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

——

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.

——


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.

——

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.”

——

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?

——

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.

——

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).

——

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.


Fishing2.jpg



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 . . .”

——

“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.

——

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.

——

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.”

Scattershooting on a Wednesday night while wondering from where Hogan and his Heroes got their clothes . . .

Scattershooting

Sorry for all the hockey content in this episode of Scattershooting, but, hey, stuff happens. And, no, don’t be looking for any Don Cherry content here. I don’t know about you, but I am Cherryed out. . . .



ICYMI, Don Nachbaur, a former WHL player and head coach, is back in the coaching game. He had Andrej Podkonicky, also a former WHL player, now are co-head coaches of HKM Zvolen, a Slovakian team in the Extraliga. . . . Podkonicky and Michal Kobezda had been coaching the club; Kobezda remains as an assistant coach. . . . Nachbaur, who spent seven seasons as head coach of the Spokane Chiefs after also working with the Tri-City Americans and Seattle Thunderbirds, was an assistant with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings for 2017-18, but was dismissed 13 games into last season when head coach John Stevens was fired. . . . Podkonicky played two seasons (1996-98) with the Portland Winterhawks.


If you’re a WHL fan, you should know that the 2019-20 WHL Guide is available for download at whl.ca. . . . Just go to the tab slugged The WHL and click on WHL Guide and Record Book.


SpiderMan


When the Vancouver Canucks entertained the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night, there was at least one celebrity in the stands. . . . Yes, Bill Murray had his 50/50 numbers; no, he didn’t seem to win. He also appeared to be wearing a Chicago Blackhawks sweater, which wasn’t a surprise as he is from Evanston, Ill.


Yes, Monday night’s NFL game between the visiting Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers — who, by the way, don’t play in San Francisco — was messy and sloppy and all of those things. But, hey, was it exciting, or what? . . . If you weren’t aware, the 49ers visit the Seahawks on Dec. 29. Happy New Year a few days early!


In his story after the host Kamloops Blazers beat the Kelowna Rockets, 5-2, on Monday, Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week included this: “Rockets’ head coach Adam Foote refused a post-game interview request from KTW.”

Included in the WHL Guide is this, under Media Access to Players and other Team Personnel: “A member of the coaching staff of each team must be available to the media for interviews within 15 minutes following the game.”

Hmm, gotta wonder if the WHL will stick a hand into Foote’s wallet for this indiscretion?

——

That loss on Monday was the Rockets’ fourth straight. The Rockets, the host team for the 2020 Memorial Cup tournament, have allowed 25 goals in those four losses. That also was Kelowna’s 10th loss in 19 games this season. As well, veteran F Kyle Topping, 20, has had surgery to repair a broken ankle suffered during a 1-0 victory over the Royals in Victoria on Oct. 30, so he won’t play for a long time.

We now are left to wait and see how much of the winery the Rockets will sell in an attempt to bolster their roster for the tournament.

The Swift Current Broncos and Regina Pats sold their farms in order to make title runs in 2017-18 when both played in the Memorial Cup tournament, the Broncos as WHL champions and the Pats as the host team.

They since have fallen on hard times. Last season, they combined for 24 victories in 136 games and neither team made the playoffs. This season, they have totalled five victories — yes, five — in 33 games and, again, aren’t likely to appear in the playoffs.

The Rockets’ management, it would seem, has some big decisions ahead of it.

——-

When the WHL’s board of governors awarded the 2020 Memorial Cup tournament to Kelowna, it also heard presentations from the Kamloops Blazers and Lethbridge Hurricanes. The Blazers are 13-6-0 and riding high atop the B.C. Division; the Hurricanes are 13-5-3 and second in the Central Division, one point out of first.

——

This was ugly . . . big-time nasty . . . and it drew an eight-game suspension from the WHL early Wednesday evening.

(I would have started at 20 games, but then I was in the building the night that Brad Hornung was injured, so I’m a little sensitive about hits like this.)

That’s F Pavel Novak of the visiting Kelowna Rockets drilling Kamloops Blazers F Kyrell Sopotyk from behind during a Monday afternoon game. Sopotyk (shoulder) is expected to sit for up to two months.

The Blazers will open a six-game East Division trek against the Brandon Wheat Kings on Dec. 6 and Sopotyk, who is from Aberdeen, Sask., won’t make the trip.

