A report from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “University of Miami basketball star Isaiah Wong will enter the transfer portal if his Name, Image and Likeness compensation isn’t increased, his NIL agent said. It wasn’t that long ago — OK, 2011 — when Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor traded signed memorabilia for tattoos at a local tattoo parlor, earning him a five-game NCAA suspension.”
Hey, Sportsnet, there is nothing better, when done correctly, than baseball on radio. Having one person call an entire game by himself — unless that person is named Vin Scully — isn’t doing it correctly. For goodness sake . . . don’t be so cheap. Get the play-by-play guy — who is pretty good — a story-telling partner, at least for home games. Or is this all a harbinger of more cuts to come as soon as the hockey season ends?
Headline at The Beaverton (@TheBeaverton) — Florida introduces ‘Don’t Say Science’ Bill.
The Everett Silvertips revealed on Sunday that F Jackson Berezowski has undergone surgery to repair an undisclosed injury, so won’t play again this season. Berezowski, a 46-goal scorer, was injured during a 5-1 loss to the host Portland Winterhawks on April 15. That was Everett’s second-last regular-season game and Berezowski, who left the game while favouring a shoulder, hasn’t played since then. . . . Berezowski, who turned 20 on Feb. 12, is from Yorkton, Sask. In 211 regular-season games with the Silvertips, he has 151 points, including 82 goals. . . .
The Silvertips, the Western Conference’s top seed, will be in Langley, B.C., tonight (Monday) for Game 6 of their first-round series with the No. 8 Vancouver Giants. Vancouver has won the last two games — 11-6 in Langley on Friday and 3-0 in Everett on Saturday — and holds a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven series. . . . Should Vancouver win tonight, the Giants would move on to the second round against the No. 2 Kamloops Blazers. That would leave the No. 3 Portland Winterhawks and No. 4 Seattle Thunderbirds to meet in the other series. . . . Should the Silvertips win tonight, the series will return to Everett for Game 7 on Wednesday night. If Everett wins this series, the Silvertips would meet Seattle in the second round, with Kamloops playing against Portland.
SUNDAY IN THE WHL:
Ben King scores twice before 3 minute mark of 1st and adds third at halfway point of contest. 2nd hat trick of season and 14th multigoal game. Completes contest with 4 points as does Arshdeep Bains who had inverse. Both collects team leading 8 points in series. https://t.co/HRvfjqfp3v
In Brandon, F Jayden Grubbe’s goal at 7:41 of the third OT gave the No. 3 Red Deer Rebels a 5-4 victory over the No. 6 Wheat Kings. . . . The Rebels won the series, 4-2, and will meet the No. 2 Edmonton Oil Kings in the second round. . . . Red Deer F Ben King, the WHL’s leading regular-season goal scorer, counted twice before the game was three minutes old. . . . The Wheat Kings pulled even on goals from F Ridley Greig, at 8:41 of the first period, and F Rylen Roersma (1) at 2:16 of the second. . . . King (4) completed his hat trick at 10:07, only to have Greig (2) score, on a PP, at 15:11. . . . F Arshdeep Bains, who also had three assists, put Red Deer back out front with his third goal of the series, at 15:58. . . . Brandon F Marcus Kallionkieli (3) tied it at 2:38 and that goal took the teams into OT. . . . Grubbe won it with his second goal of the series. . . . Red Deer held a 55-50 edge in shots, including 21-18 in OT. . . . The Rebels got 46 stops from G Chase Coward, while Brandon’s Ethan Kruger turned aside 50 shots. . . .
The Rebels and Oil Kings will open with games in Edmonton on Thursday and Saturday. . . . The other conference semifinal will feature the No. 1 Winnipeg Ice versus the No. 4 Moose Jaw Warriors. That series is scheduled to open with games in Winnipeg on Friday and Saturday.
A truck loaded with thousands of copies of Roget's Thesaurus spilled its load leaving New York Witnesses were stunned, startled, aghast, stupefied, confused, shocked, rattled, paralyzed, dazed, bewildered, surprised, dumbfounded, flabbergasted, confounded, astonished, and numbed. pic.twitter.com/YyhfkmOcxa
ICYMI, five New York Mets pitchers combined to throw a no-hitter in a 3-0 victory over the visiting Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night. The five threw a total of 159 pitches — the most pitches ever thrown in a nine-inning no-hitter dating back to 1988, which is as far back as pitch totals go. That’s a lot of pitches for a team to look at without getting even one hit. . . . Tyler Kepner of The New York Times pointed out that it was Father’s Day of 1964 when pitcher Jim Bunning of the Phillies needed only 90 pitches when he threw a perfect game at the host Mets. . . . Tylor Megill, who started for the Mets on Friday, was lifted after throwing 88 pitches. . . . “If Bunning’s game was a masterpiece for a museum,” Kepner wrote, “Friday’s was something more suited for the refrigerator door. Both are works of art. One is just a little less perfect.”
EV Zug won the Swiss National League championship on Sunday, beating the ZSC Lions, 3-1, in Game 7 of the championship series. Zug is the first team in league history to overcome a 0-3 deficit to win the final series. . . . Josh Holden, a star with the WHL’s Regina for four seasons (1994-98), is an assistant coach with Zug. He spent 10 seasons playing for Zug, which also won the championship last season. . . . Earlier in the playoffs, Zug had swept HC Lugano and HC Davos before losing the first three games to the Lions.
Have you ever wondered how much Shaquille O’Neal weighs. As Charles Barkley said on The Dan Patrick Show: “If he gets on the scale, it’s gonna be saving, ‘One person at a time, please.’ ”
My wife, Dorothy, is preparing to take part in her ninth Kamloops Kidney Walk. . . . It will be held on June 5, but thanks to the pandemic it again will be a virtual event. . . . If you would like to sponsor her, you are able to do so right here.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Rich Franklin spent time in the front office of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks and now is an executive with the Coachella Valley Firebirds, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken. . . . The above tweet is from the Kraken’s home game on Wednesday night and I have to tell you that it warms my heart.
Dennis Beyak, one of hockey’s best play-by-play voices, has decided to partially retire when this season is over, something that will happen for him on Sunday. Beyak has been the voice of the Winnipeg Jets on TSN since 2011. Unfortunately, because of blackout regulations, a lot of hockey fans likely have never heard him call an NHL game. . . . Beyak, who turned 70 on Nov. 23, will call his final Jets’ game on Sunday afternoon when they meet the visiting Seattle Kraken. . . . Thankfully, we will be able to hear him on occasion as TSN plans on giving him some international assignments. His work on many World Junior Championship games that don’t involve Team Canada has been terrific. . . . Here’s hoping he’s on the call for some games from the WJC in Edmonton in August. . . .
If you aren’t aware, Beyak is a former WHL play-by-play man and also a former WHL executive. . . . He began his play-by-play career at CFAR in Flin Flon in 1970 as the voice of the Bombers at a salary of $57.50 per week. He would go on to call the play for the Saskatoon Blades, Victoria Cougars and Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . He had stints in management, too, as the Blades’ assistant general manager and as GM of the Seattle Thunderbirds and Tri-City Americans. . . . He also has been the play-by-play voice of the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs. . . .
Scott Billeck of the Winnipeg Sun wrote that Beyak explained his decision this way: “When I turned 70, I started to think about this, about how much longer I wanted to do this. I always wanted to kind of go out while I was still able to do it. I didn’t want to get to the point where I was questioning myself — should I have done it earlier?” . . .
Oh, and did I mention that he is an excellent emcee, who could have been a standup comedian?
Only two teams in WHL history have fallen behind 0-3 and gone on to win a best-of-seven series — the 1995-96 Spokane Chiefs and the 2012-13 Kelowna Rockets.
Let’s take a brief look back, shall we . . .
The Chiefs completed the 1995-96 regular season with a 50-18-4 record — that four denotes ties (remember them?). They wound up atop the seven-team West Division. The Portland Winterhawks, meanwhile, finished in sixth place, at 30-39-3.
The series opened in Spokane with games on March 22 and 23, and the Winterhawks skated to 3-2 (OT) and 7-4 victories. They won the opener on F Brad Isbister’s goal at 6:23 of OT, then got three goals and two assists from F Richard Zednik in Game 2.
