Former WHL goaltender dies at 64 . . . Recchi stays in NHL . . . Kamloops gets new baseball team


Ken Campbell of The Hockey News posted an interesting piece on Tuesday involving F Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning. In it, Campbell explained how the Lightning came to draft Point and how Al Murray, the organization’s director of amateur scouting, led the charge. It’s great to see a veteran scout like Murray, who is from Regina, get some acknowledgement. . . . Campbell’s piece is right here.

On Wednesday, Campbell wrote about the Vegas Golden Knights and how George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon were able to shape an expansion into a Stanley Cup contender is such a short period of time. . . . They certainly have done that, and it should be said that they got a considerable amount of help from Vaughn Karpan, their director of player personnel. . . . Karpan, a native of The Pas, Man., and Murray have one thing in common — they both are quiet men who love to work in the shadows. Oh, and one other thing — they may be the best in their field. . . . Campbell’s piece on Vegas is right here.


Plasma


Loosely translating the above tweet: Each of the Canadian major junior teams must pay $266,667 as its share of the settlement of the class-action lawsuit that the CHL decided to settle for $30 million earlier in the summer. The QMJHL’s Chicoutimi Sagueneens and the Baie-Comeau Drakkar are owned by their respective cities, so the citizens will pay the bill via their municipal taxes.


Blaine Peterson, a former WHL goaltender who played with the Brandon Wheat Kings and New Westminster Bruins, died suddenly on Sept. 3. He was 64 and living in Stonewall, Man. Peterson’s death came less than a month after he was profiled by Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun as part of his excellent series on former Wheat Kings. . . . Peterson is survived by his partner Paulette and two adult children — Teague and Kael. . . . Peterson was with the Bruins for two Memorial Cup tournaments, losing in the 1976 final and winning it all in 1977. . . . He was a real contributor to minor hockey, coaching in Stonewall and doing a stint as president of the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League. . . . In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba. . . . There won’t be a formal funeral service, but a celebration of life is to be held at a later date. . . . There is an obituary available right here.


TP

COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

You will recall that Canadian OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif of the Kansas City Chiefs opted out of the NFL’s 2020 season a while back. During the pandemic, the graduate of McGill U’s medical school has been working as an orderly at a long-term care facility near Montreal. From Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que., he is planning to take online classes from Harvard U’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. . . . Julian MacKenzie of The Canadian Press has more right here. . . .

Louisiana Tech and Baylor had to postpone their football game that was set for Saturday. Why? Because Louisiana Tech had 38 players test positive in the days following Hurricane Laura. . . . The game was to have been Fox-TV’s first Big Noon game of the season, but now has been replaced by Arkansas State-Kansas State. . . .

Australian tennis star Ash Barty, ranked No. 1 in the world, has opted out of the French Open, which is scheduled to open on Sept. 27. She is the tournament’s defending champion. She also chose not to play in the U.S. Open because of concerns about COVID-19. . . .

The U of Lethbridge has suspended its women’s soccer program after it was found to be violating some pandemic-related restrictions. With Canada West having cancelled the fall season, teams still are being allowed to practice, but they are to do it in cohorts. The women’s team was allowing players who were from outside to take part in practice sessions. . . . Justin Goulet of lethbridgenewsnow.com has more right here. . . .

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association, which covers more than 500 high schools, has postponed football, volleyball and cheer seasons until March.


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Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

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Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

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Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

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Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: Mark Recchi, one of five owners of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, is back in the NHL after a rather brief absence. Dumped as an assistant coach by the Pittsburgh Penguins on Aug. 12, he has joined the New Jersey Devils in the same role. The Devils gave Recchi a three-year contract. He had been with the Penguins for six seasons — three as development coach and the past three as assistant coach. . . . The BCHL’s Merritt Centennials have signed F Dylan Sydor, 17, whose father Darryl is a former WHL/NHL defenceman who also is a co-owner with the Blazers. Last season, Dylan had 17 goals and 20 assists in 40 games with the U-18 Thompson Blazers, who play out of Kamloops. . . . The Red Deer Rebels’ 15-year lease with Westerner Park, which operates the Centrium, was to have expired this year. Before it got to that, the two parties agreed on a seven-year lease. . . . Baseball’s West Coast League unveiled its newest franchise on Wednesday. The Kamloops NorthPaws will begin play in 2021 — Opening Day is set for June 4 — and it’ll be a 54-game regular season. The WBL is a short-season collegiate league. The NorthPaws are one of four Canadian teams, joining the Kelowna Falcons, Nanaimo NightOwls and Victoria HarbourCats. The NightOwls are another expansion team; they are owned by the group that operates the HarbourCats. The NorthPaws are owned by Norm Daley of the Kamloops accounting firm Daley & Company; Jon Pankuch, who owns a few Tim Hortons franchises; and Neal Perry of Westway Plumbing and Heating.


Video

More allegations of abuse in junior hockey . . . Lawyer busy adding players to lawsuit . . . Former NHLer likely to join


A spokesperson with the WHL has told TSN that it would open an investigation after a former player alleged “he was a victim of sexual and physical abuse” during stints with two teams.

According to TSN’s Rick Westhead, the player sent an email of his complaints to the WHL and copied the email to TSN.

In the email, the player wrote:

“The abuse transformed me from a driven, happy, engaged young man and a solid NHL hockey prospect into a black mass of anger, untrust of people, self-isolation and alcohol abuse. The recent CHL allegations of abuse triggered anger in me and brought forward flashbacks and anguish.”

The player went into the brutish details of the complaints in the email, all of which is in Westhead’s story that is right here.

At one point, Westhead writes: “The complainant confirmed the identities of the alleged assailants to TSN. Several have prominent roles in the hockey industry.”


The WHL has had at least one opportunity in years gone by to deal with a player who has said he was humiliated and “physically assaulted” during his WHL career.

In the book Sudden Death: The Incredible Saga of the 1986 Swift Current Broncos, which was published in 2012, Peter Soberlak described some of what happened to him during his first WHL season with his hometown Kamloops Blazers.

“It was really horrible,” Soberlak, who was 16 at the time, said. “In a lot of cases, I feared going on the bus, feared going on road trips . . . just because of the humiliation and constant verbal abuse. . . .

“What I went through in Kamloops destroyed my confidence. I can deal with that now, but it was just horrific for me. It sucked the life out of me. . . . I was physically assaulted.

“You think I have not suffered — have not had repercussions from what I went through there — serious, absolutely long-term, continuous major repercussions of what happened to me in that situation. I guarantee you I have.”

Seen by some observers as the best player in his age group in Canada at one time, Soberlak was out of the game at 23.

“That’s the only thing I am bitter about in my hockey career,” he said. “My first year in Kamloops . . . it was the worst year of my life.”

Soberlak, now 51, has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, with a minor in sociology, from the University of British Columbia and a Master’s Degree in sport and exercise psychology from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. He is a lecturer and works with the athletic department and its teams at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.

No one from the WHL has ever contacted him about his allegations in the book of which I was a co-author.


James Sayce, the lawyer working with Daniel Carcillo and Garrett Taylor on their class-action lawsuit against the CHL, has told Ken Campbell of The Hockey News “a lot” of players have joined the lawsuit since it first was filed. . . . Campbell writes: “If the people who run junior hockey in Canada were taken aback by this lawsuit, shame on them. They should have seen this coming because it’s not as though the warning signs were not there. In fact, in filing a lawsuit against the CHL, both Carcillo and Taylor were simply putting on the legal record things they’ve been saying for years now. Carcillo went public with the humiliation he suffered during his rookie season with the Sarnia Sting in 2002-03 two years ago.” . . . Campbell’s latest column is right here.


Dan Fritsche, a former NHLer, says he likely will be joining the class-action lawsuit filed by Daniel Carcillo and Garrett Taylor against the CHL and the three major junior leagues that operate under its umbrella. The lawsuit alleges “hazing, bullying, physical and verbal harassment, physical assault, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.” . . . Fritsche was a rookie on the 2002-03 Sarnia Sting of the OHL, as was Carcillo. . . . “There’s nothing I’ve read that isn’t true,” Fritsche told Aaron Portzline of The Athletic. “I was in that toxic atmosphere. I had to go through all of that rookie shit, all the disgusting things they would make us do. It was so awful, and people knew about it who absolutely could have stopped it. They’d put us in the (charter bus) bathroom, butt-ass naked, six to eight of us (rookies) for 45 minutes as we’re coming home from a road trip. They’d throw a coin in there to make us fight over it, naked, and whoever came up with it got to get out first. Stuff like that, just over and over.” . . . If you are an Athletic subscriber, Portzline’s complete story is right here.




