Andrew Milne, a former WHL player and coach who now is the general manager and head coach of the AJHL’s Canmore Eagles, has been suspended for 15 games and fined $1,000.
Ryan Bartoshyk, the AJHL commissioner, told Meghan Grant of CBC News that Milne was disciplined for “bringing discredit to the league.”
Did Milne rip into the on-ice officiating? Was he stealing hotdogs from the concession stand in Drumheller? Did he throw a plastic straw onto the concourse in Sherwood Park? He must have cross-checked a little old lady from behind in Calgary. Right?
Actually, none of the above.
According to Postmedia, Bartoshyk said Milne, who is in his 13th season with the Eagles, was whacked for “bringing discredit to the league in the reasonable opinion of the board.
“Milne’s comments in several media interviews reflected his lack of knowledge regarding the league’s COVID protocols, or at the very least a misinterpretation of those protocols, which has resulted in the public misconceptions that strong protocols were not in place and put the AJHL’s partnership with AHS (Alberta Health Services) in jeopardy, both of which have now negatively impacted a return-to-play plan. Consequences of his actions led to inconsistent statements regarding the circumstances and damaged the extensive work undertaken by the league office and its members to operate.”
It’s worth pointing out that the AJHL didn’t announce the suspension and fine, both of which apparently were decided upon at some point last week. Nor is there a news release of any sort on the AJHL’s website. You would think that a 15-game suspension and a four-figure fine to a junior A GM/coach might be worthy of some kind of news release. Heck, it’s not even included in the discipline section of the website.
Did the AJHL really think no one outside of the Eagles and Milne’s immediate family would find out? Hey, 15 games and a grand is a lot more than a slap on the wrist. But now it’s out in the open and . . .
To go back, Milne first became aware that something was happening during a Nov. 14 game with the host Drumheller Dragons when one player took ill following the second period. At the time, it was thought that the player simply was fatigued because it was the Eagles’ second game in two days — they had played the Dragons in Canmore the previous night — after not having played since Nov. 7.
But by the time the team bus arrived back in Canmore it was obvious that the player in question was ill. So he went right into isolation at his billet’s home.
A couple of days later, six more players had symptoms and were isolated.
So the entire team was tested and 16 players and coaches came up positive.
In an interview with CBC’s Calgary Eyeopener that aired on Nov. 27, Milne said: “We tested everybody and that’s when obviously the numbers started climbing. And . . . it was evident that we had a 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.”
Milne said that number (16) didn’t include families that were impacted. Yes, there were positive tests among billet families. Milne’s wife tested positive, as did one of their children.
Milne said that “it is quite amazing” how rapidly the virus spread.
“We were a pretty tight group,” he told the Eyeopener. “We didn’t do much outside of our group. That’s why you see the infection rate pretty high within our group because we were together all the time. Right from the bus, the practice, to travelling to and from the facility, a group of four or five guys are car-pooling. They’re hanging out in the evenings because they’re not supposed to be outside of their bubble. You can see how fast it moves and how quickly it gets from one guy to the next.”
Near the end of the interview, Milne mentioned other teams that ended up with positive tests.
“(Drumheller) had some positives,” he said. “The Calgary Canucks, the team we played the week before, had some positives. I heard Okotoks (Oilers) had some positives.
“It’s definitely something that I think can be transferred through game play and that’s something that I’m assuming that we’re doing some research into to figure out. It wasn’t our team alone and where we got it we don’t know.
“These kids are in such tight groups and out and about that it becomes a challenge to sort of mitigate where it’s come from. But we’ve had a number of teams that have been affected by the virus for sure.”
Meanwhile, CBC’s Grant also reported that the AJHL now “is preventing teams from speaking publicly or posting on social media ordering all media requests related to the pandemic or the league’s return to play plan to the AJHL office.
“The AJHL has also changed its protocols, deciding not to publicly report confirmed cases of COVID-19 in players and staff, according to a Nov. 21 email obtained by CBC, sent from Bartoshyk to team executives.”
When I checked late Thursday night, Grant’s story on the CBC website had drawn 106 comments. The AJHL wasn’t being treated at all favourably.
Perhaps the most pertinent of the comments was posted by Lisa Rosvold of Canmore:
“This is so ridiculous. I am a billet Mom for one of the Canmore Eagles players. I thought Coach Milne handled this whole thing in a very professional, transparent and caring way. The fact that the AJHL is now shaming Milne for being transparent is disgraceful. The fine and suspension are heavy-handed, and the AJHL should retract their COVID shaming punishments immediately. The AJHL should instead be thanking Milne for being so forthcoming and providing a human experience to COVID and helping to take the stigma out of it.”
For what it’s worth, I agree wholeheartedly with Rosvold. For some reason, the AJHL has decided to make a mountain out of something that is less than a molehill. Hey, why don’t you be the judge? Check out the three links that follow and see what you think.
The Eyeopener interview is right here.
The first story done by CBC News is right here.
The CBC News story from Wednesday is right here.
