Cozens on shelf for up to three months after thumb surgery. . . . Burnett signs to coach Blues. . . . Four more ex-WHLers get deals overseas


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F Štěpán Novotný (Kelowna, Swift Current, 2008-11) has signed a one-year contract with Třinec (Czech Republic, Extraliga). Last season, in 33 games with Frýdek-Místek (Czech Republic, 1. Liga), he had a team-leading 22 goals and 10 assists. On loan to Třinec, he had two goals and three assists in 14 games. . . .

D Tomáš Kundrátek (Medicine Hat, 2008-10) has signed a three-year contract with Třinec (Czech Republic, Extraliga). Last season, with Kunlun Red Star Beijing (China, KHL), he had three assists in 25 games, and he was an alternate captain. He also had one goal and one assist in six games with Třinec, and one goal and three assists in 13 games with Davos (Switzerland, National). . . .

F Robin Kovář (Vancouver, Regina, 2001-04) has signed a one-year contract with the Bracknell Bees (England, National). Last season, he had five assists in eight games with Budapest (Hungary, Erste Liga), and 12 goals and 16 assists in 15 games with the Blackburn Hawks (England, National Division 1). . . .

F Trevor Cheek (Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, 2010-13) has signed a one-year contract with Esbjerg Energy (Denmark, Metal Ligaen). Last season, with the Tucson Roadrunners (AHL), he had seven goals and three assists in 63 games.


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It would seem that F Dylan Cozens’ participation in the Lethbridge Hurricanes’ training Lethbridgecamp is up in the air. He definitely will miss the World Junior Summer Showcase, which is scheduled for Plymouth, Mich., July 26 through Aug. 3. . . . Cozens was selected by the Buffalo Sabres with the seventh-overall pick of the NHL’s 2019 draft in Vancouver on June 21. He suffered an injury to his left thumb on June 29 when he put his hand out in an attempt to cushion the fall after absorbing a hip check during the Sabres’ development camp. Cozens left the ice immediately and it was apparent that he had been injured just by the position of the thumb. . . . Cozens underwent surgery on Wednesday and, as the tweet from the Sabres suggests, will be sidelined for up to three months. . . . The Hurricanes will open training camp in late August and are to open the regular season on Sept. 20. . . . Last season, he finished with 34 goals and 50 assists in 68 regular-season games, then added four goals and four assists in seven playoff games.


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Gord Burnett is the new head coach of the MJHL’s Winnipeg Blues. A Regina native, Burnett spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach with the Kootenay Ice. . . . The Ice, which has moved to Winnipeg, and Blues both are owned by 50 Below Sports + Entertainment. . . . With the Blues, Burnett replaces Billy Keane, who had been the GM/head coach for the past two seasons. . . . Taras McEwen was named the Blues’ new general manager in May.


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Gaglardi ‘suspects’ Lajoie will be back. . . . Habscheid, Love in war of the words. . . . Ice, assistant coach go separate ways


MacBeth

F Aaron Gagnon (Seattle, 2001-07) has signed a one-year contract extension with Langnau (Switzerland, NL). This season, he had 14 goals and 14 assists in 39 games.


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It seems that a lot of folks who follow the WHL are wondering about the coaching situation with the Kamloops Blazers. Specifically, they want to know if Serge Lajoie will be back for a second season as the head coach.

You will be aware that the Blazers went 28-32-8 this season, then beat the Kelowna Kamloops1Rockets in a tiebreaker to get into the playoffs, where they were beaten in six games by the Victoria Royals in a spirited first-round series.

Let’s break down the Blazers’ season a little bit.

Darryl Sydor, one of the franchise’s five owners, was named a full-time assistant coach on Feb. 12. A former Blazers defenceman who went on to play and coach in the NHL, Sydor is a two-time Stanley Cup winner and also won a Memorial Cup.

When the Blazers made that announcement, they were 20-27-5. With Sydor officially on board, they finished the regular-season 8-5-3, won that tiebreaker, then went 2-4 in the playoffs.

