How will B.C. weather impact schedules? KIJHL first with a postponement . . . Chiefs cleared to play after positives

The nasty weather situation in B.C. is likely to play havoc with hockey schedules over the next few days.

As I write this on Monday evening, the Lower Mainland is completely cut off from the rest of the province due to numerous landslides/mudslides and sections of highways having been washed away.

The first postponement was announced late Monday afternoon when the junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey League said the Kelowna Chiefs won’t be visiting the Posse in Princeton on Tuesday. Princeton is one of the areas that has been hit hard by flooding.

We will have to wait and see what the BCHL does with the Merritt Centennials after that entire city of more than 7,000 people was hit with an evacuation order on Monday afternoon after its wastewater treatment plant was compromised when the Coldwater River overflowed its banks.

The Centennials are scheduled to play the Vees in Penticton on Wednesday and to entertain the Vernon Vipers on Friday and the Prince George Spruce Kings on Saturday. At first blush, you would have to think that all three of those games are in jeopardy.

The WHL, meanwhile, has time on its side because it doesn’t have any B.C. teams scheduled to play until Friday when the Victoria Royals are to visit the Kamloops Blazers, the Kelowna Rockets are to be in Portland to face the Winterhawks, the Tri-City Americans are to meet the Cougars in Prince George and the Everett Silvertips play the Vancouver Giants in Langley, B.C.

In fact, the WHL has only one midweek game scheduled — the Everett Silvertips are to meet the Winterhawks in Portland tonight (Tuesday) — before Friday.

You can bet that a lot of folks around the WHL have their fingers crossed in the hopes that things improve before Thursday when some of the road teams will plan on hitting the highway.

And let’s not forget about Saskatchewan . . .

RCMP Saskatchewan tweeted Monday afternoon: “A winter storm is expected to roll through parts of Sask. tonight and will continue over the next few days. Freezing rain + heavy snow + reduced visibility + strong winds will likely make travel difficult. Please refrain from traveling if possible.”

Meanwhile, in Alberta . . .


The BCHL’s Coquitlam Express, who beat the Spruce Kings 3-1 in Prince George on Saturday, weren’t able to make it home. So the team is hanging out in Kamloops. The Express is next scheduled to play on Friday and Saturday, against the visiting Trail Smoke Eaters and Cowichan Valley Capitals.

While some areas of Western Canada battle the weather, let’s not forget about the pandemic.

On Monday, the Spokane Chiefs received the OK to resume normal activities Spokaneafter all players and staff members returned negative tests. The organization had been on pause since Nov. 10 when two players tested positive. That resulted in the postponement of three games.

The Chiefs are scheduled to return to action on Friday when they play host to the Seattle Thunderbirds.

The last paragraph of the WHL news release on the Chiefs reads:

“The health and safety of all WHL participants is the top priority for the WHL. In order to reduce the risk of exposure to and transmission of COVID-19, the WHL requires all WHL roster players, hockey operations staff, and other team and League office personnel to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with a Health Canada approved vaccine.”

It’s worth noting that the WHL decided not to mandate that all eligible people in billet homes be vaccinated, choosing instead to “strongly recommend to each of its member Clubs that players reside in billet households in which all eligible individuals are fully vaccinated.”


The Tri-City Americans announced Monday that “in compliance with an updated mandate from Washington state, all fans age 12 and over attending Americans’ games will be required to provide proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test, taken in the 72 hours before the game.

“The state mandate (took effect on Monday) for all indoor events with crowds of 1,000 people or larger.”

The WHL has four franchises in Washington state, with the Everett Silvertips, Seattle Thunderbirds and Spokane Chiefs also on board.

If you are planning on attending any sporting event in these COVID-19 times, you really should check out the hosting team’s website to check on possible restrictions.

In the case of the Americans, you will find more info right here.

