Veteran coach to join Raiders? . . . Leavold lands new scouting job . . . Votto: Eight-plus seasons, seven pop ups!


Scattershooting

The Prince Albert Raiders need to replace associate coach Dave Manson, who left to sign on as an assistant coach with the the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors. . . . Taking Note has been told that spot with the Raiders may go to long-time coach Jeff Truitt. It makes sense because Truitt, who spent the past five-plus seasons with the Red Deer Rebels, and Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid have a history together. Truitt was an assistant coach in Kelowna during Habscheid’s time as the Rockets’ head coach. After four season’s as an assistant there, Truitt took over as head coach when Habscheid left after the 2003-04 season.



It’s Friday night and Sportsnet, coming off a Toronto Blue Jays telecast, has Sports Central showing on four channels. At 8 p.m. Pacific, it is to switch to a game between the Houston Astros and Mike Trout’s Los Angeles Angels. Finally, at 8:12 p.m., the switch is made. It’s the top of the fourth inning and Houston holds a 3-0 lead. . . . Here’s the deal Sportsnet. When you start showing viewers the respect they deserve and stop joining these games in progress, I’ll return to watching you again. See ya!


It’s Saturday night, and I just assumed Sportsnet would join the Houston Astros and host Seattle Mariners at 8 p.m. Pacific. So I watched the end of the game between the visiting St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs. Turns out that Sportsnet started the game in Seattle on time. Oh well, maybe next time. Sheesh, who knew this could be so confusing?



Taking Note has been told that veteran WHL scout Brian Leavold now is working with the Saskatoon Blades. Leovold was one of those who left Swift Current as the Broncos went through a regime change.


I stumbled on this Twitter thread on Saturday morning. For the purposes of this tweet, a pop up is a flyball that lands or is caught within 140 feet of home plate. This, then, is amazing. . . . BTW, it seems that Joey Votto has yet to hit a pop up to a catcher, pitcher or first baseman. Seriously!


With so many Major League Baseball players in swing mode, why do pitchers throw fastballs in the strike zone? Why not one slider after another? Hey, just asking.



“Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander and model wife Kate Upton are expecting their first child,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “In lieu of Johnson’s baby powder, they plan to use a rosin bag.”


One more from Perry: “The minor-league Savannah Bananas’ rained-out game against the rival Macon Bacon — in which Bananas players will wear kilts — has been rescheduled for Wednesday, July 25. But why stop there? Kilt the umpire!”


Perry has a hat trick: “Canada will legalize marijuana nationwide on Oct. 17, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced. “Coming soon to an NHL trophy case near you: the Lady Bong Trophy.”


MLB commissioner Rob Manfred appeared on PTI early in the week and made the comment that Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout could raise his profile by putting himself out there more. To which Janice Hough — she’s over there at LeftCoastSportsBabe.com — commented: “What about if ESPN and Fox showed other teams beside the Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs?” . . . Hey, hard to argue with her.


“Alabama coach Nick Saban isn’t sure whether Jalen Hurts or title-game hero Tua Tagovailoa will be his starting QB,” writes RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com. “Note to Saban: Love Hurts.”


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Giants add Brown to front office . . . Humboldt crash victim prepping for sledge career . . . Ice, Wheat Kings swing deal


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F Konstantin Pushkaryov (Calgary, 2004-05) signed a two-year contract with Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk (Kazakhstan, Russia Vysshaya Liga). Last season, with Barys Astana (Kazakhstan, KHL), he had seven goals and nine assists in 47 games. He also had seven goals and two assists in 12 games with Nomad Astana (Kazakhstan, Kazakh Vysshaya Liga). . . .

D Alex Roach (Calgary, 2010-14) signed a one-year contract with Deggendorf (Germany, DEL2). Last season, he had three assists in 25 games with Grizzlys Wolfsburg (Germany, DEL); two assists in eight games with Eispiraten Crimmitschau (Germany, DEL2); and one goal in two games with the Kassel Huskies (Germany, DEL2).


