NHL revamps playoff format for Covid Cup playoffs . . . But will there be games? . . . Royals hope Price is right

The unfortunate thing about Gary Bettman, the commissioner of all things NHL, telling us a whole lot of non-specific things on Tuesday afternoon is that we now are faced with another couple of months of this stuff.

Why?

Because nobody knows a whole lot about anything right now.

This pandemic-causing virus is brand new, which is why it’s the novel coronavirus. NHLScientists and the medical community are learning about it as we move along.

So, on Tuesday, Bettman told us that the NHL’s 2019-20 regular season is over and that there is to be some kind of convoluted Stanley Cup playoff featuring 24 teams, up from the 16 that would have made it in a ‘normal’ season, with all games played without fans in the stands. (I’m wondering if the players from the seven teams that didn’t make it are breathing sighs of relief.)

Bettman talked about the draft lottery and the draft, and that these playoffs may not get started until sometime in August, which would mean a Stanley Cup presentation two months after that, which would mean the 2020-21 regular season wouldn’t start until January.

(Whoever comes out of this as the Stanley Cup champion gets a gigantic asterisk. Right? And if that happens to be the Toronto Maple Leafs, it doesn’t officially bring an end to that championship drought that has been ongoing since their last title in 1967. Right?)

Bettman also said that this push to decide a Stanley Cup winner isn’t about the money, and if you believe that you just haven’t been paying attention. Because that’s all that it’s about; it always is.

Bettman also said that the playoffs will go ahead in two hub cities, with half the teams in one and the other half in the other. As Bettman spoke, there apparently were 10 cities under consideration.

But it became evident later that the NHL will have to drop Vancouver from that list because the province of B.C. doesn’t seem likely to drop its demand that incoming international travellers self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s chief medical officer, said later Tuesday afternoon that, although she hasn’t seen an NHL plan yet, “We’re not bending the rules in any way that would put what we have achieved here in B.C. at risk.”

Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, offered: “If in fact we are not able to really find an interpretation of the quarantine consistent with our players’ ability to travel in, and not be able to do a strict quarantine in a hotel room, we won’t be in a position to use any of the Canadian cities as a hub city.”

If it comes down to Dr. Henry vs. the NHL, my money is on B.C.’s top doc. If you aren’t aware, she’s a star out here. A shoe company put out a line of shoes in her honour and they sold out in minutes, at a suggested retail of $339 a pair, crashing the website in the process. T-shirts with her likeness on them have raised more than 10 grand for charity.

Oh, and did I mention that, despite all of the positive spin we heard yesterday, all of this might not happen at all.

So for the next few weeks we are going to see a barrage of stories and reports on all of this, including playoff previews, speculation on what team rosters will look like and on and on.

Meanwhile, as of Tuesday evening, the virus-related death toll in the United States was at 94,702, according to statistics kept by John Hopkins University. The number of deaths in Canada was at 6,639. That figure worldwide is somewhere around 350,000.

No one was talking about any of that on Tuesday in all the chatter about the NHL’s possible return to play.

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The most sensible comments I have seen to date on the NHL’s plan to return to play have come from Minnesota Wild G Devan Dubnyk. He is the Wild’s representative on the NHLPA’s executive board.

The executive board voted 29-2 last week to accept the 24-team format as presented by the NHL. However, that doesn’t mean the NHL is anywhere close to returning to the ice.

In speaking with Michael Russo of The Athletic on Monday, Dubnyk said: “We voted strictly on the format. In other words, ‘If we are to come back, this is how it’s going to be played.’ But we have not even touched on logistics or cities or travel or testing or how the economics will work or what this quarantine bubble (the players are) supposed to live in will be like or any of that stuff yet. Nothing else has been voted on … yet.”

Dubnyk also said:

“I think it’s really important to start having these conversations with as many players as we can about, ‘Guys, what scenarios are we OK with?’ From what it sounds like, it’s going to be some sort of hub city scenario, so we’ve got to talk about that. How long are guys OK with being away for? When we are in this city, are we locked in our hotel room? Going from the hotel room to the rink and back only, are guys OK with just doing that? Can our families come with us, or if there’s a family emergency and we leave the bubble (to go back into society), can we return to the bubble or are we done? What’s the food situation? Like, can we only eat in our hotel rooms? How often are we tested? Who pays for that? What’s the damage economically to the sport?

“All of these things, and there’s so many variables, need to be talked about and we’ve got to start getting a grasp on it now so that it doesn’t just hit us in the face all of a sudden. This stuff hasn’t been discussed with the players. Everything’s just been so hypothetical.”

Dubnyk also admitted to Russo that he wonders “if this is going to truly happen unless things relax enough where that bubble doesn’t necessarily need to exist as tightly as we think it does right now. Even with the players, it’s like, if your wife’s having a baby or something and you have to leave, do I have to miss an entire series now or suddenly quarantine for two weeks?

“That’s why I just feel like it doesn’t seem feasible to make this happen unless those rules relax by the time we’re going to play later this summer. There’s just so much stuff that hasn’t been figured out yet that we’ve got to start figuring out what are we OK with or not OK with, and then once that’s discussed, have another vote.”

Russo’s complete story is right here.


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from H.L. Mencken: “A man may be a fool and not know it, but not if he is married.”


With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team and put a smile on her face by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.



Rory McIlroy has told the BBC that he doesn’t believe the 2020 Ryder Cup will be played. It is scheduled for Sept. 25-27 at Whistling Straits near Sheboygan, Wisc. . . . McIlroy would like to see the event moved to 2021. . . .

