McCrimmon on verge of selling Wheat Kings? . . . KIJHL announces return-to-play plan, loses three teams . . . Two WHLers sign to play in Sweden


The smoke started with a query on Wednesday night. . . . An insider with one WHL team wanted to know if I had heard “any rumblings out of Brandon . . . BrandonWKregularthat the team is on the verge of being sold.” . . . I hadn’t. But it seems that there might be something happening, especially if the WHL’s board of governors has been alerted. . . . Kelly McCrimmon purchased one-third of the Wheat Kings from Bob Cornell in 1992 and became the sole owner in 2001. McCrimmon took a step back from the Wheat Kings when he joined the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, then an expansion team, as assistant general manager on Aug. 2, 2016. He moved up to general manager on May 2, 2019. . . . If a sale occurs, speculation has Jared Jacobson as being involved. His family is the Jacobson in the Jacobson & Greiner Group of Companies — he is the president and CEO — that has been a part of Brandon for more than 60 years. . . .

Meanwhile, there doesn’t seem to be any news on the sale of the Portland Winterhawks, despite Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, having said in June that he hoped to have the situation resolved within weeks.

Paul Danzer of the Portland Tribune reported that Robison said: “We’re hopeful that we will be in a position later this month and into July to select a candidate to become the new owner of the Portland Winterhawks. It’s important to have that resolved as quickly as possible. Our target is to have that resolved by sometime in July.”

Bill Gallacher, who had owned the Winterhawks, had used the franchise as part of the collateral for a $20-million loan. When he forfeited on that, the Winterhawks ended up in receivership.


The junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey League hopes to open its 2020-21 season on Nov. 13, a move from its original projection of Oct. 2. It also kijhlhas lost three teams, with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks, 100 Mile House Wranglers and Spokane Braves all opting to sit out the season for pandemic-related reasons. . . . That leaves the league with 17 teams, each of whom will play 30 games in the regular season that is to begin without fans in the buildings. A schedule is to be released on Sept. 25. . . . The league’s news release is right here.

Interestingly, each of the three teams that opted out did so for a different reason.

Spokane isn’t able to participate because the U.S.-Canada border is closed to non-essential travel and that situation isn’t likely to change for a while now.

The Wranglers opted out because, as Greg Aiken, the organization’s president, told Kelly Sinoski of the 100 Mile Free Press: “We’re concerned for the health of our community, just bringing 35 foreign bodies to our town is a risk. To me, that just doesn’t make sense with this pandemic going on. Who knows what is going to happen with the kids going back to school . . . I can guarantee there’s going to be a spike in cases. It’s not getting better.” . . . Aiken also said that not having fans at games was a difference-maker, too. “We can’t survive on these few fans,” he said. “We rely on 500 fans coming per game.” . . . Aiken’s story is right here.

In Beaver Valley, the Nitehawks’ decision was made by 16 players who decided they weren’t going to play. . . . As Jamie Cominotto, the general manager, explained to Jim Bailey of the Trail Times: “Our players decided they were not going to play, and we don’t have time to replace 16 players.” Cominotto said he had a Zoom meeting with the players, “and we explained the league plan for play, as well as the costs for them to play. The team fees went up a little bit, and obviously we were unable to help with the billeting financially, because we just don’t have the money.” . . . Cominotto also told Bailey that “we don’t have the billet homes that we usually have.” That would seem to be a problem in more than one jurisdiction, at least judging by the number of teams on social media who are looking for billet homes. . . . Bailey’s story is right here.



COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

Hockey Canada has cancelled three 2020 events — the National Women’s U-18 Championship that was to have been decided in Dawson Creek, B.C., Nov. 2-8; the Canadian Tire Para Hockey Cup, in Bridgewater, N.S., Dec. 6-12; and the World Junior A Challenge, in Cornwall, Ont., Dec. 13-20. . . . Hockey Canada is hoping to be able to place those events in those same communities in 2021. . . .

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the NCAA will furlough about 60 staff members from its office in Indianapolis. They’ll be gone for between three and eight weeks starting later this month and running through January. . . . Senior management people have taken a 20 per cent cut in pay. . . .

The South African Ice Hockey Federation has pulled its U-20 men’s hockey team from the Division III championship that is scheduled to be played in Mexico City, Jan. 10-17. The tournament now will featured the host team and clubs from Bulgaria, Chinese Taipei, Israel and Turkey. . . .

Brandon’s three high school football teams won’t be playing this season, not even if the Winnipeg high school league is able to get off the ground. “We aren’t playing, plain and simple,” Neelin High head coach Rob Cullen told Thomas Friesen of the Brandon Sun. “We have already made our voice known that we will play in the spring as long as everything tapers down. I’m not going to put my athletes, my athletes’ families or anybody else at risk to play the sport of football at this time.”


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Jokerit, the Helsinki-based team that plays in the KHL, was to have opened the regular season against host Dinamo Minsk on Thursday. Minsk is in Belarus, the site of a great deal of political unrest of late. . . . Jokerit didn’t show up for its flight to Minsk, and the KHL later announced that the game had been forfeited to Dinamo Minsk. . . . According to newsnowfinland.fi, “Jokerit have faced growing pressure this week over their decision to travel to Belarus, amid an ongoing brutal crackdown against democracy protesters by regime forces. The club’s official supporters association Eteläpääty Ry says they’re very happy with the decision to cancel Thursday night’s game, after calling for a boycott of home matches if the fixture went ahead as planned.” . . . That story is right here. . . .

