Lambert leaves Chiefs for Music City. . . . WHL teams sign more prospects. . . . Growlers win ECHL in first season


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D Justin Hamonic (Tri-City, 2012-15) has signed a one-year contract with the Coventry Blaze (England, UK Elite). This season, with Angers (France, Ligue Magnus), he had one goal and nine assists in 42 games.


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On May 21, the Spokane Chiefs signed head coach Dan Lambert to an extension, believed SpokaneChiefsto be two years in length.

On June 4, the Chiefs began their search for a new head coach.

Such are the vagaries of major junior hockey.

Lambert, the Chiefs’ head coach for the past two seasons, has joined the NHL’s Nashville Predators as an assistant coach.

It turns out that the Predators came calling one day after the Chiefs and Lambert agreed on that extension.

“I was not looking,” Lambert told Dan Thompson for a story he wrote for the Spokane Spokesman-Review. “This was not my intention at all.”

The Chiefs are one of three WHL teams without a head coach, joining the Kamloops Blazers and Prince George Cougars. The Blazers are looking for a replacement for Serge Lajoie, who departed after one season, while the Cougars need a head coach after firing Richard Matvichuk in February.

In Brandon, David Anning, the head coach of the Wheat Kings for three seasons, is without a contract after his expired on May 31. He also spent four seasons as an assistant coach with Brandon.

In Spokane, it could be that assistant coach Scott Burt is atop the list of potential replacements. Burt has been on the Chiefs’ staff for six seasons now.

Lambert, 49, is a native of St. Boniface, Man. He played four seasons (1986-90) with the Swift Current Broncos, helping them to the 1989 Memorial Cup championship; he was named the tournament’s MVP. He went on to a pro career that ended after five seasons (2004-09) with the Hannover Scorpions of Germany’s DEL.

He got into coaching with the Kelowna Rockets, working as an assistant coach for five seasons (2009-14) and head coach for 2014-15. The Rockets won the Ed Chynoweth Cup in 2015 and reached the Memorial Cup final, where they lost to the OHL’s Oshawa Generals.

He spent 2015-16 as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and was the head coach of their AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans, the next season.

He signed with the Chiefs after being dismissed by the Sabres.

Spokane was 81-46-13 with Lambert as its head coach. This season, the Chiefs finished 40-21-7, then reached the Western Conference final, where they lost to the Vancouver Giants.

This season, the Chiefs had the WHL’s best power play in the regular season (29.1 per cent) and again in the playoffs (36.1). Yes, he is likely to be responsible for Nashville’s PP.

Thompson’s complete story is right here.


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The Red Deer Rebels have signed three of their picks from the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft Red Deer— D Hunter Mayo, D Jace Weir and F Carter Anderson. . . . Mayo, from Martensville, Sask., was selected in the second round. He had 15 goals and 27 assists in 28 games with a bantam AA team in Martensville this season. . . . Weir, from Coldstream, B.C., also was taken in the second round. This season, he had eight goals and 24 assists in 18 games with the North Zone bantams in Coldstream. . . . Anderson, from Thompson, Man., was a third-round pick. This season, with the bantam prep team at the Winnipeg-based Rink Hockey Academy, he had 17 goals and 11 assists in 29 games.

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The Swift Current Broncos have signed G Reid Dyck to a WHL contract. From Winkler, Man., Dyck was a third-round pick in the 2019 bantam draft. He was the second goaltender taken in the draft. . . . This season, he was 3.44 and .912 in 23 games with the bantam AAA Pembina Valley Hawks.

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The Saskatoon Blades have signed F Jayden Wiens to a WHL contract. From Carrot River, Sask., he was an eighth-round selection in the 2018 bantam draft. . . . This season, with the midget AAA Tisdale Trojans, he had seven goals and 27 assists in 44 regular-season games. He added four goals and five assists in seven playoff games, then had six goals and two assists in seven Telus Cup games.


Serge Lajoie, who worked this season as the head coach of the Kamloops Blazers, has been added to the U of Alberta’s Sports Wall of Fame. . . . Lajoie won four national hockey titles with the Golden Bears — one as a player, two as an assistant coach and one as a head coach. He also was once named the U of A’s top male athlete and Canadian university’s male hockey player of the year. . . . Matt Gutach has more right here.


Bill Chow, the president of the SJHL, has had his contract extended through May 31, 2021. Chow has been running the SJHL for eight seasons since taking over on May 31, 2011. . . . The SJHL news release is right here.


Jake Grimes, who had been an associate coach with the OHL-champion Guelph Storm, is qmjhlthe new head coach of the QMJHL’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. . . . Grimes and George Burnett, the Storm’s general manager and head coach, had been together for 13 years in Belleville and Guelph. . . . Grimes, who is from Dartmouth, N.S., had been the Storm’s associate coach for two seasons. . . . The Screaming Eagles fired Marc-Andre Dumont, their GM and head coach, on April 16. . . . Last month, they named Jacques Carrier as general manager, hockey operations, and John Hanna as assistant GM, hockey operations.


