NHL one step closer to return . . . Canada out of junior Summer Showcase . . . Fragle hoping to rock in Trail

There still are a number of hurdles to get over but the NHLPA has given the OK for its executive to keep on talking to the NHL about a return to play. So if things continue to progress, hockey fans may yet get to watch 24 teams take part in some kind of a Stanley Cup tournament with games played in a number of hub cities. . . . Keeping in mind that there still negotiations to be held, Carol Schram, a senior contributor for Forbes, has more right here.

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Here’s one more thing for NHL players to think about as they prepare for a potential return to the ice. . . . Dr. Andrew Morris, who specializes in infectious diseases at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, has told TSN’s Rick Westhead that players need to make sure their long-term health is looked after should they happen to end up becoming infected with the novel coronavirus during a return to play. . . . Dr. Morris said: “Young athletes do not think about this stuff because they think they are invincible, but every so often we see young, healthy people get very bad diseases, and this is no different. It would be unusual for a healthy young athlete to get really sick with COVID and wind up in the ICU, but, hey, somebody wins the lottery, right? . . . They should want their health care and income insured, seeing that they are taking an additional risk, especially if residing in the U.S.” . . . As the medical community learns more and more about the impact of this virus, it is finding survivors who have been left with heart, kidney, liver and lung damage. . . . Westhead’s story is right here.



And what of the NBA and its efforts to get its season back on track? It is look as though it will re-open with all of its teams playing out of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., without fans in attendance. . . . As Rohan Nadkarni of si.com points out in this piece right here, it really is all about the Benjamins.


Here’s Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle on the NBA and a return to play:

“In the wonderful world of asterisks, we’re already talking Extra Large for whichever team wins the title. If you’re trying to play through a pandemic in neutral settings with nobody in the stands, you connect with nothing in Finals history. Don’t ruin this risky venture by welcoming the absurd.

“Those 16 teams worked hard to establish playoff position. Nobody else has the right to qualify after such a maddening layoff. The Warriors have long disappeared from view, but the same goes for Portland, New Orleans or any other team trying to sneak into this science-fiction film. They all had their chance.

“And for heaven’s sake, forget the idea (actually discussed) of a ‘play-in tournament’ to determine the final playoff slots in each conference. Could it be more boring, especially during times of urgency? ‘Hey, come see the teams that don’t deserve this.’ ”



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 and put a smile on her face by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.


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USA Hockey is planning to play host to the World Junior Summer Showcase later this USAhockeysummer but Canada won’t be taking part. Teams from the U.S., Finland and Sweden will participate in the event that is to run from July 24 through Aug. 1 at Plymouth, Mich. . . . “We’ve heard from Canada and they will not be able to come, but we’re checking in every two weeks with Sweden and Finland,” said John Vanbiesbrouck, USA Hockey’s assistant executive director of hockey operations who also is the GM of the U.S. national junior team. “Obviously things are different in Sweden than they are in Finland. There’s also the whole restriction part on international travel which looks like it’s going to be lifted sometime in June, so we’re just staying on top of everything from what’s going on newsworthy to bringing it back internally. That’s how we’re going to go. We’re not going to change anything.”



Hockey Canada announced on March 13 that it had cancelled all sanctioned events until further notice. . . . Earlier this week, Hockey Canada issued “An Open Letter to Canadians” that was signed by Michael Brind’Amour, the chairman of the board of directors, CEO Tom Renney and Scott Smith, the president and COO. . . . Included in that letter was this paragraph:

“The health and safety of everyone involved in the game will determine when we return, not our desire to get back on the ice. When our country is ready, Hockey Canada will be ready. Until then, continue to follow the guidelines set by your provincial and territorial government to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Only by working together will we be able to make a difference and safely return.”

That letter is right here.



Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from H.L. Mencken, who died in 1956 put perhaps foresaw the future rather clearly: “When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost. . . . All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre.”


