All the excitement, joy disappear in a Sunday morning crash . . . Snowbirds’ Operation Inspiration ends, at least for now, in Kamloops

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A six-pack of Snowbirds flies over the Drinnan residence in Campbell Creek, about 20 kilometres east of Kamloops, on Saturday afternoon.

There was so much excitement from the Shuswap through Kamloops on Saturday as the Snowbirds on their Operation Inspiration tour headed this way from Rocky Mountain House, Alta.

The first thing I said when I climbed out of bed was: “Don’t forget. Snowbirds. 1:30.”

Yes, Dorothy and I were on our deck. We live on the north side of the South Thompson snowbirdsRiver, which flows alongside the north side of the Trans-Canada Highway. Flights heading west from the lower half of Alberta often follow the river/highway and end up going right over our place.

Such was the case on Saturday at about 1:45 p.m.

It began with two of the Snowbirds zipping by . . . followed shortly after by six in formation . . . and finally by a single plane.

It was over in about nine blinks of an eye, but, yes, it was exciting, especially when you stopped and thought about why the Snowbirds were on this tour.

Then came Sunday morning. Lousy weather in the Okanagan meant the plans for a flight over that area, including Kelowna and Penticton, were cancelled. Instead, they would leave Kamloops and head for Comox on Vancouver Island. They would set up shop there and make plans for flyovers on the island, weather permitting, of course.

Those plans came to a halt when one of the CT-114 Tutors went down in a neighbourhood near the Kamloops airport at about 11:45 a.m. Capt. Jenn Casey, the Snowbirds’ public affairs officer who was from Halifax, was killed. Capt. Richard MacDougall of Dieppe, N.B., is in hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

The Snowbirds are grounded in Kamloops while an investigation takes place.

And just like that all of the excitement from the previous day was all but forgotten.

So much anticipation and joy and excitement one day, and so much sorrow the next.

Hey, 2020, when does it all end? You can take your foot off our throat any day now.


Dexter Manley, who was a top-notch defensive end during a run with the NFL’s Washington Redskins back in the day, is in a Washington-area hospital being treated for coronavirus-related issues. Manley, 61, was on a pair of Super Bowl champions with the Redskins. . . . He later played in the CFL with the Ottawa Rough Riders and Shreveport Pirates. . . .

Scott Ostler, in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Best wishes to Art Howe, a good guy who was turned into a bad guy in ‘Moneyball.’ Howe was hospitalized Tuesday with COVID-19. In the movie version of this chapter of his life, Howe, played by Danny DeVito, will invent the coronavirus in a tiny lab in his clubhouse office. . . . (Note: Howe, a former MLB player and manager, was released from a Houston hospital on Sunday). . . .

The LPGA has scrapped its Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational in Midland, Mich., that had been scheduled for July 15-18. The next event on the LPGA schedule is the Marathon Classic in Sylvania Ohio, July 23-26. . . .

The Spa-Francorchamps race track in Belgium will open for practice today (Monday), but when the Belgian Grand Prix is held there Aug. 28-30 there won’t be any fans in attendance. . . . The government has banned large gatherings through Aug. 31.


With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.


Here’s a note from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “May 13 marked the 35-year anniversary of O.J. Simpson and Bill Cosby serving as the groomsmen in ex-football star Ahmad Rashad’s wedding. Just for the record, O.J. was the best man.”

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One more from Perry: From the Life Ain’t Fair File comes word that a 110-year-old Shoeless Joe Jackson baseball card just sold at auction for $492,000. In other words, nearly 100 times the $5,000 Joe was bribed to throw the 1919 World Series.”


Well, I tried to watch a couple of Bundesliga games on the weekend. Sorry, but I couldn’t do it, not without fans in attendance. With all the quiet, it might have been a high school scrimmage. Well, a high-level high school scrimmage. . . . Having invested some time in that, I can’t imagine watching NHL games in a world of quiet. . . . No, I didn’t give NASCAR a look later Sunday.


The Banff Hockey Academy has announced that it is on the move — to Dunmore, Alta., where its operation will be overseen by Willie Desjardins, the general manager and head coach of the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers. Desjardins already owns and operates the South Alberta Hockey Academy and runs it in partnership with the Prairie Rose School Division. . . . The Banff academy has been operating for 26 years.



There is a $20 bill in my money clip that has been there since March 4. Yes, it has grown lonely. However, there is little chance that it will get company or move on to someone’s cash register in the near future.


The OHL’s Erie Otters have extended the contracts of head coach Chris Hartsburg, associate coach BJ Adams and assistant coach Wes Wolfe through the 2021-22 season. . . . The Otters are 75-99-25 in Hartsburg’s three seasons as head coach. The Otters won the OHL title for 2016-17 and have been in a rebuilding process. . . . Hartsburg spent four seasons (2009-13) as an assistant coach with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips. . . . Adams is going into his sixth season with Erie, with Wolfe to start his fifth season there.


Needle


If/when Major League Baseball is able to open an 82-game regular season, it apparently plans on banning spitting and sunflower seeds. Is it really baseball without spitting and seeds? . . . Along that same vein, is it really an NHL game if they ban fighting, scrums and spitting?


