Lynn Lake legend takes on the ‘Hammer’ . . . Remembering a fax from Rocky . . . The virus finds the QMJHL

When I was a hockey-playing teenager in Lynn Lake, Man., Steve Andrascik was THE MAN.

Two years older than me, he played two seasons (1967-69) with the Flin Flon Andrascik.Bombers, totalling 62 goals and 62 assists in 110 games. He also earned 230 penalty minutes as he sometimes rode shotgun with Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach. Steve was selected 11th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 12-team NHL’s 1968 draft — 24 players were selected over three rounds.

Steve would come home in the offseason and work in the mine. Competitive? Sometimes he would stop off at the fastball diamond on his way to work and pitch for one of the men’s teams . . . while wearing work boots.

Yes, he was a Lynn Lake legend.

As a pro, he played 77 games in the WHA and had stints in the CHL, SHL and AHL, finishing up with the Hershey Bears with whom, as I understand it, he was quite popular.

His NHL career consisted of one game, a playoff game in Madison Square Garden. After spending the 1971-72 season with the AHL’s Providence Reds — he had 14 goals, 10 assists and 104 penalty minutes in 74 games — the New York Rangers added him for their playoff run. On April 20, he was in their lineup for a 3-2 victory over Chicago in Game 3 of what would be a sweep of the Blackhawks.

The Rangers would lose the Stanley Cup final in six games to Bobby Orr’s Boston Bruins. Steve didn’t get in the New York lineup but he was along for the ride.

That brings us to the following tweet . . .

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The tweet referencing the bout between Steve Andrascik and Dave Schultz reminded me of a WHL-related story from a few seasons back.

This is one of those stories that really is too good to try and confirm just in case it didn’t happen. It just may be one of those stories best prefaced with “Legend has it . . .”

But, hey, here it is . . .

It was early in December of 1996 and Rocky Thompson and the Medicine Hat Tigers were preparing to head out on a three-game swing into B.C. They were scheduled to visit the Kelowna Rockets (Dec. 10), Kamloops Blazers (Dec. 11) and Prince George Cougars (Dec. 13).

Defenceman Scott Parker was the man with the Rockets, while the Blazers had forward Rob Skrlac. In Prince George, Zdeno Chara, a young 6-foot-8 defenceman from Trencin, Slovakia, was making people sit up and take notice.

Thompson, of course, knew the challenges he would face on this road trip. He was in his fourth season with the Tigers, although he would be traded to the Swift Current Broncos on Jan. 24, which was the trade deadline. Todd McLellan, the Broncos’ general manager and head coach, acquired Thompson, 19, and sniper Josh Green, 19, for F Tyler Perry, 19; F Andrew Milne, 18; D Kevin Mackie, 15; F Brett Scheffelmaier, 15; and a 1997 second-round bantam draft pick.

But that trade was yet to happen.

Preparing to head into the rugged B.C. Division, Thompson was well aware of just who would be his dance partners.

He knew all about Parker and Skrlac, both of whom were WHL veterans. But, hey, what about the new guy in Prince George?

Well, Thompson thought it would be a good idea to really test the new guy, so before heading out on the road he sent a fax to Chara via the Cougars’ office. “I’m coming for you” is all it read.

The Tigers opened the trip in Kelowna and, true to form, Thompson and Parker scrapped right off the opening faceoff. Moments before the puck was dropped, Parker skated up from the Kelowna blue line and traded shots with the Rockets’ starting right winger, which put him nose-to-nose with Thompson, who was lined up at left wing. The epic bout that followed is available on YouTube.

One night later, Thompson was back in the Tigers’ lineup in Kamloops, but as hard as Skrlac tried in the early going he wasn’t able to engage the Medicine Hat tough guy. Eventually, the referee approached Thompson and  asked if he had plans to accommodate Skrlac. Thompson told him that he had damaged a hand in the bout with Parker so wasn’t about to scrap with Skrlac.

