WHL: Unanswered questions; maybe no playoffs . . . Moon to shine bright in Edmonton as veteran radio voice moves from Rebels to Oilers

A number of WHL management types made themselves available to media on Monday to expound upon the brief news release issued by the league on Friday afternoon.

The league, at that time, said it was “committed” to playing a 24-game WHL2schedule, but that it didn’t have a starting date, something that won’t be established until health officials in various jurisdiction give the OK.

“It is anticipated the approvals will be received soon,” the WHL news release read, hinting that perhaps it had received some inside information.

Three things are readily apparent: 1. There won’t be any fans in attendance at games; 2. Teams will play geographical/divisional rivals in weekend double- or tripleheaders in one venue; 3. The league hasn’t completely moved away from using some kind of bubble format.

Oh, and there likely won’t be anything resembling a championship playoff.

“There could be a divisional playoff,” Collin Priestner, the Saskatoon Blades’ president and general manager, told Pat McKay of CTV Saskatoon, “but I don’t think we have the ability to have a league championship at this point, given that we’ve got teams in different countries and the travel is going to be severely restricted.”

If the WHL is able to get a season started, then, it all will be about giving its players a chance to strut their stuff for the scouts.

Don Moores, the president of the Kamloops Blazers, told Radio NL in Kamloops: “We are going to bring our players in at the appropriate time. They will be part of a program to develop, which really is our mandate. We’ll figure it out based on what health authorities allow us to do.

“We are a development hockey league. We are the elite hockey development program in the world. That’s what our responsibility is.”

But, as Priestner pointed out to McKay, there remain many unanswered questions.

“From protocols, safety, insurance, logistics,” Priestner said. “How big rosters can be, or how do we bring in players if there’s injuries? How do we get a season in? What do we do if things get shut down in the provinces?”

Meanwhile, the Prince George Cougars, the most remotely located of the WHL’s 22 teams, doesn’t even know where it will be playing.

“I think it’s wide open to see if we will be playing games here or on the road or in a bubble format,” Mark Lamb, the Cougars’ general manager and head coach, told local reporters in a Zoom call. “We don’t have an exact date yet as to when we are going to start playing so that is still up in the air, but we do have a commitment from the league that we do have a 24-game schedule.”

And if you’re wondering who will be footing the bill for a return to play, Andy Beesley, the Cougars’ vice-president of business, had the answer.

“(The owners) are shouldering the entire cost,” he said. “For sure, when the players come to Prince George they will be put up with billet families, which we pay for, there is a tremendous amount of PPE and testing that we are on the hook for and, assuming that we are going into a bubble-type concept, wherever that may be, there will likely be hotel rooms, meal costs, player equipment, and staffing.”

Multiply that by 22 teams and, well, red ink is going to flowing like the South Thompson River in spring time.

So . . . what’s next?

Willie Desjardins, the general manager and head coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers, told Scott Roblin of CHAT-TV that there will be an update coming from the WHL on Jan. 22.

McKay’s complete story is right here.

Brendan Pawliw of myprincegeorgenow.com took part in a Zoom call in that city and his story is right here.


CamMoon

Who says you can’t go home again?

Cam Moon, a native of Edmonton, is leaving Red Deer after 22 years as the radio voice of the WHL’s Rebels, to handle play-by-play duties on Edmonton Oilers’ regional broadcasts.

Moon had been with the Rebels since 1998, through 1,753 consecutive games — regular-season, playoff and Memorial Cup. He joined the Rebels after spending three seasons with the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers.

“Central Alberta hockey fans have had the pleasure of listening to his energetic spirit for 22 seasons,” Brent Sutter, the Rebels’ owner, general manager and head coach, said in a news release, “and we’re honoured we’ll continue to hear him on Alberta’s airwaves. This truly is a dream come true for Mooner.”

Moon, an immensely popular figure on the WHL media circuit, told Troy Gillard of rdnewsNOW: “It’s overwhelming, for sure. It’s a team I grew up watching in my hometown so I very much look forward to the opportunity, the challenge. I never thought this day would come, I really didn’t, nor was I really looking for it, but here it is . . .

“It’s exciting and I look forward to the next chapter, but it’s also a little sad in that one chapter’s closing. It’s definitely a dream job. If I had the ability to pick a radio play-by-play job with any of the National Hockey League teams, this would be my No. 1 choice.” 

With the Oilers, Moon moves into the seat vacated by Jack Michaels, who now will call the play of Edmonton regional TV games for Sportsnet, replacing Kevin Quinn. Michaels will return to radio for Oilers games that are national and for Edmonton playoff games.

Louie DeBrusk is the analyst on TV games, with Bob Stauffer doing the same on radio.

Quinn and Drew Remenda no longer are part of Oilers’ telecasts or broadcasts.

You are able to tune into 630 CHED in Edmonton to hear Moon call his first Oilers game on Wednesday night as they play host to the Vancouver Canucks.



Twins


THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

CBC News: Manitoba announces 133 new cases of COVID-19. That’s the lowest total in 6 days but still pushes the province’s 7-day average up slightly to 172. Health authorities are also reporting 3 more deaths.

CBC News: A big jump in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan with 412. The previous day’s total, which hadn’t been reported, was 307. The average for the 7 previous days was 290. The province is also reporting 8 additional deaths and hospitalizations are at an all-time high.

CTV Regina: Saskatchewan’s 7-day average for daily COVID-19 has doubled over the past 13 days. The weekly average dropped to 152 on Dec. 30, but it has increased each day since, hitting an all-time high of 307 Monday.

