CHL cancels playoffs, Memorial Cup; next tournament set for OHL in 2021 . . . Winterhawks lay off employees; more to come

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The University of Toronto Schools won the 1919 Memorial Cup, the first time the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association had put the trophy into competition. It was to go to the champion of junior hockey.

The Memorial Cup has been awarded every single year since then — not even the Second 2020MCWorld War could get in the way.

However, it won’t be awarded in 2020, the COVID-19 virus haven’t knocked the major junior hockey season for a loop.

The 60-team CHL announced Monday afternoon that the major junior hockey season is over. That means that there won’t be any playoffs in the OHL, QMJHL or WHL.

Nor will there be a Memorial Cup tournament. This year’s four-team affair was to have been played in Kelowna, March 22-31. Interestingly, it would seem that the 2021 Memorial Cup won’t be decided in Kelowna, but in an OHL city.

The last line of the CHL’s Monday statement:

“We look forward with hope that next season will provide new opportunity to celebrate, and that the MemorialCup will be presented at our prestigious national championship, hosted by the OHL in May 2021.”

The CHL follows a three-year rotation among the three leagues. The QMJHL is to be the host in 2022, with the WHL back for 2023.

According to the Kelowna Daily Courier, Bruce Hamilton, the Rockets’ owner, president KelownaRocketsand general manager, said that the city “may not have had the steam to muster a tournament in 2021.” The newspaper added that “it could tax volunteers, staff, players and sponsors too much.”

Hamilton also expressed doubts that he and his hockey staff would be able to ice a Memorial Cup-calibre team.

According to the newspaper, “Hamilton said he’d also been building a team that could compete for a national title this season, and he’s losing too many veterans to be ready for next spring.”

After cancelling the remainder of the regular seasons on March 12, the CHL said in a news release on Monday that it “continued to monitor the latest updates and advice from all public health agencies and medical experts, and worked tirelessly to determine a scenario by which the balance of our season could be played. Unfortunately, given the troubling state of our global climate and public welfare, there is still too much risk and uncertainty to move forward in good conscience.” . . .

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Losing a handful of regular-season games and the playoffs is going to hurt a few WHL teams. When WHL teams are preparing their budgets, they usually look upon playoff Lethbridgerevenue as gravy. But how much gravy might that be?

Well, let’s take a look at the Lethbridge Hurricanes, one of the WHL’s community-owned teams, which means they hold an annual general meeting and announce profits and/or losses.

After the 2017-18 season, the Hurricanes announced a net profit of $422,443, with playoff revenue of $885,558. That came after a playoff run that included 16 games, nine of them at home.

One year earlier, the Hurricanes had played 10 home playoff games during a 20-game run. At the 2017 AGM, they announced a profit of $737,710, with playoff revenue at $685,000.

A year ago, the Hurricanes’ playoff run was short-circuited when they lost a first-round series in seven games. Four of the games were played in Lethbridge, some of them in the 1,200-seat Nicholas Sheran Arena because the world men’s curling championship was being played in the ENMAX Centre. At the 2019 AGM, the team announced a profit of $282,168, with $336,397 in playoff revenue, some of that was compensation from the City of Lethbridge for having been forced from their home arena.

Yes, there was a lot of money — A LOT OF MONEY — at play in the decision to pull the plug on the playoffs. The story will become more explicit when the Hurricanes hold their 2020 AGM.

The WHL’s other publicly owned teams are the Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders and Swift Current Broncos. The Raiders are the WHL’s defending champions and finished atop the East Division this season. The Warriors and Broncos wouldn’t have qualified for this season’s playoffs. . . .

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The Portland Winterhawks have laid off employees from their front office and from their Portlandhockey staff, Taking Note was told on Monday morning. . . . The Winterhawks and Kamloops Blazers both have laid off staff and implemented pay cuts. . . . According to one WHL insider, the league, with the playoffs and Memorial Cup having been cancelled, also is expected to lay off some of its office staff. . . . The 22-team WHL suspended its regular season on March 12 and then cancelled it on March 18. The Winterhawks finished atop the U.S. Division and won the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as regular-season champions; the Blazers finished first in the B.C. Division. . . . On Monday, Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week wrote that Blazers president Don Moores, in a text, had confirmed the “layoffs and pay cuts and opted to make no further comment.” . . . 



Dick Pound of Montreal, a longtime influential IOC Committee member, told Christine Brennan of USA TODAY on Monday: “On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided. The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.” . . . Her story is right here. . . .



Here’s how Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times began his Monday column:

We are surrounded by a cacophony of chaos, our lives filled with words of warning and dread and doom.

“I need a sound of spring. This being the formerly opening week of the postponed baseball season, I crave the melodious tones of the ballpark, the bunting, the hope.

“So, what the heck, I call Vin Scully.

“And, wouldn’t you know, he answers on the first ring.”

This is what we need in these trying times, and it’s all right here.



Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, has his thought for the day, courtesy of H.L. Mencken: “Laws are no longer made by a rational process of public discussion; they are made by a process of blackmail and intimidation, and they are executed in the same manner. The typical lawmaker of today is a man wholly devoid of principle — a mere counter in a grotesque and knavish game. If the right pressure could be applied to him, he would be cheerfully in favor of polygamy, astrology or cannibalism.” . . .