Checking in with the gang at Strat-O-Matic and their simulated MLB season, we find that the Toronto Blue Jays dropped a 5-0 decision to the host Chicago White Sox on Sunday. . . . The Blue Jays (21-26) are seven games behind the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays (29-20), who are two games up on the New York Yankees (26-21). . . . The White Sox (20-27) are 11 games behind the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians (32-17). . . . Other division leaders: Houston Astros (31-16), Washington Nationals (30-16), St. Louis Cardinals (25-22) and Los Angeles Dodgers (30-15). . . . If you’re a baseball fan, you will love this site right here. It’s got all the stats and then some.


CHL, teams settle minimum-wage lawsuit for $30 million . . . Next up: Concussion-related action . . . Gaglardi: It all comes down to testing

Six years later . . . if you were hoping for a clear-cut winner and loser, well, as Peggy Lee sang, “Is that all there is?”

The CHL and its leagues have agreed to pay $30 million to settle three class-action CHLminimum wage-related lawsuits that were filed six years ago.

The suits were filed by former players against the three major junior leagues — the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Western Hockey League — that operate under the CHL umbrella. They later were certified as class action.

“This settlement does not mean that we agree with the plaintiffs,” the CHL said in a statement. “It means that we wanted to end the lawsuits so we could continue to focus on being the best development league in hockey.” 

Ted Charney of Toronto-based Charney Lawyers PC, who was the lead for the plaintiffs, told Ken Campbell of The Hockey News: “This has been a very long, hard-fought battle, effectively gloves-off litigation for several years. We had to fight the (political) lobbying, which we lost miserably on, but we won in all the court rooms.”

The lawsuits were filed in 2014, with players claiming that the major junior teams are businesses and that players, as employees, should be eligible for minimum wages and overtime pay. The players also requested back pay.

While the lawsuits were before the court, the major junior leagues, which are of the belief that the players are student-athletes, lobbied various governments and were successful in gaining exemptions from minimum-wage laws.

As TSN’s Rick Westhead said in an on-air interview: “Over the last few years, the CHL has been very diligent about going to provinces and U.S. states where there are CHL teams and trying to successfully have minimum-wage laws amended so that players are exempt from minimum-wage legislation.”

In the west, governments in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Washington state all amended labour codes to provide exemptions. Oregon politicians chose not to provide an exemption.

According to the CHL and the plaintiffs, they agreed on a settlement in February with the help of a mediator.

“Earlier this year we met with the lawyers for the plaintiffs and agreed on a settlement that would see the end of the court case and an award of $30 million which will cover their lawyer’s fees, funder’s fees and other legal costs,” the CHL said in its statement. “The remainder will be distributed to players in the class. We did this because cases like these are very expensive and are a distraction to the league and as we had publicly disclosed, we had $30 million in insurance for these lawsuits.”

Lawyers are expected to get about $10 million off the top, with the remainder to be split among players. There are believed to be about 4,000 players who played from 2010-19 eligible to share in the money — players who have signed NHL contracts aren’t eligible — but it’s unlikely that all will apply.

It is believed that the CHL and its teams will pay half of the agreed-upon sum, with the CHL’s insurance paying the other half. Interestingly, the CHL purchases its insurance through Hockey Canada, which means that insurance premiums for the governing body of minor hockey in Canada are likely to rise. Those costs could be passed on to minor hockey players throughout the country.

If all 60 CHL teams are on the hook for a share of the payout, each will pay $250,000. But there are seven Americans teams involved, five of them in the WHL. If the American teams, which were exempted from the class action, aren’t required to pay, each of the remaining 52 teams would pay more than $288,000.

One of the five players who was in on the lawsuit from the beginning, Samuel Berg (Niagara IceDogs, OHL), is to receive a $20,000 honorarium. Each of the other four — Travis McEvoy (Saskatoon Blades, Vancouver Giants, Portland Winterhawks, WHL), Kyle O’Connor  (Kootenay Ice, WHL), Thomas Gobeil (Baie-Comeau Drakkar, Chicoutimi Sagueneens, Val-d’Or Foreurs, QMJHL) and Lukas Walter (Tri-City Americans, WHL; Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL) — is to get $10,000.

As Westhead reported, with the amendments having been made to minimum-wage laws in various provinces and states, “This does not open the door to future claims like this. . . . it’s unlikely the CHL is going to have to worry about a case like this down the road.”

Unless, of course, there are changes in governments and new faces choose to rewrite the employment standards legislation that includes the exemptions from minimum-wage requirements.

“There was a belief the provincial changes showed the CHL to be on the right side of the law,” Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet wrote, “but legal advice indicated the case could continue for up to another decade. That would cost millions in fees and, according to sources, the insurance fund topped out at $30 million. Clearly, that was a major factor in deciding to settle the case.”

What’s next? According to a tweet from Westhead: “After a settlement approval hearing (likely Aug/Sept), eligible players will need to file claims with a court-appointed administrator to get a payout.”

So, as the lawyers like to say on TV, in summation . . . the winners and losers.

Well, the only winners would appear to be the lawyers.

Yes, I would suggest that everyone else loses.

The CHL teams lost because financial filings necessitated by the lawsuit allowed people on the outside to learn just how much money some of these franchises make. Yes, major junior hockey no long is a mom-and-pop operation. It is a big business.

Players, past and present, certainly didn’t win. Yesterday’s players aren’t likely to get more than a few thousand dollars out of this settlement and, as far as today’s players are concerned, nothing is going to change in terms of what they are paid.

Perhaps the biggest winners, aside from the lawyers, of course, are WHL fans in whlcities that won’t lose their teams.

