A fond farewell to the Swamp Dog . . . Sopotyk family says ‘Thank You’ . . . Canmore opts out of AJHL return to play

Let’s start with a couple of stories involving old friends.

Andy Murray and I go back a long way . . . when I was getting started at the Brandon Sun, he was the starting QB for the Brandon U Bobcats, a ragtag football team full of guys who sure had a lot of fun. He also was a star forward on the Bobcats hockey team.

AndyMurray
ANDY MURRAY

Murray, of course, went on to a lengthy coaching career and now is the head coach of the Western Michigan U Mustangs. On Monday, Bods (@Bods27) posted three tweets involving Murray, and the story is just too good not to share.

“Since it’s the anniversary of Miracle on Ice, I’ll share a story about it.

“We were on a road trip to Miami several years ago and watching Miracle on the way down. We get to Goggin (the arena in Oxford, Ohio) with about 20 minutes or so left in the movie.

“The guys on the bus want to finish it since we were just going to unload the bus, not practice or anything like that. Coach Murray stands up and abruptly shuts off the DVD player. The guys all boo him.

“Murray simply looks down the aisle of the bus and says ‘In Canada, we don’t need to make movies about things that happen every four years,’ and then walks off the bus.”

O Canada . . .

And that brings us to old friend Murray Rauw, who died in Calgary on Sunday night after a long illness. We were part of the fun bunch in the sports department at the Winnipeg Tribune in the mid-1970s. Swamp Dog, as we called him, was one of those special people with a big, big heart and a laugh I’ll never forget.

Here’s a story from Sportsnet’s Mark Spector, who was then writing out of Edmonton while Murray was covering the Stampeders for the Calgary Herald. . . .

“One of my favourite sports writing stories involved Murray Rauw, and then Stampeders head coach Wally Buono.

“I was down in Calgary for a game, and walked into Buono’s office after practice for his daily gab with the media. Murray, the Herald beat guy, was ill, and on leave.

“When I arrived, all the seats were taken but for a chair right in front of Wally’s desk. I hesitated in the doorway, wondering why that prime seat would be open.

“Wally noticed, quietly put up his hand as a stop sign, and said: ‘We’re saving Murray’s seat for when he comes back.’

“No scribe sat in that chair for weeks.

“I’m not sure if that story says more about Wally or Rauwser, but I consider myself lucky to have known both.”

Condolences to Maureen and family. Be safe.


It almost has been a month since F Kyrell Sopotyk of the Kamloops Blazers suffered a devastating injury while snowboarding near North Battleford, Sask. He was left paralyzed below the waist and remains in a Saskatoon hospital. . . . A GoFundMe effort had raised $195,868 as of Monday evening, with the money ticketed to his family to use for expenses, including whatever home renovations may be required.

On Monday, Lori Sopotyk, Kyrell’s mother, posted this update:

“Our family would like to express the immense gratitude and thanks for the overwhelming support and kindness during this tough time. Kyrell is working towards months of recovery with his medical and rehab team at Saskatoon City Hospital.

“We ask that you please continue to keep him in your thoughts and prayers on his long journey ahead. The incredible support of family, friends and the community makes a huge difference in Kyrell’s road to recovery and maintaining a positive attitude.

“Thank you to everyone for your support and generosity whether it be through cards, calls, texts, donations, food or the purchase of decals.”

If you haven’t donated and would like to, the page is right here.



The 15-team AJHL announced on Friday that it has been given the OK to return Canmoreto play, although it didn’t reveal a schedule or a start date. On Sunday, the Canmore Eagles announced that they are opting out “due to challenges in meeting the requirements of the approved Return-to-Play Plan and of existing restrictions due to COVID-19.” . . . A news release on the AJHL website added: “We have worked tirelessly through several options not only within the town of Canmore, but also exploring possible solutions to work with other communities. Regrettably, we have not been able to arrive at a workable solution.” . . . The Eagles were hit with an outbreak of COVID-19 in late November, one that resulted in at least 16 positive tests within the organization and some community transmission. Andrew Milne, the Eagles’ general manager and head coach, did some resulting media interviews in which he candidly discussed what the team had gone through. The AJHL followed by hitting him with a 15-game suspension and a $1,000 fine for “bringing discredit to the league.”



