Junior hockey, CFL looking for help . . . Hlinka Gretzky Cup done . . . Pro-junior agreement extended one year


Mike Hawes, the general manager of the BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings, has told Ted Clarke of the Prince George Citizen that the pandemic has cost the league’s teams about $3 million in ticket sales and sponsorships. . . . Clarke also wrote: “Teams have been granted the option to opt out of (the) league for next season to allow them a year to restore operating budgets, but Hawes said none have yet indicated they plan to do that.” . . . The 18-team league announced in January that it was cutting its regular season from 58 games to 54. According to Clarke, it hopes to open on Sept. 18, but it has “alternate plans for 50- or 46-game seasons, depending on when COVID-19 restrictions on crowd gatherings are lifted.” . . . Clarke’s complete story is right here.

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ICYMI, the afore-mentioned Ted Clarke is the winner of the 2019-20 Fred (Gus) Collins Award. According to a news release: “The award is handed out annually to a member of the media who works tirelessly covering Canada West and it student-athletes, and is named in honour of the late Fred (Gus) Collins.” . . . Collins was a longtime member of the Winnipeg Tribune and Calgary Herald sports departments. He covered university sports as a reporter and also was a longtime statistician with university sports in the west. . . . Clarke has covered the UNBC Timberwolves for 20 years, the last eight of them in Canada West. . . . The complete Canada West news release is right here.


Meanwhile, the junior B Kootenay Junior B International Hockey League announced Tuesday that it “will be seeking financial assistance from the provincial and federal governments” to help the 20-team league get through the pandemic. . . . The KIJHL has 13 community-owned teams and seven that are privately owned. Of its 20 teams, 19 are in B.C., the exception being the Spokane Braves. . . . According to a KIJHL news release, the league “has already experienced heavy financial losses due to the virus and expects continued challenges when play resumes. For that reason, the league is looking to the provincial government for support, and will also hope to tap into a program announced by the federal government that has earmarked $500 million towards arts, culture and sport organizations.” . . . Earlier, the junior A BCHL said that it will be looking for help from that same program. . . . The KIJHL’s news release is right here.


The CFL also is looking for some financial help from the federal government. From a report by The Canadian Press: “CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie told The Canadian Press on Tuesday that the league’s proposal involves three phases: $30 million now to manage the impact the novel coronavirus outbreak has had on league business; additional assistance for an abbreviated regular season; and up to another $120 million in the event of a lost 2020 campaign.” . . . The CFL season had been scheduled to open on June 11, but that won’t happen. The league now hopes to begin play early in July.


Elected


Hockey Canada has confirmed the speculation by officially announcing the cancellation of the eight-country Hlinka Gretzky Cup, the U-18 tournament that was to have been played in Edmonton and Red Deer, Aug. 3-8. . . . While Hockey Canada pinned the blame on the pandemic, it’s no secret that the building in Edmonton will need to be ready in case the NHL is able to return to play. . . . The 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup is scheduled for the Czech Republic and Slovakia, before returning to Edmonton and Red Deer in 2022. . . . The 2021 World Junior Championship, which is to run from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5, also is to be played in Edmonton and Red Deer.



We could be watching baseball on TV next week, as South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reports that ESPN and the Korean Baseball Organization are closing in on a deal. . . . The KBO season has been on hold but is scheduled to start on May 5. . . . The Korean league began two weeks of exhibition play on Tuesday without fans in stadiums. According to an Associated Press report from a game in Seoul: “Umpires wore masks and gloves, and some coaches and team staff wore masks in the dugouts. Some of the players and a coach wore messages on their caps that read ‘Corona 19 Out.’ ” As well, all people entering the stadium had their temperatures checked. . . . Oh, and one other thing — there is to be no spitting. That will be interesting because spitting has been around baseball as long as dirt. . . .

Perhaps forgotten in all of the news about postponements and cancellations in the sporting world is that the AHL season also is on hold. The AHL shut down on March 12, the same day that the NHL hit the ‘hold’ button. The Associated Press reported Monday that the AHLis “quite likely” to cancel the remainder of its season. In its report, the AP quoted a person with direct knowledge of discussions. The 31-team league responded by saying there is “nothing imminent” in terms of an announcement. . . .

With the government of France having banned public gatherings until mid-July, the French Grand Prix, scheduled for June 28, has been cancelled. Formula One now hopes to get its season started with the Austrian Grand Prix on July 5. . . .

I would suggest that tennis star Rafael Nadal gets it. In a story that appeared in newspapers in Spain on Monday, he was quoted as saying: “I don’t think training would be a problem, but competing . . . I see it very difficult. It’s a moment to be responsible and coherent, so I don’t see how we can travel every week to a different country.” . . . To this point, both tennis tours are on hold until at least mid-July. . . .

