BCHL extinguishes fire in West Kelowna . . . Grimwood back as GM/head coach . . . Americans run afoul of WHL sheriff

MacBeth

D Martin Gernát (Edmonton, 2011-13) signed a contract through the end of November with Třinec (Czech Republic, Extraliga). Last season, he had two assists in three games with Prešov (Slovakia, 1. Liga), was pointless in two games with Košice (Slovakia, Extraliga), and had two goals and two assists in 11 games with Lausanne (Switzerland, NL A).


ThisThat

Here’s hoping that the circus pulled out of West Kelowna on Thursday morning and that the Warriors now are able to get on with their BCHL regular season that is scheduled to open against the Smoke Eaters in Trail tonight (Friday).

Kim Dobranski, the Warriors’ beleaguered majority owner, appeared before the media WestKelownaon Thursday morning, read from a prepared statement and chose not to answer questions.

In brief, Rylan Ferster, who had been the general manager and head coach for six seasons, left the organization on Aug. 21. He had led the Warriors to the national junior A championship in 2016.

In a news release announcing Ferster’s departure, the Warriors revealed that Geoff Grimwood, who had been assistant GM and associate coach, had been named interim GM/head coach.

That lasted until Monday night when Dobranski fired Grimwood. On Tuesday, it became known that Jason Beckett, who had been coaching at the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy in Kelowna, would be the next head coach.

Except that this is where the players got involved.

First, they skated off the ice during a Tuesday practice and didn’t return.

On Wednesday, they decided not to practise, choosing instead to go on a players-only hike.

By Wednesday night, the BCHL — commissioner Chris Hebb and the board of governors — was involved. A source familiar with the situation told Taking Note on Wednesday that the league had taken over the franchise, at least for now, and that a contract was being drawn up with Grimwood’s name on it.

By Thursday morning, Dobranski said he had seen the light.

In addressing the assembled media, Dobranski read:

“Mr. Grimwood in his short time here had a profound impact on these players. In my search to fill the big shoes of Mr. Ferster, I neglected to realize that Mr. Ferster, in his final act before leaving, not only did he assemble an incredible group of young men, he placed the best person for this job right in front of me.”

That person of course is Grimwood, who will be behind the bench tonight (Friday) in Trail and for the rematch in West Kelowna on Saturday.

Dobranski continued: “I failed both as a partner in this league and as a leader of this organization to consider the emotional turmoil this could cause for these young men. However, the positive in all this is that I discovered that we have something incredibly special here. We have a group of young men that are incredibly tight, bonded like I have never seen before, and have stood together willing to face whatever consequences that this may have caused. They did this for the sole purpose of supporting each other. This was a courageous and a selfless act and I feel we have an incredible group of players here with a foundation for success.”

Dobranski and a silent partner purchased the Warriors from Mark Cheyne in August.

Grimwood also was in attendance on Thursday and, after stating how excited he was to be the general manager and head coach, he offered:

“I think what we’ve done here, with Kim, myself and the B.C. Hockey League, we just made sure everyone’s on the same page going forward. What I want for the team and the players is the same thing that Mr. Dobranski wants. We’re going to work really hard to support those 23 players.”

Hebb, who is in his first year as the BCHL’s commissioner, apparently arrived in West Kelowna sometime on Wednesday.

Doyle Potenteau of Global News reported that the BCHL later issued a statement, “saying it will work alongside Dobranski and his management staff, directing them in the near term, and that the league will remain in a supporting role as the season progresses.”

Global’s coverage is right here.

There is a story right here from castanet.net.

The Kelowna Daily Courier has a story right here.


I wish I could say that the whole mess ended with that news conference. But I’m not able to do that.

Because on Thursday afternoon, I received a tweet from an account that carried the name WarriorsBoss and the address @BossWarriors. However, the account disappeared sometime Thursday evening.

I will leave it to your imagination as to the person behind the short-lived Twitter account. It was set up in “September 2018” — maybe even on Thursday. LOL! When that message arrived, WarriorsBoss (@BossWarriors) was following one account and this was its first tweet.

While I didn’t write down the message, nor did I do a screen capture, the gist of it was that my Wednesday night post on the situation in West Kelowna, in particular the part about the BCHL having “taken over operation” of the franchise, was inaccurate. A source familiar with the situation had informed me of that earlier on Wednesday.

Anyway, I replied to WarriorsBoss:

I usually don’t respond to anonymous messages, but seeing as I am the only account you follow, you should know that someone inside the Warriors organization told me (Wednesday) night that the post was “very accurate.”