Three years ago, Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, issued a statement  after the lawsuit was certified as a class-action. In that statement, Robison said: “If WHL clubs were required to provide minimum wage, in addition to the benefits the players currently receive, the majority of our teams would not be in a position to continue operating.”

That is a position that he repeated more than once or twice over the past three years. Presumably those unnamed franchises won’t cease operations now. Although considering the uncertainties presented by the pandemic-related situation in which all teams now find themselves, you wonder how they will handle getting a bill for more than a quarter of a million dollars.

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“Well, major junior hockey operators in Canada got rid of one of the biggest headaches they’ve had in their history and all it cost them was $30 million, much of it paid by insurance, and a ton of negative headlines. Now they’re free to go back to paying their ‘student athletes’ less than minimum wage,” writes Ken Campbell of The Hockey News.

“Sounds like a pretty good deal for them. Because essentially what has happened when the CHL minimum-wage lawsuit was settled to the tune of $30 million is that the former players who bravely and persistently fought for this chunk of money were able to win in court for themselves and the roughly 3,600 other players in the lawsuit. But in the bigger picture, the Canadian Hockey League won in the far more important political arena by convincing each province to consider its players student athletes, which exempts it from annoying employment standards legislation. Once they managed to do that, they were happy to settle. It’s believed it cost each team about $250,000.”

Campbell’s complete piece is right here.

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It should be pointed out that what came to be known as the minimum-wage lawsuit doesn’t have anything to do with another class-action lawsuit facing the CHL, its three leagues and Hockey Canada. . . . James McEwan, a former WHL player, filed a concussion-related lawsuit against the CHL, WHL and Hockey Canada in January 2019. The lawsuit later was refiled with the Supreme Court of British Columbia to include the OHL and QMJHL. . . . Preliminary discussions regarding the certification of the lawsuit as class action were to have been held in Vancouver in March. If the pandemic didn’t play havoc with that, all parties involved will be awaiting Madam Justice Neena Sharma’s ruling. . . . McEwan played four seasons (2004-08) in the WHL, splitting his time between the Kelowna Rockets and Seattle Thunderbirds.


Tom Gaglardi, the majority owner of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, says the league is Kamloops1“trying to figure out what the season’s going to look like . . . when it’s going to start.”

Appearing on TSN 1040 in Vancouver, Gaglardi chatted with Jeff Paterson and The Moj (aka Bob Marjanovich) on Friday.

Gaglardi, who also owns the NHL’s Dallas Stars and the AHL’s Texas Stars, frequently mentioned the importance of testing in terms of getting the economy rolling again.

Even for the WHL, he said, “it really all comes down to . . . testing.”

“There’s now a swab,” he said, “that you can get that you can swab your mouth and it tells you in 30 seconds whether you’ve got the virus. If this is something that we can get out into the mainstream market, how far are we from having fans in arenas?

“We’re really waiting for something . . . it may not be a vaccine . . . I’m certainly not counting on a vaccine in 2020. But I do think we’re going to have better testing soon, more access to testing, and somewhere we’re going to get some drug that’s therapeutic that will mean a 65- or 70-year- old guy can go to a hockey game and not worry about dying, and if he comes down with a virus then we can treat him and he’s going to be OK. We need to get to there to get this economy back going.

“At some point I think we’ll get there, with a combination of testing, tracing and hopefully something’s that therapeutic that allows people to feel safe to go to events like hockey.”

Asked about playing WHL games without fans in the building, Gaglardi replied: “The WHL is a gate-driven league. Without people in the buildings, it’s hard to see how we can operate for a great length of time.”

The WHL, according to Gaglardi, has got “contingency plans like every league there is. The Western Hockey League’s not the only league in that position . . . we’ll look at all kinds of scenarios.

“At the same time, too, we’ve got an obligation . . . to develop young hockey players, so if our league starts up a little late . . . we’ve got contingency plans to get the kids into Kamloops and to develop them. We’ve got all kinds of schemes of games and day games and things we might do . . . we take that obligation seriously.”

The complete interview is right here.

Gaglardi’s appearance on the Vancouver radio station came one day after his NHL and AHL organizations were hit with more furloughs, these ones to run through July 3.

Matthew DeFranks of the Dallas Morning News reported that the latest cuts included “most of the remaining front office,” but excluded anyone who is a vice-president or higher.

“The Stars’ hockey operations department was not affected by the furloughs, but management, coaches and scouts took 20% pay cuts,” DeFranks wrote.

His complete story is right here.


The junior B Pacific Junior Hockey League will have an expansion franchise in 2020-21 — the Chilliwack Jets. That begins the number of teams in the league to 13. . . . Clayton Robinson, the majority owner, will be the general manager and head coach. . . . The Jets will play out of the Sardis Sports Complex.



Honda Indy Toronto, which had been scheduled for July 10-12, has been cancelled. The move came after the City of Toronto cancelled event permits for major events for July and August. . . .

Organizers for what was to have been Ironman Canada’s return to Penticton, B.C., announced Friday that the event has been cancelled. It had been scheduled for Aug. 30. The Ironman last was held in Penticton in 2012, ending a run that began in 1983. . . .

The GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon has been cancelled for 2020. The 41st running of the event had been scheduled for Oct. 11. Last year’s race drew more than 8,000 participants. . . .


Nominate1


With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.


