As Riley Ginnell took what would be the final shift of his WHL career on April 10, I wondered it if was the end of a long-running chapter.
After all, it would appear that there won’t be a member of hockey’s Ginnell family involved with the WHL next season; in fact, there apparently isn’t even one in the pipeline.
To date, the WHL has been home to Riley, Brad, Erin, Kevin and Pat (Paddy) — the first four players, the latter a legendary owner, general manager and coach from back in the day.
Riley, 20, played out his junior eligibility with the Regina Pats this season, bringing an end to a four-season stint that also included stops with the Brandon Wheat Kings and Moose Jaw Warriors. He has hopes of continuing his career in the professional ranks.
“I enjoyed every single moment of my time in the Western League,” Ginnell told Dante De Caria of the Pats for a story that you will find right here. “It’s pretty difficult to walk away from it, but you gotta be happy that it happened, not sad that it’s over.”
Riley’s brother, Brad, concluded a five-season career in the spring of 2021, having played for the Portland Winterhawks, Kootenay/Winnipeg Ice, Spokane Chiefs and Moose Jaw. Brad, 22, played for the senior Eston, Sask., Ramblers this season.
By playing in the WHL, they were following in the footsteps of their father, Erin, who spent four seasons in WHL arenas. He spent time with the New Westminster Bruins, Calgary Wranglers, Seattle Thunderbirds, Regina and the Swift Current Broncos. Early in 1987, following the bus crash that resulted in the deaths four Swift Current players, Erin was moved from the Pats to the Broncos as teams helped to fill holes in the Swift Current roster.
Erin, 54, has been an NHL scout since 2000, working with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights. He is in his seventh season with Vegas.
The first Ginnell to play in the WHL was Erin and Brad’s older brother, Kevin. He spent four seasons (1978-82) in the league, playing with the Lethbridge Broncos, Medicine Hat Tigers and Calgary Wranglers. After battling health issues for a year, Kevin died in Vancouver on May 2, 2020, at the age of 58.
As I wrote at the time of his death:
“When his mother, Wanda, was battling cancer, he promised that if she beat it he would leave the ice and go back to school.
“Wanda recovered and Kevin . . . resumed his education. Dr. Ginnell went on to leave an indelible impression in the world of academia as a professor at Simon Fraser University and Douglas College.”
The Ginnells are more than a WHL family, though; this is a hockey family.
A third Ginnell brother, Dan didn’t play in the WHL, but has been in the NHL since 2005. Dan, 56, is in his 18th season as an amateur scout with the St. Louis Blues.
Derek, Dan’s son, also didn’t play in the WHL, but he spent time in the Alberta and Saskatchewan junior A and junior B ranks before moving into the scouting game. Derek, 32, has been in the NHL for nine seasons — five seasons with Columbus and the past four with the New York Rangers.
Interestingly, Brad and Derek both got a taste of Flin Flon hockey. Derek played four games with the Bombers in 2009-10; Brad played two games with them in 2020-21.
Of course, it was in Flin Flon where the patriarch of the Ginnell family first made his mark in hockey.
Paddy was a key contributor with the Bombers when they won the 1957 Memorial Cup. And if the Flin Flon Bombers winning the Memorial Cup isn’t one of hockey’s best stories, I don’t know what is!
A true character when the WHL was populated with more than a few of them, Paddy would go on to coach the Bombers, stepping into that role prior to the 1968-69 season and staying there until purchasing the Victoria Cougars during the 1973-74 season. He was in Victoria through 1977 before moving on to spend time with the Lethbridge Broncos, Medicine Hat, Swift Current and New Westminster.
He later moved into the NHL as a scout with St. Louis. He was with the Blues for 14 seasons, until he died of cancer on Nov. 17, 2003, in Vernon, B.C. He was 66.
So . . . what about it? Was Riley’s final game the end of the line for the Ginnell family in the WHL?
When I asked Erin via email, he responded with:
“I guess the next batch will be our grandkids. LOL.”
Time will tell.
A few Twitter tidbits from Wednesday’s WHL playoff games . . .
Geoffrey Brandow (@Geoffrey_Brandow): “Zack Ostapchuk capitalizes on a power play in overtime for Winnipeg as it is back to a best-of-3. Ostapchuk did not have a winning goal with the ICE since being acquired. Ben Zloty helps out on all three tallies, 13 for postseason without a goal.” . . .
Brandow, again: “Saskatoon survives to play another day coming back from two down past the halfway point of regulation (trailed after 2nd break in 8 of 11 games thus far). Defenders Aidan De La Gorgendiere and Tanner Molendyk both turn in a goal and assist.” . . .
More from Brandow: “Kamloops has Portland teetering after earning the win in Game 3. Logan Stankoven and Fraser Minten collect power-play markers, team’s 11th and 12th of postseason to lead the League. Minten tied for 4th with 17 power-play goals in regular season.” . . .