Playing at home on March 26, Portland got two goals and two assists from Todd Robinson, with Zednik chipping in two goals and an assist, in a 6-4 victory. And just like that the Winterhawks led the series, 3-0.
But one night later the Chiefs got out to a 4-1 lead before the first period was 13 minutes old and went on to a 5-3 victory. F Darren Sinclair and F Jason Podollan each scored twice for the visitors.
Back in Spokane on March 29, G David Lemanowicz turned aside 34 shots as the Chiefs won, 5-0. Podollan had three goals and an assist, giving him six scores in the five games.
The series headed back to Portland for Game 6 and the Chiefs won, 4-3, to get back on equal footing. After Spokane F Joe Cardarelli tied it on a PP with his second goal of the game, and fourth of the series, at 19:29 of the third period, the teams went into double OT before deciding it. It ended when F Randy Favaro struck for his first goal at 3:50.
On April 3, the Chiefs, playing at home, wrapped up the series with a 4-3 victory. Again, the teams went to OT, with Sinclair winning it 58 seconds into extra time.
The Chiefs went on to eliminate the Kamloops Blazers in six games, then would lose the WHL championship final to the Brandon Wheat Kings in five games. Only one of Spokane’s last 11 playoff games needed OT.
In 2012-13, the Rockets finished with a 52-16-4 record, good for second place in the Western Conference, while the Seattle Thunderbirds wound up 24-38-10 and in seventh place.
Their seven-game series would feature five games that needed extra time to decide a winner.
The first two games were played in Kelowna with the Thunderbirds winning twice in OT — 5-4 on a goal by F Luke Lockhart at 19:09 and 2-1 when F Alex Delnov scored at 2:41.
The series then headed for Kent, Wash., where Seattle won Game 3, 3-2, scoring the game’s last three goals and winning when D Evan Wardley counted at 4:55 of OT. That left the Thunderbirds with what appeared to be a commanding 3-0 lead.
The Rockets started the long road back on March 27, winning 4-0 in Kent, behind two goals and an assist from F Tyson Baillie, a goal and two assists from F Zach Franko, and 25 saves from G Jordan Cooke.
They played Game 5 three nights later in Kelowna, with the Rockets building a 4-1 lead and hanging on to win, 4-3, as Seattle counted twice in the game’s last minute.
Then it was back to Kent for an April 2 game that the Rockets won, 4-3 in OT, to tie the series, 3-3. Game 6 was bizarre in that the first six goals all were scored in the first period. Lockhart’s third goal of the series gave Seattle a 3-1 lead at 9:23. Kelowna tied it on goals from F Tyrell Goulbourne (14:56) and F Cody Fowlie (16:20). The Rockets, who held a 59-43 edge in shots, won it when D Myles Bell got his fourth goal of the series at 10:39 of OT.
The very next night the series ended in Kelowna as the Rockets completed their remarkable comeback with a 3-2 victory and, yes, it took overtime.
Wardley gave Seattle a 1-0 lead at 9:04 of the second period. The Rockets grabbed a 2-1 lead on two goals from Baillie — his fifth and sixth of the series — at 9:17 of the second period and 13:09 of the third. Lockhart’s fourth goal in seven games tied it at 19:53. That left it for Baillie to complete his hat trick at 5:10 of OT. Baillie finished the series with seven goals and five assists.
The Rockets moved onto the second round where they were swept by the Kamloops Blazers. The last two games of that series needed OT, meaning Kelowna went into extra time in seven of its 11 playoff games that spring.
There was one playoff game last night, and there are six on tap tonight. While the Edmonton Oil Kings completed a sweep of the host Lethbridge Hurricanes last night, four more teams — the Kelowna Rockets, Prince Albert Raiders, Saskatoon Blades and Spokane Chiefs — will face elimination on tonight’s six-game schedule. . . . Here’s a brief look at last night’s game . . .
In Lethbridge, F Josh Williams broke a 4-4 tie late in the third period and the Edmonton Oil Kings went on toa 6-4 victory over the Hurricanes. . . . The Oil Kings won the series, 4-0, and now await a second-round opponent. . . . F Justin Hall (1) pulled the Hurricanes into a 4-4 tie at 15:17 of the third period. Williams scored his first goal of the series just 40 seconds later. . . . F Jakub Demek (1) iced it with the empty-netter. . . . Edmonton held a 47-17 edge in shots. . . . F Dylan Guenther scored Edmonton’s first goal, giving him one in each of the four games. . . . The Hurricanes took all four of the game’s minor penalties and surrendered two PP goals. . . . The Hurricanes join Prince George on the outside looking in after the Cougars were swept by the Portland Winterhawks on Wednesday night.
JUNIOR JOTTINGS: The Vancouver Giants will be without D Tom Cadieux and F Matthew Edwards when they entertain the Everett Silvertips in Game 4 of their first-round series tonight in Langley, B.C. Each player drew a one-game suspension for indiscretions in Game 3. The Silvertips hold a 2-1 edge in the series. Game 5 is scheduled for Everett on Saturday. . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia has an advancer for tonight’s game right here, including a few words about how things are heating up between the two head coaches. . . .
The AJHL’s Drayton Valley Thunder has named Sean Brown the interim general manager and head coach. He has been operating his hockey development business, Breakout Hockey, but joined the Thunder earlier as assistant GM/assistant coach. The Thunder announced Wednesday that Eric Thurston was out as GM/head coach after four seasons. . . .
Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks, N.D., Herald tweets that “Scott Langer is out after one season” as head coach of the USHL’s Fargo Force. According to Schlossman, “The top candidate to replace him will be SCSU assistant Nick Oliver, a highly regarded young coach who played for the Force.”
My wife, Dorothy, is preparing to take part in her ninth Kamloops Kidney Walk. . . . It will be held on June 5, but thanks to the pandemic it again will be a virtual event. . . . If you would like to sponsor her, you are able to do so right here.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) of TSN reports that the WHL has contacted former players to inform them that they will be receiving a survey that is related to a potential class-action lawsuit that the WHL, as a member of the CHL, is facing. . . . According to Westhead, Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, has confirmed that the survey will ask the former players “if they attended rookie parties, were hazed, etc.”
The letter, the legitimacy of which Westhead reports Robison has confirmed . . .
The junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey League has dropped the hammer on the Sicamous Eagles “for violations under (its) COVID-19 vaccination policy.” The league explained in a news release: “The sanctions stem from the participation of an Eagles player in team activities, including KIJHL regular-season games, at a time when they did not meet the KIJHL’s requirement of being fully vaccinated.” . . . The team has been fined an undisclosed amount, while general manager Ron Sleeman was suspended for 45 days and head coach Gerald Bouchard drew an eight-game sentence. . . . Sleeman is out until Jan. 23; Bouchard can return to the bench on Jan. 14. . . . The Eagles went into Friday’s action with a 5-13-1 record, good for sixth place in the six-team Doug Birks Division. . . . Here’s Sheila Devost, the Eagle’s president: “The KIJHL has policies and rules for teams to follow . . . when they are not adhered to, there are consequences. We broke the rules and now must respect we have to face the consequences.” . . .
This was the second time the KIJHL has had to take this kind of action. The Beaver Valley Nitehawks were fined $2,500 and GM/head coach Terry Jones got an eight-game suspension after two players got into regular-season games despite not being fully vaccinated. Jones, who hasn’t coached since Nov. 15, is eligible to return tonight (Saturday).
As if hockey leagues in B.C. haven’t had enough scheduling issues because of weather-related road closures, the junior B Golden Rockets of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League had to postpone a Friday night game because of a power outage. It seems that there was an issue with a substation in the area late on Thursday afternoon. . . . The problem hadn’t been fixed by late Friday afternoon and a lot of people were preparing to spend a second night without power. . . . The game against the visiting Kimberley Dynamiters will be rescheduled.
Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with some NFL-related thoughts:
“Antonio Brown — along with teammate Mike Edwards — has been suspended for three games by the NFL for acquiring and presenting a false vaccination record to the team and the league. The players are not going to appeal the suspensions and the NFLPA was part of the investigation/adjudication processes. I read one report that said that a forgery of a record that included the seal of the CDC was a Federal crime; I have no idea if that is correct, but it does seem reasonable. On the assumption that is correct:
“Antonio Brown and Mike Edwards get three games off (without pay) for endangering the health of others, lying to league officials and possibly violating Federal law; and
“Tom Brady got four games off (without pay) for allegedly underinflating a football.