The U.S. national junior team has filled out its coaching staff by adding four assistants — Ted Donato (Harvard), Theresa Feaster (Providence), Kris Mayotte (U of Michigan) and Steve Miller (Ohio State). All will work alongside head coach Nate Leaman of Providence College. . . . Feaster, the director of men’s hockey operations at Providence, is the first woman named to the coaching staff. She will be Team USA’s video coach. . . . She is the daughter of Jay Feaster, a former NHL general manager with the Calgary Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning. He now is the Lightning’s vice-president of community hockey development. . . . The 2021 World Junior Championship is scheduled for Red Deer and Edmonton, from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5.


Nominate2

Toigo suggests Giants’ camp may be delayed . . . Also says second wave could be devastating, and WHL won’t play without fans

From Wednesday’s Regina Leader-Post . . .


If you hadn’t already guessed, the WHL’s 2020-21 regular season doesn’t seem likely to start on time, which under what used to be normal circumstances would be in late September.

Yes, that is more than four months away and, yes, there are whole lot of unknowns in these days of a pandemic. But the Vancouver Giants already are looking at pushing back Vancouverthe start of their training camp.

Ron Toigo, the Giants’ majority owner and president, said Wednesday that training camp may not start on Sept. 1, a date that already had been moved back a few days.

Appearing with James Cybulski and Perry Solkowski on Sportsnet 650, a Vancouver radio station, Toigo said: “It’s looking less likely that that will be your starting date.”

Earlier in his appearance, Toigo, who is on the WHL’s executive committee, said that for now they are watching to see what happens with Major League Baseball and the NFL.

“We talk probably weekly about different scenarios,” he said. “The position we’re taking . . . sit back and watch for a while. I think the NFL will dictate a lot of things that happen. They’ve got all the resources. They have all the influence. We’ll follow what happens there. Major League Baseball will certainly have a lot of influence on what happens . . . find a path to making this thing work somehow.

“At our level there really isn’t a lot we can do except sit back and watch and wait.”

Toigo was adamant that the WHL, unlike the big four pro leagues, won’t play without fans in attendance.

The WHL, he said, is “completely” a gate-driven league. “If we can’t get gate revenue then we can’t operate. If we carry on the way we’re going we’re losing significantly hundreds of thousands of dollars as time goes on. If we go the whole year, it’ll be into the millions. It’s not sustainable for a long period of time, that’s for sure.”

As for delaying the start of the regular season, Togo said: “If we had to do something like that you can . . . probably start in the new year and get a relatively decent season in, and still be able to operate.”

In terms of B.C., Toigo pointed out that the province has done a good job, that “it looks like this wave is under control and could disappear over the summer.”

But, he added, “the second wave is what everybody’s fear is and what happens then. If you’ve got to retrench and shut things down again then I think we’re all in trouble for quite some time.”

At this point in time, Toigo doesn’t see any WHL teams in danger of folding.

“I don’t see it but who knows?” he said. Then, in reference to the Portland Winterhawks being in receivership, he added: “Who saw Portland coming with their scenario, but it had nothing to do with the hockey. It was more to do with the oil industry and (owner Bill Gallacher’s) challenges on that side of it. When oil goes from $100 to $10 if you’re in that business you’re going to feel it no matter how big your are.

“I don’t think anybody is safe if a second wave comes. I don’t care what league you’re talking about — NHL, CHL, CFL — I think they’re all going to be challenged and there will be some that don’t survive.”

In the end, as Toigo put it: “The best scenario is they come up with a vaccine or some way of dealing with this.”

The complete interview is right here.


Weather


Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, is bound and determined that his league is going to finish its 2019-20 season on the ice.

On Tuesday, during a virtual town hall played host to by the San Jose Sharks for the NHLbusiness community, Bettman said shutting things down is “not something I’m even contemplating.”

He added: “I believe that if the right time comes, and the right circumstances, based on all of the options that we’re considering and our ability to execute them, we’ll get this season done.

“I don’t want to sound Pollyanna, but canceling is too easy a solution. That means you stop working hard to do all of the things that we’re doing, and I ultimately believe that there will be an opportunity.”

The NHL shut things down on March 12 and since then there has been all kinds of speculation about how and when it will get up and running.

Meanwhile, B.C. Premier John Horgan suggested on Wednesday that his province could play host to all 31 NHL teams as they finished the regular season.

Horgan earlier had offered Vancouver as a hub for Pacific Division play, including the Canucks. On Tuesday, he spoke with Bettman and Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner.

“I believe we’re in a good place to host, that’s why I contacted the commissioner,” Horgan said. “The Canucks have been working very co-operatively with my minister. We’ve heard from others around the league that have other ideas about perhaps having all of the games played in British Columbia.

“We have WHL rinks in Victoria, in Kamloops, in Kelowna, in Prince George . . . Cranbrook has an outstanding facility as well. We have hotel space.”

Look, the NHL may somehow find a way to complete its season, although the odds are stacked against it. But all 31 teams in B.C.? Sorry, that isn’t going to happen.


When the AHL cancelled the remainder of its 2019-20 season on Monday, it had 31 teams. AHLDave Andrews, the soon-to-retire president, said Wednesday that if the league has to return without fans some teams may not answer the bell. . . . ”We have a very strong league in terms of our ownership,” Andrews told the ESPN On Ice podcast. “We have 19 NHL-owned teams and 12 independently-owned teams. And the independently owned teams are in very good financial condition, even after what happened in this 2019-20 season,” he said. “But if their businesses aren’t viable, if they have to play in front of an empty building for six months, some of those teams will likely choose not to play.” . . . Andrews also said that the AHL is preparing schedules that will begin in October, November, December and January. . . . More on the story right here.