Japan’s Nippon Professonal Baseball season is set to start on June 19, but without fans in attendance. The league, which was to have started play on March 20, has yet to release its schedule, but is hoping to have each of its 12 teams play about 120 games, down from 143. . . .

The Alpine skiing world championships are scheduled for Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, from Feb. 7-21. However, the Italian Winter Sports Federation already is talking about postponing them until March 2022, which would be one month following the end of the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games that are scheduled for Feb. 4-20. . . .

The EuroLeague, Europe’s top men’s basketball league, has cancelled its season, which had been on pause since March 12. The league comprises 18 teams from 10 countries. . . .

The 2021 Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships have been cancelled. They had been scheduled for Vail, Colo., from March 1-6. . . .

The AJHL’s Drumheller Dragons have had adjustments made to their rent by the town council. According to a news release from the town, Dragons owner Blair Christianson had made a presentation to council on May 11 that explained the team is likely to lose about $330,000 because of the pandemic and that without some aid the team wouldn’t be viable. On Monday, Mayor Heather Colberg said the “adjustments to the fee structure will have a financial impact of $66,291.50 over four years.” . . .

The 11-team Western States Hockey League announced Tuesday that it won’t play in 2020-21 because of uncertainties brought on by the pandemic. The WSHL includes four teams in Alberta — the Barrhead Bombers, Cold Lake Hornets, Edson Aeros and Hinton Timberwolves — and two in Washington state — the Bellingham Blazers and Seattle Totems. . . . The WSHL, a pay-to-play league, bills itself as junior A but to say it has had trouble gaining traction would be something of an understatement. . . .



Dan Price, who joined the Victoria Royals as an assistant coach during the 2016-17 VictoriaRoyalsseason, now is the WHL team’s general manager and head coach. He has completed three seasons as the team’s head coach. He takes over as GM from Cam Hope, who was fired on April 29 after eight seasons in the office. The Royals made the playoffs in each of those eight seasons, but never were able to get out of the second round. . . . The Royals are 105-81-18 in Price’s three seasons as head coach. . . . Price, 45, holds a law degree from the U of Saskatchewan. . . . His only experience as a general manager is from three seasons (2009-12) as the GM/head coach of the AJHL’s Drumheller Dragons. . . . There now are six WHL teams with one man holding the titles of general manager and head coach. The others are Dean Brockman, Swift Current Broncos; Willie Desjardins, Medicine Hat Tigers; Mike Johnston, Portland Winterhawks; Mark Lamb, Prince George Cougars; and Brent Sutter, Red Deer Rebels.


Casinos


It seems that John Pateman is more convinced than ever that his Prince George Cougars PrinceGeorgeare on the right track. He just doesn’t know when the WHL team is going to get started on that track. . . . “To me, the million-dollar question is when are we going to be playing games,” Pateman, a co-owner and the franchise’s president, told Ted Clarke of the Prince George Citizen. “Certainly in our league, our main sources of revenue are certainly the fans and corporate sponsorships for rink boards and all that, but you have to have fans. What everybody is attempting to do is prepare for every option that’s out there so when we know what’s going to happen we’re fully prepared.” . . . Pateman and the ownership group there purchased the Cougars after the 2013-14 season, so they are waiting for their seventh season as owners to begin. The Cougars wouldn’t have been in the playoffs last season, had the pandemic not wiped out everything, and Pateman has said they were 1,500 fans per game from breaking even. Still, he told Clarke, “In the last two seasons, I feel we’ve really started to head in the right direction.” . . . The complete story is right here.



The SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves have signed associate coach Gaelan Patterson to a one-year extension. Patterson, who is from La Ronge, is preparing for this third season with the Ice Wolves. . . . Patterson, 29, played four seasons (2006-10) with the WHL’s Saskatoon seasons (2015-18) in Europe.


Scattershooting on a Sunday night while wondering what’s on the road ahead of us . . .

Scattershooting


The U.S. is in the process of exempting pro athletes from any restrictions that were placed on them because of the pandemic. Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, signed an order on Friday that provides exemptions from any regulations barring pro athletes from entering the U.S.  . . . “Professional sporting events provide much needed economic benefits, but equally important, they provide community pride and national unity,” Wolf said in a statement. “In today’s environment, Americans need their sports. It’s time to reopen the economy and it’s time we get our professional athletes back to work.” . . . According to Wolf’s statement, the DHS is going to work with pro leagues “to identify the specific athletes, essential staff, team and league leadership, spouses, and dependents covered by this exemption.” . . . There has been no indication that the Canadian government will follow suit, meaning pro athletes entering Canada will have to self-isolate for two weeks upon arrival.


PeepingTom


“The University of Kentucky — winners of 24 national cheerleading championships in the past 35 years — dismissed the team’s adviser and entire coaching staff after an investigation revealed a culture of hazing, public nudity and alcohol use during team retreats,” writes Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “In keeping with the theme, they’ll get paid a total severance of $2.50 in four installments — 2 bits, 4 bits, 6 bits, a dollar.”



Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with another Thought for the Day, this one from H.L. Mencken: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”


Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, has told pro teams that they are free to return to their facilities and to hold training camps. “I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena — do it! Do it!” he said. ”Work out the economics, if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports. To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy. So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible. And we’ll work with them to make sure that can happen.” . . .

Liga MX, Mexico’s top soccer league, has cancelled the remainder of its men’s and women’s seasons and won’t declare champions. The move came after eight players from the Santos Laguna club tested positive on Wednesday. The positives came despite none of the players showing any symptoms. . . .

The English Premier League has reported two positives from its second round of testing, with them coming from two different unidentified teams. The first round resulted in six positives from tests of 748 people. The second round covered 996 people. Those testing positive are in seven-days of self-isolation. . . .

