“If you don’t think COVID is real, right now, you are an idiot…I’m the guy who’s stealing Christmas to keep you safe…you don’t need to like me, I hope in years to come, you might respect me.” MB Premier Pallister almost in tears. #covid19#cdnpoli
At some point in the near future, the WHL will announce that it isn’t going to be starting its next season on Jan. 8, as it had hoped. It has to make that announcement soon because its previous plan would have meant players travelling on Dec. 26 to begin short training camps on Dec. 27.
But with the three Prairie provinces and B.C. turning into COVID-19 hot spots, with the governments in all four jurisdictions imposing restrictions to one degree or another and with the Christmas season closing in on us, now really isn’t the time to be looking at getting a new season started.
The OHL has said it plans on opening on Feb. 4, so I would guess that the WHL, whose pooh-bahs apparently met earlier this week, will choose to try and do the same.
Of course, the WHL will pretty much have to forget about the five U.S. Divisions teams if there is to be a new season, because the U.S.-Canada border isn’t going to open any time soon. Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, said earlier this week that the border will remain closed to non-essential travel until “the virus is significantly more under control everywhere around the world.”
In B.C., the hammer came down on hockey and a whole lot of other sports as Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, announced that most sports, whether being played indoors or outside, were being banned.
She explained, too, that it isn’t the games causing the problems.
“I’ve said this many, many times,” she said. “It’s the locker room, it’s the before, it’s the after, it’s the going for a coffee or a beer after a game that has been the most source of transmission.”
According to Dr. Henry, 10 to 15 per cent of all transmissions in her province can be tied to sports or fitness-related activities.
As Postmedia’s David Carrigg wrote: “This came a day after reporting that an oldtimers team from the Interior Health region had travelled to Alberta and come back infected. This led to dozens of cases among family and workmates and has caused an outbreak in at least one long-term care facility.”
It would seem that, at least in B.C., there won’t be any junior hockey games being played at any level for some time.
The latest order from the Provincial Health Officer suspends “all indoor and outdoor team sports for people 19 years of age and older.”
At the same time, “indoor and outdoor sport for people under 19 years of age can continue” but with restrictions. Games, tournaments and competitions for teams aren’t allowed, but group training may occur so long as participants are able to maintain a physical distance of three metres from one another.
The Ministry of Health also explained that “the intention of the restrictions is to minimize the number of people we interact with and to reduce travel in order to significantly reduce COVID-19 transmission.”
There doesn’t seem to have been any time element discussed in terms of these latest restrictions. I have been the word “indefinitely” used, and also saw that Dr. Henry apparently said they will be in place for weeks to come.
A tip of the Taking Note fedora to the Saanich Predators of the junior B Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. Here’s part of a news release issued by owners Edward Geric and Norm Kelly on Thursday:
“The public health order impacts players over 19 years old, which is more than half of our team. Rather than looking for ways to request an exemption for continued practice for our whole team, we have instead decided that it’s best for all of our players, coaches and staff to stop play for now and get those who are currently living with billet families safely home for the holiday season.
“Though we are sad to lose this time during such an exciting season with our new name logo and colours, we feel strongly that it’s time to take a look at the big picture, listen carefully to Dr. Henry and not look for ways to continue playing right now. We all need to do our part for the long-term health of our community, and we know the Saanich Predators can be counted on to do just that.”
The San Francisco 49ers arrived in Glendale, Ariz., where they are likely to spend the remainder of the NFL season. For sure, they will play their next two ‘home’ games there after Santa Clara County, their normal home, banned contact sports.
Ann Killion, one of the San Francisco Chronicle’s terrific sports columnists, writes:
“But (Kyle) Shanahan, an NFL coach who is better than most at seeing the big picture, doesn’t deserve your wrath. It is the NFL that has put the 49ers in this situation, with its demented pursuit of the completion of a 16-game schedule. With its unwillingness to cancel games or pause the season. With its forcing of the Ravens and Steelers to play a game on a Wednesday afternoon, with several starters missing. With its demand that the Broncos take the field without a legitimate quarterback. With its solution to sending the 49ers to a state where virus cases are raging rather than just wait until this long-predicted spike subsides.”
BTW, in that column, Dr. Jeff Smith, the county executive for Santa Clara County, told Killion this: “If leaders want to protect their teams and communities, they should not play anywhere until it is safe.”