An undisclosed number of Minnesota Twins players have tested positive, although none were at the team’s home park, Target Field, or its spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla. . . . Derek Falvey, the president of baseball operations, told Fox 9 Sports: “We have players in many different locations. I don’t think this is necessarily a surprise that we may have some positive cases.” . . .

ESPN reported that the NFL has cancelled its Hall of Fame game that was to have featured the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 6. . . . It also is believed that the NFL will delay its induction ceremonies that were to have been held on Aug. 8. . . .

The NBA’s Sacramento Kings have at least three players on their roster who have tested positive — F Jabari Parker, C Alex Len and G Buddy Hield. . . . Sara Hodge of CBS Sacramento has reported that a fourth unidentified player also has tested positive. . . .

Orenburg, a team in Russia’s top soccer league, reported Thursday that it has six players and two staff members who have tested positive. . . . The Russian Premier League returned to play last week. . . . Apparently, Orenburg’s entire team tested negative as recently as Sunday. . . .

The seven-team Canadian Elite Basketball League, which was to have started its season early in May, is planning on opening a month-long tournament without fans in St. Catharines, Ont., on July 15. A single-elimination playoff will end with a championship game on Aug. 9. . . . Devin Heroux of CBC reports: “All seven teams will stay in a bubble-like setting in St. Catharines, playing games at the Meridian Centre and practising at a nearby facility. League officials said players, coaches and personnel will be separated from the general public and strict screening and COVID-19 protocols will be adhered to under the supervision of medical officials.”



Eric Ditto is returning for his seventh season on the coaching staff of the junior B Delisle Chiefs of the Prairie Junior Hockey League. Ditto is preparing for his sixth full season as head coach and his second as general manager. . . . Anthony Radke will be back for a second season as an assistant coach. . . . Ryan Pilon is the other assistant coach. He joined the Chiefs during last season after serving as an assistant coach with the Beardy’s Blackhawks U18 AAA team.


The RINK Hockey Corp., owner of the Rink Hockey Academy, has bought the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy (POE) and Edge of Excellence (EOE) in a deal that is to close on July 1. The sale is subject to the approval of BC Hockey and the Canadian Sport School Hockey League. . . . There is more right here.


Edmonton and Toronto, here’s pulling for you . . . What happened to the Matthews story? . . . Soetaert at top of KCYHA

Mask


One of these days, the NHL will get around to naming the two hub cities in which it hopes to finish its season.

Here’s Ed Willes of the Vancouver Province with his take on things and, yes, as someone who lives in B.C., I agree with him:

“Admittedly, this comes down to a question of optics. For over three months, British Columbians have followed the guidelines of the public health authority with a single-minded purpose, sacrificing to keep themselves and their neighbours safe and healthy.

“We can be proud of those efforts and they’ve created some of the best COVID-related numbers in North America. But they weren’t made so we could throw our doors open to the NHL and an ersatz Stanley Cup tournament which will benefit a couple of hotels and the food-delivery industry.

“These games will take place, the virus willing, and we’ll be watching. But if Edmonton or Toronto wants them that badly, they can have them.”

Willes’s complete column is right here.

The NHL is reportedly down to six cities — Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Chicago — and is expected to announce the two choices this week.

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If you haven’t seen it, Willes also had an excellent column that carried this headline: The story behind the story about Auston Matthews’ positive test is bewildering. . . . Postmedia’s Steve Simmons broke the Matthews story, and there were other outlets, some of them of the bigly variety, who ignored it. . . . This is all about how some media types have a vested interest in some of what they cover, so perhaps the consumer isn’t getting the whole story. . . . The complete column is right here.



With MLB poised to open training camps on July 1, Kyle Newman of the Denver Post reports that all-star OF Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies and two team-mates, LHR Phillip Diehl and RHP Ryan Castellani, have tested positive for the coronavirus at Coors Field in Denver. . . .

According to ESPN, Nikola Jokic, an all-star centre with the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, tested positive for the coronavirus in Serbia before he could leave to join his teammates in the U.S. . . . Michael Malone, the Nuggest’s head coach, has disclosed that he had the virus in late March. . . .

Jokic was at a recent tennis tournament hosted by fellow-Serb Novak Djokovic in Belgrade. Djokovic, the world’s No. 1 men’s player, also has tested positive, as has his wife Jelena. . . . Three other players — Borna Coric, Grigor Dimitrov and Viktor Troicki — also tested positive after playing in the exhibition tournament. . . .

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Tuesday night that G Avery Bradley of the Los Angeles Lakers has chosen to opt out of the re-start of the NBA season in Orlando, Fla. . . . Trevor Ariza of the Portland Trail Blazers and Davis Bertans of the Washington Wizards also are reported to have opted out. . . .

The Philadelphia Phillies announced Tuesday that two more players and two more staff members have tested positive. One player and the two staffers were in Clearwater, Fla., the site of the Phillies’ training facility. The other player was somewhere else. . . . The Phillies now have had seven players and five staffers come up positive. . . .

The Pittsburgh Steelers had two players test positive earlier this year. Head coach Mike Tomlin said both have recovered and are back at work. . . .

Karate’s 2020 world championships have been postponed. They were to have been held in Dubai, Nov. 17-22. The next worlds are scheduled for Dubai, Nov. 16-21, 2021. . . .

Seven soccer players in France, four from Toulouse and three from Paris Saint-Germain, have tested positive. PSG also had a staff member test positive. . . . The PSG players have resumed training. . . . The Toulouse players were tested on Monday as the team prepared to resume training. . . .

The Orlando Pride withdrew from the National Women’s Soccer League tournament that is scheduled to start Saturday near Salt Lake City. . . . The move, which left the tournament with eight teams, came after six players and four staffers tested positive. . . . On Tuesday, three players, all members of the U.S. national team, said they won’t play, either. Tobin Heath of the Portland Thorns and Christen Press of the Utah Royals cited health concerns. It’s not known why Megan Rapinoe of the OL Reign opted out.




A note from Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, from his Monday posting:

“Back in March, the NBA shut down its operations entirely when one player — ONE player — tested positive for COVID-19. In March, the number of known/active cases for COVID-19 in the U.S. was less than 75,000 and there had been about 1,500 deaths ascribed to COVID-19. The latest data I can find says that COVID-19 cases in the U.S. now total more than 2.2 million and that there have been approximately 115,000 deaths. So, what is the NBA considering today? Reopening their season-interruptus in a bubble environment in Florida — one of those states where case numbers are on the rise. Do those two actions make any sense to you once you juxtapose them? They do if dollars and cents take precedence over health and safety concerns.”

His complete post is right here.


“A Pawtucket, R.I., brewery — taking a swipe at Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski for bolting the Patriots for the Buccaneers — has come out with a new beer named ‘Traitorade,’” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “It’s an imperial fruit sour with sea salt, reviewers say, with maybe just a hint of sour grapes.”

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Here’s Perry, with a coffee-spitter: “Disease czar Dr. Anthony Fauci has advised against playing baseball deep into October. No problem, said the Seattle Mariners.”


Office


Garrett Taylor, who is the co-signee with Daniel Carcillo on a class-action lawsuit against the CHL that was filed last week, is 29 and claims to have health issues left over from abuse he faced in the WHL. . . . Ken Campbell of The Hockey News writes:

“The statement of claim refers to the incident as ‘the garbage bag treatment,’ a term that is well known in junior hockey circles that refers to when a player is dropped by his team. Kim Taylor said when her son was reassigned, there were no calls made to any of her, Taylor’s agent or his billet family. Nor was he given any money or further direction. The lawsuit alleges that he was told the news in front of the team and had to retrieve his belongings from the bus and his equipment from the storage area.”

Campbell has more on the Taylors right here.