During a brief drive on Sunday afternoon, I spotted two curb-side signs advertising Garage Sale. . . . Seriously! . . . Yeah, like I want to buy and bring home garage sale items during a pandemic. Yikes! . . .


Spruce Meadows, one of the world’s best show-jumping facilities, announced Monday that it has cancelled its summer season, clearing its calendar through July 5. The cancellations include four tournaments that had been scheduled over a five-week span, starting on June 4. . . . The Masters, scheduled for Sept 9-13, remains on the calendar, at least for now. . . .


CHL, Hockey Canada shut things down on day we will never forget . . .

NewYorkPost


The WHL, like so many other sporting organizations, put its season on hold Thursday afternoon as the world works to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Each of the WHL’s 22 teams plays 68 regular-season games. As of now, there are a total of 54 games remaining on the schedule, which was to have ended on Sunday, March 22. The first round of the playoffs, which would have started with 16 teams,  was to have started on Friday, March 27.

Now . . . who knows?

“Our goal,” a statement from the WHL read, “is to return to play when it is safe and reasonable to do so.”

Teams that were on the road were instructed to return to their home cities. All players were to return to their billets and remain there while awaiting word on what comes next.

The CHL, which encompasses the WHL, OHL and QMJHL, announced the shutting down of all three leagues on Thursday afternoon. That announcement came after the NHL announced that it was suspending play.

Later in the day, former NHL executive Brian Burke, now an analyst with Sportsnet, said that he would be surprised if the NHL was able to hand out the Stanley Cup this season.

Because of the way COVID-19 has spread and continues to do so, I am inclined to agree with Burke.

With the WHL, of course, it’s all about the Ed Chynoweth Cup, which goes to the playoff champion, and the Memorial Cup, which is to be played in Kelowna, from May 22 through May 31.

It is far too early to know what will happen next. Will those 54 regular-season games be played? What about the playoffs? Is there a Plan B . . . Plan C . . . Plan D?

What about the Memorial Cup, which is only a bit more than two months away? If you’re wondering what could happen between now and then, think about where we were two months ago — in mid-January — compared to now.

Regardless, Bruce Hamilton, the Rockets’ president and general manager, says it’s full speed ahead in Kelowna.

“We are still marching straight ahead,” Hamilton told Global News in Kelowna. “That’s been the marching orders from the CHL. That is still 10 weeks out. It’s a long ways away.”

If you are looking for a time element to all of this, Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner whose league suspended operation on Wednesday night, told Sports Illustrated on Thursday:

“This hiatus will most likely be at least 30 days. . . . Is there a protocol, with or without fans, in which we could resume play? It’s too early to tell.”

Anyway . . . could it be that the Victoria Royals’ 3-2 victory over the host Rockets on Wednesday night will have been the WHL’s last game of the 2019-20 season? If, indeed, that is the case, F Brayden Tracey of the Royals will have scored the season’s final goal, breaking a 2-2 tie at 11:22 of the third period.

And if you’re wondering, the Portland Winterhawks are atop the WHL’s overall standings at this point, which, I suppose, gives their fans bragging rights, at least for now.


Early Thursday evening, Hockey Canada announced that its board of directors had made the decision “to cancel all Hockey Canada-sanctioned activities, including our national championships, until further notice, effective Friday, March 13.”

I’m not sure if “cancel . . . until further notice” means postponed or cancelled. Either way, Canada’s arenas will be mostly dark for the foreseeable future.

BC Hockey issued a statement indicating that it supports “the leadership shown by Hockey Canada to suspend all hockey operations . . . and will be following the direction to suspend all BC Hockey games and events until further notice.”

In a later tweet, Hockey Alberta pointed out that Hockey Canada’s edict includes league games, playoffs, practices, camps and provincial, regional and national championships . . . at the minor, female, junior, senior and sledge levels.”

Hockey Canada’s decision brought an end to the U Cup, Canada’s university men’s and women’s championship, both of which had started in Halifax and Charlottetown, respectively, and were to have ended on Sunday.


Ken King, a longtime president and governor of the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, died on Wednesday after a battle with cancer. He was 68. He was the vice-chair and chief executive officer of Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, which owns the NHL’s Flames, CFL’s Stampeders, NLL’s Roughnecks and the Hitmen. . . . There is more right here.

Scattershooting on a Wednesday night while wondering if the QMJHL will ban fighting . . .

Scattershooting

If you are a baseball fan, you need to be aware of the website Alberta Dugout Stories. You are able to find it at albertadugoutstories.com. As a sampler, check out the story at this link right here, where Ian Wilson writes about a wily right-hander named Leroy (Satchel) Paige and others who toured the Prairies at one time or another. . . . This is really, really good stuff.



Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, has been giving up some of his time to watch XFL games. A couple of pertinent observations: “I do not like the fact that the XFL has doubled the number of sideline reporters doing the games; sideline reporters are as useful as a trombone player in a duck blind. . . . A big plus for XFL 2.0 is the absence of any cheerleaders.  They add about as much to a telecast as do the sideline reporters.”

