Will we see baseball, football in 2020? . . . Jays fall to 0-2 as Devers homers again . . . BCHL team has new head coach

Had this pandemic not reared its ugly head, the MLB season would be heading into its third day. As it stands, though, there isn’t any baseball and now there are rumblings that perhaps the 2020 season may not get off the ground at all.

On Friday morning, Jeff Passan of ESPN tweeted that “the players and league agreed the 2020 MLB season won’t begin until:

“There are no bans on mass gatherings that limit the ability to play in front of fans;

“There are no travel restrictions;

“Medical experts determine games will not pose a risk to health of teams and fans.”

At the same time, he noted, there is a caveat to the first of those, that being that “they will consider playing games at neutral sites . . . and will consider the feasibility of playing in empty stadiums and just how proper a solution it may be for both sides and especially fans.”

If you have been paying attention, I think you will agree that New York City, for one, is a long, long way from being ready to play host to baseball games. And, on the West Coast, Los Angeles County closed its beaches on Friday.

I’m thinking it could be a year before anyone yells “Play Ball” again.



Our Thought for the Day, from Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, quotes H.L. Mencken: “The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.”


The Toronto Blue Jays are 0-2 after dropping an 8-6 decision to the visiting Boston Red Sox on Friday. . . . Boston got another home from 3B Rafael Devers, who has three in two games. . . . LF Lourdes Gurriel Jr. had two hits and three RBI for the Blue Jays. . . . This game was part of the simulated season being played out by the gang at Strat-O-Matic. . . . There’s more on all of that, including standings and boxscores, right here.


Kirk Herbstreit, one of TV’s top college football analysts, is wondering if there will be college or pro football this year. In fact, he appeared on ESPN’s Freddie and Fitzsimmons show on Thursday night and offered up this:

“I’ll be shocked if we have NFL football this fall, if we have college football. I’ll be so surprised if that happens.

“Just because from what I understand, people that I listen to, you’re 12 to 18 months from a vaccine. I don’t know how you let these guys go into locker rooms and let stadiums be filled up and how you can play ball. I just don’t know how you can do it with the optics of it.”

The NCAA football season is scheduled to begin on Aug. 29. Players would have to be in training camps in late July to make that starting date.


Hook


If you are a follower of the WHL you will be aware that the league held its inaugural U.S. Challenge Cup — a bantam AAA tournament — in Kent, Wash., in late February.

The WHL followed that up by holding a two-round draft of U.S. prospects on Wednesday.

If you’re wondering “Why now?”, consider that the NCAA changed some of its recruiting rules in April. For starters, the NCAA no longer allows “recruiting conversations” between a coach and prospect prior to Jan. 1 of a prospect’s Grade 10 year. As well, coaches have to wait until Aug. 1 prior to a prospect’s Grade 11 year to make a verbal offer.

On Thursday, Darryl Wolski of 2112 Hockey Agency tweeted a couple of times in explaining this:

“High school students may not have recruiting conversations with college coaches prior to Jan. 1 of their sophomore (Grade 10) year. Students may hear from college coaches or reach out to them on their own. Schools may make verbal offers to prospects beginning (Grade 11).”

What this means, Wolski tweeted, is that “WHL teams should have roughly 8 months to attempt to sign players to WHL/CHL education agreements before NCAA teams can speak to any of those drafted or undrafted players.”


I was heading for bed on Thursday night when — Hot Damn! — I discovered that Bob Dylan had released a new song. . . . Murder Most Foul is almost 17 minutes in length, so is that still a song?

Anyway . . . if you haven’t heard it, you are able to give it a listen right here, where you also will find a neat story touching on 20 references Dylan makes in the song.


Noose


Three prominent sports broadcasters have tested positive for COVID-19 and are at one stage or another of dealing with it. . . .

Gord Wilson, a colour analyst on Ottawa Senators broadcasts on TSN 1200, learned Friday that he has the novel coronavirus. Wilson, 59, was in California with the Senators, from March 6-12, and started feeling ill upon his return home. He now is self-isolating at home. . . . Wilson is the third of 52 people who were on the Senator’s charter flight from L.A. to Ottawa on March 12 to have tested positive. The other two were Senators players. . . .

John Kelly, the TV play-by-play voice of the St. Louis Blues, has been in self-isolation since March 13. He tested positive but now is symptom-free and feeling well. . . .

Doris Burke, an ESPN analyst on NBA telecasts, is symptom-free after having been ill for several days. She learned on Wednesday that she had tested positive. She first felt ill on March 11 while in Dallas and was sick in bed three days later. . . .