CBC News: Alberta reports 639 new COVID-19 cases and 23 more deaths. Across the province there were 13,917 active cases, with 811 people are being treated in hospitals for the illness, including 130 in ICU beds.

Richard Zussman, Global BC: There are 1,475 new cases of COVID-19, from Fri to Sat 538 new cases, Sat to Sun 507 new cases, Sun to Mon 430 new cases. There are now a total of 58,107 positive cases in BC. . . . There are 5,220 active cases of COVID in BC. There are 358 people in hospital with COVID, of whom 72 are in ICU. There are 7,313 people in active monitoring. . . . There have been 22 new COVID deaths over the weekend. There have been 1,010 COVID deaths in BC in total.

CBC News: Ontario is reporting 3,338 new cases of COVID-19, the 8th straight day above 3,000. The hot spots are Toronto (931), Peel Region (531) and York Region (241). The province is expected to announce new restrictions tomorrow to help curtail the spread.

CBC News: 21 new COVID-19 cases today in New Brunswick. The province has experienced a significant surge over the past week with 164 new cases, for a daily average of 23. For the previous 7 days, the total number of cases was 26, with a daily average of 3.7.

CNN, Monday, 2 p.m. PT: 375,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.

CNN, Monday, 7 p.m. PT: 376,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.

CNN, Monday, 1:30 p.m. PT: 22.5 million people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus.

CNN, Monday, 7 p.m. PT: 22.6 million people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus.

Anna Cabrera, CNN: At least two gorillas at San Diego Zoo test positive for COVID-19, first known cases among great apes. The zoo says three animals are currently showing symptoms and it is suspected that the primates were infected by an asymptomatic staff member.

——

The Vancouver Canucks, who cancelled all Sunday team activities because of COVID-19 protocols, were back on the ice on Monday morning. It seems that Sunday’s episode was the result of a false positive. . . . The Canucks are scheduled to open their regular season with games against the host Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday and Thursday. . . . The Dallas Stars, who shut things down last week after eight positive tests — six players and two staffers — are to return to the practice ice Tuesday. They also announced that practices will be closed to the media until further notice. . . . The Stars’ first three scheduled regular-season games have postponed, leaving them to open at the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jan. 19. . . .

The NBA’s coronavirus nightmare continues. Having postponed one game on Sunday, it had to do the same to a Monday night game and another scheduled for Tuesday. . . . There now have been a total of four games postponed. . . . The Miami Heat-Boston Celtics game scheduled for Sunday didn’t come off; neither did Monday’s game between the New Orleans Pelicans and host Dallas Mavericks. The visiting Celtics and Chicago Bulls won’t play tonight (Tuesday). . . . Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle writes: “The NBA started its season in the worst part of the pandemic, as post-Thanksgiving numbers surged, deaths spiked, and hospitals and frontline health care workers were absolutely overwhelmed. What we have seen in recent weeks makes last summer seem calm.” . . . We now wait to see if the same fate awaits the NHL. . . .

The Air Force Falcons have shut down their hockey program for at least two weeks after five players tested positive following a road trip during which the team played five games in seven days on the East Coast. Their home games for the next two weekends are off the schedule. . . .

Skate Canada has cancelled the 2021 National Skating Championships because of the “evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic across Canada.” . . . The Canadians were scheduled for Vancouver, Feb. 8-14. . . .


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.


Answers

Cougars’ executive: Virus and health officials in control . . . Canucks’ owner cans anthem singer . . . Wheat Kings add coaches


Hartley Miller, the analyst on Prince George Cougars’ home broadcasts and the king of radio in that city, weighs in right here on the pandemic-related road that the WHL is travelling. . . . Miller’s column includes a statement from Andy Beesley, the Cougars’ vice-president of business. In that statement, Beesley hits the nail smack on the head with this: “It is clear to everyone that the COVID virus and our Public Health Professionals will ultimately dictate what we can and can’t do.”

Beesley also said: “We believe the league will provide an update to our planning sometime within the next two weeks.”

Meanwhile, Don Moores, the Kamloops Blazers’ president and chief operating officer, told Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week that “at this point, we’re still firm in that date (Jan. 8) and if we have to move from it, we’ll from there. We are still trying to remain fluid with it and watch what’s going on.”

Hastings’ story is right here.



The BCHL’s Penticton Vees, who had one player test positive last week, said pentictonFriday that “all close contacts of the players, including Vees players and staff” have tested negative. . . . All close contacts will remain in quarantine until early next week when their 14 days will be up. . . . The BCHL, which is on pause right now, has had two positive tests to date. A player with the Surrey Eagles tested positive in October. . . . The league had hoped to resume play on Dec. 8, but those plans will have to change after restrictions that were handed down by the Provincial Health Office this week.


The junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey League announced Friday kijhlthat it has dropped all regular-season games through Dec. 31 due to “ongoing provincial restrictions limiting game play, team practices and participation of players over the age of 18.” . . . The 17 teams that are taking part this season are free to “conduct on-ice activities that abide by the Provincial Health Order” until Dec. 19, which signals the start of the league’s Christmas break. . . . The KIJHL had just gotten its regular season started — teams have played two, three or four games — when it had to shut things down.



How do you think the approaching NBA season might go? Here’s part of what Bill Reiter of CBS Sports wrote on Thursday:

“Though the league has prohibited team employees from discussing the reality, in private conversations there is a shared certainty that there will be many, many problems this upcoming season as players and team employees test positive and potentially whole teams are rendered unavailable for long stretches.”


