What if Derlago and Leach hadn’t been injured? . . . WHL has first matchup: Edmonton vs. Lethbridge . . . In Kamloops, No. 22 gets 22nd goal at 2:22 of OT

Potholes


As the WHL’s 2021-22 regular season winds down, let’s take a look back and wonder what one player’s final season might have been. It’s a season that shouldn’t be forgotten.

It was 1977-78. Bill Derlago of the Brandon Wheat Kings had turned 19 about a month before the season began. This would be his third full season with the Wheat Kings. In 1976-77, he had totalled 96 goals, which was a WHL record at the time, and 82 assists — 178 points — in 72 games.

Fans could only imagine what was to come.

Well, the native of Birtle, Man., didn’t disappoint, putting up 152 points, including 89 goals, in 52 games. That’s 1.17 goals and 2.92 points per game. Those are great numbers. Right?

But they could have been even better.

Derlago
The Brandon Wheat Kings had a line for their opponents — Ray Allison (left), Bill Derlago and Brian Propp. (Photo: wheatkings.com)

In early December, Derlago, playing between Brian Propp and Ray Allison, had 80 points, including 48 goals, in 26 games when he suited up with a WCHL all-star team in Regina against a touring side from what was then the Soviet Union. (The team, travelling as the Moscow Selects, won the game, 6-5. The WCHL team featured players from Brandon, the Regina Pats, Flin Flon Bombers and Medicine Hat Tigers.)

Over a 72-game season, Derlago was on pace for 218 points, including 133 goals. Rob Brown of the 1986-87 Kamloops Blazers holds the WHL record for most points in one season. He put up 212 in 63 games that season, an average of 3.37 points per game.

Had Derlago stayed healthy and maintained his pace, he would have averaged 1.85 goals and 3.03 points per game.

But it wasn’t to be.

On his second shift of that game in Regina, Derlago “lined up Boris Verigin . . . and took a run at him,” wrote Dave Senick of the Regina Leader-Post. “The Soviet went down and slipped past Derlago’s check.

“The Wheat King flew over Verigin and couldn’t get up after hitting the ice. The reason was a good one. He was taken to hospital and was diagnosed (with) possible torn knee ligaments.”

As it turned out, he had torn ligaments in his left knee.

“Sure, I’m disappointed and the records mean something to me,” Derlago told Senick. “But I’m not going to get worried. I just want to get back and play. It’s the first time I’ve had a serious injury in three years. I had my adrenaline flowing for this season.”

He did return and was able to finish up that 152-point season, but we were left to wonder what might have been.

BTW, Derlago’s 96 goals from 1976-77 stood up as the WHL single-season record until 1983-84 when Ray Ferraro, who had been acquired by the Wheat Kings from the Portland Winterhawks in the offseason, scored 108 times. That remains the WHL’s single-season record to this date.

The Vancouver Canucks selected Derlago with the fourth overall pick of the NHL’s 1978 draft. He went on to play 555 regular-season NHL games, most of them with the Toronto Maple Leafs for whom he enjoyed 35-, 34-, 40- and 31-goal seasons.

Jake Milford was the Canucks’ general manager at that time. He had been in the Wheat Kings’ front office, either as GM, head coach or both, from 1958-59 through 1963-64. McCallum had played two seasons (1958-60) with the Canucks.

And so it was that the Canucks, under Milford’s guidance, were putting the Canucks through their paces during Derlago’s first NHL training camp. That included running some sprints, something at which Derlago, who had large calves, wasn’t proficient.

When Milford called McCallum to update him on Derlago’s progress, the Canucks’ GM complained about Derlago’s poor performance on the track.

To which McCallum replied: “Jake, are you putting together a track team or a hockey team?”

——

It should be pointed out that Bill Derlago wasn’t the first WCHL superstar to FFBomberslose a possible monstrous statistical season to injury. In 1968-69, Reggie Leach, the Riverton Rifle, finished with 46 points, including 36 goals, in 22 games with the Flin Flon Bombers, losing most of the season to a shoulder injury.

Over a 60-game schedule, which is what they played back in the day, that works out to 125 points, including 98 goals. Had Leach scored 98 goals, he would be two ahead of the 96 Derlago scored in 1976-77.

But let’s also think about Flin Flon captain Bobby Clarke, who won the scoring title that season with 137 points in 58 games. The Bombers’ second-leading scorer was Brian Marchinko, with 86 points.

Had Leach been riding shotgun with Clarke for the entire season, who knows how many points the league’s top player might have put up? One season earlier, Clarke won the scoring title with 168 points; Leach was second with 131.

Unfortunately, we’ll never know what might have been for Leach in 1968-69.


Not to overload you with Flin Flon-related chatter, but . . .

If you are having a discussion about the most intimidating hockey arena anywhere you have to have Flin Flon’s Whitney Forum at or near the top of the list. I haven’t been there in years, but I did take in the odd Bombers game back in the days of Gerry Hart, Bobby Clarke, Reggie Leach, Steve Andrascik, Wayne Hawrysh et al. Yes, it was a noisy, scary place. . . . Now there is talk that Hudbay — today, it’s Hudbay Minerals Inc.; in my time it was Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting — “is slated to shut down much of its operations nearby later this year,” Eric Westhaver wrote in the Flin Flon Reminder the other day. . . . What will that mean to the folks of Flin Flon and the Fabulous Forum? Westhaver takes a look right here at the past, the present and the future of a Canadian landmark.



Screw


SATURDAY IN THE WHL:

Eastern Conference:

F Justin Sourdif and F Dylan Guenther each had two goals and two assists as the Edmontonhost Edmonton Oil Kings beat the Red Deer Rebels, 6-4. . . . The Oil Kings clinched their fourth straight Central Division pennant and will meet the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs. They will open in Edmonton on April 21. Edmonton won the season series, 6-2-0; Lethbridge was 2-5-1. . . . Edmonton snapped a 2-2 tie and took control with three goals in a span of 4:11 early in the second period, the last two coming via the PP after Red Deer F Frantisek Formanek was hit with a kneeing major and game misconduct. . . . Guenther now has 44 goals; Sourdif has 25. . . . Sourdif, who turned 20 on March 24, went into the game with 199 points in 195 career regular-season games. His first goal, at 8:50 of the first period, was his 200th career point. The Oil Kings acquired him from the Vancouver Giants earlier in the season. He has 37 points, including 16 goals, in 25 games with Edmonton. . . . Red Deer got a goal and two assists from each of D Christoffer Sedoff (8), F Ben King and F Arshdeep Bains. King and Bains each went into the game with 199 career regular-season points. . . . King, who leads the WHL with 50 goals in his 19-year-old season, now has 202 points in 204 career games. Bains, who leads the WHL with 105 points in his 20-year-old season, has 202 points in 255 career games. . . . King is the first Red Deer player to get to 50 since F Kyle Wanvig scored 55 in 2000-01. The franchise record (58) belongs to F B.J. Young (1996-97). . . . F Jake Neighbours, the Oil Kings’ captain, had two assists in his return to the lineup. He had last played on Feb. 21. . . . Edmonton (47-14-4) will finish second in the conference, while Red Deer (44-18-4) will be third. The Rebels, though, will have to wait to find out their first-round opponent — either the Saskatoon Blades, Moose Jaw Warriors or Brandon Wheat Kings. . . .

In Winnipeg, F Chase Wheatcroft scored twice and added an assist as the Ice WinnipegIcebeat the Medicine Hat Tigers, 6-1. . . . He’s got 16 goals. . . . F Cole Muir (11) scored twice and F Jakin Smallwood (24) had a goal and two assists. . . . Winnipeg held a 44-17 edge in shots, including 22-4 in the third period. . . . G Daniel Hauser earned the victory with 16 saves. This season, he is 31-3-1, 1.97, .914. . . . Winnipeg (50-10-5) will finish atop the conference and will face the eight-place team in the first round. Four teams — the Swift Current Broncos, Calgary Hitmen, Regina Pats and Prince Albert Raiders — are within two points of each other in the scrap for the last spot. . . . The Tigers (11-51-4) have lost 10 in a row. . . .

F Nate Danielson scored the only goal of a shootout as the Brandon Wheat Kings Brandongot past the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors, 3-2. . . . Moose Jaw led this one 2-0 early in the second period on goals from F Eric Alarie (22) and F Ryder Korczak (23). . . . F Nolan Ritchie (32) got Brandon to within one at 7:22 of the second period and D Vincent Iorio (11) tied it just 2:28 later. . . . Danielson was the fifth shooter in the circus. The Wheat Kings put it away when Korczak couldn’t beat G Ethan Kruger. . . . Brandon (35-25-5) is sixth, three points behind Moose Jaw (36-23-6) and the idle Saskatoon Blades (37-26-4). . . .

