL’s great success stories began on Jan. 19, 1982, when, during meetings at the all-star game in Winnipeg, an expansion application from Prince Albert was accepted.
It was a sad night, March 23 was, in Regina. It was Fan Appreciation Night and by the time the ice chips cleared, the Pats and Calgary had done it up right. When the WHL office got through, the teams were hit with $1,250 in fines and 36 games in suspensions. Regina got 27 games and $1,000.
On April 8, it was revealed that Bill Zeitlin of Chicago, a minority owner with baseball’s White Sox, had bought the Billings Bighorns from Joe Sample for $300,000. Zeitlin promptly moved the team to Nanaimo.
Regina brawled its way into the WHL final, but not before LaForge landed in a Lethbridge courtroom.
LaForge became physically involved with Alfred Gurr, a fan, while players brawled on the ice during the first period of Game 1 of the East final.
LaForge was charged with assault causing bodily harm. Ultimately, LaForge was acquitted as the judge ruled it was hard to convict a person of assault for hitting “an obnoxious person trying to get into the coach’s area.”
Charges against the fan were dropped on June 22 when LaForge, the chief witness, didn’t appear in Lethbridge Provincial Court.
On April 29, Farwell was named GM of the Tigers and, just like that, the foundation was laid for back-to-back Memorial Cups.
Portland defeated visiting Regina 9-2, at home on May 2, to take the WHL final, 4-1. Regina was without Brent Pascal, Al Tuer and Dale Derkatch, who were suspended after a Game 4 brawl, the third time in the playoffs that the Pats were involved in a donnybrook.
Four days later, LaForge resigned. He later signed as GM/head coach in Kamloops.
Kelowna got into the league when Kelowna Sports Enterprises Ltd., headed up by Chris Parker, was sold an expansion franchise. Parker had operated the BCJHL’s Penticton Knights. The Wings named Marc Pezzin coach and Joe Arling GM. The Wings were bad — really bad. They were 1-26-2 at the Christmas break.
On June 22, the WHL approved the sale of the Wranglers to Wilf Richard and Jim Kerr from Pat Shimbashi and the Calgary Flames.
Regina landed defenceman Rick Herbert, 15, one of the most-wanted players in WHL history on Sept. 20, 1982, but it cost the Pats seven players. It happened during a draft that was held as teams cut their lists from 60 to 50 players. Regina traded Byron Lomow, Tim Brown and Kevin Pylypow to Kamloops for the draft’s third pick. Darryl Watts, Scott Wilson, Peter Hayden and Scott Gerla were given to Kelowna and the Wings agreed to pass on Herbert with the first pick. Due to draft rules, Prince Albert, with the second pick, couldn’t take Herbert. The Pats held pick No. 4.
Seattle picked up a 12-year-old from Thompson, Man., in that draft. His name? Glen Goodall.
On Oct. 18, the WHL admitted it had on file franchise applications from Moose Jaw, Edmonton, Red Deer and New Westminster. The Moose Jaw group included Lorne Humphreys, Bill Kelly, Jim Little, Barry Webster and Emmett Reidy. Other groups were headed by: Bill Burton and Ron Dixon, New Westminster; Vic Mah, Edmonton; and, Alf Cadman, Red Deer.
On Jan. 19, 1983, newspaper headlines everywhere read: Player swapped for bus.
Here’s what happened: The Seattle Breakers dealt the rights to left-winger Tom Martin to the Victoria Cougars for a used bus. “Actually, just the down payment,” said Breakers’ owner John Hamilton. “It might have been the best deal I ever made.”
At the time, Martin was playing at Denver University but said he wanted to play in his home town. The bus in question was purchased by the defunct Spokane Flyers from Trailways in 1981 for $60,000. The Flyers spent $15,000 on inside renovations. When that franchise folded, the Cougars bought the bus but it was sitting in the U.S., because Victoria was not prepared to pay customs, excise and sales taxes. Hamilton said he got the bus for Martin and $35,000.
Brandon owner Jack Brockest pulled the plug in March, selling the Wheat Kings to a group of local businessmen. “I simply, as an individual, could not have survived much longer,” said Brockest, who sold just four years after buying the franchise. Average attendance had fallen below the 1,500-mark.
Calgary lost out to Lethbridge in the East final, and Wranglers coach Doug Sauter resigned. He later signed with the AHL’s Springfield Indians.
Lethbridge went on to beat Portland in the WHL final. Both teams advanced to the Memorial Cup, the Winter Hawks getting in as host team. And, lo and behold, the Winter Hawks became the first host team to win the tournament.
On June 14, Bill Burton and Ron Dixon announced they had bought the Nanaimo franchise. They moved it to New Westminster. Yes, major junior hockey was back in Queen’s Park Arena.
On Aug. 28, Brandon traded centre Blaine Chrest to Portland for five players — centre Ray Ferraro, defenceman Brad Duggan, right-winger Derek Laxdal, and left-wingers Dave Thomlinson and Tony Horacek. Ferraro would set a WHL record with 108 goals and, in the process, may have saved the Brandon franchise.
As the 1983-84 season opened, it was revealed that a familiar face had returned to New Westminster. Bill Shinske was back as vice-president of operations.
Early in the season, Kamloops coach Bill LaForge, after beating Kelowna 7-5, said he was tired of facing little opposition: “It’s no fun taking two points off a team that gives you no resistance. They have no breakout, no forechecking, no system, nothing. The only adjustment you have to make is to duck.”
Meanwhile, out east, Ferraro was having a glorious season. He scored his 50th goal in his 32nd game, the second fastest 50 goals in WHL history. Bill Derlago had 50 in 27 games with Brandon in 1977-78. “The trade was the best thing that could have happened to me,” Ferraro said. “I wasn’t going to play that much in Portland. At the start of the season, we wrote down our goals and I wanted to have 35 goals by Christmas.”
It was a Merry Christmas in Moose Jaw as it was announced that Moose Jaw Tier One Inc. had purchased the Winnipeg Warriors Hockey Club Inc., and that the franchise would move for the 1984-85 season. Winnipeg would go on to finish with a 9-63-0 record, losing its last game 14-1 to visiting Regina on March 21.
Brawls were few and far between, but there was one with a difference in Regina on March 7. Brandon GM Les Jackson was fined $1,000 and suspended indefinitely for leaving the press box and attacking Strumm, Regina’s GM/coach, at the Pats’ bench, all this while players were fighting on the ice.
“I just wanted to let him know that if the kids are going to fight, I’m going to stick up for the guys, too,” Jackson said.
On March 12, Ferraro became the first player in WHL history to score 100 goals in a season when he scored twice in an 11-9 victory over visiting Winnipeg.
Swift Current was hot on the heels of another franchise, this time offering $360,000 to the Edmonton Oilers for Kamloops. Local businessmen rode to the rescue and kept junior hockey in Kamloops.
The story in the playoffs had to do with the failure of the Pats. It’s doubtful any team has ever been so close to the Memorial Cup and then not made it. Regina was 12 seconds away from eliminating Kamloops in the sixth game of the final. But Dean Evason tied the game 3-3 at 19:48 of the third period in Kamloops and Ryan Stewart won it at 13:03 of overtime. One night later, the Oilers won 4-2 and were off to the Memorial Cup.
Brian Ekstrom, president of Oakwood Petroleum, headed a group that purchased the Wranglers from Jim Kerr for $300,000. Kerr bought the team from Shimbashi in 1982 but still owed $200,000 to the former owner. Ekstrom didn’t renew Marcel Comeau’s contract as coach (Comeau went to Saskatoon), and named Hank Bassen as GM and Sandy Hucul as coach.
Another franchise changed hands in late May when Dennis Kjeldgaard and Al Foder bought Lethbridge from Ross McKibbon of Taber.
And in mid-June, Sauter returned to the WHL, this time as head coach in Medicine Hat.
In Regina, Herb Pinder Jr. assumed controlling interest of the Pats.
Before the 1984-85 season started, LaForge left Kamloops for the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. Kamloops dipped into the midget coaching ranks in Sherwood Park, Alta., and signed Ken Hitchcock.
Goodall, just 14, played his first game with the Seattle Breakers on Oct. 10, 1984. It was a 12-3 loss in Regina. “My parents were here tonight,” Goodall said, “and they’ll follow us around on the rest of our eastern swing, and they might take a trip out to Seattle and I’ll see them at Christmas, so it won’t be too bad.”
As for his first game, he said: “I thought I played OK in the third period. When you’re down by a lot of goals, it’s hard to keep it up.”
He would play 399 regular season games by the time his career ended.
A rivalry was born on Nov. 13, 1984, when Moose Jaw scored its first victory over Regina, winning 6-4 in Moose Jaw. But referee Darren Loraas was forced to call the game with 26 seconds left.
“I was surprised and disappointed,” Moose Jaw head coach Graham James said. “I thought the league was past that. It’s not necessary to play like that. The whole thing was disgusting. If Bob (Strumm) really wants to do battle like that, let the generals do the fighting and let’s leave the troops on the bench. We’re trying to sell the game here and I don’t think this helps it.”
The Pats were fined $1,500 and hit with 21 games in suspension; Moose Jaw got $200 and four games.
The under-age draft was playing havoc in Portland, where the Winter Hawks were missing a few players. Here’s Portland co-owner/GM Brian Shaw: “We should have had 11 returning players this year from the team that won the Memorial Cup. We have one — John Kordic — and that’s through no fault of our own.” Ken Yaremchuk, Richard Kromm, Alfie Turcotte and Cam Neely were in the NHL, while five other players walked away from the game.
