WHL’s wait is almost over; two games set for tonight . . . Second team opts out of AJHL restart . . . Beast prexy with good dope on folderoo

It was March 11. The Victoria Royals and host Kelowna Rockets were tied, 2-2, in the third period of a WHL game.

F Brayden Tracey of the Royals broke the tie, banking a shot off G Roman Basran and into the Kelowna net. The goal would give the Royals a 3-2 victory and would be the last score of the WHL’s 2019-20 season.

The last goal of the CHL’s 2019-20 season was to have been scored in Kelowna, but it should have happened in the Memorial Cup in May. That tournament, like so many other things, was cancelled.

With the world in the early stages of what has turned into a full-blown pandemic, the WHL put things on hold after March 11, a pause that will end tonight (Friday) with two games featuring four Alberta teams.

In Red Deer, the Rebels will play the Medicine Hat Tigers, while the Lethbridge Hurricanes meet the Oil Kings in Edmonton. The same teams will play again Saturday, only they will switch venues. The Calgary Hitmen, the fifth of the league’s five Alberta teams, have the bye.

In Red Deer, Troy Gillard will make his debut as the interim play-by-play voice of the Rebels, replacing Cam Moon, now the radio voice of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. Down the way from Gillard, Bob Ridley will be calling his 3,999th game as the only voice the Tigers have known.

If the excitement of tonight’s game doesn’t get to him, Ridley will do No. 4,000 in Medicine Hat on Saturday night. If you haven’t heard, he has called every game in Tigers history — except for one. It’s an oft-told story, but back in the day — way, way back — his then-boss’s wife was playing in the Canadian women’s curling championship in Saskatoon and, well, Ridley missed a Tigers game while covering curling. Yes, that’s a true story!

Meanwhile, the Oil Kings game won’t be heard on an Edmonton radio station, but will be available, with Andrew Peard on the call, on the team’s website.

(I had written here that G Lukáš Pařík of the Spokane Chiefs had scored the last goal of the season. That was in error.)

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JUST NOTES: You may not have been aware of it, but the WHL’s trade deadline came and went on Thursday at 1 p.m. PT. For the first time in league history, there wasn’t even one trade. . . . The league released a U.S. Division schedule this week. The five American teams will open their season on March 18 with the Portland Winterhawks and Tri-City Americans meeting in Kennewick, Wash. With the Winterhawks not having clearance to play in Oregon, they will play their two March home games at the accesso ShoWare Centre in Kent, Wash. (aka the home of the Seattle Thunderbirds). The Portland home games April 2 through May 7 have TBD as the home arena. . . .

A schedule hasn’t yet been announced, but the seven-team Regina hub is expected to begin play on March 12. The hub will feature the five Saskatchewan-based teams, along with the two from Manitoba. . . . The five B.C. Division teams have yet to receive clearance to return to play from government and health officials. . . . Earlier this week, on the subject of 15-year-olds, the afore-mentioned Gillard tweeted: “So I confirmed that Alberta players are good to go since the U18AAA season here is cancelled, but Sask players are limited to 5 WHL games for now as they’ve yet to officially cancel league play in that province.” . . .

The Oil Kings have added three people to their front office — Shaun Mahe as video coach and hockey operations co-ordinator, the afore-mentioned Andrew Peard to handle hockey broadcasting and media, and Erin Klatt in charge of game-day operations. Mahe has been with the Oilers Entertainment Group for eight years, most recently in statistical analysis with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors. Peard’s duties include play-by-play, taking over from Corey Graham who somehow lost his job during recent Bell Media cuts. Klatt has been with OEG for two years, working as a hockey engagement co-ordinator. . . .

The Kamloops Blazers have added Brodi Stuart, 20, to their coaching staff. Stuart, from Langley, B.C., played three seasons with the Blazers. His WHL career came to an end when he had knee surgery on Jan. 20. In 204 regular-season games, he had 115 points, including 45 goals. . . . The Prince Albert Raiders have added Ryan McDonald as an assistant coach. He will work with the team during its time in the Regina hub. A Prince Albert native, McDonald, 33, played four plus seasons in the WHL (Regina Pats, Raiders, 2004-09). He was the head coach for the U18 AAA Warman Wildcats in 2020-21. . . .