The Newfoundland Growlers, in their first ECHL season, won the Kelly Cup on Tuesday night, beating the Toledo Walleye, 4-3, in St. John’s. . . . The Growlers won the best-of-seven final, 4-2. . . . Two ex-WHLers combined for the goal that gave the Growlers a 4-1 lead at 13:32 of the second period. F Giorgio Estephan scored the goal, with Hudson Elynuik getting the lone assist. Estephan, who won a WHL title last season with the Swift Current Broncos, finished with two goals and an assist, while Elynuik, who completed his junior eligibility with the Spokane Chiefs last season, had two assists. . . . Also in the Growlers’ lineup last night were F Matt Bradley, who finished his WHL career last season with the Regina Pats, and Latvian D Kristians Rubins, who spent the previous two seasons with the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . The last ECHL team to win the championship in its first season of existence? The Greensboro Monarchs, in 1990.


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Broncos win first WHL title since ’93 . . . Take out Silvertips in six games . . . Skinner ties shutout record; Gawdin is MVP

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D Dan Gibb (Prince George, 2009-13) signed a one-year contract with Gap (France, Ligue Magnus). This season, with the University of Calgary (Canada West), he had two goals and six assists in 19 gams. He was the team captain. . . .

F Alexander Chirva (Moose Jaw, Kootenay, 2013-15) signed a two-year contract extension with Bars Kazan (Russia, Vysshaya Liga). This season, he had two assists in eight games. . . .

F Vitali Karamnov (Everett, 2007-08) signed a one-year contract extension with Dynamo St. Petersburg (Russia, Vysshaya Liga). The team captain, he had seven goals and 21 assists in 38 games. . . .

F Chase Witala (Prince George, 2010-16) signed a one-year contract extension with Starbulls Rosenheim (Germany, Oberliga). He signed with Rosenheim on Jan. 22, and put up six goals and 11 assists in 12 games. . . . This season, prior to signing with Rosenheim, he had three goals and seven assists in 11 games with the Atlanta Gladiators (ECHL); was pointless in five games with the Norfolk Admirals (ECHL); and was pointless in two games with Zilina (Slovakia, Extraliga).


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The Swift Current Broncos scored two first-period goals, the second one with 0.6 seconds remaining, en route to a 3-0 victory over the visiting Everett Silvertips on Sunday night. SCBroncosThe Broncos won the best-of-seven WHL final, for the Ed Chynoweth Cup, 4-2. . . . This was the third championship in Swift Current’s history. The Broncos won it all in 1989, then went on to win the Memorial Cup in Saskatoon, beating the Blades in the final 29 years ago. In 1993, they won their second WHL title, but didn’t fare as well at the Memorial Cup in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. This also was the first time since 1993 that a Saskatchewan-based team has won the WHL championship. . . . This was Everett’s second trip to the WHL final. It first got that far in 2004, which was its first season — yes, it’s first season — in the WHL. That time, it was swept by the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . Last night, F Giorgio Estephan (13) gave the Broncos a 1-0 lead, on a PP, at 6:41 of the first period. . . . F Aleksi Heponiemi, who drew the primary assist on Estephan’s goal, made it 2-0 with his fifth goal at 19:59. . . . F Beck Malenstyn added the empty-netter with 6.4 seconds remaining in the third period. . . . G Stuart Skinner stopped 31 shots as he recorded his sixth shutout of these playoffs and his second in the last three games of the final. He now shares the WHL record for shutouts in one playoff with Dustin Slade (Vancouver, 2006). . . . Everett got 22 stops from G Carter Hart. . . . Broncos F Glenn Gawdin, the team captain, was named the playoff MVP. He finished with 32 points, including 14 goals. . . . F Brad Morrison of the Lethbridge Hurricanes led all playoff scorers with 37 points. F Morgan Geekie of the Tri-City Americans was No. 1 in goals (17) and Heponiemi was tops in assists (25). . . . Swift Current was 1-5 on the PP; Everett was 0-2. . . . The referees were Chris Crich and Reagan Vetter. . . . The attendance was 2,890.


Two of the men who coached in the WHL final may be on the move shortly.

There is speculation in NHL circles that the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks all have at least some interest in Manny Viveiros, the Broncos’ director of player personnel and head coach. All three NHL teams are, or will be, looking to fill assistant coach vacancies.

Viveiros is the WHL’s reigning coach of the year. His situation is certain to be a big story during the Memorial Cup in Regina.

Meanwhile, sources indicate that Mitch Love, who has been on Everett’s coaching staff since 2011-12, has been interviewed by the Saskatoon Blades, who are looking to replace Dean Brockman, who was fired when their season ended.

The Blades also have shown interest in Serge Lajoie, who spent the past three seasons as head coach of the U of Alberta Golden Bears. This season, Lajoie guided the Golden Bears to the Canadian university championship.