Two nights later, Thompson picked up a roughing minor in Prince George, but there wasn’t a bout with Chara.

The best laid plans — and sent faxes — and all that . . .

BTW, the Tigers made out just fine on the trip, beating the Rockets 5-4 in OT on a goal by F Jason Chimera at 4:48 of extra time, winning 3-1 in Kamloops and earning a 2-2 OT tie (remember ties?) in Prince George.

Of course, we are referencing the same Rocky Thompson who, at the age of 43, is preparing for his first season as an associate coach with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. He spent the previous three seasons as head coach of the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. He also was the head coach of the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires for two seasons, helping them to the 2017 Memorial Cup title.



These are interesting times in major junior hockey, where the OHL and WHL are qmjhlnewhoping to get their regular seasons started in December. The QMJHL, meanwhile, has one weekend under its belt and has lost three teams. . . . The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and Sherbrooke Phoenix have suspended all in-person activities. That comes after an Armada player tested positive following a weekend doubleheader between the teams. . . . At the same time, the Armada and Quebec Remparts have been shut down at least for the rest of this month as they are in a red zone as defined by the provincial government. . . . Armada staff and players are in isolation as they await further testing and results, and the outcome of contact tracing. . . . The Armada and Remparts each has eight games on their October schedules.

From a QMJHL news release:

“Following the Quebec government’s announcement to prohibit the practice of sports in the designated red zones, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is very disappointed in this decision.

“The conduct of our activities has been above reproach since the start of training camps at the end of August. The return to play protocol was approved and applauded by public health officials in Quebec and by the three Maritime-based provinces in which the league operates. It has been hailed as thorough and effective. The league would like to congratulate the players and team staffs for its flawless execution.

“Over the course of the next few days, we will share with Quebec public health officials additional measures which will render the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada’s and Quebec Remparts’ bubbles even more secure. We hope that these new directives will be well-received by Quebec’s health agency. The QMJHL is convinced that these additional measures will go above and beyond what is required to protect our players, staffs and officials and enable all of our teams to continue playing.”


That’s Kelly Olynyk at the left of the photo in the following tweet. He and his Miami Heat are scheduled to play Game 4 of the NBA final tonight in Orlando. The Los Angeles Lakers lead the best-of-seven series, 2-1.


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

F Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers tested positive on Monday. According to the Oilers, he is “in voluntary self-quarantine at his home. He will continue to be monitored and will follow all associated health protocols. He is feeling well and is experiencing mild symptoms.” . . .

Kevin Sumlin, the head coach of the Arizona football team, has tested positive. He is in self-isolation while contact tracing is conducted. His team is scheduled to begin practising on Friday, with its first game scheduled for Nov. 7 against host Utah. . . . “My family and I have been aggressive in our efforts to remain safe and healthy throughout the past seven months,” Sumlin said in a statement. “My positive test result, while a shock, is a stark reminder of how we must all remain vigilant in our focus on hand washing, physical distancing and face coverings.” . . . At least four FBS coaches have tested positive since July, the others being Florida State’s Mike Norvell, Jason Candle of Toledo and Blake Anderson of Arkansas State. . . .

Bobby Bowden, who spent 34 years as the head coach of the Florida State football team, has tested positive. Jim Henry of the Tallahassee Democrat reported that Bowden, who will turn 91 next month, “tested positive following his release from (a Tallahassee) hospital last weekend while being treated for an unrelated leg infection.” . . . He had been released from hospital on Thursday and was informed on Saturday that he had tested positive. . . . Bowden retired in 2009 after 44 seasons as a football coach.


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.


A summer without Wimbledon seems likely . . . And what about the CFL season? . . . BCHL coach of year unemployed


Make sure you watch the video because that will explain the second tweet . . .


Here is why we love Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon. His Monday posting contained a considerable amount of writing about the chances of the pro leagues and/or college football resuming/starting their seasons. As he pointed out, it’s awfully hard to practise physical distancing in a sporting facility that contains 106,572 fans.

