Seven WHL teams OK’d to play in Regina hub . . . Ridley two games from milestone . . . MJHL latest to cancel season

Now that was a big day for the WHL.

First, it announced on Friday that its five Saskatchewan-based teams and the WHL2two from Manitoba are going to play in a Regina hub situation beginning next month.

And then it revealed that there were 245 COVID-19 tests administered to four Alberta-based teams from Feb. 6 through Feb. 12, without any of them coming up positive. The Edmonton Oil Kings, Lethbridge Hurricanes, Medicine Hat Tigers and Red Deer Rebels are the teams that were tested; the news release doesn’t mention the Calgary Hitmen.

From that news release: “Using private PCR testing provided by DynaLIFE, testing was administered twice to all members of the team delegations of players and staff . . . All members of the team delegations were tested once upon arrival and a second time after a mandatory quarantine period in the club centre. As a result of no positive tests, the teams now are in a position to commence with team on-ice practices.”

While it’s been known for a while that the five Alberta teams will begin play on Feb. 26 and five U.S. Division teams are to start on March 19, the WHL also announced Friday that its Manitoba and Saskatchewan teams will open a 24-game schedule on March 12 with all games to be played in Regina. Fans won’t be allowed at any of these games.

The seven teams — Brandon Wheat Kings, Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders, Regina Pats, Saskatoon Blades, Swift Current Broncos and Winnipeg Ice — will live in dorms at the U of Regina and Luther College, with games and practices at the Brandt Centre and the Co-operators Centre, which contains six ice surfaces.

A big reason that all of this is possible is that the Saskatchewan government has given $600,000 to each of the five teams from that province, three of which are community-owned and two of which are privately owned.

All players and personnel will be tested regularly and, according to the WHL, should a team experience any positive tests it will have to shut down for at least 14 days.

The WHL news release is right here.

Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post has more right here.

Randy Palmer of moosejawtoday.com has more on all of this, from a Moose Jaw Warriors perspective, right here.

As things sit right now, only the five B.C. Division teams haven’t been given the OK to return to play from health officials. . . . While the Rebels are being housed in the corporate suites in their home arena, the Centrium, the Hitmen will be at the Grey Eagle Resort on the Tsuut’ina Nation, just outside Calgary’s southwest edge, where they will practise and play their games in the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex. . . . The Hurricanes, who were on the practice ice on Friday, have been paired up and are living in apartments near Lethbridge College within easy walking distance of the Enmax Centre. . . . According to Darren Steinke, whose blog is right here, Bob Ridley will call his 4,000th game involving the Tigers on Feb. 27 when they play host to the Rebels. Ridley has called all but one of the Tigers’ games since the franchise arrived, leaving him at 3,998. The one he missed? In the spring of 1973, he was assigned to cover a curling event in Saskatoon in which his boss’s wife was competing.


Ticket


On a day when the WHL announced that its two Manitoba franchises would be mjhlmoving to Regina to begin play next month, the junior A MJHL announced that it has cancelled the remainder of its season. . . . From an MJHL news release: “After multiple discussions with public health, representatives of the provincial government, facility managers and stakeholders, the MJHL board of governors has determined that the resumption and completion of the 2020-21 regular league/playoff season is not feasible due to current conditions. It has become unrealistic to continue operating in a state of hope with so much uncertainty and no timeline provided. It is unfair to our athletes and staff, our community organizations who have been severely impacted financially and the communities/regions our organizations support and garner support from.” . . . The news release, over commissioner Kevin Saurette’s name, also said that teams “will have the option to continue to provide training and development opportunities, exhibition games, etc. . . .” based on updated orders and directives from health officials and Hockey Manitoba. . . . The MJHL hadn’t played since Nov. 12. . . . The complete news release is right here.



The Philadelphia Flyers were to have played on Thursday and Saturday nights, nhl2but both games were postponed. As of Friday, they had seven players on the COVID-19 protocol list, including F Oskar Lindblom, who was added on Friday. Being on the list, doesn’t mean that a player tested positive; it might mean that contact tracing has shown a possibility of exposure. . . . Lindblom was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, 14 months ago and was declared free of the disease two months ago. . . . Also on the Flyers’ protocol list are D Justin Braun, F Morgan Frost, F Claude Giroux, F Scott Laughton, D Travis Sanheim and F Jakub Voracek. . . . F Steven Stamkos didn’t play for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night, with the team saying he had a lower-body injury. On Friday, the Lightning put him on its protocol list. Stamkos later tweeted that he had gotten a false positive. . . . The NHL had 47 players on the protocol list on Friday.


