Scattershooting on a Thursday night while waiting to steal the first signs of spring . . .

Scattershooting

ESPN continues to use Jessica Mendoza as a baseball analyst despite her being on the payroll of the New York Mets as a baseball operations special adviser. Of course, that is a conflict of interest, something that was very much in evidence on Thursday as Mendoza chose to speak out on at least three ESPN programs about the cheating scandal that has enveloped MLB.  . . . She pointed a finger at pitcher Mike Fiers, now of the Oakland A’s, for going public, something that sparked MLB’s investigation. Mendoza later tried to backtrack, but the genie was out of the bottle and her credibility has since taken a terrible beating, as it should have. . . . The Mets, of course, found themselves hip deep in it because their new manager, Carlos Beltran, was involved in the cheating while playing for the Astros. On Thursday, the Mets and Beltran parted company before he had managed even one game. While Beltran may be gone, Mendoza continues to cash cheques from ESPN and the Mets.


Astros


It was on Jan. 4 when former WHL player/assistant coach Kevin Sawyer, now a broadcaster for TSN on games involving the Winnipeg Jets, related a story involving a hazing. Sawyer, then an assistant coach with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs, talked of Saran-wrapping a 15-year-old Jared Spurgeon to a pillar in an arena. Spurgeon wsa “about six feet up in the air . . . he was tiny,” Sawyer said. “He looked like he was 12.” . . . Paul Friesen, a columnist with the Winnipeg Sun, has some questions about all of this but has discovered a cone of silence seems to have been placed over everyone involved. Friesen, however, was able to speak with Akim Aliu, who is no stranger to hazing incidents. . . . Friesen’s column is right here.



A tip of the Taking Note fedora to a pair of WHL teams — the Prince George Cougars and Victoria Royals. . . . The Cougars announced on Thursday that they now are making sensory kits available at all home games. From a news release: “In partnership with AutismBC, the Cougars have purchased sensory kits that will be loaned out to families, at no cost, that have sensory issues. The sensory kit includes protective earmuffs, colouring book, crayons, ear plugs, sunglasses, and several different fidget / stress items.” . . .

Meanwhile, the Royals, with their home city and environs hit with some ugly weather, are rewarding fans who were able to get to their Wednesday game and ticket holders who couldn’t make it with freebies for a future game. . . . The Royals announced attendances of 2,519 and 2,901 for Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, as they swept the Tri-City Americans, 3-1 and 6-1. However, it’s believed the miserable weather limited the actual attendance at each game to much closer to 1,000 people.


Christmas


The AJHL’s Fort McMurray Oil Barons fired Bob Beatty, their general manager and head OilBaronscoach, on Tuesday. Beatty, a veteran of the junior A coaching scene, was in his first season with the Oil Barons, who were 15-27-2 and in seventh place in the North Division in what is clearly a rebuilding/reloading season. . . . Mike Brodeur and Justin Rose, the team’s assistant coaches, ran things on an interim basis for a couple of days. . . . On Thursday, the Oil Barons announced that Gord Thibodeau had returned to the organization as GM and head coach. He had filled both positions with the Oil Barons for 11 seasons (2003-14). . . . Thibodeau is the winningest coach in AJHL history, having put up number 833 in February 2017 while with the Whitecourt Wolverines. He and the Wolverines parted company shortly after he put up that victory. . . . Thibodeau also has battled non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on four separate occasions since 1989, most recently in 2016.


Mike Sawatzky of the Winnipeg Free Press tweeted Wednesday that F Connor McLennon wpgicewill be out of the Winnipeg Ice’s lineup for up to eight weeks with a broken collarbone. . . . McLennon was injured Tuesday night in a 5-1 victory over the visiting Prince George Cougars. He leads the Ice in goals (21), assists (28) and points (49), all in 42 games for the East Division-leading club. . . . Interestingly, the Ice didn’t list its two 2004-born forwards — Matt Savoie and Connor Geekie — on the WHL’s weekly roster report. Savoie, who has five assists in 12 games, is out with a concussion; Geekie, pointless in seven games, has mononucleosis. . . . The Ice selected Savoie with the first overall pick in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft, and took Geekie with the next selection.


