Blades and Raiders help Big River celebrate special occasion . . . First Nation opens complex in honour of ex-NHLer Jim Neilson . . . Rangers were there, too

Hey, folks, this is what it’s all about . . .

The Prince Albert Raiders and Saskatoon Blades joined the people of the Big River First Nation on Tuesday to take part in the grand opening of the Jim Neilson Sports Complex, a multi-use facility that includes a 1,500-seat arena. It is named in honour of Neilson, the late NHL defenceman who was from Big River.

Joel Willick of MBC Radio has more on the opening right here.

Meanwhile, Dan Tencer, the Blades’ scouting director, posted four tweets later Tuesday, and here they are, in order:

  1. I’m in the hotel elevator last week in downtown Saskatoon and a mother and daughter get in. I ask about the very yummy plate of food they have and the daughter smiles. They tell me they’ve come from a barbecue for a gender reveal.
  2. Mom sees the logo on my shirt and asks if I work for the Blades. I say yes, I lead the group that scouts players for them. She excitedly says “you’re coming to Big River! We’re all coming out to watch.” I tell her I can’t wait to be there and they should find me and say hi.
  3. Game today ends, I’m outside by the team bus. Same mother and daughter walk up with the little girl imploring her mom to find the “scout leader.” It made my week. I was so touched that she had remembered our 25-second meeting.
  4. I was so proud that we were there to play at the opening of the new rink in their community. Hockey is a wonderful game and can facilitate so many connections in so many ways. Small as it might be, I’m so glad they found me again today.



Music


More than a few followers of the Kamloops Blazers were surprised (shocked?) when D Mats Lindgren, 18, was traded to the Red Deer Rebels on Aug. 29. Those Kamloopssame people were even more surprised to find out that Lindgren, a fourth-round selection of the Buffalo Sabres in the NHL’s 2022 draft, had asked out of Kamloops. . . . So what happened? . . . “It was the best thing for me for personal reasons and I’m just excited for this new opportunity,” Lindgren told Greg Meachem of reddeerrebels.com. . . . Shaun Clouston, the Blazers’ general manager and head coach, told Marty Hastings of Kelowna This Week: “Sometimes, players are looking for a different opportunity. Sometimes, things aren’t a perfect fit. This is a scenario where both teams are able to give their players an opportunity with another team.” . . . The Blazers, who open their exhibition season at home to the Kelowna Rockets on Friday, acquired D Kyle Masters, 19, and a lottery-protected 2025 first-round draft pick in the deal. If the Rebels miss the 2024-25 playoffs and thus are in the draft lottery, the pick will move to the 2026 draft. . . . Lindgren would have eaten up a lot of minutes for the Blazers this season, and would have been on the No. 1 power-play unit on a team that will play host to the 2023 Memorial Cup tournament. So to find out that he had asked for a trade immediately after the NHL draft left a lot of people wondering what had gone wrong in Kamloops. . . . The Blazers, then under general manager Matt Bardsley, selected Lindgren with the seventh pick of the WHL’s 2019 draft. Bardsley was able to get Lindgren signed a couple of months later, but two years later the GM resigned for what he said were family reasons. . . . Just spit-balling here, but you wonder if Bardsley’s departure, followed by that of associate coaches Cory Clouston, after the 2020-21 development season, and Mark Holick, after last season, had anything to do with Lindgren’s unhappiness?

Meanwhile, Holick is back at Yale Academy in Abbotsford, B.C., where he will coach the U17 men’s prep team. He had spent three seasons as the head coach of Yale’s U18 prep team before joining the Blazers. That lasted one season before he resigned citing “personal reasons.”


Yogi


You could make the case that a penalty taken by an inactive player cost the Saskatchewan Roughriders a victory in what ended up being a 20-18 loss to the CFLlogoWinnipeg Blue Bombers in Regina on Sunday. . . . With the game tied 17-17 in the fourth quarter, and neither team having yet scored in the second half, the Roughriders had moved into field goal range when a schmozzle developed at the Saskatchewan bench. WR Duke Williams of the Roughriders, not dressed because of an ankle injury, was flagged for yapping with fewer than 11 minutes to play. Saskatchewan took a holding penalty on the next play and, because the penalty had pushed them out of field goal ranger, was forced to punt.

