Comings, goings and happenings . . . and now back to baseball and The Border

If you’re wondering where I’ve been, well, I’ve been right here. I am taking some time away from writing, just taking a break. . . . I also have cracked open The Border, the third book in author Don Winslow’s terrific trilogy about, yes, the U.S.-Mexico border and a whole lot more. So I have been spending some time with Art Keller (hey, Google is your friend). . . . If you haven’t read the trilogy, start with The Dogs of War, then move on to The Cartel. After that you’ll be ready for The Border. . . . A warning though — this stuff is gritty. . . .

Some stuff has happened over the last few days, so what follows is a summary. No, I’m not back on a daily basis. Not yet. . . . You see, I’m only halfway through The Border. . . .


MacBeth

F Radim Valchar (Portland, Lethbridge, 2007-10) has signed a one-year contract extension with Csíkszereda Miercurea Ciuc (Romania, Erste Liga). Last season, he put up 42 goals and 43 assists in 61 games. He was tied for the league lead in goals and was second in points. . . .

D Brenden Kichton (Spokane, 2008-13) has signed a one-year contract with the Vienna Capitals (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, with SaiPa Lappeenranta (Finland, Liiga), he had eight goals and 15 assists in 46 games. . . .

F Lukáš Králík (Victoria, 2011-12) has signed a one-year contract with Nový Jičín (Czech Republic, 2. Liga). Last season, in 28 games with Draci Šumperk (Czech Republic, 2. Liga), he had seven goals and four assists. . . .

D Matt Pufahl (Red Deer, Saskatoon, Everett, 2010-14) has signed a one-year contract with the Glasgow Clan (Scotland, UK Elite). Last season, with the Utah Grizzlies (ECHL), he had one assist in six games. He also had one goal and one assist in 26 games with Zvolen (Slovakia, Extraliga). . . . The Glasgow press release states that Pufahl will enrol in the MBA program at Glasgow Caledonian University while playing for the Clan. . . .

F Wacey Rabbit (Saskatoon, Vancouver, 2001-07) has signed a one-year contract with Corona Brașov (Romania, Erste Liga). Last season, with the Jacksonville IceMen (ECHL), he had 29 goals and 31 assists in 70 games. He led the team in goals and points, and was tied for the lead in assists. . . .

F Michael Burns (Edmonton, Vancouver, 2007-12) has signed a try-out contract with the Hannover Indians (Germany, Oberliga Nord). He didn’t play last season. In summer 2018, with the Sydney Bears (Australia, AIHL), he had five goals and five assists in nine games. He holds dual German-Canadian citizenship. . . .

F Kevin King (Kootenay, 2006-11) has signed a one-year contract with Cortina (Italy, Alps HL). Last season, in 45 games with the Guildford Flames (England, UK Elite), he had five goals and 13 assists. . . .

F Austin Carroll (Victoria, 2011-15) has signed a one-year contract with the Kassel Huskies (Germany, DEL2). Last season, with the Utah Grizzlies (ECHL), he had 15 goals and 20 assists in 45 games. On loan to the Manitoba Moose (AHL), he had one goal in seven games. . . .

F Michal Řepík (Vancouver, 2005-08) has signed a one-year contract with Sparta Prague (Czech Republic, Extraliga). Last season, with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, KHL), he had 10 goals and 11 assists in 42 games; he was an alternate captain. . . . He was traded to Vityaz Podolsk (Russia, KHL) on Dec. 26, and had five goals and four assists in 19 games. . . .

F Jim O’Brien (Seattle, 2007-09) has signed a one-year contract with the Nuremberg Ice Tigers (Germany, DEL). Last season, with the Belleville Senators (AHL), he had one goal and two assists in 11 games. . . .

F R.J. Reed (Vancouver, Prince Albert, 2010-11) has signed a one-year contract with Diez-Limburg (Germany, Regionalliga West). Last season, with the Nijmegen Devils (Netherlands, BeNeLiga), he had 33 goals and 17 assists in 19 games. He led the team in goals and was second in points. He was third in the league in goals. . . .

D Brendan Mikkelson (Portland, Vancouver, 2003-07) has signed a one-year contract with Red Bull Salzburg (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, in 47 games with Adler Mannheim (Germany, DEL), he had six goals and eight assists in 47 games.