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Bob Brown, the architect of three Memorial Cup championship teams, is back in the WHL, this time with the Vancouver Giants with whom he served as a vice-president in Vancouver2001-02, their first season in the WHL. . . . The Giants announced on Friday morning that Brown has been hired to fill the new position of senior advisor. . . . Brown has spent the past 16 seasons as a scout with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. . . . Before that, he was the general manager of the Kamloops Blazers for 10 seasons (1986-95) and is generally recognized as the man who built the Kamloops teams that won the Memorial Cup three times in four years (1992, 1994, 1995). He was unceremoniously fired two weeks after the Blazers won the third of those championships. . . . In his time in Kamloops, the Blazers won 435 games, seven division titles and five WHL championships. . . . Brown then went on to work for five seasons (1995-2000) as the vice-president and general manager of the Tri-City Americans. . . . Brown was inducted into the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame in Penticton as a builder in 2009. In 2013, Brown also was part of the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame proceedings as the 1993-94 and 1994-95 Blazers were inducted. . . . Barclay Parneta, the Giants’ recently hired GM, worked as a scout under Brown with the Americans, who were owned at the time by Ron Toigo, who is the Giants’ majority owner.



The Kootenay Ice has acquired F Gunnar Wegleitner, 20, from the Brandon Wheat Kings Kootenaynewfor a conditional sixth-round selection in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft. . . . Wegleitner, from Vancouver, B.C., had 10 goals and nine assists in 57 regular-season games last season. In 2014-15, he had one goal in 43 games with the Everett Silvertips. In 2016-17, he was pointless in 12 games with the Victoria Royals. . . . The Ice now has five 1998-born players on its roster, as Wegleitner joins Slovakian D Martin Bodak, who would be a two-spotter, D Dallas Hines, a veteran of three seasons in Cranbrook, D Ryan Pouliot, who has played two-plus seasons with Kootenay, and G Matt Berlin, who was acquired from the Seattle Thunderbirds on Jan. 8. . . . Taking Note has been told that Bodak, who will turn 20 on Nov. 28, hasn’t yet made a decision as to whether to return for a second season with the Ice. It could be that he and his agent are hoping to land a contract with a team in Europe. . . . The trade leaves Brandon with three 20-year-olds on its roster — D School Higson, F Linden McCorrister, and F Ty Lewis, who has signed with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and may open the season with the AHL’s Colorado Eagles.


The Port Moody Panthers of the junior B Pacific Junior Hockey League have signed PortMoodyPanthersJennifer Gilligan as their goaltending coach. Gilligan has worked with Next Level Goaltending in Abbotsford, B.C., and The Advantage Hockey Development in Vancouver for eight years. According to the Panthers’ website, she also “is the manager and senior instructor at Pro Formance Goalie School and the female varsity assistant coach at the Delta Hockey Academy.” . . . Gilligan also has worked as an assistant coach with Team BC at the National Aboriginal championship and is an apprentice coach with the U-18 Team BC that will play in the 2019 Canada Winter Games.


By now there is ample evidence that having children limit their experience to one sport isn’t a good thing. There is more of that right here in a story by Anna Wassermann of CBC News that carries the subhead ‘Medical evidence shows kids who play one sport year-round are at greater risk of injury.’


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Hansch, Hamilton, Marsh gone from Oil Kings . . . Heponiemi is finished in Swift Current . . . Blades, Ice sign draft picks

MacBeth

F Josh Holden (Regina, 1994-98) has retired from playing and signed a one-year contract as assistant coach with Zug (Switzerland, NL A). He will also be development coach for Zug Academy (NL B) and Zug U20 (Elite Junior A). This season, he had two goals and three assists in 19 games with Zug, and had nine goals and 19 assists in 31 games with Zug Academy, where he was team captain. . . . According to the Zug news release, Holden “has been living with his family in the canton of Zug for 10 years and is likely to receive the Swiss passport soon.” . . .

F Aleksi Heponiemi (Swift Current, 2016-18) signed a two-year contract with Kärpät Oulu (Finland, Liiga). This season, with Swift Current, he had 28 goals and a WHL-leading 90 assists in 57 games.


ThisThat

I have spent the past few weeks tinkering with three different blog sites.

If you haven’t already, please take a few moments to check them out, then let me know which one you prefer.

Here are the three addresses . . .

greggdrinnan.com

greggdrinnan.blogspot.com

gdrinnan.blogspot.ca

Let me know your preference by sending an email to greggdrinnan@gmail.com.


The Edmonton Oil Kings will have at least three new faces in their hockey operations department when another season rolls around.

The Oil Kings will have a new general manager after revealing on Monday that Randy EdmontonOilKingsHansch is joining an as-yet-unnamed NHL team as an amateur scout.

At the same time, the Oil Kings announced that they have fired head coach Steve Hamilton, who had been in the organization for eight seasons, while assistant coach Ryan Marsh’s contract won’t be renewed. Marsh had been in that position through four seasons.

