WHL makes “commitment” for 24-game schedule; no starting date yet . . . Virus finds Dallas Stars . . . Former WHL coach added to Coyotes’ staff

The WHL’s board of governors chatted on Friday, after which the league announced that it had “made a commitment” to play a 24-game 2021 season.

The news release stated: “The start date for the season will be determined once WHL2final approval has been received from the health authorities in each provincial and state jurisdiction and it is anticipated the approvals will be received soon.”

In other words, there isn’t anything new for a league that has announced starting dates of Oct. 2, Dec. 4 and Jan. 8, only to watch COVID-19 make those goals impossible to reach. The WHL and its fans continue to play the waiting game as they have for almost 10 months now.

As I have written here on numerous occasions, the virus will decide if/when the WHL and other leagues will play, and let’s be honest — short of announcing that it was cancelling the season, what else could the WHL say?

On Dec. 15, when it announced that a Jan. 8 start date wouldn’t be happening, the league said the governors would “meet in January to consider potential start dates.”

That is the meeting that took place on Friday.

When the WHL states that it needs final approval from health officials and that “it is anticipated the approvals will be received soon,” you are free to wonder if someone in the Calgary-based office has some inside information. Again, though, what else would the WHL be expected to say?

But the coronavirus-based numbers in the six jurisdictions in which the WHL operates haven’t exactly provided anyone with warm and fuzzy feelings of late. (See The COVID-19 Chronicles further down in this piece.)

You also wonder if the governors started their meeting yesterday by discussing DallasStarsgoings-on in the NHL where the Dallas Stars shut things down after six players and two staff members tested positive, and the Columbus Blue Jackets held 17 players out of practice.

The Stars were to have opened the NHL’s regular season against the host Florida Panthers on Jan. 14, but that obviously won’t happen. In fact, the Stars also have had to postpone two others games — Jan. 15 at Florida and Jan. 17 at the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Stars’ first game now is scheduled for Jan. 19 in Tampa Bay.

In the meantime, the Stars players and staff who tested positive are self-isolating and the team’s training facilities are closed.

The Blue Jackets, who are scheduled to open on Jan. 14 against the Predators in Nashville, held 17 of 38 players off the ice “out of an abundance of caution and in accordance with NHL COVID-19 protocols.”

Aaron Portzline, who covers the Blue Jackets for The Athletic, tweeted that the non-practising players were: forwards Emil Bemstrom, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Max Domi, Nick Foligno, Nathan Gerbe, Liam Foudy, Mikhail Grigorenko, Boone Jenner, Mikko Koivu, Eric Robinson, Alexandre Texier, and defencemen Adam Clendening, Vladislav Gavrikov, Seth Jones, David Savard, Andrew Peeke, Michael Del Zotto.

After discussing the NHL situation, maybe the WHL govs talked a bit about NCAA hockey where a number of schools have found out that their hockey teams have been bitten by COVID-19.

Nothing explains all of what has happened better than the National Collegiate NCHCHockey Conference (NCHC). It took eight teams into Omaha in early December and played 38 games. They didn’t call it a bubble; rather, it was a pod. Teams were limited to their hotel and the arena. There was regular testing; there weren’t any positive tests.

However, once that experience was over and the teams returned home, well, the virus licked its lips and went to work.

The U of Omaha has been unable to play four straight games against North Dakota, including two scheduled for this weekend. Mike Kemp, an associate athletic director at Omaha, told The Associated Press: “We got it in spades.”

Elsewhere in the world of NCAA men’s hockey, Lowell’s program is on pause and at least its next three games are off the schedule; Canisius has put things on hold due to protocols and contact tracing; Michigan Tech had to put things on hold after positive tests in its program earlier this week; Northern Michigan has been able to play six games, while having eight postponed or cancelled . . . and on and on it goes.

Where it stops . . . only the virus knows.


F Logan Stankoven of the Kamloops Blazers told CFJC-TV’s Chad Klassen that he is looking at going to the USHL.

“I know nothing’s been confirmed yet, but I’ve talked to Fargo Force from down in the States,” Stankoven, 17, said. “I think they’re pretty interested in me, maybe having me come down, but obviously nothing’s set in stone.”

The USHL deadline to add Hockey Canada-released players to team rosters is Sunday. Klassen reported that should Stankoven go that route, he would be required to spend the remainder of the season there.

“As much as I don’t want to head down to the States and play for a whole different team and in a whole different country, things got to be done,” Stankoven said. “It’s part of our development and players need to play hockey. It’s our life. As much as people say it’s not our job, it’s part of our job. It’s our careers.”

You wonder what impact, if any, the WHL’s Friday news release might have on Stankoven’s decision.

