WHL teams getting clearance to return . . . Three games on tap tonight . . . Giants’ owner admits to seven-figure loss last season

This guy, apparently having gotten over Sunday’s loss to the 49ers, was looking for salt on Shuswap Road near Kamloops on Tuesday afternoon.

The WHL, which postponed 22 of 23 games it had scheduled for last weekend, had three games on its schedule for last night (Tuesday). However, they also were postponed.

But now, with teams starting to return to the ice after being put on pause by WHLCOVID-19 protocols, there are three games scheduled to be played tonight (Wednesday), with the Swift Current Broncos to visit the Lethbridge Hurricanes, the Brandon Wheat Kings at the Medicine Hat Tigers and the Tri-City Americans in Everett for a game with the Silvertips. Two other games — Kelowna Rockets at Prince George Cougars, Spokane Chiefs at Victoria Royals — were postponed.

On Monday, the Edmonton Oil Kings, Everett, Medicine Hat, Prince Albert Raiders, Red Deer Rebels, Saskatoon Blades, Spokane and Winnipeg Ice all were cleared to resume team activities. Earlier, Lethbridge, the Moose Jaw Warriors, Portland Winterhawks, Regina Pats, Swift Current and Tri-City also were cleared.

The WHL has begun rescheduling the games that have been postponed, so check your favourite team’s website for that information.

With the Manitoba government continuing to restrict attendance in some facilities, including arenas in Brandon and Winnipeg, two doubleheaders, both involving Regina as the visiting team, have been postponed. The Pats were to have played at Winnipeg, Jan. 15 and 16, and Brandon, Jan. 21 and 22. Those games will be rescheduled.

In a pre-Christmas appearance on Donnie and Dhali — The Team, Ron Toigo, Vancouverthe majority owner of the Vancouver Giants, said his WHL team’s losses reached seven figures for 2020-21.

The show, featuring Don Taylor and Rick Dhaliwal as hosts, is on Victoria TV station CHEK. Toigo was a guest on Dec. 22, five days before COVID-19 became a real issue with this WHL season.

Asked about the economics involved in operating a team in these trying times, Toigo replied:

“There is no economics to it. Last year, we lost north of a million dollars. We’re probably going to be maybe not that bad this year but we’re certainly going to be in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands. Just our team . . . when you spread it across the league it is significant and material.”

Based on attendance figures compiled by the WHL, the Giants, who play out of the 5,276-seat Langley Events Centre, have an average attendance this season of 2,937 after 15 home games. At present, their crowds are restricted to 50 per cent of capacity by provincial government restrictions.

The Giants played 11 home games last season when fans weren’t allowed.

In 2019-20, the Giants got in 30 home games, averaging 3,920 fans, before the season was halted by the pandemic.

In 2018-19, the last season prior to the pandemic, their 34-game average was 3,826.

The league-wide average in 2018-19, for 748 games, was 4,361. That number was 4,154 for 694 games in 2019-20. This season, after 348 games, the number is 3,051. However, 13 of the 22 teams are averaging fewer than 3,002 fans per game.

“Our goal all along,” Toigo continued, “is to make sure the players can play to get through this cycle of their development and by all accounts I think we’ve done a pretty good job of it.

“But there is no economics . . . to this sports business or probably any level of sports business while this is going on. . . . Sports business is not a good business to be in these days.”

As for the pandemic and all that comes with it, Toigo said: “It is what it is. We’re certainly a lot better off than we were a year ago with all the vaccines. . . . but we still have a long way to go.

“A lot of this we’re doing is because of all the unvaccinated issues we’ve got. If everybody was vaccinated I think we’d be a lot further ahead than we are now.”

At present, the Giants are on hold because of COVID-19 protocols. They hope to be cleared in time to face the visiting Prince George Cougars on Friday in a game that is scheduled to be televised by TSN.


As of Tuesday, the KHL had 97 players and 29 staff members out after having tested positive for COVID-19. All told, 14 games involving Avtomobilist, Salavat Ulaev, CSKA, Dinamo Riga and Torpedo have been postponed. All this came out of an emergency meeting involving the KHL and team executives that was held on Tuesday. . . . Later in the day, it was revealed that Moscow Spartak had gone into quarantine after 10 positive tests, while Metallurg Magnitogorsk had nine players and two staffers test positive. . . . Following the meeting, the KHL confirmed its desire to complete the regular season by playing all games. That may result in playing games during the approaching Olympic break or extending the season, thus delaying the start of playoffs. A final decision is to be made after Jan. 23, which is when the KHL’s Olympic break is to begin.

Tyler Moore is the new general manager of the junior B Sicamous Eagles of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, with Nick Deschenes signing on as head coach. They take over from Ron Sleeman and Gerald Bouchard, who no longer are with the organization. In December, Sleeman was suspended by the KIJHL for 45 days and Bouchard for eight games after the Eagles were sanctioned for violations of the the league’s COVID-19 policy. . . . Deschenes began this season as the GM and head coach of the KIJHL’s Summerland Steam, but left five games into the season in one of those mutual partings. . . . Moore had been the director of scouting with the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors.


