When the WHL posted its roster/injury report on Tuesday, it included 52 players listed as being in COVID-19 protocols and another 22 having been giving clearance to return.
The numbers obviously are higher because at least one team, the Kamloops Blazers, didn’t show any players in either category despite having been shut down last week due to positive tests. Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week reported this week that “he Blazers appear ready to push forward after most of the team, including (GM/head coach Shaun) Clouston, tested positive for COVID-19 on either Jan. 4 or Jan. 5.”
On Thursday, the WHL, which has had to stop team activities for 19 of its 22 teams at one time or another since Dec, 27, announced that all of its teams have received medical clearance to return to the ice. The Calgary Hitmen, Kamloops Blazers, Prince George Cougars, Vancouver Giants and Victoria Royals were the last teams to get the OK.
Only the Brandon Wheat Kings, Kelowna Rockets and Seattle Thunderbirds haven’t been shut down by the league. Interestingly, Seattle listed 10 players in COVID-19 protocol on Tuesday’s injury/roster report.
At the same time, the WHL announced that 14 postponed games have been rescheduled so, again, check your favourite team’s website for new game dates.
The league, which managed to play just one of 23 scheduled games last weekend, returns to full-time action in a big way with nine games set for each of tonight (Friday) and Saturday, and six more on Sunday.
Mention must be made here of the Royals, who showed 12 players out with injuries — four with COVID-19, one with an undisclosed illness, two season-ending upper-body injuries, one day-to-day upper body, two week-to-week lower bodies, one six-to-eight weeks upper body and one TBD lower body. The Royals also show five players as having come out of COVID-19 protocols.
The Royals, who last played on Jan. 1, will resume their schedule tonight and Saturday in Kelowna.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes will salute former players Mark Greig and Kevin St. Jacques by inducting them into the team’s Wall of Honour on Feb. 4 with the Regina Pats at the ENMAX Centre. . . . Greig had 270 points — he twice enjoyed 100-point seasons — including 100 goals, in 201 regular-season games (1987-90). Yes, he was with the Hurricanes for their first season in Lethbridge. . . . Greig’s son, Ridly, now plays for the Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . The Hurricanes acquired St. Jacques from the Spokane Chiefs during 1988-89. He went on to play 234 regular-season games over parts of four seasons with Lethbridge, putting up 300 points, 139 of them goals. . . . Already on the Wall of Honour as players: Jamie McLennan, Shane Peacock, Jamie Pushor, Byron Ritchie, Jason Ruff, Bryce Salvador and Wes Walz. . . . There is a news release right here.
Korina Caller, the mother of former WHL D Jackson Caller, has a “pretty cool” memory of the night she met Bob Saget, the TV star and comedian who died on Sunday at the age of 65. . . . Korina was soon to be married, so her girlfriends threw the big bash for her at the Roxy, a legendary night spot in Vancouver. . . . Korina recalls that Saget “was there with Joely Fisher, probably shooting a movie. I got the pic and they both signed my shirt. Made this bride-to-be’s stag memorable!” . . . You know what they say about “it didn’t happen if there isn’t a picture.” Well, Korina has the pic! . . . BTW, Saget and Fisher were shooting Jitters, a movie directed by Saget and featuring Fisher that was filmed in Vancouver in 1997. . . . One more BTW: Jackson now is attending UBC and playing for the Thunderbirds.
Howard Bryant of ESPN has written what is easily the best piece I have read on Novak Djokovic, Kyrie Irving, Aaron Rodgers and the other anti-vaxxers in professional sports, as well as the role that the leaders in sports have played in this ongoing pandemic. . . . It’s a long read, so make sure you’ve got two cups of y0ur favourite morning beverage ready.
The Russian news agency Tass reported on Wednesday that the IIHF is preparing to announce a location and dates for the 2022 World Junior Championship. Luc Tardif, the IIHF president, told Tass that an announcement will be made at some point during the Beijing Olympics, which are to begin on Feb. 4. . . . The tournament actually got started in Edmonton and Red Deer on Dec. 26, but was cancelled on Dec. 29 following a number of positive tests among players and on-ice officials. . . . Tardif had said following the cancellation that the IIHF hoped to reschedule the tournament for some time during the summer.
After a Tuesday meeting, the KHL reaffirmed its plans to play out its regular season to its completion. On Wednesday, however, the league announced that it will shut down for a week because a number of its clubs are dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks. Thus, the league will pause Saturday and not resume until Jan. 22.
Vyacheslav Bykov, a former Russian national team head coach, got a few NHL-related thoughts off his chest during an interview with Dmitry Larin, a VseProSport correspondent the other day. . . . Here’s a taste, with translation via Google:
“I don’t follow the NHL and don’t intend to, because this is an organization that does not respect others. Therefore, this topic is generally closed for me. I’m not going to talk about it. We will now again praise this league, although the KHL themselves also have enough problems that we must disclose and promote. Therefore, I categorically speak out, this is my personal opinion, really, I am not going to agitate anyone, but I prefer that we develop our league.
