The WHL, Part 5: There was tragedy, lots of movement and marshmallow punches . . .

Here is the fifth and final piece on the WHL’s first 25 years.  The five stories were written in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I have done just that over the past couple of weeks. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here, then, is Part 5 of 5. Thanks for reading along. I hope you have enjoyed these stories, and thank you for all of the positive feedback. . . .

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The fifth five-year segment was easily the best of the WHL’s first 25 years.

There was success in the stands, particularly in the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States, and in Saskatoon where the Blades welcomed a new facility.

There was stability, too. Recent additions, like the Tri-City Americans and Lethbridge Hurricanes, settled in for what appeared to be long stays.

But the greatest success came on the ice where the WHL won four Memorial Cup championships during the five seasons, opening with three in a row and closing with a victory by the Spokane Chiefs.

DougSauter

The 1986-87 season actually started on something of a strange note. The Regina Pats signed Doug Sauter, who was under contract to the Medicine Hat Tigers, to a two-year deal as general manager/head coach. The result was that the Pats agreed to compensate the Tigers.

The compensation turned into two veteran players — defenceman Kevin Ekdahl and forward Kevin Clemens. It was the first time in WHL history that a coach had, in effect, been traded.

The Pats also welcomed back another familiar face with Dennis Sobchuk, the greatest and most-popular player in franchise history, signing on as assistant coach/assistant manager.

This was a time of great change in the front offices and behind the benches. Barry Trapp left the Moose Jaw Warriors, saying, “I wasn’t fired. It was just a mutual agreement. It was a very friendly parting.”

BryanMaxwell

Medicine Hat signed Bryan Maxwell to replace Sauter, while Peter Esdale was the new coach in Spokane and Wayne Naka took over the Cougars in Victoria. In New Westminster, John Olver was the GM, with Ernie McLean the coach. Harvey Roy was out as the Bruins’ director of marketing, but he would surface in Moose Jaw as the GM and would hire Greg Kvisle to coach the Warriors. In Prince Albert, GM/head coach Terry Simpson left to coach the NHL’s New York Islanders and Rick Wilson took over.

Perhaps the biggest news in the summer of 1986 came on June 2 when the WHL announced it was doing away with round-robin playoff series in the East Division. Instead, the top two teams would get first- round byes.

In the WHL office, Richard Doerksen’s title was upgraded from executive assistant/referee-in-chief to vice-president.

There was trouble in Brandon, where the Bank of Nova Scotia called in a $77,000 demand loan, asking for payment on July 31. This resulted in the Wheat Kings’ board recommending to shareholders that the franchise be sold.

bob cornell brandon wheat kings mvc
BOB CORNELL (Photo: Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame)

In August, shareholders voted 1,411-404 in favour of selling the Wheat Kings. Offers were received from two groups — one in Edmonton headed by Vic Mah, the other comprising Brandon businessmen Bob Cornell and Stuart Craig, and Winnipeg businessman Dave Laing.

Cornell’s group purchased the Wheat Kings for more than $300,000 and then added a unique twist to the situation by signing a 10-year working agreement with the Keystone Centre. The Keystone took over operation of the club, and hired Bill Shinske to run the front office. Shinske hired Marc Pezzin as coach.

The WHL also welcomed the Swift Current Broncos to the fold. Behind the bench was Graham James, who had recently reached an out-of-court settlement with the Warriors over a lawsuit he had started the previous year.

“If we continue to average close to 2,000, we’ll have a real successful year and we’ll show a profit of about $80,000,” Gary Bollinger, the Broncos’ vice-president and alternate governor, said. “That doesn’t include playoff revenue. We were budgeting for an average of 1,600. If we averaged that, we’d still make a bit of a profit.”

The first coaching change of the 1986-87 season took place on Dec. 8 in Seattle when Sheldon Ferguson gave up the Thunderbirds’ coaching reins, but stayed on as GM. Dan McDonald was the new head coach, with former Portland Winter Hawks star Jim Dobson as the assistant.

Broncos
When the Swift Current Broncos’ bus crashed on Dec. 30, 1986, the hockey world lost Chris Mantyka (left), Trent Kresse, Scott Kruger and Brent Ruff. (Photo: Swift Current Broncos)

Disaster struck on Dec. 30 when the Broncos, en route to Regina to play the Pats, were involved in a bus accident. Four players — Scott Kruger, Trent Kresse, Brent Ruff and Chris Mantyka — were killed.

EdChynoweth3
ED CHYNOWETH

“There has never been anything more devastating that has happened to me personally,” Ed Chynoweth, the WHL president, said. “The question I keep asking myself is ‘Why?’ My heart goes out to all the parents and the people involved. I wish someone would call and say this is all a mistake.”

John Foster, the Broncos’ publicity director, said: “This team will band together and win it for those guys who died. The (survivors) were absolutely professional under stress. If the people of Swift Current could have seen them, they would have been proud.”

There was never any thought of the team not continuing. As team president John Rittinger said: “It’s up to the players and the fans now. We aren’t ready to throw in the towel.”

Defenceman Ed Brost, talking about the club’s next game, stated: “It will be difficult. To go right back out on the ice would be cheating ourselves emotionally and physically. Right now people have to remember athletes are human beings, not robots.”

Moose Jaw centre Theoren Fleury was in Czechoslovakia with Canada’s national junior team at the time of the accident.

“I just can’t believe it,” Fleury said. “I just sat on the bus all the way to practice today thinking about what’s going on with all those guys on that team right now. It just blows me away. I don’t know what to say. There’s nothing we can do about it and I think being helpless is the most frustrating thing about it.”

As if losing four players in the accident wasn’t enough, Herman Kruger, 67, suffered a fatal heart attack as he entered the church for his great-grandson’s funeral.

And later the same day, Sauter and Regina trainer Stan Szumlak came to the rescue of Keith Giles, a member of the Prince Albert executive, who was choking on some food.

Donations in memory of the players poured into the Broncos’ office and an education fund was set up in their memory. Another fund was started to raise money that would go towards the cost of replacing the bus.

On Feb. 2, a longtime veteran of the WHL’s coaching wars returned for one last fling when John Chapman replaced Wally Kozak behind the bench of the Calgary Wranglers. Chapman also was the Calgary GM.

On Feb. 15, Portland won a game in Spokane and Ken Hodge took over as the winningest coach in WHL history. His 547 victories were one more than Ernie McLean.

BradHornung
BRAD HORNUNG (Photo: University of Regina)

Tragedy struck the WHL again on March 1 when Regina centre Brad Hornung was checked into the end boards at the Agridome and suffered a broken neck.

Dr. Chris Ekong, a neurosurgeon, said Hornung suffered a burst fracture of the third cervical vertebrae and a crushed spinal cord. “Brad has no feelings in his arms and legs,” Dr. Ekong said. “He is completely paralysed from the neck down.”

Hornung would never regain the use of his arms and legs, but that didn’t stop him from going on with his life.

As the WHL completed its 25th season, Hornung was continuing with his education, taking courses at the University of Regina.

Despite the bus accident, Swift Current made the playoffs in its first season. But there wouldn’t be a Cinderella story as the Broncos dropped a best-of-five series to Prince Albert, 3-1.

April was highlighted by three coaching changes — Esdale’s contract wasn’t renewed by Spokane, Kvisle resigned in Moose Jaw and McLean stepped aside in New Westminster.

And Medicine Hat won the WHL championship. The Tigers faced elimination twice in each of their last two series, and dumped visiting Portland 7-2 in the seventh game of the championship final.

The Tigers would win their first of two consecutive Memorial Cup championships, the first under Maxwell, the second under Barry Melrose. Both came with Russ Farwell as general manager.

EdStaniowski

John Van Horlick took over as coach in New Westminster for 1987-88, with

Butch Goring the coach in Spokane. Jim Harrison was the new head coach in Moose Jaw, with Ed Staniowski his assistant. Harrison and Roy, the GM, were friends from their days in Estevan, while Staniowski was a former all-star goaltender with Regina.

And the WHL was returning to Lethbridge. The Tier One Junior Hockey Club of Lethbridge purchased the Wranglers for about $350,000 from Brian Ekstrom. The Lethbridge franchise would be called the Hurricanes, causing Lethbridge Herald columnist Pat Sullivan to wonder if the logo would be an overturned mobile home.

The sale also meant that there wouldn’t be a franchise in the city in which the WHL office was located. But the office wasn’t about to be moved.

“It was decided that it was certainly the most central location for our league,” Chynoweth said.

Going into the new season, the WHL passed a rule cracking down on checking from behind.

“We do use (NHL) rules and the NHL doesn’t have hitting from behind instituted in its rule book,” Chynoweth said, “but I predict that within two years the NHL will have the same rule.”

That is exactly what happened.

There was change in the WHL’s boardroom, too, as Portland’s Brian Shaw stepped down as chairman of the board and was replaced by Saskatoon’s Rick Brodsky.

On June 5, Swift Current celebrated its first birthday by revealing the franchise was no longer in debt.

Rittinger said: “We bought the franchise and we borrowed money to buy the franchise. So we took the season-ticket money to pay the bank loan off. The bank loan is paid off. We don’t owe the bank anything. And that’s incredible because we just got the franchise last year.”

Maxwell left Medicine Hat, joining the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach. Lethbridge named Glen Hawker as its first GM/head coach. Before the season started, Lethbridge reorganized, with Wayne Simpson taking over as GM.

On July 6, Hornung, in his first interview since being injured, told the Regina Leader-Post: “You have to accept it. Life goes on and you do the best with what you have. At first, it was a time of change, shock really, but right now, it’s actually gotten easier because you get used to the adjustments. Like everybody else, I have my good days and bad days. But I don’t have many bad days.”

Separate pregame warmups came to the WHL on Sept. 28.

GerryJames

With Seattle off to a 2-15-0 start, owner Earl Hale told Ferguson, the GM, to take a leave of absence. On Nov. 16, Ferguson was fired. A couple of weeks later, Hawker was fired in Lethbridge, where Blaine Galbraith took over. And on Dec. 8, Moose Jaw fired Harrison and hired Gerry James, the only person to have played in a Grey Cup game and Stanley Cup final in the same season.

On Feb. 2, Saskatoon beat Regina 7-2 before 3,308 fans in the final game at the Saskatoon Arena. Regina coach Doug Sauter, for one, was glad to see the end of the old barn: “I get screwed every time I come in here and I haven’t been kissed yet.”

