Saddened to share that my dad passed away in his sleep last night. He worked as hard as anyone I’ve ever known and he treated those he encountered with great respect…and he took me to work a lot. For all these things, I am very grateful. Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/cvlDRRdVXa
While the three community-owned Saskatchewan-based WHL teams combined to lose more than $1.5 million last season, the Lethbridge Hurricanes, the league’s other community-owned club, managed to lose only $1,030. . . . That appears to have been the biggest revelation as the Hurricanes held their annual general meeting in virtual fashion on Monday night. Originally scheduled for September, it had been postponed to December before finally being held on Monday. . . . While almost breaking even for last season, the Hurricanes, who had shown a profit of $282,168 for the 2018-19 season, have budgeted a loss of about $1.3 million for 2020-21. That, of course, is the worst-case scenario, which isn’t hard to imagine happening in these COVID-19 times. . . . Danica Ferris of Global News has more right here. . . .
The Hurricanes were able to get in 31 home games, averaging 3,970 fans per game. . . . Some numbers for the three community-owned teams that operate in Saskatchewan: The Moose Jaw Warriors, who declared a loss of $391,299, averaged 2,981 fans for 31 home games. . . . The Prince Albert Raiders, who lost $331,895, got in 32 homes games, averaging 2,642 fans. . . . In 32 home games, the Swift Current Broncos averaged 1,954 fans en route to losing $791,000.
The QMJHL, which last played on Nov. 29, plans on resuming play this weekend, but it won’t be playing in the Maritime provinces. The league had three games scheduled for each of Friday and Saturday nights in the Maritime Division, but has had to scratch them all “following meetings with government and public health officials of the three provinces,” the league said in a news release. “Meanwhile, the league will continue its constructive dialogue with the three provinces to resume playing as soon as possible.” . . . In the meantime, the 12 Quebec-based teams are scheduled to play a total of 15 games over the weekend.
Don’t look now but we already are half-past January, and there are daffodils blooming at English Bay in Vancouver. With that in mind and considering all that is going on around us, it perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise that some places are giving up on a 2020-21 winter season. . . . In Regina, the Highland Curling Club and the Caledonian Curling Club have cancelled the remainder of their seasons. A note from the Callie’s announcement via Facebook: “With the recent extension of the public health order, and continued rise of Covid-19 in our community, the need to end our curling season has become abundantly clear.” . . . Meanwhile, in B.C., the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) shut down Castlegar’s Pioneer Arena on Monday and is closing the Civic Centre in Nelson, effective Jan. 29. With a Public Health Order in place that restricts adult participation in sport and no end in sight, the RDCK said the closures were being done in order to reduce expenses. . . . The Nelson Star has more right here.
If you are an avid reader of Elliotte Friedman’s weekly posting 31 Thoughts, you are able to find the latest one right here. As always, it’s best served up with a hot cuppa coffee or tea, or whatever else is your beverage of choice.
THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
CBC News — Manitoba announces 111 new cases of COVID-19, which suggests the number of new cases is trending downwards. Today’s total brings the province’s 7-day average down to 172. There are also 11 more deaths due to the virus.
CBC News — Number of new cases in Saskatchewan tops 300 again after falling below that figure for 3 days. With 309 new cases, the province’s 7-day average rises to 300. 6 additional deaths are also being reported.
CBC News — Alberta reported another 17 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday and 456 new cases of the illness. There were 11,096 active cases in the province with 740 people in hospital, including 119 in ICU beds. Total deaths since the beginning of the pandemic now sits at 1,464. Active cases in the province declined by 827 compared to Monday.
Richard Zussman, Global B.C. — There are 465 new cases, including 13 epi-linked cases, for a total of 61,912 cases in British Columbia. . . . There are 12 new COVID-19 related deaths, for a total of 1,090.
CBC News — Ontario has 1,913 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest in more than a month. However, the health minister’s office says the number is likely low due to a data collection issue in Toronto. There are also 46 additional deaths. A record high 400 people are in ICUs.
CBC News — 1,386 new COVID-19 cases in Quebec, the lowest number of daily cases since December 4. The province is also attributing 55 additional deaths to the virus.
CBC News — Quebec calls on federal government to ban all non-essential international travel in light of growing emergence of new COVID-19 variants.
CTV News — PM warns Canada could impose new COVID-19 travel restrictions without notice.
CBC News — New Brunswick reports 31 new COVID-19 cases, tied for the 2nd highest number since the pandemic. Authorities recommend 3 health zones — including the province’s 3 biggest cities (Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton) be moved to red alert level.
CBC News, Tuesday, 12:30 p.m. PT — COVID-19 deaths in United States top 400,000, Johns Hopkins University tracking team says. Number of confirmed cases worldwide is 95,914,148 (24,163,823 in U.S.) with 2,049,813 deaths. Canada has had 718,519 cases with 18,232 deaths.
CNN, Tuesday, 4 p.m. PT: 401,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.
The NHL postponed a game between the Carolina Hurricanes and host Nashville Predators that had been scheduled for Tuesday night. According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, there is a COVID-19 “situation with the Hurricanes.” . . . The Hurricanes have five players on the protocol list — Warren Foegele, Jordan Martinook, Jaccob Slavin, Jordan Staal and Teuvo Teravainen. . . . The NHL now has postponed five games this regular season, with the other four all involving the Dallas Stars, who have yet to play a game. They are scheduled open on Friday at home against the Predators. . . .
The IIHF world men’s hockey championship, scheduled to open on May 21, won’t be taking place in Belarus, a country troubled by political unrest. The IIHF announced the decision on Monday, citing safety concerns. Of course, the decision also was made after three sponsors — Liqui Moly, Nivea and Skoda — said they would withdraw support if the tournament went ahead in Belarus. . . . The tournament was to have been shared with Latvia; the IIHF now is looking for another site. Another option is to move it to Denmark or Slovakia. . . .
The University of Nevada-Las Vegas Rebels have shut down their hockey program until the fall “due to continuous national hardships with COVID-19. . . . As it stands today, the local government determined that a safe enough path for competition could not be found for spring of 2021.” . . .
Hockey East has thrown out the remainder of its 2020-21 schedule because of coronavirus-related disruptions, and now says it will schedule on a weekly basis. . . . The conference has some teams that have played 15 games and some at four, so will work to try and even things out at least a bit. . . .
Devin Heroux of CBC Sports reported Tuesday that the Canadian men’s slopestyle team will miss an international event in Switzerland because two members have tested positive and are in isolation. . . . His story is right here.
IN THE NEWS! 📰📣 First in North America: All in Nova Scotia Now Considered Potential Organ Donors. https://t.co/tSXspSsaKa
JUST NOTES: In a letter to season-ticket holders, the Edmonton Oil Kings, among other things, indicated that should a WHL season get started they will their home games “in the Downtown Community Arena without fans in attendance.” Under what used to be normal circumstances, the Oil Kings played home games in Rogers Place, the home of the the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers, of course, own the Oil Kings. . . . The Montreal Canadiens have signed a three-year affiliate deal with an expansion ECHL franchise that is to begin play in Trois-Rivières in 2021-22.
One day after the Saskatchewan Hockey Association informed its membership via letter that there likely won’t be games played in that jurisdiction before the end of March, the provincial government handed over $4 million to the province’s major junior and junior A franchises.
The announcement came as the province, according the Postmedia, “reported 382 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the second highest one-day total, to cap a week in which Saskatchewan became the leader in per capita active cases in Canada.”
Each of the five WHL organizations based in Saskatchewan will see $600,000; the 12-team SJHL, which includes one team (Flin Flon Bombers) in Manitoba, gets $1 million.
Yes, the Bombers will get their share.
“All the teams in our league have had a decline in finances and revenue,” Bill Chow, the SJHL president, told Postmedia. “We decided that would be the best way — not help one, but help everybody.”
While the SJHL’s teams all are community-owned, three of the WHL’s Saskatchewan teams — the Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders and Swift Current Broncos — are owned by community shareholders, with the other two — the Regina Pats and Saskatoon Blades — having private owners.
Community-owned teams are obligated to hold annual general meetings open to shareholders. The Warriors, Raiders and Broncos did just that before 2020 ended, and announced combined losses of more than $1.5 million for a 2019-20 season that was halted prematurely by COVID-19.
The Pats are owned by five local businessmen — Anthony Marquart, the president of Royalty Developments Ltd.; Todd Lumbard, the president of Speers Funeral and Cremation Services; Gavin Semple, the chairman of the Brandt Group of Companies; Shaun Semple, the president of the Brandt Group of Companies; and Jason Drummond, the managing director of York Plains Investment Corp., and the found and president of DGC Investments.
The Blades are owned by Mike Priestner, the CEO of Go Auto. His son, Colin, is the Blades’ president and general manager.
Jeremy Harrison, Saskatchewan’s minister of trade and export development, said in a news release that junior hockey is “a critical part of the cultural fabric and local economies across the province.”
Harrison told Postmedia that the government has been working with the junior hockey people “on this particular question probably for a month and a half now. I think it’s fair to say that the initial request was of a quantum that was significantly larger. But we worked with the leagues to come to a place where a contribution would be sufficient for those teams to survive and for the league to be viable going forward.”
Chow called the money “a small Band-Aid on a big cut.”
“But,” he said, “it will definitely stop some of the bleeding.”
The money is expected to be in the hands of the five WHL teams and the SJHL sometime in February, and it’s not believed that it will have any strings attached.
So . . . with Saskatchewan having taken the plunge, will other western provinces be far behind?
The wheels, as Steve Ewen of Postmedia reported Friday, already are in motion. Ewen writes right here about how the WHL and BCHL, who under normal conditions would never sit down for coffee together, have teamed up in an attempt to land some financial relief from the B.C. government.
Veteran Portland journalist Kerry Eggers, who now writes at his own website (kerryeggers.com), posted a lengthy piece on the Winterhawks on Friday. While most of the story dealt with the franchise’s new ownership and the potential new season, the story also included some interesting items.
“It has already been announced that the Memorial Cup will not be held this year,” Egger writes, adding that Mike Johnston, the team’s vice-president, GM and head coach, “says the matter of league playoffs has yet to be determined.
“It remains a discussion point,” Johnston told Eggers in reference to WHL playoffs. “Even if things go quite smoothly, I’d anticipate that each division declares a champion. I just don’t know (about playoffs). The goal is to play hockey in June.”
While I wasn’t aware that the 2021 Memorial Cup had been cancelled, it only makes sense. The OHL and WHL haven’t yet played any games, while the QMJHL is waiting to restart after having teams play a handful of games in fits and starts before shutting down late in November.
Eggers also informed us that “the new owners, incidentally, are moving toward securing Memorial Coliseum as the permanent site for home games. Most of the home contests will be staged there this year.”
Keep in mind, too, that if a WHL season gets started, the Winterhawks go in as the defending regular-season champions.
