Long-time Tigers’ mic man, bus driver brings down curtain . . . Two ex-WHLers in coaching news

Prior to the start of the 2021-22 season, Bob Ridley had, with one exception, called every single game the Medicine Hat Tigers had played since entering the WHL for the 1970-71 season.

Darren Steinke, a former Medicine Hat News sports writer, is the go-to guy when it comes to stats involving Ridley.

“Over the course of his career,” Steinke tweeted on Tuesday, “Bob Ridley has called 4,022 games as the play-by-play voice of the Medicine Hat Tigers — 3,590 regular-season games, one standings tiebreaker game, 411 games in the WHL playoffs and 20 contests in the Memorial Cup tournament.”

Ridley, 78, who has announced his retirement, missed almost all of last season as he underwent cancer treatment. But he was there in Co-op Place’s broadcast booth — yes, it’s named after him, as it should be — for the Tigers’ last game of a playoff-less season on April 15 and, as it turns out, that was to be Ridley’s final appearance as the club’s play-by-play voice.

Let’s not forget, too, that he also drove the bus during the vast majority of his seasons calling Tigers’ games. Oh, and he also did play-by-play for baseball’s Medicine Hat Blue Jays for about eight seasons when they were in the Pioneer League. And, yes, he drove their bus, too.

By now the fact that he missed one Tigers game has become the stuff of legend. It was in the spring of 1972 and Ridley’s boss sent him to Saskatoon to cover the Canadian women’s curling championship. It seems the boss’s wife was on the Alberta rink.

As the schedule would have it, the Tigers only played one game that week. (Trivia answer: Larry Plante, who was Ridley’s analyst for many seasons, called the play for that one game. Plante died on Aug. 20, 2019.)

But, sheesh, what if Ridley had fallen in love with curling and had abandoned hockey back in the day?

All the best in retirement, Bob. Here’s hoping it’s kind to you.

Hello, Hockey Hall of Fame . . .

ridley
Bob Ridley was back in the broadcast booth for the final game of the Medicine Hat Tigers’ 2021-22 season. It turns out that also was the final game of Ridley’s play-by-play career as he announced his retirement on Tuesday. (Photo: Scott Roblin/CHAT-TV)


Club


COVID-19 SAYS HELLO . . . AGAIN: With Seattle having dealt Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos, the opportunity is there for someone to land the starting quarterback’s job with the Seahawks. Well, Drew Lock was to have started Thursday against the visiting Chicago Bears, but COVID-19 chose to have a say in things. Yes, Lock has tested positive so he won’t be playing. Instead, the start will go to Geno Smith. . . . Simon Fraser U, which is headquartered in Burnaby, B.C., but plays football in the NCAA Division II, has moved four of its home games to Blaine, Wash. It would seem that four of its American opponents can’t guarantee all in the travelling parties will be vaccinated, thus they won’t be allowed to cross the border. Of course, the same restriction holds true going into the U.S., so the SFU team must be totally vaccinated.



Ex


THE COACHING GAME:

Joel Martin, a former WHL goaltender, is the new head coach of the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings. He also becomes the Wings’ director of hockey operations. Martin, 39, takes over from Nick Bootland, who now is an assistant coach with the AHL’s Hershey Bears. . . . Martin, the second Black head coach working in pro hockey today, spent the past three seasons as an assistant under Bootland with the Wings. The other Black head coach is Jason Payne of the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones. . . . Martin played 126 games over three seasons (2000-03) in the WHL, making stops with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Tri-City Americans, Vancouver Giants and Calgary Hitmen. . . .

Former WHL D Luca Sbisa has joined the NHL’s San Jose Sharks as a player development coach. After retiring in 2021, Sbisa, now 32, had been with the Anaheim Ducks as a development coach. . . . Sbisa, who was born in Italy, played 109 regular-season WHL games over three seasons (2007-10). He played 62 games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes in 2007-08 and 18 more in 2008-09. In 2009-10, he was with Lethbridge for 17 games and finished up by playing 12 games with the Portland Winterhawks. He totalled 14 goals and 52 assists. . . . Sbisa is fluent in English, French, German and Italian, something that no doubt will help him in his coaching role.


Ken Wright, who played 41 games in the WHL in 1971-72, died in Vancouver on Aug. 2. He was two weeks past his 70th birthday when cancer took him. Wright, who was from Vancouver, got into seven games with the Vancouver Nats in 1971-72 and 34 more with the Flin Flon Bombers. A defenceman, he had two assists with the Nats, then added five goals and 19 assists with the Bombers. Wright went on to play four seasons in the IHL before retiring. . . . There is a complete obituary right here.


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

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

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

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


CBrown

Hammond, former Flin Flon goalie, dies at 71 . . . Neighbours won’t play in WJC . . . Two WHL teams lose assistant coaches to AHL

Cal Hammond, who spent three seasons as a goaltender with the WCHL’s Flin Flon Bombers, died Saturday at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. He was 71. . . . Hammond, a Flin Flon native, played in 93 regular-season games with the Bombers from 1968-71. He retired after a couple of pro seasons. He also spent one seasons (2000-01) as an assistant coach with the Bombers, who by then were in the SJHL. . . . Hammond was selected by the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL’s 1970 draft; in 1972, he signed with the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars. . . . While he never got into an NHL game, he did spend four games on the North Stars’ bench backing up Cesare Maniago with Gump Worsley and Gilles Gilbert both injured. . . . Hammond’s son Evan is the play-by-play voice of the BCHL’s Alberni Valley Bulldogs.



