NHL revamps playoff format for Covid Cup playoffs . . . But will there be games? . . . Royals hope Price is right

The unfortunate thing about Gary Bettman, the commissioner of all things NHL, telling us a whole lot of non-specific things on Tuesday afternoon is that we now are faced with another couple of months of this stuff.

Why?

Because nobody knows a whole lot about anything right now.

This pandemic-causing virus is brand new, which is why it’s the novel coronavirus. NHLScientists and the medical community are learning about it as we move along.

So, on Tuesday, Bettman told us that the NHL’s 2019-20 regular season is over and that there is to be some kind of convoluted Stanley Cup playoff featuring 24 teams, up from the 16 that would have made it in a ‘normal’ season, with all games played without fans in the stands. (I’m wondering if the players from the seven teams that didn’t make it are breathing sighs of relief.)

Bettman talked about the draft lottery and the draft, and that these playoffs may not get started until sometime in August, which would mean a Stanley Cup presentation two months after that, which would mean the 2020-21 regular season wouldn’t start until January.

(Whoever comes out of this as the Stanley Cup champion gets a gigantic asterisk. Right? And if that happens to be the Toronto Maple Leafs, it doesn’t officially bring an end to that championship drought that has been ongoing since their last title in 1967. Right?)

Bettman also said that this push to decide a Stanley Cup winner isn’t about the money, and if you believe that you just haven’t been paying attention. Because that’s all that it’s about; it always is.

Bettman also said that the playoffs will go ahead in two hub cities, with half the teams in one and the other half in the other. As Bettman spoke, there apparently were 10 cities under consideration.

But it became evident later that the NHL will have to drop Vancouver from that list because the province of B.C. doesn’t seem likely to drop its demand that incoming international travellers self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s chief medical officer, said later Tuesday afternoon that, although she hasn’t seen an NHL plan yet, “We’re not bending the rules in any way that would put what we have achieved here in B.C. at risk.”

Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, offered: “If in fact we are not able to really find an interpretation of the quarantine consistent with our players’ ability to travel in, and not be able to do a strict quarantine in a hotel room, we won’t be in a position to use any of the Canadian cities as a hub city.”

If it comes down to Dr. Henry vs. the NHL, my money is on B.C.’s top doc. If you aren’t aware, she’s a star out here. A shoe company put out a line of shoes in her honour and they sold out in minutes, at a suggested retail of $339 a pair, crashing the website in the process. T-shirts with her likeness on them have raised more than 10 grand for charity.

Oh, and did I mention that, despite all of the positive spin we heard yesterday, all of this might not happen at all.

So for the next few weeks we are going to see a barrage of stories and reports on all of this, including playoff previews, speculation on what team rosters will look like and on and on.

Meanwhile, as of Tuesday evening, the virus-related death toll in the United States was at 94,702, according to statistics kept by John Hopkins University. The number of deaths in Canada was at 6,639. That figure worldwide is somewhere around 350,000.

No one was talking about any of that on Tuesday in all the chatter about the NHL’s possible return to play.

——

The most sensible comments I have seen to date on the NHL’s plan to return to play have come from Minnesota Wild G Devan Dubnyk. He is the Wild’s representative on the NHLPA’s executive board.

The executive board voted 29-2 last week to accept the 24-team format as presented by the NHL. However, that doesn’t mean the NHL is anywhere close to returning to the ice.

In speaking with Michael Russo of The Athletic on Monday, Dubnyk said: “We voted strictly on the format. In other words, ‘If we are to come back, this is how it’s going to be played.’ But we have not even touched on logistics or cities or travel or testing or how the economics will work or what this quarantine bubble (the players are) supposed to live in will be like or any of that stuff yet. Nothing else has been voted on … yet.”

