Vegas franchise has WHL off-ice flavour . . . WHLers brought golden touch to Golden Knights . . . Next up: Stanley Cup final

If you’ve stopped off at this site, it means you are a hockey fan. That being the case, I hope you are enjoying the story being written by the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights.

On May 28, the Golden Knights, who are finishing up their first season, will begin play in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup final.

We all know that the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t won the Stanley Cup since 1967, and that the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have been with us since 2000-01, have yet to win a VegasGKplayoff series. We could go on and on, but you get the point.

Yes, this is quite a story. In fact, it just may be the greatest story in team sports in my lifetime.

I often wonder how many professional athletes haven’t been able to enjoy much in the way of success because they never were able to get themselves into the right place at the time. Now I wonder how much of the Golden Knights’ success is due to so many players being able to be in the right place at the right time.

And who is responsible for putting those players into this situation?

When the final chapter is written on the Golden Knights’ first season, there definitely will be a WHL slant to it. Yes, there are a number of men with WHL ties working off the ice with Vegas, mostly in areas of player personnel and scouting.

What follows is a look at some of those with WHL ties, and you know they’re enjoying this run:

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Kelly McCrimmon, executive vice-president and assistant GM — McCrimmon, 57, knows hockey and he knows business, that’s why he’s such a good fit with Vegas. Under his ownership, the Brandon Wheat Kings became one of the CHL’s most-respected franchises. . . . While running the Wheat Kings, McCrimmon earned an MBA from Queen’s U in Kingston, Ont. . . . He came awfully close to joining the Toronto Maple Leafs as an assistant GM over the summer of 2015, but stayed with his Wheat Kings because he had put together a roster aiming at the WHL’s 2016 championship, which Brandon won. . . . He joined Vegas that summer. . . . Did you know: After playing two seasons (1978-80) with the Wheat Kings, McCrimmon went on to the U of Michigan, where he played four seasons and was the Wolverines’ captain in the last one (1983-84).

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Murray Craven, senior vice-president — Craven, 53, played four seasons (1980-84) with his hometown Medicine Hat Tigers. He then went on to play 1,071 NHL games, spending time with Detroit, Philadelphia, Hartford, Vancouver, Chicago and San Jose. . . . Craven was named the Golden Knights’ senior vice-president on Aug. 18, 2016, after spending two years as an advisor to owner Bill Foley. . . . Craven and Foley were neighbours on Whitefish Lake in Montana and played golf together. . . . Craven oversaw such things as designing the dressing rooms in T-Mobile Arena and the building of the Golden Knights’ practice facility, and he also has done some pro scouting. . . . Did you know: Vegas GM George McPhee was an assistant GM in Vancouver when Craven played for the Canucks.

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Vaughn Karpan, director of player personnel — Karpan, 56, played 26 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings in 1979-80 — Kelly McCrimmon was a teammate — but is best known for playing four seasons with Canada’s national team. These days, he is widely respected as one of the premier talent evaluators in the game. . . . He scouted for Winnipeg/Phoenix/Arizona for 13 seasons (1992-2005), and was the director of amateur scouting for the last six of those. Karpan then spent 11 seasons with Montreal, working as an amateur scout (2005-10) before transitioning to pro scout (2010-15) and then director of professional scouting (2015-16). . . . He signed on with the Golden Knights and spent the past two seasons scouting the professional ranks. . . . This is the man with the golden eyes and an incredible feel for the game. Yes, you can bet that he had a whole lot to do with putting together the roster that is about to play for the Stanley Cup. . . . Did you know: Karpan represented Canada at two Olympic Winter Games — 1984 and 1988.

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Bob Lowes, assistant director of player personnel — Lowes, 55, played with the Prince Albert Raiders and Regina Pats (1982-84), captaining the Pats in his final season. He spent nine seasons (1992-2001) as the head coach of Kelly McCrimmon’s Brandon Wheat Kings and three with the Pats (2001-04). . . . From 2006-16, he scouted for the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, serving as director of amateur scouting for the last two of those. . . . Like Karpan, Lowes spent 2016-17 doing pro scouting for Vegas. . . . Did you know: When Lowes was inducted into the U of Manitoba Bisons Hockey Hall of Fame in February, he was introduced by McCrimmon.