F Jake Neighbours of the Edmonton Oil Kings has told Hockey Canada that he won’t be playing in the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship that is scheduled HockeyCanadato be played next month. This is the tournament that got underway in Red Deer and Edmonton in December before being cancelled following a number of positive COVID-19 tests. . . . Neighbours, 20, told Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic: “I’ve made the decision I’m not going to go. With how long my season went and how my body is feeling right now, I’ve made Hockey Canada aware of that. We had a good discussion about it.” . . . The Oil Kings won the WHL championship and went on to play in the Memorial Cup in Saint John, N.B. . . . The St. Louis Blues selected Neighbours in the first round, 26th overall, of the NHL’s 2020 draft. He opened the 2021-22 season with them, scoring one goal and adding two assists in nine games. Back with the Oil Kings, he totalled 17 goals and 28 assists in 30 games. . . . Neighbours has turned 20 but is eligible to play in the WJC because the IIHF has chosen to allow those who were on rosters in December to play in Edmonton next month. . . . The tournament is scheduled to run Aug. 9-20.


Temple


The Philadelphia Phillies, who lost 6-1 to the Cardinals in St. Louis on Monday night, are to open a two-game series against the host Toronto Blue Jays tonight COVID(Tuesday). Prior to the series opener, the Phillies will place four players on the restricted list because they aren’t vaccinated so won’t be allowed into Canada. . . . Catcher J.T. Realmuto, 3B Alec Bohm and starters Aaron Nolan and Kyle Gibson won’t be making the trip to Toronto. Bohm may not have played anyway, after suffering a hand injury on Monday while sliding into second base. Nolan started Monday and Gibson on Saturday, so they likely wouldn’t have pitched in Toronto had they been eligible. . . . The Athletic’s Matt Gelb tweeted: “J.T. Realmuto said he consulted with doctors he knew and decided he did not need a COVID vaccine. He will forfeit close to $260,000. ‘I’m not going to let Canada tell me what I do and don’t put in my body for a little bit of money,’ Realmuto said. ‘It’s just not worth it.’ ” . . . One would hope that someone explained to Realmuto that the U.S. has the same restriction as Canada — you have to be vaccinated to get into the country, which is why Novak Djokovic isn’t likely to play in tennis’s U.S. Open. He would have to get vaccinated to play and says that isn’t going to happen. . . . The Phillies apparently have more than four players who aren’t vaccinated, as Gelb also tweeted that “other potential absences were mitigated through demotions to minors/injuries.”


Remote


THE COACHING GAME:

Rebecca Johnston, who has earned three gold medals as a member of the Canadian women’s Olympic team, is in Calgary this week as a guest coach at the development camp being held by the NHL’s Flames. . . . According to Wes Gilbertson of the Calgary Sun: “Johnston, who ranks in the top-10 in all-time scoring for Canada’s national women’s program, will be on the ice for practice and skills sessions, will participate in meetings and will be asked for her feedback on player evaluation.” . . . You are free to wonder if Johnston might surface as a WHL coach at some point down the road. Johnston, 32, already has a WHL connection. Her uncle, Mike, is the longtime general manager and head coach of the Portland Winterhawks. . . .

Josh Green and Keith McCambridge, both assistant coaches in the WHL last season, have moved on to the Bakersfield Condors, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. . . . Green, 44, spent five seasons (1993-98) in the WHL, playing with the Medicine Hat Tigers, Swift Current Broncos and Portland Winterhawks. He has spent the past two-plus seasons as an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Ice. . . . McCambridge, 48, played four seasons (1991-95) in the WHL, starting with Swift Current and finished his career with the Kamloops Blazers, helping them win the 1995 Memorial Cup. He has been the Vancouver Giants’ associate coach for the past two seasons. . . .

The Ice filled the vacancy created by Green’s departure by moving Taras McEwen into that spot on the coaching staff. McEwen, 31, has been in the Ice organization for the past five seasons. He started out as the Ice’s manager of scouting in 2017, and also has been general manager and head coach of the MJHL’s Winnipeg Blues for the past two seasons. The Blues, like the Ice, are owned by 50 Below Sports + Entertainment Inc. . . . McEwen’s father, Brad, is a veteran WHL and NHL coach and scout. He now is on the scouting staff of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. . . . In Winnipeg, Taras will work with Ice head coach James Patrick, who is preparing for his sixth season. Assistant coaches Byron Spriggs and Larry Woo also are returning. Spriggs is heading into a third season; Woo is back for a second season. . . . The Ice’s complete news release is right here.


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

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

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

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Math

What if Derlago and Leach hadn’t been injured? . . . WHL has first matchup: Edmonton vs. Lethbridge . . . In Kamloops, No. 22 gets 22nd goal at 2:22 of OT

Potholes


As the WHL’s 2021-22 regular season winds down, let’s take a look back and wonder what one player’s final season might have been. It’s a season that shouldn’t be forgotten.

It was 1977-78. Bill Derlago of the Brandon Wheat Kings had turned 19 about a month before the season began. This would be his third full season with the Wheat Kings. In 1976-77, he had totalled 96 goals, which was a WHL record at the time, and 82 assists — 178 points — in 72 games.

Fans could only imagine what was to come.

Well, the native of Birtle, Man., didn’t disappoint, putting up 152 points, including 89 goals, in 52 games. That’s 1.17 goals and 2.92 points per game. Those are great numbers. Right?

But they could have been even better.

Derlago
The Brandon Wheat Kings had a line for their opponents — Ray Allison (left), Bill Derlago and Brian Propp. (Photo: wheatkings.com)

In early December, Derlago, playing between Brian Propp and Ray Allison, had 80 points, including 48 goals, in 26 games when he suited up with a WCHL all-star team in Regina against a touring side from what was then the Soviet Union. (The team, travelling as the Moscow Selects, won the game, 6-5. The WCHL team featured players from Brandon, the Regina Pats, Flin Flon Bombers and Medicine Hat Tigers.)

Over a 72-game season, Derlago was on pace for 218 points, including 133 goals. Rob Brown of the 1986-87 Kamloops Blazers holds the WHL record for most points in one season. He put up 212 in 63 games that season, an average of 3.37 points per game.

Had Derlago stayed healthy and maintained his pace, he would have averaged 1.85 goals and 3.03 points per game.