The Lethbridge Hurricanes ensured themselves of a seventh-place finish with a Lethbridge5-1 victory over the visiting Calgary Hitmen. . . . F Jett Jones, who scored twice, broke a 1-1 tie with his first goal at 1:21 of the second period. He added his 20th of the season, shorthanded, at 19:22 of the third. . . . That seventh-place finish means the Hurricanes (31-30-5) will face the Edmonton Oil Kings in the first-round of the playoffs. These two teams have never played each other in the playoffs. . . . The Hitmen (25-32-8) are tied for eighth with Swift Current, one point ahead of Regina and Prince Albert. . . . Calgary and Regina each have three games remaining, Prince Albert has two and Swift Current one. . . .

F Connor Bedard scored twice and added an assist as the host Regina Pats beat Reginathe Prince Albert Raiders, 5-3. . . . Bedard gave his guys a 2-1 lead at 6:19 of the second period, then put them ahead 4-2, on the PP, at 6:46 of the third. . . . Bedard now has 92 points, including 49 goals, in 58 games. . . . The Pats also got a shorthanded goal and two assists from F Tanner Howe, who was playing against his hometown team. Howe, who won’t turn 17 until Nov. 28, has 66 points, 26 of them goals, in 61 games. . . . F Evan Herman scored twice for the Raiders, giving him 25. . . . Regina (26-34-5) and Prince Albert (26-25-5) are tied for 10th, two points from a playoff spot.

——

Western Conference:

D Ethan Samson’s third-period PP goal broke a 1-1 tie as the host Prince George PrinceGeorgeCougars scored a 2-1 victory over the Victoria Royals. . . . F Marcus Almquist (5) gave the Royals a 1-0 lead at 1:27 of the first period. . . . F Jonny Hooker (16) tied it 10:06 later. . . . Samson, who has 15 goals, snapped the tie at 13:29 of the third period. He also drew an assist on Hooker’s goal. . . . G Ty Young stopped 29 shots for the Cougars, including 10 in the third period. . . . Prince George (23-38-5) is tied for sixth with the Spokane Chiefs. The Cougars have two games remaining — in Kamloops on Friday and in Kelowna on Saturday. . . . Victoria (22-38-6) is tied with the Vancouver Giants for eighth. The Royals have two games remaining with Spokane to visit on Friday and Saturday. . . .

In Kamloops, F Jaydon Dureau’s OT goal gave the Portland Winterhawks a 5-4 Portlandvictory over the Blazers. . . . Andy Kemper, the Winterhawks’ historian, points out that the winning goal “was the 22nd of the season for No. 22 Dureau at 2:22 of OT.” . . . D Marek Alscher (7) had pulled Portland even, at 4-4, at 8:01 of the third period. . . . F Logan Stankoven had two goals, giving him 44, and an assist for Kamloops. His first goal, 57 seconds into the game, was his 100th point of the season. . . . Stankoven’s 102 points has him tied with F Ben King of the Red Deer Rebels for second in the WHL scoring race. They are three points behind Red Deer F Arshdeep Bains. . . . Stankoven leads the WHL in points per game, at 1.79. . . . The Blazers got three assists from F Daylan Kuefler. . . . Kamloops (47-16-3) is second in the conference. With two games to play, it is three points behind the idle Everett Silvertips (45-10-10) and two ahead of Portland (45-16-5), which also has two games remaining. . . .

F Andrew Cristall and F Colton Dach each had five points in leading the Kelowna KelownaRockets to an 8-4 victory over the visiting Vancouver Giants. . . . Cristall had two goals and three assists, with Dach scoring once and adding four helpers. . . . Cristall has 26 goals, which breaks the franchise record for goals by a 16-year-old. F Shane McColgan (2009-10) and F Nick Merkley (2013-14) had shared the record prior to the game. . . . The Rockets also got two goals and two assists from F Mark Liwiski, who has 23 goals, and two goals and an assist from F Adam Kydd. He’s got 17 goals. . . . F Zack Ostapchuk scored three times for Vancouver. His first career hat trick gave him 23 goals this season. . . . D Alex Cotton added his 15th goal and two assists for the visitors. . . . These teams will play again today in Kelowna and then will clash on Friday in Langley, B.C. . . . The Rockets (40-19-6) are fourth, two points behind the Seattle Thunderbirds and the two teams are headed for a first-round playoff clash. Each team has three games remaining, and all that remains to be decided is who will have home-ice advantage. . . . Vancouver (23-27-4) is tied with Victoria for the conference’s last playoff spot. . . .

At Kent, Wash., F Jared Davidson had a goal and three assists to lead the Seattle SeattleThunderbirds past the Spokane Chiefs, 6-2. . . . The start of the game, scheduled for 7:05 p.m. PT, was delayed about two hours because weather conditions through the Snoqualmie Pass slowed the Chiefs’ trek. . . . Spokane, trailing 3-0 late in the second period, got to within a goal at 3-2 before third period was two minutes old but wasn’t able to equalize. . . . Davidson has 82 points, including 36 goals, in 61 games. . . . F Lukas Svejkovsky added two goals for Seattle, giving him 34, with D Kevin Korchinski drawing three assists. . . . Seattle (41-18-6) is fourth, two points ahead of Kelowna. . . . Spokane (23-38-5) is tied for sixth with Prince George, one point ahead of Vancouver and Victoria.


JUNIOR JOTTINGS: There is speculation that the QMJHL is seriously considering exempting 20-year-old goaltenders from the CHL rule that limits teams to three such players. That makes sense to me. I also would do away with the two-spot rule — teams are allowed three 20-year-olds and two imports — that has a 20-year-old import taking up a spot in each category. I have long thought that with teams having invested so much energy, money and time in import players they should have to declare a 20-year-old import as one or the other. . . . The BCHL’s Cranbrook Bucks had their first season come to an end on Saturday when they lost, 3-2 in OT, to the visiting Prince George Spruce Kings, who won the best-of-seven series, 4-2. The announced attendance was 3,002.


Bananas


Dorothy is preparing to take part in the annual Kidney Walk for a ninth straight year. She has participated in every one since she underwent a kidney transplant at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver on Sept. 23, 2013. . . . The 2022 Kidney Walk will be held on June 5, but thanks to the pandemic it again will be a virtual event. . . . You are able to support her by making 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.


YMCA

COVID-19 finds the Chiefs; three games postponed . . . Howdy, Neighbours . . . Ice’s new rink on hold indefinitely

Flanders


It took until this week but the COVID-19 virus has found the WHL.

The league now has postponed three games involving the Spokane Chiefs, who had two players test positive this week.

SpokaneThe Chiefs were to have played the host Everett Silvertips on Wednesday night and then travel to Victoria for Friday and Saturday dates with the Royals. Those games are expected to be rescheduled.

The two Chiefs players who tested positive, according to the WHL, “are fully vaccinated in accordance with the WHL mandatory vaccination policy.”

The Chiefs have halted all team activities, including practices and off-ice training “pending further test results.”

Under the WHL’s protocols, it requires that “all roster players, hockey operations staff, and other team and league office personnel be fully vaccinated with a Health Canada approved vaccine.” At the same time, the WHL “strongly recommended to each of its teams that players reside in billet households in which all eligible individuals are fully vaccinated.”

Spokane last played Friday and Saturday, losing twice to the visiting Silvertips — 5-4 and then 2-1 in OT — but according to the WHL “there are no other WHL clubs considered high-risk close contacts.”

With the two weekend games postponed, the Chiefs next are scheduled to play on Nov. 19 when they are to play host to the Seattle Thunderbirds and Nov. 20 when they are scheduled to be in Everett.

On Thursday, the Chiefs, with five forwards on the WHL injury list, acquired F Carter Streek, 17, from the Saskatoon Blades for a seventh-round selection in the 2022 draft. Streek, from Kamloops, was a fourth-round pick by the Portland Winterhawks in the 2019 draft. He is pointless in 21 career games, six of them this season, all with the Blades.

The Chiefs are listing F Reed Jacobson as being out month-to-month, with F Erik Atchison, F Grady Lane and F Michael Cicek all week-to-week. F Bear Hughes and D Graham Sward are shown as day-to-day.


THE RICH GET RICHER: The NHL’s St. Louis Blues returned F Jake Neighbours, 19, to the Edmonton Oil Kings on Wednesday. He had one goal and one assist in Edmontonnine regular-season games with the Blues. Yes, a 10th game would have kicked his three-year contract into gear. . . . He is expected to be in Edmonton’s lineup tonight against the host Regina Pats. . . . Neighbours, who was selected by the Blues with the 26th pick of the NHL’s 2020 draft, had 70 points, including 23 goals, in 64 games in 2019-20. In the 2021 development season, he put up nine goals and 24 assists in 19 games. . . . The Oil Kings were No. 5 in the CHL’s latest weekly rankings, behind the Winnipeg Ice (1), London Knights (2), Kamloops Blazers (3) and Everett Silvertips (4). Yes, WHL teams occupied four of the top five slots and the Seattle Thunderbirds showed up at No. 9.