Josh Green, the general manager and head coach of the MJHL’s Winnipeg Freeze, has moved to the Winnipeg Ice as an assistant coach. The Ice and Freeze are owned by 50 Below Sports + Entertainment Inc. Green, who played five WHL seasons in the WHL (Medicine Hat, Swift Current, Portland, 1993-98), was an assistant coach with the Ice in 2019-20. . . . Ryan Guenter, who had been on the Ice’s scouting staff, also will be on the team’s coaching staff in the Regina hub. When that stint is over, he will step in as the Ice’s manager of scouting and hockey operations. . . . The Ice also has added Byron Spriggs as goaltending consultant. He has been the U of Manitoba Bisons’ goaltending coach for the past two seasons and is expected to work with both clubs. . . . Cole Hillier, a former head equipment manager with the ECHL’s Jacksonville IceMen, now is in that role with the Ice. Darcy Ewanchuk, who made the move to Winnipeg from Cranbrook with the franchise, now is on staff as a consultant.


Questions, there are questions . . .

We have been hearing for a while now that the WHL’s return to play is all about giving players development opportunities. If that’s the case, and considering the special circumstances, why not allow teams to carry five or six 20-year-olds, even if they only are allowed to dress three per game? Had the league done that, teams wouldn’t have had to cut 20-year-olds over the past few days. . . .

F Seth Jarvis of the Chicago Wolves is tied for the AHL lead in goals (6) and points (9). He has played seven games. Jarvis, who turned 19 on Feb. 1, was selected by the Carolina Hurricanes with the 13th pick of the NHL’s 2020 draft. The rules call for him to be returned to the Portland Winterhawks, but if this odd-ball season, with no fans allowed, is all about development why not leave him in the AHL? . . .

If you are a hockey fan who lives in Canada, does your NHL include only your country’s seven teams? And would you be content with a seven-team NHL and having those teams play an 84-game regular season? . . .

If you get vaccinated in the next month or six are you going to want to go back into an arena next fall not knowing how many unvaccinated people are in the same facility? Is that same thing going to be an issue in some work places? . . .

If you are paying attention to the coronavirus-related numbers in B.C., with variants showing up in schools and teachers in at least one city having marched in protest, will you be surprised if the province’s five WHL teams have to wait a while longer before getting the OK to return to play? . . .

What’s wrong with this picture? . . . On March  21, B.C. announced 76 new positives, raising the number of confirmed cases to 424. There were 27 people in hospital and 12 in intensive care. There was one new death, for a total of 10. So health officials closed all personal service establishments — remember when you couldn’t get a haircut? — and ordered all restaurants to go to takeout and delivery only. . . . On Feb. 25, B.C. reported 395 new cases — down from 559 two days earlier — for a confirmed total of 78,673, with 4,489 of those active. Ten new deaths raised the grim total to 1,348. But, hey, you can get a haircut and eat in a restaurant.


On Feb. 12, Brendan Batchelor, the play-by-play voice of the Vancouver Canucks on Sportsnet 650, revealed via Twitter that he had been “exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19” and was going into self-isolation. . . . All is well and Batchelor, whose resume includes calling Vancouver Giants games, returned to action on Thursday night as the Canucks lost, 3-0, to the visiting Edmonton Oilers.


The Lloydminster Bobcats are the second team to opt out of the AJHL’s return Bobcatsto play. According to a news release from the team, it was “denied participation . . . due to public health restrictions of the Saskatchewan government.” . . . More from that news release: “The organization exhausted all efforts to resolve barriers to meet the requirements of the Saskatchewan government. So far the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League has also been unable to meet requirements, while the Western Hockey League has been approved by forming a bubble in Regina, SK. Attempts were made to establish a bubble in Lloydminster, but the team was shut out by circumstance.” . . . While they play in the AJHL, the Bobcats’ home arena, the Centennial Civic Centre, is in Lloydminster, Sask. . . . Earlier, the Canmore Eagles announced that they were opting out of a return to play. 


