WHL’s U.S. teams gearing up to play . . . B.C. Division remains on hold . . . Iginla now coaching in Kelowna

The WHL announced on Jan. 28 that it’s five Alberta-based teams would begin a 24-game schedule on Feb. 26. The Swift Current Broncos, who under what once WHL2was normal circumstances, are in the Central Division, but they won’t be for these games. . . . On Friday, the WHL announced that its five U.S.-based teams will begin play on March 19, although it didn’t reveal how many games teams are hoping to play. According to the news release, the teams will “return to play in Washington state.” With Oregon not having yet approved a return to play, the Portland Winterhawks are expected to play ‘home’ games in Kent, while practising in Vancouver, Wash. . . . Washington Gov. Jay Inslee gave the WHL the OK to return earlier this week. . . . Details are sketchy, but what is known is that fans won’t be allowed at any of these games. . . .

Earlier Friday, it became apparent that the five B.C. Division teams won’t be playing games until perhaps the latter half of March. Pandemic-related restrictions that were to have expired in the province on Friday have been extended indefinitely and likely to be re-examined at month’s end.

With Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, giving her Friday update, Richard Zussman of Global B.C. tweeted: “On WHL hub city, Dr. Henry says they received a proposal in January that was rejected. Says they are buying time overall until the end of the month. Doesn’t look like anything will change until the end of February. ‘We want to work to salvage a spring season.’ “

There has been talk of having the Kelowna Rockets and Victoria Royals play out of a Kelowna bubble of some kind, with the Kamloops Blazers and Prince George Cougars doing the same in Kamloops. It isn’t known what would happen with the Vancouver Giants under that scenario.

And, please, let’s stop calling any upcoming games the 2020-21 regular season. Uhh, 2020 is in the rearview mirror and a maximum of 24 games does not a regular season make.

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Meanwhile, the QMJHL isn’t likely to be playing games in New Brunswick for a qmjhlnewwhile after a public health spokesperson said Thursday that “it’s unlikely that restrictions for sports will be relaxed in the near future.” . . . With the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and Victoriaville Tigres on pause — the Tigres have had some positive tests among players; the Sagueneens were the last team to play the Tigres — the QMJHL has had to revise its schedule again. Victoriaville was to have played host to what the league is calling a ‘protected environment’ event, but that obviously won’t happen. So the next two such events are to be played in Quebec City and Shawinigan, from Feb. 12-18. There will be seven teams, including Chicoutimi, in Quebec City, with four teams playing in Shawinigan.


Former WHLer Colton Orr is the head coach of the NWHL’s Connecticut Whale, which pulled out of the league’s bubble format in Lake Placid N.Y., this week because of positive tests. Orr said that about two-thirds of the Whale’s players had tested positive. “We felt we had no choice,” Orr said, referring to a decision not play Monday against the Minnesota Whitecaps. “We had a choice to play that game, and our team chose not to play. We chose the safety of our players.” Orr added: “The team’s concerns and decision not to play were definitely validated and confirmed by the failure to maintain a controlled environment.” . . . The NWHL later cancelled the remaining games. That included the semifinals and final, both of which were to have been televised by NBCSN. . . . Orr was neither suspended nor fined for talking with the media about the virus attacking his team.


Ronnie


THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

The Vegas Golden Knights returned to action on Friday night for the first time in 10 days, but the NHL still has four American teams on pause. . . . The Golden Knights, who had four games scratched, didn’t show much rust as they scored three first-period goals en route to a 5-2 victory over the visiting Los Angeles Kings. . . . Meanwhile, the New Jersey Devils won’t play again before Tuesday, while the Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild will be idle until at least Thursday, and the Colorado Avalanche is on the shelf until at least Feb. 14. . . . The NHL has postponed 26 games since it opened its season on Jan. 13. None of those games involved any of the seven Canadian teams. . . .

Hockey Canada has cancelled the Esso Cup, Telus Cup, Centennial Cup and Allan Cup championships, all of which were scheduled to be played in the spring. . . . The Esso Cup, Canada’s national U18 AAA women’s championship, was to have been played in Prince Albert. . . . The Telus Cup, the national U18 AAA men’s championship, had been scheduled for Sydney, N.S., while the Centennial Cup, the junior A championship, would have been played in Penticton, B.C. . . . The Allan Cup goes to the national senior AAA men’s champions. It became evident in October that there wouldn’t be a champion declared for 2020-21 because there weren’t any teams playing. . . .

I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about what happened with Kevin Durant of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets while they were losing, 123-117, to the visiting Toronto Raptors on Friday night. Due to contact tracing, Durant was late getting into the game. He played 19 minutes, before he was taken out, again due to protocols. Durant, who tested positive in March, apparently was in contact yesterday with someone who was found to be positive during the game.


Politician


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JUST NOTES: In recent days, the BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings have signed general manager Mike Hawes to a three-year contract extension. He is in his 10th season as the team’s GM. The Spruce Kings also have signed head coach Alex Evin to a two-year extension, while signing associate coach Lukáš Lomicky, assistant coach Jason Garneau and trainer Joel Walkey to one-year deals. . . . Hey, Sportsnet, whenever you want to stop showing us games involving the Boston Bruins, at least with their homer-centric mouthpieces doing the yakking, it would be just fine. . . . Former WHL/NHL F Jarome Iginla is the new head coach of the RINK Hockey Academy’s U15 prep team in Kelowna. Iginla, who owns a piece of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, has been coaching minor hockey, and his sons, Tij and Joe, in Boston for the past four seasons. TJ is a highly ranked 2006-born forward.