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The Sports Curmudgeon also had this observation, one that applies to hockey as well: “There is a broadcasting difference between dead air’ (very bad) and ‘announcers’ silence to let the scene speak for itself’ (usually very good). The announcers on XFL games need to shut up every once in a very long while.”


Chips


G Liam McGarva, 20, who won a Kootenay International Junior Hockey League title with the Revelstoke Grizzlies last season, has been suspended until March 11 by the SJHL. McGarva, who turned 20 on Feb. 17, now is with the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves. He was suspended after using his water bottle to squirt a referee, then, as he was being escorted off the ice after being ejected, shoving a linesman with his blocker. . . . Brady Lang of Saskatoon radio station CKOM has all the bases covered right here.


It used to be that Bruce Hamilton, the owner, president and general manager of the Kelowna Rockets, didn’t fire head coaches. And when one did leave, he always seemed to KelownaRocketshave an assistant coach poised to take over. . . . That changed when Dan Lambert left for the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and Hamilton went outside his organization to hire Brad Ralph, who was gone after a 48-20-4 regular season and a trip to the Western Conference final. . . . Jason Smith, another outsider, was hired on July 6, 2016; his run ended on Oct. 22, 2018, with Hamilton saying that “we need to go in a different direction.” The Rockets were 4-10-0 at the time of the firing; Smith left with a 92-54-12 record in two-plus regular seasons. . . . At that time, Hamilton bypassed assistant coach Kris Mallette, this time hiring another outsider, former NHL defenceman Adam Foote. . . .

On Wednesday, Hamilton, whose team is to play host to the Memorial Cup in May, pulled 2020MCthe plug on Foote, and this time he put Mallette in charge, albeit on an interim basis. Foote leaves with a 48-49-12 record, including 24-26-4 this season. . . .

“The team has struggled since the Christmas break,” Hamilton said in a news release. “With 14 games remaining in the regular season, I felt a change was necessary at this time.” . . . He later told Regan Bartel, the team’s radio voice: “Part of success is being able to handle adversity and this group hasn’t handled adversity real well. That’s from playing scared to win, or scared not to lose probably is the better line. That’s what’s set in here a little bit. Hopefully, a new voice will change that.” . . . Except that Mallette isn’t a new voice; he is in his sixth season on the Rockets’ staff. . . .

The Rockets hold down the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot, two points ahead of the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Finish in the first wild-card spot and it likely will mean a first-round date with the Kamloops Blazers, who lead the B.C. Division. The second wild-card spot is likely going to get you the Portland Winterhawks in the opening round. . . .

Oh, and did I mention that F Nolan Foote, Adam’s son and the Rockets’ captain, is spending some time with the New Jersey Devils, who want their medical staff to check him over. The Devils acquired him from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday. Due to injury, Nolan has played in only four games since Nov. 30. He played a bit in a 6-5 OT loss to the visiting Calgary Hitmen on Monday — the Rockets blew a 5-1 lead — but wasn’t able to finish. The Lightning had selected him in the first round, 27th overall, of the NHL’s 2019 draft. . . .

The 2020 Memorial Cup opens in Kelowna in 93 days.


Prisons


Still with fired coaches, the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers have dumped head coach John Beilein after just 54 games; they were 14-40. He joined the Cavs prior to this season, after spending 12 seasons with the U of Michigan Wolverines. . . . Don’t cry for him, though — he had four years and more than US$16 million left on his contract when he left town.



It is pretty much agreed that CF Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels is the best player in MLB. On Monday, he spoke to reporters about the cheating scandal that is eating up the Houston Astros: “It’s sad for baseball. It’s tough. They cheated. I don’t agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything. It was a player-driven thing. It sucks, too, because guys’ careers have been affected, a lot of people lost jobs. It was tough. Me going up to the plate knowing what was coming — it would be pretty fun up there.” . . . The Angels play seven of their first 10 regular-season games against the Astros, opening with four in Houston, March 26-29. . . .

BTW, word out of Vegas is that the over-under on the number of Houston hitters who will be hit by pitches this season is 83.5. . . . During the 2019 season, only 41 Astros hitters were plunked; the MLB average was 66.


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There are reports that QMJHL governors, who are meeting today (Thursday) may vote to ban fighting. I have no idea what steps the governors might take, but it’s about time. . . . It’s also more than past time for the WHL to follow suit. In this day and age, there simply is something wrong about charging admission for an event in which teenagers are allowed to punch each other in the face with bare knuckles and little in the way of consequences.

Scattershooting on a Thursday night while waiting to steal the first signs of spring . . .

Scattershooting

ESPN continues to use Jessica Mendoza as a baseball analyst despite her being on the payroll of the New York Mets as a baseball operations special adviser. Of course, that is a conflict of interest, something that was very much in evidence on Thursday as Mendoza chose to speak out on at least three ESPN programs about the cheating scandal that has enveloped MLB.  . . . She pointed a finger at pitcher Mike Fiers, now of the Oakland A’s, for going public, something that sparked MLB’s investigation. Mendoza later tried to backtrack, but the genie was out of the bottle and her credibility has since taken a terrible beating, as it should have. . . . The Mets, of course, found themselves hip deep in it because their new manager, Carlos Beltran, was involved in the cheating while playing for the Astros. On Thursday, the Mets and Beltran parted company before he had managed even one game. While Beltran may be gone, Mendoza continues to cash cheques from ESPN and the Mets.