The Winter Hawks gained some publicity, too, when their policy on drug and alcohol use was revealed. Here’s Shaw, again: “Everybody says there’s drugs in sport and nobody does anything about it. We are trying to do something about it. We take urine tests approximately every two weeks, and we also take spot tests, to assure ourselves that there’s no alcohol or drug involvement.”
Shaw said parents were fully aware of all of this: “We sent them a letter saying: “For the benefit of your boy and our organization each boy takes a urine test.” If he wants to refuse to take the test, he can do it. Nobody refuses . . . why would they want to refuse?” And, according to Shaw, no parents objected.
On Dec. 3, Prince Albert, in its third season, moved into first place in the East for the first time. The Raiders got into the WHL for $100,000 and then paid $75,000 for what was left of Spokane’s player list. You see, when the dispersal draft of the Flyers was held on Dec. 3, 1981, WHL teams were allowed to select only players on the active roster. The Raiders, then, bought the list and got three future stars — centre Dan Hodgson, right-winger Dave Pasin and defenceman Manny Viveiros.
On Dec. 12, New Westminster’s Cliff Ronning set a WHL record with a goal in his 16th consecutive game, a 3-2 home-ice victory over Medicine Hat.
It was revealed in January that Seattle owner John Hamilton was having financial problems and — surprise, surprise — Swift Current made him an offer.
“When I got into the hockey business, I was $60,000 short of being a millionaire,” Hamilton said. “Now I’d take the $60,000.” He said he had lost $500,000 since getting involved in 1979.
Swift Current struck out, again, on Jan. 14 when the WHL board of governors, not wanting to lose a West Division team, voted against the sale of the Breakers.
Hallelujah! On Jan. 22, 1985, the WHL did away with round-robin series in the playoffs, choosing to go strictly with best-of-five/seven series in the East, and best-of-nines in the West.
Rumours involving Swift Current surfaced in late March when the Bank of Nova Scotia asked the Wheat Kings for a written financial plan. Swift Current would strike out again when three Brandon businessmen bought the team.
The Raiders, 16-55-1 and last in their first season, were 41-29-2 and fifth the next season. In their third season, though, they went 58-11-3 and went on to win the WHL championship, sweeping Kamloops in the final.
“Winning the world championship was a thrill, but winning the WHL title is more satisfying,” said Terry Simpson, the Prince Albert GM/head coach who had led Canada to a world junior gold medal earlier in the year. The Raiders then won the Memorial Cup, cruising past the Shawinigan Cataractes 6-1 in the final game.
New Westminster beat Victoria 5-4 on March 22 and Ronning had four assists, giving him 197 points, one more than the WHL record set by Brandon’s Brian Propp in 1978-79.
In April, the WHL announced 12-year-olds were no longer eligible for its player lists. The league also decided to allow its teams to use three 20-year-olds, rather than two, in the 1985-86 season.
On April 2, the WHL took over the Seattle franchise, later selling it to Calgary businessman Earl Hale.
The end of Pinder’s association with the Pats began on May 1 with a story in the Regina Leader-Post. The May 1 story began: “Regina Pats fans are going to have to dip into their pockets for an extra dollar to cover parking charges announced by the Pats’ landlord, the Regina Exhibition Association.”
Pinder said he was “very disappointed and very concerned” by the decision. “We’re disappointed because they made a policy and then came and told us after it was in place.”
On May 6, Strumm resigned as GM/head coach in Regina, ending a six-year association with the Pats. He later accepted an offer to join the Sudbury Wolves but changed his mind before leaving for the Ontario city.
And there was trouble brewing in Moose Jaw where James was offered a position as co-coach and assistant GM by general manager Barry Trapp. Here’s James: “The bottom line is they took away my head-coaching position and that is a breach of contract. I can’t work with Barry Trapp anymore.”
James resigned shortly thereafter, saying: “I didn’t quit as head coach. They took that away from me.” He later sued the Warriors for breach of contract, a suit that was settled before it got to court.
For the first time since the fall of 1975, the WHL was ready to open a season with the same teams that finished the previous season.
But before 1985-86 could begin Vic Fitzgerald, now the majority owner in Kelowna, moved to Spokane.
Pat Ginnell was back in the WHL, this time as head coach in New Westminster. On Sept. 11, in their first exhibition game, the Bruins brawled with Seattle in Chilliwack. Ginnell was suspended for five games and fined $500. He was also told that another bench-clearing incident would cost him 25 games and $2,500.
On Oct. 10, the WHL made half-visors mandatory for all players.
As the season began there were ominous signs in Regina. In 1984-85, there were only four (of 36) regular-season crowds under 2,000. In October of 1985, there had already been five crowds under that figure.
Regina businessman Bill Hicke, a former NHL and WHA player, admitted he almost bought the Pats in June for $450,000. But he said he wouldn’t pay that for the team in November with its apparent problems.
Hicke said the Pats were faring poorly at the gate because of poor marketing strategy and low season-ticket sales.
“I think the Pats have to get more aggressive in marketing,” he explained. “They don’t have enough people to do the marketing now. You have to go knocking on doors. I know, for a fact, that they’ve sold only 600 season tickets. I have three partners who would sell 500 season tickets apiece.”
On Nov. 21, John Chapman was fired as head coach in Lethbridge. He was in his sixth season with the Broncos. Earl Jessiman replaced him.
In New Westminster, there was a changing of the dinosaurs — Ginnell was out, replaced by Ernie McLean who said hockey has “gone too much European . . . and I don’t agree with it. I still believe in the Boston style of hockey.”
Things really started to happen in Regina in mid-December. First, GM/head coach Bill Moores confirmed that the Pats had informed their landlord, in writing, that they intended to vacate the Agridome by Jan. 6. By this stage, the team and the Regina Exhibition Association were embroiled in a messy lease negotiation, not the least of which concerned paid parking.
It was evident that Pinder intended to sell the franchise to Swift Current. Moores scheduled practice ice at various Regina arenas and made plans to move to Swift Current in mid-January.
On Dec. 30, Pinder ordered the postponement of the Pats’ first home game of 1986. Chynoweth agreed with the decision: “We thought it would be in the best interests of everyone to cancel the game until the situation is settled.”
But on Jan. 13 the WHL’s board of governors rejected Pinder’s sale of the Pats to Swift Current, choosing instead to purchase the franchise itself.
Hicke, still interested in buying the Pats, said he felt sorry for the people of Swift Current: “I believe down the line that Swift Current deserves a team, but they don’t deserve the oldest team in the league.”
By now, the Swift Current people had at one time or another tried to buy Winnipeg, Brandon, Kamloops, Kelowna, Seattle and Regina.
Ironically, on Jan. 14, about 12 hours after Pinder announced the sale of the Pats to the WHL, the exhibition association said it was dropping its controversial $1 parking fee for Pats games. Mike Kelly, REA general manager, explained: “We feel this is a positive step. While the Pats are in this transition period, we’d like to help out.”
To which Pinder responded: “I think the paid parking has ruined our business and I’ve had to relinquish our business.”
In late February, the WHL sold the Pats to four Regina businessmen — Hicke, Morley Gusway, Ted Knight and Jack Nicolle.
Meanwhile, it was business as usual around the league. In Queen’s Park Arena, for example, Kamloops head coach Ken Hitchcock was seen, according to The Canadian Press, “holding a hand over his eye to mock New Westminster’s one-eyed mentor, Ernie McLean, while McLean brandished a sign depicting the heavy-set Hitchcock as a pig eating hotdogs.” They were later fined $250 each.
And still the Swift Current people weren’t done because on Feb. 23, 1986, Dennis Kjeldgaard revealed the Broncos were for sale.
Guess what! Yes, the WHL brought back the round-robin format, this time deciding that the East’s top six teams would play in a home-and-home round-robin with the top four teams moving on. This would prove to be a disaster, and last just one season.
On March 25, Chynoweth suffered a mild heart attack and was in intensive care in a Calgary hospital. He would return to work, on a part-time basis, early in May.
Finally, Swift Current was in. On April 11, the WHL returned to Swift Current when a group headed by Rittinger purchased the Broncos from Kjeldgaard and Foder.
And Strumm was back in the WHL, this time as the GM in Spokane. Chapman was back, too, as GM in Calgary.
But Lethbridge wasn’t done. By May 1, city officials had contacted Chynoweth, stating their desire for another franchise.
Swift Current moved quickly to get its organization moving. Rittinger announced on May 1 that James would be the club’s GM/head coach.
The WHL final featured Kamloops and Medicine Hat, the latter making the first of what would be three straight trips to the final. This time, Kamloops lost the opener and then won four straight, taking the last one 7-2 on May 5.
There wouldn’t be a WHL team in the Memorial Cup final — the OHL’s Guelph Platers beat the QMJHL’s Hull Olympiques, 6-2 — but Medicine Hat would solve that problem next season. And the season after that.
The weather in Campbell Creek, B.C., was decent on Wednesday, especially for the last week in November. Campbell Creek? That’s where we live, about 20 km east of Kamloops on the north side of the South Thompson River.
I sometimes walk on Wittner Road, which is on the other side of the river within a few feet of the Trans-Canada Highway.
While I was strolling along on Wednesday afternoon I found myself wondering: How did we ever get to where we are today?
Sheesh, stop and think about it . . . how did we ever arrive here?
There are people who hardly have left their homes since March. There are senior citizens in long-term care homes who aren’t permitted to have in-person visits from family members. Our seniors should be treated as national treasures, not as disposable tissues.