According to freelancer Jeff DeDekker, who covers Saskatchewan home games for The Canadian Press, Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson had this to say about the Williams penalty:

“I can tell you this much, moving forward there will be no players on the bench area that aren’t either playing or thoroughly involved in coaching because that was very disappointing. That hurt us and it hurt us bad.

“It was a stupid penalty and Duke feels bad about it and he should. Hopefully he’s expressed that to his teammates.

“He’s an emotional guy and his emotions got the best of him. I think they called it pretty tight. I don’t know what he said to the guy but it wasn’t complimentary. I’ll talk to (Roughriders general manager) Jeremy O’Day and see what we can do. That hurt our team. He feels bad about it and he should.”

On Tuesday, the Roughriders released an American, but it wasn’t Williams. Instead, it was DL Garrett Marino, who also has been more than a handful in the discipline department. Already having served a four-game suspension for, among other things, a hit that took out Ottawa Redblacks’ QB Jeremiah Masoli, Marino got away with a late hit on Winnipeg QB Zach Collaros late in Sunday’s game.


Headline at The Beaverton (@TheBeaverton) — Hockey Canada insists it can change its culture without replacing leadership, changing culture.


THINKING OUT LOUD — I don’t know what it means, but think about this for a moment: The NHL’s Vancouver Canucks signed F J.T. Miller to a contract the other day that will pay him US$56 million over seven seasons; the NFL’s Denver Broncos signed QB Russell Wilson to a five-year, US$242,588,236 deal that included a $50-million signing bonus. . . . Miller is 29 years of age; Wilson is 33. . . . Summer is over. How do I know? Because the junior B Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League opened its regular season with one game on Wednesday night. There are two more on tonight’s schedule and four on Friday. . . . I also know that summer is over because the NFL season gets started tonight (Thursday). I’m riding with the host Buffalo Bills over the Los Angeles Rams. Could it be a Super Bowl preview?


LittleLeague


JUNIOR JOTTINGS:

Vincent Tremblay, the play-by-play voice of the QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, tweeted Tuesday that the club “will have a sponsor on the helmet.  Real estate company Trilogies Inc.” . . . Hmm, corporate logos on helmets. Can other junior teams be far behind? Not if there’s sponsorship money involved. . . .

Joe Mahon, who played in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks and Calgary Hitmen, will be in the NHL this season . . . as a linesman. Mahon, 28, is from Calgary. He has been officiating since 2019. Last season, he worked in the WHL and the AHL; this season, he’ll see action in the AHL and NHL. And he’ll be wearing No. 89. . . . Mahon played two seasons in the WHL. He had two goals and an assist in 41 games with Portland in 2012-13, then put up nine goals and nine assists in 56 games with the Hitmen in 2013-14. . . .

Eddie Gregory is the new play-by-play voice of the Vancouver Giants, having joined them after spending 18 seasons calling games for the BCHL’s Coquitlam Express. Gregory, 40, takes over from Dan O’Connor, who left for the athletic department at UBC where he now is sports information co-ordinator. . . .

Damon Pugerude has signed on as the Everett Silvertips’ head equipment manager. He had been with the BCHL’s Surrey Eagles, as head trainer and equipment manager, for the past six seasons. He also has worked with the BCHL’s Alberni Valley Bulldogs and the AJHL’s Drayton Valley Thunder and Sherwood Park Crusaders.


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

Tel: 604-806-9027

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

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Babymaking

Holick to replace Clouston with Blazers . . . Winterhawks add goaltender in swap . . . Want to go to Jets’ game? Get vaccinated

The Kamloops Blazers will introduce Mark Holick as their new Kamloopsassociate coach today (Thursday). . . . Holick, who has a long history in the WHL, replaces Cory Clouston, who has left the organization after two seasons citing “personal reasons.” Clouston had been working alongside his brother, Shaun, the Blazers’ head coach who now is also the general manager. . . . Holick, 52, played in the WHL for parts of four seasons (1984-88) with the Saskatoon Blades and New Westminster Bruins. . . . He coached junior A, in the BCHL and AJHL, from 1994-07 before spending three seasons (2007-10) as the head coach of the WHL’s Kootenay Ice. He later was the head coach of the Prince George Cougars for three-plus seasons (2012-16). . . . For the past three seasons, he has been the head coach of the U-18 prep team at Yale Academy in Abbotsford, B.C. . . . Cory Clouston, meanwhile, told Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week that he is leaving in order to spend more time with his daughter. “It’s not an easy decision,” Clouston told Hastings, “but it was an easy decision. To leave an organization that’s done a lot of good work in the last few years and has a great future wasn’t easy. But, in saying that, for me to focus on my daughter is a very easy decision.”