Curve

THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

CBC News — Federal government to implement new rules for international travellers February 22. Anyone arriving in the country, including Canadians, must first have a COVID-19 test and quarantine in an approved hotel for 3 days at their own expense.

CBC News — 81 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba, marking the 1st time since October the province has gone a full week where the number of new daily cases has been less than 100. 4 additional deaths are also being reported.

CBC News — Saskatchewan reports 195 new coronavirus cases and 2 additional deaths.

CBC News — Alberta is reporting 314 new COVID-19 cases and 16 additional deaths.

CBC News — On the Friday before the Family Day long weekend, B.C. health officials are pleading with everyone to stay local and stick to their households in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. . . . The warning came as the province announced 445 more cases of COVID-19 and 10 more deaths from the disease. . . . Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there are now 4,347 active cases of the novel coronavirus across the province. That includes 226 patients who are in hospital, including 61 in intensive care.

CBC News — Ontario is reporting 1,076 new cases of COVID-19 and 18 additional deaths related to the illness. 763 people are in hospital, including 295 in intensive care.

CBC News — 984 new COVID-19 cases in Quebec as the number falls below 1,000 again for the 4th time in a week. The number of hospitalizations is dropping steadily; it’s been below 1,000 for a week. 24 additional deaths are being attributed to the virus.

CBC News — New Brunswick reports 5 new COVID-19 cases as January’s surge in cases appears to be fading; the province’s 7 day-average has fallen to 8.

CBC News — 50 new cases of COVID-19 are being reported in Newfoundland and Labrador. 47 of the cases are in the Eastern Health region; the other 3 are in the Central Health region. 20 of the new cases involve people under 20 years old. There are 260 known active cases in the province. . . . Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, says the latest COVID-19 outbreak in the St. John’s metro area is the variant from the UK. . . . A surge in COVID-19 infections has thrown Newfoundland and Labrador’s election into chaos. The vote, set for Saturday, has just become solely a mail-in election.

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While the CFL didn’t get to play in 2020, it is planning on a 2021 season. However, there already are rumblings that maybe that won’t happen. Gerry Moddejonge of the Edmonton Sun has quoted someone “familiar with the league at an executive level” as saying that “I don’t even know this year if it’s plausible for them to play with the (COVID-19) numbers the way they are. It would honestly be, to me, smarter for them to forego another season and plan for 2022.” . . . Yes, it’s early, but it’s food for thought, and it’s all right here. . . .

Canada’s Larry Walker was to have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., last summer. However, the party was postponed by the pandemic. And now the Hall of Fame has announced that the 2021 induction ceremony will be done entirely on TV on June 25. . . . Walker will be joined by Derek Jeter, Ted Simmons and the late Marvin Miller in being inducted. . . .

Brendan Batchelor, the radio play-by-play voice of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks, will miss the club’s next four games. He revealed via Twitter on Friday that he was exposed to someone who had tested positive, so is self-isolating. While he will take part in pre- and post-game shows from home, Joey Kenward will call the play for at least the next four games. . . . Batchelor and Kenward both are former WHL radio voices.


Stocks


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——

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Or, for more information, visit right here.


Vote

CHL facing another potential class-action lawsuit . . . Most everything with WHL these days is fluid . . . Former WHL owner, GM, coach dies at 79

These have to be tough days to be the owner of a WHL franchise, don’t they?

The WHL is only a few weeks removed from the CHL, the umbrella under which it, the whlOHL and the QMJHL operate, having settled a civil suit for $30 million. In that suit, players, former and present, were, among other things, asking to be paid minimum wage under labour legislation in various jurisdictions. While not admitting to any wrongdoing or agreeing to pay minimum wage, the CHL settled, with insurance covering half the tab and each of the Canadian teams believed to be on the hook for more than $280,000.

And there is another WHL-related lawsuit before the courts, this one involving concussions, with the parties waiting to see if it will be certified as a class-action.

And another lawsuit dropped on Thursday, this one also seeking to be certified as a class-action. It carries the signatures of two former major junior players — Daniel Carcillo, who played in the OHL, and Garrett Taylor, who split a couple of seasons (2008-10) between the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Prince Albert Raiders — and is looking for more co-signees.

This one could prove to be particularly ugly because, as you will see by reading this piece right here from Ken Campbell of The Hockey News, Carcillo and Taylor are alleging that they were subject to abuse that is, to be honest, beyond description.

(BTW, you may recall that Taylor and his mother, Kim, were among those who appeared before an Oregon Senate committee on workforce on Feb. 27, 2018. They were opposing a proposed bill that would have exempted the Portland Winterhawks from state labour legislation. Ultimately, that request was denied.)

