Gaglardi ‘suspects’ Lajoie will be back. . . . Habscheid, Love in war of the words. . . . Ice, assistant coach go separate ways


MacBeth

F Aaron Gagnon (Seattle, 2001-07) has signed a one-year contract extension with Langnau (Switzerland, NL). This season, he had 14 goals and 14 assists in 39 games.


ThisThat

It seems that a lot of folks who follow the WHL are wondering about the coaching situation with the Kamloops Blazers. Specifically, they want to know if Serge Lajoie will be back for a second season as the head coach.

You will be aware that the Blazers went 28-32-8 this season, then beat the Kelowna Kamloops1Rockets in a tiebreaker to get into the playoffs, where they were beaten in six games by the Victoria Royals in a spirited first-round series.

Let’s break down the Blazers’ season a little bit.

Darryl Sydor, one of the franchise’s five owners, was named a full-time assistant coach on Feb. 12. A former Blazers defenceman who went on to play and coach in the NHL, Sydor is a two-time Stanley Cup winner and also won a Memorial Cup.

When the Blazers made that announcement, they were 20-27-5. With Sydor officially on board, they finished the regular-season 8-5-3, won that tiebreaker, then went 2-4 in the playoffs.

So, all told, they were 11-9-3 after the Sydor announcement.

Which brings us to an interview that Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week did with Tom Gaglardi, the Blazers’ majority owner. Here are three questions and answers:

Hastings: Will Serge be the head coach to start next season?

Gaglardi: I suspect so. He’s got a long-term contract and we haven’t had any conversation about anything other than that. We’re very happy with where we are. We had a great finish to the year and we’re excited about next season, but this week is just a week to lick our wounds. This is a series (vs. Victoria) we truly thought we could win.

Hastings: What do you think assistant coach Darryl Sydor brought to the team?

Gaglardi: Darryl really understands what it takes to win and what a successful bench feels like. He’s been a long-time player and had success at the junior level, had success at the NHL level, won a couple of Stanley Cups. He knows what benches need. I think he was really instrumental in figuring out what his role could be to help. Sometimes you’ve got a coach that’s a hard coach and the kids need to be brought up and built back, and Darryl really understands the ying and yang, the methods, and figured out a role that he could help in. He really worked hard to make sure the kids believed they could actually get the job done. He perhaps brought something to the staff that was missing. Darryl is a tremendous guy and I was thrilled when he agreed to join full-time and come on board and he made a difference.

Hastings: Does Darryl have what it takes to be a head coach here or somewhere else?

Gaglardi: I’ve got to think so, if that’s what he wants to do. He’s come home and I think he’d like to be involved in some way. We’ve had lots of talks around this for a long time. What this blossoms into, I’m not sure. He’s a tremendous guy and we’d love to have him involved. He’s got kids playing competitive hockey. I’m not sure where he’s going to be, in terms of level of commitment next year, whether he’s ready to step in and take on some sort of full-time role again with the club. I’m not sure. He did make a big difference to us down the stretch.

That complete interview is right here.

I don’t have any idea what the future holds here. I do know that in the 12 seasons under the ownership of Gaglardi, Sydor, Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla and Mark Recchi, the Blazers have gotten out of the first round twice, been a first-round casualty six times, and have missed the playoffs on four occasions.

Lajoie is the 10th head coach or interim head coach, including Guy Charron on two occasions, this franchise has employed over those 12 seasons.


It’s ‘Game On’ in the Eastern Conference seminal between the Prince Albert Raiders and Saskatoon Blades.

The series resumes tonight in Saskatoon, with the Raiders holding a 2-0 lead. Game 3 will be televised by Sportsnet.

Other than the quotes in the above tweets, Ryan Flaherty of Global TV in Saskatoon also Saskatoontweeted this quote from Blades head coach Mitch Love:

“There was four head-whipping incidents (Sunday) night, three of which led to penalties on our side, by their players. So is that embellishment? I don’t know. Is it? I hope they’re getting their necks fixed over there today.”

You’ll recall that prior to the series Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, offered up PrinceAlbertthese thoughts to Darren Zary of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix:

“They embellish. That’s what they do. They led the league in drawing minors. It’s known around (the league) that they do that. Hopefully, that stops because it’s not a good thing. You look at a guy like Kirby Dach. He’s a good player. I met the young man at the Prospects game. A great kid, awesome kid and really great player. He doesn’t need to embellish. He’s better than that. He’s a good enough player. He doesn’t need to that.”

As Zary reports in a story posted on Monday evening, Love went so far as to suggest that the WHL office needs to be paying more attention to player safety.