There are all kinds of political angles to this story. For starters, Jokerit has Russian owners with ties to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president. . . . The hosting duties for the 2021 IIHF World championship are scheduled to be shared between Belarus and Latvia. However, Latvia has said it won’t take part if Belarus is involved. . . . In other words, this story is far from over.


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Two WHL players — F Connor McClennon of the Winnipeg Ice and F Ridly Greig of the Brandon Wheat Kings — have signed one-year contracts with Karlskrona HK, which plays in Sweden’s HockeyEttan Södra. . . . Erik Belin, Karlskrona HK’s general manager, said in a news release that the club “gets this opportunity as we live in a troubled time and players are anxious to secure their situation for the coming season. In this category of players, this is the coolest news Karlskrona HK has ever launched! These players are here to deliver and keep their places in the national team and raise their positions before the draft.” . . . Greig had 26 goals and 34 assists in 56 games with Brandon last season. . . . McClennon put up 21 goals and 28 assists in 42 games with the Winnipeg Ice before suffering a shoulder injury. . . . Both are eligible for the NHL’s 2020 draft and are expected to be selected somewhere in the first two rounds. . . . The HockeyEttan Södra season opens on Oct. 3, with Karlskrona scheduled to play its first game on Oct. 4. . . . Both players are believed to have clauses in their contracts that would allow them to return to the WHL, which hopes to open its regular season on Dec. 4.


JUST NOTES: Tali Campbell has left the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers after one season as their general manager. He had been with the Clippers since Nov. 28, 2018 when he signed on as director of business operations. He took over as GM on Dec. 18, 2019. . . . The junior B Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League now is aiming to open its regular season on Sept. 21 or Sept. 28. This comes after it earlier had said it have four potential openings dates — Sept. 7 for a 48-game season, Oct. 12 (40), Nov. 16 (40) or Dec. 14 (32).


Blazers, fans to celebrate with Hay . . . T-Birds assistant coach looks back, ahead

A LITTLE OF THIS . . .

The Kamloops Blazers will honour head coach Don Hay in a pregame ceremony on Feb. 16 with the Kelowna Rockets in the house.

Hay became the winningest regular-season coach in WHL history on Saturday when he Kamloops1got No. 743 as the Blazers beat the visiting Portland Winterhawks, 4-2. He had tied the record one night earlier when his guys beat the visiting Winterhawks, 5-2.

The record had been held since 1993 by former Portland head coach Ken Hodge, who retired after the 1992-93 season.

Hay also holds the WHL coaching record for most career playoff victories (108). Hodge (101) is No. 2 on that list, too.

On Feb. 16, the first 4,000 fans will receive commemorative pucks. There also will be a banner raising as part of the celebration.

It likely is safe to assume there will be representation from the WHL office, too, although that isn’t mentioned in the news release.


Kyle Hagel is in his first season as an assistant coach with the WHL’s Seattle SeattleThunderbirds; in fact, he’s in the first season of what he hopes will be a long and fruitful coaching career. He admits that it wasn’t easy to leave his playing career behind, but he also admits that his playing career wasn’t easy. . . . Scott Radley of the Hamilton Spectator has a piece right here on Hagel, who looks back at his career as a middleweight enforcer and wonders what’s ahead.


The CHL’s Top Prospects Game will be played in Red Deer next season. The 24th annual game is scheduled for Jan. 23. This season’s game was played in Guelph, home of the OHL’s Storm, on Jan. 25. . . . The game was last played in a WHL city in 2014 when it was held in Calgary. It also has been played in Calgary in 1999 and 2001, Edmonton in 2008, Saskatoon in 2002, Vancouver in 2005 and 2016, and in Kelowna in 2012.

Meanwhile, the WHL has scheduled its annual awards show and the 2018 bantam for Red Deer. The awards luncheon is scheduled for May 2, with the bantam draft on May 3.


The Swift Current Broncos have signed F Alex Thacker to a WHL contract. Thacker, a sixth-round selection by the Broncos in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft, plays for the midget AAA Fort Saskatchewan Rangers. He told Lindsay Morey of the Fort Saskatchewan Record that he signed on Jan. 23. . . . With the Rangers, he has 13 goals and 17 assists in 30 games.


The junior B Beaver Valley Nitehawks of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League have a new general manager. Jamie Cominotta, the assistant GM for three years, has moved up to the GM’s position. Terry Jones, a former WHL player, had been GM and head coach; he now will focus on his head-coaching duties. He has been the head coach since 1997. . . . “Over time we’ve been looking at the process of our entire coaching staff and we’ve worked hard to delegate all the duties,” Jones told Jim Bailey of the Trail Times.“We’re doing this all largely as a hobby, so with all of us breaking down our duties it makes the job more manageable, and it also creates a team approach to building a hockey team.” . . . Jones played two seasons (1982-84) with the Portland Winterhawks. . . . Bailey’s story is right here.


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Scoreboard

THURSDAY:

No Games Scheduled.


FRIDAY (all times local):

Red Deer at Moose Jay, 7 p.m.

Saskatoon at Prince Albert, 7 p.m.

Prince George at Brandon, 7:30 p.m.

Swift Current at Lethbridge, 7 p.m.

Spokane vs. Kootenay, at Cranbrook, B.C., 7 p.m.

Everett at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.

Portland vs. Tri-City, at Kennewick, Wash., 7:05 p.m.

Medicine Hat at Victoria, 7:05 p.m.

Calgary vs. Vancouver, at Langley, B.C., 7:30 p.m.