He finished with this:

“Baseball has had some experience dealing with crowds where social distancing can be maintained:

“Spread out the attendees at a typical Miami Marlins home game and social distancing is not a challenge.

“Look at the fans sitting behind home plate in Yankee Stadium. The cost of those seats has effected social distancing by economic measures and not medical ones.”

Look him up at sportscurmudgeon.com for more fun.

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BTW, here’s Jack’s Thought of the Day, this one from Will Rogers: “Our public men are speaking every day on something, but they ain’t saying anything.”


Weather


The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames announced cutbacks on Monday. . . . Edmonton has reduced its staff by 139 employees with all others taking a “compensation rollback,” which is fancy-speak for a pay cut. . . . As well, senior hockey and business executives are taking a 50-100 per cent cut. . . . The Flames cut their workforce by 150 employees, or 50 per cent, hitting them with a 60-day temporary layoff. The rest of the staff will see 10-25 per cent cuts in pay. . . .

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The CFL has postponed the start of training camps that were to begin in May. In some instances, rookie camps were to start on May 11 and main camps on May 17. . . . The B.C. Lions were to train in Kamloops from May 13 through June 3. . . . The CFL’s regular season is scheduled to begin on June 11, but that obviously is in doubt. . . . There already is speculation out there about whether the CFL will be able to get in a 12- or even an eight-game regular-season schedule. . . .

Farhan Lalji of TSN tweeted that sources have told him everyone in the Calgary Stampeders “organization, including all football ops/coaches, have been told by ownership that they will be taking pay cuts. Range is 10-25 per cent and will be re-evaluated in three months.” . . . That would take them to July 1. . . .

Sky Sports reported that German Tennis Federation vice-president Dirk Hordoff told it that Wimbledon organizers will announce the cancellation of the tournament this week. The tournament’s scheduled dates are July 29 through July 12. . . . While the French Open has been postponed from May until late September, Wimbledon would be cancelled because it has just two covered courts and it isn’t possible to play on the grass courts that late in the season. . . . Mark Masters of TSN has more on the Wimbledon situation right here with an interesting interview with Grant Cantin of Stony Plain, Alta., who was on the grounds crew for 17 years. . . .

Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics have rescheduled the Summer Games and now they are to open on July 23, 2021, and run through Aug. 8. They had been scheduled to open on July 24, 2020, and go through Aug. 9. . . . The Paralympics now are scheduled to run from Aug. 24 through Sept. 5, 2021. . . .

In golf, the Irish Open, set for May 28-31, has been postponed, meaning the next scheduled European Tour men’s event is the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco, June 4-7. . . .

The seven-team Western Women’s Canadian Football League has cancelled its 2020 season, which would have been No. 10. The league’s teams: Calgary Rage, Edmonton Storm, Lethbridge Steel, Manitoba Fearless, Regina Riot, Saskatoon Valkyries and the Winnipeg Wolfpack. . . .

The 2020 Saskatchewan Marathon has been cancelled. It was to have been held in Saskatoon on May 31. . . .

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The International Boxing Hall of Fame has cancelled its 2020 Hall of Fame weekend. . . . What should have been this year’s inductees will be part of the celebrations in 2021. . . . The Hall of Fame and Museum is located in Canastota, N.Y. The big weekend had been scheduled for June 11-14. . . . From wktv.com: “This class makes history, featuring the first enshrined females in the Hall of Fame’s 31 years of existence. The women’s Trailblazer category gains Barbara Buttrick, while the Modern category adds ‘The Coal Miner’s Daughter’ Christy Martin, and ‘The Dutch Destroyer’ Lucia Rijker. Other inducted boxers include lightweight champion Frank Erne in the Old Timer category, and Paddy Ryan to the Pioneer category.”


While there have been lots of postponements and cancellations, the NFL is going ahead with its annual draft. . . . That has irked Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle, who points out that a lot of people have learned a lot over the last while, “everyone except, apparently, Roger Goodell.”

