Peeters has a real fish story to tell now . . . Speltz signs on as GM in AHL . . . Blazers, Blades in mourning

TWEET OF THE DAY:


Former NHL/WHL G Pete Peeters now lives in Sturgeon County, just north of Edmonton. So it was only fitting that Peeters was involved in the catching of a fish on the Fraser River that Patrick Johnston of Postmedia writes was “a sturgeon bigger than anything that’s been measured in modern history.” . . . Johnston writes: “The fish’s fork-length was a B.C. record: 352 cm (or 11 feet, six inches). Its girth was 141 cm (55 inches) and was estimated to weigh 890 pounds.” . . . Johnston’s story, along with a couple of photos, is right here.


Speltz

The NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights have hired former Spokane Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz as the general manager of their AHL affiliate, the Henderson Silver Knights. . . . Speltz, who is a long-time friend of Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon, has spent the past five seasons on the scouting staff of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, the last three as their head amateur scout. He joined the Leafs after being the Chiefs’ general manager for 26 seasons (1990-2016). He also was the Medicine Hat Tigers’ GM for two seasons (1988-90). . . . Prior to signing Speltz, McCrimmon also was responsible for the Silver Knights, who are preparing for their second AHL season.



And wouldn’t you know it . . . I just pre-ordered another book, after discovering that Bearcat Murray: From Ol’ Potlicker to Calgary Flames Legend is scheduled to be released on Nov. 2. . . . You should know that this one is written by George Johnson, who once upon a time was part of the gang at the late, great Winnipeg Tribune. Say what you want about George, just don’t question his love for Ol’ Blue Eyes and classic movies, or his ability to write. He’s one of our best, so Bearcat’s story will be a winner. . . . And, yes, he did wind up plus-1 during an NHL game. You know that story will be included.


Finally . . . we have a cancellation that hasn’t anything to do with the pandemic. The Portland Winterhawks and Seattle Thunderbirds were to have played an exhibition game in Kennewick, Wash., on Sept. 19. However, the teams have decided to stroke that game off the schedule, apparently because of the number of players they expect to have in NHL camps at that time. . . . The game would have been part of the Tri-City Americans’ tournament.



ICYMI, the CFL’s Edmonton Elks released Canadian OL Jacob Ruby after he Covidbreached COVID-19 protocols. This had to have been serious because CFL teams value offensive linemen the way politicians love votes. Dave Naylor of TSN later reported that Ruby “did repeatedly misrepresent to (the) team (that) he was vaccinated.” . . . Ruby had been in the CFL since 2015 when he was with the Montreal Alouettes. . . . The Elks, of course, have had 13 players test positive over the last while, and that led to the postponement of a game in Toronto against the Argonauts that was to have been played on Aug. 26. . . . As of Tuesday, the Elks had gone five days without a positive test; they are expected to return to team activities today. . . .

Meanwhile, the NFL’s New England Patriots surprised the football world on Tuesday by releasing veteran QB Cam Newton, who had started all three of their exhibition games. We may never find out if his apparently being unvaccinated had anything to do with the move by head coach Bill Belichick, who will open the season with Alabama product Mac Jones, a rookie, as the starter. . . .

In Indianapolis, the Colts placed QB Carson Wentz, C Ryan Kelly, who is a Pro Bowler, and WR Zach Pascal on the COVID-19 list as close contacts of a staff member who tested positive. . . . If the three test negative and are asymptomatic they will be able to return in five days. . . . “The fact that the three players were placed on the list as close contacts is an indication they are not vaccinated for the coronavirus as, per NFL protocols, vaccinated players would only be placed on the list for a positive test result,” writes Mike Wells of ESPN. . . . The Colts now have had at least nine players on the COVID-19 list since training camp started. They also have had two coaches test positive, including head coach Frank Reich. . . . 

And from the world of baseball and television . . . the New York Post reported Tuesday that former MLB pitchers Al Leiter and John Smoltz have refused to be vaccinated so “will no long appear in-studio for MLB Network.” . . . MLB has a mandatory vaccination policy for all employees and it goes into effect today (Wednesday). . . .

On Tuesday night, the Boston Red Sox took SS Xavier Bogaerts out of their game in the second inning after a positive test came back. The Red Sox lost the game, 8-5, to the host Tampa Bay Rays. . . . Boston has had six players test positive since Friday, the others being OF Kiké Hernández, INF Christian Arroyo, P Matt Barnes and P Martín Pérez. P Josh Taylor went on the list as a close contact.


Chapter 9,876 in the book How Did We Get Here From There — In chatting the other night with the husband and wife who own a couple of Dairy Queen franchises, I was told about a male and female who recently were refused service because she wasn’t wearing a mask. Yes, masks are mandatory indoors in B.C. . . . Anyway, the couple started beefing and the owners realized it was a waste of time and energy debating the issue so they walked away and the two disgruntled folks departed the premises. . . . That brings us to Port Alberni, B.C., where an idiot who was refused service because he wasn’t wearing a mask chose to leave the store, before returning to urinate on the counter. . . . Sheesh! What is happening to us? Just wear a mask. It’s not like you’re being asked to fight a grizzly bear with a plastic knife.


Plague


KING-TV in Seattle reports that if you’re planning on attending the Washington State Fair in Puyallup, you will have to wear a mask at all times — indoors or out — regardless of your vaccination status. . . . Why? Because Pierce County is experiencing unprecedented levels of COVID-19. . . . The State Fair runs from Sept. 3-26. . . . According to yaktrinew.com, “The masking requirement came one day after two hospital leaders said during a Washington State Hospital Association briefing that the Washington State Fair should be canceled due to the stress it would inevitably put on hospitals.”



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.


JUST NOTES: Matt Calvert, who recently retired after an 11-year NHL career, has joined the Brandon Wheat Kings as their development coach. From a news release: “Along with assisting the coaching staff with day-to-day operations, Calvert will focus primarily on the career development of current players and prospects, emphasizing skill development, fitness, nutrition, mental health, and education.” Calvert, who is from Brandon, played three seasons (2007-10) with the Wheat Kings. . . . The ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones have promoted Jason Payne from assistant to head coach, replacing Matt Thomas, who now is with the AHL’s Providence Bruins. Payne, who is from Toronto, is the lone Black head coach in pro hockey at the moment. ESPN’s Emily Kaplan has more on Payne right here. . . .

Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) reported Tuesday morning that former WHL F Yogi Svejkovsky is going to work with the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks as a skills coach, who also will work with the AHL’s Abbotsford Canucks. He had been coaching at the Delta Hockey Academy. He spent 12 seasons (2006-18) as the Vancouver Giants’ skills coach. Svejkovsky, 44, had 101 points, including 58 goals, in his one WHL season (1995-96) with the Tri-City Americans. His son, Lukas, who turns 20 on Nov. 23, has split the past three seasons between the Giants and the Medicine Hat Tigers.


DrSues

The summer of ’01: Where are the locusts? . . . SJHL keeping Chow in commish’s office . . . AJHL will look at 1-on-1 in exhibition OT

At 7:30 p.m., it was 43C in Kamloops. By 8:35, the temperature had retreated to 39C. We had hit our high at 5 p.m. — 46.4C. Hey, Jack, that’s 115.5F.

Environment Canada is calling for a high of 43C on Wednesday.

The overnight low was 24.6C at 5 a.m. You can’t even open windows and catch a fresh breeze. Our skylights are covered. The wall-to-wall windows on the east side of our kitchen are covered by vertical blinds with sheets over top of them. And still the A/C can’t keep up.

I should mention, too, that the South Thompson region, which includes Kamloops, is under a severe thunderstorm warning with the “potential for severe thunderstorms with very strong wind gusts, intense lightning and brief bursts of heavy rain.”

Did I mention there could be intense lightning?

Because the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy has issued a bulletin calling for smoky skies in the South Thompson region.

“The region is being impacted or is likely to be impacted by wildfire smoke over the next 24-48 hours,” reads a statement that was issued Tuesday at 2:49 p.m.

Yes, wildfire season also is upon us with a vengeance. As of Tuesday evening, there are two huge blazes, one of them more than 3,700 hectares, located to the west of us. 

The last thing we need at this point in time is lightning.

In what used to be normal times, we might see 40C for a day or two in July, and the fire season didn’t really get roaring until August. Now we’ve got everything at once.

And if you haven’t heard there have been have been dozens of heat-related deaths in the Lower Mainland, and you can bet that the number will rise province-wide over the next few days.

The intense heat has sped up the snowmelt in some areas so there are flood concerns.

It seems that the only thing missing right now are the locusts. But, then, the murder hornets are said to be on their way.


As a reminder that the pandemic isn’t completely behind us, Baseball Manitoba announced Tuesday that it has cancelled all of its 2021 provincial championships. . . . From a news release: “The decision was made with the safety and development of our members as the top priority. Provincial championships create environments with large gatherings with people from across the province. Also, by cancelling provincial championships, we believe that there is more opportunity for a longer season for more players, as they compete late into summer within their regions.”


Newsflash



If anyone wants it, the title of the hardest-working person in the WHL is up for grabs for the first time in years. That’s because Rick Dillabough no longer is employed by the Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun has more on Dillabough and his decision to walk away right here, and it’s great to see former owner Kelly McCrimmon singing the praises of his long-time employee and friend.


ICYMI, Bruce Springsteen was back on Broadway on Saturday night, and Peter Marks, the Washington Post’s theatre critic, was there for the district’s first full-length performance in 15 months. He wasn’t alone.

As Marks wrote, “His curation includes one of the key requirements for admission: a vaccination card. ‘It’s great,’ he remarks. ‘Unmasked, sitting next to each other.’ Bizarrely, theatergoers were greeted outside the St. James by a cadre of screaming, placard-waving anti-vaccination protesters, who feel aggrieved by the fact that the government wants to save their lives. Their rage is a bewildering counterpoint to the joy inside the theater at the freedoms the vaccines have given back to us. The demonstration is as out-of-touch as ‘Springsteen on Broadway’ feels in-touch.”



The SJHL’s board of governors and Bill Chow, the league’s commissioner, have sjhlagreed on a contract extension that will run through the 2022-23 season. Chow is preparing for his 11th season as commissioner. . . . Chow, who spent 10 seasons scouting for the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs, was announced as SJHL president in May 2011. That was after he had retired from the Prince Albert Police Service, where he had spent almost 30 years. . . . With the SJHL, Chow took over from Laury Ryan, who had been in place for eight years.


Meat


The AJHL held its AGM on Saturday and decided on a 60-game regular season ajhlthat will have each of the 16 teams playing 16 interlocking games. The addition of the expansion Blackfalds Bulldogs brings the roster to 16 teams. . . . Interestingly, the AJHL will experiment in its exhibition season with an overtime format that will end with teams playing 1-on-1. After each exhibition game, teams will play a six-minute OT period, starting with 3-on-3. At the first whistle after the four-minute mark, it will shift to 2-on-2. And it’ll be 1-on-1 at the first whistle after the two-minute mark. If there aren’t any goals, a “best-of-three” shootout will be held. . . . The AJHL’s complete news release is right here.


Peter Anholt, the general manager of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, has been named to Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence management group. Anholt will oversee the U-18 program. . . . Philippe Boucher, the general manager of the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs, will guide the U-17 program, with James Boyd, the general manager of the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, doing the same for the U-20s. . . . There is a complete news release right here.


USA Hockey has invited 44 players to the 2021 World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Mich., July 24-31. None of the 44 players were on a WHL team roster in 2020-21. . . . The Showcase will feature three teams this time around, with Finland and Sweden also to appear. The event is used to evaluate players who are eligible for the 2022 IIHF World junior championship that is scheduled for Edmonton and Red Deer, from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5. . . . USA Hockey’s camp roster is right here.


Ding


The Edmonton Oil Kings announced Tuesday that Czech D Simon Kubicek has Edmontoncommitted to play for them in 2021-22. Kubicek, who will turn 20 on Dec. 19, has played 113 regular-season WHL games, all with the Seattle Thunderbirds, putting up 16 goals and 39 assists. . . . On Jan. 25, the Oil Kings acquired Kubicek from Seattle for F Vladimir Alistrov, 20, of Belarus. The teams also swapped undisclosed conditional picks in the WHL’s 2023 prospects draft. . . . Alistrov spent 2020-21 with Dinamo Minsk of the KHL. . . . Kubicek played at home in 2020-21, with Motor Ceske Budejovice of the Czech ELH. He also had a goal and an assist in four games at the IIHF World Junior Championship. . . . Kubicek is the lone import on the Oil Kings’ roster, with the CHL import draft scheduled for today (Wednesday).


