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).


Reports have major junior leagues now aiming for Dec. 1 . . . Former Blades captain dies . . . Morden team changing nickname, logo

If you own a junior hockey franchise, you have to be watching the goings-on in MLB and wondering.

While the NBA and NHL have their teams all bubbled up and, at least to date, avoiding the coronavirus, you know that you don’t have the resources to attempt anything like that.

But then you look at MLB, which is attempting to do what you are hoping to do at some point this year — bring your team together and then travel in order to play games in various venues.

It isn’t going all that well for MLB, which is forging ahead despite having had two teams — the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals — decimated by the virus and another (Philadelphia Phillies) also been hit.

Through Tuesday, 23 MLB games involving nine teams had been postponed. The season is 13 days old.

At this point, then, you likely are holding your breath and hoping.

Earlier, the QMJHL and WHL had announced proposed starting dates of Oct. 1 and Oct. 2, respectively, for their 2020-21 regular seasons. The OHL hadn’t gone public with any such date.

Now there are reports that the three major junior leagues will announce perhaps as soon as today (Wednesday) that they hope to start their 2020-21 regular seasons on Dec. 1.

Postponing the start by two more months buys them some more time. The leagues will be able to sit back and watch developments, including the possible opening of schools.

The OHL and WHL also have teams located in the U.S., where, you may have noticed, things aren’t going so well. Two more months gives the leagues time to watch for improvements in that area, although under present leadership that doesn’t seem likely to happen.

And, of course, there’s the little matter of the U.S.-Canada border being closed. Do you think it’ll be open again in 2020?

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COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

On Sunday, the Cincinnati Reds placed 1B Joey Votto, a native of Toronto, on the injury list after he self-reported symptoms of the virus. On Monday, he hit a two-run, go-ahead homer to help the Reds beat the Cleveland Indians, 3-2. . . . It turns out that he tested negative and was reinstated. . . .

The much-ballyhooed Field of Dreams game, which was to have featured the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox on Aug. 13, has been postponed to August 2021. A date has yet to be announced. . . .

The Cardinals’ season is on hold after seven players and six staff members tested positive. . . . Six of the players are SS Paul DeJong, RHP Junior Fernández, C Yadier Molina, 1B Rangel Ravelo, SS Edmundo Sosa and RHP Kodi Whitley, each of whom gave the team the OK to release their names. The identity of a seventh player wasn’t released. . . . DeJong and Molina are all-star calibre players. . . . In a statement, Molina said he was “saddened to have tested positive for COVID-19, even after adhering to safety guidelines that were put in place.” . . .

Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, had some thoughts on the mess in which MLB finds itself. He concluded with this: “Baseball in 2020 reminds me of a guy at a poker table who is losing his shirt but keeps dipping into his bank account for another stake because he is ‘due for some good cards.’ It seems to me that MLB thinks it is due for some good news and just keeps on keeping on. . . . Albert Einstein reminded us that insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different outcomes.” . . . You should read the entirety of the curmudgeonly one’s latest post right here.

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The NFL’s Detroit Lions moved QB Matthew Stafford from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and placed him on the regular roster, saying that what was reported as a positive test actually was a false-positive. . . . The Jacksonville Jaguars did the same with QB Gardner Minshew after it was determined that he had tested negative. Minshew joked that the virus “took one look at me and ran the other way.” . . .

At least 48 players have opted out of playing in the NFL’s 2020 season. The league has a deadline of Thursday afternoon for players to make that decision. . . . Barry Wilner of The Associated Press has more right here.

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Rafael Nadal, the No. 2-ranked men’s tennis player, won’t play in this month’s U.S. Open, which is to start on Aug. 31. He said that he doesn’t want to travel during the pandemic. . . . The last time a tennis major didn’t feature either Roger Federer, who is out after having knee surgery, and Nadal? That was the 1999 U.S. Open. . . .

Meanwhile, Bianca Andreescu, who won the women’s U.S. Open title last year, said that she will be in New York to defend her title. . . . Andreescu, 20, from Mississauga, Ont., is the first Canadian to win a Grand Slam singles title. . . .

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The 104th running of the Indy 500 will take place without fans. Roger Penske, who owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said earlier in the year that the race, which was postponed from Memorial Day weekend to Aug. 23, would allow some fans to attend. . . . But with numbers rising in Marion County, Indiana, home of the Speedway, Penske has decided not to allow fans. . . .

The AHL has cancelled its 2020-21 All-Star Classic that was to have been played host to by the Laval Rocket on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. Instead, Laval will be the site of the 2021-22 Classic on a date yet to be determined. . . . The AHL is hoping to being its 2020-21 regular season on Dec. 4. . . .

Tennis lost the Madrid Open as the 2020 event, which features men’s and women’s draws, was cancelled. Originally scheduled in May, it had been postponed to September. But an increase in COVID-19 cases resulted in the event being cancelled.

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You will recall that the Houston Astros have been branded as cheaters after getting caught up in a sign-stealing scandal that has some baseball folks claiming the team actually stole a World Series title. . . . The other day, with the host Astros playing the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are particularly bitter, Houston’s Jose Altuve, who is really struggling at the plate, happened to strike out. Joe Davis, doing the play-by-play for the Dodgers, said Altuve was “perhaps guessing something else.” . . . Former Dodgers P Orel Hershiser, the analyst on the broadcast crew, disagreed. Said Hershiser: “Guessing’s harder than knowing.”



The QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes announced Tuesday that head coach Gordie Dwyer has left the organization in the hopes of landing a spot with a pro team. . . . Dwyer took over as head coach on Feb. 9, then went 6-6-0 before the league shut down because of the pandemic. . . . At the time, Dwyer took over from the fired Daniel Renaud, who had been the head coach since 2017. He was 23-28-0 last season. . . . The Cataractes will unveil their new coaching staff on Friday.


The Morden Redskins, a men’s team that plays in the South Eastern Manitoba Hockey League, has said that it will be changing its nickname and logo, which was fashioned after that belonging to the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. . . . Last month, Brandon Burley, the mayor of Morden, asked the team to make a change.


JUST NOTES: I haven’t watched a whole lot of the NHL since it resumed playing, but I’ve seen enough to realize that, despite what you might read in the rules book, cross-checking continues to be legal. . . . I need to find someone in Alberta to cut me in on the Edmonton Oilers’ 50-50 draw. If you aren’t aware, the winner of Monday’s draw put $1,629,722.50 into his/her bank account. On Saturday night, Danielle McGale won $381,275. Yes, she has a whole lot of new friends. . . . I was watching the MLB game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and host Minnesota Twins on Tuesday afternoon and there was a drone delay. Seriously.