Fisherman


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

CBC News: Manitoba is reporting 9 new deaths linked to COVID-19. There are 320 new COVID-19 cases in the province, while 2 cases were removed from Manitoba’s total due to data correction. 361 people are in hospital, including 55 people in intensive care.

CBC News: Saskatchewan is reporting 283 new cases of COVID-19 and 1 new deaths related to the illness. There are 4,116 known active cases in the province, of which 126 are currently in hospital. Saskatchewan’s 7-day average of daily new cases is 262.

CBC News: Canada surpasses 400,000 mark for number of COVID-19 cases with addition of 283 in Saskatchewan. To date, the country has seen 400,031 cases. Of them, 318,053 people have recovered and 69,508 cases are still active. There have been 12,470 fatalities.

CBC News: Alberta is reporting 1,828 new cases of COVID-19. There are now 18,243 known active cases in the province. 533 people are in hospital, including 99 in intensive care. Alberta is also reporting 15 new deaths related to COVID-19. . . . Alberta’s COVID-19 test positivity rate hits ‘grim milestone’ at more than 10%.

CBC News: B.C. is reporting 711 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 new deaths related to the illness. There are 9,050 known active cases in the province. 338 people are in hospital, including 76 in intensive care.

CBC News: Ontario reports 25 additional COVID-19 deaths and 1,780 new cases. The province’s average for the previous 7-days was 1,769. 633 of the new cases are in Toronto, 433 are in Peel Region and 152 are in York Region. More than 56,000 tests were completed.

CBC News: 28 more coronavirus fatalities are being reported in Quebec, along with 1,345 new COVID-19 cases. That’s a little below the province’s 7-day average of 1,377.

CBC News: Nova Scotia is reporting 15 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 117 known active cases in the province. 11 of the new cases are in the Central Zone, 3 are in the Northern Zone and 1 is in the Western Zone. No one is currently in hospital.

oregonlive.com: Oregon shatters daily coronavirus records: 2,176 cases, 30 fatalities. Previous one-day records were 1,669, less than a week ago, and 24, on Tuesday. Number of fatalities surpasses 1,000.

Washington State COVID-19 Bot: Washington State COVID-19 numbers for Wednesday, December 02, 2020: 2095 new positive case(s); 241 new hospitalization(s); 50 new death(s).

Forbes: COVID-19 Superspreader Wedding in Washington State Linked to 7 Deaths of People Who Didn’t Even Attend.

The New York Times: On Thursday, a single-day record was set in the U.S., with more than 217,000 new cases. It was one of many data points that illustrated the depth and spread of a virus that has killed more than 278,000 people in this country.


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.



Last week, the Brandon Wheat Kings promoted assistant coach Don BrandonWKregularMacGillivray to head coach, replacing Dave Lowry, who has joined the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets as an assistant coach. . . . On Friday, the Wheat Kings announced that they have added Todd Miller and Daniel Johnston to their coaching staff. . . . Miller, 42, is on board as an assistant coach and will be on the bench with MacGillivray. He was an assistant coach with the OHL’s Barrie Colts for 11 seasons and stepped in as head coach after Warren Rychel was fired in January. . . . Johnston, 28, is the Wheat Kings’ first video coach. He played 253 games over six seasons in the WHL (Portland, Lethbridge, 2007-13) before going on to play five seasons in the ECHL. . . . Mark Derlago remains on staff as an assistant coach and Tyler Plante is the goaltending coach.


Rare

Scattershooting on a Saturday night while wondering when to get out the snow shovel . . .

Scattershooting

The SJHL revealed Friday night that it has been given the OK for its teams to SJHLplay games “effective immediately.” Teams will be permitted to have a maximum of 150 fans at games, all of whom must wear masks. The league released a 24-game exhibition schedule Saturday night, with the first game scheduled for Thursday when the La Ronge Ice Wolves are to visit the Flin Flon Bombers. The two teams will meet four times in 10 days. Exhibition games will be played through Nov. 1.

With the Bombers being included, it tells us that the SJHL has received an exemption from government and health officials for the Bombers to travel in from Manitoba and for Saskatchewan teams to go into Manitoba. This isn’t a surprise, what with Flin Flon located pretty much atop the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border.

But remember that the Saskatchewan government has told curlers they aren’t to travel outside the province for games, nor are curlers from other provinces to travel into Saskatchewan for competition.

The WHL, which is planning on opening its regular season on Jan. 8, wants to have its five Saskatchewan teams play in a division with the two Manitoba teams — the Brandon Wheat Kings and Winnipeg Ice. But the WHL needs clearance for interprovincial play in order for that to happen.

Benny Walchuk of GX94 in Yorkton talked with Bill Chow, the SJHL president, and that interview is right here.


The BCHL has almost all of its teams playing exhibition games at the moment Wenatcheeas they prepare to open the regular season on Dec. 1. The exception is the Wenatchee, Wash., Wild, which isn’t involved because of U.S.-Canada border restrictions. . . . Instead, the Wild has scheduled a series of six scrimmages in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho about a three-hour drive from Wenatchee. . . . According to the Wild, the scrimmages will include “10-16 Western Hockey League players joining the Wild camp on a limited basis to participate in the scrimmages.” . . . Those scrimmages are scheduled for Oct. 22, 12:15 p.m.; Oct. 23, 7:15 p.m.; Nov. 6 and 7, and Nov. 13 and 14. Times for the latter four are TBA.



Nick Saban, the head coach of the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide, tested positive earlier in the week. But Saban, 68, turned in three negatives before Saturday so was on the sideline on Saturday night in a 41-24 road victory against No. 3 Georgia. Yes, that was Saban with his mask down around his chin getting in the face of an on-field official.

