More allegations of abuse in junior hockey . . . Lawyer busy adding players to lawsuit . . . Former NHLer likely to join


A spokesperson with the WHL has told TSN that it would open an investigation after a former player alleged “he was a victim of sexual and physical abuse” during stints with two teams.

According to TSN’s Rick Westhead, the player sent an email of his complaints to the WHL and copied the email to TSN.

In the email, the player wrote:

“The abuse transformed me from a driven, happy, engaged young man and a solid NHL hockey prospect into a black mass of anger, untrust of people, self-isolation and alcohol abuse. The recent CHL allegations of abuse triggered anger in me and brought forward flashbacks and anguish.”

The player went into the brutish details of the complaints in the email, all of which is in Westhead’s story that is right here.

At one point, Westhead writes: “The complainant confirmed the identities of the alleged assailants to TSN. Several have prominent roles in the hockey industry.”


The WHL has had at least one opportunity in years gone by to deal with a player who has said he was humiliated and “physically assaulted” during his WHL career.

In the book Sudden Death: The Incredible Saga of the 1986 Swift Current Broncos, which was published in 2012, Peter Soberlak described some of what happened to him during his first WHL season with his hometown Kamloops Blazers.

“It was really horrible,” Soberlak, who was 16 at the time, said. “In a lot of cases, I feared going on the bus, feared going on road trips . . . just because of the humiliation and constant verbal abuse. . . .

“What I went through in Kamloops destroyed my confidence. I can deal with that now, but it was just horrific for me. It sucked the life out of me. . . . I was physically assaulted.

“You think I have not suffered — have not had repercussions from what I went through there — serious, absolutely long-term, continuous major repercussions of what happened to me in that situation. I guarantee you I have.”

Seen by some observers as the best player in his age group in Canada at one time, Soberlak was out of the game at 23.

“That’s the only thing I am bitter about in my hockey career,” he said. “My first year in Kamloops . . . it was the worst year of my life.”

Soberlak, now 51, has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, with a minor in sociology, from the University of British Columbia and a Master’s Degree in sport and exercise psychology from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. He is a lecturer and works with the athletic department and its teams at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.

No one from the WHL has ever contacted him about his allegations in the book of which I was a co-author.


James Sayce, the lawyer working with Daniel Carcillo and Garrett Taylor on their class-action lawsuit against the CHL, has told Ken Campbell of The Hockey News “a lot” of players have joined the lawsuit since it first was filed. . . . Campbell writes: “If the people who run junior hockey in Canada were taken aback by this lawsuit, shame on them. They should have seen this coming because it’s not as though the warning signs were not there. In fact, in filing a lawsuit against the CHL, both Carcillo and Taylor were simply putting on the legal record things they’ve been saying for years now. Carcillo went public with the humiliation he suffered during his rookie season with the Sarnia Sting in 2002-03 two years ago.” . . . Campbell’s latest column is right here.


Dan Fritsche, a former NHLer, says he likely will be joining the class-action lawsuit filed by Daniel Carcillo and Garrett Taylor against the CHL and the three major junior leagues that operate under its umbrella. The lawsuit alleges “hazing, bullying, physical and verbal harassment, physical assault, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.” . . . Fritsche was a rookie on the 2002-03 Sarnia Sting of the OHL, as was Carcillo. . . . “There’s nothing I’ve read that isn’t true,” Fritsche told Aaron Portzline of The Athletic. “I was in that toxic atmosphere. I had to go through all of that rookie shit, all the disgusting things they would make us do. It was so awful, and people knew about it who absolutely could have stopped it. They’d put us in the (charter bus) bathroom, butt-ass naked, six to eight of us (rookies) for 45 minutes as we’re coming home from a road trip. They’d throw a coin in there to make us fight over it, naked, and whoever came up with it got to get out first. Stuff like that, just over and over.” . . . If you are an Athletic subscriber, Portzline’s complete story is right here.




An undisclosed number of Minnesota Twins players have tested positive, although none were at the team’s home park, Target Field, or its spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla. . . . Derek Falvey, the president of baseball operations, told Fox 9 Sports: “We have players in many different locations. I don’t think this is necessarily a surprise that we may have some positive cases.” . . .