With head coach Michael Dyck having left to join Canada’s national junior team — he’s an assistant coach — associate coach Keith McCambridge ran the Vancouver bench on Wednesday night as the Giants dropped a 7-1 decision to the Blazers in Kamloops. It was a homecoming of sorts for McCambridge, who was acquired by the Blazers from the Swift Current Broncos during 1994-95. He played 21 regular-season and 21 playoff games for the Blazers as they won the WHL title and the Memorial Cup. . . . McCambridge was joined behind the bench by former WHL/NHL D Brent Seabrook, who is helping out as a volunteer assistant in Dyck’s absence. . . . BTW, McCambridge is from Thompson, Man., the hometown of former WHL coach-of-the-year Jack Sangster and also F Glen Goodall, who holds the WHL record for most regular-season career games played.
The AJHL’s Fort McMurray Oil Barons announced on Wednesday that they and general manager/head coach Gord Thibodeau had “mutually agreed to part ways.” According to a two-paragraph news release, Thibodeau, 58, the winningest regular-season coach in AJHL history, resigned for “personal reasons.” . . . At the time of Thibodeau’s departure, the Oil Barons were 26-6-0 and atop the Viterra North Division. . . . “The team is doing well this year and we positioned ourselves at the top of the North Division here,” David Fitzgerald, the team president, told Laura Beamish of Fort McMurray Today, “and he’s a big part of that. So from that perspective we were moving in the right direction. We had to look at things outside of the ice and he’s had to make a decision from a personal perspective and we respect that.” . . . Beamish’s story is right here. . . .
On Friday, the Oil Barons hired Adam Manah as their new GM/head coach. Manah, 34, had been dismissed by the AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders on Nov. 26. He had spent the previous six seasons with the Crusaders. He was the head coach for four of those seasons and the assistant GM/head coach last season. Then he added the GM’s duties in March. Manah is familiar with Fort McMurray, having spent three seasons (2005-08) playing with the Oil Barons.
When Saskatchewan Roughriders QB Cody Fajardo met with the Regina media for one of those season-ending gabfests on Monday, Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post asked what it meant for him to be the CFL team’s quarterback. . . . Vanstone later wrote: “Fajardo broke down in front of the cameras and a room full of reporters. The words and images were summarily disseminated far and wide. Fajardo spoke of the ills of social media, and about ‘disgusting’ comments that were often made about himself, and even his family. He paused once or twice to compose himself, while ultimately delivering an impassioned two-minute response — more than a hint of what it is like to reside in the football fishbowl that is Saskatchewan.” . . . That was part of a column that Vanstone wrote in which he took dead aim at the keyboard idiots who ride a horse named Anonymous through social media. “In a supposedly enlightened age, when so much is said and written about the importance of mental health, there are nonetheless people who will simplistically suggest that Fajardo needs to ‘toughen up’ or ‘get a thicker skin’,” Vanstone wrote. “The detractors’ heads, it seems, are considerably thicker.” . . . The complete column is right here.
JUNIOR JOTTINGS: Ken Campbell of Hockey Unfiltered notes that “Tij Iginla, whose father, Jarome, was recently inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, was drafted ninth overall by the Seattle Thunderbirds in its Prospects Draft. So the son already has one over on his dad because Jarome was never drafted by a WHL team.” . . .
The Lethbridge Hurricanes used the 10th overall pick in Thursday’s draft to take F Miguel Marques, a 15-year-old from Prince George who plays at the Delta Hockey Academy. In 16 games, he has 64 points, including 27 goals. Marques signed a WHL contract on Friday and made his debut that night as the Hurricanes dropped a 3-2 OT decision against the visiting Red Deer Rebels. . . .
The Victoria Royals went into Friday’s WHL action having played in five straight OT games. They went 4-0-1 in those games. . . . Wait! There’s more. Six of the Royals’ last seven games went to extra time (4-0-2), and to go deeper, it’s seven of nine (4-0-3). . . . Last night, they went into Langley, B.C., and beat the Vancouver Giants, 4-3. This time, they didn’t need OT. . ..
F Cole Shepard, 19, played his first game with the Giants since March 7, 2020, on Friday night. Shepard had been out since undergoing hip surgery. Shepard had an assist and was plus-2 in a 4-3 loss to visiting Victoria. . . . BTW, Michael Bublé, who owns a piece of the Giants, and his family took part in the ceremonial faceoff. . . .
Nolan Maier of the Saskatoon Blades set a franchise record for goaltenders on Friday when he made his 178th career regular-season appearance in a 4-2 loss to the visiting Calgary Hitmen. Maier, who is in his fifth season with the Blades, had been tied with Braden Holtby, who made one appearance in 2005-06, then played in 51, 64 and 61 games in the next three seasons. . . .
In Regina on Friday night, F Tanner Howe, who is from Prince Albert, scored the Teddy Bear goal for the Pats, who went on to dump his hometown Raiders, 5-2. . . . Howe, who turned 16 on Nov. 28, has 17 points, including nine goals, in 21 games this season. . . .
In Portland on Friday night, the Winterhawks beat the Spokane Chiefs, 4-1. . . . The Chiefs’ next three games also will be against the Winterhawks — tonight in Portland and Dec. 17 and 18 in Spokane. The Winterhawks will interrupt the four-game series for a Tuesday night engagement with the visiting Everett Silvertips.
If you were in attendance at the Toronto Raptors’ game on Sunday against the visiting Washington Wizards, Toronto Public Health wants you to self-monitor for 10 days because you may have been exposed to COVID-19. TPH has added the event to the list of exposures on its website. . . . TPH also is telling people to get tested if they demonstrate any symptoms. . . . That warning came Friday, after Masai Ujiri, the Raptors’ vice-chairman and president, revealed on Thursday that he had tested positive. That test followed his attendance at a Giants of Africa in-person event before Sunday’s game. Some other guests have since come up positive, as well. . . . Nav Bhatia was at the Giants of Africa event, so the Raptors’ superfan wasn’t able to attend Friday’s game. He had been at every home game since the franchise entered the NBA in 1995.
JUST NOTES: As of Friday evening, the Vancouver Canucks’ change in direction had cost six men their jobs. So if you’re part of the organization at this moment how are you feeling about job security? . . . The Canucks are 3-0, all at home, under new head coach Bruce Boudreau with two of the victories coming in shootouts. They also have had some co-operation from the schedule-maker. Vancouver beat the Los Angeles Kings, 4-0, on Monday. The Kings had played in Edmonton the previous night, while the Canucks were off. On Friday, Vancouver got past Winnipeg, 4-3 in a shootout. The Canucks had enjoyed Thursday off, while the Jets were beating the Kraken in Seattle. . . . The Canucks next are scheduled to play on Sunday against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes, who are in Edmonton tonight (Saturday). . . . The best part of the World Junior Championship that is quickly approaching? It means that we’ll get to spend some time listening to hockey’s best play-by-play man — Dennis Beyak, who is TSN’s man on Winnipeg Jets’ telecasts. Hey, Sportsnet, throw a gob of money his way, toss in the personal use of a company jet, and make him your national voice. . . . Sunday’s Grey Cup game? Winnipeg Blue Bombers 26, Hamilton Tiger-Cats 18. Winnipeg LB Adam Bighill will be the best player on the field.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Here is the fifth and final piece on the WHL’s first 25 years. The five stories were written in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I have done just that over the past couple of weeks. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here, then, is Part 5 of 5. Thanks for reading along. I hope you have enjoyed these stories, and thank you for all of the positive feedback. . . .
The fifth five-year segment was easily the best of the WHL’s first 25 years.
There was success in the stands, particularly in the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States, and in Saskatoon where the Blades welcomed a new facility.
There was stability, too. Recent additions, like the Tri-City Americans and Lethbridge Hurricanes, settled in for what appeared to be long stays.
But the greatest success came on the ice where the WHL won four Memorial Cup championships during the five seasons, opening with three in a row and closing with a victory by the Spokane Chiefs.
