Rockets dinged by positive test . . . Brandon to get hockey academy, rink . . . P.A. moves closer to three new arenas

Someone within the Kelowna Rockets organization has tested positive for RocketsCOVID-19, with one other individual identified as a close contact. The WHL announced Thursday that “the positive test result was discovered during the initial return-to-play testing phase.” . . . That means that person will self-isolate, as will the person who was found to be a close contact. . . . The Rockets hadn’t yet moved into team activities, so at this point their schedule won’t feel any impact from these positive tests. . . . The Rockets and Victoria Royals are headquartered in Kelowna as the five B.C. Division teams prepare for a return to play. The Rockets’ players are with billets, while the Royals are staying in a hotel owned by the GSL Group, which also owns the WHL team. . . . The Royals and Rockets are scheduled to meet in Kelowna on March 26 in the division’s first game of the developmental season. At this point, the Rockets’ schedule hasn’t needed to be changed. . . .

The three other B.C. teams — the Kamloops Blazers, Prince George Cougars and Vancouver Giants — are centred in Kamloops. The Blazers are with billets; the Cougars and Giants are in a hotel owned by Tom Gaglardi, the Blazers’ majority owner who also owns the NHL’s Dallas Stars. . . . The Blazers, Cougars and Giants have been cleared to begin skating and, in fact, were on the ice for the first time in Kamloops last night. . . .

Steve Ewen of Postmedia tweeted Thursday that Giants F Cole Shepard has an undisclosed injury and that GM Barclay Parneta has said Shepard, 19, isn’t likely to play in this 24-game set. Shepard has 11 goals and 18 assists in 2019-20 after having hip surgery in May 2019. That was his first season with Vancouver after playing with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees.


Ladder


F Seth Jarvis of the Portland Winterhawks was tied for the AHL scoring lead with 11 points in nine games when he had to leave the Chicago Wolves, who are affiliated with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes.

F Connor Zary of the Kamloops Blazers had seven points in nine games with the AHL’s Stockton Heat, an affiliate of the NHL’s Calgary Flames, when he had to leave, too.

Obviously, both were doing just fine in their first tastes of pro hockey. But under the terms of the NHL-CHL agreement (aka the pro-junior agreement) Jarvis and Zary had to return to their WHL clubs. Drafted players under the age of 20 have two options — play in the NHL or return to major junior.

However, there could be interesting times ahead for that agreement, which expired after the 2019-20 season, but was extended for a year because of the pandemic.

There long has been a feeling among NHL executives and scouts that exceptional 18- and 19-year-old players should be allowed to play in the AHL once they are seen as having nothing left to prove in major junior. At the same time, major junior operators don’t want anything to do with such exceptions because they don’t want to prematurely lose their best players.

This is going to be worth watching over the next while.

Frank Seravalli has a whole lot more on this situation right here.


Drivers


Jared Jacobson isn’t about to let the ice melt under his feet. The new owner of the Brandon Wheat Kings — he purchased the WHL team from Kelly McCrimmon in September — is building a new ice surface in Brandon and also will open a hockey academy in the city. . . . Jacobson is CEO and president of the Jacobson and Greiner Group of Companies. . . . Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun reports that the new facility that will be home to the Western Canadian Hockey Academy “will include a National Hockey League-sized ice surface, three shooting bays on ice, a performance centre, middle-years classroom, six-lane 100-metre track and on-ice video training.” . . . Jacobson is hopeful that this will do something to keep younger hockey players at home longer. As he told Bergson: “For me it’s about developing players and keeping people in the centres they grew up in. Time flies by for families, and I just look at when kids are 12, 13, 14, it’s tough to leave home . . . I just wanted to look at a hybrid model to help the mid-market centres keep kids if they want to have another choice in their years of hockey to stay local and develop. I think it’s just a great fit, and it’s been well received by Hockey Brandon. I’m so happy for that because we wanted to create an opportunity, not a conflict.” . . . Players who attend WCHA will play for their minor hockey teams. The academy will ice teams — the Wolves — in the spring. . . . Bergson’s complete story is right here.


Hey, who knew that Saskatchewan was a province of such riches?

No sooner had I wondered here yesterday whether Regina or Saskatoon would be the first city with a new arena than I received a note informing me that “you forgot the third entry in the race: PA. They might even be in the lead.”