Lajoie is looking now because Ian Herbers has returned to the U of A after being dropped by the Oilers. Herbers had been on sabbatical while with the Oilers.

Lajoie’s son, Marc, a defenceman, was selected by the Tri-City Americans with the 14th overall selection of the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft.


The four teams are set for the 100th running of the Memorial Cup tournament that opens Friday in Regina. Interestingly, none of the four teams won its league’s regular-season title.

The Regina Pats, of course, are the host team. They finished seventh in the WHL’s overall standings. The Moose Jaw Warriors were first overall, then lost out to the Swift Current Broncos in the second round. The Broncos, who were second overall, six points behind the Warriors, won the WHL title at home on Sunday night.

In the OHL, the Hamilton Bulldogs, who were second overall, beat out the No. 1 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds on Sunday, winning Game 6, 5-4, on Sunday. In the 68-game regular season, the Greyhounds finished 13 points ahead of the Bulldogs.

In the QMJHL, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan beat the visiting Blainville-Boisbriand Aramada, 2-1, in Game 6 on Sunday night. In the regular season, the Armada finished first overall, with 107 points, 11 more than the second-place Titan.

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The Memorial Cup schedule (all times local):

Game 1, Friday – Hamilton vs. Regina, 8 p.m.

Game 2, Saturday – Swift Current vs. Acadie-Bathurst, 2 p.m.

Game 3, Sunday – Regina vs. Acadie-Bathurst, 5 p.m.

Game 4, Monday, May 21 – Swift Current vs. Hamilton, 6 p.m.

Game 5, Tuesday, May 22 – Acadie-Bathurst vs. Hamilton, 8 p.m.

Game 6, Wednesday, May 23 – Regina vs. Swift Current, 8 p.m.

Tiebreaker (if necessary) – Thursday, May 24, 6 p.m.

Semifinal – Friday, May 25, 8 p.m.

Final — Sunday, May 27, 5 p.m.


The legendary Clare Drake, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November, died on Sunday morning. He was 89. Drake was a long-time coach of the U of Alberta Golden Bears, and his coaching tree is as large as anyone who has ever been involved in hockey. . . . Jim Matheson, the hall-of-fame hockey writer, has more right here.


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Estephan the OT hero as Broncos tie WHL final . . . Boschman recalls first-year Senators . . . NYT’s Branch on the late Jeff Parker

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The host Swift Current Broncos erased a 3-0 deficit and beat the Everett Silvertips, 4-3 in OT, on Saturday night, tying the WHL’s best-of-seven championship final, for the Ed SCBroncosChynoweth Cup, at 1-1. . . . The series now heads for Everett and the next three games — on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday nights. . . . Last night, F Giorgio Estephan (12) won it for the Broncos at 9:25 of extra time when he scored off a rebound. . . . The Silvertips had taken a 3-0 first-period lead on goals from F Matt Fonteyne (7), at 3:14; F Martin Fasko-Rudas (5), at 10:11; and F Riley Sutter (7), at 14:26. . . . F Matteo Gennaro (9), who also had two assists, got the Broncos on the scoreboard at 8:17 of the second period. . . . D Colby Sissons (4) pulled the home side to within a goal at 6:22 of the third period. . . . F Tyler Steenbergen (12) tied it at 18:23, with G Stuart Skinner on the bench for the extra attacker. . . . Skinner finished with 40 saves, six more than Everett’s Carter Hart. . . . Referees Stephen Campbell and Reagan Vetter gave the Broncos four of the game’s seven minors. . . . Everett had been 8-0 on the road in these playoffs. . . . According to Geoffrey Brandow (@GeoffreyBrandow), this was the first time since Nov. 30, 2014, that Everett had blown a 3-0 lead. On that date, Brandow tweeted, Everett dropped “a 4-3 (OT) decision to the Kootenay Ice after going up 3-0. A span of 310 games between the regular season and postseason.” . . . Attendance was 2,890.


What does it say about the NHL that it didn’t put the clamps on Boston Bruins F Brad Marchand after the first time he licked an opponent’s face? And what is the difference between licking and spitting in someone’s face? Spitting surely would bring a suspension, wouldn’t it?


Kevin Mitchell, the superb writer from the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, stopped by the intersection of Saskatchewan highways 35 and 335 on Friday, exactly four weeks after the tragedy involving the Humboldt Broncos’ bus. . . . “It’s a restless corner,” he writes. “Cars drive past, passenger necks craned. Kids peek out the window as a school bus makes its daily pass. People stop, exit, wander through paths carved out beside piled hockey sticks, flowers, brightly-spinning pinwheels.” . . . The complete piece is right here and it’s well worth you time.


According to Bleacher Report, the UFC heavyweight championship is “the hardest title to keep.” . . . RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com begs to differ, noting “For my money, it’s world’s oldest man.”


