Four teams involved in three WHL trades . . . Four players, draft picks on move


THE DEAL: The Victoria Royals acquired F Jeff de Wit, 19, from the Kootenay Ice for a sixth-round selection in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft.

THE NUMBERS: De Wit has three goals and three assists in 22 games this season, split VictoriaRoyalsbetween the Regina Pats and Kootenay. He didn’t play for the Ice between Oct. 27 and Nov. 29 due to an undisclosed injury. . . . In 2016-17, he had nine goals and seven assists as he split 66 games between Regina and the Red Deer Rebels. . . . . . . De Wit, who is from Red Deer, has regular-season totals of 22 goals and 35 assists in 57 games. The Rebels selected him in the first round of the 2015 bantam draft.

THE INFO: De Wit joins his third WHL team this season. He started the  season with Regina. . . . On Jan. 10, the Rebels dealt de Wit, D Josh Mahura and a conditional third-round pick in the 2019 bantam draft to Regina for F Lane Zablocki, D Dawson Barteaux, a first-round pick in the 2017 bantam draft, a conditional first-rounder in 2018 or 2019, and a conditional third-rounder in 2020. . . . On Oct. 10, the Pats dealt de Wit to the Ice for F Tanner Sidaway and a 2018 seventh-round pick.

WHY: The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder will add some size and grit to Victoria’s lineup, one that up to now has been dominated by smaller forwards. . . . The rebuilding Ice acquires a future draft pick and frees up playing time for younger forwards.

THE DEAL: The Regina Pats acquired F Jaret Legien, 19, from the Victoria Royals for F Braydon Buziak, who turns 20 on Jan. 24, and a conditional 2018 seventh-round bantam draft pick.

THE NUMBERS: Legien had 13 goals and 20 assists in 36 games in his first season with ReginaPats100the Royals. In 120 regular-season games, split between the Kootenay Ice and Victoria, he has 17 goals and 25 assists. . . . In 32 games with the Pats, Buziak has two goals and five assists. In 87 regular-season games, he has 13 goals and nine assists.

THE INFO: Legien is from Pilot Butte, which is just outside of Regina. Kootenay selected him with the ninth overall pick of the 2013 bantam draft. But he managed only four goals and five assists in 84 games with the Ice and he was dropped from their protected list. The Royals added him and he gave them almost a point per game, although he had only two assists in his past seven games. . . . Buziak, from North Battleford, Sask., is a list player who was signed by the Pats from the SJHL’s Battlefords North Stars.

WHY: The Pats, the host team for the 2018 Memorial Cup, are looking for scoring and also won’t mind stirring up the mix in their dressing room after a poor first half. Legien, 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, should provide some offence. . . . In Victoria, Legien’s playing time was likely to lessen following the acquisition of F Noah Gregor from Moose Jaw earlier in the month. . . .  With the acquisition of Buziak and, earlier in the day, F Jeff de Wit, it’s apparent that the Royals are trying to change their personality, at least a bit. Buziak, 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, will bring a physical game up front, as will de Wit. That is something the Royals have been lacking.

THE DEAL: The Kootenay Ice acquired F Brad Ginnell, 17, from the Portland Winterhawks for a second-round selection in the 2018 bantam draft and a third-rounder in 2019.

THE NUMBERS: Ginnell was in his second season with Portland. This season, he has five Kootenaynewgoals and six assists in 25 games. In 76 career games, he has 11 goals and 10 assists.

THE INFO: Ginnell was a fifth-round pick by the Winterhawks in the 2015 bantam draft. He is the son of former WHL F Erin Ginnell, who now scouts for the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. Brad’s paternal grandfather was the late Pat Ginnell, who is something of a WHL coaching legend. Brad was the  Alberta Major Midget Hockey League’s top forward and MVP in 2015-16 when he put up 80 points, 40 of them goals, in 35 games with the CRAA Blue team in his hometown of Calgary.

WHY: The Ice adds a promising young forward to its roster, one who would appear to have a solid offensive upside. He also will get more playing time with Kootenay than he was in Portland. . . . As for the Winterhawks, they get two prime assets that might be used between now and Jan. 10, perhaps to acquire a high-end defenceman, or kept in the bank.

Empty seats in Buffalo. What the heck happened? . . . WHL returns to action tonight with 11 games. A preview

Well, the 2018 World Junior Championship is through one day. Day 1 in Buffalo featured two routs, a pair of close games and a whole lot of empty seats.

Yes, it would appear that attendance — or lack of same — is going to be a big story at the BuffaloWJC for a second straight year . . . or have you forgotten what happened in Toronto and Montreal a year ago?

“There might have been 2,000 folks in the KeyBank Center stands to see the Czech Republic’s upset of Russia in the opener,” writes Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News. “Canada got better as its 4-2 victory over Finland went along in a game played in front of maybe 8,000 fans. Team USA battered Denmark in front of a pathetic house of maybe 5,000 — and officials closed the 300 level and offered fans comp seats down below. Which had to make folks who paid for that level super-duper happy about the extra money they shelled out.

“Organizers have to be choking on their hot chocolate after the intimate gatherings that entered the building. The Canada-Russia game played here on Dec. 26, 2010 drew a sellout crowd of 18,690. The US-Finland game that day drew 14,093.  So what the heck happened Tuesday?”

In his column, that is right here, Harrington goes on to detail what he thinks happened, and it doesn’t portend well for the rest of the tournament.

Following the 2017 WJC, Harrington wrote a column that warned of what might happen if . . .

After Team USA won the gold medal, Harrington wrote: “But the bigger story should serve as a cautionary tale for the Sabres, USA Hockey and the International Ice Hockey Federation, which seems bent on squeezing every dollar out of this tournament it can. The Saskatoons, Halifaxes and Grand Forkses of the world need no longer apply because the IIHF clearly want big cities, big dollars.

“That led to embarrassing scenes of empty seats all over the Air Canada Centre in Toronto during the opening rounds and in the Bell Centre in Montreal up through the semifinals. The problem here is simple: Price point, price point, price point.

“And packages, packages, packages.”

That column from almost a year ago is right here.

The WHL swings back into action tonight (Wednesday) after a Christmas break that began following games of Dec. 17.

Of course, that also means that the annual trade moratorium has been lifted, and you whlcan expect the dealing to resume anytime and to run through Jan. 10, when the trade deadline arrives.

Since Nov. 13, the WHL’s 22 teams have combined to make 13 trades involving 25 players, 14 bantam draft picks and three conditional bantam picks.

Tonight, there are 11 games on the schedule; yes, all 22 teams are to play. It’s worth noting that 26 of the WHL’s best players won’t be playing, at least not in the WHL; that’s because they are with various teams at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo.

Here’s a brief look at tonight’s schedule (all times local):

REGINA (16-17-3) at BRANDON (24-8-1), 7 p.m. — The Pats are without F Sam Steel, while the Wheat Kings won’t have D Kale Clague. Both are with Team Canada in Buffalo. . . . Brandon has won nine of its past 10 games and is third in the East Division, 14 points ahead of Regina, which is to be the host team for the 2018 Memorial Cup but hasn’t yet played much like a contender. The Pats, who hold down the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot, have lost four in a row (0-3-1) and are 3-6-1 in their past 10. . . . Regina isn’t expected to have D Josh Mahura in the lineup after he was cut by Team Canada for a second time on Tuesday. Mahura had been dropped after Canada’s selection camp, but then was brought back as insurance in case D Dante Fabbro couldn’t answer the bell. Fabbro was pronounced OK to play on Tuesday, so Mahura was released. Again. He has flown home to Edmonton and the Pats have given him some family time. Whether he returns for the rematch with Brandon in Regina on Thursday remains to be seen.

PRINCE ALBERT (13-14-7) at SASKATOON (15-17-3), 7:05 p.m. — The Raiders and Blades are tied for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, each with 33 points. . . . The Raiders are 3-4-3 in their past 10 outings; the Blades are 5-5-0. . . . Saskatoon is 1-0-1 in the season series; Prince Albert is 1-1-0. . . . Prince Albert is missing D Voytech Budik (Czech Republic), while the Blades are without D Libor Hajek (Czech Republic). Interestingly, the two formed one defensive pair as the Czech got past Russia, 5-4, in Buffalo yesterday. . . . These teams will play again Thursday, this time in Prince Albert.