But it wasn’t to be.

On his second shift of that game in Regina, Derlago “lined up Boris Verigin . . . and took a run at him,” wrote Dave Senick of the Regina Leader-Post. “The Soviet went down and slipped past Derlago’s check.

“The Wheat King flew over Verigin and couldn’t get up after hitting the ice. The reason was a good one. He was taken to hospital and was diagnosed (with) possible torn knee ligaments.”

As it turned out, he had torn ligaments in his left knee.

“Sure, I’m disappointed and the records mean something to me,” Derlago told Senick. “But I’m not going to get worried. I just want to get back and play. It’s the first time I’ve had a serious injury in three years. I had my adrenaline flowing for this season.”

He did return and was able to finish up that 152-point season, but we were left to wonder what might have been.

BTW, Derlago’s 96 goals from 1976-77 stood up as the WHL single-season record until 1983-84 when Ray Ferraro, who had been acquired by the Wheat Kings from the Portland Winterhawks in the offseason, scored 108 times. That remains the WHL’s single-season record to this date.

The Vancouver Canucks selected Derlago with the fourth overall pick of the NHL’s 1978 draft. He went on to play 555 regular-season NHL games, most of them with the Toronto Maple Leafs for whom he enjoyed 35-, 34-, 40- and 31-goal seasons.

Jake Milford was the Canucks’ general manager at that time. He had been in the Wheat Kings’ front office, either as GM, head coach or both, from 1958-59 through 1963-64. McCallum had played two seasons (1958-60) with the Canucks.

And so it was that the Canucks, under Milford’s guidance, were putting the Canucks through their paces during Derlago’s first NHL training camp. That included running some sprints, something at which Derlago, who had large calves, wasn’t proficient.

When Milford called McCallum to update him on Derlago’s progress, the Canucks’ GM complained about Derlago’s poor performance on the track.

To which McCallum replied: “Jake, are you putting together a track team or a hockey team?”

——

It should be pointed out that Bill Derlago wasn’t the first WCHL superstar to FFBomberslose a possible monstrous statistical season to injury. In 1968-69, Reggie Leach, the Riverton Rifle, finished with 46 points, including 36 goals, in 22 games with the Flin Flon Bombers, losing most of the season to a shoulder injury.

Over a 60-game schedule, which is what they played back in the day, that works out to 125 points, including 98 goals. Had Leach scored 98 goals, he would be two ahead of the 96 Derlago scored in 1976-77.

But let’s also think about Flin Flon captain Bobby Clarke, who won the scoring title that season with 137 points in 58 games. The Bombers’ second-leading scorer was Brian Marchinko, with 86 points.

Had Leach been riding shotgun with Clarke for the entire season, who knows how many points the league’s top player might have put up? One season earlier, Clarke won the scoring title with 168 points; Leach was second with 131.

Unfortunately, we’ll never know what might have been for Leach in 1968-69.


Not to overload you with Flin Flon-related chatter, but . . .

If you are having a discussion about the most intimidating hockey arena anywhere you have to have Flin Flon’s Whitney Forum at or near the top of the list. I haven’t been there in years, but I did take in the odd Bombers game back in the days of Gerry Hart, Bobby Clarke, Reggie Leach, Steve Andrascik, Wayne Hawrysh et al. Yes, it was a noisy, scary place. . . . Now there is talk that Hudbay — today, it’s Hudbay Minerals Inc.; in my time it was Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting — “is slated to shut down much of its operations nearby later this year,” Eric Westhaver wrote in the Flin Flon Reminder the other day. . . . What will that mean to the folks of Flin Flon and the Fabulous Forum? Westhaver takes a look right here at the past, the present and the future of a Canadian landmark.



Screw


SATURDAY IN THE WHL:

Eastern Conference:

F Justin Sourdif and F Dylan Guenther each had two goals and two assists as the Edmontonhost Edmonton Oil Kings beat the Red Deer Rebels, 6-4. . . . The Oil Kings clinched their fourth straight Central Division pennant and will meet the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs. They will open in Edmonton on April 21. Edmonton won the season series, 6-2-0; Lethbridge was 2-5-1. . . . Edmonton snapped a 2-2 tie and took control with three goals in a span of 4:11 early in the second period, the last two coming via the PP after Red Deer F Frantisek Formanek was hit with a kneeing major and game misconduct. . . . Guenther now has 44 goals; Sourdif has 25. . . . Sourdif, who turned 20 on March 24, went into the game with 199 points in 195 career regular-season games. His first goal, at 8:50 of the first period, was his 200th career point. The Oil Kings acquired him from the Vancouver Giants earlier in the season. He has 37 points, including 16 goals, in 25 games with Edmonton. . . . Red Deer got a goal and two assists from each of D Christoffer Sedoff (8), F Ben King and F Arshdeep Bains. King and Bains each went into the game with 199 career regular-season points. . . . King, who leads the WHL with 50 goals in his 19-year-old season, now has 202 points in 204 career games. Bains, who leads the WHL with 105 points in his 20-year-old season, has 202 points in 255 career games. . . . King is the first Red Deer player to get to 50 since F Kyle Wanvig scored 55 in 2000-01. The franchise record (58) belongs to F B.J. Young (1996-97). . . . F Jake Neighbours, the Oil Kings’ captain, had two assists in his return to the lineup. He had last played on Feb. 21. . . . Edmonton (47-14-4) will finish second in the conference, while Red Deer (44-18-4) will be third. The Rebels, though, will have to wait to find out their first-round opponent — either the Saskatoon Blades, Moose Jaw Warriors or Brandon Wheat Kings. . . .

