Well, it’s all over for another year. As always, we wait and wait and wait for Christmas week to get here and then, in the blink of an eye, it’s over. I was outside for a bit on New Year’s Eve afternoon and had a chance to visit with 10 close friends who were looking for dinner.
I hope you were disappointed but not surprised when the IIHF pulled the plug on the 2022 World Junior Championship on Dec. 29. Really, organizers didn’t have any choice but to listen to their medical advisors and bring it to an end. That, of course, led to the usual choristers gnashing their teeth and whining about letting the boys play. One columnist even complained that “nobody gave the players a vote.” . . . On the day of the cancellation, there had been four positive tests among three teams. Little was made of the five or six on-ice officials who had tested positive. The following day, officials reported seven more positive tests — six players and one on-ice official — only confirming that the proper decision had been made. . . . But in watching all of this unfold, mostly via social media, on the afternoon/evening of Dec. 29, I was left to wonder how so many people came to lose the plot as COVID-19 continues its march? Whatever happened to trying to protect the vulnerable — the young, the elderly, the thousands who live among us with compromised immune systems — and the healthcare workers? Have we forgotten about the thousands of folks who haven’t been able to get health issues properly cared for because of hospitals not having staff available? . . .
I walked into a small grocery store in Kamloops on Sunday afternoon. It had been a long while since encountering anyone not masked-up, but there were three people — looked like mother, father and son about 12 — headed to the checkout without a mask in sight. Just another reminder that not everyone is on the same team; in other words, we’re in this for a while yet.
Here is part of what Ken Campbell of Hockey Unfiltered wrote about the decision to halt the WJC:
“It’s safe to say there was a fair bit of outcry from certain corners when the tournament was scrubbed. Some people couldn’t understand why a handful of positive tests and a few forfeits had to submarine the entire event. Well, it’s because of what Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney referred to as ‘an opponent that was not on the ice, but was bigger than all of us.’
“The Omicron variant is the most highly contagious COVID-19 variant we’ve seen by a wide margin. There is speculation that it is not as severe as the Delta and other variants, but nobody can say that with 100 percent certainty at the moment. And while the athletes are young, fit and double vaccinated and likely would not have severe outcomes, they don’t live in a vacuum. And the logistics around quarantining would have been disruptive.
“One infectious diseases specialist Hockey Unfiltered spoke with said that once even a couple of players from USA, Russia and Czechia tested positive ‘this thing is so contagious, those three teams are done. If you have a positive test on those teams, you can be sure the infection has spread well beyond the individuals who are there. I’d be shocked if that were the actual size of the outbreak.’ ”
Congratulations to Earl Seitz, the venerable sports director from CFJC-TV in Kamloops who called it a career after his New Year’s Eve sportscast. Yes, after more than 50 years in radio and TV, the Earl of Kamloops has retired. . . . Earl and I spent a lot of nights seated beside each other in the press box during Kamloops Blazers games. Yes, we solved a lot of the world’s problems during those times; in fact, it may not be a coincidence that so much has gone downhill since our press box partnership came to an end. Right, Earl!
We really don’t have any idea how many positive tests or exposures there have been involving WHL players and staff since the Christmas break. The league announced on Dec. 27 that “36 players or hockey operations staff have been added to the WHL COVID-19 protocol list as a result of displaying symptoms for COVID-19 or returning a positive test result for COVID-19 through rapid antigen testing . . .” But, the league noted, “results are pending for Kamloops and Prince George.” The league has yet to update that release. . . .
On Dec. 29, the league announced the postponement of that night’s game that was to have had the Portland Winterhawks visit the Tri-City Americans “due to goaltenders on both clubs entering COVID-19 protocols and/or sustaining injuries.” The WHL noted at the time that it would “provide further information when it is available.” However, it has yet to update either team’s situation. . . .
On Dec. 30, the league shut down the Swift Current Broncos “as a result of four players being on the COVID-19 protocol list due to exhibiting symptoms or having tested positive. . . . It is believed the exposure occurred outside the team environment.” . . .