The decisions were announced by Peter Chiarelli, the president of hockey operations and general manager of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, who own the WHL franchise.

Hamilton, 44, spent four seasons as an assistant coach under head coach Derek Laxdal, then was head coach for four seasons. Hamilton took over from Hamilton when the latter joined the AHL’s Texas Stars as head coach.

Under Laxdal, the Oil Kings won two WHL titles and a Memorial Cup championship. Under Hamilton, the Oil Kings went 108-152-28, missing the playoffs each of the past two seasons.

This season, the Oil Kings had the WHL’s poorest record — 22-42-8.

Hansch, 52, had been with the Oil Kings since 2007-08, working the past five seasons as general manager. Prior to that, he was the director of player personnel and assistant general manager.

There has been speculation since the WHL bantam draft on May 3 that Kirt Hill, a former WHL player who spent this season as an amateur scout with the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, will be joining the Oil Kings as director of hockey operations.

Hill played in the WHL with the Kelowna Rockets and Regina Pats (2004-08). He joined the WHL office as manager of player development during the 2013-14 season, then left to work for the Blackhawks prior to this season.

Derek Van Diest of Postmedia has more on the Oil Kings right here in a piece that includes some good quotes from Hansch.


There now are four WHL teams in need of a head coach.

The Oil Kings, of course, need one, having fired Steve Hamilton on Monday after he spent four seasons in that role.

Also needing a head coach are the Kamloops Blazers, Saskatoon Blades and Swift Current Broncos.

The Blazers are looking for a replacement for Don Hay, who has moved into an advisory role after four seasons as head coach. However, Hay, 64,  has said he wants to continue coaching and you would think he would at least get some consideration in Edmonton. Hay has more regular-season and playoff victories than anyone in WHL history.

Saskatoon needs a head coach after firing Dean Brockman following the end of its season.

Swift Current, which won the WHL championship, has to replace Manny Viveiros, who left the Broncos on Friday and now is an assistant coach with the Oilers.

When it comes to general managers, there are three teams looking to hire.

The Oil Kings are looking for a replacement for Randy Hansch after Monday’s announcement.

Also in the market are the Kamloops Blazers and Prince George Cougars. The Blazers announced earlier this month that Stu MacGregor had been reassigned to the scouting staff of the NHL’s Dallas Stars — Dallas owner Tom Gaglardi is the majority owner of the Blazers — while the Cougars parted company with Todd Harkins after their season ended.

The general manager in Prince George will inherit a head coach, Richard Matvichuk, who is going into the final season of his contract.

The Vancouver Giants already have a new general manager, having hired Barclay Parneta earlier this month. He replaces Glen Hanlon, who left the team after two seasons in that role.


If you aren’t already, you really should be paying attention to TSN where, led by Rick Westhead’s reporting, it is putting a spotlight on the NHL and head injuries. . . . It all has to do with the concussion-related lawsuit filed by a number of players against the NHL in 2013. It is mind-numbing to watch NHL commissioner Gary Bettman at his condescending best, and to read about some NHL owners denying having ever heard of CTE. . . . This is important to junior hockey fans, and owner/operators, too, because sooner or later a connection is going to be made, if it hasn’t already, between former professional players who are showing signs of CTE and head injuries they incurred in junior hockey. . . . The first of TSN’s five-part series is right here. There is video and a story by Westhead.


F Aleksi Heponiemi won’t be back for a third season with the WHL-champion Swift SCBroncosCurrent Broncos. The 19-year-old Finnish sensation has signed a two-year contract with Kärpät Oulu of the top pro league in Finland. . . . This season, Heponiemi had 118 points, including 90 assists, in 57 regular-season games with the Broncos. Last season, as a freshman, he had 28 goals and 58 assists in 72 games. . . . In 2016-17, he was named the WHL’s rookie of the year after leading all freshmen in assists and points. This season, he led the WHL in assists and was named a first-team all-star. He also was named the CHL’s most sportsmanlike player. . . . Heponiemi was selected by the Florida Panthers in the second round of the NHL’s 2017 draft. . . . The Broncos’ other import player is Russian D Artyom Minulin, who is eligible to return for his 20-year-old season.


