Ice situation should be addressed today; news conference scheduled for Cranbrook . . . Brandon adds goalie, forward


MacBeth

F Dominic Zwerger (Spokane, Everett, 2013-17) signed a contract extension with Ambrì-Piotta (Switzerland, NL A) through the 2021-22 season. The contract extension has an NHL exit clause after the 2020-21 season. This season, an alternate captain, he has 16 goals and 20 assists in 38 games.


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Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, and the owners of the Kootenay Ice are to address the media in Cranbrook this morning at 10:30.

The news conference, which will include Ice owners Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell, is to be held at the team’s office in Western Financial Place.

At the same time, the Winnipeg Free Press has reported that the Ice’s owners “have Kootenaynewscheduled a Tuesday afternoon news conference to announce they are moving their franchise to Winnipeg after the 2018-19 season . . .”

The Free Press didn’t indicate a time or a site for that news conference, but Tuesday is expected to be the coldest day of this winter in Winnipeg, with a high of -29 C.

The news conferences are being held on Day 41 of the Kootenay Kountdown — it has been 41 days since Robison appeared with Dean Millard on Edmonton radio station TSN 1260 and said there would be an announcement regarding the Ice “very soon.”

The Ice, at 10-32-8, has the WHL’s second-poorest record and won’t be in the playoffs for a second straight season under the ownership of Fettes and Cockell, who purchased the franchise from the Chynoweth family prior to the 2017-18 season. This will be the fifth straight season out of the playoffs for the Ice.

Last season, the Ice finished 27-38-7, missing a playoff spot by 16 points.

The Ice began life in 1996 as the Edmonton Ice, but left the Alberta capital for Cranbrook after two seasons. In its 21 seasons in Cranbrook, the Ice won three WHL championships (2011, 2002, 2000) and one Memorial Cup, that in 2002.

The Ice will be first franchise to have won a Memorial Cup to relocate since the QMJHL’s Granby Predateurs. They won the 1996 Memorial Cup and moved to Sydney, N.S., in 1997 where they now are the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.

The last WHL relocation occurred following the 2010-11 season when the Chilliwack Bruins moved to Victoria where they now operate as the Royals.

This season, the Ice has the lowest announced average attendance in the 22-team WHL, at 2,218. The Ice has nine home games remaining, starting Friday against the Swift Current Broncos, the only team in the WHL with a poorer record.

Last season, the average for 36 home games was 2,442, up from 1,754 in 2016-17, the final season under the ownership of the Chynoweth family.

The Ice has been playing in 4,264-seat Western Financial Place, which opened in 2001. In its first two seasons in Cranbrook, the Ice played in that city’s Memorial Arena.

In its first season in the new arena, the Ice’s announced average attendance was 3,635, which remains the single-season high.

That was one of seven seasons in which that figure was north of 3,000, somewhere it hasn’t been since 2008-09 (3,071).

The relocated Ice is expected to spend a couple of seasons playing in the 1,400-seat Wayne Fleming Arena at the U of Manitoba while it waits for its permanent home to be built. It is expected that some work will be done to freshen up that facility and that some seats will be added.

If you click right here and scroll down to the last two photos, you will see a couple of pictures from the interior of the Wayne Fleming Arena as it now stands.

The expected relocation announcement comes just days before WHL governors and general managers travel to Las Vegas, as they do every year on Super Bowl weekend, for meetings on Monday and Tuesday.

It’s too bad that they couldn’t have moved those meetings to Cranbrook this time . . . you know, just to thank the businesses and fans of the area for 21 seasons of support.


With G Jiri Patera (leg) on the shelf, the Brandon Wheat Kings have added G Connor BrandonWKregularUngar, who turned 17 on Jan. 12, to their roster. He had been with the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers. . . . Ungar will back up freshman Ethan Kruger, who is 5-6-2, 3.45, .893. . . . Ungar, who began the season with the Northern Alberta X-Treme prep team, made two earlier appearances with the Wheat Kings, going 0-1-0, 3.09, .892 in 78 minutes. . . . The Wheat Kings open a four-game trip into the Central Division tonight in Edmonton against the Oil Kings. . . .