The 1986-87 season actually started on something of a strange note. The Regina Pats signed Doug Sauter, who was under contract to the Medicine Hat Tigers, to a two-year deal as general manager/head coach. The result was that the Pats agreed to compensate the Tigers.
The compensation turned into two veteran players — defenceman Kevin Ekdahl and forward Kevin Clemens. It was the first time in WHL history that a coach had, in effect, been traded.
The Pats also welcomed back another familiar face with Dennis Sobchuk, the greatest and most-popular player in franchise history, signing on as assistant coach/assistant manager.
This was a time of great change in the front offices and behind the benches. Barry Trapp left the Moose Jaw Warriors, saying, “I wasn’t fired. It was just a mutual agreement. It was a very friendly parting.”
Medicine Hat signed Bryan Maxwell to replace Sauter, while Peter Esdale was the new coach in Spokane and Wayne Naka took over the Cougars in Victoria. In New Westminster, John Olver was the GM, with Ernie McLean the coach. Harvey Roy was out as the Bruins’ director of marketing, but he would surface in Moose Jaw as the GM and would hire Greg Kvisle to coach the Warriors. In Prince Albert, GM/head coach Terry Simpson left to coach the NHL’s New York Islanders and Rick Wilson took over.
Perhaps the biggest news in the summer of 1986 came on June 2 when the WHL announced it was doing away with round-robin playoff series in the East Division. Instead, the top two teams would get first- round byes.
In the WHL office, Richard Doerksen’s title was upgraded from executive assistant/referee-in-chief to vice-president.
There was trouble in Brandon, where the Bank of Nova Scotia called in a $77,000 demand loan, asking for payment on July 31. This resulted in the Wheat Kings’ board recommending to shareholders that the franchise be sold.
In August, shareholders voted 1,411-404 in favour of selling the Wheat Kings. Offers were received from two groups — one in Edmonton headed by Vic Mah, the other comprising Brandon businessmen Bob Cornell and Stuart Craig, and Winnipeg businessman Dave Laing.
Cornell’s group purchased the Wheat Kings for more than $300,000 and then added a unique twist to the situation by signing a 10-year working agreement with the Keystone Centre. The Keystone took over operation of the club, and hired Bill Shinske to run the front office. Shinske hired Marc Pezzin as coach.
The WHL also welcomed the Swift Current Broncos to the fold. Behind the bench was Graham James, who had recently reached an out-of-court settlement with the Warriors over a lawsuit he had started the previous year.
“If we continue to average close to 2,000, we’ll have a real successful year and we’ll show a profit of about $80,000,” Gary Bollinger, the Broncos’ vice-president and alternate governor, said. “That doesn’t include playoff revenue. We were budgeting for an average of 1,600. If we averaged that, we’d still make a bit of a profit.”
The first coaching change of the 1986-87 season took place on Dec. 8 in Seattle when Sheldon Ferguson gave up the Thunderbirds’ coaching reins, but stayed on as GM. Dan McDonald was the new head coach, with former Portland Winter Hawks star Jim Dobson as the assistant.
Disaster struck on Dec. 30 when the Broncos, en route to Regina to play the Pats, were involved in a bus accident. Four players — Scott Kruger, Trent Kresse, Brent Ruff and Chris Mantyka — were killed.
“There has never been anything more devastating that has happened to me personally,” Ed Chynoweth, the WHL president, said. “The question I keep asking myself is ‘Why?’ My heart goes out to all the parents and the people involved. I wish someone would call and say this is all a mistake.”
John Foster, the Broncos’ publicity director, said: “This team will band together and win it for those guys who died. The (survivors) were absolutely professional under stress. If the people of Swift Current could have seen them, they would have been proud.”
There was never any thought of the team not continuing. As team president John Rittinger said: “It’s up to the players and the fans now. We aren’t ready to throw in the towel.”
Defenceman Ed Brost, talking about the club’s next game, stated: “It will be difficult. To go right back out on the ice would be cheating ourselves emotionally and physically. Right now people have to remember athletes are human beings, not robots.”
Moose Jaw centre Theoren Fleury was in Czechoslovakia with Canada’s national junior team at the time of the accident.
“I just can’t believe it,” Fleury said. “I just sat on the bus all the way to practice today thinking about what’s going on with all those guys on that team right now. It just blows me away. I don’t know what to say. There’s nothing we can do about it and I think being helpless is the most frustrating thing about it.”
As if losing four players in the accident wasn’t enough, Herman Kruger, 67, suffered a fatal heart attack as he entered the church for his great-grandson’s funeral.
And later the same day, Sauter and Regina trainer Stan Szumlak came to the rescue of Keith Giles, a member of the Prince Albert executive, who was choking on some food.
Donations in memory of the players poured into the Broncos’ office and an education fund was set up in their memory. Another fund was started to raise money that would go towards the cost of replacing the bus.
On Feb. 2, a longtime veteran of the WHL’s coaching wars returned for one last fling when John Chapman replaced Wally Kozak behind the bench of the Calgary Wranglers. Chapman also was the Calgary GM.
On Feb. 15, Portland won a game in Spokane and Ken Hodge took over as the winningest coach in WHL history. His 547 victories were one more than Ernie McLean.
Tragedy struck the WHL again on March 1 when Regina centre Brad Hornung was checked into the end boards at the Agridome and suffered a broken neck.
Dr. Chris Ekong, a neurosurgeon, said Hornung suffered a burst fracture of the third cervical vertebrae and a crushed spinal cord. “Brad has no feelings in his arms and legs,” Dr. Ekong said. “He is completely paralysed from the neck down.”
Hornung would never regain the use of his arms and legs, but that didn’t stop him from going on with his life.
As the WHL completed its 25th season, Hornung was continuing with his education, taking courses at the University of Regina.
Despite the bus accident, Swift Current made the playoffs in its first season. But there wouldn’t be a Cinderella story as the Broncos dropped a best-of-five series to Prince Albert, 3-1.
April was highlighted by three coaching changes — Esdale’s contract wasn’t renewed by Spokane, Kvisle resigned in Moose Jaw and McLean stepped aside in New Westminster.
And Medicine Hat won the WHL championship. The Tigers faced elimination twice in each of their last two series, and dumped visiting Portland 7-2 in the seventh game of the championship final.
The Tigers would win their first of two consecutive Memorial Cup championships, the first under Maxwell, the second under Barry Melrose. Both came with Russ Farwell as general manager.
John Van Horlick took over as coach in New Westminster for 1987-88, with
Butch Goring the coach in Spokane. Jim Harrison was the new head coach in Moose Jaw, with Ed Staniowski his assistant. Harrison and Roy, the GM, were friends from their days in Estevan, while Staniowski was a former all-star goaltender with Regina.
And the WHL was returning to Lethbridge. The Tier One Junior Hockey Club of Lethbridge purchased the Wranglers for about $350,000 from Brian Ekstrom. The Lethbridge franchise would be called the Hurricanes, causing Lethbridge Herald columnist Pat Sullivan to wonder if the logo would be an overturned mobile home.
The sale also meant that there wouldn’t be a franchise in the city in which the WHL office was located. But the office wasn’t about to be moved.
“It was decided that it was certainly the most central location for our league,” Chynoweth said.
Going into the new season, the WHL passed a rule cracking down on checking from behind.
“We do use (NHL) rules and the NHL doesn’t have hitting from behind instituted in its rule book,” Chynoweth said, “but I predict that within two years the NHL will have the same rule.”
That is exactly what happened.
There was change in the WHL’s boardroom, too, as Portland’s Brian Shaw stepped down as chairman of the board and was replaced by Saskatoon’s Rick Brodsky.
On June 5, Swift Current celebrated its first birthday by revealing the franchise was no longer in debt.
Rittinger said: “We bought the franchise and we borrowed money to buy the franchise. So we took the season-ticket money to pay the bank loan off. The bank loan is paid off. We don’t owe the bank anything. And that’s incredible because we just got the franchise last year.”
Maxwell left Medicine Hat, joining the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach. Lethbridge named Glen Hawker as its first GM/head coach. Before the season started, Lethbridge reorganized, with Wayne Simpson taking over as GM.