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
These are iPad stations being prepared for virtual ICU end of life visits by a palliative care doc I know. Jesus. pic.twitter.com/lIgbg0FhaL
CBC News: Manitoba reports 12 more COVID-19 fatalities and 368 new cases. That’s lower than the province’s average for the previous 7-days of 397. Authorities say there are 357 people in hospital with the virus, a record high.
CBC News: Saskatchewan has 259 new COVID-19 cases, which is below the province’s 7-day average of 276. Saskatchewan health authorities are also reporting 1 additional death.
CBC News: Alberta once again shatters COVID-19 record with 1,854 new cases. Province has reported almost 10,000 new cases over the past six days.
Red Deer Advocate: Red Deer has 289 active cases of COVID-19.
CBC News: 12 more people die of COVID-19 in B.C. as 694 new cases confirmed. The number of patients in hospital dips slightly to 325, with 80 in critical condition. . . . Right now, 10,849 people are in isolation and being monitored by public health workers because of exposure to known cases of COVID-19. . . . To date, 35,422 cases of the disease have been confirmed and 481 people have died.
CBC News: 14 more COVID-19-linked deaths reported in Ontario. Critical Care Services Ontario says 203 COVID-19 patients are in ICU. Health officials have said that 150 is the threshold for when unrelated schedules and procedures may be cancelled.
Cynthia Mulligan, Citynews Toronto: Ontario COVID-19 data Thursday: 1,842 new cases; 7 day avg 1770 — highest ever, 1 wk ago at 1427, 2 wks ago at 1370; 14 deaths; Positivity 4.4%, 52,873 tests, Backlog 58,320; Hospitalizations up 10 to 666; ICU 195 – most since May; 122 new cases in schools w 15.6% of all schools showing cases.
CBC News: Quebec is reporting 30 additional deaths and 1,470 new COVID-19 cases. For comparison, the province’s average for the previous 7 days is 1,374.
CBC News: Quebec Premier François Legault has backtracked on his plan to allow gatherings over the Christmas holiday period after a rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
CBC News: Global COVID-19 cases top 65M, with over 1.5M deaths: Johns Hopkins University.
CBS Evening News: In just 24 hours, the U.S. has broken every record set since the pandemic began 10 months ago, with more new infections, hospitalizations and deaths in a single day than ever before.
Our daily update is published. States reported 1.8 million tests, 210k cases, and 2,706 deaths. There are 101k people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the US. Both case and hospitalization counts from today are all-time highs. pic.twitter.com/DuxnKyyG2K
As was expected, the No. 25 Liberty Flames (9-1) won’t be playing football at the No. 14 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (9-0) on Saturday, and the No. 8 BYU Cougars (9-0) will fill the void. ESPN Stats and Info reports that this will be “just the third regular-season or conference championship game between 9-0 or better teams since 2000.” . . . Liberty is in the middle of an outbreak that has included star QB Malik Willis testing positive.
JUST NOTES: I met Jim Loria more than a few years ago when he was working in the Regina Pats’ front office. A couple of years later, he was working with the NHL’s Washington Capitals. Before joining the Pats, he did a stint with the Billings Bighorns. Recently, we renewed our acquaintance for the first time in a long while. In these pandemic times, you might be interested in checking out his new website where you just might find some inspiration to help you get through these strange times. It’s all right here. Give it a look. . . . If you’re a fan of MLB, you should know that The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma is reporting that Len Kasper is leaving the Chicago Cubs’ TV booth — he has been there since 2005 — to do radio play-by-play of Chicago White Sox’ games. Who will replace Kasper? Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago reports that it will be veteran broadcaster Chris Myers.
At some point in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post, I put together a brief history of the Western Hockey League. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I am doing just that. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here is Part 3. . . .
The mid-1970s belonged to the Ernie McLean-coached New Westminster Bruins. They were the Western Canada Hockey League’s most-dominant team.
If you didn’t believe that, well, they would convince you of it. And they’d do that any way they felt like it.
The Bruins ran their string of WCHL titles to four, and won the Memorial Cup the last two seasons, in 1976-77 and 1977-78. But by the time the 1980-81 season ended, the bloom was off the rose in New Westminster. Little did anyone know that it never would return.