——

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.


JUST NOTES: The SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves have hired Kyle Schneider, 22, as their new assistant coach. Schneider, who played for the Ice Wolves as recently as 2019-20, takes over from Gaelan Patterson, now the head coach of the junior B Port Alberni Bombers of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. . . . The USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints have signed Greg Brown as their head coach. He takes over from Oliver David, who now is an assistant coach with EHC Biel of the Swiss National League. Brown, 53, spent the previous three seasons as an assistant coach with the NHL’s New York Rangers. . . . The BCHL’s Salmon Arm SilverBacks have signed Tyler Shattock, their assistant GM and head coach, to a two-year extension. Shattock, 31, took over as head coach in the middle of the 2019-20 season. From Salmon Arm, he has been with the team since signing on as an assistant coach in October 2018. . . . Simon Ferguson now is the general manager and head coach of the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors. He has signed a three-year deal that runs through June 2024. Ferguson took over as interim head coach in January 2020, not long after the franchise changed hands. The interim part of his title was dropped in March 2020. His staff includes assistant coach Ayrton Nikkel, Josh Gorges, assistant coach and player development director, goaltending coach Chad Carter and athletic therapist Michael Bois.


Open

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while wondering about the (mis-)state of NHL officiating . . .

Scattershooting2


Had you suggested to me in January that I would have two shots of Pfizer in me by now, I would have told you that you were nuts. But that’s the case. I got Pfizer’d for a second time on Saturday, 10 days after Dorothy got her second dose. . . . We got all four of our shots at the Tournament Capital Centre in Kamloops and, let me tell you, the operation there was running like a a well-oiled machine. On Saturday afternoon, I had a 2:15 appointment. I walked in the door at 2 o’clock. Got my shot at 2:06. Was on my way out the door at 2:21.

——

On the way home, I made one stop, ducking into a small grocery store to get some plastic utensils. You know . . . just in case.


Here are a few notes of interest from Tyler Kepner of The New York Times, from a piece on the website on Tuesday: “In the 2016 season, there were 3,294 more hits than strikeouts in the majors. By 2018, strikeouts had narrowly overtaken hits. And if the 2021 numbers continue at the current rates, there will be about 5,200 more strikeouts than hits this season.” . . . Yes, MLB has a problem.


It was with some interest that I noticed Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, WHL2was given a three-year contract extension by the board of governors the other day, and that the pooh-bahs had voted unanimously in favour of it. He has been in his office for 21 years, which is as long as Ed Chynoweth ruled the league, albeit in two separate stints. Interestingly, I don’t ever recall Chynoweth having unanimous support when it came time for a new deal. . . . In fact, I can remember one time, in March of 1976, when Chynoweth actually offered up his resignation. “It isn’t a play for money,” he said. “It is simply that there is too much hassle. It is starting to bother me that all my friends in Saskatoon are going to the airport to take flights out for winter holidays. I go to the airport and fly to Flin Flon.” . . . No, his offer wasn’t accepted.


Time out. My ears are ringing. I just gotta answer this one. It might be an incoming call from Bill Gates. Be right back . . . Ahh, it was only another coal train — or maybe it was an oil train — on the CP mainline across the river.


Wed


First it was Dominique Ducharme, the Montreal Canadiens’ interim head coach, nhl2testing positive for COVID-19, while every other team member has come up negative. . . . And then word came on Sunday that Kelly McCrimmon, the general manager of the Vegas Golden Knights, also has tested positive and is in self-isolation in Montreal. Apparently, no other team member has tested positive. . . . How does it happen that only one person in a team situation like this tests positive? Or is this all of this just an example of COVID-19’s quirky sense of humour? . . . BTW, that fourth Wheat Kings goaltender in the tweet at the top of this post is actually D Ryan Pulock, now of the New York Islanders. He made a game-saving stop on Saturday as the Islanders beat the Tampa Bay Lightning. . . . When McCrimmon was running the Wheat Kings, he drafted Pulock and helped turn him into the player he is today. McCrimmon, of course, also has had a thing or two to do with putting together the Golden Knights. What this means is that McCrimmon could end up having something to do with two teams reaching the NHL final.


A lot will be said and written about Kevin Durant’s airball at the conclusion of Saturday night’s Milwaukee Bucks’ OT victory over the New Jersey Nets. But not enough will be said and written about the defence provided by Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday on the play. He was on Durant like you’re supposed to be and he did it within the rules. . . . BTW, Durant played all 53 minutes. He was 0-for-6 from the field in the OT period. Might his legs have left him?

——

It was Herb Brooks who told his 1980 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team that “the legs feed the wolf.” That might well have been proven on Saturday night when the Nets didn’t eat.


In mentioning here last week that the WHL’s board of governors had scrubbed Vancouverinter-conference play at least for 2021-22, I suggested that it likely was done in an effort to cut costs because teams haven’t had any revenue coming since mid-March of 2019. . . . Ron Toigo, the majority owner of the Vancouver Giants, doesn’t see it that way. . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia wrote: “Toigo balked at the idea that cost-cutting was the main factor in the league’s decision to do away with these road trips for a season. He says that it’s more about extended travel coming out of these COVID-19 times.” . . . Ewen then quoted Toigo as saying: “I think you want to do what you know you can count on being able to do. I think it’s logistical more than anything. We’re going to do more games with the U.S. teams. There’s good teams in the U.S. The more you see them, the more intense the games get, and the better the rivalries get.”


A NBA-related note from Janice Hough, aka the Left Coast Sports Babe: “A Twitter pal said ‘John Stockton’s stupidity has jinxed the Jazz.’ Hey, as good an explanation as any how a No. 1 seed with a 22-point lead against the Kawhi-less Clippers could not only blow a lead but lose by 12.” . . . She added: “For those who missed it, Stockton appeared in an anti-vaccine video.”


Sharks


Things I wonder about at 3 in the morning . . . How is the WHL going to deal with league and team officials, on-ice officials and players in regards to vaccinations in the lead-up to and during the 2021-22 season? . . . What if the Toronto Blue Jays had a bullpen? . . . How is construction on that new arena that is to house the Winnipeg Ice coming along? Will it be done in time for the 2021-22 season? . . . What’s happening with the lease-related lawsuit the City of Cranbrook filed against the WHL and the Ice’s owners in January? . . . Is it time for the NHL to go back to having one referee on the ice? Or maybe games  should play without any as they seemed to be doing for much of Sunday’s game between Vegas and host Montreal. Either way, the two-man system just doesn’t seem to be doing the job, does it? . . . More than two months have passed us by since the BCHL confirmed that it was leaving the umbrella of the Canadian Junior Hockey League. When will it let the world in on its plans for the immediate future?


Headline at The Beaverton (@TheBeaverton): Man gets away with murder after eyewitness turns out to be NHL referee.


On Thursday, Brazil’s health ministry said there had been 66 positive tests among people involved with the Copa America soccer tournament. By Friday, that number had grown to 82. . . . Gee, maybe it wasn’t a good idea to move the tournament into one of the world’s hotspots? . . . Don’t forget that tournament organizers had said that it would be “the safest sporting event in the world.”

——

Soccer’s World Cup is to be decided in Qatar in 2022 and the country’s government has announced that spectators will have to have been vaccinated in order to be admitted to venues. . . . To date, Qatar has experienced 220,800 positive tests and 585 deaths. . . . The World Cup is scheduled to open on Nov. 21, 2022.


Look, everyone knows that baseball is full of enough numbers to choke a calculator. But this from Dan Shulman, the sometimes voice of the Toronto Blue Jays, about blew me away: “On the heels of (Saturday’s) nine-pitch AB, how about this — Bo Bichette has fouled off 278 pitches this season, more than anyone in baseball . . .” So that got me to wondering if there’s a post-season award for that?


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.


Confucius

WHL dumps inter-conference play, changes playoff format . . . Sasakamoose book well worth your time . . . Raiders’ radio voice steps aside

The WHL’s 2021-22 season won’t include any interlocking play between WHL2Eastern and Western conferences, which means, unfortunately, that fans in U.S. and B.C. division centres won’t get to see F Connor Bedard, the most-publicized prospect to enter the league in some time, live and in person. . . . Bedard is the first player to receive exceptional status in order to allow him to claim a full-time WHL roster spot as a 15-year-old. Bedard, who will turn 16 on July 17, has 12 goals and 16 assists in 15 games for the Pats in the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season. He left the Pats mid-season in order to play for Canada at the IIHF U18 World championship in Texas, where he had seven goals and seven assists in 14 games. . . . Bedard is eligible for the NHL’s 2023 draft. . . . It also means that those same U.S. and B.C. division fans won’t get to see F Matthew Savoie of the Winnipeg Ice. He was denied exceptional status prior to the 2018-19 season, but still got into 22 games and earned seven assists. He spent 2020-21 with the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints, putting up 21 goals and 17 assists in 34 games. . . . Savoie is eligible for the NHL’s 2022 draft. . . .

The WHL didn’t offer a reason for dumping inter-conference play in the news release it issued on Tuesday following the conclusion of its annual general meeting. However, I think we can assume that it’s all about trying to save money after not seeing any playoff revenue for two seasons now. . . . The WHL also announced that it plans to open its regular season on Oct. 1, with each team playing a 68-game schedule within its own conference. . . . The WHL added that “with the anticipated lifting of health restrictions in all jurisdictions” it expects to play its games without attendance restrictions. . . . If all goes according to plan, the regular season will end on April 3. . . . That would mean the WHL playoffs would start on April 8. Keep in mind that because of the pandemic the WHL hasn’t featured a playoff game since May 13, 2019, when the host Prince Albert Raiders won the championship with a 3-2 OT victory over the Vancouver Giants. . . . The WHL has changed its playoff format, going back to a conference format that last was used in the spring of 2014. The two division winners will be seeded first and second, with the next six teams slotted three through eight. The first round will have one vs. eight, two vs. seven, etc., with teams reseeded by points after each round. . . . The WHL’s complete news release is right here.


With the Vegas Golden Knights having opened one Stanley Cup semifinal on VegasMonday night with a 4-1 victory over the visiting Montreal Canadiens, it seems the rest of the hockey world is learning what WHL fans have known for a long, long time. Yes, Kelly McCrimmon, the Golden Knights’ general manager, knows what he is doing.

Here’s columnist Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, writing about the Golden Knights prior to the start of the series:

“Just four years into their history, the stunning story of their rookie season is kind of yesterday’s news. Today, they are merely one of the best teams in the NHL. Owned by Bill Foley. The fans are of another level. The presidential work and so much other work done by George McPhee. The GM, McCrimmon, is the most effective in the NHL. Unafraid of making enormous trades. Unafraid of giant-sized signings. Unafraid of drafting players and then sending them packing in exchange for tangible assets. Unafraid of doing what others may think about, but rarely act upon.”

Doesn’t that pretty much describe the way McCrimmon operated when he owned the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings?

Simmons’ complete piece is right here.


SasakamooseIf you are in the market for something to read, may I suggest you take a gander at Call Me Indian, a book that was published last month and tells the story of Fred Sasakamoose. What’s it all about? Well, the subtitle pretty much tells it all — From the Trauma of Residential School to Becoming the NHL’s First Treat Indigenous Player. . . . To think that Sasakamoose went from playing hockey and trying just to survive at a residential school in northern Saskatchewan to the lineup of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks in a few short years almost beggars belief. But he did just that, and a whole lot more. . . . Considering all that is happening these days involving residential schools and their history, both here and in the U.S., this really is a timely read. . . . Sasakamoose, who died of COVID-19 on Nov. 20 so didn’t live to see his book published, doesn’t go easy on himself either. He bares his heart and soul, including his issues with alcohol and parenting. In fact, if there is a hero in this book it isn’t Sasakamoose, rather it’s his long-suffering wife Loretta with whom he had nine children. . . . Give this book a try; I guarantee it’ll stay with you for a long time after you’re finished with it.



