WHL dumps inter-conference play, changes playoff format . . . Sasakamoose book well worth your time . . . Raiders’ radio voice steps aside

The WHL’s 2021-22 season won’t include any interlocking play between WHL2Eastern and Western conferences, which means, unfortunately, that fans in U.S. and B.C. division centres won’t get to see F Connor Bedard, the most-publicized prospect to enter the league in some time, live and in person. . . . Bedard is the first player to receive exceptional status in order to allow him to claim a full-time WHL roster spot as a 15-year-old. Bedard, who will turn 16 on July 17, has 12 goals and 16 assists in 15 games for the Pats in the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season. He left the Pats mid-season in order to play for Canada at the IIHF U18 World championship in Texas, where he had seven goals and seven assists in 14 games. . . . Bedard is eligible for the NHL’s 2023 draft. . . . It also means that those same U.S. and B.C. division fans won’t get to see F Matthew Savoie of the Winnipeg Ice. He was denied exceptional status prior to the 2018-19 season, but still got into 22 games and earned seven assists. He spent 2020-21 with the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints, putting up 21 goals and 17 assists in 34 games. . . . Savoie is eligible for the NHL’s 2022 draft. . . .

The WHL didn’t offer a reason for dumping inter-conference play in the news release it issued on Tuesday following the conclusion of its annual general meeting. However, I think we can assume that it’s all about trying to save money after not seeing any playoff revenue for two seasons now. . . . The WHL also announced that it plans to open its regular season on Oct. 1, with each team playing a 68-game schedule within its own conference. . . . The WHL added that “with the anticipated lifting of health restrictions in all jurisdictions” it expects to play its games without attendance restrictions. . . . If all goes according to plan, the regular season will end on April 3. . . . That would mean the WHL playoffs would start on April 8. Keep in mind that because of the pandemic the WHL hasn’t featured a playoff game since May 13, 2019, when the host Prince Albert Raiders won the championship with a 3-2 OT victory over the Vancouver Giants. . . . The WHL has changed its playoff format, going back to a conference format that last was used in the spring of 2014. The two division winners will be seeded first and second, with the next six teams slotted three through eight. The first round will have one vs. eight, two vs. seven, etc., with teams reseeded by points after each round. . . . The WHL’s complete news release is right here.


With the Vegas Golden Knights having opened one Stanley Cup semifinal on VegasMonday night with a 4-1 victory over the visiting Montreal Canadiens, it seems the rest of the hockey world is learning what WHL fans have known for a long, long time. Yes, Kelly McCrimmon, the Golden Knights’ general manager, knows what he is doing.

Here’s columnist Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, writing about the Golden Knights prior to the start of the series:

“Just four years into their history, the stunning story of their rookie season is kind of yesterday’s news. Today, they are merely one of the best teams in the NHL. Owned by Bill Foley. The fans are of another level. The presidential work and so much other work done by George McPhee. The GM, McCrimmon, is the most effective in the NHL. Unafraid of making enormous trades. Unafraid of giant-sized signings. Unafraid of drafting players and then sending them packing in exchange for tangible assets. Unafraid of doing what others may think about, but rarely act upon.”

Doesn’t that pretty much describe the way McCrimmon operated when he owned the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings?

Simmons’ complete piece is right here.


SasakamooseIf you are in the market for something to read, may I suggest you take a gander at Call Me Indian, a book that was published last month and tells the story of Fred Sasakamoose. What’s it all about? Well, the subtitle pretty much tells it all — From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL’s First Treat Indigenous Player. . . . To think that Sasakamoose went from playing hockey and trying just to survive at a residential school in northern Saskatchewan to the lineup of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks in a few short years almost beggars belief. But he did just that, and a whole lot more. . . . Considering all that is happening these days involving residential schools and their history, both here and in the U.S., this really is a timely read. . . . Sasakamoose, who died of COVID-19 on Nov. 20 so didn’t live to see his book published, doesn’t go easy on himself either. He bares his heart and soul, including his issues with alcohol and parenting. In fact, if there is a hero in this book it isn’t Sasakamoose, rather it’s his long-suffering wife Loretta with whom he had nine children. . . . Give this book a try; I guarantee it’ll stay with you for a long time after you’re finished with it.



ICYMI, the CFL’s board of governors voted Monday to have the league’s nine CFLteams begin a 14-game regular season on Aug. 5. The season is to begin with a rematch of the last Grey Cup game — the Winnipeg Blue Bombers beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 33-12, in Calgary on Nov. 24, 2019. . . . The CFL hasn’t played a game since then because of the pandemic. . . . The 2021 season is to open with that rematch being played in Winnipeg. . . . The 2021 Grey Cup game is to be played in Hamilton on Dec. 12. . . . Training camps are to open on July 10, with players needing to report and go through a quarantine process that will be decided in conjunction with local health officials. . . . There won’t be any exhibition games. . . . Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun takes a look at the CFL situation right here. . . . BTW, the Labour Day Classic in Regina is scheduled for Sept. 5, with the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg on Sept. 11. In other words, all is almost right with the world.