MOOSE JAW (27-6-2) at SWIFT CURRENT (25-7-2), 7 p.m. — The Warriors have the WHL’s best record, with the Broncos second, just four points in arrears. . . . Tim Hunter, Moose Jaw’s head coach, is with Team Canada in Buffalo as an assistant coach, meaning that assistant coach Mark O’Leary is in charge. . . . Warriors F Brett Howden (Canada) also is in Buffalo.while the Broncos have three players there — D Artyom Minulin (Russia), F Tyler Steenbergen (Canada), F Aleksi Heponiemi (Finland). . . . The Warriors are 2-1-1 in the season series; the Broncos are 2-2-0. . . . They’ll continue the series on Thursday in Moose Jaw.

EDMONTON (7-22-4) at RED DEER (10-18-6), p.m. — The Oil Kings have lost four in a row (0-3-1) and are 2-6-2 in their past 10 outings. They own the WHL’s poorest record and are 15 points out of a playoff spot. . . . The Rebels have points in three straight (1-0-2) and in six of 10 (1-4-5). However, they are seven points away from a playoff spot. . . . Rebels F Brandon Hagel, 19, has 23 points, including 16 assists, in 27 games but has sat out the past six games with an undisclosed injury. . . . Red Deer F Kristian Reichel (Czech Republic) is in Buffalo, but D Alex Alexeyev, 18, should be back after he was released Tuesday by the Russian junior team. . . . F Arshdeep Bains, who turns 17 on Jan. 9, remains with the Rebels after playing two games with them prior to the break. When he joined the Rebels, he was leading the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League in scoring, with 57 points, 41 of them assists, in 22 games with the Valley West Hawks. . . . These teams haven’t met since the Rebels opened the regular-season with a doubleheader sweep (7-3, 5-3). . . . They’ll play again Thursday, this time in Edmonton.

CALGARY (10-18-5) vs. KOOTENAY (15-17-2), at Cranbrook, B.C., 7 p.m. — The Ice is tied with Lethbridge for second in the Central Division, six points behind Medicine Hat. Kootenay has points in three straight (2-0-1) and is 5-4-1 in its past 10 games. . . . The Hitmen are 11th in the 12-team Eastern Conference. They have lost two in a row (0-1-1) and are 4-5-1 in their past 10. . . . This will the third straight game in which these teams have played each other. They close out the pre-Christmas schedule with a home-and-home series, Kootenay winning them both — 5-1 at home on Dec. 16 and 4-3 in OT on Dec. 17. . . . And guess what? Yes, they’ll make it four in a row on Thursday in Calgary. . . . The Hitmen are without their best player in D Jake Bean, who is with Canada in Buffalo, and D Vladislav Yeryomenko (Belarus). . . . Kootenay D Martin Bodak is with Slovakia.

LETHBRIDGE (15-16-2) at MEDICINE HAT (18-14-2), 7 p.m. — Each of these teams won its last game before the break. . . . Lethbridge is 5-4-1 in its past 10 and has closed to within six points of the Central Division-leading Tigers, who are 3-5-2 over their past 10. . . . The Hurricanes lead the season series 2-1-0, but the teams haven’t met since Oct. 22. . . . Medicine Hat F Mark Russell has three goals and three assists in the three games against Lethbridge. . . . Tigers F Mason Shaw, who put up 27 goals and 67 assists in 71 games last season, has yet to play this season after suffering a knee injury while with the Minnesota Wild’s entry at an NHL rookie tournament in Traverse City, Mich. . . . The Tigers also are waiting for freshman F Josh Williams to recover from a collarbone injury suffered during a practice at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge almost two months ago. . . . The Hurricanes have lost F Ryan Vandervlis, 19, for the rest of the season with shoulder woes. He had 19 points, 11 of them goals, in 19 games. Lethbridge GM Peter Anholt acquired F Lane Zablocki, 19, from Red Deer in the hopes that he can fill the void created by Vandervlis’s absence. Zablocki, who had 19 points in 31 games with Red Deer this season, has one assist in two games with Lethbridge. . . . The Hurricanes and Tigers will resume hostilities on Thursday in Lethbridge.

TRI-CITY (18-10-3) vs. PORTLAND (21-11-1), 7 p.m. — The Americans have won three in a row and are 5-4-1 over their past 10 games. . . . The Winterhawks (21-11-1) have lost two in a row and have stumbled of late — they are 2-7-1 in their past 10. . . . It all leaves Portland second in the U.S. Division, one point behind Everett and four ahead of the Americans. . . . Tri-City is without D Juuso Valimaki (Finland), while Portland is missing F Joachim Blichfeld (Denmark), F Kieffer Bellows (U.S.) and D Henri Jokiharju (Finland). . . . The host Winterhawks beat the Americans 5-2 on Nov. 11 in the only previous meeting between these teams this season. . . . They’ll meet again Friday in Kennewick, Wash.

EVERETT (21-13-2) vs. VANCOUVER (18-13-4), at Langley, B.C., 7 p.m. — The Silvertips won their last two pre-Christmas games and nine of their past 10. That streak has lifted them to the top of the Western Conference, one point ahead of Portland, Kelowna and Victoria. . . . The Giants are the WHL’s hottest team, having won six in a row and eight of 10. They are third in the B.C. Division, three points behind Kelowna and Victoria. . . . Vancouver will be missing F Milos Roman (Slovakia), who leads all WHL freshmen with 29 points. . . . Everett is without Carter Hart, the WHL’s top goaltender, who started for Canada in its 4-2 victory over Finland in Buffalo on Tuesday. In his absence, freshman Dustin Wolf, a 16-year-old from Tustin, Calif., will get the bulk of the work. A fifth-round pick in the 2016 bantam draft, he is 5-2-0, 2.00, .942 this season. . . . The Giants return from the break to play Everett twice (they’ll meet again Friday, this time in Everett), and then return to Langley for a doubleheader with Prince George. Vancouver then will journey into Alberta for three games in four nights (Edmonton, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat), before travelling to Prince George for games on Jan. 9 and 10. . . . Yes, that stretch of nine games in 15 days may end up defining the Giants’ season.

PRINCE GEORGE (12-17-5) at VICTORIA (20-13-3), 7:05 p.m. — The Cougars have lost three in a row and are 3-6-1 in their past 10, as they have slid into the Western Conference cellar, four points behind Kamloops. . . . Victoria also has lost its last three, and is 3-5-2 in its past 10. But it is tied for first with Kelowna in the B.C. Division, and is only one point out of the Western Conference lead. . . . The Cougars will stay in Victoria for a game on Thursday night, then travel to Langley, B.C., for games with Vancouver on Saturday and Monday, before heading home for a weekend doubleheader against Tri-City and a Jan. 9-10 double-dip with visiting Vancouver. . . . F Vladislav Mikhalchuk of the Cougars is in Buffalo with Belarus. . . . The Royals are missing F Ivan Martynov, who also is with Belarus. . . . F Tyler Soy, who is six assists away from owning the Victoria/Chilliwack franchise record for career assists, left the last game before Christmas with an apparent shoulder injury. There has been no word on his status since then. . . . Victoria has been playing without F Regan Nagy (finger) and F Dante Hannoun (ill). Both are key offensive performers. . . . This is the sixth straight season in which these teams have returned from Christmas to play twice in Victoria. The Royals are 8-1-1 in the previous 10 meetings.

KAMLOOPS (16-17-1) at KELOWNA (20-11-3), 7:05 p.m. — The Blazers last their last game before the break and are 5-4-1 in their past 10 games. More importantly, they are 16-8-1 since opening the season with a nine-game losing skid. They are fourth in the B.C. Division, seven points behind Vancouver, and are just one point shy of the Western Conference’s second wild-card playoff berth. . . . The Rockets have won two in a row and seven of 10. Kelowna is one point out of the Western Conference lead and tied with Victoria atop the B.C. Division. . . . The Blazers lost two players to the WJC — D Ondrej Vala is with Czech Republic and freshman F Justin Sigrist is with Switzerland. . . . With Vala gone, the Blazers have added D Quinn Schmiemann from the midget AAA Notre Dame Hounds of Wilcox, Sask. . . . The Rockets are without D Cal Foote and F Dillon Dube, both of whom are with Canada. . . . Kelowna is 2-0-0 in the season series, but the teams haven’t met since opening weekend when the Rockets posted 8-2 and 5-1 victories. . . . The Rockets will play in Kamloops on Friday night. . . . Kamloops head coach Don Hay needs six regular-season victories to equal the WHL career record of 742, held by the retired Ken Hodge.