ThisThat

The Kamloops Blazers have signed Shaun Clouston as their head coach, replacing Serge Lajoie who was one-and-done. Clouston arrives in Kamloops after spending 16 seasons with the Medicine Hat Tigers. He was dismissed as general manager and head coach on Kamloops1May 30 so that the Tigers could bring back Willie Desjardins to fill both roles. . . . The Blazers also named co-owner Darryl Sydor an associate coach. He was named an assistant coach on Feb. 12. . . .

A tip of the Taking Note fedora to Clouston for not ducking questions about what happened in Medicine Hat. The Tigers announced his departure in a three-paragraph news release in which the team said they and Clouston “have parted ways.” . . . Clouston told reporters in Kamloops on Wednesday that he was in shock — he likened it to a “punch in the stomach” — when the Tigers dumped him. . . .

The Blazers didn’t announce any terms of their contract with Clouston, but you have to think it is at least four years in length. After all, they originally offered Kyle Gustafson a four-year deal, only to have him choose to remain with the Portland Winterhawks as associate coach and assistant GM. The offer to Gustafson was made before Clouston’s time ran out in The Hat. . . .

What makes things interesting in Kamloops is Sydor’s presence as associate coach. He also is one of the team’s five co-owners and hasn’t hidden his desire to be a WHL head coach. Sydor has never been a head coach, but has ample experience as an NHL assistant coach, having worked with the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues. . . .

With the Blazers having hired Clouston, it leaves the Brandon Wheat Kings, Prince George Cougars and Spokane Chiefs as the only WHL teams still searching for head coaches. . . . The NHL’s Edmonton Oilers have a announced the hiring of Jim Playfair as an associate coach under head coach Dave Tippett. There continues to be speculation that Mark Lamb, presently the Cougars’ general manager, could be joining the Oilers as an assistant coach. He has a long history with Tippett.


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A couple of notes from Postmedia’s Jim Matheson:

“Connor McDavid’s junior coach Kris Knoblauch lost out for the Columbus farm team head job in Cleveland to Mike Eaves. . . . Hearing Los Angeles head coach Todd McLellan would have hired his other Oilers assistant Manny Viveiros, but there’s only room for two assistants for budgetary reasons. Viveiros is very much in running for an assistant’s job in Ottawa, though. No surprise Trent Yawney, who’ll look after L.A.’s defence, is joining McLellan again.”



I watched most of the Minnesota Twins’ 17-inning victory over the visiting Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night. One night later, Dick Bremer, the TV play-by-play voice of the Twins, passed along some interesting numbers. In a nine-inning game, he said, MLB teams will go through between six and 18 dozen baseballs. On Tuesday, in a game that included 487 pitches, they used up 27 dozen baseballs. . . . That’s a lot of souvenirs!


Shawn Mullin, the radio voice of the Swift Current Broncos for the past nine seasons, will be the new play-by-play voice of the OHL’s Peterborough Petes, according to Mike Davies of the Peterborough Examiner. . . . According to Davies, Mullin will replace Rob Snoek of Extra 90.5FM. Snoek told Davies that he won’t be back and that “it wasn’t my decision.” . . . Davies’ story is right here.


The Lethbridge Hurricanes have acquired F D-Jay Jerome, 20, from the Victoria Royals Lethbridgefor a pair of unspecified conditional bantam draft picks, one in 2021 and the other in 2022. Jerome is from Lethbridge. . . . Other 20-year-olds on Lethbridge’s roster include D Koletrane Wilson, D Ty Prefontaine, F Scott Mahovlich and F Zach Cox. F Jake Leschyshyn, F Jordy Bellerive and F Nick Henry also are 1999-born players, but are likely to begin their pro careers in the fall. . . .

The Royals also lost D Jake Kustra, 20, on waivers to the Swift Current Broncos. Kustra played under Broncos head coach Dean Brockman when both were with the Saskatoon VictoriaRoyalsBlades. . . . With Kustra, the Broncos have three 20-year-olds on their roster, the others being F Ian Briscoe and F Ethan O’Rourke. . . .

Having trade away Jerome and placed Kustra on waivers, Victoria has six 20s on its roster — D Will Warm, who was acquired from the Edmonton Oil Kings on June 13, Belarusian F Igor Martynov, F Tanner Sidaway, who is from Victoria, D Jameson Murray, D Scott Walford and G Shane Farkas, an offseason acquisition from the Portland Winterhawks. . . .