ICYMI, the CFL’s board of governors voted Monday to have the league’s nine CFLteams begin a 14-game regular season on Aug. 5. The season is to begin with a rematch of the last Grey Cup game — the Winnipeg Blue Bombers beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 33-12, in Calgary on Nov. 24, 2019. . . . The CFL hasn’t played a game since then because of the pandemic. . . . The 2021 season is to open with that rematch being played in Winnipeg. . . . The 2021 Grey Cup game is to be played in Hamilton on Dec. 12. . . . Training camps are to open on July 10, with players needing to report and go through a quarantine process that will be decided in conjunction with local health officials. . . . There won’t be any exhibition games. . . . Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun takes a look at the CFL situation right here. . . . BTW, the Labour Day Classic in Regina is scheduled for Sept. 5, with the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg on Sept. 11. In other words, all is almost right with the world.


Bobcats


Abbotsford Aces? Fraser Valley Falcons? The Vancouver Canucks are asking hockey fans in the Fraser Valley what they should name the AHL franchise that is to begin play in Abbotsford in the fall. The Canucks are moving their AHL affiliate, formerly the Utica Comets, to Abbotsford. . . . Daniel Wagner of vancouverisawesome.com has more right here.


Eric Bélanger has signed on as the first head coach in the history of the Trois-TRLionsRivières Lions, an expansion ECHL franchise that will be affiliated with the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens. . . . Bélanger, 43, spent the previous two seasons as the head coach of the midget AAA Chevaliers de Lévis. . . . His playing career included 820 NHL regular-season games split between the Los Angeles Kings, Carolina Hurricanes, Atlanta Thrashers, Minnesota Wild, Washington Capitals, Phoenix Coyotes and Edmonton Oilers. . . . In 2008-09, he was teammates with Marc-André Bergeron with the Minnesota Wild. Bergeron now is the Lions’ general manager.


Milkyway


The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, a 20-team junior B league, kijhlsaid Monday that it will open its 2021-22 season on Oct. 1 and wrap things up on Feb. 20. . . . “All 20 of the KIJHL’s member clubs will complete a 42-game regular season schedule that includes eight games against divisional opponents and two games each against teams in the opposing division within the same conference,” the league said in a news release. . . . That means that the Spokane Braves will be back after not operating in 2020-21 due to the U.S.-Canada border being closed to non-essential traffic. . . . The KIJHL news release is right here.


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.


JUST NOTES: Trevor Redden, the play-by-play voice of the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders for the past four seasons, is leaving the position, citing wanting to prioritize “a different work-life balance, and being able to spend more time with family and friends.” He made the announcement via social media on Tuesday. Redden said that he will be remaining in Prince Albert where he works with Pattison Media Ltd. . . . Former Moose Jaw Warriors head coach Mike Stothers has joined the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks as an assistant coach. He spent the previous five seasons as head coach of the AHL’s Ontario Reign. Stothers, 59, was the Warriors’ head coach for three seasons (2011-14). . . .

The junior B Creston Thunder Cats of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League have signed Bill Rotheisler, their general manager and head coach, to a one-year deal through 2021-22. Rotheisler is preparing for his second season in Creston, although his first season amounted to only three games because of the pandemic. If you aren’t familiar with Rotheisler’s story, including his battle with lymphatic cancer, Google is your friend. . . . Serge Lajoie, who spent one season (2018-19) as head coach of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, has been named head coach of Alberta’s male U16 team. Lajoie also is the head coach of OHA Edmonton’s U18 prep team.


Backseat

Canucks to return on Sunday vs. Leafs . . . Wheat Kings get new GM . . . BCIHL may add some Heat

OK. We think that the Vancouver Canucks’ schedule has been settled on . . . at least for now.

The Canucks, who last played on March 24 and have been in the midst of a CanucksCOVID-19 outbreak since March 30, are to play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday and Tuesday nights. Earlier in the week, the schedule called for the Edmonton Oilers to visit Vancouver on Friday with the Maple Leafs there on Saturday.

The schedule, as it now sits, has the Canucks concluding their 56-game season by playing 19 games in 32 nights. They actually began the season by playing 19 times in 34 nights.

F Bo Horvat, the Canucks’ captain, addressed the media on Friday and provided some insight into what the club has been through.

“I’ve had the flu before,” he said, “and this doesn’t hit you like a normal flu. It’s not something you want to get, it’s not something you want your family go through either. I can’t stress enough to follow the protocols.”

Horvat also said that he had passed the virus on to his wife, Holly, and that “it hit her a little harder than it hit me.”

“I’m one of the lucky ones,” he said. “My symptoms were fairly mild . . . I’m not going to lie. It was tough to know my family got it from me.”

At the same time, Jim Benning, the Canucks’ general manager, confirmed that the team had been hit by the P.1 variant that originated in Brazil. It is more aggressive than the original virus, which explains why the Canucks, as a group, had so much more illness than any of the other teams that have been hit this season.

Benning also said that the Canucks have three or four players who may not be ready to return on Sunday, while head coach Travis Green, who also tested positive, has yet to return to the practice ice. The team is hopeful that he will be on the ice today.

Iain MacIntyre of Sportsnet has more right here.

And there’s a story right here from Karen Larsen of CBC News.


Before Kelly McCrimmon left to join the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, he had been the Brandon Wheat Kings’ general manager since 1989, or for 27 seasons.

With Friday’s announcement that Darren Ritchie is leaving, the club promoted BrandonDoug Gasper, making him its third general manager since McCrimmon’s departure.

Grant Armstrong, who had been the Victoria Royals’ assistant GM, player personnel, succeeded McCrimmon as Brandon’s GM on Aug. 23, 2016.

The Wheat Kings announced on May 7, 2019, that they wouldn’t be renewing Armstrong’s contract.

On July 12, 2019, Ritchie was promoted to general manager. He will be leaving after the completion of this season to join the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs as an amateur scout. He spent 14 seasons with Brandon, moving up from assistant coach (2007-16) to director of scouting (2016-19) and then into the GM’s office.

Gasper, a familiar face in WHL circles, joined the Wheat Kings as assistant GM on Aug. 15, 2019. From Rosetown, Sask., he had been scouting for the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks before joining the Wheat Kings. He also spent six seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors, including a stint as their director of scouting (2015-17). Gasper also has scouted for the Prince Albert Raiders.

Ritchie will work for Toronto out of Brandon; Gasper will be relocating to Brandon from Saskatoon at some point in May.

The Wheat Kings’ news release is right here.

McCrimmon sold the franchise in September to the Brandon-based J&G Group of Companies, headed up by Jared Jacobson, the president and CEO.


The BCHL announced Friday that the Nanaimo Clippers “have been cleared to Nanaimoresume team activities.” The organization had been shut down Thursday to allow for further analysis of a COVID-19 test. It was found to be a negative, so the shackles have been removed. . . . The Clippers are scheduled to play the Victoria Grizzlies this afternoon in Port Alberni. Nanaimo’s Thursday night game against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs had been postponed because of the COVID-19 scare. . . . In that cohort on Friday night, Victoria beat the Cowichan Valley Capitals, 10-0.


The B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League is exploring adding an expansion franchise in Kelowna — the UBCO Heat, which would call UBC’s Okanagan campus home. . . . The Heat has put together a committee that, according to its Facebook page, “now is recruiting marketing staff and potential student-athletes to help build a new team for the BCIHL in Kelowna.” . . . The BCIHL is down to three active teams, with the Trinity Western Spartans moving to USport’s Canada West conference and Selkirk College having cancelled its hockey program. . . . You know that expansion will be on the agenda when the BCIHL holds is annual general meeting virtually on May 18 and 19.


Donuts


It would appear that Mark Rassell, a former WHLer, is thinking about a new career! A native of Calgary, he played four seasons (2014-18) with the Medicine Hat Tigers, then spent two seasons at the U of New Brunswick. . . . He doesn’t mention here whether he knows how to drive a bus, though.


The Kelowna Rockets are scheduled to return to game action tonight in Kamloops against the Prince George Cougars. The Rockets have played only two games in this developmental season, having been sidelined since March 28 because of a COVID-19 outbreak. While the original schedule had the Rockets playing 24 games, the one now on the WHL website has them with 13 games remaining. . . .

Meanwhile, there were four games played on Friday night . . .

F Owen Pederson broke a 3-3 tie at 10:27 of the third period and F Michael Milne Winnipegadded another at 12:30 as the Winnipeg Ice beat the Swift Current Broncos, 5-4, in Regina. . . . Pederson, who has 10 goals, and Milne, who has three, each scored twice in this one. . . . D Owen Williams (4) got the Broncos’ last goal at 15:57 of the third. . . . While the Ice improved to 13-5-0, the Broncos (3-14-1) have lost seven in a row. . . . Winnipeg F Peyton Krebs had his point streak snapped at 16 games. Krebs put up nine goals and 21 assists over that stretch. . . . Winnipeg F Connor McClennon, who had his 12th goal and an assist, ran his streak to 11 games. He has 12 goals and 15 assists in 18 games and has only been blanked twice. . . . G Daniel Hauser stopped 40 shots for Winnipeg. . . . Swift Current was presented with the only PP opportunities of the game, and went 1-for-5. . . . The Ice went into the game with a PP that was running at a 34.6 efficiency rate (27-for-78), behind only to the Medicine Hat Tigers (41.8). . . .

The Medicine Hat Tigers scored the game’s last four goals and beat the visiting TigersRed Deer Rebels, 4-2. . . . F Ben King scored both Red Deer goals, at 10:14 of the first period and 4:36 of the second. He has seven goals, and has put up four goals and five assists over his past five games. All told, he’s got seven goals and 10 assists in 15 games for a Red Deer team that now is 2-13-2 and has lost 10 in a row. . . . F Corson Hopwo (12) scored twice for the Tigers, getting them started at 13:34 of the second period and adding the insurance goal at 13:08 of the third. . . . Hopwo has goals in seven straight games. . . . F Brett Kemp (9) tied the game, at 3:29 of the third, and D Eric Van Impe (3) snapped the tie just 33 seconds later. . . . The Tigers, with points in seven straight (6-0-1), now are 10-3-1. . . . Medicine Hat was 3-for-5 with the man advantage. . . .

The Everett Silvertips scored three goals in the second half of the third period to Everettbeat the host Seattle Thunderbirds, 5-3. . . . Everett, which had lost two in a row, improved to 10-3-0. . . . Seattle, which had won its previous two games, now is 7-6-0. . . . F Gage Goncalves gave Everett a 1-0 lead at 17:20 of the third period and F Cole Fonstad made it 2-0 just 50 seconds later. . . . Seattle F Henry Rybinski (4) scored in his third straight game, getting his guys on the board at 10:03 of the second period. . . . F Jared Davidson (5) put Seattle out front with goals at 13:48 of the second and 9:25 of the third. Davidson also assisted on Rybinski’s goal. . . . The Silvertips tied it on F Jacob Wright’s fifth goal, at 10:15. . . . Goncalves, who has 10 goals, broke the tie at 11:17 and Fonstad, now with 10 goals, got the empty-netter. He also had an assist. . . . Goncalves also had two assists. He has 19 points in 13 games. . . . Everett G Dustin Wolf stopped 34 shots. He’s 9-2-0, 1.81, .938. . . . Seattle dressed 17 skaters, one under the maximum, with F Payton Mount sitting out this one. He was taken to hospital following a game on Tuesday after being struck on the head by a puck that glanced off the wall behind the Seattle bench. He was checked over and released on Wednesday morning. . . .

In Kelowna, F Jonny Hooker broke a 2-2 tie at 18:08 of the second period and PGthe Prince George Cougars went on to a 5-2 victory over the Victoria Royals. . . . Victoria (1-8-1), which has lost five straight, led 1-0 after one period on a PP goal by F Brayden Tracey (6). . . . D Majid Kaddoura (1) pulled the Cougars even at 2:09 of the second period and D Keaton Dowhaniuk (1) gave them the lead just 1:14 later. . . . Dowhaniuk, the third overall pick in the 2019 bantam draft, scored his first WHL goal. . . . F Trentyn Crane, a fifth-round pick in 2018, got the Royals into a tie at 11:40 with his first WHL score. . . . Hooker broke the tie, and F Kuren Gronick (2) and F Tyson Upper (1) added insurance in the last minute of the period. . . . Prince George (4-3-2) outshot Victoria, 41-21, and had a 39-16 edge in the face-off circle.


