WHL now has paused 20 of 22 teams . . . Hitmen take two games to alternate arena . . . SJHL is having COVID-19 issues, too

The WHL announced on Wednesday that it had placed the Brandon Wheat Kings WHLand Kelowna Rockets on pause “as a result of multiple players and staff being added” to the protocol list “due to exhibiting symptoms or having tested positive for COVID-19.” . . . This means that the league has had 20 of its 22 teams pause all activities at one time or another since Dec. 30. . . . I had written that the only team not to have had to pause was the Seattle Thunderbirds, but Nick Marek, Portland’s media relations and broadcast manager, points out that the Winterhawks haven’t been paused, either. . . . On the roster/injury report released Tuesday, the Thunderbirds showed 10 players in protocol and two others having been cleared to return. Portland had one player in protocol. . . . On that same report, Brandon listed one player in protocol, with the Rockets showing two. Obviously, more positive tests came in after the weekly report was filed. . . .


With the WHL putting Brandon and Kelowna on pause, three games were postponed. One of them — Brandon at the Regina Pats on Friday — was to have been televised nationally by TSN. . . . Instead, viewers will be able to watch the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds against the host Guelph Storm. And, with the QMJHL on pause, TSN won’t have a Jan. 28 game between the Acadie-Bathurst Titan and Drummondville Voltigeurs. Instead, TSN will show the Prince Albert Raiders and the host Pats. . . . The WHL also postponed Kelowna’s next two games — at the Everett Silvertips tonight (Friday) and at the Vancouver Giants on Saturday. The Everett game already has been rescheduled for Feb. 6. . . . The WHL continues to reschedule games, so make sure to check your favourite team’s website before making plans to attend a game.

The WHL’s Calgary Hitmen share their home arena — the Scotiabank CalgarySaddledome — with the NHL’s Flames and the NLL’s Roughnecks. So it’s not always easily to reschedule games. . . . That has resulted in the Hitmen moving two rescheduled games to the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex on Tsuut’ina Nation. That is the same facility in which the Hitmen played during the 2021 development season. . . . The Hitmen will play the Moose Jaw Warriors there on Feb. 16 and the Winnipeg Ice on Feb. 18.


We all love stories involving EBUGs, don’t we? Well, here’s one about a guy who answered the call after a 15-year absence . . .

The SJHL has put the Battlefords North Stars on pause for at least five days due sjhlto COVID-19 having found its way into the organization. They were headed into a stretch of schedule that called for them to play four games in five days, so those games, through Jan. 25, have been postponed. . . . Battlefords is at least the ninth of the SJHL’s 12 teams to have had to pause team activities since Jan. 4. As of Thursday night, the Notre Dame Hounds also were on pause. . . . The SJHL has a terrific chronology of pauses and postponed/rescheduled games right here.


ICYMI, NBC, the host broadcaster for the Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Games that are to begin in Beijing on Feb. 4, announced on Thursday that it won’t be sending any announcing teams to China. . . . Greg Hughes, NBC Sports’ senior vice president communications, told Christine Brennan of USA TODAY: “The announce teams for these Olympics, including figure skating, will be calling events from our Stamford (Conn.) facility due to COVID concerns. We’ll still have a large presence on the ground in Beijing and our coverage of everything will be first rate as usual, but our plans are evolving by the day as they are for most media companies covering the Olympics.” . . . Brennan also reported that two sources had told her “ESPN is not going to send anyone to cover” the Games in Beijing. “If true,” she tweeted, “this is another sign of the extraordinary concern media companies now have with COVID testing and quarantine in Beijing.” . . . ESPN had planned to send four reporters, but has dropped that plan.


Meanwhile, CBC reporter Devin Heroux, who spent 50 days in Tokyo covering the Summer Games and the Paralympics last summer, revealed that he won’t be going to Beijing. He tested positive on Christmas Day and, while he’s over that part of it, he is unable to meet the Beijing Olympic Committee requirement of three negative tests within 30 days of departure. . . . CBC also has a policy of not sending anyone to Beijing who has tested positive within 30 days of leaving Canada.

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Raiders have chance to oust Blades today. . . . Chiefs finish off Silvertips. . . . Lacombe hoists fourth Allan Cup


D Filip Kral of the Spokane Chiefs sat out Game 5 of their series with the visiting Everett whlSilvertips on Saturday night with a one-game suspension. According to the WHL, he was suspended “for game misconduct” in Game 4 on Friday night. Kral was ejected from the game, which Everett won, 4-1, at 19:28 of the third period. In many situations, and this is one of them, the WHL is as transparent as tinfoil. Surely it wouldn’t hurt to keep the fans informed by letting them know the nature of the transgression. Perhaps the player had a stickboy go to a concession area to get him a hotdog and the referees were upset that he forgot to order for them, too.