Bobcats


Abbotsford Aces? Fraser Valley Falcons? The Vancouver Canucks are asking hockey fans in the Fraser Valley what they should name the AHL franchise that is to begin play in Abbotsford in the fall. The Canucks are moving their AHL affiliate, formerly the Utica Comets, to Abbotsford. . . . Daniel Wagner of vancouverisawesome.com has more right here.


Eric Bélanger has signed on as the first head coach in the history of the Trois-TRLionsRivières Lions, an expansion ECHL franchise that will be affiliated with the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens. . . . Bélanger, 43, spent the previous two seasons as the head coach of the midget AAA Chevaliers de Lévis. . . . His playing career included 820 NHL regular-season games split between the Los Angeles Kings, Carolina Hurricanes, Atlanta Thrashers, Minnesota Wild, Washington Capitals, Phoenix Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers. . . . In 2008-09, he was teammates with Marc-André Bergeron with the Minnesota Wild. Bergeron now is the Lions’ general manager.


Milkyway


The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, a 20-team junior B league, kijhlsaid Monday that it will open its 2021-22 season on Oct. 1 and wrap things up on Feb. 20. . . . “All 20 of the KIJHL’s member clubs will complete a 42-game regular season schedule that includes eight games against divisional opponents and two games each against teams in the opposing division within the same conference,” the league said in a news release. . . . That means that the Spokane Braves will be back after not operating in 2020-21 due to the U.S.-Canada border being closed to non-essential traffic. . . . The KIJHL news release is 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: Trevor Redden, the play-by-play voice of the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders for the past four seasons, is leaving the position, citing wanting to prioritize “a different work-life balance, and being able to spend more time with family and friends.” He made the announcement via social media on Tuesday. Redden said that he will be remaining in Prince Albert where he works with Pattison Media Ltd. . . . Former Moose Jaw Warriors head coach Mike Stothers has joined the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks as an assistant coach. He spent the previous five seasons as head coach of the AHL’s Ontario Reign. Stothers, 59, was the Warriors’ head coach for three seasons (2011-14). . . .

The junior B Creston Thunder Cats of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League have signed Bill Rotheisler, their general manager and head coach, to a one-year deal through 2021-22. Rotheisler is preparing for his second season in Creston, although his first season amounted to only three games because of the pandemic. If you aren’t familiar with Rotheisler’s story, including his battle with lymphatic cancer, Google is your friend. . . . Serge Lajoie, who spent one season (2018-19) as head coach of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, has been named head coach of Alberta’s male U16 team. Lajoie also is the head coach of OHA Edmonton’s U18 prep team.


Backseat

Bardsley leaving Blazers after three years . . . Dillabough makes retirement official . . . QMJHL final ready to go


Citing family reasons, Matt Bardsley announced his resignation as the Kamloops Blazers’ general manager on Tuesday morning.

Bardsley, who left the Portland Winterhawks to sign with the Blazers on June 1, Kamloops2018, said in a news release: “This was a very difficult decision for me and my wife, but one we needed to make for our young children. When we moved here in 2018, we planned on making this our home for many years. Unfortunately because of COVID-19, it has restricted our ability to see our family as they reside in the United States.”

Bardsley, 50, grew up in San Jose. He and his wife, Stacy, have two children — Brooke, 5, and Vince 2, who was born in Kamloops. There are grandparents in California and Oregon, who, as Bardsley explained to Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week, haven’t seen their grandchildren in more than a year. (Hastings’ story is right here.)

“We’re not sure when things are going to change,” Bardsley told Hastings, “but we just felt it was the right decision to make for our family, for the kids, and if we were going to make it, it was right for the organization to do it now, rather than wait until August or September to see where things are at and change then. . . . In the states, it’s a lot more mobile right now. If we are in Portland, Washington or California, we know we can still get to and from to see family, as opposed to waiting to see when things will be lifted.”

Before signing with Kamloops, Bardsley had spent almost 20 years with the Winterhawks, starting as an area scout in 1999. He took over as director of player personnel inn 2007 and was named assistant general manager in 2013.

With Bardsley in the GM’s office, the Blazers had a regular-season record of 87-54-12; he was the Western Conference’s executive of the year for 2019-20. The Blazers won B.C. Division titles each of the past two seasons but, of course, there weren’t any playoffs in the spring of 2020 and the recently completed 2020-21 season was only for developmental purposes.