In B.C., the City of Burnaby has cancelled its Canada Day plans. As Dustin Godfrey of Burnaby Now writes: “The move comes as part of an ongoing response to the COVID-19 outbreak and reinforces the notion that social distancing measures will be in place for months rather than weeks.” . . .

The 47th annual Kamloops International Baseball Tournament (KIBT) has been cancelled for 2020. The eight-team affair had been scheduled for July 9-12. . . .


After two seasons as general manager and head coach, Tyler Kuntz has left the BCHL’s Powell River Kings. . . . Brock Sawyer, who has been on staff for the past six seasons, has been named director of hockey operations and head coach. . . . For the past two seasons, Sawyer has been associate GM and associate head coach. . . . “I have decided I need to do what is best for my family,” Kuntz said in a news release. “These past couple of years have taken a toll and, as much as I love the organization, the players and the city of Powell River, it just isn’t feasible to continue to commute to see my young family.” . . .


The junior A Nepean, Ont., Raiders are looking for a head coach. If you’re interested, the details are right here.


Pats to select first, plan on taking Bedard . . . NHL postpones draft . . . Opening of CFL season in doubt?

The Regina Pats will have the first selection in the WHL’s bantam draft. That was determined in the annual draft lottery that as held in the WHL’s Calgary office on Wednesday morning. . . . The draft is scheduled to be held online on April 22. . . .

And what will the Pats do with that selection? Here’s Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post:

“Shortly after Regina was awarded the top pick via Wednesday’s lottery, GM John PatsPaddock revealed to the Regina Leader-Post that his team will indeed select blue-chip forward Connor Bedard, who has been granted exceptional player status by Hockey Canada.”

Paddock told Harder: “We will be selecting him first. I would have said this regardless but the exceptional status made it even more obvious to everybody. There’s no secret with this. He’ll be a Regina Pat, that’s for sure.”

Harder’s complete story is right here.

So . . . you’re wondering how the Pats ended up with the first pick that actually originated with the Swift Current Broncos? Here’s how it happened . . . 

It all began on Jan. 9, 2018, when the Hurricanes traded G Stuart Skinner, F Giorgio Estephan and F Tanner Nagel to the Broncos for G Logan Flodell, F Logan Barlage, F Owen Blocker, D Matthew Stanley, first- and third-round picks in the 2020 bantam draft and a conditional second-rounder in 2021.

On Nov. 29, 2018, the Pats dealt F Jake Leschyshyn and F Nick Henry to the Lethbridge Hurricanes for F Jadon Joseph, F Ty Kolle, five bantam draft selections — including a 2020 first-rounder that had been Swift Current’s — and two conditional bantam draft picks.

That turned into an early selection when the Broncos, who won the WHL’s 2017-18 championship, finished with the league’s poorest record in 2019-20.

When the lottery was held yesterday, a Prince George Cougars’ ball fell, allowing them to move up from fourth to second — that is the maximum advancement permitted under draft rules. . . . The Cougars also hold the 11th and 17th picks, from the Saskatoon Blades and Medicine Hat Tigers, respectively.

The first-round order:

1. Regina Pats (from Swift Current Broncos via Lethbridge)

2. Prince George Cougars

3. Moose Jaw Warriors

4. Tri-City Americans

5. Saskatoon Blades (from Regina Pats)

6. Red Deer Rebels

7. Seattle Thunderbirds

8. Kelowna Rockets

9. Victoria Royals

10. Vancouver Giants

11. Medicine Hat Tigers (from Saskatoon)

12. Calgary Hitmen

13. Brandon Wheat Kings

14. Winnipeg Ice

15. Prince Albert Raiders

16. Lethbridge Hurricanes

17. Prince George Cougars (from Medicine Hat)

18. Spokane Chiefs

19. Kamloops Blazers

20. Edmonton Oil Kings

21. Swift Current Broncos (from Everett Silvertips)

22. Prince George Cougars (from Portland Winterhawks)

For the second and all ensuing rounds, the draft order follows the inverse order of the 2019-20 standings.

——

The WHL held its inaugural two-round draft of U.S. prospects on Wednesday afternoon. . . . All of the selections are listed right here.


Dinos


The NHL has postponed its annual draft, but hasn’t provided a new date. It was to have been held at the Bell Centre in Montreal, June 26 and 27. . . . The NHL also postponed its scouting combine and awards ceremony. The combine would have taken place in Buffalo, from June 1-6, with the awards ceremony in Las Vegas on June 18. . . .


Bob McKenzie, the godfather of hockey insiders, reported on TSN on Tuesday that the NHL has asked teams to look into the availability of their home arenas through the end NHLof August.