I mean, people are dying — by the thousands south of the border and the dozens up here. But that doesn’t seem to matter to some people who absolutely refuse to wear masks . . . masks that only serve to protect family, friends and neighbours, not to mention anyone else with whom a wearer might come in contact.
Not only that, but those same unbelievably selfish people will enter a place of business, in the process walking right past signs indicating that the wearing of masks is mandatory, and spit at employees who attempt to get them to maskup. Goodness grief! How did we ever get here?
And what of those in the medical community — the doctors and nurses and caregivers and janitorial staff, the EMTs, police officers, teachers, everyone — who have spent hours working in the most precarious of situations? What about showing them a whole lot more respect by curtailing some of those non-essential activities?
Seriously . . . how did we ever get to this stage of uncaring and incivility?
I’m only referring to Canada here because I have no interest in getting into what is — or isn’t — going on south of the 49th parallel, other than to say the numbers down there two weeks after their Thanksgiving weekend are going to be like nothing we could have imagined.
Meanwhile, I have questions . . .
Why can’t politicians and/or health officials from the various provinces communicate on a regular basis and plan the response to COVID-19 together?
In Western Canada for example, why do we have one province handing down restrictions one day, another one doing it the next day and yet one more taking action a couple of days later? I realize that we are talking politics and ideology, etc., when it comes to getting provinces to work together, but — GEEZ! — people are dying here.
In Manitoba, the chief health officer is upset because shoppers apparently are travelling to places like Yorkton, Sask., and Kenora, Ont., in order to purchase items that aren’t available at this time in Manitoba, which is allowing the sales of essential items only. What if the provinces got together, came up with a common plan of attack and then they all unleashed it at the same time?
Why is there so much confusion whenever politicians/health officials announce a new round of restrictions? They seem to announce them one day and then spend at least two days explaining and clarifying them. Maybe when this is all over some of these people could attend a seminar on how not to deliver mixed messages.
At the same time, though, why are so many people looking for loopholes in the restrictions? As a society, are we not intelligent enough to understand what is best for us and for our friends and neighbours? Do we not understand what are the right things to do without raising a fuss and looking for excuses not to do them?
When did so many people lose sight of the fact that the scientists and medical people with the letters after their names know a whole lot more about this stuff than the ‘doctors’ and ‘scientists’ who hang out on social media? Please stop trying to tell me that wearing a mask cuts my oxygen intake by 20 per cent, or even one per cent. And don’t even mention Bill Gates, vaccines and computer chips. If you have a cel phone, Bill Gates already knows where you are every minute of every day of every week of every month of every year. OK?
Would it hurt for sporting organizations that have had to pause their seasons to have a spokesperson step forward and say that, yes, we’re disappointed but we respect our health officials and we are committed to do whatever is requested of us if it means keeping our community safe? Hey, we are really in need of some leaders setting good examples out there.
And, finally, when did we begin devaluing human life to the degree that is happening these days? Let’s not forget that the dead, among other things, don’t contribute to the economy.
And let’s not forget that, as Joe Biden says, “We are at war with the virus, not one another.”
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
Skylar Peters, CJOB Winnipeg: There are 349 new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba today, and 8 more people have lost their lives. . . . Deaths: 256. . . . Hospitalizations: 303 (pandemic-high). . . . ICU: 50. . . . TP: 14% (down .2% from Tues.) . . . Active: 8,758. . . . Recovered: 5,893. . . . Total: 14,907.
Brandon Sun: From Nov. 16-22, Manitobans were delivered 79 warnings and 95 tickets worth a total of $126,082 for breaking public health orders.
Marc Smith, CTV Regina: Saskatchewan announces 164 new cases today, including 69 in Regina. The Queen City is up to 693 active cases. Hospitalizations reach a record high at 111, including 19 people in ICU.
CBC News: Saskatchewan’s new COVID-19 restrictions suspend sports, extend mandatory masking to schools. Changes also include new limits for restaurants, weddings, funerals and recreational venues like casinos.
Toronto Star: Alberta Chief Medical officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says the province has reached a grim milestone of 500 deaths, with another 1,265 COVID-19 cases diagnosed overnight.
CBC News: Calgary announces local state of emergency due to pandemic. Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the move allows the city to move quickly in order to respond to COVID-19.
CBC News: B.C. reports 738 new COVID-19 cases and 13 additional deaths, marking the highest one-day total for deaths in the province since the pandemic began. Hospitalizations hit another record high at 294 patients, with 61 in critical care.
CBC News: Ontario reports 36,100 more tests were completed. Data shows 523 people with COVID-19 are hospitalized in the province, 159 are in the ICU and 106 are on a ventilator.
CBC News: Quebec is reporting 45 additional deaths and 1,100 new COVID-19 cases. That’s the lowest daily case total in 8 days; Quebec’s previous 7-day average was 1,182.
CBC News: Nova Scotia is reporting 16 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the number of active cases in the province to 102. New restrictions for restaurants, gyms, long-term care facilities begin Thursday.CTV News: New Brunswick is reporting three new cases of COVID-19, bringing the province’s active total to 94.
CBC News: Nunavut has 11 new cases of COVID-19, raising the total to 155; 153 are active. 8 of the new cases are in Arviat, a fly-in community on Hudson Bay’s west coast. There are 115 cases in Arviat, for a test positivity rate of 23%. 3 others are in Whale Cove, 150 km north of Arviat.
CBC News: U.S. hospitalizations for COVID-19 surpassed 87,000 on Tuesday, an all-time high. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has recommended against Americans travelling for Thanksgiving in order to curb the spread of the virus.
The New York Times: America’s frontline medical workers caring for Covid-19 patients are reaching a breaking point, suffering from deepening stress, fatigue and anxiety.
Unlikely that any of the three weekends of exhibition games Canada had scheduled against U-Sports teams will be able to go ahead. The first 2 are during the mandatory quarantine period, and the final weekend is just days after, and unlikely to happen at this point.
Hockey Canada’s national junior team selection camp in Red Deer has all but shut down after three positive tests. A staff member tested positive on Saturday and two players came up positive on Tuesday. As a result, all players and coaches have been ruled to be close contacts and put into quarantine for 14 days. That means, among other things, that two exhibition games against the U of Alberta Golden Bears scheduled for this weekend have been cancelled. . . .
The Saskatchewan government and health officials have put restrictions in place that have resulted in the SJHL shutting down until after Christmas. The league has five games on Friday’s schedule after which it will shut down. . . . The Flin Flon Bombers already had announced they were done after being unable to get clearance to move their base of operations to Creighton, Sask., and play all their games on the road. . . . The Melfort Mustangs, meanwhile, have been dealing with a positive test. . . .
The AJHL announced Wednesday night that it is “on pause until existing limitations are lifted and we are permitted to safely return.” . . . The AJHL’s board of governors is to meet on Dec. 19 to discuss the situation. . . . The AJHL has four teams — the Canmore Eagles, Calgary Canucks, Drumheller Dragons and Okotoks Oilers — dealing with positive tests. . . .
Atlantic University Sport announced Wednesday that it won’t be playing any sports in the 2021 winter season. That impacts hockey, basketball, swimming, volleyball and curling. . . . AUS covers 11 universities in Atlantic Canada. . . .
The NFL won’t have a Thursday night game this week. The Baltimore Ravens were to have played at the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, that game has been moved to Sunday afternoon because the Ravens have had a few positive tests. . . . The Cleveland Browns shut down their facility on Wednesday after a second positive test in as many days. . . . The Indianapolis Colts put DT DeForest Buckner on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He won’t play Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. . . . The Jacksonville Jaguars will be without three assistants coaches when they play the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Nick Saban, the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, has tested positive and won’t be on the sideline Saturday when his club faces Auburn in the annual Iron Bowl. Saban is said to be in quarantine with mild symptoms. . . . There were reports a couple of months ago that he had tested positive, but that turned out to be a false positive.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Update: Source tells me lawyers for CHL still haven't amended minimum-wage lawsuit settlement terms to satisfaction of judges. Possible case may resume, meaning no immediate payouts to players, demands for documents/emails in new year, depositions of team owners, eventual trial. https://t.co/dhVicnvORt
So . . . we were really looking forward to watching the Baltimore Ravens play the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Thursday night. Weren’t we? But now that’s gone. . . . Here’s Bob Molinaro of the of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot to describe the Thanksgiving Day football tradition:
“Grandma’s sweet potato casserole and collard greens haven’t given Thanksgiving Day revelers as much gas over the years as the Detroit Lions. Why must the NFL subject football-loving Americans to a Lions game — this year against the anemic Texans — each and every turkey day? Tradition? The only tradition worth recognizing here is the one that outlaws cruel and unusual punishment.”
Dorothy and I were in Penticton, B.C., on the evening of July 24, 2015, for the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame induction dinner.
Here is part of what I wrote afterwards:
The legendary Fred Sasakamoose was on hand to receive the Okanagan Hockey School’s Pioneer Award.
What a wonderful moment it was as a tremendously touching video chronicling Sasakamoose’s life was played and an emotional Sasakamoose made his way to the stage.
If you aren’t aware of Sasakamoose and all that he has done, get thee to Google and prepare to spend an hour or two.
At one point, Sasakamoose spoke to what was a thoroughly captivated audience about how lonely it was being an aboriginal — he is from the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation — on the way to the NHL.
On this night, Sasakamoose was anything but lonely. He was on the receiving end of two emotionally charged standing ovations as he made a roomful of new friends and admirers.
