Timing not right for one WHL award . . . Oil Kings draw first blood as playoffs begin . . . Wheat Kings borrow Broncos’ radio voice

Having spent more than 40 years paying close attention to the WHL, mostly as a sports reporter at four different daily newspapers and lately in retirement, I WHLlearned a long time ago not to pay a lot of attention to post-season awards.

While they rarely make everyone happy, they almost always end up as a source for discussion among fans. It also seems that there almost always are one or two that seem to carry with them something of a political odour.

The WHL announced a whole bunch of awards and nominations and all-star teams on Thursday, and one of them was a real eyebrow-raiser.

The way things work in the WHL is that the divisional nominees for various awards are named, then at some point the list is shortened to conference nominees. Then, much later, the league award winners are announced.

On Thursday, then, the Prince Albert Raiders were revealed as the East Division nominee for the WHL Business Award. According to a WHL news release, this award goes annually to the organization “that best exemplifies giving back to the community and producing an electrifying game-day experience for fans.”

While I have no doubt that the Raiders meet the criteria — you are able to read about the group’s accomplishments right here — let us not forget that the organization was guilty of a real mis-step during the season.

It was early in the season when the Raiders revealed that they were revisiting their past to introduce an alternate sweater. That sweater would include a logo that harkened back to the early 1980s, one that no longer is seen as being politically correct.

The end result included an apology from Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, who said in a statement: “On Friday night, the Prince Albert Raiders unveiled an alternate third jersey, which was inspired by a highly successful era in club history. We recognize the dated design is insensitive and offensive. After consultation with the Prince Albert Raiders, this uniform and brand will be discontinued effective immediately. On behalf of the WHL and the Prince Albert Raiders, we regret this uniform design was approved and sincerely apologize for any harm it may have caused.”

(You only have to turn to Google and look for “Prince Albert Raiders logo offensive” to see the reaction to the unveiling of the alternate sweater.)

It should also be remembered that early in the 2013-14 season the Raiders had introduced a new mascot that was fashioned after that same logo. It was met with such a response that it was put back in the closet in short order.

Look, you don’t have to dig very deep these days to find incidents involving racism in various levels of hockey, each of them accompanied with comments about how hockey really has to do better if it is ever to rid itself of these occurrences.

While I don’t doubt that the Raiders have done a whole lot of good work that benefited their community, I would suggest this just wasn’t the right time to salute them by giving them the East Division’s WHL Business Award.

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If you visit the WHL website at whl.ca you will find all of Thursday’s announcements, including conference first- and second-team all-stars and individual award nominees.


Child


There are few things in life that compare to the histrionics hockey coaches go Everettthrough when asked about injuries to any of their players, especially during playoffs. . . . Take the case of Dennis Williams, the general manager and head coach of the WHL’s Everett Silvertips, who will open their first round tonight against the visiting Vancouver Giants. . . . Everett didn’t have Olen Zellweger, the WHL’s highest-scoring defenceman, for its last two games, while F Jackson Berezowski, a 46-goal man, sat out the last game. . . . Asked on Wednesday about their status, Williams told Steve Ewen of Postmedia: “You’re just going to have to wait and see on Friday. I won’t be commenting on any injuries.” . . . That came a day after Williams, when asked about Zellweger, told Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald: “Olen will be set to play.” . . . The betting here is that Berezowski and Zellweger both are in the lineup.



Flower


THURSDAY IN THE WHL:

In Edmonton, G Sebastian Cossa stopped 25 shots to lead the Oil Kings to a 4-1 Edmontonvictory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . The Oil Kings lead the best-of-seven first-round series, 1-0, with Game 2 scheduled for Edmonton on Saturday. . . . Cossa lost his bid for his first playoff shutout when F Tyson Laventure scored, on a PP, at 18:12 of the third period. . . . Cossa has 14 regular-season shutouts in his career. But with the playoffs being cancelled each of the previous two seasons, this was his first post-season appearance. . . . F Carter Souch scored the game’s first goal, at 9:30 of the second period, with F Dylan Guenther upping the lead to 2-0 at 14:47. . . . The Hurricanes got 44 saves from G Bryan Thomson. . . . There are seven playoff games scheduled for tonight, with eight set for Saturday.


JUNIOR JOTTINGS: When Brandon opens its first-round playoff series against the host Red Deer Rebels on Friday night, Craig Beauchemin will be the radio voice of the Wheat Kings. Beauchemin, the play-by-play voice of the Swift Current Broncos, will handle all Wheat Kings playoff games after Branden Crowe left to join Hockey Canada. . . .