Laurie Boschman, who played on the 1978-79 Brandon Wheat Kings, has memories from playing on the Ottawa Senators when they were an NHL expansion franchise. While the Wheat Kings lost only five games in that WHL regular season, that Senators team is remembered as one of the worst in NHL history. Roy MacGregor of The Globe and Mail chatted with Boschman and the result is right here.


Just the other day I posted something here about the OHL having suspended F Givani Smith of the Kitchener Rangers for two games after he flipped the bird to the Son Greyhounds’ bench after a playoff game. Josh Brown of the Waterloo Region Record did some digging into what Smith, who is black, has dealt with during his career. I’ll give you a hint: This isn’t pretty. . . . Brown’s piece is right here.


John Branch of The New York Times wrote the book on former WHL and NHL player Derek Boogaard — Boy on Ice: The Life and Death of Derek Boogaard — and has continued to write on the concussion issue and hockey. In his latest piece, Branch writes about Jeff Parker, “who played in the NHL from 1986 to 1991 and died last year at age 53, and will be seen as another link between hockey head hits and CTE; the league has denied such a link exists.” . . . That story is right here.


If you are paying attention to Major League Baseball, you will be aware that there are an insane number of strikeouts in the game these days. How much of it can be blamed on hitters searching for the perfect launch angle? Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle had a conversation about just that with Tim Flannery, a former player and long-time coach, and it’s all right here. . . . It’s all part of a three-dot column, and those almost always are fun and full of interesting info. Enjoy!


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Broncos, Silvertips to meet for WHL title . . . Estephan keys Swift Current win . . . Davis caps Everett’s amazing comeback

The Swift Current Broncos and Everett Silvertips will meet in the WHL’s championship final for the Ed Chynoweth Cup. The best-of-seven series will be played in a 2-3-2 format, opening in Swift Current with games on Friday and Saturday nights. They’ll play in Everett on May 8, May 9 and, if necessary, May 11. If needed, Games 6 and 7 would be played in Swift Current on May 13 and May 14.

The Broncos haven’t been in the WHL final since 1993 when they got past the Portland Winter Hawks — yes, the nickname was two words back in the day — in seven games.

The Broncos beat the host Lethbridge Hurricanes, 5-1, on Monday night to win the best-SCBroncosof-seven Eastern Conference final, 4-2. . . . The Hurricanes went into the game with an 8-0 record at home in these playoffs. They also had scored at least five goals in seven of those victories. . . . The Broncos now are 5-5 on the road. . . . Last night, the Broncos erased a 1-0 deficit with three second-period goals in a span of 96 seconds. F Matteo Gennaro tied it 1-1 at 6:33; F Alexi Heponiemi made it 2-1 at 7:02 and F Beck Malenstyn upped it to 3-1 at 8:09. . . . Former Hurricanes captain Giorgio Estephan gave Lethbridge fans something to remember him by with a PP goal for a 4-1 lead at 2:12 of the third period. . . . Broncos G Stuart Skinner finished with 33 saves, 19 of them in the first period when his guys were outshot, 20-2.

In Kennewick, Wash., the Silvertips erased a 5-2 third-period deficit to beat the Tri-City Americans, 6-5 in OT. Everett won the Western Conference final, 4-2. . . . Everett last Everettreached the championship final in 2004, its first season in the WHL, when it was swept by the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . D Kevin Davis (3) won it with his second goal of the game, at 5:58 of OT. Davis, who turned 21 on March 14, was playing in his 401st game with the Silvertips — 347 regular-season games and 54 in the playoffs. Yes, he went into the game with two goals in his previous 53 playoff games. . . . Everett is 7-0 on the road in these playoffs. . . . Tri-City had trailed 2-1 before scoring four straight goals, the last one, by F Jordan Topping (4) at 8:52 of the third period. . . . F Connor Dewar (9) started the Everett comeback at 9:52. Davis (2) pulled his guys to within one at 13:53, and F Garrett Pilon (11) tied it at 14:29. . . . Pilon had left the game at 17:30 of the first period after taking a hit from behind from Tri-City F Michael Rasmussen. However, Pilon returned for the second period. . . . Tri-City D Juuso Valimaki, who had two goals in a 5-2 victory in Game 5 on Saturday, had four assists in Game 6 as he figured in each of his club’s first four scores. . . . G Carter Hart stopped 18 shots for Everett. . . . Tri-City G Patrick Dea made 31 saves, 18 of them in the first period when his guys were outshot 20-4. . . . Announced attendance was 3,033.


The OHL announced Monday that it had suspended F Givani Smith of the Kitchener Rangers for two games after he made an “inappropriate gesture” at the end of Sunday’s 4-3 victory over the visiting Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. . . . Kitchener won the game in OT to tie the best-of-seven series, 3-3. Smith had a goal and two assists in the victory. . . . The teams played Game 7 on Monday night in the Soo, with the Greyhounds winning, 4-3 in double OT, to advance to the championship final against the Hamilton Bulldogs. . . . Smith, who turned 20 on Feb. 27, sat out last night. He was a second-round selection by the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL’s 2016 draft. . . . The OHL final is scheduled to open Thursday in the Soo.