For the last while we regularly have heard from junior hockey pooh-bahs about Beasthow some teams may not survive the pandemic. To date, they’re all still alive, but that’s more than can be said for the Brampton Beast, a seven-year-old ECHL franchise.

The Beast called it quits last week, another victim of COVID-19, but one that won’t show up in death totals.

Cary Kaplan, the Beast’s president, general manager and minority owner of Brampton Beast, said that the pandemic simply made the hurdles too huge to continue.

Here’s part of what he told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, and all of this will be applicable to junior hockey teams, as well . . .

“What we realized recently is that next season is compromised. Normally at this time of year, you sell a lot of season tickets, you renew your season tickets, you make group sales, you do a lot of sponsorship. There’s so much nervousness out there, we realized for the upcoming season . . . that revenues would be greatly depleted. You’re losing revenues in three distinct hockey seasons. As a business, it’s not sustainable. We came to that realization probably since Christmas, (and) for us that was just too much.”

And now we wait to see if more teams meet the same fate.

If you haven’t already seen it, Friedman’s weekly 31 Thoughts is right here.


Sauce


THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

The City of Toronto has cancelled outdoor events and parades through July 1. That includes Canada Day celebrations and its Pride Parade. . . .

The Prince Albert Minor Hockey Association has cancelled any games for the remainder of its 2020-21 season. The provincial government has extended restrictions until at least March 19, so the association decided it was time to move on from this season. Teams are still able to practice with eight mask-wearing, social-distancing players on the ice at a time. . . .

The San Jose Sharks had F Thomas Hertl enter COVID-19 protocol on Wednesday, so their Thursday game against the visiting Vegas Golden Knights has been postponed. The Sharks didn’t hold any practice or training sessions on Wednesday. . . . San Jose next is scheduled to play on Saturday against the visiting St. Louis Blues. . . . Also on Wednesday, the New York Rangers placed F K’Andre Miller on the COVID-19 protocol list, but they still played that night, losing 4-3 to the Flyers in Philly. . . .

Dan Ralph of The Canadian Press reports that the CFL, which didn’t play in 2020, is looking at holding training camps in May with the first exhibition game on May 23. He also writes that an 18-game regular season would open on June 10 without fans in the stands. . . . That story is right here. . . .

The 10-team Winnipeg-based Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League announced on Tuesday that it has cancelled the remainder of its 2020-21 season. “These are unprecedented times,” Kerry Lines, the league president, said in a news release, “and the events around COVID have impacted so many lives and families. Our priority as a league is to be compliant with the health orders and respect and support the decisions that are made to keep our communities safe and reduce the risk.” . . . The MMJHL last played on Oct. 29.


Warranty


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

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Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

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Or, for more information, visit right here.


Kids

The Brandon-Everett trade that wasn’t . . . Bader leaves Raiders, cites personal reasons . . . Blichfeld hits 200 in victory

MacBeth

F Tomáš Netík (Medicine Hat, 2000-01) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Innsbruck (Austria, Erste Bank Liga) after obtaining his release from Košice (Slovakia, Extraliga). He had six goals and 18 assists in 30 games. . . .

G Juraj Hollý (Calgary 2010-11) has been traded by Liptovský Mikuláš to Dukla Trenčín (both Slovakia, Extraliga) for Marek Šimko. In 17 games, Hollý was 3-12-0, 3.47, .901 with one shutout.


ThisThat

The Brandon Wheat Kings traded F Stelio Mattheos, their leading scorer, to the Everett Silvertips on Jan. 10, which was the WHL’s trade deadline.

Except that they didn’t.

Josh Horton of the Everett Herald reported Wednesday that “the Silvertips agreed to a Everettdeal to acquire top-flight Brandon forward Stelio Mattheos . . . but the trade fell apart at the last minute.”

According to Horton, “A Silvertips player and draft picks were headed to Brandon in return for the 19-year-old Mattheos, sources said.”

Horton, citing sources, added that “both of the players involved had been informed of the trade and were getting ready to leave for their new teams when the deal collapsed.”