Prior to the start of the 1976-77 season, the WCHL instituted a rule calling for an automatic game misconduct to any player who initiated a fight. Ironically, the first player stung was Brandon Wheat Kings starry centre Bill Derlago. He got the heave-ho after starting a scrap with Brian Schnitzler of the Saskatoon Blades in a season-opening 3-0 Brandon victory.
Two coaches felt WCHL president Ed Chynoweth’s wrath on Nov. 2. Ivan Prediger of the Kamloops Chiefs was suspended for 20 games, while Ken Hodge of the Portland Winter Hawks got 10 games. Prediger apparently struck Hodge during an altercation between the benches on Oct. 24.
There was joy in Regina on Jan. 27 when the Pats scored a 3-2 victory over visiting Portland. It ended a 36- game Regina winless streak that covered 96 days. “I hope the players don’t become satisfied with the win,” said Lorne Davis, who had taken over as GM/head coach from Del Wilson and Bob Turner with the Pats at 2-32-5.
A nine-hour meeting in Calgary resulted in a new playoff format. Under the original format, the Flin Flon Bombers, third in the East, were 20 points ahead of Regina and all but had a playoff spot locked up. Suddenly, there was a new format and the Bombers were fighting for a spot. Oh yes, they were also on a 15-game West Coast road trip.
“In this league, you need two pieces of equipment,” said Flin Flon boss Mickey Keating. “You need a face-guard when you play some of the teams on the ice and a back protector for the committee room. I had inklings that there may be changes in the playoffs but I had confidence there were intelligent hockey men in this league. I was shown different.”
In Portland, the Winter Hawks were beginning to carve out a niche, which resulted in this March 1 comment from GM Brian Shaw: “We’re selling the all-American boy image. Our players are all properly dressed in public. They all have respectable hair lengths. We feel image is important. Our players have become our outstanding selling point, and they have actually played much better because of the great acceptance which now is blossoming in Portland.”
In mid-April, Kamloops majority owner Ephram Steinke admitted the franchise would likely move to Spokane over the summer. The reasons? Steinke blamed almost $500,000 in losses over four years, and the city’s refusal to construct a new arena.
On May 12, the Calgary Centennials signed Bob Strumm as general manager. One of Strumm’s first moves was to confirm that a move to Billings was being contemplated.
Strumm, who had been Chynoweth’s executive assistant, was, at 29, the WCHL’s youngest GM. He would be one of the league’s most-prominent figures through the mid-1980s.
The Calgary move became official on May 19. Eleven days later, Kamloops moved to Seattle and became the Breakers under new owner John Hamilton.
On July 19, at the annual meeting in Calgary, the transfer of the Winnipeg Monarchs to Calgary was approved. Del Wilson, president and governor of the Pats, was named chairman of the board, replacing Bill Burton.
When Winnipeg moved to Calgary and became the Wranglers, owner Gerry Brisson named Doug Barkley as GM. The coach? It was Brisson. Would the GM be able to fire the owner/coach.
The 1977-78 regular season hadn’t even started when McLean was in trouble. It stemmed from an exhibition game against the host Victoria Cougars when midway in the second period he ventured into the stands to tangle with a fan who was taunting him. For his troubles, McLean got a gash on his forehead and, later, a $250 fine. This would serve as an omen.
A fierce rivalry was building between Regina and the Brandon Wheat Kings. After one early-season game, Davis had this to say: “If (Dave) Semenko would have been close enough to the box I would have swung at him . . . he came over by our bench trying to intimidate us.” To which Brandon coach Dunc McCallum responded: “How can a 220-pound man be held back by a stick boy?”
A few days later, Semenko joined the WHA’s Edmonton Oilers. A couple of years later, Davis joined the Oilers as a scout.
Derlago, perhaps the best pure offensive talent this league has seen, had a 40-game point streak end on Nov. 9 when he left a game with a thigh injury during his first shift. One month later, he blew out a knee in an exhibition game against the Moscow Selects. Had Derlago not been hurt, who knows what kind of numbers he would have put up? When he was injured, he had 48 goals and 80 points in 26 games. He was on pace for 133 goals, three more than the then-CMJHL record of 130 held by Guy Lafleur.
