It really is hard to imagine the WHL without Marc Habscheid. But that’s what the league and its fans are faced with after the Prince Albert Raiders announced on Thursday that Habscheid has resigned as head coach effective immediately.
Habscheid, 59, is to become the first head coach in the history of the Bemer Pioneers Vorarlberg of the ICE Hockey League. The Pioneers play out of Feldkirch, Austria.
Dylan Stanley, a former WHL player, is on the Pioneers’ staff as an assistant coach.
Habscheid last played in 1995-96 with the DEL’s Augsburger Panther, with whom he put up 46 points in 48 games.
He began his coaching career the next season, signing on with the SJHL’s Melfort Mustangs as general manager and head coach.
One year later, he began a two-season stint as head coach the Kamloops Blazers. That was followed by five seasons with the Kelowna Rockets, a couple of seasons with the Canadian national team program, and one season as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Boston Bruins.
He returned to the WHL as the GM/head coach of the Chilliwack Bruins (remember them?) and made the move to Victoria with that franchise as it became the Royals.
For the past seven-plus seasons, he has been the head coach of the Prince Albert Raiders, where he put the cherry on top of the sundae by winning the WHL championship in 2019.
That was Habscheid’s second WHL title; he also won in 2003 with the Rockets, who went on to win the Memorial Cup on home ice.
Habscheid leaves the WHL with 582 regular-season victories, trailing only Don Hay (750), Ken Hodge (742), Don Nachbaur (692) and Lorne Molleken (626).
Habscheid is fifth on the all-time list of regular-season games coached (1,166) and seventh with 76 playoff victories.
“I am at a point in my career where I am looking for a new challenge and one has presented itself,” Habscheid said in a message to Raiders’ fans. “I am accepting the head coach position with a team in Europe.”
He is scheduled to make his debut behind the Pioneers’ bench on Aug. 19 in the first of six exhibition game, this one against the visiting Freiburg Wolves, a German team that plays in the DEL-2.
Habscheid and the Pioneers are to play their first regular-season game on Sept. 16 against HCB Südtirol Alperiathe, aka the Bolzano Foxes, of head coach Glen Hanlon.
Among the other head coaches Habscheid will encounter in the ICE Hockey League are Kevin Constantine, with Hydro Fehérvár AV19, and Rob Daum of EC iDM Wärmepumpen VSV.
Ben Cooper, who was an assistant coach under Habscheid in Victoria, is an assistant coach with the Red Bull Salzburg.
We learned on Wednesday that 10 of the 26 players on the Kansas City Royals’ roster wouldn’t be travelling to Toronto for a four-game series with the Blue Jays because they aren’t vaccinated. On Thursday, before the Royals opened the series with a 3-1 victory, we found out that three coaches also couldn’t travel for the same reason — pitching coach Cal Eldred, assistant hitting coach Keoni De Renee and Parker Morin, a strategist and bullpen catcher.
OF Whit Merrifield, one of the anti-vaxxers, showed his true character when he said that he might get vaccinated were he traded to a playoff team that might have to travel to Toronto.
Here’s Stephanie Apstein, a senior writer with si.com: “He is not a winning player. None of these scientists in baseball pants are. (This is a uniquely American breed of stupidity: Foreign-born players had to contend with U.S. entry requirements to play the season, so almost all of them are vaccinated.) Professional athletes have more resources than nearly anyone on earth, yet some of them cannot muster the energy to do enough research to come to the conclusion that every expert has: Vaccines are safe and effective. They give us our best shot at tamping down a pandemic that has already killed a million Americans and reshaped the lives of millions more. And players who refuse to get those vaccines — in addition to contributing to the extension of that pandemic — run the risk of fracturing their clubhouses and extinguishing their teams’ playoff hopes.”
Apstein’s piece is right here.
And a few words on the Royals from Sam McDowell, a columnist with the Kansas City Star:
“For more than a year now, the Royals’ medical and training staff, led by Nick Kenney, and front office have encouraged players to receive a vaccine that health experts have deemed both safe and effective in preventing serious illness. While nodding along to their injury and rehab advice, some Royals players have turned a cold shoulder to that health-preservation education, a contradiction that defies logic.”
McDowell’s column is right here.
Gregor Chisholm, a baseball columnist with the Toronto Star, is tired of unvaccinated MLB players pointing fingers at Canada:
“What these players and so many reporters in the U.S. can’t seem to get through their thick skulls is that their country has a similar mandate. Tennis star Novak Djokovic’s uncertain status for the upcoming U.S. Open is one example, there are countless others through professional sports that are conveniently overlooked when this topic comes up.
“Across MLB, this is almost an exclusively American problem. The Jays weren’t the only team with players who needed to be vaccinated to compete this year. Every non-American citizen in the league who left the U.S. during the off-season had to go through the same process before reporting to spring training.”
Chisholm’s column is right here.
Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, wrote about issues facing Major League Baseball on Thursday. Here’s part of what he wrote, and he is exactly right:
“The pace of play problem is clear and so are potential cures. The pitch clock used in minor league games works; if you do not believe that, please take yourself to a minor league game and try not to focus on the lower level of talent on display but focus on the action presented to you. The game is faster and more entertaining; pitchers do not get the ball back from the catcher and then take a stroll around the mound pondering the origins of the universe; batters do not step out of the batter’s box on every pitch to adjust their gloves even if they took the previous pitch. The games move; there is action; it is far more dynamic than a game in MLB.”
His complete piece is right here.
The Canadian Professional League’s Winnipeg-based Valour FC was to have visited Atlético Ottawa on Sunday. However, the soccer game has been postponed until July 20 “due to league COVID protocols, based on advice from medical experts,” Valour FC said in a Thursday tweet.
THE COACHING GAME:
Nick Prkusic has signed on as an assistant coach with the AJHL’s Brooks Bandits. Prkusic, 25, played three seasons (2014-17) with Brooks and is a former team captain. The Bandits reached the AJHL final three times and won twice with him in their lineup. He went on to play at Robert Morris U, and was the team captain his last two seasons there. . . . He has been coaching at the Prairie Hockey Academy in Caronport, Sask., where he was head coach of the U-17 men’s team. . . . In Brooks, he will work alongside Ryan Papaioannou, the general manager and head coach, assistant coach Taylor Makin, skills coach Kevin Yellowaga and goaltender coach Keven Sajinovic. . . .
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