In Winnipeg, F Chase Wheatcroft scored twice and added an assist as the Ice WinnipegIcebeat the Medicine Hat Tigers, 6-1. . . . He’s got 16 goals. . . . F Cole Muir (11) scored twice and F Jakin Smallwood (24) had a goal and two assists. . . . Winnipeg held a 44-17 edge in shots, including 22-4 in the third period. . . . G Daniel Hauser earned the victory with 16 saves. This season, he is 31-3-1, 1.97, .914. . . . Winnipeg (50-10-5) will finish atop the conference and will face the eight-place team in the first round. Four teams — the Swift Current Broncos, Calgary Hitmen, Regina Pats and Prince Albert Raiders — are within two points of each other in the scrap for the last spot. . . . The Tigers (11-51-4) have lost 10 in a row. . . .

F Nate Danielson scored the only goal of a shootout as the Brandon Wheat Kings Brandongot past the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors, 3-2. . . . Moose Jaw led this one 2-0 early in the second period on goals from F Eric Alarie (22) and F Ryder Korczak (23). . . . F Nolan Ritchie (32) got Brandon to within one at 7:22 of the second period and D Vincent Iorio (11) tied it just 2:28 later. . . . Danielson was the fifth shooter in the circus. The Wheat Kings put it away when Korczak couldn’t beat G Ethan Kruger. . . . Brandon (35-25-5) is sixth, three points behind Moose Jaw (36-23-6) and the idle Saskatoon Blades (37-26-4). . . .

The Lethbridge Hurricanes ensured themselves of a seventh-place finish with a Lethbridge5-1 victory over the visiting Calgary Hitmen. . . . F Jett Jones, who scored twice, broke a 1-1 tie with his first goal at 1:21 of the second period. He added his 20th of the season, shorthanded, at 19:22 of the third. . . . That seventh-place finish means the Hurricanes (31-30-5) will face the Edmonton Oil Kings in the first-round of the playoffs. These two teams have never played each other in the playoffs. . . . The Hitmen (25-32-8) are tied for eighth with Swift Current, one point ahead of Regina and Prince Albert. . . . Calgary and Regina each have three games remaining, Prince Albert has two and Swift Current one. . . .

F Connor Bedard scored twice and added an assist as the host Regina Pats beat Reginathe Prince Albert Raiders, 5-3. . . . Bedard gave his guys a 2-1 lead at 6:19 of the second period, then put them ahead 4-2, on the PP, at 6:46 of the third. . . . Bedard now has 92 points, including 49 goals, in 58 games. . . . The Pats also got a shorthanded goal and two assists from F Tanner Howe, who was playing against his hometown team. Howe, who won’t turn 17 until Nov. 28, has 66 points, 26 of them goals, in 61 games. . . . F Evan Herman scored twice for the Raiders, giving him 25. . . . Regina (26-34-5) and Prince Albert (26-25-5) are tied for 10th, two points from a playoff spot.

——

Western Conference:

D Ethan Samson’s third-period PP goal broke a 1-1 tie as the host Prince George PrinceGeorgeCougars scored a 2-1 victory over the Victoria Royals. . . . F Marcus Almquist (5) gave the Royals a 1-0 lead at 1:27 of the first period. . . . F Jonny Hooker (16) tied it 10:06 later. . . . Samson, who has 15 goals, snapped the tie at 13:29 of the third period. He also drew an assist on Hooker’s goal. . . . G Ty Young stopped 29 shots for the Cougars, including 10 in the third period. . . . Prince George (23-38-5) is tied for sixth with the Spokane Chiefs. The Cougars have two games remaining — in Kamloops on Friday and in Kelowna on Saturday. . . . Victoria (22-38-6) is tied with the Vancouver Giants for eighth. The Royals have two games remaining with Spokane to visit on Friday and Saturday. . . .

In Kamloops, F Jaydon Dureau’s OT goal gave the Portland Winterhawks a 5-4 Portlandvictory over the Blazers. . . . Andy Kemper, the Winterhawks’ historian, points out that the winning goal “was the 22nd of the season for No. 22 Dureau at 2:22 of OT.” . . . D Marek Alscher (7) had pulled Portland even, at 4-4, at 8:01 of the third period. . . . F Logan Stankoven had two goals, giving him 44, and an assist for Kamloops. His first goal, 57 seconds into the game, was his 100th point of the season. . . . Stankoven’s 102 points has him tied with F Ben King of the Red Deer Rebels for second in the WHL scoring race. They are three points behind Red Deer F Arshdeep Bains. . . . Stankoven leads the WHL in points per game, at 1.79. . . . The Blazers got three assists from F Daylan Kuefler. . . . Kamloops (47-16-3) is second in the conference. With two games to play, it is three points behind the idle Everett Silvertips (45-10-10) and two ahead of Portland (45-16-5), which also has two games remaining. . . .

F Andrew Cristall and F Colton Dach each had five points in leading the Kelowna KelownaRockets to an 8-4 victory over the visiting Vancouver Giants. . . . Cristall had two goals and three assists, with Dach scoring once and adding four helpers. . . . Cristall has 26 goals, which breaks the franchise record for goals by a 16-year-old. F Shane McColgan (2009-10) and F Nick Merkley (2013-14) had shared the record prior to the game. . . . The Rockets also got two goals and two assists from F Mark Liwiski, who has 23 goals, and two goals and an assist from F Adam Kydd. He’s got 17 goals. . . . F Zack Ostapchuk scored three times for Vancouver. His first career hat trick gave him 23 goals this season. . . . D Alex Cotton added his 15th goal and two assists for the visitors. . . . These teams will play again today in Kelowna and then will clash on Friday in Langley, B.C. . . . The Rockets (40-19-6) are fourth, two points behind the Seattle Thunderbirds and the two teams are headed for a first-round playoff clash. Each team has three games remaining, and all that remains to be decided is who will have home-ice advantage. . . . Vancouver (23-27-4) is tied with Victoria for the conference’s last playoff spot. . . .