F Matt Savoie of the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice played his first game with the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints on Friday night, scoring two goals and adding an assist in a 7-4 victory over the visiting Waterloo Black Hawks. That was the most goals the Fighting Saints (6-13-0) have scored in a game this season. . . . Savoie, 17, is one of a number of WHL players who have joined USHL teams over the past few days.
It’s not a penalty to stand anywhere in the ice. Cross checking someone in the back is, there is actually a rule in the rule book on this. Nowhere does it say that the rules don’t matter in front of the net. And you can use any term you want, I lived it. https://t.co/4hGbIImLPd
Some people have been decrying the epidemic of cross-checking that has been evident in the NHL for some time now. It’s really in the spotlight now because the Toronto Maple Leafs complained after Montreal Canadiens D Shea Webber gave F Auston Matthews the business on Wednesday night. . . . Ken Campbell of The Hockey News, who has long been a critic of the NHL for its mostly turning a blind eye to the foul, has more right here.
The @NHL today announced updates to the 2020-21 regular season schedule. The @DallasStars will now open their regular season on Friday, Jan. 22 at home against Nashville.
The Dallas Stars, who have had 17 players test positive since Dec. 30, now have had their first four regular-season games postponed. After bumping their first three games earlier in the week, the NHL on Friday postponed their Jan. 19 game against the host Tampa Bay Lightning. . . . The Stars now are scheduled to play their first game on Jan. 22 against the visiting Nashville Predators. . . . As you can see by the above tweet, the NHL has done some rescheduling, all of which has added a couple of days to the regular season — barring further changes, and that’s hardly a sure thing, the last games now will be played on May 10 as opposed to May 8.
THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
CBC News: Health officials warn that not enough is being done to limit the spread of COVID-19. They say the daily case count could rise from about 7,900 to 13,000, and that as many as 100,000 people could contract the virus over the next 10 days.
CBC News: Manitoba announces 5 more deaths and 191 new cases of COVID-19. In the past week, the number of new daily cases has ranged from a high of 261 to a low of 89; the 7-day average is 170.
CBC News: Saskatchewan is reporting 386 new cases of COVID-19 and 4 new deaths. 210 people are in hospital, the most since the pandemic began, including 35 people in intensive care. There are 4,010 known active cases in the province.
CBC News: Alberta is reporting 785 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 new deaths. 796 people are in hospital, including 124 in ICU. Alberta currently has 12,189 active cases of the illness. Provincial labs completed 13,575 tests Thursday with a positivity rate of 5.5 per cent. So far 1,402 Albertans have died of COVID-19. On Thursday, there were 796 people in hospital with the illness, 10 fewer people than Wednesday.
Janet Brown, CKNW Vancouver — Friday’s B.C. Covid numbers: 349 people in hospital (-13), 68 ICU (-6), 509 new cases (60,117), 9 more deaths (1047).
CBC News: Ontario has a record 100 deaths from COVID-19, but officials say that includes 46 earlier deaths. There are 2,998 new cases, with 800 in Toronto, 618 in Peel and 250 in York. Almost 76,500 people were tested.
CBC News: Quebec is reporting 1,918 new cases of COVID 19. The province is also reporting 62 new deaths, 9 of which occurred in the past 24 hours. 1,496 people are in hospital, including 231 in ICU.
CBC News: New Brunswick continues to experience a COVID-19 surge with 25 new cases. That’s the 4th highest day since the pandemic began; all have occurred since January 5.
CBC News: The Northwest Territories has reported its first case of COVID-19 “with no known source and no travel history.”
Our daily update is published. States reported 2.3M tests, 244k cases, 127,235 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, and 3,679 deaths. The 7-day average for tests is at a record high. pic.twitter.com/QUQ7HYUjL8
CBC News: The number of global deaths related to COVID-19 has passed the 2-million mark. Johns Hopkins University says the death toll has now reached 2,000,905.
The New York Times: It took over nine months for the world to pass one million virus deaths in September, a moment the UN secretary-general called “mind-numbing” and “an agonizing milestone.” In just a little over three months, the virus claimed another one million lives.
Karl-Anthony Towns of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves revealed on Friday that he has tested positive for COVID-19. He already has lost his mother and six other family members to the virus . . .
The U of Montana and Montana State announced Friday that their football teams won’t take part in the Big Sky Conference’s spring championship season. The conference has said it will operate a six-game season from Feb. 27 to April 10. . . .
The U of Vermont men’s hockey team has paused activities after a positive test. . . . The team’s series at Merrimack that had been scheduled for this weekend was postponed. . . .
If you are watching NHL games, the following tweet may be of interest to you . . .
JUST NOTES: Two WHL teams have lost their video coaches to pro teams. . . . Michael Chan, who had been the Edmonton Oil Kings’ video coach, has signed on with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies as their video coach. Chan, 29, had been with the Oil Kings for five seasons, the last three as video coach and hockey operations co-ordinator. . . . Meanwhile, Adam Purner, who spent five season with the Portland Winterhawks, is joining the AHL’s Binghamton Devils. He also had been the Winterhawks’ manager of group events.
At some point in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post, I put together a brief history of the Western Hockey League. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I am doing just that. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here is Part 3. . . .
The mid-1970s belonged to the Ernie McLean-coached New Westminster Bruins. They were the Western Canada Hockey League’s most-dominant team.
If you didn’t believe that, well, they would convince you of it. And they’d do that any way they felt like it.
The Bruins ran their string of WCHL titles to four, and won the Memorial Cup the last two seasons, in 1976-77 and 1977-78. But by the time the 1980-81 season ended, the bloom was off the rose in New Westminster. Little did anyone know that it never would return.
Prior to the start of the 1976-77 season, the WCHL instituted a rule calling for an automatic game misconduct to any player who initiated a fight. Ironically, the first player stung was Brandon Wheat Kings starry centre Bill Derlago. He got the heave-ho after starting a scrap with Brian Schnitzler of the Saskatoon Blades in a season-opening 3-0 Brandon victory.
Two coaches felt WCHL president Ed Chynoweth’s wrath on Nov. 2. Ivan Prediger of the Kamloops Chiefs was suspended for 20 games, while Ken Hodge of the Portland Winter Hawks got 10 games. Prediger apparently struck Hodge during an altercation between the benches on Oct. 24.
There was joy in Regina on Jan. 27 when the Pats scored a 3-2 victory over visiting Portland. It ended a 36- game Regina winless streak that covered 96 days. “I hope the players don’t become satisfied with the win,” said Lorne Davis, who had taken over as GM/head coach from Del Wilson and Bob Turner with the Pats at 2-32-5.
A nine-hour meeting in Calgary resulted in a new playoff format. Under the original format, the Flin Flon Bombers, third in the East, were 20 points ahead of Regina and all but had a playoff spot locked up. Suddenly, there was a new format and the Bombers were fighting for a spot. Oh yes, they were also on a 15-game West Coast road trip.
“In this league, you need two pieces of equipment,” said Flin Flon boss Mickey Keating. “You need a face-guard when you play some of the teams on the ice and a back protector for the committee room. I had inklings that there may be changes in the playoffs but I had confidence there were intelligent hockey men in this league. I was shown different.”
In Portland, the Winter Hawks were beginning to carve out a niche, which resulted in this March 1 comment from GM Brian Shaw: “We’re selling the all-American boy image. Our players are all properly dressed in public. They all have respectable hair lengths. We feel image is important. Our players have become our outstanding selling point, and they have actually played much better because of the great acceptance which now is blossoming in Portland.”
In mid-April, Kamloops majority owner Ephram Steinke admitted the franchise would likely move to Spokane over the summer. The reasons? Steinke blamed almost $500,000 in losses over four years, and the city’s refusal to construct a new arena.
On May 12, the Calgary Centennials signed Bob Strumm as general manager. One of Strumm’s first moves was to confirm that a move to Billings was being contemplated.
Strumm, who had been Chynoweth’s executive assistant, was, at 29, the WCHL’s youngest GM. He would be one of the league’s most-prominent figures through the mid-1980s.
The Calgary move became official on May 19. Eleven days later, Kamloops moved to Seattle and became the Breakers under new owner John Hamilton.
On July 19, at the annual meeting in Calgary, the transfer of the Winnipeg Monarchs to Calgary was approved. Del Wilson, president and governor of the Pats, was named chairman of the board, replacing Bill Burton.
When Winnipeg moved to Calgary and became the Wranglers, owner Gerry Brisson named Doug Barkley as GM. The coach? It was Brisson. Would the GM be able to fire the owner/coach.
The 1977-78 regular season hadn’t even started when McLean was in trouble. It stemmed from an exhibition game against the host Victoria Cougars when midway in the second period he ventured into the stands to tangle with a fan who was taunting him. For his troubles, McLean got a gash on his forehead and, later, a $250 fine. This would serve as an omen.
A fierce rivalry was building between Regina and the Brandon Wheat Kings. After one early-season game, Davis had this to say: “If (Dave) Semenko would have been close enough to the box I would have swung at him . . . he came over by our bench trying to intimidate us.” To which Brandon coach Dunc McCallum responded: “How can a 220-pound man be held back by a stick boy?”
A few days later, Semenko joined the WHA’s Edmonton Oilers. A couple of years later, Davis joined the Oilers as a scout.
Derlago, perhaps the best pure offensive talent this league has seen, had a 40-game point streak end on Nov. 9 when he left a game with a thigh injury during his first shift. One month later, he blew out a knee in an exhibition game against the Moscow Selects. Had Derlago not been hurt, who knows what kind of numbers he would have put up? When he was injured, he had 48 goals and 80 points in 26 games. He was on pace for 133 goals, three more than the then-CMJHL record of 130 held by Guy Lafleur.
On Feb. 3, Jack McLeod resigned as coach of the Saskatoon Blades. He stayed on as GM, but put Garry Peters behind the bench. In Calgary, Barkley, the GM, took over as coach from Brisson, the owner.
More bad ink, and lots of it, in early February when McLean was slapped with a 25-game suspension for allegedly hitting an official. He returned for the playoffs.
“Our league has long been accused of protecting either our coaches or, more particularly, owner/coaches, but there is no way one coach or one franchise is bigger than the league,” Chynoweth said. “I can live with the so-called violence on ice, as projected by the media, but when it comes to our officials, qualified or unqualified, I look at things much differently.”
More bad ink in the first round of the playoffs. Yes, it emerged from a round-robin series. This one featured Brandon, Flin Flon and Regina in a double home-and-home series. When it got to the final game, Flin Flon at Regina, the Pats had to beat the Bombers by at least six goals to eliminate Brandon and set up a Regina-Flin Flon division final. Regina won 10-4 and the high-powered Wheat Kings, led by the likes of Derlago, Brian Propp, Laurie Boschman and Ray Allison, were done like so much burnt toast.