Two years ago, the WHL acknowledged wrongdoing in how Taylor was treated when he was cut by the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Kim Taylor and two former WHL players were questioned by an Oregon Senate committee that was considering a request by the WHL to have Portland Winterhawks players exempted from Oregon’s minimum wage legislation. . . . The committee didn’t grant the WHL’s request. . . . After the hearing, the WHL hired a former RCMP deputy commissioner, Craig Callens, to conduct an investigation into 14 allegations of mistreatment that emerged from the hearing. In July 2018, Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, announced that Taylor’s allegation was the only one of the 14 to be “supported by the evidence collected.” . . . In his statement, Robison said: “With respect to the one allegation that was supported in the investigation, the WHL will take the necessary steps to introduce a new policy in this area as it relates to the release or trading of players.” . . . The WHL hasn’t revealed what “necessary steps” it has taken; nor has it released Callens’ report.



Doug Soetaert, a former WHL goaltender and later general manager of the Everett Silvertips, has taken over as the president and executive director of the Kansas City Youth Hockey Association. . . . Soetaert was the head coach, and later the general manager, of the Kansas City Blades as they entered the International Hockey League for the 1990-91 season. From 1991-2001, he was the GM. . . . The Blades won the Turner Cup and Soetaert was the executive of the year for 1991-92. . . . He has since settled in Kansas City. . . . Soetaert, now 64, played four seasons (1971-75) for the Edmonton Oil Kings. He was Everett’s first GM and spent nine seasons (2002-05, 2006-12) with the Silvertips.



Once upon a time there was a hockey player named Rick Herbert. In the days before 15-Patsyear-olds having to apply for exceptional status in order to play regularly in the WHL, he made the Regina Pats’ roster for the 1982-83 season. Of course, the Pats gave up seven players in order to be able to select him in the 1982 WHL draft. . . . How did it work out for him? “It turned me off for life,” Herbert, now 52, told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post. ““I haven’t put on my skates to play in a hockey game in 30 years. I don’t pay attention to it.” . . . Not since Herbert, who lives in Kelowna, has anyone played regularly for the Pats at the age of 15. . . . F Connor Bedard will be the next one, and Herbert said: “I’ll be watching from Kelowna.” . . . Harder’s excellent story is right here.


Headline at fark.com: NBA players get fancy rings that can detect COVID symptoms early. You get a dirty mask to wear while getting yelled at by people in the grocery store.


AllWrong


Greg Gilbert is the new head coach of the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs. Gilbert, a 58-year-old veteran coach, is a former head coach of the NHL’s Calgary Flames. . . . He also spent eight seasons as an OHL head coach, three (2003-06) with the Mississauga IceDogs and five (2011-16) with the Saginaw Spirit. . . . He has worked the last four seasons as an analyst with TSN. . . . In Saint John, he takes over from interim head coach Jeff Cowan, who replaced the fired Josh Dixon on Dec. 2. Cowan will stay on as an assistant coach. . . . Last season, the Sea Dogs were  30-33-1 and tied for 10th in the 18-team league when the pandemic halted proceedings.


Daniel Lacroix is returning for his first full season as head coach of the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats. Lacroix took over as the Wildcats’ head coach in December, and the team went 26-6 with him in charge, including a 16-game winning streak. . . . Earlier in his career, he spent four seasons (2002-07) on Moncton’s coaching staff, taking over as head coach during his third season there. . . . Before returning to Moncton last season, he was the head coach of the Lithuanian national team. . . . He also has ample experience as an NHL assistant, having worked with the New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens. . . . As well, Ritchie Thibeau, who had been the Wildcats’ interim director of hockey operations, has moved into the role in a permanent capacity. . . . The Wildcats had dismissed John Torchetti, the director of hockey operations and head coach, in December.


After ESPN’s 30-for-30 documentary Long Gone Summer, about the Mark McGwire vs. Sammy Sosa bulked up home run derby of 1998, Phil Mushnick of the New York Post summed it up: “ESPN doc tests negative for ’roids.”


Delivery

Positive tests anything but positive news . . . Seem to be everywhere . . . Tough weekend for sports execs

If you’re a sports executive trying to get our league up and running, you aren’t enjoying this weekend.

The NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning shut down their training facility after three players and two staff members tested positive for the coronavirus.

Then the NHL announced that 11 of its players had tested positive after somewhere around 200 had been tested. The Toronto Sun reported that one those players was Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The NHL said in a statement released via Twitter that while it will be providing a weekly testing update, it won’t “be providing information on the identity of the players or their clubs.”

Meanwhile, in baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies closed their training facility in Clearwater, Fla., after confirming that five players and three staff members tested positive. All eight had been working there. At the same time, the Phillies said eight staff members had tested negative, while 12 staff members and 20 players were awaiting results.

The Toronto Blue Jays followed by closing their Dunedin, Fla., facility, which is near Clearwater. One Toronto player, who apparently had been in contact with some of the Phillies, was showing symptoms.

The San Francisco Giants also got into the act, shutting down their Scottsdale, Ariz., training facility after someone who had visited the complex and a family member showed mild symptoms.

The Giants wouldn’t reveal if the person was a player, but said they are awaiting results of tests on about 20 people.

The Houston Astros revealed that they one player tested positive at their facility in West Palm Beach, Fla.

On Friday night, the NFL Network reported that a player from the San Francisco Giants had tested positive. The unnamed player had been working with teammates in Nashville. The other players have been tested and are awaiting results.

The PGA Tour got in on the act Friday when Nick Watney became the first player to test positive. He withdrew before the second round of the RBC Heritage Open at Hilton Head, S.C.

Watney, a five-time winner on the Tour, shot 74 in Thursday’s first round, showed some symptoms and was tested. He had been tested on site on Tuesday and that one came back negative.

And then there was Clemson U, where at least 28 athletes and staff, 23 of them believe to be football players, have tested positive. That was after 315 people were tested.

The U of Tennessee reported one male student-athlete, believed to be a basketball player, had tested positive, as well.

There are at least three positives in the MLS — two with Atlanta United and one with Inter Miami.

The LSU football team has at least 30 players in quarantine because they tested positive or have been in contact with those who did.


Mask

Meanwhile, in Yakima, Wash., the Herald reports right here that hospitals there “have exceeded staffing capacity, prompting Yakima Health District officials to urge residents to forgo gatherings during the Father’s Day weekend to minimize spread of COVID-19.” . . . Dr. Teresa Everson, health officer of the Yakima Health District, said in a statement: “This is the day we have been fighting to avoid for months, when our hospitals can no longer provide their highest level of care because they are overwhelmed caring for patients with severe COVID-19 infection.” . . . Oh boy, this is scary stuff.


Just don’t think there aren’t issues in B.C., too. . . .

After not having been in Kamloops’ largest mall, Aberdeen Mall, since sometime in February, Dorothy and I ventured there on Saturday afternoon. More than anything else, it was a fact-finding mission aimed at finding out how things are there. Perhaps we would be able to stroll some stores, too. You know, just for a change. . . . Wearing masks, we entered through a second-level door and were pleased to see arrows on the floor and other markings that indicated traffic was to move one way down the right side of the walkways and the other way on the left side. . . . It looked promising. Right? . . . Uhh, not for long. . . . As we moved into the mall, it became apparent that we had walked into a disaster. There were people of all ages walking every which way, with very few masks being worn. . . . Arrows? What arrows? Virus? What virus? . . . A few times, I pointed directly at someone walking the wrong way, and then said: “Arrows!” I got blank stares in return. . . . We didn’t go into even one store. We didn’t complete even one lap of the second level. . . . We got out of there in a hurry, and the mall has been taken off our “To Visit” list.


Here’s Bruce Jenkins, in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“As for MLB . . . it has to be troubling to watch huge sections of the country pretend the coronavirus doesn’t exist. Talk all you want about salaries, the number of games, the isolation from families, even commitment to Black Lives Matter: In all sports, most of them returning too soon, COVID-19 will be the ultimate decider.”

——

And then there was this from the Chronicle’s Scott Ostler:

“Florida.

“The NBA is about to bubble down in Florida.

“But why Florida? Apparently, there were no leper colonies available.”


