McCrimmon on verge of selling Wheat Kings? . . . KIJHL announces return-to-play plan, loses three teams . . . Two WHLers sign to play in Sweden


The smoke started with a query on Wednesday night. . . . An insider with one WHL team wanted to know if I had heard “any rumblings out of Brandon . . . BrandonWKregularthat the team is on the verge of being sold.” . . . I hadn’t. But it seems that there might be something happening, especially if the WHL’s board of governors has been alerted. . . . Kelly McCrimmon purchased one-third of the Wheat Kings from Bob Cornell in 1992 and became the sole owner in 2001. McCrimmon took a step back from the Wheat Kings when he joined the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, then an expansion team, as assistant general manager on Aug. 2, 2016. He moved up to general manager on May 2, 2019. . . . If a sale occurs, speculation has Jared Jacobson as being involved. His family is the Jacobson in the Jacobson & Greiner Group of Companies — he is the president and CEO — that has been a part of Brandon for more than 60 years. . . .

Meanwhile, there doesn’t seem to be any news on the sale of the Portland Winterhawks, despite Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, having said in June that he hoped to have the situation resolved within weeks.

Paul Danzer of the Portland Tribune reported that Robison said: “We’re hopeful that we will be in a position later this month and into July to select a candidate to become the new owner of the Portland Winterhawks. It’s important to have that resolved as quickly as possible. Our target is to have that resolved by sometime in July.”

Bill Gallacher, who had owned the Winterhawks, had used the franchise as part of the collateral for a $20-million loan. When he forfeited on that, the Winterhawks ended up in receivership.


The junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey League hopes to open its 2020-21 season on Nov. 13, a move from its original projection of Oct. 2. It also kijhlhas lost three teams, with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, 100 Mile House Wranglers and Spokane Braves all opting to sit out the season for pandemic-related reasons. . . . That leaves the league with 17 teams, each of whom will play 30 games in the regular season that is to begin without fans in the buildings. A schedule is to be released on Sept. 25. . . . The league’s news release is right here.

Interestingly, each of the three teams that opted out did so for a different reason.

Spokane isn’t able to participate because the U.S.-Canada border is closed to non-essential travel and that situation isn’t likely to change for a while now.

The Wranglers opted out because, as Greg Aiken, the organization’s president, told Kelly Sinoski of the 100 Mile Free Press: “We’re concerned for the health of our community, just bringing 35 foreign bodies to our town is a risk. To me, that just doesn’t make sense with this pandemic going on. Who knows what is going to happen with the kids going back to school . . . I can guarantee there’s going to be a spike in cases. It’s not getting better.” . . . Aiken also said that not having fans at games was a difference-maker, too. “We can’t survive on these few fans,” he said. “We rely on 500 fans coming per game.” . . . Aiken’s story is right here.

In Beaver Valley, the Nitehawks’ decision was made by 16 players who decided they weren’t going to play. . . . As Jamie Cominotto, the general manager, explained to Jim Bailey of the Trail Times: “Our players decided they were not going to play, and we don’t have time to replace 16 players.” Cominotto said he had a Zoom meeting with the players, “and we explained the league plan for play, as well as the costs for them to play. The team fees went up a little bit, and obviously we were unable to help with the billeting financially, because we just don’t have the money.” . . . Cominotto also told Bailey that “we don’t have the billet homes that we usually have.” That would seem to be a problem in more than one jurisdiction, at least judging by the number of teams on social media who are looking for billet homes. . . . Bailey’s story is right here.



COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

Hockey Canada has cancelled three 2020 events — the National Women’s U-18 Championship that was to have been decided in Dawson Creek, B.C., Nov. 2-8; the Canadian Tire Para Hockey Cup, in Bridgewater, N.S., Dec. 6-12; and the World Junior A Challenge, in Cornwall, Ont., Dec. 13-20. . . . Hockey Canada is hoping to be able to place those events in those same communities in 2021. . . .

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the NCAA will furlough about 60 staff members from its office in Indianapolis. They’ll be gone for between three and eight weeks starting later this month and running through January. . . . Senior management people have taken a 20 per cent cut in pay. . . .

The South African Ice Hockey Federation has pulled its U-20 men’s hockey team from the Division III championship that is scheduled to be played in Mexico City, Jan. 10-17. The tournament now will featured the host team and clubs from Bulgaria, Chinese Taipei, Israel and Turkey. . . .

Brandon’s three high school football teams won’t be playing this season, not even if the Winnipeg high school league is able to get off the ground. “We aren’t playing, plain and simple,” Neelin High head coach Rob Cullen told Thomas Friesen of the Brandon Sun. “We have already made our voice known that we will play in the spring as long as everything tapers down. I’m not going to put my athletes, my athletes’ families or anybody else at risk to play the sport of football at this time.”


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Jokerit, the Helsinki-based team that plays in the KHL, was to have opened the regular season against host Dinamo Minsk on Thursday. Minsk is in Belarus, the site of a great deal of political unrest of late. . . . Jokerit didn’t show up for its flight to Minsk, and the KHL later announced that the game had been forfeited to Dinamo Minsk. . . . According to newsnowfinland.fi, “Jokerit have faced growing pressure this week over their decision to travel to Belarus, amid an ongoing brutal crackdown against democracy protesters by regime forces. The club’s official supporters association Eteläpääty Ry says they’re very happy with the decision to cancel Thursday night’s game, after calling for a boycott of home matches if the fixture went ahead as planned.” . . . That story is right here. . . .

There are all kinds of political angles to this story. For starters, Jokerit has Russian owners with ties to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president. . . . The hosting duties for the 2021 IIHF World championship are scheduled to be shared between Belarus and Latvia. However, Latvia has said it won’t take part if Belarus is involved. . . . In other words, this story is far from over.


Bacon


Two WHL players — F Connor McClennon of the Winnipeg Ice and F Ridly Greig of the Brandon Wheat Kings — have signed one-year contracts with Karlskrona HK, which plays in Sweden’s HockeyEttan Södra. . . . Erik Belin, Karlskrona HK’s general manager, said in a news release that the club “gets this opportunity as we live in a troubled time and players are anxious to secure their situation for the coming season. In this category of players, this is the coolest news Karlskrona HK has ever launched! These players are here to deliver and keep their places in the national team and raise their positions before the draft.” . . . Greig had 26 goals and 34 assists in 56 games with Brandon last season. . . . McClennon put up 21 goals and 28 assists in 42 games with the Winnipeg Ice before suffering a shoulder injury. . . . Both are eligible for the NHL’s 2020 draft and are expected to be selected somewhere in the first two rounds. . . . The HockeyEttan Södra season opens on Oct. 3, with Karlskrona scheduled to play its first game on Oct. 4. . . . Both players are believed to have clauses in their contracts that would allow them to return to the WHL, which hopes to open its regular season on Dec. 4.


JUST NOTES: Tali Campbell has left the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers after one season as their general manager. He had been with the Clippers since Nov. 28, 2018 when he signed on as director of business operations. He took over as GM on Dec. 18, 2019. . . . The junior B Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League now is aiming to open its regular season on Sept. 21 or Sept. 28. This comes after it earlier had said it have four potential openings dates — Sept. 7 for a 48-game season, Oct. 12 (40), Nov. 16 (40) or Dec. 14 (32).


Jaynes: Only game being played will be the waiting game . . . No Flames or Stampeders in Calgary through June 30


If the NHL and NBA cancelled the remainder of their 2019-20 seasons, you likely wouldn’t be surprised.

If Major League Baseball cancelled its 2020 season, you might nod and say something like “OK, that gets us into early November.”

Yes, and it also would mean the NFL must have postponed the start of its season.

All of these decisions would seem to hinge on when health officials will allow the return of large gatherings. And that, it seems, might not happen for months and months.

Here’s Dr. Allen Sills, who is the NFL’s chief medical officer:

“As long as we’re still in a place where when a single individual tests positive for the virus that you have to quarantine every single person who was in contact with them in any shape, form or fashion, then I don’t think you can begin to think about reopening a team sport. Because we’re going to have positive cases for a very long time.”

When I see experts in this field talking like this I start to wonder about junior hockey at all levels. Because if health officials won’t allow gatherings of 50 or more people by summer’s end, there won’t be junior hockey in August or September or . . .


Dwight Jaynes, who works out of Portland for NBC Sports Northwest, has summed up the situation involving pro sports by writing, in part, that the leagues “are going to have to accept the reality the the only game being played for months will be the waiting game.” . . . Jaynes makes a number of bang-on observations in that piece that is right here.


Rick Westhead of TSN tweeted on Saturday: “With eight US states still refusing to impose stay at home legislation, one NHL player agent tells me he’s advised clients to expect the US-Canada border to remain closed until well after Canadian Thanksgiving.” . . . In Canada, we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving this year on Oct. 12. . . .


FBI


The City of Calgary has cancelled all public events and all permits for city parks or facilities through June 30. . . . The CFL’s Calgary Stampeders are scheduled to play a home exhibition game on May 30 and to open the regular season at home on June 12. They also are to play at home on June 18. . . . Naheed Nenshi, Calgary’s mayor, said Friday that neither the Stampeders nor the NHL’s Calgary Flames would be permitted to play games during this period. . . . There hasn’t been any official word on the status of the Calgary Stampede that is scheduled to open on July 3, but you would have to think it is in jeopardy. . . .


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with the Thought of the Day, this one from Mark Twain: “The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”


Organizers have cancelled the Manitoba Summer Fair that had been scheduled for Brandon, from June 3-7. . . .

In Montreal, the Just For Laughs comedy festival has been postponed from July 15-26 and now will be held form Sept. 29 through Oct. 11. . . . Montreal’s 2020 Jazz Festival has been cancelled. It was to have begun on June 25 and run through July 4. . . .

The 2020 Vancouver Scotiabank half-marathon and 5K have been cancelled. The event had been scheduled for June 28. . . .

The WNBA has postponed training camps and the start of its regular season that was to have opened on May 15. . . .

The Preakness, which had been scheduled to run on May 16, has been postponed with organizers saying they are searching for a new date. And when the race is held, there won’t be an infield party, which has always been a huge attraction and attracts upwards of 100,000. . . . Earlier, the Kentucky Derby was moved from May 2 to Sept. 15. . . .


All the best to Kerry Eggers, who has written about the Portland Winterhawks for more years than he would care to remember. He was laid off from his job with the Portland Tribune on Thursday. He had been there for, he tweeted, “19-plus years and 45 years in the sportswriting biz.” Eggers also tweeted that he “was planning a July 31 retirement but, as Ralph Miller used to say, that’s the way the pickle squirts.” . . .


Cat


The BCHL’s Powell River Kings have signed Chad van Diemen as their general manager. He will work with Brock Sawyer, the team’s new director of hockey operations and head coach. . . . Van Diemen played for the Kings 20 years ago and also was an assistant coach (2009-15). . . . From Kamloops, he also spent two seasons (2015-17) as head coach of the BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings. . . . He and his family moved back to Powell River in 2017 and he has been on the team’s board of directors. . . .

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The NAHL’s St. Cloud Blizzard has hired Tom Chorske as general manager and Corey Miller as its new head coach. Both are former NHLers and both are Minnesota natives. They also were roommates in college and in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils. . . .