The headline in the Victoria Times-Colonist read: Paddy (The Phantom) Ginnell back in town.
It was Sept. 15, 1985, and the New Westminster Bruins were in Victoria for an exhibition WHL game with the Cougars.
Ginnell, a former owner, general manager and head coach of the Cougars, now was the Bruins’ GM/head coach. While he wasn’t behind the bench for this one because he was serving Game 1 of a five-game suspension, he actually was in the arena. At least for a few minutes.
Dave Senick of the Times-Colonist covered the game and wrote that Ginnell “had a false moustache pasted on his upper lip, a pair of sunglasses perched on his nose and a floppy cap pulled well down his forehead. A frumpy lumber jacket completed the outfit.”
It seems that Ginnell had planned on taking in the game in person, but after being recognized — gee, you think! — Senick reported that the veteran coach “stood by the Bruins’ bus and spent the afternoon chatting with those he knew from a past coaching job with the Cougars.”
Why was Ginnell suspended (and fined $500)?
It seems the Bruins and Seattle Thunderbirds had become involved in a bench-clearing brawl on Sept. 11 in Chilliwack, and Ginnell’s guys were deemed the first to leave the bench.
Bench-clearing brawls. Coaches in disguise. Yes, those were the days, weren’t they?
BTW, the above photo of Ginnell, in disguise, was taken by Ian McKain of the Times-Colonist.
The QMJHL, which unveiled a new logo on Monday, plans to begin its 2020-21 regular season on Oct. 1 with a schedule calling for each team to play its usual 68 games. Commissioner Gilles Courteau told a video conference on Tuesday that his league expects to have “a certain percentage of spectators” attending games. . . . The QMJHL opened its 2019-20 regular season on Sept. 19. The 18-team league has teams in four provinces — New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec. . . . Courteau said the league is working on a return-to-play program and that it will continue to work through all of this with public health officials. . . . Later, some teams, including the Halifax Mooseheads, issued statements. “Although this is a positive announcement for all of us . . . we fully understand that there are still a number of factors to be determined and approved by our Provincial Government and public health authorities before we can begin selling ticket packages,” the Mooseheads said. “We are currently working closely with the QMJHL on a Return to Play protocol for the 2020-21 season in order to ensure a safe return for our players, staff and fans, that will be in compliance with public health guidelines.” . . . So, while the QMJHL is aiming for Oct. 1, it still is faced with a lot of unknowns, meaning the league is no different than anyone else.
Don’t shoot the messenger. OK?
Bartley Kives of CBC News wrote an interesting piece that was posted on the Corp.’s website on Sunday morning.
Here’s the headline: Never mind 2020 — It could be years before pro sports fans are back in the stands.
That is something I have been wondering about for a while now. Faced with an aggressive virus, no vaccine, and with governments, at least in Canada, who are reluctant to allow large gatherings in their jurisdictions, where exactly does the sports world go from here.
That sports world would include pro sports and, yes, junior hockey.
While the NHL, NBA and MLB likely could survive in the short term without fans in the stands, it’s doubtful that the CFL could make it. And there is no chance — Zero! Nil! Nada! — that junior hockey at any level could make it.
The CFL, like all leagues, is wanting badly to have some sort of season in 2020.
As Kives points out, “. . . the CFL may not be able to afford a year of failing to engage its audience. The CFL desperately needs real fans to buy tickets to games, merchandise, food and beer.
“The league could be holding out faint hope public health authorities will allow fans to gather in large groups this season.
“That is quite unlikely, given the highly communicable nature of COVID-19 and the potential for infection when thousands of people are gathered in a confined space such as a stadium concourse.
“It’s hard enough for public health employees to trace the contacts of a single infected patient who works at a Winnipeg Walmart or a Brandon trucking company.
“Imagine the complexity — if not outright impossibility — of trying to figure out who came in contact with one infected person among a crowd of tens of thousands at a stadium such as I.G. Field in Winnipeg or Mosaic Stadium in Regina.”
Kives spoke with Dan Chateau, an assistant professor of community health sciences at the U of Manitoba.
“Think about the Roughriders,” Chateau said. “They get people from all over Saskatchewan, and the Blue Bombers get people from all over Manitoba and from all over the City of Winnipeg, which is three quarters of a million (people) itself.
“You don’t want those people to go back to their communities and eventually spread COVID-19 again through each of their individual spheres of social contact.”
Kives followed that by writing this:
“This would not just be a problem this fall. It will be a problem for the CFL, NHL and any professional league as long as COVID-19 continues to circulate among the population and no vaccine treatment is available.
“This, unfortunately, means there may be no fans in the stands for CFL and NHL games in 2021, 2022 or beyond.”
As for a vaccine, well, you can read all about it right here, which is where you will find Kives’ complete story.
Just remember . . . please don’t shoot the messenger.
When you talk about the most under-rated players in WHL history, Rick Blight’s name has to be near the top of the list. Playing with the Brandon Wheat Kings, he put up 31 goals and 62 assists in his freshman season (1972-73). The next season, he totalled 130 points, including 49 goals, in 67 games. In 1974-75, Blight scored 60 goals and added 52 assists. . . . He finished his major junior career with 336 points, including 141 goals, in 201 assists. . . . Blight committed suicide in April 2005. . . . Ed Willes of Postmedia has more on Blight’s story right here.
The Kamloops Blazers have signed F Connor Levis, a first-round selection in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft who had committed to the U of Michigan Wolverines. Levis was the 20th overall selection in that draft. . . . He and D Mats Lindgren, who was taken seventh overall by the Blazers, had both committed to Michigan. Lindgren also has signed with the Blazers. . . . Levis, at 15, had 12 goals and 14 assist in 33 games for the St. George’s School prep team last season.
Glen Goodall holds one WHL record that won’t ever be broken. Over six WHL seasons, Goodall, now 50, played in 399 regular-season games. At 14, he was a regular with the Seattle Breakers in 1984-85. He played the next five seasons with the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Having played at 14, he can relate to what F Connor Bedard is faced with as he prepares to join the Regina Pats at 15. . . . Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post chatted with Goodall and the results are right here.
USA Hockey has cancelled boys’ and girls’ player development camps for this summer. From a news release: “USA Hockey cancelled the Boys Select 15, Girls 15, and Girls 16/17 camps on March 20 and on Monday cancelled the remaining camps that had been listed as tentative, including the Boys Select 16, Boys Select 17 and Girls Under-18 Select camps.”