The Belarusian Cup went to BATE Borisov with a 1-0 victory over Dynamo Brest. There were 5,761 tickets sold to the game, far fewer than normally would be available. Fans were asked to respect physical distancing, but many sat in groups and few wore masks.


Quinton Dunbar, a cornerback acquired by the Seattle Seahawks from the Washington Redskins, had a chat session with reporters a few days ago. About being traded to the Seahawks, he said: “You just want to feel wanted at the end of the day.” . . . A few hours later, a warrant was issued for his arrest on armed robbery charges.


Here’s the gang at fark.com with a summary of The Last Dance: “Knowing their owner is going to fire the coach and disband the team at the end of season, the Bulls put it all on the line to win the championship. Hey, wait, that’s the same plot as ‘Major League.’ ”


Freezers


Auzzie Chambers has been named assistant general manager and director of scouting for the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies. . . . Chambers has been scouting for the Grizzlies since January after working with the Powell River Kings. . . . According to a Grizzlies news release, Chambers, who is 17 years of age, “was the youngest person to ever take the General Manager & Scouting Course at Sports Management Worldwide, where he just completed his Hockey Analytics course.” . . . In his new position, Chambers will work with Craig Didmon, the general manager and head coach.


Dave Shyiak, a native of Brandon, has signed on as the associate head coach with the St. Cloud, Minn., State Huskies. Shyiak, a former head coach at the U of Alaska-Anchorage, spent the past six seasons as associate coach with the Western Michigan Mustangs. Andy Murray, the Mustangs’ head coach, is from Souris, Man., which is near Brandon. . . . With the Huskies, Shyiak fills a spot created by the retirement of Mike Gibbons.


Scott Fellnermayr has been named interim head coach of the NAIT Ooks for 2020-21. He had been the team’s full-time assistant coach. Fellnermayr moves up to replace Tim Fragle, who has moved on after four years to become the general manager and head coach of the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters. . . . Fellnermayr played four seasons (2012-16) with the Ooks. He later spent two seasons as the team’s video coach, before becoming the full-time assistant last season.


Dorothy-020119
Dorothy Drinnan had a kidney transplant more than six years ago. Now she’s raising money to help others who are dealing with kidney disease.

With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team and put a smile on her face by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.


The ’85 Bears, another of ESPN’s terrific 30 for 30 shows, was on one of TSN’s channels on Saturday. Near the end, Mike Singletary, the former all-world linebacker, was leaving after a visit with a failing Buddy Ryan, who had been the team’s defensive coach. . . . “The older you get,” Singletary said, “the more goodbyes you say.” . . . Oh boy, isn’t that the truth.


CommonSense

NHL one step closer to return . . . Canada out of junior Summer Showcase . . . Fragle hoping to rock in Trail

There still are a number of hurdles to get over but the NHLPA has given the OK for its executive to keep on talking to the NHL about a return to play. So if things continue to progress, hockey fans may yet get to watch 24 teams take part in some kind of a Stanley Cup tournament with games played in a number of hub cities. . . . Keeping in mind that there still negotiations to be held, Carol Schram, a senior contributor for Forbes, has more right here.

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Here’s one more thing for NHL players to think about as they prepare for a potential return to the ice. . . . Dr. Andrew Morris, who specializes in infectious diseases at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, has told TSN’s Rick Westhead that players need to make sure their long-term health is looked after should they happen to end up becoming infected with the novel coronavirus during a return to play. . . . Dr. Morris said: “Young athletes do not think about this stuff because they think they are invincible, but every so often we see young, healthy people get very bad diseases, and this is no different. It would be unusual for a healthy young athlete to get really sick with COVID and wind up in the ICU, but, hey, somebody wins the lottery, right? . . . They should want their health care and income insured, seeing that they are taking an additional risk, especially if residing in the U.S.” . . . As the medical community learns more and more about the impact of this virus, it is finding survivors who have been left with heart, kidney, liver and lung damage. . . . Westhead’s story is right here.



And what of the NBA and its efforts to get its season back on track? It is look as though it will re-open with all of its teams playing out of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., without fans in attendance. . . . As Rohan Nadkarni of si.com points out in this piece right here, it really is all about the Benjamins.


Here’s Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle on the NBA and a return to play:

“In the wonderful world of asterisks, we’re already talking Extra Large for whichever team wins the title. If you’re trying to play through a pandemic in neutral settings with nobody in the stands, you connect with nothing in Finals history. Don’t ruin this risky venture by welcoming the absurd.

“Those 16 teams worked hard to establish playoff position. Nobody else has the right to qualify after such a maddening layoff. The Warriors have long disappeared from view, but the same goes for Portland, New Orleans or any other team trying to sneak into this science-fiction film. They all had their chance.

“And for heaven’s sake, forget the idea (actually discussed) of a ‘play-in tournament’ to determine the final playoff slots in each conference. Could it be more boring, especially during times of urgency? ‘Hey, come see the teams that don’t deserve this.’ ”



With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team and put a smile on her face by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.


BillPosters


USA Hockey is planning to play host to the World Junior Summer Showcase later this USAhockeysummer but Canada won’t be taking part. Teams from the U.S., Finland and Sweden will participate in the event that is to run from July 24 through Aug. 1 at Plymouth, Mich. . . . “We’ve heard from Canada and they will not be able to come, but we’re checking in every two weeks with Sweden and Finland,” said John Vanbiesbrouck, USA Hockey’s assistant executive director of hockey operations who also is the GM of the U.S. national junior team. “Obviously things are different in Sweden than they are in Finland. There’s also the whole restriction part on international travel which looks like it’s going to be lifted sometime in June, so we’re just staying on top of everything from what’s going on newsworthy to bringing it back internally. That’s how we’re going to go. We’re not going to change anything.”