That means he has been robbed of the opportunity to play in front of family and friends in his home province — Aberdeen is a few slapshots northeast of Saskatoon. He’s 18 so, due to the way the WHL works its schedule, will have to wait until the 2021-22 season for the next opportunity, in his 20-year-old season.

When the Blazers wrap up their East Division trip on Dec. 14, against the Prince Albert Raiders, Sopotyk will have missed 14 games.



I can’t remember anything like what is about to happen in the CFL’s West Division final in Regina on Sunday. I mean, the Saskatchewan Roughriders acquired quarterback Zach Collaros for the 2018 season, then signed him over the off-season thinking he would be their guy. But he got mugged three plays into this season and, once recovered from the concussion, was traded to the Toronto Argonauts. Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers lost their starter, Matt Nichols, and dealt for Collaros. On Sunday, then, Collaros will lead the Bombers into Regina with a berth in the Grey Cup on the line. . . . Wait, there’s more. . . . Cody Fajardo, who took over the Roughriders when Collaros was hurt, went on to have a fabulous season. But now there’s this problem with an oblique muscle, meaning Fajardo may not be able play on Sunday, which would give Isaac Harker his second career CFL start. . . . A year ago, you may recall, the Roughriders and Bombers played a West Division semifinal in Winnipeg. Collaros was concussed and wasn’t able to start for the Roughriders, who, after days of intrigue, trotted out Brandon Bridge. . . . The Blue Bombers won that one, 23-18.


Superman


In case you missed it, and I did, Team WHL played a touring Russian side in Saskatoon on Wednesday night. It was Game 5 of the annual CIBC-sponsored funfest. While the first four games — two each versus the QMJHL and OHL — got great exposure from the CHL’s broadcast partner, Rogers Sportsnet, last night’s game started on something called OLN and then was joined in progress on some Sportsnet channels. . . . I wanted to watch, but I couldn’t find OLN and, no, I don’t stream. . . . But, hey, it was the Toronto Maple Leafs at New York Islanders on five channels on my setup, with the Ottawa Senators at New Jersey Devils on another. Oh, and two channels had on something called Gotta See It, leading eventually into the Dallas Stars at Calgary Flames. . . . And by the time the WHL/Russian game was joined in progress, I had moved on to a couple of PVR’d episodes of Hogan’s Heroes. (Was a men’s wear store part of Stalag 13? If not, how is it that Hogan and Co. always seem to be wearing such well-fitting clothes?) . . . Anyway, I seem to recall a dearth of CHL playoff games on Sportsnet last spring and there was no sign of the outdoor game last month between the Calgary Hitmen and host Regina Pats. . . . Seriously, CHL, if this is the best your broadcast partner is able to do for you, it might be time to move on.

——

BTW, I went to Google hoping to find out something about OLN. This is from Wikipedia: “OLN is a Canadian English-language Category A specialty channel. OLN primarily broadcasts factual-based adventure-related programming and reality television series primarily aimed at male audiences.”


You have to love the big story in Major League Baseball these days about the Houston Astros and cheating. Only in baseball is their ‘honest’ cheating — having a runner on second base stealing an opponent’s signs — and ‘dishonest’ cheating — doing it with a camera from centre field and banging a garbage can in a tunnel to let the hitter know that he’s about to see an off-speed pitch. . . . And we won’t even get into the fact that the Astros are investigating themselves on this one.


Gotta run. Time to dig into Ken Dryden’s latest work . . . Scotty: A Hockey Life Like No Other. You’re right. I couldn’t wait until Christmas.


DogVoice

Scattershooting on a Thursday evening while wondering if Regina is Queen City of Distracted Driving . . .

Scattershooting


A note from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “A pride of lions ate three poachers who broke into a South African game reserve to hunt rhinoceroses, Newsweek reported. This partial score just in: Lions 3, Raiders 0.”

——

Here’s another report from Perry: “Heretofore doughy Phil Mickelson, via Twitter, after his sister posted a beach photo in which the golfer looks absolutely ripped: ‘FYI, those weird bumps on the side of my stomach we’ve never seen before, Doc called them obliques and said it’s nothing to worry about.’ ”



Las Vegas bookies have had the most early NFL action on the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns. That resulted in this from Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe: “There’s a reason they’ve been able to afford to build all those amazing resorts.”