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Giants set to introduce new GM . . . Hay: ‘I do want to coach . . . passion is still there’ . . . Americans sign draft pick


G Andrei Makarov (Saskatoon, 2011-13) was traded by Spartak Moscow to  Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (both Russia, KHL) for monetary compensation. This season, in 12 games, he was 6-5-0, 2.11, .922 with one shutout. . . . This trade reverses the May 1 deal between the two clubs, which also was for monetary compensation. . . .

D David Musil (Vancouver, Edmonton, 2009-13) signed a one-year contract extension with Třinec (Czech Republic, Extraliga). He had one goal and five assists in 52 games. . . .

D William Wrenn (Portland, 2010-12) signed a one-year contract with Grizzlys Wolfsburg (Germany, DEL). This season, with Dinamo Riga (Latvia, KHL), he had one assist in 21 games. He also had three goals and five assists in 25 games with Sport Vaasa (Finland, Liiga), and had one assist in five games while on loan to Lukko Rauma (Finland, Liiga). . . . Sport’s loan of Wrenn to Lukko was made once Sport was eliminated from playoff contention. . . . Wrenn averaged 17:04 time on ice per game with Dinamo Riga, 20:13 TOI per game with Sport and Ilves. . . .

F Jordan Knackstedt (Red Deer, Moose Jaw, 2004-08) signed a one-year contract with Dresdner Eislöwen (Germany, DEL2). This season, with Eispiraten Crimmitschau (Germany, DEL2), he had 22 goals and 46 assists in 51 games. He led his team in points and assists. He was second in the league in assists and fourth in points.


The Vancouver Giants will introduce Barclay Parneta as their new general manager at a Vancouvernews conference today (Wednesday) in Tsawwassen. Parneta, 47, takes over from Glen Hanlon, who left the Giants last week after spending two seasons as the GM. . . . Parneta, who has a home in Richmond, B.C., has been working with the Tri-City Americans for the past eight seasons, most recently as assistant GM. He has experience with the Giants, having scouted with them for three seasons under then-GM Scott Bonner. . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia has more right here.

Don Hay, who stepped aside as head coach of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers earlier this month, said on Tuesday that he still wants to coach and that he is prepared to look at “all different opportunities.”

Chatting with Don Taylor and Bob Marjanovich of TSN-Vancouver 1040, Hay, who now is in an advisory role with the Blazers, said: “I do want to coach. I still have the passion to coach . . . the passion is still there.

“I enjoy getting up every day and having the challenge of coaching and going to the rink. Coaching is more than just teaching hockey. It’s life skills and social skills for the young guys who are leaving home at an early age. It’s something that I’ve done for a long time that I feel I can still do a good job of.”

Hay admitted that his decision to vacate his role after four seasons as the Blazers’ head coach was “a real tough decision for me.” He added: “I’m still passionate about coaching. I enjoyed my time in the Western Hockey League. I thought it was time to take a step back maybe for a year to get recharged. . . . Any time you step away you are going to have to do a lot of thinking about it . . . it was definitely a tough decision.”

Hay is the WHL’s all-time winningest head coach, both in terms of regular-season and playoff victories.

Hay, 64, made no bones about the fact that he still wants to coach.

“I look forward to another opportunity down the road a little bit,” Hay said. “I’d look at all different opportunities, whether it’s overseas or junior or in pro. If it’s a good opportunity for myself and my family and I’m excited about it, I think it’s something I would look at.”

In the meantime, he’s preparing for his new role as an advisor with the Blazers, who are in the market for a general manager and a head coach.

“I’m really looking forward to this new role,” Hay said. “Kamloops is my home. It’s pretty easy to get from my house to the rink. I look forward to that role.”

The Memorial Cup schedule (all times local):

Game 1, Friday – Regina 3, Hamilton 2 (5,678)

Game 2, Saturday – Acadie-Bathurst 4, Swift Current 3 (OT) (6,237)

Game 3, Sunday – Acadie-Bathurst 8, Regina 6 (5,832)

Game 4, Monday – Hamilton 2, Swift Current 1 (5,820)

Game 5, Tuesday – Hamilton 3, Acadie-Bathurst 2 (6,072)

Game 6, Wednesday – Regina vs. Swift Current, 8 p.m.

Tiebreaker (if necessary) – Thursday, 6 p.m.

Semifinal – Friday, 8 p.m.

Final — Sunday, 5 p.m.

The Tri-City Americans have signed D Carson Haynes, who had eight goals and 16 assists in 36 games with the bantam AAA Lethbridge Golden Hawks this season. The Americans selected Haynes in the third round of the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. . . .


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