WHL dumps inter-conference play, changes playoff format . . . Sasakamoose book well worth your time . . . Raiders’ radio voice steps aside

The WHL’s 2021-22 season won’t include any interlocking play between WHL2Eastern and Western conferences, which means, unfortunately, that fans in U.S. and B.C. division centres won’t get to see F Connor Bedard, the most-publicized prospect to enter the league in some time, live and in person. . . . Bedard is the first player to receive exceptional status in order to allow him to claim a full-time WHL roster spot as a 15-year-old. Bedard, who will turn 16 on July 17, has 12 goals and 16 assists in 15 games for the Pats in the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season. He left the Pats mid-season in order to play for Canada at the IIHF U18 World championship in Texas, where he had seven goals and seven assists in 14 games. . . . Bedard is eligible for the NHL’s 2023 draft. . . . It also means that those same U.S. and B.C. division fans won’t get to see F Matthew Savoie of the Winnipeg Ice. He was denied exceptional status prior to the 2018-19 season, but still got into 22 games and earned seven assists. He spent 2020-21 with the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints, putting up 21 goals and 17 assists in 34 games. . . . Savoie is eligible for the NHL’s 2022 draft. . . .

The WHL didn’t offer a reason for dumping inter-conference play in the news release it issued on Tuesday following the conclusion of its annual general meeting. However, I think we can assume that it’s all about trying to save money after not seeing any playoff revenue for two seasons now. . . . The WHL also announced that it plans to open its regular season on Oct. 1, with each team playing a 68-game schedule within its own conference. . . . The WHL added that “with the anticipated lifting of health restrictions in all jurisdictions” it expects to play its games without attendance restrictions. . . . If all goes according to plan, the regular season will end on April 3. . . . That would mean the WHL playoffs would start on April 8. Keep in mind that because of the pandemic the WHL hasn’t featured a playoff game since May 13, 2019, when the host Prince Albert Raiders won the championship with a 3-2 OT victory over the Vancouver Giants. . . . The WHL has changed its playoff format, going back to a conference format that last was used in the spring of 2014. The two division winners will be seeded first and second, with the next six teams slotted three through eight. The first round will have one vs. eight, two vs. seven, etc., with teams reseeded by points after each round. . . . The WHL’s complete news release is right here.

With the Vegas Golden Knights having opened one Stanley Cup semifinal on VegasMonday night with a 4-1 victory over the visiting Montreal Canadiens, it seems the rest of the hockey world is learning what WHL fans have known for a long, long time. Yes, Kelly McCrimmon, the Golden Knights’ general manager, knows what he is doing.

Here’s columnist Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, writing about the Golden Knights prior to the start of the series:

“Just four years into their history, the stunning story of their rookie season is kind of yesterday’s news. Today, they are merely one of the best teams in the NHL. Owned by Bill Foley. The fans are of another level. The presidential work and so much other work done by George McPhee. The GM, McCrimmon, is the most effective in the NHL. Unafraid of making enormous trades. Unafraid of giant-sized signings. Unafraid of drafting players and then sending them packing in exchange for tangible assets. Unafraid of doing what others may think about, but rarely act upon.”

Doesn’t that pretty much describe the way McCrimmon operated when he owned the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings?

Simmons’ complete piece is right here.

SasakamooseIf you are in the market for something to read, may I suggest you take a gander at Call Me Indian, a book that was published last month and tells the story of Fred Sasakamoose. What’s it all about? Well, the subtitle pretty much tells it all — From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL’s First Treat Indigenous Player. . . . To think that Sasakamoose went from playing hockey and trying just to survive at a residential school in northern Saskatchewan to the lineup of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks in a few short years almost beggars belief. But he did just that, and a whole lot more. . . . Considering all that is happening these days involving residential schools and their history, both here and in the U.S., this really is a timely read. . . . Sasakamoose, who died of COVID-19 on Nov. 20 so didn’t live to see his book published, doesn’t go easy on himself either. He bares his heart and soul, including his issues with alcohol and parenting. In fact, if there is a hero in this book it isn’t Sasakamoose, rather it’s his long-suffering wife Loretta with whom he had nine children. . . . Give this book a try; I guarantee it’ll stay with you for a long time after you’re finished with it.

ICYMI, the CFL’s board of governors voted Monday to have the league’s nine CFLteams begin a 14-game regular season on Aug. 5. The season is to begin with a rematch of the last Grey Cup game — the Winnipeg Blue Bombers beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 33-12, in Calgary on Nov. 24, 2019. . . . The CFL hasn’t played a game since then because of the pandemic. . . . The 2021 season is to open with that rematch being played in Winnipeg. . . . The 2021 Grey Cup game is to be played in Hamilton on Dec. 12. . . . Training camps are to open on July 10, with players needing to report and go through a quarantine process that will be decided in conjunction with local health officials. . . . There won’t be any exhibition games. . . . Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun takes a look at the CFL situation right here. . . . BTW, the Labour Day Classic in Regina is scheduled for Sept. 5, with the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg on Sept. 11. In other words, all is almost right with the world.