Geez, we haven’t even mentioned the hot mess that former OHL player Eric Guest hit that league and his old team, the Kitchener Rangers, with earlier in the week. The allegations, which included the forced ingestion of cocaine, are beyond messy, and the league, the team and the RCMP now are said to be conducting investigations.

And let’s not forget about the pandemic, you know, the coronavirus, COVID-19, and all that goes with that.

On Wednesday, following the completion of its annual meeting, the WHL issued a news release in which it said it “has targeted a start date of Friday, Oct. 2, for the 2020-21 regular season, but this date remains contingent on receiving the necessary approvals from government and health authorities in each of the six jurisdictions in WHL territory.”

Those would be Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, B.C., Washington and Oregon. To this point, the citizens of the four Canadian provinces have done a good job of battling this virus. As for the two states, well, let’s just point out that Canada has closed its border with the U.S. until at least July 21 for a reason. And Canadians, especially those in B.C., are pleading with the feds to keep it closed for a whole lot longer.

On Thursday, Ron Robison, the WHL commish, was on a Zoom gathering with various media types and it is obvious that a proposed starting date really is a moving target.

At his point, the WHL hopes to have a 68-game regular season, but . . .

It hopes to open training camps on Sept. 15, but . . .

It’s becoming more and more apparent that it’s all in the hands of the medical community and, as Rafferty Baker of CBC News, reports right here, people like Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, the province’s health minister, aren’t ready to commit to anything just yet.

Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week was on the Zoom call and his report is right here. . . . The word “fluid” appears on more than one occasion and for good reason.

How fluid are things?

Don Moores, the Kamloops Blazers’ president and chief operating officer, told Earl Seitz of CFJC-TV this week that the club isn’t even selling season tickets.

Moores explained: “We actually haven’t sold any season tickets yet. One of the things we don’t want to do is over-promise and under-deliver. It’s important for us to make sure that we know what we’re going to have and what that season will look like before we move ahead with that.”

As for the Winterhawks, who aren’t believe to be experiencing financial difficulties but are in receivership, Paul Danzer of the Portland Tribune reported that Robison “said there has been a lot of interest in acquiring the club.”

Danzer’s piece is right here.


Earlier in the week, the University of Alberta stunned the Canadian sporting community by announcing it has cancelled the 2020-21 seasons for it’s men’s and women’s basketball, hockey and volleyball teams.

Ian Reade, the school’s athletic director, made the announcement, stating in a news release that “the Athletics budget is no longer able to support participation in the 2020-21 season.”

As The Canadian Press reported: “Earlier this year, the provincial government announced cuts to the Campus Alberta Grant and ordered universities to immediately begin balancing their budgets and reducing expenditures.

“Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a ripple effect on revenues.”

In April, the U of Lethbridge dropped men’s and women’s hockey from its program for financial reasons. Might there be more cuts on the way?

With two Alberta schools already having made moves, you are excused for wondering how things are with the U of Calgary, MacEwan U and Mount Royal U, the three other Canada West members based in Alberta.

Of course, it could be that there won’t even be basketball, hockey or volleyball seasons.

U Sports, which oversees Canadian university sports, and three of its four conferences announced last week that football, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s field hockey and women’s rugby wouldn’t be played during the first term.

Canada West has said it will make a decision by Oct. 8 on whether basketball, hockey and volleyball will be played after Jan. 1.

Gerry Moddejonge of Postmedia has more on the U of Alberta story right here.


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with a Thought for the Day, this one from Will Rogers: “Don’t gamble; take all your savings and buy some good stock and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don’t go up, don’t buy it.”


Robbers


You may be aware that the Buffalo Sabres’ owners staged a massive house-cleaning this week, sweeping out more than 20 people from the hockey operation, including general manager Jason Botterill. . . . Also caught up in the mess were two men with ties to the WHL. . . . Mark Ferner played with the Kamloops Jr. Oilers/Blazers. He also coached in Kamloops and with the Everett Silvertips. . . . Randy Hansch played with the Victoria Cougars and the Blazers. He later was the Blazers’ director of player personnel before spending 11 seasons with the Edmonton Oil Kings, first as assistant GM/director of player personnel, then as general manager.


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ coaching staff returned to the NFL team’s facility on Monday. By Thursday, one assistant coach had tested positive for the coronavirus, although he was asymptomatic, and was placed in quarantine. Two other assistant coaches also have bee quarantined.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S.’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, on Thursday that he doubts the NFL will be able to have a season without placing teams in bubbles much like the NBA has planned for next month in Orlando, Fla.

“Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall,” Fauci said. “If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.”

The NFL doesn’t have any interest in the bubble format.

Dr. Allen Sill, the NFL’s chief medical officer, told the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero that “we do not feel it’s practical or appropriate to construct a bubble. Anyone who tests positive will be isolated until medically appropriate to return.”