Phones

Regular seasons all done for WHL, OHL, QMJHL . . . Will there be playoffs? . . . The waiting game continues . . .


The WHL announced on Wednesday that it has cancelled what remains of its regular season. When the WHL suspended play on March 12, the 22 teams had a total of 54 games remaining before the season was to wind up on March 22. . . . The 22-team WHL still is hoping to get its playoffs in “at a later date,” according to a statement. . . . The WHL’s final standings have been “determined by using win percentage” for its teams, reads a statement from the league. Actually, as TBird Tidbits pointed out in the above tweet, the standings were determined using points percentage. That’s how the Kamloops Blazers ended up ahead of Spokane, even though the Chiefs have one more point, and how the Vancouver Giants are ahead of Victoria, even thought the Royals finished with one more point. . . . No matter. The Portland Winterhawks finished atop the heap, so are the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy champions. . . . Even though the Everett Silvertips finished with one more regulation victory.

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About those playoffs. . . . Last season, the WHL began its playoffs on March 22. They played four rounds, all best-of-seven, and finished on May 13. . . . In total, they played 80 games in about seven weeks. . . . Let’s be honest. That’s not going to happen this time around. . . . You can bet that the WHL is tossing around all kinds of playoff options, likely incorporating best-of-three and best-of-five series. . . . But in the end it’s going to come down to how much time there will be for playoffs. It could be that in Washington state and B.C., for starters, games with more than 50 people on hand will be taboo until mid-May. . . . And don’t forget that the Memorial Cup is scheduled for Kelowna, May 21-31. That is highly unlikely to happen, so how far can it be pushed back? And what about Sportsnet, the CHL’s television partner? How much room will Sportsnet have on its schedule whenever the time comes? . . . And don’t forget that if the CHL is into playoffs, the NHL will be, too. So how does all that figure into this? . . . With all that is going on, and not going on, perhaps it’s best to take a day-to-day or even a week-to-week approach. Just to help maintain sanity. . . . OK? . . .

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Next up for the WHL is the inaugural U.S. prospects draft that is scheduled for March 25, and is to be run from the league office in Calgary. It’s a two-round draft featuring 44 selections, if each team uses its two picks. . . . The 2020 WHL bantam draft is scheduled for Red Deer on May 7. . . .

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The OHL also cancelled its regular season on Wednesday, and announced that its 2020 draft will be held online on April 4. . . . The OHL’s regular season was to have ended on March 22. . . . Like the WHL and QMJHL, the OHL is monitoring the situation.“When it is safe and we may resume play, we will advise on the status of the 2020 playoffs,” a statement from the league reads. . . .

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The QMJHL, which cancelled the remainder of its regular season on Tuesday, has taken its annual entry draft online. It was to have been held on June 6 in Sherbrooke. It still will go ahead on June 6, but now it all will be online. . . . As well, the QMJHL has cancelled its annual session that was scheduled for June 3-5. It features “meetings between its members along with hockey and administrative staffs.” . . .


Pub


The 16-team USHL announced on Wednesday that it has cancelled the remainder of its season. The league’s board of directors made a unanimous decision to end the season, including the playoffs. . . . The regular season, which was suspended on March 12, was to have ended on March 29. . . .


Sean Fitz-Gerald of The Athletic reported Wednesday that The Hockey News has laid off eight full-time employees. “The layoffs affected longtime editor-in-chief Jason Kay,” Fitz-Gerald reported, “senior editor Brian Costello, managing editor Edward Fraser, senior writers Ken Campbell, Ryan Kennedy and Matt Larkin, features editor Sam McCaig and art director Shea Berencsi. Two contract workers are still producing content for THN’s website.” . . . THN publisher and owner Graeme Roustan told Fitz-Gerald that all will be rehired in an instant if/when the NHL resumes play. . . .



Philip Rivers is taking his arm to the Indianapolis Colts for one year and something like US$25 million. I wonder who will pay the moving expenses to get his wife and their nine children to Indy? . . . Rivers, 38, told us all a while back that he wasn’t interested in returning to the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers with whom he had spent his entire career. . . .


There was good news from South Korea on Wednesday as its top basketball league, the KBL, which hasn’t played in four weeks, announced that it has games scheduled for month’s end. . . . In the beginning, games will be played without fans in attendance. . . . If you’re curious about all of this, Jonathan Givony of ESPN has more right here. . . .


Pic


The BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings announced the re-signing of assistant coach Jason Garneau, who spent eight seasons with the club a few years ago. . . . At the same time, assistant coach Colin Minardi, who joined the club in October, won’t be returning to the coaching staff. . . .


Cody Reynolds is the new head coach of the U-18 Red Deer Optimist Chiefs. He has spent the past seven seasons as associate coach with the Red Deer College Kings. . . .


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