Carpenter


My wife, Dorothy, who had a kidney transplant more than seven years ago, will take part in her eighth straight Kamloops Kidney Walk on June 6. Unfortunately, it will be a virtual walk for a second straight year, but that won’t keep her from fund-raising on behalf of the Kidney Foundation. If you would like to help her out, you are able to make a donation right here.

——

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.


JUST NOTES: Gaelan Patterson is leaving the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves to take over as director of hockey operations for the Nanaimo Minor Hockey Association. Patterson, 30, who played four seasons (2006-10) with the Saskatoon Blades, joined the Ice Wolves prior to the 2018-19 season. From La Ronge, he had been the Ice Wolves’ associate GM/associate head coach. . . . Blaine Gusdal won’t be returning for a 14th season as the head coach of the U of Alberta-Augustana Vikings. The school made the announcement on March 31. Gusdal, 53, is from Erickson, Man. He played two WHL seasons (1984-86), splitting time between the Prince Albert Raiders (one game), Moose Jaw Warriors (59) and Saskatoon Blades (34).


Brunch

Scattershooting on a Saturday night while wondering if Golden Knights will have to pay that hotel bill . . .

Scattershooting2


Kelly McCrimmon has eaten hundreds of pre-game meals since 1977. That’s when he first played junior hockey, with the Prince Albert Raiders, who then were in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

VegasBut even with that kind of history, McCrimmon, 60, experienced a first involving a pregame meal on Friday in San Jose.

The former owner, general manager and head coach of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, McCrimmon now is the general manager of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, who were in San Jose on Friday to begin a weekend doubleheader with the Sharks.

The Golden Knights were staying at the Fairmont Hotel in downtown San Jose, which is where they gathered for their pregame meal early on Friday afternoon. As things turned out, those were the last meals anyone will be having in that hotel, at least for a while.

That’s because the hotel declared bankruptcy — the San Jose Mercury News reported that its owners’ debts are between $100 million and $500 million — and it shut its doors as the Golden Knights were enjoying dessert.

“Crazy times,” McCrimmon told me on Saturday night. “Staff had no idea it was coming. They got ushered right out of the building.”

The Golden Knights, had to pack their bags, then head to the SAP Center for Friday’s game, knowing that at game’s end they would be going to a different hotel.

While the disruption no doubt gave them something to talk about, it didn’t seem to bother the players on the ice. The Golden Knights beat the Sharks, 5-4 in OT, on Friday, then 4-0 on Saturday.

Justin Emerson of the Las Vegas Sun pointed out: “This will affect more than just the Golden Knights. Because of NHL virus protocols, the league designates one hotel in a city to serve as every visiting team’s lodging to ensure the hotel abides by league rules. So when the St. Louis Blues come to town on Monday, they won’t be staying at the Fairmont Hotel.”


Scott Ostler, in the San Francisco Chronicle: “Many spring training ballparks have opened up to a limited number of fans, so how do half of those fans show their gratitude to be at a live ballgame after a year of quarantine? By refusing to mask up and protect the other fans from that still-deadly virus. I salute you anti-maskers for your fearlessness and courage, your refusal to be bullied by nerdy scientists, but some of your fellow fans are allergic to death.”


I smiled when I heard from an old friend the other day. He and his wife had had to make a driving trip that took them along the Yellowhead Highway and through Hinton, Alta.

After arriving back home, he messaged me: “I smile when I see ‘Old Drinnan Town’ sign.”

That would be the same sign that welcomes all comers to this website. Yes, it’s a real sign, located just off the highway a few slapshots east of Hinton.

(BTW, a chunk of the Trans-Canada Highway that runs through Hinton actually is Gregg Avenue. Oh, and Gregg Lake is about 30 km north of Hinton. And let’s not forget Mount Drinnan, which is located near Drinnan Creek about 30 km south of Hinton.)


Headline at The Onion: COVID Announces Plan To Move Operations To Texas Full-Time To Escape Burdensome Regulations.


“A Tom Brady rookie trading card — an autographed 2000 Playoff Contenders Championship Ticket version — sold for a record $1.32 million last week,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “Or more than 1½ times what his latest Super Bowl counterpart, the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, got paid in base salary last season.”

——

Here’s Perry, again: “March 4, in case you missed it, was supposed to be National Grammar Day. So we checked a bunch of breathless-fanboy message boards, and no, it didn’t appear to be.”


Triangle


The Sports Curmudgeon (aka Jack Finarelli) was at his best earlier this week after the Washington Football Team announced that it is replacing its cheerleading squad with a co-ed dance team. . . . Remember that the curmudgeonly one lives in the Washinton, D.C., area, and that he has referred to the team as the WTFs since the moment the organization dropped its previous nickname. . . .

“I know,” he wrote about the co-ed dance team announcement. “It is enough to take your breath away.”

He continued: “That announcement is about as important as nose hairs on a statue; cheerleaders for NFL teams are worthless and co-ed dance teams for NFL teams are no better.  At its absolute best, consider this announcement by the team — and obliquely by the NFL — as a means to divert attention to the fact that after 8 months of ‘investigating,’ there are no findings regarding sexual harassment and a ‘toxic work environment’ for female cheerleaders there.”

You are able to find his entire thoughts on all of this right here.



The WHL and the AJHL announced their latest virus-testing results on Friday. . . . The WHL was clean through 602 tests for the period from Feb. 27 through March 5. That involved 428 tests on the seven teams in the Regina hub and another 159 for the five Alberta teams. . . . The five Saskatchewan and two Manitoba teams in Regina had each player and staff member tested twice — once upon arrival and again after quarantine. As a result of all tests being negatives, teams were cleared to start on-ice work on Friday. . . . Meanwhile, the AJHL ran 385 tests through 13 teams without a positive test among players and staff. Everyone will be tested once more before games begin on March 12.



The Manitoba U18 AAA Hockey League announced Saturday that it has suspended play for the remainder of the 2020-21 season. “Our decision reflects the uncertain timeline and lack of direction from Public Health with respect to game play,” the league said in a news release that carries the signature of Levi A. Taylor, its commissioner. . . . On the heels of that announcement, the Manitoba Female Hockey League (U18 AAA) cancelled its regular season and playoffs.


Goat


Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union-Tribune with something worth thinking about: “Players hate going to the NBA All-Star Game — as they should — and get upset when they’re not invited.”


Curlers got through the Scotties Tournament of Hearts for the Canadian women’s championship without any issues in a bubble in Calgary. The Tim Hortons Brier for the Canadian men’s championship started on Friday. . . . Earlier in the day, it was announced that the LGT world women’s championship will be played in the same bubble with 14 teams competing from April 30 through May 9. This is a big event because the top six finishers qualify for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing. . . . That same Calgary bubble will be home to the Home Hardware Canadian mixed doubles championship, and the BKT Tires/OK Tire world men’s championship, and two Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events.


There is smoke coming out of Seattle and it has to do with whether QB Russell Wilson wants to leave the Seahawks. LaToya Cantrell, the mayor of New Orleans, went so far as to make a pitch on behalf of her Saints. . . . That elicited this response form Jenny Durkan, Seattle’s mayor, who tweeted: ““I love you Mayor, but keep your eyes off @DangeRussWilson. His home is Seattle. #GoHawks. And so you know, Seattle is in the market for a @NBA team. Don’t make me go there.”


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.


JUST NOTES: Kyle Chipchura, who played in the WHL with the Prince Albert Raiders (2003-06), is getting into the coaching game. He has joined the Northern Alberta Xtreme U15 prep team as an assistant coach for 2021-22. Chipchura, 35, was the first overall pick in the WHL’s 2001 bantam draft. He went on to play 481 regular-season NHL games and was in the KHL for the past four seasons (2016-20). . . . Brayden Toma is the new head coach of the U15 prep team. He has been at the academy since the 2017-18 season.


Sheep

Lori Sopotyk: ‘They didn’t sugarcoat anything and told him he would never walk again’ . . . Joseph wants semi driver deported . . . Virus hits Vegas coaching staff


“They didn’t sugarcoat anything and told him he would never walk again,” Lori Sopotyk told Mart Hastings of Kamloops This Week on Tuesday. “He’s paralyzed from the belly button down and it’s a long, long journey ahead for all of us. That was the first thing out of his mouth, his hockey, that he would never skate again. And he felt like he had let everyone down.” . . . Lori was referring to Kyrell, her 19-year-old son, who was injured in a snowboarding accident near North Battleford, Sask., on Friday and is in a Saskatoon hospital. He played the last two seasons (2018-20) with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers. . . . Hastings’ complete story is right here. . . .

A GoFundMe page, launched by Kathleen Zary, the mother of Blazers F Connor Zary, has surpassed $160,000. It is right here should you wish to donate.


Chris Joseph, a former WHL/NHL defenceman, and his wife, Andrea, lost their son, Jaxon, in the accident that occurred almost three years ago when a semi-trailer pulled out onto a Saskatchewan highway in front of the Humboldt Broncos’ bus. But unlike Scott Thomas, who also lost a son in the accident, Joseph doesn’t want Jaskirat Singh Sidhu to be allowed to remain in Canada whenever he is freed from jail. Thomas, whose son, Evan, died in the crash, has written a letter in support of Sidhu’s plea to avoid deportation. . . . “As much as I can admire someone who finds that forgiveness,” Joseph told Ken Campbell of The Hockey News, “I personally don’t have it yet, don’t know if I’ll ever get it to be quite honest. Everyone’s forgiveness journey is their own journey. I just can’t understand why you cannot forgive while he’s on a plane back to India.” . . . One thing that Joseph and Thomas can agree on, meanwhile, is the need for a serious upgrade to some of the rules and regulations around Canada’s trucking industry. . . . Campbell’s complete piece is right here.


Just wondering, but what have you accomplished during this pandemic? Trent Miner, a goaltender with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, has been studying and working towards a private pilot’s licence. “I always wanted to do this,” Miner, 19, told Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun, “but obviously didn’t have any time to get into it until this summer.” . . . Miner started the process by taking lessons at the Brandon Flight Centre in May. Now the only thing standing between him and his licence is a written exam. . . . These days, Miner is in camp with the AHL’s Colorado Eagles. . . . Bergson’s story is right here.


Here’s a snippet of the Tuesday morning post from Jack Finarelli (aka The Sports Curmudgeon):

“If 2021 were destined to be a ‘normal sports year’ teams would be setting up facilities in Florida and Arizona for the onset of spring training about now. Instead, there are reports this morning that Arizona officials have sent a letter to MLB asking for a delay in the start of spring training there because of the high rate of COVID infections in Maricopa County. The report I read in the Washington Post said that the officials there do not have the authority to order such a delay, meaning this could evolve into a negotiation with MLB. Unfortunately, any negotiation with MLB will have to involve the MLBPA as well; history tells us that those two entities have difficulty agreeing on even basic things like Tuesdays always following Mondays.”

You are able to catch all of his musings at sportscurmudgeon.com.


The latest 31 Thoughts from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman includes lots on the weekend deal between the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets, and also some interesting stuff with former Everett Silvertips D Shaun Heshka. It’s all right here.


With one member of the Vegas Golden Knights’ coaching staff having reportedly tested positive, the NHL team had to sideline all of its coaches, at least for Tuesday night’s game against the visiting St. Louis Blues. As a result, Kelly McCrimmon, the former owner/general manager/head coach of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, made his NHL coaching debut. He is the Golden Knights’ general manager. . . . On the bench with McCrimmon were Manny Viveiros, a former WHL coach and player who is the head coach of the team’s AHL franchise, the Henderson Silver Knights; Jamie Heward, a former WHL player and coach who is an assistant coach with Henderson; and former NHL player Joel Ward, also an assistant in Henderson. . . . The Blues won the game, 5-4 in a shootout. The Golden Knights hit four posts in regulation, one in OT and another in the shootout. . . . F Brayden Schenn, who spent three seasons (2007-10) with McCrimmon’s Wheat Kings, scored the shootout winner. . . . The Golden Knights’ coaching staff comprises head coach Peter DeBoer; assistants Ryan Craig, Ryan McGill and Steve Spott; goaltending coach Mike Rosati; and video coach Tommy Cruz.


THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

CBC News — Anyone entering Manitoba, including people coming from Western Canada, will have to self-isolate for 14 days starting Friday. . . . The travel restriction is designed to stop non-essential travel, by land or by air, and applies to people visiting the province and returning Manitobans.

CBC News — Sask. extends public health orders as daily death toll reaches new high. The measures will remain in effect until Feb. 19. They were set to expire on Jan. 29.

CBC News — Saskatchewan saw its deadliest day of the pandemic, with a record-high 14 fatalities reported on Tuesday. The previous record came on Dec. 21, when 13 people died after being diagnosed with the virus. The province has now reported 268 COVID-related deaths since the pandemic came to the province. Of those, 115 deaths have happened in 2021.

If you’re wondering how the NCAA men’s basketball season is going, check out this piece right here by Ryan Young of yahoo!sports.

The New York Times — The coronavirus death toll in Britain surpassed 100,000 on Tuesday, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying he accepted responsibility as fatality rates continue to soar. “I am deeply sorry for every life that has been lost,” he said.

AFP News Agency, Tuesday, 1:39 p.m. PT — Global coronavirus cases pass 100 million mark, AFP tally shows.

Ron Johnson, who got into five games with the Montreal Expos in 1984, has died in Tennessee from complications related to COVID-19. He was 64. Johnson spent 25 seasons as a minor league manager, most recently with the Triple-A Norfolk Admirals, who are affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles.

Sekou Smith, who worked as an analyst for NBA TV, died Tuesday after contracting COVID-19. He was 48.


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.


JUST NOTES: The ECHL is expected to announce today (Wednesday) that it will have a franchise in Savannah, Ga., in time for the 2022-23 season. The team will play out of the Savannah Arena, a facility that is under construction.

The WHL, Part 5: There was tragedy, lots of movement and marshmallow punches . . .

Here is the fifth and final piece on the WHL’s first 25 years.  The five stories were written in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I have done just that over the past couple of weeks. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here, then, is Part 5 of 5. Thanks for reading along. I hope you have enjoyed these stories, and thank you for all of the positive feedback. . . .

——

The fifth five-year segment was easily the best of the WHL’s first 25 years.

There was success in the stands, particularly in the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States, and in Saskatoon where the Blades welcomed a new facility.

There was stability, too. Recent additions, like the Tri-City Americans and Lethbridge Hurricanes, settled in for what appeared to be long stays.

But the greatest success came on the ice where the WHL won four Memorial Cup championships during the five seasons, opening with three in a row and closing with a victory by the Spokane Chiefs.

DougSauter

The 1986-87 season actually started on something of a strange note. The Regina Pats signed Doug Sauter, who was under contract to the Medicine Hat Tigers, to a two-year deal as general manager/head coach. The result was that the Pats agreed to compensate the Tigers.

The compensation turned into two veteran players — defenceman Kevin Ekdahl and forward Kevin Clemens. It was the first time in WHL history that a coach had, in effect, been traded.

The Pats also welcomed back another familiar face with Dennis Sobchuk, the greatest and most-popular player in franchise history, signing on as assistant coach/assistant manager.

This was a time of great change in the front offices and behind the benches. Barry Trapp left the Moose Jaw Warriors, saying, “I wasn’t fired. It was just a mutual agreement. It was a very friendly parting.”

BryanMaxwell

Medicine Hat signed Bryan Maxwell to replace Sauter, while Peter Esdale was the new coach in Spokane and Wayne Naka took over the Cougars in Victoria. In New Westminster, John Olver was the GM, with Ernie McLean the coach. Harvey Roy was out as the Bruins’ director of marketing, but he would surface in Moose Jaw as the GM and would hire Greg Kvisle to coach the Warriors. In Prince Albert, GM/head coach Terry Simpson left to coach the NHL’s New York Islanders and Rick Wilson took over.

Perhaps the biggest news in the summer of 1986 came on June 2 when the WHL announced it was doing away with round-robin playoff series in the East Division. Instead, the top two teams would get first- round byes.

In the WHL office, Richard Doerksen’s title was upgraded from executive assistant/referee-in-chief to vice-president.

There was trouble in Brandon, where the Bank of Nova Scotia called in a $77,000 demand loan, asking for payment on July 31. This resulted in the Wheat Kings’ board recommending to shareholders that the franchise be sold.

bob cornell brandon wheat kings mvc
BOB CORNELL (Photo: Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame)

In August, shareholders voted 1,411-404 in favour of selling the Wheat Kings. Offers were received from two groups — one in Edmonton headed by Vic Mah, the other comprising Brandon businessmen Bob Cornell and Stuart Craig, and Winnipeg businessman Dave Laing.

Cornell’s group purchased the Wheat Kings for more than $300,000 and then added a unique twist to the situation by signing a 10-year working agreement with the Keystone Centre. The Keystone took over operation of the club, and hired Bill Shinske to run the front office. Shinske hired Marc Pezzin as coach.

The WHL also welcomed the Swift Current Broncos to the fold. Behind the bench was Graham James, who had recently reached an out-of-court settlement with the Warriors over a lawsuit he had started the previous year.

“If we continue to average close to 2,000, we’ll have a real successful year and we’ll show a profit of about $80,000,” Gary Bollinger, the Broncos’ vice-president and alternate governor, said. “That doesn’t include playoff revenue. We were budgeting for an average of 1,600. If we averaged that, we’d still make a bit of a profit.”

The first coaching change of the 1986-87 season took place on Dec. 8 in Seattle when Sheldon Ferguson gave up the Thunderbirds’ coaching reins, but stayed on as GM. Dan McDonald was the new head coach, with former Portland Winter Hawks star Jim Dobson as the assistant.

Broncos
When the Swift Current Broncos’ bus crashed on Dec. 30, 1986, the hockey world lost Chris Mantyka (left), Trent Kresse, Scott Kruger and Brent Ruff. (Photo: Swift Current Broncos)

Disaster struck on Dec. 30 when the Broncos, en route to Regina to play the Pats, were involved in a bus accident. Four players — Scott Kruger, Trent Kresse, Brent Ruff and Chris Mantyka — were killed.

EdChynoweth3
ED CHYNOWETH

“There has never been anything more devastating that has happened to me personally,” Ed Chynoweth, the WHL president, said. “The question I keep asking myself is ‘Why?’ My heart goes out to all the parents and the people involved. I wish someone would call and say this is all a mistake.”

John Foster, the Broncos’ publicity director, said: “This team will band together and win it for those guys who died. The (survivors) were absolutely professional under stress. If the people of Swift Current could have seen them, they would have been proud.”

There was never any thought of the team not continuing. As team president John Rittinger said: “It’s up to the players and the fans now. We aren’t ready to throw in the towel.”

Defenceman Ed Brost, talking about the club’s next game, stated: “It will be difficult. To go right back out on the ice would be cheating ourselves emotionally and physically. Right now people have to remember athletes are human beings, not robots.”

Moose Jaw centre Theoren Fleury was in Czechoslovakia with Canada’s national junior team at the time of the accident.

“I just can’t believe it,” Fleury said. “I just sat on the bus all the way to practice today thinking about what’s going on with all those guys on that team right now. It just blows me away. I don’t know what to say. There’s nothing we can do about it and I think being helpless is the most frustrating thing about it.”

As if losing four players in the accident wasn’t enough, Herman Kruger, 67, suffered a fatal heart attack as he entered the church for his great-grandson’s funeral.

And later the same day, Sauter and Regina trainer Stan Szumlak came to the rescue of Keith Giles, a member of the Prince Albert executive, who was choking on some food.

Donations in memory of the players poured into the Broncos’ office and an education fund was set up in their memory. Another fund was started to raise money that would go towards the cost of replacing the bus.

On Feb. 2, a longtime veteran of the WHL’s coaching wars returned for one last fling when John Chapman replaced Wally Kozak behind the bench of the Calgary Wranglers. Chapman also was the Calgary GM.

On Feb. 15, Portland won a game in Spokane and Ken Hodge took over as the winningest coach in WHL history. His 547 victories were one more than Ernie McLean.

BradHornung
BRAD HORNUNG (Photo: University of Regina)

Tragedy struck the WHL again on March 1 when Regina centre Brad Hornung was checked into the end boards at the Agridome and suffered a broken neck.

Dr. Chris Ekong, a neurosurgeon, said Hornung suffered a burst fracture of the third cervical vertebrae and a crushed spinal cord. “Brad has no feelings in his arms and legs,” Dr. Ekong said. “He is completely paralysed from the neck down.”

Hornung would never regain the use of his arms and legs, but that didn’t stop him from going on with his life.

As the WHL completed its 25th season, Hornung was continuing with his education, taking courses at the University of Regina.

Despite the bus accident, Swift Current made the playoffs in its first season. But there wouldn’t be a Cinderella story as the Broncos dropped a best-of-five series to Prince Albert, 3-1.

April was highlighted by three coaching changes — Esdale’s contract wasn’t renewed by Spokane, Kvisle resigned in Moose Jaw and McLean stepped aside in New Westminster.

And Medicine Hat won the WHL championship. The Tigers faced elimination twice in each of their last two series, and dumped visiting Portland 7-2 in the seventh game of the championship final.

The Tigers would win their first of two consecutive Memorial Cup championships, the first under Maxwell, the second under Barry Melrose. Both came with Russ Farwell as general manager.

EdStaniowski

John Van Horlick took over as coach in New Westminster for 1987-88, with

Butch Goring the coach in Spokane. Jim Harrison was the new head coach in Moose Jaw, with Ed Staniowski his assistant. Harrison and Roy, the GM, were friends from their days in Estevan, while Staniowski was a former all-star goaltender with Regina.

And the WHL was returning to Lethbridge. The Tier One Junior Hockey Club of Lethbridge purchased the Wranglers for about $350,000 from Brian Ekstrom. The Lethbridge franchise would be called the Hurricanes, causing Lethbridge Herald columnist Pat Sullivan to wonder if the logo would be an overturned mobile home.

The sale also meant that there wouldn’t be a franchise in the city in which the WHL office was located. But the office wasn’t about to be moved.

“It was decided that it was certainly the most central location for our league,” Chynoweth said.

Going into the new season, the WHL passed a rule cracking down on checking from behind.

“We do use (NHL) rules and the NHL doesn’t have hitting from behind instituted in its rule book,” Chynoweth said, “but I predict that within two years the NHL will have the same rule.”

That is exactly what happened.

There was change in the WHL’s boardroom, too, as Portland’s Brian Shaw stepped down as chairman of the board and was replaced by Saskatoon’s Rick Brodsky.

On June 5, Swift Current celebrated its first birthday by revealing the franchise was no longer in debt.

Rittinger said: “We bought the franchise and we borrowed money to buy the franchise. So we took the season-ticket money to pay the bank loan off. The bank loan is paid off. We don’t owe the bank anything. And that’s incredible because we just got the franchise last year.”

Maxwell left Medicine Hat, joining the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach. Lethbridge named Glen Hawker as its first GM/head coach. Before the season started, Lethbridge reorganized, with Wayne Simpson taking over as GM.

On July 6, Hornung, in his first interview since being injured, told the Regina Leader-Post: “You have to accept it. Life goes on and you do the best with what you have. At first, it was a time of change, shock really, but right now, it’s actually gotten easier because you get used to the adjustments. Like everybody else, I have my good days and bad days. But I don’t have many bad days.”

Separate pregame warmups came to the WHL on Sept. 28.

GerryJames

With Seattle off to a 2-15-0 start, owner Earl Hale told Ferguson, the GM, to take a leave of absence. On Nov. 16, Ferguson was fired. A couple of weeks later, Hawker was fired in Lethbridge, where Blaine Galbraith took over. And on Dec. 8, Moose Jaw fired Harrison and hired Gerry James, the only person to have played in a Grey Cup game and Stanley Cup final in the same season.

On Feb. 2, Saskatoon beat Regina 7-2 before 3,308 fans in the final game at the Saskatoon Arena. Regina coach Doug Sauter, for one, was glad to see the end of the old barn: “I get screwed every time I come in here and I haven’t been kissed yet.”

One week later, on Feb. 9, Saskatoon beat Brandon 4-3 in front of 9,343 fans at Saskatchewan Place. Chynoweth announced prior to the game that the 1989 Memorial Cup would be played in Saskatoon.

