More allegations of abuse in junior hockey . . . Lawyer busy adding players to lawsuit . . . Former NHLer likely to join


A spokesperson with the WHL has told TSN that it would open an investigation after a former player alleged “he was a victim of sexual and physical abuse” during stints with two teams.

According to TSN’s Rick Westhead, the player sent an email of his complaints to the WHL and copied the email to TSN.

In the email, the player wrote:

“The abuse transformed me from a driven, happy, engaged young man and a solid NHL hockey prospect into a black mass of anger, untrust of people, self-isolation and alcohol abuse. The recent CHL allegations of abuse triggered anger in me and brought forward flashbacks and anguish.”

The player went into the brutish details of the complaints in the email, all of which is in Westhead’s story that is right here.

At one point, Westhead writes: “The complainant confirmed the identities of the alleged assailants to TSN. Several have prominent roles in the hockey industry.”


The WHL has had at least one opportunity in years gone by to deal with a player who has said he was humiliated and “physically assaulted” during his WHL career.

In the book Sudden Death: The Incredible Saga of the 1986 Swift Current Broncos, which was published in 2012, Peter Soberlak described some of what happened to him during his first WHL season with his hometown Kamloops Blazers.

“It was really horrible,” Soberlak, who was 16 at the time, said. “In a lot of cases, I feared going on the bus, feared going on road trips . . . just because of the humiliation and constant verbal abuse. . . .

“What I went through in Kamloops destroyed my confidence. I can deal with that now, but it was just horrific for me. It sucked the life out of me. . . . I was physically assaulted.

“You think I have not suffered — have not had repercussions from what I went through there — serious, absolutely long-term, continuous major repercussions of what happened to me in that situation. I guarantee you I have.”

Seen by some observers as the best player in his age group in Canada at one time, Soberlak was out of the game at 23.

“That’s the only thing I am bitter about in my hockey career,” he said. “My first year in Kamloops . . . it was the worst year of my life.”

Soberlak, now 51, has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, with a minor in sociology, from the University of British Columbia and a Master’s Degree in sport and exercise psychology from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. He is a lecturer and works with the athletic department and its teams at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.

No one from the WHL has ever contacted him about his allegations in the book of which I was a co-author.


James Sayce, the lawyer working with Daniel Carcillo and Garrett Taylor on their class-action lawsuit against the CHL, has told Ken Campbell of The Hockey News “a lot” of players have joined the lawsuit since it first was filed. . . . Campbell writes: “If the people who run junior hockey in Canada were taken aback by this lawsuit, shame on them. They should have seen this coming because it’s not as though the warning signs were not there. In fact, in filing a lawsuit against the CHL, both Carcillo and Taylor were simply putting on the legal record things they’ve been saying for years now. Carcillo went public with the humiliation he suffered during his rookie season with the Sarnia Sting in 2002-03 two years ago.” . . . Campbell’s latest column is right here.


Dan Fritsche, a former NHLer, says he likely will be joining the class-action lawsuit filed by Daniel Carcillo and Garrett Taylor against the CHL and the three major junior leagues that operate under its umbrella. The lawsuit alleges “hazing, bullying, physical and verbal harassment, physical assault, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.” . . . Fritsche was a rookie on the 2002-03 Sarnia Sting of the OHL, as was Carcillo. . . . “There’s nothing I’ve read that isn’t true,” Fritsche told Aaron Portzline of The Athletic. “I was in that toxic atmosphere. I had to go through all of that rookie shit, all the disgusting things they would make us do. It was so awful, and people knew about it who absolutely could have stopped it. They’d put us in the (charter bus) bathroom, butt-ass naked, six to eight of us (rookies) for 45 minutes as we’re coming home from a road trip. They’d throw a coin in there to make us fight over it, naked, and whoever came up with it got to get out first. Stuff like that, just over and over.” . . . If you are an Athletic subscriber, Portzline’s complete story is right here.




An undisclosed number of Minnesota Twins players have tested positive, although none were at the team’s home park, Target Field, or its spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla. . . . Derek Falvey, the president of baseball operations, told Fox 9 Sports: “We have players in many different locations. I don’t think this is necessarily a surprise that we may have some positive cases.” . . .