SEATTLE (15-14-4) at SPOKANE (18-13-3), 7:05 p.m. — The defending-champion Thunderbirds surged a bit going into Christmas as they won their last two games to finish a 10-game stretch at 4-4-2. They hold down the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot. . . . The Chiefs lost their last game prior to the break — 10-3 to the visiting Thunderbirds — but have won six of 10. . . . These teams will meet again on Friday, this time in Kent, Wash., meaning they will have played each other in three straight games. . . . They are 1-1-0 in the season series, the Chiefs having posted a 9-2 home-ice victory on Dec. 9. . . . Spokane has two players at the WJC — F Kailer Yamamoto (U.S.) and D Filip Kral (Czech Republic). . . . Seattle F Sami Moilanen was among the last players released by Finland.

Tweet of the day



No Games Scheduled.

WEDNESDAY (all times local):

Regina at Brandon, 7 p.m.

Prince Albert at Saskatoon, 7:05 p.m.

Moose Jaw at Swift Current, 7 p.m.

Edmonton at Red Deer, 7 p.m.

Calgary vs. Kootenay, at Cranbrook, B.C., 7 p.m.

Lethbridge at Medicine Hat, 7 p.m.

Tri-City at Portland, 7 p.m.

Everett vs. Vancouver, at Langley, B.C., 7 p.m.

Prince George at Victoria, 7:05 p.m.

Kamloops at Kelowna 7:05 p.m.

Seattle at Spokane, 7:05 p.m.

THURSDAY (all times local):

Saskatoon at Prince Albert, 7 p.m.

Brandon at Regina, 7 p.m.

Swift Current at Moose Jaw, 7 p.m.

Kootenay at Calgary, 7 p.m.

Red Deer at Edmonton, 7 p.m.

Prince George at Victoria, 7:05 p.m.

Monday’s With Murray: He’d Rather Get Fruitcake




He’d Rather Get Fruitcake

  Stop me if you’ve heard this, but are you as tired as I am of the upbeat Christmas letters, the look-at-us, hurray-for-our-side family chronicles you get this time of year?

  You know what I mean. The ones that start out something like this:

  “Well, it’s been a banner year for the Mulligans. Christin finally had our first grandchild, mondaysmurray2a bouncing baby girl, 9 pounds 7 ounces, who’ll probably grow up to be our first woman President.

  “John has taken over the Federal Reserve System. Paula is still working on a cancer cure at Johns Hopkins and we expect a breakthrough any day now. A Nobel Prize, perhaps?

  “Dad and I are enjoying our retirement. He has produced a new hybrid rose for our garden that is hailed by horticulturists everywhere.

  “I am still busy with my charity work, saving the whales, protecting the spotted butterflies, supporting a Hottentot village in the South Pacific and still have time to combat illiteracy in our universities and lobby for outlawing the death penalty but legalizing abortion. Dad thinks I take on too much but I was on Howard Stern twice last year and am taking dead aim on Oprah Winfrey.

  “Phil got his PhD in optical engineering and is working on the telescope with which they hope to bring in Heaven by the end of the century. Rita is in the Peace Corps some place where they can only get a message out by bottle but finds her life fulfilling and thinks the dysentery is only temporary. Harriet is still into archeology and they have found the lost city of an Aztec sun god of the second century BC, but she can’t find her car keys.

  “So, all in all, it’s been a joy and we look forward to more of the same in 1996 and hope you all are enjoying the happiness and success that has been our fortunate lot this year.”

  Well, when I read those, I have this irresistible urge to pen the kind of letter I dream of receiving:

  “Well, it’s been a good year on balance for the Mulligans. Clarence got out of prison in time for Christmas and the good news is, he likes his parole officer.

  “Hilda got another divorce, her ninth, and she has moved back home with her 11 kids. We don’t know where her ex-husband is. Neither do the police. He’s two years behind in child support to Hilda and 10 years behind to his other five wives.

  “Paul has stopped sucking his thumb. We’re proud of him. He’s only 16.

  “Carl is doing better. He’s happy to say he cleared $30,000 last year begging from cars at the corner of Crescent Heights and Santa Monica Boulevard. He is buying a new Mercedes. He loves it when they yell at him, ‘Get a life!’

  “Frank lost his job at the factory. They’re downsizing. Particularly with guys like Frank who they said was late 47 times last year, didn’t show up at all on 20 other days and got caught making book in the company cafeteria.

  “Tom goes around burning flags. He’s not unpatriotic. He says it’s a good way to meet girls.

  “Alice’s movie career is progressing nicely. She got to wear clothes in her last flick — a garter belt. She also got a speaking part — all moans. It’s not Shakespeare but it’s a start.

  “Jonathan flunked out of another college. The dean explained, “Jonathan missed the question ‘What year was the War of 1812?’ but he only missed by two.” We tell him if he had a good jump shot, he could miss it by a century and still graduate cum laude.”

  Face it. Wouldn’t a letter like that be a welcome relief? So, have a great New Year. Just don’t tell us about it, eh?

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 60753, Pasadena, CA 91116


What is the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation? 

  The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, established in 1999 to perpetuate the Jim Murray legacy, and his love for and dedication to his extraordinary career in journalism. Since 1999, JMMF has granted 104 $5,000 scholarships to outstanding journalism students. Success of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation’s efforts depends heavily on the contributions from generous individuals, organizations, corporations, and volunteers who align themselves with the mission and values of the JMMF.

Like us on Facebook, and visit the JMMF website,

Merry Christmas, and a few tunes and a couple of stories, from Taking Note

Of course, Kara Drinnan loves Christmas and the songs that accompany it.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night, from Taking Note and Wonder Woman. We are fortunate enough to have Joanna and Todd, our son and his wife, with us for Christmas. And, yes, Kara, our only grandchild, is here, too. As you can tell from the photo, Kara has been leading us in a few Christmas songs.

As you get ready to shut it down on Christmas Eve, and perhaps stuff a few stockings, right here it’s The Pogues, featuring the late Kirsty MacColl, with Fairytale of New York . . .

And right here is another  favourite. It’s Darlene Love with Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) from a 2014 appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. It was the 28th straight year in which she performed that tune with Letterman.

One more, if you’re so inclined. It’s Bing Crosby and David Bowie with The Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth, and it’s right here.

Finally, here’s one with a WHL flavour. It’s Michael Buble, who owns a chunk of the Vancouver Giants, and Bing Crosby, with White Christmas. It’s right here.

Meanwhile, here’s one of my favourite Christmas stories. It’s from the pages of the late Oakland Tribune, and it features a city editor named Alfred P. Reck. . . . It’s awesome, and it’s right here.

Craig McCallum played three seasons (2007-10)in the WHL, two with the Edmonton Oil Kings and one with the Prince Albert Raiders. He then went on to spend five seasons at the U of Saskatchewan where he played for the Huskies. Kevin Mitchell of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix writes right here about how it almost didn’t happen for McCallum, who opens up about alcohol, drugs, culture and family, and a whole lot more.

If you enter your email address over there on the right you will be notified each time I post something new on this site.

I haven’t yet been able to get a DONATE button posted here. But if you care to help the cause, please visit the old site (, click on the DONATE button and do it there. Thank you.



No Games Scheduled.

Wednesday (all times local):

Regina at Brandon, 7 p.m.

Prince Albert at Saskatoon, 7:05 p.m.

Moose Jaw at Swift Current, 7 p.m.

Edmonton at Red Deer, 7 p.m.

Calgary vs. Kootenay, at Cranbrook, B.C., 7 p.m.

Lethbridge at Medicine Hat, 7 p.m.