On Jan. 1, the league shut down the Lethbridge Hurricanes “as a result of 14 players being on the COVID-19 protocol list due to exhibiting symptoms or having tested positive. . . .”
Add it all up and you’ve got 54 players and/or staff on the protocol list, plus how ever many are involved with Portland and Tri-City.
I am guessing that the Omnicron situation also had something to do with a couple of teams playing without backup goaltenders on the bench. Tri-City did it in Portland on Dec. 28 and fans who were there will tell you that G Nick Avakyan was injured at 7:41 of the second period when he was involved in a goal-mouth collision. . . . As one source told Taking Note: “Avakyan was hurting bad after he was run into.” . . . But he finished the game, one the Winterhawks won, 9-2. With G Tomas Suchanek serving a one-game suspension, the Americans didn’t have any support for Avakyan on their bench. . . . Then, prior to a New Year’s Eve game between the Seattle Thunderbirds and host Portland, Joshua Critzer, who covers the Winterhawks for pnwhockeytalk.com, tweeted: “The Winterhawks have no ‘official’ backup goalie tonight. Either a forward or a defenceman would go back to the locker room and change into the goalie gear should the need arise.” Fortunately, the need didn’t arise.
F Bailey Peach and the Victoria Royals continue to write one of this hockey season’s best stories. . . . Peach, 20, set a franchise single-game record with seven points, three of them goals, as the Royals beat the visiting Vancouver Giants, 7-3, on Thursday night. That broke the record of six points that had been held by F Ryan Peckford, who had a goal and five assists in a 9-3 victory over the visiting Saskatoon Blades on Oct. 18, 2016. . . . Peach added two goals in a 5-2 loss to the Rockets in Kelowna on New Year’s Day. That left him with 19 points, including 11 goals, in a six-game point streak. In 30 games with the Royals, he has 44 points, 20 of them goals. . . . Not bad for a guy who was claimed off waivers by the Royals after he was dropped by the QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders. . . . The Royals, meanwhile, opened the season by going 1-11-2, a stretch that included five straight losses to the Prince George Cougars. Today, the Royals are 12-14-4 and are tied for seventh in the Western Conference with those same Cougars (13-17-2). . . . Back to Peach for a moment, though. It seems his nickname is — wait for it! — Peacher. Come on, Royals. Why not something original like Ty? You know, after Ty Cobb, aka The Georgia Peach? Just asking . . .
“Santa Claus didn’t visit the Jacksonville Jaguars this year,” reported Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times on Dec. 26. “For some reason the reindeer couldn’t touch down.”
Perry, with another scoop: “The EasyPost Hawai’i Bowl was canceled after a virus plague swamped the Rainbow Warriors program. Perplexed bowl officials can’t decide whether to declare it a forfeit, a no-contest or COVID-19, Hawai’i 0.”
When Baltimore played Green Bay the other day, Wink Martindale, the Ravens’ defensive co-ordinator, made sure to double- and triple-team Packers receiver Davonte Adams. As Martindale explained: “Adams is one of the top two receivers in the league, and he’s not No. 2.”
Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, remembering the late John Madden and his famed bus excursions:
“Just after the 9/11 attacks, Madden left his Manhattan apartment and headed to California. He heard that the airline shutdown had stranded famed figure skater Peggy Fleming in Philadelphia, so he detoured through Philly and picked her up.
“In Nebraska, the Cruiser stopped at a store in a small town so Madden could buy some American flags for his bus. Imagine the looks on faces when John Madden and Peggy Fleming strolled into the store.”
Ostler also had a few of interesting New Year’s resolutions, among them: “Stay off the list of sports figures who died in 2022.” . . . “Lose 20 pounds in January. Gain ’em all back in February, just to show my body who’s boss.” . . . “Help Aaron Rodgers, Kyrie Irving, Novak Djokovic and other vaccine resisters in sports with their research, by sending them info I have gathered on alternative COVID-fighters, such as blood-letting, leeches and voodoo curses.”