A Friday note from Sean Shapiro, who covers the NHL’s Dallas Stars for The Athletic, involving an arena in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas:


Pothole


Ken Campbell of The Hockey News spoke with two former players from the OHL’s Sarnia Sting. Both players vouched for the things Daniel Carcillo claimed happened to him as a rookie, all of them in a lawsuit filed Friday against the CHL and its 60 teams. Former Sting G Ryan Munce said he experienced similar abuse and, at one point, realized that he was suicidal. . . . Munce told Campbell he definitely will be joining the lawsuit, which also includes former WHLer Garrett Taylor, who alleges that he was abused in various ways while with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . Campbell’s piece is right here and, yes, it’s a tough but necessary read.

If you are interested, the Statement of Claim can be found right here. But be forewarned that there are a lot of disturbing details in it.


It’s fair to say that the sport of rodeo has been devastated by the pandemic. Check out this list right here of North American rodeos that have been cancelled.


The 17-member Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) announced Friday that it has cancelled its fall 2020 sport season. . . . It hopes to begin badminton, basketball, curling, futsal, men’s and women’s hockey, indoor track and volleyball in January. As well, the fall sports of cross-country, golf and soccer will be rescheduled for the spring. . . . There is a news release right here. . . .

On Saturday, the U of Alberta-Augustana, which plays in the ACAC out of Camrose, announced that it had withdrawn its men’s hockey, women’s soccer, men’s and women’s basketball and men’s and women’s volleyball teams from competition for the 2020-21 season.

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PACWEST followed suit on Friday by cancelling league competition in men’s and women’s basketball, soccer and volleyball, as well as golf, for the rest of 2020. PACWEST includes seven B.C.-based schools. . . . There is a news release right here.


“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said mask wearing ‘has to be voluntary because the Constitution is not suspended just because there is a virus,’ ” writes Janice Hough, aka The Left Coast Sports Babe. “So why, for starters, doesn’t DeSantis also suspend the state’s seat-belt laws and speed limits?”


Check out Slava Malamud’s Twitter feed for, well, let him tell the story . . .


Call

CHL facing another potential class-action lawsuit . . . Most everything with WHL these days is fluid . . . Former WHL owner, GM, coach dies at 79

These have to be tough days to be the owner of a WHL franchise, don’t they?

The WHL is only a few weeks removed from the CHL, the umbrella under which it, the whlOHL and the QMJHL operate, having settled a civil suit for $30 million. In that suit, players, former and present, were, among other things, asking to be paid minimum wage under labour legislation in various jurisdictions. While not admitting to any wrongdoing or agreeing to pay minimum wage, the CHL settled, with insurance covering half the tab and each of the Canadian teams believed to be on the hook for more than $280,000.

And there is another WHL-related lawsuit before the courts, this one involving concussions, with the parties waiting to see if it will be certified as a class-action.

And another lawsuit dropped on Thursday, this one also seeking to be certified as a class-action. It carries the signatures of two former major junior players — Daniel Carcillo, who played in the OHL, and Garrett Taylor, who split a couple of seasons (2008-10) between the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Prince Albert Raiders — and is looking for more co-signees.

This one could prove to be particularly ugly because, as you will see by reading this piece right here from Ken Campbell of The Hockey News, Carcillo and Taylor are alleging that they were subject to abuse that is, to be honest, beyond description.

(BTW, you may recall that Taylor and his mother, Kim, were among those who appeared before an Oregon Senate committee on workforce on Feb. 27, 2018. They were opposing a proposed bill that would have exempted the Portland Winterhawks from state labour legislation. Ultimately, that request was denied.)

Geez, we haven’t even mentioned the hot mess that former OHL player Eric Guest hit that league and his old team, the Kitchener Rangers, with earlier in the week. The allegations, which included the forced ingestion of cocaine, are beyond messy, and the league, the team and the RCMP now are said to be conducting investigations.

And let’s not forget about the pandemic, you know, the coronavirus, COVID-19, and all that goes with that.

On Wednesday, following the completion of its annual meeting, the WHL issued a news release in which it said it “has targeted a start date of Friday, Oct. 2, for the 2020-21 regular season, but this date remains contingent on receiving the necessary approvals from government and health authorities in each of the six jurisdictions in WHL territory.”

Those would be Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, B.C., Washington and Oregon. To this point, the citizens of the four Canadian provinces have done a good job of battling this virus. As for the two states, well, let’s just point out that Canada has closed its border with the U.S. until at least July 21 for a reason. And Canadians, especially those in B.C., are pleading with the feds to keep it closed for a whole lot longer.

On Thursday, Ron Robison, the WHL commish, was on a Zoom gathering with various media types and it is obvious that a proposed starting date really is a moving target.

At his point, the WHL hopes to have a 68-game regular season, but . . .

It hopes to open training camps on Sept. 15, but . . .

It’s becoming more and more apparent that it’s all in the hands of the medical community and, as Rafferty Baker of CBC News, reports right here, people like Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, the province’s health minister, aren’t ready to commit to anything just yet.

Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week was on the Zoom call and his report is right here. . . . The word “fluid” appears on more than one occasion and for good reason.

How fluid are things?

Don Moores, the Kamloops Blazers’ president and chief operating officer, told Earl Seitz of CFJC-TV this week that the club isn’t even selling season tickets.

Moores explained: “We actually haven’t sold any season tickets yet. One of the things we don’t want to do is over-promise and under-deliver. It’s important for us to make sure that we know what we’re going to have and what that season will look like before we move ahead with that.”

As for the Winterhawks, who aren’t believe to be experiencing financial difficulties but are in receivership, Paul Danzer of the Portland Tribune reported that Robison “said there has been a lot of interest in acquiring the club.”

Danzer’s piece is right here.


Earlier in the week, the University of Alberta stunned the Canadian sporting community by announcing it has cancelled the 2020-21 seasons for it’s men’s and women’s basketball, hockey and volleyball teams.

Ian Reade, the school’s athletic director, made the announcement, stating in a news release that “the Athletics budget is no longer able to support participation in the 2020-21 season.”

As The Canadian Press reported: “Earlier this year, the provincial government announced cuts to the Campus Alberta Grant and ordered universities to immediately begin balancing their budgets and reducing expenditures.

“Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a ripple effect on revenues.”

In April, the U of Lethbridge dropped men’s and women’s hockey from its program for financial reasons. Might there be more cuts on the way?

With two Alberta schools already having made moves, you are excused for wondering how things are with the U of Calgary, MacEwan U and Mount Royal U, the three other Canada West members based in Alberta.

Of course, it could be that there won’t even be basketball, hockey or volleyball seasons.

U Sports, which oversees Canadian university sports, and three of its four conferences announced last week that football, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s field hockey and women’s rugby wouldn’t be played during the first term.

Canada West has said it will make a decision by Oct. 8 on whether basketball, hockey and volleyball will be played after Jan. 1.

Gerry Moddejonge of Postmedia has more on the U of Alberta story right here.


Here’s Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with a Thought for the Day, this one from Will Rogers: “Don’t gamble; take all your savings and buy some good stock and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don’t go up, don’t buy it.”


Robbers


You may be aware that the Buffalo Sabres’ owners staged a massive house-cleaning this week, sweeping out more than 20 people from the hockey operation, including general manager Jason Botterill. . . . Also caught up in the mess were two men with ties to the WHL. . . . Mark Ferner played with the Kamloops Jr. Oilers/Blazers. He also coached in Kamloops and with the Everett Silvertips. . . . Randy Hansch played with the Victoria Cougars and the Blazers. He later was the Blazers’ director of player personnel before spending 11 seasons with the Edmonton Oil Kings, first as assistant GM/director of player personnel, then as general manager.


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ coaching staff returned to the NFL team’s facility on Monday. By Thursday, one assistant coach had tested positive for the coronavirus, although he was asymptomatic, and was placed in quarantine. Two other assistant coaches also have bee quarantined.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S.’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, on Thursday that he doubts the NFL will be able to have a season without placing teams in bubbles much like the NBA has planned for next month in Orlando, Fla.

“Unless players are essentially in a bubble — insulated from the community and they are tested nearly every day — it would be very hard to see how football is able to be played this fall,” Fauci said. “If there is a second wave, which is certainly a possibility and which would be complicated by the predictable flu season, football may not happen this year.”

The NFL doesn’t have any interest in the bubble format.

Dr. Allen Sill, the NFL’s chief medical officer, told the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero that “we do not feel it’s practical or appropriate to construct a bubble. Anyone who tests positive will be isolated until medically appropriate to return.”