Tri-City at Portland, 7 p.m.

Everett vs. Vancouver, at Langley, B.C., 7 p.m.

Prince George at Victoria, 7:05 p.m.

Kamloops at Kelowna 7:05 p.m.

Seattle at Spokane, 7:05 p.m.

WHL scout pens Christmas tune . . . and it’s right here!

Mike Fraser, with the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

Mike Fraser, a veteran WHL scout who beats the bushes on behalf of the Brandon Wheat Kings, is big on Christmas. Here is his work for Christmas 2017, most of which likely was written during intermissions of bantam hockey games in the Edmonton area. . . .

Okay folks. After two years of ‘A Scout’s Night Before Christmas,’ both versions have been officially retired. So, in honour of the Christmas song that you hear 468 times a day during the holiday season — ‘All I Want for Christmas is You,’ by Mariah Carey — I give you: ‘All a Scout Wants for Christmas,’ a parody of Mariah’s classic. The only rule: You must sing it in the melody of Mariah’s version. And who are you kidding . . . you know the melody so don’t even pretend you don’t . . .


I don’t want a lot for Christmas,
There is just one thing I need:
For all those rinks to turn the heat on
My hands and feet are both freezing.
I see those heaters up above,
Always turned off — never showing any love.
Make my wish come true,
Because all of my limbs are turning blue.

If Santa can’t turn on the heat this Christmas,
In those rinks we desperately need,
Then let’s get rid of annoying parents,
The ones that make both my ears bleed.
No one needs to hear their nonsense,
Especially kids living the dream.
They scream and yell and are never happy,
Even if their kid is best on the team.

Kids learn so much on their own,
Ridiculous parents make me groan,
Hockey’s fun that’s true,
So buddy don’t ruin it by making it about you.

I won’t ask for much this Christmas
But safety and health on those bad roads.
Bitter rink coffee is waiting,
And expect more than a few man-colds.

I will make a list and send it,
And think about our first-round pick,
Some nights I just stay awake,
And ponder which player we’ll take.

I wish the draft were here tonight,
But it’s a long season and that’s all right,
There’s lots yet still to do,
I won’t get time off until June.

Oh the goal light is shining,
A real bright red glare.
And the sound of kids cheering,
While lifting their sticks in the air.

And all the scouts are writing,
In their notebooks or even typing,
Santa won’t you bring,
That player we really need,
Won’t you please have him put on our jersey.

I don’t want a lot for Christmas,
All that I am asking for,
Another playoff run oh baby,
Like 2016 and not before.

But not just truly for my own,
For all our busy staff I know,
No matter how we do,
Baby I’ll be at the rink, how ‘bout you?

Broncos sign 2016 first-rounder … Honour for Ice’s new logo … Ex-WHL coach out in Nanaimo shakeup


F Kris Foucault (Swift Current, Kootenay, Calgary, 2006-11) has signed a one-year extension with the Grizzlys Wolfsburg (Germany, DEL). In 32 games, he has 16 goals and 13 assists, and he leads the team in goals and points. He is tied for third in the league in goals. . . .

F Zdeněk Bahenský (Saskatoon, 2004-06) has been released by Sterzing/Vipiteno (Italy, Alps HL) by mutual agreement due to a shoulder injury suffered on Dec. 16. He had seven goals and 13 assists in 23 games. He is expected to return to Prague for treatment. . . .

F Peter Quenneville (Brandon, 2013-15) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with the Aalborg Pirates (Denmark, Metal Ligaen). He played for Aalborg last season, putting up 30 goals and 19 assists in 45 games. He led the league in goals and was fourth in the points race. . . . This season, with Dynamo Pardubice (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had two goals and an assist in 12 games, and he had three goals and an assist in nine games with SaiPa Lappeenranta (Finland, Liiga). He was released from a tryout contract with SaiPa on Dec. 12.


The Swift Current Broncos have signed D Jacson Alexander, 16, who was one of their two first-round selections in the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft. Alexander, from Victoria, was taken with the 16th overall pick.

Alexander, who will turn 17 on Feb. 1, was in his first season with the BCHL’s Victoria SCBroncosGrizzlies — he put up three goals and seven assists in 29 games — but will join the Broncos after Christmas.

He committed to the U of Denver on Dec. 7, 2016, for the 2019-20 season, while playing for the Shawnigan Lake, B.C., School prep team in the CSSHL.

This season, the 5-foot-10 Alexander also played for Hockey Canada’s Team Black at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge last month in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, B.C. He had one assist in five games.

Alexander could make his WHL debut on Dec. 27 when the Broncos return to play against the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors.

Alexander’s arrival will give the Broncos seven defencemen and may take some of the pressure off Manny Viveiros, the director of player personnel and head coach, with the trade deadline approaching on Jan. 10. Observers were watching closely to see if Viveiros would go to the marketplace to land a seventh defenceman, something that may not be necessary now.

BTW, in that 2016 bantam draft, the Broncos used the fourth overall selection to take F Logan Barlage, who was playing for the bantam AA Humboldt, Sask., Broncos. This season, the 6-foot-4 Barlage, a freshman, has a goal and six assists in 30 games with the Broncos.

Meanwhile, the Broncos have the WHL rights to the only unsigned first-round selection from the 2017 bantam draft. They took D Joel Sexsmith of Edmonton with the ninth overall pick. He now is playing at the Edge School in Calgary.

Meanwhile, F Massimo Rizzo now is the lone first-round selection from the 2016 bantam draft not to have committed to the WHL.

The Kamloops Blazers selected Rizzo with the 15th overall pick, but he chose to sign with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees.

From Burnaby, B.C., Rizzo has six goals and 11 assists in 28 games with the Vees this season. He had a goal and three assists in five games as a teammate of Alexander’s on Team Black at the U-17 WHC.

Rizzo has yet to make an NCAA commitment, nor has he told the Blazers that he definitely won’t sign with them at some point.

If you enter your email address over there on the right you will be notified each time I post something new on this site.

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When it comes to sports logos, Chris Creamer is the man. You are able to find him at, or on Twitter at @sportslogosnet.

On Friday, he announced the 2017 Creamer Award winners for best new sports logos.

KootenaynewThe 14-person judging panel considered logos that “made their in-game debut in 2017.”

The WHL’s Kootenay Ice placed third in the Primary Logo of the Year Award, behind baseball’s Memphis Redbirds and the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves.

Of the Ice’s new logo, which is pictured on the left, Creamer wrote: “Love the hidden ICE in this logo, designed by Bill Frederick’s team at Fanbrandz, who gave this junior hockey team the identity update it so desperately needed. Well done!”

The top 50 in that category and whole lot more, including a mention of the Brandon Wheat Kings’ 50th anniversary logo, can be found right here.

Less than a week after staging a father/son trip with his BCHL team, Mike Vandekamp is out of work.

Wes Mussio, a Vancouver-based lawyer who is the majority owner of the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers, revealed on Thursday, at 11:43 p.m., via Twitter that he had fired Vandekamp, the team’s general manager and head coach, “due to irreconcilable differences with the management team.”

Vandekamp’s contract would have expired at season’s end.

Late Friday night, the Clippers’ website continued to list Dustin Donaghy as the team’s

On Nov. 10, Penny and Wes Mussio (second and third from left) were introduced as the new majority owners of the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers. Darren Naylor (left) was named director of hockey operations, while team president David LeNeveu (fourth from left) retained five per cent. Mike Vandekamp (far right), then the general manager and head coach, was fired Thursday night and replaced by Naylor. (Photo: Greg Sakaki/Nanaimo News Bulletin)

head coach. However, a BCHL insider told Taking Note that Donaghy had been “fired by the Clippers.” Donaghy, from Cranbrook, played three seasons in the WHL (Spokane, Lethbridge, 2007-10).

Darren Naylor, who was part of that management team as the director of hockey operations, is the new GM and head coach.

Mussio and his wife, Penny, purchased 95 per cent of the Clippers last month and installed Naylor as director of hockey ops. Naylor also has been working as GM/head coach of the junior B Delta Ice Hawks, who are 26-2-1 in the Pacific Junior Hockey League. Mussio had been the majority owner of the Ice Hawks but is believed to have sold his shares when he purchased the Clippers.