One week later, on Feb. 9, Saskatoon beat Brandon 4-3 in front of 9,343 fans at Saskatchewan Place. Chynoweth announced prior to the game that the 1989 Memorial Cup would be played in Saskatoon.

On March 11, amidst rumours that the Warriors were on the verge of major financial problems, it was announced that Roy’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.

WHL attendance figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that Swift Current drew 82,080 fans to 36 home games, which was 99 per cent of capacity. Portland led in total attendance — 200,911. The league drew 1,405,874 fans, an increase of almost 80,000 over the previous season.

For the first time in league history, the scoring race ended in a dead heat.

Two centres — Fleury and Swift Current’s Joe Sakic — finished the regular season with 160 points. Sakic had 78 goals, Fleury 68. But there was nothing in the WHL bylaws to deal with the situation so the scoring race was ruled a tie.

JoeCelentano
JOE CELENTANO

The rumours were true — there were financial problems in Moose Jaw. The Warriors began sorting things out by separating the hockey side of things from the business side. With an accumulated debt of $234,000, Joe Celentano, a former referee with basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters, was hired as business manager.

On April 17, Medicine Hat beat visiting Saskatoon 3-0 to win its third straight East Division title. The only other team to win three consecutive East titles was the Flin Flon Bombers, beginning in 1968-69.

On May 3, the Tigers beat visiting Kamloops 5-2 to win their second straight WHL title, this one in six games.

The very next day, Bob Vranckaert, who was in the construction business in Alaska, said he would like to put an expansion franchise in Anchorage in time for the 1990-91 season. Born in Drumheller, Alta., and raised in Burnaby, B.C., Vranckaert spent more than 20 years in general commercial construction 800 miles north of Anchorage.

The WHL said it would play two exhibition and four regular-season games in Anchorage and use that, plus the 1989 world junior championship, which was to be held in Anchorage, as a barometer.

On May 8, the Pats announced that Sauter’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.

A week later, Sauter’s old team, the Tigers, beat the Windsor Spitfires 7-6 in Chicoutimi to become the sixth team in the 70-year history of the Memorial Cup to win back-to-back championships.

The board in Moose Jaw put H.J. (Toby) Tobias in charge and then resigned en masse. Tobias was empowered to chair a committee whose immediate responsibility was to carry on a fund-raising campaign aimed at erasing the club’s debt. The immediate goal was to raise $150,000.

Tobias said he would look into the team’s accounting procedures, recommend constitutional changes and appoint an auditor to present a year-end statement at the club’s annual meeting.

“To me it’s a four-stage project,” Tobias said. “Stage 1: Solve the immediate debt crisis and give us some breathing room. Step 2: Have a look at the front office and see if there are some things we can tighten up. Stage 3: Come up with a budget we can live with in years to come. Stage 4: Make sure fund-raising becomes a year-round effort.”

In mid-May, Pezzin resigned as coach in Brandon. He would be replaced by Sauter, who was reunited with Shinske. The two were old friends, going back to the Estevan and New Westminster Bruins. Sobchuk replaced Sauter in Regina.

Celentano resigned in Moose Jaw, saying: “By my staying I become just another liability, one of those accounts payable that they have to make every day, and they don’t have the money.”

On May 31, Tobias announced that the Warriors had reached their goal of $151,800. That figure covered debts accrued up until March 31. Tobias said: “The phoenix has risen from the ashes. The financial health of the club remains fragile . . . but it’s business as usual from here on in.”

Indications were that New Westminster owner Ron Dixon would move the franchise to the Tri-Cities area of Washington State. He just happened to be building an arena, the Tri-Cities Coliseum, there.

TimSpeltz
TIM SPELTZ

In July, Farwell and Melrose resigned in Medicine Hat. Shortly after, they signed in Seattle. Wes Phillips was named GM in Medicine Hat and hired Ron Kennedy, a former Estevan player, as coach. Before the season started, Phillips quit, citing business and family pressures, and Tim Speltz replaced him.

Peter Anholt was named head coach in Prince Albert, where Wilson quit to join the L.A. Kings as an assistant coach. Brad Tippett was the GM in Prince Albert.

The WHL arrived in Anchorage on the weekend of Sept. 24 and 25, 1988.

Kamloops and Portland played two exhibition games in Anchorage, drawing 2,100 to the first game and 1,750 the next night.

A shakeup occurred in Spokane. It started on Oct. 14 when Spokane GM Bob Strumm acquired six players while giving up four others in trades that involved three other teams. The Chiefs were 1-4-0 and had given up 33 goals in those five games.

Twelve days later, with the Chiefs 2-9-0, Strumm relieved Goring of his duties. Strumm, with a three-year contract extension that would take him through the 1991-92 season, went behind the bench, went 2-4-0 and immediately installed Gary Braun as coach.

On Nov. 11, Moose Jaw dumped Gerry James and installed Kvisle as head coach/director of hockey operations.

Three days later, Regina shook up things. Sobchuk moved from coach to GM, with Bernie Lynch moving up from assistant coach to head coach.

It was announced on Nov. 17 that Vranckaert had purchased the Victoria Cougars from Fraser McColl. Ownership actually had changed hands 10 days after the end of the season.

“Bob has been after me for a long time,” McColl said. “He wants to get into the business with a passion. And, perhaps, that’s the type of enthusiasm this team needs right now.”

On Nov. 20, the Tri-City Americans, having played their first 17 games on the road because the Coliseum wasn’t ready, opened at home with a 4-3 overtime victory over Seattle in front of a sellout crowd of 6,004.

Swift Current started the season with 12 straight victories, and went into the Christmas break at 28-5-0 and on a 10-game winning streak. Referring to the bus accident of two years previous, James said: “I think the bus accident galvanized the spirit of the community. I think that was a catalyst. Since then we’ve had to provide a product that’s been worthy of fans coming, but I think that incident certainly rallied the community.”

Added centre Tim Tisdale: “That’s all anybody in town talks about. It’s hard to believe. You go downtown and you’re eating in a restaurant and everybody at the next table is talking about the Broncos. It definitely helps your hockey.”

There was big news out of Calgary on Jan. 3, 1989, when Petr Nedved, a centre with a midget team from Litvinov, Czechoslovakia, defected after a midget tournament. His WHL rights belonged to Moose Jaw, but the Warriors would deal them to Seattle.

The season wasn’t over when Spokane owner Vic Fitzgerald said that Braun wouldn’t be returning.

On March 14, Chynoweth revealed that the WHL “had an inquiry from Terry Simpson about putting a team in Red Deer. They would have to get a new building.” A conditional franchise was sold to Simpson on Aug. 12, 1991. The Rebels would begin play in the fall of 1992.

Attendance figures compiled by The Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance was up 232,951 over 1987-88. Most of that was attributable to the first-year Americans who attracted 203,532 fans, which was 156,149 more than they drew the previous season in New Westminster.

There was a change in Seattle on April 11 when Medicine Hat businessman Bill Yuill bought the Thunderbirds from Earl Hale of Calgary.

The usual spate of front-office changes began in earnest with the news that: 1. Galbraith would not be back in Lethbridge; 2. Al Patterson, who quit in Victoria after the season ended, had signed as Tri-City’s GM; 3. Ron Byrne had signed as the GM in Victoria; 4. Sobchuk had resigned as GM in Regina; 5. Shinske had resigned in Brandon; and, 6. Tippett had quit in P.A.

Swift Current won 4-1 in Portland on April 30 to sweep the Winter Hawks in the championship final. The Broncos became the first team to sweep its way to the WHL championship — they also got past Moose Jaw and Saskatoon in four games each. The Broncos, just a season and a half after having four players killed in a bus accident, went 55-16-1, the best record in the CHL.

 “This is a great accomplishment for our franchise,” James said. “But I don’t want the Memorial Cup to decide if we had a great year.”

TimTisdale

Tisdale added: “We have the team to do it this year. If we can’t get up for four games, we don’t belong there. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win the Memorial Cup.”

On May 14, Tisdale’s goal at 3:25 of the first sudden-death overtime period gave the Broncos a 4-3 victory over Saskatoon in the final game of the Memorial Cup. The game was played in front of 9.078 fans in Saskatchewan Place and brought to an end the most successful Memorial Cup tournament ever played.

Shortly after the Memorial Cup, the changes continued: 1. Lynch found out his contract in Regina wouldn’t be renewed; 2. Rick Kozuback signed a two-year contract as coach with Tri-City; 3. Simpson returned to Prince Albert as GM/head coach; 4. Bill Hicke was named GM in Regina; 5. Tippett signed as Regina’s head coach; 5. Maxwell returned from L.A. to sign as co-coach and director of hockey operations in Spokane; 6. Braun was Spokane’s co-coach and assistant director of hockey operations; 7. Melrose left Seattle to become head coach of the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings; 8. Marcel Comeau signed a two-year deal in Saskatoon but shortly after resigned to become head coach of the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks; 9. Anholt quit in P.A. to join Seattle as head coach; 10. Rob Daum signed as assistant coach/assistant manager in P.A.; and, 11. Terry Ruskowski signed to coach the Blades.

On June 14, 1989, Moose Jaw, so close to financial ruin just one year earlier, revealed at its annual meeting that there was a paper profit of $119,722 and that the Warriors had about $40,000 in the bank.

At its annual meeting, the WHL had two major announcements. It had decided for the first time to use full-time referees. “We’re hoping it leads to more consistent, professional refereeing,” Regina governor Ted Knight said. By the time all was said and done, the WHL had hired eight full-time and four part-time referees.

The WHL also said it would no longer allow teams to list 13-year-old players. From that point on, 14-year-olds would count for two spots on a list, players 15 and older for one.

Seattle set a single-game attendance record on Oct. 7 when 12,173 fans showed up to watch the Thunderbirds edge Portland, 4-3. “We could have sold 2,000 more tickets,” Seth Landau, the club’s director of marketing and public relations, said. “We were sold out the day before the game.” The previous attendance record belonged to Portland, which had attracted capacity crowds of 10,437 to Memorial Coliseum on numerous occasions.

The first coaching change came on Oct. 15 when Naka resigned in Victoria. Lyle Moffat replaced him.