Abbotsford Aces? Fraser Valley Falcons? The Vancouver Canucks are asking hockey fans in the Fraser Valley what they should name the AHL franchise that is to begin play in Abbotsford in the fall. The Canucks are moving their AHL affiliate, formerly the Utica Comets, to Abbotsford. . . . Daniel Wagner of vancouverisawesome.com has more right here.

Eric Bélanger has signed on as the first head coach in the history of the Trois-TRLionsRivières Lions, an expansion ECHL franchise that will be affiliated with the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens. . . . Bélanger, 43, spent the previous two seasons as the head coach of the midget AAA Chevaliers de Lévis. . . . His playing career included 820 NHL regular-season games split between the Los Angeles Kings, Carolina Hurricanes, Atlanta Thrashers, Minnesota Wild, Washington Capitals, Phoenix Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers. . . . In 2008-09, he was teammates with Marc-André Bergeron with the Minnesota Wild. Bergeron now is the Lions’ general manager.


The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, a 20-team junior B league, kijhlsaid Monday that it will open its 2021-22 season on Oct. 1 and wrap things up on Feb. 20. . . . “All 20 of the KIJHL’s member clubs will complete a 42-game regular season schedule that includes eight games against divisional opponents and two games each against teams in the opposing division within the same conference,” the league said in a news release. . . . That means that the Spokane Braves will be back after not operating in 2020-21 due to the U.S.-Canada border being closed to non-essential traffic. . . . The KIJHL news release is right here.

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JUST NOTES: Trevor Redden, the play-by-play voice of the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders for the past four seasons, is leaving the position, citing wanting to prioritize “a different work-life balance, and being able to spend more time with family and friends.” He made the announcement via social media on Tuesday. Redden said that he will be remaining in Prince Albert where he works with Pattison Media Ltd. . . . Former Moose Jaw Warriors head coach Mike Stothers has joined the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks as an assistant coach. He spent the previous five seasons as head coach of the AHL’s Ontario Reign. Stothers, 59, was the Warriors’ head coach for three seasons (2011-14). . . .

The junior B Creston Thunder Cats of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League have signed Bill Rotheisler, their general manager and head coach, to a one-year deal through 2021-22. Rotheisler is preparing for his second season in Creston, although his first season amounted to only three games because of the pandemic. If you aren’t familiar with Rotheisler’s story, including his battle with lymphatic cancer, Google is your friend. . . . Serge Lajoie, who spent one season (2018-19) as head coach of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, has been named head coach of Alberta’s male U16 team. Lajoie also is the head coach of OHA Edmonton’s U18 prep team.


WHL title-winning coach out of work . . . Tigers’ Fox trots to a new position . . . Good read on Broncos’ trek to Vegas, too


F Tomáš Netík (Medicine Hat, 2000-01) signed a one-year contract with Košice (Slovakia, Extraliga). Last season, with Medveščak Zagreb (Croatia, Erste Bank Liga), he had 15 goals and 30 assists in 49 games. . . .

G Leland Irving (Everett, 2003-08) signed a one-year contract with Bolzano (Italy, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, in six games with the San Diego Gulls (AHL), he was 1-3-0, 3.47, .909.


Steve Konowalchuk, who guided the Seattle Thunderbirds to the WHL’s 2016-17 championship, is unemployed after one season as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks. They dismissed Konowalchuk some time last week but only revealed it late Friday at the NHL draft in Dallas. . . . Konowalchuk, 45, was the Thunderbirds’ head coach for six seasons.

“The Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl rings all have the motto ‘We all we got, we all we need’ inscribed on the side,” notes Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “Well, except for that one ring they had specially made for Robert Di Nero.”

Headline at BorowitzReport.com: “Philadelphia Eagles accept Mueller’s offer to celebrate with him.”

The Medicine Hat Tigers announced Friday that Bobby Fox, an assistant coach for two Tigers Logo Officialseasons, now is the team’s director of player personnel. He replaces Carter Sears, who isn’t returning after one season with the Tigers. . . . Fox, who is from Calgary, joined the Tigers from the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers, where he had been assistant GM and associate coach. . . .  Shaun Clouston, the Tigers’ general manager and head coach, is left with one assistant coach, in Joe Frazer. . . . Clouston told Taking Note that he will add another assistant coach “if we find a good fit.”