“For us to say anything is stupid. You saw what happened,” Flin Flon defenceman Ray Markham said after the game.
Ultimately, Flin Flon, New Westminster and Billings advanced to the WCHL’s round-robin semi-final to eliminate one team and put the other two in the championship final. Out went Flin Flon. New Westminster then swept Billings in the final. It was the Bruins’ fourth straight WCHL title and they would win their second consecutive Memorial Cup.
The Bruins, a power for oh, so long, would rarely be heard from in a positive light again.
On May 22, Flin Flon governor Gord Mitchell revealed that the community-owned team would cease operations. “I hate to see it go,” Mitchell said. “It’s certainly not the fault of the league. The league’s not kicking us out. But there comes a time when something like this seems to be the most reasonable thing to do. We’re a small centre and it got to the point where the league had outgrown us.”
A week later, Chynoweth, who had threatened to resign, announced he would remain as president, thanks to a promise from the governors that an executive assistant would be provided to help with such things as discipline. Wilson, the part-owner of the Pats, filled the bill as vice-president and referee-in-chief. Shaw replaced Wilson as chairman of the board.
On June 1, Gregg Pilling was named GM/coach in Regina, replacing Davis who, in a surprise move, was fired. Davis professed sadness, saying he had worked awfully hard and that all of that work would bear fruit in two years. Which is exactly what happened — two years later the Pats were in the Memorial Cup. But Pilling was gone by that point.
It was during the summer of 1978 when Chynoweth began talking of an education program. On July 4, he announced a program whereby teams would provide a year’s tuition and books at a recognized post-secondary institution for every season a player was in the league.
On Aug. 16, Chynoweth announced an Edmonton group headed by Bill Hunter had purchased the Flin Flon franchise from the league. Hunter would be president and governor, Vic Mah would be first vice-president.
The 1978-79 season began with news of a name change and ended with a new champion for the first time since the spring of ’74.
With three of 12 teams situated in the U.S., the WCHL was no more. Now it was the Western Hockey League.
The goofiness started on Oct. 22 when Pilling went into the penalty box at the start of the third period of a game in Calgary. He said he would serve a bench minor handed him for delay of game at the end of the second period in what would be an 8-1 loss. Pilling also alternated goaltenders Jeff Lastiwka and Gregg Dumba every shift change after a brawl at 2:52 of the second. Changing goalies ended 30 seconds into the third period when, with the faceoff outside Regina’s blueline, Dumba lined up behind his net. He was given a gross misconduct.
Chynoweth, who fined Pilling $1,000, said: “I thought it was a circus. I wouldn’t blame anybody if they didn’t go back.”
This was to be the season of McCallum’s Wheat Kings. That much was evident when Brandon ran its two-season unbeaten streak to a WHL-record 49 games and its single-season streak to 29 games. Brandon finally lost, going down 9-4 in Edmonton on Dec. 13 with the Oil Kings scoring all nine goals with the man advantage.
There was more news from Brandon on Jan. 11 when GM Jack Brockest, one of the WHL’s most likeable people, bought the team.
If any team could match Brandon it was Portland. The Winter Hawks had a 19-game unbeaten streak ended when visiting Brandon won 7-4 to go to 42-3-7.
In mid-March, rumours had the Edmonton franchise, which was averaging about 500 fans a game, moving to Great Falls, Montana, or Red Deer.
Things got ugly on March 22 in New Westminster when an incident involving the Bruins and Portland resulted in McLean’s being suspended indefinitely and seven of his players being charged by police. A game-ending brawl broke out, but this one was different because, while the Bruins left their bench, Hodge managed to keep his players under control.
On March 27, Wilson said McLean would not be allowed to coach during the playoffs, nor would he be allowed to communicate with the bench from the press box as he had done during previous suspensions.
McLean apologized for the brawl at a Vancouver press conference: “I have to take the full load, the full responsibility for what happened . . . when I look at it, maybe the game has gone by me. Maybe my coaching style isn’t what’s needed anymore. I’m an old horse that’s been at it for 25 years and it’s tough to change your thinking. The game is changing — maybe I haven’t changed with it.”
On April 4, GM Bill Shinske and McLean announced the Bruins were for sale, for $350,000.
The Winter Hawks got a small measure of revenge, beating the visiting Bruins 5-3 on April 8 to eliminate them from post-season play.
But this sad episode would drag on through the summer.
Meanwhile, Brandon was finishing with a 58-5-9 record, setting or tying 19 records.
The Oil Kings were sold on April 10, with ownership handed over to a Portland group headed by Bob Cooper and Tom Gauthier, who said they would move the franchise to Great Falls. “I guess sports is not my bowl of rice,” said Mah, an Edmonton restauranteur. It was Mah’s second go-round as an owner in Edmonton, and he wouldn’t give up. He would try and try again and again to get another franchise for the Alberta capital.
On April 20, charges of common assault were filed against seven Bruins — J.P. Kelly, Terry Kirkham, Bruce Howes, Rick Amann, Boris Fistric, Rob Roflik and Bill Hobbins. In August, the seven pleaded guilty. Judge James Shaw — no relation to the Portland general manager — granted conditional discharges to all seven, then banned them from league games at any level until Dec. 1. McLean said Shaw was “trying to be the judge who is going to clean up hockey. I’m worried about the affect on the game because the judge’s ruling makes a hip-check a criminal offence.”
Portland and Brandon ended up in the final, with Brandon winning in six games.
And, on May 28, Chynoweth resigned, effective June 30. This time he would leave, becoming part-owner of the Wranglers. “It’s more than 25 per cent and less than 50,” said majority-owner Jim Morley.
In late May, Pat Ginnell, who had been with the Lethbridge Broncos, moved north to take over the Medicine Hat Tigers. Mike Sauter would replace him in Lethbridge. Dave King left as coach in Billings to become head coach at the University of Saskatchewan.
The Pats were sold on June 8, with Wilson, Bill Patton, Gord Wicijowski, D.K. MacPherson, Wilf Degelman and Bob Babchuk selling to the Pinders — father Dick and sons Herb, Gerry and Tom. The price was believed to be near $300,000. Strumm was named GM, governor and part-owner.
Strumm later signed Bryan Murray as head coach and one of the great turnarounds in WHL history was under way.
But before that got started, Dave Descent was chosen to run the WHL. In his third season with the Canadian Amateur Wrestling Association at the time, Descent had lots of hockey experience at various levels in the OHA. “This job is an opportunity to get back into hockey, which is my chosen sport, and advance my sporting career,” he said.
Regina, which finished 18-47-7 (last in the East, second-worst in the league) in 1978-79, would go 47-24-1 in 1979-80 to win the division.
It was obvious early that the Bruins were going to pay a steep price for the brawl against Portland. They got their first point, after 13 losses, with a 5-5 tie in Great Falls on Oct. 31.
And on Nov. 16 McLean was at it again. And again it involved Portland.
McLean got tangled up with a fan at a game in Portland and was charged with fourth-degree assault. In one of the most ironical situations in WHL history, McLean was in jail until Brian Shaw posted his bail of $525. Charges were later reduced to harassment and it was all cleared up when a civil compromise was signed, ending the criminal case.
In mid-December, Descent’s title was changed from executive director to president. And concern was being shown about Great Falls, which was 2-22-1 and hurtin’ at the gate. The Americans folded on Dec. 13.
On March 2, McLean threw a 30-gallon garbage can onto the ice to protest the work of referee Ken Wheler during a game against visiting Portland.
The next day, Descent announced his resignation. Said Descent: “Speaking honestly, I’ve enjoyed my stay and feel it was a positive experience. But for personal reasons I’ve decided to take a different career path which is something I’m not at liberty to discuss now.”
Shaw said a five-man board would run the league, and that McLean would be suspended for three games for throwing the can. Oh yes, McLean was later named acting chairman of the management committee.
On March 24, McLean said he was leaving the Bruins. “I’ve made up my mind,” he said. “I’ve worn out my welcome. I will not be in New Westminster next year. We built a dynasty here but it’s time to move on.” All this after the Bruins set a WHL record with 61 losses. It was the first time in 18 seasons that McLean had missed playoffs.
On April 17, Vancouver businessman Nelson Skalbania bought out McLean and Shinske for slightly more than $300,000.
A week later, the WHL announced that Winnipeg would have an expansion team for 1980-81 and that the owners were former Pats star Fran Huck, his law partner Gerald Gunn and Winnipeg businessmen Harry Buekert, Arnold DeFehr and Marsdon Fenwick. Buekert would be GM, with Huck as coach.
On April 27, Regina beat visiting Victoria, 5-4, to win the WHL final, 4-1. The 1980 Memorial Cup, which would be won by the Cornwall Royals, opened in Brandon and closed in Regina.
During the Memorial Cup it became apparent the major juniors were terribly concerned with NHL’s practice of drafting 18-year-olds.
Chynoweth said: “I understand the legal problems the NHL has, although I don’t sympathize with it . . . at this rate, the pros will be scouting midgets soon.”
McLeod remembered the 1979 draft: “Back in June one NHL general manager said there was nothing to worry about, that only seven or eight under-ages would be taken. When they took 58, we were a little disturbed. Once they got into it, they just kept going.”
Junior teams were to be paid $50,000 to $65,000 for under-age players who stuck in the NHL.
Some NHL people said they weren’t in favour of the 18-year-old draft, either.
“The general managers unanimously fought to the 11th hour to avoid drafting under-ages,” said Washington GM Max McNab. “We were going to get caught in a lawsuit. But the NHL is like the government in the eyes of the public here. We’re going to get shot at in any decision.”
On May 15, the WHL announced that the dormant Great Falls franchise would relocate to Spokane with Cooper remaining as majority owner.
On June 26, Skalbania, already the owner of New Westminster and the NHL’s Calgary Flames, bought 50 per cent of the Wranglers. Skalbania explained: “It’s a sympathetic thing. I said when we bought the Flames that we’d support junior hockey in Calgary and I can’t think of a way we’d be supporting it any more than owning the team. I just hope we don’t lose that much money with them.”
Pat Shimbashi, a minority owner in Lethbridge, bought the other 50 per cent of the Wranglers from Jim Morley and Chynoweth, which meant that the latter would return as WHL president.
On June 27, Skalbania completed his purchase of the Bruins, buying 100 per cent for $325,000. McLean stayed as GM, while Skalbania’s 20-year-old daughter, Rozanda, was named president.
McLean resigned a couple of weeks later and Tracy Pratt was named GM. “I’d like to forget about the big bad Bruins of the past,” Pratt said, “and I’d like to think of them as the scrappy Bruins in the future. My concern is putting families back in the building. There was a shade too much violence in past years and many people became very bitter about what happened at Queen’s Park Arena.”
The league lost its referee-in-chief on Aug. 8 when Wilson announced he would scout for the Montreal Canadiens, a team with which he had long been associated.