On Nov. 1, Ken Hitchcock, 36 years of age and in the neighbourhood of 400 pounds, went public with the news that he was going on a serious diet.

“There comes a time in life when it becomes a case of now or never,” said the popular coach of the Kamloops Blazers. “I look down the road four or five years from now, what do I want to be doing? If that’s what I have to do to move up the ladder, that’s what I have to do.”

Victoria made another coaching change on Nov. 13 with Garry Cunningham becoming the Cougars’ third coach of the season. Moffat stayed on as marketing director.

A lawsuit launched by Hornung was settled out of court in November. Thirteen defendants, including the WHL, were named in the suit launched in July of 1987. Details of the settlement weren’t made public.

At a WHL board of governors’ meeting on Nov. 20, the chair switched bodies again. It was a case of deja vu, with Shaw taking over from Brodsky.

Kelly-McCrimmon
KELLY McCRIMMON (Photo: Brandon Wheat Kings)

On Dec. 17, Sauter was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder that strikes at the central nervous system. He would not return to coaching until late in the 1990-91 season when he finished the winter with the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins. Brandon GM Kelly McCrimmon moved in behind Brandon’s bench.

There was a player revolt in Tri-City when Dixon named Bill LaForge director of player personnel. LaForge said he had a five-year contract.

On Dec. 31, with Portland scheduled to play in Tri-City, the Americans players refused. A statement signed by 19 players read in part: “We will definitely not participate in any further games without the termination of Mr. Bill LaForge from the Americans organization.”

The players ended their holdout the next day, winning 8-4 in Portland. Dixon had contacted players earlier in the day and said LaForge would no longer have any contact with them.

Defenceman Colin Ruck later explained the Tri-City deal: “He came into the dressing room screaming and cutting guys down. To get to us, he said we had to call him Coach. He had (coach) Rick Kozuback picking up pucks during practice. That really upset us. Bill came out and ran a really brutal practice. We felt we had to do something.”

Byrne was gone as Victoria’s GM before January ended, while Cunningham was out as coach on Feb. 5. Moffat went back behind the bench. The Cougars would set a CHL record, losing 29 in a row.

On Feb. 7, Seattle centre Glen Goodall had an assist in a 5-3 victory over visiting Tri-City to break the WHL record for most points in a career. That lifted his point total to 530, one more than Craig Endean, who had played with Seattle and Regina.

Two nights later, Seattle broke the WHL single-game attendance record as 12,253 fans watched a 5-3 victory over Spokane.

Figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance totalled 1,678,651, up about 40,000 over the previous season. Tri-City, which sold out every home game, led the way with total attendance of 216,360. Saskatoon, in its first full season in Saskatchewan Place, played in front of 209,542 fans. Seattle, which finished with its best-ever record (52-17-3; the best previous was 32-28-12 in 1977-78), drew 181,211 fans, up 66,189 from a year previous.

On March 28, Chynoweth admitted that two groups had applied for an expansion franchise for Tacoma, Wash.

The Spokane franchise changed hands on April 10, with Fitzgerald selling to the Brett brothers — Bobby, George and Ken — for more than $600,000. Bob Brett wouldn’t say what they paid, other than to say it was “too much.”

JackShupe

The postseason changes started in April when Speltz and Kennedy learned that Medicine Hat wouldn’t renew their contracts, and Rick Hopper was named head coach/director of hockey operations in Victoria. Jack Shupe, the Tigers’ first GM/head coach in 1970-71, was the new GM in Medicine Hat. He hired Tim Bothwell as coach.

On April 29, Kamloops scored a 6-5 overtime victory in Lethbridge to win the WHL final in five games. Kamloops lost the opener and then won four straight. The Blazers struck out at the Memorial Cup, though, as the Oshawa Generals, with Eric Lindros, won it all in Hamilton.

There was much expansion talk in the WHL, resulting in this comment from Brodsky: “It’s sort of like being in love. If you have to ask yourself whether you’re in love, you’re probably not. If we’re wondering why we should expand, then maybe we’re forcing the issue a bit. If expansion is right, we’ll know it.”

DennisBeyak
DENNIS BEYAK

Farwell left Seattle to become GM of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Anholt added the GM’s nameplate to his door, and hired assistant GM Dennis Beyak from Saskatoon. Beyak had been in Saskatoon since 1981 and was the person deemed most responsible for the success of the 1989 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon.

Simpson left Prince Albert again, this time to become an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets. Daum was promoted to replace him.

There were shockwaves in Kamloops when Hitchcock resigned after six seasons with the Blazers. He signed as an assistant coach with Philadelphia. Tom Renney replaced Hitchcock, who left with a 291-125-15 regular-season record over six seasons, his .693 winning percentage the highest of any coach in WHL history.

Leaving wasn’t easy for Hitchcock, who said: “I got cold feet a couple of times. I almost went into (GM) Bob Brown’s office and said, ‘Call the whole thing off, I don’t want to go.’ ”

On Sept. 30, Chynoweth chatted about expansion: “There are what I like to call tire-kickers in Boise, Idaho; Eugene, Oregon; and, Tacoma, Washington. The WHL is in good shape and we’re aggressive to expand by one, possibly two teams in the West Division sometime soon. We are coming off our second record-setting attendance season. We’re also proud of the fact that this is the third year in a row we aren’t opening a new site. Believe it or not, but we’re stable.”

Bruce Hamilton, a former player and scout with the Blades, headed a group of Saskatoon and Tacoma investors who were eventually granted a franchise for Tacoma to start with the 1991-92 season.

On Oct. 30, with the 1990-91 season one month old, one night before Halloween, James went wild in Swift Current. Upset with referee Kevin Muench after the Broncos turned a 7-3 second-period lead into a 9-8 loss to visiting Medicine Hat, James went on to the ice in pursuit of Muench, then returned to the bench and threw sticks and water bottles onto the ice. James then removed his jacket, tie, shirt and one shoe and threw them onto the ice before his players escorted him to the dressing room.

Bothwell summed it up: “All I can say is, ‘Wow.’ I don’t know what words can describe what happened out there, from a lot of different aspects.”

James was suspended for six games and fined $2,000. “At least they didn’t ask me for the shirt off my back,” he said. The incident would show up on video on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and the David Letterman Show among others.

GerryJohansson
GERRY JOHANSSON

There was some silliness in Spokane, too. On Dec. 6, with Tri-City visiting Spokane, Maxwell and Americans assistant Gerry Johannson got into it after first period.

Here’s Maxwell: “He was waiting for me. He was yapping at me. He challenged me and I accepted the challenge.” Maxwell was said to have out-punched his opponent, 4-0.

Here’s Johansson: “He throws punches like marshmallows.”

Maxwell was suspended for three games and fined $500. Johansson got hit for $1,000 and four games.

Remember that $1 parking fee in Regina? Well, on Dec. 17, Regina Exhibition Park announced it was doubling it to $2. “I don’t think our fans will take very kindly to it if it does happen,” said co-owner/GM Bill Hicke. “If that’s the case it’ll drive another nail in the coffin.”

The Pats’ lease would expire after the 1990-91 season and Hicke had already made at least one trip into the Pacific Northwest to scout buildings.

A change in Prince Albert had Dale Engel move in as GM, with Rob Daum giving up that title but staying on as coach. It was no surprise when Daum left P.A. for Swift Current at season’s end.

On Feb. 4, Saskatoon fired head coach Terry Ruskowski, replacing him with former Blades defenceman Bob Hoffmeyer.

On March 17, Seattle was awarded the 1992 Memorial Cup.

The Leader-Post’s attendance figures showed that Tri-City, with 36 sellouts, again topped the WHL with 216,360 fans. Seattle was next at 215,248, up 34,037 from the season previous. But overall attendance was down 22,861 to 1,655,790.

LorneFrey
LORNE FREY

On April 17, Marcel Comeau was named the first head coach of the Tacoma Rockets. Hamilton would be the GM, with Lorne Frey, most recently with Swift Current, as director of player personnel.

Spokane scored a 7-2 victory over home-town Lethbridge to sweep the WHL final. The Chiefs would go on to win the Memorial Cup, with goaltender Trevor Kidd and right-winger Pat Falloon wrapping up dream seasons. Both played for the Canadian junior team that won the gold medal in Saskatoon.

One thing more than any other summed up the WHL as it headed into its second 25 years. When the 1991-92 season opened, the league not only had the same 14 teams for the fourth consecutive season, but it had welcomed the Tacoma Rockets to the fold.

—30—

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while wondering if the Christmas lights will work or if I’ll need more extension cords . . .

Scattershooting

If you haven’t already seen this, take a few minutes out of your day to give it a listen/watch. This one will make you think about what not to do if you ever end up with a stinky, rotting whale on your beach. . . .


How did I spend my Sunday? Thanks for asking. The two rather large trees in our front yard got their haircuts on Friday, So on Sunday most of the outdoor Christmas lights and decorations are up and ready to shine. Another hour, hopefully on Monday, and it’ll be all done for another year. . . . Temperature on Sunday afternoon reached 11 C, so it was quite enjoyable out there. . . . Oh yes, we also had our first taste of this festive season’s fruitcake. Merry Christmas!


After the Boston Red Sox brought back Alex Cora as manager, Greg Cote of the Miami Herald wrote: “Adjusted bromide: ‘Cheaters Almost Never Prosper.’ ” . . . Cora served a one-year suspension after being manager of the Houston Astros during their cheating scandal.


Closed


Headline at TheOnion.com: Cora gets another kick at the can in Boston.


The USHL has been having its issues with COVID-19, and has had to postpone/reschedule a number of games. The Waterloo Black Hawks and Tri-City Storm both played on Saturday night and were supposed to face each other on Sunday. But the game, according to the league, “has been declared a No Contest. Per league safety protocols, minimum standards were not met to play (Sunday’s) game.”


A news flash from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: Dateline Washington, D.C.: Donald Trump finally concedes he lost — to the Baltimore Stars in the 1985 USFL playoffs.

——

Perry’s Tweet of the Week came from @Southampton FC, which, upon finding itself atop the Premier League standings for the the first time tweeted: “Stop the count.”


