On March 30, Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, said that he expects the stadiums in which his league’s teams play to be open to full capacity when the next season begins.
On Tuesday, it was announced at a news conference in Buffalo that fans will have to have been vaccinated in order to attend games involving the NFL’s Bills and the NHL’s Sabres next season.
Mark Poloncarz, an Erie County executive, said: “You want to go to a Bills game later this year? Get vaccinated with your first dose of the Moderna vaccine today. You get your second dose of the Moderna vaccine in four weeks. Two weeks later, you’ll be able to fill out the pass, and in the fall, you’ll be cheering on Josh Allen at the stadium.
Poloncarz also said that religious and medical exemptions won’t be taken into consideration.
“Some people are like, ‘Well that’s unfair,’ but there’s no God-given right to attend a football game,” he said.
In this instance, Erie County is able to set the rules for games in the home facilities for the Bills and Sabres because it owns both of them. According to Poloncarz, the country doesn’t need state approval either.
Needless to say, there was a lot of reaction on social media to the announcement, but Erie County officials don’t seem likely to budge on this.
“You have no guaranteed rights in the Constitution to inflict illness on other people, just like you have no guaranteed right in the Constitution to attend a Buffalo Bills football game,” Poloncarz said. “You can be removed at anytime. Our goal is to ensure that everyone in there is safe.”
Sandra Tan of the Buffalo News has more right here.
Meanwhile, there are people doing the research to try and find out whether having fans attend sporting events in these pandemic times results in increased rates of infection in the areas in which the games were played. . . . One study, which hasn’t yet been peer reviewed, found definitive increases. . . . There’s more on that right here.
The Gatineau Olympiques of the Québec League have 24 active cases … Ontario had 3,670 new cases on Tuesday with a record-high positivity rate >10 per cent. Just say the #OHL is not playing a season until 2021-22. https://t.co/zrh86yKgi9
It was hardly a surprise when the CHL announced on Tuesday that it has cancelled the 2021 Memorial Cup because of the pandemic.
While a host city/team for 2021 hadn’t been announced, the tournament was to have been played in Oshawa or Sault Ste. Marie. The 2020 tournament that was to have been held in Kelowna also was cancelled.
The Memorial Cup first was presented in 1919. It had been awarded every year since then . . . until 2020.
“Regrettably, we do not see a path in which we will be able to produce champions in our three member leagues due to border restrictions and quarantining requirements,” the CHL said in a statement. “The Memorial Cup is steeped in tradition and is one of the most difficult trophies to win in all of sport. The CHL looks forward to presenting it next season to the championship club that has earned the right to hoist it.”
While the QMJHL continues to plan on starting its playoffs on April 23 — it has at least three Quebec-based teams with positive tests, one of them with 24 — one has to think that the OHL will get around to announcing one of these days that its season has been cancelled without getting started.
The WHL has all of its 22 teams playing games within their geographic areas, but hasn’t yet announced a plan for playoffs of any sort. Of course, there really is no need for any sort of playoffs without the Memorial Cup at the end of the rainbow.
The last team to win the Memorial Cup? That would be the QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, who beat the host Halifax Mooseheads, 4-2, in the final of the 2019 tournament. The WHL-champion Prince Albert Raiders and the OHL-champion Guelph Storm also took part.
The CHL said in its statement that “further decisions” regarding a 2022 host team/city and schedule would be announced at a later date.
Despite Memorial Cup cancellation, the OHL's position has not changed and it remains "committed to working with the government to get us back on the ice safely".
Kaid Oliver will honour his late grandfather & #OilKings alum Garnet "Ace" Bailey this Saturday when the team hosts Lethbridge. Oliver will switch his number from 34 to 16 & wear "Bailey" on his name bar for Saturday's game.
The Oil Kings don’t play until the weekend, but there were four games played in the WHL on Tuesday night . . .
The Brandon Wheat Kings scored four times in the first period, the first two by F Ty Thorpe, en route to an 8-3 victory over the Moose Jaw Warriors in Regina. . . . The Warriors (7-9-1) got to within a pair, at 5-3, late in the second period but the Wheat Kings (12-3-2) scored the last three goals. . . . Thorpe has three goals this season. . . . The Wheat Kings got a goal, his seventh, and two assists from F Nolan Ritchie and three assists from D Braden Schneider. . . . F Lynden McCallum added his 11th goal for Brandon. . . . F Brayden Yager, the third overall selection in the 2020 bantam draft, scored his fifth and sixth goals and added an assist for the Warriors. He has 13 points in 17 games. . . . Yager came up short on a first-period penalty shot, with G Connor Ungar making the save. He finished with 37 stops. . . .
In the nightcap in Regina, the Prince Albert Raiders scored the game’s first four goals and went on to beat the Pats, 4-2. . . . The Raiders (6-8-3) struck four times in a span of 6:36 in the second period. . . . F Tyson Laventure (2), F Justin Nachbaur (6), F Evan Herman (6) and F Logan Linklater (1) had the goals. Herman has goals in three straight games. . . . The Raiders have points in three straight (2-0-1). . . . The Pats (6-8-3) got back in it on late third-period goals from F Logan Nijhoff (8) and F Ryker Evans (3). . . . For what it’s worth, the Pats are 2-3-3 as the home team and 4-5-0 as the visitor. They were the home team for this one. . . . F Tanner Howe, 15, made his WHL debut with the Pats. Howe, who is from Prince Albert, won’t turn 16 until Nov. 28. He was a fourth-round pick by the Pats in the 2020 bantam draft. . . .
F Nico Myatovic scored his first two WHL goals in his first game to help the host Seattle Thunderbirds to a 4-2 victory over the Tri-City Americans. . . . Myatovic, a 16-year-old from Prince George, was a sixth-round selection in the 2019 bantam draft. He gave Seattle a 1-0 lead on his first shift, at 2:25 of the first period, then made it 2-1 at 4:56 of the second period. He actually scored his first two goals on his first two shots. . . . F Jake Sloan (3) got the Americans to within one, at 3-2, at 17:42 of the third period, but Seattle F Henry Rybinski (3) got the empty-netter at 18:48. . . . Seattle improved to 7-5-0, while Tri-City slid to 5-7-0. . . . There was concern for Seattle F Payton Mount at game’s end. The 18-year-old from Victoria, who is in his third season with Seattle, was wearing a neck brace when he was placed on a backboard and then taken away from the bench area on a stretcher following the final buzzer. . . . Andy Eide of 710 ESPN tweeted afterwards that Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said “Mount was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure. He was talking and alert. Puck skidded off the wall of the bench and hit him in base of the skull.” . . .
The Spokane Chiefs scored the game’s last three goals and beat the Silvertips, 4-3, in Everett. . . . F Eli Zummack had a goal, his third, and three assists for the Chiefs. His second shorthanded goal in as many games broke a 3-3 tie at 7:31 of the third period. . . . Spokane F Adam Beckman’s second goal of the game, and eighth of the season, had tied the game at 2:51. . . . F Brendan Lee (2) and F Cole Fonstad (8) put Everett out front 2-0 in the first period. . . . Beckman got Spokane’s first goal 31 seconds into the second. He has goals in five straight games. . . . F Austin Roest’s first WHL goal restored Everett’s two-goal lead just 34 seconds later. . . . F Copeland Ricker got Spokane’s comeback started with his first goal at 4:41 of the second. . . . Spokane now is 3-5-3, while Everett slipped to 9-3-0.
The WHL announced Tuesday night that the Kelowna Rockets will resume team activities today (Wednesday) after everyone in their cohort tested negative. The Rockets had been on hold for 14 days after experiencing seven positive tests. They are scheduled to face the Prince George Cougars in Kamloops on Saturday night. . . .
The Medicine Hat Tigers have been cleared to return to play after having been shut down after having been deemed close contacts of the Calgary Hitmen, who had one positive test. The Hitmen remain on hold, but the Tigers will return with three weekend games against the Red Deer Rebels. They’ll play Friday in Medicine Hat, Saturday in Red Deer and Monday in Medicine Hat. On the original schedule, Red Deer was to have played a tripleheader with the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
The WHL news release on schedule adjustments impacting the five Alberta teams is right here.
The SJHL’s Flin Flon Bombers owe the City some money. But the City isn’t in a hurry to collect the $27,500. In fact, council has put the debt into abeyance, at least for now. . . . Should the Bombers show a profit of $100,000 in one season, they will pay the debt. Should someone purchase the team, the debut will have to be paid out of the proceeds. Councillor Tim Babcock explained things this way to Eric Westhaver of the Flin Flon Reminder: “The way it works is that they owe us money from two seasons ago now, because their playoffs were cut short and they didn’t get the money they were counting on from a deep playoff run. Then, they weren’t able to have a season this year, so they’re a little bit behind in their bills.” . . . Westhaver has more right here.
The 22-team Ontario Junior Hockey League has cancelled its 2020-21 season. “With the Province of Ontario currently under a 28-day Stay-at-Home order, and the official 2020-21 Hockey Canada season ending on May 31, the league has declared an end to its season.” . . . In the 2020-21 season, six OJHL teams were able to play a total of 56 exhibition games.
Please don’t forget that Dorothy, who had a kidney transplant more than seven years ago, is preparing to take part in her eighth straight Kamloops Kidney Walk. Unfortunately, it will be a virtual walk for a second straight year, but that won’t keep her from fund-raising on behalf of the Kidney Foundation. If you would like to help her out, you are able to make a donation right here. . . . And a huge thank you to those who have already responded to this. Love seeing her smile every time she gets a notification of a new donor.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
One day after the Saskatchewan Hockey Association informed its membership via letter that there likely won’t be games played in that jurisdiction before the end of March, the provincial government handed over $4 million to the province’s major junior and junior A franchises.
The announcement came as the province, according the Postmedia, “reported 382 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the second highest one-day total, to cap a week in which Saskatchewan became the leader in per capita active cases in Canada.”
Each of the five WHL organizations based in Saskatchewan will see $600,000; the 12-team SJHL, which includes one team (Flin Flon Bombers) in Manitoba, gets $1 million.
Yes, the Bombers will get their share.
“All the teams in our league have had a decline in finances and revenue,” Bill Chow, the SJHL president, told Postmedia. “We decided that would be the best way — not help one, but help everybody.”
While the SJHL’s teams all are community-owned, three of the WHL’s Saskatchewan teams — the Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders and Swift Current Broncos — are owned by community shareholders, with the other two — the Regina Pats and Saskatoon Blades — having private owners.
Community-owned teams are obligated to hold annual general meetings open to shareholders. The Warriors, Raiders and Broncos did just that before 2020 ended, and announced combined losses of more than $1.5 million for a 2019-20 season that was halted prematurely by COVID-19.
The Pats are owned by five local businessmen — Anthony Marquart, the president of Royalty Developments Ltd.; Todd Lumbard, the president of Speers Funeral and Cremation Services; Gavin Semple, the chairman of the Brandt Group of Companies; Shaun Semple, the president of the Brandt Group of Companies; and Jason Drummond, the managing director of York Plains Investment Corp., and the found and president of DGC Investments.
The Blades are owned by Mike Priestner, the CEO of Go Auto. His son, Colin, is the Blades’ president and general manager.
Jeremy Harrison, Saskatchewan’s minister of trade and export development, said in a news release that junior hockey is “a critical part of the cultural fabric and local economies across the province.”
Harrison told Postmedia that the government has been working with the junior hockey people “on this particular question probably for a month and a half now. I think it’s fair to say that the initial request was of a quantum that was significantly larger. But we worked with the leagues to come to a place where a contribution would be sufficient for those teams to survive and for the league to be viable going forward.”
Chow called the money “a small Band-Aid on a big cut.”
“But,” he said, “it will definitely stop some of the bleeding.”
The money is expected to be in the hands of the five WHL teams and the SJHL sometime in February, and it’s not believed that it will have any strings attached.
So . . . with Saskatchewan having taken the plunge, will other western provinces be far behind?
The wheels, as Steve Ewen of Postmedia reported Friday, already are in motion. Ewen writes right here about how the WHL and BCHL, who under normal conditions would never sit down for coffee together, have teamed up in an attempt to land some financial relief from the B.C. government.
Veteran Portland journalist Kerry Eggers, who now writes at his own website (kerryeggers.com), posted a lengthy piece on the Winterhawks on Friday. While most of the story dealt with the franchise’s new ownership and the potential new season, the story also included some interesting items.
“It has already been announced that the Memorial Cup will not be held this year,” Egger writes, adding that Mike Johnston, the team’s vice-president, GM and head coach, “says the matter of league playoffs has yet to be determined.
“It remains a discussion point,” Johnston told Eggers in reference to WHL playoffs. “Even if things go quite smoothly, I’d anticipate that each division declares a champion. I just don’t know (about playoffs). The goal is to play hockey in June.”
While I wasn’t aware that the 2021 Memorial Cup had been cancelled, it only makes sense. The OHL and WHL haven’t yet played any games, while the QMJHL is waiting to restart after having teams play a handful of games in fits and starts before shutting down late in November.
Eggers also informed us that “the new owners, incidentally, are moving toward securing Memorial Coliseum as the permanent site for home games. Most of the home contests will be staged there this year.”
Keep in mind, too, that if a WHL season gets started, the Winterhawks go in as the defending regular-season champions.