Earlier this week, the Dubuque Fighting Saints announced that they were adding F Matt Savoie, 16, of the Winnipeg Ice to their roster. The Fighting Saints played Friday night — they lost 5-2 to the host Youngstown Phantoms — but Savoie has yet to be placed on their roster.


At least two B.C. junior B leagues — the Kootenay International and Vancouver Island leagues — had hoped to return to regular-season play on Jan. 15. However, those hopes were dashed on Thursday when the B.C. government and health officials extended a series of province-wide restrictions until Feb. 5. . . . The junior A BCHL now is talking about starting its regular season on Feb. 8. . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia tweeted that the BCHL couldn’t get approval for its Penticton hub idea from health officials so that idea is dead.


THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

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CJOB Radio, Winnipeg: As Manitoba announced nine additional COVID-19-related deaths Friday, the province’s top doctor said hundreds of recent cases have been linked to gatherings over the holidays.

Scott Billeck, Winnipeg Sun: From the province: 355 cases and 1,900 contacts from holiday gatherings to date.

CBC News: Saskatchewan is reporting 336 new cases of COVID-19 and 7 new deaths related to the illness. It’s the highest daily case count since Dec. 6. There are currently 180 COVID-19 patients in the province’s hospitals, including 26 people in intensive care.

Jason Herring, Postmedia: Here are Friday’s COVID-19 Alberta stats: 1,183 new cases (total now 109,652) . . . 24 new deaths (total now 1,241) . . . 851 currently in hospital, 135 in ICU (yesterday: 871 in hospital, 139 in ICU) . . . 13,628 active cases (up from 13,298) . . . 16,765 tests conducted (~7.1% positive).

Justin McElory, CBC Vancouver: 617 new cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C. on Friday, a big drop from Thursday but part of a small rise since Christmas. . . . 18 new deaths, the highest number since Dec. 23. . . . Hospitalizations and active cases down.

Tacome News Tribune: The Washington state Department of Health reported 4,829 new cases of COVID-19 and 65 deaths Friday. . . . Statewide totals from the illness caused by the coronavirus are 268,607 cases and 3,699 deaths. The case total includes 11,160 cases listed as probable. Those numbers are up from 263,778 cases and 3,634 deaths on Thursday.

Daily Hive Portland: The Oregon Health Authority has reported 1,755 new and presumptive COVID-19 cases and seven new deaths. The state has now seen a total of 122,847 COVID-19 cases, and the death toll has risen to 1,575.

Public Health Agency of Canada, Friday, 4 p.m. PT — People tested: 15,420,760 . . . Total cases: 644,348 . . . Active cases: 81,670 . . . Recovered: 545,971 . . . Deaths: 16,707.

CNN, Friday, 3 p.m. PT: 368,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.

CNN, Friday, 3 p.m. PT: 21.8 million people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus.

AFP News Agency, Friday, 8 p.m. PG: US sets new record with nearly 290,000 Covid cases in 24 hours: Johns Hopkins.

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Curling Alberta has cancelled its 2021 men’s, women’s and mixed doubles championships “due to Alberta’s continued state of public health emergency.” All were to have been held in Sylvan Lake, Jan. 25 to Feb. 5. . . .

With the B.C. government and health officials having extended various restrictions, including one restricting adult team sport, through Feb. 5, Curl BC has cancelled the men’s and women’s championships that had been scheduled for Kamloops and the mixed doubles event that was to have been held in Chilliwack. . . .

Holly Rowe, a veteran ESPN sideline reporter, revealed on Friday that she has tested positive, meaning she won’t be working on Monday when Alabama and Ohio State meet in the college football championship game in Miami. . . . Rowe admitted to having some symptoms and not feeling great. . . . She also is a cancer survivor, having battled melanoma. . . .

The Maine Red Claws, a G League men’s basketball team affiliated with the NBA’s Boston Celtics, have opted out of the 2021 season. . . .

Mike Lange, the veteran play-by-play voice of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, won’t start the approaching NHL season out of an abundance of caution. He says he’ll be back once he is able to be vaccinated and when he feels it is safe to return. Lange, who will turn 73 in March, missed the 2019 playoffs due to pneumonia. . . .

Kurt Warner, an analyst with the NFL Network, announced Friday night that he has tested positive so won’t be working on any studio shows this weekend. Warner, 49, has been with the NFL Network for 10 years. . . . Also on the NFL broadcast front, NBC’s Mike Tirico will call the play of the Tampa Bay-Washington game from home because of COVID-19 protocols, while CBS-TV’s Tony Romo will provide analysis of the Chicago-New Orleans game from a remote site for the same reason.