Hockey Canada announced on March 13 that it had cancelled all sanctioned events until further notice. . . . Earlier this week, Hockey Canada issued “An Open Letter to Canadians” that was signed by Michael Brind’Amour, the chairman of the board of directors, CEO Tom Renney and Scott Smith, the president and COO. . . . Included in that letter was this paragraph:

“The health and safety of everyone involved in the game will determine when we return, not our desire to get back on the ice. When our country is ready, Hockey Canada will be ready. Until then, continue to follow the guidelines set by your provincial and territorial government to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Only by working together will we be able to make a difference and safely return.”

That letter is right here.



Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from H.L. Mencken, who died in 1956 put perhaps foresaw the future rather clearly: “When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost. . . . All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre.”


Granted, it’s not going to happen until 2021, but a new hockey league — 3ICE — is on the way. Headed up by CEO E.J. Johnston and Commissioner Craig Patrick, 3ICE will feature eight teams playing 3-on-3 hockey over nine weekends, each one in a different city, during the summer of 2021. . . . Each team’s roster will comprise six skaters and one goalie. . . . The team’s head coaches are Guy Carbonneau, Grant Fuhr, Ed Johnston, John LeClair, Joe Mullen, Larry Murphy, Angela Ruggiero and Bryan Trottier. . . . E.J. Johnston is the son of Ed Johnston, one of the head coaches who is a former NHL goaltender, head coach and GM. . . . There’s more right here.


After watching all 10 episodes of The Last Dance, Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote: “These questions will never be answered, but here goes: For Jordan, was there really a higher level of emotional fire that could be reached only by disrespect? Did that disrespect supercharge his physical skills, or was that higher level of fire a self-created myth to enhance his greatness?”


Tinfoil


Brian Wiebe, a veteran observer of the BCHL, has a solid piece right here on that league and how it and its teams are coping with the pandemic and all that has come with it.

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Tim Fragle is the new general manager and head coach of the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters. TrailFrom Edmonton, Fragle has spent the past four seasons as the head coach of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Ooks of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference. . . . While at NAIT, Fragle won three coach-of-the-year awards. . . . Fragile was the GM/head coach of the AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders for seven seasons (2009-16). . . . He played three seasons (1997-2000) with the Smoke Eaters, finish the last of those seasons with the Merritt Centennials. . . . While playing in Trail, he was teammates with Craig Clare, who is from Sherwood Park, Alta., and is the Smokies’ director of hockey and business operations. . . . In Trail, Fragle takes over from Jeff Tambellini, who left in April to join the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning as a pro scout and NCAA free-agent recruiter.


David Legwand, a co-owner of the OHL’s Sarnia Sting, is moving from associate coach to be the team’s president of hockey operations. Legwand and Derian Hatcher, another former NHL player, purchased the Sting in 2015. . . . Legwand has been the associate coach for three seasons, with Hatcher as the head coach. Hatcher remains in the role, with Dylan Seca the general manager.


Darren Rovell of actionnetwork.com reports that a Mike Trout signed rookie card has sold at auction for US$900,000. It was from the Bowman Draft Chrome Prospect set. . . . That “obliterated the record for the highest-priced modern-day baseball card and tied the record for the most expensive modern-day card ever — the LeBron James/Michael Jordan logoman card, sold in February 2020,” Rovell wrote. . . . Perhaps the most interesting part of Rovell’s story involved seven unopened boxes of 1986-87 Fleer NBA cards. These boxes weren’t at all popular when they debuted; in fact, boxes were returned by hobby stores for $6 refunds. At auction, Rovell wrote, they sold for “as much as $109,200 each.” . . . Rovell’s story is right here.


Border

WHL hires lobbyists to meet with B.C. health officials . . . Hoping to discuss return-to-play protocol . . . CFL makes some changes

The WHL has two lobbyists from the Vancouver-based Bluestone Consulting Group working to lobby officials in the B.C. government as it hopes to make its way through the pandemic and get back on the ice in the fall.

The WHL suspended its 2019-20 regular season on March 12 and later cancelled the whlremainder of its season, including the playoffs.

Hoping to stick to a schedule that would have it start the 2020-21 season in late September, the WHL has contracted with lobbyists Mark Jiles, the principal owner of Bluestone, and Rob Nagai, its vice-president.

Jiles has more than 20 years worth of experience “in helping organizations achieve their strategic communications, government relations, goals and objectives.” Among other things, he spent four years (2002-06) on the board of directors of the bid and organizing committees for the 2006 World Junior Championship, the bulk of which was held in Vancouver.

Nagai has been with Bluestone since January 2018. Prior to that, he spent almost seven years working as a fundraiser with the B.C. New Democratic Party that now governs the province.

According to details filed with the B.C.’s Office of the Registrar and Lobbyists, the WHL wants to lobby Adrian Dix, B.C.s Minister of Health, and the Provincial Health Services Authority, which “oversees the co-ordination and delivery of provincial programs and highly specialized health-care services.”

The WHL is hoping to be “included (in the) B.C. government’s restart program.”

The WHL also “would like to discuss a Return to Play protocol” with the government. “This would detail what it would take to reopen the league and these regulations and guidelines would ultimately apply” to five B.C. teams in the WHL.”

Jiles and Nagai began working for the WHL on May 11, with a projected end date of July 31.