At the same time, the Chiefs were fined $500 for what the WHL termed “warm up violations.” Again, the WHL chooses, as it usually does, not to let the sun shine in on these decisions, but these infractions usually involve players staying on the ice too long at the end up the pregame warmup, or a player or players crossing the centre line into enemy territory during the warmup. In this instance, though, perhaps the hotdogs weren’t warmed up properly in the officials’ room.

The WHL also handed down one other suspension on Saturday, as it gave F Justin Nachbaur of the Prince Albert Raiders two games for an interference major and game misconduct he incurred in Game 5 of their series with the Saskatoon Blades on Friday night. He was penalized for a  hit on Blades D Dawson Davidson at 14:52 of the third period in a game that the host Raiders won, 6-1. . . . Nachbaur will sit out Game 6 in Saskatoon tonight, and also will miss either Game 7 against the Blades or the first game of the Eastern Conference final.

F Jesse Todd scored twice to help the Lacombe Generals to a 5-2 victory over the Innisfail Eagles in the championship final of the Allan Cup tournament on Saturday. The Generals were the host team for the six-team senior AAA tournament that also included the South East Prairie Thunder, Stoney Creek Generals, who were the defending champions, Haut-Madawaska Panthers and Rosetown Red Wings. . . . F Chase Norrish, F Dylan Nowakowski and F Cody Cartier also scored for Lacombe. Cartier’s goal and Todd’s second score were empty-netters in the game’s final minute. . . . Lacombe got 26 saves from G Tyler Weiman. . . . The Eagles got two goals from F Justin Cox. . . . G Allen York stopped 37 shots for Innisfail. . . . The Generals, who were in the final for a fifth straight season, now have won four Allan Cup titles — 2009, 2013, 2016 and now 2019.


NOTES: The Prince Albert Raiders have their first opportunity to wrap up their Eastern Conference semifinal today when they meet the Blades in Saskatoon. The Raiders hold a 3-2 lead in the series after beating the visiting Blades, 6-1, on Friday night. . . . Should the Blades win tonight — and they are expecting somewhere around 10,000 fans in the SaskTel Centre — the teams would settle the issue with Game 7 in Prince Albert on Tuesday. . . .

F Kirby Dach of the Blades left Friday’s game in the second period with an apparent injury to his left leg after an awkward looking collision with Raiders F Brett Leason. He missed about half of the second period, then returned for the third. . . . Blades D Dawson Davidson was helped off the ice late in the third period after taking a hit from Raiders F Justin Nachbaur, who has been suspended for two games. I would expect Davidson to play today, otherwise I’m thinking Nachbaur would have been hit with one of those TBD suspensions. . . .

The winner of this series will meet the well-rested Edmonton Oil Kings in the Eastern Conference final. That series is expected to open in Saskatchewan with games on Friday and Saturday nights. . . .

In Saturday’s only playoff game, the host Spokane Chiefs beat the Everett Silvertips, 2-1, to win that series 4-1. . . . The Silvertips had gone 47-16-5 to finish atop the U.S. Division, 12 points ahead of the Chiefs (40-21-7). . . . Spokane will meet the Vancouver Giants in the Western Conference final, starting with games in Langley, B.C., on Friday and Saturday nights, with Games 3 and 4 in Spokane on April 23 and 24. . . . The Giants went 48-15-5 in the regular season to finish atop the conference. . . . Vancouver won the season series, 3-1-0; Spokane was 1-2-1. . . . The Giants won two of three games since the trade deadline — 6-4 in Spokane and 5-4 in Langley. The Chiefs won 4-1 on home ice on March 8.



F Riley Woods’ second-period goal stood up as the winner as the Spokane Chiefs beat the SpokaneChiefsvisiting Everett Silvertips, 2-1. . . . The Chiefs won the series, 4-1, and move into the Western Conference final against the Vancouver Giants. That series is to open Friday in Langley, B.C. . . . Last night, F Robbie Holmes (4) gave the Silvertips a 1-0 lead at 1:32 of the first period. . . . Spokane D Nolan Reid (1) tied it, on a PP, at 10:00. . . . Woods scored his sixth goal of these playoffs at 5:24 of the second period, on a PP, and it ended up being the winner. . . . D Ty Smith assisted on both Spokane goals. . . . Spokane was 2-5 on the PP; Everett was 0-2. . . . The Chiefs were 6-14 on the PP in the five games; Everett was 2-15. . . . The Silvertips spent the final 3:27 of the third period on the PP after Chiefs F Luc Smith was given a double-minor for boarding. However, Everett wasn’t able to beat G Bailey Brkin, who finished with 34 saves. The Chiefs were outshot 13-5 in the second period and 16-4 in the third. . . . Everett got 19 saves from G Dustin Wolf. . . . With D Filip Kral serving a one-game suspension, the Chiefs moved Matt Leduc up to play alongside Reid. They had D Egor Arbuzov in the lineup to fill the vacancy created by Kral’s absence. . . . Leduc set an early tone when he stepped up and hit Everett F Connor Dewar with a thundering check at 8:24 of the first period. Dewar went to the dressing room and missed a few shifts before returning to finish the game.


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