Fingers


POSTPONE A GAME? NOT YET: While the WHL was dealing with two positive tests on the Spokane Chiefs’ roster, the NHL’s Ottawa Senators found nhl2themselves with nine players and a coach on the COVID-19 protocol list. . . . D Josh Brown was added to the list on Wednesday, joining F Connor Brown, F Dylan Gambrell, D Nick Holden, D Victor Mete and F Austin Watson. As well, associate coach Jack Capuano tested positive and went into isolation. . . . Then, on Thursday morning, Ottawa had to add G Matt Murray and F Alex Formenton to the list. And on Friday afternoon they put D Nikita Zaitsev on the list. . . . If you were wondering how many players would have to be on a team’s protocol list for the NHL to postpone a game, it would seem that nine isn’t the answer. The Senators met the visiting Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night. . . . After Zaitsev was added to the list, the Senators recalled Finnish D Lassi Thomson from AHL-Belleville and he made his NHL debut in what was a 2-0 loss to the Kings. Thomson, the 19th selection in the NHL’s 2019 draft, had 17 goals and 24 assists with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets in 2018-19. . . . The Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues all have dealt with outbreaks this season. The Sharks played on the weekend with seven players out of the lineup.


NEW HOME FOR ICE? NOT SO FAST: Because you asked, the Cranbrook Bucks are averaging 2,236 fans through five home games. That’s second in the BCHL, Winnipegbehind the Penticton Vees (2,342). . . . Because you’re wondering, the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice, which has played nine home games in the 1,600-seat Wayne Fleming Arena, is averaging 1,603. The Ice announced attendance of 1,621 for each of its first eight games, then 1,456 for the ninth one. . . . Does anyone know the status of that new arena the folks who moved the WHL team from Cranbrook to Winnipeg said they would be building? Well, it turns out a new arena isn’t about to happen. . . . Mike Sawatzky of the Winnipeg Free Press has reported that the Ice “won’t have a new home anytime soon and will extend their stay at the University of Manitoba’s Wayne Fleming Arena for the 2022-23 season and likely beyond.” Sawatzky added that “to date, no plan for the construction of a new arena has been established.” . . . More from Sawatzky: “Ice owners Greg Fettes, who serves as chairman and governor, and Matt Cockell, the club’s president and general manager, have been silent on the subject. WHL commissioner Ron Robison did not respond to a request for comment.”


BigBird


SORRY, PORTLAND: F Seth Jarvis is eligible to play another season with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. However, he’s with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes and it doesn’t sound as though a return to the WHL is imminent. On Thursday, Kacy Hintz of WRAL in Raleigh, N.C., asked Carolina head coach Rod Brind’Amour: “Do you see any benefit at all in sending Seth Jarvis back to junior?” . . . The coach’s reply: “For the junior team, maybe.” . . . Jarvis has a goal and an assist in four games with Carolina this season. He put up 166 points, 73 of them goals, in 154 regular-season games over four seasons with the Winterhawks.


THE MOOSOMIN BLADES: Les Lazaruk, who has been calling Saskatoon Blades’ games since Noah set sail, tweeted from Moosomin, Sask., on Thursday night. Blades“Storm-stayed Thursday night in Moosomin.” . . . The Blades are scheduled to meet the Wheat Kings in Brandon tonight — “Assuming the Trans-Canada Skating Rink is more like a highway in the morning,” Lazaruk tweeted — and then travel to face the Winnipeg Ice on Saturday and Sunday. . . . At cjwwradio.com, Lazaruk wrote that the Blades encountered freezing rain, snow and gusty north winds east of Regina. “The first sign of a problem,” he added, “came around 3:30 Thursday afternoon when the Blue and Gold’s bus, piloted by Cal Loeppky, was forced to stop just east of Broadview while tow trucks rescued jack-knifed semi-trailer units out of the ditch. After a 45-minute stop, traffic moved again, but at an average speed of 30 kilometres-per-hour.” Upon hearing that there were more vehicles ditched and waiting for recovery east of Moosomin, the decision was made to stop for the night. Yes, they had supper at the Red Barn. . . . Lazaruk tells me that the Blades last were storm-stayed “in February of either 2018 or 2019” while on their way to Cranbrook to meet the Ice. (Remember when Cranbrook was in the WHL?) . . . The Blades spent a night in Pincher Creek, Alta., then headed to Cranbrook the next morning. The Blades won 3-2 in 2018 and 8-3 in 2019.


Rodgers


COVID GOES TO COLLEGE: You may be aware that California-Berkeley’s home game against the USC Trojans has been moved from Saturday to Dec. 4 because of positive tests among Golden Bears players. But did you know that there were at least 44 positives? . . . Matthai Chakko, a spokesperson for Berkeley Public Health, told the San Francisco Chronicle via email that “cases emerged in an environment of ongoing failure to abide by public health measures.” Chakko told the newspaper that there were players who didn’t get tested when sick or stay home when ill, and they didn’t wear masks while indoors. . . . There are 117 players and staff in the Golden Bears program and all but two are fully vaccinated. Those two both have tested positive. . . . Cal had scratched 24 players the previous weekend so the roster was short for what was a 10-3 loss to Arizona in Tucson.


TRAVELIN’ MAN: F Trentyn Crane, 18, is from Morden, Man. He began this hockey season with the WHL’s Victoria Royals, going pointless in four games. . . . His junior A rights were owned by the OCN Blizzard, who play out of The Pas, Man. . . . Crane had played 37 games with the Blizzard in 2019-20 and six last season. . . . Well, the Blizzard dealt Crane to the Summerside Capitals this week, getting future considerations in return. The Capitals are located in Prince Edward Island. . . . Summerside is 5,676 km from Victoria. . . . Might be time for junior A hockey to start a new recruiting campaign — “Come Play With Us and See Canada!”


Options


GREAT START: G Zach Fucale played in his first NHL game on Thursday night when he started for the visiting Washington Capitals and blanked the Detroit Red Wings, 2-0, with 21 saves. Fucale, 26, is the 26th goaltender in NHL history to post a shutout in his first start. . . . Interestingly, he is the final player from the Canadian team that won gold at the 2015 World Junior Championship in Toronto and Montreal to play in the NHL. Fucale and Eric Comrie were the goaltenders as Canada went 7-0 and beat Russia, 5-4, in the final. Head coach Benoit Groulx rotated the pair through the round-robin, then went with Fucale in all three playoff games. . . . If you’re wondering who else was on that team — you can start with Connor McDavid — the complete roster is right here.


COACHING CHANGE: The OHL’s Erie Otters fired head coach Chris Hartsburg on Thursday, with associate coach B.J. Adams replacing him. . . . The Otters are 3-7-1 as they prepare to meet the Storm in Guelph tonight and then entertain the London Knights on Saturday. . . . Hartsburg, a former head coach for two seasons (2009-11) with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips, signed with the Otters in June 2017, replacing Kris Knoblauch, another former WHL coach, who had guided the team to the 2016 OHL title. . . . Hartsburg’s contract was to have expired after this season. . . . Adams is in his seventh season on Erie’s coaching staff.


Paramedics


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.


Minigolf

Ex-WHLer needs kidney; can you help? . . . Who gets new arena first — Regina or Saskatoon? . . . Cancer claims Hartnell at 48

Ryan Smith, who spent four seasons (1991-95) in the WHL, needs a kidney — the sooner, the better. Smith, 46, played with the Brandon Wheat Kings, Lethbridge Hurricanes and Prince George Cougars, totalling 158 points, including 131 assists, in 274 games before going on to the U of Manitoba Bisons. . . . A married father of two young sons, Smith and his family live in Lavington, B.C., which is near Vernon. . . . He was diagnosed with IgA Nephropathy (aka Berger’s disease) about four years ago and has been on dialysis for almost two years. . . . Smith is on the deceased donor list, but is hoping to shorten what could be at least a four-year wait by finding a live donor. He thought he had found a live donor at one point; however, 10 months into the testing process the potential donor was found to have medical issues that short-circuited things, something that sometimes happens. . . . If you are interested in being a kidney donor, the contact information for the Living Kidney Donor Program at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver is further down in this post. . . . Roger Knox of the Vernon Morning Star has Smith’s story right here.


So . . . I’m wondering who is going to win the race — Regina or Saskatoon? . . . PatsShaun Semple, who with his father, Gavin, now owns the Regina Pats lock, stock and barrel, says it’s time that the Saskatchewan capital had a new arena. As hard is it is to believe, the home of the Pats is 44 years of age and, as Shaun told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post, “it’s getting tired. . . . There needs to be a new (arena) for sure.” . . . Harder’s complete story is right here, and what it tells me is that the conversation has started. . . .

Meanwhile, there has been talk in Saskatoon about a possible new arena, one Bladesthat would replace the SaskTel Centre, for a couple of years now. The home of the Blades is 33 years old and getting close to its best before date, if it isn’t already there. . . . A new facility likely would be built somewhere in the downtown area. In October, Phil Tank of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix wrote: “A funding plan for the project has not been finalized, but the cost is estimated between $172 million and $178 million. If the arena project is combined with a new downtown convention centre, the cost rises to between $330 million and $370 million.” . . . While Blades owner Mike Priestner hasn’t said a whole lot publicly about it, he has let it be known that he wants to be involved. Colin Priestner, the Blades’ president and general manager, appeared in front of Saskatoon city council on Monday and, according to Kevin Mitchell of the StarPhoenix, “made a pitch for his group to take a larger role in SaskTel Centre’s operations.” . . . Mitchell’s story is right here.