ESPN reported that the NFL has cancelled its Hall of Fame game that was to have featured the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 6. . . . It also is believed that the NFL will delay its induction ceremonies that were to have been held on Aug. 8. . . .

The NBA’s Sacramento Kings have at least three players on their roster who have tested positive — F Jabari Parker, C Alex Len and G Buddy Hield. . . . Sara Hodge of CBS Sacramento has reported that a fourth unidentified player also has tested positive. . . .

Orenburg, a team in Russia’s top soccer league, reported Thursday that it has six players and two staff members who have tested positive. . . . The Russian Premier League returned to play last week. . . . Apparently, Orenburg’s entire team tested negative as recently as Sunday. . . .

The seven-team Canadian Elite Basketball League, which was to have started its season early in May, is planning on opening a month-long tournament without fans in St. Catharines, Ont., on July 15. A single-elimination playoff will end with a championship game on Aug. 9. . . . Devin Heroux of CBC reports: “All seven teams will stay in a bubble-like setting in St. Catharines, playing games at the Meridian Centre and practising at a nearby facility. League officials said players, coaches and personnel will be separated from the general public and strict screening and COVID-19 protocols will be adhered to under the supervision of medical officials.”



Eric Ditto is returning for his seventh season on the coaching staff of the junior B Delisle Chiefs of the Prairie Junior Hockey League. Ditto is preparing for his sixth full season as head coach and his second as general manager. . . . Anthony Radke will be back for a second season as an assistant coach. . . . Ryan Pilon is the other assistant coach. He joined the Chiefs during last season after serving as an assistant coach with the Beardy’s Blackhawks U18 AAA team.


The RINK Hockey Corp., owner of the Rink Hockey Academy, has bought the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy (POE) and Edge of Excellence (EOE) in a deal that is to close on July 1. The sale is subject to the approval of BC Hockey and the Canadian Sport School Hockey League. . . . There is more right here.


Royals make change at top . . . Number of leagues are looking for financial help . . . Coaching award to McGuigan

The Victoria Royals fired Cam Hope, their president and general manager, on Wednesday. He had been with the Royals through eight seasons. . . . The Royals are VictoriaRoyalsowned by GSL Group, which is based in Vancouver. Graham Lee is GSL Group’s CEO and president. . . . “We would like to thank Cameron for contributions and for guiding our franchise,” Lee said in a three-paragraph news release announcing the decision. “The COVID-19 crisis has given us the time to reassess our organization and to set a new direction. We are committed to finding strong leadership that will help the Royals reach their full potential both on-and-off the ice.” . . . The news release’s third paragraph dealt with ticket-related info. . . . A lawyer, Hope, who is from Edmonton, had been with the NHL’s New York Rangers for seven seasons, first as vice-president of hockey operations and then as assistant general manager, when he signed with the Royals in time for the 2012-13 season. . . . The Royals qualified for the playoffs in each of Hope’s first seven seasons, and won five first-round series. However, they weren’t able to get past the second round. . . . In 2019-20, his eighth season in Victoria, the Royals were second in the B.C. Division, at 32-24-8, when the season was halted. . . . Interestingly, Victoria head coach Dan Price signed what the team said was a “multi-year contract extension” on Dec. 17. It is believed that contract runs through the 2021-22 season. . . . You are free to wonder if former Kamloops Blazers general manager Stu MacGregor is a candidate to replace Hope. MacGregor was fired by the Blazers after the 2018-19 season, his third with them after a lengthy career as an NHL amateur scout. Prior to last season, MacGregor joined the Royals as their senior regional scout for Western Canada.


Lettuce


In speaking about the late Jack Bowkus, F Rocco Grimaldi of the Nashville Predators told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that “California hockey is where it is today because of him.” . . . Bowkus, a former WHLer, died on March 28. He was 53 when he lost his two-year battle with cancer. . . . Bowkus played four seasons (1984-88) with the Saskatoon Blades. . . . Friedman’s latest 31 Thoughts is right here and it includes more on Grimaldi’s relationship with Bowkus.