The 1980-81 season opened quietly enough, but the silence was shattered on Dec. 1 with a shakeup in Saskatoon. McLeod and coach Lorne Frey ended their association with the Blades. Majority owner Nate Brodsky bought McLeod’s share (20 per cent) and named Daryl Lubiniecki GM and coach.
Lubiniecki began shaking things up when, on Jan. 15, he traded one player — centre Rocky Trottier — to Billings for six players — Pat Rabbitt, Dave Brown, Brad Duggan, Dave Chartier, Lyndon Byers and Al Acton.
Fighting was still a concern and on Dec. 17 Chynoweth announced that teams would be fined $2,500 if their players fought before games or between periods. Players who started the fights or were main combatants would get a minimum of five games.
A black cloud continued to follow the Bruins. A labour dispute forced them to play their last 29 games on the road. Their last 13 home games were played in such places as Bellingham, Wash., Kamloops, Trail, Duncan, B.C., and Coleman, Alta. The Bruins set a WHL record by losing 25 in a row and had to give season-ticket holders a refund for the 13 home games that were moved.
There were rumblings out of Swift Current that the locals were interested in a WHL franchise. John Rittinger, president of the SJHL team there, was trying to raise money for the venture. “I can’t give you a figure at this time,” he said on April 1, “but, personally, I feel there has been insufficient support.”
The juniors were beginning to realize they were going to have to live with the 18-year-old draft. Said Chynoweth: “The under-age situation is a problem but also a fact of life. The law of the land says at 18 you can fight for your country, drink and get married. Consequently, they’re also eligible to be drafted and play for NHL teams.”
The WHL had a new referee-in-chief — Richard Doerksen — and he was in the news in the playoffs after Strumm grabbed him in the press box during a game. Strumm was slapped with a two-game suspension and a $1,000 fine.
Victoria, under coach Jack Shupe, would win the WHL championship in 1980-81. Trailing Calgary 3-1, the Cougars bounced back and wrapped it up on May 1, beating the visiting Wranglers, 4-2, in Game 7.
Singing a song that would become popular in NHL circles in years to come, Calgary coach Doug Sauter explained: “(Goaltender Grant) Fuhr was the difference.”
There was an interesting development in B.C. on Saturday as Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said in her daily pandemic-related briefing that “realistically, we will not be having those big events where people gather together this summer.”
She added: “I would tell people to think small. We are not going to be having large gatherings.”
While suggesting there may be an easing of some restrictions in mid-May, she said: “We can’t lose sight that we continue to have people who are affected by this, we continue to have outbreaks, we continue to have transmission, and so we are not at the point yet where we can let (down) our guard. . . . The storm is still raging, and tragically we see that in the fact that people are still dying from this virus in B.C.”
While Dr. Henry doesn’t appear to have defined the beginning and end of summer, it seems that the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE), the West Coast’s biggest annual show, is in for change. This year, it is scheduled to open on Aug. 22 and run through Sept. 7.
On Saturday, the PNE issued a news release that read, in part:
“Because of COVID-19, this summer will look different at the PNE. The opportunities to celebrate will be different and we absolutely recognize that our plans for the PNE Fair and Playland will need to adjust accordingly. . . .
“So stay tuned, the events may be smaller, and protocols may be different, but we have a few bright ideas up our sleeve for when the time is right.”
Dr. Henry explained: “We do not have enough herd immunity or community immunity to protect everybody and allow that type of event to happen. So I think we’ll see be seeing, globally, those types of events — large parades, large mass gatherings where we all come together — those will not be happening this summer.”
That wouldn’t seem to bode well for any sports leagues/teams that operate in the summer months in B.C., including the Vancouver Whitecaps, B.C. Lions and Vancouver Canadians. As much as we all want to see junior hockey up and running again, you really have to wonder what the future holds, especially considering that major junior, junior A and junior B teams normally would open camps in August.
B.C. is home to five WHL teams, 17 junior A teams, all of them in the BCHL, and 19 junior B teams in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
Still, hockey fans have to get through four months to get to mid-August and a lot can happen between now and then. Right?
Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, announced on Friday that the federal government was making $500 million in relief aid available for arts, culture and sports. . . . Lance Black, the president of the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies, told Cleve Dheensaw of the Victoria Times Colonist: “We definitely need to get that help.” . . . Black added: “We are hurting because our sponsors are hurting. This is the time of year we would be out selling advertising. We need the money but no one is buying advertising.” . . . Junior A and junior B teams also won’t be gaining revenue from spring camps, all of which have been cancelled. . . . Dheensaw’s complete story is right here.
The 53rd annual IMG Academy Junior World Championships golf tournament, scheduled for July 4-10 in San Diego, has been cancelled. It draws more than 1,200 golfers on an annual basis. . . .
Soccer’s English Premier League has been shut down for about a month now with no end in sight. . . . Karren Brady, West Ham’s chief executive, writing in The Sun newspaper: “Players will have been able to retain some physical fitness at home. But if social-distancing rules are still in place, physical match-play training will not be allowed — you can’t tackle from two meters away. So, how match-fit will players be if the season commences, as we all hope it will, by mid-June?” . . .
The NBA revealed that players will taking a 25 per cent cut in pay. The first slash will be evident in the payments of May 15. The NBA regular-season would have ended on Wednesday had play not been suspended with 259 games yet to be played. . . .
The MLS announced that it won’t re-open until at least June 8. It has been out of action since March 12. . . .
More golf tournaments have been cancelled, this time in Europe. The BMW International that was to have been played in Munich, from June 25-28, and the Open de France that was scheduled for the following week have been postponed. . . . Large public gatherings have been banned in France through mid-July and in Germany through Aug. 31. . . . The Scottish Open (July 9-12) also has been postponed.
Hannah Keyser, a baseball writer for Yahoo, watched the movie Hoosiers for the first time the other night. Her reaction: “I was not prepared for this much upper thigh.”
The most Quebec thing I've seen since this began was the plane landing on the busy highway in Quebec City and the two drivers right behind tailgating an airplane.
Let this be a warning to alien spaceships: land in Quebec, expect tailgaters. .
Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot: “I began social distancing years ago when somebody would approach and try to tell me about his fantasy football team.”
Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, with some news from the Little Apple: “Forbidden Spirits Distilling near Kelowna offered the locals free coronavirus disinfectant, but the jockeying in line quickly devolved into fistfights.In other words, they scheduled a hand-sanitizer giveaway — and a hockey game broke out.”
Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought For the Day, this one from H.L. Mencken: “Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.”
Dale Lambert is the new head coach of the Saskatoon Contacts of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Lambert, 60, had an extensive playing career in England. He is a brother to Ross and Lane Lambert, the latter the associate coach with the NHL’s New York Islanders. . . . Lane (1981-83) and Ross (1982-83) both spent time with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades. . . . Dale will take over from long-time Contacts’ head coach Marc Chartier, another former Blades player.
With all the present-day talk of canceling games, Seattle remains the only place where a major professional sports championship failed to conclude due to a global pandemic, the Spanish influenza. @GeoffBakerTIMES looks back: https://t.co/jJjYFgjn61
Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday at 10:15 a.m., at which, according to the Everett Herald, he is expected to “announce a ban on events and social gatherings attended by more than 250 people” as the area continues to battle COVID-19.
It is believed that an initial ban would impact Snohomish, King and Pierce counties.
Everett, the home of the WHL’s Silvertips, is the county seat and the largest city in Snohomish County. The WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds play out of Kent, Wash., which is located in King County.
It will also affect the MSL’s Seattle Sounders, Major League Rugby’s Seattle Seawolves and XFL’s Seattle Dragons.
The Thunderbirds have three home games remaining — on Saturday (Vancouver), Tuesday (Spokane) and March 21 (Portland).
The Silvertips have one home game remaining, on March 20 against the Victoria Royals.
Later Tuesday, the Silvertips announced the cancellation of the Silvertips Radio Show “until further notice.” It was broadcast live from Sporty’s Beef & Brew, featuring play-by-play voice Mike Benton and appearances by players. Last night’s show was available via the Internet.
On Tuesday, Inslee said the banning of large gatherings, including sporting events, is under consideration.
“I would not be shocked if we have some more news on that in the next few days,” he said. “If we’re going to stop this epidemic, we need to look at what’s coming, not just what’s here today.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, the death toll in the state from COVID-19 had reached at least 23, with more than 190 confirmed cases. Inslee said he expects that number to grow rapidly.
On Monday evening, Patty Hayes, director of Public Health — Seattle & King County, had displayed a chart that features five levels of actions. Washington state already has moved through Level 2 and, Hayes said, “We are at the ready to institute the third level. Level 3 includes “involuntary isolation of those sick” and “involuntary quarantine of those who have interacted with those sick.”
Hayes added: “We haven’t had to do this because our public has been extremely compliant . . . But the health officer does have the authority to involuntarily isolate or quarantine individuals.”
Level 4 involves ordering the “cancellation of major public and large private gatherings,” which would appear to be where at least three counties now find themselves.
With less than two weeks remaining in its regular season and the playoffs scheduled to open on March 27, the WHL has announced a handful of operational changes in response to COVID-19.
It has ordered the “elimination of handshakes between teammates, opponents and officials,” while also impressing upon teams that players not share water bottles or towels.
The WHL also has asked all teams to “avoid direct contact with fans, including high-fives, handshakes, and autographing of items.”
The WHL’s statement didn’t make mention of whether it has looked at other options, such as playing games in empty arenas or even postponing/cancelling games.
While the Edmonton Oil Kings and Medicine Hat Tigers, for two, have said they will abide by the WHL’s request, Saskatoon radio station CKOM reported that the Blades “aren’t putting limitations on fans.”
The station reported that “Tyler Wawryk, director of business operations with the Blades, told 650 CKOM the team isn’t planning on following the recommendations, and autograph sessions will continue as scheduled.”
In Everett, the Northwest Athletic Conference announced that its men’s and women’s basketball championships are moving from Everett Community College to Clackamas CC in Oregon City, Ore., and Linn-Benton CC in Albany, Ore. . . . The tournaments were to have been played last weekend at Everett CC and, in fact, three women’s games were played on Thursday before the campus was shut down because of coronavirus concerns. A student from Everett CC later tested positive. The campus received a thorough cleaning and reopened on Monday.
Meanwhile, on Vancouver Island, the start of a junior B playoff series between the Oceanside Generals and Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League has been postponed. The North Division final was to have started Tuesday night in Parksville, but BC Hockey said several Campbell River players are self-isolating with flu-like symptoms. . . . Gerry Bickerton, the Generals’ president, told Nanaimo NewsNOW that his team is healthy. “Hockey-wise it’s frustrating but public safety-wise this has to be done,” Bickerton said. “With what’s happening right now, BC Hockey went and did their questioning and they’ve made their decision.” . . . It is hoped that the series now will begin Saturday in Parksville. . . . Alex Rawnsley’s story is right here. . . . As of Tuesday night, there hadn’t yet been a positive test for coronavirus on Vancouver Island.
