WHL board chairman suggests late February or early March for start . . . Five WHL players off to USHL . . . City of Cranbrook suing WHL, Ice owners

How does the Prince George Cougars of Kamloops sound? Or how about the Victoria Royals of Kelowna?

The WHL announced on Friday that it has a “commitment” to play a 24-game WHL22021 schedule. The league didn’t announce any other particulars, other than pointing out that “he start date for the season will be determined once final approval has been received from the health authorities in each provincial and state jurisdiction, and it is anticipated the approvals will be received soon.”

Bruce Hamilton, the chairman of the WHL’s board of governors and the owner/general manager of the Kelowna Rockets, told Travis Lowe of CHBC-TV in Kelowna that the people running the show “thought that it was important that we let our players know that we’re going to do everything we can to get some kind of a season in for them,”

Taking Note was told Tuesday afternoon that one plan the WHL has looked at would have players reporting to teams on Jan. 22 in the hopes of starting a season on Feb. 8. However, that seems awfully far-fetched if only because, for example, the restrictions that presently are in place in B.C. are there until at least Feb. 5.

Hamilton told Lowe that a new season “probably” wouldn’t get started “until the end of February, early March.”

Lowe also reported: “According to Hamilton, the 24-game season will probably take about 60 days to complete. Teams would have a 21-day or 28-day training camp that would include a quarantine period for all players.”

Hamilton also told Lowe that “we may look at some kind of a setup where we would move one or two teams into Kamloops and one team into (Kelowna) and then limit the travel.”

A source told Taking Note that one option that has been discussed would have the Cougars spend the season playing out of Kamloops, with the Royals doing the same out of Kelowna.


Last week, the USHL’s Lincoln Stars added four players to their protected list, PortlandAlternateall of them American-born skaters off the roster of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. On Tuesday, the Winterhawks released those four to play for the Stars. F Cross Hanas, 19, who is from Highland Village, Tex.; F Clay Hanus, 19, from Excelsior, Minn.; F Jack O’Brien, 17, from Denver; and F James Stefan, 17, from Laguna Beach, Calif., will stay with Lincoln until the Stars’ season ends. . . . “With the uncertainty of our start date due to restrictions in Oregon and Washington, we felt the opportunity for these four American players to play significant games could not be passed up,” Mike Johnston, the Winterhawks’ vice-president, general manager and head coach, said in a news release. . . .

Meanwhile, F Bear Hughes of the Spokane Chiefs has been given his release to play for the USHL’s Fargo Force. Hughes, 19, is from Post Falls, Idaho. . . .

On Jan. 5, the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints announced that they were adding F Matt Savoie, who turned 17 on Jan. 1, of the Winnipeg Ice to their roster. However, Savoie’s name has yet to appear on that roster. He is from St. Alberta, Alta. Savoie played six games this season with the AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders, putting up three goals and three assists.


If you have been holding out hope that fans will be allowed into arenas to watch games when/if the WHL gets a season started, it really doesn’t seem likely to happen.

For proof, here’s part of message from the Lethbridge Hurricanes to their fans: “The Lethbridge Hurricanes Hockey Club has been working with the Ticket Centre and our ticket provider to begin the process of issuing full refunds to everyone who purchased 2020-21 season tickets.”


The WHL and the Winnipeg Ice are being sued by the City of Cranbrook. . . . Karin Larsen of CBC News reports that “a civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court says both the Winnipeg Ice (formerly Kootenay Ice) and WHL are responsible for breaking an arena deal that was supposed to run through June 2023. The claim says the city is out approximately $178,000 per year as a result.” . . . The Kootenay Ice franchise was purchased by 50 Below Sports and Entertainment, which is based in Winnipeg, from the Chynoweth family. The Ice played two seasons in Cranbrook under new ownership before moving to Winnipeg following the 2018-19 season. . . . Larsen’s story is right here.