“I really chose not to say too much about it up until this point,” Zary quotes Love as having said, “but after watching two games in which I felt there were several incidents — especially (Sunday night’s) hockey game where there was a lot of contact towards players’ heads — I know our league stresses player safety, so I think the real story here is how people have turned a blind eye to that kind of thing, based on comments that were made previously, prior to the start of the series.”

Zary’s story is right here.

And, in case you missed it, here’s some video of Habscheid off the Sportsnet telecast early in Game 2 on Saturday night. . . .


The Winnipeg Ice revealed via Twitter on Monday that the organization and assistant coach Gord Burnett “have agreed to part ways.” Burnett, a native of Regina, just completed his fourth season on the Ice’s coaching staff. . . . According to the Ice’s website, its coaching staff now comprises head coach James Patrick and associate coach Jon Klemm. . . . Patrick, from Winnipeg, and Klemm, who is from Cranbrook, have been with the Ice through two seasons.


F Kyle Olson of the Tri-City Americans has joined the San Diego Gulls, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, on an ATO. From Calgary, Olson was selected by the Ducks in the fourth round of the NHL’s 2017 draft. He hasn’t signed an NHL contract. . . . This season, Olson, who turned 20 on March 22, had 21 goals and 49 assists in 62 games with the Americans.


The Edmonton Oil Kings have signed D Matt Smith to a WHL contract. An Edmonton native, Smith was a third-round selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. . . . He played this season with the midget AAA Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., Rangers, recording two goals and 10 assists in 41 regular-season and playoff games.


Rick Westhead of TSN filed another story regarding the minimum-wage lawsuit on Monday, and this one really involves the WHL.

“A fight is unfolding in the Western Hockey League minimum-wage class-action lawsuit over the privacy of current and former players who pursue a claim against the league for minimum wage, back pay and overtime,” Westhead writes.

“A year and a half after an Alberta judge certified a minimum-wage lawsuit against the WHL, lawyers for the plaintiffs and the league are now battling over how to notify those players about their right to proceed with a case or, if they choose, withdraw from the litigation.

“The two sides will appear at a hearing in Calgary on Monday to make arguments about the notice the players will be given regarding the lawsuit.”

The complete story is right here.

Westhead also mentioned that “the CHL and its three leagues have been battling minimum-wage lawsuits for the past five years.”

It is hard to fathom that it already has been that long. Wouldn’t you like to know how much money the WHL has spent on legal fees over that time?


F Joachim Blichfeld of the Portland Winterhawks will play for Denmark’s national men’s team in a pair of exhibition games against visiting Finland this week. The games are scheduled for Thursday in Aalborg and Saturday in Vojens. . . . The Danish team, under head coach Heinz Ehlers, dropped eight players from its training camp after weekend workouts. . . . Blichfeld, who won the WHL scoring championship with 114 points in 68 games this season, is hoping to earn a spot on the national men’s A team that will play in the IIHF World Championship in the Slovakian cities of Bratislava and Košice, from May 10 through May 26.


Kevin Kaminski is the new general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice larongeWolves. Kaminski, who is from Churchbridge, Sask., signed a three-year contract. . . . Kaminski, 50, spent three seasons (1986-89) with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades before going on to a pro career that included 139 games in the NHL. . . . For the past three seasons, he has been the head coach of the Western States Hockey League’s Fresno Monsters. . . . The Ice Wolves also announced that Gaelan Patterson, another former Blades skater, will be turning, but as associate GM and associate coach. Patterson finished the season as the team’s interim head coach after the firing of Evan Vossen. . . . The team also said that Travis Hegland will be returning as athletic therapist and trainer.


EdChynowethCup

NOTES: D Jake Kustra of the Victoria Royals has been suspended for two games after taking a cross-checking major and game misconduct for a hit on F Jared Dmytriw of the DisciplineVancouver Giants at 2:54 of the second period on Saturday. That was in Game 2 of the series. The Giants won, 2-1 in OT, and hold a 2-0 leading going into Game 3 tonight in Victoria. . . .

Meanwhile, the Giants have been fined $750 for, according to the WHL website, “actions of player at end of game” on Saturday night. There was a bit of a brouhaha after Vancouver F Tristen Nielsen scored the game-winner at 3:29 of OT. G Griffen Outhouse of Victoria came out of it with a roughing minor, while Giants D Alex Kannok Leipert was hit with a roughing minor and a game misconduct. I would think it’s safe to assume that he is the “player” in question. . . .

In these playoffs, the WHL’s Dept. of Discipline now has issued 13 suspensions totalling 30 games, and handed out six fines worth a total of $4,250. . . . In all of last season’s playoffs, there were six players suspended for a total of 12 games, and two fines meted out worth $1,250. . . .