BestMan


The junior A Manitoba Junior Hockey League cancelled the remainder of its season on March 13. On Wednesday, Kim Davis, the league’s outgoing commissioner, explained in a mjhlstatement what has been happening behind the scenes in terms of preparing for next season.

For starters, the MJHL has been working to access “any and all federal and provincial financial assistant programs that have been made available to small businesses.” According to Davis, the league office and member teams have applied for various programs and “some have accessed these funds already, which is reassuring.”

Davis also said that the 2020-21 regular-season schedule is a work in progress; in fact, it would be fair to say it is ‘works’ in progress because there is more than one scenario.

“These scenarios have been extensive and range from the development of a normal 60-game schedule starting in September down to a 30-game schedule starting in December and several options in between,” he said.

Davis added that the MJHL is developing what he called Return to Play Protocols, which “will be extensive and will range from how fans enter and exit the building and all interactions once they are within the facility to how the two competing teams will prepare for a complete on the ice and everything in between.”

As well, he said, “The MJHL has been informed by the Provincial Public Health Office that the Return to Play Protocols we design must be approved by the Chief Provincial Public Health Officer before league play can resume.”

Davis’s complete statement is right here and it’s quite possible that the insight it provides is applicable to all junior leagues at the moment.


Here is Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one for A.J. Liebling: “News is like the tilefish which appears in great schools off the Atlantic Coast some years and then vanishes, no one knows whither or for how long. Newspapers might employ these periods searching for the breeding grounds of news, but they prefer to fill up with stories about Kurdled Kurds or Calvin Coolidge, until the banks close or a Hitler marches, when they are as surprised as their readers.”


With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.


Ranger

Winterhawks sale would be ninth since 2007 . . . WHL GM tells Ewen ‘lineup’ of shoppers is expected . . . What’s the price tag?

Sooner or later, the Portland Winterhawks likely will be sold.

Why likely? Because never say never, and perhaps owner Bill Gallacher will end up keeping the WHL franchise.

But if the Winterhawks are sold, it will mark the ninth time a WHL franchise has Portlandchanged hands since the Kamloops Blazers went from community to private ownership during the summer of 2007. Of course, it also will be the second time the Winterhawks will have changed hands since 2008.

However, as of Tuesday night, there didn’t appear to be anything new regarding the Winterhawks’ situation, The WHL’s top regular-season team in the shortened 2019-20 regular-season is in receivership after a number of Gallacher-owned companies filed for bankruptcy last week.

Steve Ewen of Postmedia, who covers the Vancouver Giants, writes that “a WHL general manager, who requested anonymity, says he expects a ‘lineup’ of interested buyers for the Winterhawks . . .”

Yes, the vultures will be circling.

The last WHL franchise to have changed hands was the Seattle Thunderbirds.

One source who knows his way around the WHL told Taking Note on Tuesday: “Bet Russ Farwell is patting himself on the back . . .”

Farwell was the Thunderbirds’ governor and general manager, and also owned a piece of the action when that deal went down in 2017.

Here’s Ewen:

“WHL teams don’t change hands often and sale prices are rarely made public, as you’d expect. The Seattle Thunderbirds were sold in October of 2017, going from a group led by longtime Thunderbirds general manager Russ Farwell to brothers Dan and Lindsey Leckelt, who own Silent-Aire, an engineering and data centre equipment manufacturing company based in Edmonton.

“Multiple sources say the Thunderbirds were sold for US$12 million. That’s never been confirmed.”

Ewen’s complete piece is right here.

Six months before the Thunderbirds changed hands, the Chynoweth family sold the Kootenay Ice to Winnipeggers Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell. After two winters in Cranbrook, they moved the franchise to Winnipeg immediately after the 2018-19 season.

The Regina Pats were sold in April 2014 with Russ and Diane Parker of Calgary, who had owned the franchise for 19 years, selling to a local group comprising Jason Drummond, Todd Lumbard, Anthony Marquart, Gavin Semple and Shaun Semple. The Regina Leader-Post reported that the sale price “is believed to be in the neighbourhood of Cdn$7.5 million.”

In March of 2014, Rick Brodsky sold the Prince George Cougars to a group that includes local businessmen Ray Fortier, Ernest Ouellet, John Pateman and Greg Pocock, along with two former Cougars defencemen — Eric Brewer and Dan Hamhuis. The sale price was reported by the Prince George Citizen as being close to Cdn$7 million. Brodsky had bowed out of his family’s ownership of the Saskatoon Blades to purchase the Cougars franchise in 1992 when it was playing out of Victoria.

After owning the Saskatoon Blades for 37 years, the Brodsky family sold the franchise to Mike Priestner of Edmonton, who owns Go Auto, on Aug. 27, 2013. The Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported the sale price as Cdn$9 million.

On April 4, 2011, the WHL confirmed the sale of the Chilliwack Bruins by owners Jim Bond, Brian Burke, Moray Keith, Darryl Porter and Glen Sather to RG Properties, which was headed up by Graham Lee. He moved the franchise to Victoria where it operates as the Royals.

Bill Gallacher purchased the Winterhawks in August 2008, buying the franchise from John Bryant, Jack Donovan and Jim Goldsmith. The sale price was believed to have been about US$6 million.

The Kamloops Blazers were sold over the summer of 2007, with Tom Gaglardi, the president of Northland Properties and now the owner of the NHL’s Dallas Stars and the AHL’s Texas Stars, partnering with former players Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla, Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor to purchase the franchise from community shareholders. The sale price was about Cdn$6.1 million.