On July 6, Hornung, in his first interview since being injured, told the Regina Leader-Post: “You have to accept it. Life goes on and you do the best with what you have. At first, it was a time of change, shock really, but right now, it’s actually gotten easier because you get used to the adjustments. Like everybody else, I have my good days and bad days. But I don’t have many bad days.”
Separate pregame warmups came to the WHL on Sept. 28.
With Seattle off to a 2-15-0 start, owner Earl Hale told Ferguson, the GM, to take a leave of absence. On Nov. 16, Ferguson was fired. A couple of weeks later, Hawker was fired in Lethbridge, where Blaine Galbraith took over. And on Dec. 8, Moose Jaw fired Harrison and hired Gerry James, the only person to have played in a Grey Cup game and Stanley Cup final in the same season.
On Feb. 2, Saskatoon beat Regina 7-2 before 3,308 fans in the final game at the Saskatoon Arena. Regina coach Doug Sauter, for one, was glad to see the end of the old barn: “I get screwed every time I come in here and I haven’t been kissed yet.”
One week later, on Feb. 9, Saskatoon beat Brandon 4-3 in front of 9,343 fans at Saskatchewan Place. Chynoweth announced prior to the game that the 1989 Memorial Cup would be played in Saskatoon.
On March 11, amidst rumours that the Warriors were on the verge of major financial problems, it was announced that Roy’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.
WHL attendance figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that Swift Current drew 82,080 fans to 36 home games, which was 99 per cent of capacity. Portland led in total attendance — 200,911. The league drew 1,405,874 fans, an increase of almost 80,000 over the previous season.
For the first time in league history, the scoring race ended in a dead heat.
Two centres — Fleury and Swift Current’s Joe Sakic — finished the regular season with 160 points. Sakic had 78 goals, Fleury 68. But there was nothing in the WHL bylaws to deal with the situation so the scoring race was ruled a tie.
The rumours were true — there were financial problems in Moose Jaw. The Warriors began sorting things out by separating the hockey side of things from the business side. With an accumulated debt of $234,000, Joe Celentano, a former referee with basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters, was hired as business manager.
On April 17, Medicine Hat beat visiting Saskatoon 3-0 to win its third straight East Division title. The only other team to win three consecutive East titles was the Flin Flon Bombers, beginning in 1968-69.
On May 3, the Tigers beat visiting Kamloops 5-2 to win their second straight WHL title, this one in six games.
The very next day, Bob Vranckaert, who was in the construction business in Alaska, said he would like to put an expansion franchise in Anchorage in time for the 1990-91 season. Born in Drumheller, Alta., and raised in Burnaby, B.C., Vranckaert spent more than 20 years in general commercial construction 800 miles north of Anchorage.
The WHL said it would play two exhibition and four regular-season games in Anchorage and use that, plus the 1989 world junior championship, which was to be held in Anchorage, as a barometer.
On May 8, the Pats announced that Sauter’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.
A week later, Sauter’s old team, the Tigers, beat the Windsor Spitfires 7-6 in Chicoutimi to become the sixth team in the 70-year history of the Memorial Cup to win back-to-back championships.
The board in Moose Jaw put H.J. (Toby) Tobias in charge and then resigned en masse. Tobias was empowered to chair a committee whose immediate responsibility was to carry on a fund-raising campaign aimed at erasing the club’s debt. The immediate goal was to raise $150,000.
Tobias said he would look into the team’s accounting procedures, recommend constitutional changes and appoint an auditor to present a year-end statement at the club’s annual meeting.
“To me it’s a four-stage project,” Tobias said. “Stage 1: Solve the immediate debt crisis and give us some breathing room. Step 2: Have a look at the front office and see if there are some things we can tighten up. Stage 3: Come up with a budget we can live with in years to come. Stage 4: Make sure fund-raising becomes a year-round effort.”
In mid-May, Pezzin resigned as coach in Brandon. He would be replaced by Sauter, who was reunited with Shinske. The two were old friends, going back to the Estevan and New Westminster Bruins. Sobchuk replaced Sauter in Regina.
Celentano resigned in Moose Jaw, saying: “By my staying I become just another liability, one of those accounts payable that they have to make every day, and they don’t have the money.”
On May 31, Tobias announced that the Warriors had reached their goal of $151,800. That figure covered debts accrued up until March 31. Tobias said: “The phoenix has risen from the ashes. The financial health of the club remains fragile . . . but it’s business as usual from here on in.”
Indications were that New Westminster owner Ron Dixon would move the franchise to the Tri-Cities area of Washington State. He just happened to be building an arena, the Tri-Cities Coliseum, there.
In July, Farwell and Melrose resigned in Medicine Hat. Shortly after, they signed in Seattle. Wes Phillips was named GM in Medicine Hat and hired Ron Kennedy, a former Estevan player, as coach. Before the season started, Phillips quit, citing business and family pressures, and Tim Speltz replaced him.
Peter Anholt was named head coach in Prince Albert, where Wilson quit to join the L.A. Kings as an assistant coach. Brad Tippett was the GM in Prince Albert.
The WHL arrived in Anchorage on the weekend of Sept. 24 and 25, 1988.
Kamloops and Portland played two exhibition games in Anchorage, drawing 2,100 to the first game and 1,750 the next night.
A shakeup occurred in Spokane. It started on Oct. 14 when Spokane GM Bob Strumm acquired six players while giving up four others in trades that involved three other teams. The Chiefs were 1-4-0 and had given up 33 goals in those five games.
Twelve days later, with the Chiefs 2-9-0, Strumm relieved Goring of his duties. Strumm, with a three-year contract extension that would take him through the 1991-92 season, went behind the bench, went 2-4-0 and immediately installed Gary Braun as coach.
On Nov. 11, Moose Jaw dumped Gerry James and installed Kvisle as head coach/director of hockey operations.
Three days later, Regina shook up things. Sobchuk moved from coach to GM, with Bernie Lynch moving up from assistant coach to head coach.
It was announced on Nov. 17 that Vranckaert had purchased the Victoria Cougars from Fraser McColl. Ownership actually had changed hands 10 days after the end of the season.
“Bob has been after me for a long time,” McColl said. “He wants to get into the business with a passion. And, perhaps, that’s the type of enthusiasm this team needs right now.”
On Nov. 20, the Tri-City Americans, having played their first 17 games on the road because the Coliseum wasn’t ready, opened at home with a 4-3 overtime victory over Seattle in front of a sellout crowd of 6,004.
Swift Current started the season with 12 straight victories, and went into the Christmas break at 28-5-0 and on a 10-game winning streak. Referring to the bus accident of two years previous, James said: “I think the bus accident galvanized the spirit of the community. I think that was a catalyst. Since then we’ve had to provide a product that’s been worthy of fans coming, but I think that incident certainly rallied the community.”
Added centre Tim Tisdale: “That’s all anybody in town talks about. It’s hard to believe. You go downtown and you’re eating in a restaurant and everybody at the next table is talking about the Broncos. It definitely helps your hockey.”
There was big news out of Calgary on Jan. 3, 1989, when Petr Nedved, a centre with a midget team from Litvinov, Czechoslovakia, defected after a midget tournament. His WHL rights belonged to Moose Jaw, but the Warriors would deal them to Seattle.
The season wasn’t over when Spokane owner Vic Fitzgerald said that Braun wouldn’t be returning.
On March 14, Chynoweth revealed that the WHL “had an inquiry from Terry Simpson about putting a team in Red Deer. They would have to get a new building.” A conditional franchise was sold to Simpson on Aug. 12, 1991. The Rebels would begin play in the fall of 1992.
Attendance figures compiled by The Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance was up 232,951 over 1987-88. Most of that was attributable to the first-year Americans who attracted 203,532 fans, which was 156,149 more than they drew the previous season in New Westminster.
There was a change in Seattle on April 11 when Medicine Hat businessman Bill Yuill bought the Thunderbirds from Earl Hale of Calgary.
The usual spate of front-office changes began in earnest with the news that: 1. Galbraith would not be back in Lethbridge; 2. Al Patterson, who quit in Victoria after the season ended, had signed as Tri-City’s GM; 3. Ron Byrne had signed as the GM in Victoria; 4. Sobchuk had resigned as GM in Regina; 5. Shinske had resigned in Brandon; and, 6. Tippett had quit in P.A.