F Matt Savoie of the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice played his first game with the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints on Friday night, scoring two goals and adding an assist in a 7-4 victory over the visiting Waterloo Black Hawks. That was the most goals the Fighting Saints (6-13-0) have scored in a game this season. . . . Savoie, 17, is one of a number of WHL players who have joined USHL teams over the past few days.
It’s not a penalty to stand anywhere in the ice. Cross checking someone in the back is, there is actually a rule in the rule book on this. Nowhere does it say that the rules don’t matter in front of the net. And you can use any term you want, I lived it. https://t.co/4hGbIImLPd
Some people have been decrying the epidemic of cross-checking that has been evident in the NHL for some time now. It’s really in the spotlight now because the Toronto Maple Leafs complained after Montreal Canadiens D Shea Webber gave F Auston Matthews the business on Wednesday night. . . . Ken Campbell of The Hockey News, who has long been a critic of the NHL for its mostly turning a blind eye to the foul, has more right here.
The @NHL today announced updates to the 2020-21 regular season schedule. The @DallasStars will now open their regular season on Friday, Jan. 22 at home against Nashville.
The Dallas Stars, who have had 17 players test positive since Dec. 30, now have had their first four regular-season games postponed. After bumping their first three games earlier in the week, the NHL on Friday postponed their Jan. 19 game against the host Tampa Bay Lightning. . . . The Stars now are scheduled to play their first game on Jan. 22 against the visiting Nashville Predators. . . . As you can see by the above tweet, the NHL has done some rescheduling, all of which has added a couple of days to the regular season — barring further changes, and that’s hardly a sure thing, the last games now will be played on May 10 as opposed to May 8.
THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
CBC News: Health officials warn that not enough is being done to limit the spread of COVID-19. They say the daily case count could rise from about 7,900 to 13,000, and that as many as 100,000 people could contract the virus over the next 10 days.
CBC News: Manitoba announces 5 more deaths and 191 new cases of COVID-19. In the past week, the number of new daily cases has ranged from a high of 261 to a low of 89; the 7-day average is 170.
CBC News: Saskatchewan is reporting 386 new cases of COVID-19 and 4 new deaths. 210 people are in hospital, the most since the pandemic began, including 35 people in intensive care. There are 4,010 known active cases in the province.
CBC News: Alberta is reporting 785 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 new deaths. 796 people are in hospital, including 124 in ICU. Alberta currently has 12,189 active cases of the illness. Provincial labs completed 13,575 tests Thursday with a positivity rate of 5.5 per cent. So far 1,402 Albertans have died of COVID-19. On Thursday, there were 796 people in hospital with the illness, 10 fewer people than Wednesday.
Janet Brown, CKNW Vancouver — Friday’s B.C. Covid numbers: 349 people in hospital (-13), 68 ICU (-6), 509 new cases (60,117), 9 more deaths (1047).
CBC News: Ontario has a record 100 deaths from COVID-19, but officials say that includes 46 earlier deaths. There are 2,998 new cases, with 800 in Toronto, 618 in Peel and 250 in York. Almost 76,500 people were tested.
CBC News: Quebec is reporting 1,918 new cases of COVID 19. The province is also reporting 62 new deaths, 9 of which occurred in the past 24 hours. 1,496 people are in hospital, including 231 in ICU.
CBC News: New Brunswick continues to experience a COVID-19 surge with 25 new cases. That’s the 4th highest day since the pandemic began; all have occurred since January 5.
CBC News: The Northwest Territories has reported its first case of COVID-19 “with no known source and no travel history.”
Our daily update is published. States reported 2.3M tests, 244k cases, 127,235 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, and 3,679 deaths. The 7-day average for tests is at a record high. pic.twitter.com/QUQ7HYUjL8
CBC News: The number of global deaths related to COVID-19 has passed the 2-million mark. Johns Hopkins University says the death toll has now reached 2,000,905.
The New York Times: It took over nine months for the world to pass one million virus deaths in September, a moment the UN secretary-general called “mind-numbing” and “an agonizing milestone.” In just a little over three months, the virus claimed another one million lives.
Karl-Anthony Towns of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves revealed on Friday that he has tested positive for COVID-19. He already has lost his mother and six other family members to the virus . . .
The U of Montana and Montana State announced Friday that their football teams won’t take part in the Big Sky Conference’s spring championship season. The conference has said it will operate a six-game season from Feb. 27 to April 10. . . .
The U of Vermont men’s hockey team has paused activities after a positive test. . . . The team’s series at Merrimack that had been scheduled for this weekend was postponed. . . .
If you are watching NHL games, the following tweet may be of interest to you . . .
JUST NOTES: Two WHL teams have lost their video coaches to pro teams. . . . Michael Chan, who had been the Edmonton Oil Kings’ video coach, has signed on with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies as their video coach. Chan, 29, had been with the Oil Kings for five seasons, the last three as video coach and hockey operations co-ordinator. . . . Meanwhile, Adam Purner, who spent five season with the Portland Winterhawks, is joining the AHL’s Binghamton Devils. He also had been the Winterhawks’ manager of group events.
The BCHL had been hoping to open its regular season on Dec. 2. But those plans have changed and now the junior A league is aiming for Dec. 8. The change, according to a news release, “is to accommodate the new orders against team travel” as ordered by the Province Health Office (PHO). . . . The BCHL also has cancelled the remainder of its exhibition season. . . . The league also is looking at perhaps having to wait until the new year to get started. ““If the PHO extends their current restrictions beyond Dec. 7, we have the option of moving the start date to after the holidays, but it is our intention to begin play once the current order expires,” Chris Hebb, the BCHL’s commissioner, said. . . . According to Steven Cocker, the BCHL’s executive director, “Should the season start be delayed past Dec. 8, the players (who) choose to go home for the holidays will be required to adhere to travel guidelines, including going into isolation for 14 days prior to joining their team.”
The SJHL has postponed weekend games in which the Melfort Mustangs and Battlefords North Stars were to have played a home-and-home series. The decision was made due to a “COVID-19 exposure,” according to a Mustangs’ news release. “The player in question has been isolated and the organization is following all direct protocols from the health authorities.” . . . They were to have played in Melfort on Friday and North Battleford on Saturday. . . . The Mustangs, who also had a player test positive late in September, should be able to resume activities on Nov. 29. . . . Earlier, the SJHL had postponed a game that was to have been played on Saturday (Nov. 21) between the visiting La Ronge Ice Wolves and Melfort. The teams had played Friday in La Ronge. . . .
At the same time, the SJHL’s Flin Flon Bombers have put their season on hold until the new year. The Bombers play out of Manitoba but the province is in a lockdown. The Bombers, who last played on Nov. 10, had been negotiating with health officials in two provinces and with the Manitoba government in the hopes of being allowed to practice in Creighton, Sask., and play all of their games on the road. The team announced Monday that it was unable to reach an agreement so has decided to put things on hold. . . . The Bombers are 0-2-0 and will have had 14 games postponed by the end of Decemberr. They are next scheduled to play on Jan. 1 against the visiting La Ronge Ice Wolves. . . . Carter Brooks of gameonhockey.ca has more on the Bombers right here.
As you may be aware, the QMJHL has seven teams playing in a bubble in Quebec City and, to date, there haven’t been any positive tests. But what has it cost to find out whether people in the bubble are positive or negative? . . . Well, Stéphane Turcot of TVA tweeted on Monday that “in total more than a thousand tests were carried out for a sum of more than $200,000.” . . . Yes, that’s more than $200 per test.
CBC News: Manitoba announces a record 543 new cases of COVID-19, the first time the number has exceeded 500. That compares to the province’s previous 7-day average of 371. Manitoba also reports 7 more deaths.
CBC News: Saskatchewan is reporting 4 additional deaths and 235 new COVID-19 cases. That’s virtually the same number of cases as yesterday (236) but above the province’s 7-day average of 210.
CBC News: Sask. Premier Scott Moe self-isolating after potential COVID-19 exposure. Potential exposure happened at Original Joe’s restaurant in Prince Albert, says government release.
CBC News: 5 more deaths and 1,549 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, down slightly from yesterday’s all-time high of 1,584 cases. It’s the 5th day in a row the province has seen at least 1,000 cases; Alberta’s average for the previous 7-day is 963.
Troy Gillard, rdnewsNOW: Alberta added 1,549 COVID-19 cases on Nov. 22, just shy of the previous day’s record total of 1,584. . . . RedDeer now with 141 active cases, an increase of 15.
Mo Cranker, Medicine Hat News: Medicine Hat is up to 101 active cases of COVID-19. There are 116 recoveries in the Hat. . . . There are 39 active cases in Cypress County. There are 23 active cases of COVID-19 in Forty Mile. . . . There are 176 active cases in Lethbridge. Taber is up to 106 active cases.
Richard Zussman, Global BC: Over the last three days there have been 1,933 new cases of COVID-19. This includes 713 cases from Fri to Sat, 626 new cases from Sat to Sun and 594 new cases from Sun to Mon. There have been 27,407 total cases of COVID-19 in BC. . . . Hospitalizations are surging. There are 277 (up 50) people in hospital with COVID. 58 people in ICU and 17 people have died from the virus. There have been 348 deaths in BC from the virus. . . . Right now there are 7,360 active cases of the virus (nearly 1,000 of these cases are linked to LTC), 19,069 people have recovered and 10,200 people are in self-isolation.
CBC News: Ontario sets new high for coronavirus cases with 1,589 in the past 24 hours as Toronto and Peel move into a second lockdown. It’s the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 cases; the 7-day average is now 1,401, up from 1,385. 19 more deaths are also being attributed to the virus. . . . Ontario data shows 37,500 more tests completed. 507 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized in the province, with 156 in ICU. Toronto and Peel Region entered the most restrictive tier of Ontario’s pandemic protection plan today.
CBC News: Quebec is reporting 1,164 new COVID-19 cases, virtually unchanged from the province’s 7-day average of 1,163. Quebec health authorities are also attributing 13 additional deaths to the virus.
CBC News: 15 new COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick, just the 2nd time the number has been in double digits since October 10; the other time was 2 days ago with 23 cases. The province also says there has been 1 more death due to the virus.
CBC News: Both Newfoundland and Labrador and P.E.I. are exiting the Atlantic bubble for at least two weeks as COVID-19 cases rise in parts of the region. The Atlantic bubble was lauded as a success throughout the summer and fall when virus case numbers were low. . . . Effective Wednesday, anyone entering N.L. from the Maritimes will have to self-isolate for 14 days. Pulling out of Atlantic bubble for 2 weeks.
CBC News: P.E.I. is putting travel restrictions in place for 2 weeks. Premier Dennis King says the Island is temporarily suspending all unnecessary travel to and from P.E.I. a minimum of two weeks starting at midnight.
CBC News: Nunavurt reports 4 more COVID-19 cases. That brings the territory’s total to 132; the 1st case was diagnosed November 6. 3 of the new cases are in Rankin Inlet, bringing its total to 18. 1 is in Whale Cove, bringing its total to 16.
CBC News: Global COVID-19 cases top 59M, with over 1.39M deaths; Johns Hopkins University.
Radio station CKOM Saskatoon reported on Monday that the Balcarres Broncs, a senior hockey team, has had “at least two cases of COVID-19, following the protocols of Saskatchewan Health.” . . . CKOM also reported that “outbreaks were declared in Prince Albert in the U-19 P.A. Bruins hockey team and the Global Sport Academy.” . . . That story is right here. . . . The Broncs play in the Qu’Appelle Valley Hockey League. . . . Another QVHL game — the Balgonie Bisons at the Odessa/Vibank Bruins— wasn’t played on Saturday. Taking Note was told that players weren’t sure what had happened, but “rumour had it the exposure pertained to a Balcarres player from the weekend before.” . . . The Milestone Flyers were to have visited Balcarres on Saturday, but that game also wasn’t played. . . .
The NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights issued a news release on Monday evening stating that four of their players “recently tested positive. . . . Those individual players have been self-isolating and are all recovering well.” The team has shut down all off-ice player areas through the Thanksgiving weekend. . . .
The 10-team New England Hockey Conference (NEHC), which is NCAA Div. III, cancelled its 2020-21 season and championship tournament on Monday. It had announced a delay to the start of the season in July. . . . From a statement: “The NEHC had remained optimistic that a season could safely take place this winter. However, with a surge in cases both nationally and regionally, state-to-state travel amongst the membership has proved insurmountable. The NEHC membership hails from six different states that each have a variety of travel restrictions in place as it pertains to crossing state lines during the pandemic.” . . .
A Monday afternoon hockey game between the visiting Minnesota State Mavericks and Bemidji State Beavers was postponed “due to positive COVID-19 tests within the Minnesota State program,” according to a news release from the WCHA. . . . The teams played Sunday night — Minnesota State won, 5-0 — with no positive tests reported prior to that game. . . . The Mavericks’ season is on hold “pending outcomes related to full contact tracing yet to be completed.” . . . The Beavers are scheduled to visit the Maverics on Friday and Saturday nights. . . .
