As another old year gives way to a new one, numerous organizations hand out end-of-year awards. That doesn’t happen at Taking Note, but if it did I would be quick to salute Calder Anderson, Jake Chiasson, Nolan Ritchie and Ben Thornton of the Brandon Wheat Kings as this site’s sportsmen of the year. . . . In case you missed it, in the words of the Brandon Sun’s Perry Bergson, they “successfully interceded to help a distressed man who was contemplating suicide on the First Street Bridge” on the evening of Nov. 29. . . . “We’re very happy that we were able to save him and get him some help,” Thornton told Bergson, who added: “They also learned another lesson when 30 or 40 vehicles drove by without stopping in the short span they were trying to help the man. Yet they never considered leaving until the man was safe.” . . . Gentlemen, I salute you. . . . Bergson’s complete story is right here.
Let’s be honest. We are part of a society that is putting together an absolutely abysmal record unless being selfish and uncaring is the objective. Really, had you told me four years ago that the time was coming when our children would by dying, when our children would be unable to get much-needed surgical procedures, when our hospital’s emergency rooms would be over-run and that society would refuse to help by doing something as simple as masking up, well, I would have told you that you were crazy. . . . But, well, here we are.
After avoiding COVID-19 for almost three years, it caught up with me almost five weeks ago. Ironically, I tested positive on a day when I was to have visited a pharmacy for my fifth shot. Thankfully, the boosters did what they were supposed to, leaving me with a bit of a cough and some fatigue. The strangest thing is that there have been good days followed by bad. Just when you think you’re over the rough road, it reappears. Kind of like city streets, if you know what I mean. . . . As for that fifth shot, well, it’ll have to wait until May. . . . In the meantime, I will be here as fatigue’s curtain allows.
André Picard wrote this in The Globe and Mail last week:
“In some ways, these more recent viral challenges have distracted us from the main event: COVID-19. While we largely returned to ‘pre-pandemic’ normalcy this year, this has actually been the deadliest year yet for COVID-19; in 2022, Canada will surpass 17,000 deaths, more than the 14,642 deaths we recorded in 2020 or the 16,489 in 2021. A fifth wave of Omicron is just beginning.
“We still don’t know if SARS-CoV-2 will mutate further. We do not know if it will become seasonal, like most respiratory viruses. And we definitely do not yet have a handle on what it will mean if we suffer repeated COVID-19 infections — but it certainly won’t be good news.
“Viruses are ubiquitous, and will continue to pose new threats. We can’t live a virus-free existence, nor can we place our children and seniors in a protective bubble.
“But we also cannot hang them out to dry on a viral firing range, without any protection. We need to use the mitigation tools (vaccinations and masks) we have while we develop new ones. That’s what ‘living with COVID’ really needs to mean, moving ahead into a new year.”
The Angus Reid Institute released results of an online survey early in December that showed of 5,013 participants 54 per cent would be prepared to mask up if it was made mandatory if COVID-19 levels increase. But only 31 per cent are wearing masks more than half the time when they are in indoor public places. Sheesh, people, that just doesn’t make any sense.
Get vaccinated and wear a mask when appropriate, like when shopping or anywhere in a crowded area. . . . Just because the politicians and health officers won’t do their part by mandating masks doesn’t mean you can’t do the right thing and be part of the solution.
Look, F Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is not the greatest goal scorer in NHL history. So stop trying to tell me that he is. He’s still 88 behind Wayne Gretzky. Have people already forgotten just how great Gretzky was? . . . Allow me to point out that Gretzky also scored 92 goals in the WHA, which was a better league than many of those same people seem to recall. As for Gordie Howe, well he scored 801 NHL goals and another 174 in the WHA. . . . But when Ovechkin puts in No. 895, then you can call him the greatest goal scorer in NHL history. OK?
While some hockey fans celebrate Ovechkin’s scoring accomplishments, there are those who don’t and never will go that way. Why? Because of Ovechkin’s long-time support of Russian ruler Vladimir Putin, who, of course, is responsible for the ongoing war on Ukraine. Luke Fox of Sportsnet took a look at the Ovechkin-Putin situation the other day and it really is an interesting read. That piece is right here.
BTW, did Gretzky really have to throw mud on his legacy by jumping on the gambling gravy train?
It is every general manager’s worst nightmare . . . a top player leaves for an international assignment and then suffers a serious injury. . . . That is what has happened with the Kelowna Rockets and Vancouver Giants, each team having had a player seriously injured at the 2023 World Junior Championship. Those injuries may well have an impact on the WHL’s Western Conference playoff race from which eight teams will qualify. . . .