Meanwhile, the Broncos have signed F Mat Ward to a WHL contract. From Kamloops, he was the 14th overall pick in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft.


The Edmonton Oil Kings have waived F Zach Russell, 20. He got into 36 games with them last season. Earlier, the Oil Kings had dealt D Will Warm, 20, to the Victoria Royals. . . . The Oil Kings are left with four 20s on their roster — F Riley Sawchuk, who was acquired from the Tri-City Americans on May 16, G Dylan Myskiw, D Conner McDonald and D Parker Gavlas. . . . F Trey Fix-Wolansky also is 20, but is likely to begin his pro career in the Columbus Blue Jackets’ organization.


Bart


An interesting note from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian Pilot: “Bob Molinaro in the Hampton-Roads Virginian-Pilot: “Forbes has put out another list of the highest-paid athletes. It’s the usual dull cluster of dollar signs and numbers, but with one amusing twist. Strictly by salary, Tom Brady ranks fifth on the list — among Boston athletes alone. The top paid Beantown jock is Celtics guard Kyrie Irving, followed by teammates Gordon Hayward and Al Horford. Red Sox left-hander David Price slips into fourth place. Not taken into account is the cash value of six Super Bowl rings.”


The Kamloops Blazers are down to three 20-year-olds with F Travis Walton having cleared WHL waivers and signed with the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers. . . . Walton had nine goals and nine assists in 48 regular-season games over three seasons with the Blazers. . . . The 20s remaining on the Blazers’ roster are F Zane Franklin, F Kobe Mohr and D Jackson Caller. . . .

Meanwhile, the Blazers announced Thursday that they have signed Colin (Toledo) Robinson, their trainer, to a contract extension. The length of the extension wasn’t revealed. . . . Robinson has been with the Blazers since then GM/head coach Dean Clark signed him in 2005. Robinson is prepping for his 25th WHL season, having also worked for the Swift Current Broncos and Vancouver Giants.


The Prince Albert Raiders named Curt Brownlee as their director of player personnel. He has been with the Raiders since 2011 when he signed on as a scout. He takes over from the late Ron Gunville, who died in December.


There is zero chance of the Tampa Bay Rays splitting their American League seasons between the Florida city and Montreal. None. Zilch. Nada. . . . This is simply a cheap way for the Rays to try and pressure their way to a new ballpark in Tampa.


If you’re wondering about the costs of operating a junior A hockey team, consider this from Michael Reeve of radio station Q101.1 from the AGM of the BCHL’s Merritt Centennials:

“Beth Nadeau, the team’s treasurer, provided an update on last (season’s) financials. While the team’s expenses came in at approximately the same amount as last (season), this (season’s) revenue was down close to $23,000. All of that resulted in the team losing $95,644.68 last (season), up from a loss of $75,329.99 the season before.”

Meanwhile, the MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders held their AGM on Wednesday night and reported a deficit of $6,402.95. The Stampeders had a long playoff run or it would have been a lot worse. . . . For more, check out Benny Walchuk’s blog right here.


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Ice’s Krebs suffers Achilles injury. . . . Viveiros in no hurry to return to WHL. . . . Dyck moves to U-18 team


MacBeth

D Valtteri Kakkonen (Kootenay, 2018-19) has signed a two-year contract with JYP Jyväskylä (Finland, Liiga). This season, with the Kootenay Ice (WHL), he had one goal and nine assists in 52 games. . . .

G Riku Helenius (Seattle, 2007-08) has signed a contract through the November international break with JYP Jyväskylä (Finland, Liiga). This season, with Ilves Tampere (Finland, SM-Liiga), he made 32 appearances, going 12-11-8, 2.69,.885, with two shutouts and two assists. . . .

F Ryon Moser (Lethbridge, Swift Current, 2008-13) has signed a one-year contract with the Kassel Huskies (Germany, DEL2). This season, with Freiburg (Germany, DEL2), he had 18 goals and 19 assists in 47 games. He was second on the team in goals and points.


ThisThat

F Peyton Krebs of the Winnipeg Ice, who is expected to be a first-round selection in this wpgicemonth’s NHL draft, has undergone surgery to repair a partially torn Achilles tendon.

