Hurricanes limit the damage, but 2020-21 could be messy . . . QMJHL looking to play this weekend . . . NHL postpones Tuesday game


While the three community-owned Saskatchewan-based WHL teams combined Lethbridgeto 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 qmjhlnewweekend, 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.


Bigpot


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.


Beer



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

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

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

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.



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.


Fix

Ice’s Savoie joins USHL team; will Geekie follow his lead? . . . ‘Canes lose assistant to AHL . . . Flockhart, former WHLer, dies at 64


F Matt Savoie of the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice has joined the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints. Savoie, 16, was denied exceptional status by Hockey Canada prior to the 2019-20 season, something that would have allowed him play full-time with the Ice. As it was, the Ice still got him into 22 games — he had seven assists. . . . The Ice selected him with the first overall pick of the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft. . . . This season, he had three goals and three assists in four games with the AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders. . . . From a Fighting Saints news release: “Savoie is expected to join the Saints shortly. The team is in action again on Friday and Saturday in Youngstown as they take on the Phantoms.” . . . Savoie will be eligible for the NHL’s 2022 draft. . . . Prior to the 2019-20 season, Savoie, who is from St. Albert, Alta., was in training camp with Dubuque, as was his older brother, Carter, who now is a freshman at Denver U. In fact, Carter was named the NCHC’s rookie of the month for December after putting up 12 points, including seven goals, in 11 games. . . . Dubuque is 5-11-0 and in fifth place in the six-team Eastern Conference. . . .

Interestingly, F Cole Sillinger of the Medicine Hat Tigers had made plans to join the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede to at least start their season. However, it didn’t work out. Here’s what Sillinger told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post:

“I’m a dual citizen so that was a decision I had made to go down there in early October. Long story short, my transfer from Hockey Canada to USA Hockey wasn’t accepted. I couldn’t play any games so I had to come home. I was down there for about 2 ½ weeks just skating and practising, which was still very good. I was able to get into a routine and got to be a part of an actual team again.”

Sillinger, the son of former WHL/NHL F Mike Sillinger, had 53 points, including 22 goals, in 48 games with Medicine Hat last season. He is eligible for the NHL’s 2021 draft.

——

Mike Sawatzky of the Winnipeg Free Press reported that F Conor Geekie of the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice, the No. 2 pick in the 2019 bantam draft, “is considering offers from USHL and NAHL teams.” . . . Sawatzky quoted Craig Geekie, a former WHLer and Conor’s father: “I’m not going to say that missing a year is going to hurt him but it will, to me, just set him back in a minor way. (It will help) if he can just play, even if it’s for two or three months.”

——

The USHL’s Lincoln Stars have four players off the Portland Winterhawks’ roster on their list. However, Mike Johnston, the Winterhawks’ GM and head coach, has told Joshua Critzer that the WHL hasn’t released any of the four players and that won’t happen unless the WHL season is cancelled.

——

Meanwhile, according to a tweet from the Tri-City Americans, D Andrej Golian “has arrived after competing with Slovakia” at the World Junior Championship in Edmonton.

At the same time, Seattle-based hockey writer Andy Eide tweeted that F Simon Kubicek of the Seattle Thunderbirds, who played for Czech Republic at the WJC, has headed home “for the time being.” . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia reported that D Marko Stacha, who played for Slovakia at the WJC, “is in Vancouver and the Giants say the plan is for him to stay.” . . . And according to Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week, D Inaki Baragano, who played for Switzerland at the WJC, is in Kamloops in anticipation of playing for the Blazers.


Men


With the three major junior leagues not operating at the moment, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet had an interesting item in his first 31 Thoughts posting of 2021:

“The NHL’s biggest priority right now is starting the season, but, at some point, teams are wondering if there will be any changes to the draft. Selecting 18-year-olds is already a crapshoot. Now it’s going to be even harder with so few opportunities to scout them. Hopefully, the CHL finds a way (more for the kids’ sake than anything), but, if not, I wonder if regional combines featuring scrimmages are created a few months down the road to give everyone an opportunity to see and be seen.” . . . The entire column is right here.




Three of the AHL’s 31 teams have opted out of playing this season, which the league hopes to get started on Feb. 5. The Charlotte Checkers, who are affiliated with the NHL’s Florida Panthers, Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) and Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis Blues) won’t participate in a new season. . . . John Greenberg, the Admirals’ president, said: “Right now, we’d be able to have 10 fans at the game watching our teams play, and that’s really no way to run a business.” . . . And here’s Michael Kahn, the Checkers’ owner: “There are several travel, safety and player supply challenges to consider. Those, coupled with the increasing number of new (COVID-19) cases in our area, make it very unlikely that we will be able to host fans at our games in the near future.” . . . As things now stand, the AHL will operate with five divisions of three, four, six, seven and eight teams. The Canadian Division will feature the Belleville Senators, Laval Rocket, Manitoba Moose and Toronto Marlies.


Andrew Doty, an assistant coach with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes, has left to join the coaching staff of the AHL’s Henderson Silver Knights. . . . Doty, 30, was the Hurricanes’ video coach and will fill that same role with the Silver Knights. He had been with the Hurricanes, in one role or another, since the start of the 2014-15 season. In Henderson, Doty will be working with two former WHL coaches — Manny Viveiros is the Silver Knights’ head coach, while Jamie Heward is an assistant coach.



Rob Flockhart, a former WHL player who went on to play 55 NHL games, died on Saturday of an apparent heart attack. He was 64. . . . A native of Sicamous, B.C., he spent three seasons (1973-76) with the Kamloops Chiefs. In his third season, he totalled 51 goals and 47 assists in 72 games. . . . He played 55 NHL games over five seasons, split between the Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota North Stars. He retired after playing two games with the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks and 14 with that league’s Springfield Indians in 1984-85. . . . The Canucks selected him in the third round of the NHL’s 1976 draft. He also was selected by the Cleveland Crusaders in the sixth round of the WHA’s 1976 draft. . . . Rob was the older brother, by four years, of former NHLer Ron Flockhart.