Real Turcotte, at one time a WHL owner and coach, died Monday after fighting congestive heart failure. He was 79. . . . Turcotte was born in East Angus, Que., but made a real mark as a coach in the Detroit area. . . . He was the owner and general manager of the Nanaimo Islanders for their only season (1982-83). He took over as head coach when he chose to replace Les Calder during the season. . . . Turcotte was the father of Alfie Turcotte, who played with the Islanders and Portland Winter Hawks (1982-84) and was selected 17th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL’s 1983 draft. . . . There is an obituary right here.


The junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey League held its annual meeting on Saturday and revealed in a Wednesday news release that it is aiming for open its regular season on Oct. 2. . . . As with so many other leagues, however, that is contingent on a number of things. As the league said in a news release: “As has been the case since the league’s 2019-20 season was cancelled on March 13, all decisions related to Return to Play will be made with the health and safety of players, staff, fans, volunteers and sponsors as our top priority.” . . . In that same release, Jeff Dubois, the league’s commissioner, said: “There are still a number of obstacles for us to navigate ahead of resuming league play this fall, but I’m confident that we’re trending in a positive direction.” . . . The complete news release is right here.


Herman

CHL, teams settle minimum-wage lawsuit for $30 million . . . Next up: Concussion-related action . . . Gaglardi: It all comes down to testing

Six years later . . . if you were hoping for a clear-cut winner and loser, well, as Peggy Lee sang, “Is that all there is?”

The CHL and its leagues have agreed to pay $30 million to settle three class-action CHLminimum wage-related lawsuits that were filed six years ago.

The suits were filed by former players against the three major junior leagues — the Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Western Hockey League — that operate under the CHL umbrella. They later were certified as class action.

“This settlement does not mean that we agree with the plaintiffs,” the CHL said in a statement. “It means that we wanted to end the lawsuits so we could continue to focus on being the best development league in hockey.” 

Ted Charney of Toronto-based Charney Lawyers PC, who was the lead for the plaintiffs, told Ken Campbell of The Hockey News: “This has been a very long, hard-fought battle, effectively gloves-off litigation for several years. We had to fight the (political) lobbying, which we lost miserably on, but we won in all the court rooms.”

The lawsuits were filed in 2014, with players claiming that the major junior teams are businesses and that players, as employees, should be eligible for minimum wages and overtime pay. The players also requested back pay.

While the lawsuits were before the court, the major junior leagues, which are of the belief that the players are student-athletes, lobbied various governments and were successful in gaining exemptions from minimum-wage laws.

As TSN’s Rick Westhead said in an on-air interview: “Over the last few years, the CHL has been very diligent about going to provinces and U.S. states where there are CHL teams and trying to successfully have minimum-wage laws amended so that players are exempt from minimum-wage legislation.”

In the west, governments in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Washington state all amended labour codes to provide exemptions. Oregon politicians chose not to provide an exemption.

According to the CHL and the plaintiffs, they agreed on a settlement in February with the help of a mediator.

“Earlier this year we met with the lawyers for the plaintiffs and agreed on a settlement that would see the end of the court case and an award of $30 million which will cover their lawyer’s fees, funder’s fees and other legal costs,” the CHL said in its statement. “The remainder will be distributed to players in the class. We did this because cases like these are very expensive and are a distraction to the league and as we had publicly disclosed, we had $30 million in insurance for these lawsuits.”

Lawyers are expected to get about $10 million off the top, with the remainder to be split among players. There are believed to be about 4,000 players who played from 2010-19 eligible to share in the money — players who have signed NHL contracts aren’t eligible — but it’s unlikely that all will apply.

It is believed that the CHL and its teams will pay half of the agreed-upon sum, with the CHL’s insurance paying the other half. Interestingly, the CHL purchases its insurance through Hockey Canada, which means that insurance premiums for the governing body of minor hockey in Canada are likely to rise. Those costs could be passed on to minor hockey players throughout the country.

If all 60 CHL teams are on the hook for a share of the payout, each will pay $250,000. But there are seven Americans teams involved, five of them in the WHL. If the American teams, which were exempted from the class action, aren’t required to pay, each of the remaining 52 teams would pay more than $288,000.

One of the five players who was in on the lawsuit from the beginning, Samuel Berg (Niagara IceDogs, OHL), is to receive a $20,000 honorarium. Each of the other four — Travis McEvoy (Saskatoon Blades, Vancouver Giants, Portland Winterhawks, WHL), Kyle O’Connor  (Kootenay Ice, WHL), Thomas Gobeil (Baie-Comeau Drakkar, Chicoutimi Sagueneens, Val-d’Or Foreurs, QMJHL) and Lukas Walter (Tri-City Americans, WHL; Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL) — is to get $10,000.

As Westhead reported, with the amendments having been made to minimum-wage laws in various provinces and states, “This does not open the door to future claims like this. . . . it’s unlikely the CHL is going to have to worry about a case like this down the road.”

Unless, of course, there are changes in governments and new faces choose to rewrite the employment standards legislation that includes the exemptions from minimum-wage requirements.

“There was a belief the provincial changes showed the CHL to be on the right side of the law,” Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet wrote, “but legal advice indicated the case could continue for up to another decade. That would cost millions in fees and, according to sources, the insurance fund topped out at $30 million. Clearly, that was a major factor in deciding to settle the case.”

What’s next? According to a tweet from Westhead: “After a settlement approval hearing (likely Aug/Sept), eligible players will need to file claims with a court-appointed administrator to get a payout.”

So, as the lawyers like to say on TV, in summation . . . the winners and losers.

Well, the only winners would appear to be the lawyers.

Yes, I would suggest that everyone else loses.

The CHL teams lost because financial filings necessitated by the lawsuit allowed people on the outside to learn just how much money some of these franchises make. Yes, major junior hockey no long is a mom-and-pop operation. It is a big business.

Players, past and present, certainly didn’t win. Yesterday’s players aren’t likely to get more than a few thousand dollars out of this settlement and, as far as today’s players are concerned, nothing is going to change in terms of what they are paid.

Perhaps the biggest winners, aside from the lawyers, of course, are WHL fans in whlcities that won’t lose their teams.

Three years ago, Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, issued a statement  after the lawsuit was certified as a class-action. In that statement, Robison said: “If WHL clubs were required to provide minimum wage, in addition to the benefits the players currently receive, the majority of our teams would not be in a position to continue operating.”

That is a position that he repeated more than once or twice over the past three years. Presumably those unnamed franchises won’t cease operations now. Although considering the uncertainties presented by the pandemic-related situation in which all teams now find themselves, you wonder how they will handle getting a bill for more than a quarter of a million dollars.

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“Well, major junior hockey operators in Canada got rid of one of the biggest headaches they’ve had in their history and all it cost them was $30 million, much of it paid by insurance, and a ton of negative headlines. Now they’re free to go back to paying their ‘student athletes’ less than minimum wage,” writes Ken Campbell of The Hockey News.

“Sounds like a pretty good deal for them. Because essentially what has happened when the CHL minimum-wage lawsuit was settled to the tune of $30 million is that the former players who bravely and persistently fought for this chunk of money were able to win in court for themselves and the roughly 3,600 other players in the lawsuit. But in the bigger picture, the Canadian Hockey League won in the far more important political arena by convincing each province to consider its players student athletes, which exempts it from annoying employment standards legislation. Once they managed to do that, they were happy to settle. It’s believed it cost each team about $250,000.”

Campbell’s complete piece is right here.

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It should be pointed out that what came to be known as the minimum-wage lawsuit doesn’t have anything to do with another class-action lawsuit facing the CHL, its three leagues and Hockey Canada. . . . James McEwan, a former WHL player, filed a concussion-related lawsuit against the CHL, WHL and Hockey Canada in January 2019. The lawsuit later was refiled with the Supreme Court of British Columbia to include the OHL and QMJHL. . . . Preliminary discussions regarding the certification of the lawsuit as class action were to have been held in Vancouver in March. If the pandemic didn’t play havoc with that, all parties involved will be awaiting Madam Justice Neena Sharma’s ruling. . . . McEwan played four seasons (2004-08) in the WHL, splitting his time between the Kelowna Rockets and Seattle Thunderbirds.