That is the kind of night it was, and I will long remember being a small part of it.
Hockey Canada, we’ve got a problem!
Hockey Canada announced Tuesday morning that two players who are part of its national junior team selection camp in Red Deer have tested positive for COVID-19. Both players are in quarantine at the team hotel.
As a result, Tuesday afternoon’s Red-White game was postponed and all other activities were cancelled for the day. Ryan Rishaug of TSN reported later Tuesday that “as of now nothing is scheduled for training camp activity (Wednesday).”
Head coach Andre Tourigny had said the coaching staff wanted to trim the roster by a dozen or more players after Tuesday’s game. That obviously didn’t happen. Chances are that some players will be sent home before a scheduled exhibition game against the U of Alberta Golden Bears on Saturday.
This is Team Canada’s second brush with the virus. On Saturday, a person described as a “non-core” member of the support staff tested positive. That resulted in an undisclosed number of people going into a 14-day quarantine, including assistant coaches Michael Dyck and Jason Labarbera.
On Tuesday, after news of the two players having tested positive, Rishaug tweeted:
“A key question is, how many players will be identified as close contacts? We don’t know if the infected players were playing in the games Saturday and Sunday. All close contacts must isolate for 14 days.
“Covid has wreaked havoc on Canada’s camp to this point. 14 players were late arriving for various Covid testing related issues, including Ridly Greig testing positive before camp. He has since joined the team after his quarantine ended.
“All of this happening with the back drop of rapidly rising cases in Alberta, and news coming later today from the Premier that could involve further restrictive measures being put in place. The next few days will determine a lot on what Canada’s camp looks like moving forward.
“Players and staff were tested before arrival in Red Deer, then tested again upon arrival. A 2x per week protocol then kicked in once camp was up and running. The first positive test of a staff member came as a result of the 3rd test they had taken.”
Am told by Alberta Health that provinces new measures should not affect Hockey Canada’s training camp in Red Deer. Exemptions for sport’s activities need to be in place by Friday, but the two sides have been working together on safety protocols for some time…/
Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News has his take on Team Canada’s situation right here.
The NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets said Tuesday they have “had several players recently test positive for the COVID-19 virus.” . . . Frank Seravalli of TSN reported that a “significant” number of Blue Jackets “have tested positive . . . over the last 7-to-10 days.” . . . The players went into quarantine and the organization’s off-ice facilities at Nationwide Arena were closed “beginning the week of Nov. 16.” . . . The NHL apparently continues to have its sights set on a Jan. 1 opening. But now there are outbreaks with the Blue Jackets and Vegas Golden Knights. . . . Seravalli also reported that “sources say multiple family members of VGK players have also tested positive.” . . . Robin Brownlee of oilersnation.com wonders right here just how realistic a Jan. 1 starting date might be.
Blaming restrictions implemented by the state of Washington and the closure of the U.S.-Canada border, the BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild announced Tuesday that it is “taking a hiatus for the 2020-21 season.” . . . All Wild players now are free agents. . . . “The latest setback is not being able to train our players here in the state of Washington,” a Wild news release reads. “We are not opting out of the season we are being forced out because the United States and Canadian border are closed and (because of) the restrictions on gyms and ice arenas in the state of Washington.” . . . Kudos to Wild owner David White as Taking Note has been told that he is keeping the staff on the payroll. . . . There is a news release right here.
In the QMJHL, the Charlottetown Islanders have had to pause their schedule for at least two weeks. That’s because the Prince Edward Island government has withdrawn from the Maritime travel bubble. . . . With COVID-19 numbers rising in the Maritime provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island announced Monday that they were withdrawing from the bubble for at least two weeks. That bubble had been in place since July 3. It allowed people to travel rather freely across the Maritimes provinces without quarantining. . . . P.E.I. implemented new travel restrictions on Monday at midnight; N.L. puts its restrictions in place on Wednesday. . . . On Tuesday, the Nova Scotia government also announced travel restrictions, so the QMJHL postponed seven games scheduled for this week in the Maritime Division.
The Kitchener Rangers reported a net loss of $83,736 for the 2020 fiscal year at the team’s annual general meeting tonight. First time the club has failed to record a profit in 25 years. Last year, club made $335K. https://t.co/its8qCFtcW
“A shortened season, no playoffs and a $265,000 payment for litigation fees involved in a minimum-wage lawsuit against the Canadian Hockey League pushed the Kitchener Rangers into the red for the 2020 fiscal year,” writes Josh Brown of the Waterloo Region Record. “The Rangers announced a net deficit of $83,736 at Monday night’s virtual annual general meeting, making it the first time in the past 25 years the Ontario Hockey League club failed to record a profit.
“Last year, the team made $335,233.”
It is interesting that the Rangers apparently have written off $265,000 for the settlement of that lawsuit. In the WHL, the Moose Jaw Warriors told shareholders that they are on the hook for $180,846 as their part of the settlement, while the Prince Albert Raiders said their share was to be $166,667.
The Swift Current Broncos don’t seem to have stated a figure, while the Lethbridge Hurricanes have yet to hold their annual general meeting.
Lethbridge, Moose Jaw, Prince Albert and Swift Current are the 22-team WHL’s four community-owned teams. As such, they are obligated to hold annual general meetings open to shareholders.
BTW, the afore-mentioned lawsuit was thought to have been settled for $30 million, but courts in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec have rejected that settlement. So negotiations no doubt are continuing.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
Canadian responses to the covid second wave continue to mystify me. Why do we continue to pursue Canadian exceptionalism? Why not take the lessons from East Asia, NZ, And Aust seriously? Half measures won’t cut it and will prolong pain and uncertainty. #COVIDzero
The fact that Fred succumbed in his old age to Covid is especially sad given how much this man had to sacrifice in his life just to be treated half-way equally, yet so many are seemingly unable to sacrifice even putting on a little cloth mask at the mall during a pandemic. https://t.co/JvJdbyZFp6
CBC News: Manitoba announces 476 new cases of COVID-19, its 4th-highest daily total since the pandemic began. It follows yesterday’s record high of 543. The province is also attributing 12 more deaths to the virus.
CTV News: Manitoba issued $126,082 in tickets last week for those not following health orders.
CBC News: Saskatchewan adds 175 new coronavirus cases — 70 of them in Regina and 28 in Saskatoon zones. That’s the province’s lowest new daily case total in 4 days and is below the province’s previous 7-day average of 218.
Regina Leader-Post: After reporting 175 new cases and 112 recoveries Tuesday, Sask. government cancels afternoon press conference.
CBC News: Alberta reports 1,115 new COVID-19 cases, 16 more deaths, for a provincial case load of 13,349 active infections.
CBC News: Premier Jason Kenney declares a state of public emergency in Alberta. Imposing new restrictions on social gatherings, religious services. No indoor social gatherings permitted in any settings for a minimum of 3 weeks. Will be evaluated in mid-Dec.
Mo Cranker, Medicine Hat News: Medicine Hat is up to 103 active cases of COVID-19. There are 123 recoveries listed in MH. . . . There are 39 active cases in Cypress County. There are 40 active cases of Forty Mile. . . . There are 171 active cases in Lethbridge. Brooks is at 46 active cases of the virus.
Richard Zussman, Global BC: British Columbia has shattered the one day COVID-19 record with 941 new cases over the past 24 hours. There have been 28,348 total cases of the virus in BC. . . . There are 284 people in BC in hospital with COVID. With 61 people in ICU. The hospital number is a record. . . . Another double digit day for COVID deaths. There have been 10 deaths due to the virus over the last 24 hours. There have been 358 deaths in the province from COVID. . . . The latest positivity rate on the BC CDC website is 6.6%. On October 6th it was 1.2%.
Keith Baldrey, Global BC: BC Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth on Global BC tonight with a message for anti-maskers: “Grow up, shut up and mask up.” I’d say that’s fairly clear.
CBC News: B.C. health-care workers plead for public to follow COVID-19 orders.
Global News: B.C. grocery story (in Nelson) hires security guard as anti-mask hostility grows.
CBC News: Ontario’s reporting error means (Tuesday’s) total case count is artificially low. Additional data: 14 more deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Ontario, 534 ppl are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the province, 159 of them in ICU, 91 on ventilators.
CBC News: Quebec reports 45 additional deaths due to the coronavirus, also diagnoses 1,124 new cases. That’s virtually unchanged from the province’s previous 7-day average of 1,162.
CBC News: Nova Scotia reports 37 new COVID-19 cases, highest since April 23. Province announces wave of restrictions for greater Halifax area, including gathering size limits, 25% capacity cap on the number of shoppers in a store, while restaurants and bars are restricted to takeout only.
CBC News: Nunavut has 10 new cases of COVID-19. Nine are in Arviat, on the west coast of Hudson’s Bay, where there’s now a total of 107 cases. There have been 375 negative tests in Arviat, which has a population of about 2,600. The other new case is in Rankin Inlet.
Keith Baldrey, Global BC: Brutal Washington state COVID-19 numbers today: 3,482 new cases, a record. 35 deaths. In the past week alone 119 people have died there and almost 600 people have entered hospital.
Oregon ArtsWatch: COVID-19 has claimed a record 21 more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 847. The total number of Oregonians hospitalized and in intensive care with COVID-19 also increased. There were 1,011 new confirmed and presumptive cases, down from recent days.
FacesOfCOVID: 2,028 people died of COVID today in the United States, the first time since May that the daily death count has exceeded 2,000.