On Friday, Kurt Streeter of The New York Times wrote, in part:

This is, of course, an unpredictable disease. Saban is 68 years old, a particularly vulnerable age for this virus. But that does not seem to matter to major college football, which keeps twisting itself into knots, straining to rationalize playing games amid a pandemic that has led to at least 217,000 deaths in the United States — with no end in sight.

Even with infection hitting its most famous coach, the mind-set of the college game’s most vigorous enablers has not altered. They are bent on moving forward.

“He knows the risks,” they say. “Let’s keep going.”

“Move on.”

Streeter’s column is right here.


Here’s Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post in a column that explains who/what is in charge of the sports world these days:

What a tonic it would be to attend a live sporting event that features a prominent franchise.

“The problem, though, is that nobody calls the shots.

“Airborne particles that we cannot see will dictate a future we still cannot envision.

“Who knows what next week will bring, let alone next month or next year?

Take a look at the daily COVID figures, from coast to coast, and sigh.

“A long winter looms.”

The complete column is right here.


Snow

. . . or it could be you any morning this month!


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

Here’s Brad Dickson, a humorist who used to be a columnist with the Omaha World-Herald: “The mayor and county health director held a press conference where they said go ahead with your Halloween parties and trick or treat ‘just be smart about it.’ At what point do people stop getting the benefit of the doubt about being smart on Covid?”

——

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) has scheduled its regular season to open on Dec. 1 with all eight of its teams in a bubble in Omaha, Neb. The 26-game season will be split into two parts, with each team playing 10 games in the first three weeks of December in Omaha. . . . In the New Year, each team will play 16 games — eight home and eight away. . . . The NCHC comprises Colorado Springs, Denver, Miami, Minnesota Duluth, North Dakota, Omaha, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan. . . . From a news release: “Overall medical support and COVID-19 testing for all participating student-athletes, staff and officials in the Pod will be conducted through the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC), located in Omaha. Medical protocols and testing strategies for the entire season are currently being developed with top medical professionals from UNMC and the Global Center for Health Security.” . . . That news release is right here. . . .

The 11-team Atlantic Hockey Association is to open its regular season on Nov. 1. Each team will play 24 games and will have the ability to add four games. . . . From the Colonial Sports Network: “In an attempt to limit exposure of travel during the season, the AHA has divided 10 teams into eastern and western pods, with five teams in each geographical pod and Air Force standing alone on the outside looking in. The eastern pod consists of AIC, Army, Holy Cross, Bentley and Sacred Heart. Robert Morris finds itself in the western pod, joined by Canisius, Mercyhurst, RIT and Niagara.” That leaves Air Force to bounce back and forth between pods. . . .

Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times checks in: “Attention, Dan Mullen (the Florida football coach who wanted to ‘see 90,000 (fans) in The Swamp’ for the LSU game — only to have to postpone it because so many of his players tested positive for COVID-19): Your Karma of the Year Award awaits you down at the front desk. A gentle reminder: Just be sure when you come to pick it up you’re wearing a mask.” . . . More from Ms. Karma: Mullen announced on Saturday that he also has tested positive. . . .

Oulun Kärpät, a team in the Finnish Liiga, has been quarantined until Oct. 24 after one of its players tested positive. The test came back on Friday night. At least three games will have to be rescheduled. . . .

At least one ringette and two minor hockey organizations in Ottawa have suspended play until current restrictions are lifted. The Nepean Minor Hockey Association, West End Hockey League and the City of Ottawa Ringette Association have shut down. . . . At the time they suspended operations, 10 skaters, including coaches, were allowed on the ice at any one time, with only practices without spectators permitted. All dressing rooms are closed so players had to arrive with their gear on. . . . Hockey Eastern Ontario, which oversees the region’s amateur hockey, has had an undisclosed number of positive tests show up in players and volunteers. In a statement, Ottawa Public Health said, according to CBC, that recent contract tracing investigations have “identified confirmed transmissions and outbreaks between staff and players.” . . . The CBC piece is right here. . . .

Things have reached the point in Winnipeg where officials are talking about shutting down arenas if hockey fans and players don’t do a better job of following public health orders. “The warning comes as the city battles the worst surge of COVID-19 cases in the province since the beginning of the pandemic,” writes Sara Petz of CBC, “prompting Mayor Brian Bowman to urge people to think of others, and wear a face mask.” . . . At one point in a Friday news conference, Mayor Bowman said: “Wear a friggin’ mask.” . . . That story is right here.



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: In the past few days, the telephone scammers have been on the line from California, Idaho, Maine, Montana and New Jersey? Or might it be Agent Orange trying to get my vote? . . . He’s got endorsements from the Taliban and Kirstie Alley so how can anyone be undecided? . . . Wondering how many games your favourite WHL team might play in the 2021 season? Andy Beesley, the Prince George Cougars’ vice-president of business, told Hartley Miller of mypgnow.com and the GOAT 94.3: “As a baseline, I would expect to have 30-plus games, probably 34 games is a very minimum amount, maybe up to 50, but those details are yet to be determined.” . . . Bob Tory, the GM of the Tri-City Americans, told Myck Miller of KEPR-TV that “all our players have had their medicals done . . . we’ve been fortunate. We haven’t had one player test positive.” Tory said that while the Americans would love to have a full house for their opener in January, he isn’t counting on it. “No . . . we’re hoping that that’s the case,” he said. “But we have to prepare for the fact that we might have to start the season with no fans and then hopefully . . . if that’s successful they allow 25 per cent then 50 and then maybe full attendance.”