On Feb. 3, Jack McLeod resigned as coach of the Saskatoon Blades. He stayed on as GM, but put Garry Peters behind the bench. In Calgary, Barkley, the GM, took over as coach from Brisson, the owner.
More bad ink, and lots of it, in early February when McLean was slapped with a 25-game suspension for allegedly hitting an official. He returned for the playoffs.
“Our league has long been accused of protecting either our coaches or, more particularly, owner/coaches, but there is no way one coach or one franchise is bigger than the league,” Chynoweth said. “I can live with the so-called violence on ice, as projected by the media, but when it comes to our officials, qualified or unqualified, I look at things much differently.”
More bad ink in the first round of the playoffs. Yes, it emerged from a round-robin series. This one featured Brandon, Flin Flon and Regina in a double home-and-home series. When it got to the final game, Flin Flon at Regina, the Pats had to beat the Bombers by at least six goals to eliminate Brandon and set up a Regina-Flin Flon division final. Regina won 10-4 and the high-powered Wheat Kings, led by the likes of Derlago, Brian Propp, Laurie Boschman and Ray Allison, were done like so much burnt toast.
“For us to say anything is stupid. You saw what happened,” Flin Flon defenceman Ray Markham said after the game.
Ultimately, Flin Flon, New Westminster and Billings advanced to the WCHL’s round-robin semi-final to eliminate one team and put the other two in the championship final. Out went Flin Flon. New Westminster then swept Billings in the final. It was the Bruins’ fourth straight WCHL title and they would win their second consecutive Memorial Cup.
The Bruins, a power for oh, so long, would rarely be heard from in a positive light again.
On May 22, Flin Flon governor Gord Mitchell revealed that the community-owned team would cease operations. “I hate to see it go,” Mitchell said. “It’s certainly not the fault of the league. The league’s not kicking us out. But there comes a time when something like this seems to be the most reasonable thing to do. We’re a small centre and it got to the point where the league had outgrown us.”
A week later, Chynoweth, who had threatened to resign, announced he would remain as president, thanks to a promise from the governors that an executive assistant would be provided to help with such things as discipline. Wilson, the part-owner of the Pats, filled the bill as vice-president and referee-in-chief. Shaw replaced Wilson as chairman of the board.
On June 1, Gregg Pilling was named GM/coach in Regina, replacing Davis who, in a surprise move, was fired. Davis professed sadness, saying he had worked awfully hard and that all of that work would bear fruit in two years. Which is exactly what happened — two years later the Pats were in the Memorial Cup. But Pilling was gone by that point.
It was during the summer of 1978 when Chynoweth began talking of an education program. On July 4, he announced a program whereby teams would provide a year’s tuition and books at a recognized post-secondary institution for every season a player was in the league.
On Aug. 16, Chynoweth announced an Edmonton group headed by Bill Hunter had purchased the Flin Flon franchise from the league. Hunter would be president and governor, Vic Mah would be first vice-president.
The 1978-79 season began with news of a name change and ended with a new champion for the first time since the spring of ’74.
With three of 12 teams situated in the U.S., the WCHL was no more. Now it was the Western Hockey League.
The goofiness started on Oct. 22 when Pilling went into the penalty box at the start of the third period of a game in Calgary. He said he would serve a bench minor handed him for delay of game at the end of the second period in what would be an 8-1 loss. Pilling also alternated goaltenders Jeff Lastiwka and Gregg Dumba every shift change after a brawl at 2:52 of the second. Changing goalies ended 30 seconds into the third period when, with the faceoff outside Regina’s blueline, Dumba lined up behind his net. He was given a gross misconduct.
Chynoweth, who fined Pilling $1,000, said: “I thought it was a circus. I wouldn’t blame anybody if they didn’t go back.”
This was to be the season of McCallum’s Wheat Kings. That much was evident when Brandon ran its two-season unbeaten streak to a WHL-record 49 games and its single-season streak to 29 games. Brandon finally lost, going down 9-4 in Edmonton on Dec. 13 with the Oil Kings scoring all nine goals with the man advantage.
There was more news from Brandon on Jan. 11 when GM Jack Brockest, one of the WHL’s most likeable people, bought the team.
If any team could match Brandon it was Portland. The Winter Hawks had a 19-game unbeaten streak ended when visiting Brandon won 7-4 to go to 42-3-7.