ESPN reported that the NFL has cancelled its Hall of Fame game that was to have featured the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 6. . . . It also is believed that the NFL will delay its induction ceremonies that were to have been held on Aug. 8. . . .

The NBA’s Sacramento Kings have at least three players on their roster who have tested positive — F Jabari Parker, C Alex Len and G Buddy Hield. . . . Sara Hodge of CBS Sacramento has reported that a fourth unidentified player also has tested positive. . . .

Orenburg, a team in Russia’s top soccer league, reported Thursday that it has six players and two staff members who have tested positive. . . . The Russian Premier League returned to play last week. . . . Apparently, Orenburg’s entire team tested negative as recently as Sunday. . . .

The seven-team Canadian Elite Basketball League, which was to have started its season early in May, is planning on opening a month-long tournament without fans in St. Catharines, Ont., on July 15. A single-elimination playoff will end with a championship game on Aug. 9. . . . Devin Heroux of CBC reports: “All seven teams will stay in a bubble-like setting in St. Catharines, playing games at the Meridian Centre and practising at a nearby facility. League officials said players, coaches and personnel will be separated from the general public and strict screening and COVID-19 protocols will be adhered to under the supervision of medical officials.”



Eric Ditto is returning for his seventh season on the coaching staff of the junior B Delisle Chiefs of the Prairie Junior Hockey League. Ditto is preparing for his sixth full season as head coach and his second as general manager. . . . Anthony Radke will be back for a second season as an assistant coach. . . . Ryan Pilon is the other assistant coach. He joined the Chiefs during last season after serving as an assistant coach with the Beardy’s Blackhawks U18 AAA team.


The RINK Hockey Corp., owner of the Rink Hockey Academy, has bought the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy (POE) and Edge of Excellence (EOE) in a deal that is to close on July 1. The sale is subject to the approval of BC Hockey and the Canadian Sport School Hockey League. . . . There is more right here.


Scattershooting on a Thursday evening while wondering if NHL teams are moving back to dump-and-chase game . . .

Scattershooting

Not in the Christmas spirit? Watch this . . .


In his weekly compilation, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times included an obit of the week for football fan John J. Ford, 86, from the Minneapolis Star Tribune: ”Passed away surrounded by family on December 2nd after the Vikings allowed 17 unanswered points . . .”

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“A Las Vegas hospital billed the parents $2,659 to pull a tiny doll’s shoe from their child’s nostril,” Perry reported. “Imagine what it would cost to extract Antonio Brown’s foot from his mouth.”


Mozart


Congratulations and best wishes to Innes Mackie, who has been around the WHL since the Christmas Wish Book was used for shin pads, or maybe even earlier. . . .

And congrats, too, to Dan O’Connor, the play-by-play voice of the Vancouver Giants. While Mackie, the Tri-City Americans’ equipment guru, was working Game No. 3,200, O’Connor was calling No. 600.


ICYMI, Part 1: D Nikita Zadorov of the visiting Colorado Avalanche recently took out Montreal Canadiens F Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who was left with a brain injury. There wasn’t a penalty; there wasn’t a suspension. “So how could Zadorov get away with it?” Jack Todd writes in the Montreal Gazette. “Blame hockey’s pervasive knucklehead culture, which has survived well into the 21st century. The loudest of the braying donkeys in the barn may have been shuffled off to the Podcast Porch — but the brutal culture Don Cherry helped foster lives on.” . . . The complete column is right here.

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ICYMI, Part 2: Hockey Canada trimmed a bunch of players from the selection camp for its national junior team on Thursday. Yes, it has to be done. But why make these teenagers walk the media gauntlet after they’ve been chopped from the roster? Come on, Hockey Canada, be better than that.


Puppy


If the Kelowna Rockets continue to unload premium bantam draft picks and perhaps a prospect or two in the hunt for a Memorial Cup title in the spring, when they will be the tournament’s host team, you have to wonder if their aftermath will be more like the Prince Albert Raiders, Regina Pats or Swift Current Broncos. . . . The Raiders are 19-7-4 and atop the East Division after making a deal or three — but not selling out — that helped them win the WHL’s 2018-19 championship. The Pats are 7-18-3 after selling out as the host team for the 2018 Memorial Cup. The Broncos are 6-20-3 while still trying to recover after emptying the cupboard as they successfully chased the WHL’s 2017-18 title. . . . Over the past one season-plus, the Pats are 26-63-7 and the Broncos are 17-71-9. Neither team made the playoffs last spring and they won’t be there in 2020.