——

After a quiet Monday night, there are three second-round games on the schedule tonight. . . .

As mentioned, the Vancouver Giants hold a 2-0 lead as they play Game 3 against the Royals in Victoria. The Royals obviously will be without D Jake Kustra, while F Kody McDonald serves the fifth of a six-game suspension. . . . Victoria D Ralph Jarratt left late in Game 3 with an apparent injury to his left shoulder or arm and didn’t return. . . . The Giants are expected to again be without F Aidan Barfoot, who was injured in the first round. . . .

——

In Calgary, the Edmonton Oil Kings, with a 2-0 lead, will meet the Hitmen as the Battle of Alberta resumes. . . . Here’s a note from Derek Van Diest of the Edmonton Sun involving the first two games:

“Two games and two won face-offs have ended up the back of the Hitmen net so far in the series.

“The Oil Kings won 3-2 in overtime Saturday after (Mark) Kastelic won a clean draw in his own zone and pulled it back through the legs of an unsuspecting (goaltender Jack) McNaughton and off the goal post. Jake Neighbours was then first to the rebound and knocked it into the net for the game-winner.

“On Sunday, Carson Focht pulled one back from the same face-off circle past McNaughton and into the net to give the Oil Kings a 2-1 lead in the second period.”

As Calgary head coach Steve Hamilton told Van Diest: “It’s not everyday you win two faceoffs and shoot two pucks into your own net in two games. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that. That was a bid odd, but it was probably par for the course, too.”

——

The Prince Albert Raiders, with a 2-0 lead, venture into Saskatoon to meet the Blades in a game that will be televised by Sportsnet, which also showed the first two games of the series. . . . With the two head coaches firmly involved in a war of the words, it will be interesting to see the attendance in the SaskTel Centre tonight.

——

The other second-round series, between the Everett Silvertips and Spokane Chiefs, is to resume on Wednesday. The Chiefs went into Everett and won twice, so they take a 2-0 lead on to home ice. The next three games, if necessary, are scheduled for Spokane because the Cirque du Soleil is in the Angels of the Wind Arena in Everett through Sunday.


Tweetoftheday

Advertisements

Latest on minimum-wage lawsuit front. . . . Battles of B.C., Saskatchewan open tonight. . . . Other two series begin Saturday

ThisThat

There was news on the minimum-wage battleground between former major junior players and the OHL on Thursday.

“The Ontario Hockey League will be forced to defend allegations of conspiracy, ohlnegligence and breach of contract after a three-judge panel in Ontario reinstated those claims against the league in its legal battle against former players over minimum wage,” writes Rick Westhead of TSN. “The judgment, released late Wednesday by three Ontario Divisional Court judges, comes after an Ontario Superior Court judge dismissed those claims against the OHL in April, 2017. Lawyers for the former players appealed that decision.

“The judges on Wednesday also rejected an OHL appeal that asked for the case to be stripped of class-action status. As a class action, current and former players going back to the 2012-13 season automatically become plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Players will now have the option to opt out of the litigation.

“The judges also ordered the OHL to immediately pay roughly $500,000 worth of legal fees to the plaintiffs, in addition to another $700,000 in legal fees that must be paid if the OHL loses the lawsuit.”

Westhead’s complete story is right here.


F Nick Henry and F Jake Leschyshyn, both of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, have moved on Lethbridgeto pro teams. . . . Henry, who will turn 20 on July 4, has joined the Colorado Eagles, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, while Leschyshyn now is with the Chicago Wolves, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. . . . Henry, a fourth-round pick in the NHL’s 2017 draft, has signed with the Avalanche. He had 29 goals and 65 assists in 69 games this season. . . . Leschyshyn, who turned 20 on March 10, was a second-round pick by Vegas in the NHL’s 2017 draft. He has signed an NHL contract. This season, he had 40 goals and 41 assists in 68 games. . . . The Hurricanes acquired Henry and Leschyshyn from the Regina Pats in an early-season trade.


The Spokane Chiefs have signed F Blake Swetlikoff to a WHL contract. The 15-year-old from Regina was a third-round selection in the 2018 bantam draft after putting up 32 goals and 40 assists in 31 games with the bantam AA Regina Monarchs. . . . This season, he had 10 goals and 19 assists in 40 games for the midget AAA Regina Pat Canadians.


Whenever someone writes a WHL-related newspaper column that includes a mention of Bobby (The Brain) Heeney, well, you just know it has to be a good read. Ed Willes of Postmedia has that column right here and, while it’s more to do with Michael Dyck and Jamie Heard of the Vancouver Giants, there is a mention of Heeney. Oh, and Kelly Handy, a football player who once played for the Regina Pats, gets a mention too. Enjoy!