So what will be the price tag on the Winterhawks?

Well, if this was four or five months ago, one might have guessed it to be somewhere around US$12 million.

However, in these pandemic times — I mean, can anyone guarantee when/if the next season will begin? — and with the franchise in receivership and the vultures circling, it just might go for something less than that.

Or could the WHL step in and purchase the franchise for a healthy price, if for no other reason than to protect the values of its other 21 franchises, and then try to find new ownership once we find out what things will look like when we get to wherever we are going?

These are bizarre times in which we find ourselves living and there are oh, so many questions, aren’t there?


With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one a zinger from H.L. Mencken: “The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”

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There have been reports that Vince McMahon, he of grapplin’ fame, is working to sell his football league, the XFL. If you’re interested, The Sports Curmudgeon has a few words of warning: “If you are thinking that it might be a hoot to put in a bid for ‘3 easy payments of only $39.95,’ let me offer a word of caution and suggest that you might wind up as the owner.”

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One more thing regarding The Sports Curmudgeon . . . if you aren’t a regular reader of his work, you should at least consider taking a look at his Tuesday post. He tackled two questions: 1. What might sports be like in a post-COVID-19 world?, and 2. Are sports important with regard to (a) ‘return to normalcy?’ . . . It’s all right here.


Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said Tuesday that there won’t be any special treatment given to the NHL if it wants to use Vancouver as a hub for its proposed return to play. . . . “I’m not going to compromise safety for any organization, whether it’s the NHL or anything else, as much as I love hockey,” Dr. Henry said during her daily briefing. If the NHL is to bring teams into Vancouver, she said, all people involved with the teams and arriving from outside Canada would have to self-isolate for two weeks. . . .

The Canadian National Exhibition, Canada’s largest annual fair, has been cancelled for 2020. It was to have been held from Aug. 21 through Sept. 7 in Toronto. . . .

The California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) announced Tuesday that its schools “have determined that NCAA sport competition will not occur during the fall of 2020.” . . . This news came after the U.S.’s largest four-year college system, the California State University (CSU), announced most classes will be presented online in the fall. CSU has 23 schools. . . .

Doug Ducey, the governor of Arizona, said at a news conference on Tuesday that pro sports can resume in his state, without fans, as of May 16. He said leagues and teams would have to provide public health protections and follow guidelines set down by the Centers for Disease Control. . . .

There are 41 theaters on Broadway in New York City that are part of the Broadway League. They announced Tuesday that they will remain closed through at least Sept. 6, which is Labour Day.


When the Detroit Pistons were winning NBA titles, they were a fearsome aggregation of aggressive players. As Charles Barkley explained on Facebook: “Those guys were out there trying to hurt people. . . . When you were playing the Pistons you had to call home and tell your family you love them just in case you never saw them again.”


Aris Brown, the 18-year-old son of NFL great Jim Brown, who is 84, has committed to play lacrosse at Hampton University. As Bob Molinaro of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot wrote: “It appears that Jim enjoyed a strong fourth quarter.”


Sheep

Pickles’ owners, including Roughriders’ punter, are sweet on Winterhawks . . . AHL pulls plug on its season

A group that includes Saskatchewan Roughriders punter Jon Ryan has expressed interest in purchasing the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks.

Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest in Portland reported Monday afternoon that the Picklesowners of baseball’s Portland Pickles are kicking the tires.

The Winterhawks have been owned by Calgary oil man Bill Gallacher since 2008, but now are in receivership after a number of his companies filed for bankruptcy last week.

“They have a broker in Toronto who is running the file on behalf of the finance company,” Alan Miller, one of the Pickles’ owners, told Jaynes. “And a representative of our company has had a conversation with them. I love hockey. Been to Winterhawks games. My partner, Jon Ryan, has had plenty of experience in hockey — he comes from Regina, Saskatchewan, and he tells the story that he was cut from five different teams in that league.”

The Pickles play in the West Coast League, a wood-bat summer league for college players.

Jaynes’ complete story is right here.

At the same time, Merritt Paulson, who owns soccer’s Portland Timbers and the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League, has told The Oregonian/OregonLive that he isn’t interested in purchasing the Winterhawks. . . . That story is right here.

Meanwhile, Scott Sepich, a Portland journalist who has covered the Winterhawks, posted a series of tweets on the current situation:

“According to documents I’ve read, Bill Gallacher anticipated defaulting on the loan and Portlandpledged to the lender in November that he would try to sell the Winterhawks by January. That obviously did not happen, nor was there any public statement that the team was for sale.

“Gallacher also seemed to have an agreement to sell a $5 million stake in the Lausanne Swiss hockey team but that seems to have fallen through. He also put a home up for sale in Scottsdale, AZ (that he bought for $11 million) for $26 million in 2018, but it never sold.

“Nearly half of the original $20 million loan in December 2018 was earmarked for arena improvements for the team in Lausanne. Other big chunks were for exercising stock options in two companies. It was a short-term loan, with repayment due in December 2019.

“The WHL had to sign off on the loan since the team was being used to secure the loan. The league approved, acknowledging that the ownership of the team would be at risk if there was a default on the loan.

“Financial statements for the Winterhawks are omitted from the public documents. However, a balance sheet for Audible Capital (the parent company) lists the Winterhawks as an asset of $2,587,166. Not sure where that number comes from (is that what he paid for the team?)