Krebs, an 18-year-old from Okotoks, Alta., was injured on Tuesday when another player’s skate cut him during a workout. He had surgery in Calgary on Friday and now is in a walking boot.

A timeline hasn’t been established for his return to the ice.

The Kootenay Ice selected Krebs with the first overall pick in the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft. Two seasons ago, he had 17 goals and 37 assists in 67 games as a freshman. This season, he finished with 19 goals and 49 assists in 64 games.

With the Ice missing the playoffs, Krebs played for Canada at the IIHF U-18 World Championship, putting up six goals and four assists in seven games.

The Ice moved from Cranbrook, B.C., to Winnipeg after the season ended.

NHL Central Scouting has Krebs ranked No. 10 among North American skaters eligible for the NHL’s 2019 draft, which is scheduled to be held in Vancouver, June 21 and 22. TSN’s Craig Button had Krebs at No. 8, with TSN’s Bob McKenzie putting him at No. 9.


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Manny Viveiros is out of work at the moment, but he has told Jim Matheson of Postmedia that he doesn’t want to go back to the WHL. Viveiros, who guided the Swift Current Broncos to the Ed Chynoweth Cup a year ago, lasted one season as an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oilers before being fired shortly after Dave Tippett was signed as head coach. . . . Viveiros told Matheson that the WHL isn’t “really a place for me to go back to and no disrespect to that league. I’ve won in Europe (in Austria) multiple times, I’ve won in the Western League. I had choices last year but this is home, my family, my wife’s parents are here.” . . . Viveiros, who has two years left on his Edmonton contract, is from St. Albert, Alta.


D Valtteri Kakkonen won’t be returning to the WHL for a second season. From Finland, Kakkonen, now 19, had one goal and nine assists in 52 games as a freshman with the Kootenay Ice. . . . As you will have noticed in The MacBeth Report, Kakkonen has signed a two-year contract with JYP Jyväskylä of Finland’s Liiga. . . . Slovakian D Martin Bodak played this season as a 20-year-old so isn’t eligible to return to the Ice. . . . The Ice also had Swiss F Gillian Kohler on its roster when the season started. However, Kohler, now 19, was released as the Ice got down to the mandated limit of two imports. He returned home and played for Biel-Bienne’s U-20 team, scoring five goals and adding 23 assists in 26 games. . . . The Ice holds the fourth-overall selection in the CHL import draft that is scheduled for June 27.


Hockey Canada announced on Friday that Michael Dyck, the head coach of the CanadaVancouver Giants, has taken over as head coach of the U-18 team that will play in the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. . . . Dyck replaces Dan Lambert, who left his position as the head coach of the Spokane Chiefs to join the NHL’s Nashville Predators as an assistant coach. . . . Dyck’s assistant coaches are Mario Duhamel of the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s and Dennis Williams, the head coach of the Everett Silvertips. . . . In his first season as the Giants’ head coach, Dyck guided his club to Game 7 of the WHL’s championship final where they lost to the host Prince Albert Raiders. . . . The 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup is set for Breclav, Czech Republic, and Piestany, Slovakia, Aug. 5-10. . . . Earlier, Dyck had been named head coach of Team Canada White at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge that is to be played in Medicine Hat and Swift Current, Nov. 2-9. With Dyck now involved with the U-18 program, Hockey Canada is looking for a replacement for Team Canada White.


Might there be a hockey team anchored in Cranbrook’s Western Financial Place in time for the 2019-20 season? According to a news release placed on the City’s website on Friday, “The City expects a significant announcement around the future of hockey in Cranbrook and Western Financial Place over the coming weeks.” . . . According to the news release: “An official tender was issued by the City of Cranbrook inviting submissions from potential hockey teams to locate in the community, which officially closed on Wednesday, June 5, 2019, at 4:30 p.m. The tender garnered substantial interest from many hockey organizations from a variety of leagues at a variety of playing levels. The tender process was designed to qualify various interested parties and assess whether any groups bidding had a cohesive plan that met the expectations of the City to be a strong, long-term tenant at Western Financial Place. As of the tender closing, the local ownership group working to bring a KIJHL hockey club to Cranbrook was not able to provide all the necessary details around their proposal needed to set up a team in Western Financial Place. Additionally, the sublease proposal through the Kootenay ICE would have expired in 2023. The City is looking for a longer-term lease than four years.”