Carlin


With its 2021 regular season to start Wednesday night, the NHL revealed NHLTuesday that 27 players, 17 of them from the Dallas Stars, tested positive during the training camp period from Dec. 30 to Monday. . . . According to the NHL, about 12,000 tests were conducted on more than 1,200 players. . . . The other 10 positives tests involve players from eight other teams. . . . The NHL has said it will provide “regular updates on the results of tests administered to players, including the identities of the players” with the start of the new season. . . . The Stars have returned to the practice ice, although more than a dozen players were unavailable on Tuesday, but their first three games have been postponed. They also have had an undisclosed number of staffers test positive. . . .

D Jordie Benn and F J.T. Miller won’t play for the Vancouver Canucks when they open their NHL season Wednesday night against the host Edmonton Oilers. The Canucks aren’t saying why, but Matt Sekeres of TSN 1040 AM in Vancouver tweeted that the two are out “due to COVID-19 concerns” and that they will be out “for a couple of weeks.” Sekeres added: “Both players are quarantining. Miller had been staying at Benn’s Vancouver residence.” . . . Richard Zussman of Global BC reported via Twitter that he has been told either Benn or Miller “tested positive for COVID, then negative, then positive again and when tested a fourth time tested negative. The other is a close contact.”


Spidey


THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

Justin Trudeau, Canadian prime minister — Update on the Canada-US border: We’ve extended the current border measures by another 30 days. Non-essential travel between our two countries remains restricted until at least February 21st. We’ll continue to do whatever is necessary to keep Canadians safe.

680 CJOB Winnipeg — Manitoba health officials reported 92 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday and said eight more Manitobans with the virus have died. It’s the first time the province’s list of new daily infections has dropped below 100 since Oct. 19.

CBC News — 248 new COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed in Saskatchewan. It’s the 1st time in a week the province has recorded fewer than 300 new daily cases. Health authorities also report 5 additional deaths from the virus. . . . The provincial government has extended current COVID-19-related public health orders until at least Jan. 29, due to current transmission rates.

CBC News — Alberta again breaks COVID-19 record with 38 deaths reported in single day. The province reported 652 new cases, 819 hospitalizations and 132 patients in ICUs. . . . Deaths from the illness are reported as Alberta Health compiles data, meaning not all 38 happened on the same day. The latest report includes deaths reported to the province from Dec. 30 to Jan. 12. But provincial numbers released over the last two days show that at least 21 people died from COVID-19 on Sunday alone. The total number of deaths since the pandemic began in March now stands at 1,345.

Richard Zussman, Global BC — There are 446 new cases of COVID-19, including 10 epi-linked cases, for a total of 58,553 cases in British Columbia. . . . There are 5,045 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. There are 368 individuals currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 72 of whom are in intensive care. . . . There are 7,238 people under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases and a further 51,144 people who tested positive have recovered. . . . There have been nine new COVID-19 related deaths, for a total of 1,019 deaths in British Columbia.

CBC News — Ontario reports 41 more deaths and 2,903 new COVID-19 cases. That’s the 1st time the number has fallen below 3,000 since January 3.

CBC News — Quebec reports 1,934 new COVID-19 cases and 47 additional deaths. It’s the 2nd day in a row where the number of new cases is below 2,000; it was above 2,000 for the previous 8 days.

Keith Baldrey, Global BC — No surprise the Canada/US border will remain closed. Here are the latest weekly (Jan. 4-11) COVID-19 stats for Washington state: 217 deaths. 20,251 cases. 818 hospitalizations.

CNN, Tuesday, 7 p.m. PT — So far today, Johns Hopkins University has reported 212,766 new cases and 4,212 new deaths.

CNN, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. PT — 22.8 million people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus.

CNN, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. PT — 380,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.

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The number of postponements in this young NBA season has reached six, with the latest casualty a Wednesday night game between the Utah Jazz and Washington Wizards. Due to protocols, the Wizards don’t have the necessary eight players able to play. . . . Three of the postponed games have involved the Boston Celtics, including one that had been scheduled for Chicago on Tuesday night. . . . Five of the NBA’s six postponements have occurred since Sunday. . . .