“A study of CHL team values conducted in 2016 (likely inflated as it was part of the labor lawsuit about player compensation) pegged the Hawks as worth more than $36 million. I can’t imagine that’s anywhere near accurate (especially now) but $2.5 million seems way low.”



With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team by making a donation right here. . . . You also would light up her life. . . . Thank you.


The AHL cancelled the remainder of its regular season and its playoffs on Monday. . . . AHLThe AHL had suspended play on March 12. . . . According to the league, “The standings — sorted by points percentage — and statistics as of March 12 are considered final and official, and will serve as the basis for determining league awards for the 2019-20 season.” . . . When another season gets here, the AHL will have a new commissioner as this was Dave Andrews’ last go-round. A former head coach of the WHL’s Victoria Cougars (1982-84), Andrews has been the AHL’s president and CEO since 1994. . . . This season also marked the end of a franchise in San Antonio, with the Rampage relocating to Henderson, Nev., for 2020-21.


It never hurts to begin your Monday with Peter King’s Football Morning in America — even if I am in Canada. . . . This week, King started off by chatting with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who has come to prominence during the pandemic. . . . If you are wondering what leagues are up against in trying to get back on the playing field — or the ice surface — you should give this piece a read. . . . King asked Dr. Fauci what would happen if four players from an NFL team’s 53-man roster tested positive on a Saturday night. The response: “You got a problem there. You know why? Because it is likely that if four of them are positive and they’ve been hanging around together, that the other ones that are negative are really positive. So I mean, if you have one outlier (only one player testing positive), I think you might get away. But once you wind up having a situation where it looks like it’s spread within a team, you got a real problem. You gotta shut it down.” . . . The complete piece is right here, and it is most enlightening. . . . Come for Dr. Fauci and stay for some great anecdotes involving Don Shula, the winningest head coach in NFL history who died on May 4.


Here is Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from H.L. Mencken: “The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.”


“Veteran musher Lance Mackey’s 21st-place finish in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was vacated after the veteran musher’s drug test turned up positive for methamphetamine,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “So chalk up another triumph for the sport’s investigative initiative, Operation Yellow Snow.”


Solo

Pandemic responsible for rash of WHL signings? . . . Co-owner: Cougars 1,500 fans a game from breaking even . . . Hanlon’s latest gig in German DEL

With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.


After the Red Deer Rebels announced the signing of Arjun Bawa, a second-round selection in the 2020 bantam draft, on Thursday, Alan Caldwell, who keeps track of these things, tweeted:

“Bawa makes 15 of 22 second-rounds picks signed now. Add to 19 of the 22 first-rounders and that’s 34 of the first 44 picks from 2020.

“Five 3rd-rounders, one 4th and one 5th make 41 players signed from the 2020 draft already.”

And, as Caldwell also noted, the numbers “may actually be higher as some teams don’t announce signings.” (Note: There were more signings on Friday, too, with 21 of 22 first-round picks from 2020 now having signed.)

Whatever the numbers, I can’t ever recall a time when the WHL’s 22 teams signed so many players in such a short period of time. After all, the draft was held on April 22.

So . . . why the rush?

I had wondered if perhaps the WHL’s 22 teams were feeling more pressure than usual from leagues like the BCHL and USHL. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Two people with an understanding of the situation have told me that you likely can chalk it up to the pandemic. Unable to take vacations and with not a whole lot of other things on their plate at the moment, team executives simply have sped up the signing process.

And, no, neither Bill Gates nor 5G have had anything to do with it.



Wondering how much money the Prince George Cougars lost last season? Hartley Miller PrinceGeorgeof 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97 takes a look in his weekly Hart Attack column and it’s all right here. . . . On Tuesday, John Pateman, one of the team’s owners and the franchise’s president, took part in a virtual town hall with fans. At one point, he offered: “It’s been a struggle financially for the ownership group over the last several years. We’ve obviously lost a lot of money. I would suggest, last season, we were probably 1,500 fans short of paying all our bills per game, that’s without making the playoffs.” . . . Do the math, as Miller does in his column, and this looks a lot like about a $1-million loss. Yikes!


Married


Glen Hanlon is the new head coach of the Krefeld Pinguine of the German DEL. He finished last season as the head coach of DVTK Jegesmedvek in Slovakia. . . . Hanlon, 63, spent two seasons (2016-18) as the general manager of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants before going back to Europe where he gained considerable experience after spending the better part of four seasons on staff with the NHL’s Washington Capitals.


Paul McFarland has left his position as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs to take over as head coach of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs. . . . McFarland spent three previous seasons (2014-17) as the Frontenacs’ head coach before joining the Florida Panthers for two seasons as an assistant coach. He then spent one season with the Maple Leafs. . . . In Kingston, he replaces Kurtis Foster, who was fired on April 29 after two seasons in the position.


Mike Rooney is the new general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s Melville Millionaires. Rooney, from Yellow Grass, Sask., spent last season working as a skating/skills coach with the Notre Dames Hound program in Wilcox, Sask. . . . Rooney replaces Kyle Adams, who was dismissed on Feb. 26. . . . Rooney is a familiar face in Saskatchewan hockey circles, but hasn’t done a whole lot of coaching. He was the GM/head coach of the SJHL’s Kindersley Klippers for two seasons (1995-97) and the GM/director of player personnel for the SJHL’s Hounds (1997-2000). . . . He also has considerable experience as an NHL and WHL scout.