So now the two WHL teams that finished on top of the U.S. Division and B.C. Division in the 2020-21 developmental season each is without a general manager.

Last week, the Everett Silvertips parted company with Garry Davidson after a nine-year relationship. The Silvertips said that not renewing Davidson’s contract was part of a restructuring process brought on by the pandemic’s impact on the past two seasons. Perhaps they are going to go outside hockey’s box and not have a general manager.

Bardsley told Kamloops media that he doesn’t have a job to go to, nor does he have any immediate plans. He had three years left on his contract with the Blazers, so another team would have to ask permission before being able to speak with him about employment.

According to Chad Klassen of CFJC-TV, Bardsley said that he’s “not sure what is next for me at this time.”

Klassen’s story is right here.


It’s hard to imagine the Brandon Wheat Kings without Rick Dillabough, the Brandonhardest worker in all of the WHL, not in their office. But he has made his retirement official, writing on LinkedIn that “after more than 30 years of wonderful memories and service to this great organization, I have decided to step down from my position of Director of Business Operations, Sales and Sponsorship with the Brandon Wheat Kings.”

He added: “I can’t describe how exciting it was to be a part of so many highlights over the years. Two WHL championships, three trips to the Memorial Cup and, of course, having the opportunity to be a member of the host committee that brought the Memorial Cup to Brandon and Manitoba for the first time ever.

“I want to especially thank Kelly McCrimmon for seeking me out in 1989 and inviting me to embark on what turned out to be an incredible journey through the WHL.

“Off the ice, some of my proudest days were having the chance to work with so many talented people. From the coaches, the players, the management and staff, I feel fortunate to have spent so many years with some of the brightest minds in the game. What made it more special is that you always felt that you were a member of a big family — one that worked, supported, cheered and celebrated one another.

“My wife and I will continue to call Brandon home and I look forward to seeing what life has in store.”

So . . . what’s ahead for Dillabough? Well, a source familiar with the situation told Taking Note that Dillabough “is looking forward to retirement and helping his neighbour with his horses.”

Hey, Rick, that sounds like a plan. Enjoy!


Bond


Meanwhile, on the COVID-19 front, the province of B.C. unveiled a four-stage re-opening plan on Tuesday. If all goes according to plan, indoor sports could be permitted to play before live crowds starting on Sept. 7. . . . In making the four-stage announcement, Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said: “Once we get to September, if the data still shows that we’re on the right track, we can have larger gatherings where we can have audiences.”

Of course, that is more than three months away and a lot can happen between now and then, as we have seen in recent times. But we still are allowed to hope that more and more people get fully vaccinated so that by then we are allowed to begin building what will be our new normal.


The Victoriaville Tigres beat the host Charlottetown Islanders, 2-0, on Tuesday night to advance to the QMJHL final where they will meet the Val-d’Or Foreurs. . . . Victoriaville won the last two games of the best-of-five series for a 3-2 victory. . . . The Foreurs are 9-0 in these playoffs; the Tigres are 9-2 with both losses coming in OT. . . . The Islanders had finished with the QMJHL’s best regular-season record (35-5-0). Geoffrey Brandow notes that this will be the “first time the No. 1 seed has not competed in the championship series since 2003.” . . . In the regular season, the Foreurs finished 29-3-4, second to the Islanders, while the Tigres wound up 16-9-1. . . . The best-of-seven final is scheduled to open Thursday in Val-d’Or.


Robot



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. . . . Thanks in advance for your generosity.

——

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: The QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs have signed head coach Steve Hartley, 35, to a five-year contract extension through 2025-26. He and general manager Philippe Boucher now have matching contracts in terms of length. Hartley, who has been with the Voltigeurs for five seasons, is the son of former NHL coach Bob Hartley, who is the head coach of the host Latvian team at the IIHF World championship in Riga. Bob also is head coach of Avangard Omsk, which won this season’s KHL championship. Steve was an assistant coach for two seasons in Drummondville before moving up for 2018-19. . . . The SJHL’s Flin Flon Bombers have signed assistant coach/marketing director Cole McCaig to a two-year extension and also named him assistant general manager. McCaig, who played 123 games with the Bombers over three seasons (2011-14), has been on staff for three seasons. Jon Klassen, who had been the AGM, has moved over to become director of player personnel. . . . Mark Readman, who had been the associate general manager/associate coach with the Creston Thunder Cats, is the new head coach and assistant GM of the Princeton Posse. The junior B teams both play in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. Mark McNaughton, the Posse’s previous head coach, remains as the general manager. . . . Ray Tremblay has signed on as the first general manager and head coach of the junior B Lake Cowichan Kraken of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. Tremblay, 35, was the head coach of the Danville, Ill., Dashers of the Federal Prospects Hockey League in 2019-20.


Jesus