At Kent, Wash., F Jared Davidson had a goal and three assists to lead the Seattle SeattleThunderbirds past the Spokane Chiefs, 6-2. . . . The start of the game, scheduled for 7:05 p.m. PT, was delayed about two hours because weather conditions through the Snoqualmie Pass slowed the Chiefs’ trek. . . . Spokane, trailing 3-0 late in the second period, got to within a goal at 3-2 before third period was two minutes old but wasn’t able to equalize. . . . Davidson has 82 points, including 36 goals, in 61 games. . . . F Lukas Svejkovsky added two goals for Seattle, giving him 34, with D Kevin Korchinski drawing three assists. . . . Seattle (41-18-6) is fourth, two points ahead of Kelowna. . . . Spokane (23-38-5) is tied for sixth with Prince George, one point ahead of Vancouver and Victoria.


JUNIOR JOTTINGS: There is speculation that the QMJHL is seriously considering exempting 20-year-old goaltenders from the CHL rule that limits teams to three such players. That makes sense to me. I also would do away with the two-spot rule — teams are allowed three 20-year-olds and two imports — that has a 20-year-old import taking up a spot in each category. I have long thought that with teams having invested so much energy, money and time in import players they should have to declare a 20-year-old import as one or the other. . . . The BCHL’s Cranbrook Bucks had their first season come to an end on Saturday when they lost, 3-2 in OT, to the visiting Prince George Spruce Kings, who won the best-of-seven series, 4-2. The announced attendance was 3,002.


Bananas


Dorothy is preparing to take part in the annual Kidney Walk for a ninth straight year. She has participated in every one since she underwent a kidney transplant at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver on Sept. 23, 2013. . . . The 2022 Kidney Walk will be held on June 5, but thanks to the pandemic it again will be a virtual event. . . . You are able to support her by making a donation right here.


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

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

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

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


YMCA

Remembering when Ginnell left the Bombers . . . Blades’ Maier king of WHL goaltenders . . . Bedard sets two Pats’ records

These days I am spending time going through more than 40 years worth of files. As pages and pages of clippings, news releases and more, most of them related to the WHL and various teams, go into the recycling bin there are memories, lots of memories involving personalities.

Like Patty Ginnell, or Paddy Ginnell, who was Pat Ginnell when he took over as head coach of the Flin Flon Bombers on June 1, 1966. Quick now . . . who did he succeed? That would be Tom Baird, who stayed on as the general manager.

The Bombers were in the SJHL at the time, but that changed when they moved FFBombersto what was then the Western Canada Junior Hockey League for its second season (1967-68). It had been the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League for its inaugural season (1966-67).

Anyway, Ginnell was 29 when he took over the Bombers. He had spent the previous three seasons playing for the IHL’s Des Moines Oak Leafs. You know that putting Ginnell behind the bench was a popular choice in Flin Flon because he had played for the Bombers when they won the 1958 Memorial Cup.

Ginnell coached the Bombers through Dec. 9, 1973, his final game a 6-3 victory over the visiting Regina Pats.

Why was that his final game?

He had purchased 40 per cent of the Victoria Cougars and was about to step in as general manager and head coach.

PatGinnell
PAT GINNELL

Ginnell told Mal Isaac of the Regina Leader-Post that he had been trying to purchase a piece of the Bombers but hadn’t met with any success.

“I’ve been manager-coach in Flin Flon for nine years,” he told Isaac, “and I don’t have a thing to show for it. I don’t even own a stick.” (If you did the math, you know that he actually was in his eighth season with the Bombers, but, hey, facts didn’t get in the way of a lot of stories back in the day.)

“It’s always been my desire to own and operate my own club and that was something I was unable to do in Flin Flon,” Ginnell continued. “Now I’ll have my own team.”

Interestingly, Ginnell’s impending move leaked with the Bombers on the road and before he was able to inform the team’s board of directors.

With the Cougars, Ginnell bought out Eric Bishop, who said he was quitting as the team’s general manager. The Cougars, who started that season with Ollie Dorohoy as their head coach, were in their third WCHL season, hadn’t made the playoffs in their first two and were struggling again.

Victoria finished that season at 22-40-6, which left it fifth in the six-team Western Division.

At some point before Ginnell bought a piece of the Cougars, he had been asked how long it would take him to turn the team into a contender. “One year minimum,” he replied.

Well, the Cougars, led by Mel Bridgman, finished the 1974-75 season atop the West Division with a 47-18-5 record but dropped a best-of-seven semifinal series to the New Westminster Bruins, 4-2.

The Bombers’ board of directors, meanwhile, accepted Ginnell’s recommendation that Mel Pearson, a teammate on the 1958 Memorial Cup-winning team, be the next GM/head coach. Pearson had spent the 1972-73 season with the WHA’s Minnesota Fighting Saints.

Pearson didn’t get to Flin Flon in time for the Bombers next game, on Dec. 13 against, yes, the Cougars. So trainer Nick Oklobdzija — he was known as Nick Alphabet — served as the interim head coach and posted one of his dozen or so career coaching victories, this one by a 10-2 score. Ginnell watched from the Whitney Forum stands as Dorohoy continued for the moment as the Cougars’ coach.

(Bruce Penton, writing in the Brandon Sun of March 7, 1974, noted that Oklobdzija “is undefeated in 12 tests as coach of the WCHL Bombers.”

“That goes back about eight or nine years,” Oklobdzija told Penton. “I’ve filled in here and there when (Ginnell) was away or suspended, or something. And we’ve never lost while I’ve coached.” The WHL’s coaching records show Oklobdzija with a 2-0-0 coaching mark.)

Pearson made his Flin Flon coaching debut on Dec. 18 with a 7-3 victory over the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings. (One of Brandon’s goals came from John Paddock, now the Pats’ vice-president of hockey operations, general manager and head coach.)

Pearson, who had signed a contract taking him through 1974-75, was gone early in the 1975-76 season, fired on Oct. 29. At the time, the Bombers had two victories in 12 games.

