I STAND WITH ETHAN BEAR . . .
What is sure to be an interesting summer in WHL circles is off to quite a start with two teams presently without general managers and one club looking for a head coach.
The Everett Silvertips parted company with general manager Garry Davidson on May 20, ending a highly successful relationship that was more than nine years old. The Silvertips chose not to renew Davidson’s contract, just 10 days after the club wrapped up the 2020-21 developmental season with a 19-4-0 record, easily the best in the five-team U.S. Division.
On Tuesday, Matt Bardsley announced that he was resigning as general manager of the Kamloops Blazers, citing a desire to move his family back to the U.S., to be closer to relatives and so that grandparents in California and Oregon would have more access to their two grandchildren.
Bardsley made his announcement just 13 days after the Blazers wound up their season with an 18-4-0 record, easily the best in the five-team B.C. Division. The Blazers also had the division’s best record when the 2019-20 season was cut short by the arrival of COVID-19.
I wrote on Tuesday night that Bardsley was believed to have one year left on his contract with Kamloops. That turned out to be incorrect. A source with knowledge of the situation has since told Taking Note that Bardsley signed a five-year contract with the WHL team when he joined it from the Portland Winterhawks. Then, with COVID-19 coming along and employees taking pay cuts, the Blazers’ ownership group extended his contract another year.
So . . . where might those two teams go from here.
Well, in the news release announcing Davidson’s departure, the Silvertips said: “The past two seasons have necessitated the restructuring of Silvertips hockey operations, and this process is ongoing.”
That would suggest that the Silvertips are cutting payroll and perhaps trimming positions, what with not having had any playoff revenue for the past two years and having had to play a shortened season in front of empty seats for 2020-21.
Does it all mean that the Silvertips will operate without a traditional general manager, perhaps giving Mike Fraser, their head scout, more responsibilities?
(Of course, the administrative staff page on the team’s website still listed Davidson as the general manager as of Wednesday evening, so maybe . . .)
Meanwhile, in Kamloops, you can bet that the Blazers will take a serious look at adding the GM’s title to head coach Shaun Clouston’s portfolio. After all, he was the GM/head coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers for seven seasons before landing in Kamloops. He still might be in Medicine Hat had the beloved Willie Desjardins not come available prior to the 2019-20 season.
Or perhaps the Blazers will turn Clouston into strictly a general manager, and promote his brother, Cory, to head coach. Cory, on staff as an assistant coach, certainly has ample experience as a head coach.
I really expect the Blazers to promote from within their organization rather than add a new face to the structure. And I would think that the vast majority of WHL teams will be taking the same approach to any vacancies that may arise in the next while.
Except for the Red Deer Rebels, who are in the market for a head coach after Brent Sutter, who also is the owner, president and general manager, stepped down on April 10.
Assistant coaches Ryan Colville and Brad Flynn, along with assistant GM Shaun Sutter, handled the team for the remainder of the season. Brent was in his 17th season as the team’s head coach, although he spent some time in the NHL during that stretch.
The Rebels were 2-10-2 when he announced that he was stepping down; they finished 4-15-4.
While Sutter no doubt has some ideas and may well already have sounded out a few candidates, I would imagine that he isn’t in a hurry and will wait until the NHL season ends to see just who shakes free.
But ever since he announced his decision, I have wondered: What if he conducts a search and discovers that the best candidate for the job is Brent Sutter?
Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, wrote a bit on Wednesday about whether the NBA might be able to recoup some pandemic-related losses by selling a couple of expansion franchises.
As he pointed out, the Los Angeles Clippers recently changed hands for US$2 billion, while the Houston Rockets went for US$2.2 billion and the New Jersey Nets for US$3.2 billion.
So if the NBA was to sell two expansions franchises for US$1.5 billion each, well, that would put $100 million in the jeans of each of the existing franchises. That kind of cash might help some of the franchises get over the pandemic pain.
All of which got me to thinking about the WHL, whose teams no doubt also have felt the pain, although not nine figures worth of it. But deep six-figure losses will sting a WHL franchise as much if not more than what NBA teams might be feeling.
Still, if the WHL could peddle a couple of expansion franchises for, say, Cdn$4 million apiece and then divvy up the proceeds, each of the existing teams would get about Cdn$364,000.
Remember, now, we’re just spitballin’ here . . .
Of course, I have no idea what an expansion franchise would be valued at, especially with the WHL working to escape the grip of this pandemic. Nor do I have any understanding as to whether there is anyone out there who might even be interested in purchasing a franchise.
On top of that, are there any arenas out there that aren’t being used by a junior team that would meet the WHL’s standards?
Nah, didn’t think so. Back to the drawing board.
Robert Morris U, which is located in Moon Township, Pa. announced on Wednesday that it has dropped it’s men’s and women’s hockey teams, both of which played at the NCAA Division I level. . . . RMU played host to the NCAA men’s Final Four in Pittsburgh just two months ago. . . . USCHO.com reported that the university attributed the decisions to a “series of strategic initiatives” intended to “position the university to be amongst the most agile and professionally focused schools in the nation” as it prepares for its upcoming 100th anniversary. . . . According to USCHO.com, “Approximately 55 student-athletes and seven staff positions will be impacted by this decision, which is effective immediately.” . . . Derek Schooley had been the men’s head coach since 2004-05, while Paul Colontino has been the women’s coach for 10 seasons.
Dorothy will be taking part in her eighth Kamloops Kidney Walk, albeit virtually, on June 6. If you would like to be part of her team, you are able to make a donation right here.
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.
JUST NOTES: Parker MacKay has joined the AJHL’s Spruce Grove Saints as an assistant coach. He will work alongside head coach Bram Stephen. MacKay played three seasons (2012-15) with the Saints, winning one title, before going on to the U of Minnesota-Duluth where he won two NCAA championships. There is a news release right here. . . . Burt Henderson is taking over as the general manager and head coach of the BCHL’s Langley Rivermen. Henderson, 46, spent the past two seasons as president and head coach of the junior B Langley Trappers of the Pacific Junior Hockey League. With the Rivermen, he replaces Bobby Henderson, a cousin, who hasn’t been with the team since some time in March although the team didn’t mention his departure until May. . . . The BCHL’s Coquitlam Express has signed Tali Campbell, its vice-president and general manager, to a three-year extension. He joined the team in October 2020.