On March 11, amidst rumours that the Warriors were on the verge of major financial problems, it was announced that Roy’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.

WHL attendance figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that Swift Current drew 82,080 fans to 36 home games, which was 99 per cent of capacity. Portland led in total attendance — 200,911. The league drew 1,405,874 fans, an increase of almost 80,000 over the previous season.

For the first time in league history, the scoring race ended in a dead heat.

Two centres — Fleury and Swift Current’s Joe Sakic — finished the regular season with 160 points. Sakic had 78 goals, Fleury 68. But there was nothing in the WHL bylaws to deal with the situation so the scoring race was ruled a tie.

JoeCelentano
JOE CELENTANO

The rumours were true — there were financial problems in Moose Jaw. The Warriors began sorting things out by separating the hockey side of things from the business side. With an accumulated debt of $234,000, Joe Celentano, a former referee with basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters, was hired as business manager.

On April 17, Medicine Hat beat visiting Saskatoon 3-0 to win its third straight East Division title. The only other team to win three consecutive East titles was the Flin Flon Bombers, beginning in 1968-69.

On May 3, the Tigers beat visiting Kamloops 5-2 to win their second straight WHL title, this one in six games.

The very next day, Bob Vranckaert, who was in the construction business in Alaska, said he would like to put an expansion franchise in Anchorage in time for the 1990-91 season. Born in Drumheller, Alta., and raised in Burnaby, B.C., Vranckaert spent more than 20 years in general commercial construction 800 miles north of Anchorage.

The WHL said it would play two exhibition and four regular-season games in Anchorage and use that, plus the 1989 world junior championship, which was to be held in Anchorage, as a barometer.

On May 8, the Pats announced that Sauter’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.

A week later, Sauter’s old team, the Tigers, beat the Windsor Spitfires 7-6 in Chicoutimi to become the sixth team in the 70-year history of the Memorial Cup to win back-to-back championships.

The board in Moose Jaw put H.J. (Toby) Tobias in charge and then resigned en masse. Tobias was empowered to chair a committee whose immediate responsibility was to carry on a fund-raising campaign aimed at erasing the club’s debt. The immediate goal was to raise $150,000.

Tobias said he would look into the team’s accounting procedures, recommend constitutional changes and appoint an auditor to present a year-end statement at the club’s annual meeting.

“To me it’s a four-stage project,” Tobias said. “Stage 1: Solve the immediate debt crisis and give us some breathing room. Step 2: Have a look at the front office and see if there are some things we can tighten up. Stage 3: Come up with a budget we can live with in years to come. Stage 4: Make sure fund-raising becomes a year-round effort.”

In mid-May, Pezzin resigned as coach in Brandon. He would be replaced by Sauter, who was reunited with Shinske. The two were old friends, going back to the Estevan and New Westminster Bruins. Sobchuk replaced Sauter in Regina.

Celentano resigned in Moose Jaw, saying: “By my staying I become just another liability, one of those accounts payable that they have to make every day, and they don’t have the money.”

On May 31, Tobias announced that the Warriors had reached their goal of $151,800. That figure covered debts accrued up until March 31. Tobias said: “The phoenix has risen from the ashes. The financial health of the club remains fragile . . . but it’s business as usual from here on in.”

Indications were that New Westminster owner Ron Dixon would move the franchise to the Tri-Cities area of Washington State. He just happened to be building an arena, the Tri-Cities Coliseum, there.

TimSpeltz
TIM SPELTZ

In July, Farwell and Melrose resigned in Medicine Hat. Shortly after, they signed in Seattle. Wes Phillips was named GM in Medicine Hat and hired Ron Kennedy, a former Estevan player, as coach. Before the season started, Phillips quit, citing business and family pressures, and Tim Speltz replaced him.

Peter Anholt was named head coach in Prince Albert, where Wilson quit to join the L.A. Kings as an assistant coach. Brad Tippett was the GM in Prince Albert.

The WHL arrived in Anchorage on the weekend of Sept. 24 and 25, 1988.

Kamloops and Portland played two exhibition games in Anchorage, drawing 2,100 to the first game and 1,750 the next night.

A shakeup occurred in Spokane. It started on Oct. 14 when Spokane GM Bob Strumm acquired six players while giving up four others in trades that involved three other teams. The Chiefs were 1-4-0 and had given up 33 goals in those five games.

Twelve days later, with the Chiefs 2-9-0, Strumm relieved Goring of his duties. Strumm, with a three-year contract extension that would take him through the 1991-92 season, went behind the bench, went 2-4-0 and immediately installed Gary Braun as coach.

On Nov. 11, Moose Jaw dumped Gerry James and installed Kvisle as head coach/director of hockey operations.

Three days later, Regina shook up things. Sobchuk moved from coach to GM, with Bernie Lynch moving up from assistant coach to head coach.

It was announced on Nov. 17 that Vranckaert had purchased the Victoria Cougars from Fraser McColl. Ownership actually had changed hands 10 days after the end of the season.

“Bob has been after me for a long time,” McColl said. “He wants to get into the business with a passion. And, perhaps, that’s the type of enthusiasm this team needs right now.”

On Nov. 20, the Tri-City Americans, having played their first 17 games on the road because the Coliseum wasn’t ready, opened at home with a 4-3 overtime victory over Seattle in front of a sellout crowd of 6,004.

Swift Current started the season with 12 straight victories, and went into the Christmas break at 28-5-0 and on a 10-game winning streak. Referring to the bus accident of two years previous, James said: “I think the bus accident galvanized the spirit of the community. I think that was a catalyst. Since then we’ve had to provide a product that’s been worthy of fans coming, but I think that incident certainly rallied the community.”

Added centre Tim Tisdale: “That’s all anybody in town talks about. It’s hard to believe. You go downtown and you’re eating in a restaurant and everybody at the next table is talking about the Broncos. It definitely helps your hockey.”

There was big news out of Calgary on Jan. 3, 1989, when Petr Nedved, a centre with a midget team from Litvinov, Czechoslovakia, defected after a midget tournament. His WHL rights belonged to Moose Jaw, but the Warriors would deal them to Seattle.

The season wasn’t over when Spokane owner Vic Fitzgerald said that Braun wouldn’t be returning.

On March 14, Chynoweth revealed that the WHL “had an inquiry from Terry Simpson about putting a team in Red Deer. They would have to get a new building.” A conditional franchise was sold to Simpson on Aug. 12, 1991. The Rebels would begin play in the fall of 1992.

Attendance figures compiled by The Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance was up 232,951 over 1987-88. Most of that was attributable to the first-year Americans who attracted 203,532 fans, which was 156,149 more than they drew the previous season in New Westminster.

There was a change in Seattle on April 11 when Medicine Hat businessman Bill Yuill bought the Thunderbirds from Earl Hale of Calgary.

The usual spate of front-office changes began in earnest with the news that: 1. Galbraith would not be back in Lethbridge; 2. Al Patterson, who quit in Victoria after the season ended, had signed as Tri-City’s GM; 3. Ron Byrne had signed as the GM in Victoria; 4. Sobchuk had resigned as GM in Regina; 5. Shinske had resigned in Brandon; and, 6. Tippett had quit in P.A.

Swift Current won 4-1 in Portland on April 30 to sweep the Winter Hawks in the championship final. The Broncos became the first team to sweep its way to the WHL championship — they also got past Moose Jaw and Saskatoon in four games each. The Broncos, just a season and a half after having four players killed in a bus accident, went 55-16-1, the best record in the CHL.

 “This is a great accomplishment for our franchise,” James said. “But I don’t want the Memorial Cup to decide if we had a great year.”

TimTisdale

Tisdale added: “We have the team to do it this year. If we can’t get up for four games, we don’t belong there. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win the Memorial Cup.”

On May 14, Tisdale’s goal at 3:25 of the first sudden-death overtime period gave the Broncos a 4-3 victory over Saskatoon in the final game of the Memorial Cup. The game was played in front of 9.078 fans in Saskatchewan Place and brought to an end the most successful Memorial Cup tournament ever played.

Shortly after the Memorial Cup, the changes continued: 1. Lynch found out his contract in Regina wouldn’t be renewed; 2. Rick Kozuback signed a two-year contract as coach with Tri-City; 3. Simpson returned to Prince Albert as GM/head coach; 4. Bill Hicke was named GM in Regina; 5. Tippett signed as Regina’s head coach; 5. Maxwell returned from L.A. to sign as co-coach and director of hockey operations in Spokane; 6. Braun was Spokane’s co-coach and assistant director of hockey operations; 7. Melrose left Seattle to become head coach of the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings; 8. Marcel Comeau signed a two-year deal in Saskatoon but shortly after resigned to become head coach of the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks; 9. Anholt quit in P.A. to join Seattle as head coach; 10. Rob Daum signed as assistant coach/assistant manager in P.A.; and, 11. Terry Ruskowski signed to coach the Blades.

On June 14, 1989, Moose Jaw, so close to financial ruin just one year earlier, revealed at its annual meeting that there was a paper profit of $119,722 and that the Warriors had about $40,000 in the bank.

At its annual meeting, the WHL had two major announcements. It had decided for the first time to use full-time referees. “We’re hoping it leads to more consistent, professional refereeing,” Regina governor Ted Knight said. By the time all was said and done, the WHL had hired eight full-time and four part-time referees.

The WHL also said it would no longer allow teams to list 13-year-old players. From that point on, 14-year-olds would count for two spots on a list, players 15 and older for one.

Seattle set a single-game attendance record on Oct. 7 when 12,173 fans showed up to watch the Thunderbirds edge Portland, 4-3. “We could have sold 2,000 more tickets,” Seth Landau, the club’s director of marketing and public relations, said. “We were sold out the day before the game.” The previous attendance record belonged to Portland, which had attracted capacity crowds of 10,437 to Memorial Coliseum on numerous occasions.

The first coaching change came on Oct. 15 when Naka resigned in Victoria. Lyle Moffat replaced him.

On Nov. 1, Ken Hitchcock, 36 years of age and in the neighbourhood of 400 pounds, went public with the news that he was going on a serious diet.

“There comes a time in life when it becomes a case of now or never,” said the popular coach of the Kamloops Blazers. “I look down the road four or five years from now, what do I want to be doing? If that’s what I have to do to move up the ladder, that’s what I have to do.”

Victoria made another coaching change on Nov. 13 with Garry Cunningham becoming the Cougars’ third coach of the season. Moffat stayed on as marketing director.

A lawsuit launched by Hornung was settled out of court in November. Thirteen defendants, including the WHL, were named in the suit launched in July of 1987. Details of the settlement weren’t made public.

At a WHL board of governors’ meeting on Nov. 20, the chair switched bodies again. It was a case of deja vu, with Shaw taking over from Brodsky.

Kelly-McCrimmon
KELLY McCRIMMON (Photo: Brandon Wheat Kings)

On Dec. 17, Sauter was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder that strikes at the central nervous system. He would not return to coaching until late in the 1990-91 season when he finished the winter with the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins. Brandon GM Kelly McCrimmon moved in behind Brandon’s bench.

There was a player revolt in Tri-City when Dixon named Bill LaForge director of player personnel. LaForge said he had a five-year contract.

On Dec. 31, with Portland scheduled to play in Tri-City, the Americans players refused. A statement signed by 19 players read in part: “We will definitely not participate in any further games without the termination of Mr. Bill LaForge from the Americans organization.”

The players ended their holdout the next day, winning 8-4 in Portland. Dixon had contacted players earlier in the day and said LaForge would no longer have any contact with them.

Defenceman Colin Ruck later explained the Tri-City deal: “He came into the dressing room screaming and cutting guys down. To get to us, he said we had to call him Coach. He had (coach) Rick Kozuback picking up pucks during practice. That really upset us. Bill came out and ran a really brutal practice. We felt we had to do something.”

Byrne was gone as Victoria’s GM before January ended, while Cunningham was out as coach on Feb. 5. Moffat went back behind the bench. The Cougars would set a CHL record, losing 29 in a row.

On Feb. 7, Seattle centre Glen Goodall had an assist in a 5-3 victory over visiting Tri-City to break the WHL record for most points in a career. That lifted his point total to 530, one more than Craig Endean, who had played with Seattle and Regina.

