The nasty weather situation in B.C. is likely to play havoc with hockey schedules over the next few days.
As I write this on Monday evening, the Lower Mainland is completely cut off from the rest of the province due to numerous landslides/mudslides and sections of highways having been washed away.
The first postponement was announced late Monday afternoon when the junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey League said the Kelowna Chiefs won’t be visiting the Posse in Princeton on Tuesday. Princeton is one of the areas that has been hit hard by flooding.
We will have to wait and see what the BCHL does with the Merritt Centennials after that entire city of more than 7,000 people was hit with an evacuation order on Monday afternoon after its wastewater treatment plant was compromised when the Coldwater River overflowed its banks.
The Centennials are scheduled to play the Vees in Penticton on Wednesday and to entertain the Vernon Vipers on Friday and the Prince George Spruce Kings on Saturday. At first blush, you would have to think that all three of those games are in jeopardy.
The WHL, meanwhile, has time on its side because it doesn’t have any B.C. teams scheduled to play until Friday when the Victoria Royals are to visit the Kamloops Blazers, the Kelowna Rockets are to be in Portland to face the Winterhawks, the Tri-City Americans are to meet the Cougars in Prince George and the Everett Silvertips play the Vancouver Giants in Langley, B.C.
In fact, the WHL has only one midweek game scheduled — the Everett Silvertips are to meet the Winterhawks in Portland tonight (Tuesday) — before Friday.
You can bet that a lot of folks around the WHL have their fingers crossed in the hopes that things improve before Thursday when some of the road teams will plan on hitting the highway.
And let’s not forget about Saskatchewan . . .
RCMP Saskatchewan tweeted Monday afternoon: “A winter storm is expected to roll through parts of Sask. tonight and will continue over the next few days. Freezing rain + heavy snow + reduced visibility + strong winds will likely make travel difficult. Please refrain from traveling if possible.”
Meanwhile, in Alberta . . .
The BCHL’s Coquitlam Express, who beat the Spruce Kings 3-1 in Prince George on Saturday, weren’t able to make it home. So the team is hanging out in Kamloops. The Express is next scheduled to play on Friday and Saturday, against the visiting Trail Smoke Eaters and Cowichan Valley Capitals.
While some areas of Western Canada battle the weather, let’s not forget about the pandemic.
On Monday, the Spokane Chiefs received the OK to resume normal activities after all players and staff members returned negative tests. The organization had been on pause since Nov. 10 when two players tested positive. That resulted in the postponement of three games.
The Chiefs are scheduled to return to action on Friday when they play host to the Seattle Thunderbirds.
The last paragraph of the WHL news release on the Chiefs reads:
“The health and safety of all WHL participants is the top priority for the WHL. In order to reduce the risk of exposure to and transmission of COVID-19, the WHL requires all WHL roster players, hockey operations staff, and other team and League office personnel to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with a Health Canada approved vaccine.”
It’s worth noting that the WHL decided not to mandate that all eligible people in billet homes be vaccinated, choosing instead to “strongly recommend to each of its member Clubs that players reside in billet households in which all eligible individuals are fully vaccinated.”
The Tri-City Americans announced Monday that “in compliance with an updated mandate from Washington state, all fans age 12 and over attending Americans’ games will be required to provide proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test, taken in the 72 hours before the game.
“The state mandate (took effect on Monday) for all indoor events with crowds of 1,000 people or larger.”
The WHL has four franchises in Washington state, with the Everett Silvertips, Seattle Thunderbirds and Spokane Chiefs also on board.
If you are planning on attending any sporting event in these COVID-19 times, you really should check out the hosting team’s website to check on possible restrictions.
In the case of the Americans, you will find more info right here.
Rick Westhead of TSN reported on Monday that three former WHL players — James McEwan, Myles Stoesz and Rhett Trombley — are among “four former Canadian Hockey League players who have provided sworn affidavits in connection with a proposed class-action lawsuit filed in 2019 against the WHL, the Canadian Hockey League and Hockey Canada.” . . . Stoesz, who played four seasons (2003-07, Spokane Chiefs, Regina Pats, Chilliwack Bruins) in the WHL, is alleging that coaches in Spokane told him he would have to fight if he wanted playing time. “I was moulded into this rage-filled fighter,” he wrote in an affidavit that has been filed with the Supreme Court of B.C. . . . Stoesz also wrote: “I think the CHL needs to be held accountable to the current and former players for these injuries. I want the CHL to acknowledge that what we had to do to play in the CHL as teenagers was not acceptable. Looking back at my career in the CHL, I feel like I lost part of my youth. My time in Spokane was a daze of fights. I’m scared about my future because I took repeated blows to my head. I’m in my early 30s and I suffer from headaches and migraines and my right hand is disfigured with a mallet finger from punching.” . . . Westhead’s complete story is right here.
This is one of three class-action lawsuits that have are facing the CHL, including the WHL. One of the others involves alleged abuse faced by players in the form of hazing, while the other concerns whether major junior leagues should have to pay at least minimum wage to the players. The CHL and former players actually agreed on a settlement for that one, only to have two judges, one in Alberta and the other in Ontario, refuse to approve it.
As well, the City of Cranbrook sued the owners of the Winnipeg Ice and the WHL in January, claiming the team broke its lease when it left for the Manitoba capital in the spring of 2019.
The Ottawa Senators, with 10 players and one coach in COVID-19 protocol, have had their games postponed, at least through Nov. 20. For now, that includes a road game that was to have been played tonight (Tuesday) against the New Jersey Devils and home games versus the Nashville Predators on Thursday and New York Rangers on Saturday. . . . The Senators also closed all team facilities on Monday.
The Kelowna Rockets have played 12 games this regular season and have already used four goaltenders. That might help explain the announcement on Monday that they have hired Eli Wilson as goaltender coach. . . . It should be noted that Wilson, a veteran goaltender coach, also fills that position with the WHL’s Tri-City Americans. In the past, he has worked with the NHL’s Ottawa Senators and AHL’s Syracuse Crunch, along with the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers and Vancouver Giants. . . . He apparently is replacing Adam Brown, who had been with the team since 2016. Brown’s name doesn’t appear in the news release announcing Wilson’s signing, and he no longer is listed on the team’s website. . . . The Rockets went into the season with four options in goal — veterans Roman Basran and Cole Schwebius, a pair of 20-year-olds, freshman Nicholas Cristiano, 17, and Cole Tisdale, 19, who made 12 appearances over three seasons. Basran and Schwebius were released, Cristian was returned to the U18 Fraser Valley Thunderbirds, and Tisdale went to the Americans in the deal for Boyko. . . . The Rockets also acquired Colby Knight, 18, from the Edmonton Oil Kings on Oct. 12. . . . So now the Rockets will ride the 6-foot-7.5 Boyko, who was selected by the New York Rangers in the fourth round of the NHL’s 2021 draft, and Knight, with Wilson charged with getting them on the right track and keeping them there.
BACK TO WORK: Ian Henry is the new communications co-ordinator for the Mercer Island School Division. He went to work there for the first time on Monday. “I am managing all District communications platforms to tell stories about the hard-working students, dedicated staff and great schools in the District,” he tweeted. Henry had been with the Seattle Thunderbirds, most recently as media relations, communications and digital media director, director, since July 2002 before being let go because of pandemic-related cutbacks.
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