Ken Campbell of The Hockey News reported via Twitter on Tuesday that the Los Angeles Kings “have banned their scouts from plane travel because of the COVID-19 virus. If they can’t drive to the game, they’re not to go.” . . . Campbell followed that up with: “Buffalo Sabres scouts are still flying, but not to Europe. They’ve also told their scouts that if they feel uncomfortable about flying, they don’t have to fly.”
The NBA’s Golden State Warriors played a home game in front of fans on Tuesday night, despite an aggressive recommendation from the City of San Francisco on Friday that all large, non-essential events be cancelled. . . . This isn’t sitting well with city officials. “I have expressed my desire that they do this voluntarily before, in the days ahead, we do it as an emergency public health order,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin told the online news site Mission Local. “It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. I hope they come to that conclusion before we make them come to that conclusion.” . . . The Warriors have said that they don’t plan any changes before their next home game, either. That game is scheduled for Thursday. . . .
The NBA will hold a conference call involving team owners on Wednesday afternoon during which they will discuss possible moves. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, each franchise was required to have “several contingency plans in place” by Tuesday, including “an arrangement with an infectious disease specialist, the identifying of a specific facility to test for coronavirus and a plan to limit the number of team and arena staff members that would interact with players.” . . . On Wednesday, the owners are expected to discuss the possibility of playing games in empty arenas. . . .
The Austrian EBEL (Erste Bank Ice Hockey League) cancelled the remainder of its season, with the German DEL quick to follow suit. . . . The EBEL features teams from Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Italy. A statement from the league stated that “no championship title will be awarded in the 2019-20 season.” . . . The DEL statement read, in part: “The DEL is forced to end the current season. . . . The reason for this is the banning by federal states of events such as DEL games with more than 1,000 spectators. . . . Due to the premature end of the season, there is no German champion this year. As the main round winner, the EHC Red Bull Munich, together with the Adler Mannheim, the Straubing Tigers and the Eisbären Berlin, represent the DEL in the Champions Hockey League (CHL 2020-21).” . . .
Igor Eronko, a Sport-Express hockey writer and KHL-TV commentator, tweeted that “Moscow plans to cancel all the sports events with more than 5,000 spectators. . . . It will definitely affect the KHL playoffs.” . . .
For an in-depth look at postponements, cancellations and more from the hockey world, check out this right here from Conway’s Russian Hockey Blog. There is a whole lot of information here. . . .
Due to the Coronavirus, the Atlanta Thrashers will play the rest of the regular season in an empty arena
The Ivy League shut down all spring football practices, effective Tuesday morning and running through at least April 5. . . .
The Ivy League also cancelled its Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments that were to have been played this weekend in Cambridge, Mass. The Princeton women and Yale men were awarded the league’s NCAA tournament bids. . . . The Ivy League also made the decision to limit attendance at all sporting events through the end of its spring season. . . .
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference cancelled the rest of its state boys and girls basketball, boys ice hockey and boys swimming tournaments. . . . The Connecticut High School Girls Hockey Association has also cancelled its playoffs. . . .
Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio, has recommended all indoor games be played without spectators. That would include the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, who are at home to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, whose next home game is scheduled for March 24. . . . DeWine tweeted that “for indoor events, we are asking for no events with spectators other than the athletes, parents and others essential to the game.” . . . The Blue Jackets later issued a statement, saying that they have been in contact with the NHL and “it has been determined that our scheduled games, including Thursday vs. Pittsburgh and Saturday vs. Nashville, will go on as scheduled and be open to ticket fans that wish to attend.” . . . The Mid-American Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be played at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in downtown Cleveland starting on Thursday, but with a restricted attendance policy. Thus, they won’t be open to the public. . . .
The Big West Conference will play its conference tournaments without fans in the buildings. The men are to play this week at the Honda Center in Anaheim; the women will play at the Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State. . . .
The Zac Brown Band has postponed a spring tour. . . . BMI, a music rights management company, has postponed its Latin Awards that had been scheduled for Los Angeles on March 31. A new date hasn’t yet been chosen. . . . The Coaches Valley Music and Arts Festival, which was to have run April 10-12 and April 17-19, has been postponed to Oct. 9-11 and Oct. 16-18. It annually draws more than 200,000 people to the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif. . . . Stagecoach, a country music festival, also has been postponed. It, too, is held at the Empire Polo Club. Originally scheduled for April 24-26, it now is to be held Oct. 23-25.
"Let's put more teams into the Stanley Cup playoffs because they almost made it" is the same as "Let's give a team that loses in overtime a point because they almost won". So it'll probably happen.
I have spent the past couple of days cleaning out a filing cabinet. Of course, it never gets done as quickly as it should because, well, there are all of those old stories to read.
Like the one about when the WHL officially stopped referring to 20-year-old players as overage. The decision was made at a board of governors’ meeting in Calgary on April 2, 1985, when it also was decided to allow teams to dress three such players, up from two.
“I’m pleased about the move to three 20-year-olds,” WHL president Ed Chynoweth said. “We also decided to eliminate the word ‘overage’. From now on, those players will be referred to as 20-year-olds.”
At the same meeting, the WHL made 12-year-olds ineligible to be placed on teams’ protected lists. Prior to that decision, a 12-year-old took up two spots on a team’s list.
The WHL, at the time, continued to allow the listing of 13- and 14-year-old players without any restrictions.
The Edmonton Oil Kings are the first of the WHL’s 22 teams to acknowledge making procedural changes to their operation due to COVID-19.
On Monday, the Oil Kings announced changes to “team interactions and in-game experiences in an effort to best protect the health of our players, staff and fans.”
From a news release:
“After careful deliberation, the in-game concourse carnival and post-game team autograph session on Family Fun Sunday, March 15 vs. the Lethbridge Hurricanes, as well as first-intermission player autographs on Saturday, March 21 vs. the Red Deer Rebels, will be cancelled.
“The Chuck-A-Puck also won’t be sold during the final two games of the regular season and duration of the playoffs.”
Those games are the Oil Kings’ final home games of the regular season.
The NHL’s San Jose Sharks are working on how they will deal with a mandatory ban by Santa Clara County, the home of the SAP Center, on events that will draw more than 1,000 people.
The county announced the ban on Monday evening after reporting its first coronavirus-related death.
The ban is to begin at midnight Wednesday and last for at least three weeks. The Sharks have three home games scheduled for that time period, including against the Montreal Canadiens on March 19, while the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda have two games scheduled.
County officials have said they would allow teams to play without any fans present. As of late Monday night, it wasn’t known how the Sharks and/or the NHL will respond.
The San Jose Mercury News reported that “the ban is one of the most sweeping precautionary measures put in place by any region in the country. . . .”
The Canadian Press reported Monday that the Quebec government is contemplating whether to allow the world figure skating championships to proceed at Montreal’s Bell Centre.
The championships are scheduled to run from March 16 through March 22.
“We have to do a case-by-case analysis of the events, but we are aware that we need to make a decision rapidly concerning (the Worlds) . . . What I want to say is a decision needs to be taken as quickly as possible,” Danielle McCann, Quebec’s health minister, told CP.
A statement from Skate Canada read: “The event is scheduled to take place as planned.”
Meanwhile, the world women’s curling championship, which is to open Saturday in Prince George, is going ahead, at least as of Monday night.
Should the figure skating or curling events be cancelled, it would be another major hit to Canada’s sporting scene after the International Ice Hockey Federation decided Saturday to cancel the world women’s championship that was to be played in Halifax and Truro, N.S., from March 31 through April 10.
The NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS issued a statement on Monday regarding dressing room access:
“After consultation with infectious disease and public health experts, and given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice. Media access will be maintained in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting. These temporary changes will be effective beginning with (Tuesday’s) games and practices.
“We will continue to closely monitor this situation and take any further steps necessary to maintain a safe and welcoming environment.”
As I mentioned here the other day, dressing room access isn’t an issue with the WHL as it limited media access almost 20 years ago.
Elsewhere . . .
The San Francisco Unified School District, which includes about 55,000 students, has cancelled all “non-essential events” for two weeks. That includes all games and practices for teams in the district. . . .
Pearl Jam has postponed all of the North American dates on its Gigaton tour that was to open March 18 in Toronto and end in Oakland on April 19. The band wrote in a statement: “It certainly hasn’t helped that there’s been no clear messages from our government regarding people’s safety and our ability to go to work. Having no examples of our national health department’s ability to get ahead of this, we have no reason to believe that it will be under control in the coming weeks ahead.” . . . Pearl Jam still has European dates on its summer schedule, at least for now. . . . Khalid, BTS, Green Day, Avril Lavigne, The National, New Order, Old Dominion and Madonna are among entertainers who also have cancelled or postponed dates. . . .
The Republic of Ireland has cancelled St. Patrick’s Day festivities, including the annual St. Patrick’s Day festival parade that usually draws about 500,000 people to the streets of Dublin on March 17. . . . At the time the cancellation was announced, there were 19 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Republic of Ireland. . . . Also on Monday, Boston announced the cancellation of its St. Patrick’s Day parade, while New York City said that it didn’t have any plans to cancel its parade. . . .
Starting today (Tuesday), Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, two if the biggest game shows on TV, will tape without studio audiences. . . . On top of everything else, Jeopardy host Alex Trebek is battling pancreatic cancer and has a compromised immune system. . . .
On Monday, golf writer Robert Lusetich tweeted: “I’m told officials from the PGA Tour and PGA are discussing a contingency plan that could move the PGA Championship from Harding Park in San Francisco to TPC Sawgrass” in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. The tournament is scheduled to run from May 14 through May 17. . . .
Nippon Professional Baseball has announced the postponement of the start of Japan’s season. Scheduled to open on March 20, the league now is aiming for mid-April. . . . Spring training games have been happening as scheduled, but without fans in the stands.
The SJHL’s Melville Millionaires are looking for a general manager and head coach to replace Kyle Adams, who was released Feb. 26. He had finished one year of his two-year contract. If you’ve ever wanted to be a Millionaire, the job description is right here.
As of Saturday evening, Const. Mike Seel of the Regina Police Service Traffic Unit, who goes by the nickname Hawkeye, had written 1,097 cell-phone related tickets in 2019 and, he told me via Twitter, “over 1,500 total tickets for the year.” Think about those numbers for a moment. . . . What’s with the nickname? According to a story by Michaela Solomon of CTV News Regina, it was “given to him by the former face of RPS traffic, Const. Curtis Warnar, for his ability to catch drivers on their cell phones.” . . . Meanwhile, more than 2,000 speeding tickets were handed out to drivers in Regina school zones in the month of September, with the speed limit having been dropped from 40 km/h to 30. . . . “It is ridiculously high,” Sgt. Rob Collins of the RPS’s Traffic Safety Unit told Lynn Giesbrecht of the Regina Leader-Post. “In all reality, most of the tickets that I’ve seen issued would’ve been a ticket even if it was still 40, so we’ve still got a lot of work to do.” . . . It seems the drivers of Regina have a lot of work to do, too.