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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

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Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: Former WHL coach Jay Varady, who is the head coach of the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners, has been added to the coaching staff of the parent Arizona Coyotes. Varady, 43, spent seven seasons (2003-10) on the coaching staff of the Everett Silvertips. He had been the Roadrunners’ head coach for two seasons. . . . The NHL’s San Jose Sharks has left K-FOX, its play-by-play station since 2020-21, and now will stream its games on the Sharks Audio Network, available on the team’s website and app. . . . Lethbridge has been chosen as the host city for the 2022 Tim Hortons Brier (aka the Canadian men’s curling championship). It is scheduled to run March 4-13, which means the Hurricanes will be out of the Enmax Centre for a couple of weeks in the waning days of the WHL’s 2021-22 season.

Scattershooting on a Monday night while awaiting the arrival of 2020 . . . Happy New Year!

Scattershooting

I can count on Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, to come through annually with a link to a column by Gene Collier of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It is the column in which Collier uses a whole bunch of words to examine the triteness of language in sports over the previous year. . . . Well, Jack came through on Monday with the link to Collier’s column in which he, for the 36th time, awards the Annual Trite Trophy. . . .

At one point, Collier writes:

“Pirates play-by-play guy Joe Block must have set the record for earliest use of If The Playoffs Started Today, coming as it did on May 21, when he said that if the playoffs started that day, the Pirates would have been in a wild-card game.

“May 21.

“On the day the playoffs actually started, the Pirates were in last place, 22 games out.”

This is fun stuff — after all, it’s not Collier’s first rodeo — and it’s all right here. Enjoy!


The Fiesta Bowl, in which the Clemson Tigers got past the Ohio State Buckeyes, 29-23, in Phoenix on Saturday night, was all that is great about U.S. college football. We can only hope that the Jan. 13 BCS final, with Clemson meeting LSU in a clash of the Tigers, is as entertaining.


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Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, with some observations from the 49ers’ 26-21 victory over the Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday night:

“Russell Wilson’s greatest scramble this year came after Sunday’s game, as he tried to explain the Seahawks’ delay-of-game penalty. . . .

“While there has been no satisfactory explanation given for the Seahawks’ game-wrecking delay-of-game penalty, scientists have found that mental processes — specifically, quick thinking — may be impaired by overly-vigorous chewing of gum. . . .

“NFL referees and their supervisors have no earthly clue what PI is. Some of them believe it is a guy named Magnum.”


F Matt Savoie of the Winnipeg Ice cut into the middle of the ice in the offensive zone during the first period on Saturday night and F Marcus Sekundiak of the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings lowered the boom. Savoie, who will turn 16 on New Year’s Day, is listed at 5-foot-9 and 178 pounds; Sekundiak, 19, is shown at 5-foot-11 and 188 pounds. . . . Sekundiak wasn’t penalized for the hit, but Mike Sawatzky of the Winnipeg Free Press wrote that “Sekundiak . . . was the target of payback afterwards, absorbing a number of punishing hits from Ice players.” . . . As expected, the usual sober reflection occurred on social media, with folks suggesting: (a) it was a clean hit; (b) it was a headshot; (c) the Ice should have responded by gooning Sekundiak; (d) Sekundiak should have stayed in close proximity to the unconscious Savoie; (e) there shouldn’t be a suspension; (f) a 25-game suspension would suffice . . . and on and on it goes.

Anyway, if you haven’t seen the hit . . .

Sekundiak wasn’t suspended and played in Brandon’s 4-1 victory over the visiting Regina Pats on Monday night. . . . Savoie, who I think it’s safe to assume is in concussion protocol, didn’t play in Winnipeg’s 3-2 victory over the host Prince Albert Raiders on Monday night. BTW, the Ice moved atop the East Division with that victory.



With the year’s end upon us, there are more lists and awards out there than there are snowflakes in a blizzard. . . . Patti Dawn Swanson, aka the River City Renegade, has joined the club, but her list is different, a whole lot different, than the norm. Check right here to see who earns The Old Man Shouts and Waves His Fist At Clouds Cup, The Flip Flop And Don’t Tell A Lie Laurel, and The Tranna Maple Beliebers Bauble, among others. It’s all good fun, unless you’re a recipient.


“Antonio Brown is working out for the New Orleans Saints,” Janice Hough, who is at leftcoastsportsbabe.com, wrote last week. “Have to assume head coach Sean Payton is just (toying) with Roger Goodell.”

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One more from Hough: “Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, who just returned from Mar-A-Lago, says despite being voted by NHL fans as an All-Star Game captain he’ll accept a one-game suspension and miss the game to ‘listen to his body.’ So did he miss the message from his body not to go party for a few days and eat junk food with Donald?”

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Hough, again: “Melting down over a movie cameo cut by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2014? With all due respect I have blueberries in my fridge with thicker skins than Trump.”


Don’t be afraid to click on the link and check out the thread . . .