The arrangement with Bluestone doesn’t have anything to do with lobbying the B.C. government for financial aid.

The CHL, the umbrella under which the WHL operates, along with the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, has hired Bluesky Strategy of Ottawa to lobby Canada’s federal government in the hopes of garnering financial aid for its 52 Canadian teams.

I reported on that in a piece that was posted here late on Tuesday night.


Bears


The CFL is hoping to get its 2020 season underway at some point in September. And if it does end up playing a season of some sort, it won’t end with a Grey Cup game in Regina as had been planned.

Regarding the start of the season, CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said in a news release: “Barring some huge development, like a vaccine for COVID-19, it now seems clear we can rule out playing games this summer.

“There are several reasons, including the continuing restrictions on assemblies, travel and border crossings. Notably, several provinces and municipalities have already decided to prohibit until Sept. 1 all sporting events featuring large gatherings.”

Ambrosie also admitted that “a cancelled season is also possible . . . it’s too soon make a sure call at this point.” As he put it: “We are not announcing or promising a return this fall.”

Meanwhile, the CFL also announced a change to its format for the Grey Cup game. Originally scheduled for Regina on Nov. 22, the championship game, if it is played, will take place in the home stadium of the finalist with the best regular-season record in 2020. Depending on when the season would start, the championship could be decided some time in December.

Hamilton will remain as the host city for the 2021 game, with Regina now to play host in 2022.

The CFL also cancelled its Touchdown Atlantic game that was to have been played in Halifax on July 25. The game was to have featured the Toronto Argonauts and Saskatchewan Roughriders.


Greeneggs


Edmonton is hoping to be one of the so-called hub cities should the NHL get up and running again. If you are wondering whether NHL players crossing the U.S.-Canada border to get there would be exempt from the self-isolating rules in play right now, well, here is Alberta Premier Jason Kenney:

“Obviously the players and their support staff would need to comply not only with our own public health orders but also with the federal 14-day quarantine requirement for international travellers arriving from abroad.”

The NHL has said it would need a three-week training camp for its players before games could be played. So that period of self-isolation takes it up to five weeks.



With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team and also put a smile on her fact by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.


Here is Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from H.L. Mencken: “The average man does not get pleasure out of an idea because he thinks it is true; he thinks it is true because he gets pleasure out of it.”


For the record, The Sports Curmudgeon, who is based in the Washington, D.C., area, is hoping that the CFL survives this pandemic. As he writes: “I enjoy CFL games; often the CFL Friday night game is more interesting than other Friday night sports offerings on my cable system and I tune in.  For purely selfish reasons, I hope that Commissioner Ambrosie is successful in finding ways to keep the CFL afloat; it has been around for longer than the NFL and it provides an interesting alternative football experience.” . . . For more of the curmudgeonly one’s ruminations on this subject, click right here.


Corn

CHL hires lobbyists in hopes of landing federal aid . . . Some NCAA teams adjusting schedules. . . . Saskatchewan hockey league done

The Canadian Hockey League, which last week announced it had agreed to pay $30 million to settle a minimum wage-related class-action lawsuit, is lobbying Canada’s CHLfederal government for financial aid to help it and its 52 Canadian teams through these trying pandemic times.

Marco Vigliotti of ipolitics.ca reports that “Susan Smith, Raphael Brass and Tim Barber of Bluesky Strategy registered” as lobbyists on behalf of the CHL.

According to its website, the Ottawa-based Bluesky Strategy Group delivers “public affairs, strategic communications, government relations, and media relations advice and execution.”

Smith and Barber are co-founders of Bluesky; Brass is a senior consultant.

On Friday, the CHL brought an end to a lawsuit that had been filed against it in 2014 by agreeing to pay $30 million. In that lawsuit, former players were asking for major junior hockey players to be declared employees, rather than student-athletes, and as such fall under various employment standard regulations including minimum wage and overtime pay.

In its statement on Friday, the CHL stated: “This settlement does not mean that we agree with the plaintiffs. It means that we wanted to end the lawsuits so we could continue to focus on being the best development league in hockey.”

From the other side, Ted Charney of Toronto-based Charney Lawyers PC, told Ken Campbell of The Hockey News: “This has been a very long, hard-fought battle, effectively gloves-off litigation for several years. We had to fight the (political) lobbying, which we lost miserably on, but we won in all the court rooms.”

The CHL and the three leagues that operate under its umbrella — the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Western Hockey League — aren’t strangers to lobbying governments.

In the early years of the lawsuit, they all worked to get provincial and state governments to provide exemptions from minimum-wage legislation.

Exemptions were provided by the governments of Alberta, B.C., Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Washington state, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Michigan. Oregon legislators refused to provide an exemption.

David Branch, the OHL commissioner and at the time the CHL’s president, registered as a lobbyist with the Ontario government on Sept. 11, 2018. Two months later, the government announced that it was excluding OHL players from employment standards legislation.

That came two years after B.C’s cabinet, then under Liberal control, had done the same thing for the WHL.

Vaughn Palmer, a political columnist with the Vancouver Sun, wrote on Oct. 22, 2016:

“The Liberals made the change after extensive lobbying from the league, which was facing a court challenge on the failure to pay minimum wage and concerned about economic pressures on its teams were they obliged to pay up.

“The Liberals bought the argument but did so in the quietest fashion. The waiver was approved by cabinet order on Feb. 15, with no followup press release nor much else to draw attention to what they’d done.”

Five days after Palmer’s column appeared, The Sun’s Ian Mulgrew reported that the WHL “did not register as a lobbyist before leaning on B.C.’s cabinet to exempt major junior players from the minimum wager law . . .”