Swift Current won 4-1 in Portland on April 30 to sweep the Winter Hawks in the championship final. The Broncos became the first team to sweep its way to the WHL championship — they also got past Moose Jaw and Saskatoon in four games each. The Broncos, just a season and a half after having four players killed in a bus accident, went 55-16-1, the best record in the CHL.
“This is a great accomplishment for our franchise,” James said. “But I don’t want the Memorial Cup to decide if we had a great year.”
Tisdale added: “We have the team to do it this year. If we can’t get up for four games, we don’t belong there. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win the Memorial Cup.”
On May 14, Tisdale’s goal at 3:25 of the first sudden-death overtime period gave the Broncos a 4-3 victory over Saskatoon in the final game of the Memorial Cup. The game was played in front of 9.078 fans in Saskatchewan Place and brought to an end the most successful Memorial Cup tournament ever played.
Shortly after the Memorial Cup, the changes continued: 1. Lynch found out his contract in Regina wouldn’t be renewed; 2. Rick Kozuback signed a two-year contract as coach with Tri-City; 3. Simpson returned to Prince Albert as GM/head coach; 4. Bill Hicke was named GM in Regina; 5. Tippett signed as Regina’s head coach; 5. Maxwell returned from L.A. to sign as co-coach and director of hockey operations in Spokane; 6. Braun was Spokane’s co-coach and assistant director of hockey operations; 7. Melrose left Seattle to become head coach of the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings; 8. Marcel Comeau signed a two-year deal in Saskatoon but shortly after resigned to become head coach of the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks; 9. Anholt quit in P.A. to join Seattle as head coach; 10. Rob Daum signed as assistant coach/assistant manager in P.A.; and, 11. Terry Ruskowski signed to coach the Blades.
On June 14, 1989, Moose Jaw, so close to financial ruin just one year earlier, revealed at its annual meeting that there was a paper profit of $119,722 and that the Warriors had about $40,000 in the bank.
At its annual meeting, the WHL had two major announcements. It had decided for the first time to use full-time referees. “We’re hoping it leads to more consistent, professional refereeing,” Regina governor Ted Knight said. By the time all was said and done, the WHL had hired eight full-time and four part-time referees.
The WHL also said it would no longer allow teams to list 13-year-old players. From that point on, 14-year-olds would count for two spots on a list, players 15 and older for one.
Seattle set a single-game attendance record on Oct. 7 when 12,173 fans showed up to watch the Thunderbirds edge Portland, 4-3. “We could have sold 2,000 more tickets,” Seth Landau, the club’s director of marketing and public relations, said. “We were sold out the day before the game.” The previous attendance record belonged to Portland, which had attracted capacity crowds of 10,437 to Memorial Coliseum on numerous occasions.
The first coaching change came on Oct. 15 when Naka resigned in Victoria. Lyle Moffat replaced him.
On Nov. 1, Ken Hitchcock, 36 years of age and in the neighbourhood of 400 pounds, went public with the news that he was going on a serious diet.
“There comes a time in life when it becomes a case of now or never,” said the popular coach of the Kamloops Blazers. “I look down the road four or five years from now, what do I want to be doing? If that’s what I have to do to move up the ladder, that’s what I have to do.”
Victoria made another coaching change on Nov. 13 with Garry Cunningham becoming the Cougars’ third coach of the season. Moffat stayed on as marketing director.
A lawsuit launched by Hornung was settled out of court in November. Thirteen defendants, including the WHL, were named in the suit launched in July of 1987. Details of the settlement weren’t made public.
At a WHL board of governors’ meeting on Nov. 20, the chair switched bodies again. It was a case of deja vu, with Shaw taking over from Brodsky.
On Dec. 17, Sauter was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder that strikes at the central nervous system. He would not return to coaching until late in the 1990-91 season when he finished the winter with the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins. Brandon GM Kelly McCrimmon moved in behind Brandon’s bench.
There was a player revolt in Tri-City when Dixon named Bill LaForge director of player personnel. LaForge said he had a five-year contract.
On Dec. 31, with Portland scheduled to play in Tri-City, the Americans players refused. A statement signed by 19 players read in part: “We will definitely not participate in any further games without the termination of Mr. Bill LaForge from the Americans organization.”
The players ended their holdout the next day, winning 8-4 in Portland. Dixon had contacted players earlier in the day and said LaForge would no longer have any contact with them.
Defenceman Colin Ruck later explained the Tri-City deal: “He came into the dressing room screaming and cutting guys down. To get to us, he said we had to call him Coach. He had (coach) Rick Kozuback picking up pucks during practice. That really upset us. Bill came out and ran a really brutal practice. We felt we had to do something.”
Byrne was gone as Victoria’s GM before January ended, while Cunningham was out as coach on Feb. 5. Moffat went back behind the bench. The Cougars would set a CHL record, losing 29 in a row.
On Feb. 7, Seattle centre Glen Goodall had an assist in a 5-3 victory over visiting Tri-City to break the WHL record for most points in a career. That lifted his point total to 530, one more than Craig Endean, who had played with Seattle and Regina.
Two nights later, Seattle broke the WHL single-game attendance record as 12,253 fans watched a 5-3 victory over Spokane.
Figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance totalled 1,678,651, up about 40,000 over the previous season. Tri-City, which sold out every home game, led the way with total attendance of 216,360. Saskatoon, in its first full season in Saskatchewan Place, played in front of 209,542 fans. Seattle, which finished with its best-ever record (52-17-3; the best previous was 32-28-12 in 1977-78), drew 181,211 fans, up 66,189 from a year previous.
On March 28, Chynoweth admitted that two groups had applied for an expansion franchise for Tacoma, Wash.
The Spokane franchise changed hands on April 10, with Fitzgerald selling to the Brett brothers — Bobby, George and Ken — for more than $600,000. Bob Brett wouldn’t say what they paid, other than to say it was “too much.”
The postseason changes started in April when Speltz and Kennedy learned that Medicine Hat wouldn’t renew their contracts, and Rick Hopper was named head coach/director of hockey operations in Victoria. Jack Shupe, the Tigers’ first GM/head coach in 1970-71, was the new GM in Medicine Hat. He hired Tim Bothwell as coach.
On April 29, Kamloops scored a 6-5 overtime victory in Lethbridge to win the WHL final in five games. Kamloops lost the opener and then won four straight. The Blazers struck out at the Memorial Cup, though, as the Oshawa Generals, with Eric Lindros, won it all in Hamilton.
There was much expansion talk in the WHL, resulting in this comment from Brodsky: “It’s sort of like being in love. If you have to ask yourself whether you’re in love, you’re probably not. If we’re wondering why we should expand, then maybe we’re forcing the issue a bit. If expansion is right, we’ll know it.”
Farwell left Seattle to become GM of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Anholt added the GM’s nameplate to his door, and hired assistant GM Dennis Beyak from Saskatoon. Beyak had been in Saskatoon since 1981 and was the person deemed most responsible for the success of the 1989 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon.
Simpson left Prince Albert again, this time to become an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets. Daum was promoted to replace him.
There were shockwaves in Kamloops when Hitchcock resigned after six seasons with the Blazers. He signed as an assistant coach with Philadelphia. Tom Renney replaced Hitchcock, who left with a 291-125-15 regular-season record over six seasons, his .693 winning percentage the highest of any coach in WHL history.
Leaving wasn’t easy for Hitchcock, who said: “I got cold feet a couple of times. I almost went into (GM) Bob Brown’s office and said, ‘Call the whole thing off, I don’t want to go.’ ”
On Sept. 30, Chynoweth chatted about expansion: “There are what I like to call tire-kickers in Boise, Idaho; Eugene, Oregon; and, Tacoma, Washington. The WHL is in good shape and we’re aggressive to expand by one, possibly two teams in the West Division sometime soon. We are coming off our second record-setting attendance season. We’re also proud of the fact that this is the third year in a row we aren’t opening a new site. Believe it or not, but we’re stable.”
Bruce Hamilton, a former player and scout with the Blades, headed a group of Saskatoon and Tacoma investors who were eventually granted a franchise for Tacoma to start with the 1991-92 season.