Back in the day, the Kamloops Blazers were a major junior dynasty, something that was defined by their three Memorial Cup titles in four years (1992, 1994, 1995). The architect of all that was Bob Brown, who was fired as general manager a couple of weeks after the third title as the organization chose to go in a different direction. The Blazers, of course, haven’t come close to that kind of success since then, but what is Brown up to these days? . . . Tom Zillich of the Surrey Now-Leader checks in with Brown right here.

Here’s a thought . . . Zillich reports that Brown’s scouting contract with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers is about to expire. As well, Ken Hitchcock, who had considerable success as the Blazers’ head coach back in the day, doesn’t have a coaching job these days; he has moved into an advisory role with the NHL’s Dallas Stars. . . . So you don’t suppose . . . Nah. Never happen.


The Saskatoon Blades have signed F Colton Dach, who was the sixth overall selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. From Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., he is the younger brother of Blades F Kirby Dach, who was the second overall pick in the 2016 bantam draft. . . . This season, Colton had 22 goals and 47 assists in 30 games with the OHA Edmonton bantam prep team.


The Kootenay Ice has signed three of its selections from the 2018 WHL bantam draft — D KootenaynewCarson Lambos, D Karter Prosofsky and F Skyler Bruce. . . . Lambos, from Winnipeg, was taken second overall. He had 15 goals and 25 assists in 30 games with the Winnipeg-based Rink Hockey Academy Nationals bantam prep team. He was named the CSSHL bantam league’s top defenceman. . . . Prosofsky and Bruce were second-round selections. . . . Prosofsky, from Saskatoon, had eight goals and 10 assists in 24 games with the Victoria-based Pacific Coast Hockey Academy’s bantam prep team. . . . Bruce, from Winnipeg, also played at the Rink Hockey Academy. He had 21 goals and 19 assists in 30 games with the bantam prep team.

The WHL’s 22 teams now have signed nine of the first-round selections from the 2018 bantam draft.

The Edmonton Oil Kings have signed F Dylan Guenther, the first overall selection, while the Ice (Lambos), Prince Albert Raiders (3. D Nolan Allan), Calgary Hitmen (4. F Sean Tschigerl), Saskatoon Blades (6. F Colton Dach), Lethbridge Hurricanes (8. F Zack Stringer), Tri-City Americans (14. D Marc Lajoie), Spokane Chiefs (17. D Graham Sward), and Edmonton (20. D Keegan Slaney),

The teams that have yet to sign their first-round selections are the Kamloops Blazers (5. F Logan Stankoven), Red Deer Rebels (7. F Jayden Grubbe), Prince George Cougars (9. F Craig Armstrong), Seattle Thunderbirds (10. F Kai Uchacz), Medicine Hat Tigers (11. F Cole Sillinger), Vancouver Giants (12. F Zack Ostapchuk), Victoria Royals (13. D Nolan Bentham), Brandon Wheat Kings (15. F Jake Chiasson), Red Deer (16. D Kyle Masters), Kelowna Rockets (18. F Trevor Wong), Portland Winterhawks (19. F Gabe Klassen), Prince George (21. G Tyler Brennan), and Moose Jaw Warriors (22. F Eric Alarie).


A tip of the Taking Note cap to the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves for hiring Mike Commito to fill the newly created position of team historian. . . . This is great news for a part of the hockey world whose history often is shoved into the shadows and forgotten. . . . “In anticipation of the Wolves 50th anniversary in the 2022 season,” the team noted in a news release, “the organization has created a new role to help capture the stories and memories that shape the rich Wolves’ hockey tradition.  From players and coaches, to fans and billet families, there are amazing stories that weave throughout the decades and who better to capture those stories than the team’s very first historian.” . . . That news release is right here.

Hay reminisces after tying WHL record . . . Shares career mark with Hodge . . . Standard of 742 could fall tonight

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Kamloops head coach Don Hay (third from left) accepts congratulations from forward Carson Denomie at the bench as trainer Colin Robinson (left) and assistant coaches Dan DePalma, Aaron Keller and Mike Needham wait to greet him.

Down below, the arena had emptied as the mostly satisified fans headed out into the Kamloops night.

The cleaning staff was sweeping and picking up bottles, getting ready for another day and another game.

In the press box, Don Hay pulled up a chair, the radio interview finished and most of his responsibilities done for the night. He undid his tie, took a deep breath and offered up a satisfied smile.

Hay’s Kamloops Blazers had just beaten the Portland Winterhawks, 5-2, for what was the 742nd regular-season coaching victory of his WHL career.