After Seattle had its season come to an end on Sunday in Green Bay, Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch offered some advice for young NFLers: ““It’s a vulnerable time for a lot of young dudes, you feel me? So, you feel me? Start takin’ care of y’all mentals and y’all bodies and y’all’s chicken. So, when y’all ready to, you know, walk away, you be able to do what you want to do.” . . . By chicken, of course, he meant money. . . . All of that got lots of play, and by early in the week you could visit his website (beastmode.com) and purchase hoodies and T-shirts emblazoned with “Take Care Yo’ Chicken” across the chests. . . . Yes, Lynch practises what he preaches.


Micro


If you watched the video of the battling goaltenders on Saturday night, you will have noticed Roman Basran of the Kelowna Rockets holding his right arm in a gingerly KelownaRocketsfashion after he and Dylan Garand of the Kamloops Blazers got up off the canvas, er, ice. . . . Well, the Rockets listed Basran as out day-to-day with an upper-body injury on Tuesday’s WHL roster report. . . . Basran has been the Rockets’ No. 1 goaltender. . . . The Rockets (21-17-3), the host team for the Memorial Cup, are third in the B.C. Division and sixth in the Western Conference. . . . With Basran unavailable, the Rockets have added G Cole Tisdale, 17, to their roster from the AJHL’s Camrose Kodiaks. Tisdale, an eighth-round pick by the Rockets in the 2017 bantam draft, will back up Cole Schwebius as the Rockets visit the Everett Silvertips tonight (Friday) and then go into Portland for a Saturday-Sunday doubledip with the Winterhawks. . . .

The Rockets also have lost F Liam Kindree, 19, for up to two months — i.e., the remainder of the regular season — with a broken collarbone. He had surgery on Thursday. . . . As well, Kelowna F Nolan Foote showed up on the weekly roster report as being out week-to-week with an undisclosed lower-body injury. . . . Foote was injured in a 4-1 loss in Kamloops on Friday. . . . Kindree went down in a 7-2 loss to the visiting Blazers on Saturday. The Rockets were adamant that it was a second-period hit on Kindree by Kamloops F Jeremy Appelt that resulted in some late-game fisticuffs. Kindree was given a boarding minor on the play.


Here is Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice on the spate of NHL firings:

“It’s a very painful experience. It’s a very personal, yet very public, experience.

“I think this is the best analogy: You’re in a marriage, you love the woman but it’s getting a little bit rocky. Then you come home one day and she says ‘Paul, we’re going in a different direction and there’s gonna be a press conference in three hours and we’re gonna talk about how great the new husband’s gonna be.’

“So, it’s tough. You put your heart and soul into it and then you’re out.”


JUST NOTES: The Minnesota Twins signed 3B Josh Donaldson to a four-year deal said to be worth US$92 million. Donaldson turned 34 on Dec. 8. Hey, gang, it’s only money. . . . Of course, with Donaldson at the hot corner, the Twins now will move Miguel Sanó, who will be 27 in May, to first base. . . . Donaldson hit 37 dingers with the Atlanta Braves last season; Sano hit 34 in only 380 ABs with the Twins. . . . If you’re like me, you’re wondering: How much of Subway does Martha Stewart own? . . . Do the people who had a problem with LSU quarterback Joe Burrow smoking a victory cigar also have issues when championship teams celebrate by pouring beer and champagne all over the place? . . . A final thought on MLB’s latest cheating scandal: Is this a case of a business that has turned a blind-eye — wink! wink!! — to different kinds of cheating over more than 100 years finally having the chickens come home to roost? . . . The first pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on Feb. 12.

WHL asks players to opt out of lawsuit. . . . Yes, Matvichuk wants to keep coaching. . . . Blades sign three 2019 draft picks

MacBeth

D Nick Ross (Regina, Kamloops, Vancouver, 2004-09) has signed a one-year contract with Jegesmedvék Miskolc (Hungary, Slovakia Extraliga). This season, with Innsbruck (Austria, Erste Bank Liga), he had nine goals and 31 assists in 52 games. He was second on the team in assists. . . .

F Dalibor Bortňák (Kamloops, 2008-11) has signed a one-year contract with Košice (Slovakia, Extraliga). This season, with Nitra (Slovakia, Extraliga), he had 10 goals and 21 assists in 54 games. . . .

F Parker Bowles (Tri-City, 2011-16) has signed a one-year contract with Orli Znojmo (Czech Republic, Erste Bank Liga). This season, with Lillehammer (Norway, GET-Ligaen), he had 20 goals and 25 assists in 48 games. . . .