The Charlotte Checkers won the AHL championship — the Calder Cup — on Saturday, beating the visiting Chicago Wolves, 5-3. The Checkers won the best-of-seven final, 4-1, winning the last four games. . . . F Morgan Geekie, who played last season with the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, scored his eighth goal of the playoffs and added an assist for the winners. Geekie, who finished his first pro regular season with 46 points, including 19 goals, in 73 games, had 18 points in 19 playoff games. . . . The Charlotte roster included a number of other former WHLers — D Jake Bean, F Stelio Mattheos, D Haydn Fleury and G Dustin Tokarski. . . . Included on the Wolves roster were seven former WHLers — F Cody Glass, D Griffin Reinhart, F Tyler Wong, F Gage Quinney, F Dylan Coghlan, F Brooks Macek and F Keegan Kolesar. Rocky Thompson, another former WHLer, is the Wolves’ head coach.


Dave Hnatiuk is the new head coach of the Selkirk College Saints of the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League. Hnatiuk has spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach with the U of Regina Cougars of Canada West. . . . The Saints, who play out of Castlegar, B.C., needed a new head coach after Brent Heaven left after four seasons. Heaven left with a 62-25-0-10 record and one championship, that in 2016. . . . A complete news release is right here.


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Broncos win first WHL title since ’93 . . . Take out Silvertips in six games . . . Skinner ties shutout record; Gawdin is MVP

MacBeth

D Dan Gibb (Prince George, 2009-13) signed a one-year contract with Gap (France, Ligue Magnus). This season, with the University of Calgary (Canada West), he had two goals and six assists in 19 gams. He was the team captain. . . .

F Alexander Chirva (Moose Jaw, Kootenay, 2013-15) signed a two-year contract extension with Bars Kazan (Russia, Vysshaya Liga). This season, he had two assists in eight games. . . .

F Vitali Karamnov (Everett, 2007-08) signed a one-year contract extension with Dynamo St. Petersburg (Russia, Vysshaya Liga). The team captain, he had seven goals and 21 assists in 38 games. . . .

F Chase Witala (Prince George, 2010-16) signed a one-year contract extension with Starbulls Rosenheim (Germany, Oberliga). He signed with Rosenheim on Jan. 22, and put up six goals and 11 assists in 12 games. . . . This season, prior to signing with Rosenheim, he had three goals and seven assists in 11 games with the Atlanta Gladiators (ECHL); was pointless in five games with the Norfolk Admirals (ECHL); and was pointless in two games with Zilina (Slovakia, Extraliga).


ThisThat

The Swift Current Broncos scored two first-period goals, the second one with 0.6 seconds remaining, en route to a 3-0 victory over the visiting Everett Silvertips on Sunday night. SCBroncosThe Broncos won the best-of-seven WHL final, for the Ed Chynoweth Cup, 4-2. . . . This was the third championship in Swift Current’s history. The Broncos won it all in 1989, then went on to win the Memorial Cup in Saskatoon, beating the Blades in the final 29 years ago. In 1993, they won their second WHL title, but didn’t fare as well at the Memorial Cup in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. This also was the first time since 1993 that a Saskatchewan-based team has won the WHL championship. . . . This was Everett’s second trip to the WHL final. It first got that far in 2004, which was its first season — yes, it’s first season — in the WHL. That time, it was swept by the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . Last night, F Giorgio Estephan (13) gave the Broncos a 1-0 lead, on a PP, at 6:41 of the first period. . . . F Aleksi Heponiemi, who drew the primary assist on Estephan’s goal, made it 2-0 with his fifth goal at 19:59. . . . F Beck Malenstyn added the empty-netter with 6.4 seconds remaining in the third period. . . . G Stuart Skinner stopped 31 shots as he recorded his sixth shutout of these playoffs and his second in the last three games of the final. He now shares the WHL record for shutouts in one playoff with Dustin Slade (Vancouver, 2006). . . . Everett got 22 stops from G Carter Hart. . . . Broncos F Glenn Gawdin, the team captain, was named the playoff MVP. He finished with 32 points, including 14 goals. . . . F Brad Morrison of the Lethbridge Hurricanes led all playoff scorers with 37 points. F Morgan Geekie of the Tri-City Americans was No. 1 in goals (17) and Heponiemi was tops in assists (25). . . . Swift Current was 1-5 on the PP; Everett was 0-2. . . . The referees were Chris Crich and Reagan Vetter. . . . The attendance was 2,890.