Two WHL players, both of them eligible for the NHL’s 2021 draft, have had their developmental seasons come to an end. . . . The Red Deer Rebels announced Wednesday that F Jayden Grubbe, the team captain, needs knee surgery (ACL) and won’t play again this season. According to the team, Grubbe “is expected to make a full recovery in time for the start of the 2021-22 season.” Grubbe, 18, was injured in the first period of a game against the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes on Friday. That was his fifth game of this season; he had a goal and two assists. . . . Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Ice revealed that F Carson Lambos “has left the Regina hub and returned to Winnipeg for a medical procedure. . . . More information will be provided at a later date.” Lambos, 18, was pointless in two games this season. He is a potential first-round selection in the NHL draft.


Rob Hartnell, who played three seasons (1990-93) in the WHL, has died. He was 48 when he died of cancer on Friday in Camrose, Alta. . . . Hartnell played 143 games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes over parts of three seasons, then finished up his WHL career by putting up 59 points, including 25 games, in 48 games with the Tri-City Americans. . . . All told, he had 227 points, 98 of them goals, in 191 regular-season WHL games. . . . He went on to play professionally in the ECHL, WPHL and in Europe. He wound up his playing career in the Chinook Hockey League with the Bentley Generals. . . . He had been coaching the junior B Wetaskiwin Icemen until having to step aside for health reasons prior to the 2019-20 season. . . . There is a complete obituary right here.


Kris Knoblauch, a former WHL player and coach, made his NHL head-coaching debut on Wednesday night, running the New York Rangers’ bench as they drubbed the visiting Philadelphia Flyers, 9-0. . . . Knoblauch is the head coach of the Hartford Wolf Pack, the Rangers’ AHL affiliate. He was called into New York after the Rangers’ coaching staff was ruled out because of COVID-19 protocol. That took out Rangers’ head coach David Quinn and assistants Jacques Martin, David Oliver and Greg Brown. Gord Murphy, Hartford’s associate coach, and Chris Drury, the Rangers’ associate general manager, were behind New York’s bench with Knoblauch, 42. He played with the Red Deer Rebels, Edmonton/Kootenay Ice and Lethbridge Hurricanes (1996-99), and later coached with the Prince Albert Raiders and Kootenay (2006-12).


So . . . how are things going with the Buffalo Sabres? Well, they’ve lost 12 in a row and been outscored 50-19 in the process. . . . The Buffalo News published its latest NHL power rankings earlier this week and they had the Sabres in 32nd place. Yes, 32nd . . . behind the Seattle Kraken, the expansion club that won’t begin play until next season. . . . Oh yes, the Sabres canned head coach Ralph Krueger on Wednesday.



There will be a new hockey conference in play come the 2021-22 season and it promises to be a good one. The Prep Hockey Conference will feature six of the top prep programs, each with a history of producing NCAA and NHL players. . . . The six are Shattuck-St. Mary’s School (Minnesota), St. Andrew’s College (Toronto), Northwood School (New York), Culver Academies (Indiana), Mount St. Charles Academy (Rhode Island) and South Kent School (Connecticut). All six programs have developed NHLers and top-end NCAA players throughout their histories. . . . Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News has more right here.


The Wheat City Whiskey Jacks are going to play a second straight season without making even one appearance on their home field in Brandon. The Whiskey Jacks will play out of Fargo, ND., for a second straight Expedition League season because of the U.S.-Canada border being closed to non-essential travel. . . . Last season, the league played with six teams as four opted out; it now has 12 teams, all of whom have said they’re in for 2021. . . . The Expedition League is a collegiate summer circuit whose season opens in late May. . . . Thomas Friesen of The Brandon Sun has more on the Whiskey Jacks right here.



Zach16

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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

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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

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Or, for more information, visit right here.

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Vic2


JUST NOTES: The BCHL’s Cranbrook Bucks have lost one assistant coach and added two others to their staff. Adam Stuart has left to join the coaching staff at the North Alberta Xtreme. The Bucks have added Ehren Menard and Todd Skirving to general manager/head coach Ryan Donald’s staff. Menard has spent six seasons with the Knights of Columbus program in Edmonton. Skirving plays for the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers, who opted out of the 2020-21 season. He played in the BCHL with the Prince George Spruce Kings and Vernon Vipers, then spent four seasons at the Rochester Institute of Technology before turning pro.


Suspect

When do fans get welcomed back to arenas? . . . Second thoughts for some NBAers? . . . BCIHL won’t start before Jan. 15

John Matisz of The Score spent time talking with “five experts from the fields of epidemiology, infectious diseases, and virology.” The conversations dealt with the NHL and its proposed return to play, hub cities, positive tests and a whole lot more. . . . If you’re a hockey fan, or just a sports fan, this is interesting stuff, and it’s all right here. You will want to read this to its conclusion, because the final question is: “Would it be wise for the NHL — or any other sports league, for that matter — to welcome fans back into arenas before a vaccine is readily available?”


The NBA’s back-to-play plan calls for 22 teams to gather in Orlando, Fla., starting on July 7, with its championship final possibly running through Oct. 13. Players would be required to stay in their bubble without family or friends until at least Aug. 30. . . . But now some players are talking about not reporting. Malcolm Brogdon, a guard with the Indiana Pacers who sits on the Players Association Executive Committee told The J.J. Redick Podcast this week the he has “talked to a few guys that are super-interested in sitting out, possibly. . . . Some guys are gonna say, for health reasons and the long-term effects that we don’t understand about COVID, I want to sit out. Other guys are gonna say, the black community and my people are going through too much for me to basically be distracted with basketball. . . . I think it’s a matter of perspective, (but) guys are gathering to really talk about and dive into the idea of not playing.”


Hugs


The U of Houston suspended all voluntary workouts on Friday after six student-athletes tested positive. The six were symptomatic and have been placed in isolation while tracing is undertaken. . . . It’s not known what sports the athletes are involved with, but the football and basketball teams had been cleared to begin workouts. . . . In advance of athletes returning, the school had decided to test only those who were symptomatic, rather than everyone who was coming back. . . . As of Friday evening, according to USA TODAY, 11 U.S. universities had student-athletes test positive. . . .

The Boston Bruins revealed on Friday that an unnamed player has tested positive for COVID-19 although he didn’t display any symptoms. He was tested prior to entering the NHL team’s practice facility, but has since tested negative twice. . . .

The 99-member Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association has cancelled its four fall 2020 national championships — golf, men’s and women’s soccer, and cross-country. . . .

A Romanian soccer league game between visiting Botosani and Universitatea Craiova was postponed on Friday after a member of Botosani’s medical team tested positive. . . . A Saturday game that had China Targoviste at Dinamo Bucharest also was postponed after Dinamo had a staff member come up positive. . . .

Six of the teams in baseball’s American Association are planning to open a 60-game regular season on July 3. That includes the Winnipeg Goldeyes, who will play, just not on their home field. The Chicago Dogs, Fargo-Moorehead RedHawks, Milwaukee Milkmen, Sioux Falls Canaries, St. Paul Saints and Winnipeg are going to play in hub cities. Two teams each will be assigned to Fargo, Milwaukee and Sioux Falls. The Goldeyes will play out of Fargo. . . .

Baseball’s New York-Penn League announced on Friday that the start of its 2020 season is being delayed indefinitely. It also has cancelled its All-Star Game. . . . The 14-team league is a Class A short-season league. Its season was to have opened on June 18. . . .

Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported on Friday that “two people involved in the game — one described as a major league pitching coach and one a 40-man roster player — have contracted COVID-19, multiple sources told The Post. No one would name the people who contracted the virus. But those aware of the situation say the pitching coach had the virus weeks ago and is now recovered. The 40-man roster player was described as having contracted the virus more recently, but with the belief that he has not infected anyone else involved in the game.” . . .

The PGA Tour Champions event scheduled for Calgary, Aug. 24-30, has been cancelled. The City of Calgary has revoked event permits through Aug. 31. That figured in the decision, as did various travel restrictions.


Headline on the Los Angeles Times’ website on Friday: L.A. schools police will return grenade launchers but keep rifles, armored vehicle.


Clinic


The five-team B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League has announced that its season won’t start before Jan. 15 “due to safety concerns relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.” . . . According to a news release, the league has approved a tentative 12-game regular-season schedule, along with a modified playoff structure. . . . From a news release: “Individual BCIHL teams are permitted to explore exhibition game opportunities for the fall semester within the boundaries of their institution, facility, and BC Hockey and Hockey Canada Return to Play protocols.” . . . The league has teams at Selkirk College in Castlegar, Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Trinity Western University in Langley, the University of Victory and Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo.


With live games starting to re-appear on your TV, and with the NBA and NHL seemingly headed in that direction, Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, makes no bones about the fact that he doesn’t want to hear from fans who aren’t in attendance.