F Gilbert Brulé (Vancouver, 2002-06) has signed a two-year contract with Kunlun Red Star Beijing (China, KHL). This season, with Sibir Novosibirsk (Russia, KHL), he had seven goals and 15 assists in 30 games. . . .

D Clint Filbrandt (Tri-City, Kootenay, 2012-14) has signed a one-year contract with DEAC Debrecen (Hungary, Erste Liga). This season, with U of Lethbridge (USports, Canada West), he had two goals and five assists in 25 games. . . .

F Calder Brooks (Calgary, Prince Albert, Spokane, 2011-15) has signed a one-year contract with Lyon (France, Ligue Magnus). This season, with St. Mary’s U (USports, Atlantic University Sport), he had six goals and 15 assists in 29 games. He also had three goals and one assist in three games with the Wichita Thunder (ECHL). . . .

F Danis Zaripov (Swift Current, 1998-99) has signed a one-year contract extension with Ak Bars Kazan (Russia, KHL). This season, he had nine goals and 23 assists in 48 games. He was third on his team in points. . . .

F Milan Jurík (Prince Albert, 2006-07) has signed a one-year contract extension with Mulhouse (France, Ligue Magnus). An alternate captain, he had six goals and 17 assists in 42 games this season. . . .

F Brendan Shinnimin (Tri-City, 2007-12) has signed a two-year contract extension with Växjö Lakers (Sweden, SHL). This season, he had 17 goals and 16 assists in 47 games. He tied for the team lead in goals and points. . . .

F Marek Kalus (Spokane, Brandon, 2010-13) has signed a one-year contract with the Linz Black Wings (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). This season, with Orli Znojmo (Czech Republic, Erste Bank Liga), he had 20 goals and 30 assists in 50 games. He led the team in goals and points.


ThisThat

Rick Westhead, TSN’s senior correspondent, reported Tuesday that the WHL “is asking current and former players to opt out of a class-action minimum-wage lawsuit against the league, suggesting that the future of amateur sports in Canada is at risk. The WHL shared its message in an e-bulletin that was sent Tuesday by email to a distribution list that includes current and former players. The group email was obtained by TSN.” . . . Westhead’s complete story is right here.


It began with a report in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette that had Richard Matvichuk, the former head coach of the WHL’s Prince George Cougars, as a candidate for the head-coaching position with the ECHL’s Komets.

Matvichuk wasn’t the favourite, reported Justin A. Cohn, but he was believed to be in the chase.

Then came a rumour that, no, Matvichuk didn’t want to coach, and that he would stay in Prince George and get involved with minor hockey.

Well, it turns out that Matvichuk, a 46-year-old native of Edmonton, isn’t through with coaching. At least, he hopes he isn’t.

As he told Taking Note: “Yes, I want to coach.”

And why shouldn’t he?

A defenceman, Matvichuk played three seasons (1989-92) with the Saskatoon Blades before going on to a professional career that included 796 regular-season NHL games and another 123 in the playoffs. His name is on the Stanley Cup (Dallas Stars, 1998-99).

His coaching career includes two seasons as assistant GM/assistant coach with the Texas-based Allen Americans, who then were in the CHL. He then spent two seasons (2014-16) as director of hockey operations and head coach of the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks. He was the ECHL’s coach of the year in the second of those seasons.

Matvichuk brought that track record to the Cougars, and he guided them to first place in the B.C. Division with a franchise-record 45 victories in his first season. That marked the first time the franchise had won a WHL banner.

But the Cougars went all-in that season, then were upset in six games by the Portland Winterhawks in the first round of the playoffs.

The Cougars spent the past two seasons trying to get back on track, as often happens to teams that try to seize the moment by going all-in.

General manager Mark Lamb, who was nearing the end of his first season with the Cougars, fired Matvichuk with 16 games remaining this season. Matvichuk’s three-year contract was to have expired following the season.

At the time, the Cougars were 16-30-6 and on an 11-game losing skid. Lamb stepped in as head coach and the slump reached a franchise-record 17 games before it finally ended. The Cougars went 3-11-2 under Lamb to finish at 19-41-8 and out of the playoffs.

During the season, the Cougars’ ownership, having surveyed the damage, reached the conclusion that it would never again go all-in, that the price to be paid just isn’t worth it because, as they found out, there aren’t any guarantees.