Granted, it’s not going to happen until 2021, but a new hockey league — 3ICE — is on the way. Headed up by CEO E.J. Johnston and Commissioner Craig Patrick, 3ICE will feature eight teams playing 3-on-3 hockey over nine weekends, each one in a different city, during the summer of 2021. . . . Each team’s roster will comprise six skaters and one goalie. . . . The team’s head coaches are Guy Carbonneau, Grant Fuhr, Ed Johnston, John LeClair, Joe Mullen, Larry Murphy, Angela Ruggiero and Bryan Trottier. . . . E.J. Johnston is the son of Ed Johnston, one of the head coaches who is a former NHL goaltender, head coach and GM. . . . There’s more right here.


After watching all 10 episodes of The Last Dance, Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote: “These questions will never be answered, but here goes: For Jordan, was there really a higher level of emotional fire that could be reached only by disrespect? Did that disrespect supercharge his physical skills, or was that higher level of fire a self-created myth to enhance his greatness?”


Tinfoil


Brian Wiebe, a veteran observer of the BCHL, has a solid piece right here on that league and how it and its teams are coping with the pandemic and all that has come with it.

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Tim Fragle is the new general manager and head coach of the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters. TrailFrom Edmonton, Fragle has spent the past four seasons as the head coach of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Ooks of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference. . . . While at NAIT, Fragle won three coach-of-the-year awards. . . . Fragile was the GM/head coach of the AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders for seven seasons (2009-16). . . . He played three seasons (1997-2000) with the Smoke Eaters, finish the last of those seasons with the Merritt Centennials. . . . While playing in Trail, he was teammates with Craig Clare, who is from Sherwood Park, Alta., and is the Smokies’ director of hockey and business operations. . . . In Trail, Fragle takes over from Jeff Tambellini, who left in April to join the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning as a pro scout and NCAA free-agent recruiter.


David Legwand, a co-owner of the OHL’s Sarnia Sting, is moving from associate coach to be the team’s president of hockey operations. Legwand and Derian Hatcher, another former NHL player, purchased the Sting in 2015. . . . Legwand has been the associate coach for three seasons, with Hatcher as the head coach. Hatcher remains in the role, with Dylan Seca the general manager.


Darren Rovell of actionnetwork.com reports that a Mike Trout signed rookie card has sold at auction for US$900,000. It was from the Bowman Draft Chrome Prospect set. . . . That “obliterated the record for the highest-priced modern-day baseball card and tied the record for the most expensive modern-day card ever — the LeBron James/Michael Jordan logoman card, sold in February 2020,” Rovell wrote. . . . Perhaps the most interesting part of Rovell’s story involved seven unopened boxes of 1986-87 Fleer NBA cards. These boxes weren’t at all popular when they debuted; in fact, boxes were returned by hobby stores for $6 refunds. At auction, Rovell wrote, they sold for “as much as $109,200 each.” . . . Rovell’s story is right here.


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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.”


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Jaynes: Only game being played will be the waiting game . . . No Flames or Stampeders in Calgary through June 30


If the NHL and NBA cancelled the remainder of their 2019-20 seasons, you likely wouldn’t be surprised.

If Major League Baseball cancelled its 2020 season, you might nod and say something like “OK, that gets us into early November.”

Yes, and it also would mean the NFL must have postponed the start of its season.

All of these decisions would seem to hinge on when health officials will allow the return of large gatherings. And that, it seems, might not happen for months and months.

Here’s Dr. Allen Sills, who is the NFL’s chief medical officer:

“As long as we’re still in a place where when a single individual tests positive for the virus that you have to quarantine every single person who was in contact with them in any shape, form or fashion, then I don’t think you can begin to think about reopening a team sport. Because we’re going to have positive cases for a very long time.”

When I see experts in this field talking like this I start to wonder about junior hockey at all levels. Because if health officials won’t allow gatherings of 50 or more people by summer’s end, there won’t be junior hockey in August or September or . . .


Dwight Jaynes, who works out of Portland for NBC Sports Northwest, has summed up the situation involving pro sports by writing, in part, that the leagues “are going to have to accept the reality the the only game being played for months will be the waiting game.” . . . Jaynes makes a number of bang-on observations in that piece that is right here.


Rick Westhead of TSN tweeted on Saturday: “With eight US states still refusing to impose stay at home legislation, one NHL player agent tells me he’s advised clients to expect the US-Canada border to remain closed until well after Canadian Thanksgiving.” . . . In Canada, we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving this year on Oct. 12. . . .