I didn’t watch any of the NHL draft — not on Friday or Saturday. But I doubt that there is a drafted player who is a better story than F Jermaine Loewen of the Kamloops Blazers. He was selected by the Dallas Stars at No. 199 and, yes, Tom Gaglardi owns the NHL franchise and is majority owner of the Blazers. If you aren’t familiar with Loewen’s story, get thee to Google and check it out. On top of all that, he’s always got a smile on his face and he’s an engaging conversationalist. He’s also a power forward who, if he doesn’t make it to the NHL, will leave a trail of bruises along the way.

I noted somewhere that there were only 20 WHL players selected over the seven rounds — only four of the first 82 selections were from the WHL. It could be that this was a down draft for the WHL, or maybe more NHL execs are taking advantage of a part of the CBA that gives them four years to sign European and NCAA players, while they only hold a CHL player’s rights for two years.

The fact that neither the Kelowna Rockets nor the Portland Winterhawks — two teams with proven records of producing solid pros — didn’t have even one player taken may sum up the WHL’s weekend in Dallas.

You may have noticed that the victory parades saluting the Washington Capitals and Golden State Warriors were held on the same day. As Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe, noted: “Well, that’s something that will never happen in New York City.” . . . Hough, again: “Trump no doubt expects to see his face on a coin. Except Canada already has the loonie.” . . . One more from Hough: “Alex Ovechkin is reportedly the first Russian to lead his team to a championship in Washington, DC. Well, maybe the second.”

Let’s be honest. The biggest winner of Washington’s Stanley Cup title was Barry Trotz, and it isn’t even close. Trotz, the fifth-winningest regular-season coach in NHL history, had a contract with the Capitals that reports say paid him US$1.5 million per season. Winning the championship earned him a two-year extension that would have added $300,000 per season to that total. Instead, Trotz walked over to the New York Islanders and got a deal that reportedly is five years in length and pays at least $4 million a season.

Ryan Howse, who sniped 51 times for the Chilliwack Bruins (remember them?) in 2010-11, is back in the coaching game. He is on board with the minor midget Cariboo Cougars, a new team that will play out of Prince George. He will work alongside head coach Brian Toll and assistant Chase Astorino. Howse has coached in Prince George, with the Coast Inn of the North Cougars, a midget Tier 1 team that he guided to a provincial title, and the BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings.

There was a report that the Golden State Warriors went through US$900,000 in champagne after winning the NBA title. As Vancouver comic Torben Rolfsen pointed out: “That barely gets Alex Ovechkin through lunch.”

So . . . you are of the opinion that there are too many junior hockey teams in Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest, do you? Well, guess what? Here come a few more. . . . The Western Provinces Hockey Association, which represents itself as the Canadian Division of the pay-to-play Western States Hockey League, is setting up shop in places like Edson and Hinton, Alta., and Meadow Lake, Sask. . . . The Edson Aeros have signed Bernie Lynch as head coach. Lynch, who has extensive coaching experience in Europe, was on the Regina Pats’ coaching staff for a couple of seasons (1988-90).

RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com wonders: “If people on foot are called pedestrians, why aren’t people on bikes called pedalestrians?”

Kevin Mitchell of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix was in Vegas with 10 surviving members of the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos for the NHL awards night. When Mitchell writes it, you know it’s hammer on nail, and that’s the case again with this one. . . . It’s all right here.

Here’s a recent tweet from forward Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks: “Just tried a corndog for the first time . . . Man, God Bless America!”

A drumroll, please, for three hits from Cam Hutchinson of the Saskatoon Express: “Nice of Trump to consider pardoning Muhammad Ali. Clearly no one told Trump that Ali’s conviction was overturned in 1971. Wasn’t that the same year Canada burned down the White House? . . . I think we could still take them — in a beauty pageant between our PM and their Prez. . . . I wonder when Putin will invite the Capitals to the Kremlin.”

Blazers set to introduce new GM . . . Thunderbirds, Blades make deal . . . Flames add Huska to coaching staff


F Jan Dalecký (Swift Current, 2007-09) signed a one-year contract extension with Herning (Denmark, Metal Ligaen). This season, he had 15 goals and 23 assists in 45 games. . . .

F Rudolf Červený (Regina, 2007-09) signed a one-year contract with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, KHL). This season, with Hradec Králové (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had 21 goals and 17 assists in 49 games. He led his team in goals, was second in points, and was fourth in the league in goals. . . .

F Josh Nicholls (Saskatoon, 2008-13) signed a one-year contract with Kunlun Red Star Beijing (China, KHL). This season, with Litvinov (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had two assists in eight games. He signed with Storhamar (Norway, GET-Ligaen) on Nov. 19 and had 13 goals and seven assists in 22 games.


The Kamloops Blazers are poised to introduce their new general manager at a news conference this morning (Friday).

A source familiar with the situation told Taking Note on Thursday afternoon that Matt Kamloops1Bardsley will be the new general manager.