ICYMI, the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors fired Brandon West, their general manager and head coach, on Friday night. . . . Simon Ferguson was named interim head coach. He was in his second season as head coach of the major midget Okanagan Rockets. . . . John Murphy and Rod Hume, the Warriors’ new owners, said in a news release: “This decision is about becoming a better hockey club now and in the future.  We are charting a new course and building a new culture.” . . . The Warriors were 7-23-7 and in last place in the seven-team Interior Division at the time of the move. . . . Former owner Kim Dobranski hired West on Jan. 28. Murphy and Hume purchased the franchise in October. . . .

Not to be outdone, the Salmon Arm Silverbacks dumped general manager and head coach Scott Atkinson on Monday. Former WHLer Tyler Shattock, who had been on staff as an assistant coach/assistant GM, has taken over as interim head coach. . . . Brooks Christensen, who had been the operations manager, now is the GM. . . . Atkinson had been with the Silverbacks since June 1, 2017. Salmon Arm was 1-8-1 in its 10 games prior to the axe falling. On the season, it is 21-15-2 and third in the Interior Division.


LemonWedge


JUST NOTES: Old friend Jay Varady, the head coach of the Tucson Roadrunners, will be the Pacific Division head coach at the AHL’s 2020 All-Star Classic in Ontario, Calif., Jan. 26 and 27. Varady, who coached in the WHL with the Everett Silvertips, is in his second season with the Roadrunners. They had the AHL’s best record (23-6-0) through 29 games, with the coaches of division leaders after 29 games named to the Classic. . . . The festive season is almost over. How do I know this? Because the leftovers are almost gone and the fridge is looking terribly bare. . . . Have to wonder if F Kobe Mohr got a bigger suitcase for Christmas? He started the season with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, lost out in the 20-year-old game and went to the AJHL’s Drumheller Dragons, made a stop with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, was dealt to the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, lost out, again, in the 20-year-old racket, and now is back with the Dragons. And the trade deadline isn’t even here yet. . . . Pitchers and catchers report in 42 days. . . . Happy New Year, and here’s to a healthy and safe 2020!


Ex-WHL coach next up in Tucson . . . Pats’ defenceman to miss start of season . . . Reichel gets deal with Moose

MacBeth

F Chase Schaber (Calgary, Kamloops, 2007-12) signed a one-year contract extension with the Fife Flyers (Scotland, UK Elite). Last season, he had 30 goals and 31 assists in 55 games. He led the Flyers in goals and was second in points. Fife’s head coach since 2005-06 is Todd Dutiaume (Brandon, Moose Jaw, 1991-94). . . .

D Brendan Mikkelson (Portland, Vancouver, 2003-07) signed a one-year contract with Adler Mannheim (Germany, DEL). Last season, with Luleå (Sweden, SHL), he had 12 assists in 50 games. He was an alternate captain.


ThisThat

Jay Varady, a former coach with the Everett Silvertips, is the new head coach of the Tucson Roadrunners, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes. Varady heads for Tucson after one season as head coach of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs. . . . Kingston was 36-26-9 last season and reached the OHL’s Eastern Conference final, where they lost to the Hamilton Bulldogs. . . . According to a Coyotes’ news release, Varady signed a “multi-year contract.” . . . Varady, 40, is a native of Cahokia, Ill. He spent seven seasons (2003-10) in Everett, the first four as assistant coach and the last three as associate coach. . . . Varady is the Roadrunners’ third head coach in as many seasons. He takes over from Mike Van Ryn, who left after one season to join the NHL’s St. Louis Blues as an assistant coach. Van Ryn replaced Mark Lamb, who was dismissed after the 2016-17 season and now is preparing for his first season as general manager of the WHL’s Prince George Cougars.


D Brady Pouteau of the Regina Pats is expected to miss the beginning of the 2017-18 WHL season. Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post reports that Pouteau underwent shoulder surgery early in June. . . . The Pats are hopeful that Pouteau, 20, will return sometime in the second half of October. . . . He has four goals and 28 assists in 150 regular-season games. . . . Pouteau was a fourth-round selection by the Pats in the 2013 WHL bantam draft. He was traded to the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Jan. 5, 2017, then re-acquired at last season’s trade deadline.


Czech F Kristian Reichel, 20, is eligible to play a second season with the Red Deer Rebels, but it’s unlikely that he’ll be back in the WHL after signing a one-year contract with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. Reichel signed the deal after attending the NHL-Winnipeg Jets’ development camp last week as a free agent. The Moose is the Jets’ AHL affiliate. . . . Last season, his first in the WHL, Reichel had 34 goals and 23 assists in 63 games. . . . He is the son of former NHL F Robert Reichel.


Bryant Perrier is out as general manager and head coach of the junior B North Okanagan Knights of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. The team announced the move on its Facebook page Saturday night, saying “the Knights and Perrier have parted ways.” . . . Perrier spent three seasons with the Knights, who play out of Armstrong, B.C.


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