Department of Pet Peeves — A couple of submissions from Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon: 1. “People who refer to something as ‘very unique’ or ‘rather unique.’ Unique doesn’t take modifiers easily; something is either ‘unique’ or it is not. . . . 2. Imply’ and ‘infer’ aren’t synonyms and cannot be used interchangeably.


ParallelParking


Congrats to old friend Jim Swanson and the Victoria HarbourCats, who have led baseball’s West Coast League in attendance for a sixth straight season. The HarbourCats had 27 home games in 2019, and drew 62,400 fans for an average of 2,311 per game. Throw in five non-league games, an exhibition game and three playoff games and the total is 79,737. . . . Swanson, a long-time newspaper man before his life-long love affair with baseball took him to Victoria, is the HarbourCats’ managing partner and general manager.


It is embarrassing the way Canada’s two sports networks treat MLB fans . . .

On Monday night, TSN scheduled a doubleheader, with the second game to have started three hours after the first one began. Unfortunately for fans, both were ESPN games and ESPN telecasts never end in less than three hours. . . . Of course, TSN does have a bunch of channels — five of them in my house — so when the first game runs late you are free to wonder why the second game doesn’t start on another channel, like maybe the one that was showing Sports Centre? . . . Sorry, but I didn’t hang around for Yankees and Mariners, the second game, on Monday night. Instead, it was over to the Diamondbacks and Giants with Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper, two broadcasters who get it right.

——

One night later, it was Sportsnet’s turn. On this night, Yankees and Mariners were joined in progress at 8:05 p.m. PT, about an hour after the game had started. . . . There are eight Sportsnet channels on my package — the World Poker Tour was on two of them, Highlights of the Night was on one and Sportsnet Central was on five. . . . No sense treating baseball fans with a modicum of respect and putting the Yankees and Mariners on one of those eight channels at 7 p.m. PT. . . . On top of all that, Sportsnet showed Yankees-Mariners highlights before joining the game in progress at 8:05 p.m., with the New Yorkers leading, 5-0, in the top of the third. . . . Hey, Sporstnet, thanks for the poke in the eye. . . . Hey, Sportsnet, I went back to Twins at White Sox, then to Diamondbacks at Giants.


treadmill


ICYMI, Sportsnet dumped Nick Kypreos, John Shannon and Doug MacLean from its NHL coverage this week. Don’t worry, though, because Don Cherry still is there, as is Brian Burke. . . . Daren Millard, who was shown the door by Sportsnet last August, was named to the Vegas Golden Knights’ TV team on Thursday.


ICYMI Part 2 . . . Stu MacGregor, who lost his job as the Kamloops Blazers’ general manager after the WHL’s 2018-19 season, now is the Victoria Royals’ western senior regional scout. Tom Gaglardi, the Blazers’ majority owner, dumped MacGregor in a major reshuffling of deck chairs, and added him to the scouting staff of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, his other toy, er, team. . . . MacGregor lasted one season with the Stars before moving on down the road.


Another WHL note . . . Each August, Alan Caldwell compiles, or attempts to compile, training camp rosters, puts them on spreadsheets, and makes them available to fans. On top of that, he adds and deletes as teams make player moves. . . . After the Kelowna Rockets informed him earlier this week that they wouldn’t be making a roster available, someone in the Little Apple took photos of a roster— it included last names only — that was posted in the arena and got them to Caldwell. He then was able to put together the Rockets roster that is right here. . . . The surprising thing about all of this is that there was someone in the arena in Kelowna who apparently isn’t part of Bruce Hamilton’s choir.

——

Why would a WHL team choose not to release a training camp roster? Other than shortsightedness, who knows? . . . There was a time, more than 20 years ago, when WHL teams sometimes had players in camp under assumed names — hello, Bob Bell! hey there, Connor McRae! — supposedly to allow said players to try to protect their NCAA eligibility. Those days are over, though, so who knows what they’re afraid of in Kelowna? . . . It is interesting, though, that the WHL has established standards for the arenas in which its teams play — resulting in some cities having to purchase and install new boards, glass and score clocks with video boards — but doesn’t have any standards for something as simple as the releasing of training camp rosters.