JUST NOTES . . .
If you are in B.C., and interested in helping out minor hockey, BC Hockey wants you to know that it is operating a 50/50 draw with all proceeds staying in the province to help grassroots hockey. Jeff Harris, the executive veep of communications, tells Taking Note that “originally, we were doing this in conjunction with Hockey Canada and the WJCs, but with the tournament cancellation we had to call an audible. Luckily, our gaming license enabled us to hold one further draw, which concludes (Monday) night.” . . . So you have until tonight (Monday) at 8 to get your numbers, and you are able to do that right here. . . .
Stacy Pratt, who played three full seasons (1981-84) with the Brandon Wheat Kings, was killed in a car crash on Dec. 31, according to Darryl Wolski (@2112hockey) of Brandon. Pratt was 56. . . . Pratt, from Sioux Valley, Man., played four games with Brandon in 1980-81 before becoming a regular in 1981-82. In his last season, he played alongside Ray Ferraro, who scored a WHL single-season record 104 goals. Pratt finished the season with 34 goals and 64 assists in 55 games. . . . “Stacy was my winger in Brandon,” Ferraro tweeted. “An amazing passer, a great laugh and awesome to play with.” . . .
Curtis Toneff took over as general manager and head coach of the BCHL’s Merritt Centennials following the Dec. 22 firing of Dave Chyzowski, who had been in his first season there. . . . Toneff was in his third season as an assistant coach with the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos. . . . The Centennials were 1-20-1 at the time the move was made. . . . Chyzowski was back coaching for a couple of games as he worked with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips during a Dec. 28-29 sweep of the Cougars in Prince George. The Silvertips were short as head coach Dennis Williams was with Canada’s national junior team. . . .
Long-time hockey coach Bob McCammon, who spent a couple of years with the Tri-City Americans, died on Dec. 23. He was 80. . . . McCammon was the Americans’ general manager and head coach in 1992-93, added the president’s title to his portfolio for 1993-94, then resigned during the season. He also coached in the AHL, IHL and NHL during his lengthy career. . . . Patrick Johnston of Postmedia has more on McCammon right here. . . .
Bob Calvert, the father of former WHL G Jeff Calvert and a long-time member of the Moose Jaw Warriors’ board of directors, died on Dec. 22. He was 74. . . . Bob worked at the Regina Leader-Post for a while during my almost 17-year stint there, and he often dropped by my desk for a vociferous discussion on the latest goings-on in the world of hockey. . . . Jeff, now 48, played two seasons (1989-91) with the Warriors and three (1991-94) with the Tacoma Rockets before going on to spend five seasons with the U of Saskatchewan Huskies. On Dec. 29, 1992, Jeff came on in relief for the Rockets and scored a goal and added an assist as they erased a 4-0 deficit to beat the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors, 6-4. . . . Jeff’s two sons, Atley (Warriors) and Rowan (Saskatoon Blades), both play in the WHL; in fact, Rowan scored his first WHL goal in his debut for the Blades on Dec. 27. Somewhere, Grandpa Bob was smiling and chuckling. . . . An obituary can be found right here. . . .
G Curt Ridley, who played five games with the Brandon Wheat Kings in 1070-71, died on Dec. 19. He was 70. Ridley played almost all of his junior hockey with the MJHL’s Portage Terriers before going on to a pro career that included 104 NHL games — 96 with the Vancouver Canucks, six with the Toronto Maple Leafs and two with the New York Rangers. . . . Ridley perhaps is best remember for the iconic mask he wore while with the Canucks. . . . Dave Stubbs of nhl.com has more on Ridley right here.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Living Kidney Donor Program
St. Paul’s Hospital
6A Providence Building
1081 Burrard Street
Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6
Toll free: 1-877-922-9822
Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney
Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre
Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street
Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9
604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182
Or, for more information, visit right here.