NotAboutYou

THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

CBC News: Quebec gov’t mulling harsher restrictions, including a curfew and extending school closures, amid soaring COVID-19 cases.

Public Health Agency of Canada, Tuesday, 4 p.m. PT: Canada has 78,849 active cases, with 523,564 recoveries. There have been 16,233 deaths.

CNN, Tuesday, 1:30 p.m. PT: 356,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.

CNN, Tuesday, 5:20 p.m. PT: 357,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.

——

BC Hockey announced Tuesday that it has cancelled the 2021 Cyclone Taylor Cup and 2021 Coy Cup events. . . . The Cyclone Taylor Cup is the junior B provincial championship that features three league champions and a host team. . . . The Coy Cup is the province’s senior men’s AA championship. . . . There is a news release right here. . . .

The Cleveland Browns will be without three coaches, including head coach Kevin Stefanski, and at least two players when they face the host Pittsburgh Steelers in a playoff game on Sunday. . . . Pro Bowl G Joel Bitonio and WR KhaDarel Hodge tested positive, as did defensive backs coach Jeff Howard and tight ends coach Drew Petzing. . . . It meant that the Brown were forced to shut down their facility on Tuesday for the fifth time in 10 days. . . . Cleveland was without six starters and three coaches due to COVID-19 protocols when it beat the Steelers on Sunday.

There are reports that the Ohio State Buckeyes football team is dealing with COVID-19 issues but as of Tuesday evening it didn’t appear that the NCAA championship game was in jeopardy. The Buckeyes are to meet the Alabama Crimson Tide in Miami on Monday. . . .

The 2021 Canadian National Taekwon-Do championships have been cancelled. They were to have been held in Vernon, B.C., April 24 and 25. . . .

Bentley U, which is located in Waltham, Mass., has paused its hockey program because of positive tests within the program. All team activities have been halted until further notice. . . . Bentley plays in the Atlantic Hockey Association.


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

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

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

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: Of the sporting events I have watched on TV over the past few months, none missed fans as much as the IIHF’s World Junior Championship. Not having flag-waving, hyped-up fans in attendance really cooled off that event. . . . I didn’t watch a lot of the WJC, but Tuesday night’s championship game was a terrific advertisement for the best that hockey has to offer. . . . If you missed it, there are rumours that the NBA will offer up a couple of expansion franchises and use the fees to help overcome losses caused by the pandemic. The whispers have Louisville and Seattle in line, with the price tag somewhere around US$2.5 billion per franchise.


Blizzard

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while thinking it’s starting to get late early these days . . .

Scattershooting

Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle has become a go-to read for me.

Of all that has gone on in recent days, she writes:

“(Athletes in their 20s and early 30s) have the pressure of short careers and massive amounts of money — both for themselves and their employers — hanging in the balance. They have all eyes on them. They are under vicious attack by many. What they are doing is organic. And it is powerful.

“Underestimate them at your peril.”

She is correct. Yes, we have seen movements similar to this in the past, but this one feels different. It really does.

I believe it was LeBron James who started the push to get out the vote, even before the past week, but now this has picked up steam, backed by the NBA and its teams. We are going to see a lot of the the facilities in which these teams play turned into polling places for the U.S.’s Nov. 3 election.

With the NBA and its teams supporting all of this, it just might provide safe havens where citizens will feel safe to cast their ballot in a place that seems to be moving closer to becoming a third-world country/dictatorship every single day.

Not that it’s going to be easy.

As Kilion also writes:

“Of course, a lifetime in diverse sports does not always make one empathetic to the concerns of others, as witnessed by the words of former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher on social media, when he degraded the NBA’s actions.

“But the belittling and denouncing coming their way isn’t working. There’s too much at stake.

“ ‘These guys are so popular and secure in themselves, not only economically but as people, that they really don’t care what people are saying,’ Astros manager Dusty Baker said. ‘They are tired of what’s going on.’ “

Yes, this one feels different. It really does.


Parents


The Spokane Braves of the junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey kijhlLeague posted this on Twitter on Sunday:

“After much consideration, we have elected to suspend operations for the 2020-21 season due to the uncertainty surrounding the US/Canada border. We want to thank our players, coaching staff, sponsors, billet families, volunteers, and the fans for their support. We look forward to returning to the ice for our 50th season in the KIJHL in 2021-21.”

Shortly after, the KIJHL requested that the post be removed and it disappeared.

The league is expected to announce this week that it has moved its proposed start from Oct. 2 to Nov. 13, and that a new schedule will call for each of its teams to play 30 regular-season games. Sources have told Taking Note that the 100 Mile House Wranglers also have opted out of a 2020-21 season, a move that combined with Spokane sitting out would leave the league with 18 teams. Williams Lake was to have played host to the 2020 Cyclone Taylor Cup, which decides B.C.’s junior B championship, but that went by the wayside when the KIJHL ended its season on March 13. . . . The Braves told their players last week that the franchise is stepping back for one season.


Let’s give columnist Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post the award for the best lede of 2020. With the Post having uncovered even more sleazy revelations involving the NFL’s Washington franchise and its owner, Jenkins started her column with: “This is what the NFL gets for not scraping Daniel Snyder off its shoe before now.”


“That 6½-foot asteroid hurtling our way has only a 0.41 per cent chance of striking Earth, astronomers say,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “Or, to put it in terms a baseball fan can understand, there’s a 99.59 per cent chance that Angel Hernandez would call it a strike.”

——

Perry, again: “Owning a dog is a plus for men trying to get a date, according to Dr. Helen Fisher, a senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute. And it’s double-bonus points if you just so happen to own the Knicks.”