Hey, Regina . . . Do the math: 910 x $280 is a lot of dough. My wife, Dorothy, had a kidney transplant on Sept. 23, 2013. She is getting ready to take part in her sixth Kidney Walk. Had each of you donated $100 to support her — you can do so right here — you would have saved yourself a lot of money and gotten an income tax receipt. . . . BTW, when did Reginans become wealthy enough to throw away money in this fashion? . . . I wonder if Regina’s distracted drivers are aware that there isn’t a prize for No. 1,000?


Thomson won’t return to Rockets. . . . Wheat Kings fill out coaching staff. . . . Nyren’s story plays out in Kelowna courtroom


MacBeth

D Daniel Bukač (Brandon, 2016-18) has signed a three-year contract with Liberec (Czech Republic, Extraliga). Last season, in 54 games with the Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL), he had four goals and 11 assists. . . .

F Marek Tvrdoň (Vancouver, Kelowna, 2010-14) has signed a one-year contract with Dizel Penza (Russia, Vysshaya Liga). Last season, with Saryarka Karaganda (Kazakhstan, Vysshaya Liga), he had one goal in four games. He also had three goals and three assists in six games with Klagenfurt II (Austria, Alps HL), four goals and six assists in 14 games with the Nottingham Panthers (England, UK Elite), and one goal and one assist in three games with Cracovia Kraków (Poland, PHL). . . .

F Mark Derlago (Brandon, 2003-07) has retired from playing to become an assistant coach with the Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL). Last season, with Esbjerg (Denmark, Metal Ligaen), he had 17 goals and 18 assists in 36 games. He led the team in goals and was second in points. . . .

F John Persson (Red Deer, 2009-12) has signed a one-year contract with SaiPa Lappeenranta (Finland, Liiga). Last season, in 27 games with Mora (Sweden, SHL), he had nine goals and two assists.


ThisThat

The Kelowna Rockets may have known before Tuesday, but that’s when their fans found KelownaRocketsout that Finnish D Lassi Thomson won’t be back for a second season. Instead, he will play with Ilves in Liiga, Finland’s top professional league. . . . Thomson, who is to turn 19 on Sept. 24, has signed a contract (two years plus an option for a third) with Ilves. He is from Tampere, and has played for Ilves’ U-16, U-18 and U-20 sides. . . . The Ottawa Senators selected Thomson with the 19th-overall pick in the NHL’s 2019 draft, then signed him to a three-year entry-level contract on July 15. . . . Last season, Thomson put up 17 goals and 24 assists in 63 regular-season games with the Rockets. He was named the Western Conference’s rookie of the year and to the conference’s second all-star team. . . . Thomson is spending this week playing for a Finnish team in a U-20 tournament in Vierumaki, Finland. Teams from Czech Republic and Switzerland also are taking part. . . .

The news, now that it’s official, leaves quite a hole on the Rockets’ backend. And don’t forget that the Rockets, who didn’t make the playoffs last season, are to be the host team for the 2020 Memorial Cup. . . . The Rockets have two solid defencemen in Kaedan Korczak, 18, who was a second-round pick by the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL’s 2019 draft, and Jake Lee, 18, who was acquired from the Seattle Thunderbirds on May 2. Both are heading into their third WHL seasons. . . . Kelowna also added Sean Comrie, 19, in a deal with the Brandon Wheat Kings on May 2. Comrie played last season at the U of Denver, but had just one assist in 18 games. It’s fair to say, then, that he goes into the season as something of a WHL unknown. . . . The Rockets only have two 20-year-olds on their roster — F Leif Mattson and F Kyle Topping — so could add a veteran defenceman in the third slot. . . . Only one thing is for certain — the Rockets will be making more than a couple of roster moves before May gets here.


The Brandon Wheat Kings rounded out their coaching staff on Tuesday with the news BrandonWKregularthat Don MacGillivray and Tyler Plante will return and that Mark Derlago has been added as a second assistant. . . . MacGillivray is entering his fourth season as an assistant coach, as is Plante, the goaltending coach. . . . Derlago, a former Wheat Kings captain, has signed on as the team’s second assistant coach having chosen to end his playing career. He played last season with Esbjerg Energy in Denmark, scoring 17 goals and adding 18 assists in 36 games. . . . Plante is the son of Cam Plante, who played four seasons (1980-84) with the Wheat Kings; Derlago’s uncle, Bill, spent three-plus seasons (1974-78) with Brandon and was one of the most-prolific scorers in WHL history. . . . The coaching staff is headed up by Dave Lowry, who was named head coach on July 18. . . . Darren Ritchie, the Wheat Kings’ general manager, also is preparing for his first season in a new role. He was named GM on July 12. A former Wheat Kings forward, he also worked as an assistant coach for 10 seasons and was their director of scouting for the past three seasons. . . . The Wheat Kings’ complete news release is right here.