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from A.J. Leibling: “The function of the press in society is to inform, but its role in society is to make money.”


The lineup of sports organizations looking to the federal government to help them get through the pandemic continues to grow. . . . On Wednesday, soccer’s Canadian Premier League and the Canadian Elite Basketball League both confirmed that they have requested financial help from the feds. . . . Devin Heroux of CBC Sports reported that the eight-team CPL has asked for $15 million in short-term financing, with the seven-team CEBL having asked for a loan of $5 million. . . . The CPL’s second season was scheduled to start on April 11, but has been postponed indefinitely. . . . The CEBL had been scheduled to begin play in May, but is on hold indefinitely. . . . At the same time, the CFL is hoping to get as much as $150 million, and would like to see $30 million of that ASAP. . . . As well, at least two B.C.-based junior hockey leagues, the junior A BCHL and the junior B KIJHL, are asking for help. . . . Heroux’s story is right here.


Lincoln


“As if all the other shutdowns weren’t enough, now they’re telling us there won’t be a Scripps National Spelling Bee this year,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “There are no words . . .”



The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., has cancelled its 2020 induction weekend that had been scheduled for July 26. This year’s class of inductees, including Canada’s own Larry Walker, now will be inducted on July 25, 2021. . . . Also in this year’s class are Derek Jeter, former catcher Ted Simmons and the late Marvin Miller, the long-time leader of the Major League Baseball Players Association. . . .

Baseball’s 15-team Coastal Plain League said Wednesday that it plans to open its 2020 season on July 1 with fans in attendance. The CPL is a wood-bat collegiate summer league with teams in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. . . .

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, has said the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Summer Games won’t go ahead unless the coronavirus is “contained.” At the same time, Yoshiro Mori, the president of Tokyo 2020, said if that happens, the Games will be cancelled and not postponed. . . . The Japanese Medical Association is on record as saying that if there isn’t a vaccine available the Games shouldn’t go ahead. . . .


Parachute


The Toronto Blue Jays have won two in a row and are 13-18 in the AL East after Wednesday’s games in Strat-O-Matic’s simulated MLB season. The Jays beat the visiting Boston Red Sox, 6-4, yesterday. . . . Toronto is last in the AL East, 7.5 games behind the first-place Tampa Bay Rays (21-11), who are half-a-game up on the New York Yankees (20-11). . . . The other division leaders — Minnesota (19-12), Houston (19-11), Washington (19-10), Chicago Cubs (20-11) and Los Angeles Dodgers (.633). . . . Check out all the stats right here.


Billy McGuigan, the head coach of the junior A Summerside Western Capitals of the Maritime Hockey League, is the recipient of the Darcy Haugan/Mark Cross Memorial Award for 2019-20. The award is presented annually to the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s coach of the year. It is in memory of Haugan and Cross, the head coach and an assistant coach who were among those killed in the crash involving the Humboldt Broncos’ bus on April 6, 2018. . . . McGuigan spent one season (2013-14) as an assistant coach with the Regina Pats. . . . There is a news release right here.


The OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs have fired head coach Kurtis Foster after two seasons on the job. Foster, a veteran of 15 NHL seasons as a player, was an assistant coach in Kingston for one season before moving up as head coach. . . . The rebuilding club went 14-52-2 in Foster’s first season, then was 19-39-4 last season.


BassBoat

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while contemplating the Blue Bombers’ victory and the end of the Legend of Shorts Guy . . .

Scattershooting

A Manitoban by birth, I quite enjoyed watching the Winnipeg Blue Bombers win the Grey Cup on Sunday, beating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 33-12, in Calgary. . . . I was most thrilled for Richie Hall, the Bombers’ defensive co-ordinator. There was a time during the season when you might have thought his first name was Much-Maligned. You won’t find a nicer person in all of football, indeed, in all of the sporting world. Yes, this victory looks good on him.

There might be a lesson for a whole lot of sporting fans in the following two tweets . . .