Bigfoot


THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

The New York Times — President Biden honored the “truly grim, heartbreaking milestone” of 500,000 lives lost to the coronavirus at the White House on Monday. “The people we lost were extraordinary,” Biden said.

The New York Times — The United States reached a staggering milestone on Monday, surpassing 500,000 known coronavirus-related deaths in a pandemic that has lasted almost a year. The nation’s total virus toll is higher than in any other country in the world. It has far surpassed early predictions of loss by some federal experts. . . . The United States accounts for about 20 percent of the world’s known Covid deaths, but makes up just 4.25 percent of the global population.

Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Monday, 9:37 p.m. PT — Canada: 21,720 have died from coronavirus; 854,190 have tested positive.

Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Monday, 9:37 p.m. PT — United States: 500,236 people have died. . . . 28,188,311 have tested positive.

CBC News — Manitoba announced 97 new cases of COVID-19, up slightly from the province’s 7-day average of 92. The test positivity rate for the last week is 5.4%. The province has also had 2 additional deaths.

CBC News — B.C. has confirmed 1,428 new cases of COVID-19 and eight more deaths from the disease over the last three days. There are 223 people in hospital with the disease, 63 of whom are in intensive care.

CBC News — Alberta reports 273 new COVID-19 cases, 16 more deaths from illness. Variant cases account for about 3.5% new infections in the province this month, Dr. Hinshaw says.

CBC News — Saskatchewan reports 177 new COVID-19 cases, up from the province’s 7-day average of 158. Announcement comes after province says it has reached agreement with pharmacists to help administer vaccines for the virus.

CBC News — Newfoundland and Labrador announces 14 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest total in 6 days and well below the 7-day average of 34. The number of recoveries is exceeding the number of new cases, a development the chief medical officer calls ‘encouraging.’

CBC News — Nunavut has 12 more confirmed cases of COVID-19, all in the small fly-in community of Arviat on the west coast of Hudson’s Bay. It’s the 1st time the territory has seen a double-digit daily increase since January 24.

CBC News — 805 new COVID-19 cases in Quebec as number stays below 1,000 for 9th straight day while 7-day average rises slightly to 773. Authorities are also attributing 11 additional deaths to the virus.

CBC News — Ontario reports 1,058 new COVID-19 cases, 5th day in a row number has exceeded 1,000. 7-day average up slightly to 1,045. Authorities also say there have been 11 more deaths. However, the number of hospitalizations and ICU patients continues to fall.

KTVZ NewsChannel 21 — Gov. Kate Brown today ordered all flags at Oregon public institutions to be flown at half-staff until sunset on Friday in memory of the more than 500,000 Americans who have lost their lives due to COVID-19. This includes 2,155 Oregonians.

National Geographic — In 2020, the U.S. saw a more than 15 percent increase in deaths over the prior year, the highest year-on-year rise in deaths across the U.S. since 1918, which experienced both a global flu epidemic and the First World War

KOMO News — Washington State health officials reported almost 1,200 more COVID-19 cases, 77 hospitalizations and 35 deaths in the past two days as the United States reached a grim COVID-19 milestone. State officials have reported 334,962 cases, 19,110 hospitalizations and 4,857 deaths since the pandemic began.

The New York Times — More Americans have died from Covid-19 than did on the battlefields of World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined.

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Sooner or later, our lives are going to be able to return to some sense of normalcy, which will include being able to go back into arenas to enjoy hockey games, concerts and other shows. But what will the interior of those arenas look like? Well, the City of Kent is spending about $545,000 on the accesso ShoWare Centre to make it a “safer environment for fans,” as Steve Hunter of the Kent Reporter writes right here. . . .