——

Perry is on a roll: “The Brooklyn Nets are interested in hiring Gregg Popovich away from the Spurs as their next head coach, The Athletic reported. And in a related story, the Jets covet Bill Belichick and we’d like to win the Lotto.”


Argue


Bob Molinaro, in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot: “As I type this, the Red Sox have the American League’s worst record. They are irrelevant, in other words.  Somebody remind ESPN’s programming department.”


Beaver

COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

——

The Anchorage Daily News reports that the U of Alaska-Fairbanks hockey team is in quarantine after six players and an athlete from another school team tested positive following an off-campus party on Aug. 22. The paper reported that 21 other hockey players and head coach Erik Largen, along with six other athletes, will be quarantine until at least Sept. 5 after being exposed to those who tested positive. . . .

Another MLB game was postponed on Sunday after a member of the Oakland A’s organization tested positive. The A’s were to have played the host Houston Astros. Instead, the team ended up self-isolating in Houston. . . . Since this season started, five teams now have had positive tests within their organizations. . . . “It should be noted,” wrote Mike Axisa of cbssports.com, “this is the first time a team in the West region has had a positive COVID-19 test. MLB went with regional play this year to reduce exposure (i.e. East vs. East, Central vs. Central, West vs. West) and now all three regionals have experienced some level of outbreak. This is also the first positive test among American League teams.” . . .

French tennis player Benoît Paire withdrew from the U.S. Open after testing positive. Ranked 22nd in the world and seeded 17th in the tournament that is to open today (Monday), he was to have met Kamil Majchrzak of Poland on Tuesday. . . . While Paire self-isolates for at least 10 days, four other French players — Richard Gasquet, Grégoire Barrère, Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Adrian Mannarino — were confined to their hotel rooms until further notice. . . .

Humourist Brad Dickson, via Twitter: “Some say I’m not nice to the non-maskers but that’s not true. I wish them nothing but the best and encourage them to stick with the night classes until they get their G.E.D.’s.”



In the NBA world, Paul George of the Los Angeles Clippers is known as Playoff P. But as TNT analyst Charles Barkley explains: “You can’t be calling yourself Playoff P and lose all the time. . . . They don’t call me Championship Chuck.”


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

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

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

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Titanic


It doesn’t seem likely that the OHL will continue to investigate allegations of ohlhazing brought against it by F Eric Guest, 20, who played three seasons (2016-19) with the Kitchener Rangers. . . . You may recall that earlier this summer Guest posted a video on social media in which he detailed some alleged hazing incidents, one of which included the use of cocaine. . . . Having twice tried to contact Guest and not having received a response, David Branch, the OHL commissioner, said in a statement that “we have assumed that Mr. Guest is not prepared to meet and provide the assistance required for the OHL to conduct an investigation into his allegations.” . . . In June, the Rangers asked Waterloo Regional Police to conduct an investigation, but, according to Mark Pare of kitchenertoday.com, “Guest reportedly told police he didn’t wish to proceed with a criminal investigation into the matter.”


Randy Wong has signed on as general manager and head coach of the Medicine Hat Cubs of the junior B Heritage Hockey League. Wong, 53, is from Redcliff, Alta., which is a slapshot or two west of Medicine Hat. He played one game with the Medicine Hat Tigers (1983-84) and 32 with the New Westminster Bruins (1985-86). . . . He also worked as an assistant coach with the Tigers (1997-2001). . . . In 2018-19, he was the head coach as the U18 Medicine Hat Hounds won the provincial AA title. . . . Wong takes over from GM Dave Kowalchuk and coaches JD Gaetan and Steve Leipert. . . . Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat News reports that the Cubs’ new board of directors has chosen to combine the positions “as a cost-cutting measure.”


JUST NOTES: Columnist Ed Willes’s 22-year run at the Vancouver Province ends today. Yes, Postmedia is shuffling another one out the door, which means neither Vancouver daily employs a sports columnist. There was a time in the newspaper business when that would have been seen as something of an embarrassment, especially with the Canucks in the hunt for the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. . . . His weekly Musings column always was worth a read, and the one he filed on Sunday night is right here. . . . If you’re looking for more good reading with your morning coffee, you can’t go wrong with Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts, the latest edition of which is right here. . . . Remember that item I referred to a week ago, the one I had ordered from walmart.ca but now, according to tracking, was in Jamaica, N.Y. Well, I checked on Friday evening and it was still in Jamaica. Except that it showed up in our mailbox on Thursday afternoon. So Trump’s tracking seems to be working about as well as Trump’s Postal Service.


Mask

WHL backs up proposed start to Dec. 4 . . . Aiming to play 68 games in 147 days . . . Still lots of questions without answers

Under what once was considered normal circumstances, the 22-team WHL would start a regular season in late September. Each team would play 68 regular-season games, with whlplayoffs — four rounds of best-of-seven series — beginning in late March.

In other words, teams would take six months to play those 68 games. In 2018-19, the teams played the regular season in 178 days, then took 53 days to complete the playoffs.

Then, like the big, bad wolf, along came the coronavirus and the resulting disruption of all things normal.

A few weeks ago, the WHL announced that it hoped to open its 68-game regular season on Oct. 2.

On Thursday, the goal posts moved again; now the WHL is targeting Dec. 4 as opening day, and continues to say it plans on having each team play 68 games.

While the WHL didn’t reveal a closing date, the OHL on Wednesday said that it hopes to play a 64-game season from Dec. 1 through April 29, with the Memorial Cup scheduled for June 17-27.

Presumably the WHL will be following a similar blueprint, meaning it will have to play its regular season in five months. Should it get to open on Dec. 4 and play through April 29, each of its teams would play 68 games in 147 days — 31 fewer days than it took to play the same number of games in 2018-19.

That means teams would be playing as many as four games a week. There likely would be an increase in the dreaded three-in-three weekends. You may recall that decreasing the number of tripleheader weekends was one of the reasons given when the league shortened its schedule from 72 games.