“Although our players play there as well. This is their business, their right, of course. I wish them only good and good luck, but I am not going to talk about it.
“Do I think the NHL is the best league in the world? Of course, I agree, this is the best league in the world. But she is the best thanks to whom? Including thanks to Russian hockey players, probably, and European hockey players. And the attitude of the NHL to the same federations, to the same hockey powers, to hockey fans, what attitude do they always express? For them, business is business, as they like to say.
“I think that this is too selfish in relation to those countries, federations, which gave our players the opportunity to develop this league. But a good mushroom picker will never destroy a mycelium, and these mushroom pickers from the NHL are brazenly raking, regardless of mycelium or anything, just raking everything into their wallet. But at some point, the mushrooms will stop growing.
“And in Europe, hockey is also a social project, it provides an opportunity for the development of sports, the development of youth, and the education of youth. And I would prefer that we educate our youth on the correct life principles, and not just create a temptation for the young.
“Would I be the coach of an NHL club if I was invited? No . . . no one is going to invite me, and they would not, that’s for sure. You know, I have enjoyed coaching both children and youths in other countries where hockey is developing. It is important for me that the development of sports itself goes on, and hockey is an opportunity for young children to develop themselves with high-quality life, and not only business, not only earn money.”
Bykov last coached in 2014-15 with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. From 2015-16 through 2020-21, he was on the board of directors of HC Fribourg-Gotteron of the Swiss NLA.
G Jack LaFontaine, 24, left the U of Minnesota in the middle of the season to sign an entry-level contract with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes. The 75th overall pick in the NHL’s 2016 draft, he had won the Mike Richter Award as the NCAA’s best goaltender in 2019-20. The Hurricanes’ depth chart was dinged by injuries and COVID-19; LaFontaine already is No. 3 on that depth chart.
And now some NCAA teams are about to lose players to Team Canada and Team USA for the Beijing Olympics.
Not everyone is pleased with these happenings.
Here is Jeff Jackson, the head coach at Notre Dame, thanks to tweets from Jess Myers (@JessRMyers):
“Playing in the Olympics is an incredible opportunity and an incredible experience for those kids. I just find it quite interesting that it is not safe for NHL players to go but it’s safe for college kids to go.
“I don’t blame LaFontaine for making the decision he made. I do question the decision by Carolina to pull a kid out midseason that impacts another 28 players and the coaching staff.
“It’s something I hope doesn’t become commonplace — we’re not farm teams for NHL teams. We’re supposed to be about student-athletes and graduating players & developing players for the NHL. I think that’s getting a little skewed right now.”
In Europe, the Champions Hockey League has had to reschedule one semifinal — between Red Bull Munich and Tappara Tampere — to Jan. 25. It will be played in Tampere, Finland. The semifinal had been scheduled as a home-and-home series to be played on Jan. 4 and 11. However, the Red Bull team was put into quarantine by German health officials after a number of players tested positive. . . . The winner will meet Sweden’s Rogle Angelholm in the final. Rogle Angelholm beat Frolunda Gothenburg, 5-3 and 3-1 to win 8-4 on aggregate.
The UBC Thunderbirds had to postpone weekend Canada West hockey games because of COVID-19 protocols. The women were to have entertained the Mount Royal Cougars, while the UBC men were scheduled to visit Mount Royal. . . . As well, the UBC-Okanagan Heat men’s and women’s volleyball teams had to postpone their weekend series at the Fraser Valley Cascades. . . . According to Canada West, the UBC and UBC-Okanagan teams don’t have the “minimum number of players available to safely compete.”
Hockey PEI has apologized to Keegan Mitchell and overturned the indefinite suspension with which it hit him following a racist incident during a recent junior B game between Mitchell’s Sherwood Metros and the Kensington Vipers. . . . “We acknowledge and express our sincere regret for errors that were made in our handling of the incident,” Hockey PEI said in a statement. “This incident has made us realize that our inclusivity and anti-harassment guidelines for officials, teams, players and their families do not go far enough to protect those that they should. We are committed to changing not only the guidelines of the game on the Island but the culture as well. We can and will do better.” . . . After a player directed a racial slur at one of Mitchell’s teammates, Mitchell turned to social media to criticize Hockey PEI for the two-game suspension that it handed out. Mitchell was promptly suspended indefinitely for violating its social media policy. . . . That suspension now has been erased, and the perpetrator’s suspension was increased from two games to five.
Red River College Polytechnic, which is based in Winnipeg, had sports teams in the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference (MCAC), but didn’t compete in 2020-21 because of COVID-19. The plan was to return at some point, but Thomas Friesen of the Brandon Sun reported Wednesday that the school is “permanently shutting down” its varsity athletics program. The school confirmed on Thursday that it is shutting down its eight athletic programs — men’s and women’s basketball, futsal, soccer and volleyball teams. . . . Nathan Liewicki of CBC News has more on this story right here.
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Living Kidney Donor Program
St. Paul’s Hospital
6A Providence Building
1081 Burrard Street
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Toll free: 1-877-922-9822
Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney
Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre
Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street
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Or, for more information, visit right here.