G Garin Bjorklund and D Dru Krebs, both from the Medicine Hat Tigers, have joined the Hershey Bears, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Washington Capitals. Bjorklund, who will turn 20 on May 28, was a sixth-round pick by the Capitals in the NHL’s 2020 draft. Krebs, who turned 19 on Feb. 16, was taken by Washington in the sixth round of the 2021 draft. . . .

D Logan Nijhoff, 20, will finish the season with the AHL’s San Diego Gulls. He was the Regina Pats’ captain this season. . . . Earlier in the week, he was named the 2022 Dayna Brons Honorary Award recipient for his work with Hockey Gives Blood. . . . The Pats also saluted Nijhoff with the Mike Kartusch Community Service Award.


My wife, Dorothy, is preparing to take part in her ninth Kamloops Kidney Walk. . . . It will be held on June 5, but thanks to the pandemic it again will be a virtual event. . . . If you would like to sponsor her, you are able to do so right here.


Peanuts


JUST NOTES: Vaughn Rody was a WHL linesman back in the day, before going on to work 21 seasons in the NHL. Rody is from Winnipeg and now lives in Lake Stevens, Wash. It was only fitting that the final game of his NHL career should come in Seattle on Wednesday as the Kraken beat the Colorado Avalanche, 3-2. . . .

Tom Renney, who once coached with the Kamloops Blazers, is retiring from Hockey Canada, effective July 1, after eight years as the CEO. Sean Smith, already Hockey Canada’s president, will add CEO to his office door. . . . “This is a decision I have been preparing for over the past year and while it is never easy, I know the time is right and I am grateful for the past eight years,” Renney, a Cranbrook native, said in a news release. . . .

Carla MacLeod, the head coach of the U of Calgary Dinos women’s hockey team, has been named head coach of the Czechia national women’s team. She is the first woman to be that team’s head coach. . . .

Jokerit, a pro hockey team that plays out of Helsinki, spent eight seasons in the KHL before pulling out late in February after Russia attacked Ukraine. Now it has announced that, while it won’t operate in 2022-23, it hopes to return to Finland’s top league (Liiga) for 2023-24. It’s also worth noting that former Edmonton Oilers star Jari Kurri now is Jokerit’s sole owner after buying the 40 per cent of the club that had been owned by the Russian company Norilsk Nickel Harjavalta Oy. . . .

Adam DiBella has been named head coach of the junior B Nelson Leafs of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. He replaces his father, Mario, who has chosen to retire. Adam spent four seasons as an assistant coach alongside his father. . . . Lance Morey remains as the Leafs’ general manager. . . .

Mark Peterson is the new head coach of the U-18 AAA Saskatoon Contacts. He had been the team’s director of scouting and recruitment. Peterson replaces Dale Lambert.


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

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Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

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Or, for more information, visit right here.


Dawn

You’ll be hearing from Hockey Gives Blood . . . Kamloops’ GM on the job . . . Wheat Kings, Tigers sign draft picks

MacBeth

F Radek Meidl (Seattle, Tri-City, 2006-08) signed a one-year contract with the Milton Keynes Lightning (England, UK Elite). This season, with Orlik Opole (Poland, PHL), he had 18 goals and 19 assists in 35 games. He led the Lightning in goals and points, and was tied for the team lead in assists. . . .

F Zach Boychuk (Lethbridge, 2005-09) signed a one-year contract with Severstal Cherepovets (Russia, KHL). This season, with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, KHL), he had 11 goals and 13 assists in 35 games. He was the KHL’s forward of the month for November. . . .

F Clarke Breitkreuz (Regina, Prince George, 2008-10) signed a one-year contract with Lausitzer Füchse Weisswasser (Germany, DEL2). This season, with Löwen Frankfurt (Germany, DEL2), he had seven goals and nine assists in 40 games. . . .

D Alexei Platonov (Medicine Hat, 2015-16) signed a try-out contract with Lada Togliatti (Russia, Vysshaya Liga). This season, with Toros Neftekamsk (Russia, Vysshaya Liga), he had one goal and two assists in 24 games. . . .

F Jaroslav Kristek (Tri-City, 1998-2000) signed a one-year contract with Courchevel-Méribel-Pralognan (France, Division 2). This season, with Brest (France, Division 1), he had seven goals and 12 assists in 22 games. . . .

D Riley Stadel (Kelowna, Edmonton, 2011-17) signed a one-year contract with the Manchester Storm (England, UK Elite). This season, with the Dundee Stars (Scotland, UK Elite), he had 10 goals and 11 assists in 37 games. . . .

F Michal Poletín (Regina, 2009-10) signed a one-year contract with Zlín (Czech Republic, Extraliga). This season, with Piráti Chomutov (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had 10 goals and nine assists in 52 games. . . .