The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association also have come up with some new rules aimed at keeping numbers down. From The Associated Press: “For ‘at least the next two weeks,’ the league and union said, players and team staff will have to remain at their residence when in their home markets and are prohibited from leaving their hotels when on the road — with exceptions primarily for practices and games. . . . Players also no longer will be allowed to have guests in their hotel rooms on the road. . . . Also from The AP: “Players have been told to limit on-court interactions with fellow players to elbow or fist bumps, with no extended socializing. And when a player is subbed out of a game, he can sit in a ‘cool down chair’ without a mask — but must put a mask on when he returns to the bench and sits in his assigned seat.” . . .

As if the NBA doesn’t have enough on its plate, Brian Windthorst and Zach Lowe of ESPN reported Tuesday that sources have told them “multiple players who previously tested positive for the coronavirus have recently tested positive a second time. That story is right here. . . .

Pro golfer Jhonattan Vegas has tested positive so has withdrawn from the Sony Open that is to open in Honolulu on Thursday. . . .

The Czech Republic pulled out of the world handball championship after 13 of its 21 players and a number of coaches tested positive. The event was scheduled for Egypt, Jan. 13-31.


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JUST NOTES: The ECHL has sold two expansion franchises to Deacon Sports and Entertainment, which is owned by Dean MacDonald. The new teams will begin play in 2021-21 in Coralville, Iowa and Trois-Rivières, Que.  Deacon Sports and Entertainment also owns the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers. From an ECHL news release: “Coralville will play out of Xtreme Arena, a 5,100-seat venue which was completed in September 2020, while Trois-Rivières will play out of Le Nouveau Colisée, a new construction that will host 4,390 fans.”


John

Giants’ import forward reassigned. . . . Thompson heads for Dauphin. . . . Broncos get new play-by-play voice

MacBeth

D Chase Harrison (Regina, 2013-17) has signed a one-year contract with Corona Brașov (Romania, Erste Liga). Last season, with the Norfolk Admirals (ECHL), he had one goal and 12 assists in 51 games. He also had one assist in nine games with the South Carolina Stingrays (ECHL). . . .

F Yannik Valenti (Vancouver, 2018-19) has been assigned by Adler Mannheim (Germany, DEL) to Heilbronner Falken (Germany, DEL2) for the 2019-20 season. Last season, with the Vancouver Giants (WHL), he had four goals and five assists in 52 games. . . . According to Mannheim’s website, Valenti signed a four-year contract with Mannheim in April 2018 and was on a loan assignment to Vancouver for last season. . . .

F Vince Loschiavo (Kootenay, Moose Jaw, Edmonton, 2014-19) has signed a one-year contract with Asiago (Italy, Alps HL). Last season, with the Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL), he had 37 goals and 25 assists in 63 games. He was tied for the team lead in goals and was second in points. . . .

F Jaroslav Kristek (Tri-City, 1998-2000) has signed a one-year contract extension with Courchevel-Méribel-Pralognan (France, Division 1). In 18 games in Division 2, he had 24 goals and 32 assists. He led Division 2 in goals, assists and points. The club won promotion from Division 2 for 2019-20.


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The Vancouver Giants may have openings for two imports with the news that German F VancouverYannik Valenti won’t be back for another season. . . . As you will have read in The MacBeth Report, Valenti was with the Giants last season on loan from Adler Mannheim of the DEL, and now has been assigned to Heilbronner Falken (Germany, DEL2). . . . Valenti had four goals and five assists in 52 regular-season games, then turned into something of a power-play force in the playoffs, scoring three times, each one with the man advantage, in 22 games as the Giants got to Game 7 of the WHL’s championship final. . . . Slovakian F Milos Roman, the Giants’ other import last season, could return for a third season. However, he would be a two-spotter as a 20-year-old import. He put up 27 goals and 33 assists in 59 games last season. . . . A fourth-round pick by the Calgary Flames in the NHL’s 2018 draft, Roman has yet to sign a pro contract. . . . The 2019 CHL import draft is scheduled for Thursday.