If you are a follower of the WHL, there was good news on Friday when Corey Graham revealed via Twitter that “I’m back calling Edmonton Oil Kings home games on TSN 1260.” . . . Graham, who continues his recovery from some major health issues, will handle home games, with Andrew Peard providing analysis. Peard will call the play of all road games. . . . Graham added that he is “really excited to get back in the booth!” . . . Corey, we’re all excited for you. Welcome back!
“Jim (Mattress Mack) McIngvale, owner of Gallery Furniture in Houston, placed a $3.5-million bet on the Astros to win the World Series,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “And, doubling down, he rolled out his latest mattress, the George Springer.”
Perry, again: “Scientists at the National Defense Medical College in Japan say they’ve created artificial blood that works better than the real stuff.Didn’t pro rasslers already do that?”
Is the WHL thumbing its nose at Hockey Canada, while at the same time inviting 15-year-olds to come to its teams and play at least 30 games? . . . According to a story by Jason Bell of the Winnipeg Free Press, the WHL has granted an exemption to the Winnipeg Ice so that F Matt Savoie, 15, can play 34 games this season. Ordinarily, 15-year-olds are allowed to play five games before their club team’s season ends, at which time they may join the WHL team on a full-time basis. . . . Prior to this season, Hockey Canada rejected the Savoie family’s application for exceptional status. . . . Savoie played his third WHL game of this season on Friday night; he wasn’t in the lineup on Saturday.
Word is the Cranbrook Bucks will join the BCHL for the 2020-21 season.
The Winnipeg Ice played two home games, its second and third of this season, last weekend. The announced attendances were 1,373 (7-0 loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings) and 1,327 (4-0 loss to the Vancouver Giants). . . . In its home-opener, the Ice announced 1,621 for a 4-2 loss to the Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . If you were wondering, the Kootenay Ice announced crowds of 2,862, 2,375 and 2,287 for its first three home games last season. . . . You remember the Kootenay team, don’t you? It played out of Cranbrook.
Speaking of Cranbrook, a group headed by former WHL G Nathan Lieuwen announced Tuesday that it will bring the junior A BCHL to the city next season when the Bucks begin operation. . . . In reading the story by Trevor Crawley of the Cranbrook Townsman, I was struck by this: “The city was left reeling after a messy break-up with the WHL’s Kootenay Ice last January. After 21 years in Cranbrook, new ownership relocated the team to Winnipeg and still (has) an outsanding lease agreement valid until 2023. (Mayor Lee) Pratt confirmed the city remains in negotiations with the Ice over the agreement.” . . . The WHL and the Ice announced on Jan. 29 that the franchise was relocating to Winnipeg. Of course, observers had realized long before then that the Ice owners were going through the motions and that they were done with Cranbrook. . . . Here we are, almost nine months later, and the lease still hasn’t been settled. You are free to wonder if anyone in the WHL is embarrassed by any of this.
Hey, Edmonton, that 100 km/h speed limit on Anthony Henday Drive . . . that’s not the speed limit; it’s a guideline. Right?
After driving more than 4,000 km through the Prairies and back, I can tell you that the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding contains far more election signage than any other one we passed through. . . . Yes, it’s all a blight on the scenery.
After the Chicago Cubs dumped manager Joe Maddon, Bob Molinaro of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot pointed out just what a horrid job Maddon had done: “In five seasons under Maddon, Chicago won 58 percent of its games, reached the playoffs four times and celebrated a long-awaited World Series victory. What a failure he was.”
A note from Bob Tory, the general manager of the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, to accompany a couple of photos that he put on his Facebook page: “That time of year. Two deer down. One car down.” . . . Thankfully, Tory wasn’t injured in the collision. Word is that Trader Bob, as he once was known, did put brothers John and Jim Deer on the trade wire, though. No word yet on whether he found any takers.
Saw this in a column by Steve Simmons of Postmedia: “If Guy Carbonneau is going to the Hockey Hall of Fame, why not Dale Hunter? And if you want to go back a few years, why not 86-year-old Claude Provost, who won more and scored more playing a defensive role with the great Montreal Canadiens teams back when the Canadiens were great.” . . . I was absolutely flabbergasted to realize that Provost isn’t an honoured member of the Hall. Seriously. Had there been a Frank J. Selke Trophy back in the day, Provost would have owned it.
Headline from @SportsPickle: Have to think we could be a game or two away from Odell Beckham demanding a trade to the Giants.
If you aren’t a fan of the analytics that are sweeping through the world of sports, you just might be a fan of Bill Belichick. Asked the other day how much of a role analytics play in his game-planning, the New England Patriots head coach replied: “Less than zero.”
If you are under a certain age, let me assure you this apple pie was served at the surface temperature of the planet Mercury. pic.twitter.com/lxJyXzl2Ay
Chris Moulton, who had been with the Spokane Chiefs since 2005, has left to join the hockey division of the Los Angeles-based Wasserman Media Group. Moulton had been the Chiefs’ assistant general manager of hockey operations. . . . With Wasserman, he will fill the newly created position of Western Canada player recruitment and development advisor. . . . Wasserman bills itself as a sports marketing and talent management company. . . . Moulton started with the Chiefs as director of player personnel, and was promoted to his most-recent position in 2016. He also spent 11 seasons as a scout with the Calgary Hitmen.
Harry Mahood has left the Everett Silvertips after one season as an assistant coach. . . . In a news release, Mahood said: “Returning this season became difficult after moving to New York for an opportunity of a lifetime, for my wife Sarah within the airline industry, and this allows for continued work in hockey with development consulting and player representation.” . . . Mahood, 56, played for four WHL teams back in the day (1979-82) — the Great Falls Americans, Spokane Flyers, Billings Bighorns and Nanaimo Islanders. . . .
Shortly after announcing Mahood’s departure, the Silvertips revealed that they have added Mike Lysyj as their new assistant coach. Lysyj, 30, is from Hillsborough, N.J. . . . He spent last season as a volunteer assistant coach with the RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) Engineers. Prior to that, he spent four seasons as an assistant coach with the State University of New York at Fredonia Blue Devils, who play in NCAA Division III. . . . Everett’s coaching staff now comprises head coach Dennis Williams, assistant coach Louise Mass and goaltending coach James Jensen.
The Regina Pats have acquired F Haydn Delorme, 19, from the Portland Winterhawks for an undisclosed conditional pick in the 2021 WHL bantam draft. Last season, as a freshman, he had one goal and three assists in 31 games. . . . Delorme, who is from Port Moody, B.C., was a ninth-round pick by the Vancouver Giants in the 2015 bantam draft.
The Edmonton Oil Kings have signed Finnish F Jesse Seppälä to a WHL contract. . . . Edmonton selected him in the CHL’s 2019 import draft. . . . The 17-year-old, who is listed at 5-foot-8 and 148 pounds, had 17 goals and 31 assists in 42 games with Tappara’s U-18 team last season. He also had four goals and eight assists in 24 games with Finland’s U-17 team. . . . The Oil Kings also have Belarusian F Vladimir Alistrov, 18, on their roster. He had 12 goals and 26 assists in 62 games as a freshman in 2018-19. . . . Edmonton released F Andrei Pavlenko, 19, who also is from Belarus. He had 12 goals and 18 assists in 78 games over two seasons with the Oil Kings.
The Kamloops Blazers have promoted Robbie Sandland to director of player personnel. He had been their head B.C. scout. . . . Sandland had been one of the team’s three head scouts, with Ken Fox handling Saskatchewan and Jason Pashelka in Alberta. . . . The Blazers had been without a director of player personnel since May 10, 2018, when they announced that Matt Recchi’s contract wasn’t going to be renewed.
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Mike Burnstein, the Vancouver Giants’ athletic therapist, will be working with Canada’s national junior team for a second straight season when the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship is held in Czech Republic from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5. . . . Burnstein, who worked with the Vancouver Canucks for 20 seasons, is preparing for his third season with the Giants. He will be in Plymouth, Mich., with Team Canada for the Summer Showcase, July 30 through Aug. 3. . . .
The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, a 20-team junior B circuit, is searching for a commissioner. If you think you have the right stuff, check out the above tweet. . . . I don’t know what it pays, but judging by the “duties and responsibilities,” I’m thinking $200,000 — that’s 10 grand per team — would be about right. . . .
The 15-team Quebec Midget AAA Hockey League has cut a deal with HockeyTech that will result in the broadcasting of all games in 2019-20. Each of the league’s teams plays a 42-game schedule. . . . The games will be shown via HockeyTV, Hockey Tech’s streaming platform.
No history of the Cold War is complete without the lethal blows I dealt the Soviet Union while playing this game. pic.twitter.com/JHmvIrhhLd
There was major news in the world of NCAA Division 1 hockey on Friday when seven schools served notice that they are on the verge of taking their hockey programs out of the 10-team WCHA and forming a new conference in time for the 2021-22 season.
Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan, all of which are located in Michigan, along with Bemidji State, Bowling Green and Minnesota State/Mankato want out, a move that would leave Alaska-Fairbanks, Alaska-Anchorage and Alabama-Huntsville as the only three schools left in the WCHA.
A statement released by the seven schools reads, in part:
“They are like-minded in their goals and aspirations for the potential new league with a focus on improving regional alignment and the overall student-athlete experience while building natural rivalries within a more compact geographic footprint.”
The seven schools, it seems, are tired of travelling to Alabama and Alaska.
As uncomfortable as it sounds, the seven schools would continue play in the WCHA through two more seasons before leaving for a new league.
At the same time, the future of the hockey programs at both Alaska schools has been in question for a few years due to financial issues. Those schools took another hit on Friday when Mike Dunleavy, the governor of Alaska, vetoed $130 million in state support.
Why was this potential move revealed on Friday?
Dr. Morris Kurtz, a former athletic director at St. Cloud, Minn., State, the spokesperson for the seven schools, told Austin Monteith of the Grand Forks Herald that WCHA bylaws call for a 25-month advance warning in situations involving future withdrawal, and that process now has begun.
All of this brought back memories of something I wrote a while back about the birth of what now is the Western Hockey League. Here it is, in its entirety. . . .
To find the beginning you have to return to June 21, 1966, and the opening day of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s annual general meeting.
Oh, there had been a lot of back-room chatter and negotiating prior to that, but it was on June 21 when the doors opened and the sun beat back the shadows.
It happened in Wasagaming, a resort community in Riding Mountain National Park, just north of Brandon.
Prior to then, Canadian teenagers who aspired to play junior hockey didn’t have a whole lot of options. What now is considered Junior A was the top rung.