YardSale

Cougars aren’t going anywhere; sign new lease for CN Centre. . . . Fun night in Boston? . . . New head coach in QMJHL


MacBeth

F Filip Ahl (Regina, 2016-17) has signed a one-year contract with Karlskoga (Sweden, Allsvenskan). This season, with Tingsryd (Sweden, Allsvenskan), he had 11 goals and nine assists in 42 games. . . .

F Bud Holloway (Seattle, 2003-08) has signed a one-year contract with Red Bull Salzburg (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). This season, with Skellefteå (Sweden, SHL), he had 11 goals and 15 assists in 52 games.


ThisThat

The Prince George Cougars and the City of Prince George have agreed to a six-year lease PrinceGeorgeagreement for the CN Centre. The lease is retroactive to July 31, so it covers the recently completed season, and will run through the 2023-24 WHL season. . . . With the Kootenay Ice having left Cranbrook for Winnipeg, there had been whispers that perhaps the Cougars, who have struggled to draw fans in recent seasons, might at least contemplate a move. . . . Here’s Andy Beesley, the Cougars’ vice-president of business: “We’ve never wavered once, behind closed doors or out in public, we’ve never talked about moving, we’re all in it for the long haul, from our owners on down, we’re committed to Prince George and we don’t just talk about being committed, we’ve proven it.” . . . Ted Clarke of the Prince George Citizen has more right here.


There has never been a subscription fee for this blog, but if you enjoy stopping by here, why not consider donating to the cause? Thank you very much.


I didn’t watch any of the St. Louis Blues’ 2-1 victory over the Bruins in Boston on Thursday night. But I’m thinking that things didn’t go swimmingly, again, for the NHL. . . .


Jon Goyens is the new head coach of the QMJHL’s Baie-Comeau Drakkar. Goyens, 41, spent 10 seasons as the head coach of the midget AAA Lac St-Louis Lions. . . . Goyens signed a two-year contract that contains a club option on a third season. . . . Before taking over the Lions, he spent a season with the QMJHL’s Lewiston Maineiacs as an assistant coach/video coach. . . . With the Drakkar, Goyens takes over from Martin Bernard, whose contract wasn’t renewed after their season ended.


Tweetoftheday

Cougars to be more ‘assertive’ with schedule making . . . Portland still unbeaten in East . . . Gauthier blanks Americans




MacBeth

F Tomáš Plíhal (Kootenay, 2001-03) signed a contract for the rest of this season with Landshut (Germany, Oberliga South) after requesting and receiving his release from Jablonec nad Nisou (Czech Republic, 2. Liga). He had 14 goals and 20 assists in 23 games.


ThisThat

Andy Beesley is the vice-president of business with the Prince George Cougars. A few days before Christmas, he sat down with Hartley Miller of 94.3 The Goat, a Prince George radio station, and they combined for an episode of the CatScan podcast. . . . If you have ever wondered about what goes into running the business end of a major junior franchise you will want to give this a listen. It’s 50 minutes of Beesley being honest in answering questions about ticket prices, attendance, scheduling, turning games into events, the survival of the WHL in Prince George, and even how he came to change his lifestyle and lose 100 pounds. . . .

One thing I found particularly interesting is that Beesley said the Cougars’ organization has changed its thought process and no longer will look for the one big score.

“We would love to win a Memorial Cup, but we just want to make the playoffs regularly,” he told Miller, “and that’s part of the path that the hockey side of the business is on now. We’ve changed our model a bit to aim for more of a consistent team year by year, rather than selling the farm and just having couple of studs that come in and then you cross your fingers and pay the price for the next five years. We’ve done away with that model.”

The Cougars are scheduled to entertain the Prince George Cougars on Friday night, more than five weeks after their most-recent home game. Between home games, they will have played 11 times on the road and taken the Christmas break.

Beesley promised the Cougars’ fans “that’s not going to happen again . . . we’re not going to put up with that again.”

He added that he, team president John Pateman, co-owner Eric Brown and general manager Mark Lamb “have all talked together and agreed that we need to do a far better job of not just giving input to our schedules but standing up for what the Prince George Cougars need. . . . we are going to be a lot more assertive and make sure we don’t have another six-week gap because we don’t think it’s fair to fans and it’s not fair to our business either.”

There’s lots of interesting stuff in the 50 minutes and it’s all right here.

——

KOOTENAY KOUNTDOWN

All signs point to the Kootenay Ice packing up and moving to Winnipeg before another season gets here. However, no one from the Ice or the WHL office has had much, if 21anything to say about all the speculation.

However, Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, did appear with host Dean Millard on TSN Radio (1260) in Edmonton on Dec. 19.

Asked about the situation, Robison responded in part that “we’ll be very soon making an announcement as to what the future of that franchise is.”

We now are into our 21st day since Robison made that statement, and there has yet to be an announcement of any kind.


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Allow me to apologize to Gino De Paoli, the play-by-play voice of the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers. It was his tweet that tipped me off to an item on G Nick Sanders that I used here yesterday. I meant to credit De Paoli, but it didn’t get done, and for that I offer up an apology. Sorry about that, Gino.

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The Prince George Cougars have signed F Blake Eastman, 15, to a WHL contract. He was a second-round selection in the 2018 bantam draft. . . . From Ardrossan, Alta., Eastman is playing for the Elite 15 team at OHA Edmonton, where he has 17 goals and eight assists in 21 games.