It also has to be pointed out that the Cougars’ 2018-19 season, at least in terms of grabbing a playoff spot, was done in by perhaps the worst stretch of scheduling in WHL history.

The Cougars were 11-14-3 in December when they headed into an absolutely bizarre 11-game road trip that was broken up by the Christmas break and included three separate treks into the U.S. Division.

Here’s a bit of what I wrote in February:
“If you’re wondering why things went south in Prince George this season, it may have had something to do with the schedule. As bad as 16-30-6 may sound now, the Cougars were 11-14-3 as they began an insane 11-game road trip that was interrupted by the Christmas break and included three separate jaunts into the U.S. Division. They went 3-8-0 on that trip, came home and beat Kelowna twice, and are 0-8-3 since those victories.

“Team management has since gone on the record as saying it will never again accept such goofy scheduling.”

The Cougars split with the visiting Victoria Royals on Dec. 1 and 2, then didn’t play at home again until Jan. 11 and 12 when they swept Kelowna.

It’s no wonder that Matvichuk doesn’t feel that he is done with coaching.


The WHL will have three of its coaches working benches during the U-17 World Hockey Challenge in November. . . . Michael Dyck, the head coach of the Vancouver Giants, has been named by Hockey Canada as head coach of Team Canada White. . . . Ryan Marsh, the associate coach with the Saskatoon Blades, will be an assistant coach alongside Dyck. . . . Steve O’Rourke, an assistant coach with the Prince George Cougars, is to be an assistant coach on Team Canada Red. . . . The tournament is to be held in Medicine Hat and Swift Current, Nov. 2-9.


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The Saskatoon Blades have signed three 2019 bantam draft selections to WHL contracts. . . . F Brandon Lisowsky, from Coquitlam, B.C., was taken in the first round, ninth overall. He is the eighth of the 22 first-round selections to sign a WHL contract. This season, Lisowsky had 61 goals and 48 assists in 53 games with the Burnaby Winter Club’s bantam prep team. . . . F Hayden Smith, from Kamloops, was selected in the second round. He had 24 goals and 23 assists in 30 games with the Yale Hockey Academy’s bantam prep team. . . . G Ethan Chadwick, from Saskatoon, was a third-round pick. He had a 2.83 GAA and a .920 save percentage in 22 games with the bantam AA Saskatoon Stallions.

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The Regina Pats have signed D Layton Feist to a WHL contract. Feist, from Coldstream, B.C., was selected in the first round, 17th overall, of the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft. This season, he had eight goals and 14 assists in 20 games with the OMAHA (Okanagan Mainline Amateur Hockey Association) North Zone Kings. . . . His older brother, Tyson, is a defenceman with the Pats.

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The Medicine Hat Tigers have signed F Brayden Boehm to a WHL contract.  He was a second-round selection in the 2019 bantam draft. . . . From Nanaimo, he had 16 goals and 24 in 30 games with the Delta Hockey Academy’s prep green team this season.

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The Swift Current Broncos have signed F Caleb Wyrostok to a WHL contract. From Medicine Hat, he was a ninth-round selection by the Broncos in the 2018 bantam draft. . . . Wyrostok, 16, played this season for the Northern Alberta X-Treme elite 15 team, putting up 20 goals and 15 assists in 30 games.


The MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders have signed Geoff Grimwood as their new general manager and head coach. Grimwood, from Victoria, spent 2018-19 as the GM and head coach of the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors. Prior to that, he was the GM and head coach of the SJHL’s Kindersley Klippers for three seasons.


Bob Beatty, a veteran junior A coach, has signed on with the AJHL’s Fort McMurray Oil Barons as an associate coach. For the past two seasons, Beatty has been the head coach of the bantam prep team at the Shawnigan Lake, B.C., School. In Fort McMurray, Beatty will be working alongside Dave Dupas, who is preparing for his first season as general manager and head coach.


Pierre-Paul Lamoureux is the new head coach of the USHL’s Fargo Force. A native of Grand Forks, N.D., he played three seasons (2004-07) with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels and worked as their associate coach in 2016-17. Lamoureux was the Force’s associate head coach for the past two seasons. . . . Lamoureux, 31, will be the youngest head coach in the league. He takes over from Cary Eades, who stays on as general manager and president of hockey operations.


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