Astros


It was on Jan. 4 when former WHL player/assistant coach Kevin Sawyer, now a broadcaster for TSN on games involving the Winnipeg Jets, related a story involving a hazing. Sawyer, then an assistant coach with the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs, talked of Saran-wrapping a 15-year-old Jared Spurgeon to a pillar in an arena. Spurgeon wsa “about six feet up in the air . . . he was tiny,” Sawyer said. “He looked like he was 12.” . . . Paul Friesen, a columnist with the Winnipeg Sun, has some questions about all of this but has discovered a cone of silence seems to have been placed over everyone involved. Friesen, however, was able to speak with Akim Aliu, who is no stranger to hazing incidents. . . . Friesen’s column is right here.



A tip of the Taking Note fedora to a pair of WHL teams — the Prince George Cougars and Victoria Royals. . . . The Cougars announced on Thursday that they now are making sensory kits available at all home games. From a news release: “In partnership with AutismBC, the Cougars have purchased sensory kits that will be loaned out to families, at no cost, that have sensory issues. The sensory kit includes protective earmuffs, colouring book, crayons, ear plugs, sunglasses, and several different fidget / stress items.” . . .

Meanwhile, the Royals, with their home city and environs hit with some ugly weather, are rewarding fans who were able to get to their Wednesday game and ticket holders who couldn’t make it with freebies for a future game. . . . The Royals announced attendances of 2,519 and 2,901 for Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, as they swept the Tri-City Americans, 3-1 and 6-1. However, it’s believed the miserable weather limited the actual attendance at each game to much closer to 1,000 people.


Christmas


The AJHL’s Fort McMurray Oil Barons fired Bob Beatty, their general manager and head OilBaronscoach, on Tuesday. Beatty, a veteran of the junior A coaching scene, was in his first season with the Oil Barons, who were 15-27-2 and in seventh place in the North Division in what is clearly a rebuilding/reloading season. . . . Mike Brodeur and Justin Rose, the team’s assistant coaches, ran things on an interim basis for a couple of days. . . . On Thursday, the Oil Barons announced that Gord Thibodeau had returned to the organization as GM and head coach. He had filled both positions with the Oil Barons for 11 seasons (2003-14). . . . Thibodeau is the winningest coach in AJHL history, having put up number 833 in February 2017 while with the Whitecourt Wolverines. He and the Wolverines parted company shortly after he put up that victory. . . . Thibodeau also has battled non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on four separate occasions since 1989, most recently in 2016.


Mike Sawatzky of the Winnipeg Free Press tweeted Wednesday that F Connor McLennon wpgicewill be out of the Winnipeg Ice’s lineup for up to eight weeks with a broken collarbone. . . . McLennon was injured Tuesday night in a 5-1 victory over the visiting Prince George Cougars. He leads the Ice in goals (21), assists (28) and points (49), all in 42 games for the East Division-leading club. . . . Interestingly, the Ice didn’t list its two 2004-born forwards — Matt Savoie and Connor Geekie — on the WHL’s weekly roster report. Savoie, who has five assists in 12 games, is out with a concussion; Geekie, pointless in seven games, has mononucleosis. . . . The Ice selected Savoie with the first overall pick in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft, and took Geekie with the next selection.


After Seattle had its season come to an end on Sunday in Green Bay, Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch offered some advice for young NFLers: ““It’s a vulnerable time for a lot of young dudes, you feel me? So, you feel me? Start takin’ care of y’all mentals and y’all bodies and y’all’s chicken. So, when y’all ready to, you know, walk away, you be able to do what you want to do.” . . . By chicken, of course, he meant money. . . . All of that got lots of play, and by early in the week you could visit his website (beastmode.com) and purchase hoodies and T-shirts emblazoned with “Take Care Yo’ Chicken” across the chests. . . . Yes, Lynch practises what he preaches.


Micro


If you watched the video of the battling goaltenders on Saturday night, you will have noticed Roman Basran of the Kelowna Rockets holding his right arm in a gingerly KelownaRocketsfashion after he and Dylan Garand of the Kamloops Blazers got up off the canvas, er, ice. . . . Well, the Rockets listed Basran as out day-to-day with an upper-body injury on Tuesday’s WHL roster report. . . . Basran has been the Rockets’ No. 1 goaltender. . . . The Rockets (21-17-3), the host team for the Memorial Cup, are third in the B.C. Division and sixth in the Western Conference. . . . With Basran unavailable, the Rockets have added G Cole Tisdale, 17, to their roster from the AJHL’s Camrose Kodiaks. Tisdale, an eighth-round pick by the Rockets in the 2017 bantam draft, will back up Cole Schwebius as the Rockets visit the Everett Silvertips tonight (Friday) and then go into Portland for a Saturday-Sunday doubledip with the Winterhawks. . . .