Dubnyk also said:

“I think it’s really important to start having these conversations with as many players as we can about, ‘Guys, what scenarios are we OK with?’ From what it sounds like, it’s going to be some sort of hub city scenario, so we’ve got to talk about that. How long are guys OK with being away for? When we are in this city, are we locked in our hotel room? Going from the hotel room to the rink and back only, are guys OK with just doing that? Can our families come with us, or if there’s a family emergency and we leave the bubble (to go back into society), can we return to the bubble or are we done? What’s the food situation? Like, can we only eat in our hotel rooms? How often are we tested? Who pays for that? What’s the damage economically to the sport?

“All of these things, and there’s so many variables, need to be talked about and we’ve got to start getting a grasp on it now so that it doesn’t just hit us in the face all of a sudden. This stuff hasn’t been discussed with the players. Everything’s just been so hypothetical.”

Dubnyk also admitted to Russo that he wonders “if this is going to truly happen unless things relax enough where that bubble doesn’t necessarily need to exist as tightly as we think it does right now. Even with the players, it’s like, if your wife’s having a baby or something and you have to leave, do I have to miss an entire series now or suddenly quarantine for two weeks?

“That’s why I just feel like it doesn’t seem feasible to make this happen unless those rules relax by the time we’re going to play later this summer. There’s just so much stuff that hasn’t been figured out yet that we’ve got to start figuring out what are we OK with or not OK with, and then once that’s discussed, have another vote.”

Russo’s complete story is right here.


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from H.L. Mencken: “A man may be a fool and not know it, but not if he is married.”


With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team and put a smile on her face by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.



Rory McIlroy has told the BBC that he doesn’t believe the 2020 Ryder Cup will be played. It is scheduled for Sept. 25-27 at Whistling Straits near Sheboygan, Wisc. . . . McIlroy would like to see the event moved to 2021. . . .

Japan’s Nippon Professonal Baseball season is set to start on June 19, but without fans in attendance. The league, which was to have started play on March 20, has yet to release its schedule, but is hoping to have each of its 12 teams play about 120 games, down from 143. . . .

The Alpine skiing world championships are scheduled for Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, from Feb. 7-21. However, the Italian Winter Sports Federation already is talking about postponing them until March 2022, which would be one month following the end of the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games that are scheduled for Feb. 4-20. . . .

The EuroLeague, Europe’s top men’s basketball league, has cancelled its season, which had been on pause since March 12. The league comprises 18 teams from 10 countries. . . .

The 2021 Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships have been cancelled. They had been scheduled for Vail, Colo., from March 1-6. . . .

The AJHL’s Drumheller Dragons have had adjustments made to their rent by the town council. According to a news release from the town, Dragons owner Blair Christianson had made a presentation to council on May 11 that explained the team is likely to lose about $330,000 because of the pandemic and that without some aid the team wouldn’t be viable. On Monday, Mayor Heather Colberg said the “adjustments to the fee structure will have a financial impact of $66,291.50 over four years.” . . .

The 11-team Western States Hockey League announced Tuesday that it won’t play in 2020-21 because of uncertainties brought on by the pandemic. The WSHL includes four teams in Alberta — the Barrhead Bombers, Cold Lake Hornets, Edson Aeros and Hinton Timberwolves — and two in Washington state — the Bellingham Blazers and Seattle Totems. . . . The WSHL, a pay-to-play league, bills itself as junior A but to say it has had trouble gaining traction would be something of an understatement. . . .



Dan Price, who joined the Victoria Royals as an assistant coach during the 2016-17 VictoriaRoyalsseason, now is the WHL team’s general manager and head coach. He has completed three seasons as the team’s head coach. He takes over as GM from Cam Hope, who was fired on April 29 after eight seasons in the office. The Royals made the playoffs in each of those eight seasons, but never were able to get out of the second round. . . . The Royals are 105-81-18 in Price’s three seasons as head coach. . . . Price, 45, holds a law degree from the U of Saskatchewan. . . . His only experience as a general manager is from three seasons (2009-12) as the GM/head coach of the AJHL’s Drumheller Dragons. . . . There now are six WHL teams with one man holding the titles of general manager and head coach. The others are Dean Brockman, Swift Current Broncos; Willie Desjardins, Medicine Hat Tigers; Mike Johnston, Portland Winterhawks; Mark Lamb, Prince George Cougars; and Brent Sutter, Red Deer Rebels.