A Dec. 4 start surely would mean a shorter Christmas break — the league stopped for 10 days in 2018-19 and nine days in 2019-20.

But let’s be honest. There aren’t any guarantees there will be a season.

As the WHL’s news release read, all of this “remains contingent on receiving the necessary approvals from the government and health authorities in each of the six provincial/state jurisdictions in WHL territory.”

The WHL’s announcement didn’t mention the situation involving the U.S.-Canada border being closed to non-essential travel, something that doesn’t seem likely to change in 2020, at least not at B.C. crossings. That would lead to teams playing inside their own divisions for the early part of a schedule.

The news release also didn’t mention players and school. The OHL said Wednesday that it will have its players stay home and start school there, so it likely is safe to assume that the WHL do the same as everyone awaits further developments.

The most important thing to remember is that everything — and I do mean everything — is fluid.

What follows are some thoughts from a few WHL officials, all speaking after Thursday’s announcement . . .

Gord Broda, the president of the Prince Albert Raiders, who are the WHL’s defending Raiders50champions, told Trevor Redden of panow.com: “As frustrating as this (process) has been, I just can’t emphasize enough that as a league, safety is at the forefront. Safety for our players, safety for the people in our buildings when we get going, safety for our fans. We’re at a time where patience is necessary.”

Broda also said: “I’ll speak for the Prince Albert Raiders only, even at 50 per cent capacity, we’re going to have financial shortfalls. I think it’s a realistic goal as a starting point to maybe work with our medical authorities and hopefully they find that an acceptable capacity level. And at the same time at least it’s a reasonable start from a financial perspective. It’s going to be financially very challenging to have reduced capacity in all the buildings. We all know we’re a ticket-driven venue and we’ve got to have fans in the seats.” . . .

Don Moores, the president of the Kamloops Blazers, told Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week: “Being fluid is really important. If the border remains closed, we’ll have to deal with it. If it opens and there are restrictions we have to adhere to, we’ll see if that’s workable and make those decisions as we go.” . . .

Brent Sutter, owner, president, general manager, and head coach of the Red Deer Rebels, Red Deertold Byron Hackett of the Red Deer Advocate: “We gotta have people in the building, no question. We have to have some kind of attendance and that’s our goal right now. And yet we’ll just have to see where it goes because it continues to move. It’s a moving target that’s changing all the time. It changes from week to week. You look at the other leagues — junior A leagues, American Hockey League, National Hockey League — no one is going to be playing in November.”

Ron Robison, WHL commissioner, told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post: “It’s all part of the outcome on where we arrive at with respect to capacity. We’re having ongoing discussions with the provincial/state governments on trying to obtain the capacity that we need. If that is not successful, we will be considering some form of financial support to help us get started. But right now we’re focused on trying to get to a capacity that will work for our teams.”

Zoran Rajcic, the chief operating officer of the Everett Silvertips, told Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald: “The anticipation was that we would be further ahead with (the pandemic) within not only Washington and Oregon, but the four western provinces. The more we looked at things and the way (Washington) is in a holding pattern with Phase 2 (of the state’s reopening plan), it was probably the only decision we can look at. They’re talking about us in Washington not looking at hosting events until Phase 4, so this makes the most sense now. It gives us time to work through things.”



COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

——

The Canadian Junior Football League announced Thursday that it has cancelled its 2020 season and has turned its attention to getting a 2021 season off the ground. . . . The CJFL is the governing body for 18 teams in six provinces that play in three conferences. . . .

The U of Alberta’s men’s and women’s hockey teams have been reinstated by Canada West, so will be eligible to play should the conference start up again in January. The reinstatement comes after the programs received a financial infusion from almuni. . . . The athletic department announced on June 17 that it was suspending all Canada West competition for 2020-21 for financial reasons. . . .

The Hawaii High School Athletic Association has cancelled football’s 2020 season, while pushing girls volleyball, cross-country and cheerleading to January. . . . The only sports left on Hawaii’s fall high school sports calendar are air riflery and bowling. . . . Delaware also has cancelled its high school football season. There are 12 states who have done that, while at least 28 others have postponed the start of the football season. . . .

The U of Louisville booted three players off its men’s soccer team and suspended three others for their roles in a Saturday off-campus party that resulted in 29 positive tests within the school’s athletic department. The three who were kicked off the team apparently organized the party. Players from both soccer teams, as well as the field hockey and volleyball teams, tested positive. . . .

The NFL’s Green Bay Packers said Thursday that they will play their first two home games without fans. That will be re-evaluated after the two games. . . . The Las Vegas Raiders had announced earlier that they will play the entire season without fans in their brand new 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium. . . . The NFL’s regular season is scheduled to open on Sept. 10. . . . Since July 21, when rookies reported to training camps, the NFL has had at least 56 positive tests. . . . The NFL had 66 players opt out of the season by Thursday’s deadline. A complete list is right here.


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

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604.875.5182 or 1.855.875.5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.



Tinfoil

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while wondering if major junior hockey should “burn it down and start all over” . . .

Scattershooting


When the Portland Winterhawks are sold — and presumably that will happen at some point in the next month or two — they will become the seventh WHL franchise to change whlhands since 2011.

That means almost one-third of the league’s 22 teams have been sold during the past 10 years.

During the past while, I have sometimes wondered what these ‘new’ owners or ownership groups wonder about what they have bought into? Did they think they were buying into a hockey team with a focus on putting a winning team on the ice and fans in the stands? Did they expect to have to foot part of the bill for whatever legal fees are having to be paid for the off-ice battles that have arisen?