Two nights later, Seattle broke the WHL single-game attendance record as 12,253 fans watched a 5-3 victory over Spokane.

Figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance totalled 1,678,651, up about 40,000 over the previous season. Tri-City, which sold out every home game, led the way with total attendance of 216,360. Saskatoon, in its first full season in Saskatchewan Place, played in front of 209,542 fans. Seattle, which finished with its best-ever record (52-17-3; the best previous was 32-28-12 in 1977-78), drew 181,211 fans, up 66,189 from a year previous.

On March 28, Chynoweth admitted that two groups had applied for an expansion franchise for Tacoma, Wash.

The Spokane franchise changed hands on April 10, with Fitzgerald selling to the Brett brothers — Bobby, George and Ken — for more than $600,000. Bob Brett wouldn’t say what they paid, other than to say it was “too much.”

JackShupe

The postseason changes started in April when Speltz and Kennedy learned that Medicine Hat wouldn’t renew their contracts, and Rick Hopper was named head coach/director of hockey operations in Victoria. Jack Shupe, the Tigers’ first GM/head coach in 1970-71, was the new GM in Medicine Hat. He hired Tim Bothwell as coach.

On April 29, Kamloops scored a 6-5 overtime victory in Lethbridge to win the WHL final in five games. Kamloops lost the opener and then won four straight. The Blazers struck out at the Memorial Cup, though, as the Oshawa Generals, with Eric Lindros, won it all in Hamilton.

There was much expansion talk in the WHL, resulting in this comment from Brodsky: “It’s sort of like being in love. If you have to ask yourself whether you’re in love, you’re probably not. If we’re wondering why we should expand, then maybe we’re forcing the issue a bit. If expansion is right, we’ll know it.”

DennisBeyak
DENNIS BEYAK

Farwell left Seattle to become GM of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Anholt added the GM’s nameplate to his door, and hired assistant GM Dennis Beyak from Saskatoon. Beyak had been in Saskatoon since 1981 and was the person deemed most responsible for the success of the 1989 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon.

Simpson left Prince Albert again, this time to become an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets. Daum was promoted to replace him.

There were shockwaves in Kamloops when Hitchcock resigned after six seasons with the Blazers. He signed as an assistant coach with Philadelphia. Tom Renney replaced Hitchcock, who left with a 291-125-15 regular-season record over six seasons, his .693 winning percentage the highest of any coach in WHL history.

Leaving wasn’t easy for Hitchcock, who said: “I got cold feet a couple of times. I almost went into (GM) Bob Brown’s office and said, ‘Call the whole thing off, I don’t want to go.’ ”

On Sept. 30, Chynoweth chatted about expansion: “There are what I like to call tire-kickers in Boise, Idaho; Eugene, Oregon; and, Tacoma, Washington. The WHL is in good shape and we’re aggressive to expand by one, possibly two teams in the West Division sometime soon. We are coming off our second record-setting attendance season. We’re also proud of the fact that this is the third year in a row we aren’t opening a new site. Believe it or not, but we’re stable.”

Bruce Hamilton, a former player and scout with the Blades, headed a group of Saskatoon and Tacoma investors who were eventually granted a franchise for Tacoma to start with the 1991-92 season.

On Oct. 30, with the 1990-91 season one month old, one night before Halloween, James went wild in Swift Current. Upset with referee Kevin Muench after the Broncos turned a 7-3 second-period lead into a 9-8 loss to visiting Medicine Hat, James went on to the ice in pursuit of Muench, then returned to the bench and threw sticks and water bottles onto the ice. James then removed his jacket, tie, shirt and one shoe and threw them onto the ice before his players escorted him to the dressing room.

Bothwell summed it up: “All I can say is, ‘Wow.’ I don’t know what words can describe what happened out there, from a lot of different aspects.”

James was suspended for six games and fined $2,000. “At least they didn’t ask me for the shirt off my back,” he said. The incident would show up on video on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and the David Letterman Show among others.

GerryJohansson
GERRY JOHANSSON

There was some silliness in Spokane, too. On Dec. 6, with Tri-City visiting Spokane, Maxwell and Americans assistant Gerry Johannson got into it after first period.

Here’s Maxwell: “He was waiting for me. He was yapping at me. He challenged me and I accepted the challenge.” Maxwell was said to have out-punched his opponent, 4-0.

Here’s Johansson: “He throws punches like marshmallows.”

Maxwell was suspended for three games and fined $500. Johansson got hit for $1,000 and four games.

Remember that $1 parking fee in Regina? Well, on Dec. 17, Regina Exhibition Park announced it was doubling it to $2. “I don’t think our fans will take very kindly to it if it does happen,” said co-owner/GM Bill Hicke. “If that’s the case it’ll drive another nail in the coffin.”

The Pats’ lease would expire after the 1990-91 season and Hicke had already made at least one trip into the Pacific Northwest to scout buildings.

A change in Prince Albert had Dale Engel move in as GM, with Rob Daum giving up that title but staying on as coach. It was no surprise when Daum left P.A. for Swift Current at season’s end.

On Feb. 4, Saskatoon fired head coach Terry Ruskowski, replacing him with former Blades defenceman Bob Hoffmeyer.

On March 17, Seattle was awarded the 1992 Memorial Cup.

The Leader-Post’s attendance figures showed that Tri-City, with 36 sellouts, again topped the WHL with 216,360 fans. Seattle was next at 215,248, up 34,037 from the season previous. But overall attendance was down 22,861 to 1,655,790.

LorneFrey
LORNE FREY

On April 17, Marcel Comeau was named the first head coach of the Tacoma Rockets. Hamilton would be the GM, with Lorne Frey, most recently with Swift Current, as director of player personnel.

Spokane scored a 7-2 victory over home-town Lethbridge to sweep the WHL final. The Chiefs would go on to win the Memorial Cup, with goaltender Trevor Kidd and right-winger Pat Falloon wrapping up dream seasons. Both played for the Canadian junior team that won the gold medal in Saskatoon.

One thing more than any other summed up the WHL as it headed into its second 25 years. When the 1991-92 season opened, the league not only had the same 14 teams for the fourth consecutive season, but it had welcomed the Tacoma Rockets to the fold.

—30—

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while wondering how many junior hockey teams still need billets . . .

Scattershooting


Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, has said the WHL won’t have a 2020-21 season unless its teams are allowed to operate in arenas with at least 50 per cent capacity.

After Robison held a Zoom gathering with reports on June 18, Marty Hastings of whlKamloops This Week reported: “Robison said a minimum of 50 per cent capacity in all arenas will be required for play to begin. No scenario is expected to be considered in which a team begins the campaign with a maximum capacity of less than 50 per cent.”

Early in August, Robison told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post that 50 per cent still was the mark.

“It’s all part of the outcome on where we arrive at with respect to capacity,” Robison said. “We’re having ongoing discussions with the provincial/state governments on trying to obtain the capacity that we need. If that is not successful, we will be considering some form of financial support to help us get started. But right now we’re focused on trying to get to a capacity that will work for our teams.”

Now, as we near the middle of September, with the league planning on a Dec. 4 opening, could it be that the wind is starting to change?

Here’s Todd Lumbard, the president of the Regina Pats, in conversation with Harder:

““I don’t think it’s 50 per cent or nothing, at least from our point of view. There are lots of discussions going on with different ways we might set up the season if it had to be less than 50 per cent. I know there are a lot of conversations going on with different levels of government and how we might work together with them to potentially help us out through a difficult time until we can get to a level where there is enough people in the crowd to make the Western Hockey League viable again.

“There is some hope out there that there might be some ways to do it.”

Harder’s complete story is right here.


Friends


By now, you may have heard that the BCHL issued a return-to-play news BCHLrelease on Thursday that explained “a COVID-19 alternative plan to fulfill the 2020-21 season,” as approved by its board of governors. . . . The release included this paragraph: “In the case that the original request for 25 per cent capacity in arenas by the scheduled Dec. 1 start date is not approved by the PHO (Provincial Health Office), the league will move forward with a model of reduced games without fans and will rely on player fees along with sponsorship and government support to fund the season.” . . . When you want to know what’s happening in the BCHL, you turn to Brian Wiebe. He interviewed Chris Hebb, the BCHL commissioner, and got a whole lot of answers, including how the amount of individual player fees will be set. That’s all right here.


Hey, what do you do if you are operating a team in the SJHL, but you’re based FlinFlonout of Manitoba? General manager and head coach Mike Reagan and the Flin Flon Bombers have their hands full as they work to navigate the pandemic while dealing with health officials from two provinces. . . . Eric Westhaver of the Flin Flon Reminder has more right here.



Bob Molinaro, in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot: “In Orlando, NBA coaches are neatly dressed in sneakers, slacks and polo shirts. Let’s have them lose the suits for good. What’s the point of basketball coaches dressing as if they’re applying for a bank loan?”


Pizza


There was a time when Dorothy and I spent a few weeks every year in Jasper and area. At the time, there was a Recall drug store there, and high up on one of its walls were a number of black-and-white photos of Marilyn Monroe. The photos had been taken in the area while she was there filming a movie — River of No Return — with Robert Mitchum. . . . Yes, I have watched the movie; no, I wouldn’t watch it more than once. But, really, the scenery is nice. . . . Anyway, Ian Wilson of albertadugoutstories.com has more right here on Marilyn Monroe in Jasper, including a visit by the then-retired Joe DiMaggio. Great stuff!


Dwight Perry, in the Seattle Times: “Who needs the moon in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars? The sporting world lined up quite an impressive first of its own on Thursday — with the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS and WNBA all playing on the same day.” . . . There also was NCAA football, U.S. Open tennis and pro golf. And somewhere there had to be poker and darts, too. Right?

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Perry, again: “Mike Trout, with his 300th round-tripper, just passed Tim Salmon as the Angels’ all-time home-run leader. So how’d this team ever miss out on drafting Mike Carp and Kevin Bass?”


The first thing I thought of when I flipped to Thursday’s NFL game and saw that facemask being worn by Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid was car windows at drive-in movies on steamy summer nights a long, long time ago.


“On the news tonight,” wrote comedy writer Brad Dickson in reference to life in 2020, “all they talked about were boycotts, protests, riots, violence, dissension, disease, lawsuits and court cases. And that was just the sportscast.”


Candy

COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

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OF Alex Dickerson of the San Francisco Giants was told Friday night that he had tested positive. That resulted in Friday and Saturday games with the host San Diego Padres being postponed. When it turned out to be a false positive, the teams played a Sunday doubleheader. . . . MLB now has postponed 45 games during the pandemic. . . .

The KHL has postponed five games involving the Finnish team Jokerit after all personnel was forced into quarantine. Jokerit played against Neftekhimik on Wednesday after which the latter had seven positive tests turn up. Jokerit was to have played Ak Bars Kazan on Friday, but that one never happened. Jokerit also had games postponed from Sept. 15, 17, 19 and 21. . . .

Scottie Scheffler has had to pull out of golf’s U.S. Open after he tested positive. He is reported to be asymptomatic and at home in Dallas. . . . Braden Grace drew into the tournament as the first alternate. He withdrew from the PGA Championship in August after testing positive. . . . The U.S. Open begins Thursday at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y.


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.


Here’s a tweet from Nick Petaros of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier that gave me flashbacks: “I wasn’t able to work a Kentucky Derby photo onto our Sunday sports cover. I hope the horse’s parents don’t complain.”


Patti Dawn Swansson, aka The River City Renegade:

“Steve Simmons, Postmedia Tranna, on Sept. 6: ‘Two words that never, ever, should be attached to Steve Nash: White privilege.’

“Steve Nash, head coach, Brooklyn Nets, on Sept. 9: ‘I have benefited from white privilege.’

“D’oh!”


JUST NOTES: I tried. I really tried. I was going to watch Game 7 of the Toronto Raptors-Boston Celtics series from start to finish, with the sound up. But I couldn’t do it. Oh, I finished watching the game, but the sound was off early. The play-by-play voice using so many Raptors’ first names — Fred and Norm and OG and all their friends — and the cheerleading analyst were just too much. . . . If you’re wondering how much the WHL will miss former Brandon Wheat Kings owner Kelly McCrimmon, consider that he finished fifth in the voting for the NHL’s GM-of-the-year award. And he is in only his first season as an NHL GM. . . . Aren’t you glad that you aren’t a fan of the Cleveland Browns or Detroit Lions? Oh, you are. Sorry about that. . . . The junior B Kimberley Dynamiters tweeted Sunday evening that “we are in dire need of billet homes for this season. . . . We need 9 beds in order for this season to proceed. . . . Without billet homes the season cannot proceed.” I wonder how many junior teams are in a similar predicament?