Yes, it’s true. And, yes, Prince Albert is in the lead. And it isn’t close!

Prince Albert is working towards a facility that will include three arenas — one with 4,500 seats and two others, each with an NHL-sized ice surface and perhaps 800 seats. Also included will be an aquatic centre with wave pool, water slides and a whole lot more.

That is Phase 1 of the project, and it might be ready late in 2023.

Phase 2 will include a new home for the WHL’s Raiders, with 20 corporate boxes and a banquet room. Opening date? Sometime in 2024.

The total cost is likely to run around $140 million.

Work already has started on getting the site ready for construction, which is to begin late this fall.

Now back to Saskatchewan and all that money . . .

You will recall that Regina now is home to Mosaic Stadium, a football facility that opened in 2017 and cost in the neighbourhood of $278 million. . . . And let’s not forget Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw that opened in 2011 — yes, it already has been almost 10 years — and cost $61.2 million to build.

Hey, Swift Current, are you getting in on this, too?


Toby Boulet sees the contradiction and, seriously, it’s hard not to. While the Alberta government studies a private member’s bill that would raise some speed limits to 120 km/h from 110 km/h, another private member’s bill that would promote organ and tissue donation didnn’t make the cut so won’t get to the floor this spring. . . . In fact, as Boulet said, “It’s not going to happen for a long, long time.” . . . Unfortunately. . . . Yes, one bill is certain to lead to more accidents and deaths, while the other would save lives, providing people with the opportunity to enjoy extended lives. . . . Boulet has been a leading proponent for organ donation in Western Canada since his son, Logan, died as a result of the bus crash involving the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos on April 6, 2018. Logan had registered as an organ donor and his organs went to six people. . . . Colette Derworiz of The Canadian Press has more on this story right here.


The AJHL announced Thursday night that it has “completed a fourth round of testing in its return-to-play plan with no positive COVID-19 results across 391 players and staff.” . . . There have been 1,532 tests conducted to day and the weekly tests will continue through the end of the season.


The QMJHL’s Baie-Comeau Drakkar had two players come up positive on Thursday, so the team has had to pull out of a protected environment event — that’s what the league calls its scheduled events where three or four teams play in one city — that was to run in Sherbrooke from March 19-24. The Chicoutimi Sagueneens and Sherbrooke Phoenix now will play each other four times over that stretch. . . . Meanwhile, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies will be without general manager/head coach Mario Pouliot indefinitely after he suffered a heart attack. Brad Yetman has taken over as the interim head coach.


Justin McElroy, CBC Vancouver — 622 cases of #COVID19 announced in B.C. today, as the province is now at its highest rolling average of new cases since January 12. . . . Hospitalizations up to 286, a 32% increase in one month. . . . Eight new deaths.

——

CBC News — Alberta reports 505 new cases of COVID-19 and 1 more death. The province has identified 91 new variant of concern cases which account for 12% of all active cases.


March Madness got rolling in Indianapolis with play-in games on Thursday, but it is without six game officials who were to have worked the tournament. One of them tested positive and contact tracing impacted the other five. . . . The NCAA had four other officials on standby, so those four now are in the regular rotation.



The AHL’s Utica Comets were to have met the visiting Rochester Americans tonight (Friday), however the game has been postponed. According to the league, the move was made due to COVID-19 protocols involving the Comets, who are affiliated with the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. In this pandemic season, the Canucks also are sharing the Comets with the St. Louis Blues.




If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: The Northern Alberta Xtreme announced Thursday that Adam Stuart has taken over as the head coach of the academy’s U15 team for 2021-22. He had been on the staff of the BCHL’s Cranbrook Bucks after working for two seasons as an assistant coach with Edge Academy’s U18 prep team. . . . Kevin Undershute, who played four WHL seasons (2004-08) with the Medicine Hat Tigers and Portland Winterhawks, has signed on as an assistant coach alongside Stuart.


