The Kamloops Blazers were 41-18-4 and enjoying a 14-point lead atop the WHL’s B.C. Division when the pandemic brought a premature end to the season in March.
They were poised to have their best regular season since 2012-13, when they finished 47-20-5. (In 2016-17, they went 42-24-6, for 90 points, a number last season’s team was within easy reach of with five games remaining.)
The point is that no one has more reason to be upset with how things went down in March than fans of the Blazers, who had waited a long time for a team that could bring them out of their seats. The same could be said for the players and, yes, ownership, too. But, as majority owner Tom Gaglardi points out, this situation really is all about perspective.
“It’s super disappointing, but you have to let go of what you can’t control,” Gaglardi told Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week. “There are people dying from this, people that are losing livelihoods, that are struggling to get by. The Blazers’ winning window, it’s super discouraging, but you have to look at the things that really matter. We’re all frustrated, but the leagues that rushed out and tried to play have all failed.”
Gaglardi, who also owns the NHL’s Dallas Stars, added: “It’s challenging, but boy, oh boy, is this a league that is determined to find a way. We are trying everything, but we’re not getting a lot of help. We’re not getting help from the public, in terms of managing the virus. It’s growing. The governments are not blessing our plans, but we’re trying.
“I think we will have a season. I really do. I’m a guy that believes we’ll find a way.”
At one point in the interview, Hastings asked about lost revenue and the state of the franchise.
“If the club didn’t have solid sponsorship, in terms of its ownership,” Gaglardi replied, “it would be in a lot worse shape. The business is in terrible shape, obviously, having lost all that revenue and continuing to lose revenue and carry costs. Fortunately, the Blazers are going to survive COVID-19. I think all the clubs around the league will survive it, too.
“This will easily jump into seven figures of damages and bills to pay when we get going again, so it’s devastating.”
While Gaglardi is the franchise’s majority owner, former NHLers Shane Doan, Jerome Iginla, Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor are the other co-owners.
“It wasn’t exactly a real solid business in the first place,” Gaglardi added, “but it’s going to mean some tough decisions. It’s already meant tough decisions. We’ve had to thin down our staff. We’re just trying to stay around. Luckily, bankers have been supportive and done whatever they can to help us through. We’ll survive, but it’s devastating.”
Hasting’s interview with Gaglardi is right here.
It seems that the virus has found the teams that are holed up in Edmonton awaiting the start of the 2021 World Junior Championship. Eight players off the German team have tested positive, as have two management people with Team Sweden.
The 10 teams all were to have come out of quarantine on Friday to begin on-ice preparations. However, the Germans now will quarantine until Thursday. Most of the Swedes will stay in quarantine until Monday. Those who had previous positive tests don’t have to because those infections, according to Hockey Canada, “provide a personal immunity and no threat of infection to others.”
Ryan Allenby, a Team Sweden doctor, ran practice on Friday for the seven players who were cleared to skate. Don’t forget that before even leaving for Canada on Sunday, the Swedes had to drop four players and four coaches, including head coach Tomas Monten, because of positive tests.
Canada and Sweden are scheduled to play an exhibition game on Monday.
The Germans are scheduled to open the tournament against Finland on Dec. 25 and then play Team Canada on Dec. 26. Having to quarantine until Thursday means the Germans will have to scrub exhibition games against Austria and Czech Republic.
Chris Peters of ESPN, who follows this tournament closely, tweeted Friday: “Germany and Sweden shared planes with other countries. Team sources indicated they were concerned with the travel set-up after they saw size of the planes. Sweden was on same flight with Finland and Russia and it looked pretty crowded based on social media posts.”
As near as I can tell, the Germans flew over with the Swiss team. The third flight carried Austria, Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Mark Masters of TSN has more WJC news right here.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
CBC News, 11:36 a.m. PT: Canada’s total COVID-19 death toll has passed 14,000. Nationally, there have been 493,308 confirmed cases.
CBC News: Number of new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba jumps to 350 after 6 straight days of recording less than 300. The province is also reporting 10 additional deaths.
Anya Nazeravich, CJOB Winnipeg: Manitoba has 350 new cases of COVID-19. . . . Deaths: 547. . . . Hospitalizations: 305. . . . ICU: 43. . . . TP: 13.6% . . . TP in Winnipeg: 13.1%. . . . Active: 5,602. . . . Tests on Thursday: 2,167.
650 CKOM: Saskatchewan reported two more deaths related to COVID-19 on Friday. The province also reported 245 new cases and 485 recoveries, dropping the active caseload to 3,736.
Marc Smith, CTV Regina: With 485 more recoveries Friday, the province’s active case number is 3,736, which is the lowest it’s been since Nov. 29.
CBC News: Alberta is reporting 1,413 new cases of COVID-19 and 25 new deaths related to the illness. There are 19,607 known active cases in the province. 759 COVID-19 patients are in Alberta hospitals, including 141 in ICU. The province has a 7.4% positivity rate.