Killion continued:

“Commissioner Tone Deaf now has turned into Dictator Obtuse. In announcing that the NFL draft would take place as planned April 23-25, Goodell also sent a memo warning teams not to criticize his decision.

“The memo, as reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, said in part ‘public discussion of issues relating to the Draft serves no useful purpose and is grounds for disciplinary action.’

“We know how hard the hammer can fall in the NFL. Just ask old friend Colin Kaepernick.

“There’s no place for personal opinion or free speech in the No Freedoms League.”

Killion’s complete column is right here.


This one actually had me chuckling out loud, while watching The Pride of the Yankees on Sunday night . . .

https://twitter.com/ESPNStatsInfo/status/1244459963558264832?s=20


The Tri-City Americans announced the departure of associate coach Brian Pellerin in a terse two-sentence news release on Monday afternoon. . . . Pellerin, the pride of Hinton, Alta., which is just west of Old Drinnan Town, spent six seasons with the Americans, one as assistant coach and the last five as associate. . . . The 50-year-old Pellerin played four seasons (1987-91) with the Prince Albert Raiders. . . . He also worked four seasons (2004-08) as an assistant coach with the Portland Winterhawks.


The Philadelphia Hockey Club has signed Rylan Ferster as one of its head coaches for 2020-21. Ferster will be involved with the Tier-2 team in the National Collegiate Development Conference. . . . Ferster is a veteran of the junior A ranks, especially in the BCHL where he recently spent seven seasons with the Westside/West Kelowna Warriors, guiding them to a national championship in 2015-16. . . . In December, the PHC hired Troy Mick, another former BCHL coach, as the general manager of the Tier-2 program and the head coach of the U-16 teams. . . .


The BCHL’s reigning coach of the year no longer is with the BCHL’s Coquitlam Express. . . . Jason Fortier had signed a three-year contract in November 2017 when he replaced Barry Wolff. . . . Veteran BCHL observer Brian Wiebe (@Brian_Wiebe) first tweeted the news on Monday, adding later in the day that “Express assistant coaches Jamie Jackson and Sam Waterfield are no longer with the team either. Jackson was brought on board in November 2017, while Waterfield was with Coquitlam since June 2019.”


Best junior player I’ve seen would have turned 61 on Sunday . . . Hockey world mourns death of Bowkus

He was the best junior hockey player I ever had the privilege of watching.

Brad McCrimmon, at the age of 19, was a smooth-passing, minute-eating defenceman with the 1978-79 Brandon Wheat Kings, who lost a grand total of five regular-season games. He had the knack of conserving energy while on the ice, so he could play and play and play.

And, although he didn’t carry the title or have his own office, he also was the Wheat Kings’ lone assistant coach.

Dunc McCallum, the head coach, knew what he had in McCrimmon and the former NHLer let the future pro shoulder a huge load. From Plenty, Sask., McCrimmon had grown up on a farm so the work load didn’t scare him; in fact, he scared it.

McCrimmon, as TSN’s Craig Button noted in the above tweet, would have turned 61 on Sunday.

You will recall, however, that McCrimmon died on Sept. 7, 2011. He was the head coach of Lokomotiv Yaroslav of the KHL when its plane crashed shortly after takeoff. McCrimmon, then 52, had signed with the team in May.

This was his first pro head-coaching gig. You can bet that had he lived he would be an NHL head coach today, perhaps with the Vegas Golden Knights.

In a later tweet, Button pointed out what I think says more than anything about Brad McCrimmon, hockey player:

“He played with Ray Bourque, Mark Howe, Gary Suter, Niklas Lidstrom and a young Chris Pronger. All the while helping and complementing others, he was a force in his own right.”

Take a few minutes and check out the seasons those players had while partnered with McCrimmon. Officially, he may not be a Hockey Hall of Famer, but he was a Hall of Famer, if you know what I mean . . . on and off the ice.