The Bombers then hired Mickey Keating to replace Pearson, thus ending Ginnell’s connection to the Flin Flon franchise.

As an aside, my favourite Keating quote emerged late in the 1976-77 season. At one point, I wrote a few stories detailing the history of the WHL and it included this:

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.”

Ahh, yes, those were the days.


Cats


If you have time on your hands, you could track down the Twitter account belonging to the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs (@OHLIceDogs) and check out the ‘apology’ from the Burke brothers — Billy and Joey. And then see if you can find the screen shot of the WhatsApp chat that got them into trouble with David Branch, the OHL commissioner. . . . And after you have done all that, you are free to wonder why the Burke boys weren’t suspended for life.

Meanwhile, there is ample speculation that the IceDogs are soon to be sold to, as Ken Campbell of Hockey Unfiltered reported, “a group headed by Darren DeDobberlaer, an insurance magnate from nearby Brantford, who owns both the Brantford 99ers Jr. A team and the Brantford Bandits Jr. B team.”

Campbell also wrote: “Oh, yes, and the selling price is rumoured to be in the range of $20 million, which should disavow anyone of the notion that major junior hockey operators in Canada are mom and pop operations that require millions of dollars in tax money to meet their scholarship commitments and provincial government laws to help them skirt minimum wage requirements. Teams make money when they are strong and struggle financially when they aren’t. If the operators know what they’re doing, they can make it work. And as we’re seeing with the IceDogs, they can cash out when they sell the team.”

Campbell’s piece is right here and it’s because of reports like this that I subscribe to his site.



“The Greater Toronto Hockey League has hired a private investigator to scrutinize allegations that Jewish players with the U-13 Avenue Road Ducks and their family members were targeted with anti-Semitic slurs during games this season,” reports Rick Westhead of TSN. . . . That story is right here.

——

Meanwhile, CBC Ottawa reports that “after some Black minor hockey players in western Quebec alleged they were racially abused, a Gatineau, Que., team has suspended six of its players and the provincial governing body cancelled weekend games.” . . . That story is right here.

——

And, from Oakland, Mich., comes this from clickondetroit.com: “A 15-year-old boy is suing three players on an under 16 youth hockey team, their parents and the coach after he said he endured antisemitic bullying until he quit the team.” . . . That story is right here.


Dorothy is preparing to take part in the annual Kidney Walk for a ninth straight year. She has participated in every one since she underwent a kidney transplant at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver on Sept. 23, 2013. . . . The 2022 Kidney Walk will be held on June 5, but thanks to the pandemic it again will be a virtual event. . . . You are able to support her by making a donation right here.


Spider


FRIDAY IN THE WHL:

Eastern Conference:

G Nolan Maier became the winningest regular-season goaltender in WHL Saskatoonhistory as the host Saskatoon Blades beat the Prince Albert Raiders, 2-0. . . . Maier stopped 20 shots in posting his 121st career regular-season victory, breaking a record he had shared with Tyson Sexsmith (Vancouver Giants, 2004-09) and Corey Hirsch (Kamloops Blazers, 1988-92). . . . Hirsch tweeted: “Congrats Nolan! Your perseverance, resilience and dedication is nothing short of inspirational. Enjoy the moment; you’ve earned it!” . . . The Blades won it with two third-period goals, from F Egor Sidorov (23), at 12:17, and F Trevor Wong (16), at 18:01. . . . Maier has three shutouts his season; he holds the franchise career record, with 11. . . . Saskatoon (37-26-4) moved into fourth place, one point ahead of the idle Moose Jaw Warriors, who hold three games in hand. . . . The Raiders (26-34-5) are 10th, two points out of a playoff spot. . . .

F Jake Chiasson had two goals and two assists as the Brandon Wheat Kings Brandondoubled the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers, 6-3. . . . Chiasson, who has six goals, struck twice in the second period as Brandon took a 5-1 lead. Chiasson missed a huge chunk of the season with an injury and only began play on March 4. He now has 15 points in 16 games. . . . D Mason Ward added two goals, giving him six, and an assist for Brandon, with D Chad Nychuk getting a goal, his 21st, and two assists. Nychuk has 68 points in 60 games. . . . Brandon (34-25-5), which has won four in a row, is sixth, four points behind Moose Jaw. Each team has four games remaining. . . . Medicine Hat (11-50-4) has lost nine straight games. . . .

In Red Deer, F Ben King, who leads the WHL in goals, scored in OT to give the RedDeerRebels a 5-4 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . King, who also had two assists, scored his 49th goal of the season at 2:56 of OT. . . . King has a WHL-leading 15 game-winning goals this season. F Brian Propp of the 1978-19 Brandon Wheat Kings holds the WHL record of 16. . . . F Logan Wormald scored twice for Lethbridge, giving him 14. His second goal, at 8:33 of the third period, gave his side a 4-3 lead. . . . D Christoffer Sedoff (7) forced OT with a goal at 12:04. . . . Red Deer (44-17-4) is third, four points behind the idle Edmonton Oil Kings, who have a game in hand. . . . Lethbridge (30-30-5) is headed for a seventh-place finish. . . .

F Connor Bedard set two franchise records as his Regina Pats beat the Broncos, Regina4-2, in Swift Current. . . . Bedard scored twice to give him 47 this season. His 46th goal, a shorthanded effort, set the Pats’ record for most goals by a player in his 16-year-old season. F Jeff Friesen scored 45 times in 1992-93. . . . Bedard now has 89 point in 58 games, and that also is a Pats’ franchise record for a player in his 16-year-old WHL season. F Doug Wickenheiser finished the 1977-78 season with 88 points. . . . Regina got 37 saves from G Kelton Pyne. . . . Regina (25-34-5) is 11th and, with four games remaining, trails the eighth-place Broncos (26-34-7) by four points.