According to Mulgrew, Erin Beatty, communications director for the B.C. Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists, said the regulator was “acting on the potential incident of non-compliance in this case.”

It would seem that whatever investigation was held didn’t go anywhere, and The Sun never followed up.

The $30-million settlement revealed on Friday won’t become official until it is approved by the court, which should happen later this summer. It’s believed that $15 million of that sum will be covered by insurance, leaving the CHL’s 52 Canadian teams each to pay about $288,000.

On April 17, Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault announced that the government was committing $500 million to arts, culture and sports sectors.

The CHL joins other sports groups including the CFL, soccer’s Canadian Premier League, the Canadian Elite Basketball League and various hockey leagues in working to get financial aid from government.


Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, announced Tuesday that the U.S.-Canada border will remain closed to non-essential travel for another month, taking it to around June 21. In April, the closure had been extended to May 21. . . . The border has been closed to non-essential travel since March 18. . . . Adrian Dix, B.C.’s health minister, said later in the day that he believes the closure will be needed long past June 21. . . . “I’m not convinced there is much chance that it will clear sufficiently in the next month to change at least my mind about whether we should open the border,” Dix said. “I think it’s going to be significantly longer than that for visitors.”


Some NCAA hockey teams are beginning to make adjustments to their schedules brought on by budget cuts implemented because of the pandemic. . . . Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald reports that “college hockey teams are already starting to call of non-conference road trips that require airplane flights because of anticipated budget crunches due to the coronavirus pandemic.” . . . His complete story is right here.


Ironing


With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.


The Triangle Hockey League, long a fixture on the Saskatchewan winter sports scene, is no more. According to the league, the decision was made at a meeting on Saturday. . . . The league had five teams last season — the Bredenbury Cougars, Esterhazy Flyers, Hudson Bay Hunters, Ochapowace Thunder and Theodore Buffalos. The Rocanville Tigers were a league member although they sat out last season. . . . The THL had been without an executive board since February; it also looked like there may be issues getting on-ice officials for a 2020-21 season.


Here is Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from H.L. Mencken: “Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”


Horse


Soccer’s English Premier League, idle since March, is slowly resuming training in the hopes of resuming its season. On Tuesday, the results were announced from the 748 people who were tested for the coronavirus on Monday and Tuesday. Six people were found to be positive and will be self-isolated for a week. More test results are expected to be announced on Tuesday. . . .

The Belmont Stakes, normally the third event in thoroughbred horse racing’s Triple Crown, now will be the first leg. It is scheduled for June 20 and will be run without spectators. . . . The Kentucky Derby, usually the first leg, was postponed to Sept. 5 and the Preakness, normally No. 2, is scheduled for Oct. 3. . . .

The Western Lacrosse Association and the Major Series Lacrosse have both cancelled their 2020 seasons. The WLA is based in B.C.; MSL is an Ontario-based league. . . . That means that the Mann Cup, which goes annually to Canada’s top senior men’s lacrosse team, won’t be contested. . . .

The Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame has cancelled its 2020 induction dinner and ceremony that had been scheduled for Sept. 26. According to a news release, “The 2020 induction class will be carried forward as the Class of 2021.” It will take place at some point in September 2021.


Toigo suggests Giants’ camp may be delayed . . . Also says second wave could be devastating, and WHL won’t play without fans

From Wednesday’s Regina Leader-Post . . .


If you hadn’t already guessed, the WHL’s 2020-21 regular season doesn’t seem likely to start on time, which under what used to be normal circumstances would be in late September.

Yes, that is more than four months away and, yes, there are whole lot of unknowns in these days of a pandemic. But the Vancouver Giants already are looking at pushing back Vancouverthe start of their training camp.

Ron Toigo, the Giants’ majority owner and president, said Wednesday that training camp may not start on Sept. 1, a date that already had been moved back a few days.

Appearing with James Cybulski and Perry Solkowski on Sportsnet 650, a Vancouver radio station, Toigo said: “It’s looking less likely that that will be your starting date.”

Earlier in his appearance, Toigo, who is on the WHL’s executive committee, said that for now they are watching to see what happens with Major League Baseball and the NFL.

“We talk probably weekly about different scenarios,” he said. “The position we’re taking . . . sit back and watch for a while. I think the NFL will dictate a lot of things that happen. They’ve got all the resources. They have all the influence. We’ll follow what happens there. Major League Baseball will certainly have a lot of influence on what happens . . . find a path to making this thing work somehow.

“At our level there really isn’t a lot we can do except sit back and watch and wait.”

Toigo was adamant that the WHL, unlike the big four pro leagues, won’t play without fans in attendance.

The WHL, he said, is “completely” a gate-driven league. “If we can’t get gate revenue then we can’t operate. If we carry on the way we’re going we’re losing significantly hundreds of thousands of dollars as time goes on. If we go the whole year, it’ll be into the millions. It’s not sustainable for a long period of time, that’s for sure.”

As for delaying the start of the regular season, Togo said: “If we had to do something like that you can . . . probably start in the new year and get a relatively decent season in, and still be able to operate.”

In terms of B.C., Toigo pointed out that the province has done a good job, that “it looks like this wave is under control and could disappear over the summer.”

But, he added, “the second wave is what everybody’s fear is and what happens then. If you’ve got to retrench and shut things down again then I think we’re all in trouble for quite some time.”

At this point in time, Toigo doesn’t see any WHL teams in danger of folding.