Come April 6, it will be three years since 16 people were killed in a crash HumboldtBroncosinvolving the bus belonging to the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos. Michelle Straschnitzki and her husband, Tom, are two Broncos parents who aren’t prepared to give up on wanting to have seatbelts declared mandatory on medium and large highway buses and school buses. Bill Graveland of The Canadian Press reports that these parents “are angry at what they see as inaction from the federal and provincial governments on measures that could prevent another tragedy.” . . . Michelle told Graveland: “It’s just disgusting that nothing has changed. It should be legislated as of yesterday. It should be across the board, across Canada. It makes me nuts. This is not OK. We should not be fighting for this 2 1/2 years after the bus crash. It’s not right.” . . . Graveland’s story is right here.


ICYMI, St. Mary’s, Remsen beat Montezuma, 108-94, in an Iowa eight-man football state semifinal the other day. Interestingly, St. Mary’s had only 144 yards through the air, while Montezuma QB Eddie Burgess threw for 744 yards and nine TDs, then told the Cedar Rapids Gazette: “Credit to them. They kept us contained for some of the game.” . . . Blaine Harpeneau, the winning QB, was named player of the game after running for 354 yards on 40 carries. He scored four TDs and threw for four more. The teams combined for 1,497 yards of offence.



RJ Currie at sportsdeke.com: “Vasek Pospisil’s three-set loss in the Sofia Open final made Canadians 0-6 in ATP finals in 2020. You might call it Mission Im-Pospisil.”


A few years ago — actually more years ago than I care to remember — I took a whllook at the first 25 years of the WHL in four lengthy stories. The other day, someone who stops by this space on a regular basis wondered if I might post those pieces again. . . . So I have dug them up and they will appear here over the next while. Keep in mind that they were written more than 20 years ago, and I will post them as they were written. Also please keep in mind that they don’t pretend to be all-inclusive; they include some highlights and some lowlights and hopefully will help keep the past alive.


This is an all-time favourite hockey photo. Never mind the great stuff on the ice, take a look at the faces in the crowd . . .


Burger


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

CBC North: 10 new cases of COVID-19 found in Nunavut, with signs of community spread in Arviat.

Ana Cabrera, CNN: US surpasses 11 million coronavirus cases. It took just 6 days to go from 10 million to 11 million.

Seattle Times: Gov. Inslee orders sweeping restrictions on indoor gatherings, restaurants, bars, gyms as COVID-19 cases surge in Washington state.

CBC News: 2 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Newfoundland and Labrador. Both are travel-related. The province has 10 known active cases, including 1 person who is in hospital.

CBC News: New Brunswick is reporting 3 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 22 known active cases in the province. The new cases are in the Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton regions. 1 is travel-related and the other 2 are being investigated. All 3 new cases are self-isolating.

CBC News: Quebec is reporting 1,211 new cases of COVID-19. The province also added 15 deaths to its total, 2 of which occurred in the past 24 hours. The province has seen a total of 123,854 cases, including 6,626 deaths and 104,848 recoveries, since the pandemic began.

CBC News: Ontario is reporting 1,248 new cases of COVID-19, including 364 in Toronto, 308 in Peel and 125 in York Region. Provincial Health Minister Christine Elliott says an additional 1,062 cases have been resolved and more than 42,200 tests were completed.

Global News: Person in 20s dies from COVID-19 as Saskatchewan reports 2 deaths, 181 new cases.

CBC News: Calgary’s emergency management chief says Alberta needs a 28-day lockdown to battle COVID-19 — now.

CTV Edmonton: With 991 new cases, there are more than 9,600 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta.

Global News: 10 more COVID-19 deaths in Manitoba Sunday, 494 new cases. There are 220 people in hospital with 41 in intensive care, and the number of deaths due to COVID-19 is 162.

——

The eight-team South Coast Women’s Hockey League has cancelled its 2020-21 season. The league, which features teams from Kamloops to Vancouver Island, had hoped to open in January, but ended up cancelling. . . .

The U of Vermont has delayed the start of its men’s and women’s basketball and hockey seasons until Dec. 18. “Our state is obviously seeing a significant increase in COVID-19 cases and it’s important that our programs are operating in a manner that is consistent with guidance from state officials,” Jeff Schulman, the director of athletics, said in a statement. . . . If you are wondering what former NHL head coach Mike Babcock is doing these days, he’s a volunteer advisor to the coaching staff with Vermont’s men’s hockey team. The Catamounts play in Hockey East, which is scheduled to start up next weekend. . . .

Jim Boeheim, the longtime men’s basketball coach at Syracuse, has tested positive. Boeheim, 75, is asymptomatic and is self-isolating at home. One other person in the program also tested positive, although it’s not known if it’s a player, coach or somebody else. The school also has stopped all basketball-related activities. . . .

The University of Massachusetts-Lowell paused men’s basketball activities last week after two positive tests. Practices are expected to resume on Wednesday.



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

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

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

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.



Remote

Mondays With Murray: Two columns on Tom Terrific . . . Enjoy!

Tom Seaver passed away on Aug. 31. He was 75. The cause of death was complications of Lewy body dementia and COVID-19, according to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Here are two Jim Murray columns on the pitcher known as Tom Terrific.

——

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 17, 1973, SPORTS

Copyright 1973/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

Seaver Deserves Better

  NEW YORK — Usually when a pitcher is a veteran who has a series of 20-win seasons and has pitched his team into two World Series in four years, he is a mondaysmurray2grizzled old party who spits tobacco and you could scratch matches on his beard. He talks in four-letter words and comes from coon-hunting country and never reads anything that doesn’t have pictures in it and his favorite actor is John Wayne.

  But George Thomas Seaver looks as if he just stepped out of the pages of a Ralph Henry Barbour novel or is one of the Merriwell brothers.

  He looks as if he might go around helping old ladies across the street or rescuing babies from drowning. As if he had just two more knots to tie or fires to start rubbing sticks together to get his Eagle Scout badge. He is Mr. Cleancut; as wholesome as a Saturday Evening Post cover, or a Disney movie, the kind of guy who would put splints on broken cats, the sort of fellow who would help his mother with the dishes and bring home all A’s on his report card.

  You’d want your daughter to marry someone like Tom Seaver. You’d want your son to grow up like that. They call him “Tom Terrific.” He looks as if his name should be “Roger Trueheart” or “Peter Pluck.” He’s the kind of guy who might spend more time in museums than bar rooms. He’s concerned, was one of the few baseball uniforms to take a stand on the Vietnam war.

  His fastball makes baseball men drool and hitters slobber with rage. He could throw the proverbial strawberry through a battleship. His control is uncanny. Tommy Strikethree has as much control of his pitches as he has of himself.

  Without him, the Mets are a .380 club. He pitches nearly 300 flawless innings a year. He’s such a competitor, he would bite a lion or pull a bear out of a tree.

  You would think, if God were paying attention, Tommy Strikethree, by now, would be working on his fifth or sixth World Series win. I mean, guys who would be lifted by the fifth inning pitching against him have won that many.

  But George Thomas Seaver’s record in World Series is about what you would expect from a crooked-armed junk thrower with a hitch in his delivery and a bad habit of tipping his pitches.

  The Mets get him runs in clumps of one. They send about 28 men to bat the night he pitches.

  Take Tuesday night. In a gelid Shea Stadium amid an Arctic front moving through Queens, Seaver, sporting a 19-win year and an earned-run average you would need Palomar to read, struck out the side twice. He had the feared Reggie Jackson, a 117-runs-batted-in MVP candidate looking like a revolving door. He struck out 12, walked none and was — well — Terrific.

  His team gave him a one-inning attack. They didn’t really need bats for the other eight. Seaver was in there.

  Over on the other mound, Catfish Hunter who is not “Mr. Terrific” or Walter Wonderful and is more of a pitcher who nibbles around the outside and wears out the corners of the plate, had given up a homer, a double, assorted singles, a wild pitch, several walks and even threw in an error for good measure and wasn’t around for the seventh inning. But he got exactly what Tommy Strikethree got — a standoff. His World Series record is still 1.000. Seaver’s is still .500.

  I’m glad to see God has better things to do than see justice served in baseball games but, the point is, Tom Seaver joins some distinguished company. Walter Johnson was .500 for his six Series decisions.

  Tom Seaver is nine decisions behind Whitey Ford who won 10 World Series games but look at some of the company he’s chasing besides Ford. Shucks, Orval Overall won three and only lost one. Bill Hallahan (surely you remember Bill Hallahan? “Wild” Bill Hallahan?) won three. Ernest G. Shore was 3-1. Guys like Harry Brecheen and Lew Burdette and Mickey Lolich won three in ONE Series.

  Great pitchers like Christy Mathewson were .500 for World Series. But they did get five victories.

  Lefty Gomez never lost a World Series game. He was in some real cliff-hangers. He won one 18-4 in 1936. That’s more runs than the Mets get Tom Seaver a season.

  For Seaver, it’s like someone painting a masterpiece and having somebody use it for a doorstop or to hang in the garage at work. He’s their bad luck charm.

  It was a foregone conclusion the Mets would lose for Seaver. On a passed ball, at that. They’re not much of a ball team when you move off the mound. They have to hoard runs. Never have so many done so little for so few. The pitching staff consists of five guys with their fingers in the dike.

  But I have a feeling somewhere there’s a ghostly crew looking on and nodding safely — Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson and a lot of other guys who pitched 300 innings or 400 victories and then got in World Series only to see journeymen win the car or the plaudits.

————

SUNDAY, AUGUST 31, 1975, SPORTS

Copyright 1975/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

The Other Seaver

  If they were caught in a hotel fire, lots of people would try to throw their jewels or stocks or money out the burning window. Tom Seaver would want to throw his right arm.

  As ex-teammate Tug McGraw once said, “Seaver is exploring the possibility of keeping his right arm at Ft. Knox over the winter.”

  He won’t sleep on it, open car doors with it, cut meat with it, drink beer with it. He won’t hang it out the car window, let it get sunburned. He treats his arm as if it had a life of its own. He won’t pat dogs with it, play tennis with it, cut wood with it or comb his hair with it.

  He treats it the way a captain treats a ship, a gunman his gun, or a cowboy his horse. He pampers it, worries about it. He trots it out only every fifth day.

——

  Most pitchers pitch every fourth day, but Seaver’s arm lets him know it needed an extra day’s rest, and Seaver never contradicts his arm.