The Wheat Kings also have added F Jake Chiasson, 15, to their roster. He has been playing at the Yale Hockey Academy in his hometown of Abbotsford, B.C. Chiasson was the 15th overall selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. This season, with Yale’s prep team, he has 22 goals and 36 assists in 29 games.


The OHL’s Owen Sound Attack fired head coach Todd Gill on Monday. Dale DeGray, the Attack’s general manager, announced that assistant coach Alan Letang has taken over as interim head coach, with Jordan Hill now the lone assistant coach. . . . The Attack was 61-42-12 under Gill, who was in his second season as head coach. . . . This season, the Attack is 23-20-4, and in fifth place in the 10-team Western Conference.


The BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors fired head coach Geoff Grimwood on Monday and WestKelownanamed Brandon West as their general manager and head coach. . . . You may recall that this is the second time this season that Warriors owner Kim Dobranski has fired Grimwood. . . . Grimwood was named interim head coach iafter Rylan Ferster, the veteran GM and head coach, suddenly resigned on Aug. 21. . . . Three weeks later, Dobranski fired Grimwood, but reinstated him after the players rebelled, leaving the ice during one practice and going for a hike, rather than practise, the next day. . . . Grimwood had been hired on July 3 as associate coach and assistant GM. . . . West, who is from Kelowna, is a veteran BCHL coach. He was in his third season as head coach of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks when he was fired on Nov. 9, 2016. He spent last season as the head coach of the Surrey Eagles, but that ended in August through one of those mutual parting of the ways. This season, he had been with the Penticton Vees, as an assistant coach, since Oct. 15. . . . The Warriors are 25-21-1 and in fourth place in the Interior Division. They have clinched a playoff spot.


The SJHL’s Nipawin Hawks have fired assistant coach Gavin Brandl and replaced him with Devin Windle, a former general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s Melville Millionaires. . . . Windle was in his third season as the Millionaires’ GM and head coach when he was fired on Nov. 29. He spent two seasons (2014-16) as an assistant coach in Nipawin, working with Doug Johnson, the Hawks’ general manager and head coach. . . . Brandl was in his first season with Nipawin.


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‘Canes, Pats make monster deal . . . Savoies to ask for exceptional status . . . Warriors’ veteran goes home


MacBeth

F Marek Viedenský (Prince George, Saskatoon, 2008-11) has been released by mutual agreement by Třinec (Czech Republic, Extraliga). He was pointless in four games. In an interview with http://Sport.sk , Viedenský disclosed that he has a lower-body injury, the extent of which has not yet been determined. Viedenský felt it was best to terminate the contract while he and doctors try to determine the proper cause of action for his injury.


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Well, it didn’t take long to get an answer to a question that was posed here earlier in the week.

After the Kamloops Blazers made two trades that involved four players and four bantam Lethbridgedraft picks, I speculated as to what impact the WHL’s new trade regulations might have on the marketplace.

“Who knows?” I wrote. “Maybe we’ll see trades like the one in the OHL last week in which one team gave up two players and got back two players and 11 — count ’em, 11 — draft picks.”

We didn’t quite get to 11 on Thursday, but the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Regina Pats did swap four players and a possible seven bantam draft picks.

Here are the details. . . .

Lethbridge acquired Regina’s top two forwards — Nick Henry and Jake Leschyshyn, both of whom are 19.

In return, Regina gets F Jadon Joseph, 19, F Ty Kolle, 18, five bantam draft picks and two conditional picks:

  • Lethbridge’s first-round selection in 2019;
  • Lethbridge’s third-round selection in 2019;
  • Swift Current’s eighth-round selection in 2019;
  • Swift Current’s first-round selection in 2020; and,
  • Lethbridge’s fourth-round selection in 2022
  • Should either Henry or Leschyshyn return for a 20-year-old season, the Pats will receive a conditional bantam draft pick. One of the conditional picks is a third-rounder in the 2021 draft, with the other a third-rounder in 2022.