So, all told, they were 11-9-3 after the Sydor announcement.

Which brings us to an interview that Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week did with Tom Gaglardi, the Blazers’ majority owner. Here are three questions and answers:

Hastings: Will Serge be the head coach to start next season?

Gaglardi: I suspect so. He’s got a long-term contract and we haven’t had any conversation about anything other than that. We’re very happy with where we are. We had a great finish to the year and we’re excited about next season, but this week is just a week to lick our wounds. This is a series (vs. Victoria) we truly thought we could win.

Hastings: What do you think assistant coach Darryl Sydor brought to the team?

Gaglardi: Darryl really understands what it takes to win and what a successful bench feels like. He’s been a long-time player and had success at the junior level, had success at the NHL level, won a couple of Stanley Cups. He knows what benches need. I think he was really instrumental in figuring out what his role could be to help. Sometimes you’ve got a coach that’s a hard coach and the kids need to be brought up and built back, and Darryl really understands the ying and yang, the methods, and figured out a role that he could help in. He really worked hard to make sure the kids believed they could actually get the job done. He perhaps brought something to the staff that was missing. Darryl is a tremendous guy and I was thrilled when he agreed to join full-time and come on board and he made a difference.

Hastings: Does Darryl have what it takes to be a head coach here or somewhere else?

Gaglardi: I’ve got to think so, if that’s what he wants to do. He’s come home and I think he’d like to be involved in some way. We’ve had lots of talks around this for a long time. What this blossoms into, I’m not sure. He’s a tremendous guy and we’d love to have him involved. He’s got kids playing competitive hockey. I’m not sure where he’s going to be, in terms of level of commitment next year, whether he’s ready to step in and take on some sort of full-time role again with the club. I’m not sure. He did make a big difference to us down the stretch.

That complete interview is right here.

I don’t have any idea what the future holds here. I do know that in the 12 seasons under the ownership of Gaglardi, Sydor, Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla and Mark Recchi, the Blazers have gotten out of the first round twice, been a first-round casualty six times, and have missed the playoffs on four occasions.

Lajoie is the 10th head coach or interim head coach, including Guy Charron on two occasions, this franchise has employed over those 12 seasons.


It’s ‘Game On’ in the Eastern Conference seminal between the Prince Albert Raiders and Saskatoon Blades.

The series resumes tonight in Saskatoon, with the Raiders holding a 2-0 lead. Game 3 will be televised by Sportsnet.

Other than the quotes in the above tweets, Ryan Flaherty of Global TV in Saskatoon also Saskatoontweeted this quote from Blades head coach Mitch Love:

“There was four head-whipping incidents (Sunday) night, three of which led to penalties on our side, by their players. So is that embellishment? I don’t know. Is it? I hope they’re getting their necks fixed over there today.”

You’ll recall that prior to the series Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, offered up PrinceAlbertthese thoughts to Darren Zary of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix:

“They embellish. That’s what they do. They led the league in drawing minors. It’s known around (the league) that they do that. Hopefully, that stops because it’s not a good thing. You look at a guy like Kirby Dach. He’s a good player. I met the young man at the Prospects game. A great kid, awesome kid and really great player. He doesn’t need to embellish. He’s better than that. He’s a good enough player. He doesn’t need to that.”

As Zary reports in a story posted on Monday evening, Love went so far as to suggest that the WHL office needs to be paying more attention to player safety.

“I really chose not to say too much about it up until this point,” Zary quotes Love as having said, “but after watching two games in which I felt there were several incidents — especially (Sunday night’s) hockey game where there was a lot of contact towards players’ heads — I know our league stresses player safety, so I think the real story here is how people have turned a blind eye to that kind of thing, based on comments that were made previously, prior to the start of the series.”

Zary’s story is right here.

And, in case you missed it, here’s some video of Habscheid off the Sportsnet telecast early in Game 2 on Saturday night. . . .