F Taylor Makin (Prince George, Vancouver, 2008-13) signed a one-year contract with Brest (France, Division 1). This season, with Acadia University (Atlantic University Sports), he had four goals and two assists in 12 games. . . .

F Jacob Doty (Seattle, Medicine Hat, 2009-14) signed a one-year contract with the Nottingham Panthers (England, UK Elite). This season, with the Braehead Clan Glasgow (Scotland, UK Elite), he had 16 goals and 19 assists in 56 games.


ThisThat

What follows was written earlier today (Sunday) but a four-hour power outage on the east side of Kamloops meant that its posting was delayed. So without further ado . . .

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I actually took a couple of days away from the laptop in order to paint our deck. It was supposed to have been done last summer, but the smoke from the forest fires limited the amount of time a person could spend outside.

This time I only had to battle the mosquitoes. I haven’t seen them this bad since we left Regina in the spring of 2000. This spring, in the Kamloops area, we had a sudden turn to 30 C temperatures and a quick snow melt from the higher areas, all of which combined for a perfect mosquito-hatching season.

Having sat on our deck and enjoyed many a mosquito-free evening over the last few years, I had forgotten that the only thing mosquitoes like more than heat and water is human flesh.

But, hey, I toughed it out and the painting is finished.


I did take time out late last week to have a cup of coffee with Stu Middleton, the man behind Hockey Gives Blood.

He is a busy man these days. But, oh boy, has he accomplished a lot in less than two HockeyGivesBloodmonths.

Hockey Gives Blood, the project he started following the April 6 crash involving the Humboldt Broncos’ bus, has partnered with Canada Blood Services, as it reads on its website, “to promote blood donation as an integral component of hockey programs . . .”

With that in mind, Hockey Gives Blood was front and centre at the Royal Bank Cup in Chilliwack and at the Memorial Cup in Regina last month.

Yes, Middleton says, Hockey Gives Blood has made some inroads, but it has a long, long way to go.

Middleton has big plans for the non-profit organization, most of which are still in the planning stage. But you can count on hearing a lot from Hockey Gives Blood in the near future.

In the meantime, watch for representatives at events like annual golf tournaments held by the Kamloops Blazers and Kelowna Rockets, and the Humboldt Broncos Memorial tournament at the Humboldt Golf Club on Aug. 18.

You are able to check out Hockey Gives Blood right here.

If you haven’t seen it, Pam Cowan of the Regina Leader-Post wrote about Middleton and Hockey Gives Blood in April, and that story is right here.


As expected, the Kamloops Blazers introduced Matt Bardsley as their new general manager at a news conference on Friday morning.

Bardsley, 46, had been with the Portland Winterhawks since 1999, working his way up Kamloops1from scout to assistant general manager.

In Kamloops, Bardsley takes over from Stu MacGregor, who now is on the scouting staff of the NHL’s Dallas Stars. The Stars are owned by Tom Gaglardi, who is the majority owner of the Blazers.

Bardsley steps into a Kamloops organization that needs a head coach, at least one assistant coach, and a director of player personnel.

Don Hay, the head coach for the past four seasons, has been moved to an advisory role, although he has made it apparent that he still wants to coach and that his phone line is open.

Assistant coach Mike Needham, who had been with the Blazers since 2010, and director of player personnel Matt Recchi, who had been in his position for 10 years, were told their contracts couldn’t be renewed.

Bardsley’s first job will be to hire a head coach, with Kyle Gustafson, who has been on the Winterhawks’ coaching staff since 2003-04, definitely in the running.

According to Earl Seitz of CFJC-TV, Bardsley said: “Kyle is a a good friend of mine. I have a long list of names, and he’s certainly a person who is on my list. He’s certainly qualified to have an opportunity, and he’ll be a head coach — soon.”

Meanwhile, the Blazers have scheduled a news conference for this afternoon (Monday) at which they are expected to announce the signing of F Logan Stankoven, who is from Kamloops.

Stankoven was the fifth overall selection in the 2018 WHL bantam draft. This season, he had 57 goals and 33 assists in 30 games with the Yale Hockey Academy bantam prep team in Abbotsford, B.C.

The Kamloops-based Thompson Blazers of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League and Stankoven announced Sunday that he will play for them in 2018-19.

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The Brandon Wheat Kings have signed D Vincent Iorio, a highly touted second-round selection in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft. Iorio was widely believed to be going the BrandonWKregularNCAA route before signing with the Wheat Kings. From Port Coquitlam, B.C., he has a late birthday, so won’t turn 16 until Nov. 14. . . . This season, he had four goals and 19 assists in 52 games with the U16 midget team at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minn. The previous season, he had eight goals and 24 assists in 39 games with the bantam T1 team at Shattuck-St. Mary’s.