In his latest 31 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet touched on the latest lawsuit facing the CHL and its teams:

“My reaction to the lawsuit against the CHL and its teams for hazing is this: no one should fear the truth. The OHL, QMJHL and WHL maintain they have improved things on this very serious issue. They should welcome the opportunity to publicly show it

“The secondary aspect to this story is the financial fallout. The CHL just settled the minimum-wage suit for $30M, half of which will be covered by insurance. Remaining is a concussion suit and now this one. How many industries/companies could handle three expensive settlements in the time of COVID? I counted 26 of the 60 teams as being sold to new ownership since 2010. One such investor said last weekend that he’s frustrated by liability for events prior to his arrival. He thinks they should burn it down and start all over. I don’t know how widespread his feelings are, but I can’t imagine he’s alone.”

Burn it down and start over? I hadn’t heard that idea previously to reading Friedman’s column, but the way things are going that might not be a bad idea.




A note from Patti Dawn Swansson, The River City Renegade:

“In March, one basketball player tested positive for COVID-19, putting the brakes on the entire sports world and, at the same time, launching a stampede to the toilet paper aisles that resembled the California gold rush of the mid-1800s. Yet now, with many dozens of athletes in many sports testing positive, it’s go-time for the NHL, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball? What part of ‘deadly virus’ do they not understand?”

Her complete column is right here.



Peter


Major League Soccer’s return-to-play tournament is scheduled to open on July 6 near Orlando, Fla. The league announced Sunday that there have been 26 positives out of the 668 players and staff members who were tested. According to the league, 24 of the positives came before teams arrived at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando. Two of the positives came after the arrival. . . .

DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, has suggested players stop working out together in groups. With the U.S. continuing to struggle to get a handle on COVID-19, and that’s putting it nicely, he has told players that they aren’t safe. . . . Smith told USA TODAY’s SportsPulse: “Those practices are not in the best interest of player safety. They’re not in the best interest of protecting our players heading into training camp and I don’t think they are in the best interest of us getting through an entire season.” . . . High-end quarterbacks Tom Brady and Russell Wilson are among the players who have been working out with teammates. . . .

F Wilson Chandler of the Brooklyn Nets has confirmed that he won’t be reporting to Orlando, Fla., for the re-start of the NBA season in July. . . . He told ESPN: ”As difficult as it will be to not be with my teammates, the health and well-being of my family has to come first.” . . . Other players believed to have said they are opting out are Trevor Ariza (Portland Trail Blazers), Davis Bertans (Washington Wizards), Avery Bradley (Los Angeles Lakers) and Willie Cauley-Stein (Dallas Mavericks).


Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, with a report from Canton, Ohio: “This score just in from the canceled Cowboys-Steelers Hall of Fame Game and postponed induction ceremony in early August: COVID 19, NFL 0.”


Cat


If you’re wondering what all is involved with trying to get a non-professional team back onto the field of play, take the case of the U of Toledo Rockets football team. . . . David Briggs of the Toledo Blade did just that in a recent column in which he covered every aspect of the athletic department’s plan. . . . Give this a read — it’s right here — and it will help you understand what organizations that don’t have the resources of the pro leagues are up against.


The highest-paid public employee in 40 American states is the head coach of either a football or men’s basketball team. As Bob Molinaro in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot pointed out: “Clearly then, the priorities of the other 10 states need adjustment.”


Raiders’ home possibly shuttered until 2021. It’s all about managing debt . . . Former Wheat Kings GM/head coach done in Dallas


Officials from the city of Prince Albert have said that the Art Hauser Centre, the home of PrinceAlbertthe WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders, may remain closed for the remainder of 2020 because of the financial situation brought on by the pandemic. . . . Alison Sandstrom of panow.com reported that all “city facilities, including pools, arenas and rinks are expected to remain closed for the rest of the calendar year, even as they are allowed to reopen under the phased provincial plan.” . . . The facilities need mass usage in order to be able to keep the doors open, and with a ban on large gatherings that isn’t going to happen. “City officials emphasized the situation could change,” Sandstrom wrote, “but said unless the province allows mass gatherings, facilities will likely have stay shut until the end of December.” . . . Mayor Greg Dionne summed it up with: “What we’re trying to do is manage debt. At this point, we’re not trying to manage facilities.” . . . Sandstrom’s complete story is right here.


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


BearCrap


Hockey Canada announced Thursday that it has “cancelled all programs and national team camps through Sept. 1,” with plans to hold some of them on a virtual basis over the summer. . . . The national U-17 development camp, scheduled for July 19-25, and the national junior team summer development camp, July 27-31, are among those going virtual. . . . The complete news release is right here.


The Western Canadian Baseball League has cancelled its 2020 season. The 12-team collegiate league, which was to have opened its season on May 29, has franchises in the Alberta communities of Brooks, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Okotoks, and the Saskatchewan communities of Melville, Moose Jaw, Regina, Swift Current, Weyburn and Yorkton. . . .

If all health and safety requirements are met, soccer’s Premier League will resume play on June 17 with a doubleheader — Manchester City vs. Arsenal and Aston Villa against Sheffield United. . . .

The National Women’s Soccer League plans on taking all nine of its teams to Utah for a 25-game tournament that is to begin, without fans, in two Salt Lake City stadiums on June 27. The teams will live in two area hotels. Players will be tested before heading for Utah, then will be screened regularly during training and the tournament. . . .

The KHL, the top hockey league in Russia, has set a preliminary date of Sept. 2 for the opening of its 2020-21 season. . . .

The 2020 Boston Marathon has been cancelled for the first time in its 124-year history. It had been moved from April 20 to Sept. 14, but the plug was pulled on Thursday. . . .

The Dutch Grand Prix that had been scheduled for Zandvoort on May 3 has been cancelled. It is the fourth Formula 1 race to be cancelled, following the Australian, Monaco and French races.