No one is saying how many WHL bantam draft picks were involved in the swap. However, Taking Note has been told that the teams had been working on the deal for a couple of months and that the Everett player who was told he was on his way to Brandon was F Reece Vitelli, whom the Silvertips selected in the fourth round of the 2016 bantam draft.

Garry Davidson, the Silvertips’ general manager, told Horton that a deal was in the works but that “it didn’t work out.” However, that is all Davidson, who is said to have been most upset, would say.

Taking Note also has been told that the deal didn’t really collapse, that it was more a case BrandonWKregularof it not having been filed in its entirety with the WHL office in time to beat the deadline of 3 p.m. MT.

Neither the WHL office nor Brandon GM Grant Armstrong would comment to Horton.

Interestingly, Davidson and Armstrong worked together with the Portland Winterhawks. Davidson, who is in his seventh season as Everett’s GM, was Portland’s director of player personnel for four seasons (2008-12); Armstrong, now in his third season as Brandon’s GM, was Portland’s head scout during that time.

This season, Vitelli, a 17-year-old sophomore from Winnipeg, has five goals and 11 assists in 45 games. He has one goal in five games since the trade deadline.

Last season, Vitelli finished with two goals and eight assists in 70 games, then added four goals and three assists in 22 playoff games.

Mattheos also is from Winnipeg. The Wheat Kings selected him with the first overall pick in the 2014 bantam draft. His NHL rights belong to the Carolina Hurricanes, who picked him in the third round of that league’s 2017 draft. Mattheos has yet to sign an NHL contract.

Mattheos is Brandon’s captain and leads the Wheat Kings in goals (30), assists (31) and points (61), all in 40 games.

Last season, Mattheos put up 43 goals and 47 assists in 90 games. In 228 career regular-season games, he has 243 points, including 113 goals.

The Silvertips and Wheat Kings aren’t scheduled to meet again this season. They played in Brandon on Oct. 19, with the home team winning, 5-2, behind three goals from Mattheos. Vitelli, playing in his home province, had one assist.


KOOTENAY KOUNTDOWN

On Dec. 19, Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, said that there would be an 36announcement “very soon” and that it would deal with “what the future of that franchise is.”

That franchise is the Kootenay Ice, an organization that is believed to be headed to Winnipeg once this season is over.

But we now are into the 36th day since Robison appeared on TSN Radio 1260 in Edmonton with host Dean Millard.

Since then . . . crickets from the Ice and the WHL office.


F Bryce Bader has left the Prince Albert Raiders.

According to a news release from the Raiders, Bader, 17, flew to Calgary on Sunday “to PrinceAlbertwrite a final exam,” then “elected not to re-join the team for personal reasons.”

The Raiders added: “There will be no further comment from the hockey club.”

Bader’s departure leaves the Raiders’ roster at 21 players, including seven defencemen and 12 forwards.

Bader, from Sherwood Park, Alta., was selected by the Calgary Hitmen in the second round of the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft.

The Raiders acquired Bader from the Hitmen on Jan. 10 in exchange for F Quinn Olson, a 17-year-old Calgarian who has committed to the U of Minnesota-Duluth for 2020-21. In the deal, the teams also swapped conditional sixth-round selections in an undisclosed bantam draft.

This season, Bader had four goals in 10 games with the Hitmen this season, but had yet to play for the Raiders.

The Raiders, the CHL’s top-ranked team, is scheduled to conclude a B.C. Division swing tonight against the Vancouver Giants. The game will be televised on Sportsnet.


WEDNESDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

F Joachim Blichfeld, the WHL’s leading scorer, struck for two third-period goals to help Portlandthe host Portland Winterhawks to a 4-2 victory over the Tri-City Americans. . . . Portland (28-13-5) is second in the U.S. Division, seven points behind the Everett Silvertips. . . . Tri-City (24-17-3) had points in each of its previous four games (3-0-1). It remains fourth in the U.S. Division, two points behind the Spokane Chiefs. At the same time, the Americans are in control of the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot, with a 12-point lead on the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . With two games left in the season series, Tri-City is 5-1-0; Portland is 1-1-4. That means that while Tri-City has won five of six games, Portland still has grabbed six points. . . . The Americans grabbed a 2-0 lead on first-period goals 40 seconds apart by F Krystof Hrabik (10) and F Kyle Olson (14). . . . Portland pulled even late in the period as F Jaydon Dureau (10) scored at 18:58 and F Josh Paterson (17) found the range at 19:35. . . . The teams played a scoreless second period, before Blichfeld, who now has 42 goals, hit at 9:53 and 16:18, with F Cody Glass assisting on both scores. . . . Blichfeld’s second goal gave him 200 career regular-season points. He has 94 goals and 106 assists in 165 games. . . . Blichfeld, who also had an assist, leads the WHL with 86 points, 10 more than F Tristin Langan of the Moose Jaw Warriors and F Trey Fix-Wolansky of the Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . Blichfeld’s 42 goals are five more than Langan. . . . Andy Kemper, the Winterhawks’ historian, points out that Blichfeld is the second import in franchise history to get to 200 points. F Oliver Bjorkstrand, who put up 290 points in 193 regular-season games. . . . G Joel Hofer blocked 26 shots for Portland, 16 fewer than Tri-City’s Beck Warm. . . . Portland won 41 of the 63 faceoffs, and was 0-5 on the PP. Tri-City was 0-1. . . . The Americans were without F Blake Stevenson (undisclosed injury) and F Sasha Mutala, who was in Red Deer for the Top Prospects Game. . . . D John Ludvig was among Portland’s scratches.


Tweetoftheday

Questions and food for thought . . . Vandervlis prepping for return . . . Fans gone missing . . . Leason, Fix-Wolansky penning great stories


MacBeth

F Jeremy Williams (Swift Current, 2000-04) has signed a one-year contract extension with the Straubing Tigers (Germany, DEL). An alternate captain, he has 14 goals and 15 assists in 30 games. He leads the Tigers in goals, assists and points, and is fifth in the league’s scoring race.


ThisThat

On the 10th day of our annual Christmas countdown, if you click right here you’ll find GENTRI — The Gentlemen Trio — with a neat version of Little Drummer Boy.


F Ryan Vandervlis, 20, who played 162 games over the past four seasons with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, is joining the junior B Red Deer Vipers. . . . The Vipers, who play in the Heritage Junior B Hockey League, announced the move via Twitter on Friday. . . . Vandervlis hasn’t played since suffering severe burns to 60 per cent of his body during a campfire incident in June. . . . Sean McIntosh of the Red Deer Advocate has more right here.


D James Miller of the BCHL’s Penticton Vees has committed to the Northern Michigan Wildcats for next season. Miller, 20, was a sixth-round pick by the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL’s 2013 bantam draft. . . . Miller, from Spruce Grove, Alta., actually played two games with the U of New Hampshire Wildcats in 2017-18 before returning to Penticton. . . . He went into Friday’s action with 15 goals and 29 assists in 36 games with the Vees. Miller’s 44 points led all BCHL defencemen. . . . According to a news release from the Vees, Miller is the 18th player on their roster “with an NCAA Division 1 scholarship.”


A few WHL-related thoughts during the Christmas break . . .

Just the other day, I noticed this headline — Raiders win fight-fest in Swift Current — at paherald.sk.ca. The story was dated Dec. 14. I looked it up. There appear to have been five fights. Yes, the WHL has moved far away from the days when a fight-fest wasn’t a fight-fest unless the benches cleared and there was at least a 30-minute delay.

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Where have the hockey fans of Medicine Hat gone? Remember when the 4,006-seat Medicine Arena was sold out for every regular-season game? Now the Tigers play in the 7,100-seat Canalta Centre and the average announced attendance is 3,011 through 16 home games. What changed?

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On the same subject, the Saskatoon Blades appear to have turned the corner — finally! — and are a solid second in not only the East Division but the Eastern Conference. Their average announced attendance (AAA) is 3,658 through 15 games, which has them 14th in the 22-team league. Last season, the Blades finished with an AAA of 3,851 for 36 home dates.

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Will the Kelowna Rockets add an assistant coach over the holidays — to replace the departed Travis Crickard — and will it be former Rockets defenceman/captain Josh Gorges?

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Speaking of Crickard . . . was that him watching the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers practise one day this week?