Two of the men who coached in the WHL final may be on the move shortly.

There is speculation in NHL circles that the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks all have at least some interest in Manny Viveiros, the Broncos’ director of player personnel and head coach. All three NHL teams are, or will be, looking to fill assistant coach vacancies.

Viveiros is the WHL’s reigning coach of the year. His situation is certain to be a big story during the Memorial Cup in Regina.

Meanwhile, sources indicate that Mitch Love, who has been on Everett’s coaching staff since 2011-12, has been interviewed by the Saskatoon Blades, who are looking to replace Dean Brockman, who was fired when their season ended.

The Blades also have shown interest in Serge Lajoie, who spent the past three seasons as head coach of the U of Alberta Golden Bears. This season, Lajoie guided the Golden Bears to the Canadian university championship.

Lajoie is looking now because Ian Herbers has returned to the U of A after being dropped by the Oilers. Herbers had been on sabbatical while with the Oilers.

Lajoie’s son, Marc, a defenceman, was selected by the Tri-City Americans with the 14th overall selection of the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft.


The four teams are set for the 100th running of the Memorial Cup tournament that opens Friday in Regina. Interestingly, none of the four teams won its league’s regular-season title.

The Regina Pats, of course, are the host team. They finished seventh in the WHL’s overall standings. The Moose Jaw Warriors were first overall, then lost out to the Swift Current Broncos in the second round. The Broncos, who were second overall, six points behind the Warriors, won the WHL title at home on Sunday night.

In the OHL, the Hamilton Bulldogs, who were second overall, beat out the No. 1 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds on Sunday, winning Game 6, 5-4, on Sunday. In the 68-game regular season, the Greyhounds finished 13 points ahead of the Bulldogs.

In the QMJHL, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan beat the visiting Blainville-Boisbriand Aramada, 2-1, in Game 6 on Sunday night. In the regular season, the Armada finished first overall, with 107 points, 11 more than the second-place Titan.

——

The Memorial Cup schedule (all times local):

Game 1, Friday – Hamilton vs. Regina, 8 p.m.

Game 2, Saturday – Swift Current vs. Acadie-Bathurst, 2 p.m.

Game 3, Sunday – Regina vs. Acadie-Bathurst, 5 p.m.

Game 4, Monday, May 21 – Swift Current vs. Hamilton, 6 p.m.

Game 5, Tuesday, May 22 – Acadie-Bathurst vs. Hamilton, 8 p.m.

Game 6, Wednesday, May 23 – Regina vs. Swift Current, 8 p.m.

Tiebreaker (if necessary) – Thursday, May 24, 6 p.m.

Semifinal – Friday, May 25, 8 p.m.

Final — Sunday, May 27, 5 p.m.


The legendary Clare Drake, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November, died on Sunday morning. He was 89. Drake was a long-time coach of the U of Alberta Golden Bears, and his coaching tree is as large as anyone who has ever been involved in hockey. . . . Jim Matheson, the hall-of-fame hockey writer, has more right here.


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Scattershooting: Kelowna favoured as 2020 MC host? . . . Broncos, Silvertips take early leads . . . Wild takes BCHL title to U.S.

Scattershooting

Bruce Hamilton, the president and general manager of the Kelowna Rockets, announced Thursday that his organization, in conjunction with the city, Tourism Kelowna and KelownaRocketsProspera Place, officially is in the bidding to play host to the 2020 Memorial Cup.

The Rockets last played host to the four-team tournament in 2004, when they won it all. That season, the Rockets, under head coach Marc Habscheid, lost a seven-game Western Conference final to the Kevin Constantine-coached Everett Silvertips, who were in their first WHL season. The Silvertips then were swept from the championship final by the Medicine Hat Tigers.

What makes the Rockets’ decision to enter the 2020 fray so interesting is that it means officials from three of the five B.C. Division teams say they are preparing bids for the 2020 tournament.