——

Western Conference:

F Matthew Seminoff scored with four seconds remaining in the third period to Kamloopsgive the Blazers a 4-3 victory over the Victoria Royals in Kamloops. . . . The goal came one second after the end of a Victoria PP opportunity. . . . F Logan Stankoven had three assists for the Blazers, including the only one on the winner. . . . Seminoff has 25 goals. . . . F Bailey Peach (36) scored twice and added an assist for Victoria, which came back to tie the score three times but wasn’t able to grab the lead. . . . Stankoven now has 99 points, leaving him three behind F Arshdeep Bains of the Red Deer Rebels, who leads the points race. . . . Stankoven, who has played 56 games, leads the WHL in points-per-game (1.77). . . .  Kamloops (47-16-2) is second, four points behind the Everett Silvertips. Each team has three games remaining. . . . Victoria (22-37-6) is tied for seventh with the Vancouver Giants, one point behind the idle Spokane Chiefs. . . .

F Alex Swetlikoff scored three times and added an assist as the host Everett EverettSilvertips dumped the Tri-City Americans, 5-2. . . . The Silvertips, who clinched the U.S. Division regular-season pennant, scored the game’s last four goals, the first two from Swetlikoff, who has 33 goals. . . . Everett was 3-for-9 on the PP; Tri-City was 0-for-2. . . . Everett had a 50-13 edge in shots. According to the online game sheet, shots were 10-0 in the third period. . . . F Jackson Berezowski had an empty-net goal and two assists for Everett. He’s got 46 goals. . . . Everett (45-10-10) leads the conference by four points over Kamloops. . . . Tri-City (18-42-7) has been eliminated from playoff contention. . . .

F Jack O’Brien had two goals to help the Portland Winterhawks to a 7-2 victory Portlandover the Vancouver Giants in Langley, B.C. . . . O’Brien has 13 goals. . . . F Cross Hanas scored his 25th goal and added two assists for the winners. . . . There was something of a brouhaha at 19:17 of the third period that resulted in 97 penalty minutes being handed out. . . . Portland (44-16-5) is third, three points behind Kamloops. . . . Vancouver (23-36-4) is tied for seventh with Victoria, one point behind Spokane and one ahead of the idle Prince George Cougars.


JUST NOTES: F Logan Nijhoff, the Regina Pats’ captain, has signed a two-year contract with the San Diego Gulls, the AHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks. Nijhoff, 20, had 20 goals and 23 assists in 52 games when the signing was announced on Thursday. He is completing his fifth season with Regina. Nijhoff attended the Ducks’ rookie camp in September. . . . The EIHL’s Cardiff Devils have fired head coach Jarrod Skalde, who was in his first season there. Assistant coaches Brodie Dupont and Neil Francis will run things through the end of the season. With four games left in the regular season, the Devils are third at 27-15-3.


War


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

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

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

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Dog

Bardsley leaving Blazers after three years . . . Dillabough makes retirement official . . . QMJHL final ready to go


Citing family reasons, Matt Bardsley announced his resignation as the Kamloops Blazers’ general manager on Tuesday morning.

Bardsley, who left the Portland Winterhawks to sign with the Blazers on June 1, Kamloops2018, said in a news release: “This was a very difficult decision for me and my wife, but one we needed to make for our young children. When we moved here in 2018, we planned on making this our home for many years. Unfortunately because of COVID-19, it has restricted our ability to see our family as they reside in the United States.”

Bardsley, 50, grew up in San Jose. He and his wife, Stacy, have two children — Brooke, 5, and Vince 2, who was born in Kamloops. There are grandparents in California and Oregon, who, as Bardsley explained to Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week, haven’t seen their grandchildren in more than a year. (Hastings’ story is right here.)

“We’re not sure when things are going to change,” Bardsley told Hastings, “but we just felt it was the right decision to make for our family, for the kids, and if we were going to make it, it was right for the organization to do it now, rather than wait until August or September to see where things are at and change then. . . . In the states, it’s a lot more mobile right now. If we are in Portland, Washington or California, we know we can still get to and from to see family, as opposed to waiting to see when things will be lifted.”

Before signing with Kamloops, Bardsley had spent almost 20 years with the Winterhawks, starting as an area scout in 1999. He took over as director of player personnel inn 2007 and was named assistant general manager in 2013.

With Bardsley in the GM’s office, the Blazers had a regular-season record of 87-54-12; he was the Western Conference’s executive of the year for 2019-20. The Blazers won B.C. Division titles each of the past two seasons but, of course, there weren’t any playoffs in the spring of 2020 and the recently completed 2020-21 season was only for developmental purposes.

So now the two WHL teams that finished on top of the U.S. Division and B.C. Division in the 2020-21 developmental season each is without a general manager.

Last week, the Everett Silvertips parted company with Garry Davidson after a nine-year relationship. The Silvertips said that not renewing Davidson’s contract was part of a restructuring process brought on by the pandemic’s impact on the past two seasons. Perhaps they are going to go outside hockey’s box and not have a general manager.

Bardsley told Kamloops media that he doesn’t have a job to go to, nor does he have any immediate plans. He had three years left on his contract with the Blazers, so another team would have to ask permission before being able to speak with him about employment.

According to Chad Klassen of CFJC-TV, Bardsley said that he’s “not sure what is next for me at this time.”

Klassen’s story is right here.


It’s hard to imagine the Brandon Wheat Kings without Rick Dillabough, the Brandonhardest worker in all of the WHL, not in their office. But he has made his retirement official, writing on LinkedIn that “after more than 30 years of wonderful memories and service to this great organization, I have decided to step down from my position of Director of Business Operations, Sales and Sponsorship with the Brandon Wheat Kings.”

He added: “I can’t describe how exciting it was to be a part of so many highlights over the years. Two WHL championships, three trips to the Memorial Cup and, of course, having the opportunity to be a member of the host committee that brought the Memorial Cup to Brandon and Manitoba for the first time ever.