Emily Kaplan of ESPN later chatted with Nick Foligno, the captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Here is part of their conversation:

“I don’t know if I should be saying this, but I will. I don’t know if it makes a ton of sense for us to play into August. I think that’s pretty dangerous coming into another season. You want to have a great season the following season, and I don’t know if that gives guys enough time to rest and recover.

“If you think of the amount of games some guys would play, you’re adding on another 20 games, plus a full season, then playoffs again. That’s dangerous for some players, especially star players — the guys fans want to see — they’re usually playing deep into the playoffs, so we have to be cognizant of their health and safety. We want to make our league as great as it could be going into this big TV deal that everybody knows about. There’s so much that goes into it.”

The complete conversation is right here.


The 2020 North American Indigenous Games have been postponed until some point in 2021. The Games had been scheduled for K’jipuktuk/Halifax, N.S., July 12-18. . . . There isn’t a date set for next year but organizers are hoping for some time during the summer. . . . The 2020 B.C. Summer Games that had been scheduled for Maple Ridge have been cancelled. They were to have been held July 23-26. Maple Ridge will play host to the Games in 2024. . . . The 2020 Canada 55+ Games that were to have been held in Kamloops have been postponed to 2021. They had been scheduled for Aug. 25-28. . . . These Games are held every two years in late August. They have been held in even-numbered years, but that rotation will be broken in 2021. . . .


The Russia-based KHL has cancelled the remainder of its season. The KHL was into its playoffs and had hoped to be able to finish in time, but now has given up on that happening. . . .


The NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes told full-time employees on Wednesday that they won’t be getting paid after the end of this week. . . . The Super League’s Toronto Wolfpack has laid off its Canadian staff, putting 12 full-time employees out of work until play resumes. . . .


The B.C. Lions are scheduled to hold training camp in Kamloops from May 13 through June 3. I’m thinking that is about seven weeks away. I’m also thinking that isn’t going to happen. . . . So it may not be long before the CFL announces Plan B. . . .


If you feel like clicking on that DONATE button over there on the right and making a contribution, please go ahead. . . .


The below tweet shows the price of gas in Walsh, Alta., just east of Medicine Hat, on Tuesday:


The Thought for the Day, from Jack Finarelli, who is at sportscurmudgeon.com, courtesy of Mark Twain: “How lucky Adam was. He knew when he said a good thing, nobody had said it before.” . . .


Clown


With the French Open already having been rescheduled, it now seems that Wimbledon could get the same treatment. It is scheduled for June 29 through July 12 but the All England Lawn Tennis Club now is saying the event could be postponed or, yes, even cancelled. . . . The French Open, originally scheduled for May 24 through June 7 at Stade Roland Garros in Paris, now is to be held from Sept. 20 through Oct. 4. It is to start one week after the conclusion of the U.S. Open. . . .


Terry Jones of Postmedia reports that Edmonton is likely to lose the Volleyball Super Nationals that were scheduled for May 13-19, and also the Triathlon World Series Grand Final and World Championships, Aug. 17-23. . . . While the triathlon event is expected to be moved to 2021, the next Volleyball Super Nationals isn’t scheduled until 2022. . . .



Beans

WHL’s off-ice season begins today . . . Bedard gets exceptional status . . . Cranbrook Bucks have their GM/coach

Turnsignals


The WHL will hold its inaugural two-round U.S. prospects draft today (Wednesday), along with its annual bantam draft lottery. . . . The lottery, which won’t be streamed live, is to be held at 11 a.m. (MT) and will originate from the WHL office in Calgary. The U.S. prospects draft will be held online, starting at 2 p.m. MT. . . .

Meanwhile, the WHL announced that it has cancelled its annual awards show and changed the date of its bantam draft. . . . The awards show was to have been held in Red Deer on May 6. . . . The bantam draft that was scheduled for Red Deer on May 7 now will be held online on April 22. . . .



In loading up for a run at the 2020 Memorial Cup, no one went to the lengths as did the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats and Chicoutimi Sagueneens. The Wildcats, under general manager Ritchie Thibeau, traded for three star players, giving up 13 draft picks and a prospect. Chicoutimi GM Yanick Jean bettered that by adding five players for 18 picks, seven of them first-rounders, and two players. . . . And, of course, there won’t be any playoffs in the QMJHL, nor will there be a Memorial Cup. . . . Ken Campbell of The Hockey News reviews the situation involving the two big buyers right here. . . .


Emily Kaplan of ESPN reported Tuesday morning that “the NHL is temporarily cutting the pay of league office employees by 25 per cent.” . . . The cuts will come into play on April 1. . . . Kaplan wrote, “According to sources, the NHL is hoping that the temporary pay cut among league office employees will prevent layoffs during this uncertain time.” . . . The NHL had 189 games remaining in its regular season when it halted play on March 12. . . .