The Rockets also have lost F Liam Kindree, 19, for up to two months — i.e., the remainder of the regular season — with a broken collarbone. He had surgery on Thursday. . . . As well, Kelowna F Nolan Foote showed up on the weekly roster report as being out week-to-week with an undisclosed lower-body injury. . . . Foote was injured in a 4-1 loss in Kamloops on Friday. . . . Kindree went down in a 7-2 loss to the visiting Blazers on Saturday. The Rockets were adamant that it was a second-period hit on Kindree by Kamloops F Jeremy Appelt that resulted in some late-game fisticuffs. Kindree was given a boarding minor on the play.


Here is Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice on the spate of NHL firings:

“It’s a very painful experience. It’s a very personal, yet very public, experience.

“I think this is the best analogy: You’re in a marriage, you love the woman but it’s getting a little bit rocky. Then you come home one day and she says ‘Paul, we’re going in a different direction and there’s gonna be a press conference in three hours and we’re gonna talk about how great the new husband’s gonna be.’

“So, it’s tough. You put your heart and soul into it and then you’re out.”


JUST NOTES: The Minnesota Twins signed 3B Josh Donaldson to a four-year deal said to be worth US$92 million. Donaldson turned 34 on Dec. 8. Hey, gang, it’s only money. . . . Of course, with Donaldson at the hot corner, the Twins now will move Miguel Sanó, who will be 27 in May, to first base. . . . Donaldson hit 37 dingers with the Atlanta Braves last season; Sano hit 34 in only 380 ABs with the Twins. . . . If you’re like me, you’re wondering: How much of Subway does Martha Stewart own? . . . Do the people who had a problem with LSU quarterback Joe Burrow smoking a victory cigar also have issues when championship teams celebrate by pouring beer and champagne all over the place? . . . A final thought on MLB’s latest cheating scandal: Is this a case of a business that has turned a blind-eye — wink! wink!! — to different kinds of cheating over more than 100 years finally having the chickens come home to roost? . . . The first pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report on Feb. 12.

Scattershooting on a Monday night while wondering how long they’ll be the Houston Asterisks . . .

Scattershooting

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Columnist Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post, on the cheating mess in MLB:

“This scandal is a perfect illustration of why cheating in professional sports is so bad. It ruins everything. There is no way to fix the damage. And that scar across a sport’s visage is permanent, as with the World Series 101 years ago that is still known by just two words: Black Sox.

“That is why it is so important to make every effort to catch cheaters and crush those who get caught with penalties that get the attention of the next person who is tempted to do the same. We never seem to understand the true weight of the phrase ‘integrity of the game’ until some team or player tries to rip it to shreds to win.”

Boswell’s complete column is right here.

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The person who came up with the idea to feature Cam Hope, the president and general manager of the WHL’s Victoria Royals, in a video as he put together a deal with the Moose Jaw Warriors that brought sniper Brayden Tracey to Vancouver Island deserves a raise in pay. . . . If you haven’t seen the video, it’s about six minutes in length and it’s right here. . . . The script writer got a perfect ending, too, as Tracey scored the OT winner in his first game with the Royals. . . . BTW, I have all kinds of time for Hope, who has never shied away from answering any question that I may have asked him.


Psst! Did you hear about the hockey game that wasn’t able to start on time because one of the referees forgot his pants? No, it wasn’t in the WHL. . . . It was a National Ice Hockey League game in the United Kingdom between the Peterborough Phantoms and Telford Tigers. . . . Officials are required to wear black pants with some padding, and referee Richard Belfitt didn’t have his with him. He ended up finding a pair in the arena’s lost-and-found bin and the game started after a 15-minute delay. . . . That story is right here.



Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, noted the other day that there was only one winless NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball team at that point of the season — Mississippi Valley State at 0-13. . . . “Twelve of those 13 losses were road games for the Delta Devils,” he wrote. “The NCAA loves to refer to its ‘student-athletes’. Surely those 12 road games enhanced significantly the ‘student’ portion of college life for those ‘student-athletes’. . . . The Delta Devils have since split two games, both on the road, and now are 1-14. Last night, they beat the host Alabama A&M Bulldogs, 72-66. The Bulldogs are 5-10.

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After the Miami Dolphins fired offensive co-ordinator Chad O’Shea, Finarelli confessed: “I could not pick him out of a lineup with the WNBA all-star team.”



Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times reports: “It now has been revealed that New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes broke an ankle at his Florida ranch last season when he stepped in a hole while trying to elude a wild pig. Or as Mets publicists immediately tried to spin it, he’s been out because of a bad hammy.”

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One more from Perry: “According to a study conducted by four universities in Ireland, the average doctor visit there lasts 14.1 minutes. Or roughly the same as an NFL video replay review.”



While the Battle of Alberta was showing life in Calgary on Saturday night, thanks to the Kamloops1Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk and Zack Kassian of the Edmonton Oilers, the Battle of the Okanagan blew up in Kelowna as the Rockets and the Kamloops Blazers brawled their way to the conclusion of what was a 7-2 victory by the visitors, who had won 4-1 at home on Friday. . . . Saturday’s game included battling goaltenders as Kelowna’s Roman Basran and Dylan Garand of the Blazers gave fight fans across the Internet an orgasmic moment.