It was in November when Iona men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino pleaded with the NCAA to move the start of the season to March “and then have May Madness” because of the pandemic. The NCAA wasn’t listening. On Monday, Iona announced that the men’s team won’t be able to play its last five regular-season MAAC games because it doesn’t have enough healthy players. The Gaels (8-5) hope to play in the MAAC tournament that begins on March 8. . . . Earlier, Iona had a 51-day layoff, between Dec. 23 and Feb. 12, because of COVID-19.


Carpet


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

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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

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Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: The Moose Jaw Warriors are in the market for a general manager after Alan Millar announced that he is leaving to join Hockey Canada as director of player personnel. Millar joined the Warriors as director of hockey operations in 2010, then was named GM in 2012. Millar isn’t a stranger to Hockey Canada, having worked with the U-18 program for two years and then the U-20 team last year.


Ship

Scattershooting on a Saturday while pulling for Cypress Roed and her new kidney . . .

A couple of weeks ago, I spent some time in this space writing about Cypress Roed, an eight-year-old from Harrison Hot Springs, B.C., who, at that time, was preparing for a kidney transplant.

Cypress had the transplant on schedule, on Oct. 24, and now is recovering at B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.

Her mother, Chantelle Deley, told me on Saturday that Cypress “is doing well.”

There have been a couple of early issues but nothing that the medical people haven’t been able to handle.

If you missed the earlier story on Cypress, it’s right here.


The Portland Winterhawks and their fans celebrated the career and retirement of Dean (Scooter) Vrooman as they beat the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds, 2-1, on Saturday night. . . . He was the voice, and the face, of the Winterhawks for a whole lot of years. . . . Allow me to offer my congratulations to an old friend, and here’s hoping retirement is as kind to you as it has been to me. . . . Paul Danzer of the Portland Tribune has more right here, including the hilarious story on how Vrooman got his nickname.


“’Tis obviously better to be a tortoise than a hare,” writes Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “The Washington Nationals started the season 19-31 and wound up winning the World Series. The St. Louis Blues sat in last place on Dec. 31 and wound up winning the Stanley Cup. In short, the Seattle Mariners — who opened 13-2 and wound up 68-94 — are going about this thing totally backward.”

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One more from Perry: “Somebody just carried out the best fake play of the football season. A red-faced ESPN Events ‘terminated’ its three-week-old agreement with DreamHouse to be the New Mexico Bowl’s presenting sponsor after realizing the purported film-production company doesn’t even exist.”


The other night, I spent 90 minutes watching the documentary Searching for Sugar Man. I have seen it numerous times but it continues to amaze me. If you aren’t familiar with the story of Detroit musician Sixto Rodriguez and his influence on the people of South African, check it out. You can thank me later.


Sheesh, TSN, all I want as a viewer is some respect. With the Washington Nationals on a magical run, you let us watch PTI until the day after the World Series ended. Then you cheated us out of watching Tony Kornheiser celebrate. How could you? . . . You bumped PTI for ATP Tennis, but couldn’t find room for it on one of your other four channels. Please, just a little respect and some continuity in your programming. Is that too much to ask? . . . On second thought, don’t worry about it. I have discovered PTI on YouTube, so I won’t need to check your multi-channel setup anymore.


ICYMI, the BCFC’s Langley Rams will be the host team when they meet the PFC’s Saskatoon’s Hilltops for the Canadian junior football title on Nov. 16. The Rams took out the Westshore Rebels, 35-12, in one national semifinal on Saturday. Later in the day, the Hilltops dumped the host London Beefeaters, 51-1. . . . The Hilltops will be looking for their sixth straight national championship. Yes, they qualify as a dynasty. . . . One year ago, in Saskatoon, the Hilltops whipped the Rams, 58-21, in the final. The Hilltops also beat the Rams in the 2012 and 2014 finals.


Popcorn


“The Christmas turkey will be served early this year,” writes Janice Hough of LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, noting that the Miami Dolphins (0-7) and Cincinnati Bengals (0-8) are to play on Dec. 22.