Casinos


It seems that John Pateman is more convinced than ever that his Prince George Cougars PrinceGeorgeare on the right track. He just doesn’t know when the WHL team is going to get started on that track. . . . “To me, the million-dollar question is when are we going to be playing games,” Pateman, a co-owner and the franchise’s president, told Ted Clarke of the Prince George Citizen. “Certainly in our league, our main sources of revenue are certainly the fans and corporate sponsorships for rink boards and all that, but you have to have fans. What everybody is attempting to do is prepare for every option that’s out there so when we know what’s going to happen we’re fully prepared.” . . . Pateman and the ownership group there purchased the Cougars after the 2013-14 season, so they are waiting for their seventh season as owners to begin. The Cougars wouldn’t have been in the playoffs last season, had the pandemic not wiped out everything, and Pateman has said they were 1,500 fans per game from breaking even. Still, he told Clarke, “In the last two seasons, I feel we’ve really started to head in the right direction.” . . . The complete story is right here.



The SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves have signed associate coach Gaelan Patterson to a one-year extension. Patterson, who is from La Ronge, is preparing for this third season with the Ice Wolves. . . . Patterson, 29, played four seasons (2006-10) with the WHL’s Saskatoon seasons (2015-18) in Europe.


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.

Hope, Price are liking status quo in Victoria. . . . They’ve got Raiders Fever in P.A. . . . Bandits wrap up AJHL title


MacBeth

F Adam Kambeitz (Red Deer, Saskatoon, Seattle, 2008-13) has signed a one-season contract with CBR Brave Canberra (Australia, AIHL). This season, with Gap (France, Ligue Magnus), he had four goals and nine assists in 44 games. The AIHL opens its 2019 regular season on Saturday. . . .

F Zach Hamill (Everett, 2003-08) has signed a one-year contract extension with Bad Nauheim (Germany, DEL2). This season, he had 10 goals and 29 assists in 34 games.


ThisThat

In the world of hockey, you learn never to say never. But it certainly doesn’t sound as though there will be a coaching change with the Victoria Royals.

The Royals went 34-30-4 to finish second in the B.C. Division this season, 29 points behind VictoriaRoyalsthe Vancouver Giants (48-15-5). The Royals ousted the Kamloops Blazers from a first-round series that last six games and then got swept by the Giants.

Dan Price completed his third season with the Royals, his second as head coach since taking over after Dave Lowry signed on as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings.

Cam Hope, the Royals’ president and general manager, liked what he saw this season.

“In my time in hockey,” Hope told CHEK News earlier this week, “I’ve had the pleasure of working with some terrific coaches, guys who are head coaches in the National Hockey League right now in the playoffs . . . I can tell you that there isn’t a coaching staff that works harder, prepares more, is more intelligent in the way they do it and get their players to buy in more than this coaching staff. It’s remarkable what Dan Price, J.F. (Best) and Doug Bodger have done. It’s remarkable.”

Best and Bodger are the Royals’ assistant coaches.

Price, for his part, told CHEK News that he isn’t wanting to move.

“I would love to be here for as long as Cam and (owner) Graham (Lee) would like to have me,” Price said. “It is one of the best jobs if not the best job in hockey. I am grateful every day. . . . I love it here. I don’t want to go anywhere.”


