WHL’s U.S. teams gearing up to play . . . B.C. Division remains on hold . . . Iginla now coaching in Kelowna

The WHL announced on Jan. 28 that it’s five Alberta-based teams would begin a 24-game schedule on Feb. 26. The Swift Current Broncos, who under what once WHL2was normal circumstances, are in the Central Division, but they won’t be for these games. . . . On Friday, the WHL announced that its five U.S.-based teams will begin play on March 19, although it didn’t reveal how many games teams are hoping to play. According to the news release, the teams will “return to play in Washington state.” With Oregon not having yet approved a return to play, the Portland Winterhawks are expected to play ‘home’ games in Kent, while practising in Vancouver, Wash. . . . Washington Gov. Jay Inslee gave the WHL the OK to return earlier this week. . . . Details are sketchy, but what is known is that fans won’t be allowed at any of these games. . . .

Earlier Friday, it became apparent that the five B.C. Division teams won’t be playing games until perhaps the latter half of March. Pandemic-related restrictions that were to have expired in the province on Friday have been extended indefinitely and likely to be re-examined at month’s end.

With Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, giving her Friday update, Richard Zussman of Global B.C. tweeted: “On WHL hub city, Dr. Henry says they received a proposal in January that was rejected. Says they are buying time overall until the end of the month. Doesn’t look like anything will change until the end of February. ‘We want to work to salvage a spring season.’ “

There has been talk of having the Kelowna Rockets and Victoria Royals play out of a Kelowna bubble of some kind, with the Kamloops Blazers and Prince George Cougars doing the same in Kamloops. It isn’t known what would happen with the Vancouver Giants under that scenario.

And, please, let’s stop calling any upcoming games the 2020-21 regular season. Uhh, 2020 is in the rearview mirror and a maximum of 24 games does not a regular season make.

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Meanwhile, the QMJHL isn’t likely to be playing games in New Brunswick for a qmjhlnewwhile after a public health spokesperson said Thursday that “it’s unlikely that restrictions for sports will be relaxed in the near future.” . . . With the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and Victoriaville Tigres on pause — the Tigres have had some positive tests among players; the Sagueneens were the last team to play the Tigres — the QMJHL has had to revise its schedule again. Victoriaville was to have played host to what the league is calling a ‘protected environment’ event, but that obviously won’t happen. So the next two such events are to be played in Quebec City and Shawinigan, from Feb. 12-18. There will be seven teams, including Chicoutimi, in Quebec City, with four teams playing in Shawinigan.


Former WHLer Colton Orr is the head coach of the NWHL’s Connecticut Whale, which pulled out of the league’s bubble format in Lake Placid N.Y., this week because of positive tests. Orr said that about two-thirds of the Whale’s players had tested positive. “We felt we had no choice,” Orr said, referring to a decision not play Monday against the Minnesota Whitecaps. “We had a choice to play that game, and our team chose not to play. We chose the safety of our players.” Orr added: “The team’s concerns and decision not to play were definitely validated and confirmed by the failure to maintain a controlled environment.” . . . The NWHL later cancelled the remaining games. That included the semifinals and final, both of which were to have been televised by NBCSN. . . . Orr was neither suspended nor fined for talking with the media about the virus attacking his team.


Ronnie


THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

The Vegas Golden Knights returned to action on Friday night for the first time in 10 days, but the NHL still has four American teams on pause. . . . The Golden Knights, who had four games scratched, didn’t show much rust as they scored three first-period goals en route to a 5-2 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Kings. . . . Meanwhile, the New Jersey Devils won’t play again before Tuesday, while the Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild will be idle until at least Thursday, and the Colorado Avalanche is on the shelf until at least Feb. 14. . . . The NHL has postponed 26 games since it opened its season on Jan. 13. None of those games involved any of the seven Canadian teams. . . .

Hockey Canada has cancelled the Esso Cup, Telus Cup, Centennial Cup and Allan Cup championships, all of which were scheduled to be played in the spring. . . . The Esso Cup, Canada’s national U18 AAA women’s championship, was to have been played in Prince Albert. . . . The Telus Cup, the national U18 AAA men’s championship, had been scheduled for Sydney, N.S., while the Centennial Cup, the junior A championship, would have been played in Penticton, B.C. . . . The Allan Cup goes to the national senior AAA men’s champions. It became evident in October that there wouldn’t be a champion declared for 2020-21 because there weren’t any teams playing. . . .

I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about what happened with Kevin Durant of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets while they were losing, 123-117, to the visiting Toronto Raptors on Friday night. Due to contact tracing, Durant was late getting into the game. He played 19 minutes, before he was taken out, again due to protocols. Durant, who tested positive in March, apparently was in contact yesterday with someone who was found to be positive during the game.


Politician


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Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

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Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: In recent days, the BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings have signed general manager Mike Hawes to a three-year contract extension. He is in his 10th season as the team’s GM. The Spruce Kings also have signed head coach Alex Evin to a two-year extension, while signing associate coach Lukáš Lomicky, assistant coach Jason Garneau and trainer Joel Walkey to one-year deals. . . . Hey, Sportsnet, whenever you want to stop showing us games involving the Boston Bruins, at least with their homer-centric mouthpieces doing the yakking, it would be just fine. . . . Former WHL/NHL F Jarome Iginla is the new head coach of the RINK Hockey Academy’s U15 prep team in Kelowna. Iginla, who owns a piece of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, has been coaching minor hockey, and his sons, Tij and Joe, in Boston for the past four seasons. TJ is a highly ranked 2006-born forward.