Real Turcotte, at one time a WHL owner and coach, died Monday after fighting congestive heart failure. He was 79. . . . Turcotte was born in East Angus, Que., but made a real mark as a coach in the Detroit area. . . . He was the owner and general manager of the Nanaimo Islanders for their only season (1982-83). He took over as head coach when he chose to replace Les Calder during the season. . . . Turcotte was the father of Alfie Turcotte, who played with the Islanders and Portland Winter Hawks (1982-84) and was selected 17th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL’s 1983 draft. . . . There is an obituary right here.


The junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey League held its annual meeting on Saturday and revealed in a Wednesday news release that it is aiming for open its regular season on Oct. 2. . . . As with so many other leagues, however, that is contingent on a number of things. As the league said in a news release: “As has been the case since the league’s 2019-20 season was cancelled on March 13, all decisions related to Return to Play will be made with the health and safety of players, staff, fans, volunteers and sponsors as our top priority.” . . . In that same release, Jeff Dubois, the league’s commissioner, said: “There are still a number of obstacles for us to navigate ahead of resuming league play this fall, but I’m confident that we’re trending in a positive direction.” . . . The complete news release is right here.


Herman

Interesting look at King County’s road to cancelling large gatherings . . . U of Lethbridge drops axe on hockey programs

Some reaction after Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, held her daily pandemic-related briefing on Monday . . .


Meanwhile, there is speculation in the east, too . . . Larry Mellott is the radio voice of the OHL’s Guelph Storm on 1460 CJOY . . .


The story by Ken Armstrong of ProPublica and the Seattle Times’ David Gutman and Lewis Kamb is headlined: Health Officials Recommended Canceling Events with 10-50 People. Then 33,000 Fans Attended a Major League Soccer Game. . . . It is a terrific story and looks at the early days of the pandemic in Seattle and King County, in Washington state, and how, despite warnings, the Seattle Sounders played a home game at CenturyLink Field on March 8. . . . The story begins: “On March 6, at 2:43 p.m., the health officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County, the hardest-hit region in the first state to be slammed by COVID-19, sent an email to a half-dozen colleagues, saying, ‘I want to cancel large group gatherings now.’ ” . . . They write: “Two days after the public health department wrote on Facebook, ‘We are making a recommendation to postpone or cancel events greater than 10-50 people,’ officials in King County allowed a soccer match to be held with 33,000 fans, squeezed together.” . . . That story is right here. . . . The WHL isn’t mentioned in this story, but it’s interesting that it went ahead with games in Everett on March 6 and 7, and in Kent on March 8. . . . All told, the WHL played eight games in the U.S. Division — including one in Spokane, two in Kennewick, Wash., and two in Portland — from March 6 until the season was suspended on March 12.


The U of Lethbridge brought an end to its men’s and women’s varsity hockey programs on Monday, saying it was “facing three successive years of significant reductions to its operating grant.” . . . From a news release: “The elimination of the hockey programs is one of a number of budget reduction strategies in response to unprecedented cuts from the provincial government.” . . . The Pronghorns men’s team had been around since 1984-85 and won a national championship in 1994 under head coach Mike Babcock. . . . The women’s program began in 1997-98. . . . Without the two U of Lethbridge teams there will be seven teams in each of the Canada West leagues. . . . The men’s team is full of players who played in the WHL. You can check out the 2019-20 roster right here. . . . The university’s news release is right here.

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You know there are concerns at a lot of Canadian universities, such as the U of Alberta. Gerry Moddejonge of Postmedia wrote late last week about a letter sent by Dr. Ian Reade, the school’s athletic director, to coaches, sponsors, donors, volunteers and alumni. . . . That story is right here, and it isn’t pretty.



“It’s a small point,” points out Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe, “but is every single person in the White House terrified to tell Trump that the Spanish Flu was 1918, not 1917?” . . . Uhh, yes. Yes, they are. In fact, they are petrified, as is every Republican in the country.



Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with the Thought of the Day, this one from H.L. Mencken: “The worst government is often the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression.”


Nick Sinclair announced his resignation as general manager of the OHL’s Sarnia Sting on Saturday. He had been with the organization for 11 seasons, the last six as GM, before deciding to leave. . . . According to a Sting news release, Sinclair has “elected to pursue other career opportunities.” . . . Sinclair left just two weeks after taking the club through the annual OHL draft. . . . Interestingly, Mark Malone of the London Free Press reported that “a Sting spokesman said Saturday no team officials were giving interviews.” . . . That would include co-owners David Legwand and Derian Hatcher, who also is the head coach.


Alive

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