Dumb

McCrimmon sells Wheat Kings to local firm . . . Had been sole owner since 2000 . . . J&G has deep roots in Brandon

WheatKings

How will the Western Hockey League look without Kelly McCrimmon as a franchise owner?

That is the question today after McCrimmon sold the Brandon Wheat Kings to the J&G Group of Companies, a Brandon firm that is led by Jared Jacobson, who is the president and CEO. He will take over as the Wheat Kings’ governor, with McCrimmon staying involved as alternate governor.

The WHL’s board of governors has approved the sale, which is to close on Sept. 15.

“We believe this is the right decision,” McCrimmon said in a news release. “The game has been so good to my family, I am fortunate now to be part of a great organization in Las Vegas with the Knights, and it became apparent a succession plan was needed. I feel good for people in Brandon and western Manitoba that the Wheat Kings will be in great hands with Jared and will always be a big part of the City of Brandon.”

JaredJacobson
JARED JACOBSON

Jacobson was born and raised in Brandon and, according to the news release, “has been actively involved in the Jacobson & Greiner third generation family business from an early age. Through Jared’s leadership, determination and vision, the organization has seen spectacular growth, expanding to 32 companies, encompassing all areas of construction.”

McCrimmon, from Plenty, Sask., played two seasons (1978-80) with the Wheat Kings. He returned to the organization in 1988, bought one-third of the franchise from Bob Cornell in 1992, and has been the sole owner since 2000.

However, McCrimmon, now 59, signed with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights as assistant general manager on Aug. 2, 2016. Then, on May 2, 2019, he was named general manager.

After dealing with the media and talking about the sale of the Wheat Kings earlier Tuesday, he spent the evening in the NHL’s Edmonton bubble watching the Golden Knights beat the Dallas Stars, 3-0, to even their Western Conference final, 1-1.

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Gary Lawless, a former Winnipeg Free Press sports writer who now is the Golden Knights’ Insider, has more on the sale of the Wheat Kings right here.

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If you haven’t seen this already, here’s a piece I wrote on McCrimmon for The Coaches Site five years ago . . .

Kelly
Longtime Brandon Wheat Kings owner Kelly McCrimmon has sold the WHL franchise. (Photo: nhl.com)

Kelly McCrimmon is the owner of the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings.

He also is the team’s governor, general manager and head coach.

He also is the head coach of the Canadian U-18 team that will play in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in August.

Did we mention that McCrimmon is the chairman of the WHL’s competition committee?

Yes, the 54-year-old, who originally is from Plenty, Sask., wears a lot of hats, none of which has kept him from being successful.

He has been the Wheat Kings’ general manager since 1989 and now is acknowledged as perhaps the best GM in the WHL. With him at the helm, the Wheat Kings have become one of the WHL’s top franchises and best teams.

At the league level, McCrimmon has been a player for more than 20 years, serving on one committee or another, and always having a voice.

And let’s not forget that he is a married man with a family.

Whew! By now you are wondering where he finds the time. . . .

Well, the more you talk to McCrimmon, the more you realize that his working life is governed by all those clichés that you hear so much about . . . work ethic . . . surround yourself with good people and let them do their jobs . . . be true to yourself and always do what is best for the organization . . .

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Perhaps the most interesting thing about McCrimmon is that it wasn’t supposed to be like this.

The original plan was for him to be a farmer.

“My plans,” he says, “were to get my degree and farm.”

After playing two seasons (1978-80) with the Wheat Kings, McCrimmon headed for Ann Arbor, Mich., where he played four seasons with the Wolverines while he earned a business degree.

(Yes, McCrimmon played NCAA hockey after spending two seasons in the WHL, but that’s another story for another time.)

McCrimmon and his brother, Brad, had been raised on the family farm that is operated by their parents, Faye and Byron, near Plenty. The brothers, who were teammates on the 1978-79 Wheat Kings, even bought some land that was an extension of the family farm.

“I graduated in 1983,” Kelly says. “I was married after my sophomore year, and by the time I graduated we were expecting our first child. I went back to the farm, as planned.”

McCrimmon, who has two grown children with wife Terry, spent two years there, during which time he also dipped his toes into the coaching pool for the first time, playing and coaching with the Kerrobert Tigers of the Wild Goose Hockey League. He could do that during the winter months and go back to farming in the spring.

He found that he quite enjoyed the coaching side of things and it wasn’t long before he was coaching the SJHL’s Battlefords North Stars. Still, he says, “I was fully committed to farming.”

What once had been a mixed farm (grain and cattle) now was grain only, which made it easier to spend winters with a hockey team. So spending two winters coaching in North Battleford, and another as head coach of the SJHL’s Lloydminster Lancers, didn’t compromise the farming side of things.

Then would come the offer that set him on the road that he still is on today.

The Wheat Kings were a franchise in transition, not finding much success on the ice or off. At this stage, they were being operated by the Keystone Centre. McCrimmon came on board and would spend half his time working on Keystone Centre affairs and the other half with the Wheat Kings.

“One year of doing that,” McCrimmon says, “and they approached me to be the general manager.”

McCrimmon pauses, then adds: “I was fully intending at that time to go back to farming and yet this meant moving away . . . and a deviation from the plans.”

Amazingly, he still considered himself a farmer, not a hockey man.

By now, Bob Cornell owned the Wheat Kings. Halfway through McCrimmon’s first season (1989-90) as general manager, head coach Doug Sauter fell ill with GuillainBarré syndrome. You guessed it . . . McCrimmon stepped in as head coach.

In hindsight, McCrimmon admits that this was his awakening as a WHL general manager. The Wheat Kings of that era would get caught up every season in the race just to make the playoffs; if they got there, they would more often than not lose out in the first round. In one 10-season stretch, they didn’t qualify on eight occasions. Rinse, repeat. . . .

With McCrimmon coaching, the Wheat Kings finished tied for the last playoff spot with the Swift Current Broncos, who won the play-in game, 5-4.

“Our team was primarily 19-year-old players and three 20-year-olds,” McCrimmon says. “Swift Current had six 16-year-olds.” In 1993, the Broncos would win the WHL title and play in the Memorial Cup.

After that experience, McCrimmon came to the realization that what the Wheat Kings were doing “was wrong.” So he began working towards changing the franchise’s thought process.

The next season, the Wheat Kings won 19 games. Then they put up 11 victories. The howling in Brandon wasn’t all coming from the Prairie wind.

Despite what was happening on the ice, Cornell recognized that McCrimmon was moving things in the right direction. So Cornell offered McCrimmon one-third ownership in the franchise, a move that meant a whole lot to the young GM.

“That was as much belief as he could possibly show in me after winning 19 and 11 games . . . he felt comfortable enough with me running his hockey club to want to make me a partner,” McCrimmon says. By 2000, McCrimmon would be the sole owner.

McCrimmon becoming a partner meant one other thing.

“Me being a farmer wasn’t going to happen,” he says.

That summer (1992), Bob Lowes signed on as head coach. He would stay for nine years, nine years in which McCrimmon says he never once thought of going back behind the bench.

In Lowes’ first season, the Wheat Kings won 43 games, lending credence to McCrimmon’s building plans. That season, Brandon set a CHL record for the largest improvement from one season to the next.

By the spring of 1995, the Wheat Kings were in the Memorial Cup, having lost to the host team, the Kamloops Blazers, in the WHL’s championship final. The Wheaties were there again a year later, this time as WHL champions. And they were in the WHL final again in 1998.

One thing would lead to another and Lowes would leave. Dean Clark would coach the team to two final fours. Mike Kelly would replace Clark, with McCrimmon taking over from Kelly in March of 2004. McCrimmon had made some moves to strengthen the lineup, such as acquiring Erik Christensen, the reigning WHL scoring champion. McCrimmon didn’t like the way things were going, so he stepped in. Brandon was ousted in the second round, but was in the WHL final the following season.

Since then, McCrimmon has been the head coach for nine of 11 years, the two-year gap coming when former player and assistant coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk was in charge.

The Wheat Kings have missed the playoffs twice in the 23 seasons since that 11-victory winter. Yes, they’ve come a long way since missing the post-season eight times in 10 years.

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During his voyage, McCrimmon learned the importance of having good people behind the scenes. Not only is it important to have them there, it’s important to keep them.

“I am pretty hands on with some things,” McCrimmon says, and some people will say that is something of an understatement. But, he adds, “the people in key positions have complete autonomy to run the business.”

That was never more evident than more than 10 years ago when McCrimmon decided it was important that he get his Master of Business Administration (MBA).

In the two years that took, the team was in good hands on the ice with Clark in charge. The other key people were Al Macpherson, Rick Dillabough and Lyn Shannon.

Macpherson joined the Wheat Kings as a scout in 1986 and was promoted to director of player personnel in 1998, a position he filled until his retirement in the summer of 2013. He remains associated with the team as its senior advisor, while veteran WHL scout Wade Klippenstein is the director of scouting.

Dillabough now is the director of business operations and sponsorship. He has been with the franchise since 1990.

Shannon, an employee since 1991, handles the accounting side of things.

When McCrimmon was working toward his MBA through Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., Macpherson ran the scouting, and Dillabough and Shannon handled the business/financial side. During that time, McCrimmon was confident things were in good hands.

It is important, McCrimmon says, “to keep people in place.”

Darren Ritchie, who played four seasons with the Wheat Kings (1991-95), has been an assistant coach for eight seasons. The other assistant, David Anning, a former MJHL player and coach, has been there for three seasons.

Because of the number of hats McCrimmon wears, he says his assistants have “more responsibility . . . a great deal of responsibility.”

With everything else on his plate, McCrimmon decided this spring that there was room for one more thing. So he now is head coach of Canada’s summer U-18 team. This will be his first time with a Canadian national team.

“I have always had a relationship with people at Hockey Canada,” says McCrimmon, adding that he has long scouted Hockey Canada camps, especially those of the U-17 variety. Another thing that pushed him in Hockey Canada’s direction is the presence of Spokane Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz, a long-time friend, as part of HC’s management group.

Also, don’t ever underestimate McCrimmon’s desire — it’s almost a need with him — to better himself. Working with the U-18 team gives him the opportunity to coach alongside Sheldon Keefe, the OHL’s coach of the year with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, and Darren Rumble, a former Seattle Thunderbirds assistant coach who now is head coach of the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats.

“It’s a good chance to work with good coaches,” McCrimmon says, pointing out that all three worked the benches of teams that got into the final four in each of their leagues. He talks of it being a “good challenge” in terms of “personal growth.”

As he puts it: “Responsibility is good for you in terms of growing. It was a good opportunity to pursue, and I know that age group well.”

The man, it’s fair to say, has never run from a challenge. As he says, “Coaching is a challenge . . . hosting the Memorial Cup is a challenge.”

Yes, McCrimmon was mostly responsible for the 2010 Memorial Cup having been played in Brandon, where it was a resounding success. In March 2011, the Brandon Chamber of Commerce honoured him with its President’s Award as the business person of the year.

“I enjoy everything I’ve done in hockey,” McCrimmon says. “I love scouting, building, developing.

“I work hard. I always have . . . and I manage my time well.”

A reporter’s mind flashes back to a bitterly cold winter’s night in Regina, more than 20 years ago. It was a Sunday, about 1 a.m. A Tim Hortons outlet on the east side was empty except for a couple having coffee, decaf you should know.

The front door opened and an icy blast blew in, bringing with it a man who was rubbing his hands together as he tried to shake off the cold.

Yes, it was McCrimmon. He had been scouting somewhere in the hinterlands of south-western Saskatchewan. He wanted a cup of coffee to get him started on the last leg of the trek.

As he got back in his vehicle, he was almost as close to Plenty as he was to the Wheat Kings’ office.

McCrimmon left the parking lot that morning and headed east towards Brandon. He was a hockey man, not a farmer.