Argentina’s soccer federation, on hold since March 15, has cancelled the remainder of its 2020 season. It is hoping to get its 2021 season started in January. . . .

The Medicine Hat Exhibition and Stampede that was to have been held July 22-25 has been cancelled. . . .

The Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which was to have included Canada’s Larry Walker, still is scheduled for July 26, but that may change this week after directors hold a virtual meeting. . . .

NASCAR, idle since March, hopes to get its schedule rolling on May 17 at Darlington, S.C., with the state having relaxed COVID-19 restrictions.



The NHL’s board of governors has approved extensions of its player development agreements through the 2020-21 season. That includes the pro-junior agreement with the CHL that covers the OHL, QMJHL and WHL. . . . With that agreement staying in place, it means that nothing will change for a 19-year-old player who signs an NHL contract; he will have to play with the NHL team or be returned to the major junior club. There had been speculation that a new agreement might include an option that would allow a signed 19-year-old to play in the AHL, something the NHL has been wanting for a while now.


MonaLisa


Brady Leavold played 200 regular-season WHL games over five seasons (2003-08), splitting time with the Swift Current Broncos and Kelowna Rockets. However, his page at eliteprospects.com or hockeydb.com doesn’t begin to tell the story. . . . That’s because those pages only include hockey-related numbers, and nothing to do with addiction or rehab. Gare Joyce has written Leavold’s story right here and, well, it isn’t pretty, but it’s worth a read.


Marty Murray has left the NAHL’s Minot Minotauros to take over as general manager and head coach of the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede. . . . Murray, who spent four seasons (1991-95) playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings, had spent more than eight seasons as Minot’s GM/head coach. . . . Murray, 45, was with the Minotauros from the start, beginning as an assistant coach and moving up to GM/head coach midway through the franchise’s first season. . . . The Minotauros immediately named Shane Wagner, who had been Murray’s assistant coach, as their head coach. Wagner has spent three years in Minot. . . . In Sioux Falls, Murray takes over from Scott Owens, who retired after five seasons there. . . . Minot’s complete news release is right here.

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The SJHL’s Nipawin Hawks have signed associate coach Jeremy Blumes to a two-year contract. He spent the past two seasons as the general manager and head coach of the junior B Golden Rockets of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. . . . In Nipawin, Blumes will be working with GM/head coach Doug Johnson.


ToBe

A few notes, thoughts on WHL, marijuana . . . Rasmussen staying in NHL . . . Everett gets goalie from Kamloops


MacBeth

F Roberts Lipsbergs (Seattle, 2012-15) has been assigned on loan by Dinamo Riga (Latvia, KHL) to Liepaja (Latvia, Optibet Liga). This season, with Dinamo, he was pointless in nine games, while averaging 8:36 TOI per game.


ThisThat

A few thoughts on the WHL and cannabis, with recreational marijuana having become legal in Canada a couple of weeks ago . . .

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The CHL, the umbrella under which the three major junior leagues operate, works under the anti-doping policy established by the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport (CCES). Cannabis remains a banned substance under that policy, as it has been since the CHL adopted the policy in 2008.

The CCES uses a list of banned substances that originates with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Interestingly, while WADA has cannabis listed as a performance-enhancing drug, the CCES doesn’t agree that it should be there.

“The CCES, to be completely frank, has always argued that marijuana should not be on the list,” CCES president Paul Melia told CBC In June. “We don’t believe there is sufficient scientific evidence supporting its performance-enhancing benefits.”

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No matter, because it is a banned substance as far as the CHL is concerned, and you are going to hear the word ‘education’ over and over again.

“That policy is very clear for the players — they cannot participate in any use of cannabis or other performance-enhancing drugs,” Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, has said. “Consequently, it is incumbent on us to make sure we have a very effective education program to make sure the players are aware of that, first of all, and to really help promote a healthy lifestyle.”

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There is an online course for WHL players, that includes video and a test based on comprehension. There also is a code of ethics that must be signed by players and coaches.

The CHL also has partnered with Health Canada on what is called #FocusedOn, a program that aims to educate players, coaches, management people, parents and others about cannabis.

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If you are wondering, a first positive test will draw a warning. Suspensions will accompany further positive tests. Testing is conducted, without warning, after regular-season games, playoff games or any of the special events such as the Top Prospects game, a Canada-Russia game, or a Memorial Cup game.

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Gare Joyce wrote an interesting piece for sportsnet.ca on the subject of the NHL and marijuana. The bulk of the story involved Joyce’s speaking with a former NHL player who now works in an NHL team’s front office.

Among other things, the ex-player told him: “I’d say right now, 60 to 70 per cent of the players in the league smoke marijuana. No doubt there are more players now using marijuana regularly than when I first came into the league. And I think there’ll be a greater awareness and understanding and acceptance (of marijuana use).”

That story is right here.