You know it’s the Grey Cup when a guy who hasn’t worn pants, only shorts, for 18 years becomes a big story. It was a story during the week, and it was a bigger story after the game when, yes, he put on a pair of pants.


In light of Don Cherry’s firing by Rogers Sportsnet, you may have been wondering whether the 17 Canadian WHL teams will continue with the third annual promotion that goes by the name RE/MAX Presents: WHL Suits Up with Don Cherry to Promote Organ Donation. . . . Chris Young of The Canadian Press asked the WHL about it on Thursday. He got this email response: “At this time, we continue to review this matter with the stakeholders involved (sponsor, charity, member clubs). We will provide a further update when we are able.” . . . To date, it’s been crickets from the Kidney Foundation of Canada and RE/MAX.

It is hard to comprehend how the WHL will be able to maintain the status quo considering why Cherry was fired and that the league has this statement on its website:

“The WHL is committed to remaining a world leader in the development of players, coaches and officials for the NHL, U Sports and Hockey Canada while continuing to offer the finest player experience and academic opportunities. The WHL also continues to be recognized for a high standard of competition, fair play and integrity while playing an active role in communities, minor hockey programs and local charitable initiatives throughout the region.”

In the first two years of the promotion, the Kidney Foundation has benefitted by more than $460,000. However, the foundation and RE/MAX also should have acted a whole lot quicker than this to sever ties with Cherry.

I know it’s not that easy, not with thousands of Don Cherry/Ron MacLean bobbleheads sitting in a warehouse somewhere and all of those jerseys being produced for the teams to sell at auction. But you can’t continue to talk about inclusivity and diversity and be involved in something like this.

It pains me to write this because of the volunteer work we do in the Kamloops kidney community, but the time has come for all involved to go in a different direction.



A report from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “In the latest MLB cheating update, now there’s reports that Houston players wore realistic-looking electronic bandages that buzzed in real time to relay signs stolen from the opposing catcher. Astros GM Maxwell Smart declined comment.”


The Edmonton Oilers had more than a few fans in Vegas on Saturday night where they dumped the Golden Knights, 4-2. By the look of things, some of those fans went home with some money in their jeans.


Here’s Larry Brooks in the New York Post: “Through Friday, 17 of the NHL’s 31 teams had won nine, 10 or 11 games. While 26 — 26! — teams somehow could claim records of .500 or better. That’s parity, folks, only it is spelled P-A-R-O-D-Y.” . . . There’s more, including Brooks’s thoughts on the Mike Babcock firing, right here.

——

What’s that? You’re wondering about the WHL? Well, including Sunday’s games, nine of the 22 teams had won 11, 12 or 13 games. At the same time, 15 teams somehow could claim records of .500 or better.


There has been a lot of chatter the last while as to just how inclusive hockey is (or isn’t). In the middle of all this, the Saskatchewan Hockey Association has told the midget AA and midget AAA programs at Beardy’s and Okemasis Cree Nation that they are done after this season. . . . Alex MacPherson of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix writes right here about the decision, and there is more right here.


Why do we like Patti Dawn Swansson’s musings in these parts? Well, it might have something to do with the River City Renegade’s snark. And, well, she definitely took the snark pills before penning, er, tossing darts in her latest piece, which is right here. If you haven’t already, try it; you’ll like it.



JUST NOTES: You’re wondering: What happened to Mike Babcock with the Toronto Maple Leafs? In short, someone hired an old school head coach then chose to bring in a new school general manager. In the end, the new guy won the battle and in the world of pro sports that isn’t a surprise. Just don’t expect Babcock to surface in Seattle, the expansion franchise having made a huge commitment to the world of analytics. . . . Would someone please get a charger for that woman on the bus. Thank you. . . . F Hendrix Lapierre of the QMJHL’s Chicoutimi Sagueneens suffered his second concussion of this season — and his third in eight months — on Thursday when he absorbed an open-ice hit. Lapierre, who had two goals and 15 assists in 19 games when he was injured, has been projected as a first-round selection in the NHL’s 2020 draft.