Jack Bowkus, a former WHLer who went on to coach for 20 years in southern California, died on Saturday after a battle with cancer. . . . Bowkus, 55, was a native of Lansing, Mich. . . . He played four seasons (1984-88) with the Saskatoon Blades. . . . While coaching in California, he guided California Wave and Los Angeles Jr. Kings teams to numerous championships. . . . There is more on Bowkus right here.

——

Ray Macias, a former Kamloops Blazers defenceman from the Los Angeles Jr. Kings program, offered this tribute to Jack Bowkus on Facebook:

“We lost a complete legend last night from the game of hockey and all of Southern California hockey. I had the privilege to coach side by side with him this past season and the lessons learned were second to none. A true leader and a true mentor to many kids and for me as I just start my coaching career. The experience gained will never be forgotten and will be carried on through many generations. Thank you Jack for being such a great role model for so many kids in So Cal. May you rest in peace Jack.”

Ray’s mother, Helen Alex, is a long-time member of the Jr. Kings’ operation. . . .

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Joe Diffie is dead. John Prine is in critical condition. And the clown show is bragging about TV ratings. . . . Will this nightmare ever end?

——

Oh, and have you heard about the King who rented an entire German hotel so that he could go into self-isolation? Did I mention that he brought along his harem of 20 and, yes, some servants? . . . It’s all right here. . . . But I do wonder how the King and his court didn’t end up at Mar-a-Lago.

——

Stephen King and Don Winslow couldn’t have combined to write anything close to what we’re witnessing these days. . . .


Pat Leonard, writing in the New York Daily News:

“For the NFL to play even one game, it needs to be able to safely welcome around 61,500-80,000 fans into a stadium. It must be able to guarantee all staff and players can travel, collaborate, and come into close contact without contracting and spreading this deadly virus.

“How could the NFL possibly guarantee that type of safety by Labor Day?”

Leonard’s look at the situation in which the NFL finds itself is right here. . . .


Twitter headline from The Onion: Trump Orders Manufacturers to Drastically Ramp Up Production of Hospital Gift Shop Supplies. . . .


Scott Ostler, in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“The 49ers dodged a big bullet when they passed on Tom Brady.

“Brady is a Bay Area guy and it would have been a heartwarming story, the old warhorse coming back home. But many hearts would not have been warmed.

“While I try to steer clear of politics, my national-affairs advisers tell me that the Bay Area leans politically left, and it would be tough for many 49ers’ fans to embrace Brady because of his BFF status with the president.

“ ‘I spoke to (Brady) the other day, he’s a great guy,’ the president said last week.

“In normal times, that wouldn’t matter. Normal Times just boarded a Princess Cruise to Tahiti.” . . .


If you haven’t heard, Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks are going to present a concert — Garth & Trisha: Live! — on Wednesday evening  on CBS-TV. If you’re interested, check your local listings. . . . They and CBS also are donating $1 million to charities “combating the COVID-19 virus.” . . .


From Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “Sidelined sportscaster Joe Buck will do a play-by-play narration of your quarantined existence in exchange for a charity donation, tweeting, ‘Send me videos of what you’re doing at home and I’ll work on my play-by-play. Seriously!’ . . . Predictably, Cowboys fans are already complaining that Buck is biased toward Green Bay’s shut-ins.” . . .

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Perry, again: “NASCAR is imposing staff salary cuts of 20-25% until there’s a return to racing. Or as the folks in accounting prefer to call it, restrictor-plate paying.” . . .


The Toronto Blue Jays opened their regular season by getting swept by the visiting Boston Red Sox. . . . Boston won, 6-3, on Sunday, as 3B Rafael Devers hit his fourth HR in three games, a two-run shot that tied the game in the eighth inning, and JD Martinez won it with a three-run dinger in the 12th. . . . After the opening weekend, the Texas Rangers and Oakland A’s join Boston at 4-0, with the Los Angeles Dodgers at 3-0. . . . This all is part of a simulated season being played out by the folks at Strat-O-Matic, and you are able to check it all out right here.


Think about these numbers for a few minutes . . .