The Pats, of course, sold the acreage over the previous two seasons in order to load up Patsfor the 2018 Memorial Cup tournament for which they were the host team.

Now they have the WHL’s second-poorest record (8-17-0) and are looking well down the road, thus the hunger for draft picks.

The Hurricanes, meanwhile, are all-in. At the moment, they are 11-8-5 and third in the Central Division, five points behind the Edmonton Oil Kings (14-10-4) and six in arrears of the Red Deer Rebels (16-8-1).

A year ago, the Hurricanes were sellers, a move that allowed general manager Peter Anholt to use some of the acquired assets in the deal with the Pats.

One of the interesting things about Anholt’s decision to shove all of his chips into the middle of the table is that the Hurricanes — let’s assume they make the playoffs — are going to have to vacate the 5,479-seat ENMAX Centre for a time early in the playoffs to make room for the 2019 World men’s curling championship. It is scheduled for March 30 through April 7.

Anholt has said that while displaced the Hurricanes will play in the Nicholas Sheran Ice Centre, which, according to the City of Lethbridge website, has a seating capacity of 978. He has yet to lay out plans as to how the Hurricanes will accommodate fans. The City is in the process of opening negotiations with the Hurricanes regarding compensation for their having to vacate their home arena.

It could be, then, that Anholt sees a deep playoff run as vitally important to the community-owned franchise and its financial outlook.

Anholt was one of a number of general managers to at least chat with John Paddock, the Pats’ general manager, about the availability of Henry and Leschyshyn.

Anholt took things one step further and headed west on a scouting trip. He watched the Pats beat the Blazers, 3-2, in Kamloops on Nov. 20. In fact, Anholt and Paddock were seen conversing in a Kamloops restaurant early that afternoon.

Henry, Leschyshyn and D Aaron Hyman, who was traded by Paddock to the Tri-City Americans earlier in the week, were the Pats’ best players in Kamloops.

Anholt also was in Kelowna on Nov. 21 when the Pats lost, 3-2, to the Rockets.

Joseph, from Sherwood Park, Alta., was a fifth-round pick by the Hurricanes in the 2014 bantam draft. This season, he has 10 goals and nine assists in 23 games. In 144 career games, he has 22 goals and 44 assists.

Kolle, from Kamloops, was acquired by Lethbridge from the Portland Winterhawks on Oct. 4 for a fifth-rounder pick in the 2019 bantam draft. Portland had selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 bantam draft. In 94 career games, he has 14 goals and 15 assists. This season, he put up seven goals and four assists in 17 games with Lethbridge, after recording one assist in four games with Portland.

The two big fish, of course, are Henry and Leschyshyn.

Leschyshyn, the son of former NHLer Curtis Leschyshyn, was the Pats’ captain. Jake was a second-round pick by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL’s 2017 draft. He has signed an NHL contract. The Red Deer Rebels selected him sixth overall in the WHL’s 2014 bantam draft. On Jan. 5, 2015, he was traded to Regina as part of a deal in which F Connor Gay moved to the Rebels, who were to be the host team for the 2015 Memorial Cup.

This season, Leschyshyn has 16 goals and 16 assists in 32 games. In 213 career regular-season games, all with Regina, he has 61 goals and 70 assists.

Henry, from Portage la Prairie, Man., was selected by the Colorado Avalanche in the fourth round of the NHL’s 2017 draft. He has yet to sign an NHL deal.

The Everett Silvertips had taken him in the third round of the WHL’s 2014 bantam draft, but hadn’t signed him; in fact, he had committed to the Western Michigan U Broncos. Henry was the 2015-16 MJHL rookie of the year with the Portage Terriers when he was traded to the Pats, who signed him on Sept. 1, 2016. This season, he has 15 goals and 25 assists in 40 games. In 150 games over three seasons, he has 150 points, including 64 goals.

