It was on Jan. 29, 2019, when some members of the Winnipeg media gathered in Oak Bluff, Man., for a news conference involving the WHL and the Winnipeg Ice. This followed the decision by the WHL’s board of governors to approve the sale of the Kootenay Ice and the subsequent move to the Manitoba capital.
Officials at the news conference included Ron Robison, the WHL’s commissioner, and Ice owners Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell.
“A new 4,500-seat rink will be built, likely near Oak Bluff,” reported Sean Kavanagh of CBC News. “The team will for its first two years, play out of the University of Manitoba’s 1,400-seat Wayne Fleming Arena as the new arena is built outside Winnipeg.”
And now, here we are, almost four years later and halfway through the 2022-23 WHL season, with the Ice still playing out of the Wayne Fleming Arena.
On Dec. 14, the Winnipeg Free Press, in a story by Mike Sawatzky, reported that the WHL had fined the Ice $500,000 because it won’t have a new arena ready for the 2023-24 season.
On Dec. 17, the WHL and the Ice issued statements contradicting that story. Those statements are right here on the Ice’s website.
The WHL’s statement reads, in part: “Reports of the Western Hockey League issuing a fine against the Winnipeg ICE and its ownership group are false and inaccurate. The Winnipeg ICE (has) assembled a highly-competitive team this season and the WHL continues to work with the ICE regarding a solution to the Club’s long-term plans for a suitable facility in Winnipeg. Further information will be available in the new year.”
The Ice statement reads, in part: “The Winnipeg ICE were not and have never been fined by the Western Hockey League.”
It’s interesting that it took the WHL and the Ice three days to respond to a story of this magnitude. I mean, a $500,000 fine is nothing at which to sneeze.
It’s also interesting that the news release is on the Ice website but doesn’t appear anywhere on the WHL’s site.
And it’s interesting that the Free Press, in reporting that the WHL and Ice were denying that a fine had been issued, didn’t indicate that it was (or wasn’t) standing by its story.
(UPDATE: On Dec. 19, the Free Press printed a correction on Page A2: “The Western Hockey League did not fine the Winnipeg Ice for delays related to the construction of a new arena, as the Free Press reported last week. . . . The Free Press regrets the error.”)
Anyway . . . I don’t know what happened in that instance, but it seems that there is something going on involving the WHL and the Ice, and I’m guessing it has something to with the lack of a new home for the Ice in the Winnipeg area.
WHL insiders have clammed right up on this one. In fact, about all I have been able to determine is that midnight on Dec. 31 had some kind of relevance — a deadline of some kind? — in whatever is happening.
As someone said, “I’m sure the coming days will be interesting.”
Old friend Dwight Perry has retired from the Seattle Times, meaning his column, Sideline Chatter, no longer appears in the newspaper’s pages. In honour of his departure, here are a couple of items from his final column . . .
Canada won its first Davis Cup title in the event’s 109-year history, beating Australia 2-0 in Malaga, Spain.
The euphoria quickly died, however, when the U.S. refused to trade the Stanley Cup for it.
Seattle has been declared the No. 1 city for singles, according to a study released by the personal-finance website WalletHub.com.
Heck, Ichiro could have told you that two decades ago.
And here is how Perry signed off . . .
With the world safely back on its axis — the Mariners finally back in the playoffs and the Huskies reclaiming the Apple Cup — I guess I can safely retire now.
Thanks for going along on this 23-year Sideline Chatter ride in The Seattle Times. Adios.
Columnist Jack Todd, in the Montreal Gazette, after the host Washington Capitals dumped the Montreal Canadiens, 9-2, on New Year’s Eve:
“The hat trick Alexander Ovechkin scored on the hapless Canadiens propelled him closer to Wayne Gretzky’s career goal-scoring record, even as Ovechkin’s pal Vladimir Putin rains missiles on civilians and infrastructure in Ukraine and blocks humanitarian grain shipments from leaving Russian ports.
“Why is Ovechkin still playing in the NHL? Why has he not been suspended and deported in view of his vocal, active support for a murderous dictator? That question promises to be a continuing theme in 2023.”
Adam DiBella, the head coach of the junior B Nelson Leafs, has been suspended indefinitely by the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League “pending completion of an investigation . . . into his actions” in a New Year’s Eve game that featured a line brawl. The Leafs and the visiting Beaver Valley Nitehawks became involved in a brawl as the second period started. . . . On Tuesday, the league hit Nelson players with 35 games in suspensions, including eight-games each to four different players, while Beaver Valley players got eight games. . . . The KIJHL’s news release is right here.
Jim Bailey, the Black Press sports editor, described the incident like this: “After a physical but scoreless first period, as the puck dropped to open the second, each of the Nelson players attacked their Beaver Valley counterpart in an effort to start a brawl. Even the two Nelson defencemen skated to the opposite blueline to engage the Nitehawks’ defencemen.