It’s 2021 and hockey is still finding itself in situations such as this one! This is nothing short of shameful and oh, so embarrassing.


The Portland Winterhawks have acquired G Mason Dunsford, 18, from the Tri-PortlandCity Americans for a conditional fifth-round selection in the WHL’s 2023 draft. The Americans selected him in the sixth round of the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. From New Westminster, B.C., he got into 23 games over two seasons with Tri-City, going 3-14-0, 6.28, .844. . . . The Americans finished the 2020-21 development season with Dunsford, Talyn Boyko and Donovan Buskey as the goaltenders on their roster. Boyko turns 19 on Oct. 16 and is the likely starter. Buskey has aged out. . . . The Winterhawks finished that season with two goaltenders on their roster — 2001-born Brock Gould and Dante Giannuzzi, the presumed starter, who will be 19 on Sept. 3.


Oven


The NHL’s Winnipeg Jets have followed the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers in nhl2announcing that only folks who are fully vaccinated will be allowed into home games. . . . The Jets’ home arena, the Canada Life Centre, “will be selling to full capacity,” the team’s statement read, “and we will require all employees, event staff and guests to provide proof of full vaccination. The majority of our season seat holders have shared with us that having a proof of COVID-10 vaccination policy for Canada Life Centre and Burton Cummings Theatre is important to them.” . . . Fans also will have to wear facemasks while in the arena while not eating or drinking. . . .

Nanos Research completed a poll for The Globe and Mail earlier this month, asking: Would you support, somewhat oppose or oppose unvaccinated people being denied access to public gatherings like sporting events of indoor dining in restaurants? The newspaper’s John Ibbiston reported that “78 per cent of respondents said they would support (59 per cent) or somewhat support (19 per cent) such a ban. Only 15 per cent opposed a ban, and five per cent were somewhat opposed. Two per cent were unsure.”


——

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

Tel: 604-806-9027

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

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Bean

Where do Silvertips, Blazers go from here? . . . Would WHL expand for the money? Who and where?

I STAND WITH ETHAN BEAR . . .


What is sure to be an interesting summer in WHL circles is off to quite a start with two teams presently without general managers and one club looking for a head coach.

The Everett Silvertips parted company with general manager Garry Davidson on EverettMay 20, ending a highly successful relationship that was more than nine years old. The Silvertips chose not to renew Davidson’s contract, just 10 days after the club wrapped up the 2020-21 developmental season with a 19-4-0 record, easily the best in the five-team U.S. Division.

On Tuesday, Matt Bardsley announced that he was resigning as general manager of the Kamloops Blazers, citing a desire to move his family back to the U.S., to be closer to relatives and so that grandparents in California and Oregon would have more access to their two grandchildren.

Bardsley made his announcement just 13 days after the Blazers wound up their Kamloopsseason with an 18-4-0 record, easily the best in the five-team B.C. Division. The Blazers also had the division’s best record when the 2019-20 season was cut short by the arrival of COVID-19.

I wrote on Tuesday night that Bardsley was believed to have one year left on his contract with Kamloops. That turned out to be incorrect. A source with knowledge of the situation has since told Taking Note that Bardsley signed a five-year contract with the WHL team when he joined it from the Portland Winterhawks. Then, with COVID-19 coming along and employees taking pay cuts, the Blazers’ ownership group extended his contract another year.

So . . . where might those two teams go from here.

Well, in the news release announcing Davidson’s departure, the Silvertips said: “The past two seasons have necessitated the restructuring of Silvertips hockey operations, and this process is ongoing.”

That would suggest that the Silvertips are cutting payroll and perhaps trimming positions, what with not having had any playoff revenue for the past two years and having had to play a shortened season in front of empty seats for 2020-21.

Does it all mean that the Silvertips will operate without a traditional general manager, perhaps giving Mike Fraser, their head scout, more responsibilities?

(Of course, the administrative staff page on the team’s website still listed Davidson as the general manager as of Wednesday evening, so maybe . . .)