The Winnipeg Ice revealed via Twitter on Monday that the organization and assistant coach Gord Burnett “have agreed to part ways.” Burnett, a native of Regina, just completed his fourth season on the Ice’s coaching staff. . . . According to the Ice’s website, its coaching staff now comprises head coach James Patrick and associate coach Jon Klemm. . . . Patrick, from Winnipeg, and Klemm, who is from Cranbrook, have been with the Ice through two seasons.


F Kyle Olson of the Tri-City Americans has joined the San Diego Gulls, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, on an ATO. From Calgary, Olson was selected by the Ducks in the fourth round of the NHL’s 2017 draft. He hasn’t signed an NHL contract. . . . This season, Olson, who turned 20 on March 22, had 21 goals and 49 assists in 62 games with the Americans.


The Edmonton Oil Kings have signed D Matt Smith to a WHL contract. An Edmonton native, Smith was a third-round selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. . . . He played this season with the midget AAA Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., Rangers, recording two goals and 10 assists in 41 regular-season and playoff games.


Rick Westhead of TSN filed another story regarding the minimum-wage lawsuit on Monday, and this one really involves the WHL.

“A fight is unfolding in the Western Hockey League minimum-wage class-action lawsuit over the privacy of current and former players who pursue a claim against the league for minimum wage, back pay and overtime,” Westhead writes.

“A year and a half after an Alberta judge certified a minimum-wage lawsuit against the WHL, lawyers for the plaintiffs and the league are now battling over how to notify those players about their right to proceed with a case or, if they choose, withdraw from the litigation.

“The two sides will appear at a hearing in Calgary on Monday to make arguments about the notice the players will be given regarding the lawsuit.”

The complete story is right here.

Westhead also mentioned that “the CHL and its three leagues have been battling minimum-wage lawsuits for the past five years.”

It is hard to fathom that it already has been that long. Wouldn’t you like to know how much money the WHL has spent on legal fees over that time?


F Joachim Blichfeld of the Portland Winterhawks will play for Denmark’s national men’s team in a pair of exhibition games against visiting Finland this week. The games are scheduled for Thursday in Aalborg and Saturday in Vojens. . . . The Danish team, under head coach Heinz Ehlers, dropped eight players from its training camp after weekend workouts. . . . Blichfeld, who won the WHL scoring championship with 114 points in 68 games this season, is hoping to earn a spot on the national men’s A team that will play in the IIHF World Championship in the Slovakian cities of Bratislava and Košice, from May 10 through May 26.


Kevin Kaminski is the new general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice larongeWolves. Kaminski, who is from Churchbridge, Sask., signed a three-year contract. . . . Kaminski, 50, spent three seasons (1986-89) with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades before going on to a pro career that included 139 games in the NHL. . . . For the past three seasons, he has been the head coach of the Western States Hockey League’s Fresno Monsters. . . . The Ice Wolves also announced that Gaelan Patterson, another former Blades skater, will be turning, but as associate GM and associate coach. Patterson finished the season as the team’s interim head coach after the firing of Evan Vossen. . . . The team also said that Travis Hegland will be returning as athletic therapist and trainer.


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NOTES: D Jake Kustra of the Victoria Royals has been suspended for two games after taking a cross-checking major and game misconduct for a hit on F Jared Dmytriw of the DisciplineVancouver Giants at 2:54 of the second period on Saturday. That was in Game 2 of the series. The Giants won, 2-1 in OT, and hold a 2-0 leading going into Game 3 tonight in Victoria. . . .

Meanwhile, the Giants have been fined $750 for, according to the WHL website, “actions of player at end of game” on Saturday night. There was a bit of a brouhaha after Vancouver F Tristen Nielsen scored the game-winner at 3:29 of OT. G Griffen Outhouse of Victoria came out of it with a roughing minor, while Giants D Alex Kannok Leipert was hit with a roughing minor and a game misconduct. I would think it’s safe to assume that he is the “player” in question. . . .