Phones

Will we see baseball, football in 2020? . . . Jays fall to 0-2 as Devers homers again . . . BCHL team has new head coach

Had this pandemic not reared its ugly head, the MLB season would be heading into its third day. As it stands, though, there isn’t any baseball and now there are rumblings that perhaps the 2020 season may not get off the ground at all.

On Friday morning, Jeff Passan of ESPN tweeted that “the players and league agreed the 2020 MLB season won’t begin until:

“There are no bans on mass gatherings that limit the ability to play in front of fans;

“There are no travel restrictions;

“Medical experts determine games will not pose a risk to health of teams and fans.”

At the same time, he noted, there is a caveat to the first of those, that being that “they will consider playing games at neutral sites . . . and will consider the feasibility of playing in empty stadiums and just how proper a solution it may be for both sides and especially fans.”

If you have been paying attention, I think you will agree that New York City, for one, is a long, long way from being ready to play host to baseball games. And, on the West Coast, Los Angeles County closed its beaches on Friday.

I’m thinking it could be a year before anyone yells “Play Ball” again.



Our Thought for the Day, from Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, quotes H.L. Mencken: “The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.”


The Toronto Blue Jays are 0-2 after dropping an 8-6 decision to the visiting Boston Red Sox on Friday. . . . Boston got another home from 3B Rafael Devers, who has three in two games. . . . LF Lourdes Gurriel Jr. had two hits and three RBI for the Blue Jays. . . . This game was part of the simulated season being played out by the gang at Strat-O-Matic. . . . There’s more on all of that, including standings and boxscores, right here.


Kirk Herbstreit, one of TV’s top college football analysts, is wondering if there will be college or pro football this year. In fact, he appeared on ESPN’s Freddie and Fitzsimmons show on Thursday night and offered up this:

“I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football. I’ll be so surprised if that happens.

“Just because from what I understand, people that I listen to, you’re 12 to 18 months from a vaccine. I don’t know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball. I just don’t know how you can do it with the optics of it.”

The NCAA football season is scheduled to begin on Aug. 29. Players would have to be in training camps in late July to make that starting date.


Hook


If you are a follower of the WHL you will be aware that the league held its inaugural U.S. Challenge Cup — a bantam AAA tournament — in Kent, Wash., in late February.

The WHL followed that up by holding a two-round draft of U.S. prospects on Wednesday.

If you’re wondering “Why now?”, consider that the NCAA changed some of its recruiting rules in April. For starters, the NCAA no longer allows “recruiting conversations” between a coach and prospect prior to Jan. 1 of a prospect’s Grade 10 year. As well, coaches have to wait until Aug. 1 prior to a prospect’s Grade 11 year to make a verbal offer.

On Thursday, Darryl Wolski of 2112 Hockey Agency tweeted a couple of times in explaining this:

“High school students may not have recruiting conversations with college coaches prior to Jan. 1 of their sophomore (Grade 10) year. Students may hear from college coaches or reach out to them on their own. Schools may make verbal offers to prospects beginning (Grade 11).”

What this means, Wolski tweeted, is that “WHL teams should have roughly 8 months to attempt to sign players to WHL/CHL education agreements before NCAA teams can speak to any of those drafted or undrafted players.”


I was heading for bed on Thursday night when — Hot Damn! — I discovered that Bob Dylan had released a new song. . . . Murder Most Foul is almost 17 minutes in length, so is that still a song?

Anyway . . . if you haven’t heard it, you are able to give it a listen right here, where you also will find a neat story touching on 20 references Dylan makes in the song.


Noose


Three prominent sports broadcasters have tested positive for COVID-19 and are at one stage or another of dealing with it. . . .

Gord Wilson, a colour analyst on Ottawa Senators broadcasts on TSN 1200, learned Friday that he has the novel coronavirus. Wilson, 59, was in California with the Senators, from March 6-12, and started feeling ill upon his return home. He now is self-isolating at home. . . . Wilson is the third of 52 people who were on the Senator’s charter flight from L.A. to Ottawa on March 12 to have tested positive. The other two were Senators players. . . .

John Kelly, the TV play-by-play voice of the St. Louis Blues, has been in self-isolation since March 13. He tested positive but now is symptom-free and feeling well. . . .

Doris Burke, an ESPN analyst on NBA telecasts, is symptom-free after having been ill for several days. She learned on Wednesday that she had tested positive. She first felt ill on March 11 while in Dallas and was sick in bed three days later. . . .



In B.C., the City of Burnaby has cancelled its Canada Day plans. As Dustin Godfrey of Burnaby Now writes: “The move comes as part of an ongoing response to the COVID-19 outbreak and reinforces the notion that social distancing measures will be in place for months rather than weeks.” . . .

The 47th annual Kamloops International Baseball Tournament (KIBT) has been cancelled for 2020. The eight-team affair had been scheduled for July 9-12. . . .


After two seasons as general manager and head coach, Tyler Kuntz has left the BCHL’s Powell River Kings. . . . Brock Sawyer, who has been on staff for the past six seasons, has been named director of hockey operations and head coach. . . . For the past two seasons, Sawyer has been associate GM and associate head coach. . . . “I have decided I need to do what is best for my family,” Kuntz said in a news release. “These past couple of years have taken a toll and, as much as I love the organization, the players and the city of Powell River, it just isn’t feasible to continue to commute to see my young family.” . . .


The junior A Nepean, Ont., Raiders are looking for a head coach. If you’re interested, the details are right here.