Dave White, CBC: Two of Friday’s 25 reported deaths involve a woman in her 20s from the Calgary zone and a man in his 40s from the Edmonton zone with no known co-morbidities.
CBC News: B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced 624 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 more deaths on Friday.
CBC News: 2,290 new COVID-19 cases in Ontario, the 4th day in a row above 2,000 and the 2nd-highest daily number of the pandemic. There are 40 more deaths, with 877 people in hospital and 261 in intensive care. 68,246 tests were completed; 3.9% were positive.
CBC News: Quebec reports 1,773 new COVID-19 cases, pushing the province’s 7-day average up slightly to 1,825. Health authorities say there have also been 36 additional deaths.
CNN, 5 p.m. PT: 17.4 million people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus.
CNN, 5 p.m. PT: 313,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.
The New York Times: Officials in New York State announced 12,606 new cases on Friday, The Times found, a single-day record that exceeds a previous high of 12,274 cases recorded on April 4, when testing was less widely available and significantly fewer tests were being conducted. But there was also a rare bit of good news: The number of people hospitalized with the virus in the state decreased on Thursday for the first time since late October, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Friday.
The 14-team Western Collegiate Club Hockey Association has cancelled its 2020-21 season. It had hoped to begin a delayed season in the spring. . . .
While I have mostly ignored NCAA basketball, it would seem that it has served up quite a buffet for the virus. On Thursday, Kelvin Sampson, the men’s coach at the U of Houston, said his entire roster has tested positive. According to the Washington Post, the team has had 15 players and some coaches test positive so far this season. Take a break? Pause the season? Are you kidding! While a Saturday game with Alabama won’t happen, Sampson hopes to have eight or nine players back in time to play Alcorn State on Sunday. . . . Meanwhile, Louisville head coach Chris Mack says 90 per cent of his team has had the virus and has recovered. . . .
If you haven’t already, search out Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski and read up on his views of this NCAA basketball season. . . .
Al Michaels won’t be calling an NFL games this weekend — he was to have done Cleveland-New York Giants — after NBC pulled him “in accordance with NBCUniversal COVID-19 safety protocols.” . . . That means we’ll get Mike Tirico calling the play of that game on Sunday night, alongside Cris Collinsworth and with Michele Tafoya on the sidelines. . . . Tirico was to have handled Carolina-Green Bay, but has been replaced by Joe Davis, who will work with Kurt Warner. . . . BTW, Michaels reports that he feels fine. . . .
Santa Clara County has extended its ban on contact sports that was to have ended on Monday, meaning the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers will continue to play ‘home games’ at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. That includes their final regular-season game on Jan. 3 against the Seattle Seahawks. . . .
All participants in the Australian Open (Feb. 8-21) are going to have to spend two weeks in quarantine in Melbourne before the tournament opens. They will be allowed to train for up to five hours at Melbourne Park during the quarantine. . . .
The Heritage Junior Hockey League, with 14 junior B teams in Alberta, announced Friday that it has “decided all January games will be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” . . . From a release: “After the Alberta government and Hockey Alberta have given further instruction, team officials will once again meet virtually to map out the first few months of 2021.”
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JUST NOTES: D Nathan Paetsch, who played four seasons in the WHL (Moose Jaw, 1999-2003), announced his retirement Thursday, ending a pro career that began in 2003-04 with the AHL’s Rochester Americans and included 167 NHL games over five seasons. Paetsch, 37, is a native of Humboldt. He got into 258 regular-season and 34 playoff games with Moose Jaw. . . . The BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs have hired former WHL G Mackenzie Skapski as their goaltending coach. Skapski, 26, is from Abbotsford, B.C. He played three seasons (2011-14) with the Kootenay Ice (hey, remember them?). His pro career included two games with the NHL’s New York Rangers. Skapski last played in 2018-19 with the Slovakian team HKM Zvolen. You may recall that Skapski reached the NHL just five years after suffering broken bones in the left side of his face and assorted other injuries after the bus carrying he and his U-18 Fraser Valley Bruins to Williams Lake hit black ice and ended up on its side in a ditch. . . .
Former WHL D David Wilkie picked up his 100th regular-season victory as the head coach of the USHL’s Omaha Lancers on Friday night. According to a tweet from the team, the only Omaha coach to have gotten there quicker was Bliss Littler. Wilkie played four seasons in the WHL (Seattle, Kamloops, Regina, 1990-94). . . . The junior B Sicamous Eagles of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League have shuffled the chairs, with Ron Sleeman coming in as general manager, replacing Wayne March, who has been with the club since its inception. Gerald Bouchard is the team’s new head coach, replacing Tyler Gunn, who joined the team on May 8, 2019. The Eagles, who went 15-32-1-1 last season, were 1-1 when this season was put on hold.