F Baron Thompson, who played the past three seasons with the Brandon Wheat Kings, BrandonWKregularhas signed to play with the MJHL’s Dauphin Kings in 2019-20. . . . Thompson, who is heading into his 20-year-old season, had eight goals and nine assists in 65 games with the Wheat Kings last season. In 172 career regular-season games, the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder put up 24 goals and 26 assists. . . . From Lakeville, Minn., Thompson was selected by the Victoria Royals in the third round of the WHL’s 2014 bantam draft and later traded to the Wheat Kings. . . . Without Thompson, the Wheat Kings have three 20-year-olds on their roster — F Connor Gutenberg, D Zach Wytinck and Czech G Jiri Patera.


Craig Beauchemin has joined the Swift Current Broncos as their play-by-play man. SCBroncosUnable to reach a broadcast agreement with Golden West Broadcasting, which had carried games on the Eagle 94.1, the Broncos are going it alone, with their games to be available via the Internet. . . . Beauchemin will handle the Living Sky Casino Broncos Hockey game broadcasts, and also will prepare podcasts and serve as the manager of community relations. . . . He spent the past two seasons as the director of communications and broadcasting with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees. . . . Beauchemin replaces Shawn Mullin, who is headed east where he will be the radio voice of the OHL’s Peterborough Petes.


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The BCHL’s Penticton Vees have traded F Massimo Rizzo, their captain, to the Coquitlam pentictonExpress to complete a June transaction in which the Vees got F Alex DiPaolo, 19. . . . Rizzo, 18, is from Burnaby, B.C., and has committed to the U of North Dakota Fighting Hawks for 2020-21. . . . Last season, he had 11 goals and 29 assists in 37 regular-season games. In 2017-18, He had 13 goals and 26 assists in 39 games. . . . The Carolina Hurricanes selected him in the seventh round of the NHL draft in Vancouver on Saturday. . . . Rizzo was selected by the Kamloops Blazers with the 15th-overall pick of the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft. He was beset with injury problems over his two seasons in Penticton. . . . “The past two seasons have been trying for Massimo, dealing with significant injuries which forced him to start the seasons late and miss substantial stretches of games,” Fred Harbinson, the Vees’ president, general manager and head coach, said in a news release. “We felt that with Massimo’s recent surgery, it would be best for him to rehab at home next season. Fortunately, we were able to make a hockey trade with Coquitlam that helped our team in the process.”



More undrafted WHLers who are either in or soon to attend NHL development camps:

F Logan Barlage, 18, of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, to the Colorado Avalanche;

D Nolan Kneen, 20, of the Saskatoon Blades, to Colorado;

D Wyatt McLeod, 19, of the Edmonton Oil Kings, to Colorado;

G Taylor Gauthier, 18, of the Prince George Cougars, to the Boston Bruins;

D Scott Walford, 20, of the Victoria Royals, to the Winnipeg Jets;

F Noah Philp, who completed his junior eligibility with the Seattle Thunderbirds, to Winnipeg;

F Luke Toporowski, 18, of the Spokane Chiefs, to WInnipeg;

D Clay Hanus, 18, of the Portland Winterhawks, to the Ottawa Senators;

D Conner McDonald, 20, of the Edmonton Oil Kings, to Ottawa;

D Dylan MacPherson, who played out his junior eligibility with the Medicine Hat Tigers, to the Florida Panthers;

F Jaydon Dureau, 18, of the Portland Winterhawks, to Florida;

F Ben McCartney, 18, of the Brandon Wheat Kings, to Philadelphia;

F Eli Zummack, 19, of the Spokane Chiefs, to the Tampa Bay Lightning;

F Vladimir Alistrov, 18, of the Edmonton Oil Kings, to the Toronto Maple Leafs;

F James Hamblin, 20, of the Medicine Hat Tigers, to Toronto;

F Riley Woods, who completed his junior eligibility with the Spokane Chiefs, to Toronto;

D Sergei Sapego, who is to turn 20 on Oct. 8, of the Prince Albert Raiders, to Toronto;

F Josh Williams, 18, of the Edmonton Oil Kings, to the Pittsburgh Penguins;

F Jake Gricius, who will turn 20 on Oct. 13, of the Portland Winterhawks, to the San Jose Sharks;

D Jake Lee, 18, of the Kelowna Rockets, to San Jose; and,

G Beck Warm, 20, of the Tri-City Americans, to the Washington Capitals.


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