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The Spokane Chiefs have returned D Graham Sward to the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League. Sward, 15, was the 17th overall selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. . . . Sward played one game with the Chiefs and scored his first goal as they beat the Ice, 8-4, in Cranbrook, B.C., on Sunday.

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The Swift Current Broncos have released F Quinton Waitzner, 18, who was a ninth-round selection in the WHL’s 2015 bantam draft. . . . From Victoria, he had two assists in 34 games this season, after finishing last season with one goal in 43 games. He also was pointless in five games in 2016-17. . . . Before joining the Broncos, he played for the junior B Saanich Braves.

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The Prince Albert Raiders have returned G Brett Balas, 17, to the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks. From Calgary, he was a third-round pick by the Raiders in the WHl’s 2016 bantam draft. . . . Balas was brought in by the Raiders to fill the roster spot created with starter Ian Scott with Team Canada at the WJC. . . . Balas got into two games with Prince Albert, going 2-0-0, 2.56, .871. One of the victories was in relief of starter Donovan Buskey.

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TUESDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

The Portland Winterhawks erased an early 2-0 deficit with four straight goals en route to Portlanda 4-3 victory over the Wheat Kings in Brandon. . . . Portland (24-11-5) has points in nine straight (6-0-3), and is 3-0-0 on its East Division swing. . . . Brandon (16-16-6) has lost two in a row. . . . F Ben McCartney (11) gave Brandon a 2-0 lead with goals at 1:14 and 3:45 of the first period. . . . The Winterhawks tied it before the period ended on goals from F Michal Kvasnica (7) and F Seth Jarvis (10). . . . F Jaydon Dureau (9) broke the tie at 14:39 of the second period. . . . F Joachim Blichfeld upped Portland’s lead to 4-2, shorthanded, at 10:03 of the third period. He leads the WHL in goals (37) and points (76). . . D Braden Schneider (5) got the Wheat Kings to within a goal at 14:53. . . . Portland had a 51-35 edge in shots, including 22-9 in the first period. . . . Brandon G Jiri Patera blocked 47 shots, 15 more than Portland’s Shane Farkas. . . . Portland D Nick Cicek, an 18-year-old freshman from Winnipeg, had one assist in his first 16 games. He had one assist last night, and now is on a six-game point streak, with nine helpers in that stretch. . . . Portland had F Cody Glass back in the lineup after his stint with Canada’s national junior team. He was held off the scoresheet. . . . The Winterhawks were without D Matthew Quigley (suspended) and D Brendan De Jong (concussion).

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F Kyle Crnkovic had a goal and two assists to lead the host Saskatoon Blades to a 4-3 Saskatoonvictory over the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Saskatoon (25-12-5) has won two in a row. . . . Seattle (12-21-4) is 1-2-0 on its East Division trip. . . . Crnkovic, a 16-year-old from Chestermere, Alta., was the 10th-overall selection in the 2017 bantam draft. In 27 games, he has four goals and nine assists, with three goals and six assists having come in his past nine games. Yes, this was his first multi-point WHL game. . . . D Zach Ashton, who moved from Saskatoon to Seattle in a deal last week, gave the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead with his first WHL goal, at 6:35 of the first period. The goal came in his 14th WHL game, the third with Seattle. . . . Crnkovic tied it at 15:24, and F Josh Paterson (14) gave the Blades the lead, on a PP, at 17:30. . . . Seattle F Nolan Volcan, playing in his 300th regular-season game, tied it with his 15th goal, at 19:24. . . . The Thunderbirds went ahead 3-2 when F Matthew Wedman (13) accord at 4:36 of the second period. . . . Saskatoon reclaimed the lead before the period ended, on goals from F Chase Wouters (8), at 13:49, and F Eric Florchuk (11), at 17:20. . . . Volcan, 20, is from Edmonton. He was a second-round pick by Seattle in the 2013 bantam draft. He has 213 points, including 88 goals, in those 300 regular-regular-season games. . . . F Cyle McNabb, acquired Monday from the Kootenay Ice, wasn’t in Saskatoon’s lineup. . . . The Blades remain without F Kirby Each and D Nolan Kneen. . . . F Sean Richards was in Seattle’s lineup for the first time since being acquired last week from the Everett Silvertips. He had to complete an eight-game WHL suspension before suiting up with the Thunderbirds. . . . Seattle was without D Cade McNelly, who completed a three-game suspension.

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G Taylor Gauthier blocked 36 shots to lead the Prince George Cougars to a 1-0 victory PrinceGeorgeover the Tri-City Americans in Kennewick, Wash. . . . Prince George (14-21-3) has won two in a row. The Cougars are 3-7-0 on an 11-game swing that began with a doubleheader in Portland on Dec. 7 and 8, and included the Christmas break. The trip wraps up tonight against the Spokane Chiefs, then the Cougars have to hustle home for games with the Kelowna Rockets on Friday and Saturday nights. . . . Tri-City (20-15-2) has lost two straight. . . . Last night, Cougars F Ethan Browne scored the game’s only goal, his sixth, at 16:05 of the second period. . . . Gauthier, a 17-year-old sophomore from Calgary, was the ninth-overall selection in the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft. He has two shutouts in his career both of them this season. This season, he is 10-14-2, 3.08, .904. . . . Tri-City got 28 stops from G Beck Warm.

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Night belongs to penalty-killers . . . Cougars go to Un-Teddy Bear Toss . . . Raiders’ win streak reaches 18


MacBeth

D Cam Barker (Medicine Hat, 2001-06) has been released by Ilves Tampere (Finland, Liiga). In seven games, he had one assist, while averaging 16:06 TOI. Barker signed a one-year contract with Ilves on Oct. 24. The contract contained a tryout clause through the end of November. . . . Barker suffered an undisclosed injury in a game on Nov. 21. According to the Ilves website, the injury required surgery, which was performed Tuesday.