F Colton Dach, the Rockets’ captain, initiated a hit during a Saturday game — Canada beat Sweden, 5-1 — and left the game in obvious discomfort thanks to an injury to his right shoulder area. Dach, who turns 20 on Wednesday, has 17 points, nine of them goals, in 14 games with the Rockets this season. Earlier, he missed some time with a concussion. . . . The Rockets (12-18-3), who have lost five in a row, are eighth in the conference, seven points ahead of the Victoria Royals (8-24-4). . . .
Meanwhile, freshman F Samuel Honzek, the Vancouver Giants’ leading scorer, suffered a skate cut to the back of his left leg on Wednesday as his Slovakian side beat the U.S., 6-3. The 18-year-old Honzek, who is expected to be out as long as six weeks, leads the Giants in assists (26) and points (43) in 31 games. . . . Vancouver (14-16-6) is tied for fourth in the conference with the Tri-City Americans, who hold two games in hand. They are one point ahead of the Everett Silvertips. . . .
The WHL’s trade deadline arrives on Jan. 10.
The Everett Silvertips and Victoria Royals swapped 19-year-old goaltenders on Dec. 28. Tyler Palmer, who had left the Royals for what the team said was personal reasons, was dealt to Everett in exchange for Braden Holt. . . . Palmer, from Fernie, B.C., was in his second season with Victoria. He left the Royals sometime after a 7-4 loss to the visiting Portland Winterhawks on Nov. 12. . . . Holt, from Bozeman, Mont., was in his fourth season with Everett. In his first start with Victoria, he stopped 35 shots in a 3-0 victory over the host Vancouver Giants. . . . Having acquired Holt, the Royals then traded G Logan Cunningham, a 17-year-old from Sherwood Park, Alta., to the Edmonton Oil Kings for a fifth-round pick in the 2025 WHL draft. . . . After adding Cunningham to their roster, the Oil Kings dropped G Ronin Geraghty, 18. From Burnaby, B.C., he was 0-5-0, 6.48, .819 in seven games with Edmonton. . . .
Still with goaltending, the Swift Current Broncos lost starter Gage Alexander on Dec. 30 when the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks signed him to an entry-level deal and assigned him to the AHL’s San Diego Gulls. Alexander, 20, had played in 15 games for the Broncos this season, two more than Reid Dyck. Alexander was 8-5-1, 3.47, .898. . . . The Ducks had selected Alexander in the fifth round of the NHL’s 2021 draft. . . . The Broncos had acquired him from the Winnipeg Ice on July 28, giving up a third-round pick in the WHL’s 2025 draft in the exchange. . . . The move left the Broncos with Dyck, an 18-year-old from Winkler, Man., and Joey Rocha, 17, from Nanaimo, B.C., as their goaltenders. . . . Dyck, in his third season, was 4-10-0, 4.07, .880 at the time of the deal; Rocha, a freshman, had been in four games. . . .
And while we’re on the subject of goaltending, how about the run Scott Ratzlaff is on with the Seattle Thunderbirds while starter Thomas Milic is with Team Canada at the WJC? Thom Beuning, the veteran radio voice of the Thunderbirds, points out that Ratzlaff’s December looked like this: 8-0-1, 1.65, .941, with two shutouts. . . . Ratzlaff, 17, is from Irma, Alta. He was a second-round selection in the WHL’s 2020 draft. This season, the 6-foot-2, 170-pounder is 14-2-1, 2.04, .925. In 42 career appearances, he is 32-4-2, 2.31, .912. . . .
And let’s not forget about Daniel Hauser of the Winnipeg Ice. An 18-year-old from Chestermere, Alta., Hauser recorded his 20th victory of the season the other night. This season, in 22 games, he is 20-2-0, 2.36, .912. He has made 70 regular-season appearances over three seasons, going 61-5-2, 2.24, .911. Not at all shabby, eh?
The junior B Nelson Leafs and the visiting Beaver Valley Nitehawks of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League took time out from chasing a puck to exchange Happy New Year greetings as they began the second period on Saturday evening. . . . The Leafs are the team in white in the above video, and the video evidence would seem to indicate that they were first off the mark. . . . The puck now has been passed to Jeff Dubois, the KIJHL commissioner. . . . Happy New Year, Mr. Dubois.