The Hurricanes will play three games in fewer than 48 hours this weekend, as they entertain Swift Current tonight, then visit Medicine Hat on Saturday, before playing host to Red Deer on Sunday.

The Pats also will play three games in fewer than 48 hours. They are to visit Brandon tonight, then play host to Prince Albert on Saturday and Medicine Hat on Sunday.


I spent 17 years attending Regina Pats’ games and had numerous conversations with Bill White, who died Saturday. He was 90. Condolences to his family and friends.


Hockey Canada  hasn’t had to deal with a player applying for exceptional status in order to play regularly in the WHL as a 15-year-old.

It seems that is about to change.

Scott Savoie, the father of Matt Savoie, who is to turn 15 on Jan. 1, told Dhiren Mahiban of sportingnews.com that “we’ll put in for it and then we’ll go through the draft . . . if it’s a perfect fit for him, then we’ll probably let him go. If it’s not, we might defer for a year and kind of wait and see, and see where that takes us.”

The Savoies are from St. Albert, Alta. Matt, 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, plays for the Northern Alberta X-Treme prep team. In 20 games, he’s put up 22 goals and 26 assists. Last season, with the bantam prep team, he finished with 97 points, including 28 goals, in 30 games.

In normal circumstances, a draft-eligible player would go through the WHL bantam draft. If he is selected, he is eligible to play up to five games in the upcoming season so long as his club team still is playing. Once his club team has concluded its season that player would be eligible to join the WHL team.

Exceptional status would allow a player, in this case Savoie, to play regularly as a 15-year-old.

It’s worth noting that exceptional status doesn’t make any allocation for playing junior A; in other words, it’s major junior or back to minor hockey. The Savoies have already applied to Hockey Canada in the hopes that Matt would be cleared to play in the AJHL, but that was denied.

The WHL holds a draft lottery in advance of its annual bantam draft; it includes the six non-playoff teams. At the moment, the six teams outside playoff position are the Swift Current Broncos, Regina Pats, Kootenay Ice, Calgary Hitmen, Kamloops Blazers and Seattle Thunderbirds.

Interestingly, the Prince George Cougars have Swift Current’s first-round 2019 selection, while the Saskatoon Blades have Regina’s.

The deadline to apply to Hockey Canada for exceptional status arrives on Saturday.

In the past, Hockey Canada has granted exceptional status to five players — Joe Veleno in the QMJHL, and Connor McDavid, Aaron Ekblad, John Tavares and Sean Day in the OHL.

Mahiban’s story is right here.


The Calgary Hitmen lost G Carl Stankowski to an ankle injury early in the week, so had Calgaryplanned to recall G Matt Armitage from the BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks at least for the weekend. . . . It turns out that Armitage was injured on Wednesday night in a 4-3 OT loss to the visiting Langley Rivermen. Armitage went the distance, stopping 45 shots in 63:34, but apparently was injured at some point. . . . The Hitmen now are bringing in Brayden Peters, 16, from the midget AAA Lethbridge Hurricanes. Calgary selected him in the fifth round of the 2017 WHL bantam draft. He is 8-2-0, 1.76, .929 with the Hurricanes. . . . With Stankowski out, the bulk of the goaltending load will fall to Jack McNaughton, a 17-year-old freshman from Calgary. To date, he has made 12 appearances, going 4-6-1, 3.35, .890. . . . The Hitmen will play three games in fewer than 48 hours this weekend. They are in Red Deer tonight before returning home to face Edmonton on Saturday and Moose Jaw on Sunday.


When Moose Jaw beat the Kootenay Ice, 3-1, in Cranbrook on Wednesday night, the Warriors were without one of their leading scorers.

It turns out that F Ryan Peckford, 19, had left the team on Monday.

Peckford, from Stony Plain, Alta., was a second-round selection by the Victoria Royals in MooseJawWarriorsthe WHL’s 2014 bantam draft. On Dec. 11, the Warriors dealt F Noah Gregor and an eighth-round 2018 bantam draft pick to the Royals for Peckford and a fourth-rounder in 2018.