After a brief rant about how using mannequins or inflatable dolls as stand-ins for fans diminished the “total intellectual capital” of humankind, he wrote:

“I assume you are wondering at this point what might be worse than something that drains the inventory of human intellectual capital. Well, the idea of piping in crowd noise because there are no live fans to provide spontaneous crowd noise would fit that bill. The compelling thing about sports is that it is real; what is happening on the field or the court or the pitch or the ice is not some fakery or fantasy; it is there and it is happening in real time. Piping in ‘fake noise’ destroys that compelling element.”

Hey, he’s correct!

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Here’s The Sports Curmudgeon closing Friday “by asking if this ever occurred to you: How did the people on Gilligan’s Island stay so happy episode after episode after they ran out of whatever supply of toilet paper they had on board?”

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And here he is with his Thought for the Day, this one from Mark Twain: “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”


Adam Stuart has signed on as an assistant coach with the Cranbrook Bucks, who are preparing for their first BCHL season. Stuart, 31, spent the previous two seasons as an assistant coach with the Calgary-based EDGE school’s midget prep team. In Cranbrook, he’ll work alongside Ryan Donald, the Bucks’ general manager and head coach. . . . Stuart’s brother, Derek, is the general manager and head coach of the junior B Kimberley Dynamiters of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.


Scott Cunningham has left the AJHL’s Brooks Bandits after working as their assistant general manager and assistant coach. Cunningham spent six years in Brooks. . . . “I look forward to starting a new career and also being able to spend more time with my family,” Cunningham said in a news release. . . . Prior to joining the Bandits, he spent eight seasons as head coach of the Northern Pacific Hockey League’s Helena Bighorns.


Iron

B.C. moves to protect amateur sports organizations . . . Cranbrook arena getting spruced up for Bucks . . . Bedard tops in clicks

Here is two minutes 20 seconds of hockey heaven. Watch it before putting your head on the pillow because you will have great dreams . . .


John Horgan, the premier of B.C., announced on Wednesday that “the government has passed an order protecting” amateur sports organizations and their volunteers “from any litigation as a result of COVID-19.” . . . As Patrick Johnston and Harrison Mooney of Postmedia reports, the move comes “after many insurance companies refused to cover leagues for coronavirus liability.” . . . The order, they added, “means sports organizations and organizers cannot be sued if someone contracts or transmits COVID-19 as a result of their participation in organized amateur sport, as long as those sports are following provincial pandemic guidelines.” . . . Jake Cabott, a Vancouver lawyer, said that people involved in amateur sports are going to need to “stay current on public health guidance and follow it. Don’t follow it as closely as your sport will allow. Follow it 100 per cent and modify your sport activities accordingly.” . . . The complete story is right here.


Of all the comments I have seen about the decision by U Sports and three of its conferences to cancel some national championships and suspend some seasons until at least January, I thought Blake Nill, the head coach of football’s UBC Thunderbirds, said it best when he told J.J. Adams of Postmedia that it was the correct decision.

“Ultimately,” Nill said, “universities have to provide leadership. They have to set an example. And this is absolutely about that. This is about universities being responsible given the health crisis. . . . It’s about safety of our athletes, it’s about health, and I’m a big believer that we have to be a flagship. We have to be up there at the front in doing that.

“We just have to get through it. Athletes are built to overcome any challenges and, this is a challenge that we need that kind of mindset for.”

Adams’ complete story is right here.



Whenever the BCHL is able to start a new season, the expansion Cranbrook Bucks are going to play in a spruced up Western Financial Place. It is getting a new watertight roof that is in the process of being installed. Work began on May 5. . . . Bradley Jones of myeastkootenaynow.com reports that the work on the roof isn’t expected to have an impact on the start of a new season. . . . According to Jones, several other upgrades are being made to the arena, which used to be home to the WHL’s Kootenay Ice before the team moved to Winnipeg after the 2018-19 season. When the Bucks begin play, there will be new boards and glass, a new chiller and heat exchanger on the ice plant, and a new video scoreboard. . . . Just wondering, but does anyone know if the Ice’s owners have settled their last lease agreement with Cranbrook city council? That lease was to run through 2022-23.



A gem from Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, in reference to the problems MLB and the MLBPA are having in trying to get a season started: “If Rob Manfred called Tony Clark and suggested they have dinner together tonight, I would not be surprised if both men brought food tasters with them. That kind of distrust must stop sometime or MLB as we have come to know it is not going to exist.”



penguin


MLS is planning a 26-team tournament without fans to run from July 8 through Aug. 11 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. . . . The NBA is planning to bring 22 teams into the same complex to begin play with the resumption of its season on July 31. . . . MLS is hoping that it will be able to move back to its regular markets once the tournament is completed. . . .

Manchester United was to have played a friendly with visiting Stoke City on Tuesday, but the game was cancelled after Stoke manager Michael O’Neill tested positive for COVID-19. . . . He had come up negative in five previous tests, but was positive in a test conducted on Monday. . . .

The LPGA has cancelled the Evian Championship that was to have been held in Evian-les-Bains, France, Aug. 6-9. This is the first major tournament cancelled by the LPGA. . . . The LPGA is planning on returning to play with the Marathon Classic in Ohio, July 23-26. . . .

Three of the world’s top soccer leagues are to resume their schedules in the next few days, all of them without fans. The Spanish league is to re-open today (Thursday), with Italy re-starting on Friday as Juventus and AC Milan clash in a semifinal. On June 17, the English Premier League will be back with two games. . . .

The PGA Tour returns today (Thursday) from the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. All players and caddies tested negative for the COVID-19 virus as of Wednesday night. Some players will wear microphones, while CBS-TV’s Jim Nantz will be alone in the broadcast booth. Ian Baker-Finch, Nick Faldo and Frank Nobilo will provide commentary from a studio in Orlando. . . .

The Prince George Cougars have had to cancel their ninth annual Alumni Hospital charity golf tournament that benefits the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation. It had been scheduled for July 10 and 11. The event has raised $558,000 in total, including $75,000 last summer. . . .

The European Badminton Championships have been cancelled. They had been scheduled for Kiev, Ukraine, April 21-26, but were postponed. Unable to find suitable dates, the Badminton World Federation pulled the plug.



The NHL’s Los Angeles Kings revealed Wednesday that Jon Rosen “is no longer a member of our organization,” a victim of cutbacks brought on by the pandemic. Rosen, once the radio voice of the WHL’s Everett Silvertips, spent eight seasons working with the NHL team as the LA Kings Insider. He did a superb job over those eight seasons; in fact, there were none better in his field. . . . What kind of person is Rosen? The Kings’ news release is right here; make sure you go to the end of it and read Rosen’s statement.


Food


Mike McKenzie now is the general manager and head coach of the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers. He had stepped in as interim head coach on Nov. 26, replacing the fired Jay McKee when the team was 7-10-4. With him running the bench, they went 33-6-3. . . . “Right now,” McKenzie said in a news release, “this decision makes the most sense for our organization.”



If you are a major junior hockey fan, this story may sound a wee bit familiar. . . . Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Tuesday that “Major League Baseball and the 22 teams named as defendants in a landmark lawsuit over minor-league salaries have taken their argument to the U.S. Supreme Court in a final effort to prevent a trial.” . . . Earlier, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the suit could move forward as a class action covering, according to Schulman, “any minor-league who has played in Arizona or Florida — essentlally all who went to spring training.” . . . Schulman added: “The suit, filed in 2004 by Missouri attorney and former Giants pitching prospect Garrrett Broshuis, hopes to compel teams to pay minor-league players at least the state minimum wage during the season and in spring training, when they are not paid aside from meal money.”

Schulman’s story is right here.


Book

WHL’s off-ice season begins today . . . Bedard gets exceptional status . . . Cranbrook Bucks have their GM/coach

Turnsignals


The WHL will hold its inaugural two-round U.S. prospects draft today (Wednesday), along with its annual bantam draft lottery. . . . The lottery, which won’t be streamed live, is to be held at 11 a.m. (MT) and will originate from the WHL office in Calgary. The U.S. prospects draft will be held online, starting at 2 p.m. MT. . . .

Meanwhile, the WHL announced that it has cancelled its annual awards show and changed the date of its bantam draft. . . . The awards show was to have been held in Red Deer on May 6. . . . The bantam draft that was scheduled for Red Deer on May 7 now will be held online on April 22. . . .



In loading up for a run at the 2020 Memorial Cup, no one went to the lengths as did the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats and Chicoutimi Sagueneens. The Wildcats, under general manager Ritchie Thibeau, traded for three star players, giving up 13 draft picks and a prospect. Chicoutimi GM Yanick Jean bettered that by adding five players for 18 picks, seven of them first-rounders, and two players. . . . And, of course, there won’t be any playoffs in the QMJHL, nor will there be a Memorial Cup. . . . Ken Campbell of The Hockey News reviews the situation involving the two big buyers right here. . . .