Brandow, again: “Make way for Seattle as it reaches the Western Conference final scoring 16 times in 2 road games in series. Eight different marksmen do the job, including Colton Dach who delivers game-winner in back-to-back tilts, tacks on 2 assists in Game 4.”
WHL PLAYOFF NOTES:
And then there were six . . .
There was only one game on Thursday night, as the Kamloops Blazers beat the Winterhawks, 10-4, in Portland to sweep that series. The Seattle Thunderbirds are next up for the Blazers, who will be the host team for the Memorial Cup. . . . Seattle and Kamloops both are 8-0 in the playoffs as they head into the Western Conference final for a second straight spring. . . . One year ago, the Thunderbirds beat the Blazers in seven games. . . .
There still are four teams alive in the Eastern Conference, but that could get whittled down with tonight’s lone game. That one has the Red Deer Rebels taking their 3-1 series lead into Saskatoon for Game 5 with the Blades. . . . As of 10 p.m. PT on Thursday, there wasn’t anything on the WHL website to indicate whether Saskatoon F Justin Lies will be suspended after taking a headshot major and game misconduct at 3:24 of the first period on Wednesday night. You would have to think that Red Deer F Kalan Lind won’t be able to play. He left the ice on a stretcher after that hit and was taken to hospital. He was released shortly after game’s end. . . .
In the other series, which is tied, 2-2, the Moose Jaw Warriors will meet the Ice in Winnipeg on Saturday night. They’ll be back in Moose Jaw for a sixth game on Monday night.
THURSDAY IN THE WHL PLAYOFFS:
Kamloops (2) at Portland (3) — The Kamloops Blazers scored a PP goal 31 seconds into the first period after Portland was penalized for a lineup infraction on the opening faceoff and went on to beat the Winterhawks, 10-4. . . . The Blazers, who were 10-for-17 on the PP in the series, swept the Winterhawks, 4-0, and will open the Western Conference final with games against the Seattle Thunderbirds in Kent, Wash., on April 29 and 30. . . . F Matthew Seminoff scored three times for the Blazers, including the game’s first goal. He has four goals in these playoffs after scoring 31 in the regular season. . . . Goals from D Kyle Masters (1) and F Logan Stankoven (9), on a PP, got the Blazers into a 3-0 lead. . . . Portland closed the gap to one on goals from D Ryan McCleary (1), on a PP, and F Diego Buttazzoni (1) before the first period ended. . . . However, Seminoff, who also had one assist, completed his hat trick with goals at 2:29 and 5:24, the latter via the PP, to start the second period and school was out. . . . Kamloops D Olen Zellweger finished with three goals and three assists, his six points one shy of the WHL record for most points in a playoff game by a defenceman. Darryl Sydor holds the record (7), having scored once and added six assists in an 11-5 victory by the Blazers over the visiting Tri-City Americans on March 22, 1991. Sydor now owns a chunk of the Blazers. . . . Zellweger had 12 points, eight of them assists, in the four games with Portland and now has 20 points in these playoffs. That trails only teammate Logan Stankoven, who had two goals and an assist in Game 4. He leads the WHL with 21 points, 10 of them goals, one more than F Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats, whose season ended on April 10. Stankoven, who led last season’s playoff scoring race with 31 points, has put up 52 points in his last 25 post-season games. . . . Stankoven had six goals and six assists in the series with Portland. . . . The Blazers also got a goal and two assists from F Caedan Bankier. . . . F Diego Buttazzoni scored his first two playoff goals for Portland. . . . At one point in the second period, Joshua Critzer (@jjcritzer) tweeted: “6th post of the night for Kamloops and (it has) seven goals on the board.” . . . The Blazers, who had a 48-27 edge in shots, later hit a seventh post. . . . G Dylan Ernst earned the victory with 23 saves. . . . Portland G Dante Giannuzzi made his first start of the playoffs, but left at 10:24 of the first period, having been beaten three times on 11 shots. Jan Špunar finished up, stopped 30 shots.
D Stanislav Svozil of the Regina Pats has been invited by Czech Ice Hockey to participate in their national team training camp for the 2023 IIHF World Championship. . . . Svozil, 20, made his NHL debut with the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 13 after the Pats were eliminated from the WHL playoffs. He was a third-round selection in the NHL’s 2021 draft. . . . The Czechia camp opens Monday in Brno. The World Championship is to run from May 12-18 in Tampere, Finland, and Riga, Latvia.
THINKING OUT LOUD — What do you think? Is it safe to assume that fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs put away the panic buttons, at least for a day or two? . . . Is there anything more predictable than cross-checking being removed from the NHL rule book for the playoffs? . . . You know what NHL playoff games need? More scrums, that’s what.
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