Innovation


From Elliotte Friedman’s latest 31 Thoughts that was posted on Thursday: “For almost 35 years, Les Jackson’s been a (Dallas) Star. Hired as an assistant coach when the franchise was still in Minnesota in 1985, he stayed with the organization every season but one since. His contract will not be renewed. End of an era, for sure. He’s been a huge part of that organization’s success.” . . . Jackson, 67, is a former WHL head coach, having worked with the Great Falls Americans (1979-80) and Brandon Wheat Kings, where he was the head coach for two seasons (1980-82) and general manager for three (1982-85). With the Stars organization he was, at various times, assistant coach, scout, director of amateur scouting, director of player personnel, director of hockey operations, assistant general manager, general manager, director of player development and senior advisor.


Long Island University, which on April 30 announced its intention to ice a men’s hockey team, has named Brett Riley, 29, as the Sharks’ first head coach. LIU is located in Brookville, N.Y. . . . Riley spent last season as an assistant coach with the Colgate U Raiders. . . . He spent two seasons (2017-19) as the head coach of the Wilkes U Colonels in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Penn. The first of those seasons was spent preparing the Colonels for their first season of play in 2018-19. . . . Riley’s father, Bob, was the head coach at Army West Point for 19 years and now scouts for the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. Riley’s grandfather, Jack, also coached at Army for more than 35 years and was the head coach of the U.S. team that won the gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Winter Games in Squaw Valley, Calif.


Derick Brassard of the NHL’s New York Islanders is among a group of three men who have purchased 10 per cent of the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques. Brassard played two seasons (2002-04) with the midget AAA Intrepid Gatineau. . . . Yan Hébert and Michel Quesnel, who partnered with Brassard, are businessmen in the Outaouais region. . . . The Olympiques now have an 11-member ownership group.


StarTrek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, I would suggest that everyone else loses.

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

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

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

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

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

——

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

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

Campbell’s complete piece is right here.

——

——

——

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The complete interview is right here.

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

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

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

His complete story is right here.


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



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

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

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


Nominate1


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


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


Nominate2

Royals make change at top . . . Number of leagues are looking for financial help . . . Coaching award to McGuigan

The Victoria Royals fired Cam Hope, their president and general manager, on Wednesday. He had been with the Royals through eight seasons. . . . The Royals are VictoriaRoyalsowned by GSL Group, which is based in Vancouver. Graham Lee is GSL Group’s CEO and president. . . . “We would like to thank Cameron for contributions and for guiding our franchise,” Lee said in a three-paragraph news release announcing the decision. “The COVID-19 crisis has given us the time to reassess our organization and to set a new direction. We are committed to finding strong leadership that will help the Royals reach their full potential both on-and-off the ice.” . . . The news release’s third paragraph dealt with ticket-related info. . . . A lawyer, Hope, who is from Edmonton, had been with the NHL’s New York Rangers for seven seasons, first as vice-president of hockey operations and then as assistant general manager, when he signed with the Royals in time for the 2012-13 season. . . . The Royals qualified for the playoffs in each of Hope’s first seven seasons, and won five first-round series. However, they weren’t able to get past the second round. . . . In 2019-20, his eighth season in Victoria, the Royals were second in the B.C. Division, at 32-24-8, when the season was halted. . . . Interestingly, Victoria head coach Dan Price signed what the team said was a “multi-year contract extension” on Dec. 17. It is believed that contract runs through the 2021-22 season. . . . You are free to wonder if former Kamloops Blazers general manager Stu MacGregor is a candidate to replace Hope. MacGregor was fired by the Blazers after the 2018-19 season, his third with them after a lengthy career as an NHL amateur scout. Prior to last season, MacGregor joined the Royals as their senior regional scout for Western Canada.


Lettuce


In speaking about the late Jack Bowkus, F Rocco Grimaldi of the Nashville Predators told Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that “California hockey is where it is today because of him.” . . . Bowkus, a former WHLer, died on March 28. He was 53 when he lost his two-year battle with cancer. . . . Bowkus played four seasons (1984-88) with the Saskatoon Blades. . . . Friedman’s latest 31 Thoughts is right here and it includes more on Grimaldi’s relationship with Bowkus.


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from A.J. Leibling: “The function of the press in society is to inform, but its role in society is to make money.”


The lineup of sports organizations looking to the federal government to help them get through the pandemic continues to grow. . . . On Wednesday, soccer’s Canadian Premier League and the Canadian Elite Basketball League both confirmed that they have requested financial help from the feds. . . . Devin Heroux of CBC Sports reported that the eight-team CPL has asked for $15 million in short-term financing, with the seven-team CEBL having asked for a loan of $5 million. . . . The CPL’s second season was scheduled to start on April 11, but has been postponed indefinitely. . . . The CEBL had been scheduled to begin play in May, but is on hold indefinitely. . . . At the same time, the CFL is hoping to get as much as $150 million, and would like to see $30 million of that ASAP. . . . As well, at least two B.C.-based junior hockey leagues, the junior A BCHL and the junior B KIJHL, are asking for help. . . . Heroux’s story is right here.


Lincoln


“As if all the other shutdowns weren’t enough, now they’re telling us there won’t be a Scripps National Spelling Bee this year,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “There are no words . . .”



The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., has cancelled its 2020 induction weekend that had been scheduled for July 26. This year’s class of inductees, including Canada’s own Larry Walker, now will be inducted on July 25, 2021. . . . Also in this year’s class are Derek Jeter, former catcher Ted Simmons and the late Marvin Miller, the long-time leader of the Major League Baseball Players Association. . . .

Baseball’s 15-team Coastal Plain League said Wednesday that it plans to open its 2020 season on July 1 with fans in attendance. The CPL is a wood-bat collegiate summer league with teams in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. . . .

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, has said the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Summer Games won’t go ahead unless the coronavirus is “contained.” At the same time, Yoshiro Mori, the president of Tokyo 2020, said if that happens, the Games will be cancelled and not postponed. . . . The Japanese Medical Association is on record as saying that if there isn’t a vaccine available the Games shouldn’t go ahead. . . .