On Oct. 30, with the 1990-91 season one month old, one night before Halloween, James went wild in Swift Current. Upset with referee Kevin Muench after the Broncos turned a 7-3 second-period lead into a 9-8 loss to visiting Medicine Hat, James went on to the ice in pursuit of Muench, then returned to the bench and threw sticks and water bottles onto the ice. James then removed his jacket, tie, shirt and one shoe and threw them onto the ice before his players escorted him to the dressing room.
Bothwell summed it up: “All I can say is, ‘Wow.’ I don’t know what words can describe what happened out there, from a lot of different aspects.”
James was suspended for six games and fined $2,000. “At least they didn’t ask me for the shirt off my back,” he said. The incident would show up on video on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and the David Letterman Show among others.
There was some silliness in Spokane, too. On Dec. 6, with Tri-City visiting Spokane, Maxwell and Americans assistant Gerry Johannson got into it after first period.
Here’s Maxwell: “He was waiting for me. He was yapping at me. He challenged me and I accepted the challenge.” Maxwell was said to have out-punched his opponent, 4-0.
Here’s Johansson: “He throws punches like marshmallows.”
Maxwell was suspended for three games and fined $500. Johansson got hit for $1,000 and four games.
Remember that $1 parking fee in Regina? Well, on Dec. 17, Regina Exhibition Park announced it was doubling it to $2. “I don’t think our fans will take very kindly to it if it does happen,” said co-owner/GM Bill Hicke. “If that’s the case it’ll drive another nail in the coffin.”
The Pats’ lease would expire after the 1990-91 season and Hicke had already made at least one trip into the Pacific Northwest to scout buildings.
A change in Prince Albert had Dale Engel move in as GM, with Rob Daum giving up that title but staying on as coach. It was no surprise when Daum left P.A. for Swift Current at season’s end.
On Feb. 4, Saskatoon fired head coach Terry Ruskowski, replacing him with former Blades defenceman Bob Hoffmeyer.
On March 17, Seattle was awarded the 1992 Memorial Cup.
The Leader-Post’s attendance figures showed that Tri-City, with 36 sellouts, again topped the WHL with 216,360 fans. Seattle was next at 215,248, up 34,037 from the season previous. But overall attendance was down 22,861 to 1,655,790.
On April 17, Marcel Comeau was named the first head coach of the Tacoma Rockets. Hamilton would be the GM, with Lorne Frey, most recently with Swift Current, as director of player personnel.
Spokane scored a 7-2 victory over home-town Lethbridge to sweep the WHL final. The Chiefs would go on to win the Memorial Cup, with goaltender Trevor Kidd and right-winger Pat Falloon wrapping up dream seasons. Both played for the Canadian junior team that won the gold medal in Saskatoon.
One thing more than any other summed up the WHL as it headed into its second 25 years. When the 1991-92 season opened, the league not only had the same 14 teams for the fourth consecutive season, but it had welcomed the Tacoma Rockets to the fold.
F Connor Bedard, who turned 15 on July 17, is expected to play for the Regina Pats when/if a WHL season gets started in January. In the meantime, he’s playing for HV71, which is based in Jönköping, in Sweden’s U-20 league. Bedard played his first game in Sweden on Wednesday, going pointless in a 2-1 loss to Färjestad. . . .
Dave Struch, the Pats’ head coach and assistant general manager, told Taking Note that they released Bedard to HV71 “with the understanding that he will be back to us when we get going.”
The WHL has said it will open its regular season on Jan. 8.
“We have been in regular communication with Connor, his agent (Newport Sports Management) and HV71,” Struch said. “We have built a good relationship that we hope will benefit Connor’s development.”
Bedard was granted exceptional status that allows him to play regularly with the Pats at 15 years of age. He is the first WHL player to be given such status. Following that declaration, the Pats selected him with the first overall pick of the 2020 bantam draft, then signed him to a contract.
The break in the WHL schedule couldn’t have come at a better time for at least one head coach. Mitch Love of the Saskatoon Blades is about 14 weeks removed from having a hip replaced. “The hip is coming along. Sure glad I did it this offseason,” Love, 36, told Taking Note on Wednesday night. Love, who is preparing for his third season as the Blades’ head coach, has been on skates once since the surgery. But, as he said, “I’ll be active on it soon enough.” . . . Love also is an assistant coach with Canada’s national junior team, as is Michael Dyck, the head coach of the Vancouver Giants. André Tourigny, the head coach of the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, is Canada’s head coach.
Dennis Beyak says it will be great to get back to work.
Beyak, one of TSN’s hockey play-by-play voices, will be spending part of December and January in an Edmonton bubble working the 2021 World Junior Championship.
The fun gets underway on Dec. 20 as TSN televises two exhibition games to kickoff a 10-game pre-tournament schedule. That will include a pair of Canadian games — versus Sweden on Dec. 21 and Russia on Dec. 23 — and two featuring Team USA — vs. Switzerland on Dec. 20 and Finland on Dec. 22.
The 10-team tournament starts for real on Dec. 25, one day earlier than it normally would. This is because all games will be played on the same ice surface ice surface. In order to accomplish, the schedule includes four days with three games each and two with four, including Jan. 2 when all four quarterfinals will be featured.
Canada opens on Dec. 26 against Germany, then meets Slovakia on Dec. 27, Switzerland on Dec. 29 and Finland on Dec. 31.
There aren’t any games scheduled for New Year’s Day, with quarterfinals on Jan. 2 and semifinals on Jan. 3. The third-place game is on Jan. 5 at 2:30 p.m. PT (5:30 p.m. ET) with the championship game to follow at 6:30 p.m. PT (9:30 p.m. ET). Yes, the good folks in the east will have to stay up past their bedtime to see the title decided.
Beyak and Gord Miller, as usual, will handle play-by-play duties. Miller, of course, gets lots of exposure, but Beyak, who is the TV voice of the Winnipeg Jets, is one of hockey’s best play-by-play secrets. Beyak did 60 TV games for the Jets last season; he hasn’t worked since March 12 when the Jets beat the host Edmonton Oilers, 4-2.
BTW, if you’re a veteran WHL follower you may remember Beyak as the play-by-play voice of the Flin Flon Bombers and later the Saskatoon Blades and Victoria Cougars. He also worked as the Blades’ assistant general manager and even did stints as the general manager of the Seattle Thunderbirds and Tri-City Americans.
F Keegan Kolesar played four seasons (2013-17) with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds, and now is with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. In fact, he was with them in the Edmonton bubble as they skated in the NHL playoffs, and he signed a one-year, two-way contract earlier this week. . . . But while Kolesar was with the Golden Knights, his father, Charles Peterson, died after a battle with the coronavirus. A former pro baseball player who had turned to scouting, he was 46. . . . Carter Brooks of fullpresshockey.com has that story right here.
The BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild will scrimmage twice in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, this week, on Thursday and Friday, and then again on Nov. 6 and 7, and Nov. 13 and 14. At the moment, at least eight WHLers are scheduled to participate — F Bear Hughes and F Erik Atchison of the Spokane Chiefs; F Mekai Sanders of the Seattle Thunderbirds; G James Porter Jr., who has played with the Kelowna Rockets and Spokane; D Luke Gallagher, who played with the Chiefs but is ticketed to the Wild this season; F Jack Lambert, who played four games with the Everett Silvertips last season; F Sal Collora, who got into five games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes last season; and Everett G Braden Holt. . . . The Wild are taking their show to Idaho for scrimmages because Washington state health regulations at the moment don’t allow 5-on-5 games with contact.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
Lethbridge now has 147 active cases of COVID-19 with 44 on the west side, 56 on the north side and 47 on the south side. #YQLhttps://t.co/XTISd4N4yk
Global News: For the first time, B.C. has recorded more than 200 cases of COVID-19 in a single day.
CBC News: Alberta broke two COVID-19 records on Wednesday, for the most new cases in a single day, 406, and for the most active cases.
CBC Saskatchewan: COVID-19 in Sask: 57 new cases reported Wednesday, 3rd largest daily bump of pandemic.
CBC News: Manitoba posts 3rd-highest daily increase in COVID-19 cases, with 135 on Wednesday.
KOMO News: The Washington State Department of Health reported 720 new COVID-19 cases, 25 additional hospitalizations and four more deaths due to the virus.
KOIN News: Oregon reports 331 new COVID cases, 2 deaths.