With Ian Herbers officially having returned to his post as head coach with the U of Alberta Golden Bears, it means that Serge Lajoie is looking for work. Herbers spent the last three years on sabbatical as he worked as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. With him gone, Lajoie took over as the Golden Bears’ head coach and won the 2018 USports championship. . . . It’s an open secret that Lajoie has talked with the Saskatoon Blades about their head-coaching vacancy. The Blades are looking to replace Dean Brockman, who was fired at season’s end. . . . Jason Hills of Postmedia reports that Lajoie also has talked with the Red Deer Rebels, who have an opening after they and associate coach Jeff Truitt chose to part company.


Erik Largen is the new head coach at the U of Alaska-Fairbanks. Largen, 31, spent the previous two seasons with the Nanooks as an assistant coach. He now is the youngest head coach in NCAA Division I hockey ranks. . . . Largen takes over from Lance West, who had been the interim head coach for the 2017-18 season after Dallas Ferguson left to take over as head coach of the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. . . . College Hockey News has more on this story right here.


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D Mitch Versteeg (Lethbridge, 2006-09) signed a one-year extension with Nitra (Slovakia, Extraliga). He had three goals and seven assists in 49 games. . . .

F Jesse Mychan (Everett, Tri-City, 2011-13) signed a one-year contract with Nitra (Slovakia, Extraliga). This season, he had two assists in five games with Innsbruck (Austria, Erste Bank Liga), and 14 goals and 11 assists in 43 games with the Colorado Eagles (ECHL). . . .

D Jim Vandermeer (Red Deer, 1997-2001) signed a one-year contract extension with the Belfast Giants (Northern Ireland, UK Elite). As a player/assistant coach, he had seven goals and 16 assists in 33 games this season. . . .

F Spencer Edwards (Red Deer, Seattle, Moose Jaw, 2006-11) signed a one-year contract with Amiens (France, Ligue Magnus). This season, he had 20 goals and 22 assists in 44 games with Bordeaux (France, Ligue Magnus).


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Broncos’ Estephan answers boo birds . . . Valimaki, Americans stayin’ alive . . . MacGregor: NHL season drags on too long

F Giorgio Estephan, who according to reports was treated rather rudely during Game 4 Lethbridgein Lethbridge on Wednesday night, answered the hooters with two goals and an assist on Saturday, leading the host Swift Current Broncos to a 4-3 victory over the Hurricanes. . . . The Broncos lead the WHL’s best-of-seven Eastern Conference final, 3-2, and have an opportunity to end it in Lethbridge on Monday when you have to think Estephan and G Stuart Skinner will again be given a huge raspberry welcome by the fans there. . . . Skinner stopped 27 shots in Game 5. . . . He and Estephan were veteran Hurricanes when they were traded to the Broncos in January. . . . Estephan, with 10 goals in these playoffs, gave his guys a 2-1 lead, on a PP, at 19:12 of the second period, then made it 4-2 at 6:41 of the third period. . . . The Hurricanes got to within a goal when D Egor Zudilov (1) scored, on a PP, at 18:59, with G Logan Flodell on the bench for an extra attacker. . . . The Broncos had D Artyom Minulin and F Glenn Gawdin, their captain, back for this one. Minulin left Game 1 with an undisclosed injury, while Gawdin was injured in Game 2. . . . Minulin and Gawdin each had one assist last night. . . . F Brad Morrison scored once for Lethbridge, giving him a WHL-leading 37 points. He has tied the franchise record for points in one playoff season that was set by F Wes Walz in 1990.


In Everett, D Juuso Valimaki scored twice to lead the Tri-City Americans to a 5-2 victory TriCity30over the Silvertips on Saturday night. . . . Everett leads the WHL’s best-of-seven Western Conference final, 3-2, and gets a second chance to wrap it up when they play Monday in Kennewick, Wash. . . . Everett F Connor Dewar (7) tied a WHL playoff record when he scored seven seconds into the game. He now shares the mark with F Trevor Linden of the Medicine Hat Tigers. He did it on April 15, 1988, as the Tigers beat the host Saskatoon Blades, 6-5. If you are wondering, the regular-season record of five seconds was set by F Dean Sexsmith of the Seattle Thunderbirds on Jan. 30, 1987, in a 7-6 victory over the visiting Victoria Cougars. . . . On Saturday, Valimaki, who has four goals, tied it at 2:29 of the second period, then gave his guys a 4-1 lead at 5:23 of the third. . . . The Americans got 35 saves from G Patrick Dea. . . . The Silvertips were without Slovkian F Martin Fasko-Rudas, who left Game 4 with an undisclosed injury. With Fasko-Rudas out, F Dawson Butt got into the lineup.