“I want to especially thank Kelly McCrimmon for seeking me out in 1989 and inviting me to embark on what turned out to be an incredible journey through the WHL.

“Off the ice, some of my proudest days were having the chance to work with so many talented people. From the coaches, the players, the management and staff, I feel fortunate to have spent so many years with some of the brightest minds in the game. What made it more special is that you always felt that you were a member of a big family — one that worked, supported, cheered and celebrated one another.

“My wife and I will continue to call Brandon home and I look forward to seeing what life has in store.”

So . . . what’s ahead for Dillabough? Well, a source familiar with the situation told Taking Note that Dillabough “is looking forward to retirement and helping his neighbour with his horses.”

Hey, Rick, that sounds like a plan. Enjoy!


Bond


Meanwhile, on the COVID-19 front, the province of B.C. unveiled a four-stage re-opening plan on Tuesday. If all goes according to plan, indoor sports could be permitted to play before live crowds starting on Sept. 7. . . . In making the four-stage announcement, Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said: “Once we get to September, if the data still shows that we’re on the right track, we can have larger gatherings where we can have audiences.”

Of course, that is more than three months away and a lot can happen between now and then, as we have seen in recent times. But we still are allowed to hope that more and more people get fully vaccinated so that by then we are allowed to begin building what will be our new normal.


The Victoriaville Tigres beat the host Charlottetown Islanders, 2-0, on Tuesday night to advance to the QMJHL final where they will meet the Val-d’Or Foreurs. . . . Victoriaville won the last two games of the best-of-five series for a 3-2 victory. . . . The Foreurs are 9-0 in these playoffs; the Tigres are 9-2 with both losses coming in OT. . . . The Islanders had finished with the QMJHL’s best regular-season record (35-5-0). Geoffrey Brandow notes that this will be the “first time the No. 1 seed has not competed in the championship series since 2003.” . . . In the regular season, the Foreurs finished 29-3-4, second to the Islanders, while the Tigres wound up 16-9-1. . . . The best-of-seven final is scheduled to open Thursday in Val-d’Or.


Robot



Dorothy will be taking part in her eighth Kamloops Kidney Walk, albeit virtually, on June 6. If you would like to be part of her team, you are able to make a donation right here. . . . Thanks in advance for your generosity.

——

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

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

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

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: The QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs have signed head coach Steve Hartley, 35, to a five-year contract extension through 2025-26. He and general manager Philippe Boucher now have matching contracts in terms of length. Hartley, who has been with the Voltigeurs for five seasons, is the son of former NHL coach Bob Hartley, who is the head coach of the host Latvian team at the IIHF World championship in Riga. Bob also is head coach of Avangard Omsk, which won this season’s KHL championship. Steve was an assistant coach for two seasons in Drummondville before moving up for 2018-19. . . . The SJHL’s Flin Flon Bombers have signed assistant coach/marketing director Cole McCaig to a two-year extension and also named him assistant general manager. McCaig, who played 123 games with the Bombers over three seasons (2011-14), has been on staff for three seasons. Jon Klassen, who had been the AGM, has moved over to become director of player personnel. . . . Mark Readman, who had been the associate general manager/associate coach with the Creston Thunder Cats, is the new head coach and assistant GM of the Princeton Posse. The junior B teams both play in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. Mark McNaughton, the Posse’s previous head coach, remains as the general manager. . . . Ray Tremblay has signed on as the first general manager and head coach of the junior B Lake Cowichan Kraken of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. Tremblay, 35, was the head coach of the Danville, Ill., Dashers of the Federal Prospects Hockey League in 2019-20.


Jesus

Only the vaccinated will be allowed at Bills, Sabres games . . . Memorial Cup tournament cancelled . . . Rockets, Tigers cleared to return

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.


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.



DannyBoy


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 BrandonF 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 Raidersgoals 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 SeattleSeattle 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, Spokane4-3, 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.


FlinFlonThe 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.


Wake


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:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

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

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Scholl

Sask. gov’t provides some relief to WHL, SJHL teams . . . Teams expect to get money in Feb. . . . Savoie scores twice in USHL debut


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; SJHLthe 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 WHL2to 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 PortlandAlternate(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.

Eggers’ piece is right here.


Willie


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.


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 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.”

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 . . .



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

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

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

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: 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.


Aussie

BCHL now hoping to open Dec. 8 . . . SJHL’s Bombers done until 2021 . . . Wheat Kings lose Lowry to Jets

The BCHL had been hoping to open its regular season on Dec. 2. But those plans BCHLhave 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 SJHLBattlefords 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 FlinFlonuntil 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.


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

——

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.



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

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

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

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


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).

The WHL, Part 3: Bruins’ dynasty ends, franchises on the move and more mayhem . . .

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.

ErnieMcLean
The legendary Ernie McLean. (Photo: The Coaches Site)

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.

LorneDavis

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.

BobStrumm
The often-emotional Bob Strumm. (Photo: Regina Leader-Post)

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.

Stay tuned.

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.

BillDerlago
BILL DERLAGO

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.

EdChynoweth2

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.

GreggPilling
GREGG PILLING

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.”

WheatKings7879

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.

NelsonSkalbania
NELSON SKALBANIA

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.

RozandaSkalbania
ROZANDA SKALBANIA (Photo: archives.newwestcity.ca)

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.

DarylLubiniecki

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.”

NEXT: Part 4 of 5.

The WHL, Part 2: Changes of scenery, battles on and off the ice and, uhh, a toupee . . .

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.

VcrNats

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.

TomLysiak

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.

BobTurner

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.

EdChynoweth1
ED CHYNOWETH

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.

RonChipperfield
RON CHIPPERFIELD

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.

DennisSobchuk

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.

PatGinnell
PAT GINNELL

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.

BruceHamilton
BRUCE HAMILTON

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.

GerryBrisson
GERRY BRISSON

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.

NEXT: Part 3 of 5.

%d bloggers like this: