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 . . .

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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

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Or, for more information, visit right here.



Tinfoil

Broncos add d-man, release forward . . . Giants win 13-round shootout . . . Lambert a winner in return to Swift Current


MacBeth

F Marek Tvrdoň (Vancouver, Kelowna, 2010-14) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Klagenfurt II (Switzerland, Alps HL). This season, he had one goal in four games with Saryarka Karaganda (Kazakhstan, Russian Vysshaya Liga). The contract with Klagrenfurt II has a one-month “probationary” period. . . .

G Barry Brust (Spokane, Calgary, 2000-04) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Kunlun Red Star Beijing (China, KHL). Last season, with Fribourg-Gottéron (Switzerland, NL A), he was 2.29, .926 in 38 games. . . . Side note on Kunlun Red Star: The KHL schedule states that Kunlun has played or will play all of its home games in Shanghai until Christmas Day, when they will move their home games to Beijing. . . .

D Brett Carson (Moose Jaw, Calgary, 2001-06) has signed a contract with KooKoo Kouvola (Finland, Liiga). The contract is for the rest of this season, but there is an unspecified “probationary” period. Last season, he had two goals and five assists in 56 games with SaiPa Lappeenranta (Finland, Liiga). He was an alternate captain. . . .

F/D Curt Gogol (Kelowna, Saskatoon, Chilliwack, 2007-11) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Manglerud (Norway, GET-Ligaen). This season, with Kalmar (Sweden, Division 1), he had one assist in four games.


ThisThat

The Swift Current Broncos have acquired D Garrett Sambrook from the Brandon Wheat SCBroncosKings for a conditional ninth-round selection in the WHL’s 2020 bantam draft. . . . From Medora, Man., Sambrook, 18, was a sixth-round pick by Brandon in the 2015 bantam draft. . . . The Wheat Kings released him earlier this season and he has been playing with the MJHL’s Virden Oil Capitals, recording three assists in seven games. . . . In 70 games with the Wheat Kings over three seasons, he put up one goal and nine assists. . . . Sambrook didn’t play in the Broncos’ 4-1 loss to the visiting Spokane Chiefs on Friday night.

Later Friday, the Broncos announced that they had released F Colum McGauley. The 18-year-old, from Wilcox, Sask., was pointless in two games with the Broncos this season. . . . Last season, he had two goals in 47 games with the Kelowna Rockets. . . . The Spokane Chiefs selected him in the fourth round of the 2015 WHL bantam draft. . . . The Rockets dealt F Tanner Wishnowski to Spokane for McGauley, on Oct. 27, 2016. On July 10, Kelowna dealt him to the Broncos for an eighth-round selection in the 2021 bantam draft.


Please feel free to click on the DONATE button over there on the right and make a donation to the Taking Note cause. . . . One regular reader who did just that wrote: “Definitely the best source of info for junior hockey, and really enjoy the writing. It’s one of my first visits every morning.”


The Kamloops Blazers have released D Tylor Ludwar, 19, and he is expected to join the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers. Ludwar, from Regina, had gotten into only one game with the Blazers this season. . . . Ludwar had one goal and two assists in 53 games last season, after recording two assists in 19 games in 2016-17.


Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette has more on Lyle Odelein and what he has been through right here. Odelein, 50, is from Quill Lake, Sask. He played three seasons (1985-88) with the Moose Jaw Warriors. Odelein was tough, but he also put up 163 points in 189 regular-season games.


The Moose Jaw Warriors have signed F Josh Hoekstra to a WHL contract. From Edmonton, he was a fourth-round pick in the 2018 bantam draft. . . . This season, he is played with OHA-Edmonton’s Elite 15s. In five games, he has three assists. Last season, he had eight goals and 18 assists in 30 games with the OHA-Edmonton bantam prep team.


Ryan Oulahen has stepped aside from his position as head coach of the OHL’s Flint ohlFirebirds. A post on the team’s website reads that Oulahen has left “due to personal and family reasons. He will be leaving the position effective immediately.” . . . Greg Stefan, the team’s goaltending coach, worked as the head coach on Friday night, with associate coach Darcy Findlay and assistant coach Garrett Rutledge staying in their roles. . . . The Firebirds were 0-7-0 going into Friday’s games, leaving them last in the 10-team Western Conference. Last night, they fell to 0-8-0 with a 5-3 loss to the visiting North Bay Battalion. . . . Oulahen, 33, was in his third season as Flint’s head coach. . . . Brendan Savage of mlive.com has more right here.


FRIDAY NIGHT NOTES:

D Kaleb Bulych scored in the 13th round of a shootout as the Vancouver Giants beat the VancouverKamloops Blazers, 4-3, in Langley, B.C. . . . The Giants ran their winning streak to five games. . . . The Blazers have lost six in a row (5-0-1). . . . F Luc Smith’s second goal of the game, at 15:33 of the third period, gave Kamloops a 3-1 lead. . . . F Davis Koch got the Giants to within one at 17:33 and F Milos Roman tied it with 10.7 seconds left in the period. . . . The Giants won the shootout, 2-1, getting their other goal from D Bowen Byram in the third round, after F Connor Zary had scored for Kamloops to end the second round. . . . A pregame note from Steve Ewen of Postmedia: “Also of note with Friday’s game is the coaching matchup. Michael Dyck signed on as bench boss with the Giants in June, but not before talking to the Blazers about their open post, if you believe the rumour mill. The Blazers announced Serge Lajoie as their new coach three days ahead of the Dyck addition in Vancouver, but Lajoie had spoken to the Giants, according to scuttlebutt.”


F Max Gerlach scored three times, including the OT winner, as the Saskatoon Blades beat the visiting Red Deer Rebels, 3-2. . . . Gerlach, who has seven goals, tied the game, 2-2, at 19:44 of the third period and won it at 3:44 of OT. . . . Saskatoon G Nolan Maier stopped 23 shots. F Alex Morozoff of the Rebels came up short on a penalty shot at 16:41 of the third period with his guys ahead 2-1. . . . The Blades have won four in a row; the Rebels are 4-0-1 in their past five. . . . D Jackson Caller was back in Saskatoon’s lineup after missing four games with an undisclosed injury.


F Bryce Kindopp broke a 3-3 tie with 2:57 left in the third period as the host Everett Silvertips got past the Edmonton Oil Kings, 5-3. . . . Kindopp’s third goal of the season came via the PP. . . . F Connor Dewar had two goals — giving him six — and two assists for Everett, for his second career four-point game. . . . The Oil Kings have lost six in a row (0-5-1); they are 0-4-0 in the U.S. Division. They wrap up this six-game road trip tonight in Kent, Wash., against the Seattle Thunderbirds.


G Bailey Brkin stopped 28 shots to help the Spokane Chiefs to a 4-1 victory over the Broncos in Swift Current. . . . The Broncos, the WHL’s reigning champions, now are 0-7 to open the season. . . . Geoffrey Brandow (@GeoffreyBrandow) notes that this is the Broncos’ first seven-game losing streak “since an 11-game winless stretch in November and December of 2015.” Brandow adds that the Broncos are the “first defending title holder in Internet Era to lose first six the following season.” . . . The Chiefs have points in six straight (4-0-2). . . . This game marked the return of Dan Lambert to Swift Current for the first time as head coach of the Chiefs. Lambert was an all-star defenceman with the Broncos and helped them win the 1989 Memorial Cup. He is in his second season as the Chiefs’ head coach; they didn’t play in Swift Current last season.


D Linus Nassen had a goal and two assists, his first goal of the season coming 28 seconds into the game, to help the host Medicine Hat Tigers to a 4-1 victory over the Prince George Cougars. . . . The Tigers improved to 4-5-1. . . . Prince George (2-5-1) has lost four in a row. . . . After the game, Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat Tigers tweeted: “Tigers not commenting on the status of Gary Haden, who was scratched from tonight’s game.” . . . McCracken also tweeted that Tigers skaters “Joel Craven and Trevor Longo both left tonight’s game and are questionable” for Saturday’s game.


D Schael Higson had five points, including two goals, as the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings scored a 5-4 OT victory over the Moose Jaw Warriors. . . . F Connor Gutenberg (3) won it 25 seconds into extra time. . . . Higson, 20, has three goals and eight assists in six games. Last season, he had career highs of five goals and 23 assists in 71 games. . . . The Warriors got four assists from F Justin Almeida, with F Tristin Langan adding two goals and an assist. . . . The Wheat Kings (5-0-1) have yet to lose in regulation time. . . . The Warriors are 3-0-2 in their last five. . . . This was the fourth meeting in three weeks between these teams — Brandon is 3-0-1; Moose Jaw is 1-2-1.


In Cranbrook, B.C., the Regina Pats built up a 3-0 lead and hung on for a 2-1 victory over the Kootenay Ice. . . . The Pats (2-6-0) had lost their previous two games; the Ice had won its previous two games. . . . Freshman F Sergei Alkhimov gave the visitors a 2-0 lead when he scored his second goal of the season on a penalty shot at 7:46 of the second period. . . . According to the online scoresheet, Regina was 46-for-65 on faceoffs. That’s 71 per cent.


The Kelowna Rockets snapped a four-game losing skid with a 3-2 victory over the Tri-City Americans in Kennewick, Wash. The Rockets improved to 2-8-0. . . . F Kyle Topping (3) gave the Rockets a 3-1 lead at 5:30 of the third period. . . . F Michael Farren, acquired Thursday from the Saskatoon Blades, wasn’t in Kelowna’s lineup. The Rockets also scratched two 20-year-olds — F Lane Zablocki, who has yet to play, and F Ryan Bowen. . . . The two head coaches — Jason Smith of Kelowna and Tri-City’s Kelly Buchberger — both are former captains of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. . . . The Rockets and Americans will play again tonight, this time in Kelowna.


The Calgary Hitmen won for the first time in seven games, beating the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes, 6-5. . . . Calgary (1-5-1) built up a 6-2 lead, then allowed three goals, two of them by F Logan Barlage (4), in the game’s last 6:05. . . . The Hitmen got two goals and an assist from F Mark Kastelic (5), a goal and two helpers from F Jake Kryski (5), and three assists from D Vladislav Yeryomenko. . . . G Jack McNaughton stopped 34 shots to earn his first WHL victory.


Tweetoftheday

Royals “definitely in” on 2020 Memorial Cup . . . Bajkov fills hat as Everett wins Game 3 . . . Bo knows it’s Game 7 in SJHL

Scattershooting

If there was doubt in your mind about the Victoria Royals and the 2020 Memorial Cup, you can forget it. They’re in.

“We’re 100 per cent, definitely in,” Cam Hope, the Royals’ president and general VictoriaRoyalsmanager, told Cleve Dheensaw of the Victoria Times Colonist late last week.

The Kamloops Blazers and Kelowna Rockets also are all-in on this one, with both having held news conferences to announce their intentions. The Royals haven’t gone that far yet, but they will.

“We have let the Western Hockey League know we are bidding,” Hope told Dheensaw, adding that there isn’t any rush to hold a news conference because the WHL’s deadline to file an expression of interest is June 1 and bids won’t be heard until Oct. 3.

“The deadline for the expression of interest is not until later in the summer,” Hope said. “We have been (working) quietly behind the scenes. There will be a time to be louder.”

Dheensaw’s complete story is right here.


In Kennewick, Wash., the Everett Silvertips broke open a 4-4 game with four third-period goals in the span of 4:50 and went on to an 8-4 victory over the Tri-City Americans before Everettan announced crowd of 3,268 in Game 3 of the WHL’s best-of-seven Western Conference final. . . . Everett leads the series, 2-1. . . . The visitors got three goals from F Patrick Bajkov, who snapped the 4-4 tie at 6:54 of the third period, then made it 6-4 at 9:21. . . . The Americans had tied the score 4-4 on third-period goals from F Isaac Johnson, at 0:47, and F Michael Rasmussen, at 1:45. . . . Tri-City scored its first two goals via the PP and now is 17-33 with the man advantage through 11 playoff games. . . . Things got a bit heated early in the third period with the head coaches — Everett’s Dennis Williams and Tri-City’s Mike Williamson — exchanging greetings at the benches. . . . The series won’t resume until Thursday because Kennewick’s Toyota Center is playing host to Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story Onstage on Wednesday night. . . .

Meanwhile, the Eastern Conference final is set to continue tonight (Tuesday) in Lethbridge with the Swift Current Broncos holding a 2-0 edge over the Hurricanes. . . . The Broncos lost D Artyom Minulin and F Glenn Gawdin to injuries in the first two games. It’s playoffs, so their status for Game 3 isn’t known.


G Bo Didur stopped 36 shots on Sunday leading, leading the host Estevan Bruins to a 4-0 victory over the Nipawin Hawks in Game 6 of the SJHL’s championship final for the SJHLCanalta Cup. The best-of-seven series is 3-3 and will be decided Tuesday night in Nipawin. Game time is 7:30 p.m. . . . That, considering all that has transpired over the past two-plus weeks, is the only way this could end, isn’t it? . . . F Jake Fletcher, the Bruins’ captain, had a goal, his 10th of the playoffs, and two assists. Fletcher has 20 points, one behind playoff co-leaders Kaelan Holt of Estevan, who is the son of former Swift Current Broncos star Todd Holt, and Nipawin’s Brandan Arnold. Kaelan Holt had two assists on Sunday. . . . Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post was in Estevan and did up this piece right here on Didur, who is into the final games of his junior hockey career. . . . The winner of Tuesday’s game will meet the MJHL-champion Steinbach Pistons for the ANAVET Cup and a berth in the Royal Bank Cup.


The other day, a woman changed her mind about singing the U.S. national anthem at a Reno Aces’ baseball game when she was told she couldn’t bring her gun along with her. As Jim Barach of WCHS-TV in Charleston, W.Va., noted: “Apparently they got her name off the wrong list of sopranos.”


The MJHL’s Dauphin Kings have signed Doug Hedley as their general manager and head coach. Hedley, a former Kings head coach, spent the past two seasons with the MJHL’s OCN Blizzard. . . . Hedley has been behind the Kings’ bench for 358 games, going 217-116-17-8. According to a Kings’ news release, he is “second behind Marlin Murray (556) in all-time regular-season games coached and second in wins as a Kings coach.”. . . . With Dauphin, Hedley takes over from Mitch Giguere, an assistant coach who had been working as the interim GM/head coach after Marc Berry was fired on Nov. 19. . . . This season, the Kings finished 14-44-1-1, good for 10th in the 11-team league.



Dwight Perry, in the Seattle Times: “The Metropolitan King County Council approved a ban on vaping and chewing tobacco in sports facilities — particularly the Mariners’ Safeco Field — effective May 19. In other words, Skoal’s out for the summer.”


MacBeth

F Tyler Spurgeon (Kelowna, 2001-06) has signed a one-year extension with Innsbruck (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). The team captain, he had 18 goals and 31 assists in 54 games this season. . . .

F Jordan Hickmott (Medicine Hat, Prince Albert, Edmonton, 2005-11) has signed a one-year contract with the Linz Black Wings (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). This season, with Villach (Austria, Erste Bank Liga), he had 20 goals and 22 assists in 51 games. He led his club in goals and points. . . .

F Justin Feser (Tri-City, 2008-13) has signed a one-year contract with the Fischtown Pinguins Bremerhaven (Germany, DEL). This season, with the Krefeld Pinguine (Germany, DEL), he had 14 goals and 12 assists in 44 games. . . .

F T.J. Mulock (Vancouver, Regina, Kamloops, 2002-03, 2005-06) has signed a one-year contract with the Straubing Tigers (Germany, DEL). This season, with Cologne Haie (Germany, DEL), he had two goals and seven assists in 46 games. He is a dual German-Canadian citizen.