Hay2

That tied Hay with Ken Hodge as the winningest regular-season coaches in WHL history. Hodge had held the record since retiring as a coach after the 1992-93 season. Hodge spent the first three seasons (1973-76) of his WHL coaching career with the original Edmonton Oil Kings, and the remainder with the Winterhawks, the franchise having moved to the Oregon city after the 1975-76 season.

Hay will have an opportunity to break the record tonight as the Blazers and Winterhawks complete a doubleheader in Kamloops. They will play again Sunday, too, this time in Portland.

Hay, who will be 63 next month, and Hodge, 71, are hockey lifers.

Hodge’s playing career was cut short by an eye injury while with the Moose Jaw Canucks of what was then the Western Canada Hockey League, and he turned to coaching. He may have been the youngest head coach in junior hockey history when, at 21, he took over the QMJHL’s Sorel Eperviers in 1968.

As a result, Hay and Hodge were never opponents as players, but they certainly were as coaches.

Their paths did come within a couple of seasons of crossing at one point. Hodge was the head coach of the International league’s Flint Generals for four seasons (1969-73). Hay played one season with the Generals, 1975-76, by which time Hodge was with the Oil Kings.

On Friday, when Hay looked back, the first memory came from Oct. 9, 1992 . . .

Hay, then 38, had gotten his first victory on opening night, Sept. 26, 1992, when the Blazers beat the host Tacoma Rockets, 7-6 in overtime. “Yeah,” Hay says, “we were losing after two periods and Hnat Domenichelli got a hat trick in the third.”

The Blazers went on to lose 7-3 to the Chiefs in Spokane on Oct. 2, then dropped a 4-3 OT decision in Portland the next night.

But it’s that Oct. 9 game that sticks in Hay’s memory.

It was his first home game as the Blazers’ head coach. A Kamloops native, he spent seven seasons as an assistant coach with the team, before taking a leave of absence from the city’s fire department and signing on as head coach.

This game also was the first in the history of what was then Riverside Coliseum and now is the Sandman Centre.

“The building was full and we raised a banner,” Hay says.

The Blazers had won the WHL championship and the Memorial Cup in 1991-92.

“After the game, I’m in my office, my assistants don’t come in,” Hay continues. “We lost about 8-2. We got taught a lesson by Mr. Hodge.”

Aaron Keller and Chris Murray, both of them now on Hay’s coaching staff, were in the Kamloops lineup that night.

“I asked Aaron, ‘Do you remember that game?’ ” Hay says. “He told me, ‘Oh yeah, we lost 8-2.’ ”

Hay chuckles again. He loves the stories and the memories.

“I can remember sitting in that room going, ‘Did I make the right decision leaving the fire hall? Maybe I should go back to the fire hall.’

“(General manager) Bob Brown came in and he was really good. He said, ‘You’re the guy to coach us. We have a lot of faith and belief in you.’ ”

Hay spent two more seasons as the Blazers’ head coach, winning back-to-back Memorial Cups in 1994 and ’95, before giving the pro game a try.

He later spent two seasons (1998-2000) as head coach of the Tri-City Americans before trying the pro game again.

He returned to the WHL in 2004 and spent 10 seasons with the Vancouver Giants, before coming back to his hometown over the summer of 2014.

By the time Hay returned to the WHL, Hodge had retired from coaching. He spent the next 15 seasons as the general manager, and was an owner for part of that time.

“I didn’t coach a lot of games against him, but when I was an assistant those seven years we had a lot of playoff series with him,” Hay says. “I really respect the job he did . . . it’s a pretty special record to tie.

“And it was nice to do it at home.”

Hay also tied the record with a good friend working the other bench.

Mike Johnston, Portland’s vice-president, general manager and head coach, and Hay have been friends since they were together on the coaching staff with Team Canada as it won the 1995 World Junior Championship in Red Deer.

“He was a big help on that coaching staff,” Hay says, “and we’ve been friends ever since.”

They are close enough that they try to to spend at least one day each summer playing golf, having lunch “and talking hockey,” Hay says. They also connect at various coaches’ conferences.

When was the last time they spoke?

Hay chuckles and says: “I talked to him (Friday) morning . . . we’ll probably talk (this) morning.”

Later today, their teams will meet as Hay gets his first shot at becoming the winningest regular-season coach in WHL history.

At the same time, Johnston, who turns 61 next month, will be trying to become the 23rd head coach in WHL history with 300 victories.

No matter the outcome, the friendship will endure. Johnston, like Hay, is a hockey lifer.