A few hours laters, WarriorsBoss fired back, calling me “a liar.”

Again, I didn’t write down the tweet, nor did I do a screen capture. I would assume that was the last tweet to be sent from that account before it disappeared. I actually laughed out loud when that message arrived. In more than 40 years of writing, I can’t recall being called a liar. Lots of other things, for sure. But never a liar.

Anyway . . . sorry to deflate your balloon, WarriorsBoss. But after reading what I posted here on Wednesday night, someone inside the Warriors organization told me, and these are the exact words: “That’s a very accurate article.”

I may be a lot of things, WarriorsBoss, but I am not a liar.

Nor am I anonymous.

Oh, and my Twitter account is very much alive.


Might this be bad news for fans of the Moose Jaw Warriors . . .


Congratulations if you had head coach Kelly Buchberger and the Tri-City Americans in the pool — they were first to run afoul of the WHL’s Department of Discipline this season.

Buchberger, in his first season as head coach, was suspended for one game after a tri-city“multiple fight situation” in a game with the Vancouver Giants on Sunday at an exhibition tournament in Everett.

The Americans also were fined $500, while Tri-City D Mitchell Brown drew a one-game sentence for “fourth fight of game.”

According to the WHL website, no one on the Giants was fined or suspended.

The game featured 142 penalty minutes, including eight fighting majors and eight game misconducts. Of course, a fight carries with it an automatic game misconduct in the exhibition season.

While Brown and seven other players received game misconducts, those penalties don’t show up in their individual statistics. For example, while Brown took 15 penalty minutes in that game — a major (5) and a game misconduct (10) — his individual stats page credits him with only five penalty minutes from that game.

What that means is that the WHL is again refusing to include all penalties in individual totals and that’s a real shame because it bastardizes the penalty statistics.


Of course, this means that Trevor’s twin brother, Darren, who now scouts for the Calgary Flames, also turned 50. Happy birthday to a pair of Memorial Cup champions!


If you’re a regular here, you will know that we’ve been following the progress being made by Stuart Kemp, the president of the Portland Winterhawks’ Booster Club as he Portlandrehabs from three strokes.

Here is his latest update, posted on Wednesday evening . . .

“So people hope I succeed! OK then. I went to a gym first time in ages, and with strokes I can tell you, muscles disappear fast. I was embarrassed at limited stuff before I tired out.

“However, I did 20 mins treadmill 1.5 MPH (Sounds bad but it was moving fast)
“I did 20 mins on cycle level 4
“3 reps of 12 on chest press 20 pounds
“3 reps on Tricep 50 pounds
“3 reps on Tri Extension 50 pounds
“In addition to at home curl @ 20 lbs 3 reps 12 each

“Hope I sleep tonight. But I feel good, working hard so keep positive vibes coming. Let’s get me swallowing again!

“Saw my COBRA for medical today and it’s expensive, lot more than I originally thought by almost $300 a month.

“I know you all saw GoFundMe and FB pleas for help, it’s in Portland Tribune and August Winterhawks Insider, Hoping to prove all wrong and get back to work soon.

“Please help if you can (and) invite those who may be unaware.”

He has speech therapy appointments scheduled for Sept. 7 and 11, and other appointments on Sept. 18, Sept. 19, Sept. 25, Oct. 3 and Oct. 8.

If you are able to help, the GoFundMe page is right here.


Tweetoftheday

Advertisements

Sheldon Kennedy, Swift Current and the healing process

These days, Sheldon Kennedy works at helping other people heal, and Sunday was no exception.

Kennedy survived the bus crash involving the Swift Current Broncos on Dec. 30, 1986. He also survived sexual abuse at the hands of Graham James, who was the general manager and head coach of those Broncos.

These days, Kennedy travels the country as an advocate for children and others who have been, or continue to be, victims of sexual abuse. He also spends a lot of time working on behalf of the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre in Calgary, the goal of which is to stop the cycle of abuse.

On Sunday, Kennedy was in Saskatoon to visit with, and offer support to, survivors of Friday’s crash in which 15 people aboard the Humboldt Broncos’ bus lost their lives and the 14 survivors all were injured. The Broncos were en route to Nipawin, where they were to have played the Hawks in Game 5 of a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League semifinal series.

Kennedy, Peter Soberlak and Bob Wilkie, all of whom survived the Swift Current bus crash, and Darren Kruger, whose brother Scott died in that accident, arrived in Saskatoon on Sunday, then later travelled to Humboldt for a prayer vigil.