The Winnipeg Jets recalled F C.J. Suess from the AHL’s Manitoba Moose on Friday. His nickname had better be Cat or Horton or even Doctor. But, this being hockey, I am betting it’s something like Suessy. . . . Actually, his surname is pronounced CEASE. . . . Interestingly, he was C.J. Franklin — yes, teammates called him Frank — when he began his college career with the Minnesota State Mavericks. He has since changed it to Suess, his mother’s maiden name. . . . In a story posted in January, Jamie Thomas of WinnipegJets.com reported that new nicknames in circulation were Seeser, C-Joe and Sweets.



So . . . it was Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers against Sidney Crosby and the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Oilers are said to have won, 2-1 in OT. . . . If you’re a hockey fan, you know that is as good a matchup as you will see all season long — or until these teams meet again. . . . So, NHL, why would you schedule this game for a Saturday afternoon? That is a prime-time game if ever there was one. . . . BTW, the next time these teams are to meet will be on Dec. 20 in Edmonton. Yes, it will be a night game.


Hey, Andy Murray and Glen Williamson . . . your buddy has come a long, long way from Souris and the Chocolate Shop. . . . Don’t believe me? Check out the link in the tweet. . . . Yes, the big, big pizza chains will be calling soon.



A tip to junior hockey players being interviewed before or after games — if you must wear a cap, wear it with the bill to the front. Not only does it look more professional, but it also shows off your team’s logo.



JUST NOTES: Had a friend who had just seen some video from a Winnipeg Ice home game in which fans seemed to be in scarce supply suggest that the WHL should move the team to Chilliwack. . . . Another WHL fan emailed me this: “I just watched the highlights of the Lethbridge-Winnipeg game on the WHL site. Couldn’t see too much of the seats with the camera angles they had, but I bet MJHL teams get better crowds than that. Instead of putting a team in a city that already has NHL, AHL, and MJHL plus Junior B teams, the WHL should have put the team in a place where it was the biggest attraction in town.  A place like . . . Cranbrook!” . . . On the subject of the Ice, does anyone know how the new arena in which the team will play is coming along? . . . Hey, Sportsnet, those virtual ads that you put on the glass during hockey games are absolutely awful. You’re welcome. . . . The New York Yankees chose not to re-sign Edwin Encarnacion and his parrot, so do the Toronto Blue Jays bring him back? . . . Do you ever wonder what Brian Burke’s hair looks like when he first wakes up in the morning?


Spider

Ex-Blades import signs in Sweden. . . . Matvichuk joins hockey ops at BWC. . . . Chiefs lose goaltending coach

MacBeth

D Jesse Forsberg (Prince George, Seattle, Moose Jaw, 2008-14) has signed a one-year contract with the Belfast Giants (Northern Ireland, UK Elite). Last season, with U of Saskatchewan (USports, Canada West), he had six goals and 15 assists in 24 games. He was the Huskies’ captain. . . .

F Eric Fehr (Brandon, 2000-05) has signed a one-year contract with Genève-Servette (Switzerland, National League). Last season, with the Minnesota Wild (NHL), he had seven goals and eight assists in 72 games. . . .

F Mário Múčka (Everett, 2016-17) has signed a one-year contract with Nové Zámky (Slovakia, Extraliga). Last season, with Nitra U20 (Slovakia, Extraliga Juniori), he had seven goals and 22 assists in 28 games. . . .

D Andrej Meszároš (Vancouver, 2004-05) has signed a one-year contract extension with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, Extraliga). Last season, in 39 games with Slovan in the KHL, he had two goals and five assists. He was an alternate captain. . . .

D Jindřich Barák (Red Deer, 2009-10) has signed a one-year contract extension with Slavia Prague (Czech Republic, 1. Liga). Last season, he had one goal and five assists in 31 games. . . .

F Kristian Røykås Marthinsen (Saskatoon, 2018-19) has signed a one-year contract with HC Dalen Norrahammar (Sweden, Division 1), where he will play with his older brother Andreas. Last season, with the Saskatoon Blades (WHL), he had 13 goals and 16 assists in 62 games. . . .