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Erin Ginnell, amateur scout — Ginnell, 49, played for five teams over two WHL seasons (1985-87). He skated for the New Westminster Bruins, Calgary Wranglers, Seattle Thunderbirds, Regina Pats and Swift Current Broncos. . . . He has been an NHL amateur scout since 2000-01, starting with the Columbus Blue Jackets for two seasons and one with the Colorado Avalanche. He was with the Florida Panthers for 13 seasons (2003-16), the last five as director of amateur scouting. He lost his job when the tall foreheads in Florida chose to clean house. (The Panthers, who haven’t won a playoff series since the spring of 1996, also fired Scott Luce, who had been the director of amateur scouting for eight seasons, the director of scouting for five and the director of player personnel for one. He now is the Golden Knights’ director of amateur scouting.) . . . Ginnell is the son of the late Pat Ginnell, who was a legendary coach, and the father of Kootenay Ice F Brad Ginnell. . . . Did you know: Following the crash of the Swift Current Broncos’ bus on Dec. 30, 1986, in which four players died, Erin was one of the players acquired by the Broncos to help get them through that season.

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Bruno Campese, amateur scout — Campese, 54, was a goaltender who played one season (1982-83) with the Portland Winter Hawks, who won the 1983 Memorial Cup. However, the Winter Hawks added G Mike Vernon from the Calgary Wranglers — teams could add a goaltender from another team back in the day — and Campese saw only 40 minutes of playing time. . . . He also played one season (1983-84) with the Kelowna Wings. . . . Campese spent one-plus seasons as the GM/head coach of the Prince Albert Raiders, before stepping aside as coach. He then spent three seasons (2012-15) as the GM. . . . This is his first NHL scouting gig. . . . Did you know: Campese played in the 1994 Olympic Winter Games, as well as the 1993, 1994 and 1995 IIHF World Championship tournaments, with the Italian national team. He has dual Canadian/Italian citizenship.

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Kelly Kisio, pro scout — Kisio, 58, played two seasons with the Calgary Wranglers (1978-80) before going on to a lengthy pro career that ended after two seasons (1993-95) with the Calgary Flames. . . . He then spent 21 more seasons in the Flames’ organization, the last 18 of those with the Hitmen. At various times, he was the general manager, head coach, executive vice-president of hockey operations and, for the last three of those seasons, the president of hockey operations. Yes, it was a surprise to some that the Flames didn’t move him to the NHL side of things before losing him to Vegas. . . . His son, Brent, is the head coach of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . Did you know: Kelly played for the Swiss club HC Davos in 1982-83. In his second-last game there, Kisio recorded eight goals and two assists in a 19-7 victory over HC Lugano. Three days later, he joined the Detroit Red Wings.

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Jim McKenzie, pro scout — McKenzie, 48, played two WHL seasons (1986-88) with the Moose Jaw Warriors and one with the Victoria Cougars. He totalled 21 goals in 197 regular-season games before going on to an NHL career that featured 880 games, 48 goals and 1,739 penalty minutes. . . . He has a Stanley Cup ring from the 2002-03 New Jersey Devils. . . . In the NHL, he played for Hartford, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Winnipeg, Phoenix, Anaheim, Washington, New Jersey and Nashville. . . . He joined the NHL’s Florida Panthers as a pro scout in 2013-14 and spent three seasons there. . . .  Did you know: McKenzie’s hometown is Gull Lake, Sask., which also is the hometown of Roger Aldag, perhaps the greatest offensive lineman in the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ history.

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Ryan McGill, assistant coach — McGill, 49, played in the WHL with the Lethbridge Broncos, Swift Current Broncos and Medicine Hat Tigers (1985-89). . . . He won a Memorial Cup with the 1987-88 Tigers. . . . McGill’s playing career included 151 NHL games but was cut short by an eye injury. . . . He coached in the WHL with the Edmonton Ice and Kootenay Ice. McGill guided Kootenay to the 2002 Memorial Cup title. . . . He also has coached in the AHL and was on the Calgary Flames’ staff for two seasons (2009-11). . . . Before joining Vegas, McGill spent two seasons as head coach of the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack. He was the OHL and CHL coach of the year for 2016-17. . . . Did you know: McGill has previous Knights coaching experience, having spent two seasons (2005-07) as the head coach of the AHL’s Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights.