Tom Gaglardi, the majority owner of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, says the league is Kamloops1“trying to figure out what the season’s going to look like . . . when it’s going to start.”

Appearing on TSN 1040 in Vancouver, Gaglardi chatted with Jeff Paterson and The Moj (aka Bob Marjanovich) on Friday.

Gaglardi, who also owns the NHL’s Dallas Stars and the AHL’s Texas Stars, frequently mentioned the importance of testing in terms of getting the economy rolling again.

Even for the WHL, he said, “it really all comes down to . . . testing.”

“There’s now a swab,” he said, “that you can get that you can swab your mouth and it tells you in 30 seconds whether you’ve got the virus. If this is something that we can get out into the mainstream market, how far are we from having fans in arenas?

“We’re really waiting for something . . . it may not be a vaccine . . . I’m certainly not counting on a vaccine in 2020. But I do think we’re going to have better testing soon, more access to testing, and somewhere we’re going to get some drug that’s therapeutic that will mean a 65- or 70-year- old guy can go to a hockey game and not worry about dying, and if he comes down with a virus then we can treat him and he’s going to be OK. We need to get to there to get this economy back going.

“At some point I think we’ll get there, with a combination of testing, tracing and hopefully something’s that therapeutic that allows people to feel safe to go to events like hockey.”

Asked about playing WHL games without fans in the building, Gaglardi replied: “The WHL is a gate-driven league. Without people in the buildings, it’s hard to see how we can operate for a great length of time.”

The WHL, according to Gaglardi, has got “contingency plans like every league there is. The Western Hockey League’s not the only league in that position . . . we’ll look at all kinds of scenarios.

“At the same time, too, we’ve got an obligation . . . to develop young hockey players, so if our league starts up a little late . . . we’ve got contingency plans to get the kids into Kamloops and to develop them. We’ve got all kinds of schemes of games and day games and things we might do . . . we take that obligation seriously.”

The complete interview is right here.

Gaglardi’s appearance on the Vancouver radio station came one day after his NHL and AHL organizations were hit with more furloughs, these ones to run through July 3.

Matthew DeFranks of the Dallas Morning News reported that the latest cuts included “most of the remaining front office,” but excluded anyone who is a vice-president or higher.

“The Stars’ hockey operations department was not affected by the furloughs, but management, coaches and scouts took 20% pay cuts,” DeFranks wrote.

His complete story is right here.


The junior B Pacific Junior Hockey League will have an expansion franchise in 2020-21 — the Chilliwack Jets. That begins the number of teams in the league to 13. . . . Clayton Robinson, the majority owner, will be the general manager and head coach. . . . The Jets will play out of the Sardis Sports Complex.



Honda Indy Toronto, which had been scheduled for July 10-12, has been cancelled. The move came after the City of Toronto cancelled event permits for major events for July and August. . . .

Organizers for what was to have been Ironman Canada’s return to Penticton, B.C., announced Friday that the event has been cancelled. It had been scheduled for Aug. 30. The Ironman last was held in Penticton in 2012, ending a run that began in 1983. . . .

The GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon has been cancelled for 2020. The 41st running of the event had been scheduled for Oct. 11. Last year’s race drew more than 8,000 participants. . . .


Nominate1


With our annual Kidney Walk having been cancelled, my wife, Dorothy, is raising funds in support of a ‘virtual’ walk that is scheduled for June 7. All money raised goes to help folks who are dealing with kidney disease. . . . You are able to join Dorothy’s team by making a donation right here. . . . Thank you.


The U.S. national junior team has filled out its coaching staff by adding four assistants — Ted Donato (Harvard), Theresa Feaster (Providence), Kris Mayotte (U of Michigan) and Steve Miller (Ohio State). All will work alongside head coach Nate Leaman of Providence College. . . . Feaster, the director of men’s hockey operations at Providence, is the first woman named to the coaching staff. She will be Team USA’s video coach. . . . She is the daughter of Jay Feaster, a former NHL general manager with the Calgary Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning. He now is the Lightning’s vice-president of community hockey development. . . . The 2021 World Junior Championship is scheduled for Red Deer and Edmonton, from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5.


Nominate2

WHL’s off-ice season begins today . . . Bedard gets exceptional status . . . Cranbrook Bucks have their GM/coach

Turnsignals


The WHL will hold its inaugural two-round U.S. prospects draft today (Wednesday), along with its annual bantam draft lottery. . . . The lottery, which won’t be streamed live, is to be held at 11 a.m. (MT) and will originate from the WHL office in Calgary. The U.S. prospects draft will be held online, starting at 2 p.m. MT. . . .

Meanwhile, the WHL announced that it has cancelled its annual awards show and changed the date of its bantam draft. . . . The awards show was to have been held in Red Deer on May 6. . . . The bantam draft that was scheduled for Red Deer on May 7 now will be held online on April 22. . . .



In loading up for a run at the 2020 Memorial Cup, no one went to the lengths as did the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats and Chicoutimi Sagueneens. The Wildcats, under general manager Ritchie Thibeau, traded for three star players, giving up 13 draft picks and a prospect. Chicoutimi GM Yanick Jean bettered that by adding five players for 18 picks, seven of them first-rounders, and two players. . . . And, of course, there won’t be any playoffs in the QMJHL, nor will there be a Memorial Cup. . . . Ken Campbell of The Hockey News reviews the situation involving the two big buyers right here. . . .


Emily Kaplan of ESPN reported Tuesday morning that “the NHL is temporarily cutting the pay of league office employees by 25 per cent.” . . . The cuts will come into play on April 1. . . . Kaplan wrote, “According to sources, the NHL is hoping that the temporary pay cut among league office employees will prevent layoffs during this uncertain time.” . . . The NHL had 189 games remaining in its regular season when it halted play on March 12. . . .

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The owners of the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers had told salaried employees that they would be hit with pay cuts of 20 per cent and would be moving to four-day work weeks. . . . However, on Tuesday, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, reversed course. . . . “Our commitment has been to do our best to keep all of our employees working through this very difficult situation,” Josh Harris, HBSE president, said in a statement. “As part of an effort to do that we asked salaried employees to take a temporary 20% pay cut while preserving everyone’s full benefits — and keeping our 1,500 hourly workers paid throughout the regular season. After listening to our staff and players, it’s clear that was the wrong decision. We have reversed it and will be paying these employees their full salaries. . . . To our staff and fans, I apologize for getting this wrong.” . . .

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Groupe CH, which owns the Montreal Canadiens and the AHL’s Laval Rocket, has announced layoffs that will affect 60 per cent of the employees in the organization. The layoffs will begin on Monday. . . . From a report by The Canadian Press: “Groupe CH says it has established a $6-millon assistance fund to help employees. The organization says the fund will help enhance employment insurance benefits for eight weeks, ensuring that employees will receive 80 per cent of their base salary for that period. The fund also will provide loans to employees in difficult financial situations.” . . .



Janet Brown of Vancouver radio station CKNW tweeted Tuesday morning that “White Spot restaurants has laid off about 3,000 employees in last week . . . owner Ron Toigo says restaurant industry was already hurting . . . he uses the words ‘bleak and staggering’ describing impact of COVID-19.” . . . Toigo also is the majority owner of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. . . .



Former Boston Bruins star Johnny Bucyk was to have had a hip replaced this week, but — guess what! — yes, the surgery was postponed. Dave Stubbs of nhl.com caught up with Bucyk, who is 84, and wrote this story right here. . . . You will enjoy this one. I guarantee it. . . .


Here is Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with his Thought for the Day, this one from Will Rogers: “There are three kinds of men. The ones that learn by readin’. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” . . .


The headline on the IIHF website reads: Ireland Coaches Italy. . . . Seriously. . . . Greg Ireland has signed on as the head coach of Italy’s national men’s hockey team. . . . Ireland, 54, takes over from Clayton Beddoes, who resigned earlier this year. . . . Ireland has been the head coach of HC Bolzano of the EBEL since January. . . . Prior to that, he spent three seasons as the head coach of Switzerland’s HC Lugano. . . .