“I don’t see it but who knows?” he said. Then, in reference to the Portland Winterhawks being in receivership, he added: “Who saw Portland coming with their scenario, but it had nothing to do with the hockey. It was more to do with the oil industry and (owner Bill Gallacher’s) challenges on that side of it. When oil goes from $100 to $10 if you’re in that business you’re going to feel it no matter how big your are.

“I don’t think anybody is safe if a second wave comes. I don’t care what league you’re talking about — NHL, CHL, CFL — I think they’re all going to be challenged and there will be some that don’t survive.”

In the end, as Toigo put it: “The best scenario is they come up with a vaccine or some way of dealing with this.”

The complete interview is right here.


Weather


Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, is bound and determined that his league is going to finish its 2019-20 season on the ice.

On Tuesday, during a virtual town hall played host to by the San Jose Sharks for the NHLbusiness community, Bettman said shutting things down is “not something I’m even contemplating.”

He added: “I believe that if the right time comes, and the right circumstances, based on all of the options that we’re considering and our ability to execute them, we’ll get this season done.

“I don’t want to sound Pollyanna, but canceling is too easy a solution. That means you stop working hard to do all of the things that we’re doing, and I ultimately believe that there will be an opportunity.”

The NHL shut things down on March 12 and since then there has been all kinds of speculation about how and when it will get up and running.

Meanwhile, B.C. Premier John Horgan suggested on Wednesday that his province could play host to all 31 NHL teams as they finished the regular season.

Horgan earlier had offered Vancouver as a hub for Pacific Division play, including the Canucks. On Tuesday, he spoke with Bettman and Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner.

“I believe we’re in a good place to host, that’s why I contacted the commissioner,” Horgan said. “The Canucks have been working very co-operatively with my minister. We’ve heard from others around the league that have other ideas about perhaps having all of the games played in British Columbia.

“We have WHL rinks in Victoria, in Kamloops, in Kelowna, in Prince George . . . Cranbrook has an outstanding facility as well. We have hotel space.”

Look, the NHL may somehow find a way to complete its season, although the odds are stacked against it. But all 31 teams in B.C.? Sorry, that isn’t going to happen.


When the AHL cancelled the remainder of its 2019-20 season on Monday, it had 31 teams. AHLDave Andrews, the soon-to-retire president, said Wednesday that if the league has to return without fans some teams may not answer the bell. . . . ”We have a very strong league in terms of our ownership,” Andrews told the ESPN On Ice podcast. “We have 19 NHL-owned teams and 12 independently-owned teams. And the independently owned teams are in very good financial condition, even after what happened in this 2019-20 season,” he said. “But if their businesses aren’t viable, if they have to play in front of an empty building for six months, some of those teams will likely choose not to play.” . . . Andrews also said that the AHL is preparing schedules that will begin in October, November, December and January. . . . More on the story right here.


BestMan


The junior A Manitoba Junior Hockey League cancelled the remainder of its season on March 13. On Wednesday, Kim Davis, the league’s outgoing commissioner, explained in a mjhlstatement what has been happening behind the scenes in terms of preparing for next season.

For starters, the MJHL has been working to access “any and all federal and provincial financial assistant programs that have been made available to small businesses.” According to Davis, the league office and member teams have applied for various programs and “some have accessed these funds already, which is reassuring.”

Davis also said that the 2020-21 regular-season schedule is a work in progress; in fact, it would be fair to say it is ‘works’ in progress because there is more than one scenario.

“These scenarios have been extensive and range from the development of a normal 60-game schedule starting in September down to a 30-game schedule starting in December and several options in between,” he said.

Davis added that the MJHL is developing what he called Return to Play Protocols, which “will be extensive and will range from how fans enter and exit the building and all interactions once they are within the facility to how the two competing teams will prepare for a complete on the ice and everything in between.”

As well, he said, “The MJHL has been informed by the Provincial Public Health Office that the Return to Play Protocols we design must be approved by the Chief Provincial Public Health Officer before league play can resume.”

Davis’s complete statement is right here and it’s quite possible that the insight it provides is applicable to all junior leagues at the moment.


Here is Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one for A.J. Liebling: “News is like the tilefish which appears in great schools off the Atlantic Coast some years and then vanishes, no one knows whither or for how long. Newspapers might employ these periods searching for the breeding grounds of news, but they prefer to fill up with stories about Kurdled Kurds or Calvin Coolidge, until the banks close or a Hitler marches, when they are as surprised as their readers.”


With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.


Ranger

Winterhawks sale would be ninth since 2007 . . . WHL GM tells Ewen ‘lineup’ of shoppers is expected . . . What’s the price tag?

Sooner or later, the Portland Winterhawks likely will be sold.

Why likely? Because never say never, and perhaps owner Bill Gallacher will end up keeping the WHL franchise.

But if the Winterhawks are sold, it will mark the ninth time a WHL franchise has Portlandchanged hands since the Kamloops Blazers went from community to private ownership during the summer of 2007. Of course, it also will be the second time the Winterhawks will have changed hands since 2008.

However, as of Tuesday night, there didn’t appear to be anything new regarding the Winterhawks’ situation, The WHL’s top regular-season team in the shortened 2019-20 regular-season is in receivership after a number of Gallacher-owned companies filed for bankruptcy last week.

Steve Ewen of Postmedia, who covers the Vancouver Giants, writes that “a WHL general manager, who requested anonymity, says he expects a ‘lineup’ of interested buyers for the Winterhawks . . .”

Yes, the vultures will be circling.

The last WHL franchise to have changed hands was the Seattle Thunderbirds.

One source who knows his way around the WHL told Taking Note on Tuesday: “Bet Russ Farwell is patting himself on the back . . .”