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Mike Kelly, assistant coach — Kelly, 58, spent one season (2003-04) in the WHL, as the Brandon Wheat Kings’ head coach. He was fired by Kelly McCrimmon on March 1, 2004, and McCrimmon, the general manager, took over as head coach. . . . Kelly also has coached in the OHL, QMJHL and the Canadian university ranks. He also worked as an assistant coach in the NHL, with the Vancouver Canucks (2006-08) and Florida Panthers. He was in his third season with the Panthers when he was fired on Nov. 27, 2016. At the same time, the Panthers dumped head coach Gerard Gallant, who now is the Golden Knights’ head coach. . . . Did you know: Kelly worked as an assistant coach under Gallant with the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs (2010-12). They won the 2011 Memorial Cup.

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Ryan Craig, assistant coach — Craig, 36, played five seasons (1998-03) with the Brandon Wheat Kings and was the captain for the last two of those seasons. Obviously, he is well-connected with Kelly McCrimmon. . . . Craig’s pro career included 198 NHL games and 711 in the AHL, where he won a championship with the 2015-16 Lake Erie Monsters. . . . He retired after the 2016-17 season and was hired by the Golden Knights. . . . Did you know: Craig captained four AHL franchises — the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Norfolk Admirals, Springfield Falcons, and Lake Erie/Cleveland Monsters.

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Shane Hnidy, TV analyst — Hnidy, 42, split five WHL seasons — and 327 games — between the Swift Current Broncos and Prince Albert Raiders. A defenceman, he went on to a pro career that included 550 regular-season NHL games, along with stints in the ECHL, AHL and IHL. . . . Hnidy had been part of the Winnipeg Jets’ broadcast crew for six seasons before moving to Vegas. . . . Did you know: Hnidy won a Stanley Cup with the 2010-11 Boston Bruins, getting into three regular-season games and three more in the playoffs. He retired following that season.

Lowes is Hall of Famer . . . Kehler wins duel with Hart as ‘Hawks win . . . Topping fills hat in rout of Royals . . . Anders blanks Blades

MacBeth

F Eric Johansson (Tri-City, 1997-2002) has been released by Val Pusteria Brunico (Italy, Alps HL). He had eight goals and 18 assists in 31 games. . . .

F Jiří Cetkovský (Calgary, 2002-03) has signed a contract for the rest of the season with Prostějov (Czech Republic, 1. Liga) after being released by Nové Zámky (Slovakia, Extraliga). He had five goals and eight assists in 38 games. . . .

D Richard Nedomlel (Swift Current, 2010-13) has been assigned on loan by Sparta Prague (Czech Republic, Extraliga) to Mladá Boleslav (Czech Republic, Extraliga) for the rest of this season. He had two assists in 34 games. . . .

D Tomáš Voráček (Prince Albert, 2007-09) has signed a contract the for rest of this season with Sparta Prague (Czech Republic, Extraliga) after obtaining his release from Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, KHL). He had three assists in 53 games. . . .

F Lukáš Vantuch (Calgary, Lethbridge, 2005-07) has been assigned on loan by Liberec (Czech Republic, Extraliga) to Chomutov (Czech Republic, Extraliga) for the rest of the season. He had two assists in 29 games. He also had one goal and two assists in three games while on loan to Benátky nad Jizerou (Czech Republic, 1. Liga).


A LITTLE OF THIS . . .

Bob Lowes, a former WHL player and coach, was inducted into the U of Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame on Wednesday night. After completing his WHL playing career (Prince Albert, Regina, 1982-84), Lowes played four seasons (1985-89) with the U of Manitoba Bisons. . . . He later worked in the WHL as an assistant coach with the Regina Pats and Seattle Thunderbirds, then as a head coach with the Brandon Wheat Kings and Regina. . . . These days, he is the assistant director of player personnel with the NHL’s top team, the Vegas Golden Knights.


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Scoreboard

WEDNESDAY:

At Regina, the Pats unleashed a 60-shot barrage as they skated to a 4-1 victory over the Prince George Cougars. . . . The Pats (26-22-5) had lost their previous two games. They are ReginaPats100fourth in the East Division, four points behind Brandon. Regina also holds down the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot, four points ahead of Saskatoon. . . . The Cougars (18-26-8) are 0-3-1 on an East Division swing. They are 13 points out of a playoff spot. . . . The Pats held a 24-7 edge in first-period shots, but came out tied 1-1. F Jesse Gabrielle (7) scored for the Pats, on a PP, at 1:20, with F Jared Bethune (17) scoring, while shorthanded, for the Cougars at 7:57. . . . Regina took control with second-period goals from F Sam Steel, at 4:15, and F Matt Bradley (30), at 11:17. . . . F Cam Hebig (35) stretched the lead to 4-1, shorthanded, at 1:35 of the third period. . . . F Emil Oksanen had two assists for Regina, with Steel adding one. . . . G Max Paddock stopped 29 shots for Regina. . . . Prince George got 56 saves from G Taylor Gauthier. . . . The Cougars lost F Vladislav Mikhalchuk at 6:11 of the second period with a headshot major and game misconduct. . . . Announced attendance: 5,426.