In Steinbach, Man., F Braden Purtill scored twice and G Matthew Thiessen stopped 25 Steinbachshots to help the MJHL-champion Pistons to a 3-1 victory over the SJHL-champion Nipawin Hawks on Saturday night. . . . The best-of-seven ANAVET Cup series is tied, 1-1, with the next three games scheduled for Nipawin on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday nights. . . . Last night, Nipawin took a 1-0 lead on a goal from F Logan Casavant. F Brandan Arnold drew the primary assist. Nipawin scored five goals in the first two games; Arnold has three goals and two assists. . . . Steinbach F Austin Heidemann tied it, on a PP, at 4:06 of the third period. . . . Purtill broke the tie at 10:32, then added insurance, on a PP, at 13:44. . . . Announced attendance was 1,165.


In Wenatchee, Wash., G Austin Park blocked 31 shots to lead the BCHL-champion Wild to Wenatcheea 3-0 victory over the AJHL-champion Spruce Grove Saints. . . . The Wild leads the best-of-seven Doyle Cup series, 2-0, with the remainder of the series scheduled to be played in Spruce Grove starting with games on Tuesday and Wednesday. If necessary, they’ll also play Thursday, Friday and Saturday. . . . Last night, F August Von Ungern gave the Wild a 1-0 lead at 11:29 of the third period. . . . The home team later added a pair of empty-netters, from F Jasper Weatherby and F A.J. Vanderbeck. . . . The announced attendance was 2,835.


Roy MacGregor of The Globe and Mail tackled the length of the NHL’s season in a Saturday piece that is right here.

Of the NHL playoffs, MacGregor writes: “The happiest hockey, the hockey fans enjoy by NHLfar the most, comes in the first round and sometimes in the second round, with the interest and, usually, the quality of play deteriorating steadily until the Stanley Cup is ultimately decided. What would be the climax in any other sport becomes, at best, duty to those hockey fans without a city in the final. Television numbers might still be up, but there is a profound difference between background sound and passionate cheering.”

As one would expect from MacGregor, this is a piece that hits the nail squarely on the head.

Of course, he also could have pointed his keyboard at virtually all levels of hockey because, really, the season has become pathetically long, not only for the fans, but also for so many teams and players. The calendar is going to turn to May and the WHL won’t be through the third round of its playoffs, with the championship final and the Memorial Cup still to come. It’s the same for junior A teams, whose season will conclude next month with the Royal Bank Cup in Chilliwack, B.C.

And we won’t even get into spring hockey, summer hockey and all the spring camps and tryout camps . . .

For me, it’s now baseball season. When it comes to the NHL, I will make a point of watching the Vegas Golden Knights, simply because the expansionists are the greatest story in sports right now.

I also watch the Golden Knights because I love the way they play the game, pressuring the puck all over the ice. As I watch, I wonder how many NHL teams will be scrambling to emulate this style next season.

But as the NHL playoffs drag on, so does the play, what with all of the uncalled cross-checking, holding, interference and other penalties. All that does is penalize speed and skill, something that quite likely will end up playing a role in the eventual demise of the Golden Knights.

As for the rest of the NHL playoffs . . . as for the over-hyped silliness that was the NHL draft lottery . . . as for all the rest of it . . . well, not even the presence of Brian Burke and his tired untied tie shtick in a TV studio is enough to draw me back.


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Mitchell looks back at Humboldt . . . Broncos, Americans win . . . MJHL title rests in Steinbach

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Kevin Mitchell of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix is one of Canada’s best-kept writing secrets. He is a wordsmith and an observer of the human condition who could more than hold his own in any marketplace. . . . On Saturday, he wrote about visiting Humboldt immediately after the Broncos’ bus crash and all that he discovered. That piece is right here.



F Giorgio Estephan’s third goal of the game, at 9:38 of OT, gave the host Swift Current Broncos a 4-3 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes in Game 2 of the WHL’s best-of-SCBroncosseven Eastern Conference final on Saturday night. . . . They’ll play Game 3 in Lethbridge on Tuesday. . . . TheBroncos had won the opener, 3-2, on Friday night. . . . Estephan and G Stuart Skinner, who stopped 36 shots, were acquired from the Hurricanes on Jan. 9. . . . The Broncos lost F Glenn Gawdin in the second period, according to Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post, “after he took a hit in the corner. Asked about his captain after the game, (Broncos head coach Manny) Viveiros responded: ‘He’s fine.’ ” As Harder noted: “That’s his customary response to questions about injuries — regardless of the severity.” . . . Harder added: “The Broncos were already without D Artyom Minulin, who didn’t finish Game 1 due to an undisclosed injury that was initially described as an illness. He missed three games in the first round due to an apparent shoulder issue and may have re-injured it on Friday.” . . .

Harder’s complete story is right here.

