Free Press columnist calls for stiff discipline . . . MJHL all done for 2020 . . . Heward leaving Giants after two seasons

The owner of the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice and two MJHL franchises — 50 Below Sports and Entertainment — is in the eye of the storm after the two junior A franchises were caught violating COVID-19 protocols as set down by the provincial government.

And now at least one Winnipeg writer — columnist Mike McIntyre of the Winnipeg Free Press — is calling for stiff discipline.

In a column headlined ‘Throw the book at league’s code-red violators,’ McIntyre calls what happened “a cold, calculated disregard for public health protocols in the middle of a global pandemic that is as brazen as you’ll see.

“The pathetic attempt to cover it up, using teenage hockey players as pawns, was even worse.”

In case you missed it, the Winnipeg Blues and Winnipeg Freeze practised in Warren, a community about half an hour northwest of Winnipeg, despite the city having been placed in a critical zone by health officials. The MJHL also had told its teams they weren’t to “travel outside the region to participate in sanctioned hockey activities.”

Winnipeg media received an anonymous email that included video showing the teams skating at the arena in Warren. The president of that arena, Rhys van Kemenade, is 50 Below’s director of teams and tournaments.

A parent of one of the players involved told McIntyre that the player went along because he “didn’t want to get benched.”

“Kids didn’t have a lot of choice,” the parent said. “Coach tells you to show up, well, you show up. Or you’re in the doghouse. You know your hockey. Coaches at this age have all the power. And if a parent said ‘You can’t go!’, they become a problem parent. Most of those kids are adults, but I am a little dumbfounded by the whole thing.”

That same parent also explained to McIntyre that “Blues and Freeze players pay lots of cash to play, and there is an item in the contract that says fees are based on ‘training,’ not number of games played. So if teams still had skill sessions or ‘training,’ they continue to collect fees.”

McIntyre’s column is right here.

Meanwhile, Don McIntosh, the president of the Manitoba U18 AAA Hockey League, told Jason Bell of the Free Press that he isn’t at all pleased with what went on.

“All of us will be painted with the same brush,” said McIntosh, a longtime hockey executive in his fifth season with the AAA league. “That’s the real frustration. Our league has busted our butts on mitigating risk. This is important stuff.”

McIntosh added that he “used to sit on the board of Hockey Manitoba and dealt with numerous issues. If you use an ineligible player or forge a game sheet, you can get substantive fines for that. To me, this is beyond that.

“They caught them live. There it is for all to see. This thing is way, way out of line.”

Bell’s piece is right here.

If you’re wondering, Hockey Manitoba and the MJHL are investigating.

To the best of my knowledge, nary a word has been heard from anyone involved with 50 Below Sports and Entertainment, which would include Greg Fettes, the chairman, and Matt Cockell, who is president and general manager of the Ice and president and governor of both the Blues and the Freeze.

You may recall that Fettes and Cockell were front and centre in the Kootenay Ice’s operation in Cranbrook, prior to the franchise’s relocation to Winnipeg after the 2018-19 season.

BTW, does anyone know if the Ice has settled its lease with Cranbrook city council yet?

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The MJHL announced on Thursday that it is shutting things down for the remainder of 2020. The province of Manitoba is at critical level and all kinds of public health orders are in place at least until Dec. 11. The MJHL hopes to be able to resume activities on Jan. 1. . . .

Meanwhile, in the SJHL, the Flin Flon Bombers and Kindersley Klippers won’t be playing this weekend, after all. The teams had been scheduled to play a weekend doubleheader in Flin Flon. But with Manitoba locking things down on Thursday, a decision was made to play the games in Kindersley on Friday and Saturday. . . . On Thursday, however, it was decided to postpone the games.