The New York Times: California reported 17,694 new cases on Monday, well more than it or any other state had ever done before, according to a New York Times database. Over the past week, it has averaged 12,712 new cases a day — more than Maine’s total for the whole pandemic.
Ken Squier Update: After a challenging few days, the doctors now say they expect him to beat this. He is still very weak, but getting wonderful care. Keep those prayers coming, friends. They’re working.
There's nothing funny about the Ravens current covid-19 outbreak. What is funny is the NFL statement on it: Thursday's game still on (of course) but, 'our main concern is the health and safety of everyone.' Their major concern is having a primetime game for TV Thursday. Period.
The NFL’s Baltimore Ravens have had at least 10 positive tests among players and staff since Sunday night. They are scheduled to play the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Thursday. . . . Baltimore RBs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins won’t play, nor will DT Brandon Williams. . . .
To say that NCAA men’s basketball is a mess would be something of an understatement. . . . No. 1 Baylor has pulled out of a tournament in Connecticut that is to start today. Head coach Scott Drew tested positive. . . . Florida has pulled out of two games. . . . East Carolina, Indiana State and Akron pulled out of a tournament in Florida. . . . The start of Wichita State’s season has been delayed. The Shockers actually flew into Sioux Falls, S.D., for a tournament only to have seven team members test positive. . . . Rick Barnes, the head coach at Tennessee, has tested positive and team activities are on hold. The school reported multiple positives among “Tier 1 personnel, which consists of coaches, student-athletes, team managers and support staff.” . . . Gardner-Webb experienced at least one positive so pulled out of what was to have been Duke’s season-opener. . . . Ole Miss had some positives, including head coach Kermit Davis, so cancelled a three-game tournament it was to hold and team activities are on hold until Dec. 7. . . . The Florida A&M women’s team has opted out of the 2020-21 season. . . .
The 24-team Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, which had been hoping to open its season on Dec. 2, now is aiming for Jan. 15. The league’s return-to-play protocol includes games being played without deliberate bodychecking/intentional physical contact and no post-whistle scrums. . . .
90% of the Hockey East schedule is essentially wiped out at this point until at least mid-December.
Northeastern has shut down winter sports until Dec. 18 because of what the schools says is a “small cluster of recent COVID-19 cases that led to quarantining athletes on five varsity teams.” The men’s hockey team has cancelled or postponed six games. . . . The women’s basketball and women’s hockey team both experienced positive tests, as did the men’s women’s track and field teams. . . .
The U of Maine in Orono has shut down winter athletics through at least Dec. 8 “due to positive test results on campus, including individuals involved with the varsity athletic programs.” . . . All games for the men’s and women’s basketball teams and men’s and women’s hockey teams between Nov. 25 and Dec. 8 have been cancelled. . . .
The Minnesota at No. 18 Wisconsin football game scheduled for Saturday won’t happen. Minnesota has paused team-related activities due to positives tests within its program. . . .
Martin Pakula, the sports minister for the Australian state of Victoria, says the start of the 2021 Australian Open tennis tournament “most likely” will be delayed. The tournament, which is held in Melbourne, is scheduled to begin on Jan. 18. However, Pakula said it is likely to be delayed a week or two. At the same time, he didn’t rule out a longer delay.
My boys and I are loving the Tim Horton hockey card collection this year. Next year, I would like to see a special Fred Sasakamoose card as a tribute for being an Indigenous pioneer in the game of hockey. You could do a subset of all pioneers in the game. @TimHortons
The Brandon Wheat Kings announced Tuesday that they have promoted Don MacGillivray to head coach, replacing Dave Lowry who joined the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets as an assistant coach on Monday. . . . Lowry spent one season in Brandon. . . . MacGillivray has been on the Wheat Kings’ coaching staff for four seasons. . . . He has extensive coaching experience in junior hockey, including most of two seasons (1996-98) as head coach of the Prince Albert Raiders. He also is a four-time winner of the MJHL’s coach-of-the-year award. . . . The Wheat Kings’ coaching staff also includes assistant Mark Derlago and goaltending coach Tyler Plante. . . . The team apparently is in the process of hiring another assistant coach.
The BCHL had been hoping to open its regular season on Dec. 2. But those plans have changed and now the junior A league is aiming for Dec. 8. The change, according to a news release, “is to accommodate the new orders against team travel” as ordered by the Province Health Office (PHO). . . . The BCHL also has cancelled the remainder of its exhibition season. . . . The league also is looking at perhaps having to wait until the new year to get started. ““If the PHO extends their current restrictions beyond Dec. 7, we have the option of moving the start date to after the holidays, but it is our intention to begin play once the current order expires,” Chris Hebb, the BCHL’s commissioner, said. . . . According to Steven Cocker, the BCHL’s executive director, “Should the season start be delayed past Dec. 8, the players (who) choose to go home for the holidays will be required to adhere to travel guidelines, including going into isolation for 14 days prior to joining their team.”
The SJHL has postponed weekend games in which the Melfort Mustangs and Battlefords North Stars were to have played a home-and-home series. The decision was made due to a “COVID-19 exposure,” according to a Mustangs’ news release. “The player in question has been isolated and the organization is following all direct protocols from the health authorities.” . . . They were to have played in Melfort on Friday and North Battleford on Saturday. . . . The Mustangs, who also had a player test positive late in September, should be able to resume activities on Nov. 29. . . . Earlier, the SJHL had postponed a game that was to have been played on Saturday (Nov. 21) between the visiting La Ronge Ice Wolves and Melfort. The teams had played Friday in La Ronge. . . .
At the same time, the SJHL’s Flin Flon Bombers have put their season on hold until the new year. The Bombers play out of Manitoba but the province is in a lockdown. The Bombers, who last played on Nov. 10, had been negotiating with health officials in two provinces and with the Manitoba government in the hopes of being allowed to practice in Creighton, Sask., and play all of their games on the road. The team announced Monday that it was unable to reach an agreement so has decided to put things on hold. . . . The Bombers are 0-2-0 and will have had 14 games postponed by the end of Decemberr. They are next scheduled to play on Jan. 1 against the visiting La Ronge Ice Wolves. . . . Carter Brooks of gameonhockey.ca has more on the Bombers right here.
As you may be aware, the QMJHL has seven teams playing in a bubble in Quebec City and, to date, there haven’t been any positive tests. But what has it cost to find out whether people in the bubble are positive or negative? . . . Well, Stéphane Turcot of TVA tweeted on Monday that “in total more than a thousand tests were carried out for a sum of more than $200,000.” . . . Yes, that’s more than $200 per test.
CBC News: Manitoba announces a record 543 new cases of COVID-19, the first time the number has exceeded 500. That compares to the province’s previous 7-day average of 371. Manitoba also reports 7 more deaths.
CBC News: Saskatchewan is reporting 4 additional deaths and 235 new COVID-19 cases. That’s virtually the same number of cases as yesterday (236) but above the province’s 7-day average of 210.
CBC News: Sask. Premier Scott Moe self-isolating after potential COVID-19 exposure. Potential exposure happened at Original Joe’s restaurant in Prince Albert, says government release.
CBC News: 5 more deaths and 1,549 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, down slightly from yesterday’s all-time high of 1,584 cases. It’s the 5th day in a row the province has seen at least 1,000 cases; Alberta’s average for the previous 7-day is 963.
Troy Gillard, rdnewsNOW: Alberta added 1,549 COVID-19 cases on Nov. 22, just shy of the previous day’s record total of 1,584. . . . RedDeer now with 141 active cases, an increase of 15.
Mo Cranker, Medicine Hat News: Medicine Hat is up to 101 active cases of COVID-19. There are 116 recoveries in the Hat. . . . There are 39 active cases in Cypress County. There are 23 active cases of COVID-19 in Forty Mile. . . . There are 176 active cases in Lethbridge. Taber is up to 106 active cases.
Richard Zussman, Global BC: Over the last three days there have been 1,933 new cases of COVID-19. This includes 713 cases from Fri to Sat, 626 new cases from Sat to Sun and 594 new cases from Sun to Mon. There have been 27,407 total cases of COVID-19 in BC. . . . Hospitalizations are surging. There are 277 (up 50) people in hospital with COVID. 58 people in ICU and 17 people have died from the virus. There have been 348 deaths in BC from the virus. . . . Right now there are 7,360 active cases of the virus (nearly 1,000 of these cases are linked to LTC), 19,069 people have recovered and 10,200 people are in self-isolation.
CBC News: Ontario sets new high for coronavirus cases with 1,589 in the past 24 hours as Toronto and Peel move into a second lockdown. It’s the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 cases; the 7-day average is now 1,401, up from 1,385. 19 more deaths are also being attributed to the virus. . . . Ontario data shows 37,500 more tests completed. 507 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized in the province, with 156 in ICU. Toronto and Peel Region entered the most restrictive tier of Ontario’s pandemic protection plan today.
CBC News: Quebec is reporting 1,164 new COVID-19 cases, virtually unchanged from the province’s 7-day average of 1,163. Quebec health authorities are also attributing 13 additional deaths to the virus.
CBC News: 15 new COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick, just the 2nd time the number has been in double digits since October 10; the other time was 2 days ago with 23 cases. The province also says there has been 1 more death due to the virus.
CBC News: Both Newfoundland and Labrador and P.E.I. are exiting the Atlantic bubble for at least two weeks as COVID-19 cases rise in parts of the region. The Atlantic bubble was lauded as a success throughout the summer and fall when virus case numbers were low. . . . Effective Wednesday, anyone entering N.L. from the Maritimes will have to self-isolate for 14 days. Pulling out of Atlantic bubble for 2 weeks.