Bardsley, who has been with the Portland Winterhawks since 1999, would replace Stu MacGregor, who has been reassigned to the scouting staff of the NHL’s Dallas Stars. MacGregor took over as the GM in Kamloops after Craig Bonner left six games into the 2015-16 season. Bonner also is on the Stars’ scouting staff.

Tom Gaglardi, who owns the Stars, is the majority owner of the Blazers. The four minority owners, all former Blazers players, are Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla, Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor.
Bardsley, 46, has been Portland’s assistant general manager for the past four seasons.

He grew up in San Jose, and moved to Portland in 1987, getting work at the Valley Ice Arena in Beaverton. That facility was Portland’s practice facility. One thing led to another and Bardsley started scouting for the WHL team in 1999.

He moved up to director of player personnel prior to 2008-09, then was named director of hockey operations in time for the 2010-11 season.

In Kamloops, Bardsley takes over a franchise that needs a head coach, lead assistant coach and a director of player personnel.

Don Hay, the head coach for the past four seasons, now is in an advisory role. The Blazers also announced on May 10 that Mike Needham, an assistant coach with the Blazers since 2010, and Matt Recchi, the director of player personnel for 10 seasons, wouldn’t have their contracts renewed.

The present owners have been in control for 11 seasons. In that time, the Blazers have missed the playoffs four times and lost in the first round on five occasions. They have missed the playoffs in three of the past five seasons, including this season.

Since losing in the WHL’s championship final in the spring of 1999, Kamloops has won three playoff series, and has advanced past the second round on one occasion, when it reached the Western Conference final in 2013.

The Seattle Thunderbirds have traded F Nakodan Greyeyes, 17, to the Saskatoon Blades Saskatoonfor a conditional sixth-round selection in the WHL’s 2020 bantam draft. . . . Greyeyes, from Winnipeg, was a sixth-round pick in the 2016 bantam draft, but has yet to sign a WHL contract. . . . This season, he had 24 goals and 29 assists in 36 games with the Winnipeg-based Rink Hockey Academy midget prep team. He also was pointless in two games with the MJHL’s Dauphin Kings.

The Saskatoon Blades have signed D Marek Schneider, 15, to a WHL contract. Schneider was a second-round selection by the Blades in the 2018 WHL bantam draft. From Prince Albert, he had three goals and 22 points in 30 games with the bantam AA Prince Albert Raiders this season. . . . Schneider expects to play with the midget AAA Prince Albert Mintos in 2018-19. He is a younger brother to D Braden Schneider of the Brandon Wheat Kings.

The Everett Silvertips have named F Connor Dewar as their captain for the 2018-19 season. Dewar, who will turn 19 on June 26, is preparing for his fourth season with Everett. This season, as an alternate captain, he had 38 goals and 30 assists in 68 games. . . . He succeeds D Kevin Davis and F Matt Fonteyne, both of whom have played out their junior eligibility, as the Silvertips’ captain. Davis and Fonteyne were co-captains this season.

The five-part series — NHL Under Oath — that TSN has been running this week continued Thursday as Rick Westhead, the senior correspondent, continues to shine a light on the league and its reaction to brain injuries. There is a story available right here, along with a video, none of which is at all favourable towards the NHL.

Meanwhile, The Globe and Mail takes the NHL to task in an editorial that is right here.


Ryan Huska, a former WHL player and coach, has moved up to the NHL’s Calgary Flames as an assistant coach where he will work under head coach Bill Peters. Huska, 42, has spent four seasons coaching the Flames’ AHL affiliate — one season with the Adirondack Flames and the past three with the Stockton Heat. Before that, he was with the Kelowna Rockets for 12 seasons, the last seven as head coach. . . . As a player, he spent four seasons (1991-95) with the Kamloops Blazers and won three Memorial Cup titles. . . . He also won one Memorial Cup as a coach — he was an assistant with Kelowna in 2004. . . . There’s more on Huska, from George Johnson of calgaryflames.com, right here.

Todd Nelson, who played four seasons (1986-90) with his hometown Prince Albert Raiders, has signed a three-year contract as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Dallas Stars. In the coaching game since 2002-03, Nelson, 49, has spent the past three seasons as head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins, the AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings.

Brad Lauer is out after three seasons as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning. The team announced that it “has mutually agreed to part ways” with Lauer. At the same time, the Lightning announced that it had fired associate coach Rick Bowness. . . . Lauer, from Humboldt, Sask., was an assistant coach with the WHL’s Kootenay Ice for five seasons (2002-07). He also has been an assistant coach in the NHL with the Ottawa Senators and Anaheim Ducks.

Jason Rogers has signed on as director of hockey operations and head coach of the White Rock Whalers, who are preparing for their first season in the junior B Pacific Junior Hockey League, which now features 12 teams. . . . This season, Rogers coached the midget A1 Vancouver Thunderbirds to a provincial title.