If you are wanting to attend the 2021 World Junior Championship, with games in Edmonton and Red Deer, you may want to see your banker about a loan. . . . Considering the political/labour situation in Alberta at the moment, it will be interesting to see how tickets sales play out. . . .


The New York Yankees signed P Gerrit Cole to a nine-year deal valued at US$324 million. . . . The Los Angeles Angels got 3B Anthony Rendon for US$245 million over seven seasons. . . . F Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals has hockey’s richest deal — US$124 million over 13 years. That was signed in January 2008. . . . According to an entry at Wikipedia, Ovechkin’s contract, the richest in NHL history, is tied for the 79th richest in sports history. . . . That’s what having a hard salary cap does for you.


I didn’t finish Michael Connelly’s latest book — The Night Fire — in time to get it into my Bookshelf series that was posted here earlier in the week. But if you’re a fan of Connelly’s Harry Bosch series, you’ll enjoy this one. It features the retired-but-not-retired Bosch and LAPD Det. Renée Ballard doing their thing on the streets of L.A. and area. Good fun, unless you’re the bad guys.


The Kelowna Rockets were in Prince Albert to play the Raiders a week ago. Hear from both coaches — Marc Habscheid of the Raiders and Adam Foote of the Rockets — after the game, and then decide who won . . .

Habscheid: “I don’t blame referees or anything, but there were three soft calls and they talked to (Foote) all night. I don’t know if they wanted to get his autograph, because he was a Stanley Cup champion or what, but it didn’t look good. They talked to him all night, (and Foote) ran line changes. He did whatever he wanted, and he slowed the game down, and they just let him do it. I don’t know if they wanted his autograph or what the deal was.”

Foote: “The refs were pretty good all night . . .”

Thanks to Darren Steinke for the quotes. His complete blog post is right here.

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One night later, the Rockets visited the Blades in Saskatoon. The Rockets tied the game, 3-3, late in the third period and won it in a shootout, much to the chagrin of at least one Blades fan.

That fan was on social media bemoaning — you guessed it! — the officiating. Someone else asked: “Who were the refs?”

I laughed out loud when I saw the response: “Hamilton and Foote.” That, of course, was in reference to Kelowna owner/president/general manager Bruce Hamilton, who also is the chairman of the WHL’s board of governors, and Adam Foote, the Rockets’ head coach.



SocialMedia


JUST NOTES: Judging by video clips from the Wayne Fleming Arena, there certainly seems to be a lot of room available on the benches for Winnipeg Ice home games. I realize that a lot of people choose to stand during the games, but you have to wonder how the empty seat-look sits with the WHL’s board of governors. . . . And, hey, if anyone has any photos of the Ice’s future home under construction feel free to send them along to greggdrinnan@gmail.com. . . . Was anyone watching Monday Night Football and not pulling for Eli Manning? . . . With the Giants on MNF and the Jets on Thursday night, was it enough to make you feel sorry for the football fans of New York City? . . . A tip of the hat to the Seattle Thunderbirds and Saskatoon Blades for a deal involving F Alex Morozoff. A native of Saskatoon, Morozoff was traded for a sixth-round pick in the 2023 bantam draft. “Alex and his family are currently dealing with a family medical issue,” Seattle GM Bil LaForge said in explaining the deal in a news release. “We have made this trade to help get Alex closer to his family in Saskatoon.”

Blades forward retires . . . Royals deal for Lees . . . Giants make move on radio dial, sign draft pick


MacBeth

D Brent Regner (Vancouver, 2005-09) signed a one-year contract with Red Bull Salzburg (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, with the Texas Stars (AHL), he had 10 goals and 21 assists in 66 games. He was an alternate captain. . . .

D Nick Walters (Everett, Brandon, Lethbridge, 2010-15) signed a tryout contract with the Kassel Huskies (Germany, DEL2). Last season, with the Odense Bulldogs (Denmark, Metal Ligaen), he had five goals and 14 assists in 50 games. . . . Walters has applied for German citizenship and his application is under consideration by the authorities. The contract converts to a one-year contract when/if his application is approved. . . .