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The City of Calgary has cancelled all public events and all permits for city parks or facilities through June 30. . . . The CFL’s Calgary Stampeders are scheduled to play a home exhibition game on May 30 and to open the regular season at home on June 12. They also are to play at home on June 18. . . . Naheed Nenshi, Calgary’s mayor, said Friday that neither the Stampeders nor the NHL’s Calgary Flames would be permitted to play games during this period. . . . There hasn’t been any official word on the status of the Calgary Stampede that is scheduled to open on July 3, but you would have to think it is in jeopardy. . . .


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with the Thought of the Day, this one from Mark Twain: “The world owes you nothing. It was here first.”


Organizers have cancelled the Manitoba Summer Fair that had been scheduled for Brandon, from June 3-7. . . .

In Montreal, the Just For Laughs comedy festival has been postponed from July 15-26 and now will be held form Sept. 29 through Oct. 11. . . . Montreal’s 2020 Jazz Festival has been cancelled. It was to have begun on June 25 and run through July 4. . . .

The 2020 Vancouver Scotiabank half-marathon and 5K have been cancelled. The event had been scheduled for June 28. . . .

The WNBA has postponed training camps and the start of its regular season that was to have opened on May 15. . . .

The Preakness, which had been scheduled to run on May 16, has been postponed with organizers saying they are searching for a new date. And when the race is held, there won’t be an infield party, which has always been a huge attraction and attracts upwards of 100,000. . . . Earlier, the Kentucky Derby was moved from May 2 to Sept. 15. . . .


All the best to Kerry Eggers, who has written about the Portland Winterhawks for more years than he would care to remember. He was laid off from his job with the Portland Tribune on Thursday. He had been there for, he tweeted, “19-plus years and 45 years in the sportswriting biz.” Eggers also tweeted that he “was planning a July 31 retirement but, as Ralph Miller used to say, that’s the way the pickle squirts.” . . .


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The BCHL’s Powell River Kings have signed Chad van Diemen as their general manager. He will work with Brock Sawyer, the team’s new director of hockey operations and head coach. . . . Van Diemen played for the Kings 20 years ago and also was an assistant coach (2009-15). . . . From Kamloops, he also spent two seasons (2015-17) as head coach of the BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings. . . . He and his family moved back to Powell River in 2017 and he has been on the team’s board of directors. . . .

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The NAHL’s St. Cloud Blizzard has hired Tom Chorske as general manager and Corey Miller as its new head coach. Both are former NHLers and both are Minnesota natives. They also were roommates in college and in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils. . . .


Hay “surprised” by Kamloops move . . . TWU goalie writing neat story . . . Sydor gets back into coaching game

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In case there is any lingering doubt, Don Hay has told veteran Portland sports journalist Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest that he got caught up in a changing of the guard in Kamloops.

Hay, who has more regular-season and playoff victories than any WHL coach in history, Portlandjoined the Portland Winterhawks as an assistant coach on Monday, having spent the previous four seasons as head coach of the Kamloops Blazers.

“That’s our business. Things happen,” Hay told Jaynes of his ouster in Kamloops. “They wanted to make some changes, and that’s their right. It surprised me. You just have to make the best of it.”

Tom Gaglardi, the Blazers’ majority owner, announced on May 10 that Hay had retired. A news release issued by the team read that “Hay has announced his retired from coaching the Blazers and will remain with the hockey club in an advisory role.”

At the same news conference, which Hay didn’t attend, Gaglardi revealed that general manager Stu MacGregor had been reassigned to the scouting staff of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, a team also owned by Gaglardi, and that the contracts of assistant coach Mike Needham and director of player personnel Matt Recchi wouldn’t be renewed.

Hay won three Memorial Cups with the Blazers — he as an assistant coach in 1992, and was the head coach in 1994 and 1995. He returned to the Blazers during the summer of 2014 after working for 10 seasons as the head coach of the Vancouver Giants. He helped them to the 2007 Memorial Cup championship.

As for landing in Portland, Hay told Jaynes that “it just came out of the blue.”