BC Hockey announced Tuesday that F Connor Bedard has been granted exceptional status, so the 15-year-old will be eligible to play full-time in the WHL next season. Bedard, from North Vancouver, is the first player granted such status for WHL play. . . . Bedard, 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, had 84 points, including 43 goals, in 36 games for West Vancouver Academy’s midget prep team this season. . . . The WHL bantam draft is scheduled to be held online on April 22. . . . Prior to the 2019-20 season, WHL teams were allowed to use a 15-year-old in only five games before his club team had its season end. However, the Winnipeg Ice got F Matthew Savoie into 22 games, turning that ‘rule’ into something of a fallacy. Savoie, who applied for exceptional status by Hockey Canada but didn’t get it, finished with seven points, all of them assists. . . .

Two other players — F Riley Heidt and F Brayden Yager — also applied for exceptional status in the hopes of playing in the WHL next season as 15-year-olds. They both are from Dundurn, Sask., and both played with the Saskatoon Contacts of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Heidt had 17 goals and 20 assists in 44 games; Yager had 18 goals and 24 assists in 44 games. . . . There was no mention of either in the announcement involving Bedard. . . .

Bedard is the seventh player to have been granted exceptional status, after Sean Day, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid, John Tavares and Shane Wright, all of whom played in the OHL, and Joe Veleno, who played in the QMJHL. . . .


Floss


Ryan Donald is the first general manager and head coach of the Cranbrook Bucks, who are scheduled to begin play in the BCHL in 2020-21. The Bucks have signed Donald to a four-year contract. . . . Donald, who is from Edmonton, has been an assistant coach at Yale U for five seasons. Earlier, he played at Yale for four seasons. . . . “Ryan is an incredible hire for our club,” Bucks owner and president Nathan Lieuwen said in a news release, “and is absolutely the right person to build this franchise. “Not only does he have quality experience coaching at high levels, but he also has great connections throughout the NCAA.”


Ryan Oulahen has been named head coach of the OHL’s North Bay Battalion. He signed a three-year contract. . . . Oulahen had been the interim head coach since Dec. 10, when he replaced Stan Butler. . . . A former captain of the Battalion when the franchise was based in Brampton, Oulahen spent two seasons (2016-18) as head coach of the Flint Firebirds. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach with the Battalion for five seasons. . . . Butler had been the Battalion’s head coach since 1998-99. . . .


Regular seasons all done for WHL, OHL, QMJHL . . . Will there be playoffs? . . . The waiting game continues . . .


The WHL announced on Wednesday that it has cancelled what remains of its regular season. When the WHL suspended play on March 12, the 22 teams had a total of 54 games remaining before the season was to wind up on March 22. . . . The 22-team WHL still is hoping to get its playoffs in “at a later date,” according to a statement. . . . The WHL’s final standings have been “determined by using win percentage” for its teams, reads a statement from the league. Actually, as TBird Tidbits pointed out in the above tweet, the standings were determined using points percentage. That’s how the Kamloops Blazers ended up ahead of Spokane, even though the Chiefs have one more point, and how the Vancouver Giants are ahead of Victoria, even thought the Royals finished with one more point. . . . No matter. The Portland Winterhawks finished atop the heap, so are the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy champions. . . . Even though the Everett Silvertips finished with one more regulation victory.

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About those playoffs. . . . Last season, the WHL began its playoffs on March 22. They played four rounds, all best-of-seven, and finished on May 13. . . . In total, they played 80 games in about seven weeks. . . . Let’s be honest. That’s not going to happen this time around. . . . You can bet that the WHL is tossing around all kinds of playoff options, likely incorporating best-of-three and best-of-five series. . . . But in the end it’s going to come down to how much time there will be for playoffs. It could be that in Washington state and B.C., for starters, games with more than 50 people on hand will be taboo until mid-May. . . . And don’t forget that the Memorial Cup is scheduled for Kelowna, May 21-31. That is highly unlikely to happen, so how far can it be pushed back? And what about Sportsnet, the CHL’s television partner? How much room will Sportsnet have on its schedule whenever the time comes? . . . And don’t forget that if the CHL is into playoffs, the NHL will be, too. So how does all that figure into this? . . . With all that is going on, and not going on, perhaps it’s best to take a day-to-day or even a week-to-week approach. Just to help maintain sanity. . . . OK? . . .

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Next up for the WHL is the inaugural U.S. prospects draft that is scheduled for March 25, and is to be run from the league office in Calgary. It’s a two-round draft featuring 44 selections, if each team uses its two picks. . . . The 2020 WHL bantam draft is scheduled for Red Deer on May 7. . . .

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The OHL also cancelled its regular season on Wednesday, and announced that its 2020 draft will be held online on April 4. . . . The OHL’s regular season was to have ended on March 22. . . . Like the WHL and QMJHL, the OHL is monitoring the situation.“When it is safe and we may resume play, we will advise on the status of the 2020 playoffs,” a statement from the league reads. . . .

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The QMJHL, which cancelled the remainder of its regular season on Tuesday, has taken its annual entry draft online. It was to have been held on June 6 in Sherbrooke. It still will go ahead on June 6, but now it all will be online. . . . As well, the QMJHL has cancelled its annual session that was scheduled for June 3-5. It features “meetings between its members along with hockey and administrative staffs.” . . .


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The 16-team USHL announced on Wednesday that it has cancelled the remainder of its season. The league’s board of directors made a unanimous decision to end the season, including the playoffs. . . . The regular season, which was suspended on March 12, was to have ended on March 29. . . .


Sean Fitz-Gerald of The Athletic reported Wednesday that The Hockey News has laid off eight full-time employees. “The layoffs affected longtime editor-in-chief Jason Kay,” Fitz-Gerald reported, “senior editor Brian Costello, managing editor Edward Fraser, senior writers Ken Campbell, Ryan Kennedy and Matt Larkin, features editor Sam McCaig and art director Shea Berencsi. Two contract workers are still producing content for THN’s website.” . . . THN publisher and owner Graeme Roustan told Fitz-Gerald that all will be rehired in an instant if/when the NHL resumes play. . . .



Philip Rivers is taking his arm to the Indianapolis Colts for one year and something like US$25 million. I wonder who will pay the moving expenses to get his wife and their nine children to Indy? . . . Rivers, 38, told us all a while back that he wasn’t interested in returning to the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers with whom he had spent his entire career. . . .


There was good news from South Korea on Wednesday as its top basketball league, the KBL, which hasn’t played in four weeks, announced that it has games scheduled for month’s end. . . . In the beginning, games will be played without fans in attendance. . . . If you’re curious about all of this, Jonathan Givony of ESPN has more right here. . . .


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The BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings announced the re-signing of assistant coach Jason Garneau, who spent eight seasons with the club a few years ago. . . . At the same time, assistant coach Colin Minardi, who joined the club in October, won’t be returning to the coaching staff. . . .


Cody Reynolds is the new head coach of the U-18 Red Deer Optimist Chiefs. He has spent the past seven seasons as associate coach with the Red Deer College Kings. . . .


Washington governor expected to ban large gatherings . . . Would impact two WHL teams . . . Junior B series opener postponed


Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington state, has scheduled a news conference for Wednesday at 10:15 a.m., at which, according to the Everett Herald, he is expected to “announce a ban on events and social gatherings attended by more than 250 people” as the area continues to battle COVID-19.

It is believed that an initial ban would impact Snohomish, King and Pierce counties.

Everett, the home of the WHL’s Silvertips, is the county seat and the largest city in EverettSnohomish County. The WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds play out of SeattleKent, Wash., which is located in King County.

It will also affect the MSL’s Seattle Sounders, Major League Rugby’s Seattle Seawolves and XFL’s Seattle Dragons.

The Thunderbirds have three home games remaining — on Saturday (Vancouver), Tuesday (Spokane) and March 21 (Portland).

The Silvertips have one home game remaining, on March 20 against the Victoria Royals.

Later Tuesday, the Silvertips announced the cancellation of the Silvertips Radio Show “until further notice.” It was broadcast live from Sporty’s Beef & Brew, featuring play-by-play voice Mike Benton and appearances by players. Last night’s show was available via the Internet.

On Tuesday, Inslee said the banning of large gatherings, including sporting events, is under consideration.

“I would not be shocked if we have some more news on that in the next few days,” he said. “If we’re going to stop this epidemic, we need to look at what’s coming, not just what’s here today.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the death toll in the state from COVID-19 had reached at least 23, with more than 190 confirmed cases. Inslee said he expects that number to grow rapidly.

