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 . . .
🎄ALL A SCOUT WANTS FOR CHRISTMAS🏒
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?
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.
A LITTLE OF THIS . . . SOME OF THAT . . .
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 Grizzlies — 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.
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When it comes to sports logos, Chris Creamer is the man. You are able to find him at sportslogos.net, or on Twitter at @sportslogosnet.
On Friday, he announced the 2017 Creamer Award winners for best new sports logos.
The 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.
Always wanted to have a father/son road trip with one of my teams. Managed to pull it off this weekend. Trail, Penticton, and Merritt….tons of fun for all the Dads and the players. pic.twitter.com/O6sRGr3mv3
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
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.
I’ve long felt any issues the Clippers had were off-ice, related to an apparent disconnect with the community. Firing a man whose family was connected to the community on social media 3 days before Christmas is “fixing” a problem that didn’t exist and exacerbating one that did
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 through 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.
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?
.@MercedesBenzCDN needs to start putting turn signals on their cars as a regular feature, seems that the majority of their buyers are not adding the signal package when ordering…
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).
A LITTLE OF THIS . . . SOME OF THAT . . .
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 addresses 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 was 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.
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
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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.
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 for 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.
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.
Same price (3 firsts and 2 seconds) that Saskatoon paid to get Schenn from Brandon seven years ago. At least Veleno still has two years of junior eligibility after this season though. Schenn was a half year rental. https://t.co/Tg7AWBKERb
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.
The run to the WHL’s Jan. 10 trade deadline began for real on Nov. 13.
That was the day on which the Regina Pats dealt D Jonathan Smart, F Cole Muir, second- and sixth-round selections in the 2018 bantam draft, and a conditional pick in 2019 or 2020 to the Kootenay Ice for D Cale Fleury. Yes, Regina gave up a possible five assets for one player, albeit a good one.
Since then, and including that deal, the WHL’s 22 teams have combined to move 25 players, 14 bantam draft selections and three conditional bantam draft picks.
It’s fair to say that the Moose Jaw Warriors, Swift Current Broncos and Regina Pats, the latter the host team for the 2018 Memorial Cup, are all-in this season. They definitely are buyers.
But . . . who is selling? And are there other buyers out there?
It’s interesting, too, that the East Division, at least at the top, is so much stronger than the Central Division, whose six teams have combined to lose 53 games more than they have won.
With the WHL now on its Christmas break and with the schedule pretty much at the halfway mark, let’s take a look at the Eastern Conference, with teams ranked in order of points:
1. MOOSE JAW (27-6-2): The Warriors lead the overall standings, meaning they also are atop the Eastern Conference and the East Division. General manager Alan Millar will buy if there is something out there that grabs his eye, but he’s already done some shopping by getting F Vince Loschiavo, 19, from the Kootenay Ice and D Ryan Peckford, 18, from the Victoria Royals, although he gave up a pretty good player in F Noah Gregor in the latter swap. . . . Don’t discount the value of veteran F Barrett Sheen, a gritty guy, who came over from Kootenay on Nov. 13. . . . Now it’s a matter of Moose Jaw getting everyone healthy and keeping them that way.
2. SWIFT CURRENT (25-7-2): The Broncos are four points behind the Warriors and hold one game in hand. Manny Viveiros, the Broncos’ director of player personnel and head coach, ventured into the Pacific Northwest on a November scouting junket. He returned home and immediately shoved all of his chips into the centre of the table, sending five players and a second-round pick in the 2018 bantam draft to the Calgary Hitmen for F Matteo Gennaro, 20, F Beck Malenstyn, 19, and a fifth-round pick in 2018. Only time will tell if Viveiros gave up too much — F Conner Chaulk, 20, F Riley Stotts, 17, D Dom Schmiemann, 18, D Josh Prokop, 15, and G Ethan Hein, 15, are the players who went to Calgary. . . . Prior to the deal, the Broncos were very much a one-line team and Viveiros knew that as the season wore on opposing teams would be harder on F Glenn Gawdin, F Aleksi Heponiemi and F Tyler Steenbergen. . . . The deal with Calgary will take some heat off those three. Keep in mind that Malenstyn (wrist), a 32-goal man last season, has played only four games this season. . . . The Broncos went into the break on a five-game winning streak. . . . They’ll get Heponiemi (Finland) and Steenbergen (Canada) some rest after the World Junior Championship, then add Malenstyn to the lineup and see if they can make some noise.
3. BRANDON (24-8-1): The Wheat Kings went 9-1-0 in their past 10 games and now are seven points behind Moose Jaw and three behind Swift Current. Of course, the Warriors are 8-1-1 and the Broncos 8-2-0 in their past 10. . . . But who saw the Wheat Kings making this kind of noise this season? They won the WHL championship in 2015-16, then got swept by Medicine Hat in the first round last spring. . . . A terrific combination of maturing younger players and solid veterans has the Wheat Kings in the hunt. . . . They appear to have a good thing going, so it’s doubtful that GM Grant Armstrong would do anything major that might disrupt it. . . . But, hey, never say never.
4. MEDICINE HAT (18-14-2): The Tigers lead the Central Division, but have stumbled of late, going 3-5-2, and watched their lead over Lethbridge and Kootenay get sliced to six points. Still, if they playoffs were to start today, Medicine Hat would have a first-round bye. . . . The Tigers also have yet to play even one game with F Mason Shaw, 19, a 94-point man last season, in their lineup. He suffered a knee injury while playing with the Minnesota Wild rookie team at a September tournament in Traverse City, Mich. He is expected to return at some point in the season’s second half, so the Tigers have that to look forward to without even making a deal. . . . Even without Shaw, the Tigers can score. But are they able to defend well enough to contend, or are Shaun Clouston, the GM and head coach, and Carter Sears, the director of player personnel, looking for an experienced defenceman?