Wings

Ex-WHLer needs kidney; can you help? . . . Who gets new arena first — Regina or Saskatoon? . . . Cancer claims Hartnell at 48

Ryan Smith, who spent four seasons (1991-95) in the WHL, needs a kidney — the sooner, the better. Smith, 46, played with the Brandon Wheat Kings, Lethbridge Hurricanes and Prince George Cougars, totalling 158 points, including 131 assists, in 274 games before going on to the U of Manitoba Bisons. . . . A married father of two young sons, Smith and his family live in Lavington, B.C., which is near Vernon. . . . He was diagnosed with IgA Nephropathy (aka Berger’s disease) about four years ago and has been on dialysis for almost two years. . . . Smith is on the deceased donor list, but is hoping to shorten what could be at least a four-year wait by finding a live donor. He thought he had found a live donor at one point; however, 10 months into the testing process the potential donor was found to have medical issues that short-circuited things, something that sometimes happens. . . . If you are interested in being a kidney donor, the contact information for the Living Kidney Donor Program at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver is further down in this post. . . . Roger Knox of the Vernon Morning Star has Smith’s story right here.


So . . . I’m wondering who is going to win the race — Regina or Saskatoon? . . . PatsShaun Semple, who with his father, Gavin, now owns the Regina Pats lock, stock and barrel, says it’s time that the Saskatchewan capital had a new arena. As hard is it is to believe, the home of the Pats is 44 years of age and, as Shaun told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post, “it’s getting tired. . . . There needs to be a new (arena) for sure.” . . . Harder’s complete story is right here, and what it tells me is that the conversation has started. . . .

Meanwhile, there has been talk in Saskatoon about a possible new arena, one Bladesthat would replace the SaskTel Centre, for a couple of years now. The home of the Blades is 33 years old and getting close to its best before date, if it isn’t already there. . . . A new facility likely would be built somewhere in the downtown area. In October, Phil Tank of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix wrote: “A funding plan for the project has not been finalized, but the cost is estimated between $172 million and $178 million. If the arena project is combined with a new downtown convention centre, the cost rises to between $330 million and $370 million.” . . . While Blades owner Mike Priestner hasn’t said a whole lot publicly about it, he has let it be known that he wants to be involved. Colin Priestner, the Blades’ president and general manager, appeared in front of Saskatoon city council on Monday and, according to Kevin Mitchell of the StarPhoenix, “made a pitch for his group to take a larger role in SaskTel Centre’s operations.” . . . Mitchell’s story is right here.



Two WHL players, both of them eligible for the NHL’s 2021 draft, have had their developmental seasons come to an end. . . . The Red Deer Rebels announced Wednesday that F Jayden Grubbe, the team captain, needs knee surgery (ACL) and won’t play again this season. According to the team, Grubbe “is expected to make a full recovery in time for the start of the 2021-22 season.” Grubbe, 18, was injured in the first period of a game against the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes on Friday. That was his fifth game of this season; he had a goal and two assists. . . . Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Ice revealed that F Carson Lambos “has left the Regina hub and returned to Winnipeg for a medical procedure. . . . More information will be provided at a later date.” Lambos, 18, was pointless in two games this season. He is a potential first-round selection in the NHL draft.


Rob Hartnell, who played three seasons (1990-93) in the WHL, has died. He was 48 when he died of cancer on Friday in Camrose, Alta. . . . Hartnell played 143 games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes over parts of three seasons, then finished up his WHL career by putting up 59 points, including 25 games, in 48 games with the Tri-City Americans. . . . All told, he had 227 points, 98 of them goals, in 191 regular-season WHL games. . . . He went on to play professionally in the ECHL, WPHL and in Europe. He wound up his playing career in the Chinook Hockey League with the Bentley Generals. . . . He had been coaching the junior B Wetaskiwin Icemen until having to step aside for health reasons prior to the 2019-20 season. . . . There is a complete obituary right here.


Kris Knoblauch, a former WHL player and coach, made his NHL head-coaching debut on Wednesday night, running the New York Rangers’ bench as they drubbed the visiting Philadelphia Flyers, 9-0. . . . Knoblauch is the head coach of the Hartford Wolf Pack, the Rangers’ AHL affiliate. He was called into New York after the Rangers’ coaching staff was ruled out because of COVID-19 protocol. That took out Rangers’ head coach David Quinn and assistants Jacques Martin, David Oliver and Greg Brown. Gord Murphy, Hartford’s associate coach, and Chris Drury, the Rangers’ associate general manager, were behind New York’s bench with Knoblauch, 42. He played with the Red Deer Rebels, Edmonton/Kootenay Ice and Lethbridge Hurricanes (1996-99), and later coached with the Prince Albert Raiders and Kootenay (2006-12).