CBC News: P.E.I. is putting travel restrictions in place for 2 weeks. Premier Dennis King says the Island is temporarily suspending all unnecessary travel to and from P.E.I. a minimum of two weeks starting at midnight.
CBC News: Nunavurt reports 4 more COVID-19 cases. That brings the territory’s total to 132; the 1st case was diagnosed November 6. 3 of the new cases are in Rankin Inlet, bringing its total to 18. 1 is in Whale Cove, bringing its total to 16.
CBC News: Global COVID-19 cases top 59M, with over 1.39M deaths; Johns Hopkins University.
Radio station CKOM Saskatoon reported on Monday that the Balcarres Broncs, a senior hockey team, has had “at least two cases of COVID-19, following the protocols of Saskatchewan Health.” . . . CKOM also reported that “outbreaks were declared in Prince Albert in the U-19 P.A. Bruins hockey team and the Global Sport Academy.” . . . That story is right here. . . . The Broncs play in the Qu’Appelle Valley Hockey League. . . . Another QVHL game — the Balgonie Bisons at the Odessa/Vibank Bruins— wasn’t played on Saturday. Taking Note was told that players weren’t sure what had happened, but “rumour had it the exposure pertained to a Balcarres player from the weekend before.” . . . The Milestone Flyers were to have visited Balcarres on Saturday, but that game also wasn’t played. . . .
The NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights issued a news release on Monday evening stating that four of their players “recently tested positive. . . . Those individual players have been self-isolating and are all recovering well.” The team has shut down all off-ice player areas through the Thanksgiving weekend. . . .
The 10-team New England Hockey Conference (NEHC), which is NCAA Div. III, cancelled its 2020-21 season and championship tournament on Monday. It had announced a delay to the start of the season in July. . . . From a statement: “The NEHC had remained optimistic that a season could safely take place this winter. However, with a surge in cases both nationally and regionally, state-to-state travel amongst the membership has proved insurmountable. The NEHC membership hails from six different states that each have a variety of travel restrictions in place as it pertains to crossing state lines during the pandemic.” . . .
A Monday afternoon hockey game between the visiting Minnesota State Mavericks and Bemidji State Beavers was postponed “due to positive COVID-19 tests within the Minnesota State program,” according to a news release from the WCHA. . . . The teams played Sunday night — Minnesota State won, 5-0 — with no positive tests reported prior to that game. . . . The Mavericks’ season is on hold “pending outcomes related to full contact tracing yet to be completed.” . . . The Beavers are scheduled to visit the Maverics on Friday and Saturday nights. . . .
Northern Michigan’s men’s hockey team has experienced some positive tests so has postponed or cancelled its first six games. The Wildcats’ first games now are scheduled for Dec. 11-12 against Minnesota State in Mankato. Of course, the Mavericks are on hold right now because of positive tests in their program. NMU is located in Marquette. . . . St. Lawrence U has shut down its hockey program at least through Dec. 19 because of an outbreak on campus in Canton, N.Y. The Saints, who play in the ECAC, now don’t have any games scheduled until January. . . .
The Seattle Sounders had a player test positive on Monday, but he “was not a close contact of other members of the roster or technical staff,” according to the team . . . The Sounders are scheduled to play host LAFC on Tuesday in a Round 1 playoff match. A victory would put the Sounders through to the Western Conference semfinal against FC Dallas. . . .
The NFL’s Baltimore Ravens shut down their facility on Monday after experiencing multiple positive tests. The Ravens, who lost 30-24 to the host Tennessee Titans on Sunday, are scheduled to visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday. . . . The Minnesota Vikings placed WR Adam Thielen on the reserve/COVID-19 list after he tested positive. He will have to test negative during the week if he is to play against the visiting Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Thielen leads the NFL with 11 receiving touchdowns. He caught 11 passes for 123 yards and two TDs in Sunday’s 31-28 loss to the visiting Dallas Cowboys. . . . LT Trent Williams of the San Francisco 49ers tested positive last week and may miss another game this weekend. He is a cancer survivor and is considered high risk.
IN THE NEWS! 📰📣 Rockets auction off jerseys. Fans never got to see the Kelowna Rockets skate in special 'powder blue' jerseys last season as a fundraiser for the Kidney Foundation. However, you could own one through an auction the club has set up.https://t.co/tbzengA7rQ
Dave Lowry has left the Brandon Wheat Kings after one season as head coach to join the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets as an assistant coach. The Wheat Kings went 35-22-6 under Lowry in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season. . . . Lowry, 55, also has been a WHL head coach with the Victoria Royals and Calgary Hitmen. . . . He joined the Wheat Kings after two seasons as an assistant with the Los Angeles Kings. . . . With the Jets, he fills the spot created when Todd Woodcroft left in April to become the head coach at the U of Vermont. . . . Lowry’s son, Adam, 27, who played with the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos (2009-13), is preparing for his seventh season with the Jets. . . .
Meanwhile, the Henderson Silver Knights, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, made official one of hockey’s worst kept secrets on Monday — they have hired Jamie Heward, 49, as an assistant coach. Heward spent the past two seasons as the Vancouver Giants’ associate coach. The Giants have signed signed Keith McCambridge as associate coach. . . . Heward and Manny Viveiros, the AHL expansion team’s head coach, worked together with the Swift Current Broncos, winning the WHL’s 2017-18 championship. . . . The Silver Knights also have signed Joel Ward, 39, as an assistant coach. A veteran of 726 regular-season NHL games, Ward announced his retirement in April.
The NHL’s Florida Panthers have named former WHLer Shane Churla, 55, their director of amateur scouting. He spent the previous seven seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, the last four as director of amateur scouting. Churla, who also has scouted for the Dallas Stars and Arizona/Phoenix Coyotes, played for the Medicine Hat Tigers (1983-85).
Julie Dodds arrived back at the family’s Kamloops home on Sunday afternoon, less than four weeks after undergoing a kidney transplant at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.
Julie, a mother of three boys, had the transplant on Oct. 28, with her younger brother, Jason Brauer of Port McNeill, B.C., as the living donor.
Julie was welcomed home by friends and neighbours who staged what has become known as a COVID parade. Well done, folks!
Julie’s transplant team will continue to monitor her progress through regular bloodwork. She also will go back to St. Paul’s early in December for an in-person checkup. And, of course, she will be in regular contact with the nephrologists and staff in the renal clinic at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops.
Meanwhile, the Backmeyer family of Kamloops continues to wait and hope for a kidney for Ferris, who will be turning four early in 2021.
Just because things have been fairly quiet on the home front, especially after a sometimes hectic summer, doesn’t mean that nothing has been happening.
“Somehow we’ve managed to stay home the past couple weeks even though there’s some big stuff going on with Miss Ferris,” Lindsey, Ferris’s mother, wrote on Facebook late last week.
A week earlier, Ferris had “developed a leak internally and she had about four nights where dialysis didn’t go well.”
In peritoneal dialysis, fluid goes into the body and fluid drains from the body, removing toxins in the process, a job that is done by the kidneys of a healthy person.
Ferris wasn’t draining properly, primarily from her day dwell, and Lindsey said she had gained close to a kilogram that would be fluid weight.
“Her tummy got real big,” Lindsey wrote, adding that Ferris didn’t appear at all bothered as she “was acting her normal self.”
They decided to stop her day dwell “because she wasn’t draining it and was absorbing/pocketing the fluid.”
There were a number of chats with staff from B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
And, as Lindsey pointed out, “It’s a lot of ‘extra’ on top of all the regular things that keep a family busy.”
But being able to communicate with BCCH meant they were able to stay at home “so I’ll take it!”
At the same time, Ferris was doing well with her PD at night “when we hit her with high-concentration fluids and we now have her weight back down.”
One other thing . . . it doesn’t matter your age, dialysis is a draining experience. With Ferris, Lindsey says, “Dialysis literally sucks the life right out of her. She laid around for a few days” but then one night had a great drain and the next day “she was amazing again!”
However, there will be a trip to Vancouver in the near future.
“They are concerned about increased risk of peritonitis if there’s fluid just sitting in there so are having us come down for an MRI and urology consult,” Lindsey explained. “I’m trying to stay optimistic that they will recommend leaving it alone as long as dialysis is working.”
Ferris is flanked by the bigs — Tavia (left) and Ksenia. (Photo: Lindsey Backmeyer/Facebook)
And through it all there are two older sisters — Ksenia and Tavia — who also need care and attention.
“My bigs needed some fun with Mom and I really wanted to try get some pics of the three of them,” Lindsey wrote, then added: “It’s hard to believe, Ferris has been on dialysis for 2.5 years. Over half her life. She’s so full of personality and is a really funny kid. She might actually be the most annoying little sister ever but they love her so much. It’s time for something better for her.
“A successful kidney transplant is her best bet and we feel desperate for it sometimes. Well, most of the time really.
“I’ve learned time and time again that it all changes in an instant. It’s a lesson I’d prefer not to have thrown in my face on the regular but I feel like I’m coping a bit better each time . . . so there’s that!
“Last Wednesday it was like ‘yup we are going’ . . . did laundry, folded socks, had a packing list in my head and was ready to do the things. PD not working any more means hemo but I really don’t like not having a back up for our back-up plan. It’s a sick feeling.
“Come on kidney!!”