In mid-March, rumours had the Edmonton franchise, which was averaging about 500 fans a game, moving to Great Falls, Montana, or Red Deer.
Things got ugly on March 22 in New Westminster when an incident involving the Bruins and Portland resulted in McLean’s being suspended indefinitely and seven of his players being charged by police. A game-ending brawl broke out, but this one was different because, while the Bruins left their bench, Hodge managed to keep his players under control.
On March 27, Wilson said McLean would not be allowed to coach during the playoffs, nor would he be allowed to communicate with the bench from the press box as he had done during previous suspensions.
McLean apologized for the brawl at a Vancouver press conference: “I have to take the full load, the full responsibility for what happened . . . when I look at it, maybe the game has gone by me. Maybe my coaching style isn’t what’s needed anymore. I’m an old horse that’s been at it for 25 years and it’s tough to change your thinking. The game is changing — maybe I haven’t changed with it.”
On April 4, GM Bill Shinske and McLean announced the Bruins were for sale, for $350,000.
The Winter Hawks got a small measure of revenge, beating the visiting Bruins 5-3 on April 8 to eliminate them from post-season play.
But this sad episode would drag on through the summer.
Meanwhile, Brandon was finishing with a 58-5-9 record, setting or tying 19 records.
The Oil Kings were sold on April 10, with ownership handed over to a Portland group headed by Bob Cooper and Tom Gauthier, who said they would move the franchise to Great Falls. “I guess sports is not my bowl of rice,” said Mah, an Edmonton restauranteur. It was Mah’s second go-round as an owner in Edmonton, and he wouldn’t give up. He would try and try again and again to get another franchise for the Alberta capital.
On April 20, charges of common assault were filed against seven Bruins — J.P. Kelly, Terry Kirkham, Bruce Howes, Rick Amann, Boris Fistric, Rob Roflik and Bill Hobbins. In August, the seven pleaded guilty. Judge James Shaw — no relation to the Portland general manager — granted conditional discharges to all seven, then banned them from league games at any level until Dec. 1. McLean said Shaw was “trying to be the judge who is going to clean up hockey. I’m worried about the affect on the game because the judge’s ruling makes a hip-check a criminal offence.”
Portland and Brandon ended up in the final, with Brandon winning in six games.
And, on May 28, Chynoweth resigned, effective June 30. This time he would leave, becoming part-owner of the Wranglers. “It’s more than 25 per cent and less than 50,” said majority-owner Jim Morley.
In late May, Pat Ginnell, who had been with the Lethbridge Broncos, moved north to take over the Medicine Hat Tigers. Mike Sauter would replace him in Lethbridge. Dave King left as coach in Billings to become head coach at the University of Saskatchewan.
The Pats were sold on June 8, with Wilson, Bill Patton, Gord Wicijowski, D.K. MacPherson, Wilf Degelman and Bob Babchuk selling to the Pinders — father Dick and sons Herb, Gerry and Tom. The price was believed to be near $300,000. Strumm was named GM, governor and part-owner.
Strumm later signed Bryan Murray as head coach and one of the great turnarounds in WHL history was under way.
But before that got started, Dave Descent was chosen to run the WHL. In his third season with the Canadian Amateur Wrestling Association at the time, Descent had lots of hockey experience at various levels in the OHA. “This job is an opportunity to get back into hockey, which is my chosen sport, and advance my sporting career,” he said.
Regina, which finished 18-47-7 (last in the East, second-worst in the league) in 1978-79, would go 47-24-1 in 1979-80 to win the division.
It was obvious early that the Bruins were going to pay a steep price for the brawl against Portland. They got their first point, after 13 losses, with a 5-5 tie in Great Falls on Oct. 31.
And on Nov. 16 McLean was at it again. And again it involved Portland.
McLean got tangled up with a fan at a game in Portland and was charged with fourth-degree assault. In one of the most ironical situations in WHL history, McLean was in jail until Brian Shaw posted his bail of $525. Charges were later reduced to harassment and it was all cleared up when a civil compromise was signed, ending the criminal case.
In mid-December, Descent’s title was changed from executive director to president. And concern was being shown about Great Falls, which was 2-22-1 and hurtin’ at the gate. The Americans folded on Dec. 13.