THINKING OUT LOUD — The best part of the World Junior Championship? That’s easy. Having the opportunity to listen to Dennis Beyak do play-by-play again. It says here that he is the best in his field even if he is semi-retired. . . . The other day, the choice was Beyak calling Slovakia and Switzerland from the WJC on TSN or Jack Edwards handling the Buffalo Sabres against his beloved Boston Bruins on Sportsnet. Sorry, Sportsnet. . . . The most annoying commercial on TV these days (pick one) — Clay Matthews for Tide, Rogers’ Wrapped in Red spots, the Subway ads featuring the Toronto Raptors’ Scottie Barnes, or the Sobeys’ family of four. . . . If you enjoy your time on this site, and even if you don’t, you may want to consider clicking on the DONATE button over there on the right side. Thanks in advance. . . . Dan Russell, the now-retired host of the long-running Vancouver-based radio show Sportstalk, release his memoir — Pleasant Good Evening: A Memoir — My 30 Wild and Turbulent Years of Sportsnet — in 2022 and now is thinking of spinning off a podcast. “My plans,” he writes on his blog, “now are to add more content to this site, especially in the audio vault. And I will update this blog from time to time. I’m also considering a podcast as my 2023 project. One that will combine what is happening today with the large archive of Sportstalk audio I have saved over the years.” If you haven’t seen his blog, it’s right here.
Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, after the final game in soccer’s World Cup: “If you watched this game and came away from it with the idea that it was not a good expenditure of your time, then you simply do not like soccer and should make a note to yourself not to waste any more time trying to appreciate the sport.” . . . Hey, he is correct!
How many WHLers do you know of, past or present, who have put together and released an album? Yes, an album of their own music. . . . F London Hoilett of the Calgary Hitmen is quite a story, having made the team prior to this season despite never having been drafted. He also is something of a musician and has his first album — Can’t Sit Still — ready for release on Jan. 10. . . . Cami Kepke of Global Calgary has more right here.
A few things of note that popped up while I was away from here . . .
D Ethan Samson, the captain of the Prince George Cougars, has signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, who selected him in the sixth round of the NHL’s 2021 draft. Samson, 19, is from Delta, B.C. He had two goals and an assist as the Cougars beat the visiting Kamloops Blazers, 10-6, on Saturday night. This season, Samson has 11 goals and 16 assists in 28 games. . . .
The Kelowna Rockets have added former player Curtis Hamilton, 31, to their front office as assistant general manager. Yes, his father, Bruce, is the Rockets’ owner, president and general manager. There is a news release right here. . . .
Gilles Courteau, who took over as the QMJHL’s president during the 1985-86 season, will retire at the end of this season. A replacement is expected to be named in May, with Courteau staying on into 2024 to help with the transition. . . . The league has changed the name of its championship trophy from the President’s Cup to the Gilles Courteau Trophy. . . . Courteau first worked in the QMJHL office in 1977 as a statistician. . . .
The junior B Spokane Braves of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League announced that they will ice a team for the 2023-24 season. The Braves have sat out the past two KIJHL seasons for reasons related to the pandemic. . . .
Another high-end WHL forward changed teams on Dec. 31 when the Winnipeg Ice acquired Carson Latimer, 19, from the Prince Albert Raiders for F Aiden Quiring, 17, and third-round selections in the 2024 and 2025 WHL drafts. . . . Latimer, a fourth-round selection by the Ottawa Senators in the NHL’s 2021 draft, had 22 goals and 38 assists in 75 regular-season games with the Raiders. This season, he had 10 goals and 18 assists in 31 games when he was dealt. . . . Quiring, a freshman who was a third-round pick in the 2020 WHL draft, had five goals and three assists in 26 games at the time of the trade. . . .
The Tri-City Americans revealed on Dec. 30 that D Ben Feenan “has left the team for personal reasons and will join the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs.” . . . Feenan, 18, is from Surrey, B.C. He had three assists in 22 games this season, after recording six helpers in 48 games in 2021-22. . . . The Americans selected him in the sixth round of the WHL’s 2019 draft. . . .
The Americans got past the visiting Spokane Chiefs, 7-6 in OT, on New Year’s Eve. And wouldn’t you know it . . . Americans D Lukas Dragicevic didn’t pick up so much as one point, thus ending his 27-game point streak. He put up seven goals and 30 assists during that stretch.
Mike McIntyre of the Winnipeg Free Press recently wrote a piece in a newsletter about things he would change if he ruled the hockey world for a day. Here’s one item with which I completely agree:
“Severely limit betting/gambling advertisements. Heck, I might just consider an outright ban. I could tolerate them when they first began, in small doses. But it’s to the point now of being completely obnoxious. Seemingly every second commercial is for some website, and now even hosts such as Ron MacLean are routinely shilling for these services. To be clear, I’ve got absolutely nothing against gambling. If you have the means and can do it responsibly, knock your socks off. It’s the idea of having it shoved down my throat everywhere I turn that I find so offensive.”
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