Parachute


The Toronto Blue Jays have won two in a row and are 13-18 in the AL East after Wednesday’s games in Strat-O-Matic’s simulated MLB season. The Jays beat the visiting Boston Red Sox, 6-4, yesterday. . . . Toronto is last in the AL East, 7.5 games behind the first-place Tampa Bay Rays (21-11), who are half-a-game up on the New York Yankees (20-11). . . . The other division leaders — Minnesota (19-12), Houston (19-11), Washington (19-10), Chicago Cubs (20-11) and Los Angeles Dodgers (.633). . . . Check out all the stats right here.


Billy McGuigan, the head coach of the junior A Summerside Western Capitals of the Maritime Hockey League, is the recipient of the Darcy Haugan/Mark Cross Memorial Award for 2019-20. The award is presented annually to the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s coach of the year. It is in memory of Haugan and Cross, the head coach and an assistant coach who were among those killed in the crash involving the Humboldt Broncos’ bus on April 6, 2018. . . . McGuigan spent one season (2013-14) as an assistant coach with the Regina Pats. . . . There is a news release right here.


The OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs have fired head coach Kurtis Foster after two seasons on the job. Foster, a veteran of 15 NHL seasons as a player, was an assistant coach in Kingston for one season before moving up as head coach. . . . The rebuilding club went 14-52-2 in Foster’s first season, then was 19-39-4 last season.


BassBoat

Sign stealing in the WHL? Yes, it happened . . . Not watching The Twilight Zone here . . .

It wasn’t quite the Houston Astros, but it turns out that the Kamloops Blazers were involved in the sign-stealing racket in the spring of 1998.

They were in the early stages of a first-round playoff series with the Prince George Kamloops1Cougars when the accusations started flying.

It seems the Cougars were of the opinion that Garnet Stevenson, the Blazers’ backup goaltender, was spying on Prince George head coach Ed Dempsey and his line calls.

“As Dempsey called out the next line combination,” I wrote in the Regina Leader-Post on March 28, 1998, “the Cougars felt that Stevenson was taking it all in and getting that information to Kamloops head coach Marc Habscheid.

“So, for Game 4, the Cougars had enforcer Richard Peacock stand at the end of the bench PrinceGeorgenearest the Blazers’ bench. His job was to screen out Stevenson’s view of Dempsey.”

According to Jim Swanson, then the sports editor of the Prince George Citizen: “Peacock, who also helped by opening the gate for teammates, stood next to Stevenson, talking to him and reminding the goaltender the Cougars knew about the Kamloops spy job. Early in Game 4, Habscheid kept looking for Stevenson for a hint of what the Cougars were planning but he had nothing to report.”

The Blazers won Games 3 and 4 — 5-3 and 2-1 — to take a 3-1 series lead. Prince George then won two straight, 4-1 at home and 4-3 in OT on the road, to force a Game 7, which it won, 2-1, at home.

As for the sign-stealing accusations, Stevenson told me via email this week: “The story was 100 per cent true.”


We were watching an episode of Hogan’s Heroes (so sue me) on Tuesday night when a promo came on for The Twilight Zone. Hey, you know the music . . .

Dorothy: We’re not watching that!

Me: Why not?

Dorothy: Because we’re living in The Twilight Zone right now.

Me: Hard to argue with that kind of reasoning.


Quarantine


As had been anticipated, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club has cancelled Wimbledon for 2020. Not postponed. Cancelled. . . . The tournament first was held in 1877. Prior to this, only the First and Second World Wars had kept it off the tennis calendar. . . . It was to have been held from June 29 through July 12. . . . The 2021 tournament is scheduled for June 28 through July 11. . . . At the same time, the ATP and WTA announced that all of their events have been cancelled through July 13. So that takes care of the grass-court season. . . . With Wimbledon gone, the first major the season is scheduled to be the U.S. Open, which is to begin on Aug. 31. For now. . . .

The Queen’s Plate, which was to have run at Woodbine on June 27, is expected to be postponed indefinitely. . . . The race dates to 1860 and is the oldest continuously run stakes race in North America. . . .Earlier, Woodbine Entertainment postponed the start of its thoroughbred season, as well as the harness racing season at Mohawk Park. . . .

According to Golf Digest, the R&A is expected to announce today (Thursday) that it has cancelled the 2020 Open Championship (aka the British Open). The tournament was to begin on July 16 at Royal St. George’s Golf Club. . . . The Golf Digest story is right here. . . .


The NFL, meanwhile, is steaming towards the start of its 2020 season early in September. A schedule is to be released around May 9. . . . On a Tuesday conference call, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said: “All of our discussions, all of our focus, has been on a normal, traditional season, starting on time, playing in front of fans, in our regular stadiums and going through a full 16-game regular season and a full set of playoffs. That’s our focus.” . . . But as The Sports Curmudgeon points out, it was Dr. Anthony Fauci, who knows a thing or two about this pandemic, who noted: “We don’t set the timetable; the virus sets the timetable.” . . .



The Ottawa Senators have announced that four more people from their organization have tested positive for the coronavirus. They now have had seven people test positive, all of them having been part of the group that travelled to California and returned to Ottawa on a chartered flight on March 12. All told, five players and one staff member have tested positive, along with broadcaster Gord Wilson. According to the Senators, the five players and staff member all have recovered. . . . Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun has more right here.


Here is Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with the Thought of the Day, this one from A.J. Liebling: “A city with one newspaper, or with a morning and an evening paper under one ownership, is like a man with one eye, and often the eye is glass.”



Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet posted his weekly 31 Thoughts on Wednesday and, as usual, there is some neat stuff here. Especially good is the latter part of the piece where he pays tribute to a number of young players who weren’t able to complete their seasons, including WHLers Jadon Joseph and the Warm twins, Beck and Will. . . . It’s all right here.


The BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings have added Craig Carter to their staff as assistant general manager and director of player personnel. . . . Carter, who is from Langley, B.C., was the Salmon Arm Silverbacks’ director of hockey operations last season after spending two seasons as a scout with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.