Darren Steinke, the travellin’ blogger, also was at the game and his piece is right here.


In Everett, the Tri-City Americans scored three third-period goals and beat the Silvertips, 5-3. Tri-City F Max James broke a 3-3 tie with his first goal of these playoffs at 12:29 of the third period. . . . The Western Conference final is tied, 1-1, with Game 3 in Kennewick, Wash., on Monday night.


The Steinbach Pistons won the MJHL title on Saturday night, beating the hometown Virden Oil Capitals, 2-1. Virden won the first two games of the best-of-seven series, only to have Steinbach roar back with four straight victories to win its first championship since 2013. . . . Paul Dyck, a former WHL defenceman (Moose Jaw, 1989-91), is in his sixth season as the Pistons’ general manager and head coach. . . . The Pistons will play the SJHL champion — either the Nipawin Hawks or Estevan Bruins — for the ANAVET Cup. Nipawin leads the SJHL final, 3-2, with Game 6 in Estevan tonight (Sunday) at 7:30.


Former WHL player Sheldon Kennedy is being honoured by Assiniboine Community College of Brandon. Kennedy has been awarded ACC’s second annual Courage Award, and will be saluted at a dinner on Oct. 25. . . . He was born in Brandon and grew up in Elkhorn, Man. . . . Kennedy heads up the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre and also is the co-founder of Respect Group.


Last fall, three men died in Fernie, B.C., after being exposed to ammonia while working on the ice plant in the community’s arena. After that tragedy, WorkdSafeBC began inspecting arenas and recreation facilities across the province. Now, Karin Larsen of CBC News reports, communities are having to find money for repairs. For example, Larsen writes, Rossland needs $200,000 “to keep (its arena) operating” because safety upgrades are needed around the ice plant. . . . The same holds true, to one extent or another, for numerous facilities. . . . Larsen’s story is right here.


Tuesday’s WHL deals: If Broncos weren’t all-in before, they are now . . . Hurricanes land Barlage . . . Three other deals, too

WHEELING AND DEALING …

NUMBER OF TRADES (since Nov. 13): 41

PLAYERS: 78

BANTAM DRAFT PICKS: 49

CONDITONAL BANTAM DRAFT PICKS: 8

THE DEADLINE: Wednesday, Jan. 10 (2 p.m. PT, 3 p.m. MT, 4 p.m. CT)


THE DEAL: The Swift Current Broncos acquired F Giorgio Estephan, 20, F Tanner Nagel, 19, and G Stuart Skinner, 19, from the Swift Current Broncos for F Logan Barlage, 16, F Owen Blocker, 17, D Matthew Stanley, 19, G Logan Flodell, 20, first- and third-round selections in the 2020 WHL bantam draft and a conditional second-round pick in 2021.

THE NUMBERS: Estephan, the Hurricanes’ captain, put up 297 points, including 119 SCBroncosgoals, in 297 regular-season games with Lethbridge. This season, he had 58 points, including 18 goals, in 39 games. . . . Estephan is fifth on the Hurricanes’ career list for games played (297), tied for seventh in points (297), nine in goals (119) and fourth in assists (178). . . . Last season, he finished with 35 goals and 54 assists in 68 games, then added 11 goals and 13 helpers in 18 playoff games. . . . Nagel was acquired from the Portland Winterhawks on Sept. 16, 2016. He has played 107 games with Lethbridge, recording 13 goals and 11 assists. This season, Nagel has three goals and five assists in 35 games. . . . Skinner made 182 appearances with the Hurricanes, going 88-66-13, 3.30, .907. He is first in franchise history in four career categories — games played (182), minutes played (9,885), saves (5,318) and victories (88). . . .

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Barlage has one goal and six assists in 37 games with the Broncos this season. Last season, he had 37 goals and 39 assists in 44 games with the midget AAA Prince Albert Mintos. In 2015-16, his draft season, Barlage put up 60 goals and 65 assists in 30 games with the bantam AA Humboldt Broncos. . . . Blocker, 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, has one goal in 27 games this season. In 71 career games, he has one goal and one assist. . . . In 40 games this season, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound. . . . This season, Stanley has four assists in 40 games. In 91 career games, he has five assists. . . . Flodell made 35 appearances with the Broncos this season, going 24-8-3, 3.07, .913 with three shutouts. The Broncos acquired him from the Saskatoon Blades earlier in the season.