Rick Westhead of TSN reported on Monday that three former WHL players — James McEwan, Myles Stoesz and Rhett Trombley — are among “four former Canadian Hockey League players who have provided sworn affidavits in connection with a proposed class-action lawsuit filed in 2019 against the WHL, the Canadian Hockey League and Hockey Canada.” . . . Stoesz, who played four seasons (2003-07, Spokane Chiefs, Regina Pats, Chilliwack Bruins) in the WHL, is alleging that coaches in Spokane told him he would have to fight if he wanted playing time. “I was moulded into this rage-filled fighter,” he wrote in an affidavit that has been filed with the Supreme Court of B.C. . . . Stoesz also wrote: “I think the CHL needs to be held accountable to the current and former players for these injuries. I want the CHL to acknowledge that what we had to do to play in the CHL as teenagers was not acceptable. Looking back at my career in the CHL, I feel like I lost part of my youth. My time in Spokane was a daze of fights. I’m scared about my future because I took repeated blows to my head. I’m in my early 30s and I suffer from headaches and migraines and my right hand is disfigured with a mallet finger from punching.” . . . Westhead’s complete story is right here.

This is one of three class-action lawsuits that have are facing the CHL, including the WHL. One of the others involves alleged abuse faced by players in the form of hazing, while the other concerns whether major junior leagues should have to pay at least minimum wage to the players. The CHL and former players actually agreed on a settlement for that one, only to have two judges, one in Alberta and the other in Ontario, refuse to approve it.

As well, the City of Cranbrook sued the owners of the Winnipeg Ice and the WHL in January, claiming the team broke its lease when it left for the Manitoba capital in the spring of 2019.

The Ottawa Senators, with 10 players and one coach in COVID-19 protocol, have had their games postponed, at least through Nov. 20. For now, that includes a road game that was to have been played tonight (Tuesday) against the New Jersey Devils and home games versus the Nashville Predators on Thursday and New York Rangers on Saturday. . . . The Senators also closed all team facilities on Monday.

The Kelowna Rockets have played 12 games this regular season and have Rocketsalready used four goaltenders. That might help explain the announcement on Monday that they have hired Eli Wilson as goaltender coach. . . . It should be noted that Wilson, a veteran goaltender coach, also fills that position with the WHL’s Tri-City Americans. In the past, he has worked with the NHL’s Ottawa Senators and AHL’s Syracuse Crunch, along with the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers and Vancouver Giants. . . . He apparently is replacing Adam Brown, who had been with the team since 2016. Brown’s name doesn’t appear in the news release announcing Wilson’s signing, and he no longer is listed on the team’s website. . . . The Rockets went into the season with four options in goal — veterans Roman Basran and Cole Schwebius, a pair of 20-year-olds, freshman Nicholas Cristiano, 17, and Cole Tisdale, 19, who made 12 appearances over three seasons. Basran and Schwebius were released, Cristian was returned to the U18 Fraser Valley Thunderbirds, and Tisdale went to the Americans in the deal for Boyko. . . . The Rockets also acquired Colby Knight, 18, from the Edmonton Oil Kings on Oct. 12. . . . So now the Rockets will ride the 6-foot-7.5 Boyko, who was selected by the New York Rangers in the fourth round of the NHL’s 2021 draft, and Knight, with Wilson charged with getting them on the right track and keeping them there.


BACK TO WORK: Ian Henry is the new communications co-ordinator for the Mercer Island School Division. He went to work there for the first time on Monday. “I am managing all District communications platforms to tell stories about the hard-working students, dedicated staff and great schools in the District,” he tweeted. Henry had been with the Seattle Thunderbirds, most recently as media relations, communications and digital media director, director, since July 2002 before being let go because of pandemic-related cutbacks.


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Or, for more information, visit right here.



Ice acquires Savoie, the elder. . . . WHL firms up a pair of indefinite suspensions. . . . Minor illness keeps Byram off ice


F Travis Ewanyk (Edmonton, 2008-13) has signed a one-year contract extension with Krefeld Pinguine (Germany, DEL). This season, he had two goals and five assists in 40 games. . . .