  No Hope diamond, no Rembrandt, no British Guiana stamp ever recorded the tender loving care of Seaver’s right arm. He does everything but keep it under glass. He takes better care of it than a bank takes care of money — and for the same reason. It is probably the most expensive parcel of fleshy real estate in the game — $250,000 a front foot.

  It is a one-purpose appendage. It throws strikes. It has no other function. That is all Seaver asks of it.

  Any manager in the big leagues can tell you it is valuable only because it comes with Seaver attached. But Seaver is not persuaded. He lets the rest of Tom Seaver shift for itself. He will even open beer cans with his left arm, slice bread, let it hang out the window, comb hair, shave whiskers, and do all the things God intended an arm to do. It is an orphan. Cinderella. Tom makes it do all the work he wouldn’t dream of asking its brother to do.

——

  Tom sat in the dugout at the ballpark the other night and watched, fascinated, as two Dodgers pitchers, Mike Marshall and Andy Messersmith, practised double plays around first and second base. “Isn’t that swell?!” he said, not unsarcastically. “They’ve got the double play down pat. Shouldn’t they be working on getting guys to hit into them?” The lesson was clear: Seaver would never ask his arm to complete a double play. Start one, perhaps, but there were other arms to take it from there: arms that couldn’t sneak a fastball part Henry Aaron.

  “You can transplant organs — kidneys, hearts, livers,” Tom said, “but you can’t transplant shoulders and elbows. Or arms. You get one to a customer.” Even in casual conversation, Seaver tends to forget his poor, sit-by-the-fire left arm.

  There have probably been purer arms in the major leagues — although I don’t make that even money, by any means. But there’s never been one more consistent. Seaver can trust his arm. And vice versa. Every year, it delivers 200 strikeouts, some 280 innings pitched, 18 to 20 complete games and the occasional pennant. The pennant borders on a miracle. Because the New York Mets are a one-armed team.

  The Arm delivers a rising fastball, a sinking curveball, a slider so deceptive it looks like both of them at once. It puts the ball where Seaver wants it to — usually where the hitter least expects it.

  With It in there, the Mets are armed and dangerous. Without It, they’re just a good Triple A club. And maybe not so good, at that.

  It is never erratic, rebellious, temperamental. It doesn’t win one game, 1-0, and lose the next, 10-2. It has allowed 652 runs in 312 games in nine years, which comes out to two runs per game. If the Mets score three, they win.

  Seaver knows every muscle, tendon, bone or capillary in it. But to the Mets, it is not full of trapeziuses, triceps, adductors or whatever else comes in ordinary arms, it is full of dollar bills.

  Some men send their gloves to the Hall of Fame when they get elected. Others send bats, shoes, mitts, masks or caps. Seaver may just cut off his arm and send it on. After all, Roy Rogers stuffed his horse. And, by that time, Tom won’t need it anymore. Tom’s other arm will have long since learned how to take care of him now that It is no longer needed to keep that funny little team from falling through the bottom of the league anymore.

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation P.O. Box 661532, Arcadia, CA 91066

——

info@jimmurrayfoundation.org|

www.jimmurrayfoundation.org

Monday’s With Murray: You Can Teach an Old Horse New Tricks

JimMurray 

  Twenty-two years ago today, the world awakened to the news of Jim Murray’s passing shortly after 11 o’clock the previous night — Aug. 16, 1998. He died of cardiac arrest at his West L.A. home after returning from Del Mar where he had covered the Pacific Classic. He wrote his final column on a horse named Free House ridden by jockey Chris McCarron.

   From the first column to the last column, Jim kept his readers entertained for 37 wonderful years at the Los Angeles Times and before that at the L.A. Examiner, Sports Illustrated, Time Magazine and more. He brought humor to an otherwise statistics heavy section of the paper. He gave us a glimpse into the people (and sometimes animals) who played the sports we loved to watch.

——

Jim aspired to be Eugene O’ Neill. Hemingway, even Tolstoi. But Harry Luce, the publishing giant of Time and Life magazines, the blockbuster journals of their time, made Jim a sportswriter.

To quote Jim. “Harry knew everything there was to know about world politics, the domestic economy, Hollywood, Foggy Bottom, Whitehall and Park Avenue. But he didn’t know any more about sports than Mother Teresa.”

Harry traveled the world over, dinner conversation would invariably switch to sports. Demanding to know why, he was told, “. . . sports, like music, is a universal language. Everyone speaks it.” With that, Harry Luce retorted, “Well, then why don’t we have a sports magazine?”

On that chance remark, Sports Illustrated was born. Jim was a Time magazine cinema correspondent in Hollywood at the time.

Jim got to be a sports writer in his journalistic dotage “which is just the right time for it,” he said.

– Linda Murray Hofmans

——

Some classic Jim Murray quotes:

The Bears aren’t very genteel; some teams tend to remove the football from you, the Bears remove you from the football — it’s much quicker.

For those who know golf, no explanation is necessary. For those who don’t, no explanation is possible.

(Seattle) Slew was a compassionate horse. He never beat anybody more than he had to. He was like a poker player who lets you keep your watch and carfare home.

A racetrack crowd comprises the greatest floating fund of misinformation this side of the pages of Pravda, the last virgin stand of optimism in our century.

Pete Rose played the game for 24 years with the little boy’s zeal and wonder until, if you closed your eyes, you could picture him with his cap on 

sideways, knickers falling down to his ankles and dragging a taped ball and busted bat behind him, looking for all the world like something that fell off Norman Rockwell’s easel.

Seeing a goal scored in hockey is like picking your mother out of a crowd shot at the Super Bowl.

——
What follows is Jim Murray’s final column, the one he wrote after covering the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. . . . ENJOY!

——

SUNDAY, AUGUST 16, 1998, SPORTS

Copyright 1998/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY

JIM MURRAY

You Can Teach an Old Horse New Tricks

   DEL MAR — Well, it was a slam dunk for Free House, a “Where is everybody?” win.

   The Bridesmaid finally caught the bouquet. The best friend got the girl in the Warner Bros. movie for a change. The sidekick saves the fort.

   Free House just won’t fold the hand. Three times last year, in the most publicized races mondaysmurray2in the sport, he chased his competition across the finish line in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont. In the money in all of them, in the photo in one of them, he was the hard-luck champion of horse racing.

   He was expected to go quietly into the sunset. A game effort but no cigar.

   He got a measure of revenge Saturday in the Pacific Classic here. He ran away from Touch Gold, who beat him in the Belmont. The horse who beat him in all three Triple Crown races, Silver Charm, didn’t make the dance or he might have gotten a different view of Free House, too.

   The Pacific Classic is not your Run for the Roses. No bands play Stephen Foster as the horses come on the track. But it’s not your basic overnight allowance, either. It’s a $1-million race, major on the schedule. It’s a very big win for Free House. He’s not What’s-His-Name anymore. He’s Who’s Who.

   You know, in most sports, the athlete gets a generation to prove himself. A Jack Nicklaus wins his first major at 22 and his last at 46. A George Foreman wins Olympic boxing gold in 1968, and 30 years later he’s still fighting. Babe Ruth hits his first home run in 1915 and his last in 1935.

   But a racehorse has to act like he’s double-parked. He gets only months to prove he has been here.

   And if his prime coincides with that of Man O’War, Citation, Secretariat or even Count Fleet, he might as well have been born a plow horse.

   What did Free House do that turned him into a star? Well, he got older.

   You know, it’s the public’s notion that the racing begins and ends with the Kentucky Derby and its Triple Crown satellites. Everything else is New Haven.

   Trainers know better. Every real horseman knows a colt’s (or a filly’s) 3-year-old season is not indicative of real prowess. I mean, a Kentucky Derby is not only too early in the career, it’s too early in the year.

   It has been won by a lot of horses who are just better than claiming horses. It has been lost by a lot of horses who were too good to have that fate. Native Dancer comes to mind. Gallant Man. Damascus. Bold Ruler.

   Of course, a horse doesn’t know whether he won the Kentucky Derby or not. But his owner does. His rider does. History does.

   But trainers as a class manage to hold back their enthusiasm. There’s even evidence a trainer resents a Triple Crown race.

   That’s where a Pacific Classic comes in. It’s a trainer’s race. A real test of his skill in bringing a horse up to a race. The real business of racing.

   A Kentucky Derby can be a crapshoot. Not a Pacific Classic. You win a Pacific Classic because you’re at the top of your game, not because eight other horses were still wet behind the ears. Many a Derby has been blown by an immature runner jumping shadows, spitting bits, lugging out, horsing around.

   Not a Pacific Classic. Here, the horses are all grown up, professional. These are the true class of the sport, older horses. Dependable, crafty. Consistent. They don’t beat themselves.

   There probably has never been a good older horse who couldn’t beat a good 3-year-old. It’s so taken for granted, they have to give the kids weight. Handicap horses used to be the glamour stars of the track anyway. They made a movie about Seabiscuit, who never ran in the Triple Crown and never got good till he got middle-aged. They wrote poems about John Henry, who never did either, even though he ran in 83 other races. They used to Equipoise “The Chocolate Soldier.” Exterminator, called “Old Bones,” ran 100 races.

   They were the heart and soul of racing.

   Free House bid fair to join them Saturday. He won so easily, jockey Chris McCarron should have brought a book. He rode him like the Wilshire bus. “You could have ridden him today!” he called out to Free House’s co-owner Trudy McCaffery.

   McCarron rode such a confident race, he remembers thinking, “If I were a cocky individual, I would have turned to the other riders and said ‘Shame on you!’ ”

   Added McCarron, “This horse is so generous with his speed, I knew if he ran the way he trained, these guys were beat.”

   He has one holdover from his misspent youth: He tends to kick out sideways and decelerate in the stretch, almost start to tap-dance. “He gets to wondering where everybody went and to want to slow down and wait for them,” McCarron explained. McCarron hustled him across the finish line four lengths ahead of second-place Gentlemen on Saturday and about 16 lengths ahead of Touch Gold.

   Ironically, McCarron rode Touch Gold to victory in the Belmont. 

   So, is he glad the order was reversed Saturday? Is yesterday’s jinx horse today’s king of the handicap division?

   “Arguably,” said McCarron, “a case could be made.”

   Anyway, it’s nice to know getting older has its flip side.

Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times

Jim Murray Memorial Foundation P.O. Box 661532, Arcadia, CA 91066

——

info@jimmurrayfoundation.org|

www.jimmurrayfoundation.org

OHL aiming for Dec. 1 start . . . 2021 Memorial Cup gets June 17 start . . . WHL update expected today

The OHL announced Wednesday that it is hoping to begin a 64-game regular schedule on ohlDec. 1. It would end on April 29, with 16 of its 20 teams moving into playoffs. . . . The OHL also revealed that the plan is for the 2021 Memorial Cup to be played from June 17-27 with either the Oshawa Generals or Soo Greyhounds the host team. . . . Here’s David Branch, the OHL commissioner, in a news release: “Players will remain at home until the season resumes and teams will work closely with them on both their academic studies and overseeing their on- and off-ice development. In addition, the league will liaise with our facilities to ensure that our venues are safe for our return to play.”

The WHL, which earlier said that it hoped to begin play on Oct. 2, is expected to announce today — governors chatted on Wednesday — that it has moved that date to early December. I am told that date could be Dec. 4 and that the WHL schedule is expected to include 68 games for each of the 22 teams. Teams will spend the first two months playing inside their own divisions. . . . Of course, among a whole lot of other things, like testing and tracing, the WHL still will have to solve the U.S.-Canada border conundrum and the fact that, at least in B.C., large gatherings aren’t likely to be allowed by health officials until at least the new year.

——

——

What follows are 2020-21 starting dates as proposed by various hockey leagues:

AHL: Dec. 4

AJHL: Sept. 18

BCHL: Dec. 1

ECHL: Dec. 4

KHL: Sept. 2

KIJHL: Oct. 2

MJHL: ??

NAHL: Oct. 9

NHL: Dec. 1

OHL: Dec. 1

Pacific Junior Hockey League: Sept. 29

QMJHL: Oct. 1

SJHL: Sept. 25

USHL: ??

Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League: Sept. 7 (48 games), Oct. 12 (40), Nov. 16 (40), Dec. 14 (32)

WHL: Oct. 2

(NOTE: These were compiled off the Internet and from news releases. Feel free to email greggdrinnan@gmail.com with additions or corrections.)


Pandemic


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

——

The ECHL was to have started its 2020-21 regular season on Oct. 16. It announced Wednesday that it now hopes to get started on Dec. 4, with teams playing a full 72-game schedule. . . .

The NBA announced Wednesday that it conducted 343 tests over the previous week with no positives. In the two weeks before that it conducted 344 and 346 tests without any positive tests. . . . The NBA has its teams in a bubble in Orlando, Fla., as it works toward finishing its season. . . .

The U of Connecticut has cancelled its 2020 football season, citing the coronavirus pandemic. UConn, which left the American Athletic Conference after last season (when it finished 2-10), was to play this season as an independent. . . . It is the first FBS school to cancel its season. . . . The Huskies’ roster includes two Canadian quarterbacks — Jack Zergiotis of Montreal and Jonathan Senecal of Quebec City. . . . Here’s David Benedict, the school’s athletic director, in a news release: ”After receiving guidance from state and public health officials and consulting with football student-athletes, we’ve decided that we will not compete on the gridiron this season. The safety challenges created by COVID-19 place our football student-athletes at an unacceptable level of risk.” . . .

——

——

The U of Louisville has suspended all activities involving its men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey and volleyball teams after 29 players on the four teams tested positive. A number of other teammates and student-athletes from other sports are in quarantine after contact tracing. The primary source of the outbreak apparently was an off-campus party. . . .

——

——


Fiji


Enio Sacilotto has taken over as the head coach of the Vancouver Northwest Hawks U15 AAA team. . . . Sacilotto, 62, spent the past three seasons at the West Van Academy. . . . He has extensive coaching experience in Europe, including with the Croatian national team program. . . .  He also spent six seasons as an assistant coach with the WHL’s Chilliwack Bruins/Victoria Royals.


The Regina Pats announced on June 29 that Phil Andrews, their director of media and communications, was leaving the club effective July 31. On Wednesday, Andrews, who also has been the club’s play-by-play voice, tweeted that he will be hanging around for a while longer. . . . It seems that he will be with the Pats until the whole pandemic thing gets sorted out and there is more definition surrounding the start of a new season.


Old

Zach facing one more speed bump . . . Mom: What we really need is a matching kidney

Zach16

So . . . you’ve got kidney disease . . . you go on dialysis . . . you get a new kidney.

Easy peasy! Right?

Oh, if only it was that easy. If only the process wasn’t so damn heart-breaking in some instances.

Zach Tremblay, a 17-year-old from Robson, B.C., needs a kidney. He has been on dialysis, peritoneal or hemo, since 2014. He had a live donor transplant in 2017 but there were complications and it didn’t work out.

He was doing peritoneal dialysis (PD) at home, but it began to lose its effectiveness as 2019 wound down, and he and his mother, Jana, ended up at B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver where he was transitioned to hemodialysis.

That transition included the removal of a catheter that was used for PD and the insertion of a fistula to make hemo a bit easier by allowing an increase in blood flow.

So much for that.

On Thursday, Jana posted on Facebook:

“I guess to be blunt is best. The fistula surgery failed. We found out on Monday that the fistula has clotted off and did not grow. Fistula surgeries have a 25% failure rate, and he fell into that 25%. We are heartbroken and sad and angry and all the things. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t change that the surgery was a failure. It is unusable as an access for dialysis.

“We aren’t sure when, but another fistula surgery will be scheduled. Please keep sharing his story when you see it.

“A fistula is great, but what we really need is a matching kidney.”

——

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

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Shortly after Jana’s post hit Facebook, Joan Alexander replied with an emotional plea of her own:

“This is hard to read and even harder to live! Zach’s mom . . . has shared the most recent update on his journey with kidney disease. Zach is the reason I became a living kidney donor.

“I wonder sometimes if people get tired of reading my posts about organ donation. Well, I will not stop until Zach receives his gift! Please take a moment and read more about his journey on Jana’s page or on the public page: Zach Needs a Kidney . . . Like Yesterday!

“Getting tested to become a donor is so easy.”

——

Meanwhile, there was more news from Vancouver where Ferris Backmeyer continues her battle.

Her mother, Lindsey, reported via Facebook that Ferris celebrated something of a birthday . . .

“Well happy half birthday little miss! 3.5 years old . . . oh my!” Lindsey wrote. “Celebrated with a night-time discharge from the hospital and (Thursday) is a day completely free of appointments and dialysis!! She had HD (Wednesday) followed by 3 flushes of her PD cath and a sample was taken late (Wednesday) afternoon. The results came back at 8pm and cell counts continue to improve. Original samples haven’t grown anything so we’ve stopped the IV and oral antifungals. Which meant we could pull the IV and sleep in ‘our own’ beds!!

“Ferris is so happy to have her ‘colouring hand’ back! I’m hoping she will start to feel better as it’s become quite obvious with the IV med anyways that it really makes her feel like crap. Blood pressure has been pretty high lately and I’m fairly certain she’s lost some real weight and is ‘wet’ at 11.3kg. Feeling such a strong need to get back on PD so we can get more calories into her. The fluid restriction on HD makes it so ridiculously tough to grow her. She’s also pretty anemic so hoping once that improves we will see better energy. She seems to be recovering well from surgery and hasn’t had any Tylenol for over 24hrs.

“Plan is to be admitted Tuesday to start using the PD cath. It’ll be a hybrid of HD and PD for a little bit until we can hopefully switch over fully, pull the HD line and come home. Middle of August maybe? That’s the most current plan anyway.”

——

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

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca


Mike




kidney2

‘Just why are we doing this?’ . . . ‘If we don’t deal with it, it will deal with us.’



The MLS is Back tournament in Orlando, Fla., continues to stagger along, having lost two teams because of players testing positive, and having to postpone a Sunday morning game for the same reason.

Major League Baseball teams are trying to hold something resembling training camps between positive tests and teams having to cancel workouts for reasons that include delays in receiving results.

The NBA has its teams in bubbles in Orlando, practising and preparing to restart their season. There have been positive tests — CBS Sports has reported “dozens” of them — since late June when players returned to practice facilities.

The NHL has teams opening training camps today (Monday) and later will head for the two bubble cities — Edmonton and Toronto — in hopes of resuming their season. In its last weekly report, the NHL said 35 players have tested positive in the past month, with 23 of those coming since workouts began at team facilities on June 8.

The NHL has placed a gag order on its teams, with the league office taking over the reporting of player absences. The NHL won’t provide illness or injury specifics.

On Sunday, Arpon Basu of The Athletic reported that at least three players with the Montreal Canadiens have tested positive “in recent days.” Neither the NHL nor the Canadiens would comment.

As of Sunday evening, seven players had opted out of returning to play — D Karl Alzner, Montreal; F Sven Baertschi, Vancouver; D Mike Green, Edmonton; D Travis Hamonic, Calgary; D Steven Kampfer, Boston; D Roman Polak, Dallas; and D Zach Trotman, Pittsburgh. I believe all of them made the decision to put their health and that of their families ahead of playing in what is truly a bogus season.

(I admit to having stole ‘bogus season’ from Ann Killion, a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle.

(After C Buster Posey of the Giants opted not to play in this MLB season, Killion wrote: “Every single one of the roughly 2,500 or so individuals being asked to participate in a bogus, truncated baseball season have their own personal decisions to make.”)

The deadline for NHL players to opt out without penalty is today (Monday) at 5 p.m. ET.

The Canadiens have given F Max Domi an extra seven to 10 days to make a decision on reporting to camp. Domi has Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease.

Keeping the previous paragraphs in mind, I have to ask: Am I the only person wondering what is going here?

Have we as a society gotten to the point where we sit idly by, in some instances applauding and cheering, as billionaire owners march their athletes like so much chattel into what they all seem to be calling a return to play but in which there are so many unknowns?

How is it that we are in a place where a young man like Domi has to make this kind of decision?

With the U.S. government calling for a return to school next month, Canyons School District in Utah is making plans to re-open. Part of its return-to-school protocol includes this, after it touches on things like exposure letter and distance learning plan information:

“Template letter for the death of a student, teacher.”

It’s enough to make one wonder if various leagues and teams have such a thing in their return-to-play protocols.


Bee


In a brilliant piece in The New York Times, John Branch writes:

“On Wednesday, the day that the Ivy League canceled fall sports, nearly 60,000 new cases were reported in the United States, a new high.