As expected, the OHL announced on Wednesday that it has chosen to delay the start of its regular season. It had said it would open on Feb. 4. . . . From a news release: “This decision follows Premier Ford’s announcement of a province-wide shutdown in Ontario commencing on Dec. 26. The league will continue to consult and work closely with governments and health authorities to determine potential start dates in the new year. The safety of all of our stakeholders and communities is our priority and we are committed to starting the 2020-21 season when it is safe to do so. We know that this is difficult news for many of our players, fans, billets, parents, staff and teams. However, the restrictions both provincially in Ontario as well as nationally with regards to cross-border travel have informed our decision.” . . . Last week, the WHL ditched its proposed Feb. 4 start date and now will wait until some time in January to assess its situation. . . . The QMJHL, which received $12 million from the provincial government for its Quebec-based teams, plans on resuming play in late January under a bubble-type format. The QMJHL has revealed its playoff format and it has all 18 of its teams taking part. See the tweet below.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes announced on Wednesday that their 2020 annual general meeting will be held on Jan. 18. The team had announced in September that it would be held in November, but that didn’t happen. . . . The Hurricanes are one of four community-owned teams in the 22-team WHL. The other three — the Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders and Swift Current Broncos — announced losses totalling more than $1.5 million for 2020. The Warriors lost $391,299; the Raiders $331.895; and the Broncos $791,000. However, those totals included payments totalling $612,513 as their portions of a class-action lawsuit that the major junior leagues announced had been settled, only to have the courts reject the settlement. Lawyers are believed to be working on refining the settlement.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
CBC News: There are 201 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba and 15 more deaths, the province reports. Manitoba’s 5-day test positivity rate — a rolling average of the COVID-19 tests that come back positive — is down to 10.4% from 11.5% on Tuesday.
CBC News: 159 new COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, the lowest daily total since Nov. 19 and 2nd day in a row it has been below 200. Health authorities are also reporting 5 additional deaths due to the virus.
CBC News: Alberta reports 19 more deaths and 1,301 new cases of COVID-19. As case numbers decline, hospitalizations across the province continue to rise.
Vancouver Sun: Second wave has peaked, B.C. health officials say, announcing 518 new cases.
Chilliwack Progress: COVID death toll nears 800 in B.C.; 5,600 people have received first dose of vaccine
CBC News: Ontario has 2,408 new COVID-19 cases, the 2nd-highest daily total of the pandemic. 629 are in Toronto, 448 in Peel Region, 234 in Windsor-Essex, and 190 in York Region. 1,002 people are in hospital, with a record 275 people in ICUs. 41 people died.
CBC News: 74 additional deaths due to COVID-19 in Quebec as province sets record with highest number of daily cases since the pandemic began. Health authorities say there were 2,247 new cases Wednesday, which tops the high of 2,183 reported Tuesday.
CNN, 4 p.m. PT: 326,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.
KOMO News: Washington state’s COVID-19 cases eclipsed 230,000 Wednesday according to the state health department’s latest reporting. State health officials confirmed 2,315 new COVID-19 cases, 27 additional hospitalizations and 31 more deaths in the past 24 hours. This brings the state’s totals to 230,202 cases, 13,617 hospitalizations and 3,162 deaths. Health officials reported 8,507 “probable cases” of COVID-19 in its Wednesday reporting. Health officials said as many as 150 confirmed cases could be duplicates as test result data from Wednesday is incomplete. 1.4 percent of people diagnosed with COVID-19 in Washington have died, according to the state.
KATU News: The Oregon Health Authority on Wednesday reported 1,000 new cases of coronavirus and 21 new deaths. 1,403 people have now died from the disease in the state. OHA said there are currently 527 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 109 of whom are being treated in the ICU. The state has now reported 105,970 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
F Keyontae Johnson of the Florida Gators, the SEC’s preseason player of the year, collapsed during a basketball game on Dec. 12. He was released from hospital on Tuesday. Zach Abolverdi of the Gainesville Sun reported Tuesday night that Johnson “has been diagnosed with a heart inflammation that may be related to an earlier infection for COVID-19. Following the collapse that left Johnson unresponsive, he was transferred last Monday from Tallahassee Memorial to UF Health in Gainesville, where an MRI on his heart led to a diagnosis of acute myocarditis, according to a person with first-hand knowledge. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensibility of the situation.” . . .
The NBA opened its regular season on Tuesday, and postponed its first game for virus-related reasons on Wednesday when the Houston Rockets didn’t have the mandated eight players available for a game against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder. The Rockets had three players with tests that were positive or inconclusive and four others who were quarantined because of contact tracing. . . . As well, James Harden, their star, was ruled out because of a violation of health and safety protocols. There is a video making the rounds that shows a mask-less Harden at a private party on Tuesday night. . . . Harden also was fined $50,000 for what the NBA said was violating protocols, “which among other things prohibit attending indoor social gatherings of 15 or more people or entering bars, lounges, clubs or similar establishments.” Harden is to be paid US$38.2 million this season. . . .
The NAHL has decided to extend its regular season until May 16, with the opening round of playoffs to run from May 20-30. . . . There is a news release right here. . . .
An NCAA men’s basketball game between visiting UCLA and No. 25 Oregon didn’t happen Wednesday afternoon after one of the referees tested positive. . . . Chicago State suspended its men’s basketball program for the remainder of the season on Wednesday. The Cougars (0-9) lost head coach Lance Irvin before the season started due to COVID-19 concerns and have had virus-related issues since then.
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