Emily Kaplan of ESPN reported Tuesday morning that “the NHL is temporarily cutting the pay of league office employees by 25 per cent.” . . . The cuts will come into play on April 1. . . . Kaplan wrote, “According to sources, the NHL is hoping that the temporary pay cut among league office employees will prevent layoffs during this uncertain time.” . . . The NHL had 189 games remaining in its regular season when it halted play on March 12. . . .

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The owners of the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers had told salaried employees that they would be hit with pay cuts of 20 per cent and would be moving to four-day work weeks. . . . However, on Tuesday, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, reversed course. . . . “Our commitment has been to do our best to keep all of our employees working through this very difficult situation,” Josh Harris, HBSE president, said in a statement. “As part of an effort to do that we asked salaried employees to take a temporary 20% pay cut while preserving everyone’s full benefits — and keeping our 1,500 hourly workers paid throughout the regular season. After listening to our staff and players, it’s clear that was the wrong decision. We have reversed it and will be paying these employees their full salaries. . . . To our staff and fans, I apologize for getting this wrong.” . . .

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Groupe CH, which owns the Montreal Canadiens and the AHL’s Laval Rocket, has announced layoffs that will affect 60 per cent of the employees in the organization. The layoffs will begin on Monday. . . . From a report by The Canadian Press: “Groupe CH says it has established a $6-millon assistance fund to help employees. The organization says the fund will help enhance employment insurance benefits for eight weeks, ensuring that employees will receive 80 per cent of their base salary for that period. The fund also will provide loans to employees in difficult financial situations.” . . .



Janet Brown of Vancouver radio station CKNW tweeted Tuesday morning that “White Spot restaurants has laid off about 3,000 employees in last week . . . owner Ron Toigo says restaurant industry was already hurting . . . he uses the words ‘bleak and staggering’ describing impact of COVID-19.” . . . Toigo also is the majority owner of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. . . .



Former Boston Bruins star Johnny Bucyk was to have had a hip replaced this week, but — guess what! — yes, the surgery was postponed. Dave Stubbs of nhl.com caught up with Bucyk, who is 84, and wrote this story right here. . . . You will enjoy this one. I guarantee it. . . .


Here is Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from Will Rogers: “There are three kinds of men. The ones that learn by readin’. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” . . .


The headline on the IIHF website reads: Ireland Coaches Italy. . . . Seriously. . . . Greg Ireland has signed on as the head coach of Italy’s national men’s hockey team. . . . Ireland, 54, takes over from Clayton Beddoes, who resigned earlier this year. . . . Ireland has been the head coach of HC Bolzano of the EBEL since January. . . . Prior to that, he spent three seasons as the head coach of Switzerland’s HC Lugano. . . .



BC Hockey announced Tuesday that F Connor Bedard has been granted exceptional status, so the 15-year-old will be eligible to play full-time in the WHL next season. Bedard, from North Vancouver, is the first player granted such status for WHL play. . . . Bedard, 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, had 84 points, including 43 goals, in 36 games for West Vancouver Academy’s midget prep team this season. . . . The WHL bantam draft is scheduled to be held online on April 22. . . . Prior to the 2019-20 season, WHL teams were allowed to use a 15-year-old in only five games before his club team had its season end. However, the Winnipeg Ice got F Matthew Savoie into 22 games, turning that ‘rule’ into something of a fallacy. Savoie, who applied for exceptional status by Hockey Canada but didn’t get it, finished with seven points, all of them assists. . . .

Two other players — F Riley Heidt and F Brayden Yager — also applied for exceptional status in the hopes of playing in the WHL next season as 15-year-olds. They both are from Dundurn, Sask., and both played with the Saskatoon Contacts of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Heidt had 17 goals and 20 assists in 44 games; Yager had 18 goals and 24 assists in 44 games. . . . There was no mention of either in the announcement involving Bedard. . . .

Bedard is the seventh player to have been granted exceptional status, after Sean Day, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid, John Tavares and Shane Wright, all of whom played in the OHL, and Joe Veleno, who played in the QMJHL. . . .


Floss


Ryan Donald is the first general manager and head coach of the Cranbrook Bucks, who are scheduled to begin play in the BCHL in 2020-21. The Bucks have signed Donald to a four-year contract. . . . Donald, who is from Edmonton, has been an assistant coach at Yale U for five seasons. Earlier, he played at Yale for four seasons. . . . “Ryan is an incredible hire for our club,” Bucks owner and president Nathan Lieuwen said in a news release, “and is absolutely the right person to build this franchise. “Not only does he have quality experience coaching at high levels, but he also has great connections throughout the NCAA.”


Ryan Oulahen has been named head coach of the OHL’s North Bay Battalion. He signed a three-year contract. . . . Oulahen had been the interim head coach since Dec. 10, when he replaced Stan Butler. . . . A former captain of the Battalion when the franchise was based in Brampton, Oulahen spent two seasons (2016-18) as head coach of the Flint Firebirds. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach with the Battalion for five seasons. . . . Butler had been the Battalion’s head coach since 1998-99. . . .


CHL cancels playoffs, Memorial Cup; next tournament set for OHL in 2021 . . . Winterhawks lay off employees; more to come

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The University of Toronto Schools won the 1919 Memorial Cup, the first time the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association had put the trophy into competition. It was to go to the champion of junior hockey.

The Memorial Cup has been awarded every single year since then — not even the Second 2020MCWorld War could get in the way.

However, it won’t be awarded in 2020, the COVID-19 virus haven’t knocked the major junior hockey season for a loop.

The 60-team CHL announced Monday afternoon that the major junior hockey season is over. That means that there won’t be any playoffs in the OHL, QMJHL or WHL.

Nor will there be a Memorial Cup tournament. This year’s four-team affair was to have been played in Kelowna, March 22-31. Interestingly, it would seem that the 2021 Memorial Cup won’t be decided in Kelowna, but in an OHL city.

The last line of the CHL’s Monday statement:

“We look forward with hope that next season will provide new opportunity to celebrate, and that the MemorialCup will be presented at our prestigious national championship, hosted by the OHL in May 2021.”

The CHL follows a three-year rotation among the three leagues. The QMJHL is to be the host in 2022, with the WHL back for 2023.

According to the Kelowna Daily Courier, Bruce Hamilton, the Rockets’ owner, president KelownaRocketsand general manager, said that the city “may not have had the steam to muster a tournament in 2021.” The newspaper added that “it could tax volunteers, staff, players and sponsors too much.”

Hamilton also expressed doubts that he and his hockey staff would be able to ice a Memorial Cup-calibre team.

According to the newspaper, “Hamilton said he’d also been building a team that could compete for a national title this season, and he’s losing too many veterans to be ready for next spring.”

After cancelling the remainder of the regular seasons on March 12, the CHL said in a news release on Monday that it “continued to monitor the latest updates and advice from all public health agencies and medical experts, and worked tirelessly to determine a scenario by which the balance of our season could be played. Unfortunately, given the troubling state of our global climate and public welfare, there is still too much risk and uncertainty to move forward in good conscience.” . . .

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Losing a handful of regular-season games and the playoffs is going to hurt a few WHL teams. When WHL teams are preparing their budgets, they usually look upon playoff Lethbridgerevenue as gravy. But how much gravy might that be?

Well, let’s take a look at the Lethbridge Hurricanes, one of the WHL’s community-owned teams, which means they hold an annual general meeting and announce profits and/or losses.

After the 2017-18 season, the Hurricanes announced a net profit of $422,443, with playoff revenue of $885,558. That came after a playoff run that included 16 games, nine of them at home.

One year earlier, the Hurricanes had played 10 home playoff games during a 20-game run. At the 2017 AGM, they announced a profit of $737,710, with playoff revenue at $685,000.

A year ago, the Hurricanes’ playoff run was short-circuited when they lost a first-round series in seven games. Four of the games were played in Lethbridge, some of them in the 1,200-seat Nicholas Sheran Arena because the world men’s curling championship was being played in the ENMAX Centre. At the 2019 AGM, the team announced a profit of $282,168, with $336,397 in playoff revenue, some of that was compensation from the City of Lethbridge for having been forced from their home arena.

Yes, there was a lot of money — A LOT OF MONEY — at play in the decision to pull the plug on the playoffs. The story will become more explicit when the Hurricanes hold their 2020 AGM.

The WHL’s other publicly owned teams are the Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders and Swift Current Broncos. The Raiders are the WHL’s defending champions and finished atop the East Division this season. The Warriors and Broncos wouldn’t have qualified for this season’s playoffs. . . .

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The Portland Winterhawks have laid off employees from their front office and from their Portlandhockey staff, Taking Note was told on Monday morning. . . . The Winterhawks and Kamloops Blazers both have laid off staff and implemented pay cuts. . . . According to one WHL insider, the league, with the playoffs and Memorial Cup having been cancelled, also is expected to lay off some of its office staff. . . . The 22-team WHL suspended its regular season on March 12 and then cancelled it on March 18. The Winterhawks finished atop the U.S. Division and won the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as regular-season champions; the Blazers finished first in the B.C. Division. . . . On Monday, Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week wrote that Blazers president Don Moores, in a text, had confirmed the “layoffs and pay cuts and opted to make no further comment.” . . . 