Farwell was the Thunderbirds’ governor and general manager, and also owned a piece of the action when that deal went down in 2017.

Here’s Ewen:

“WHL teams don’t change hands often and sale prices are rarely made public, as you’d expect. The Seattle Thunderbirds were sold in October of 2017, going from a group led by longtime Thunderbirds general manager Russ Farwell to brothers Dan and Lindsey Leckelt, who own Silent-Aire, an engineering and data centre equipment manufacturing company based in Edmonton.

“Multiple sources say the Thunderbirds were sold for US$12 million. That’s never been confirmed.”

Ewen’s complete piece is right here.

Six months before the Thunderbirds changed hands, the Chynoweth family sold the Kootenay Ice to Winnipeggers Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell. After two winters in Cranbrook, they moved the franchise to Winnipeg immediately after the 2018-19 season.

The Regina Pats were sold in April 2014 with Russ and Diane Parker of Calgary, who had owned the franchise for 19 years, selling to a local group comprising Jason Drummond, Todd Lumbard, Anthony Marquart, Gavin Semple and Shaun Semple. The Regina Leader-Post reported that the sale price “is believed to be in the neighbourhood of Cdn$7.5 million.”

In March of 2014, Rick Brodsky sold the Prince George Cougars to a group that includes local businessmen Ray Fortier, Ernest Ouellet, John Pateman and Greg Pocock, along with two former Cougars defencemen — Eric Brewer and Dan Hamhuis. The sale price was reported by the Prince George Citizen as being close to Cdn$7 million. Brodsky had bowed out of his family’s ownership of the Saskatoon Blades to purchase the Cougars franchise in 1992 when it was playing out of Victoria.

After owning the Saskatoon Blades for 37 years, the Brodsky family sold the franchise to Mike Priestner of Edmonton, who owns Go Auto, on Aug. 27, 2013. The Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported the sale price as Cdn$9 million.

On April 4, 2011, the WHL confirmed the sale of the Chilliwack Bruins by owners Jim Bond, Brian Burke, Moray Keith, Darryl Porter and Glen Sather to RG Properties, which was headed up by Graham Lee. He moved the franchise to Victoria where it operates as the Royals.

Bill Gallacher purchased the Winterhawks in August 2008, buying the franchise from John Bryant, Jack Donovan and Jim Goldsmith. The sale price was believed to have been about US$6 million.

The Kamloops Blazers were sold over the summer of 2007, with Tom Gaglardi, the president of Northland Properties and now the owner of the NHL’s Dallas Stars and the AHL’s Texas Stars, partnering with former players Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla, Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor to purchase the franchise from community shareholders. The sale price was about Cdn$6.1 million.

So what will be the price tag on the Winterhawks?

Well, if this was four or five months ago, one might have guessed it to be somewhere around US$12 million.

However, in these pandemic times — I mean, can anyone guarantee when/if the next season will begin? — and with the franchise in receivership and the vultures circling, it just might go for something less than that.

Or could the WHL step in and purchase the franchise for a healthy price, if for no other reason than to protect the values of its other 21 franchises, and then try to find new ownership once we find out what things will look like when we get to wherever we are going?

These are bizarre times in which we find ourselves living and there are oh, so many questions, aren’t there?


With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one a zinger from H.L. Mencken: “The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”

——

There have been reports that Vince McMahon, he of grapplin’ fame, is working to sell his football league, the XFL. If you’re interested, The Sports Curmudgeon has a few words of warning: “If you are thinking that it might be a hoot to put in a bid for ‘3 easy payments of only $39.95,’ let me offer a word of caution and suggest that you might wind up as the owner.”

——

One more thing regarding The Sports Curmudgeon . . . if you aren’t a regular reader of his work, you should at least consider taking a look at his Tuesday post. He tackled two questions: 1. What might sports be like in a post-COVID-19 world?, and 2. Are sports important with regard to (a) ‘return to normalcy?’ . . . It’s all right here.


Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said Tuesday that there won’t be any special treatment given to the NHL if it wants to use Vancouver as a hub for its proposed return to play. . . . “I’m not going to compromise safety for any organization, whether it’s the NHL or anything else, as much as I love hockey,” Dr. Henry said during her daily briefing. If the NHL is to bring teams into Vancouver, she said, all people involved with the teams and arriving from outside Canada would have to self-isolate for two weeks. . . .

The Canadian National Exhibition, Canada’s largest annual fair, has been cancelled for 2020. It was to have been held from Aug. 21 through Sept. 7 in Toronto. . . .

The California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) announced Tuesday that its schools “have determined that NCAA sport competition will not occur during the fall of 2020.” . . . This news came after the U.S.’s largest four-year college system, the California State University (CSU), announced most classes will be presented online in the fall. CSU has 23 schools. . . .

Doug Ducey, the governor of Arizona, said at a news conference on Tuesday that pro sports can resume in his state, without fans, as of May 16. He said leagues and teams would have to provide public health protections and follow guidelines set down by the Centers for Disease Control. . . .

There are 41 theaters on Broadway in New York City that are part of the Broadway League. They announced Tuesday that they will remain closed through at least Sept. 6, which is Labour Day.


When the Detroit Pistons were winning NBA titles, they were a fearsome aggregation of aggressive players. As Charles Barkley explained on Facebook: “Those guys were out there trying to hurt people. . . . When you were playing the Pistons you had to call home and tell your family you love them just in case you never saw them again.”


Aris Brown, the 18-year-old son of NFL great Jim Brown, who is 84, has committed to play lacrosse at Hampton University. As Bob Molinaro of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot wrote: “It appears that Jim enjoyed a strong fourth quarter.”


Sheep