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It stands to reason that there are WHL players using recreational marijuana. With it now being legal in Canada, chances are good that there will be more players at least experimenting with it.

One former WHL insider, when asked about marijuana use on today’s teams, told Taking Note that it “would not surprise me at all if it was in the 40-50 per cent range.”

(Recreational marijuana also is legal in the states of Oregon and Washington, but you must be 21 years of age in order to use it. That age is 19 in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and B.C., and 18 in Alberta.)

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Some figures from Health Canada, all which are from prior to legalization . . . “12 per cent of Canadians reported using it at least once in 2015, according to the latest Canadian Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Survey. That rate is even higher for young people, with usage as high as 21 per cent among youth, aged 15 to 19, and 30 per cent among young adults, aged 20 to 24.”

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The area that may end up causing the most headaches for the WHL involves medical marijuana and especially cannabis-based products.

One parent with a son in minor hockey has told Taking Note that at least some midget-aged players are using cannabis-based creams — likely cannabidiol (CBD) without tetrahydrocannabinol (TTC) — in a search for pain relief, usually on joints like knees and hips.

The parent said this especially occurs when these teams play multiple games in compressed time periods on weekends. The parent also said that this is happening, at least in some instances, with parental approval and encouragement from coaches.

Defenceman Brooks Orpik of the Washington Capitals talked to the Washington Post’s Samantha Pell about a a memo that went from the NHL to its teams on legalization.

“I think they were nervous about guys bringing it across the border,” Orpik said, “because it’s still illegal (in the U.S.) and CBD oil, without the THC in it, is getting big, especially among athletes for pain management and sleep and stuff.”

As Pell explained, “CBD . . . is a cannabis extract. Unlike THC, another marijuana compound, it doesn’t make you high or intoxicated.”

The parent who spoke with Taking Note also admitted to having concerns about how long cannabis-based cream might stay in a player’s system, and also about, as Orpik noted, it being illegal in the U.S.

“What happens,” the parent wondered, “if a (young player) eligible for an NCAA scholarship gets caught taking cream across the border into the U.S.?”

For that matter, what would happen were a WHL player to find himself in that situation?

But you should know that the WHL says it is well aware of the medical side of all this.

“There is a medicinal application to the product,” Robison told Andrew McCormack of discovermoosejaw.com, “we’re very aware of that, as our medical staffs and training staffs are aware of that, and there is an ability within our national anti-doping program to get a therapeutic exemption should a player require that. It has to be accompanied by clear evidence from their doctor that this is something that’s required as opposed to something that might be used on a more recreational basis or casual basis from time to time.”


MONDAY NIGHT NOTES:

It appears that F Michael Rasmussen won’t be back with the Tri-City Americans. The tri-cityDetroit Red Wings have told Rasmussen that he will be staying in the NHL and, in fact, he is scheduled to play his 10th regular-season game tonight against the host Columbus Blue Jackets. . . . When a junior-eligible player gets into his 10th game it means the first year of his entry-level contract begins, something that’s important down the road when it comes to qualifying for free agency. . . . Rasmussen, the ninth overall selection in the NHL’s 2017 draft, has one assist in his first nine games, while averaging 12 minutes 39 seconds of ice time per game. . . . Rasmussen had 31 goals and 28 assists in 47 regular-season games with the Americans last season, then added 33 points, 16 of them goals, in 14 playoff games. In 161 career regular-season games, he put up 157 points, including 81 goals.


The Everett Silvertips have acquired G Max Palaga, 18, from the Kamloops Blazers, Everettgiving up a sixth-round selection in the 2020 WHL bantam draft in the exchange. . . . Palaga, who is from Kamloops, got into 17 games with the Blazers last season, going 5-7-1, 3.71, .875. . . . The Blazers released him earlier this season and he has been with the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers. He was 2-2-1, 1.77, .943 in five games with Vernon. . . . In Everett, Palaga will back up Dustin Wolf, 17. . . . Blake Lyda, who had been backing up, suffered an undisclosed injury during a morning skate on Oct. 12 and is expected to be sideline for at least another month. . . . With Lyda out, the Silvertips added Danton Belluk to their roster for their East Division trip that concluded Saturday. Belluk has since returned to the midget AAA Eastman Selects. . . .

Meanwhile, the Blazers have added G Rayce Ramsay, 17, to their roster where he will back up Dylan Ferguson, while Dylan Garand, 16, is at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge in Quispamsis and Saint John, N.B. . . . Ramsay, from Saskatoon, has been playing with the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos, going 4-2-0, 3.03, .923.


The Kootenay Ice has returned G Will Gurski to the Shawnigan Lake School’s midget prep team. Gurski, 16, was brought in prior to the weekend. He practised with the Ice and backed up Duncan McGovern in one game with Jesse Makaj scratched. . . . Gurski, from Duncan, B.C., was a fourth-round pick in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft.


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