Northern Michigan’s men’s hockey team has experienced some positive tests so has postponed or cancelled its first six games. The Wildcats’ first games now are scheduled for Dec. 11-12 against Minnesota State in Mankato. Of course, the Mavericks are on hold right now because of positive tests in their program. NMU is located in Marquette. . . . St. Lawrence U has shut down its hockey program at least through Dec. 19 because of an outbreak on campus in Canton, N.Y. The Saints, who play in the ECAC, now don’t have any games scheduled until January. . . .
The Seattle Sounders had a player test positive on Monday, but he “was not a close contact of other members of the roster or technical staff,” according to the team . . . The Sounders are scheduled to play host LAFC on Tuesday in a Round 1 playoff match. A victory would put the Sounders through to the Western Conference semfinal against FC Dallas. . . .
The NFL’s Baltimore Ravens shut down their facility on Monday after experiencing multiple positive tests. The Ravens, who lost 30-24 to the host Tennessee Titans on Sunday, are scheduled to visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday. . . . The Minnesota Vikings placed WR Adam Thielen on the reserve/COVID-19 list after he tested positive. He will have to test negative during the week if he is to play against the visiting Carolina Panthers on Sunday. Thielen leads the NFL with 11 receiving touchdowns. He caught 11 passes for 123 yards and two TDs in Sunday’s 31-28 loss to the visiting Dallas Cowboys. . . . LT Trent Williams of the San Francisco 49ers tested positive last week and may miss another game this weekend. He is a cancer survivor and is considered high risk.
IN THE NEWS! 📰📣 Rockets auction off jerseys. Fans never got to see the Kelowna Rockets skate in special 'powder blue' jerseys last season as a fundraiser for the Kidney Foundation. However, you could own one through an auction the club has set up.https://t.co/tbzengA7rQ
Dave Lowry has left the Brandon Wheat Kings after one season as head coach to join the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets as an assistant coach. The Wheat Kings went 35-22-6 under Lowry in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season. . . . Lowry, 55, also has been a WHL head coach with the Victoria Royals and Calgary Hitmen. . . . He joined the Wheat Kings after two seasons as an assistant with the Los Angeles Kings. . . . With the Jets, he fills the spot created when Todd Woodcroft left in April to become the head coach at the U of Vermont. . . . Lowry’s son, Adam, 27, who played with the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos (2009-13), is preparing for his seventh season with the Jets. . . .
Meanwhile, the Henderson Silver Knights, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, made official one of hockey’s worst kept secrets on Monday — they have hired Jamie Heward, 49, as an assistant coach. Heward spent the past two seasons as the Vancouver Giants’ associate coach. The Giants have signed signed Keith McCambridge as associate coach. . . . Heward and Manny Viveiros, the AHL expansion team’s head coach, worked together with the Swift Current Broncos, winning the WHL’s 2017-18 championship. . . . The Silver Knights also have signed Joel Ward, 39, as an assistant coach. A veteran of 726 regular-season NHL games, Ward announced his retirement in April.
The NHL’s Florida Panthers have named former WHLer Shane Churla, 55, their director of amateur scouting. He spent the previous seven seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, the last four as director of amateur scouting. Churla, who also has scouted for the Dallas Stars and Arizona/Phoenix Coyotes, played for the Medicine Hat Tigers (1983-85).
At some point in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post, I put together a brief history of the Western Hockey League. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I am doing just that. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here is Part 3. . . .
The mid-1970s belonged to the Ernie McLean-coached New Westminster Bruins. They were the Western Canada Hockey League’s most-dominant team.
If you didn’t believe that, well, they would convince you of it. And they’d do that any way they felt like it.
The Bruins ran their string of WCHL titles to four, and won the Memorial Cup the last two seasons, in 1976-77 and 1977-78. But by the time the 1980-81 season ended, the bloom was off the rose in New Westminster. Little did anyone know that it never would return.
Prior to the start of the 1976-77 season, the WCHL instituted a rule calling for an automatic game misconduct to any player who initiated a fight. Ironically, the first player stung was Brandon Wheat Kings starry centre Bill Derlago. He got the heave-ho after starting a scrap with Brian Schnitzler of the Saskatoon Blades in a season-opening 3-0 Brandon victory.
Two coaches felt WCHL president Ed Chynoweth’s wrath on Nov. 2. Ivan Prediger of the Kamloops Chiefs was suspended for 20 games, while Ken Hodge of the Portland Winter Hawks got 10 games. Prediger apparently struck Hodge during an altercation between the benches on Oct. 24.
There was joy in Regina on Jan. 27 when the Pats scored a 3-2 victory over visiting Portland. It ended a 36- game Regina winless streak that covered 96 days. “I hope the players don’t become satisfied with the win,” said Lorne Davis, who had taken over as GM/head coach from Del Wilson and Bob Turner with the Pats at 2-32-5.
A nine-hour meeting in Calgary resulted in a new playoff format. Under the original format, the Flin Flon Bombers, third in the East, were 20 points ahead of Regina and all but had a playoff spot locked up. Suddenly, there was a new format and the Bombers were fighting for a spot. Oh yes, they were also on a 15-game West Coast road trip.
“In this league, you need two pieces of equipment,” said Flin Flon boss Mickey Keating. “You need a face-guard when you play some of the teams on the ice and a back protector for the committee room. I had inklings that there may be changes in the playoffs but I had confidence there were intelligent hockey men in this league. I was shown different.”
In Portland, the Winter Hawks were beginning to carve out a niche, which resulted in this March 1 comment from GM Brian Shaw: “We’re selling the all-American boy image. Our players are all properly dressed in public. They all have respectable hair lengths. We feel image is important. Our players have become our outstanding selling point, and they have actually played much better because of the great acceptance which now is blossoming in Portland.”
In mid-April, Kamloops majority owner Ephram Steinke admitted the franchise would likely move to Spokane over the summer. The reasons? Steinke blamed almost $500,000 in losses over four years, and the city’s refusal to construct a new arena.
On May 12, the Calgary Centennials signed Bob Strumm as general manager. One of Strumm’s first moves was to confirm that a move to Billings was being contemplated.
Strumm, who had been Chynoweth’s executive assistant, was, at 29, the WCHL’s youngest GM. He would be one of the league’s most-prominent figures through the mid-1980s.
The Calgary move became official on May 19. Eleven days later, Kamloops moved to Seattle and became the Breakers under new owner John Hamilton.
On July 19, at the annual meeting in Calgary, the transfer of the Winnipeg Monarchs to Calgary was approved. Del Wilson, president and governor of the Pats, was named chairman of the board, replacing Bill Burton.
When Winnipeg moved to Calgary and became the Wranglers, owner Gerry Brisson named Doug Barkley as GM. The coach? It was Brisson. Would the GM be able to fire the owner/coach.
The 1977-78 regular season hadn’t even started when McLean was in trouble. It stemmed from an exhibition game against the host Victoria Cougars when midway in the second period he ventured into the stands to tangle with a fan who was taunting him. For his troubles, McLean got a gash on his forehead and, later, a $250 fine. This would serve as an omen.
A fierce rivalry was building between Regina and the Brandon Wheat Kings. After one early-season game, Davis had this to say: “If (Dave) Semenko would have been close enough to the box I would have swung at him . . . he came over by our bench trying to intimidate us.” To which Brandon coach Dunc McCallum responded: “How can a 220-pound man be held back by a stick boy?”
A few days later, Semenko joined the WHA’s Edmonton Oilers. A couple of years later, Davis joined the Oilers as a scout.
Derlago, perhaps the best pure offensive talent this league has seen, had a 40-game point streak end on Nov. 9 when he left a game with a thigh injury during his first shift. One month later, he blew out a knee in an exhibition game against the Moscow Selects. Had Derlago not been hurt, who knows what kind of numbers he would have put up? When he was injured, he had 48 goals and 80 points in 26 games. He was on pace for 133 goals, three more than the then-CMJHL record of 130 held by Guy Lafleur.
On Feb. 3, Jack McLeod resigned as coach of the Saskatoon Blades. He stayed on as GM, but put Garry Peters behind the bench. In Calgary, Barkley, the GM, took over as coach from Brisson, the owner.
More bad ink, and lots of it, in early February when McLean was slapped with a 25-game suspension for allegedly hitting an official. He returned for the playoffs.
“Our league has long been accused of protecting either our coaches or, more particularly, owner/coaches, but there is no way one coach or one franchise is bigger than the league,” Chynoweth said. “I can live with the so-called violence on ice, as projected by the media, but when it comes to our officials, qualified or unqualified, I look at things much differently.”
More bad ink in the first round of the playoffs. Yes, it emerged from a round-robin series. This one featured Brandon, Flin Flon and Regina in a double home-and-home series. When it got to the final game, Flin Flon at Regina, the Pats had to beat the Bombers by at least six goals to eliminate Brandon and set up a Regina-Flin Flon division final. Regina won 10-4 and the high-powered Wheat Kings, led by the likes of Derlago, Brian Propp, Laurie Boschman and Ray Allison, were done like so much burnt toast.
“For us to say anything is stupid. You saw what happened,” Flin Flon defenceman Ray Markham said after the game.
Ultimately, Flin Flon, New Westminster and Billings advanced to the WCHL’s round-robin semi-final to eliminate one team and put the other two in the championship final. Out went Flin Flon. New Westminster then swept Billings in the final. It was the Bruins’ fourth straight WCHL title and they would win their second consecutive Memorial Cup.
The Bruins, a power for oh, so long, would rarely be heard from in a positive light again.
On May 22, Flin Flon governor Gord Mitchell revealed that the community-owned team would cease operations. “I hate to see it go,” Mitchell said. “It’s certainly not the fault of the league. The league’s not kicking us out. But there comes a time when something like this seems to be the most reasonable thing to do. We’re a small centre and it got to the point where the league had outgrown us.”
A week later, Chynoweth, who had threatened to resign, announced he would remain as president, thanks to a promise from the governors that an executive assistant would be provided to help with such things as discipline. Wilson, the part-owner of the Pats, filled the bill as vice-president and referee-in-chief. Shaw replaced Wilson as chairman of the board.
On June 1, Gregg Pilling was named GM/coach in Regina, replacing Davis who, in a surprise move, was fired. Davis professed sadness, saying he had worked awfully hard and that all of that work would bear fruit in two years. Which is exactly what happened — two years later the Pats were in the Memorial Cup. But Pilling was gone by that point.
It was during the summer of 1978 when Chynoweth began talking of an education program. On July 4, he announced a program whereby teams would provide a year’s tuition and books at a recognized post-secondary institution for every season a player was in the league.
On Aug. 16, Chynoweth announced an Edmonton group headed by Bill Hunter had purchased the Flin Flon franchise from the league. Hunter would be president and governor, Vic Mah would be first vice-president.
The 1978-79 season began with news of a name change and ended with a new champion for the first time since the spring of ’74.
With three of 12 teams situated in the U.S., the WCHL was no more. Now it was the Western Hockey League.
The goofiness started on Oct. 22 when Pilling went into the penalty box at the start of the third period of a game in Calgary. He said he would serve a bench minor handed him for delay of game at the end of the second period in what would be an 8-1 loss. Pilling also alternated goaltenders Jeff Lastiwka and Gregg Dumba every shift change after a brawl at 2:52 of the second. Changing goalies ended 30 seconds into the third period when, with the faceoff outside Regina’s blueline, Dumba lined up behind his net. He was given a gross misconduct.
Chynoweth, who fined Pilling $1,000, said: “I thought it was a circus. I wouldn’t blame anybody if they didn’t go back.”
This was to be the season of McCallum’s Wheat Kings. That much was evident when Brandon ran its two-season unbeaten streak to a WHL-record 49 games and its single-season streak to 29 games. Brandon finally lost, going down 9-4 in Edmonton on Dec. 13 with the Oil Kings scoring all nine goals with the man advantage.
There was more news from Brandon on Jan. 11 when GM Jack Brockest, one of the WHL’s most likeable people, bought the team.
If any team could match Brandon it was Portland. The Winter Hawks had a 19-game unbeaten streak ended when visiting Brandon won 7-4 to go to 42-3-7.
In mid-March, rumours had the Edmonton franchise, which was averaging about 500 fans a game, moving to Great Falls, Montana, or Red Deer.
Things got ugly on March 22 in New Westminster when an incident involving the Bruins and Portland resulted in McLean’s being suspended indefinitely and seven of his players being charged by police. A game-ending brawl broke out, but this one was different because, while the Bruins left their bench, Hodge managed to keep his players under control.
On March 27, Wilson said McLean would not be allowed to coach during the playoffs, nor would he be allowed to communicate with the bench from the press box as he had done during previous suspensions.
McLean apologized for the brawl at a Vancouver press conference: “I have to take the full load, the full responsibility for what happened . . . when I look at it, maybe the game has gone by me. Maybe my coaching style isn’t what’s needed anymore. I’m an old horse that’s been at it for 25 years and it’s tough to change your thinking. The game is changing — maybe I haven’t changed with it.”
On April 4, GM Bill Shinske and McLean announced the Bruins were for sale, for $350,000.
The Winter Hawks got a small measure of revenge, beating the visiting Bruins 5-3 on April 8 to eliminate them from post-season play.
But this sad episode would drag on through the summer.
Meanwhile, Brandon was finishing with a 58-5-9 record, setting or tying 19 records.
The Oil Kings were sold on April 10, with ownership handed over to a Portland group headed by Bob Cooper and Tom Gauthier, who said they would move the franchise to Great Falls. “I guess sports is not my bowl of rice,” said Mah, an Edmonton restauranteur. It was Mah’s second go-round as an owner in Edmonton, and he wouldn’t give up. He would try and try again and again to get another franchise for the Alberta capital.
On April 20, charges of common assault were filed against seven Bruins — J.P. Kelly, Terry Kirkham, Bruce Howes, Rick Amann, Boris Fistric, Rob Roflik and Bill Hobbins. In August, the seven pleaded guilty. Judge James Shaw — no relation to the Portland general manager — granted conditional discharges to all seven, then banned them from league games at any level until Dec. 1. McLean said Shaw was “trying to be the judge who is going to clean up hockey. I’m worried about the affect on the game because the judge’s ruling makes a hip-check a criminal offence.”
Portland and Brandon ended up in the final, with Brandon winning in six games.
And, on May 28, Chynoweth resigned, effective June 30. This time he would leave, becoming part-owner of the Wranglers. “It’s more than 25 per cent and less than 50,” said majority-owner Jim Morley.
In late May, Pat Ginnell, who had been with the Lethbridge Broncos, moved north to take over the Medicine Hat Tigers. Mike Sauter would replace him in Lethbridge. Dave King left as coach in Billings to become head coach at the University of Saskatchewan.
The Pats were sold on June 8, with Wilson, Bill Patton, Gord Wicijowski, D.K. MacPherson, Wilf Degelman and Bob Babchuk selling to the Pinders — father Dick and sons Herb, Gerry and Tom. The price was believed to be near $300,000. Strumm was named GM, governor and part-owner.
Strumm later signed Bryan Murray as head coach and one of the great turnarounds in WHL history was under way.
But before that got started, Dave Descent was chosen to run the WHL. In his third season with the Canadian Amateur Wrestling Association at the time, Descent had lots of hockey experience at various levels in the OHA. “This job is an opportunity to get back into hockey, which is my chosen sport, and advance my sporting career,” he said.
Regina, which finished 18-47-7 (last in the East, second-worst in the league) in 1978-79, would go 47-24-1 in 1979-80 to win the division.
It was obvious early that the Bruins were going to pay a steep price for the brawl against Portland. They got their first point, after 13 losses, with a 5-5 tie in Great Falls on Oct. 31.
And on Nov. 16 McLean was at it again. And again it involved Portland.
McLean got tangled up with a fan at a game in Portland and was charged with fourth-degree assault. In one of the most ironical situations in WHL history, McLean was in jail until Brian Shaw posted his bail of $525. Charges were later reduced to harassment and it was all cleared up when a civil compromise was signed, ending the criminal case.
In mid-December, Descent’s title was changed from executive director to president. And concern was being shown about Great Falls, which was 2-22-1 and hurtin’ at the gate. The Americans folded on Dec. 13.
On March 2, McLean threw a 30-gallon garbage can onto the ice to protest the work of referee Ken Wheler during a game against visiting Portland.
The next day, Descent announced his resignation. Said Descent: “Speaking honestly, I’ve enjoyed my stay and feel it was a positive experience. But for personal reasons I’ve decided to take a different career path which is something I’m not at liberty to discuss now.”
Shaw said a five-man board would run the league, and that McLean would be suspended for three games for throwing the can. Oh yes, McLean was later named acting chairman of the management committee.
On March 24, McLean said he was leaving the Bruins. “I’ve made up my mind,” he said. “I’ve worn out my welcome. I will not be in New Westminster next year. We built a dynasty here but it’s time to move on.” All this after the Bruins set a WHL record with 61 losses. It was the first time in 18 seasons that McLean had missed playoffs.
On April 17, Vancouver businessman Nelson Skalbania bought out McLean and Shinske for slightly more than $300,000.
A week later, the WHL announced that Winnipeg would have an expansion team for 1980-81 and that the owners were former Pats star Fran Huck, his law partner Gerald Gunn and Winnipeg businessmen Harry Buekert, Arnold DeFehr and Marsdon Fenwick. Buekert would be GM, with Huck as coach.
On April 27, Regina beat visiting Victoria, 5-4, to win the WHL final, 4-1. The 1980 Memorial Cup, which would be won by the Cornwall Royals, opened in Brandon and closed in Regina.
During the Memorial Cup it became apparent the major juniors were terribly concerned with NHL’s practice of drafting 18-year-olds.
Chynoweth said: “I understand the legal problems the NHL has, although I don’t sympathize with it . . . at this rate, the pros will be scouting midgets soon.”
McLeod remembered the 1979 draft: “Back in June one NHL general manager said there was nothing to worry about, that only seven or eight under-ages would be taken. When they took 58, we were a little disturbed. Once they got into it, they just kept going.”
Junior teams were to be paid $50,000 to $65,000 for under-age players who stuck in the NHL.
Some NHL people said they weren’t in favour of the 18-year-old draft, either.
“The general managers unanimously fought to the 11th hour to avoid drafting under-ages,” said Washington GM Max McNab. “We were going to get caught in a lawsuit. But the NHL is like the government in the eyes of the public here. We’re going to get shot at in any decision.”
On May 15, the WHL announced that the dormant Great Falls franchise would relocate to Spokane with Cooper remaining as majority owner.
On June 26, Skalbania, already the owner of New Westminster and the NHL’s Calgary Flames, bought 50 per cent of the Wranglers. Skalbania explained: “It’s a sympathetic thing. I said when we bought the Flames that we’d support junior hockey in Calgary and I can’t think of a way we’d be supporting it any more than owning the team. I just hope we don’t lose that much money with them.”
Pat Shimbashi, a minority owner in Lethbridge, bought the other 50 per cent of the Wranglers from Jim Morley and Chynoweth, which meant that the latter would return as WHL president.
On June 27, Skalbania completed his purchase of the Bruins, buying 100 per cent for $325,000. McLean stayed as GM, while Skalbania’s 20-year-old daughter, Rozanda, was named president.
McLean resigned a couple of weeks later and Tracy Pratt was named GM. “I’d like to forget about the big bad Bruins of the past,” Pratt said, “and I’d like to think of them as the scrappy Bruins in the future. My concern is putting families back in the building. There was a shade too much violence in past years and many people became very bitter about what happened at Queen’s Park Arena.”
The league lost its referee-in-chief on Aug. 8 when Wilson announced he would scout for the Montreal Canadiens, a team with which he had long been associated.
The 1980-81 season opened quietly enough, but the silence was shattered on Dec. 1 with a shakeup in Saskatoon. McLeod and coach Lorne Frey ended their association with the Blades. Majority owner Nate Brodsky bought McLeod’s share (20 per cent) and named Daryl Lubiniecki GM and coach.
Lubiniecki began shaking things up when, on Jan. 15, he traded one player — centre Rocky Trottier — to Billings for six players — Pat Rabbitt, Dave Brown, Brad Duggan, Dave Chartier, Lyndon Byers and Al Acton.
Fighting was still a concern and on Dec. 17 Chynoweth announced that teams would be fined $2,500 if their players fought before games or between periods. Players who started the fights or were main combatants would get a minimum of five games.
A black cloud continued to follow the Bruins. A labour dispute forced them to play their last 29 games on the road. Their last 13 home games were played in such places as Bellingham, Wash., Kamloops, Trail, Duncan, B.C., and Coleman, Alta. The Bruins set a WHL record by losing 25 in a row and had to give season-ticket holders a refund for the 13 home games that were moved.
There were rumblings out of Swift Current that the locals were interested in a WHL franchise. John Rittinger, president of the SJHL team there, was trying to raise money for the venture. “I can’t give you a figure at this time,” he said on April 1, “but, personally, I feel there has been insufficient support.”
The juniors were beginning to realize they were going to have to live with the 18-year-old draft. Said Chynoweth: “The under-age situation is a problem but also a fact of life. The law of the land says at 18 you can fight for your country, drink and get married. Consequently, they’re also eligible to be drafted and play for NHL teams.”
The WHL had a new referee-in-chief — Richard Doerksen — and he was in the news in the playoffs after Strumm grabbed him in the press box during a game. Strumm was slapped with a two-game suspension and a $1,000 fine.
Victoria, under coach Jack Shupe, would win the WHL championship in 1980-81. Trailing Calgary 3-1, the Cougars bounced back and wrapped it up on May 1, beating the visiting Wranglers, 4-2, in Game 7.
Singing a song that would become popular in NHL circles in years to come, Calgary coach Doug Sauter explained: “(Goaltender Grant) Fuhr was the difference.”
At some point in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post, I put together a brief history of the Western Hockey League. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I am in the process of doing just that. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories that are posted here are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here is Part 2. . . .
When the 1970-71 season ended, the Western Canada Hockey League was still very much a prairie circuit, what with 10 teams spread over Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
But that wasn’t the case when the 1971-72 season rolled around.
By then, there were three teams in British Columbia — Ernie McLean and Bill Shinske had packed up their Estevan Bruins, moved west and taken up residence in New Westminster, and two expansion franchises, the Vancouver Nats and Victoria Cougars, had set up shop. (Interestingly, the Nats’ logo used an apostrophe — Nat’s — but in print the nickname always seemed to be Nats.)
The WCHL had, indeed, become a western league.
And there would be just two franchise shifts (Vancouver to Kamloops, Swift Current to Lethbridge) by the time the league completed its 10th season in the spring of 1976.
But it was an announcement out of New York that made the biggest news in the summer of ’71. Bill Hunter, one of the WCHL’s founding fathers, was involved, as was Ben Hatskin (Winnipeg). It would change the face of hockey forever.
“We announced we’d start the World Hockey Association with 12 franchises and we would have parity,” Hunter said.
In an interview in 1988, Hunter maintained he wanted nothing to do with drafting under-age juniors.
“Ben (Hatskin) and I made an agreement with the CAHA (Canadian Amateur Hockey Association) that we would not sign under-age juniors,” Hunter recalled. “The NHL made the same agreement. We had two separate meetings. The very next day: Baby Bulls.”
The WHA’s Birmingham Bulls signed half-a-dozen under-age juniors, including Rob Ramage and Ken Linesman.
“We couldn’t control the owners within our league,” Hunter said.
Prior to the birth of the WHA, the WCHL was the only game in town everywhere but Vancouver. In the next few years, pro hockey would come to Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg and junior hockey would lose out in the process.
Everyone was fighting with someone in those days, on and off the ice. The juniors in the west, in Ontario and in Quebec were fighting with the NHL, with the WHA, with the CAHA, with themselves.
The WHA continued to romance under-age juniors. Dennis Sobchuk, a flashy centre with the Regina Pats, was courted by the Los Angeles Sharks after his second WCHL season.
The House of Commons in Ottawa threatened to get involved. WCHL president Ed Chynoweth said his league was thinking about obtaining an injunction against players who sign pro contracts while still holding junior eligibility.
The action off the ice was hot and heavy. It’s a wonder they could find time to play the games.
The Edmonton Oil Kings had won the 1971-72 championship, their second straight and the last junior title that city would win. But it was the Medicine Hat Tigers, in only their second season, who had everyone talking.
The Tigers, with Tom Lysiak winning the scoring title and Stan Weir and Lanny McDonald finishing second and eighth respectively, were fourth in the West Division, five games over .500.
That was a harbinger because the Tigers, coached by Jack Shupe, won it all the next season, in only their third season of operation. Lysiak won his second straight scoring title, with McDonald finishing third.
It was at meetings in Medicine Hat in February of 1973 that the WCHL took a giant step forward, announcing plans to establish an office, with a full-time administrative staff, in Saskatoon. Chynoweth would replace Thomas K. Fisher of New Westminster as executive secretary.
And there was more talk of shifting franchises. Lethbridge was on the verge of getting a $2-million sports centre for the 1975 Canada Winter Games.
The first mention of Lethbridge actually getting a franchise came on Feb. 15, 1973, when Chynoweth, in discussing possible franchise moves, said: “Swift Current is another possibility, even though (owner) Bill Burton would like to keep the club in that city. Economically, it might not be possible.”
Meanwhile, Regina Pats owner Del Wilson said he was tired of “scrimping and saving, trying to operate in a building like (Exhibition) Stadium. It’s like beating your head against a brick wall.”
Regina met the Flin Flon Bombers in the first round of playoffs in ’73. The series opened in Flin Flon with the Bombers winning, 3-1 and 5-3. There was no Agridome in Regina then and Exhibition Stadium was booked by the annual Regina Horse Show. So, the Pats played their home games in Moose Jaw, and lost, 5-1 and 4-3.
A glorious season awaited the Pats, though, as they would win the Memorial Cup in the spring of 1974. Under coach Bob Turner, the former Montreal Canadiens defenceman and five-time Stanley Cup champion, the Pats became the first WCHL team to win the Canadian championship.
Edmonton had won it in 1966, the year before the major junior league was formed. Between ’66 and ’74 the WCHL wasn’t always eligible for the Memorial Cup, what with the CAHA outlawing it at various times.
By the time that 1973-74 season arrived, the Vancouver Nats were gone, purchased by Kamloops interests and reborn as the Chiefs.
There was concern, too, over the Winnipeg Junior Jets, who were struggling because of the presence of the WHA. Ben Hatskin soothed the troubled waters, saying he didn’t “plan to sell the franchise, or move it out of Winnipeg.” Shortly after, Hatskin sold it and the team was renamed the Clubs.
At the 1973 annual meeting in Saskatoon, Chynoweth, who had joined the league in December of 1972 as assistant executive secretary and was named executive secretary in February of 1973, was named president.
On July 16, it was revealed that the WCHL, Ontario Hockey Association Junior A Series and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League had united under the umbrella of the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League.
It was during the 1973-74 season where things started to get out hand on the ice.
On Oct. 12, 1973, a brawl between Swift Current and Regina spread to the stands. Three days later, the WCHL had a board meeting in Regina and put the onus for increased security on its teams and arena operators.
Unfortunately, people in Regina were slow to react to this directive and the Broncos were in the stands during a playoff game on April 20. Three days later, two Broncos — Dave Williams and Terry Ruskowski — were charged by police.
On Aug. 23, Ruskowski and Williams were fined a total of $450, both pleading guilty to charges of common assault.
The two “disgraced themselves,” said Judge Howard Boyce. “Hockey is considered tops with many among body contact sports. It contains controlled violence. When control and direction are lost, it deteriorates into a criminal spectacle and that’s what happened.”
It would happen again and again through the 1970s.
On March 27, 1974, Chynoweth took what was then believed to be a drastic step. He announced that an undercover agent (an official from a neutral team) would attend each playoff game. It is a policy the league follows to this day.
There were good things happening on the ice, too. After centre Ron Chipperfield scored three goals in a 3- 1 victory in Regina, Brandon Wheat Kings GM/head coach Rudy Pilous said: “Ron Chipperfield is the greatest box-office attraction this league has ever had or ever will have.” Chipperfield would score 261 goals in 252 games, a career record that stood until 1989-90 when Glen Goodall (Seattle Thunderbirds) finished with 262 goals (in 399 games).
By late in the 1973-74 season, the Pats were talking about moving. “We certainly don’t want to leave Regina but we may be forced to,” Wilson said, admitting that he had talked with operators of the Spokane Coliseum. “Like I said before, we don’t want to leave Regina. But unless there is a firm commitment on a new building forthcoming, we have no other choice but to look elsewhere.”
And by now Burton was admitting that he was thinking of moving: “I will be in Lethbridge to discuss the move with a committee they have formed to study the possibility of joining the league.”
The Broncos changed cities on May 6.
On April 30, 1974, things heated up as Sobchuk signed a 10-year, $1.7-million contract with the WHA’s Cincinnati Stingers. Charles Hillinger of The Los Angeles Times wrote: “The kid earns only $300 a month. Come fall his paycheque soars to $472 a day, $14,166 a month, $170,000 a year.”
Sobchuk was thrilled: “I’ve been skating since I learned to walk, but I sure never expected anything like this. It all happened so sudden. My name on a piece of paper and I’ve gone from farmhouse to penthouse.”
Two weeks later, Chynoweth revealed the three major junior leagues were looking at using a limited number of 20-year-old players to compensate for losing under-age players to the pros.
The 1974-75 season signalled the beginning of the New Westminster dynasty. Shinske, McLean and the Bruins would win four straight league titles.
But before that happened, there were some interesting developments.
On Oct. 17, 1974, Chynoweth, Wilson and Scotty Munro were given the OK by the board to visit Spokane.
“Regina has the right of first refusal on the Spokane question,” Chynoweth said, “but we are just testing the waters.”
They were also to visit Portland, the first time the Oregon city had been mentioned publicly as a possible franchise site.
On Jan. 14, 1975, the stuff hit the fan as the WCHL announced it had decided to withdraw from the CAHA. The WCHL said it would increase its age limit from 19 to 20 and would seek separate agreements with NHL and WHA.
“We now will control our own destiny and we’re through dealing through a third party (CAHA) comprised of people who have no direct investment in the sport,” Chynoweth said. “We operate a $1-million business and some guy who doesn’t own one puck comes along and tells us what to do. It’s time we started looking after ourselves.”
At the time, the WCHL claimed the NHL and WHA owed it $640,000 for players drafted in 1974.
“Eight NHL clubs and six from the WHA have yet to pay for players they’ve been using since October,” said Chynoweth. “We have an obligation to support minor hockey leagues, our source of supply, and we’ll live up to any agreements we make. All we ask is that the pro leagues do the same.”
Chynoweth was quickly becoming one of the most popular hockey people in the country. Accessible and blessed with a dry wit, the media was going to him with more and more frequency.
In the press box at the Calgary Corral one night, Chynoweth was clowning with the press. Chatting about some of the owners who were losing money, he said: “You know something. When it comes to it, we’ve got some guys in this league who wouldn’t get to first base in a women’s prison with a handful of pardons.”
Chynoweth continued to have his hands full with the likes of Pat Ginnell, who by now was in Victoria as head coach of the Cougars, and McLean. At one point, Chynoweth fined and suspended Ginnell, who in turn threatened to hit Chynoweth with an injunction.
Then, on March 11, 1975, McLean became physically involved with Regina sportscaster Mal Isaac and police were called. McLean was hit with a five-game suspension and had to post a $1,000 bond.
The Pats announced on April 30 that they would stay in Regina and that a new building should be completed by Christmas of 1976.
The Bruins, down 3-2 in the best-of-seven final to Saskatoon, won 4-1 and 7-2 to claim the title. They became only the second B.C. team, after the Trail Smoke Eaters in 1944, to advance to the Memorial Cup final.
“We moved the franchise here from Estevan four years ago,” McLean said, “and it’s taken us that long to get the farm system where we want it. We’ve got a solid system now with plenty of good, young talent on the way and we’re going to be OK for a long time.”
He was right.
But before the Bruins could continue to build their dynasty, the WCHL turned down expansion bids from Portland and Vancouver. Brian Shaw, coach of the WHA’s Edmonton Oilers, Nat Bailey and Oil Kings coach Ken Hodge wanted to move the Oil Kings to Vancouver. Of course, Shaw and Hodge would later move the team to Portland.
The 1975-76 season would be perhaps the ugliest in WCHL history.
It began with Victoria mayor Peter Pollen leaving his seat to have a heated discussion with Ginnell in the middle of a game against Calgary. Pollen, angry after a 20-minute second-period brawl, left his seat behind the penalty bench, circled the rink, climbed on the Cougars’ bench and gave Ginnell a tongue-lashing.
“I asked him if he was going to get his animals under control,” Pollen explained. “Is this the example we set for our young people? This is a complete disgrace. If I have my way, they won’t play here anymore. This isn’t sport — it’s barbarism.”
On Nov. 4, Ginnell said he had proposed two rule changes that were designed to reduce fighting and that both would soon come into effect. One forced players not involved in a fight to go immediately to the player benches or be given game misconducts. The other called for a match penalty and a suspension for anyone charging a goaltender in his crease.
Twelve days later, Ginnell was hit with a game misconduct after he jumped on the ice to protest a game misconduct that had been given to one of his players.
It was on Feb. 20 when the situation bottomed out.
In Saskatoon, Blades defenceman Bryan Baron was struck in one eye by a high stick belonging to Victoria’s Tim Williams. That touched off a brawl involving all players, and it took 50 minutes before play was resumed.
Moments before the brawl, Saskatoon’s Bruce Hamilton, who would go on to own the Tacoma/Kelowna Rockets, was taken to hospital with a concussion. He later was joined by Glen Leggott, who got a concussion in the brawl. And teammate Fred Williams needed 14 stitches to close a cut.
Before this one blew over, politicians at the city and provincial levels were involved, as were police. On Feb. 22, Saskatoon council, fearing another outbreak of violence, voted unanimously to shut down the Arena for the evening, forcing postponement of the rematch.
On Feb. 24, Ginnell resigned as coach of the Cougars during a 4-1/2 hour governors’ meeting in Saskatoon. He returned for the playoffs and apparently never was fined or suspended for the brawl. Ginnell said he wasn’t pressured into resigning, but “if I am responsible for violence in hockey, I don’t want to be in it.”
With the Bruins in Saskatoon on Feb. 24, Blades coach Jack McLeod and McLean signed an agreement in which they pledged to do everything in their power to see that the game was played within all rules and regulations for proper conduct. New Westminster took five of eight minors and won the game, 5-2.
On March 16, three players — Victoria’s Greg Tebbutt and Williams and Saskatoon’s Peter Goertz — were charged with assault causing bodily harm. The charges later were dismissed.
Amidst everything, Chynoweth offered his resignation. “It isn’t a play for more money; it is simply that there is too much hassle,” he reasoned. “It is starting to bother me that all my friends in Saskatoon are going to the airport to take flights out for winter holidays. I go to the airport and fly to Flin Flon.”
Some of the hassle was relieved when it was announced the league office would move from Saskatoon to Calgary at season’s end.
Meanwhile, Shaw and Hodge put together a group that bought the Oil Kings from World Hockey Enterprises, owners of the WHA’s Oilers, for more than $150,000.
And Chynoweth revealed in January that the WCHL was increasing its playoff teams from eight to 10. “We added the two teams simply for financial reasons,” Chynoweth said.
Still, the goofiness wouldn’t go away.
Lethbridge coach Mike Sauter and defenceman Darcy Regier, who wasn’t dressed for the game, spent almost two hours in a Medicine Hat jail after a bench-clearing incident.
Winnipeg owner/GM/coach Gerry Brisson pulled his team from the ice in New Westminster. The game, won by the Bruins 17-0, was delayed 30 minutes after Winnipeg’s best player, defenceman Kevin McCarthy, had his nose broken in the first minute of play. “I think (McLean) recruits his players in a lumber camp,” Brisson said. “Playing in New Westminster is like sending a pig to slaughter, and hoping he comes out alive.”
McLean responded: “Whatever happens in our building we get blamed for it. The other teams know they can start anything and we’ll end up getting blamed for it.”
Through it all, the Bruins rolled to title No. 2. But the march to the title was marred by an incident involving McLean and linesman Harvey Hildebrandt.
On April 30, McLean was fined for criticizing the officiating in a 10-3 loss to the host Saskatoon Blades in the championship series. That night, during a game his team would lose 9-3 in Saskatoon to even the eight-point series at 4-4, McLean reached over the boards and yanked the toupee off Hildebrandt’s head. It was in the third period and the Blades had just scored their eighth goal.
“Losing causes some coaches to grasp at straws,” wrote Lyndon Little of the Vancouver Sun. “Ernie McLean grabs toupees.”
McLean had to post a $5,000 personal performance bond before the next game.
On June 11, the WCHL headed south of the 49th as Shaw announced the Oil Kings would move to Portland.
“The attitude of the people in Portland is fantastic,” Shaw said. “I really don’t think we could have picked a much better location. The first year I was involved with the (Oil Kings) was 1971. We drew something like 150,000 fans. The following year, when the Oilers moved in, we attracted 90,000, and the next year only 68,000. There is the charisma of a professional team that we can’t compete against. We had to make the move.”
Not everyone was thrilled. Alberta NDP leader Grant Notley spoke up when the WCHL declared Edmonton a protected area for the Portland Winter Hawks.
Notley said the arrangement “makes hockey players look like pigs and swine being sold at an auction.”
Leo LeClerc, a founder of the Oil Kings, added: “It’s change enough for a youngster to move from Stettler in central Alberta to Edmonton. Imagine moving to a foreign country. I’m frankly appalled that the ruling class in hockey — the board of governors of the WCHL — would even consider moving Canadian youngsters into a foreign country. The next thing you know they’ll be sending them to East Germany.”
There was a change in Saskatoon in June when Jim Piggott, who had been involved in ownership of a junior team in Saskatoon for almost 20 years, sold to McLeod, Nathan Brodsky and Joe Reich. Brodsky became the majority shareholder.
“The ECHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation came out Wednesday with their latest plans for this season and they involve such a bastardized version of competition that you have to begin to wonder whether the game – at all levels from the NHL right down to minor hockey – shouldn’t consider simply shutting down for 2020-21,” writes Ken Campbell of The Hockey News.
“I mean, it’s getting ridiculous. And it just seems as though leagues all over the world are desperately trying to jam a square peg into a round hole in a desperate effort to play this season in the midst of the second wave of a global pandemic, the likes of which the world has not seen for a century.”
All six teams in the ECHL’s North Division have “elected a voluntary suspension” for 2020-21, according to a league-issued news release. The Adirondack Thunder, Brampton Beast, Maine Mariners, Newfoundland Growlers, Reading Royals and Worcester Railers all say they will return for the 2021-22 season. . . . The Atlanta Gladiators and Norfolk Admirals had already opted out of the season. . . . Players from teams that don’t play become free agents, but only for the 2020-21 season. . . .
The ECHL has 13 teams preparing to open the season on Dec. 11. . . . From thesinbin.net: “For the remaining five teams that were to start on January 15, 2021 — Cincinnati, Fort Wayne, Idaho, Kalamazoo, and Toledo — the deadline to opt out comes in 12 days. Allen, Florida, Greenville, Indy, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Orlando, Rapid City, South Carolina, Tulsa, Utah, Wheeling and Wichita all are scheduled to start play on December 11, 2020 and there hasn’t been any indication of that timetable being pushed back due to the latest surge in coronavirus cases.” . . . There is more on the story right here.
The SJHL’s Flin Flon Bombers, the only Manitoba-based team in the league, are looking for permission to shift their base of operations to Creighton, Sask., during the pandemic. Due to restrictions put in place by the Manitoba government and health officials, the Bombers aren’t allowed to practice or play in Flin Flon’s Whitney Forum. . . . If given the OK by health officials, they would practise in Creighton and play all of their games on the road so long as the restrictions are in place. . . . Creighton is less than two miles southwest of Flin Flon.
BREAKING: 50 Below Sports + Entertainment – the entity that owns the Winnipeg Blues and Winnipeg Freeze – has been fined $5,000.00 for holding practices in Warren last week.
Both the Blues and Freeze will also each lose their first round selections in the 2021 MJHL Draft.
CBC News: Canada-United States border closure extended again, this time until December 21st, CBC News has learned. The formal announcement is to be made later this week.
Jill Macyshon, CTV Manitoba: 11 more COVID-19 deaths in Manitoba today. Three deaths linked to Golden Links Lodge in Winnipeg. 400 new cases identified today in Mb. 239 of those cases in Winnipeg. The five-day test positivity rate is now over 14 percent.
CBC News: Manitoba to introduce $298 fine for people not wearing a mask in public.
CBC News: Saskatchewan records 132 new COVID-19 cases and 1 additional death. In the previous 7 days, the province had been averaging 173 cases a day.
Marc Smith, CTV Regina: This is the 7th death in the past 12 days. Hospitalizations hit a record high (76) for the 10th straight day, while the province also has a record 17 people in ICU. The 132 new cases came on only 1,619 tests, which is an 8.2 per cent positivity rate.
CBC News: Alberta reports 11 more COVID-19 deaths, 732 new infections. Province now has 10,057 active cases, slight decrease from the day before.
Janet Brown, CKNW Vancouver: Latest covid19 BC numbers: 762 new cases, 481 in Fraser Health region; 10 more people have died for total 320; 209 people hospital (+11), 58 ICU (-5), 9871 in self isolation.
Scott Brown, Postmedia Vancouver: B.C. Premier John Horgan calls for restrictions on inter-provincial travel. “People of Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba need to know that they should stay in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba, until . . . we can start distributing a vaccine across the country.”
CBC News: Ontario is reporting 1,417 new cases of COVID-19. That’s consistent with the province’s 7-day average, which is 1,422. 463 of the cases are in Peel Region, with 410 in Toronto and 178 in York Region. . . . Ontario reported 32 more deaths linked to COVID-19 today — the most on any single day during the second wave of the pandemic.
CBC News: 35 more deaths in Quebec are being attributed to COVID-19. The province is also reporting another 1,179 new cases; that brings Quebec’s 7-day average down to 1,243 from 1,272.
CBC News: New Brunswick reports 9 more COVID-19 cases, the highest daily total since October 11th. The province’s average for the previous 7-days was 3.4.
CBC News: 10 new COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed in Nunavut, bringing the territory’s total to 70; all have occurred in the last 2 weeks. 8 new cases are in the community of Arviat (population 2,400) on Hudson Bay’s west coast.
CBC News: U.S. leads the world in COVID-19 deaths as toll exceeds 250,000. Number of people hospitalized with the virus in the U.S. has doubled in the past month.
The New York Times: Hundreds of health care workers at the Mayo Clinic have become infected with the coronavirus as the prestigious hospital system treats rapidly growing numbers of patients with Covid-19.
The New York Times: “No one is happy about this decision,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said, after announcing that the New York City public school system would shut down a second time. Virus case numbers are rising so quickly in the city that more restrictions appear likely.
The New York Times: Kentucky will close schools beginning next week, ban indoor service at bars and restaurants, and impose new limits on indoor gatherings, Gov. Andy Beshear announced, citing a steep rise in coronavirus cases in the state.
Our daily update is published. States reported 1.5M tests, 164k cases, and 1,869 deaths. A record 79k people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the US. Today's death count is the highest since May 7. pic.twitter.com/8ps5itYiWr
F Ridly Greig of the Brandon Wheat Kings hasn’t yet reported to the Canadian national junior team’s selection camp in Red Deer. Now we know why . . .
Have been informed through his agent Kevin Epp that Ridley Greig tested positive for Covid on Nov 8th. He is at home, asymptomatic, and will join the team around the 22nd when his 14 day quarantine is up.
Just spoke with Lethbridge's Ridly Greig who is quarantining at home after a positive COVID-19 test on Nov. 8. The Wheat Kings forward says he believes he caught the virus during an ice time in Brandon, with a couple other skaters also testing positive following the session.
A hockey league in Saskatoon for skaters ages 60 and older has shut down after experiencing four positive tests. . . . Theresa Kliem of CBC News has more right here. . . .
With Las Vegas placing seven players on Reserve/COVID list today, there's no change to status of Sunday night's Raiders-Chiefs game. Those high-risk, close-contact players in quarantine will be eligible to participate in the game provided they continue to test negative.
The NFL’s Las Vegas Raiders, who are scheduled to visit the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, now have 11 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list. DE Clelin Ferrell went on the list Tuesday after testing positive. He was followed on Wednesdayby S Johnathan Abram, DT Maliek Collins, DT Johnathan Hankins, DT Kendal Vickers, DE Arden Key, CB Isaiah Johnson and pratice squad DE David Irving, all of whom were deemed high-risk close contacts. . . . DB Lamarcus Joyner also is on the list. LB Cory Littleton and OT Trent Brown and been on the list since earlier in the month. . . . Players who were deemed close contacts will be able to play Sunday if they continue to test negative. . . .
The Cleveland Browns have placed K Cody Parkey, OT Jack Conklin and long snapper Charley Hughlett on the reserve-COVID-19 list. . . . They are at home to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. . . .
Kunlun Red Star arrived in Helsinki on Wednesday to play a KHL game against Jokerit. However, the game was postponed when Kunlun had several positive tests show up. . . .
The Pacific Western Athletic Association (PACWEST) has cancelled its fall season, meaning now men’s and women’s basketball or volleyball seasons.The association had delayed its fall season in the hopes of playing in the winter semester, but now that won’t happen. . . . The association features teams from 10 colleges throughout B.C. . . .
The U of Maine was to have opened its men’s hockey season this weekend against UMass, but has postponed both home games. Maine now hopes to open next weekend at UConn. . . . Connecticut was to have played Vermont this weekend, but Vermont has paused things for now. . . . So it has been worked out for UMass and UConn to play each other. . . .
The Colorado State at UNLV football game scheduled for Saturday won’t be played because what UNLV athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois called “the surge in cases in the Las Vegas community.” . . . Earlier Wednesday, it was announced that another Mountain West game, Wyoming at Utah State, wouldn’t be happening either.
Loyola U in Chicago has paused its athletic department, other than the women’s basketball team, because of positive tests. The Loyola Phoenix reported that sources had told it that “the majority” of the men’s basketball team had tested positive.
TV networks and cable news should just go state by state and air covid news 24 hours a day — cover the regs and then nothing but testimonies from health care workers and local officials about how absolutely shit it is everywhere. End the oblivion the nation wraps itself in.
JUST NOTES: The Spokane Chiefs have signed general manager Scott Carter to a two-year contract extension that goes through the 2022-23 season. He has been the GM through four seasons. . . . Tyler Valin has joined the AJHL’s Whitecourt Wolverines as an assistant coach. He has been the head coach of the Alberta Midget Hockey League’s Fort Saskatchewan Rangers for the past three seasons. In Whitecourt, he will be working alongside Shawn Martin, the general manager and head coach. . . . The SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves announced on Wednesday that they have signed Kevin Kaminski, their GM/head coach, and Gaelan Patterson, the assistant GM/associate coach, to “new multi-year contracts.”
A friendly reminder to hockey coaches everywhere. . . . If you are required to wear a facemask while behind your team’s bench or anywhere else in the arena, make sure you wear it properly — covering your mouth and your nose. . . . Someone emailed me a nice big photo of a coach that got prominent play in his local newspaper — unfortunately, he was using his mask as a chin diaper, and that’s just not a good look. . . . So make sure to wear it properly because in this day and age there are cameras everywhere, and part of your job is to set a good example. . . . Thank you!
Colby Cave, a former WHLer (Swift Current, 2011-15), died on April 11, a few days after suffering a brain bleed. He and Emily had been married for nine months when he died in Toronto. Due to hospital restrictions brought on by the pandemic, Emily wasn’t with her husband at the end.
On Thursday, she took to her Instagram account to express some feelings, words that have echoed around the globe and been picked up by all kinds of media outlets.
Here are Emily’s words:
“I have kept my opinions regarding COVID to myself or people in my close circle but today I hit my breaking point with Alberta making new restrictions. I personally see & hear so many people complaining. I understand a lot of people feel that they won’t get it & if they did they would survive it.
“However, what would happen if your loved one became sick very fast with something else, was in a car accident, or was dying . . . & then because of the COVID restrictions you weren’t allowed to be with them?!?!
“My 25-year-old husband died alone. . . . I have no clue what his last breath was like. . . . I have yet to be able to have a funeral. . . . because of this global pandemic.
“So for goodness sake wear a mask, wash your freaking hands & it’s not the end of your world if you can’t go to house parties or do things that are essentially a ‘luxury’ in your blessed world because let me tell you . . . it’s not a luxury having your husband die alone. It’s not a luxury getting a phone call saying he’s dead compared to being there holding his hand. It’s not a luxury losing a loved one during a freaking global pandemic.
“If this insults any of my followers, unfollow me or grow up because until you’re in my shoes . . . which I pray to God you never have to be . . . your opinion can eat sh*t.”
Wear a mast. Social distance. Wash your hands. Please.
Manitoba announces 5 more deaths and 437 new cases of COVID-19. That's higher than the province's average for the previous 7 days, which is 372. The province has also surpassed the 10,000-case mark. https://t.co/22XcdlRiS2
The MJHL’s Winnipeg Blues and Winnipeg Freeze, both of whom are under fire for holding unsanctioned practices in Warren, Man., last week, issued a lengthy apology on Friday. . . . Both teams are owned by 50 Below Sports and Entertainment, which also owns, among other properties, the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice. . . . Matt Cockell, the Ice’s president and general manager, is the president and governor of both the Blues and Freeze. . . . The apology, which doesn’t include any names and isn’t signed, runs to 1,511 words. . . . It goes to great lengths to rationalize what occurred. If you are one of us who takes this pandemic seriously, you might see all of this as a weak explanation about looking for loopholes. . . . Carter Brooks of gameonhockey.ca has more right here, including the entire, uhh, apology.
Columnist Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun read the, uhh, apology and wrote: “Two Manitoba Junior Hockey League teams who flouted public health guidelines by staging practices just outside the city early this week have both apologized for and justified their actions.” . . . Perhaps the headline on Friesen’s column — “MJHL teams offer apology, but remain in hiding” — says more than anything. . . . His column is right here.
The Vancouver Giants have signed Keith McCambridge as their new associate coach, replacing Jamie Heward, who left “to pursue a different hockey opportunity.” . . . Heward, who spent two seasons with the Giants, is expected to join the AHL’s Henderson Silver Knights as an assistant coach under Manny Viveiros. . . . McCambridge, a native of Thompson, Man., the hometown of former WHL coach of the year Jack Sangster, played four seasons in the WHL (Swift Current, Kamloops, 1991-95). He was a defenceman on the Blazers team that won the 1994 Memorial Cup. . . . The 46-year-old McCambridge coached in the AHL for 10 seasons, most recently as the head coach of the Hartford Wolf Pack (2016-19). The Wolf Pack is the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s New York Rangers, who chose to let McCambridge go after the 2018-19 season. . . . In Vancouver, McCambridge will work with head coach Michael Dyck, who leaves this weekend for Red Deer to join Canada’s national junior team for its selection camp. He is an assistant coach so will be gone until the World Junior Championship ends on Jan. 5. . . . WHL teams plan on bringing players in for brief training camps right after Christmas, and then hope to open their season on Jan. 8. . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia has more on the Giants’ story right here.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
The La Ronge Ice Wolves have been informed that a person who attended our game on November 6th at the Mel Hegland Uniplex has since tested posited for Covid 19. This exposure notice has been posted by the Saskatchewan Health Authority. We want to assure the public that all the
and since the positive case has undertaken a deep cleaning. We would like to thank all who attend our games for continuing to follow theses measures which will help keep us safe. We wish our fan a speedy and full recovery. pic.twitter.com/9TiO8f3hBV
Karel Houde-Hébert of Radio-Canada in Regina reports that the SJHL “would like” the Flin Flon Bombers to play out of Creighton, Sask., which is located two km west of the Manitoba city. . . . The Bombers have put their season on hold because of Manitoba being on a province-wide lockdown. The Bombers were to have played a weekend doubleheader against the visiting Kindersley Klippers. When the restrictions came in this week, the Bombers announced that they would play the two games in Kindersley. However, they announced Thursday that the games would be postponed. . . . Travis Rideout, the Bombers’ president, says the organization is “still looking at all the possibilities to continue our season.” . . . Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief medical officer of health, doesn’t like the Creighton option at all. “Sanitation measures were put in place for a reason. They save lives,” he said. “I encourage all Manitobans to play by the rules and not try to bend them.” . . . Houde-Hébert’s story is right here.
CBC Saskatchewan: The province is rolling out more COVID-19 rules including mandatory masking in 59 communities, limits on when alcohol can be served and the reduction of fitness-class sizes. The restrictions come into effect on Nov. 16.
CBC Saskatchewan: COVID-19 in Sask.: 81 new cases, 53 people in hospital on Friday. There are now 1,427 active cases, out of a total of 4,513 reported since the start of the pandemic.
CBC News: Alberta is reporting 907 new cases of COVID-19 and 5 additional deaths related to the virus. 240 people are in hospital, including 54 in ICU. The province has 8,593 known active cases.
Troy Gillard, rdnewsNOW: Friday’s numbers are in and Red Deer is back to 94 active cases of COVID-19.
Mo Cranker, Medicine Hat News: Medicine Hat now has 34 active cases of COVID-19, meaning we have been added to the watch list.
Janet Brown, CKNW Vancouver: Latest covid19: 617 new cases, 2 deaths for total 290, 167 people hospitalized, 50 ICU, just about 6000 active cases and nearly 12000 in self isolation.
James Peters, CFJC-TV, Kamloops: B.C. records daily record 617 new cases of COVID-19 (Friday), including 42 in Interior Health. Hospitalizations up to 167 with 50 in ICU.
CBC News: Number of daily coronavirus cases in Ontario drops to 1,396, down from Thursday’s all-time high of 1,575. But the number still exceeds the province’s average from the previous 7-days of 1,299.
CBC News: 30 additional deaths due to the coronavirus are being reported by health authorities in Quebec. The province also has 1,301 new cases, the lowest in 3 days but still above the average of the previous 7-days of 1,263.
CBC News: Nunavut confirms a new case of COVID-19; the territory reported its 1st case on November 6; there are now 4. The latest one is in Arviat, a community of about 2,600 people on the west coast of Hudson’s Bay just north of the Manitoba border.
CBS2 News: The Washington State Department of Health reported 2,142 new COVID-19 cases, 88 additional hospitalizations and 12 more deaths due to the virus.
oregonlive.com: Oregon governor orders 2-week coronavirus freeze, restricting bards and restaurants to takeout, closing some businesses.
North Dakota has shut down all winter high school sports until at least Dec. 14. Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald writes that “the shutdown includes all extracurricular K-12 school activities and applies to all association, community and club sports for youth and adults.” The fall sports that now are wrapping up will be allowed to complete their championships. . . .
Jeremy Turley, inforum.com: North Dakota has enacted a statewide mask mandate and occupancy limits on restaurants, bars and event venues as the state’s worst-in-the-nation COVID-19 outbreak keeps spiraling out of control. Violators of the mask order could be charged with infractions.
680 CJOB Winnipeg: North Dakota is now allowing health-care workers who are COVID-19 positive, but asymptomatic, to continue working in corona virus units.
The situation within the ASU football program is dire. The facility is closed. An entire side of the ball has it. 6-staff members are positive. And they’re just at the beginning of the outbreak. When asked to describe it I was told: “This is bad. Really, really bad.”
I think it’s fair to say that’s quite a circus going on south of the 49th. Consider the case of the Cal Golden Bears football team. Cal was to have opened its season last weekend against the visiting Washington Huskies. But a positive test led to Cal coaches and players going into quarantine as close contacts and the game was cancelled. This weekend, Cal was scheduled to visit Arizona State, but that game was cancelled on Friday because of positive tests, including head coach Herm Edwards, among the Sun Devils. Instead, Cal will meet the UCLA Bruins on Sunday at the Rose Bowl. . . . The Bruins were to have played host to Utah but the Utes pulled out because of — you guessed it — positive tests. . . . As of Friday, Cal still had its entire defensive line, some coaches and other players in quarantine. The Golden Bears practised this week with one defensive lineman. . . . Rusty Simmons, in the San Francisco Chronicle: “As California eclipsed 1 million coronavirus cases this week and counties throughout the state rescind plans to reopen businesses and still can’t operate in-person schools, it’s difficult to find a reason to play a football game.” . . .
The U of Alaska-Anchorage cancelled its indoor winter sports season on Friday, meaning the Seawolves hockey team won’t be playing this winter. Also shut down are men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s indoor track, and women’s gymnastics. . . . Volleyball and cross-country teams found out in July that their fall seasons wouldn’t be happening. . . . This decision could signal the end of the Seawolves’ hockey program as the school said in mid-August that the 2020-21 season would be its final one. . . .
The NCAA hockey season that is to start this weekend lost one game on Friday when Long Island U’s first-ever game was postponed. It was to have played Army at West Point. However, the game was postponed due to an outbreak on the Army team. . . . Army also postponed its Nov. 20 game against visiting Holy Cross. . . .
Golden Gate Fields, a thoroughbred race track in the San Francisco Bay area, has suspended live racing until at least Nov. 20. That’s because it has experienced 24 positive tests since Oct. 30.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Roger Bader, the head coach of Austria’s national men’s hockey team, has stepped in as head coach of the country’s national junior team. He takes over from Marco Pewal, who is an assistant coach with VSV Villach of the Erste Bank Hockey League. His club team could play as many as 15 games while Pewal would have been away, so it chose not to release him to the national junior team. Last season, with Pewal as head coach, Austria earned promotion. . . . Martin Merk has more right here. . . . The World Junior Championship is scheduled to open Dec. 25 in an Edmonton bubble.
The owner of the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice and two MJHL franchises — 50 Below Sports and Entertainment — is in the eye of the storm after the two junior A franchises were caught violating COVID-19 protocols as set down by the provincial government.
And now at least one Winnipeg writer — columnist Mike McIntyre of the Winnipeg Free Press — is calling for stiff discipline.
In a column headlined ‘Throw the book at league’s code-red violators,’ McIntyre calls what happened “a cold, calculated disregard for public health protocols in the middle of a global pandemic that is as brazen as you’ll see.
“The pathetic attempt to cover it up, using teenage hockey players as pawns, was even worse.”
In case you missed it, the Winnipeg Blues and Winnipeg Freeze practised in Warren, a community about half an hour northwest of Winnipeg, despite the city having been placed in a critical zone by health officials. The MJHL also had told its teams they weren’t to “travel outside the region to participate in sanctioned hockey activities.”
Winnipeg media received an anonymous email that included video showing the teams skating at the arena in Warren. The president of that arena, Rhys van Kemenade, is 50 Below’s director of teams and tournaments.
A parent of one of the players involved told McIntyre that the player went along because he “didn’t want to get benched.”
“Kids didn’t have a lot of choice,” the parent said. “Coach tells you to show up, well, you show up. Or you’re in the doghouse. You know your hockey. Coaches at this age have all the power. And if a parent said ‘You can’t go!’, they become a problem parent. Most of those kids are adults, but I am a little dumbfounded by the whole thing.”
That same parent also explained to McIntyre that “Blues and Freeze players pay lots of cash to play, and there is an item in the contract that says fees are based on ‘training,’ not number of games played. So if teams still had skill sessions or ‘training,’ they continue to collect fees.”
Meanwhile, Don McIntosh, the president of the Manitoba U18 AAA Hockey League, told Jason Bell of the Free Press that he isn’t at all pleased with what went on.
“All of us will be painted with the same brush,” said McIntosh, a longtime hockey executive in his fifth season with the AAA league. “That’s the real frustration. Our league has busted our butts on mitigating risk. This is important stuff.”
McIntosh added that he “used to sit on the board of Hockey Manitoba and dealt with numerous issues. If you use an ineligible player or forge a game sheet, you can get substantive fines for that. To me, this is beyond that.
“They caught them live. There it is for all to see. This thing is way, way out of line.”
If you’re wondering, Hockey Manitoba and the MJHL are investigating.
To the best of my knowledge, nary a word has been heard from anyone involved with 50 Below Sports and Entertainment, which would include Greg Fettes, the chairman, and Matt Cockell, who is president and general manager of the Ice and president and governor of both the Blues and the Freeze.
You may recall that Fettes and Cockell were front and centre in the Kootenay Ice’s operation in Cranbrook, prior to the franchise’s relocation to Winnipeg after the 2018-19 season.
BTW, does anyone know if the Ice has settled its lease with Cranbrook city council yet?
The Manitoba Junior Hockey League pushes the pause button, postponing hockey activities until the new year. With a couple teams affected by COVID-19 and two Winnipeg teams finding ways to curtail the system, it's a good idea to take a break and re-evaluatehttps://t.co/iB8lBAA5nR
The MJHL announced on Thursday that it is shutting things down for the remainder of 2020. The province of Manitoba is at critical level and all kinds of public health orders are in place at least until Dec. 11. The MJHL hopes to be able to resume activities on Jan. 1. . . .
Meanwhile, in the SJHL, the Flin Flon Bombers and Kindersley Klippers won’t be playing this weekend, after all. The teams had been scheduled to play a weekend doubleheader in Flin Flon. But with Manitoba locking things down on Thursday, a decision was made to play the games in Kindersley on Friday and Saturday. . . . On Thursday, however, it was decided to postpone the games.
The Vancouver Giants are expected to introduce a new associate coach today (Friday). The WHL team announced Thursday that Jamie Heward, their associate coach for the past two seasons, is leaving the organization “to pursue a different hockey opportunity.” He is expected to join the AHL’s Henderson Silver Knights as an assistant coach under Manny Viveiros. . . . The two of them spent two seasons together with the Swift Current Broncos, winning a WHL title in the spring of 2018. . . . The Silver Knights, who are preparing for their first season, are the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. The Silver Knights are to play out of Paradise, Nev. . . . The Giants’ new associate coach will be working with head coach Michael Dyck, who will be spending about seven weeks bubbling up with Canada’s national junior team at its selection camp in Red Deer and then at the World Junior Championship in Edmonton. The selection camp gets started on Monday. . . . The WJC is to end on Jan. 5; the WHL says it will start its regular season on Jan. 8.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
There is good news as former WHL/NHL D Blake Wesley, who spent more than a month fighting COVID-19 in Austria, says he is “back in action.”
On Wednesday, Wesley took to his Facebook page to let us know that he had his ninth COVID screening earlier in the day.
“I’m back in action!!!!” he wrote. “My COVID screening was negative.
It was his first negative since Oct. 5.
“It’s a blessing,” he wrote, “and reduces some anxiety and fear.”
Wesley, 61, played three seasons (1976-79) with the Portland Winterhawks before going on to a pro career that included 298 regular-season NHL games. These days, he is coaching at a hockey academy in Sankt Pölten, Austria.
If you aren’t aware of what Wesley went through battling the virus, click right here and see what I wrote last week.
I tried. I really did. With the entire province of Manitoba having been declared a critical zone as of Thursday, I tried to figure out what that meant in terms of travel. Here’s part of what I found about the Manitoba restrictions in the section under Travel and Self-Isolation:
“In general, anyone arriving in Manitoba is required to self-isolate for 14-days upon arrival to reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, there are exceptions to this requirement specified in the order.
“In particular, Manitoba residents who have travelled to “western Canada* or “northwestern Ontario** are exempt from the self-isolation requirements when they return to Manitoba if they have not travelled outside of western Canada or northwestern Ontario and are not displaying any symptoms of COVID-19. Residents of western Canada or northwestern Ontario are also exempt, if they have not travelled to another country or any part of Canada outside of western Canada or northwestern Ontario in the 14-day period immediately before entering or arriving in Manitoba and are not displaying any symptoms of COVID-19.
“*Western Canada means British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. (as defined in the order).
“**northwestern Ontario means that portion of Ontario that is located west of Terrace Bay (as defined in the order).”
What followed that was a list of exceptions to the requirements, including “professional athletes and team members (players, coaches, managers, training and technical staff and medical personnel) employed by or affiliated with a professional sports team from Manitoba are also exempt from the self-isolation requirements as well as film production crew members (cast and crew) if they are not displaying any symptoms of COVID-19.”
There was more, a lot more, but by now my eyes were starting to roll back in my head.
And then the Alberta government brought down some restrictions of its own. So minor hockey has been shut down for a couple of weeks in some cities, but the AJHL is scheduled to open its season tonight (Friday). Meanwhile, the 10-team Okotoks Ladies Classic, a curling event that drew some high-end rinks skipped by the likes of Jennifer Jones, Rachel Homan, Casey Scheidegger and Corryn Brown, was halted Thursday afternoon shortly after it got started.
Pulled out the W in our first game.. However restrictions in Alberta require sports to be put on pause as of midnight. Thanks @OkotoksCurling for organizing and keeping us safe. Stay safe and healthy everyone! #curling#TeamBrown
Judging by reactions on social media there surely is a lot of confusion in provinces, including B.C., over restrictions and recommendations. You are left to wonder if the politicians and health officials are muddying the water on purpose are whether they simply no longer know how to communicate on the same level as the little people.
The Ivy League has cancelled its winter sports season, and postponed spring sports through February 2021. That means that Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton and Yale won’t be playing hockey this season. . . . They join Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) as NCAA Div. 1 teams to have had their hockey seasons cancelled. . . . College Hockey News has more right here. . . .
Governors in seven northeastern states have shut down interstate youth hockey competitions through the end of 2020. “All interstate hockey competitions for public schools, private schools and youth leagues in New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and New Jersey have been suspended beginning Saturday and until Dec. 31 at the earliest,” KC Downey of WCVB-ABC reported. . . . Downey also reported: “The coronavirus-related safety measure does not cover collegiate hockey teams, professional hockey teams or the U.S. national hockey teams, officials said, but those teams will be subject to existing COVID-19 safety protocols.” . . .
CB Iman Marshall of the Baltimore Ravens tested positive on Thursday, so is on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He hasn’t played after suffering a knee injury early in training camp. . . . CB Marlon Humphrey came off the list on Wednesday after 10 days in quarantine. He is expected to play against the host New England Patriots on Sunday night. . . .
I don’t have any numbers today. Oh, I saw them. But they’re just too depressing — also frustrating — and there are far too many signs that not everyone is prepared to pull the rope in the same direction. Saskatchewan is expected to introduce measures of some sort today, meaning all four western provinces will be living with pandemic-related restrictions of one degree or another. The way things are going, I would suggest there will be more restrictions coming as B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan move closer to Manitoba’s lockdown.
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In their last NHL game before heading off to serve for Canada in the Second World War, Bruins' Milt Schmidt, Woody Dumart, and Bobby Bauer were carried off the ice by their opponents, a remarkable show of respect and camaraderie #CanadaRemembers#LestWeForgetpic.twitter.com/7JxRSvvWfq
Junior hockey in Sweden has been paused at least through the end of 2020. The Swedish Ice Hockey Association’s executive committee made the decision to shut down the U-18 Regional and U-20 National leagues based on the spread of COVID-19 infection. . . . According to swehockey.se reported, “Several regions have introduced stricter restrictions due to the spread of infection, which has meant canceled matches and training for several junior teams.” . . . Olof Östblom, the SIHA’s competition manager, is quoted as saying: “Based on the increased spread of infection and the stricter restrictions that have been issued in many regions, we are pausing operations for the time being. The decision applies from 11 November and at least until the turn of the year. We follow the development closely and our ambition is to resume games, but not earlier than the turn of the year.”
The powers-that-be in Big Ten have been concerned with pace of play and the length of games so are trying to do something about it. . . . When the season opens on Friday, intermissions will be 12 minutes in length, rather than 15. . . . Games that are televised by the Big Ten Network will feature one media timeout per period, down from three. . . . College Hockey News also reported: “Another change was made by the NCAA Rules Committee over the summer to address pace of play issues. Instead of a player being kicked out of a faceoff circle for whatever reason, as usual, the referee may instead give a warning. A second warning would lead to a two-minute penalty. . . . Post-game handshakes will be eliminated, and instead teams will do a stick salute at opposing blue lines. Coaches and other personnel will be required to wear masks. Referees will be using special whistles that the NHL started using this season, that emits less aerosol than the old whistles.”
The SJHL’s Flin Flon Bombers aren’t allowed to play in their home arena, the Whitney Forum, due to Manitoba’s restrictions that come into play today. So the Bombers’ weekend series with the Klippers will be played in Kindersley. They will play Friday, 7 p.m., and Saturday, 2 p.m.
CBC News: Saskatchewan reports 112 new COVID-19 cases, a slight drop from the province’s previous 7-day average of 120.
The Globe and Mail: Hundreds of Saskatchewan doctors sign open letter urging action over rising COVID-19 cases.
CBC News: Manitoba is reporting it’s highest-ever daily death toll from COVID-19 with 9 new fatalities. There are 431 new COVID-19 cases, the province’s 3rd highest daily total since the pandemic began. The test positivity rate is 10.7%, the highest in the country.
CBC News: Alberta reports 672 new cases of COVID-19, 7 more deaths. Third day in a row Alberta has reported seven new deaths. More people are now in hospital being treated for COVID-19 than ever before.
CBC News: Ontario hits another high for new COVID-19 cases with 1,426. It’s the 4th time in 5 days a record has been set, and pushes the 7-day average to 1,217. The hot spots for new cases are Peel (468), Toronto (384), and York (180).
CBC News: Ontario also added 15 more deaths to its official COVID-19-linked death toll. Number of people in Ontario hospitals with COVID-19 rose slightly to 424. Of those, 88 are being treated in intensive care and 57 are on ventilators.
CBC News: 1,378 new COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed in Quebec. It’s the 2nd time in 4 days the number has topped 1,300; before that, the last time the number surpassed 1,300 was October 6. The province is also attributing 22 more deaths to the virus.
CBC New Brunswick: New Brunswick Public Health reports no new cases of COVID-19
CBC News: 3rd COVID-19 case detected in Nunavut, and 1st in Rankin Inlet. New restrictions in the hamlet of 2,800 people include a ban on indoor gatherings and mandatory masks. Nunavut’s other 2 cases are in Sanikiluaq, an island community 1,000 km away on the opposite end of Hudson’s Bay.
The Atlantic: (Wednesday), states reported that 61,964 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, more than at any other time in the pandemic. For context, there are now 40 percent more people hospitalized with COVID-19 than there were two weeks ago.
CNN, 5 p.m. PT: So far (Wednesday), there have been at least 140,543 daily new coronavirus cases in the United States, per Johns Hopkins University data. This is the highest single day reporting since the pandemic began.
The COVID Tracking Project: Texas made a late update to deaths, reporting 141. That brings our national death toll for (Wednesday) to 1562. That’s the highest number of fatalities since May 14.
The U of Maryland has paused all football-related activities “due to an elevated number of COVID-19 cases within the program.” The Big Ten game that was to have had No. 3 Ohio State at Maryland on Saturday has been cancelled. . . . Also dropped from Saturday’s schedule: No. 1 Alabama at LSU (postponed); No. 5 Texas A&M at Tennessee (postponed); No. 12 Georgia at Missouri (postponed); No. 24 Auburn at Mississippi State (postponed); Memphis at Navy (postponed); Air Force at Wyoming (cancelled); and Louisiana-Monroe at Arkansas State (postponed). . . . Four of those games involve teams from the SEC, which is left with a three-game weekend. . . . LSU, Texas A&M, Missouri, Auburn, Navy, Air Force and Louisiana-Monroe all are dealing with COVID-19 situations. . . .
Hockey East will open play on Nov. 20 and is hoping to complete a 20-game schedule. . . . The U of Wisconsin said on Wednesday that it won’t have fans at men’s or women’s hockey games “for an indefinite time.” . . .
The Minnesota Vikings said Wednesday that they will “no longer pursue hosting more than 250 fans for the remaining . . . regular-season home games.”
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
JUST NOTES: A tip of the Taking Note fedora to the junior B KIJHL for getting its new website up and running. It’s right here. Check it out. . . . Phil Andrews, who had been the radio voice of the WHL’s Regina Pats until he left after the 2019-20 season, now is in Saskatoon and will be calling the play for the U-18 AAA Saskatoon Blazers. His first game is scheduled for Friday.
Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, addressed some media folks in a virtual gathering on Oct. 15. When the topic of WHL players moving to junior A during the shutdown arose, Trevor Redden of panow.com reported via Twitter that Robison said that if they were affiliated last (season), they’re eligible to play now, and that general managers were to discuss the subject this week.
That meeting apparently took place at some point this week, because the WHL issued a statement late Friday afternoon, stating that it “has granted temporary transfers for WHL roster players to continue their development by playing competitive hockey at the junior A, junior B and under-18 levels . . . through mid-December.”
That something had happened became apparent on Thursday night when the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers announced that they had signed Everett D Gianni Fairbrother, 20.
Then, on Friday morning, the Estevan Bruins revealed there was an agreement between the SJHL and WHL that will allow major junior players to play in the junior A league until Dec. 20. The Bruins did that as they announced the signing of F Cole Fonstad of the Everett Silvertips. Fonstad, 20, is from Estevan.
Everett also has loaned D Dylan Anderson, 18, to the BCHL’s Cowichan Capitals, F Jackson Berezowski, 18, to the SJHL’s Yorkton Terriers, and F Ethan Regnier, 20, to the SJHL’s Melfort Mustangs.
A news release from the Silvertips indicated that players are allowed “full participation in . . . practices, workout activities and games, until a loan expiration of Dec. 20. . . .”
The WHL has said it will start its next regular season on Jan. 8, with players reporting to teams shortly after Christmas.
According to Ryan Flaherty of Global Saskatoon, Blades D Rhett Rhinehart, who turns 19 next month, is with the SJHL’s Flin Flon Bombers. Flaherty added that G Nolan Maier, 19, “will likely play for Yorkton, although that has not been confirmed yet.”
As well, Mike Sawatzky of the Winnipeg Free Press reported F Evan Herman, 18, of the Winnipeg Ice has joined the MJHL’s OCN Blizzard, while Connor Roulette, 17, of the Seattle Thunderbirds is with the MJHL’s Selkirk Steelers.
Byron Hackett of the Red Deer Advocate tweeted that Rebels F Jaxsen Wiebe, 18, is to play for the SJHL’s Nipawin Hawks.
The Tri-City Americans have loaned F Parker Bell to the junior B Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. Bell, 17, is from Campbell River.
Meanwhile, Regan Bartel, the long-time radio voice of the Kelowna Rockets, tweeted that the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors have run out of goaltenders — three of them are injured — so have added veteran goaltenders Roman Basran and Cole Schwebius, both 19, from the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets at least for this weekend.
Questions . . . yes, there are questions about the WHL’s agreement with junior A and junior B leagues about the loaning of players.
For starters, what happens to the transferred players if a WHL regular season doesn’t get started?
Also, some of these leagues have moved to a pay-for-play model. So who is paying for the WHL players to play in these other leagues?
Braden Malsbury, the radio voice of the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves via MBC Radio, also has some thoughts in the following tweets:
Certain teams will now have a significant advantage because they have several legit WHL players born in their region. This creates an extremely uneven playing field. (2/4)
Hearing some Ontario Hockey League teams are telling players they don’t expect to open training camps until mid-January at the earliest. Even that’s far from a certainty. OHL has publicly said it hopes to start season Dec. 1.
Hartley Miller, the GOAT at 94.3 The GOAT and the analyst on broadcasts of Prince George Cougars home games, offered up this today:
“Leagues like the BCHL and WHL insist they will play a season even if fans are not allowed to their games.
“The financial commitment from those owners should be applauded, but the question remains how safe is it to play?
“There does not appear to be a clear answer but regardless of whether it is a top-notch junior player or one competing at the rec level, the athlete needs to fully understand there is a health risk, even though we remain in the dark how much risk that is.”
That is from his latest Hartley’s Hart Attack, headlined ‘The risk of competition.’ . . . It’s all right here. . . . And if you aren’t a daily reader, you should be.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
NHL teams have been told they will not be allowed to scout live at the upcoming World Juniors similar to the bubble the NHL had in Edmonton.
Bruce Jenkins, in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Among the many thousands who just don’t get the mask thing, there appear to be three options: (1) Wear it under the nose. Perfected by Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth on Sunday Night Football. Gives those droplets a fighting chance. (2) Down around the chin. Extremely fashionable. Shows you might have cared at daybreak. (3) None at all. Because, you know, what the hell, it’s a hassle.” . . .
Hearing rumblings that some NE prep schools are looking at going rogue & playing outside their leagues if leagues pull plug (as Founders League has already done). Also hearing talk of top midget programs — think Mid-Fairfield, Jr. Eagles, Whalers — extending seasons. Stay tuned
The Founders League, which comprises 11 prep schools, announced Friday that it has cancelled all interscholastic competition for the 2020-21 season. It includes 10 Connecticut schools and one from eastern New York. . . .
The KHL has postponed Jokerit’s next two games, which were scheduled for Monday and Wednesday, after four positive tests within the organization. Jokerit underwent testing after returning from its latest road trip. . . . Jokerit also had games postponed early in September because of positive tests. . . .
a source close to slava kozlov's family tells me he is out of the hospital and did have a difficult case of COVID-19.#RedWings@georgemalik
Two of U.S. college football’s bowl games are gone, at least for 2020. The Holiday Bowl was to have been held in San Diego, while the Fenway Bowl, which was to have been played for the first time, was scheduled for, yes, Fenway Park in Boston. . . .
Scotty Walden, the interim head coach at Southern Miss, tested positive earlier this week. He has been the head coach since Jay Hopson left after the season’s first game. . . . The Golden Eagles, who haven’t played since Oct. 3, are scheduled to play Liberty today (Saturday). Their game on Oct. 17 against UTEP wasn’t played because they were going through an outbreak. . . .
The U of Toledo has put its men’s basketball team on hold for two weeks because six players and head coach Tod Kowalczyk tested positive. . . . Marquette’s men’s and women’s basketball teams also have been shut down for two weeks after each experienced one positive test.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
JUST NOTES: Some European teams are using the four-team Karjala Cup as a tuneup for the 2021 World Junior Championship that opens in an Edmonton bubble on Dec. 25. Former NHLer Igor Larionov is coaching the Russian team, with Valeri Bragin, normally the team’s head coach, having recently recovered from COVID-19. Also in the Karjala Cup are teams from Czech Republic and Sweden. The tournament, in Helsinki, runs from Nov. 5-8. . . . Former WHL D Connor Hobbs (Medicine Hat, Regina, 2013-17) has retired from pro hockey after playing three seasons with the AHL’s Hershey Bears. Hobbs is back at home in Saskatoon and taking online courses as the U of Saskatchewan. Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post has that story right here.