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon with his Thought for the Day, this one from H.L. Mencken: “If x is the population of the United States and y is the degree of imbecility of the average American, then democracy is the theory that x × y is less than y.”


Banjo


Oliver David of the Dubuque Fighting Saints has been named the USHL’s coach of the year for 2019-20. The Fighting Saints had the USHL’s best defensive record en route to finishing second in the overall standings. . . . Oliver spent one season (2016-17) as an assistant coach with the Portland Winterhawks, where he worked alongside general manager and head coach Mike Johnston. . . . You have to admit that Johnston’s managerial coaching tree is looking rather impressive. It includes Garry Davidson, the general manager of the Everett Silvertips; Matt Bardsley, the GM of the Kamloops Blazers and the Western Conference’s executive of the year; Grant Armstrong and Josh Dye, who both have gone on to scout with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning; Karl Taylor, the head coach of the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals; and Travis Green, the head coach of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. . . . It is somewhat interesting that Johnston, despite Portland being one of the WHL’s premier franchises, has never been saluted as executive or coach of the year. The Winterhawks are the reigning Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy holders as regular-season champions.



The B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame has cancelled its 2020 induction dinner that was to have been held in Penticton on July 24. It is expected that the 2020 inductees will be installed in the Hall of Fame at a celebration in the summer of 2021. The class features players Eric Brewer and Mattias Ohlund, official Jay Sharrers, builder Ray Stonehouse, and two teams — the 2002 Kootenay Ice and 2012 Penticton Vees.


The West Coast League says it still hopes to play baseball this season, despite the fact that five of its 12 teams have said they aren’t able to play because of restrictions having been placed on facilities by health officials and the fact that the U.S.-Canada border remains closed. That includes the Kelowna Falcons and Victoria HarbourCats, the league’s two Canadian franchises. Also out are the Bellingham Bells, Bend Elks and Corvallis Knights. . . . The WCL’s regular season was to have started on June 5. In a news release, the league said it now is “targeting early July for the return of baseball to our member cities.” . . . The WCL’s other franchises are located in Portland the Washington communities of Longview (Cowlitz Black Bears), Port Angeles, Ridgefield, Walla Walla and Yakima. . . .

Baseball Alberta announced on Friday that it has cancelled all sanctioned events and activities through Aug. 31. . . . The senior Red Deer Riggers immediately tweeted that their season was over, but they are looking forward to 2021 when they are to be the host team for nationals.


Grandma

Zach’s odds have gotten better, but he still needs a donor. Interested?

Our annual Kidney Walk has been turned into a virtual event that will be held on June 7.

Had it gone ahead on schedule in Kamloops on Sept. 23, Dorothy would have taken part for a seventh straight year since her transplant. Instead, she is working at fund-raising for the virtual event. This is her way of giving back because she has been there and knows how many kidney patients this money helps support.

If you like, you are able to support Dorothy’s effort right here.


Zach16

 

Zach Tremblay’s transition to doing hemodialysis at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail, B.C., has been a success, his mother, Jana, reports.

The Tremblays live in Robson, B.C., which is located 33 km north of Trail.

Zach has four runs per week, each of them three to four hours in length.

“We drive him over, come home and go back later to get him . . . 16 trips back and forth a week,” Jana writes. “The Trail unit is full of lovely people and they have been exceptional in welcoming him/us and making it a less stressful transition.

“I am not allowed in with him because of the virus, so he has to go alone. He has his devices and snacks and off he goes.

“Not gonna lie . . . my eyes were full of tears and the lump in my throat was huge on Day 1, but has since shrunk to a pea size, with no tears now, every time we drop him off. He just makes us proud.”

Zach recently spent four months in Vancouver with Jana, as he went from peritoneal dialysis to hemo. And, of course, the search for a kidney for him continues.

On that front, Jana, reports . . .

“Now for the good news! Yes!! GOOD NEWS that we have been cradling and holding onto just a little while, because it just felt good for a change and we wanted to just enjoy it a while.

“A few weeks ago, Zach and I had a telehealth phone conference with his transplant doctor in Vancouver, Dr. Tom (Blydt-Hansen). Zach’s antibodies have come down. It doesn’t always happen, but it has and we will take it and feel blessed.

“This means the possibility of a match has become much bigger. Each time they come down, his donor pool widens — it’s really exciting biology stuff.”

What this means is that the odds of there being a match for him have improved considerably. Prior to the antibodies coming down, one person in 7,000 tested donors may have matched. Now it’s five in 1,000.

Jana adds: “They are now going to revisit anyone previously tested to see if they have become more compatible. They will also start testing new candidates, and continue with the paired exchange testings.

“If you’ve ever considered getting tested, please think about it now and help save our boy. His grad year is coming up and how wonderful would it be for this to be behind us and for him to just enjoy it.”


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca


Leonard Pitts, a columnist with the Tampa Bay Times, sat down at his keyboard the other day and tapped out a column that really resonated with me.

Here are the first three paragraphs:

“Someday, I’m going to die.

“This, I grudgingly accept. I have no idea how it’s going to happen. Maybe I will die of having a tree fall on me, of eating tainted shellfish, or of being struck by lightning. But this much I guarantee. I will not die of having wagered my life that TV carnival barkers, political halfwits and MAGA-hat-wearing geniuses know more than experts with R.N.s, M.D.s, and Ph.D.s after their names.

“In other words, I will not die of stupid.”

The complete column is right here.