So . . . how are things going with the Buffalo Sabres? Well, they’ve lost 12 in a row and been outscored 50-19 in the process. . . . The Buffalo News published its latest NHL power rankings earlier this week and they had the Sabres in 32nd place. Yes, 32nd . . . behind the Seattle Kraken, the expansion club that won’t begin play until next season. . . . Oh yes, the Sabres canned head coach Ralph Krueger on Wednesday.



There will be a new hockey conference in play come the 2021-22 season and it promises to be a good one. The Prep Hockey Conference will feature six of the top prep programs, each with a history of producing NCAA and NHL players. . . . The six are Shattuck-St. Mary’s School (Minnesota), St. Andrew’s College (Toronto), Northwood School (New York), Culver Academies (Indiana), Mount St. Charles Academy (Rhode Island) and South Kent School (Connecticut). All six programs have developed NHLers and top-end NCAA players throughout their histories. . . . Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News has more right here.


The Wheat City Whiskey Jacks are going to play a second straight season without making even one appearance on their home field in Brandon. The Whiskey Jacks will play out of Fargo, ND., for a second straight Expedition League season because of the U.S.-Canada border being closed to non-essential travel. . . . Last season, the league played with six teams as four opted out; it now has 12 teams, all of whom have said they’re in for 2021. . . . The Expedition League is a collegiate summer circuit whose season opens in late May. . . . Thomas Friesen of The Brandon Sun has more on the Whiskey Jacks right here.



Zach16

——

If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.

——

Vic2


JUST NOTES: The BCHL’s Cranbrook Bucks have lost one assistant coach and added two others to their staff. Adam Stuart has left to join the coaching staff at the North Alberta Xtreme. The Bucks have added Ehren Menard and Todd Skirving to general manager/head coach Ryan Donald’s staff. Menard has spent six seasons with the Knights of Columbus program in Edmonton. Skirving plays for the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers, who opted out of the 2020-21 season. He played in the BCHL with the Prince George Spruce Kings and Vernon Vipers, then spent four seasons at the Rochester Institute of Technology before turning pro.


Suspect

When do fans get welcomed back to arenas? . . . Second thoughts for some NBAers? . . . BCIHL won’t start before Jan. 15

John Matisz of The Score spent time talking with “five experts from the fields of epidemiology, infectious diseases, and virology.” The conversations dealt with the NHL and its proposed return to play, hub cities, positive tests and a whole lot more. . . . If you’re a hockey fan, or just a sports fan, this is interesting stuff, and it’s all right here. You will want to read this to its conclusion, because the final question is: “Would it be wise for the NHL — or any other sports league, for that matter — to welcome fans back into arenas before a vaccine is readily available?”


The NBA’s back-to-play plan calls for 22 teams to gather in Orlando, Fla., starting on July 7, with its championship final possibly running through Oct. 13. Players would be required to stay in their bubble without family or friends until at least Aug. 30. . . . But now some players are talking about not reporting. Malcolm Brogdon, a guard with the Indiana Pacers who sits on the Players Association Executive Committee told The J.J. Redick Podcast this week the he has “talked to a few guys that are super-interested in sitting out, possibly. . . . Some guys are gonna say, for health reasons and the long-term effects that we don’t understand about COVID, I want to sit out. Other guys are gonna say, the black community and my people are going through too much for me to basically be distracted with basketball. . . . I think it’s a matter of perspective, (but) guys are gathering to really talk about and dive into the idea of not playing.”


Hugs


The U of Houston suspended all voluntary workouts on Friday after six student-athletes tested positive. The six were symptomatic and have been placed in isolation while tracing is undertaken. . . . It’s not known what sports the athletes are involved with, but the football and basketball teams had been cleared to begin workouts. . . . In advance of athletes returning, the school had decided to test only those who were symptomatic, rather than everyone who was coming back. . . . As of Friday evening, according to USA TODAY, 11 U.S. universities had student-athletes test positive. . . .

The Boston Bruins revealed on Friday that an unnamed player has tested positive for COVID-19 although he didn’t display any symptoms. He was tested prior to entering the NHL team’s practice facility, but has since tested negative twice. . . .