Hay said he was “contemplating retiring” when he got a phone call from Mike Johnston, the Winterhawks’ vice-president, general manager and head coach. “Mike and I go back a long ways. We’ve both gone different ways but we’ve always kept in touch.”

Hay added that he is looking forward to working with Johnston and the Winterhawks, who will be a younger team this season.

“I love learning and trying to get better and working with kids,” Hay said. “I think this is a great situation to go to. . . . Their organization has done a great job here over the years . . . one of the elite franchises of the Western Hockey League.”

That complete interview is right here.


Here’s a neat hockey story . . .

Silas Matthys is a 26-year-old goaltender from Wollerau, Switzerland, who, for the past four years has been one of the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League’s best players while TWUattending Trinity Western U in Langley, B.C.

Matthys played for HC Sierre in the NL B, Switzerland’s second tier pro league, in 2012-13. Unfortunately, the team folded late in the summer of 2013, leaving Matthys without anywhere to play.

Classes at TWU were 10 days from starting. His father, Christian, a goalie coach, had worked with the Hockey Ministries International camps in Winnipeg. Christian got in touch with an HMI staff member, who steered him to Barret Kropf, who had taken over the Spartans and needed a goaltender.

Matthys “knew no English and was bad his first three starts,” Kropf told Taking Note. “Then got hot in the second half and never looked back.”

In five seasons, starting in 2013-14, Matthys went 4.05, .893; 2.50, .930; 2.58, .925; 2.08, .930; and 2.26, .923.

In 2013-14, he was named a playoff all-star and the BCIHL’s playoff MVP. The next season, he had the league’s best save percentage (.930), was named to the first all-star team, was honoured as top goaltender and the league’s MVP. In 2015-16, he had the BCIHL’s top save percentage (.925) and was a second-team all-star. In 2016-17, he was a second-team all-star and a playoff all-star.

Then came last season when the 5-foot-11, 165-pounder had the best save percentage (.923) for a third time, was a first-team all-star and a playoff all-star, and was named the BCIHL’s top goaltender. He also helped the Spartans to the league title by going 1.50, .949 in four playoff games.

“He graduated with honours, too,” Kropf said. “He’s an incredible leader.”

Earlier this summer, Matthys got his reward — a contract with Ambri-Piotta of NL A, Switzerland’s top pro league. With G Connor Hughes out with a knee injury, Matthys signed a deal that runs through mid-September.

Matthys then was loaned to the Ticino Rockets of the NL B to allow him to get some playing time.


Bernadine and Toby Boulet were in Humboldt on Thursday where they accepted the HumboldtBroncosAngel’s Legacy Humanitarian Award, from the Angel’s Legacy Project, “on behalf of their son, 21-year-old Logan, who was among the 16 people who died when the Humboldt Broncos team bus collided with a semi trailer on April 6,” writes Andrea Hill of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. . . . The proceedings included an amazing flyover by the Snowbirds. . . . By now, you’re aware that Logan Boulet is a Canadian hero. Right? . . . Hill’s story is right here.


Dorothy, my wife of 46 years, will celebrate the fifth anniversary of her kidney transplant by taking part in the 2018 Kamloops Kidney Walk. If you would like to support her with a donation, you are able to do so right here.


The Kamloops-based minor midget Thompson Blazers have added a pair of former WHL players as assistant coaches. Neil Pilon and Darryl Sydor will be thompsonblazershelping out Chris Murray, the head coach of the first-year team. . . . Pilon, 51, is from Ashcroft, B.C. He played four-plus seasons (1983-88) in the WHL — nine games with the Kamloops Jr. Oilers, 52 with the Kamloops Blazers, 131 with the Moose Jaw Warriors and 71 with the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Sydor played four seasons (1988-92) with the Kamloops Blazers and now is a co-owner of the franchise. He went on to play 1,291 regular-season and 155 playoff games in the NHL, while playing on two Stanley Cup-winners. He also served as an NHL assistant coach with the Minnesota Wild and was with the St. Louis Blues last season. . . . “It was just time to take a step back,” Sydor told Earl Seitz of CFJC-TV in Kamloops earlier this month. “I’ve been (coaching) for only eight years, but playing the game of hockey a lot longer. It’s time to give back to the family, give back to myself, and just take a step back.”

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