In these playoffs, the WHL’s Dept. of Discipline now has issued 13 suspensions totalling 30 games, and handed out six fines worth a total of $4,250. . . . In all of last season’s playoffs, there were six players suspended for a total of 12 games, and two fines meted out worth $1,250. . . .

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After a quiet Monday night, there are three second-round games on the schedule tonight. . . .

As mentioned, the Vancouver Giants hold a 2-0 lead as they play Game 3 against the Royals in Victoria. The Royals obviously will be without D Jake Kustra, while F Kody McDonald serves the fifth of a six-game suspension. . . . Victoria D Ralph Jarratt left late in Game 3 with an apparent injury to his left shoulder or arm and didn’t return. . . . The Giants are expected to again be without F Aidan Barfoot, who was injured in the first round. . . .

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In Calgary, the Edmonton Oil Kings, with a 2-0 lead, will meet the Hitmen as the Battle of Alberta resumes. . . . Here’s a note from Derek Van Diest of the Edmonton Sun involving the first two games:

“Two games and two won face-offs have ended up the back of the Hitmen net so far in the series.

“The Oil Kings won 3-2 in overtime Saturday after (Mark) Kastelic won a clean draw in his own zone and pulled it back through the legs of an unsuspecting (goaltender Jack) McNaughton and off the goal post. Jake Neighbours was then first to the rebound and knocked it into the net for the game-winner.

“On Sunday, Carson Focht pulled one back from the same face-off circle past McNaughton and into the net to give the Oil Kings a 2-1 lead in the second period.”

As Calgary head coach Steve Hamilton told Van Diest: “It’s not everyday you win two faceoffs and shoot two pucks into your own net in two games. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that. That was a bid odd, but it was probably par for the course, too.”

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The Prince Albert Raiders, with a 2-0 lead, venture into Saskatoon to meet the Blades in a game that will be televised by Sportsnet, which also showed the first two games of the series. . . . With the two head coaches firmly involved in a war of the words, it will be interesting to see the attendance in the SaskTel Centre tonight.

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The other second-round series, between the Everett Silvertips and Spokane Chiefs, is to resume on Wednesday. The Chiefs went into Everett and won twice, so they take a 2-0 lead on to home ice. The next three games, if necessary, are scheduled for Spokane because the Cirque du Soleil is in the Angels of the Wind Arena in Everett through Sunday.


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It’s true! Hay joins Winterhawks . . . Ice extends two coaches, trainer . . . Willms’ season ends before it starts


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F Carter Proft (Brandon, Spokane, 2010-14) signed a one-year contract with Löwen Frankfurt (Germany, DEL2). Last season, he had two assists in 20 games with Grizzlys Wolfsburg (Germany, DEL), and nine goals and eight assists in 23 games with Ravensburg Towerstars (Germany, DEL2).


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Some reaction to the piece that appeared here yesterday advocating for the banning of fighting and headshots in the WHL:

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The final word, as it should, goes to a hockey mom . . .


As was reported here on Friday night, Don Hay has joined the Portland Winterhawks’ coaching staff as an assistant where he will alongside Mike Johnston, the vice-president, Portlandgeneral manager and head coach, and associate coach Kyle Gustafson.

Hay, the winningest regular-season and playoff coach in WHL history, spent the past four seasons as head coach of the Kamloops Blazers, a team with which he won three Memorial Cups in the 1990s. However, on May 10, majority owner Tom Gaglardi announced at a news conference that Hay had retired.

“Don Hay is a legend and it is only fitting that he is able to retire with his hometown Kamloops Blazers as the winningest coach in WHL history,” Gaglardi said in a news release. “Don leaves a storied legacy within junior hockey circles. His accomplishments are astounding and he will be forever regarded as one of the greatest coaches in junior hockey history. We are extremely grateful to have had Don return to the Blazers and be able to end his coaching career where it all began.”

The Blazers announced at the time that Hay would stay with the organization, as senior advisor, hockey operations.

Hay wasn’t in attendance at that news conference, and when he met with the media the next day he let it be known that he still wanted to coach.