“Some of those were college athletes. Through Wednesday, at least 426  had tested positive for the coronavirus among roughly 50 Division I programs, but the number of cases is likely much higher. About half of American universities either did not respond to requests for testing results from The New York Times, or declined to provide numbers, under the auspices of protecting the privacy of student-athletes.

“Ohio State, in suspending its off-season workout programs this week, did not reveal how many students tested positive. It only said that the shutdown impacted seven sports, including football.

“Such news accelerates as the fall sports calendar approaches. And if reasonable people at some of the world’s great universities had not seriously pondered this question before, they are now:

“Just why are we doing this?”

Branch’s piece is right here.


Look, I’m sorry, but COVID-19 is here and it isn’t going anywhere, at least not for the foreseeable future. I want to see live sporting events on my TV set with fans hooting and hollering in the background. I want to see a  return to some kind of normalcy just as badly as anyone, but I have come to realize that in the months ahead we are going to have to get used to a new normal, whatever that might be.

As Dr. Jeff Duchin, the health officer for Public Health in Seattle and King County, told a news conference on Friday:

“It’s just critical that, as a community, we understand the long-term nature of COVID-19. None of us asked for this, none of us wanted this. But it’s with us and we have to deal with it. And if we don’t deal with it, it will deal with us.”


Kevan Smith, a catcher in camp with the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla., spent the early part of summer working out at home in Pittsburgh.

It seems that he has found Florida to be a bit different.

“Felt like you couldn’t even walk outside without a mask on (at home),” Smith told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. “I feel like here you go out with a mask, we have guys getting called names and all the above. Just a totally different feel.

“I heard a story, one of the (guys), I don’t know if I can use this word, he was in a store shopping for food and I guess it was a resident called the player a pansy for wearing his mask.

“I went out briefly to just pick up some takeout food, and I swear I got like a dozen eyeballs on me, looking at me like I’m like the weirdo walking in with a mask. Little do they know what is at stake for my life and for my livelihood. It’s just very immature and just whatever you want to call it. It’s comical. It’s going on all over the world, but we’re seeing it firsthand here.”


Early last week, 2B Scott Kingery of the Philadelphia Phillies, who is back on the field after being out with COVID-19, told Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia: The virus “can creep up on you and get you pretty bad like it did with me.

Kingery now is symptom-free, but he continues to deal with shortness of breath, a month after being diagnosed. . . .

On Saturday, the New York Yankees revealed that Aroldis Chapman, one of MLB’s best relievers, had tested positive. He has some symptoms and is out indefinitely. . . .

Kenley Jansen, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ closer, was late reporting to their camp because he had tested positive. He said he is “doing great and better now.” He told reporters that he had family members who also tested positive, but they have recovered. . . .

C Cam Gallagher of the Kansas City Royals played in an intrasquad game on Friday and tested positive on Saturday. The Royals now have had at least four players test positive. . . .

P Luis Perdomo and SS Luis Urias of the Milwaukee Brewers have tested positive, but are asymptomatic. The Brewers also are without P Eric Lauer, who didn’t get to camp until Friday. He hasn’t tested positive, but was in contact with someone who did.


TV


Jockey Flavien Prat tested positive after riding in Kentucky on Saturday. He was tested in La Jolla, Calif., on Sunday. He had eight rides at Del Mar on Sunday, but had to give them up. . . . Victor Espinoza, a jockey who is in horse racing’s hall of fame, tested positive in La Jolla on Friday. . . . Two other prominent jockeys — Martin Garcia and Luis Saez — also have tested positive.



From Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times . . .

What a difference four months makes:

March 9: Jazz center Rudy Gobert mockingly touches every microphone at a news conference, contracts COVID-19 and shuts down the NBA season.

July 9: 76ers center Joel Embiid, headed to the Disney World bubble for the season restart, shows up in a hazmat suit.


In my world, Tony Kubek is perhaps the most under-rated analyst in MLB broadcast history. How I used to look forward to Saturday afternoons with Kubek and Curt Gowdy . . .


Headline at fark.com: MLB releases 60-day COVID-19 spreading schedule.


Hartley Miller attacks Redundant Rhetoric in his latest Hartley’s Hart Attack blog entry that is right here. Oh my, there are a lot of pet peeves in here, starting with this point about game times: “How about this traditional one-liner — And tonight’s game will start at 7 ‘PM.’ Thanks for the notice; I would have waited until seven the next morning to watch ‘tonight’s’ game.”


An NFL prediction from Tim Hunter of KRKO Radio: “Patrick Mahomes has signed a contract with the Kansas City Chiefs that will definitely last longer than the team’s name.”

On that subject, the Washington NFL team reportedly will announce today that it is changing its nickname. But it won’t yet announce that nickname as it proceeds through the legalities of a change.



Greg Cote, in the Miami Herald: “Cubs pitcher Jose Quintana lacerated a thumb while washing dishes. Jose, you make big-league money. Look into this really neat invention. It’s called a dishwasher!”


Chimes

Hey, travellers, enough with the lack of respect . . .

Let me tell you why I am feeling frustrated, dejected, ashamed, embarrassed, pissed off and a whole lot more.

I had been sailing, sailing, sailing through this COVID-19 mess — at least, I thought I was doing pretty well. Until now. Good Friday, 6:30 p.m.

Dorothy and I went for a walk in mid-afternoon. We live in Campbell Creek, just east of Kamloops, and walk along a road on the south side of the South Thompson River.

I always walk further than she does, and halfway through I will take a break, sit for a few minutes on a retaining wall and watch the traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway. Hey, every boy loves to watch the big rigs. Right?

On this day, considering all of the politicians and health officials who had been pleading with people to stay home, recommending that they not travel, asking them to avoid family gatherings, I was rather surprised to see how much small vehicle traffic there was going in both directions.

I mean, smaller communities throughout the province were begging non-residents to stay away, petrified that someone from outside would bring the virus into areas that don’t have the medical necessities with which to deal with it.

So, sheesh, I wondered, where is everyone going?

When we returned home, social media, as it had been on Thursday evening, was full of stories of people travelling throughout B.C.

Then, after dinner, I came across a tweet, featuring a few seconds of video, from Tina Lovgreen of CBC Vancouver.

The gent being interviewed — yeah, the one with the smug look on his face — was headed somewhere in the Gulf Islands. Apparently, he also is tone deaf; why else would he agree to be interviewed on camera on this subject?

Anyway . . . asked what might happen if he got ill while there, he looked at the young girl beside him, presumably his daughter, and said: “Not too worried. We’ll bring in a helicopter to bring us out. Right?”

Well, sir, you got to me. Oh, did you ever!

I’m sorry, but I am sick and tired of people like you and the lack of respect that you and others like you are showing to people like my wife.

Dorothy-040719
Dorothy Drinnan: Hugger extraordinaire!

Dorothy is one of thousands of people who live in B.C., and have compromised immune systems. As I have written before, if you passed her on a sidewalk or in a small cafe, you would never know that she is in that situation.

You would never know that she had a kidney transplant more than six years ago, and that she takes anti-rejection drugs twice a day. You would never know that she spent almost four years doing peritoneal dialysis, hooking up to a machine called a cycler every night — EVERY SINGLE DAMN NIGHT — just to stay alive.

And there are all kinds of people with various health problems in the same predicament. In the case of transplant patients, they take drugs in order to keep their bodies from rejecting their new organs, which really are foreign to their systems. In the process of doing that, these drugs suppress the immune systems. These people will take these drugs for the rest of their lives.

That is why the virus that has us in this predicament is so dangerous to them. There isn’t a vaccine for it; there isn’t even a treatment. You can’t imagine anything worse if you don’t have much of an immune system.

While you thumb your nose at all these people with your weekend jaunt, let me tell you a bit about Dorothy.

She is everything I’m not.

OK. Let me tell you a bit about me first. I’m cynical, skeptical, pessimistic, grouchy, miserable and all of that, which is what comes with having worked in the newspaper business for more than 40 years.

Dorothy is a positive person. She loves nothing more than to hug people, something she hasn’t been able to do for a few weeks now, and you have no idea how hard that is on her.

We have been in self-isolation for four weeks now. She hasn’t been in a grocery store in all that time. We order online; if we need something between orders, I go in the store. We have ordered takeout food a couple of times; I’ve gone into the restaurant to get the food.

It was her birthday on Thursday. We went to a favourite restaurant to get some takeout — ate it in their parking lot. She couldn’t even go in to say hi to some of her favourite people.

Shortly after Dorothy found out that she had kidney disease — she was found to have only one kidney and it already had started the downhill slide — she volunteered in the dialysis ward of a Regina hospital. She wanted to help others, while getting a look at what she might be faced with somewhere down the road.

After her transplant, she co-founded the Kamloops Kidney Support Group, and she is one of the organizers of Kidney Walk Kamloops. In each of the six years she has taken part, she has been the Walk’s leading individual fund-raiser. She helps put together an annual Christmas dinner for the kidney community.

She also volunteers at Overlander Residential Care, an assisted living facility in Kamloops. Whenever she gets a text or a phone call asking her if she could come by and play the piano — she plays by ear — her face lights up like a full moon. She often joins in taking residents shopping or to medical appointments. It has pained her not to be able to go there for the past few weeks.

Sir, while you and others of your ilk are ignoring all the pleas and the recommendations, Dorothy has been stuck here with me. No, she can’t travel to Burnaby to see our son, his pregnant wife and Kara, our only grandchild.

Oh, we could arrange to meet somewhere in a parking lot in Abbotsford or Chilliwack and try to keep our distance for an hour or two. But how do you keep a granddaughter, who is soon to turn four, from running to her grandmother for a hug?

Of course, you can’t. So because of a weakened immune system, we will continue to stay home, not travel, and try to do our best to help, you know, flatten the curve while we await the arrival of a miracle or a vaccine, whichever comes first.

In the meantime, don’t concern yourself with any of the people in the medical community who are fighting this from the front lines, or the good folks who continue to keep the shelves stocked in the grocery stores.

Don’t bother yourself with any of this talk about a curve or dead people or intensive care or hospitalizations. Hey, you know that it’ll never happen to you and yours, so you just go right ahead and enjoy your weekend.

I just hope the helicopter isn’t busy if you need it.

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while wondering if we need more bananas . . .