This season, Peckford had eight goals and eight assists in 20 games, his 16 points the fifth-highest on the Moose Jaw roster.

Alan Millar, the Warriors’ general manager, told Marc Smith of discovermoosejaw.com:

“Ryan came in to meet with me first thing Monday morning and expressed at that time that he wasn’t having fun playing the game any longer, it wasn’t fun to come to the rink and he’d lost some passion for the game.

“He’s a good kid, he’s a talented player, we’re certainly disappointed, but at the end of the day, if your heart’s not in it, these young guys have to make difficult decisions and Ryan has certainly made one, and we’ll see if anything changes with his time at home and away from the game.”

Millar added that while Peckford’s decision caught the Warriors off-guard, “there’s a bit of a of trend . . . our league is dealing with a number of young guys (who), for whatever reason, have decided to move on and leave their teams and I don’t think you can pinpoint any specific reason other than each person is different.”

F Peyton McKenzie, a 16-year-old from Sherwood Park, Alta., has joined the Warriors from the Edmonton-OHA prep team. He is expected to stay with the Warriors through the weekend.

Moose Jaw is to visit the Edmonton Oil Kings tonight for the first of three games in fewer than 48 hours. The Warriors will be in Red Deer on Saturday and in Calgary on Sunday.

Smith’s complete story is right here.




D Sam Huston, who left the Kootenay Ice earlier in the season, has joined the MJHL’s Portage Terriers.

Huston, 19, is from Brandon. He had one assist in two games with the Terriers in 2015-16, while he was playing with the midget AAA Brandon Wheat Kings. This season, he has a goal and two assists in three games with Portage.

The Ice selected him in the ninth round of the 2014 bantam draft. In 119 regular-season games, he put up four goals and 13 assists.


The story that started when former NHLer Daniel Carrillo detailed life as a first-year ohlplayer with the OHL’s Sarnia Sting continues to grow legs. On Thursday, David Branch, the OHL commissioner, told CBC Sports that his league “failed” Carcillo and “the other players involved.” Branch called Carcillo’s revelations “shocking.” . . . “You know,” Branch said, “I don’t know how else to put it.” . . . This story isn’t likely to go away anytime soon as more and more former junior hockey players are revealing incidents from the past. . . . James Strashin of CBC Sports has the latest story right here.

Meanwhile, John Chidley-Hill of The Canadian Press, who conducted the original interview with Carcillo, has spoken with more former Sarnia players about what went on with the Sting. . . .  That piece is right here.


F Harrison Blaisdell, who committed to North Dakota on April 28, 2016, has signed his letter of intent. Blaisdell, 17, is a native of Regina. His father, Mike, played six games with the Regina Pats in 1977-78, then spent 1978-79 at the U of Wisconsin. He played one game with the Badgers in 1979-80 before returning to the Pats, where he put up 109 points, 71 of them goals, in 63 games. . . . Harrison is in his second season with the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs. This season, he has 19 goals and 18 assists in 30 games. . . . He was a second-round pick by the Vancouver Giants in the who’s 2016 bantam draft.


D Cam York has committed to the U of Michigan Wolverines in time for next season. York, 17, is from Anaheim Hills, Calif., and plays with the U.S. national U-18 team in USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. . . . The Red Deer Rebels selected him in the ninth round of the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft.


F Grant Silianoff has committed to the U of Notre Dame Fighting Irish for next season. Silianoff, 17, is from Edina, Minn. In 19 games with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, he has six goals and five assists. . . . The Saskatoon Blades picked him in the ninth round of the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft.


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The SJHL’s Melville Millionaires have fired general manager and head coach Devin Windle. . . . Assistant coach Kyle Adams was named interim GM/head coach. . . . Windle was in his third season with Melville. . . . The Millionaires are 8-16-4, good for a third-place tie with the Weyburn Red Wings in the four-team Viterra Division.


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