Someone within the Kelowna Rockets organization has tested positive for COVID-19, with one other individual identified as a close contact. The WHL announced Thursday that “the positive test result was discovered during the initial return-to-play testing phase.” . . . That means that person will self-isolate, as will the person who was found to be a close contact. . . . The Rockets hadn’t yet moved into team activities, so at this point their schedule won’t feel any impact from these positive tests. . . . The Rockets and Victoria Royals are headquartered in Kelowna as the five B.C. Division teams prepare for a return to play. The Rockets’ players are with billets, while the Royals are staying in a hotel owned by the GSL Group, which also owns the WHL team. . . . The Royals and Rockets are scheduled to meet in Kelowna on March 26 in the division’s first game of the developmental season. At this point, the Rockets’ schedule hasn’t needed to be changed. . . .
The three other B.C. teams — the Kamloops Blazers, Prince George Cougars and Vancouver Giants — are centred in Kamloops. The Blazers are with billets; the Cougars and Giants are in a hotel owned by Tom Gaglardi, the Blazers’ majority owner who also owns the NHL’s Dallas Stars. . . . The Blazers, Cougars and Giants have been cleared to begin skating and, in fact, were on the ice for the first time in Kamloops last night. . . .
Steve Ewen of Postmedia tweeted Thursday that Giants F Cole Shepard has an undisclosed injury and that GM Barclay Parneta has said Shepard, 19, isn’t likely to play in this 24-game set. Shepard has 11 goals and 18 assists in 2019-20 after having hip surgery in May 2019. That was his first season with Vancouver after playing with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees.
F Seth Jarvis of the Portland Winterhawks was tied for the AHL scoring lead with 11 points in nine games when he had to leave the Chicago Wolves, who are affiliated with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes.
F Connor Zary of the Kamloops Blazers had seven points in nine games with the AHL’s Stockton Heat, an affiliate of the NHL’s Calgary Flames, when he had to leave, too.
Obviously, both were doing just fine in their first tastes of pro hockey. But under the terms of the NHL-CHL agreement (aka the pro-junior agreement) Jarvis and Zary had to return to their WHL clubs. Drafted players under the age of 20 have two options — play in the NHL or return to major junior.
However, there could be interesting times ahead for that agreement, which expired after the 2019-20 season, but was extended for a year because of the pandemic.
There long has been a feeling among NHL executives and scouts that exceptional 18- and 19-year-old players should be allowed to play in the AHL once they are seen as having nothing left to prove in major junior. At the same time, major junior operators don’t want anything to do with such exceptions because they don’t want to prematurely lose their best players.
This is going to be worth watching over the next while.
Frank Seravalli has a whole lot more on this situation right here.
Jared Jacobson isn’t about to let the ice melt under his feet. The new owner of the Brandon Wheat Kings — he purchased the WHL team from Kelly McCrimmon in September — is building a new ice surface in Brandon and also will open a hockey academy in the city. . . . Jacobson is CEO and president of the Jacobson and Greiner Group of Companies. . . . Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun reports that the new facility that will be home to the Western Canadian Hockey Academy “will include a National Hockey League-sized ice surface, three shooting bays on ice, a performance centre, middle-years classroom, six-lane 100-metre track and on-ice video training.” . . . Jacobson is hopeful that this will do something to keep younger hockey players at home longer. As he told Bergson: “For me it’s about developing players and keeping people in the centres they grew up in. Time flies by for families, and I just look at when kids are 12, 13, 14, it’s tough to leave home . . . I just wanted to look at a hybrid model to help the mid-market centres keep kids if they want to have another choice in their years of hockey to stay local and develop. I think it’s just a great fit, and it’s been well received by Hockey Brandon. I’m so happy for that because we wanted to create an opportunity, not a conflict.” . . . Players who attend WCHA will play for their minor hockey teams. The academy will ice teams — the Wolves — in the spring. . . . Bergson’s complete story is right here.
Hey, who knew that Saskatchewan was a province of such riches?
No sooner had I wondered here yesterday whether Regina or Saskatoon would be the first city with a new arena than I received a note informing me that “you forgot the third entry in the race: PA. They might even be in the lead.”