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
IN THE NEWS! 📰📣 Rockets auction off jerseys. Fans never got to see the Kelowna Rockets skate in special 'powder blue' jerseys last season as a fundraiser for the Kidney Foundation. However, you could own one through an auction the club has set up.https://t.co/tbzengA7rQ
At some point in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post, I put together a brief history of the Western Hockey League. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I am doing just that. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here is Part 3. . . .
The mid-1970s belonged to the Ernie McLean-coached New Westminster Bruins. They were the Western Canada Hockey League’s most-dominant team.
If you didn’t believe that, well, they would convince you of it. And they’d do that any way they felt like it.
The Bruins ran their string of WCHL titles to four, and won the Memorial Cup the last two seasons, in 1976-77 and 1977-78. But by the time the 1980-81 season ended, the bloom was off the rose in New Westminster. Little did anyone know that it never would return.
Prior to the start of the 1976-77 season, the WCHL instituted a rule calling for an automatic game misconduct to any player who initiated a fight. Ironically, the first player stung was Brandon Wheat Kings starry centre Bill Derlago. He got the heave-ho after starting a scrap with Brian Schnitzler of the Saskatoon Blades in a season-opening 3-0 Brandon victory.
Two coaches felt WCHL president Ed Chynoweth’s wrath on Nov. 2. Ivan Prediger of the Kamloops Chiefs was suspended for 20 games, while Ken Hodge of the Portland Winter Hawks got 10 games. Prediger apparently struck Hodge during an altercation between the benches on Oct. 24.
There was joy in Regina on Jan. 27 when the Pats scored a 3-2 victory over visiting Portland. It ended a 36- game Regina winless streak that covered 96 days. “I hope the players don’t become satisfied with the win,” said Lorne Davis, who had taken over as GM/head coach from Del Wilson and Bob Turner with the Pats at 2-32-5.
A nine-hour meeting in Calgary resulted in a new playoff format. Under the original format, the Flin Flon Bombers, third in the East, were 20 points ahead of Regina and all but had a playoff spot locked up. Suddenly, there was a new format and the Bombers were fighting for a spot. Oh yes, they were also on a 15-game West Coast road trip.
“In this league, you need two pieces of equipment,” said Flin Flon boss Mickey Keating. “You need a face-guard when you play some of the teams on the ice and a back protector for the committee room. I had inklings that there may be changes in the playoffs but I had confidence there were intelligent hockey men in this league. I was shown different.”
In Portland, the Winter Hawks were beginning to carve out a niche, which resulted in this March 1 comment from GM Brian Shaw: “We’re selling the all-American boy image. Our players are all properly dressed in public. They all have respectable hair lengths. We feel image is important. Our players have become our outstanding selling point, and they have actually played much better because of the great acceptance which now is blossoming in Portland.”
In mid-April, Kamloops majority owner Ephram Steinke admitted the franchise would likely move to Spokane over the summer. The reasons? Steinke blamed almost $500,000 in losses over four years, and the city’s refusal to construct a new arena.
On May 12, the Calgary Centennials signed Bob Strumm as general manager. One of Strumm’s first moves was to confirm that a move to Billings was being contemplated.
Strumm, who had been Chynoweth’s executive assistant, was, at 29, the WCHL’s youngest GM. He would be one of the league’s most-prominent figures through the mid-1980s.
The Calgary move became official on May 19. Eleven days later, Kamloops moved to Seattle and became the Breakers under new owner John Hamilton.
On July 19, at the annual meeting in Calgary, the transfer of the Winnipeg Monarchs to Calgary was approved. Del Wilson, president and governor of the Pats, was named chairman of the board, replacing Bill Burton.
When Winnipeg moved to Calgary and became the Wranglers, owner Gerry Brisson named Doug Barkley as GM. The coach? It was Brisson. Would the GM be able to fire the owner/coach.
The 1977-78 regular season hadn’t even started when McLean was in trouble. It stemmed from an exhibition game against the host Victoria Cougars when midway in the second period he ventured into the stands to tangle with a fan who was taunting him. For his troubles, McLean got a gash on his forehead and, later, a $250 fine. This would serve as an omen.
A fierce rivalry was building between Regina and the Brandon Wheat Kings. After one early-season game, Davis had this to say: “If (Dave) Semenko would have been close enough to the box I would have swung at him . . . he came over by our bench trying to intimidate us.” To which Brandon coach Dunc McCallum responded: “How can a 220-pound man be held back by a stick boy?”
A few days later, Semenko joined the WHA’s Edmonton Oilers. A couple of years later, Davis joined the Oilers as a scout.
Derlago, perhaps the best pure offensive talent this league has seen, had a 40-game point streak end on Nov. 9 when he left a game with a thigh injury during his first shift. One month later, he blew out a knee in an exhibition game against the Moscow Selects. Had Derlago not been hurt, who knows what kind of numbers he would have put up? When he was injured, he had 48 goals and 80 points in 26 games. He was on pace for 133 goals, three more than the then-CMJHL record of 130 held by Guy Lafleur.
On Feb. 3, Jack McLeod resigned as coach of the Saskatoon Blades. He stayed on as GM, but put Garry Peters behind the bench. In Calgary, Barkley, the GM, took over as coach from Brisson, the owner.
More bad ink, and lots of it, in early February when McLean was slapped with a 25-game suspension for allegedly hitting an official. He returned for the playoffs.
“Our league has long been accused of protecting either our coaches or, more particularly, owner/coaches, but there is no way one coach or one franchise is bigger than the league,” Chynoweth said. “I can live with the so-called violence on ice, as projected by the media, but when it comes to our officials, qualified or unqualified, I look at things much differently.”
More bad ink in the first round of the playoffs. Yes, it emerged from a round-robin series. This one featured Brandon, Flin Flon and Regina in a double home-and-home series. When it got to the final game, Flin Flon at Regina, the Pats had to beat the Bombers by at least six goals to eliminate Brandon and set up a Regina-Flin Flon division final. Regina won 10-4 and the high-powered Wheat Kings, led by the likes of Derlago, Brian Propp, Laurie Boschman and Ray Allison, were done like so much burnt toast.
“For us to say anything is stupid. You saw what happened,” Flin Flon defenceman Ray Markham said after the game.
Ultimately, Flin Flon, New Westminster and Billings advanced to the WCHL’s round-robin semi-final to eliminate one team and put the other two in the championship final. Out went Flin Flon. New Westminster then swept Billings in the final. It was the Bruins’ fourth straight WCHL title and they would win their second consecutive Memorial Cup.
The Bruins, a power for oh, so long, would rarely be heard from in a positive light again.
On May 22, Flin Flon governor Gord Mitchell revealed that the community-owned team would cease operations. “I hate to see it go,” Mitchell said. “It’s certainly not the fault of the league. The league’s not kicking us out. But there comes a time when something like this seems to be the most reasonable thing to do. We’re a small centre and it got to the point where the league had outgrown us.”
A week later, Chynoweth, who had threatened to resign, announced he would remain as president, thanks to a promise from the governors that an executive assistant would be provided to help with such things as discipline. Wilson, the part-owner of the Pats, filled the bill as vice-president and referee-in-chief. Shaw replaced Wilson as chairman of the board.
On June 1, Gregg Pilling was named GM/coach in Regina, replacing Davis who, in a surprise move, was fired. Davis professed sadness, saying he had worked awfully hard and that all of that work would bear fruit in two years. Which is exactly what happened — two years later the Pats were in the Memorial Cup. But Pilling was gone by that point.
It was during the summer of 1978 when Chynoweth began talking of an education program. On July 4, he announced a program whereby teams would provide a year’s tuition and books at a recognized post-secondary institution for every season a player was in the league.
On Aug. 16, Chynoweth announced an Edmonton group headed by Bill Hunter had purchased the Flin Flon franchise from the league. Hunter would be president and governor, Vic Mah would be first vice-president.
The 1978-79 season began with news of a name change and ended with a new champion for the first time since the spring of ’74.
With three of 12 teams situated in the U.S., the WCHL was no more. Now it was the Western Hockey League.
The goofiness started on Oct. 22 when Pilling went into the penalty box at the start of the third period of a game in Calgary. He said he would serve a bench minor handed him for delay of game at the end of the second period in what would be an 8-1 loss. Pilling also alternated goaltenders Jeff Lastiwka and Gregg Dumba every shift change after a brawl at 2:52 of the second. Changing goalies ended 30 seconds into the third period when, with the faceoff outside Regina’s blueline, Dumba lined up behind his net. He was given a gross misconduct.
Chynoweth, who fined Pilling $1,000, said: “I thought it was a circus. I wouldn’t blame anybody if they didn’t go back.”
This was to be the season of McCallum’s Wheat Kings. That much was evident when Brandon ran its two-season unbeaten streak to a WHL-record 49 games and its single-season streak to 29 games. Brandon finally lost, going down 9-4 in Edmonton on Dec. 13 with the Oil Kings scoring all nine goals with the man advantage.
There was more news from Brandon on Jan. 11 when GM Jack Brockest, one of the WHL’s most likeable people, bought the team.
If any team could match Brandon it was Portland. The Winter Hawks had a 19-game unbeaten streak ended when visiting Brandon won 7-4 to go to 42-3-7.
In mid-March, rumours had the Edmonton franchise, which was averaging about 500 fans a game, moving to Great Falls, Montana, or Red Deer.
Things got ugly on March 22 in New Westminster when an incident involving the Bruins and Portland resulted in McLean’s being suspended indefinitely and seven of his players being charged by police. A game-ending brawl broke out, but this one was different because, while the Bruins left their bench, Hodge managed to keep his players under control.