Kamloops1The Kamloops Blazers announced on Nov. 9 that they will be in the chase, while the Victoria Royals also are expected to bid.

In November, I asked Cam Hope, the Royals’ president and general manager, if his organization is interested in playing host to the 2020 Memorial Cup and he gave me a one-word answer: “Absolutely.”

Around the same time, Hope told the Victoria Times Colonist that “we intend to bid for the 2020 Memorial Cup.”

Victoria and Vancouver will be the host cities for the 2019 World Junior Championship, VictoriaRoyalsand Hope sees a link between a successful WJC and the 2020 Memorial Cup. You can bet that ticket sales from the WJC will be a big part of Victoria’s bid presentation.

Any one of the other 19 WHL teams has until June 1 to make an expression of interest. Those who are still interested will make their bid presentations at a board of governors’ meeting in Calgary on Oct. 3. Following the presentations, the governors will vote and a host team/city will be revealed at the conclusion of the meeting.

At this early date, I would suggest that the Rockets are the favourites, for at least three reasons. Firstly, the 2004 tournament was a fabulous show and really raised the bar for future Memorial Cups. Second, the Rockets, with super scout Lorne Frey on staff, have a history of icing competitive teams. Third, Hamilton, who also is the chairman of the WHL’s board of governors, carries a lot of weight at the executive level.

The Royals could upset the applecart, though, because as nice as Kelowna is in May, who wouldn’t want to spend a couple of weeks in Victoria at that time of year? They also have a recent history of being competitive, and Hope showed in January that he isn’t afraid to roll the dice at the trade deadline. It didn’t work this time, with the injury bug perhaps playing a role, but he definitely showed a willingness to pull the trigger.

Kamloops is the underdog in this three-horse race, having missed the playoffs in two of the past four seasons, and having lost out in the first round in the other two. The Blazers are rebuilding, witness their January deal with Everett in which Kamloops dealt two veterans — F Garrett Pilon and D Ondrej Vala — for two roster players in F Orrin Centazzo and D Montana Onyebuchi, two 2002-born prospects and two 2019 bantam draft picks.

By Oct. 3, however, the 2018-19 season won’t be nearly far enough along to give the voting governors a handle on the bidding teams’ expected level of competitiveness for 2019-20. That means it will be up to each team to convince the governors with a thorough scouting report.

In the end, of course, it may come down to money, meaning the team that guarantees the largest profit — and we’re talking a few million Canadian dollars here — may win the bid.

That being the case, Tom Gaglardi, the Blazers’ majority owner, could use some of his family money to guarantee the profit, a move that just might give Kamloops an edge.

The 2018 Memorial Cup is to be held in Regina, with the 2019 tournament in Halifax.


BTW, the Blazers revealed their 2018-19 season-ticket prices this week, with premium tickets going for $657, adult for $582, senior for $478, and youth/student for $403. The premium price is up $16 from last season, with the other three each having gone up by $15. . . . The WHL, of course, is reducing its regular-season schedule from 72 to 68 games, meaning that increase is for two fewer home games than in 2017-18.


The WHL has 22 teams. What might be the over-under for the number of teams to increase season-ticket prices?


The WHL’s conference finals began on Friday night, with the host Swift Current Broncos whlskating to a 3-2 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes, and the Everett Silvertips getting past the visiting Tri-City Americans, also 3-2. . . . Game 2 in each series will be played in the same venue tonight. . . . When this season began, who had those four teams in the conference finals? . . . In Swift Current, G Stuart Skinner stopped 38 shots and F Aleksi Heponiemi broke a 2-2 tie at 11:11 of the third period. In 29 career playoff games, he has one goal and 27 assists. . . . Artyom Minulin didn’t finish the game for the Broncos, but head coach Manny Viveiros told Shawn Mullin, the team’s radio voice, that the third-year Russian defenceman has “a touch of the flu.” . . . In Everett, G Carter Hart stopped 24 shots and F Garrett Pilon scored twice for the Silvertips. . . . F Morgan Geekie had one of the Americans’ goals, meaning he has at least one goal in each of the club’s nine playoff games this season. Tri-City went into the game with an 8-0 record in these playoffs. . . . Everett now has won five straight games.


Please note that final is singular, so it is the Western Conference final and the other series is the Eastern Conference final. The next round will be the WHL final. OK?