5. REGINA (16-17-3): Ahh, yes, the Pats. The host team for the 2018 Memorial Cup was in last spring’s championship final, but has scuffled to this point of this season and finds itself fourth in its division, 14 points behind third-place Brandon. Yes, 14 points! . . . While Regina does hold down the conference’s first wild-card spot, it is just two points ahead of Prince Albert and Saskatoon. . . . Yes, things are messy in Regina. In fact, columnist Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post this week called the Pats an “embarrassment” in a column that is right here. . . . You know that the Pats will be buyers between now and Jan. 10, but considering their record and recent performances, one wonders if there is a big enough shopping cart available to fix whatever it is that ails them. . . . GM/head coach John Paddock acquired D Cale Fleury from Kootenay on Nov. 13, but Regina is only 5-9-1 since then, so it would seem that more is needed. . . . Paddock no doubt will be first in line for the Boxing Day sales.
6-7. PRINCE ALBERT (13-14-7) and SASKATOON (15-17-3): These two teams are tied for the conference’s second wild-card spot. The Raiders hold a game in hand, but the Blades have two more victories. They return from the Christmas break to meet in Saskatoon on Dec. 27 and in Prince Albert on Dec. 28. . . . Neither team is on the same level as the conference’s top three, but it’s important that both show improvement over last season when neither made the playoffs. . . . I wouldn’t expect either team to sell, sell, sell, but you can bet that both will be prepared to move older assets for younger players.
8. LETHBRIDGE (15-16-2): Have the Hurricanes underperformed? Or was last season (44-21-7 and a run to the conference final) an aberration? . . . Despite the inconsistent play, the Hurricanes are within reach of first place in the Central Division, and you know that GM Peter Anholt will be working the phone lines. At the same time, though, he has to be wondering if his roster, as it stands today, isn’t good enough to chase down Medicine Hat. . . . Earlier this month, Anholt added veteran F Lane Zablocki, who turns 19 on Dec. 27. He had 28 goals last season, splitting time between Regina and Red Deer, but was spinning his wheels with the Rebels this season. Anholt is hoping that Zablocki will fill the void created when F Ryan Vandervlis, a point-a-game guy, was lost for the season with shoulder woes. . . . The bottom line, however, is that the Hurricanes need to be better defensively, and that includes the goaltending department. Stuart Skinner is a better goaltender than this season’s numbers. Perhaps Anholt will be able to bring in a stay-at-home defender.
8. (tie) KOOTENAY (15-17-2): The Ice won 12 games two seasons ago and 14 last season. So by those standards, this season, the franchise’s first under the ownership of Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell, is a success. Of course, a playoff spot would be even nicer, but Fettes and Cockell, and head coach James Patrick, can’t allow the short-term view to circumvent their long-term plan. . . . Cockell already has traded away three veterans — D Cale Fleury, F Vince Loschiavo and F Barrett Sheen — and you can bet he will move even more experience if he thinks a deal or deals will improve the future outlook.
10. RED DEER (10-18-6): What happened to the Rebels? A season that began with promise has imploded and they find themselves seven points out of the conference’s second wild-card spot. They went into the Christmas break having gone 1-4-5 in their past 10 games. In the Central Division, they are one point ahead of fifth-place Calgary. . . . Red Deer’s biggest problem is that it can’t score. Only Edmonton (88) has fewer goals than Red Deer (96). . . . Brent Sutter, the owner, GM and head coach, may have signalled his intentions on Dec. 8 when he dealt veteran F Lane Zablocki, who turns 19 next week, to Lethbridge, getting back sophomore F Josh Tarzwell, 17, a second-round pick in the 2019 bantam draft and a conditional third-rounder in 2020. At that point, the Rebels had lost 10 in a row and 16 of their previous 17 games. . . . Yes, Sutter, as much as he won’t like it, will be selling. . . . Interestingly, Red Deer is carrying two 20-year-olds, one under the maximum allowable. While Sutter isn’t going to want to bring in someone to take playing time away from a younger player in this situation, that vacant spot may prove useful come the deadline.
11. CALGARY (10-18-5): The Hitmen have lost 13 more games than they have won, and find themselves eight points out of the playoffs. In order to get there, they will have to pass four teams, which is unlikely, even with 39 games left on their schedule. . . . Former Kootenay president/GM Jeff Chynoweth, in his first season as Calgary’s GM, signalled his intentions on Nov. 25 when he dealt veteran forwards Matteo Gennaro and Beck Malenstyn to Swift Current for a goody bag that included five players. At the time, Chynoweth said: “We’re not giving our players away, and we’re not throwing in the towel for the season. We expect to make the playoffs.” Of course, what was he expected to say? . . . He’ll be selling more if the price is right.
12. EDMONTON (7-22-4): The Oil Kings spent three seasons (2011-14) in the penthouse, winning at least 50 games each time and appearing in three straight championship finals, winning two of them. That was then; this is now. . . . The fall began in earnest last season (23-43-6) and it has continued, with the Oil Kings sporting the WHL’s poorest record. . . . They’ll be sellers, just don’t expect GM Randy Hansch to give away any of the franchise’s promising youngsters.