JUST NOTES: The Eastern Conference final between the Prince Albert Raiders and Edmonton Oil Kings is scheduled to begin with Games 1 and 2 on Friday and Saturday nights in the Saskatchewan city. Single-game tickets went on sale in Prince Albert on Tuesday at 9 a.m. People started lining up as early as 5:30 a.m. . . . In the OHL, the Guelph Storm scored the game’s last five goals to beat the Knights, 6-3, in London in Game 7 of a second-round series. The Storm is the fifth team in OHL history to lost the first three games of a series, then win the next four. The Storm is the first team to do that against a No. 1 seed.


The QMJHL’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles have fired Marc-Andre Dumont, who had qmjhlbeen general manager and head coach, and assistant coach Brent Hughes. Dumont had been in that position since December 2012. . . . This season, the Screaming Eagles went 40-22-6 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs, where they lost in five games to the Rimouski Oceanic. . . . “We made a commitment to evaluate the team back when I became president almost a year ago and under new ownership we also made the commitment that we would evaluate the team,” Gerard Shaw, the organization’s president, told Jeremy Fraser of the Cape Breton Post. “We felt that we wanted to go in a new direction, so we decided the time was right to make a change and to take a new direction.”


USA Hockey has named Scott Sandelin the head coach of its national junior team. USAhockeySandelin just completed his 19th season as the head coach of the U of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs, who have won two straight NCAA championships. . . . Sandelin was the head coach of the national junior team in 2005 and was an assistant coach in 2012 and 2019. . . . The IIHF’s 2020 World Junior Championship is scheduled to run from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5 in Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic.


The Brooks Bandits won their fifth AJHL championship in 10 seasons on Tuesday night, beating the Spruce Grove Saints, 2-0, to win the series, 4-0. . . . G Pierce Charleson, a 19-year-old freshman from Aurora, Ont., stopped 22 shots to earn the shutout. . . . The goals came from F William Lemay of Marieville, Que., who is committed to the U of Vermont, and F Jakob Lee of Owen Sound, Ont., who will attend Canisius College. Lemay and Lee both are in their first AJHL seasons. . . .

In the MJHL, F Bradly Goethals scored at 1:46 of the third OT period to give the Swan Valley Stampeders a 4-3 victory over the Portage Terriers. The Stampeders hold a 3-2 lead in the championships series, with Game 6 in Swan River on Thursday. . . . Goethals, from Île-des-Chênes, Man., has played in the WHL with the Everett Silvertips and Saskatoon Blades. . . . Swan Valley also got goals from F Brian Harris, who has played 54 games with the Edmonton Oil Kings, F Kasyn Kruse of Luverne, Minn., and F Matthew Osadick of Grande Pointe, Man., who is ticketed for the U of Maine. . . .

In the BCHL, F Ben Poisson scored at 12:07 of OT to give the Prince George Spruce Kings a 4-3 victory over the Vipers in Vernon. . . . The Spruce Kings hold a 3-0 lead and get their first chance to wrap it up tonight in Vernon. . . . Poisson’s brother, Nick, drew the lone assist on the winner.


Garry Childerhose is the new general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s Kindersley Klippers. He replaced Clayton Jardine, who, according to a news release, “has stepped aside to pursue other career opportunities.” . . . Jardine just completed his first season as the Klippers’ GM/head coach, and he was named the SJHL’s coach of the year. The Clippers finished 36-16-6 in the regular season, placing second in the Global Ag Risk Solutions Division. They lost a first-round playoff series to the Melfort Mustangs in five games. . . . Childerhose has been the Flin Flon Bombers’ assistant GM/assistant coach for the past five seasons.


The MJHL’s Virden Oil Capitals have chosen not to renew the contract of Troy Leslie, who had been with the organization for seven seasons. . . . From a news release: “Troy helped lead the team to six straight playoff appearances and a league championship final, and helped develop many players to the next level of hockey and careers beyond the game.” . . . This season, Virden finished 31-21-8, good for fifth place in the 11-team league. The Oil Capitals were 4-6 in the playoffs, beating the Selkirk Steelers in six games, then losing in four to the Portage Terriers.


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