This kind of support is certain to help Humboldt and the Broncos’ family with the healing process, a process that really won’t end.

For proof of that, let’s revisit the City of Swift Current and all that its citizens have gone through since that blustery day in late December of 1986.

Only James and his victims knew at that time what was going on behind closed doors. The survivors of the bus crash went on to play again and, in fact, won the Memorial Cup in the spring of 1989, still with James at the helm.

The Broncos’ success was seen as an avenue to healing in Swift Current, a city of about 16,000 people who absolutely loved their hockey team.

In time, the players moved on with their lives, some going into pro hockey, others on to careers.

Kennedy was one who went on to pro hockey. Then, in 1996, Kennedy, a troubled individual by that time, blew the whistle on James, who by now was with the Calgary Hitmen. James was charged on Nov. 22 with two counts of sexual assault involving more than 300 encounters with a pair of former players over a 10-year period.

The national media, which 10 years earlier had descended on Swift Current with tears in its eyes and empathy in its words, returned, only this time it was pointing fingers. It had questions. Who knew what? When did they know it? You didn’t know anything? Why didn’t you know?

The citizens of Swift Current, who had healed perhaps as well as you ever will from the loss of four sons, withdrew into their homes and pulled down the shades. Now they were being forced to relive the past over and over and over again. Whenever James resurfaced in the public eye — and it was often — Swift Current found itself back in the spotlight. “Here we go again” could have been the city’s motto.

Through all of this, Kennedy had what was at best an arm’s-length relationship with Swift Current. He returned in 2009 for a 20-year reunion of the Memorial Cup team, but admitted to feeling that there still were “a lot of skeletons” in the community.

That changed on May 27, 2016, when Kennedy, by now mature and well into his role as an advocate, was in Swift Current to be inducted into the Broncos’ Hall of Fame. It was almost 30 years since the accident and Kennedy wanted to let the city know that it was OK to let go, that it was OK to hold your head high and to move on.

“I think it’s another day to give us all permission to move forward in a positive direction and forgive ourselves but not forget,” Kennedy told the crowd at the banquet and induction ceremony. “I think that’s important, and understanding the important role of sport and understanding the important role of community and raising kids and making sure that we create that healthy atmosphere (in which) to do so. . . . we can move beyond tragic events and there’s hope. It has to be about hope and there’s hope to learn, to accept and to move on. I think that’s important and that’s what today is, and for that it means a lot to me.”

That was the day when Kennedy made Swift Current his city.

One thing that Kennedy and Wilkie have always remembered is that they were left to heal on their own in the aftermath of the bus accident.

In his book Why I Didn’t Say Anything, Kennedy wrote: “You would have thought that someone in charge would have arranged for the survivors to receive therapy to help them deal with the shock and grief following the accident, but none of us received any kind of professional help. Nobody seemed to want to talk about what happened.”

Kennedy, in the book Sudden-Death: The Incredible Saga of the 1986 Swift Current Broncos, put it this way: “The idea that Graham James got us through the bus crash is insulting. We didn’t rally around him. The players rallied. He had nothing to do with it. And he kept the professional help from the team because he didn’t want anyone to know he was a sexual predator — keeping out professional help was his idea, not the players’. The idea of keeping the dressing room door closed came from him.”

Wilkie, meanwhile, told Eric Francis of Postmedia: “We weren’t allowed to talk about it for fear his dirty secret would come out. My mom wondered for years why we were never given any of the resources we needed to cope with it properly. Those who wanted help were told ‘no’ by Graham. Now we know why.”

That — wanting to help — was the motivation for the quick decision to fly into Saskatoon on Sunday. They know that unlike 1986 there will be professional help available to people impacted by what transpired on Highway No. 35 near Nipawin on Friday night.

At the same time, Kennedy, Soberlak and Wilkie are among the few who have survived this kind of tragedy and know that they have something to offer.

At the same time, the people of Humboldt, with its population of about 6,000, know that the hurt isn’t going to go away anytime soon. You never want to lose the memories, but there are times when you don’t want to hurt. But it always will be there, to one degree or another.

And just when you think that maybe it is gone, there will be an accident somewhere and people will remember what happened to Humboldt’s hockey team on April 6, 2018, and the spotlight will return.

If you don’t believe it, just ask the people of Swift Current, who no doubt have been reliving it all for the past two days.