Brandon also signed F Nolan Ritchie, 16, who was a third-round pick in the 2017 bantam draft. His father, Darren, is a former Wheat Kings player who now scouts for the organization. . . . This season, Nolan had 40 goals and 44 assists in 45 games with the midget AAA Brandon Wheat Kings. His 84 points left him second in the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League scoring race. In his draft season, he won the Winnipeg Bantam AAA League’s scoring derby with 89 points, 51 of them goals, with the Wheat Kings.

The Wheat Kings also have signed F Jake Chiasson and F Brett Hyland to WHL contracts. . . . Chiasson was a first-round selection, 15th overall, in the 2018 bantam draft, while Hyland was taken in the second round. . . . Chiasson, from Abbotsford, stayed at home this season and played at the Yale Hockey Academy. He had 20 goals and 48 assists in 30 games with the bantam prep team. . . . Hyland, from Edmonton, had 10 goals and 25 assists in 17 games with the Northern Alberta Xtreme bantam prep team this season.

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WHL teams that have signed 2018 first-round bantam draft selections:

1 Edmonton — F Dylan Guenther.

2. Kootenay — D Carson Lambos.

3. Prince Albert — D Nolan Allan.

4. Calgary — F Sean Tschigerl.

6. Saskatoon — F Colton Dach.

8. Lethbridge — F Zack Stringer.

11. Medicine Hat — F Cole Sillinger.

12. Vancouver — F Zack Ostapchuk.

14. Tri-City — D Marc Lajoie.

15. Brandon — F Jake Chiasson.

17. Spokane — D Graham Sward.

20. Edmonton — D Keegan Slaney.

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The WHL teams that have yet to sign their 2018 first-round bantam draft selections:

5. Kamloops — F Logan Stankoven.

7. Red Deer — F Jayden Grubbe.

9. Prince George — F Craig Armstrong.

10. Seattle — F Kai Uchacz.

13. Victoria — D Nolan Bentham.

16. Red Deer — D Kyle Masters.

18. Kelowna — F Trevor Wong.

19. Portland — F Gabe Klassen.

21. Prince George — G Tyler Brennan.

22. Moose Jaw — F Eric Alarie.


The Medicine Hat Tigers have signed F Cole Sillinger, who was a first-round selection, 11th overall, in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. This season, he had 46 goals and 37 assists Tigers Logo Officialin 30 games with the Okanagan Hockey Academy’s bantam prep team. From Regina, his father, Mike, starred for the Regina Pats (1987-91) before going to a lengthy pro career that included 1,049 regular-season NHL games.

The Tigers also signed D Dru Krebs, who was taken in the second-round of the 2018 bantam draft. From Okotoks, Krebs had seven goals and 10 assists in 35 games with the bantam AAA Okotoks Oilers. . . . Krebs has two brothers playing in the WHL — Peyton is with the Kootenay Ice, while Dakota plays for the Calgary Hitmen. Yes, all three brothers are with teams in the Central Division, although Dru, at 15, isn’t eligible for full-time play until the 2019-20 season.


The City of Kennewick is going to make improvements to the 30-year-old Toyota Center tri-citythat is home to the WHL’s Tri-City Americans. Annie Fowler and Wendy Culverwell of the Tri-City Herald report that “visitors will soon see improvements . . . under an agreement that will keep the Americans for the foreseeable future.” . . . The major project this summer will be the installation of LED lighting. . . . In time, it is expected that a new ice plant and video board will be installed, and improvements will be made to the visiting team dressing room. . . . Taking Note has been told that improvements also will be made to the foyer and there will changes to the concessions. . . . The WHL had implemented a deadline of September 2019 for improvements to be made in order that the facility met league standards. . . . The Americans’ lease expires in 2020. . . . The Herald’s story is right here.


The Prince George Cougars and Vista Radio, owners of 94.3 the Goat, have agreed on a deal covering play-by-play rights for the 2018-19 season. Fraser Roger will call the play for a second straight season, with Hartley Miller back for a sixth season as the analyst.


Mark Chase has signed on as the general manager and head coach of the junior B Osoyoos Coyotes of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. From Kamloops, Chase, 31, spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach with the SJHL’s Melville Millionaires. . . . In Osoyoos, Chase takes over from Ken Law, who was dropped after being the only head coach in the team’s eight-year existence. Under Law, the Coyotes won one KIJHL title and six regular-season division titles. . . . Andrew Stuckey of Osoyoos Today has more right here.


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