ThisThat

I couldn’t resist posting the above tweet because it’s great to see that Chris Mast hasn’t lost his touch with a camera. He has long been an exceptional hockey photographer and it’s obvious from the above photo that he continues to set the bar high.


What did F Ryan Jevne and D Dylan Plouffe have in common in WHL action on Wednesday night?

There were eight games on the schedule and Jevne, who plays for the Medicine Hat whlTigers, and Plouffe, who skates for the Vancouver Giants scored the night’s only PP goals.

Jevne, who had three goals in the Tigers’ 6-2 victory over the visiting Red Deer Rebels, scored on the PP at 11:59 of the third period for a 5-2 lead. The Tigers were 1-3 with the man advantage.

In Kelowna, the Giants went 1-5, with Plouffe scoring the game’s first goal, via the PP, at 8:17 of the first period.

All told, the 16 teams in action went 2-56 on the PP, meaning that the night belonged to the penalty-killers. The Spokane Chiefs went 0-9 in beating the visiting Prince George Cougars, 4-0.


The Prince George Cougars have decided to “unfriend the teddy bear.”

You read that correctly. They have done away with the annual game during which fans PrinceGeorgewere invited to throw stuffed toys onto the ice when the Cougars scored their first goal.

Instead, the Cougars, in partnership with the Salvation Army and the Northland Auto Group, are playing host to the “Un-Teddy” Bear Toss game on Sunday, 2 p.m., against the Victoria Royals.

From a Cougars’ news release:

“All fans who attend Sunday afternoon’s game are encouraged to bring warm winter clothes (coats, toques, socks, blankets, and mittens) to the game. When the Cougars score their first goal, you are invited to throw your bagged donations onto the ice. All items will be distributed to people in need over the holidays through the Salvation Army in Prince George.”

Fans are encouraged “to put their items in a plastic bag before tossing onto the ice, to keep everything dry and in great shape and ready to be donated.”

Andy Beesley, the Cougars’ vice-president of business, told CKPG-TV: “In reality, what our community really needs is warm winter clothing — scarves, hats, mitts, pants, toques, that type of thing. We love our teddy bears and people are welcome to bring them if they want, but we actually would really love it if people also bring some clothing to throw on the ice when the Cougars score.”


The Kamloops Blazers, with two games this weekend, have brought in G Rayce Ramsay Kamloops1as insurance in case starter Dylan Ferguson isn’t able to play. . . . Ferguson, 20, who was involved in a goal-mouth collision, left after the second period of a 3-1 loss to the Chiefs in Spokane on Saturday. . . . Ramsay, 17, is from Saskatoon and has been playing with the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos. He made two appearances with the Blazers earlier in the season, going 0-1-0, 1.99, .931. . . . The Blazers are likely to start Dylan Garand (2-1-1, 2.46, .914) against the visiting Saskatoon Blades on Friday. The Seattle Thunderbirds are to visit Kamloops on Saturday.


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Linden Saip, a former WHL defenceman, has been named the interim head coach of the SurreyEaglesBCHL’s Surrey Eagles following the firing of Peter Schaefer. . . . Schaefer was hired as an assistant coach under head coach Brandon West on July 26. However, West and the Eagles came to one of those mutual agreements to part company on Aug. 28 and Schafer was named head coach. . . . Saip had been an assistant coach under West and then Schaefer. . . . The Eagles also hired Lee Stone as an assistant coach. . . . Associate coach Brad Tobin remains on staff. . . . Saip, 27, is in his second season with Surrey. He is a former Eagles player (2010-12), who played in the who with the Vancouver Giants and Kamloops Blazers before going on to player with the UBC Thunderbirds. . . . Stone spent six years with the junior B Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. He is a Surrey native. . . . The Eagles (7-23-1) are last in the five-team Mainland Division, 12 points out of fourth. . . . There is more on these moves right here.


WEDNESDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

F Luka Burzan scored two goals and set up another to help the Brandon Wheat Kings to a BrandonWKregular5-1 victory over the Broncos in Swift Current. . . . The Wheat Kings (11-7-6) had lost their previous three games. . . . The Broncos slipped to 4-19-2. . . . F Cole Reinhardt (3) gave Brandon a 2-1 lead at 7:57 of the second period, and F Ridly Greig (5) added insurance at 18:57. . . . Burzan, who has 15 goals, opened the scoring at 3:16 of the first period and closed it at 12:22 of the third. . . . G Jiri Patera stopped 31 shots to earn the victory. . . . F Nolan Ritchie, 16, made his debut with the Wheat Kings. Ritchie, who is from Brandon, was a third-round pick in the 2017 bantam draft and is in his second season with the midget AAA Wheat Kings. This season, he has 14 goals and 21 assists in 19 games. His father, Darren, is a former Wheat Kings player and assistant coach who now is the organization’s director of scouting.


The Prince Albert Raiders ran their winning streak to 18 with a 5-3 victory over the Oil PrinceAlbertKings in Edmonton. . . . The Raiders (25-1-0) next are scheduled to play Saturday when the meet the Pats in Regina. . . . Prince Albert had won a franchise-record eight straight road games. . . . The Oil Kings (14-10-4) have lost three in a row (0-1-1). . . . The Raiders took a 3-0 lead into the second period and stretched it to 5-1 when F Aliaksei Protas (6) scored at 6:12. . . . F Parker Kelly scored two of Prince Albert’s first three goals. He’s got 13. . . . The game featured the WHL’s two leading scorers. . . . F Brett Leason of the Raiders drew three assists and maintained his lead atop the WHL scoring race. . . . F Trey Fix-Wolansky scored all three of Edmonton’s goals, given him 18. . . . Leason leads the WHL in goals (26) and points (59). Fix-Wolansky is second in points (55) and leads in assists (37).