The Winterhawks had a position come open with Danny Flynn, a veteran coach, signed on as an eastern Canadian scout with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. Flynn, a longtime friend of Johnston’s, spent one season in Portland.

Johnston and Hay also are longtime friends, going back to the 1995 World Junior Championship. Hay was the head coach and Johnston an assistant with Team Canada, which won the gold medal in Red Deer.

“We are thrilled to add a coach of Don’s calibre to our staff,” Johnston said in a news release. “When I first approached Don about the idea I wasn’t sure what his reaction would be, but he was both interested and excited. Kyle and I have always had a good rapport with Don and feel he will definitely be a great addition to our group.”

Former Winterhawks’ head coach Ken Hodge had been the WHL’s winningest regular-season coach, with 742 victories, before Hay broke the record last season. Hay finished the season with 750 victories.

Johnston ran his total to 323 last season, becoming the 23rd coach in WHL history to surpass 300.

The Winterhawks are scheduled to play in Kamloops on Oct. 3 and 5.



The Kootenay Ice announced three contract extensions during a news conference on KootenaynewMonday morning in Cranbrook. Assistant coach Gord Burnett has a two-year extension, while Darcy Ewanchuk, the trainer and equipment manager, was extended for three seasons, and Nathan Lieuwen, the goaltending consultant and video coach, signed a two-year extension. . . . Burnett, from Regina, is heading into his fourth season with the Ice, while Ewanchuk, from Sherwood Park, Alta., is preparing for season No. 14. Lieuwen, from Abbotsford, joined the Ice prior to last season. He was a goaltender with the Ice from 2007-12. . . . The Ice also announced that James Patrick is returning for his second season as head coach, with Jon Klemm back as associate coach, and Roman Vopat as assistant coach. . . . The Ice also revealed that as of Monday morning they had sold 1,598 season tickets, “down 319 from 2017-18 and 902 below the Drive to 25 target announced in May 2017.” . . . The complete news release detailing all announcements from the news conference is right here.


Brody Willms of the Moose Jaw Warriors, one of the WHL’s top goaltenders, isn’t expected to play this season because of a hip injury. Alan Millar, the Warriors’ general MooseJawWarriorsmanager, made the announcement on Monday.

Willms, a 20-year-old from Coquitlam, B.C., was 37-11-4, 3.00, .898 in 54 appearances in leading the Warriors to their first Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy — most points in the regular season — in 2017-18. He set a single-season franchise record with the 37 victories.

An eighth-round selection by Moose Jaw in the 2013 WHL bantam draft, Willms went 62-34-10, 3.20, .900 in 118 appearances over five seasons with the Warriors.

Two WHL goaltenders — Carl Stankowski of the Seattle Thunderbirds and Nick Sanders of the Prince Albert Raiders — missed time last season with hip woes. Sanders, who played in only four games, was dealt to the Calgary Hitmen on Jan. 8, while they acquired Stankowski on Aug. 7. Stankowski sat out the entire season after stepping in and backstopping the Thunderbirds to the WHL championship in 2016-17.

The Warriors used Willms and freshman Adam Evanoff in goal last season. Evanoff, 18, was 15-4-1, 2.65, .906, so likely moves to the top of Moose Jaw’s depth chart. From Penticton, Evanoff was a 10th-round pick in the 2015 WHL bantam draft.

Among the other goaltenders expected in Moose Jaw’s camp are Ethan Fitzgerald, 17, of Calgary, who was a sixth-round pick in the 2016 bantam draft, and Jackson Berry of Chestermere, Alta., who will turn 16 on Dec. 6. He was a sixth-round pick in 2017. Fitzgerald and Berry both have signed with the Warriors.



The Regina Pats have acquired G Carter Woodside, 17, from the Kootenay Ice for a Patsconditional eighth-round selection in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft. Woodside, from Asquith, Sask., was picked by the Ice in the sixth round of the 2016 bantam draft. . . . The trade’s condition has to do with the number of games Woodside plays for the Pats in 2018-19. . . . He played last season with the midget AAA Prince Albert Mintos, going 15-5-0, 2.53, .900 in the regular season. . . . Also on the Pats’ goaltending depth chart are sophomore Max Paddock, 18, and WHL veteran Kyle Dumba, 20.