The Vancouver Giants are expected to introduce a new associate coach today Vancouver(Friday). The WHL team announced Thursday that Jamie Heward, their associate coach for the past two seasons, is leaving the organization “to pursue a different hockey opportunity.” He is expected to join the AHL’s Henderson Silver Knights as an assistant coach under Manny Viveiros. . . . The two of them spent two seasons together with the Swift Current Broncos, winning a WHL title in the spring of 2018. . . . The Silver Knights, who are preparing for their first season, are the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. The Silver Knights are to play out of Paradise, Nev. . . . The Giants’ new associate coach will be working with head coach Michael Dyck, who will be spending about seven weeks bubbling up with Canada’s national junior team at its selection camp in Red Deer and then at the World Junior Championship in Edmonton. The selection camp gets started on Monday. . . . The WJC is to end on Jan. 5; the WHL says it will start its regular season on Jan. 8.


COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

There is good news as former WHL/NHL D Blake Wesley, who spent more than a month fighting COVID-19 in Austria, says he is “back in action.”

On Wednesday, Wesley took to his Facebook page to let us know that he had his ninth COVID screening earlier in the day.

“I’m back in action!!!!” he wrote. “My COVID screening was negative.

It was his first negative since Oct. 5.

“It’s a blessing,” he wrote, “and reduces some anxiety and fear.”

Wesley, 61, played three seasons (1976-79) with the Portland Winterhawks before going on to a pro career that included 298 regular-season NHL games. These days, he is coaching at a hockey academy in Sankt Pölten, Austria.

If you aren’t aware of what Wesley went through battling the virus, click right here and see what I wrote last week.

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I tried. I really did. With the entire province of Manitoba having been declared a critical zone as of Thursday, I tried to figure out what that meant in terms of travel. Here’s part of what I found about the Manitoba restrictions in the section under Travel and Self-Isolation:

“In general, anyone arriving in Manitoba is required to self-isolate for 14-days upon arrival to reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, there are exceptions to this requirement specified in the order.

“In particular, Manitoba residents who have travelled to “western Canada* or “northwestern Ontario** are exempt from the self-isolation requirements when they return to Manitoba if they have not travelled outside of western Canada or northwestern Ontario and are not displaying any symptoms of COVID-19. Residents of western Canada or northwestern Ontario are also exempt, if they have not travelled to another country or any part of Canada outside of western Canada or northwestern Ontario in the 14-day period immediately before entering or arriving in Manitoba and are not displaying any symptoms of COVID-19.

“*Western Canada means British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. (as defined in the order).

“**northwestern Ontario means that portion of Ontario that is located west of Terrace Bay (as defined in the order).”

What followed that was a list of exceptions to the requirements, including “professional athletes and team members (players, coaches, managers, training and technical staff and medical personnel) employed by or affiliated with a professional sports team from Manitoba are also exempt from the self-isolation requirements as well as film production crew members (cast and crew) if they are not displaying any symptoms of COVID-19.”

There was more, a lot more, but by now my eyes were starting to roll back in my head.

Those Manitoba restrictions are right here.

And then the Alberta government brought down some restrictions of its own. So minor hockey has been shut down for a couple of weeks in some cities, but the AJHL is scheduled to open its season tonight (Friday). Meanwhile, the 10-team Okotoks Ladies Classic, a curling event that drew some high-end rinks skipped by the likes of Jennifer Jones, Rachel Homan, Casey Scheidegger and Corryn Brown, was halted Thursday afternoon shortly after it got started.

Judging by reactions on social media there surely is a lot of confusion in provinces, including B.C., over restrictions and recommendations. You are left to wonder if the politicians and health officials are muddying the water on purpose are whether they simply no longer know how to communicate on the same level as the little people.

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The Ivy League has cancelled its winter sports season, and postponed spring sports through February 2021. That means that Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton and Yale won’t be playing hockey this season. . . . They join Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) as NCAA Div. 1 teams to have had their hockey seasons cancelled. . . . College Hockey News has more right here. . . .

Governors in seven northeastern states have shut down interstate youth hockey competitions through the end of 2020. “All interstate hockey competitions for public schools, private schools and youth leagues in New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and New Jersey have been suspended beginning Saturday and until Dec. 31 at the earliest,” KC Downey of WCVB-ABC reported. . . . Downey also reported: “The coronavirus-related safety measure does not cover collegiate hockey teams, professional hockey teams or the U.S. national hockey teams, officials said, but those teams will be subject to existing COVID-19 safety protocols.” . . .