“The intent from the Leafs’ bench was obvious, as Nelson coach Adam DiBella sent out his fourth line, prolific in penalty minutes but slight in points, to take some of the Nitehawks top skaters out of the game.”
BTW, the Leafs won the game, 3-1.
And if you’re interested in some social media reaction to all of this, check out KIJHLSniper (@KijhlS) on Twitter.
Andy Kemper, the Portland Winterhawks’ historian, points out that G Dante Giannuzzi picked up his 10th career assist the other night, and that set a franchise record. That record had been shared by Byron Dafoe (109 games, 1986-91) and Clint Malarchuk (77games, 1978-81). Giannuzzi, a 20-year-old from Winnipeg, has played in 89 games over five seasons. . . . Unfortunately, I don’t believe the WHL record book includes an entry for most career assists by a goaltender. . . . However, quanthockey.com has Randy Petruk and Dean Cook sharing the career record, each with 20. Petruk played 196 games over four seasons (1994-98) with the Kamloops Blazers. Cook got into three games with the Victoria Cougars (1985-86) and 147 with the Blazers (1986-89). . . .
Hey, wouldn’t it be great if the WHL and its other 21 teams followed the Winterhawks’ example by adding historians to their organizations? . . .
The Winterhawks are scheduled to open an East Division swing against the Brandon Wheat Kings on Friday night. And the six East Division teams better be ready because the Winterhawks Booster Club also is on the road. . . . Planning for the trek began four years ago. Stuart Kemp, the booster club’s president, reports that the travelling party of 30 will fly into Regina on Thursday, get settled there, and ride the bus to Brandon for Friday’s game. . . .
The Edmonton Oil Kings revealed on Tuesday that D Graydon Gotaas “has taken a leave of absence . . . due to personal reasons.” Gotaas, an 18-year-old from Camrose, Alta., had two assists in 15 games this season. He was acquired from the Prince Albert Raiders on Oct. 17, 2021, along with a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2024 WHL draft, for D Ross Stanley. In 43 career games, 23 with Edmonton, Gotaas has two goals and five assists. . . . The Oil Kings also announced that D Rhys Pederson, 16, will finish the season on their roster. A fifth-round pick in the 2021 WHL draft, he had been a regular with the NAX U18 prep team. He has been in seven games with the Oil Kings, but has yet to register a point. . . .
The Kelowna Rockets have signed Czech D Marek Rocak, 17, and he may be in their lineup as soon as Friday against the visiting Kamloops Blazers. Those same teams play again Saturday in Kamloops. . . . Rocak, a selection in the CHL’s 2022 import draft, has been playing with HC Frýdek-Místek in the Czechia2 league. He played for Czechia in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in Red Deer in August, recording one assist in five games. . . . Kelowna’s other import player is F Gabriel Szturc, 19, who has been playing for Czechia at the World Junior Championship. . . .
Bruce Hamilton, the owner, president and general manager of the Kelowna Rockets, has said that F Colton Dach, the team’s captain, “is likely out eight weeks for sure” with a shoulder injury suffered at the World Junior Championship. Hamilton told Regan Bartel, the Rockets’ radio voice, that Dach “will likely move right into the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks’ medical team and they will make a decision (on) how long he is going to be out.” . . . Dach remains with Team Canada in Halifax, where he was spotted at Tuesday’s practice with his right arm in a sling. . . . Bartel’s chat with Hamilton is right here. . . .
The Kamloops Blazers have acquired G Matthew Kieper, 18, from the Regina Pats for a pair of WHL draft picks — a fourth-rounder in 2023 that originated with the Edmonton Oil Kings and a sixth-rounder in 2025. . . . Kieper, from Winnipeg, will partner with starter Ethan Ernst as the Blazers prepare to play host to the 2023 Memorial Cup tournament. Ernst has been more than a pleasant surprise for Kamloops, having gone 20-5-2, 2.36, .919 in 28 games. . . . In 55 career games with the Pats, Kieper is 23-22-3, 3.88, .873. This season, in 12 games, he is 4-5-1, 4.39, .865. . . . Freshman Czechia G Michael Schnattinger, 18, would appear to be the odd man out in Kamloops. He is 1-2-3, 3.74, .880 in nine appearances. . . . The Blazers also have two other imports on their roster — Finnish D Aapo Sarell, 19, and Slovakian F Jakub Demek, 19. Demek was acquired from the Edmonton Oil Kings on Nov. 14, but has yet to play this season after having had offseason shoulder surgery. He is expected to return later this month. . . .
The junior B Castlegar Rebels have removed the interim from head coach Nick Headrick. The team’s board of directors has decided that Headrick will finish this season as head coach. He was an assistant under Arnie Caplan, who was fired in mid-November. . . . When that move was made, the Rebels were 5-12-1. They are 2-9-2 under Headrick. . . . Caplan also was the general manager. The Rebels now have hired Jesse Dorrans to fill that role. Dorrans is a former Castlegar GM and head coach. In fact, this will be his third go-round with the Rebels.
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