With a number of sporting events having been postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19, you have to wonder how much impact, if any, this might have on the WHL and its 22 teams.
Late Tuesday, Chicago State University revealed that its men’s basketball team wouldn’t be travelling to Seattle University and Utah Valley for Western Athletic Conference games that were scheduled for today (Thursday) and Saturday.
The university cited the spread of COVID-19 in announcing at the same time that its women’s team wouldn’t play host to games Thursday (against Seattle) and Saturday (Utah Valley).weekend games.
On Wednesday, the U of Missouri-Kansas City announced that its men’s team wouldn’t travel to Seattle U for a Saturday game.
As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 31 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Seattle area — 21 in King County and 10 more in Snohomish County, with a total of 10 deaths.
Later Wednesday, Facebook revealed that one of its Seattle employees had been diagnosed with coronavirus. The company also said it was closing its Seattle office until March 9, while encouraging employees to work from home at least through the end of the month.
The WHL has four teams based in Washington state, with two of those in the Seattle area. While the WHL has yet to issue a statement on any preparations that might be underway or any plans it may be considering, one has to think that officials are keeping a close eye on things.
The Everett Silvertips have three home games remaining in the regular season, with two of them this weekend, and will have home-ice advantage in a first-round best-of-seven series that will open later this month.
The Silvertips are at home to the Tri-City Americans on Friday, and then will play home-and-home with the Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday and Sunday. The Saturday game is scheduled for Everett, with Sunday’s game in Kent, Wash., the home of the Thunderbirds.
Everett drew 6,633 fans to its last home game — it beat the Portland Winterhawks 4-1 on Sunday to move into first place in the U.S. Division. The Thunderbirds announced attendance for their last home game — a 6-3 loss to Portland on Feb. 29 — at 5,264. They have four home games remaining in the regular season.
On Wednesday afternoon, TSN’s Rick Westhead tweeted this statement from Dr. John Swartzberg, who is an infectious disease specialist at the U of California-Berkeley’s School of Public Health, on the risks of staging NHL and NBA games in Los Angeles after the county declared a public health emergency:
“We don’t know that much about this (respiratory virus). We know it’s (a) very contagious virus and fast spreading and we know the worst thing you can do to fan a pandemic is to bring people from disparate areas together in a crowded situation. There’s no question about that for respiratory viral infections.
“It would make sense if you have a serious problem to cancel events at venues where people are brought together in crowds, which is a great way to spread disease. It’s not what anybody wants to hear but if you take off the economics hat and just think about the transmission of an infectious agent, it makes sense to cancel events where people are brought together. From a public health standpoint, the less people congregate together, the less disease you’re going to have. The cases that we see are the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There’s probably many, many, many cases walking around that we don’t see.”
The last time the WHL had to deal with anything like this was in February 2017 when it was faced with an outbreak of the mumps virus. At that time, it severely limited contact between players and fans, and placed a lot of emphasizing on sanitizing and disinfecting dressing rooms and equipment.
The time is coming when major junior hockey is going to lose some of its best 19-year-old players to the AHL. Right now, the agreement between the NHL and the Canadian Hockey League calls for 19-year-old signed players to be offered back to their junior teams if they don’t stick with the big club.
For example, F Kirby Dach would have had to be returned to the Saskatoon Blades had he not earned a roster spot with the Chicago Blackhawks prior to this season.
The fact that a 19-year-old who has starred at the major junior level can’t move up to the AHL to further his development, rather than return for another season of junior, has been a sore spot with NHL teams for a while now. On the other side of the coin, junior operators understandably don’t want to lose their star attractions any sooner than absolutely necessary.
This all has been up for discussion for a few years now, and here it is again.
Here’s Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman with a note from his latest 31 Thoughts, following an interview with Marc Bergevin, the general manager of the Montreal Canadiens:
“Bergevin talked a bit about player development — that span between when someone is drafted and they join your organization. How important it is and how much (or how little) control the NHL team really has. The timing was interesting. The league’s agreement with the Canadian Hockey League expires soon, and, once again, there is a conversation about sending players to the AHL. It’s not unusual for this to be a debate. This time, however, there appears to be momentum. We’ll see where it goes.”
What is wrong with this picture? On Tuesday morning, TSN had the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees on one channel, using the ESPN telecast. Meanwhile, Sportsnet had the same game on five channels, using the feed from the YES Network. . . . Anyone else find it interesting that Rogers, which owns the Toronto Blue Jays and Sportsnet, has yet to send its play-by-play crew to spring training?
ICYMI: Old friend Lorne Molleken, the sartorially splendiferous one, will be honoured by the Saskatoon Blades prior to a game with the visiting Prince Albert Raiders on March 21. Molleken spent 13 seasons over three stints as the Blades’ head coach, and will have his named added to the club’s Builders Banner in the SaskTel Centre rafters. His coaching record with the Blades is 539-325-58. Oh, he also has 23 ties in. I’m not about to tell you how old he is, but, yes, he coached in the WHL when ties were a thing. . . . You can bet that somewhere on high Muzz MacPherson, in his gravelly voice, is laughing and nodding his head in agreement.
Clayton Beddoes has resigned as the head coach of Italy’s national men’s hockey team. . . . “In recent weeks,” said Italian Ice Sports Federation president Andrea Gios in a news release, “some differences of views have emerged on technical and organizational aspects that have led both sides to opt for an interruption of the employment relationship.” . . . Beddoes, 49, is from Bentley, Alta. He had been on the Italian national team’s coaching staff since 2015, and had been the head coach since 2018. . . . Beddoes took over as the head coach of HC Bolzano of the EBEL on March 11, 2019. He was replaced by Greg Ireland on Jan. 2.