But people like Winnipeg’s Ben Hatskin, ‘Wild’ Bill Hunter of Edmonton, Estevan’s Scotty Munro, Moose Jaw’s Brian Shaw and Regina’s Del Wilson had visions of a Prairie-wide league, centred in larger communities.
A few years later, some of those same men would dream of even bigger things as they became involved in the World Hockey Association and its attempts to sour the NHL’s world.
Most of them were larger-than-life characters who were years ahead of their time in terms of marketing. They were entrepreneurs and more. Dick Chubey of the Albertan, then a Calgary-based newspaper, wrote a piece for the league’s first Yearbook — for 1973-74 — in which he referred to them as “rogues” and “pirates.”
Ernie (Punch) McLean, who later would be the head coach of the New Westminster Bruins, says there wasn’t any doubt who were the leaders.
“Bill Hunter, Scotty Munro and Ben Hatskin . . .,” McLean, who in those days was with Munro in Estevan, said in a 1990 interview. “Scotty Munro would have the idea on hockey, Bill Hunter would sell it and Ben Hatskin would financially back it. Those were in the days when we had nothing else but Household Finance to get us started the next year.
“It was so much different back then. The guys were friends. We were partners.”
Four days prior to the start of the SJHL meeting, word leaked that a new junior league — the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League — was in the works. This league would include Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg, along with Brandon, Estevan, Moose Jaw, Regina and Weyburn, the latter five having decided to leave the SJHL.
At the same time, there were issues with the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association and the National Hockey League.
“We were getting very disgusted with the CAHA,” McLean recalled. “We weren’t getting any help from them and they were taking a percentage off the gates in the playoffs. At that particular time, we weren’t getting what we felt was a fair deal from the National Hockey League.
“At that time, the CAHA was bringing in any team that they thought could come into the league. They would apply and we were supposed to look after them. Melville was in, Yorkton was coming in.
“So at Clear Lake . . . it was really funny. In those days, you had to pay your dues or you couldn’t vote, you never had a vote. As it happened, (SJHL president) Frank Boucher called the meeting to order. . . .”
When asked, Hunter and Munro said they didn’t have cheques. Boucher told both men, “You can’t vote.”
“It went around the table like that,” McLean said. “All of a sudden they said, ‘Well, I guess we have no meeting.’ And Frank says, ‘I guess we haven’t.’
“At that point, the guys got up from the table, walked across to another room in the hotel and formed a new league.”
It wasn’t quite that simple, but that, in effect, was the genesis of what now is the Western Hockey League, even if it meant places like Melville, Flin Flon and Swift Current were left scrambling.
“What the hell,” Brandon Wheat Kings coach Eddie Dorohoy said, “if Melville can’t afford the opera, they gotta go for the barn dance.”
The CMJHL finalized its lineup later that summer. Before then, Melville filed a lawsuit, asking for $250,000 in general damages and $8,800 in special damages. As well, Brandon pulled out, Saskatoon came in, Winnipeg left.
Interestingly, the Saskatoon Blades are the only franchise to have been there since Day 1. In 1966, the Blades were an affiliate of the Los Angeles Blades, a team in the professional WHL that had hoped to become an NHL expansion franchise. When that didn’t happen, Saskatoon slid into the CMJHL.
If you are looking for an ‘official’ date to mark the league’s birthday that would be July 15, 1966. That is when the teams met in Regina. Munro moved for the dissolution of the SJHL. The motion passed. A new league was formed, and it announced it would accept applications.
By now, Boucher had left the SJHL and was commissioner of the CMJHL. When the 1966-67 season began, it featured the Calgary Buffaloes, Edmonton Oil Kings, Estevan Bruins, Moose Jaw Canucks, Regina Pats, Saskatoon and the Weyburn Red Wings.
While all of this was going on, the CAHA was refusing to recognize the CMJHL, something that didn’t particularly disturb the newcomers.
“We had quite a league,” McLean said. “Of course, we were outlaws from the CAHA. We preferred to call it independent.”
After Edmonton finished atop the regular-season standings, Moose Jaw won the first playoff championship, the only such title in the city’s history. That playoff season included best-of-nine series without overtime. In one semifinal series, Moose Jaw took out Edmonton 3-2 with four ties.
Prior to 1967-68, the league changed its name to the Western Canadian Junior Hockey League. The Buffaloes became the Centennials, and the league, still unrecognized by the CAHA, welcomed Brandon, the Flin Flon Bombers, Swift Current Broncos and Winnipeg Jets.
The Bombers didn’t win the championship — Edmonton beat the Bombers, 4-0, with one tie, in the final — but the Flin Flon Flu was born.
“Paddy (Ginnell) went into Flin Flon and turned that franchise right around,” McLean said. “He made them a tough, aggressive hockey club. It was worth your life to go in there and play.”
“We always played Saturday night and Sunday afternoon in Flin Flon. Well, Saturday night, they beat the crap out of Swift Current, just pounded the hell out of them. So they called for a conference call,” McLean said of the Broncos, who were coached by Mike Shabaga.
“Mike said, ‘Things are so bad, I’ve got the Red Cross signs on the bus so we can get out of town.’
“Anyway, Mike didn’t have enough players to play the game. So it was decided that so it would be fair to both sides, however many Mike could dress, that’s all Paddy could dress. Paddy moaned and groaned and the whole thing, and then Mike won the hockey game. Paddy came out of there, he was just livid.”
By the time the 1968-69 season arrived, the league — now calling itself the Western Canada Hockey League — was down to eight teams. Moose Jaw, Regina and Weyburn left because of concerns with the outlaw status. As well, the league split into divisions — East and West — for the first time.
Flin Flon, led by Bobby Clarke, Reggie Leach and Chuck Arnason, won the decade’s last two championships, winning 89 of 120 regular-season games and twice beating Edmonton in the playoff final.
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The WHL’s 22 teams combined to select 30 players in the CHL import draft on Thursday. . . . Each team is allowed to have two import players on its roster during the season. . . . As you read this team-by-team look, keep in mind that a team with an import on its roster who was a first-round NHL draft pick, or one who has signed with an NHL team, or one who is prepping for his 20-year-old season is allowed to add a player in the draft. Some teams, then, could end up with three imports on their roster, but eventually will have to get down to two. . . . I believe a team has until two weeks after the third import arrives to trim its roster.
BRANDON WHEAT KINGS — They selected a pair of 18-year-old forwards, both of whom played last season in the USHL. . . . Finnish F Marcus Kallionkieli played last season with the Sioux City Musketeers, putting up 29 goals and 54 assists in 58 games. He was a fifth-round pick by the Vegas Golden Knights in last weekend’s NHL draft. Kelly McCrimmon, the Wheat Kings’ owner, is the Golden Knights’ assistant general manager; he takes over as GM on Sept. 1. . . . Russian F Vladislav Firstov was picked by the Minnesota Wild in the second round of the 2019 NHL draft. Last season, he had 26 goals and 32 assists with the Waterloo Blackhawks. Firstov has committed to play with the Huskies at the U of Connecticut in the fall. . . . The Wheat Kings’ roster also includes Czech G Jiri Patera, 20, who was a sixth-round pick by the Golden Knights in the NHL’s 2017 draft. The Wheat Kings’ No. 1 goaltender as a freshman last season, he has yet to sign a pro contract.
CALGARY HITMEN — The Hitmen have three imports on their roster after picking Czech F Jonas Peterek, 18, and Slovakian F Samuel Krajc, 17. . . . Peterek played for his country in last summer’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup and also in the IIHF U-18 world championship earlier this year. . . . Krajc played for Slovakia at the U-18 worlds after putting up 11 goals and nine assists in 27 games with HK Dukla Trencin’s U-20 team. He also had eight goals and six assists in 14 games with the U-18 side. . . . They join veteran Russian D Egor Zamula, 19, on Calgary’s roster. He has played two WHL seasons and has signed with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. . . . The Hitmen expect all three players in Calgary when training camp opens in late August.
EDMONTON OIL KINGS — They made one pick, taking Finnish F Jesse Seppala, 17, who had 17 goals and 31 assists in 42 games with Tappara’s U-18 team. . . . Among other international games, he played for Finland at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge. . . . He joins Belarusian F Vladimir Alistrov, 18, as Edmonton’s imports. . . . Belarusian F Andrei Pavlenko, 19, was released prior to the draft.
EVERETT SILVERTIPS — With Slovakian F Martin Fasko-Rudas expected back for a third season, the Silvertips took Czech F Michal Gut, who will turn 17 on Aug. 16. . . . He had 14 goals and 20 assists in 33 games with Pirati Chomutov’s U-19 team last season. Gut also played at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge. . . . Russian D Artyom Minulin, Everett’s other import at last season’s end, has used up his junior eligibility.
KAMLOOPS BLAZERS — They dropped one defenceman and selected another in the draft. . . . The Blazers released Finnish D Joonas Sillanpää, 18, after one season, and filled that spot on their roster by picking Swiss D Inaki Baragano, who will turn 18 on Sept. 4. . . . As a 17-year-old, he had six goals and 16 assists in 39 games with Lausanne’s U-20 team last season. . . . He is expected in Kamloops in time for training camp to open on Aug. 21. . . . The Blazers’ other import is Czech F Martin Lang, who will be 18 on Sept. 15, and is heading into his second WHL season.
KELOWNA ROCKETS — With D Lassi Thomson having been a first-round selection by the Ottawa Senators in the NHL’s 2019 draft, the Rockets made two import picks — Czech F Pavel Novak and Russian F Daniil Gutik. . . . Novak, 17, had 29 goals and 16 assists in 31 games with Motor Ceske Budejovice’s U-19 team. He also played 20 games with Motor Ceske Budejovice in Czech 2, recording three assists, and was expected to play there in 2019-20. He also played in the U-17 World Hockey Challenge. . . . Gutik will turn 18 on Aug. 31. He had five goals and eight assists in 13 games with Loko Yaroslavl of the MHL, a Russian junior league. He also had four assists in five games at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
LETHBRIDGE HURRICANES — They had one selection and used it to take Slovakian F Oliver Okuliar, 19, who played last season with the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix. In 66 games as a freshman, he had 14 goals and 28 assists. . . . He also had four goals and four assists in five games at the U-18 IIHF Worlds. . . . Sophomore Belarusian D Danila Palivko, who will turn 18 on Nov. 30, is the Hurricanes’ other import. . . . D Igor Merezhko, from Ukraine, used up his junior eligibility last season.
MEDICINE HAT TIGERS — Danish F Jonathan Brinkman Andersen, who turns 18 on July 4, was the Tigers’ lone selection. Last season, he had one goal and five assists in 32 games with the Aalborg Pirates in the Metal Ligaen. He was the pro team’s youngest player. . . . The Tigers’ other import is G Mads Søgaard, who turns 19 on Dec. 13 and is preparing for his second WHL season. Søgaard, who was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the second round of the NHL’s 2019 draft, also is from Aalborg.