The 99-member Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association has cancelled its four fall 2020 national championships — golf, men’s and women’s soccer, and cross-country. . . .

A Romanian soccer league game between visiting Botosani and Universitatea Craiova was postponed on Friday after a member of Botosani’s medical team tested positive. . . . A Saturday game that had China Targoviste at Dinamo Bucharest also was postponed after Dinamo had a staff member come up positive. . . .

Six of the teams in baseball’s American Association are planning to open a 60-game regular season on July 3. That includes the Winnipeg Goldeyes, who will play, just not on their home field. The Chicago Dogs, Fargo-Moorehead RedHawks, Milwaukee Milkmen, Sioux Falls Canaries, St. Paul Saints and Winnipeg are going to play in hub cities. Two teams each will be assigned to Fargo, Milwaukee and Sioux Falls. The Goldeyes will play out of Fargo. . . .

Baseball’s New York-Penn League announced on Friday that the start of its 2020 season is being delayed indefinitely. It also has cancelled its All-Star Game. . . . The 14-team league is a Class A short-season league. Its season was to have opened on June 18. . . .

Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported on Friday that “two people involved in the game — one described as a major league pitching coach and one a 40-man roster player — have contracted COVID-19, multiple sources told The Post. No one would name the people who contracted the virus. But those aware of the situation say the pitching coach had the virus weeks ago and is now recovered. The 40-man roster player was described as having contracted the virus more recently, but with the belief that he has not infected anyone else involved in the game.” . . .

The PGA Tour Champions event scheduled for Calgary, Aug. 24-30, has been cancelled. The City of Calgary has revoked event permits through Aug. 31. That figured in the decision, as did various travel restrictions.


Headline on the Los Angeles Times’ website on Friday: L.A. schools police will return grenade launchers but keep rifles, armored vehicle.


Clinic


The five-team B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League has announced that its season won’t start before Jan. 15 “due to safety concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.” . . . According to a news release, the league has approved a tentative 12-game regular-season schedule, along with a modified playoff structure. . . . From a news release: “Individual BCIHL teams are permitted to explore exhibition game opportunities for the fall semester within the boundaries of their institution, facility, and BC Hockey and Hockey Canada Return to Play protocols.” . . . The league has teams at Selkirk College in Castlegar, Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Trinity Western University in Langley, the University of Victory and Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo.


With live games starting to re-appear on your TV, and with the NBA and NHL seemingly headed in that direction, Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, makes no bones about the fact that he doesn’t want to hear from fans who aren’t in attendance.

After a brief rant about how using mannequins or inflatable dolls as stand-ins for fans diminished the “total intellectual capital” of humankind, he wrote:

“I assume you are wondering at this point what might be worse than something that drains the inventory of human intellectual capital. Well, the idea of piping in crowd noise because there are no live fans to provide spontaneous crowd noise would fit that bill. The compelling thing about sports is that it is real; what is happening on the field or the court or the pitch or the ice is not some fakery or fantasy; it is there and it is happening in real time. Piping in ‘fake noise’ destroys that compelling element.”

Hey, he’s correct!

——

Here’s The Sports Curmudgeon closing Friday “by asking if this ever occurred to you: How did the people on Gilligan’s Island stay so happy episode after episode after they ran out of whatever supply of toilet paper they had on board?”

——

And here he is with his Thought for the Day, this one from Mark Twain: “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”


Adam Stuart has signed on as an assistant coach with the Cranbrook Bucks, who are preparing for their first BCHL season. Stuart, 31, spent the previous two seasons as an assistant coach with the Calgary-based EDGE school’s midget prep team. In Cranbrook, he’ll work alongside Ryan Donald, the Bucks’ general manager and head coach. . . . Stuart’s brother, Derek, is the general manager and head coach of the junior B Kimberley Dynamiters of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.


Scott Cunningham has left the AJHL’s Brooks Bandits after working as their assistant general manager and assistant coach. Cunningham spent six years in Brooks. . . . “I look forward to starting a new career and also being able to spend more time with my family,” Cunningham said in a news release. . . . Prior to joining the Bandits, he spent eight seasons as head coach of the Northern Pacific Hockey League’s Helena Bighorns.


Iron