The SJHL final continued Friday night, with the Nipawin Hawks beating the visiting Estevan Bruins, 3-1, to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven final for the Canalta Cup. They’ll play Game 6 in Estevan on Sunday. . . . The Bruins got the game’s first goal, from F Michael McChesney at 2:24 of the first period, but weren’t able to get another one past G Declan Hobbs. D Josh McDougall pulled the Hawks even at 10:17, and F Chad McCartney got what proved to be the winner at 1:33 of the second period. D Gage Misskey also scored for Nipawin, at 19:55 of the second. . . .

In the MJHL, the Steinbach Pistons hold a 3-2 lead over the Virden Oil Capitals, who are scheduled to play host to Game 6 tonight. The Oil Capitals won the first two games in the series, only to have the Pistons roar back with three straight victories, including 4-0 in Virden on Monday and 7-1 in Steinbach on Thursday. . . . The MJHL and SJHL winners will meet for the ANAVET Cup, with a berth in the Royal Bank Cup on the line. That tournament opens in Chilliwack, B.C., on May 12. . . .

In the BCHL, the Wenatchee, Wash., Wild wrapped up its first championship on Thursday, beating the visiting Prince George Spruce Kings, 3-0, to win the Fred Page Cup in front of 3,845 fans in the Toyota Town Center. The Wild is in its third season in the BCHL. Wenatchee is the first American team to win the BCHL title since the Bellingham Blazers in 1979. . . . The Wild next will face the AJHL-champion Spruce Grove Saints, starting in Wenatchee with games on Friday, April 27, and Saturday, April 28. The winner of that series will advance to the Royal Bank Cup in Chilliwack. . . . The Saints won the AJHL title on Friday, beating the host Okotoks Oilers, 3-2, to take the Inter Pipeline Cup final, 4-1.

If you’re wondering how Wenatchee and Spruce Grove will handle the travel, here’s an excerpt from an AJHL news release:

“If one team sweeps the first two games (in Wenatchee), the remainder of the series will be played in Spruce Grove. If the teams split the opening two games, Game 3 will be played in Wenatchee before the series switches to Spruce Grove for the remainder of the series.”


Assistant coach Ian Herbers’ three-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers is soon to Saskatoonexpire. He took a three-year sabbatical from the U of Alberta Golden Bears — he had been their head coach — to sign with the Oilers. Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal reports right here that Herbers, should his deal with the Oilers not be renewed, could be headed back to the Golden Bears. . . . Matheson also reports that Serge Lajoie, who replaced Herbers at the U of A, “has interviewed for the vacant (head-coaching) job with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades, which sounds like he’s being proactive (in case) Herbers moves back to the Bears.” . . . The Blades are looking for a head coach after firing Dean Brockman at the end of the regular season.


USA Hockey announced Friday that David Quinn will be head coach of its junior team that will play in the 2019 World Junior Championship in Vancouver and Victoria, Dec. 26 through Jan. 5. . . . Quinn just completed his fourth season as the head coach of the Boston University Terriers. . . . Quinn’s assistant coaches with Team USA will be Mike Hastings of Minnesota State-Mankato, David Lassonde of Dartmouth and Steve Miller of Ohio State.


The Delta Hockey Academy has added a pair of former WHLers to its coaching staff. Milan Dragicevic takes over the Bantam Prep White team, while Rick Lanz will coach the U15 team. . . . Dragicevic played with the Regina Pats, New Westminster Bruins, Tri-City Americans, Spokane Chiefs and Victoria Cougars (1986-90), and later spent four seasons as an assistant coach with the Americans and two (2000-02) as the Vancouver Giants’ head coach. He also spent 12 seasons as the head coach of the UBC Thunderbirds. . . . Lanz was on the Americans’ coaching staff for one season (1997-98).


If you’re young and thinking about a career as a play-by-play man, the BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks may have a spot for you. They are looking for someone to handle play-by-play and to manage their social media accounts. . . . There’s more right here.


You see it before NHL games — a player seated on a bench cracks open a small packet, waves it under his nose and grimaces, and you know he’s ready. But what is that all about, and is it performance-enhancing? . . . The incomparable Roy MacGregor of The Globe and Mail checks it out in an entertaining read that is right here.