The junior B Osoyoos Coyotes of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League made it official on Thursday . . . Dean Maynard is their general manager and head coach. Maynard had been interim head coach since the firing of Mark Chase in January. . . . Maynard will be joined by assistant coaches Brandon Watson and David Gordon, while Tyler Liebel is on board doing work on skills instruction player development and video. Mitch Fritz will be involved with player selection and development.



The SJHL’s Melville Millionaires have signed Kyle Adams to a two-year contract as general manager and head coach. Adams signed on as an assistant coach prior to this season, then was named interim GM and head coach following the firing of Devin Windle on Nov. 29.


EdChynowethCup

The WHL playoffs resume tonight with second-round series beginning on two fronts. . . . The other two series will open on Saturday night. . . . In each instance, if the outcome of the season series means anything, these all should be short series. . . . But, hey, it’s the playoffs and it’s junior hockey. . . .

The Battle of Saskatchewan opens in Prince Albert as the Raiders meet the Saskatoon Blades. . . . The Raiders (54-10-4) won the Scotty Munro Trophy as the WHL’s regular-season champions. . . . The Blades were second to the Raiders in the East Division at 45-15-8. . . . Prince Albert was 6-2-0 in the season series; Saskatoon was 2-5-1. . . . They have only met twice since the trade deadline. The Blades won, 3-2, at home on March 15; the Raiders on, 3-1 in Prince Albert the next night. . . . Saskatoon is in the playoffs for the first time since the spring of 2013. . . . The first three games of this series will be televised by Sportsnet, with host Rob Faulds, play caller RJ Broadhead and analyst Sam Cosentino. . . .

Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, played for the Blades back in the day. This season, he recorded his 500th regular-season coaching victory. He also understands that he is in the entertainment business as much as he is in the hockey business. That’s one of the reasons he says things like this:

“They embellish. That’s what they do. They led the league in drawing minors. It’s known around (the league) that they do that. Hopefully, that stops because it’s not a good thing. You look at a guy like Kirby Dach. He’s a good player. I met the young man at the Prospects game. A great kid, awesome kid and really great player. He doesn’t need to embellish. He’s better than that. He’s a good enough player. He doesn’t need to that.”

That was Habscheid chatting with Darren Zary of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. The complete story is right here.

——

The Battle of B.C. begins in Langley, B.C., with the Vancouver Giants playing host to the Victoria Royals. . . . Vancouver (48-15-5) finished atop the Western Conference. . . . Victoria (34-30-4) was second in the B.C. Division, 29 points behind the Giants. . . . Vancouver won the season series, 6-2-2; Victoria was 4-4-2. . . . They played each other four times after the trade deadline. Vancouver won at home, 3-2 and 4-0, on Jan. 13 and Feb. 22. Victoria won, 5-4 in a shootout, at home on Feb. 23, then lost 2-1 on Feb. 24. Yes, they played each other three times in as many days. . . .

——

The Battle of Alberta will open on Saturday with the Calgary Hitmen in Edmonton to meet the Oil Kings. . . . Edmonton (42-18-8) finished atop the Central Division, with Calgary (36-26-6) 14 points in arrears. . . . The Oil Kings won the season series, 7-0-1; the Hitmen were 1-6-1. . . . They have met four times since the trade deadline, with Edmonton winning all four of them — 3-2 and 6-1 in Edmonton, 5-1 and 3-1 in Calgary. . . . Edmonton G Dylan Myskiw went 6-0-0, 2.00, .935 in six games against Calgary. . . . Steve Hamilton, Calgary’s head coach, was fired by the Oil Kings after last season. He spent eight seasons in Edmonton, the last four as head coach.

——

The Battle of Washington also gets started on Saturday as the Everett Silvertips play host to the Spokane Chiefs. . . . Everett (47-16-5) finished second in the Western Conference and first in the U.S. Division, 12 points ahead of Spokane (40-21-7). . . . Everett won the season series, 6-0-2; Spokane was 2-5-1. . . . However, they have played only once since the Jan. 10 trade deadline. The Silvertips skated to a 3-1 victory in Spokane on March 5. . . . If the Chiefs are to win, they are going to have to solve Everett G Dustin Wolf, who went 6-0-1, 1.75, .929 against them.

——

NOTES: F Logan Barlage of the Lethbridge Hurricanes has been given a two-game suspension after taking a slashing major and game misconduct at the end of a first-round playoff game against the visiting Calgary Hitmen on Tuesday. Barlage slashed Calgary F Carson Focht right off a faceoff as the Hitmen closed out a 4-2 victory in Game 7. Barlage will have to sit out the first two games of the 2019-20 regular season. . . .