MOOSE JAW WARRIORS — The Warriors had one selection and used it on Swedish G Jesper Wallstedt, who has been hyped by some observers as perhaps the best in the world in his age group. . . . He will turn 17 on Nov. 14, so isn’t eligible for the NHL draft until 2021. . . . Last season, the 6-foot-3 Wallstedt played in 21 games with Luleå HF J20 of the SuperElit league, going 2.65, .901. He is expected to return to the team for the 2019-20 season, so the Warriors have some work ahead of them. . . . The Warriors have two other imports on their roster — Belarusian D Vladislav Yeryomenko, 20, who was acquired from the Calgary Hitmen on May 2, and F Danill Stepanov, 18, who also is from Belarus. Yeryomenko was a fifth-round pick by the Nashville Predators in the NHL’s 2018 draft, but he has yet to sign a pro contract.
PORTLAND WINTERHAWKS — With two selections, the Winterhawks added Swiss F Simon Knak, 17, and Danish D Jonas Brøndberg, 18. . . . Last season, Knak had 14 goals and 11 assists in 37 games with Kloten EHC’s U-20 team. Prior to the import draft, he was expected to split the 2019-20 season between that club and EHC Kloten of the NLB. He had one assist in three games with the pro team last season. . . . Brøndberg played with three Växjö Lakers U-18 and U-20 sides last season, totalling three goals and seven assists in 48 games between them. . . . Prior to the draft, the Winterhawks released Czech F Michal Kasnica, 19, after one season. Portland’s other import from last season, Danish F Joachim Blichfeld, won the WHL scoring title as a 20-year-old.
PRINCE ALBERT RAIDERS — They picked F Ivan Kechkin, marking the first time the Raiders have selected a Russian in this draft. Kechkin is a smallish centre who totalled 12 goals and 21 assists in 38 games last season, which he split between 17- and 18-year-old teams in Moscow. . . . Of course, he may never play in Prince Albert because the WHL’s reigning champions have two Belarusians on their roster in F Aliaksei Protas, 18, and D Sergei Sapego, who is to turn 20 on Oct. 8. . . . Protas was selected by the Washington Capitals in the third round of the 2019 NHL draft. . . . This week, Sapego is in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ development camp.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS — With their one selection, the Cougars took Czech F Filip Koffer, 18, who had 10 goals and 28 assists in 34 games with HC Dynamo Pardubice’s U-19 side last season. He also had one assist in 12 games with Dynamo Parubice’s men’s side in the Extraliga. Prior to the import draft, he was expected to return to the pro team. . . . Mark Lamb, the Cougars’ general manager, said in a news release that Koffer “is committed to playing in the WHL.” . . . F Matej Toman, a teammate of Koffer’s on the Czech U-18 team, is the Cougars’ other import.
RED DEER REBELS — The Rebels say they are waiting to hear from sophomore Russian F Oleg Zaytsev as to his immediate future, but, in the meantime, they are keeping him on their roster. . . . With one pick in the draft, then, they took Finnish D Christoffer Sedoff, 17, out of the HIFK organization. . . . Last season, he had three assists in 32 games with HIFK’s U-20 team. . . . He also played in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. . . . “From everything we know, he’s coming,” Brent Sutter, the Rebels’ owner, general manager and head coach, told Greg Meachem of reddeerrebels.com. “Unless some unforeseen thing comes about, as far as we know he’ll be here.” . . . Russian D Alex Alexeyev, 20, was selected by the Washington Capitals in the first round of the NHL’s 2018 draft and is expected to start his pro career in the fall.
REGINA PATS — Regina used its lone selection to take Russian F Daniil Gushchin, 17, who played last season with the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks, putting up 16 goals and 20 assists in 51 games. . . . He also played for Russia at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge, the U-18 Worlds and the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. . . . The Pats’ other import is sophomore Russian D Nikita Sedov, 18. . . . Regina traded Russian F Sergei Alkhimov, 18, to the Vancouver Giants this week, getting back F Dawson Holt, 20.
SASKATOON BLADES — Prior to the draft, the Blades released both of their imports from last season — Swedish D Emil Malysjev, 18, who will play at home, and Norwegian F Kristian Roykas Marthinsen, 20, who apparently is planning on beginning his pro career. He was a seventh-round pick by the NHL’s Washington Capitals in 2017 but hasn’t signed. . . . The Blades then grabbed a pair of Czech defencemen — Libor Zabransky, 19, who has played 107 WHL games with the Kelowna Rockets, and Radek Kucerik, who is to turn 18 on Dec. 21. . . . Last season, Zabransky had two goals and seven assists in 35 games with the Rockets, before finishing up with the USHL’s Fargo Force. He had four goals and 12 assists in 30 games with Fargo. In 2017-18, He had two goals and 17 assists in 72 games with Kelowna. . . . Kucerik won’t turn 18 until Dec. 17. He captained HC Kometa Brno’s U1-9 squad last season and, if he doesn’t show up in Saskatoon, he could play with HC Kometa Brno in the Czech Extraliga in 2019-20.
SEATTLE THUNDERBIRDS — With a pair of solid imports expected to return, the Thunderbirds aimed high in selecting German F Tim Stutzle, 17. Last season, he had 23 goals and 32 assists in 21 games with Jungadler Mannheim, a U-20 side. He has signed to play professionally with Addler Mannheim of the DEL, Germany’s top league. Some observers have him ranked as a top 10 selection in the NHL’s 2020 draft. . . . Czech D Simon Kubicek, who turns 18 on Dec. 19, and Slovakian F Andrej Kukuca, who turns 20 on Nov. 14, are coming off terrific freshman seasons and both are likely to be back. . . . If Stutzle were to be assigned to Seattle by Addler Mannheim, it could be that the Thunderbirds hit a home run. If not, they’ve still got a pair of pretty good imports.
SPOKANE CHIEFS — With two returning 20-year-old goalies in Bailey Brkin and Reece Klassen, the Chiefs picked Czech G Lukas Parik, 18, who was a third-round pick by the Los Angeles Kings in the NHL’s 2019 draft. This was the first time Spokane has picked a goaltender in the import draft. . . . The 6-foot-4 Parik attended the Kings’s development camp this week. . . . Campbell Arnold, 17, also is in the Chiefs’ picture after being a second-round selection in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft. From Nanaimo, B.C., he played last season for the junior B Spokane Braves of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. . . . Spokane also selected Russian D Matvei Startsev, who will turn 17 on Sept. 4. He is listed at 5-foot-8 and 132 pounds, but the Chiefs indicated in a news release that “scouting reports indicate Startsev has grown significantly above his listed height and weight over the past year.” . . . Veteran Czech D Filip Kral, who turns 20 on Oct. 20, remains on Spokane’s roster and could return for a third season. He was a fifth-round pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL’s 2018 draft, but has yet to sign a pro deal.
SWIFT CURRENT BRONCOS — With the draft’s first overall selection, the Broncos took Finnish D Kasper Puutio, a 17-year-old from Vaasa. . . . Last season, he had one goal and three assists in 31 games with Kärpät’s U-20 team, and had four goals and eight assists in 10 games with the U-18 side. . . . He also had four assists in six games at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge. . . . Puutio is the fourth straight selection from Finland for Swift Current, after F Aleksi Heponiemi (2016), and F Joona Kiviniemi and D Roope Pynnonen (2018). . . . Kiviniemi is returning for a second season, but Pynnonen was released prior to this draft. . . . Puutio is “a 2002 that fits into our mold,” Dean Brockman, the Broncos’ director of player personnel and head coach, said on the team’s website. “He’s a right-handed shot who’s projected to go in next year’s NHL draft. He’s got all the checkmarks we needed. The biggest thing is he wants to be here.”
TRI-CITY AMERICANS — With a 20-year-old import on the roster in the person of Czech F Krystof Hrabik, the Americans were able to make two selections. They took a pair of Czech players — F Jan Cikhart, 17, and D David Homola, who will turn 18 on Oct. 4. . . . Last season, Cikhart had 18 goals and 13 assists in 40 games for Bili Tygri Liberec’s U-19 team, which is where Hrabik played before joining the Americans. Cikhart also played in the U-17 World Hockey Challenge. . . . Homola had four goals and 14 assists in 47 games with U-19 Ocelari Trinec. He also played in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. . . . According to Bob Tory, the Americans’ general manager, Cikhart and Homola both will be at training camp in August.
VANCOUVER GIANTS — With their only pick, the Giants took Slovakian D Samuel Knazko, who will be 17 on Aug. 7. . . . Last season, he had two goals and 15 assists in 49 games with U-20 TPS of the Jr. A SM-liiga. . . . Knazko played for his country at the IIHF U-18 Worlds. . . . The Giants’ roster also includes Slovakian F Milos Roman, 20, and Russian F Sergei Alkhimov, 18, who was acquired this week from the Regina Pats in exchange for F Dawson Holt, 20. . . . Roman was selected by the Calgary Flames in the fourth round of the 2018 NHL draft, but hasn’t yet signed a pro contract.
.@WHLGiants Import Draft pick Samuel Knazko, a Slovak D who turns 17 in August, is represented by The Sports Corporation, the Edmonton-based agency headed up by Gerry Johannson. Former Giants GM Scott Bonner works for them now.
VICTORIA ROYALS — With their only selection, the Royals took Swiss F Keanu Derungs, 17, who played last season in his country’s top junior league. He has played four seasons in the Kloten organization, splitting last season between the U-17 and U-20 sides. . . . His brother Ian, who will turn 20 on Dec. 31, played last season with the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs. . . . The Royals have one other import on their roster — Danish F Phillip Schultz, who turns 19 on July 24. He had 19 goals and 17 assists in 60 games as a freshman. . . . Belarusian F Igor Martynov, 20, won’t be back for a third season as he plans to play professionally at home.
WINNIPEG ICE — In its first import draft since relocating from Cranbrook, the Ice picked two players — Czech F Michal Teply, 18, and German F Nino Kinder, 18. . . . Teply was a fourth-round selection by the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL’s 2019 draft. Last season, he had four goals and six assists in 23 games on loan to HC Benatky nad Jizerou in the Czech2 league. He had been loaned by Bílí Tygři Liberec of the Extraliga, the country’s top pro league. Teply had played 15 games with them, putting up two assists. He also played at the IIHF U-18 Worlds and the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. . . . Kinder had 17 goals and 24 assists in 33 games with the U-20 Eisbaren Juniors Berlin. He was pointless in five games with Eisbaren Berlin of the DEL. Kinder is spending this week at the Los Angeles Kings’ development camp. . . . The Ice finished last season with two import defencemen on its roster. Martin Bodak of Czech Republic has used up his junior eliibility, while Valtteri Kakkonen, 19, of Finland has signed with JYP of Liiga, that country’s top pro league.
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