——

The owners of the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers had told salaried employees that they would be hit with pay cuts of 20 per cent and would be moving to four-day work weeks. . . . However, on Tuesday, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, reversed course. . . . “Our commitment has been to do our best to keep all of our employees working through this very difficult situation,” Josh Harris, HBSE president, said in a statement. “As part of an effort to do that we asked salaried employees to take a temporary 20% pay cut while preserving everyone’s full benefits — and keeping our 1,500 hourly workers paid throughout the regular season. After listening to our staff and players, it’s clear that was the wrong decision. We have reversed it and will be paying these employees their full salaries. . . . To our staff and fans, I apologize for getting this wrong.” . . .

——

Groupe CH, which owns the Montreal Canadiens and the AHL’s Laval Rocket, has announced layoffs that will affect 60 per cent of the employees in the organization. The layoffs will begin on Monday. . . . From a report by The Canadian Press: “Groupe CH says it has established a $6-millon assistance fund to help employees. The organization says the fund will help enhance employment insurance benefits for eight weeks, ensuring that employees will receive 80 per cent of their base salary for that period. The fund also will provide loans to employees in difficult financial situations.” . . .



Janet Brown of Vancouver radio station CKNW tweeted Tuesday morning that “White Spot restaurants has laid off about 3,000 employees in last week . . . owner Ron Toigo says restaurant industry was already hurting . . . he uses the words ‘bleak and staggering’ describing impact of COVID-19.” . . . Toigo also is the majority owner of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. . . .



Former Boston Bruins star Johnny Bucyk was to have had a hip replaced this week, but — guess what! — yes, the surgery was postponed. Dave Stubbs of nhl.com caught up with Bucyk, who is 84, and wrote this story right here. . . . You will enjoy this one. I guarantee it. . . .


Here is Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from Will Rogers: “There are three kinds of men. The ones that learn by readin’. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” . . .


The headline on the IIHF website reads: Ireland Coaches Italy. . . . Seriously. . . . Greg Ireland has signed on as the head coach of Italy’s national men’s hockey team. . . . Ireland, 54, takes over from Clayton Beddoes, who resigned earlier this year. . . . Ireland has been the head coach of HC Bolzano of the EBEL since January. . . . Prior to that, he spent three seasons as the head coach of Switzerland’s HC Lugano. . . .



BC Hockey announced Tuesday that F Connor Bedard has been granted exceptional status, so the 15-year-old will be eligible to play full-time in the WHL next season. Bedard, from North Vancouver, is the first player granted such status for WHL play. . . . Bedard, 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, had 84 points, including 43 goals, in 36 games for West Vancouver Academy’s midget prep team this season. . . . The WHL bantam draft is scheduled to be held online on April 22. . . . Prior to the 2019-20 season, WHL teams were allowed to use a 15-year-old in only five games before his club team had its season end. However, the Winnipeg Ice got F Matthew Savoie into 22 games, turning that ‘rule’ into something of a fallacy. Savoie, who applied for exceptional status by Hockey Canada but didn’t get it, finished with seven points, all of them assists. . . .

Two other players — F Riley Heidt and F Brayden Yager — also applied for exceptional status in the hopes of playing in the WHL next season as 15-year-olds. They both are from Dundurn, Sask., and both played with the Saskatoon Contacts of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Heidt had 17 goals and 20 assists in 44 games; Yager had 18 goals and 24 assists in 44 games. . . . There was no mention of either in the announcement involving Bedard. . . .

Bedard is the seventh player to have been granted exceptional status, after Sean Day, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid, John Tavares and Shane Wright, all of whom played in the OHL, and Joe Veleno, who played in the QMJHL. . . .


Floss


Ryan Donald is the first general manager and head coach of the Cranbrook Bucks, who are scheduled to begin play in the BCHL in 2020-21. The Bucks have signed Donald to a four-year contract. . . . Donald, who is from Edmonton, has been an assistant coach at Yale U for five seasons. Earlier, he played at Yale for four seasons. . . . “Ryan is an incredible hire for our club,” Bucks owner and president Nathan Lieuwen said in a news release, “and is absolutely the right person to build this franchise. “Not only does he have quality experience coaching at high levels, but he also has great connections throughout the NCAA.”


Ryan Oulahen has been named head coach of the OHL’s North Bay Battalion. He signed a three-year contract. . . . Oulahen had been the interim head coach since Dec. 10, when he replaced Stan Butler. . . . A former captain of the Battalion when the franchise was based in Brampton, Oulahen spent two seasons (2016-18) as head coach of the Flint Firebirds. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach with the Battalion for five seasons. . . . Butler had been the Battalion’s head coach since 1998-99. . . .