D Jaynen Rissling (Calgary, 2009-14) signed a one-year contract with the Nottingham Panthers (England, UK Elite). Last season, he had one goal and two assists in five games with the Allen Americans (ECHL); three goals and 10 assists in 36 games with the Wheeling Nailers (ECHL); and three goals and 11 assists in 21 games with the Indy Fuel (ECHL).


ThisThat

F Caleb Fantillo of the Saskatoon Blades announced via Twitter on Wednesday evening that he is retiring. Fantillo, 20, is from Coquitlam, B.C. Last season, he had seven goals and three assists in 38 games with the Blades. He missed time with rib and knee injuries. . . . In 88 regular-season games with the Blades, he put up 12 goals and seven assists. Before being dealt to the Blades, he had six goals and nine assists in 70 games with the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . Saskatoon acquired Fantillo on Oct. 13, 2016, giving up a sixth-round selection in the 2019 WHL bantam draft in the exchange. . . . He had been a sixth-round pick by the Tigers in the 2013 bantam draft. . . . According to a news release from the Blades, Fantillo “plans to get a jump start on a future career in the health and fitness industry.”


The Victoria Royals have acquired F Tyler Lees, 18, from the Saskatoon Blades for a conditional seventh-round selection in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft. Lees, from Regina, had two goals and an assist in 20 games with the Blades last season. . . . Saskatoon selected him in the fifth round of the 2015 bantam draft.


The Vancouver Giants announced Thursday morning that their games will be heard on Sportsnet 650 in 2018-19. . . . According to a news release, “Sportsnet’s Vancouver-based Vancouverall-sports radio station . . . will broadcast all Vancouver Giants games live . . .” The length of the agreement wasn’t revealed. . . . Sportsnet 650 also holds the radio broadcast rights to the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. . . . Dan O’Connor will return for a second season as the radio voice of the Giants. Before joining the Giants, he was the voice of the Prince George Cougars. . . . Last season, the Giants’ rights belonged to TSN 1040. . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia takes a look right here at the arrangement between the Giants and Sportsnet 650.

Later in the day, the Giants announced the signing of F Lukas Svejkovsky, who is from Point Roberts, Wash. Svejkovsky, who will turn 17 on Nov. 23, was a second-round selection in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft. Last season, he had five goals and six assists in 16 regular-season games with the BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild. He missed a good chunk of the season with due to injury. . . . His father, Jaroslav (Yogi), played one season (1995-96) with the Tri-City Americans, putting up 58 goals and 43 assists in 70 games. He has been the Giants’ skills coach since 2006.


Two WHL players — F Jordy Bellerive of the Lethbridge Hurricanes and D Josh Brook of Canadathe Moose Jaw Warriors — have been scratched from Canada’s roster for the World Junior Showcase that is scheduled to open in Kamloops on June 28. . . . Bellerive, 19, was injured in an accident involving a bonfire last month near Calgary, while Brook, 19, may be nursing a wrist injury. He suffered a wrist injury in a rookie camp with the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens prior to last season and later underwent surgery. This summer, he missed the Canadiens’ development camp with what has been reported as another wrist injury. . . . Hockey Canada also announced that F Robert Thomas, 19, of the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs has been scratched. . . . The three injured players still are expected to be at the camp. . . . Added to the Canadian roster were F Liam Foudy, 18, of the OHL’s London Knights, D Markus Phillips, 19, of the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack, and F Akil Thomas, 18, of the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs.


Tanner Cochrane of Kamloops has joined the BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks as an assistant coach. Cochrane, 25, spent the previous two seasons with the major midget Thompson Blazers, who are based in Kamloops. . . . In Salmon Arm, he joins Scotty Atkinson, the general manager and head coach, and assistant coach Brett Knowles.


The MJHL’s Steinbach Pistons have added Calvin Bugyik to their front office as an assistant coach. For the past two seasons, he has been an assistant coach with the midget AAA Winnipeg Wild, who have won two straight league titles. . . . In Steinbach, he will work alongside GM/head coach Paul Dyck. . . . Bugyik replaces Joey Moggach, who had been with the Pistons for two seasons. He left the club after last seasons in order to spend more time at his full-time job and with family.