On Friday, Mussio told Greg Sakaki of the Nanaimo News Bulletin that he and Naylor were tired of butting heads with Vandekamp. (Sakaki’s complete story is right here.)

“The previous owner gave Mike a carte-blanche ability to do anything he wants and I wanted some input and I wanted Darren Naylor to have some input and sadly that didn’t seem like something Mr. Vandekamp was prepared to accept,” Mussio told Sakaki.

Mussio added: “We brought in a few key players and they were hit with resistance and we also tried to bring on some (affiliate players) and that was hit with resistance. So in order to move forward to the next (season), we need to have a look at players and recruit. Without any support from the coach, it’s pretty hard to do.”

Mussio also told Sakaki that Vandekamp had been given until Dec. 22 to commit to the new situation.

“He didn’t think it was in his personality . . . to do so, so that the end of it,” Mussio said.

Vandekamp, who has yet to comment, is a veteran junior coach who was in his seventh season with the Clippers. This season, the Clippers are 18-13-3-2 (that’s two ties), leaving them one point behind the Powell River Kings (18-10-3-3), who lead the BCHL’s Island Division.

The Clippers’ next game is Dec. 29 when they are scheduled to visit Powell River.

Vandekamp’s resume includes a season and a half as head coach of the WHL’s Prince George Cougars. In the BCHL, he also has worked with the Merritt Centennials and Vernon Vipers. He joined the Clippers after four seasons with the AJHL’s Grand Prairie Storm.

As for the father/son trip . . . the Clippers beat the Trail Smoke Eaters, 7-2, on Friday, then got past the Penticton Vees, 4-2, on Saturday. Nanaimo ended the trip by dropping a 4-2 decision to the Merritt Centennials on Sunday afternoon.

Dominic Abassi is the news director for Island Radio and @NanaimoNewsNOW.

It was rather interesting on Friday when F Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who has missed his NHL team’s past six games, discussed with reporters why he has been out of the lineup.

Matthews practised for the first time in almost two weeks and later talked about having symptoms of a concussion after colliding with Toronto D Morgan Reilly during a game against the host Pittsburgh Penguins on Dec. 9.

While Matthews didn’t go into great detail on the symptoms, he did say that he “went MapleLeafsthrough all that return to play, and all the protocols and everything and obviously, you know, they take it pretty seriously and they deemed me out so I went through all that stuff and I feel great now.”

Toronto next is scheduled to play today (Saturday) in New York against the Rangers, but it’s not yet known if Matthews will play.

Matthews’ conversation with reporters on Friday just may be another sign that NHL teams are loosening up when it comes to detailing injuries.

A couple of weeks ago, head coach Ken Hitchcock of the Dallas Stars explained why he no longer plays the “upper-body or lower-body” game.

“I think we collectively hate playing that game,” said Hitchcock, who posted his 800th victory as an NHL head coach on Thursday. “What I mean by that is we say upper-body, then you go on the phone, and then you look up things or you go to the doctors, find out what part of the upper body . . . We try to make your work easier, quite frankly, and so we just don’t like going through the dance.

“It’s easy to tell you what it is and let’s move forward. It’s just the whole game. It’s an injury and within two hours after we tell you it’s upper-body you know exactly what it is, so why not just tell you? And the players don’t go out and say: ‘He has a broken left pinkie and we’re going to go after that pinkie.’ Nobody thinks like that.

“Our feeling is just tell them what the injury is and move it forward and let’s stop the dance.”

But, then again, it could be that the Toronto braintrust wasn’t at all pleased with the way Matthews handled things on Friday. David Shoalts of The Globe and Mail takes a look at the situation right here.


Dec. 18-Dec. 26:

No Games Scheduled.

Tweet of the day

Still no timeline for Seattle goalie . . . Ex-enforcer reaches out to Peat . . . Jette on comeback trail from concussion . . . Toigos involved in mammoth real-estate deal


A little bit of snow, exactly as was called for by forecasters, and Kamloops turns into smashville. It’s as predictable as the POTUS waking up every day and entertaining us with a tweet or six. Hey, it snowed here on Tuesday and again Thursday, and it was a travelling road show both days.

Rob Vanstone, in the Regina Leader-Post:

“What is the point of fighting? It is purposeless. On (Dec. 15), for example, the Pats’ Bryce Platt and the Saskatoon Blades’ Evan Fiala squared off. It was a fight for the sake of a fight — a needless spasm of pugilism that was then replayed on the Brandt Centre’s centre-ice scoreboard. Player safety is such an obvious priority that fighting is showcased via the in-house video system. The wrong message is being transmitted.”

Derek Boogaard. Rick Rypien. Wade Belak. Matt Johnson. Steve Montador. Rudy Poeschek. Stephen Peat. Dale Purinton. . . . All were major junior hockey enforcers. All later experienced, or are experiencing, health and lifestyle issues. . . . Yes, it’s time for the WHL to outlaw fighting. Period.

On a different subject, have you flipped through the TV listings lately? Have you noticed all the Christmas moves that are available? No, I’m not referring to Home Alone, Die Hard, Elf, Miracle on 34th Street or any of those. I’m referring to the dozens of movies like Finding Santa, Christmas at Holly Lodge, Switched for Christmas, Christmas in Mississippi, etc. Hey, they’re everywhere. When did the making of such movies become such a large industry?

There’s a WHL angle here, too, because my wife, who knows such things, tells me that Candace Cameron Bure is a big star in the Christmas movie game. Yes, she is married to former WHL star Valeri Bure (Spokane Chiefs, 1991-94).

It’s college football bowl season and that’s always a fun time. Did you get to watch the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl on Tuesday? What about the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl on Thursday? I’m old enough to remember when the Holiday Bowl was, well, the Holiday Bowl. Now it’s the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl. . . . Someone has a lot of fun playing name that bowl game during the offseason.

Former WHLer Peter Soberlak (Kamloops, Swift Current, 1985-89) is in the running to be the next athletic director at Thompson Rivers U in Kamloops. He has been at TRU for 14 years and now is in the school’s phys-ed department. . . . It’s likely that either Soberlak or Curtis Atkinson will be tabbed to replace the retiring Ken Olynyk. Atkinson, the associate director of sport for Canada West, was the interim AD at the U of Regina for about 18 months starting in December 2014. His wife, Heather, is a TRU professor.

Just wondering . . . who had more failures . . . the original Steve McGarrett or Perry Mason?

Look, this is all new to me here, so please bear with me as I stumble around for a while.

But if you enter your email address over there on the right I believe that you will be notified each time I post something new on this site.

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F Carter Proft (Brandon, Spokane, 2010-14) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with the Ravensburg Towerstars (Germany, DEL2). This season, he had two assists in 20 games with the Grizzlys Wolfsburg (Germany, DEL). He was released from a tryout contract on Dec. 19. . . .

G Ville Kolppanen (Lethbridge, 2009-10) has been assigned by Rögle Ängelholm (Sweden, SHL) to Södertälje (Sweden, Allsvenskan) on a one-game conditioning loan. Kolppanen has been out since just before the start of the season with an injury and only recently resumed training. . . .

D Sebastian Owuya (Medicine Hat, 2010-11) has been assigned on loan by Södertälje (Sweden, Allsvenskan) to Kallinge/Ronneby (Sweden, Division 1) for the remainder of this season. He was pointless in 14 games with Södertälje, and had one assist in three games while on loan to Nyköping Grypen (Sweden, Division 1).


Andy Eide, who follows the Seattle Thunderbirds for 710 ESPN Seattle, chatted with general manager Russ Farwell and posted a story on Thursday. . . . In the story, Farwell Seattleaddresses the situation regarding G Carl Stankowski, who, at 16, led them to a WHL championship last spring but has yet to play this season. “He’s had some complications,” Farwell told Eide. “They’re looking, he’s maybe got some other health problems. They think they’ve got it figured out. They’re hoping this week to set the treatment and then we are thinking he’s going to play, which I wasn’t sure about at one point. It’s still up in the air, we don’t know for sure so that’s part of the frustration.” . . . The one thing that is certain is that the Thunderbirds have no idea when Stankowski might return to game action. . . . Farwell also addressed the impending arrival of the NHL in Seattle: “The cost for two people to go to an NHL game you can just about have a season ticket for us. We’re talking two different price points and I think the growth in the sport will be phenomenal. As people get excited about the game, communities start to build rinks and more kids get involved. That’s the key point for us and I think we’ll see the spin off from that.” . . . Eide’s complete story is right here.