At Saskatoon, G Ethan Anders posted his first WHL shutout as the Red Deer Rebels beat Red Deerthe Blades, 2-0. . . . Red Deer (14-25-12) has points in five straight (4-0-1) and is fourth in the Central Division, nine points behind Kootenay. . . . Saskatoon (25-24-3) had won its previous two games. It holds down the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, three points ahead of Prince Albert. The Raiders hold two games in hand. . . . D Jacob Herauf (2) gave the visitors a 1-0 lead at 1:49 of the first period. . . . F Josh Tarzwell (6) got the empty-netter at 18:53 of the third period. . . . Anders, a 17-year-old freshman from Regina, stopped 33 shots. He is 8-14-6, 2.95, .910. . . . The Blades got 24 stops from G Tyler Brown. . . . F Kirby Dach (ill) was among Saskatoon’s scratches. . . . Announced attendance: 2,821.


At Cranbrook, B.C., the Edmonton Oil Kings scored the game’s first two goals and went on to a 5-2 victory over the Kootenay Ice. . . . Edmonton (14-29-7) had lost its previous four EdmontonOilKingsgames (0-3-1). . . . The Ice (23-24-3) had won three in a row. It is third in the Central Division, three points behind Lethbridge. . . . F Trey Fix-Wolansky (21) got Edmonton started at 19:25 of the first period and F Tomas Soustal (13) made it 2-0 just 27 seconds into the second period. . . . Ice F Brett Davis scored a PP goal at 14:03. . . . The Oil Kings got that one back on a PP as F Nick Bowman (5) scored at 1:50 of the third period. . . . Davis (18) scored again at 5:06, but the Oil Kings put it away on goals from F Brett Kemp (12), at 9:47, and F Colton Kehler (23), into an empty net, at 19:06. . . . The Oil Kings got two assists from F Brendan Semchuk, with Soustal and Fix-Wolansky adding one each. . . . The Ice got two assists from D Jonathan Smart. He’s got three goals and 13 assists, including his 50th career assist, in 27 games with the Ice since moving over from Regina. . . . Edmonton was 1-4 on the PP; Kootenay was 1-7. . . . G Todd Scott earned the victory with 30 saves, 10 more than Kootenay’s Duncan McGovern. . . . Announced attendance: 2,112.


At Kamloops, D Luke Zazula broke a 1-1 tie at 2:02 of the third period and the Blazers went on to a 3-1 victory over the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . Kamloops (24-24-3), which has Kamloops1won six of seven, is six points from a playoff spot. . . . Medicine Hat (26-21-6) has lost two in a row. It leads the Central Division by six points over Lethbridge. . . . F Luc Smith (16) gave Kamloops a 1-0 lead at 15:30 of the first period, using a baseball swing to bang in a goal-mouth rebound. . . . Medicine Hat tied it when F Elijah Brown (2) scored, on a PP, at 16:23 of the second period. . . . Zazula broke the tie with his third goal. . . . F Jermaine Loewen (24) provided insurance when he tipped in a point shot by D Montana Onyebuchi at 8:15 of the third period. . . . F Carson Denomie had two assists for Kamloops, with Loewen getting one. . . . Medicine Hat was 1-2 on the PP; Kamloops was 1-4. . . . G Dylan Ferguson was solid for the Blazers, with 36 saves, four more than Medicine Hat’s Michael Bullion. . . . F Ryan Chyzowski of the Tigers took a headshot major and game misconduct on Tuesday in Kelowna. Sometime on Wednesday that was changed to an interference major and it didn’t draw a suspension, so he was in the lineup in his hometown. In all liklihood, it also was the final meeting between the Chyzowski brothers. Nick, 20, is in his final season with the Blazers. . . . Announced attendance: 3,321.