THE INFO: The Broncos now have five first-round selections from the 2013 bantam draft Lethbridgeon their roster — D Josh Anderson (Prince George), F Tyler Steenbergen (their own pick), Skinner, F Beck Malenstyn (Calgary) and F Kaden Elder (Seattle). However, the Broncos have traded away all of their first-rounders from 2014 through 2020 — D Dominic Schmiemann, 2014 (Calgary), F Riley Stotts, 2015 (Calgary), Barlage, and D Joel Sexsmith, 2017 (Vancouver). . . . The Broncos did get a 2019 first-round pick from Vancouver for the rights to Sexsmith. . . . Estephan, from Edmonton, was the fourth-overall selection in the 2012 bantam draft. He was a sixth-round pick by the Buffalo Sabres in the NHL’s 2015 draft, but was never signed. . . . Nagel, who turns 20 on Jan. 27, is from Mossbank, Sask., but pretty much grew up in Swift Current. He was an alternate captain with the Hurricanes. . . . Lethbridge selected Skinner in the first round of the 2013 bantam draft. The Edmonton Oilers picked him in the third round of the NHL’s 2017 draft. He has yet to sign a pro contract. . . .

The Broncos selected Barlage, who is from Humboldt, Sask., with the fourth overall pick in the 2016 bantam draft. He will turn 17 on Friday and is eligible for the NHL’s 2019 draft. . . . In 2013-14, with a peewee AA team in Humboldt, Barlage had 274 points, including 175 goals, in 56 games. . . . From Oakbank, Man., Blocker was selected by the Broncos in the second round of the 2015 bantam draft. . . . The Broncos picked Stanley in the 12th round of the 2013 bantam draft. He’s from Balmoral, Man. . . . Flodell, from Regina, was a third-round pick by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the 2012 bantam draft. Last season, with Saskatoon, he was an Eastern Conference second-team all-star.

WHY: Swift Current’s braintrust apparently felt it was one rung below Moose Jaw — at the time of the deal, the Warriors led the overall standings by eight points over the Broncos — and chose to try and do something about it. So the Broncos struck in a big way, but the price was steep. You have to think they know that’s the way it would be when Manny Viveiros, their director of hockey operations and head coach, first inquired about getting both Estephan and Skinner. . . . At the same time, the Hurricanes were eager to get their hands on Barlage. As Lethbridge GM Peter Anholt said in a news release: “To be able to get Barlage in the trade was the key to this move. He’s a big, young guy who has a lot of potential and we think he will be a real good player who will be an important piece to us now and (in the) future.”


THE DEAL: The Swift Current Broncos acquired F Andrew Fyten, 19, from the Calgary Hitmen for the rights to D Ethan Martini, 17, or a conditional third-round selection in the 2020 WHL bantam draft.

THE NUMBERS: Fyten had six goals and 10 assists in 40 games with the Hitmen this Calgaryseason. In 155 career games, all with Calgary, the 6-foot-1, 190-pounder has 14 goals and 21 assists. . . . Martini is in his second BCHL season with his hometown Trail Smoke Eaters after playing at the Edge School in Calgary. He has six assists in 40 games this season. Last season, he had a goal and four assists in 58 games.

THE INFO: From Sundre, Alta., Fyten was a fifth-round pick by the Everett Silvertips in the 2013 bantam draft. He was dealt to Calgary on May 8, 2015, for a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2016 bantam draft. . . . The Broncos selected Martini in the third round of the WHL’s 2015 bantam draft. Under the terms of the deal, if he doesn’t sign with Calgary, the Hitmen will get that third-round pick in the 2020 bantam draft.

WHY: The Broncos added some depth and some grit to their forward group, while the Hitmen get to take a shot at recruiting Martini, who has been a pretty solid junior A defender.


THE DEAL: The Medicine Hat Tigers acquired F Elijah Brown, who turned 18 on Jan. 5, from the Seattle Thunderbirds for a second-round pick in the 2018 WHL bantam draft Tigers Logo Officialand a conditional third-round pick in 2019.

THE NUMBERS: Brown had six goals and 14 assists in 80 games with Seattle. He had a goal and an assist in two games in 2015-16 and four goals and nine assists in 64 games last season. This season, he had a goal and four assists in 14 games when he chose to go home.

THE INFO: The Thunderbirds selected Brown, who is from Edmonton, in the first round of the 2015 bantam draft. . . . He had been on Seattle’s suspended list since Nov. 1 when he chose to leave the club due to what he felt was a lack of playing time. . . . Medicine Hat assistant coach Bobby Fox and Brown were together on Team Alberta at the Western Canada U-16 Challenge Cup in 2015.

WHY: The Tigers get to add a former first-rounder who has some upside to their roster, while the Thunderbirds get a couple of assets for someone who didn’t fit with them.


THE DEAL: The Prince George Cougars acquired D Cameron MacPhee, 18, from the PrinceGeorgeMedicine Hat Tigers for a seventh-round pick in the 2018 WHL bantam draft.

THE NUMBERS: The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder, who is from Edmonton, had one goal in 20 games with the Tigers this season. Last season, he had one assist in 16 games.

THE INFO: The Tigers had dropped MacPhee from their roster in November, saying that he had gone home to deal with a personal matter.

WHY: The Cougars didn’t pay a whole lot to get a half-season look at someone who could spend the next two seasons with them. . . . The Tigers add a draft pick for a player who wasn’t coming back to them.