On March 2, McLean threw a 30-gallon garbage can onto the ice to protest the work of referee Ken Wheler during a game against visiting Portland.
The next day, Descent announced his resignation. Said Descent: “Speaking honestly, I’ve enjoyed my stay and feel it was a positive experience. But for personal reasons I’ve decided to take a different career path which is something I’m not at liberty to discuss now.”
Shaw said a five-man board would run the league, and that McLean would be suspended for three games for throwing the can. Oh yes, McLean was later named acting chairman of the management committee.
On March 24, McLean said he was leaving the Bruins. “I’ve made up my mind,” he said. “I’ve worn out my welcome. I will not be in New Westminster next year. We built a dynasty here but it’s time to move on.” All this after the Bruins set a WHL record with 61 losses. It was the first time in 18 seasons that McLean had missed playoffs.
On April 17, Vancouver businessman Nelson Skalbania bought out McLean and Shinske for slightly more than $300,000.
A week later, the WHL announced that Winnipeg would have an expansion team for 1980-81 and that the owners were former Pats star Fran Huck, his law partner Gerald Gunn and Winnipeg businessmen Harry Buekert, Arnold DeFehr and Marsdon Fenwick. Buekert would be GM, with Huck as coach.
On April 27, Regina beat visiting Victoria, 5-4, to win the WHL final, 4-1. The 1980 Memorial Cup, which would be won by the Cornwall Royals, opened in Brandon and closed in Regina.
During the Memorial Cup it became apparent the major juniors were terribly concerned with NHL’s practice of drafting 18-year-olds.
Chynoweth said: “I understand the legal problems the NHL has, although I don’t sympathize with it . . . at this rate, the pros will be scouting midgets soon.”
McLeod remembered the 1979 draft: “Back in June one NHL general manager said there was nothing to worry about, that only seven or eight under-ages would be taken. When they took 58, we were a little disturbed. Once they got into it, they just kept going.”
Junior teams were to be paid $50,000 to $65,000 for under-age players who stuck in the NHL.
Some NHL people said they weren’t in favour of the 18-year-old draft, either.
“The general managers unanimously fought to the 11th hour to avoid drafting under-ages,” said Washington GM Max McNab. “We were going to get caught in a lawsuit. But the NHL is like the government in the eyes of the public here. We’re going to get shot at in any decision.”
On May 15, the WHL announced that the dormant Great Falls franchise would relocate to Spokane with Cooper remaining as majority owner.
On June 26, Skalbania, already the owner of New Westminster and the NHL’s Calgary Flames, bought 50 per cent of the Wranglers. Skalbania explained: “It’s a sympathetic thing. I said when we bought the Flames that we’d support junior hockey in Calgary and I can’t think of a way we’d be supporting it any more than owning the team. I just hope we don’t lose that much money with them.”
Pat Shimbashi, a minority owner in Lethbridge, bought the other 50 per cent of the Wranglers from Jim Morley and Chynoweth, which meant that the latter would return as WHL president.
On June 27, Skalbania completed his purchase of the Bruins, buying 100 per cent for $325,000. McLean stayed as GM, while Skalbania’s 20-year-old daughter, Rozanda, was named president.
McLean resigned a couple of weeks later and Tracy Pratt was named GM. “I’d like to forget about the big bad Bruins of the past,” Pratt said, “and I’d like to think of them as the scrappy Bruins in the future. My concern is putting families back in the building. There was a shade too much violence in past years and many people became very bitter about what happened at Queen’s Park Arena.”
The league lost its referee-in-chief on Aug. 8 when Wilson announced he would scout for the Montreal Canadiens, a team with which he had long been associated.
The 1980-81 season opened quietly enough, but the silence was shattered on Dec. 1 with a shakeup in Saskatoon. McLeod and coach Lorne Frey ended their association with the Blades. Majority owner Nate Brodsky bought McLeod’s share (20 per cent) and named Daryl Lubiniecki GM and coach.
Lubiniecki began shaking things up when, on Jan. 15, he traded one player — centre Rocky Trottier — to Billings for six players — Pat Rabbitt, Dave Brown, Brad Duggan, Dave Chartier, Lyndon Byers and Al Acton.
Fighting was still a concern and on Dec. 17 Chynoweth announced that teams would be fined $2,500 if their players fought before games or between periods. Players who started the fights or were main combatants would get a minimum of five games.
A black cloud continued to follow the Bruins. A labour dispute forced them to play their last 29 games on the road. Their last 13 home games were played in such places as Bellingham, Wash., Kamloops, Trail, Duncan, B.C., and Coleman, Alta. The Bruins set a WHL record by losing 25 in a row and had to give season-ticket holders a refund for the 13 home games that were moved.
There were rumblings out of Swift Current that the locals were interested in a WHL franchise. John Rittinger, president of the SJHL team there, was trying to raise money for the venture. “I can’t give you a figure at this time,” he said on April 1, “but, personally, I feel there has been insufficient support.”
The juniors were beginning to realize they were going to have to live with the 18-year-old draft. Said Chynoweth: “The under-age situation is a problem but also a fact of life. The law of the land says at 18 you can fight for your country, drink and get married. Consequently, they’re also eligible to be drafted and play for NHL teams.”
The WHL had a new referee-in-chief — Richard Doerksen — and he was in the news in the playoffs after Strumm grabbed him in the press box during a game. Strumm was slapped with a two-game suspension and a $1,000 fine.
Victoria, under coach Jack Shupe, would win the WHL championship in 1980-81. Trailing Calgary 3-1, the Cougars bounced back and wrapped it up on May 1, beating the visiting Wranglers, 4-2, in Game 7.
Singing a song that would become popular in NHL circles in years to come, Calgary coach Doug Sauter explained: “(Goaltender Grant) Fuhr was the difference.”
The CHL issued a release on Friday in response to the class-action lawsuit that was filed by Daniel Carcillo and Garrett Taylor with allegations of sexual, physical and mental abuse during their time in major junior hockey. . . . According to the news release, the CHL’s board of directors agreed Thursday “to the appointment of an independent review panel to thoroughly review the current policies and practices in our leagues that relate to hazing, abuse, harassment and bullying, and the allegation that players do not feel comfortable reporting behaviours that contravene these policies.” . . . The CHL says it will announced this panel’s chair person “in the coming weeks” and “our goal is to have the review process completed in time for the start of the 2020-21 season.”
Former WHL player Brad Hammett is going public and joining a proposed class-action lawsuit against the CHL, alleging he was sexually and physically abused by four teammates over the course of two seasons, starting in 1981-82.
On Thursday TSN’s Rick Westhead reported on a former WHL player who detailed the physical and sexual abuse he endured during two seasons in the league.
Westhead, who granted the player anonymity, revealed on Friday that the former player is Brad Hammett, who played with the Billings Bighorns and Nanaimo Islanders (1981-83).
According to Westhead, Hammett “subsequently decided he wanted to publish his story under his name, hoping that doing so might provide support to other players nervous about coming forward with similar stories.”
Hammett, 56, is joining the lawsuit filed against the CHL by Daniel Carcillo and Garrett Taylor, alleging various forms of abuse during their major junior careers. They are hoping to have the lawsuit certified as a class-action.
“I’ve lived with this a long time,” Hammett told Westhead, “and my family has often wondered why I have had moods. Talking about this, I feel there’s a weight off my shoulders. I know that it’s going to get better. I’m not hiding something.”
Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, told TSN via email that “the league has spoken with Hammett and will investigate his claims.”
Some of Garrett Taylor’s allegations in the lawsuit against the CHL involve the 2008-09 Lethbridge Hurricanes. According to the statement of claim:
“He and a number of other rookies on the Hurricanes suffered abuse throughout the 2008-09 season. The abuse was perpetrated by older Lethbridge Hurricanes players and team staff, agents, employees and servants.”
Earlier this week, 26 players who played with the Hurricanes in 2008-09 signed a letter that appeared in the Lethbridge Herald.
“None of us can say that we were aware of absolutely everything that happened to every player on our team during their time with the Hurricanes. However, after thorough reviews and discussions among ourselves over the past few days, we can all unequivocally state that we were all treated with great respect and professionalism throughout that year and throughout all our years with the coaching staff of the Hurricanes.”
In an editorial published earlier this week, The Globe and Mail wrote:
“The underlying problem is that the system enables abuse. It’s time to get rid of a draft that treats children as chattel, and which allows a hockey league to operate under prehistoric notions of labour relations.