Scattershooting

Let me tell you a little about where we’re at in our household right now, and I have a feeling there are others in the same boat.

If you’re not aware, Dorothy and I are both considered at risk these days; she has a compromised immune system from a kidney transplant; I have heart disease.

So we are trying hard to limit exposure to other people, which is why we ordered groceries online for the first time a few days ago. She had the list; I was at the keyboard. Bananas were on her list.

I found them on the store menu. Hmm, how many did we want? The first option was 1. Well, I thought, when you’re in the store you see some singles, some pairs, three together, even four in a bunch. Yeah, four bananas will do for a while, I thought. So I clicked on 4.

When we got home after picking up the groceries a few days later, we discovered that 4 meant 4 bunches with about 10 bananas in each bunch.

So . . . Dorothy quickly drove over to a friend’s home and left half of the bananas outside her door. (Yes, she phoned first.)

I got up the next morning and looked out a window that overlooks our driveway. Hmm, I didn’t park our Tucson that way. I had backed in; now it was parked looking at me. What happened? I had a brief thought that someone had stolen it and brought it back. Hey, c’mon, these are bizarre times.

Finally, it struck me that Dorothy had driven it after I did. And heaven forbid that she would park the same way that I did. Right?

A couple of days later I was lolling in my recliner late in the afternoon when Dorothy asked: “Are you going to shower today after you didn’t yesterday?”

Upon further reflection, I couldn’t remember whether I had showered the previous day. Eventually, I gave up trying to remember. But I can say that I absolutely cannot remember the last time I went one day without showering.

And then when I awoke Saturday morning, I thought it was Friday. But not knowing what day it is . . . well, that is happening with more and more regularity.

Hey, welcome to our new normal and I don’t mean Normal, Ill.


Clown


Dwight Perry, in the Seattle Times: “The Tokyo Olympics have been rescheduled for 2021 but will still be known as the 2020 Games, organizers say. ‘We couldn’t agree more,’ said 12 of the Big Ten’s 14 athletic directors.”

——

Perry, again: “Triple-double … Double-double … Solo-double? Former standout soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo announced she is pregnant with twins.”


ICYMI, Agent Orange met with sports leaders on Saturday and told them that he would like to see games being played in August and September. (Agent Orange? Saw that in a column by Ed Willes of Postmedia on Saturday.)

The conference call included folks from the NBA, NFL, MLB, MLS, WNBA, LPGA, PGA, IndyCar, Breeders’ Cup and yes, WWE and UFC. For whatever reason, there was no one included from, among others, the NCAA, NASCAR or the WHL.

It wasn’t long after word got out about the orange one wanting games in August and September that Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, said: “I’m not anticipating that happening in this state.”

And that should take care of that.

Thank you, Governor.

——

There has been talk about the NBA perhaps taking teams into Las Vegas and playing some kind of neutral-site games.

Yeah, I’m sure NBA players are going to want to leave their families to go into self-isolation in Las Vegas and be tested and tested and tested just to play a few games. What if one of them tested positive? What then? And how on earth would the NBA be able to keep players in self-isolation without even one of them going rogue?

So let’s scratch that idea.

——

BTW, the logistics of pulling off even one NFL game under the circumstances in which we now live — and in which we still could be living in August and September — are mind-boggling.

It’s a big enough production under normal circumstances. Now throw in all that goes into testing more than 50,000 people, in one way or another, and it becomes all but impossible.

And what of the support staff? To give you some idea of how many people work a pro game, there are more than 1,300 workers at a New York Mets’ home game just to deal with food service.

And it only would take one person in the facility to test positive and, well, it would be: HERE WE GO AGAIN!

So let’s scratch that idea, too.


Crayons


No one knows when this is going to end, or what it’s going to look like at the other end.

But I would be curious to know how many schedules the WHL is going to prepare.

Under normal circumstances, the WHL’s 2020-21 regular season, with each team scheduled to play 68 games, would begin on or around Sept. 25. But if teams aren’t able to open training camps in late August, a bit more than four months away, and they start pushing things back, does the WHL also prepare a schedule that would open in late October and would have teams playing, say, 54 or 56 games? And on and on it would go . . . Keep in mind that the WHL has teams in two states and four provinces, each of which operates independently in these bizarre times.



Headline at TheOnion.com: Kawhi Leonard misses second consecutive family game night, citing load management.


Bruce Jenkins, in the San Francisco Chronicle: “MLB has canceled its scheduled games in Mexico City, Puerto Rico and London, but hopes remain for the Aug. 13 game between the Yankees and White Sox in Dyersville, Iowa, where ‘Field of Dreams’ was filmed. The site adjoins a cornfield and has long been a tourist attraction; an 8,000-seat stadium was built for this and future MLB visits.”



The 12-team Western Canada Baseball League announced Sunday that it has “established a timeline that will guide our decisions this spring.” . . . For starters, the league will decide by May 2 if it will be able to get in a complete 2020 season. . . . “There are also provisions for shortened seasons that would start either on or about Father’s Day or on or about Canada Day,” a news release stated. “Similar dates exist for three or four weeks prior for these shortened seasons for logistics to be put in place.” . . . The league also announced that “governors have agreed that if by early June 2020 health and travel restrictions are still such that the league cannon confirm a start date that the season would be cancelled.” . . . The WCBL has teams in Brooks, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Melville, Moose Jaw, Okotoks, Regina, Swift Current, Weyburn and Yorkton. . . .

——

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the PGA Championship will be held at that city’s Harding Park course from Aug. 6-9. It had been scheduled to run from May 14-17 at Harding Park. . . . Of course, keep in mind that California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Saturday that he doesn’t anticipate seeing pro football in his state in August or September. . . .

Former NFL kicker Tom Dempsey died late Saturday in a New Orleans care home. His daughter, Ashley, said he had tested positive for the coronavirus a week previous. . . . He was 73. Dempsey was born without toes on his kicking foot and held the NFL record for longest field goal (63 yards) for 43 years. . . . He had been in assisted living for a number of years as he dealt with dementia. . . .

Aleksandar Prijovic, a Serbian soccer player, was given three months of home detention for violating a curfew that is in place because of COVID-19. He an 19 others were arrested in a hotel lobby bar in Belgrade on Friday. . . . Meanwhile, Kyle Walker, a defender with Manchester City, is in trouble after breaking lockdown conditions in England. He has apologized after holding a party involving two sex workers at this home.


Dinosaur


Here’s the Thought for the Day, from Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, via Will Rogers: “If stupidity got us in this mess, how come it can’t get us out?”


A few thoughts from Patti Dawn Swansson: “Most of us follow our personal doctors’ advice. I mean, if told to take two aspirin and call ol’ sawbones in the morning, I take two aspirin and make that call. Yet when the finest medical minds in our country advise us what to do (stay the frig home) during the COVID-19 crisis, they are ignored by many among the rabble. I find that to be a most curious bit of business. Even more curious: Why would it take a celebrity athlete, singer or movie star doing a PSA to convince some that the safest place to be right now is behind our own closed doors? Seriously, you’ll listen to, say, Connor McDavid instead of Dr. Theresa Tam? The mind boggles.”

For more, click right here.


Scattershooting on a Saturday night as WHL players head for home . . .

Scattershooting

SOME DOTS AND THOUGHTS AS WE WAIT THIS THING OUT . . .

A couple of hours after the above tweet was posted, the Kamloops Blazers announced that they “have released their players to return home immediately.”

“We will have all players return to Kamloops at an undetermined time,” the statement read.

It wasn’t long after that until the Prince George Cougars and Everett Silvertips said they, too, were allowing players to return to their homes.

The Cougars said they “have decided to send players home to their families until further notice as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Silvertips, according to a tweet from Josh Horton of the Everett Herald, are sending players home Sunday morning. As well, there were indications on social media that the Spokane Chiefs and Winnipeg Ice are doing the same.

However, there was nothing official from the WHL as of late Saturday night.

Look, the way things are shaping up “undetermined time” and “until further notice” may well turn out to be late August, just in time for training camp prior to the 2020-21 season.

Hey, if you are being honest and assuming you have been paying attention to the spread of the COVID-19 virus and all the numbers associated with that, you might be starting to realize that this mess isn’t anywhere near close to a conclusion. . . .

——

The WHL’s board of governors apparently is scheduled to chat on Tuesday. If that’s the case, it is time for them to cancel their season and do all they can to get players back to their families. Hey, billet families are wonderful, they really are, but this league is full of teenagers, some of them as young as 16, who should be with their real families until all of this blows over. . . . So scrub the season and start hoping that things will be better in time to open training camps in August. . . . On second thought, do it today. . . .


On Saturday, the ECHL announced that it has ended its season. “This decision allows our players the opportunity to return to their homes and removes the uncertainty that currently exists,” the ECHL said in a statement. . . . The ECHL is the first North American professional league to cancel its season. . . .


The world mixed and world senior curling championships have been cancelled. They were to have been held in Kelowna, April 18-25. . . . The Memorial Cup is scheduled for Kelowna, May 21-31. . . .

ICYMI, the world men’s curling championship also has been cancelled. It was to have been held in Glasgow, from March 28 through April 5. . . .



Janice Hough, who can be found at LeftCoastSportsBabe.com: “Now March Madness is cancelled. No, let me rephrase that: The NCAA basketball tournaments are cancelled. We’re LIVING in March Madness.” . . .


Tom Brady, at the age of 42, isn’t yet ready to stop playing football. Of course, as comedian Argus Hamilton pointed out via Twitter: “He’s 35 years too young to run for president.” . . .


One supposes that you have to be ready just in case they come for the toilet paper . . .


All those people standing in line to buy toilet paper . . . are those the same people who complain about being third in line at a cash register during normal times? . . .


Are you tired of doing jigsaw puzzles yet? Is there anything worse than putting out 1,000 pieces before getting started on putting it together? . . .


Headline at TheOnion.com: Orioles suggest that MLB maybe consider cancelling entire season just to be safe. . . .



Dwight Perry, in the Seattle Times: “The saddest part about MLB prematurely shutting down spring training? Our gritty young Mariners, at 6-12, were still mathematically alive to win the Cactus League championship.” . . .

——

One more from Perry: “One of the best ways to avoid catching the coronavirus, health officials say, is to avoid touching your own face. Lots of luck trying to break a third-base coach of that nasty habit.” . . .


Wash your hands and stay safe out there.