Dale Purinton has been on the same road that Stephen Peat now is travelling. Both are former WHL enforcers, with a long history of fights both there and later in the NHL. These days, Peat is believed to be living on the streets of B.C.’s Fraser Valley, and Purinton would like to help him. . . . After the CBC did a story on Peat, Purinton got in touch with folks at the broadcaster. . . . Jeremy Allingham of CBC News has more right here.

In 2015-16, D Tyler Jette of Farmington, Minn., was one of 10 finalists for Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey Award, which goes to the state’s top high school player. He also was nominated for the Reed Larson Award, which goes to the state’s top high school defenceman. On Sept. 26, 2016, Jette, then 18, signed with the Tri-City Americans. . . . He never played even one game with the Americans. So . . . what happened? . . . Jette suffered a concussion in training camp prior to last season and sat out the entire season. In fact, he didn’t play again until earlier this month when he joined the AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders. He now has played in three games and has one assist. . . . “The only thing that was hampering him at all was his conditioning,” Sherwood Park head coach Adam Manah told Shane Jones of the Sherwood Park News, “which is to be expected after not playing for so long and only skating with us three or four times. He sees the ice well and moves the puck crisp and hard. All we need from him is to be a good shut-down guy. We can see there is some offensive instincts there too, but that will come in due time once he gets comfortable and gets his game rolling again.” . . . Jette no longer is listed among the prospects on the Americans’ website. . . . Jones’ story is right here.

The Kootenay Ice has signed G Gage Alexander, 15, who is from Okotoks, Alta. Alexander Kootenaynewwas a seventh-round selection in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft. This season, he is 7-0-1, 1.75, .929 with the minor midget AAA Rockyview Raiders. . . . The Ice now has signed six of its 10 selections in the 2017 bantam draft — F Connor McClennon, who was taken second overall, D Anson McMaster, F James Form, G Will Gurski, F Owen Pederson and Alexander. . . . Left unsigned are D Jake Sanderson, a fourth-round pick from Calgary; D Brett Fogg of Humboldt, Sask., who was taken in the fifth round; D Benjamin Zloty, a sixth-rounder from Calgary; and F Michael Milne, who was taken in the eighth round out of the Yale Hockey Academy.

D Jake Harrison of West Kelowna, B.C., has committed to Michigan Tech for the 2019-20 season. Harrison, who is in his third season with the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors, was a fourth-round selection by the Spokane Chiefs in the WHL’s 2014 bantam draft. . . . In 143 regular-season BCHL games, he has 16 goals and 56 assists. This season, he has four goals and 19 assists in 35 games.

A piece of property in downtown Vancouver that is owned by Shato Holdings Ltd., which is run by brothers Peter and Ron Toigo, has sold for “a reported $245 million,” according to the Vancouver Sun. . . . The site is located on West Georgia Street and is presently home to a White Spot restaurant. . . . The property, which also includes a parking lot, was purchased by Carnival International Holdings Ltd., which, the Sun reports, “trades on the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong.” . . . The Toigos also are the majority owners of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. . . . The Sun’s complete story is right here.


Dec. 18-Dec. 26:

No Games Scheduled.

Tweet of the day

Mondays With Murray (on Thursday): Here’s What Santa Should Have in Bag





Here’s What Santa Should Have in Bag

Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring — they were all on the couch watching the Rams and Raiders.

All right, St. Nicholas, you pious old fraud. Come in and drop your bag. If you’re making a list and checking it twice, how about the following for a merry little Christmas?

* Give the Dodgers a center fielder, they already got enough second basemen and right fielders to start a league.

* Give boxing another Joe Louis.

* Give Charlie Whittingham another Sunday Silence. Give Laz Barrera another Affirmed.

* Give Laffit Pincay the mount on either one of them. Give Chris McCarron the other one.

* Give the USC Trojans another Mike Garrett or O.J. Simpson or Marcus Allen. Give us back Student Body Right.

* Give the Raiders a quarterback, Al Davis will take it from there.

* Give L.A. the Olympics again. Or, rather, give the Olympics L.A.

Twice in 50 years the city saved it.

* Give Magic Johnson a man in the pivot to play off. It doesn’t have to be another Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. A Bill Laimbeer would do. Magic can’t take on the league’s skyscrapers, the Patrick Ewings, David Robinsons, Akeem Olajuwons by himself.

* Give Mike Ditka a rubber room.

* Give Buddy Ryan a copy of ‘How to Win Friends And Influence People.’

* Give Oklahoma a football team it can be proud of.

* Give Bill Walsh one more team to build up. The San Diego Chargers come to mind.

* Give the Cowboys back to America.

* Give Joe Montana the ball.

* Give Steffi Graf some competition.

* Give Flipper Anderson a pass that stays up and a zone he can beat.

* Give the Cubs a pennant.

* Give Mark Langston another pitch or a fast outfield so the press

can’t crow that he’s getting a million dollars an inning on his bad nights.

* Give Larry Bird the outside shot with the playoff on the line and the

defender sagging, just one more time.

* Give Mike Tyson a Gene Tunney so he can become a lovable figure in sports instead of a scary one.

* Give Cito Gaston or Frank Robinson a pennant so we can get on with it.

* Give Wayne Lukas another pretty little filly who doesn’t know she’s not supposed to beat the boys in the spring of the year.

* Give San Diego an America’s Cup challenge. Let the New Zealanders win it in the waters, not the courts, with a boat, not a writ. Can you imagine Sir Thomas Lipton letting some landlubber in a wig and a robe award him the cup?

Give Michael Jordan the ball.

* Give Wayne Gretzky the puck.

* Give Noriega 50-to-life.

* Give the Rams a pass rush.

* Give Bo Jackson a bat, give Marcus Allen the football.

* Give Gene Autry a pennant.

* Give Mario Andretti a car that will hold together for 200 laps and

Roger Penske to set it up for him so it will.

* Give Al Davis the keys to the city.

* Give Pete Rose back baseball. He’s sick, not crooked. The Black Sox’s addiction was greed, not gambling.

* Give the states the word to stop trying to solve fiscal problems by

legalizing gambling. They’ll create more problems than they’ll solve.

They’ll achieve a human deficit.

* Give golf another Jack Nicklaus.

* Give Rickey Henderson an MVP or discontinue the award.

* Give Wade Boggs a cold shower.

* Give Steve Garvey a hobby. Come to think of it, he has one.

* Give Don Zimmer a lineup he can juggle. Better yet, give him one he can’t juggle.

* Give us an overtime Super Bowl. But, first, pass a rule it can’t be decided by a field goal.

* Give instant replay to the Indians.

* Give the designated hitter to the birds. That’s what it’s for.

* Give the Jets, Atlanta and Tampa Bay a coach. Look what a difference one made to Green Bay, Kansas City and Detroit. To say nothing of San Francisco 10 years ago and Green Bay 30 years ago. There are no bad teams in the NFL, only bad schemes.

* Give me the day off. On second thought, I just took it.

* Give each and every one of our sports fans out there the merriest of holidays and winners on the cards. Just remember, everything turns to sugar anyway. So, enjoy.

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 60753, Pasadena, CA 91116


What is the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation? 

  The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, established in 1999 to perpetuate the Jim Murray legacy, and his love for and dedication to his extraordinary career in journalism. Since 1999, JMMF has granted 104 $5,000 scholarships to outstanding journalism students. Success of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation’s efforts depends heavily on the contributions from generous individuals, organizations, corporations, and volunteers who align themselves with the mission and values of the JMMF.

Like us on Facebook, and visit the JMMF website,

WHL’s Western Conference: Might little happen before Jan. 10 trade deadline?

When looking at the WHL’s Western Conference teams in the run up to the Jan. 10 trading deadline, the most intriguing question marks would seem to surround the Victoria Royals and Kamloops Blazers.