“The league’s got to take a hard look at how their refs are letting it get out of control,” Kelowna head coach Adam Foote told David Trifunov of the Kelowna Daily Courier. “I talked to a league official before the game. I said, ‘They’ve let three hitting from behinds go, and they let 23 (Kamloops F Jeremy Appelt) board a guy.’ They call the right call there to control the game . . . Our guys, I never promote that stuff, but I think they just got fed up.”

The Rockets were upset about a hit by Appelt on F Liam Kindree at 12:49 of the second period.

Trifunov added: “The coach said he thought that precipitated much of the shenanigans at KelownaRocketsthe end of the game. But he also said after Kelowna’s Pavel Novak was suspended eight games for a check-from-behind on the Blazers’ Kyrell Sopotyk on Nov. 11, the Rockets have watched numerous similar calls go nearly unpunished.”

There are a few other WHL teams, like maybe 21 of them, who will be slapping foreheads and chuckling from behind hands over a Rockets coach complaining about the officiating. After all, everyone knows that the Rockets get all the officiating breaks because their owner, governor, president and general manager, Bruce Hamilton, rules the roost.

Right?

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When Basran and Garand tumbled to the ice as their scrap neared its end, the Kelowna goaltender said something to his Kamloops counterpart and the two quickly separated and got to their feet. Basran, though, was favouring his right arm/shoulder as he skated away. . . . Basran is the Rockets’ No. 1 goaltender, having played in 33 games (1,816 minutes) to Cole Schwebius’s 13 (652 minutes). . . . If Basran is injured, remember that the fight took place slightly more than 24 hours after the passing of the WHL’s trade deadline. And remember that the Rockets are the host team for the 2020 Memorial Cup that is four months down the road.

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BTW . . . In the end, the goofiness resulted in one suspension — Kelowna D Kaedan Korczak got three games — and fines totalling $4,500, with the Rockets dinged for $3,000 of that. . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia pointed out via Twitter that there were “18 fighting majors in the Kamloops-Kelowna game on Saturday night. That’s more fighting majors than all but five teams have incurred this season in the WHL.” . . . Kamloops has won seven of eight meetings with Kelowna this season, having outscored the Rockets 33-14 in the process. They will conclude the season series on March 13 (at Kamloops) and 14 (at Kelowna).

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Meanwhile, in Calgary, there seemed to be a whole lot of consternation from various NHLcorners because Tkachuk refused to fight Kassian when challenged in the third period of what was then a 3-3 game. Those who are up in arms seem to be forgetting one thing — Why do you play the game? As then-New York Jets head coach Herm Edwards so famously explained more than 17 years ago: “You play to win the game.” . . . Well, Kassian ended up in the penalty box and the Flames, with Tkachuk screening in front of the Edmonton net, scored on the power play as they went on to a 4-3 victory. . . . On Monday, Kassian was hit with a two-game suspension. . . . Gotta think Tkachuk won the night. . . . With the all-star break approaching, Kassian will be eligible to return on Jan. 29 when — you guessed it! — the Flames are scheduled to play in Edmonton.

Paul Stewart, a former NHL referee who was a tough cookie as a WHL/NHL player, has his take on Tkachuk vs. Kassian right here.


The AJHL’s Olds Grizzlys announced on Monday that Joe Murphy, their general manager and head coach, had resigned, effective immediately. . . . Pete deGraaf was named interim head coach. . . . The Grizzlys are 9-17-5 and in sixth place in the seven-team South Division. . . . Murphy, a former Olds player, was in his second season as head coach, his first as GM. . . . DeGraaf is in his third season with Olds.



JUST NOTES: Why do I get the feeling that Houston’s American League time will be known as the Asterisks for the next while? . . . And it would seem that the Boston Red Sox and manager Alex Cora are next up at MLB’s Cheaters’ Waltz. . . . When MLB lowers the boom on the Red Sox, the New York tabloids — the Post and Daily News — should be worth a look. . . . Are the drivers who don’t clean the snow off their vehicles — especially the windows — before leaving home/work the same people who don’t use their turn-signals? . . . All things considered, Boston play-by-play fan Jack Edwards was rather restrained as Bruins F Brad Marchand muffed that shootout attempt last night. Could it be that Edwards simply was in a state of shock? . . . Why do journalists continue to write/report that a team or person has “punched their ticket” to an event? For example, The Canadian men’s volleyball team didn’t punch a ticket to anywhere on Sunday; rather, it qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Summer Games.

Scattershooting on a Friday night while pondering which leftovers to feast on . . .

Scattershooting

Headline at TheOnion.com: 4-year-old convinced father a moron after 45th consecutive hide-and-seek victory.


Shots fired . . . If you’re on Twitter, check the thread . . . 


If you are Canadian and a sports fan, I hope you took advantage of the opportunity to watch RB Chuba Hubbard and his Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Texas Bowl on Friday. Hubbard, who is from Sherwood Park, Alta., ran for 149 yards as the Cowboys lost, 24-21, to the Texas A&M Aggies. He finished with 2,094 yards rushing this season, the 18th-best total in NCAA history. He also is just the 32nd player in FBS history to run for at least 2,000 yards in a season. Among those who were quick to offer congratulations to Hubbard, a first-team All-American and Big 12 offensive player of the year, was former NFL great Barry Sanders, who also played at OSU. . . . Hubbard, who completed his sophomore year, has yet to announce whether he will enter the 2020 NFL draft. . . . Oh, he also is the first player in Big 12 history to have 12 100-yard rushing games in a season.