The Seattle Thunderbirds have signed F Kai Uchacz, their first-round selection in the 2018 bantam draft, to a WHL contract. From De Winton, Alta., he had 25 goals and 17 assists in 33 games with the bantam AAA Okotoks Oilers last season. . . . As the lists below show, WHL teams now have signed 19 of the 22 first-round draft picks.

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The WHL teams that have signed 2018 first-round bantam draft selections:

1 Edmonton — F Dylan Guenther.

2. Kootenay — D Carson Lambos.

3. Prince Albert — D Nolan Allan.

4. Calgary — F Sean Tschigerl.

5. Kamloops — F Logan Stankoven.

6. Saskatoon — F Colton Dach.

7. Red Deer — F Jayden Grubbe.

8. Lethbridge — F Zack Stringer.

10. Seattle — F Kai Uchacz.

11. Medicine Hat — F Cole Sillinger.

12. Vancouver — F Zack Ostapchuk.

13. Victoria — D Nolan Bentham.

14. Tri-City — D Marc Lajoie.

15. Brandon — F Jake Chiasson.

16. Red Deer — D Kyle Masters.

17. Spokane — D Graham Sward.

19. Portland — F Gabe Klassen.

20. Edmonton — D Keegan Slaney.

22. Moose Jaw — F Eric Alarie.

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The WHL teams that have yet to sign their 2018 first-round bantam draft selections:

9. Prince George — F Craig Armstrong.

18. Kelowna — F Trevor Wong (committed to U of Denver, 2021-22).

21. Prince George — G Tyler Brennan.


When it comes to the Medicine Hat Tigers’ training camp and exhibition schedule, there Tigers Logo Officialis going to be an interesting battle for spots on the depth chart. Barring the unexpected, veteran Jordan Hollett, 19, will be the starter. . . . Mads Sogaard, a Dane who will turn 18 on Dec. 13, will be in the battle to backup Hollett. Sogaard, 6-foot-6 and 180 pounds, played last season with the NAHL’s Austin Bruins, so culture shock shouldn’t be much of an issue. In 22 games, he was 2.64, .909. . . . Garin Bjorklund, at 16-year-old from Calgary, also will be in camp. He was a first-round selection in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft. . . . Also in the picture is Kaeden Lane, who turns 17 on Oct. 10. From Burnaby, he’s a bit smaller than Sogaard, at 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds. . . . Matt Pouncy of chatnewstoday.ca has more right here.



D Ty Smith of the Spokane Chiefs has signed a three-year entry-level contract with the SpokaneChiefsNew Jersey Devils, who selected him with the 17th overall pick in the NHL’s 2018 draft. . . . Smith, from Lloydminster, Alta., was the first WHL player taken in that draft. The Chiefs selected him first overall in the WHL’s 2015 bantam draft. Last season, he put up 14 goals and 59 assists in 73 games. . . . For 2017-18, Smith was named the WHL’s scholastic player of the year, earning the Daryl K. (Doc) Seaman Trophy, and to the Western Conference’s first all-star team.


Nathan Hollinger has joined the Calgary Hitmen as their athletic therapist. He spent last season working as the athletic therapist/strength and conditioning coach with the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton. He also has worked with the SJHL’s Yorkton Terriers (athletic therapist/equipment manager, 2015-17) and Regina Pats (student athletic therapist, 2014-15). . . . Hollinger takes over from Kyle Vouriot, who is moving on to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose as assistant athletic therapist and assistant strength and conditioning trainer.



If you would like to support my wife, Dorothy, as she celebrates the fifth anniversary of her kidney transplant by taking part in the 2018 Kamloops Kidney Walk on Sept. 23, you are able to do so right here.


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