Scattershooting on a Wednesday night while wondering if COVID-19 will impact WHL teams . . .

Scattershooting

With a number of sporting events having been postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19, you have to wonder how much impact, if any, this might have on the WHL and its 22 teams.

Late Tuesday, Chicago State University revealed that its men’s basketball team wouldn’t whlbe travelling to Seattle University and Utah Valley for Western Athletic Conference games that were scheduled for today (Thursday) and Saturday.

The university cited the spread of COVID-19 in announcing at the same time that its women’s team wouldn’t play host to games Thursday (against Seattle) and Saturday (Utah Valley).weekend games.

On Wednesday, the U of Missouri-Kansas City announced that its men’s team wouldn’t travel to Seattle U for a Saturday game.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 31 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Seattle area — 21 in King County and 10 more in Snohomish County, with a total of 10 deaths.

Later Wednesday, Facebook revealed that one of its Seattle employees had been diagnosed with coronavirus. The company also said it was closing its Seattle office until March 9, while encouraging employees to work from home at least through the end of the month.

The WHL has four teams based in Washington state, with two of those in the Seattle area. While the WHL has yet to issue a statement on any preparations that might be underway or any plans it may be considering, one has to think that officials are keeping a close eye on things.

The Everett Silvertips have three home games remaining in the regular season, with two of them this weekend, and will have home-ice advantage in a first-round best-of-seven series that will open later this month.

The Silvertips are at home to the Tri-City Americans on Friday, and then will play home-and-home with the Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday and Sunday. The Saturday game is scheduled for Everett, with Sunday’s game in Kent, Wash., the home of the Thunderbirds.

Everett drew 6,633 fans to its last home game — it beat the Portland Winterhawks 4-1 on Sunday to move into first place in the U.S. Division. The Thunderbirds announced attendance for their last home game — a 6-3 loss to Portland on Feb. 29 — at 5,264. They have four home games remaining in the regular season.

On Wednesday afternoon, TSN’s Rick Westhead tweeted this statement from Dr. John Swartzberg, who is an infectious disease specialist at the U of California-Berkeley’s School of Public Health, on the risks of staging NHL and NBA games in Los Angeles after the county declared a public health emergency:

“We don’t know that much about this (respiratory virus). We know it’s (a) very contagious virus and fast spreading and we know the worst thing you can do to fan a pandemic is to bring people from disparate areas together in a crowded situation. There’s no question about that for respiratory viral infections.

“It would make sense if you have a serious problem to cancel events at venues where people are brought together in crowds, which is a great way to spread disease. It’s not what anybody wants to hear but if you take off the economics hat and just think about the transmission of an infectious agent, it makes sense to cancel events where people are brought together. From a public health standpoint, the less people congregate together, the less disease you’re going to have. The cases that we see are the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There’s probably many, many, many cases walking around that we don’t see.”

The last time the WHL had to deal with anything like this was in February 2017 when it was faced with an outbreak of the mumps virus. At that time, it severely limited contact between players and fans, and placed a lot of emphasizing on sanitizing and disinfecting dressing rooms and equipment.

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The time is coming when major junior hockey is going to lose some of its best 19-year-old players to the AHL. Right now, the agreement between the NHL and the Canadian NHLHockey League calls for 19-year-old signed players to be offered back to their junior teams if they don’t stick with the big club.

For example, F Kirby Dach would have had to be returned to the Saskatoon Blades had he not earned a roster spot with the Chicago Blackhawks prior to this season.

The fact that a 19-year-old who has starred at the major junior level can’t move up to the AHL to further his development, rather than return for another season of junior, has been a sore spot with NHL teams for a while now. On the other side of the coin, junior operators understandably don’t want to lose their star attractions any sooner than absolutely necessary.

This all has been up for discussion for a few years now, and here it is again.

Here’s Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman with a note from his latest 31 Thoughts, following an interview with Marc Bergevin, the general manager of the Montreal Canadiens:
“Bergevin talked a bit about player development — that span between when someone is drafted and they join your organization. How important it is and how much (or how little) control the NHL team really has. The timing was interesting. The league’s agreement with the Canadian Hockey League expires soon, and, once again, there is a conversation about sending players to the AHL. It’s not unusual for this to be a debate. This time, however, there appears to be momentum. We’ll see where it goes.”



What is wrong with this picture? On Tuesday morning, TSN had the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees on one channel, using the ESPN telecast. Meanwhile, Sportsnet had the same game on five channels, using the feed from the YES Network. . . . Anyone else find it interesting that Rogers, which owns the Toronto Blue Jays and Sportsnet, has yet to send its play-by-play crew to spring training?


ICYMI: Old friend Lorne Molleken, the sartorially splendiferous one, will be honoured by the Saskatoon Blades prior to a game with the visiting Prince Albert Raiders on March 21. Molleken spent 13 seasons over three stints as the Blades’ head coach, and will have his named added to the club’s Builders Banner in the SaskTel Centre rafters. His coaching record with the Blades is 539-325-58. Oh, he also has 23 ties in. I’m not about to tell you how old he is, but, yes, he coached in the WHL when ties were a thing. . . . You can bet that somewhere on high Muzz MacPherson, in his gravelly voice, is laughing and nodding his head in agreement.


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Clayton Beddoes has resigned as the head coach of Italy’s national men’s hockey team. . . . “In recent weeks,” said Italian Ice Sports Federation president Andrea Gios in a news release, “some differences of views have emerged on technical and organizational aspects that have led both sides to opt for an interruption of the employment relationship.” . . . Beddoes, 49, is from Bentley, Alta. He had been on the Italian national team’s coaching staff since 2015, and had been the head coach since 2018. . . . Beddoes took over as the head coach of HC Bolzano of the EBEL on March 11, 2019. He was replaced by Greg Ireland on Jan. 2.