Focht, who scored twice in Calgary’s Game 7 victory, fell to the ice after the slash, clutching an arm. We won’t know whether he is injured until lineups are posted prior to Game 1 in Edmonton on Saturday. . . .

D Bowen Byram, who missed a couple of Vancouver practices this week, is expected to be in the Giants’ lineup tonight for Game 1 with the visiting Victoria Royals.


Tweetoftheday

Whatever happened to Luby? . . . Vanstone: MC-format flawed . . . Dynamiters’ would-be gift horse faces charges


A LITTLE OF THIS, SOME OF THAT . . .

When I was working at the Regina Leader-Post, I always looked forward to a visit by the Saskatoon Blades when Daryl Lubiniecki was with them. Now there’s a story teller! . . . We used to joke that his Regina office — a bar called The Pump — was across Victoria Street from the paper and visible from a window beside what was then my desk. . . . So what is Lubiniecki up to these days. Darren Zary of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix caught up with him right here.


With the 2018 Memorial Cup and all that goes with it ticketed for Regina, Leader-Post columnist Rob Vanstone points out in this piece right here just how flawed the present system is. Yes, the present host-team, tournament-style system is as flawed as a piece of glass pretending to be a diamond. But, hey, it makes money and in today’s world that’s what matters.


You may recall hearing in October about a man named Mike Gould who was in the headlines after pledging a donation of $7.5 million to the junior B Kimberley, B.C., Dynamiters of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. . . . You may also have heard that the Dynamiters are no richer today than they were on that day in October. Well, if you missed it, Douglas Quan of Postmedia did a terrific story on the situation earlier this month. That story, which is about as bizarre as you might expect, is right here.

Meanwhile, Gould now is facing fraud- and forgery-related charges, as Karen Larsen of CBC News reports right here.


Dave Robinson, who played four seasons (1973-77) with the Kamloops Chiefs of the Western Canada Hockey League, died on Sunday. Robinson, 60, died in Kamloops after fighting cancer. . . . Robinson played more games with the Chiefs (247) than anyone in the team’s brief history. He had 15 goals and 71 assists, along with 573 penalty minutes. . . . Robinson and his wife, Ernestamarie, had three sons — Ryan, Danny and Darcy. . . . Darcy played five seasons in the WHL (Saskatoon, Red Deer, 1997-2001). He went on to play with Asiago in Italy, where he died of a heart attack during the opening game of the 2007-08 Serie A season. He was 26.


J.F. Best, who is in his first season as an assistant coach with the Victoria Royals, will be at the World Junior Championship with Team Denmark. Best will be working as a consultant in performance analysis. . . . The tournament is scheduled to open on Dec. 26 in Buffalo, N.Y. . . . Best has worked in the area of performance analysis with the Danish Ice Hockey Federation since 2015. He was with Team Denmark at the 2017 WHC in Montreal and Toronto, and worked with Denmark’s men’s team at the 2017 World Championship in Paris, France, and Cologne, Germany.


The Kootenay Ice has signed F Holden Kodak, 16, to a WHL contract. Kodak, from Cloverdale, B.C., put up 59 points, including 35 goals, in 25 games this season with the Yale Hockey Academy’s midget prep team in the CSSHL. . . . Kodak was selected by Portland in the 11th round of the 2016 bantam but something didn’t click and he didn’t sign with the Winterhawks. The Ice placed him on its protected list in October.


In the QMJHL, the defending-champion Saint John Sea Dogs have traded F Joe Veleno, 17, to the Drummondville Voltigeurs for three first-round draft picks and a pair of second-rounders. . . . The Sea Dogs acquired first-round selections that originally belonged to the Gatineau Olympiques (2018), Blainville-Boisbriand Armada(2019) and Drummondville (2020). . . . Velono, who is from Kirkland, Que., is the only player in QMJHL history to have been granted exceptional player status, meaning he was allowed to play regularly at 15 years of age. The Sea Dogs selected him with the first overall pick in the QMJHL’s 2015 draft. . . . This season, Velono has six goals and 25 assists in 31 games. In 138 regular-season games over three seasons, he has 32 goals and 82 assists. . . . Velono is a potential first-round pick in the NHL’s 2018 draft. . . . Drummondville (20-9-2) is fourth in the QMJHL standings. . . . The Sea Dogs (8-17-6) are struggling — they have the league’s second-poorest record — after losing in the Memorial Cup semifinal last spring.


WHL SCOREBOARD:

Dec. 18-Dec. 26:

No Games Scheduled.