CB Iman Marshall of the Baltimore Ravens tested positive on Thursday, so is on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He hasn’t played after suffering a knee injury early in training camp. . . . CB Marlon Humphrey came off the list on Wednesday after 10 days in quarantine. He is expected to play against the host New England Patriots on Sunday night. . . .

I don’t have any numbers today. Oh, I saw them. But they’re just too depressing — also frustrating — and there are far too many signs that not everyone is prepared to pull the rope in the same direction. Saskatchewan is expected to introduce measures of some sort today, meaning all four western provinces will be living with pandemic-related restrictions of one degree or another. The way things are going, I would suggest there will be more restrictions coming as B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan move closer to Manitoba’s lockdown.


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

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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

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Or, for more information, visit right here.

COVID-19 playing havoc with MJHL; Free Press: OCN player positive . . . Gogol had quite a season in ’77-78

It didn’t take long for life in the pandemic to take a nasty turn for the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

The 12-team league was cruising along, having gotten in 38 regular-season mjhlgames since opening on Oct. 9, until the province’s numbers started running wild. By Tuesday, the Winnipeg Free Press was suggesting the MJHL’s season might be in doubt.

Let’s recap . . .

On Monday, Hockey Manitoba announced that it had shut down all hockey activity in the Winnipeg metropolitan region effective immediately, with things to be revisited on Nov. 15. As a result, the MJHL postponed weekend games that were to involve the Selkirk Steelers, Winnipeg Blues and Winnipeg Freeze. At the time, the league said the weekend’s other games would go ahead as scheduled, after which it would shut down until Nov. 20.

On Tuesday, the MJHL announced that “this week’s games involving the OCN Blizzard have been postponed due to a public health concern.”

It wasn’t long before Jason Bell and Mike Sawatzky of the Free Press were OCNreporting that “at least one player with the OCN Blizzard has tested positive for COVID-19, putting the club’s season and perhaps even the MJHL’s 2020-21 campaign into doubt.”

The Blizzard was to have played the Kings in Dauphin on Tuesday night, but that game was postponed. The teams played Sunday in Dauphin, with the Blizzard winning, 7-4. The Blizzard player who tested positive played in that game.

OCN’s lineup on Sunday included two players on loan from the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders — F Justin Nachbaur and F Evan Herman — and F Eric Alarie of the Moose Jaw Warriors. Dauphin’s lineup included F Tyson Kozak of the Portland Winterhawks, F Jakob Brook of the Regina Pats and F Kade Runke of the Warriors.

The parent of an OCN player told the Free Press: “All the details haven’t been released yet. I certainly wouldn’t want to provide any misinformation, so the information has to come from the right channels. (The organization said) just that there’s been possible exposure in the division, so we’re following proper health protocols and going into isolation mode until there’s more information.”

The Free Press also reported it had been told by multiple sources that “OCN players from outside The Pas were being told to return home.”

A parent of a player with a different MJHL team told the Free Press: “Almost close to calling that anonymous line for COVID reporting. Something I think MJHL commissioner should answer questions on. Certainly OCN. But sure the league is done until (Christmas) at least after this.”

Taking Note has been told that at least one of the four on-ice officials who worked Sunday’s game has been told he should self-isolate for 14 days.

According to the MJHL’s schedule, weekend games in Winkler, Portage la Prairie, Steinbach and Dauphin will be played before the league breaks until Nov. 20.

The story from the Free Press is right here.


Brent Gogol holds the WHL record for most penalty minutes in one season — 511 in 1977-78. He started the season with the Victoria Cougars, earning 46 minutes in six games. He was dealt to the Billings Bighorns, where he added another 465 minutes in 61 games. . . . Interestingly, Mel Hewitt, who split his 1977-78 season between the Saskatoon Blades and Calgary Wranglers, finished only three minutes behind Gogol in that same season. . . . In 1990-91, Kerry Toporowski of the Spokane Chiefs got to 505 minutes. You have to wonder if he knew how close he was to Gogol’s record at the time.



COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

CB Marlon Humphrey of the Baltimore Ravens has tested positive. He played every defensive snap on Sunday in the Raven’s 28-24 loss to the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers. . . . The Steelers announced Monday that all of their tests had come back negative. . . . By Tuesday, though, the Ravens had put seven players on the reserve/COVID-19 list — linebackers Tyus Bowser, L.J. Fort, Malik Harrison, Matthew Judon and Patrick Queen, DB DeShon Elliott and practice squad DB Terrell Bonds. Those seven will quarantine for five days but could be activated in time to face the host Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. . . .

RB AJ Dillon of the Green Bay Packers has tested positive and won’t play Thursday against the host San Francisco 49ers. Dillon played on Sunday as the Packers dropped a 28-22 decision to the visiting Minnesota Vikings. He was on the field for 10 offensive snaps and seven plays on special teams. . . . RB Jamaal Williams and LB Kamal Martin, named as high-risk close contacts, also won’t play. . . .

The NFL’s Arizona Cardinals came off their bye week and head coach Cliff Kingsbury revealed a pair of positive tests from the weekend. Kingsbury wouldn’t provide identities of the two players, but LB Devon Kennard later reported on Twitter that he had tested positive. . . . The team also has placed CB Byron Murphy on the reserve/COVID-19 list. . . . The Cardinals are to play the visiting Miami Dolphins on Sunday. . . .

The Denver Broncos revealed Tuesday that team president Joe Ellis and general manager John Elway have tested positive. Meanwhile, assistant coaches Ed Donatell, Curtis Modkins and Mike Munchak are under COVID-19 protocols, as is OL Graham Glasgow. . . . The Broncos are scheduled to visit the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. . . .

QB Andy Dalton of the Dallas Cowboys had been expected to return on Sunday against the host Pittsburgh Steelers. However, he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. . . . Dalton missed the Cowboys’ previous game with a concussion. . . .

The U of Wisconsin Badgers have had a second straight football game cancelled. The Badgers were to have played Purdue on Saturday. Wisconsin has had 27 positives since Oct. 24 — 15 players and 12 staff. . . . Interestingly, there isn’t room in the Big Ten schedule to play games that are affected by the virus, so the games are cancelled. . . .

Following one positive test, the junior B Kimberley Dynamiters of the Kootenay DynamitersInternational Junior Hockey League have nine additional members of the organization self-isolating until Nov. 11. This comes after the Interior Health Authority completed contact tracing. The Dynamiters’ last exhibition game, scheduled for Friday against the visiting Fernie Ghostriders has been cancelled. . . . The KIJHL plans on opening its regular season on Nov. 13. The Dynamiters are scheduled to be at home to Fernie that night. . . .

The Chilliwack Minor Hockey Association has paused for at least two weeks. An outbreak at a Chilliwack dance studio — there are at least 30 positives — resulted in meetings between the CMHA and health authorities, and a decision was made to suspend all hockey activities. . . .

The South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League has delayed the start of its regular season to Nov. 26. The seven-team league hopes to play a 12-game regular season. . . . The original plan was to play the regular 18-game season starting on Nov. 6. . . .

The QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs have lost assistant coach Mathieu Turcotte, who has left the team for personal reasons. According to Mikael Lalancette of TVA Sports, Turcotte “has health problems that put him at risk” during these pandemic times. . . . The Voltigeurs are one of the QMJHL teams that has experienced positive tests. . . .

The U of Rhode Island Rams football team has had to put things on hold after a player and a staff member tested positive. All players and staff members have been told to quarantine for two weeks. . . . The Rams have been hold light workouts as they aren’t scheduled to play until Feb. 27 as the Colonial Athletic Association chose not to play in the fall.


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.