“Major junior hockey has to change, because hockey has changed. The NHL now prizes skilled players far more than the grinders and cement-handed role players of the past. . . .
“Many of the most sought after players these days are coming from Europe and the United States — including Canadians skipping major junior altogether, in favour of the U.S. college route. Mr. Carcillo’s lawsuit is just the latest reminder that Canada’s major junior hockey system has run its course.”
The Medicine Hat Cubs announced Friday that they won’t play in the Heritage Junior B Hockey League’s 2020-21 season. . . . “Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and due to diminishing sponsorship revenues the board of directors voted in favour to not play in the upcoming season,” the team said in a news release. . . . The Cubs’ departure leaves the league with 13 teams. . . .
The University of Nevada-Las Vegas has halted voluntary workouts until at least July 5 after four student-athletes tested positive. . . . An undisclosed number of others who came in contacted with them also are in quarantine. . . .
Morehouse College, a historically black school in Atlanta, cancelled all fall sports, including football, on Friday. . . . David A. Thomas, Morehouse’s president, told The New York Times: “Responsible leaders have to see us as being in a crisis, and a characteristic of a crisis is unpredictability. Good management says any uncertainty you can take out of the equation you should take out. One element where we could create certainty is what are we going to do with athletics.” . . . An NCAA Division II program, the football team was to have opened its season on Sept. 5. . . . Mark Emmert, the NCAA president, later told The Times: “I’m afraid and confident in my fear that we’ll see more sports be dropped, whether it’s programs or entire seasons canceled.” . . .
Clemson U reported on Friday that 14 more of its football players have tested positive. That brings the the total of Tigers testing positive to 37 since training facilities open earlier this month. . . . All told, Clemson has had 43 student-athlete and four staff members come up positive. A total of 430 tests have been administered.
CB Melvin Jenkins of the New Orleans Saints isn’t comfortable about starting the NFL season in September. . . . Here’s what he told CNN:
“The NBA is a lot different than the NFL. They can actually quarantine all of their players, or whoever is going to participate, whereas we have over 2,000 players; and even more coaches and staff who can’t do that. So we end up being on this trust system — the honor system — where we just have to hope that guys are social distancing and things like that, and that puts all of us at risk. That’s not only us as players, and whoever’s in the building(s), but when we go home to families.
“I have parents that I don’t want to get sick. I think until we get to the point where we have protocols in place, and until we get to a place as a country where we feel safe doing it — we have to understand that football is a non-essential business. We don’t need to do it. So the risk has to be eliminated before we — before I would feel comfortable with going back.”
We've reached peak NHL. A blank space has won the draft lottery.
The BCHL appears bound and determined to eliminate fighting from its games and, hey, good for them.
Brian Wiebe, who operates the BCHLNetwork, reports:
“The league has imposed stricter penalties for fighting in 2020-21. Players who engage in a fight are currently assessed a major penalty and an automatic game misconduct. Under the Junior A Supplement, which is the minimum standards adhered to by all 10 leagues in the Canadian Junior Hockey League, a player received supplemental discipline on their fifth fight of the season.
“The new rule sees a player receive supplemental discipline upon their second fighting major. The league has also cracked down on players deemed to be the instigator and/or aggressor in a fight, with both penalties now receiving a suspension upon the first offence. Subsequent instigator and/or aggressor penalties after the first one received will see a significant increase in suspension.”
Wiebe has a whole lot more on the BCHL and rule changes right here. If you’re a junior hockey fan and you aren’t following Wiebe, you really are cheating yourself. You’ll find him on Twitter at @Brian_Wiebe.
Jeff Harvey has signed on as the Saskatoon Blades’ goaltending coach. Harvey is a former WHL goaltender (Kootenay Ice, Swift Current Broncos, Everett Silvertips, 2000-04). . . . Harvey, now 37, and Blades head coach Mitch Love were teammates with the Silvertips in 2003-04 when Everett reached the WHL’s championship final in its first season in the league. . . . They also played together with the Broncos and with the Shreveport Mudbugs of the Central league in 2010-11. . . . It also should be pointed out that Harvey helped the Rosetown Redwings of the Sask Valley Hockey League to a pair of Saskatchewan senior AAA provincial titles and twice played in the Allan Cup. . . . Harvey replaces Tim Cheveldae on the Blades’ coaching staff.