The Royals are in the thick of things, just one point out of the conference lead and tied whlfor top spot, with Kelowna, in the B.C. Division.

The Blazers, who started 0-9-0 and seemingly deep-sixed their playoff hopes before the season was out of its infancy, are on a 16-8-1 tear and just one point out of a playoff spot.

So what’s the problem?

Well, management from both teams has committed to bidding to be the host team for the 2020 Memorial Cup tournament. That leaves one wondering if these teams will be buyers or sellers between Dec. 27, when the Christmas trade moratorium is removed, and the deadline.

Will Victoria general manager Cam Hope and his Kamloops counterpart, Stu MacGregor, go shopping in attempts to strengthen their present-day rosters? Or will they be more concerned with working to build championship-calibre teams for the 2019-20 season?

Your guess is as good as mine, but what is the message to fans if a GM dismantles a competitive team in order to try and build for two seasons down the road?

One other thing worth noting about the Western Conference is that none of its 10 teams has really fallen off the playoff pace, although the Prince George Cougars may be on the verge.

With everyone seemingly in the hunt, might we be in for a quiet trade deadline?

Asked last night if there was “anything brewing” and if “phones were ringing,” one general replied that it has been “really quiet.”

Anyway . . . here’s a look at the Western Conference’s 10 teams — eight will get into the playoffs — with the trade deadline on the horizon:

1. EVERETT (21-13-2): The Silvertips whacked visiting Portland 8-3 on Sunday, the final day before the Christmas break, to move past the Winterhawks and into first place in the U.S. Division. The Silvertips were mediocre early in the season, but put together a nine-game winning streak that served notice to the other teams in the conference. . . . G Carter Hart, who sat out all of October with mononucleosis, has been unworldly. He is 13-3-1 with five shutouts, a 1.32 GAA and a .961 save percentage. Before joining Canada’s national junior team early this month, Hart named the league’s goaltender of the week four times in a row. . . . With Hart gone, Dustin Wolf, 16, has proven that he’s the heir apparent, going 5-2-0, 2.00, .942. . . . Hart and Wolf backstop the conference’s best defensive club and Everett is scoring enough goals to win; it went into the break on a 9-1-0 roll. . . . Offensively, the bulk of the goals — 86 of 111 — have come from six players. As long as those six keep scoring and Hart keeps stopping them at the other end, the Silvertips will be in the chase. . . . Garry Davidson, the general manager, will be monitoring the market but will be leery to do anything that might break up a good thing.

2. (tie) PORTLAND (21-11-1): The Winterhawks threatened to run away with the U.S. Division before stumbling and going 2-7-1 on the run into Christmas. Some of that will have been due to a schedule that called for 10 of 13 games on the road during a 26-day stretch. They also are without three high-end players — F Kieffer Bellows (U.S.), F Joachim Blichfeld (Denmark) and D Henrik Jokiharju (Finland) — who will appear in the World Junior Championship. Take away players of that calibre and a team that had been doing fine defensively gave up 14 goals in losing its last two games. . . . Portland also went 23 games without F Ryan Hughes (leg), who will add secondary offence once he gets back into the flow of things. . . . Portland has the conference’s best talent — F Cody Glass is in the conversation when you’re talking about the WHL’s best player — and has been getting top-notch goaltending from Cole Kehler, 20, who got a nifty Christmas present in the form of a three-year free-agent deal with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. . . . Come mid-January, the Winterhawks will have all their wheels rolling and the fans will be sleeping better. . . . I wouldn’t be surprised if Mike Johnston, the general manager and head coach, chooses to play the hand that he has right now.

3. (tie) KELOWNA (20-11-3): The Rockets won seven of their past 10 games as the break approached and find themselves tied for second in the conference (with Portland and Victoria) and tied for first in the B.C. Division (with Victoria). . . . The Rockets appear to be a team to be reckoned with in the second half. F Kole Lind, who was felled by strep throat for a handful of games in November, and F Dillon Dube, who is with Canada’s national junior team, are having monster seasons, as is F Carsen Twarynski, 20. . . .    F Kyle Topping and D Cal Foote, who also is with Canada prepping for the WJC, are point-a-game guys. . . . G Brodan Salmon was to have been their starter, but he has played in only one game since Oct. 15, than on Nov. 4. In his absence, James Porter, a freshman from Bonners Ferry, Idaho, has done well, going 13-5-2, 3.49, .895. . . . Still, the Rockets need to be better defensively, which means general manager Bruce Hamilton may be looking for some experienced help.

4. (tie) VICTORIA (20-13-3): The Royals fell off the B.C. Division’s top perch by dropping 10 of their past 16 games. They opened the season with seven straight victories, so are 13-13-3 since then. But they’ve got the guns to compete with anyone and their top line — Tyler Soy, Matthew Phillips and Noah Gregor — is as good as any in the WHL. . . . However, Soy left in the second period of the Royals’ final game before the break — it appeared to be a shoulder injury — and his status isn’t known. . . . Victoria badly needs to get F Regan Nagy, 20, back into the lineup. He’s got 18 goals in 26 games, but a finger injury has kept him out since Nov. 28. . . . GM Cam Hope isn’t afraid to pull the trigger — he acquired Gregor from Moose Jaw for F Ryan Peckford on Dec. 11, adding yet more speed while giving up grit, and getting a fourth 20-year-old by dealing for D Kade Jensen from Brandon on Dec. 1. When Nagy gets back, Hope will have to make another move because he can only keep three of Nagy, Soy, Jensen and D Chaz Reddekopp. . . . Like so many other general managers, Hope may be looking for a strong stay-at-home defender to help Griffen Outhouse, one of the WHL’s top goaltenders, but one who has been facing too many shots.

5. VANCOUVER (18-13-4): The Giants closed out the first half by winning six straight games and going 8-2-0 over 10 games. That lifted them into third place in the B.C. Division, just three points behind Kelowna and Victoria. That’s wonderful news for a franchise that has missed the playoffs in each of the past three seasons and four of five. . . . Vancouver has been led by F Ty Ronning, who has 46 points, including 31 goals, in 35 games. F James Malm also is a point-a-game player, while F Tyler Benson, who finally is healthy (touch wood), put up 32 points, including 13 goals, in 22 games. . . . Aside from Ronning, the MVP may be G David Tendeck, who is 12-6-1, 2.90, .913 and showing signs that he’ll be the go-to guy in the second half. . . . D Bowen Byram, the third overall selection in the 2016 bantam draft, has been getting better as his confidence grows with each passing game. He’s a keeper, for sure. . . . The Giants still need to be better defensively, like so many other teams, but don’t expect general manager Glen Hanlon to be involved in anything that might disrupt the franchise’s future. He likely could be convinced to add a veteran defenceman if the price isn’t steep.

6. TRI-CITY (18-10-3): The Americans won their last three games and find themselves third in the U.S. Division, four points in arrears of Portland. . . . The Americans went into the break on a three-game winning streak; they are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games. . . . If they are to compete with the big guys, the Americans need more offence and better defence. The offence may come from within as F Michael Rasmussen has played in 22 games (31 points) and D Juuso Valimaki has gotten into 19 (20 points). When they are healthy, it raises the level of Tri-City’s all-around play and turns the power-play unit into a deadly weapon. . . . Tri-City is the only WHL team to have evenly split its goaltending duties to this point. Patrick Dea is 8-5-3, 3.19, .915 in 958 minutes over 17 games. Beck Warm also has gotten into 17 games, going 10-5-0, 3.31, .890. . . . Bob Tory, the Americans’ veteran general manager, once was dubbed ‘Trader’ Bob. There was a time when he would jump into the trading pool well before the deadline, before the prices got driven up. Last season, however, he made only one deal between Dec. 1 and the trade deadline, that coming on Dec. 2 when he sent G Kurtis Rutledge to the Kootenay Ice for a 2019 seventh-round bantam draft pick. It could be that Tory will provide a repeat performance.