On March 27, Wilson said McLean would not be allowed to coach during the playoffs, nor would he be allowed to communicate with the bench from the press box as he had done during previous suspensions.
McLean apologized for the brawl at a Vancouver press conference: “I have to take the full load, the full responsibility for what happened . . . when I look at it, maybe the game has gone by me. Maybe my coaching style isn’t what’s needed anymore. I’m an old horse that’s been at it for 25 years and it’s tough to change your thinking. The game is changing — maybe I haven’t changed with it.”
On April 4, GM Bill Shinske and McLean announced the Bruins were for sale, for $350,000.
The Winter Hawks got a small measure of revenge, beating the visiting Bruins 5-3 on April 8 to eliminate them from post-season play.
But this sad episode would drag on through the summer.
Meanwhile, Brandon was finishing with a 58-5-9 record, setting or tying 19 records.
The Oil Kings were sold on April 10, with ownership handed over to a Portland group headed by Bob Cooper and Tom Gauthier, who said they would move the franchise to Great Falls. “I guess sports is not my bowl of rice,” said Mah, an Edmonton restauranteur. It was Mah’s second go-round as an owner in Edmonton, and he wouldn’t give up. He would try and try again and again to get another franchise for the Alberta capital.
On April 20, charges of common assault were filed against seven Bruins — J.P. Kelly, Terry Kirkham, Bruce Howes, Rick Amann, Boris Fistric, Rob Roflik and Bill Hobbins. In August, the seven pleaded guilty. Judge James Shaw — no relation to the Portland general manager — granted conditional discharges to all seven, then banned them from league games at any level until Dec. 1. McLean said Shaw was “trying to be the judge who is going to clean up hockey. I’m worried about the affect on the game because the judge’s ruling makes a hip-check a criminal offence.”
Portland and Brandon ended up in the final, with Brandon winning in six games.
And, on May 28, Chynoweth resigned, effective June 30. This time he would leave, becoming part-owner of the Wranglers. “It’s more than 25 per cent and less than 50,” said majority-owner Jim Morley.
In late May, Pat Ginnell, who had been with the Lethbridge Broncos, moved north to take over the Medicine Hat Tigers. Mike Sauter would replace him in Lethbridge. Dave King left as coach in Billings to become head coach at the University of Saskatchewan.
The Pats were sold on June 8, with Wilson, Bill Patton, Gord Wicijowski, D.K. MacPherson, Wilf Degelman and Bob Babchuk selling to the Pinders — father Dick and sons Herb, Gerry and Tom. The price was believed to be near $300,000. Strumm was named GM, governor and part-owner.
Strumm later signed Bryan Murray as head coach and one of the great turnarounds in WHL history was under way.
But before that got started, Dave Descent was chosen to run the WHL. In his third season with the Canadian Amateur Wrestling Association at the time, Descent had lots of hockey experience at various levels in the OHA. “This job is an opportunity to get back into hockey, which is my chosen sport, and advance my sporting career,” he said.
Regina, which finished 18-47-7 (last in the East, second-worst in the league) in 1978-79, would go 47-24-1 in 1979-80 to win the division.
It was obvious early that the Bruins were going to pay a steep price for the brawl against Portland. They got their first point, after 13 losses, with a 5-5 tie in Great Falls on Oct. 31.
And on Nov. 16 McLean was at it again. And again it involved Portland.
McLean got tangled up with a fan at a game in Portland and was charged with fourth-degree assault. In one of the most ironical situations in WHL history, McLean was in jail until Brian Shaw posted his bail of $525. Charges were later reduced to harassment and it was all cleared up when a civil compromise was signed, ending the criminal case.
In mid-December, Descent’s title was changed from executive director to president. And concern was being shown about Great Falls, which was 2-22-1 and hurtin’ at the gate. The Americans folded on Dec. 13.
On March 2, McLean threw a 30-gallon garbage can onto the ice to protest the work of referee Ken Wheler during a game against visiting Portland.
The next day, Descent announced his resignation. Said Descent: “Speaking honestly, I’ve enjoyed my stay and feel it was a positive experience. But for personal reasons I’ve decided to take a different career path which is something I’m not at liberty to discuss now.”
Shaw said a five-man board would run the league, and that McLean would be suspended for three games for throwing the can. Oh yes, McLean was later named acting chairman of the management committee.
On March 24, McLean said he was leaving the Bruins. “I’ve made up my mind,” he said. “I’ve worn out my welcome. I will not be in New Westminster next year. We built a dynasty here but it’s time to move on.” All this after the Bruins set a WHL record with 61 losses. It was the first time in 18 seasons that McLean had missed playoffs.
On April 17, Vancouver businessman Nelson Skalbania bought out McLean and Shinske for slightly more than $300,000.
A week later, the WHL announced that Winnipeg would have an expansion team for 1980-81 and that the owners were former Pats star Fran Huck, his law partner Gerald Gunn and Winnipeg businessmen Harry Buekert, Arnold DeFehr and Marsdon Fenwick. Buekert would be GM, with Huck as coach.
On April 27, Regina beat visiting Victoria, 5-4, to win the WHL final, 4-1. The 1980 Memorial Cup, which would be won by the Cornwall Royals, opened in Brandon and closed in Regina.
During the Memorial Cup it became apparent the major juniors were terribly concerned with NHL’s practice of drafting 18-year-olds.
Chynoweth said: “I understand the legal problems the NHL has, although I don’t sympathize with it . . . at this rate, the pros will be scouting midgets soon.”
McLeod remembered the 1979 draft: “Back in June one NHL general manager said there was nothing to worry about, that only seven or eight under-ages would be taken. When they took 58, we were a little disturbed. Once they got into it, they just kept going.”
Junior teams were to be paid $50,000 to $65,000 for under-age players who stuck in the NHL.
Some NHL people said they weren’t in favour of the 18-year-old draft, either.
“The general managers unanimously fought to the 11th hour to avoid drafting under-ages,” said Washington GM Max McNab. “We were going to get caught in a lawsuit. But the NHL is like the government in the eyes of the public here. We’re going to get shot at in any decision.”
On May 15, the WHL announced that the dormant Great Falls franchise would relocate to Spokane with Cooper remaining as majority owner.
On June 26, Skalbania, already the owner of New Westminster and the NHL’s Calgary Flames, bought 50 per cent of the Wranglers. Skalbania explained: “It’s a sympathetic thing. I said when we bought the Flames that we’d support junior hockey in Calgary and I can’t think of a way we’d be supporting it any more than owning the team. I just hope we don’t lose that much money with them.”
Pat Shimbashi, a minority owner in Lethbridge, bought the other 50 per cent of the Wranglers from Jim Morley and Chynoweth, which meant that the latter would return as WHL president.
On June 27, Skalbania completed his purchase of the Bruins, buying 100 per cent for $325,000. McLean stayed as GM, while Skalbania’s 20-year-old daughter, Rozanda, was named president.
McLean resigned a couple of weeks later and Tracy Pratt was named GM. “I’d like to forget about the big bad Bruins of the past,” Pratt said, “and I’d like to think of them as the scrappy Bruins in the future. My concern is putting families back in the building. There was a shade too much violence in past years and many people became very bitter about what happened at Queen’s Park Arena.”
The league lost its referee-in-chief on Aug. 8 when Wilson announced he would scout for the Montreal Canadiens, a team with which he had long been associated.
The 1980-81 season opened quietly enough, but the silence was shattered on Dec. 1 with a shakeup in Saskatoon. McLeod and coach Lorne Frey ended their association with the Blades. Majority owner Nate Brodsky bought McLeod’s share (20 per cent) and named Daryl Lubiniecki GM and coach.
Lubiniecki began shaking things up when, on Jan. 15, he traded one player — centre Rocky Trottier — to Billings for six players — Pat Rabbitt, Dave Brown, Brad Duggan, Dave Chartier, Lyndon Byers and Al Acton.
Fighting was still a concern and on Dec. 17 Chynoweth announced that teams would be fined $2,500 if their players fought before games or between periods. Players who started the fights or were main combatants would get a minimum of five games.
A black cloud continued to follow the Bruins. A labour dispute forced them to play their last 29 games on the road. Their last 13 home games were played in such places as Bellingham, Wash., Kamloops, Trail, Duncan, B.C., and Coleman, Alta. The Bruins set a WHL record by losing 25 in a row and had to give season-ticket holders a refund for the 13 home games that were moved.
There were rumblings out of Swift Current that the locals were interested in a WHL franchise. John Rittinger, president of the SJHL team there, was trying to raise money for the venture. “I can’t give you a figure at this time,” he said on April 1, “but, personally, I feel there has been insufficient support.”
The juniors were beginning to realize they were going to have to live with the 18-year-old draft. Said Chynoweth: “The under-age situation is a problem but also a fact of life. The law of the land says at 18 you can fight for your country, drink and get married. Consequently, they’re also eligible to be drafted and play for NHL teams.”
The WHL had a new referee-in-chief — Richard Doerksen — and he was in the news in the playoffs after Strumm grabbed him in the press box during a game. Strumm was slapped with a two-game suspension and a $1,000 fine.
Victoria, under coach Jack Shupe, would win the WHL championship in 1980-81. Trailing Calgary 3-1, the Cougars bounced back and wrapped it up on May 1, beating the visiting Wranglers, 4-2, in Game 7.
Singing a song that would become popular in NHL circles in years to come, Calgary coach Doug Sauter explained: “(Goaltender Grant) Fuhr was the difference.”