Meanwhile, in Kamloops, you can bet that the Blazers will take a serious look at adding the GM’s title to head coach Shaun Clouston’s portfolio. After all, he was the GM/head coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers for seven seasons before landing in Kamloops. He still might be in Medicine Hat had the beloved Willie Desjardins not come available prior to the 2019-20 season.

Or perhaps the Blazers will turn Clouston into strictly a general manager, and promote his brother, Cory, to head coach. Cory, on staff as an assistant coach, certainly has ample experience as a head coach.

I really expect the Blazers to promote from within their organization rather than add a new face to the structure. And I would think that the vast majority of WHL teams will be taking the same approach to any vacancies that may arise in the next while.

Except for the Red Deer Rebels, who are in the market for a head coach after RedDeerBrent Sutter, who also is the owner, president and general manager, stepped down on April 10.

Assistant coaches Ryan Colville and Brad Flynn, along with assistant GM Shaun Sutter, handled the team for the remainder of the season. Brent was in his 17th season as the team’s head coach, although he spent some time in the NHL during that stretch.

The Rebels were 2-10-2 when he announced that he was stepping down; they finished 4-15-4.

While Sutter no doubt has some ideas and may well already have sounded out a few candidates, I would imagine that he isn’t in a hurry and will wait until the NHL season ends to see just who shakes free.

But ever since he announced his decision, I have wondered: What if he conducts a search and discovers that the best candidate for the job is Brent Sutter?


Scams


Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, wrote a bit on Wednesday about whether the NBA might be able to recoup some pandemic-related losses by selling a couple of expansion franchises.

As he pointed out, the Los Angeles Clippers recently changed hands for US$2 billion, while the Houston Rockets went for US$2.2 billion and the New Jersey Nets for US$3.2 billion.

So if the NBA was to sell two expansions franchises for US$1.5 billion each, well, that would put $100 million in the jeans of each of the existing franchises. That kind of cash might help some of the franchises get over the pandemic pain.

All of which got me to thinking about the WHL, whose teams no doubt also have felt the pain, although not nine figures worth of it. But deep six-figure losses will sting a WHL franchise as much if not more than what NBA teams might be feeling.

Still, if the WHL could peddle a couple of expansion franchises for, say, Cdn$4 million apiece and then divvy up the proceeds, each of the existing teams would get about Cdn$364,000.

Remember, now, we’re just spitballin’ here . . .

Of course, I have no idea what an expansion franchise would be valued at, especially with the WHL working to escape the grip of this pandemic. Nor do I have any understanding as to whether there is anyone out there who might even be interested in purchasing a franchise.

On top of that, are there any arenas out there that aren’t being used by a junior team that would meet the WHL’s standards?

Nah, didn’t think so. Back to the drawing board.


Robert Morris U, which is located in Moon Township, Pa. announced on Wednesday that it has dropped it’s men’s and women’s hockey teams, both of which played at the NCAA Division I level. . . . RMU played host to the NCAA men’s Final Four in Pittsburgh just two months ago. . . . USCHO.com reported that the university attributed the decisions to a “series of strategic initiatives” intended to “position the university to be amongst the most agile and professionally focused schools in the nation” as it prepares for its upcoming 100th anniversary. . . . According to USCHO.com, “Approximately 55 student-athletes and seven staff positions will be impacted by this decision, which is effective immediately.” . . . Derek Schooley had been the men’s head coach since 2004-05, while Paul Colontino has been the women’s coach for 10 seasons.


Birthday


Dorothy will be taking part in her eighth Kamloops Kidney Walk, albeit virtually, on June 6. If you would like to be part of her team, you are able to make a donation 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

Tel: 604-806-9027

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

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: Parker MacKay has joined the AJHL’s Spruce Grove Saints as an assistant coach. He will work alongside head coach Bram Stephen. MacKay played three seasons (2012-15) with the Saints, winning one title, before going on to the U of Minnesota-Duluth where he won two NCAA championships. There is a news release right here. . . . Burt Henderson is taking over as the general manager and head coach of the BCHL’s Langley Rivermen. Henderson, 46, spent the past two seasons as president and head coach of the junior B Langley Trappers of the Pacific Junior Hockey League. With the Rivermen, he replaces Bobby Henderson, a cousin, who hasn’t been with the team since some time in March although the team didn’t mention his departure until May. . . . The BCHL’s Coquitlam Express has signed Tali Campbell, its vice-president and general manager, to a three-year extension. He joined the team in October 2020.


Cxn

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