The NCAA football semifinals are to be played today (Saturday); the final is scheduled for Jan. 13. Of the 16 days between dates, Janice Hough, who can be found at LeftCoastSportsBabe.com, notes: “Players have so much time off they might even have to go to class.”


Affair


If you happen to be in the Kamloops area between now and Jan. 5, you really should consider stopping by the BC Wildlife Park and partaking in its 22nd annual Wildlights Festival. . . . It runs through Jan. 5, with the doors opening at 5 p.m., and the last admission at 8:30. . . . It includes thousands and thousands of lights, and you will want to ride the Wildlife Express miniature train. . . . More info is available right here.


Dwight Perry, in the Seattle Times: “Hear about the New York fan who found a magic lamp last summer and got his greatest wish for the Knicks granted? Well, sort of. Guess he should’ve told the genie something besides ‘we want to be neck-and-neck with the Warriors next season.’ ”

Earlier this month, Perry marked the 20th anniversary of his writing Sideline Chatter for the Times. He calculated that he has produced almost 3,900 episodes. Great stuff!


Myles Mattila, the founder of MindRight for Athletes Society, continues to do some amazing work when it comes to athletes and their mental health. These days, Mattila, 20, plays for the junior B Kelowna Chiefs of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League while studying business at Okanagan College. The other day, MindRight and HeadCheck Health announced a partnership aimed at advancing “athlete health and wellness by making MindRight’s resources and peer-to-peer support available through HeadCheck’s mobile app and web-based software platform.” . . . “I believe we have helpful resources available for youth and need to support them to get help if they need it,” Mattila said in a news release. . . . For more on the partnership, click right here.


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I used to work with a sports columnist who often referred to the Excited States of America. After all the nonsense of Thursday, when Trump and Co. went berserk over CBC-TV having edited him out of that classic movie Home Alone 2, I’m thinking the late Bob Hughes was ahead of his time. . . . I mean, sheesh, at what point does the so-called base realize that the rest of the world is laughing at them and not with them? . . . Do they even get Home Alone 2 in Russia?



Dept. of pet peeves: There isn’t any such thing as “first annual.” . . . The first one is the “inaugural tournament.” . . . The second one is the “second annual.”


You may have heard that the Jacksonville Jaguars have fired Tom Coughlin, their vice-president of football operations whose management style seems to involve having everyone under one of this thumbs. As old friend Jack Finarelli (sportscurmudgeon.com) points out: “Anyone who thinks Coughlin is overbearing likely would curl up into the fetal position if they had to live under Vince Lombardi.”


TreeFalls


CLEANING UP: If you’re a fan of the Edmonton Oilers, do you have that sinking feeling yet again? . . . ICYMI, hockey vagabond Troy Mick’s next stop will be in Philadelphia where he will be the general manager of the Philadelphia Hockey Club’s junior A program and head coach of the U-16 teams. Mick, who was spotted playing shinny at Silver Star Mountain near Vernon, B.C., on Friday, is a former WHL player and coach. He is to start work in Philly in January. . . . F Matt Savoie, 15, played in his 11th game of the season with the Winnipeg Ice on Friday night in Brandon. When will the WHL get around to announcing that its rosters now are open to 15-year-olds as full-time players? . . .

The best part of the World Junior Championship is listening to Dennis Beyak handle play-by-play of some games. I hope fans of the Winnipeg Jets realize how fortunate they are to hear him on a regular basis. . . . You are a real WHL fan if you are able to remember when Beyak was the general manager of the Seattle Thunderbirds and Tri-City Americans. You also are old. . . . Might the Memorial Cup-host Kelowna Rockets trade for a veteran goaltender between now and the WHL’s trade deadline of Jan. 10? . . . Have to think Kelowna’s Memorial Cup-organizing committee is hoping for the Kamloops Blazers to win the WHL title, if the Rockets don’t, that is. . . . The worst part of Christmas? Knowing that family is coming for a few days, the time moves so slowly before the arrival. A few days later, you awaken and realize it’s all over. Where did those four days go?

Scattershooting on a Thursday evening while wondering if NHL teams are moving back to dump-and-chase game . . .

Scattershooting

Not in the Christmas spirit? Watch this . . .


In his weekly compilation, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times included an obit of the week for football fan John J. Ford, 86, from the Minneapolis Star Tribune: ”Passed away surrounded by family on December 2nd after the Vikings allowed 17 unanswered points . . .”

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“A Las Vegas hospital billed the parents $2,659 to pull a tiny doll’s shoe from their child’s nostril,” Perry reported. “Imagine what it would cost to extract Antonio Brown’s foot from his mouth.”


Mozart


Congratulations and best wishes to Innes Mackie, who has been around the WHL since the Christmas Wish Book was used for shin pads, or maybe even earlier. . . .