F Milan Kytnár (Kelowna, Saskatoon, Vancouver, 2007-10) has signed a one-year contract with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, Extraliga). Last season, in 56 games with Zvolen (Slovakia, Extraliga), he had 29 goals and 14 assists. He was an alternate captain. He led the team in goals and was tied for third in the league.


ThisThat

F Kristian Røykås Marthinsen won’t be back for a second season with the Saskatoon Blades. . . . As you will have read in The MacBeth Report, the 20-year-old from Lorenskog, SaskatoonNorway, has signed with HC Dalen Norrahammar (Sweden, Division 1). . . . He had 29 points, including 13 goals, in 62 games with the Blades last season. . . . Røykås Marthinsen was a seventh-round pick by the Washington Capitals in the NHL’s 2017 draft but wasn’t signed. . . . Saskatoon also lost its other import from last season as D Emil Malysjev has chosen to remain in Sweden. He had three goals and 14 assists in 63 games last season, then added one goal in 10 playoff games. . . . The Blades, who knew well in advance that neither would return, selected Czech D Libor Zabransky and Czech F Radek Kucerik in the CHL’s 2019 import draft. . . . Zabransky, 19, has WHL experience, having played with the Kelowna Rockets in 2017-18 and for part of last season. He finished it with the USHL’s Fargo Force. . . . Kucerik, who won’t turn 18 until Dec. 21, had six goals and 17 assists in 43 games with HC Kometa Brno’s U-19 team last season. He was the team captain. He also had two goals and three assists in 22 games with the national U-18 team. . . . Zabransky also is a product of the Kometa Brno organization.


Richard Matvichuk is the Burnaby Winter Club’s new hockey director. He will start his new job on Aug. 1. Matvichuk, 46, spent the past two-plus seasons as the head coach of the WHL’s Prince George Cougars. He guided the Cougars to the B.C. Division title in his first season, 2016-17, then was fired last season, less than two seasons into a rebuild. . . . Prior to joining the Cougars, he spent two seasons as the director of hockey operations and head coach of the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks. . . . As a player, he spent three seasons (1989-92) with the Saskatoon Blades before going on to a pro career that included 796 regular-season and 123 playoff NHL games.


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JUST NOTES:

Ryan Cyr isn’t returning to the Spokane Chiefs as their goaltending coach after having joined the 50 Below Sports + Entertainment ownership group in Winnipeg. . . . Cyr, a former WHL goaltender (Seattle, Lethbridge Saskatoon, 2000-05), had been with the Chiefs since 2011. . . . He is the co-founder of what now is Rink Goalie Development in Winnipeg. He also is the president of Rink Training Centre. . . . The 50 Below Sports group owns the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice, MJHL’s Winnipeg Blues, the Rink Hockey Academy and the Rink Training Centre. . . .

Brad Cole is the new head coach of the men’s hockey team at the Briercrest College and Seminary in Caronport, Sask., just west of Moose Jaw. . . . Cole, who is from Miniota, Man., played four seasons in the WHL (Seattle, Kootenay, Saskatoon, 2003-07). A defenceman, he went on to play in the AHL and ECHL, and spent five seasons in Europe. . . . Cole, 32, played 14 games with the Miniota-Elkhorn C-Hawks in the North Central Hockey League last season. He put up five goals and 23 assists in those 14 games. . . .

Andy Murray has signed a five-year contract extension as the head coach of the Western Michigan Broncos. The deal runs through 2023-24. Murray, 68, is prepping for his ninth season as the Broncos’ head coach. . . . How many fans remember Murray as the quarterback of the Brandon U Bobcats? Yes, BU once had a football team. Garry Davidson, Murray’s boyhood pal and now the general manager of the Everett Silvertips, also played for the Bobcats. . . .

Mark Chase has signed on as an assistant coach with the SJHL’s Nipawin Hawks. Chase, from Kamloops, spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the SJHL’s Melville Millionaires before working last season as the general manager and head coach of the junior B Osoyoos Coyotes of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.


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