Dick Pound of Montreal, a longtime influential IOC Committee member, told Christine Brennan of USA TODAY on Monday: “On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided. The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.” . . . Her story is right here. . . .



Here’s how Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times began his Monday column:

We are surrounded by a cacophony of chaos, our lives filled with words of warning and dread and doom.

“I need a sound of spring. This being the formerly opening week of the postponed baseball season, I crave the melodious tones of the ballpark, the bunting, the hope.

“So, what the heck, I call Vin Scully.

“And, wouldn’t you know, he answers on the first ring.”

This is what we need in these trying times, and it’s all right here.



Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, has his thought for the day, courtesy of H.L. Mencken: “Laws are no longer made by a rational process of public discussion; they are made by a process of blackmail and intimidation, and they are executed in the same manner. The typical lawmaker of today is a man wholly devoid of principle — a mere counter in a grotesque and knavish game. If the right pressure could be applied to him, he would be cheerfully in favor of polygamy, astrology or cannibalism.” . . .


During a brief drive on Sunday afternoon, I spotted two curb-side signs advertising Garage Sale. . . . Seriously! . . . Yeah, like I want to buy and bring home garage sale items during a pandemic. Yikes! . . .


Spruce Meadows, one of the world’s best show-jumping facilities, announced Monday that it has cancelled its summer season, clearing its calendar through July 5. The cancellations include four tournaments that had been scheduled over a five-week span, starting on June 4. . . . The Masters, scheduled for Sept 9-13, remains on the calendar, at least for now. . . .


Scattershooting on a Friday night while remembering the Pocket Rocket . . .

Scattershooting

Henri Richard, the Pocket Rocket, died on Friday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 84. . . . When he first earned a spot on the Montreal Canadiens’ roster, many observers felt he was in training camp only because his brother, Maurice (Rocket) Richard, was the Habs’ star. However, Henri earned a spot and before he was done he had won 11 Stanley Cups. . . . The great Roy MacGregor remembers the great Henri Richard right here.


While the Everett Silvertips topped the visiting Tri-City Americans, 6-0, in front of an announced crowd of 4,912 on Friday night, all signs point to the WHL at some point having to postpone, cancel or move games involving at least those teams in the Pacific Northwest.

The numbers in the Puget Sound region continue to rise, with the number of COVID-19 cases having reached 79 on Friday, including at least 15 deaths. The number of positive whltests are going up, up, up as more and more people are tested. The U.S., it seems, is woefully behind when it comes to testing citizens who are requesting tests, so no one has any idea just how many ill people are out there.

Meanwhile, everywhere one looks experts are recommending the shutting down of events that draw hundreds or thousands of fans, while the list of impacted events continues to grow.

On Friday, for example, Austin, Texas, declared a local disaster and that resulted in organizers cancelling the 34th annual South by Southwest — a music, technology and film festival that a year ago drew 417,000 people, many of them from international destinations. It was to have run from March 13 to 22.

In Seattle, organizers of Emerald City Comic Con, which was to begin next Thursday, announced that they were postponing their event.

But back to the WHL . . .

It could be that the WHL ends up playing in empty, or near-empty, arenas, either because fans are barred from games or just stop showing up.

“Each individual has to weigh their own risk tolerance,” Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert and professor at the U of California-Berkeley’s School of Public Health told Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday. “If things remain as they are, or get worse, I think the prudent thing to do would be to not go to things that are not essential.

“And I consider sporting events not essential.”

Dr. Swartzberg also told Killion:

“I’m looking at this through the lens of a physician and public health professor. If things continue as they have been, I would encourage people not to go (to large events). It’s very hard for me to condone the idea of doing anything that throws more gasoline on the fire.”

Meanwhile, a public health board in San Jose suggested that the NHL should be postponing games; the league and the San Jose Sharks chose to ignore the suggestion.

“The National Hockey League’s decision to reject a public health board’s recommendation to postpone a game in San Jose on Thursday night is being criticized by several infectious disease experts who say indoor venues such as NHL arenas are ideal breeding grounds for the spread of coronavirus,” reported TSN’s Rick Westhead.

“The Santa Clara County department of public health recommended Thursday that the NHL delay a game in San Jose between the Sharks and the Minnesota Wild. There are at least 24 documented cases of coronavirus in Santa Clara County, Calif., the public health department said, with four new cases on Friday, adding that avoiding large gatherings may help slow the spread of the virus.”

The Sharks played Thursday before a season-low announced attendance of 14,517 in the SAP Center. On Friday, the Sharks said that Saturday night’s game against the visiting Ottawa Senators will be played as scheduled. On Friday night, the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda entertained the San Diego Gulls at the SAP Center.

Dr. Stephanie DeWitte-Orr, an assistant professor in the department of health sciences and biology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., told Westhead that the NHL is being “unwise” in not following the recommendation.

“The virus is now community circulating, meaning you don’t have to go to a country like Iran or China to get it,” Dr. DeWitte-Orr told Westhead. “It can be transmitted by respiratory droplets and at an NHL game you have a lot of people in a close proximity and a lot of people yelling. There are going to be a lot of respiratory droplets in the air. If someone with coronavirus touches seats and railing and then you touch those spots and touch your face, you’re exposed to the virus. It’s not going to help you that after the game those surfaces are cleaned.”

Westhead’s story is right here.


JUST NOTES: Speculation on the Kootenays has Derek Stuart as the first general manager and head coach of the Cranbrook Bucks, who will begin play in the BCHL next season. At present, Stuart is in his third season as GM/head coach of the junior B Kimberley Dynamiters of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. The Dynamiters are into the second round of the KIJHL playoffs. . . . Hey, Tim Hortons, I’m thinking that you have the worst commercial on TV today. For the record, it isn’t anywhere close to being lit.

Ayres 2
David Ayres, the most famous EBUG in hockey history, was in Saskatoon on Friday night as the Blades beat the Regina Pats, 2-1 in OT. Ayres, who underwent a kidney transplant in 2004, was signing autographs and promoting organ donation at the WHL game. (Photo: Darren Steinke)

Scattershooting on a Saturday night while pondering QB Eli Manning’s career earnings . . .

Scattershooting

The Kansas City Chiefs last appeared in a Super Bowl in 1970. Here’s Pete Blackburn of CBS Sports with a look back at a few things from January 1970: M*A*S*H” and Patton were the two-highest grossing films; Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head, by B.J. Thomas, was in the top spot on the Billboard Top 100; Abbey Road, by The Beatles (ever heard of them?), was the top album; All My Children premiered and The Carol Burnett Show was one of the the top shows on TV; and the average price of gas in the U.S. was 36 cents a gallon.

——

BTW, CBS Sports ran a Madden 20 simulation of Sunday’s game. According to Blackburn, the San Francisco 49ers intercepted Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes three times en route to a 20-7 victory.

——

NFL security apparently will be using some new-fangled facial recognition software on Sunday in Miami in an attempt to keep bad guys from getting into the Super Bowl. As comedian Argus Hamilton noted: “We’ll be lucky if the NFL can field two teams.”


Hey, Regina, don’t ever change . . .


Podcast


ICYMI, Kevin Sawyer, a former Spokane Chiefs player and assistant coach,  has issued an apology after he made comments in reference to an incident that involved D Jared Spurgeon, who was a 16-year-old freshman with the WHL team at the time. It was during 2005-06 when the Chiefs, according to Sawyer, “Saran-wrapped him to a pillar in the arena, about six feet up in the air . . . he was tiny. He looked like he was 12.” . . . Sawyer, now an analyst for TSN on Winnipeg Jets’ telecasts, apologized late last month, saying that  after “reflecting on my comments,” he was “insensitive in sharing a story that was inaccurate and should never have been told on television in the first place.” . . . Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun has more right here.



Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post, after watching the Harlem Globetrotters eke out a 43-41 victory over the Washington Generals on Tuesday night: “If it’s any consolation to the Generals, they have defeated the Globetrotters more recently than the Toronto Maple Leafs have won the Stanley Cup. Washington last prevailed in 1971, four years after the Leafs’ most-recent title.”



You likely are aware that NFL teams employ an incredible number of coaches. Well, Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, lives in the Washington, D.C., area and noted the other day that the Redskins had named Brett Nenaber director of player performance and Jeff Zegonia assistant defensive line coach.” . . . This prompted the curmudgeonly one to write: “I can imagine what the responsibilities of an ‘assistant defensive line coach’ might be for an NFL team; I may not have the full scope of the duties of that position in mind, but I think I have the drift. Such is not nearly the case with the position of ‘director of player performance’. Is he the guy who works with the team on those choreographed TD celebrations that sometimes rise all the way up to the level of ‘SILLY’?