The school board in Kennewick, Wash., the home of the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, voted 3-2 on Wednesday to delay the start of middle and high school in-person learning until Feb. 2. The original plan was to have had hybrid learning — a mix of online and in class — begin on Nov. 2. The school district has had 16 positives since Aug. 26. . . .
The Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) has cancelled all of its winter championships. From a news release: “The decision was made in response to the sport restrictions that are in place across the country, the variety of provincial health restrictions CCAA hosts were facing and the limitations effecting travel of teams across the country.” . . . The decision impacts badminton, men’s and women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s basketball. . . . The curling championships were cancelled in September, while the CCAA cancelled golf, men’s and women’s soccer and cross-country in June. . . .
Michigan health officials have issued a “stay-at-home” order for the U of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus. This order comes after the county in which the school is located experienced hundreds of new cases, including on campus, and contact tracing showed that students are ignoring restrictions. . . . So the students have been told to leave the campus or stay in residence unless they have an essential reason to go outside. . . . You won’t be surprised to learn that none of this applies to the Wolverines football team. . . . As Dustin Foote of Deadspin wrote: “If there is any silver lining to college sports in a pandemic, it’s that COVID-19 has revealed the rot of amateurism. There are different rules for ‘amateur’ athletes who generate money for the university versus the majority of students who do not.” . . . The Big Ten is to return to football action this weekend, and the Wolverines are to play at Minnesota on Saturday night.
JUST NOTES: Cameron Hope, who was the general manager of the WHL’s Victoria Royals for eight seasons (2012-20), has joined BC Hockey as its new chief executive officer. He replaces Barry Petrachenko, who, after 20 years with BC Hockey, was dismissed in April. . . . Enrico Ciccone, an enforcer in his hockey-playing days, now is a Liberal MNA in the Montreal riding of Marquette. As the opposition critic for sports, recreation and healthy lifestyles, he has presented a bill calling for the prohibition of fighting in sports, including hockey, for those under the age of 18. “Of course some people will say ‘look at this guy, he’s a hypocrite. He made a bunch of money and now he wants to change things,’ ” Ciccone told the Montreal Gazette’s Herb Zurkowsky. “Of course I do. And I’m probably the best guy to do it. I’ll raise that flag for the safety of our kids, any time of the day. I don’t care.” Zurkowsky’s story is right here.
In 1991, Andre Dawson was called out looking by Cowboy Joe West and then ejected for arguing the call. He was fined $500 by the National League and paid it via check with the memo line filled out “Donation for the blind.” True story. I love Andre Dawson. pic.twitter.com/ngGRCYHYDO
If you are Canadian and a sports fan, I hope you took advantage of the opportunity to watch RB Chuba Hubbard and his Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Texas Bowl on Friday. Hubbard, who is from Sherwood Park, Alta., ran for 149 yards as the Cowboys lost, 24-21, to the Texas A&M Aggies. He finished with 2,094 yards rushing this season, the 18th-best total in NCAA history. He also is just the 32nd player in FBS history to run for at least 2,000 yards in a season. Among those who were quick to offer congratulations to Hubbard, a first-team All-American and Big 12 offensive player of the year, was former NFL great Barry Sanders, who also played at OSU. . . . Hubbard, who completed his sophomore year, has yet to announce whether he will enter the 2020 NFL draft. . . . Oh, he also is the first player in Big 12 history to have 12 100-yard rushing games in a season.
The NCAA football semifinals are to be played today (Saturday); the final is scheduled for Jan. 13. Of the 16 days between dates, Janice Hough, who can be found at LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, notes: “Players have so much time off they might even have to go to class.”
If you happen to be in the Kamloops area between now and Jan. 5, you really should consider stopping by the BC Wildlife Park and partaking in its 22nd annual Wildlights Festival. . . . It runs through Jan. 5, with the doors opening at 5 p.m., and the last admission at 8:30. . . . It includes thousands and thousands of lights, and you will want to ride the Wildlife Express miniature train. . . . More info is available right here.
Dwight Perry, in the Seattle Times: “Hear about the New York fan who found a magic lamp last summer and got his greatest wish for the Knicks granted? Well, sort of. Guess he should’ve told the genie something besides ‘we want to be neck-and-neck with the Warriors next season.’ ”
Earlier this month, Perry marked the 20th anniversary of his writing Sideline Chatter for the Times. He calculated that he has produced almost 3,900 episodes. Great stuff!
Myles Mattila, the founder of MindRight for Athletes Society, continues to do some amazing work when it comes to athletes and their mental health. These days, Mattila, 20, plays for the junior B Kelowna Chiefs of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League while studying business at Okanagan College. The other day, MindRight and HeadCheck Health announced a partnership aimed at advancing “athlete health and wellness by making MindRight’s resources and peer-to-peer support available through HeadCheck’s mobile app and web-based software platform.” . . . “I believe we have helpful resources available for youth and need to support them to get help if they need it,” Mattila said in a news release. . . . For more on the partnership, click right here.
🎅🏻It’s back! Versions 1 and 2 were put to bed three years ago. But I now give you an updated: A Scout’s Night Before Christmas, Version 3.0 – Cheers, enjoy and hope it gives you a laugh🏒🥅 Merry Christmas to all! pic.twitter.com/U4TCexXXiA
Update: Canada officially confirms it is laughing at Donald Trump. Deeply. Loudly. Coast to coast. Young, old, black, white, Christian, Muslim, we are – as one – gasping for breath, tears coming out of our eyes, rolling on the floor, begging for it to stop. Home Alone 2?😂😂😂😂
You gotta admit… Trump raging about his scene in HomeAlone 2 being cut from Canadian TV broadcast, blaming it on Trudeau – saying it’s revenge for the new NAFTA deal (when the scene was part of 8 mins cut out in 2014 to meet broadcast time) is a pretty bang-on way to end 2019.
I used to work with a sports columnist who often referred to the Excited States of America. After all the nonsense of Thursday, when Trump and Co. went berserk over CBC-TV having edited him out of that classic movie Home Alone 2, I’m thinking the late Bob Hughes was ahead of his time. . . . I mean, sheesh, at what point does the so-called base realize that the rest of the world is laughing at them and not with them? . . . Do they even get Home Alone 2 in Russia?
The scene was edited out back in 2014 along with 7 minutes of footage to make room for commercials.
Dept. of pet peeves: There isn’t any such thing as “first annual.” . . . The first one is the “inaugural tournament.” . . . The second one is the “second annual.”
You may have heard that the Jacksonville Jaguars have fired Tom Coughlin, their vice-president of football operations whose management style seems to involve having everyone under one of this thumbs. As old friend Jack Finarelli (sportscurmudgeon.com) points out: “Anyone who thinks Coughlin is overbearing likely would curl up into the fetal position if they had to live under Vince Lombardi.”
CLEANING UP: If you’re a fan of the Edmonton Oilers, do you have that sinking feeling yet again? . . . ICYMI, hockey vagabond Troy Mick’s next stop will be in Philadelphia where he will be the general manager of the Philadelphia Hockey Club’s junior A program and head coach of the U-16 teams. Mick, who was spotted playing shinny at Silver Star Mountain near Vernon, B.C., on Friday, is a former WHL player and coach. He is to start work in Philly in January. . . . F Matt Savoie, 15, played in his 11th game of the season with the Winnipeg Ice on Friday night in Brandon. When will the WHL get around to announcing that its rosters now are open to 15-year-olds as full-time players? . . .
The best part of the World Junior Championship is listening to Dennis Beyak handle play-by-play of some games. I hope fans of the Winnipeg Jets realize how fortunate they are to hear him on a regular basis. . . . You are a real WHL fan if you are able to remember when Beyak was the general manager of the Seattle Thunderbirds and Tri-City Americans. You also are old. . . . Might the Memorial Cup-host Kelowna Rockets trade for a veteran goaltender between now and the WHL’s trade deadline of Jan. 10? . . . Have to think Kelowna’s Memorial Cup-organizing committee is hoping for the Kamloops Blazers to win the WHL title, if the Rockets don’t, that is. . . . The worst part of Christmas? Knowing that family is coming for a few days, the time moves so slowly before the arrival. A few days later, you awaken and realize it’s all over. Where did those four days go?