Former WHL D Giffen Nyren was sentenced in Kelowna on Tuesday after pleading guilty to attempting to take an 18-month-old baby from its mother’s arms on April 28. . . . Nyren, 30, was given a conditional discharge with two years of probation. If he follows the conditions set by Judge Catharine Heinrichs, he won’t have a criminal record. . . . Nyren also will pay $4,648 in restitution to the baby’s family to cover lost wages and some daycare costs. . . . He also will write a letter of apology to the family and take part in a restorative justice program. . . . According to Brie Welton of infotel.ca, “The court heard that Nyren’s toxicology report at the time of the incident showed no traces of drug abuse and that psychologists who assessed him believe that it is highly possible that he was suffering from bipolar disorder which resulted in the brief but acute manic episode and psychosis.” . . . Welton also reported: “By all accounts, Nyren was distraught and delusional at the time of the offence. When speaking to a doctor in the psychiatric unit of the Kelowna General Hospital following the incident, Nyren said that he’d been walking around downtown feeling threatened by the people around him when he saw the family. Nyren believed that he knew the family and came to believe that the baby had been abducted, which is why he tried to take it from Kendra. . . . Nyren’s lawyer Grant Gray told the court that Nyren’s two-year relationship ended in March 2019 and that his hockey career appeared to be coming to an end. Court also heard that Nyren has suffered four concussions in the course of his career as a hockey player.” . . . Nyren, from Calgary, played with the Moose Jaw Warriors, Kamloops Blazers and Calgary Hitmen (2006-10). He went on to have stints in the AHL, ECHL and USports, before playing a bit in Europe. Last season, he played seven games with a team in Amiens, France, then got into 14 regular-season and seven playoff games with the Lacombe Generals of Allan Cup Hockey West. . . . Welton’s complete story is right here.


Feel free to click on the DONATE button over there on the right and contribute to the cause.


JUST NOTES:

Hockey Canada revealed on Tuesday that two WHLers won’t be participating in the U-20 Summer Showcase that is to run July 27 through Aug. 3 in Plymouth, Wash. . . . F Cole Fonstad of the Prince Albert Raiders and D Ty Smith of the Spokane Chiefs have been dropped from the roster. Hockey Canada didn’t provide any further information. . . . Both players still could end up playing for Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship in Trinic and Ostrava, Czech Republic, from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5. . . .

The AJHL’s Grande Prairie Storm has added Jonny Webb as its goaltending coach and former NHLer Chris Mason as a goaltending consultant. . . . Webb worked for the past three seasons with the bantam AAA Calgary Bisons and midget AAA Calgary Buffaloes. He also was with the ACAC’s SAIT Trojans last season. He is a goaltending coach with Top Prospects Goaltending in Calgary. . . . Mason played in the WHL with the Victoria/Prince George Cougars (1993-97). He retired after playing two seasons (2013-15) in Europe. . . .

Brandon Shaw has left the BCHL’s Merritt Centennials to join the Alberni Valley Bulldogs as assistant coach and player development co-ordinator. Shaw spent the previous two seasons working alongside Joe Martin, then the Centennials’ general manager and head coach. Martin, the BCHL’s reigning coach of the year, left Merritt after the 2018-19 season and now is the Bulldogs’ GM and head coach. . . .

Steve Gainey is the new head coach of the junior B Kamloops Storm of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. He helped out as an assistant coach last season. . . . Gainey, 40, played four seasons (1995-99) with the Kamloops Blazers and was on their coaching staff for one season (2007-08). His pro career included 33 regular-season NHL games. . . . Gainey’s assistant coaches will be Andrew Fisher, Cody Lockwood and Jassi Sangha, who was the head coach last season, with Pete Friedel as the team’s trainer. . . . The Storm recently underwent an ownership change.


Tweetoftheday