And congrats, too, to Dan O’Connor, the play-by-play voice of the Vancouver Giants. While Mackie, the Tri-City Americans’ equipment guru, was working Game No. 3,200, O’Connor was calling No. 600.


ICYMI, Part 1: D Nikita Zadorov of the visiting Colorado Avalanche recently took out Montreal Canadiens F Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who was left with a brain injury. There wasn’t a penalty; there wasn’t a suspension. “So how could Zadorov get away with it?” Jack Todd writes in the Montreal Gazette. “Blame hockey’s pervasive knucklehead culture, which has survived well into the 21st century. The loudest of the braying donkeys in the barn may have been shuffled off to the Podcast Porch — but the brutal culture Don Cherry helped foster lives on.” . . . The complete column is right here.

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ICYMI, Part 2: Hockey Canada trimmed a bunch of players from the selection camp for its national junior team on Thursday. Yes, it has to be done. But why make these teenagers walk the media gauntlet after they’ve been chopped from the roster? Come on, Hockey Canada, be better than that.


Puppy


If the Kelowna Rockets continue to unload premium bantam draft picks and perhaps a prospect or two in the hunt for a Memorial Cup title in the spring, when they will be the tournament’s host team, you have to wonder if their aftermath will be more like the Prince Albert Raiders, Regina Pats or Swift Current Broncos. . . . The Raiders are 19-7-4 and atop the East Division after making a deal or three — but not selling out — that helped them win the WHL’s 2018-19 championship. The Pats are 7-18-3 after selling out as the host team for the 2018 Memorial Cup. The Broncos are 6-20-3 while still trying to recover after emptying the cupboard as they successfully chased the WHL’s 2017-18 title. . . . Over the past one season-plus, the Pats are 26-63-7 and the Broncos are 17-71-9. Neither team made the playoffs last spring and they won’t be there in 2020.


If you are wanting to attend the 2021 World Junior Championship, with games in Edmonton and Red Deer, you may want to see your banker about a loan. . . . Considering the political/labour situation in Alberta at the moment, it will be interesting to see how tickets sales play out. . . .


The New York Yankees signed P Gerrit Cole to a nine-year deal valued at US$324 million. . . . The Los Angeles Angels got 3B Anthony Rendon for US$245 million over seven seasons. . . . F Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals has hockey’s richest deal — US$124 million over 13 years. That was signed in January 2008. . . . According to an entry at Wikipedia, Ovechkin’s contract, the richest in NHL history, is tied for the 79th richest in sports history. . . . That’s what having a hard salary cap does for you.


I didn’t finish Michael Connelly’s latest book — The Night Fire — in time to get it into my Bookshelf series that was posted here earlier in the week. But if you’re a fan of Connelly’s Harry Bosch series, you’ll enjoy this one. It features the retired-but-not-retired Bosch and LAPD Det. Renée Ballard doing their thing on the streets of L.A. and area. Good fun, unless you’re the bad guys.


The Kelowna Rockets were in Prince Albert to play the Raiders a week ago. Hear from both coaches — Marc Habscheid of the Raiders and Adam Foote of the Rockets — after the game, and then decide who won . . .

Habscheid: “I don’t blame referees or anything, but there were three soft calls and they talked to (Foote) all night. I don’t know if they wanted to get his autograph, because he was a Stanley Cup champion or what, but it didn’t look good. They talked to him all night, (and Foote) ran line changes. He did whatever he wanted, and he slowed the game down, and they just let him do it. I don’t know if they wanted his autograph or what the deal was.”

Foote: “The refs were pretty good all night . . .”

Thanks to Darren Steinke for the quotes. His complete blog post is right here.

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One night later, the Rockets visited the Blades in Saskatoon. The Rockets tied the game, 3-3, late in the third period and won it in a shootout, much to the chagrin of at least one Blades fan.

That fan was on social media bemoaning — you guessed it! — the officiating. Someone else asked: “Who were the refs?”

I laughed out loud when I saw the response: “Hamilton and Foote.” That, of course, was in reference to Kelowna owner/president/general manager Bruce Hamilton, who also is the chairman of the WHL’s board of governors, and Adam Foote, the Rockets’ head coach.



SocialMedia


JUST NOTES: Judging by video clips from the Wayne Fleming Arena, there certainly seems to be a lot of room available on the benches for Winnipeg Ice home games. I realize that a lot of people choose to stand during the games, but you have to wonder how the empty seat-look sits with the WHL’s board of governors. . . . And, hey, if anyone has any photos of the Ice’s future home under construction feel free to send them along to greggdrinnan@gmail.com. . . . Was anyone watching Monday Night Football and not pulling for Eli Manning? . . . With the Giants on MNF and the Jets on Thursday night, was it enough to make you feel sorry for the football fans of New York City? . . . A tip of the hat to the Seattle Thunderbirds and Saskatoon Blades for a deal involving F Alex Morozoff. A native of Saskatoon, Morozoff was traded for a sixth-round pick in the 2023 bantam draft. “Alex and his family are currently dealing with a family medical issue,” Seattle GM Bil LaForge said in explaining the deal in a news release. “We have made this trade to help get Alex closer to his family in Saskatoon.”