G Ville Kolppanen (Lethbridge, 2009-10) has signed a one-year-plus-option year contract with Ilves Tampere (Finland, Liiga). This season, with Rögle Ängelholm (Sweden, SEL), he was 6-10-1, 2.30, .916 in 18 games as the backup to Just Pogge (Prince George, Calgary, 2003-06). . . .

F Richard Mueller (Brandon, Saskatoon, Calgary, 1998-2003) has signed a one-year contract extension with the Kassel Huskies (Germany, DEL2). An alternate captain this season he had 26 goals and 25 assists in 52 games. He led the Huskies in goals, assists and points. Next season will be his 16th in Germany. . . .

D Jonathan Harty (Everett, 2004-08) has signed a one-year contract extension with Fehérvár AV19 Székesfehérvár (Hungary, Erste Bank Liga). This season, he had five goals and 13 assists in 52 games.

The Winnipeg Ice has acquired the WHL rights to F Carter Savoie, who turned 17 on Jan. 23, from the Regina Pats in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2019 bantam draft and wpgiceconditional second- and third-round picks — the year or years undisclosed.

Those conditional picks will depend on if/when Savoie should sign with the Ice.

This has led to speculation that the Ice will select F Matt Savoie, Carter’s younger brother, with the first pick of the 2019 draft when it is held in Red Deer on May 2. The Ice also holds the ninth selection in the first round.

The Savoie brothers are from St. Albert, Alta., and both have committed to the U of Denver, Carter for the 2020-21 season and Matt, who turned 15 on Jan. 1, for 2021-22.

The Pats selected Carter in the ninth round of the 2017 bantam draft. He is playing with the AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders, having put up 31 goals and 42 assists in 58 regular-season games. The Crusaders are alive in the playoffs, and he has two goals and eight assists in 10 games.

Matt played this season with the Northern Alberta X-Treme prep team, scoring 31 goals and adding 40 assists in 31 games. In five playoff games, he had three goals and nine assists.

The Savoie family applied to Hockey Canada during the season in the hopes of gaining exceptional status for Matt, something that would allow him to spend 2019-20 on a WHL roster. Under present rules, a 15-year-old player is limited to five games — except under emergency conditions — while his club team’s season is alive. Although there has yet to be an official announcement from Hockey Canada, there have been reports that the family’s request has been denied.

Matt Cockell, the president and general manager of the Winnipeg Ice — formerly the KootenaynewKootenay Ice — did a question-and-answer session with the Winnipeg Sun’s Ted Wyman the other day. . . . Patti Dawn Swansson, who blogs as The River City Renegade, spent a goodly number of years covering junior and pro hockey in Winnipeg so is quite familiar with the puck scene in the Manitoba capital. She responded to one of Cockell’s answers at her blog.

At one point, Cockell told Wyman: “At the end of the day, the passion for hockey is really what’s exciting about Winnipeg. When you look across Canada, there really isn’t another city that embraces hockey the way Winnipeg does. We really believe it’s the hockey capital of Canada.”

To which, Swansson wrote: “Whoa boy. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Good Ol’ Hometown has already let one NHL franchise get away (no, it wasn’t Gary Bettman’s fault) and two Western Hockey League outfits. Pegtown is the ‘hockey capital of Canada’ like Pierre’s boy Justin is a man of all the people. And that’s coming from someone born and raised in River City, someone who recalls seeing a lot of empty seats in the old barn on Maroons Road. Yes, I realize that Cockell is going to say all the right things in order to sell his freshly minted WHL franchise to the rabble, but I’m not sure that faux flattery is the way to go about it. Peggers are hockey wise, they aren’t rubes.”

Wyman’s complete 21 questions with Cockell is right here.

If you are/were an Ice fan, who lives in the Cranbrook area, you shouldn’t read this. It might be bad for your health, especially the part where Cockell responds to a question about “what do you say to the hockey fans of Cranbrook?”