7. (tie) SPOKANE (18-13-3): The Chiefs are tied with Tri-City for third in the U.S. Division, however the Americans hold three games in hand. . . . Spokane went into the Christmas break with a sour taste in its mouth, too, after losing 10-3 to visiting Seattle on Sunday night. “Let’s forget about that one,” Chiefs head coach Dan Lambert told the Spokane Spokesman-Review. . . . Spokane needs to find a way to be better at home, where it actually has lost more than it has won (9-8-2). . . . Still, the Chiefs have three of the WHL’s most-exciting players — F Jaret Dolan-Anderson, D Ty Smith and F Kailer Yamamoto. The first two are scoring at better than a point-a-game, while Yamamoto, who started the season with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, has been around for only 12 games, and now is with the U.S.’s national junior team. . . . Once mid-January arrives and the distractions are gone, the Chiefs’ talent level — F Hudson Elynuik, 20, is having a career season with 17 goals and 29 assists in 34 games — would indicate that the second-half should be better. . . . That might indicate that Scott Carter, the general manager, won’t make much of a splash between now and Jan. 10.

8. SEATTLE (15-14-4): The Thunderbirds, the WHL’s defending champions, have fallen into the U.S. Division basement, five points behind Tri-City and Spokane. . . . Seattle is on a two-game winning streak, however. . . . The fall isn’t at all surprising when one considers that Seattle lost its four leading scorers from last season and six of its top nine. . . . You simply don’t replace that kind of production over one offseason. . . . Still, the Thunderbirds are in possession of the conference’s second wild-card spot, and you have to think the team’s new owners — brothers Dan and Lindsey Leckelt — would be pleased with a playoff spot. . . . G Carl Stankowski, who, as a 16-year-old, sparkled in the playoffs last spring (16-2-2, 2.50, .911), but hasn’t played this season thanks to hip woes. . . . In his absence, Seattle has used three goaltenders, who have GAAs of 3.30, 3.32 and 3.67, and save percentages of .895, .894 and .888. . . . Yes, the goaltending needs to be better. . . . With a number of teams hankering for experienced defencemen, GM Russ Farwell’s phone might be busy, because he’s got three — Turner Ottenbreit, 20, Austin Strand, 20, and Jarret Tyszka, 18 — who might bring a king’s ransom should he choose to sell.

9. KAMLOOPS (16-17-1): Head coach Don Hay went into the season needing 22 victories to equal the WHL’s career record for most regular-season coaching victories. The Blazers promptly lost their first nine games and it looked like Hay might not get there this season. . . . But the Blazers followed that skid with a 16-8-1 run and now are just one point out of a playoff spot. Hay is seven victories shy of becoming the winningest head coach in the league’s regular-season history. . . . If you are GM Stu MacGregor, what do you do? With ownership have announced that it will bid on the 2020 Memorial Cup tournament, do you focus on making a run this season, or do you sell in an attempt to gather assets that will help in 2019-20? . . . But a team that hasn’t drafted particularly well in recent times and perhaps has lost F Massimo Rizzo, the 15th overall pick in the 2016 bantam draft, to the BCHL’s Penticton Vees, has 13 players on its 23-man roster who aren’t likely to be around for 2019-20. . . . It could be that MacGregor really is between a rock and a hard place — darned if he does, darned if he doesn’t. . . . MacGregor’s dance may be the most interesting of them all between now and Jan. 10.

10. PRINCE GEORGE (12-17-3): The Cougars, who won the first pennant in franchise history last season when they finished atop the B.C. Division, have lost three in a row. They are last in the five-team B.C. Division, four points behind Kamloops. . . . The Cougars haven’t been a hit at the gate this season, despite going all-in a year ago and finishing 45-21-6, only to bow out in the first round of the playoffs. So it could be that management feels a playoff spot this season is of the utmost importance. . . . Prince George will come back from the break to play four games in six days — two in Victoria and two in Langley, B.C., against the Vancouver Giants. After that, the Cougars will return home to face Tri-City twice. Then the Giants go north for a doubleheader that will straddle the trade deadline. . . . In other words, between now and Jan. 10, the Cougars will meet the Giants four times and Victoria twice. Might the outcome of those games dictate which way GM Todd Harkins chooses to go? . . . The Cougars’ roster includes D Dennis Cholowski, and you can bet that Harkins is fielding calls about him. Cholowski, a first-round pick by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2016 NHL draft, is in his first WHL season but has shown that he is of all-star calibre.

Whatever happened to Luby? . . . Vanstone: MC-format flawed . . . Dynamiters’ would-be gift horse faces charges


When I was working at the Regina Leader-Post, I always looked forward to a visit by the Saskatoon Blades when Daryl Lubiniecki was with them. Now there’s a story teller! . . . We used to joke that his Regina office — a bar called The Pump — was across Victoria Street from the paper and visible from a window beside what was then my desk. . . . So what is Lubiniecki up to these days. Darren Zary of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix caught up with him right here.

With the 2018 Memorial Cup and all that goes with it ticketed for Regina, Leader-Post columnist Rob Vanstone points out in this piece right here just how flawed the present system is. Yes, the present host-team, tournament-style system is as flawed as a piece of glass pretending to be a diamond. But, hey, it makes money and in today’s world that’s what matters.

You may recall hearing in October about a man named Mike Gould who was in the headlines after pledging a donation of $7.5 million to the junior B Kimberley, B.C., Dynamiters of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. . . . You may also have heard that the Dynamiters are no richer today than they were on that day in October. Well, if you missed it, Douglas Quan of Postmedia did a terrific story on the situation earlier this month. That story, which is about as bizarre as you might expect, is right here.

Meanwhile, Gould now is facing fraud- and forgery-related charges, as Karen Larsen of CBC News reports right here.

Dave Robinson, who played four seasons (1973-77) with the Kamloops Chiefs of the Western Canada Hockey League, died on Sunday. Robinson, 60, died in Kamloops after fighting cancer. . . . Robinson played more games with the Chiefs (247) than anyone in the team’s brief history. He had 15 goals and 71 assists, along with 573 penalty minutes. . . . Robinson and his wife, Ernestamarie, had three sons — Ryan, Danny and Darcy. . . . Darcy played five seasons in the WHL (Saskatoon, Red Deer, 1997-2001). He went on to play with Asiago in Italy, where he died of a heart attack during the opening game of the 2007-08 Serie A season. He was 26.

J.F. Best, who is in his first season as an assistant coach with the Victoria Royals, will be at the World Junior Championship with Team Denmark. Best will be working as a consultant in performance analysis. . . . The tournament is scheduled to open on Dec. 26 in Buffalo, N.Y. . . . Best has worked in the area of performance analysis with the Danish Ice Hockey Federation since 2015. He was with Team Denmark at the 2017 WHC in Montreal and Toronto, and worked with Denmark’s men’s team at the 2017 World Championship in Paris, France, and Cologne, Germany.

The Kootenay Ice has signed F Holden Kodak, 16, to a WHL contract. Kodak, from Cloverdale, B.C., put up 59 points, including 35 goals, in 25 games this season with the Yale Hockey Academy’s midget prep team in the CSSHL. . . . Kodak was selected by Portland in the 11th round of the 2016 bantam but something didn’t click and he didn’t sign with the Winterhawks. The Ice placed him on its protected list in October.

In the QMJHL, the defending-champion Saint John Sea Dogs have traded F Joe Veleno, 17, to the Drummondville Voltigeurs for three first-round draft picks and a pair of second-rounders. . . . The Sea Dogs acquired first-round selections that originally belonged to the Gatineau Olympiques (2018), Blainville-Boisbriand Armada(2019) and Drummondville (2020). . . . Velono, who is from Kirkland, Que., is the only player in QMJHL history to have been granted exceptional player status, meaning he was allowed to play regularly at 15 years of age. The Sea Dogs selected him with the first overall pick in the QMJHL’s 2015 draft. . . . This season, Velono has six goals and 25 assists in 31 games. In 138 regular-season games over three seasons, he has 32 goals and 82 assists. . . . Velono is a potential first-round pick in the NHL’s 2018 draft. . . . Drummondville (20-9-2) is fourth in the QMJHL standings. . . . The Sea Dogs (8-17-6) are struggling — they have the league’s second-poorest record — after losing in the Memorial Cup semifinal last spring.


Dec. 18-Dec. 26:

No Games Scheduled.

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