Yes, it’s true. And, yes, Prince Albert is in the lead. And it isn’t close!
Prince Albert is working towards a facility that will include three arenas — one with 4,500 seats and two others, each with an NHL-sized ice surface and perhaps 800 seats. Also included will be an aquatic centre with wave pool, water slides and a whole lot more.
That is Phase 1 of the project, and it might be ready late in 2023.
Phase 2 will include a new home for the WHL’s Raiders, with 20 corporate boxes and a banquet room. Opening date? Sometime in 2024.
The total cost is likely to run around $140 million.
Work already has started on getting the site ready for construction, which is to begin late this fall.
Now back to Saskatchewan and all that money . . .
You will recall that Regina now is home to Mosaic Stadium, a football facility that opened in 2017 and cost in the neighbourhood of $278 million. . . . And let’s not forget Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw that opened in 2011 — yes, it already has been almost 10 years — and cost $61.2 million to build.
Hey, Swift Current, are you getting in on this, too?
Toby Boulet sees the contradiction and, seriously, it’s hard not to. While the Alberta government studies a private member’s bill that would raise some speed limits to 120 km/h from 110 km/h, another private member’s bill that would promote organ and tissue donation didnn’t make the cut so won’t get to the floor this spring. . . . In fact, as Boulet said, “It’s not going to happen for a long, long time.” . . . Unfortunately. . . . Yes, one bill is certain to lead to more accidents and deaths, while the other would save lives, providing people with the opportunity to enjoy extended lives. . . . Boulet has been a leading proponent for organ donation in Western Canada since his son, Logan, died as a result of the bus crash involving the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos on April 6, 2018. Logan had registered as an organ donor and his organs went to six people. . . . Colette Derworiz of The Canadian Press has more on this story right here.
The AJHL announced Thursday night that it has “completed a fourth round of testing in its return-to-play plan with no positive COVID-19 results across 391 players and staff.” . . . There have been 1,532 tests conducted to day and the weekly tests will continue through the end of the season.
The QMJHL’s Baie-Comeau Drakkar had two players come up positive on Thursday, so the team has had to pull out of a protected environment event — that’s what the league calls its scheduled events where three or four teams play in one city — that was to run in Sherbrooke from March 19-24. The Chicoutimi Sagueneens and Sherbrooke Phoenix now will play each other four times over that stretch. . . . Meanwhile, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies will be without general manager/head coach Mario Pouliot indefinitely after he suffered a heart attack. Brad Yetman has taken over as the interim head coach.
Justin McElroy, CBC Vancouver — 622 cases of #COVID19 announced in B.C. today, as the province is now at its highest rolling average of new cases since January 12. . . . Hospitalizations up to 286, a 32% increase in one month. . . . Eight new deaths.
CBC News — Alberta reports 505 new cases of COVID-19 and 1 more death. The province has identified 91 new variant of concern cases which account for 12% of all active cases.
March Madness got rolling in Indianapolis with play-in games on Thursday, but it is without six game officials who were to have worked the tournament. One of them tested positive and contact tracing impacted the other five. . . . The NCAA had four other officials on standby, so those four now are in the regular rotation.
The AHL’s Utica Comets were to have met the visiting Rochester Americans tonight (Friday), however the game has been postponed. According to the league, the move was made due to COVID-19 protocols involving the Comets, who are affiliated with the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. In this pandemic season, the Canucks also are sharing the Comets with the St. Louis Blues.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Living Kidney Donor Program
St. Paul’s Hospital
6A Providence Building
1081 Burrard Street
Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6
Toll free: 1-877-922-9822
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
Or, for more information, visit right here.
JUST NOTES: The Northern Alberta Xtreme announced Thursday that Adam Stuart has taken over as the head coach of the academy’s U15 team for 2021-22. He had been on the staff of the BCHL’s Cranbrook Bucks after working for two seasons as an assistant coach with Edge Academy’s U18 prep team. . . . Kevin Undershute, who played four WHL seasons (2004-08) with the Medicine Hat Tigers and Portland Winterhawks, has signed on as an assistant coach alongside Stuart.