At Portland, F Cody Glass and F Kieffer Bellows returned to the Winterhawks’ lineup with five points in a 3-0 victory over the Everett Silvertips. . . . Portland (30-17-4) has won Portlandtwo in a row. It is second in the U.S. Division, three points behind Everett. . . . Everett (32-17-3) had points in each of its previous 10 games (9-0-1). The Silvertips are second in the Western Conference, one point behind Kelowna. . . . Bellows, who has 24 goals, scored at 11:11 and 13:18 of the third period. . . . F Skyler McKenzie (38) added an empty-netter at 18:51. . . . Glass, who missed six games with a hip injury, had three assists, with McKenzie adding one. . . . Bellows (hand) had sat out seven games. . . . G Cole Kehler stopped 21 shots in recording his third shutout this season and the fifth of his career. . . . Everett got 39 saves from Carter Hart, including 20 in the second period when the Winterhawks held a 20-5 edge. . . . Announced attendance: 3,938.


At Langley, B.C., F Ty Ronning scored twice to help the Vancouver Giants to a 4-1 victory over the Calgary Hitmen. . . . Vancouver (26-16-8) had lost its previous four games (0-2-2). VancouverThe Giants are third in the B.C. Division, four points behind Victoria. . . . Calgary (15-29-6) is 0-3-0 on a B.C. Division swing that began with two losses in Victoria. . . . Vancouver got out to a 1-0 lead at 9:59 of the first period on a goal by F Davis Koch (19). . . . F Tyler Popowich (5) made it 2-0 at 4:38 of the second period. . . . Ronning, who is second in the league with 44 goals, made it 3-0 at 11:22 of the second and 4-1 at 18:50 of the third. . . . Calgary got its goal from F Jakob Stukel (24) at 4:05 of the third. . . . F Tyler Benson had two assists for the winners. . . . Each team was 0-4 on the PP. . . . Vancouver G David Tendeck stopped 27 shots, three fewer than Calgary’s Nick Schneider. . . . F Justin Sourdif, the third-overall selection in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft, was in the Giants’ lineup. He was pointless in an earlier game with them. He plays for the Valley West Hawks of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League. . . . D Darian Skeoch was among Vancouver’s scratches, and the Giants still are without F Milos Roman. . . . Announced attendance: 2,624.


At Kennewick, Wash., F Jordan Topping scored three goals before the game was half over to lead the Tri-City Americans to a 7-1 victory over the Victoria Royals. . . . Tri-City (26-16-TriCity307) has points in six straight (4-0-2). It is third in the U.S. Division, five points behind Portland and one ahead of Seattle. . . . Victoria (30-18-4) had won its previous three games. It is second in the B.C. Division, four points behind Kelowna. . . . Topping, who has 29 goals, got the game’s first two scores, at 2:30 and 5:05 of the first period. . . . He completed the hat trick at 7:22 of the second period, giving his guys a 5-0 lead. . . . That was Topping’s sixth career hat trick, and he now has 100 career goals in 220 games. This season, he has 29 goals and 29 assists in 49 games. . . . F Isaac Johnson (14) and F Michael Rasmussen (19) also had first-period goals for the Americans. . . . F Morgan Geekie (18), who also had three assists, added a second-period PP goal for a 6-0 lead. . . . Victoria F Jared Freadrich (11), on a PP, scored for Victoria at 2:37 of the third period. . . . Tri-City F Nolan Yaremko (16), on a PP, rounded out the scoring at 9:40. . . . The Americans got three assists from D Dylan Coghlan, two from Rasmussen, with Yaremko and Johnson each getting one. . . . Tri-City was 3-6 on the PP; Victoria was 1-3. . . . G Beck Warm stopped 28 shots for the Americans. . . . Victoria started Griffen Outhouse was beaten six times on 31 shots through 40 minutes. Dean McNabb finished up by stopping five of six shots in the third period. . . . F Tanner Kaspick, with six goals, four of them game-winners, in eight games since being acquired from Brandon, was among Victoria’s scratches. . . . D Juuso Valimaki was back in Tri-City’s lineup for the first time since Dec. 13. Between injuries and playing for Finland at the WJC, he has played in only 19 WHL games this season. . . . Announced attendance: 2,421.


THURSDAY (all times local):

No Games Scheduled.


FRIDAY (all times local):

Red Deer at Moose Jay, 7 p.m.

Saskatoon at Prince Albert, 7 p.m.

Prince George at Brandon, 7:30 p.m.

Swift Current at Lethbridge, 7 p.m.

Spokane vs. Kootenay, at Cranbrook, B.C., 7 p.m.

Everett at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.

Portland vs. Tri-City, at Kennewick, Wash., 7:05 p.m.

Medicine Hat at Victoria, 7:05 p.m.

Calgary vs. Vancouver, at Langley, B.C., 7:30 p.m.


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