Cockell’s response: “We’ve had a lot of dialogue with them. I lived there right through to our last game. What our message has been in dialogue is that everybody did everything they possibly could, including the business community in Cranbrook, the fans in that community and our ownership group. We did everything we could to see if there was a sustainable opportunity there. It’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to get there, but at the end of the day we made a decision and we tried to be as honest as we could. It’s hard and yet, we need to focus now on what we’re doing moving forward and that’s really exciting.”

Some of that will be news to the Green Bay Committee, won’t it?

Chances are that F Logan Barlage of the Lethbridge Hurricanes will miss a game or two when the 2019-20 season opens, thanks to the slashing major and game misconduct that he was hit with as Tuesday’s game with the visiting Calgary Hitmen came to a close. . . . Barlage slashed Calgary F Carson Focht, who scored twice in Calgary’s 4-2 victory in Game 7 of the first-round series. . . . If you watch the video in the tweet below, you also will see the Lethbridge right winger break the stick of the Calgary left winger with a slash.

F Parker AuCoin, who played out his junior eligibility with the Tri-City Americans this season, has signed on with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears. This season, he had 42 goals and 42 assists in 68 games with the Americans. . . . In 262 regular-season WHL games over four seasons, he has 88 goals and 92 assists. . . . From St. Albert, Alta., he was the 15th-overall pick in the WHL’s 2013 bantam draft.

Dave Struch, the head coach of the Regina Pats, will be an assistant coach with the Canadian team that will compete in the 2019 IIHF U18 World Championship in Örnsköldsvik and Umeå, Sweden, April 18 through 28. . . . Brett Gibson, the head coach at Queen’s U for 13 seasons, will be the U18 team’s head coach. . . . The other assistant coach will be Serge Aubin, who most recently was the head coach of the ZSC Lions in Switzerland’s NL A. . . . Adam Brown of the Kelowna Rockets will be the U18 team’s goaltending consultant.


NOTES: The Victoria Royals will be without F Kody McDonald for the first four games of their second-round series with the Vancouver Giants. McDonald had been under an indefinite suspension after being hit with a match penalty for a stick-swinging incident during Game 4 of their first-round series against the Blazers in Kamloops on March 27. The WHL announced Wednesday that the suspension has been set at six games. He has four games remaining on it. . . .

The WHL also announced that the indefinite suspension to F Sean Richards of the Seattle Thunderbirds has been set at eight games. He took a checking-from-behind major and game misconduct for a hit on Vancouver F Aidan Barfoot in Game 4 of their first-round series on March 27. Richards, 20, missed the last two games of the series, so has six games remaining. He doesn’t have any junior eligibility remaining. According to the WHL, Richards “will be required to serve the remaining six games of his suspension during the 2019-20 season should he continue his playing career.” . . .

Barfoot hasn’t played since being hit by Richards and isn’t expected back for the early part of the Giants’ second-round series. They open against the Victoria Royals with games in Langley, B.C., on Friday and Saturday. . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia reported Wednesday that Vancouver D Bowen Byram didn’t skate for a second straight day. “GM Barclay Parneta says it is minor illness” and that Byram is expected to practice today and play Friday. . . . Giants F Yannik Valenti also didn’t skate Wednesday. . . .

Sportsnet will televise the first three games of the second-round series between the Prince Albert Raiders and Saskatoon Blades. . . . Games 1 and 2 are set for Friday (7 p.m. CST) and Sunday in Prince Albert (6 p.m. CST), with Game 3 in Saskatoon on Tuesday (7 p.m. CST). . . .

The Spokane Chiefs have added D Luke Gallagher, 18, to their roster as an AP. Gallagher, 18, had two assists in 22 games with the Chiefs earlier in the season. From Mead, Wash., he joined the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters in January, and recorded seven assists in 15 regular-season games and one in 12 playoff games.

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