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Really, there has been no better story in the WHL this half-season than the one written PrinceAlbertby F Brett Leason of the Prince Albert Raiders. He went into this season with 24 goals and 27 assists in 135 regular-season games. This season, in 31 games, he has 28 goals and 36 assists. Here’s hoping that a hand injury suffered while in camp with Canada’s national junior team last week in Victoria doesn’t slow him down, although it has kept him out of the pre-tournament games to date.

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There also is a great story in Edmonton where Oil Kings F Trey Fix-Wolansky has 64 EdmontonOilKingspoints, including a WHL-leading 43 assists, in 34 games. The Edmonton native is lighting it up at home and not a lot of players get to do that. The story, though, is that the 5-foot-7 Fix-Wolansky has had to fight the height-challenged battle his entire career. He should have been in the selection camp of Canada’s national junior team, but his invitation must have gotten lost in the mail. He’s now going to spend the second half of the season continuing to prove himself to the doubters.

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Greg Meachem is a former sports editor of the Red Deer Advocate, who now works for the Rebels and writes at reddeerrebels.com. . . . He’s worth reading, especially for the honesty in the quotes from Brent Sutter, the owner, general manager and head coach of the Rebels. Sutter never pulls any punches in his post-game comments.

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Is anyone else waiting for the Portland Winterhawks to run off about 10 victories in a row at some point after the break? Or is the competition in the U.S. Division simply to stiff for that to happen?

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Worth watching after the break . . .

In the East Division: The WHL record for fewest losses in one season belongs to the Brandon Wheat Kings, who lost five times in a 72-game season in 1978-79. The Wheat Kings finished 58-5-9 that season, one in which they settled for ties in lieu of OT. . . . The Prince Albert Raiders are halfway through their schedule with a 31-2-1 record, so depending upon your point of view they have lost either two or three games. . . . Of course, the Raiders are playing a 68-game schedule, so perhaps it’s time to open a new section in the record book.

In the Central Division: The Red Deer Rebels, having played 32 games, Lethbridge Hurricanes (33) and Edmonton Oil Kings (36) are tied for first place, each with 42 points. . . . Each of the three added major pieces prior to the break. Will one, two or three of them go shopping again before the Jan. 10 trade deadline?

In the B.C. Division: There are 12 division in the CHL’s three leagues and the B.C. Division has the 11th-poorest points percentage (.512), with a lot of that due to the of that due to the Vancouver Giants (22-8-2, .719). . . . The Kamloops Blazers hold down the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot, one point ahead of the Seattle Thunderbirds and two ahead of the Prince George Cougars. If the second half unfolds much like the first half, two of those teams will miss the playoffs; the other will meet the Everett Silvertips in the first round.

In the U.S. Division: The Portland Winterhawks and Spokane Chiefs are tied for second in the U.S. Division, each with records of 19-11-4. Everett is 14 points ahead; Tri-City is six points back. . . . How important is home-ice advantage in the playoffs to the Winterhawks and Chiefs? Portland is 2-1-0 in the season series, with three games remaining.

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How upset are you if you’re a follower of the Kootenay Ice who bought a season-ticket during the team’s Drive to 25 off-season promotion, only to watch so many veteran players quit or be traded amid signs your once-favourite club will move to Winnipeg at season’s end? . . . The Ice already has dressed 38 players this season. It has an 8-22-6 record, meaning it has won eight of 36 games, and is 14 points away from a playoff spot.

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Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, sounded most uncomfortable in responding to a DelisleChiefsquestion about the Kootenay Ice from Dean Millard of the TSN radio in Edmonton on Thursday night. Robison said there will be an announcement involving the Ice “very soon,” but wasn’t any more specific than that, nor did he shed any light on the situation. . . . I can’t imagine what might be in that announcement, but when the Chilliwack Bruins moved to Victoria after the 2010-11 season, the WHL didn’t confirm the much-rumoured move until almost three weeks after their season had ended.

Perhaps fans of the Ice can gain some solace from what Robison told Chilliwack fans after the Bruins left town: “We believe that under the right conditions Chilliwack can be a viable WHL market. We intend to give full consideration to returning should relocation occur in the future.”