The Moose Jaw Warriors opened up a 3-0 lead and went on to beat the Kootenay Ice, 3-1, MooseJawWarriorsin Cranbrook, B.C. . . . The Warriors (13-5-4) have points in eight straight (7-0-1). . . . The Ice (7-17-4) has lost six in a row (0-5-1). . . . F Keenan Taphorn (6), who was acquired by the Warriors from the Ice, got the game’s first goal, at 7:46 of the first period. . . . D Josh Brook (8) made it 2-0 at 3:35 of the second period, and D Jett Woo (3) upped it to 3-0 at 1:55 of the third. . . . F Peyton Krebs (7) got the Ice’s goal, at 10:21. . . . The Warriors got 26 saves from G Adam Evanoff. With G Brodan Salmond out with an undisclosed injury, Moose Jaw had Jackson Berry backing up. Berry, who will turn 16 on Dec. 6, is from Chestermere, Alta. A sixth-round pick in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft, he plays for the Edmonton-OHA midget prep team. . . . The Ice had Krebs and D Valtteri Kakkonen back from injuries, but were missing F Cam Hausinger and F Connor McClennon.


F Ryan Jevne scored three times and added an assist to lead the host Medicine Hat Tigers Tigers Logo Officialto a 6-2 victory over the Red Deer Rebels. . . . The Tigers (12-12-3) have won two in a row. . . . The Rebels (16-8-1) have lost three in a row. . . . D Trevor Longo (3) gave the Tigers a 3-2 lead at 1:48 of the third period, with F James Hamblin (11) making it 4-2 at 7:48. . . . Jevne, who had scored the game’s first goal, completed the scoring with the last two scores, at 11:59 and 18:43. He’s got 10 goals. . . . G Mads Søgaard, the Danish freshman, stopped 21 shots for the Tigers with his father, Brian, in the stands. . . . Medicine Hat held a 47-23 edge in shots. . . . The Rebels were without D Alex Alexeyev for a second straight game.


F Milos Roman broke a 1-1 tie at 9:41 of the second period and the visiting Vancouver Giants went on to a 2-1 victory over the Kelowna Rockets. . . . Vancouver (18-6-2) has won four in a row. . . . Kelowna (11-15-1) has lost two straight. . . . D Dylan Plouffe (4) gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead, on a PP, at 8:17 of the first period. . . . F Nolan Foote (16) got the Rockets even, while shorthanded, at 10:07. . . . G Trent Miner stopped 20 shots for the Giants, 12 fewer than Kelowna’s Roman Basran.


G Bailey Brkin turned aside 27 shots to lead the host Spokane Chiefs to a 4-0 victory over the Prince George Cougars. . . . Spokane (14-8-3) has won three in a row. . . . Prince George (10-12-3) has lost two straight. . . . Brkin posted his second shutout of the season and third of his career. This season, he is 10-3-2, 2.50, .922. . . . F Riley Woods scored twice for Spokane, including the opener at 4:13 of the first period. He’s got 20 goals in 25 games; he finished last season with 25 in 72. . . . F Adam Beckman (13) and F Cordel Larson (3), into an empty net, also scored for the Chiefs. . . . F Luc Smith, who was acquired Monday from Kamloops, had an assist in his Spokane debut. . . . Chiefs D Ty Smith had two assists.


G Dorrin Luding blocked 30 shots to lead the Saskatoon Blades to a 2-1 victory over the SaskatoonRoyals in Victoria. . . . Saskatoon (16-9-2) is 2-1-0 on a B.C. Division tour that continues Friday in Kamloops. . . . Victoria (12-9-0) has lost three in a row. . . . Luding, who usually backs up Nolan Maier, was making his seventh appearance of the season, his first start since Nov. 3. . . . F Kristian Roykas Marthinsen (8) put Saskatoon ahead 1-0 at 12:39 of the second period. . . . D Scott Walford (2) scored for Victoria at 1:00 of the third. . . . F Zach Huber won it for Saskatoon with his fifth goal of the season, at 3:45. . . . The Royals lost F Kaid Oliver, their leading scorer, to a headshot major and game misconduct at 17:45 of the second period. The penalty came for a hit on Blades D Dawson Davidson.


The Everett Silvertips scored the game’s last four goals and beat the visiting Portland EverettWinterhawks, 4-1. . . . Everett (20-7-1) has points in six straight (5-0-1). . . . Portland (14-10-2) has lost two in a row. . . . F Cross Hanas (3) gave the Winterhawks a 1-0 lead at 10:22 of the first period. . . . F Reece Vitelli (3) pulled Everett even at 14:40 of the second, and F Sean Richards (8) snapped the tie at 15:27. . . . F Martin Fasko-Rudas (7) and F Connor Dewar (22) had third-period goals, the latter into an empty net. . . . Everett G Dustin Wolf blocked 34 shots, three fewer than Portland’s Shane Farkas. . . . F Cody Glass was among Portland’s scratches. . . . The Silvertips were without D Gianni Fairbrother, who completed a two-game suspension. . . . These teams already have met seven times this season, with Everett having won five times. They will face each other three more times before season’s end.


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