——

Here’s The Sports Curmudgeon on Wednesday, discussing the asking price for Super Bowl tickets:

“Super Bowl tickets on the secondary market are very expensive this year.  If you expect to make it to the game in Miami, expect to shell out at least $4,500 per seat at the game and some tickets have an asking price this morning that is just north of $15K per fanny-holder. Perhaps you really want to go to the game but just don’t have access to that sort of cash for you and your main squeeze at this moment. Not to worry. StubHub and its new partner, Affirm, will let you buy the tickets and finance them with a loan directly from Affirm that will let you pay over a period of three months or six months or 12 months at an interest rate of 10-30 per cent.

“I don’t want to go into full ‘Suze Orman Mode’ here, but somehow I doubt that incurring a debt in the $10K range or higher at an interest rate near or above 20 per cent is even marginally sound financial planning.”

You are able to find The Sports Curmudgeon at sportscurmudgeon.com. Be forewarned, though, that reading him daily will quickly become a habit.


Milk


“When it comes to baseball lexicon,” writes Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, “the Houston Astros’ trash-can antics certainly give ‘bang-bang play’ a whole new meaning.”


In its last four seasons in Cranbrook, the Kootenay Ice won 12, 14, 27 and 13 games, failing to make the playoffs each time. This season, the franchise’s first in Winnipeg after moving east following last season, the Ice is second in the East Division and playoff bound, while playing before hundreds of fans in the 1,600-seat Wayne Fleming Arena. All of which makes one wonder how many fans a contending team might be playing in front of had it stayed in Cranbrook.


The 22-team WHL has its 16 playoff clubs all but settled, with only some jockeying for position left for the final 20 games or so. There won’t be playoff hockey in Red Deer, Regina, Moose Jaw, Swift Current, Prince George or Kennewick, Wash., the home of the Tri-City Americans. . . . As for the Kelowna Rockets, the host team for the 2020 Memorial Cup, they just dropped a home-and-home series with the Spokane Chiefs, who won 7-3 in  the Little Apple on Friday and 6-0 across the line on Saturday. The Rockets appear headed to a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, which could lead to a first-round matchup with, yes, the Kamloops Blazers, who are atop the B.C. Division. And wouldn’t that be something . . . a Battle of B.C., perhaps to match the Battle of Alberta!



The BCHL’s Cranbrook Bucks are to begin play in September. With that in mind, season tickets went on sale Saturday morning. Early-bird prices, through March 13, are $350 for adults, $330 for seniors and $160 for children. And a tip of the fedora to the Bucks for allowing children under 10 to get into games free of charge. . . . If you were wondering, the WHL’s Ice season-ticket prices prior to their final season in Cranbrook were $725 or $630 for adults, $590 or $510 for seniors, and $300 for children and students.


JUST NOTES: “Not only does Andy Reid deserve a Super Bowl title,” writes Bob Molinaro of The Virginian-Pilot, “his moustache does as well.” . . . Molinaro is correct, but I’ll still take the San Francisco 49ers, by 10. . . . One more from Molinaro: “This time of year, I like to trot out the memorably perceptive comment of enigmatic Cowboys running back Duane Thomas at Super Bowl VI, won by Dallas. ‘If the Super Bowl is the ultimate game,’ he said, ‘how come there is another one next year?’ Words that have aged well.” . . . QB Eli Manning announced his retirement late last month after spending 16 seasons with the New York Giants. Don’t cry for Eli, though. During his career, he made US$252.3 million, more than any other NFLer in history. Manning brought in $17 million in salary and bonuses for his final season, allowing him to pass his brother, Peyton, who retired having earned $248.7 million. . . . Next on the list, according to cbssports.com, are quarterbacks Drew Bree’s ($244.7 million), Tom Brady ($235.2 million) and Aaron Rodgers ($233.6 million). . . . The first non-QB on the list? WR Larry Fitzgerald, at a mere $175 million, in 10th place. . . . If you are going to live tweet from a hockey game, perhaps you should make a point of mentioning both teams, you know, for those of us who aren’t sure who’s playing.

Scattershooting on a Tuesday night while wondering if I will get my shopping finished . . .

I am one of those people who quite enjoys Christmas music, especially the traditional stuff. Having said that, I don’t think it gets any better than this one. It’s Fairytale of New York, from The Pogues, featuring the late Kirsty MacColl.


I don’t know how many, if any, other businesses have done something like this, but check it out . . .


Clam


If you have ever wondered why he’s called The Sports Curmudgeon, here’s something he wrote after the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Washington Redskins, 37-27, on Sunday:

“After the Skins lost to the Eagles, one of the post-game talking heads declared that the ‘fight’ and the ‘grit’ shown by the Skins — despite the season being a total loss — meant that this game was a ‘moral victory’ for the Skins.  I have heard about ‘moral victories’ many times in the past; but Sunday’s label made me wonder:

“Is there such a thing as a ‘moral defeat’?

If there is such a thing, are ‘moral defeats’ paired with ‘moral victories’? Or can ‘moral defeats’ exist on their own?

If they are paired entities, should the Eagles chalk up Sunday’s win as a ‘moral defeat’?”


“This is the Year of the Pig, according to the Chinese calendar,” writes Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, “though one could argue that Russian doping and the can-banging Astros make it seem like the Year of the Cheetah.”

——

One more from Perry: “Prince Charles’ office released a statement saying 93-year-old Queen Elizabeth has no plans to step down at 95 ‘or any other age.’ In other words, she’s the Tom Brady of royals.”



I don’t know if you’ve noticed but there are a few Christmas movies on TV this year. . . . I checked out our PVR the other night. There were 41 items recorded. One Bob Dylan special. Two Hogan’s Heroes episodes. And more than 30 Christmas movies. . . . Christmas Vacation wasn’t among them. . . . Neither was Bad Santa.


Cotton


On Sunday night, F Gage Concalves of the Everett Silvertips won a game with a nifty move that resulted in a shootout goal against G Campbell Arnold of the Spokane Chiefs. Arnold later responded with a tweet for the ages . . .


Scott Ostler, in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Request to the International Olympic Committee: Let Russia compete as an official country at next year’s Olympics. Russia has been banned from the Tokyo Games due to its state-sanctioned program of doping. But IOC, if you let Russia compete, maybe their government will be too busy rigging the Olympics to rig the U.S. presidential election. #Priorities.”



Condolences to the family and friends of Ron Areshenkoff, who died on Sunday. He was 62. A native of Grand Forks, B.C., he played two seasons (1975-77) with the Medicine Hat Tigers, totalling 76 goals and 77 assists in 131 games. He was a second-round pick by the Buffalo Sabres in the NHL’s 1977 draft, but never played for them. His NHL experience amounted to four games with the Edmonton Oilers in 1979-80. . . . He had missed all of the 1978-79 season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. . . . The New England Whalers had selected him with the 11th overall pick in the WHA’s 1977 draft. . . . Areshenkoff was a financial advisor in Estevan, Sask., where he was quite involved in the minor hockey scene.


Dog


The price seems to be right in Victoria where there is, yes, hope for the Royals. Hey, I’m here all night and again later in the week. . . . The Victoria Royals, under president and general manager Cam Hope, have signed head coach Dan Price to a “multi-year” extension. No terms, including precise length, were announced. . . . Price is in his third season as the Royals’ head coach; they are 89-67-12 with him in charge. . . . He had spent one season as a Royals’ assistant coach, under then-head coach Dave Lowry, before moving up.

Meanwhile,  former WHLer Ryan Aasman is the new head coach of the AJHL’s Grande Prairie Storm. The Storm fired Matt Keillor, the head coach and associate GM, on Tuesday. . . . Aasman’s WHL career included stints with the Prince Albert Raiders, Seattle Thunderbirds, Swift Current Broncos and Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . Keillor had been head coach since being promoted during the 2016-17 season and had guided the Storm into the playoffs each of the past three seasons. This season, the Storm was 12-16-3 when Keillor was replaced by Aasman. He is in his first season with the Storm after coaching with bantam and midget teams in Lethbridge.


JUST NOTES: Is there a secret to keeping the top of the toothpaste tube neat and orderly as opposed to being a gooey mess? . . . The best part of watching the Detroit Red Wings playing the host Montreal Canadiens? The uniforms of two of the NHL’s Original Six. . . . Are you ready for the Arizona Coyotes as Stanley Cup contenders? . . . City council in Nanaimo is talking about a five-year financial plan. No, there isn’t any chatter about a new arena. . . . Hey, is John Shorthouse hockey’s best play-by-play voice? . . . As a fan of MLB, it’s great to have Joe Girardi back managing a team, and wouldn’t it be great to see his Philadelphia Phillies and his former club, the New York Yankees, in the World Series? It could happen. . . . Right now, the most-watchable player in the NHL is F Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche. . . . With their home arena unavailable due to equipment issues, the junior B Golden Rockets of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League are playing out of Cranbrook these days. On Tuesday night, they dropped a 2-1 decision to the Kimberley Dynamiters before an announced crowd of 1,350 at Western Financial Place, the former home of the WHL team that now is the Winnipeg Ice. Meanwhile, the Ice dropped a 4-3 decision to the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings in front of a crowd announced as 1,621. . . . ICYMI, next season Western Financial Place will be home to the BCHL’s Cranbrook Bucks.

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