One other thing about the Bruins’ move . . . While the WHL didn’t make an official announcement until April 20, 2011, it turned out that the Bruins’ owners and the WHL had agreed to sell the Chilliwack franchise on Jan. 13, 2011.


If you feel so inclined, please click on the DONATE button over there on the right. Thanks in advance, and Merry Christmas.


Tweetoftheday

Robison: Ice announcement ‘very soon’ . . . Blades sign L.A. prospect . . . Ex-WHLer draws more jail time


MacBeth

D Ben Betker (Portland, Everett, 2011-15) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Detva (Slovakia, Extraliga). This season, he had one goal and four assists in 15 games with the Kalamazoo Wings (ECHL). . . .

F Jonas Johansson (Kamloops, 2002-04) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with HA74 Sävsjö (Sweden, Division 2). He didn’t play last season. In 2016-17, he had eight goals and 21 assists in 33 games with Gherdëina Selva Val Gardena (Italy, Alps HL). . . .

F Konstantin Pushkaryov (Calgary, 2004-05) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Kurbads Riga (Latvia, Optibet Liga). Last season, he had seven goals and nine assists in 47 games with Barys Astana (Kazakhstan, KHL), and seven goals and two assists in 12 games with Nomad Astana (Kazakhstan, Championship).


ThisThat

On the ninth day of our annual Christmas countdown, I’ve got a pair of tunes for you (because I didn’t post on the eighth day). Both of these feature Michael Bublé, who brings a WHL flavour because he owns a piece of the Vancouver Giants.

If you click right here you’ll find him and Blake Shelton, with the Christmas version of Home.

And if you click right here, you’ll find him with Bing Crosby performing White Christmas.


According to Ron Robison, the WHL’s commissioner, there will be an announcement “very soon” pertaining to the future of the Kootenay Ice, a franchise that plays out of Cranbrook, B.C.

The Ice is in its 21st season in Cranbrook. This is the franchise’s second season under the Kootenaynewownership of Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell, who purchased it from the Chynoweth family. Fettes and Cockell are Winnipeggers and there has been speculation most of this season that they will relocate the franchise to the Manitoba capital once this season is done.

To date, there has been little in the way of comment from the WHL office or from the Ice owners.

Robison made an appearance with Dean Millard on Edmonton’s TSN radio outlet (1260) on Wednesday and talked about various things related to the WHL.

Here is Robison’s response to a question about the Ice situation:

We’re going through a process and I think that we’ve been very patient first of all with the Kootenay market . . . previously with the Chynoweth ownership which had some difficulty . . . it’s been well-publicized over the years and I think the new ownership has come in and done exactly what we wanted them to do and that was commit to that market and to make every effort to get things turned around.

“But we’ll be going through an exercise here as we’ve indicated and we’ll be very soon making an announcement as to what the future of that franchise is. But we gotta be very conscious that there’s been some great support in Kootenay over the years and the ownership have done what they can do to try and get things turned around.”

Robison didn’t sound at all comfortable in talking about the Ice and there weren’t any follow-up questions.

The complete interview is right here.


The Saskatoon Blades have signed D Spencer Shugrue, 15, to a WHL contract. Shugrue Saskatoonwas a ninth-round selection in the 2018 WHL bantam draft. . . . He has dual American-Canadian citizenship and presently lives with his family in Los Angeles, where he plays for the U-16 Jr. Kings of the T1EHL. In 17 games, he has three assists. . . . Last season, he was at the Delta Hockey Academy, where he had one goal and 11 assists in 28 games with a bantam prep team.


Barkley Swenson, a former WHL player, has been sentenced in Prince Albert Provincial Court to four months in jail on charges of possession of stolen property and breach of court conditions. According to Charlene Tebbutt of panow.com, “Swenson is to serve the four-month term on top of a 15-month sentence that he received in November in Melfort on charges of assault and uttering threats.” . . . Swenson, now 44, played 150 games in the WHL — 80 with the Prince Albert Raiders and 70 with the Tacoma Rockets — over four seasons (1990-94). . . . Tebbutt’s story is right here.


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