Now that was a big day for the WHL.
First, it announced on Friday that its five Saskatchewan-based teams and the two from Manitoba are going to play in a Regina hub situation beginning next month.
And then it revealed that there were 245 COVID-19 tests administered to four Alberta-based teams from Feb. 6 through Feb. 12, without any of them coming up positive. The Edmonton Oil Kings, Lethbridge Hurricanes, Medicine Hat Tigers and Red Deer Rebels are the teams that were tested; the news release doesn’t mention the Calgary Hitmen.
From that news release: “Using private PCR testing provided by DynaLIFE, testing was administered twice to all members of the team delegations of players and staff . . . All members of the team delegations were tested once upon arrival and a second time after a mandatory quarantine period in the club centre. As a result of no positive tests, the teams now are in a position to commence with team on-ice practices.”
While it’s been known for a while that the five Alberta teams will begin play on Feb. 26 and five U.S. Division teams are to start on March 19, the WHL also announced Friday that its Manitoba and Saskatchewan teams will open a 24-game schedule on March 12 with all games to be played in Regina. Fans won’t be allowed at any of these games.
The seven teams — Brandon Wheat Kings, Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders, Regina Pats, Saskatoon Blades, Swift Current Broncos and Winnipeg Ice — will live in dorms at the U of Regina and Luther College, with games and practices at the Brandt Centre and the Co-operators Centre, which contains six ice surfaces.
A big reason that all of this is possible is that the Saskatchewan government has given $600,000 to each of the five teams from that province, three of which are community-owned and two of which are privately owned.
All players and personnel will be tested regularly and, according to the WHL, should a team experience any positive tests it will have to shut down for at least 14 days.
The WHL news release is right here.
Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post has more right here.
As things sit right now, only the five B.C. Division teams haven’t been given the OK to return to play from health officials. . . . While the Rebels are being housed in the corporate suites in their home arena, the Centrium, the Hitmen will be at the Grey Eagle Resort on the Tsuut’ina Nation, just outside Calgary’s southwest edge, where they will practise and play their games in the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex. . . . The Hurricanes, who were on the practice ice on Friday, have been paired up and are living in apartments near Lethbridge College within easy walking distance of the Enmax Centre. . . . According to Darren Steinke, whose blog is right here, Bob Ridley will call his 4,000th game involving the Tigers on Feb. 27 when they play host to the Rebels. Ridley has called all but one of the Tigers’ games since the franchise arrived, leaving him at 3,998. The one he missed? In the spring of 1973, he was assigned to cover a curling event in Saskatoon in which his boss’s wife was competing.
On a day when the WHL announced that its two Manitoba franchises would be moving to Regina to begin play next month, the junior A MJHL announced that it has cancelled the remainder of its season. . . . From an MJHL news release: “After multiple discussions with public health, representatives of the provincial government, facility managers and stakeholders, the MJHL board of governors has determined that the resumption and completion of the 2020-21 regular league/playoff season is not feasible due to current conditions. It has become unrealistic to continue operating in a state of hope with so much uncertainty and no timeline provided. It is unfair to our athletes and staff, our community organizations who have been severely impacted financially and the communities/regions our organizations support and garner support from.” . . . The news release, over commissioner Kevin Saurette’s name, also said that teams “will have the option to continue to provide training and development opportunities, exhibition games, etc. . . .” based on updated orders and directives from health officials and Hockey Manitoba. . . . The MJHL hadn’t played since Nov. 12. . . . The complete news release is right here.
The Philadelphia Flyers were to have played on Thursday and Saturday nights, but both games were postponed. As of Friday, they had seven players on the COVID-19 protocol list, including F Oskar Lindblom, who was added on Friday. Being on the list, doesn’t mean that a player tested positive; it might mean that contact tracing has shown a possibility of exposure. . . . Lindblom was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, 14 months ago and was declared free of the disease two months ago. . . . Also on the Flyers’ protocol list are D Justin Braun, F Morgan Frost, F Claude Giroux, F Scott Laughton, D Travis Sanheim and F Jakub Voracek. . . . F Steven Stamkos didn’t play for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night, with the team saying he had a lower-body injury. On Friday, the Lightning put him on its protocol list. Stamkos later tweeted that he had gotten a false positive. . . . The NHL had 47 players on the protocol list on Friday.
THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
CBC News — Federal government to implement new rules for international travellers February 22. Anyone arriving in the country, including Canadians, must first have a COVID-19 test and quarantine in an approved hotel for 3 days at their own expense.
CBC News — 81 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba, marking the 1st time since October the province has gone a full week where the number of new daily cases has been less than 100. 4 additional deaths are also being reported.
CBC News — Saskatchewan reports 195 new coronavirus cases and 2 additional deaths.
CBC News — Alberta is reporting 314 new COVID-19 cases and 16 additional deaths.
CBC News — On the Friday before the Family Day long weekend, B.C. health officials are pleading with everyone to stay local and stick to their households in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. . . . The warning came as the province announced 445 more cases of COVID-19 and 10 more deaths from the disease. . . . Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there are now 4,347 active cases of the novel coronavirus across the province. That includes 226 patients who are in hospital, including 61 in intensive care.
CBC News — Ontario is reporting 1,076 new cases of COVID-19 and 18 additional deaths related to the illness. 763 people are in hospital, including 295 in intensive care.
CBC News — 984 new COVID-19 cases in Quebec as the number falls below 1,000 again for the 4th time in a week. The number of hospitalizations is dropping steadily; it’s been below 1,000 for a week. 24 additional deaths are being attributed to the virus.
CBC News — New Brunswick reports 5 new COVID-19 cases as January’s surge in cases appears to be fading; the province’s 7 day-average has fallen to 8.
CBC News — 50 new cases of COVID-19 are being reported in Newfoundland and Labrador. 47 of the cases are in the Eastern Health region; the other 3 are in the Central Health region. 20 of the new cases involve people under 20 years old. There are 260 known active cases in the province. . . . Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, says the latest COVID-19 outbreak in the St. John’s metro area is the variant from the UK. . . . A surge in COVID-19 infections has thrown Newfoundland and Labrador’s election into chaos. The vote, set for Saturday, has just become solely a mail-in election.
While the CFL didn’t get to play in 2020, it is planning on a 2021 season. However, there already are rumblings that maybe that won’t happen. Gerry Moddejonge of the Edmonton Sun has quoted someone “familiar with the league at an executive level” as saying that “I don’t even know this year if it’s plausible for them to play with the (COVID-19) numbers the way they are. It would honestly be, to me, smarter for them to forego another season and plan for 2022.” . . . Yes, it’s early, but it’s food for thought, and it’s all right here. . . .
Canada’s Larry Walker was to have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., last summer. However, the party was postponed by the pandemic. And now the Hall of Fame has announced that the 2021 induction ceremony will be done entirely on TV on June 25. . . . Walker will be joined by Derek Jeter, Ted Simmons and the late Marvin Miller in being inducted. . . .
Brendan Batchelor, the radio play-by-play voice of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks, will miss the club’s next four games. He revealed via Twitter on Friday that he was exposed to someone who had tested positive, so is self-isolating. While he will take part in pre- and post-game shows from home, Joey Kenward will call the play for at least the next four games. . . . Batchelor and Kenward both are former WHL radio voices.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Living Kidney Donor Program
St. Paul’s Hospital
6A Providence Building
1081 Burrard Street
Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6
Toll free: 1-877-922-9822
Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney
Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre
Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street
Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9
604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182
Or, for more information, visit right here.