On Monday evening, Patty Hayes, director of Public Health — Seattle & King County, had displayed a chart that features five levels of actions. Washington state already has moved through Level 2 and, Hayes said, “We are at the ready to institute the third level. Level 3 includes “involuntary isolation of those sick” and “involuntary quarantine of those who have interacted with those sick.”

Hayes added: “We haven’t had to do this because our public has been extremely compliant . . . But the health officer does have the authority to involuntarily isolate or quarantine individuals.”

Level 4 involves ordering the “cancellation of major public and large private gatherings,” which would appear to be where at least three counties now find themselves.


With less than two weeks remaining in its regular season and the playoffs scheduled to open on March 27, the WHL has announced a handful of operational changes in response to COVID-19.

It has ordered the “elimination of handshakes between teammates, opponents and whlofficials,” while also impressing upon teams that players not share water bottles or towels.

The WHL also has asked all teams to “avoid direct contact with fans, including high-fives, handshakes, and autographing of items.”

The WHL’s statement didn’t make mention of whether it has looked at other options, such as playing games in empty arenas or even postponing/cancelling games.

While the Edmonton Oil Kings and Medicine Hat Tigers, for two, have said they will abide by the WHL’s request, Saskatoon radio station CKOM reported that the Blades “aren’t putting limitations on fans.”

The station reported that “Tyler Wawryk, director of business operations with the Blades, told 650 CKOM the team isn’t planning on following the recommendations, and autograph sessions will continue as scheduled.”



In Everett, the Northwest Athletic Conference announced that its men’s and women’s basketball championships are moving from Everett Community College to Clackamas CC in Oregon City, Ore., and Linn-Benton CC in Albany, Ore. . . . The tournaments were to have been played last weekend at Everett CC and, in fact, three women’s games were played on Thursday before the campus was shut down because of coronavirus concerns. A student from Everett CC later tested positive. The campus received a thorough cleaning and reopened on Monday.

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Meanwhile, on Vancouver Island, the start of a junior B playoff series between the Oceanside Generals and Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League has been postponed. The North Division final was to have started Tuesday night in Parksville, but BC Hockey said several Campbell River players are self-isolating with flu-like symptoms. . . . Gerry Bickerton, the Generals’ president, told Nanaimo NewsNOW that his team is healthy. “Hockey-wise it’s frustrating but public safety-wise this has to be done,” Bickerton said. “With what’s happening right now, BC Hockey went and did their questioning and they’ve made their decision.” . . . It is hoped that the series now will begin Saturday in Parksville. . . . Alex Rawnsley’s story is right here. . . . As of Tuesday night, there hadn’t yet been a positive test for coronavirus on Vancouver Island.


Ken Campbell of The Hockey News reported via Twitter on Tuesday that the Los Angeles Kings “have banned their scouts from plane travel because of the COVID-19 virus. If they can’t drive to the game, they’re not to go.” . . . Campbell followed that up with: “Buffalo Sabres scouts are still flying, but not to Europe. They’ve also told their scouts that if they feel uncomfortable about flying, they don’t have to fly.”


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Some of Tuesday’s other developments . . .

The NBA’s Golden State Warriors played a home game in front of fans on Tuesday night, despite an aggressive recommendation from the City of San Francisco on Friday that all large, non-essential events be cancelled. . . . This isn’t sitting well with city officials. “I have expressed my desire that they do this voluntarily before, in the days ahead, we do it as an emergency public health order,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin told the online news site Mission Local. “It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. I hope they come to that conclusion before we make them come to that conclusion.” . . . The Warriors have said that they don’t plan any changes before their next home game, either. That game is scheduled for Thursday. . . .

The NBA will hold a conference call involving team owners on Wednesday afternoon during which they will discuss possible moves. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, each franchise was required to have “several contingency plans in place” by Tuesday, including “an arrangement with an infectious disease specialist, the identifying of a specific facility to test for coronavirus and a plan to limit the number of team and arena staff members that would interact with players.” . . . On Wednesday, the owners are expected to discuss the possibility of playing games in empty arenas. . . .

The Austrian EBEL (Erste Bank Ice Hockey League) cancelled the remainder of its season, with the German DEL quick to follow suit. . . . The EBEL features teams from Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary and Italy. A statement from the league stated that “no championship title will be awarded in the 2019-20 season.” . . . The DEL statement read, in part: “The DEL is forced to end the current season. . . . The reason for this is the banning by federal states of events such as DEL games with more than 1,000 spectators. . . . Due to the premature end of the season, there is no German champion this year. As the main round winner, the EHC Red Bull Munich, together with the Adler Mannheim, the Straubing Tigers and the Eisbären Berlin, represent the DEL in the Champions Hockey League (CHL 2020-21).” . . .

Igor Eronko, a Sport-Express hockey writer and KHL-TV commentator, tweeted that “Moscow plans to cancel all the sports events with more than 5,000 spectators. . . . It will definitely affect the KHL playoffs.” . . .

For an in-depth look at postponements, cancellations and more from the hockey world, check out this right here from Conway’s Russian Hockey Blog. There is a whole lot of information here. . . .

The Ivy League shut down all spring football practices, effective Tuesday morning and running through at least April 5. . . .

The Ivy League also cancelled its Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments that were to have been played this weekend in Cambridge, Mass. The Princeton women and Yale men were awarded the league’s NCAA tournament bids. . . . The Ivy League also made the decision to limit attendance at all sporting events through the end of its spring season. . . .

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference cancelled the rest of its state boys and girls basketball, boys ice hockey and boys swimming tournaments. . . . The Connecticut High School Girls Hockey Association has also cancelled its playoffs. . . .

Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio, has recommended all indoor games be played without spectators. That would include the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, who are at home to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, whose next home game is scheduled for March 24. . . . DeWine tweeted that “for indoor events, we are asking for no events with spectators other than the athletes, parents and others essential to the game.” . . . The Blue Jackets later issued a statement, saying that they have been in contact with the NHL and “it has been determined that our scheduled games, including Thursday vs. Pittsburgh and Saturday vs. Nashville, will go on as scheduled and be open to ticket fans that wish to attend.” . . . The Mid-American Conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be played at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in downtown Cleveland starting on Thursday, but with a restricted attendance policy. Thus, they won’t be open to the public. . . .

The Big West Conference will play its conference tournaments without fans in the buildings. The men are to play this week at the Honda Center in Anaheim; the women will play at the Walter Pyramid at Long Beach State. . . .

The Zac Brown Band has postponed a spring tour. . . . BMI, a music rights management company, has postponed its Latin Awards that had been scheduled for Los Angeles on March 31. A new date hasn’t yet been chosen. . . . The Coaches Valley Music and Arts Festival, which was to have run April 10-12 and April 17-19, has been postponed to Oct. 9-11 and Oct. 16-18. It annually draws more than 200,000 people to the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif. . . . Stagecoach, a country music festival, also has been postponed. It, too, is held at the Empire Polo Club. Originally scheduled for April 24-26, it now is to be held Oct. 23-25.



I have spent the past couple of days cleaning out a filing cabinet. Of course, it never gets done as quickly as it should because, well, there are all of those old stories to read.

Like the one about when the WHL officially stopped referring to 20-year-old players as overage. The decision was made at a board of governors’ meeting in Calgary on April 2, 1985, when it also was decided to allow teams to dress three such players, up from two.

“I’m pleased about the move to three 20-year-olds,” WHL president Ed Chynoweth said. “We also decided to eliminate the word ‘overage’. From now on, those players will be referred to as 20-year-olds.”

At the same meeting, the WHL made 12-year-olds ineligible to be placed on teams’ protected lists. Prior to that decision, a 12-year-old took up two spots on a team’s list.

The WHL, at the time, continued to allow the listing of 13- and 14-year-old players without any restrictions.


Scattershooting on a Thursday night after noticing the Vees went Ho-Ho-Ho in Game 1 . . .

Scattershooting

By now you’ve likely seen the ugly video of the fight in which F Kale Kessy, a former WHL scrapper now with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, was KO’d. . . . If you haven’t seen it, find it, watch it and then tell me why fighting needs to be a part of hockey. . . . If you’re wondering, Kessy spent Tuesday night in hospital and was released on Wednesday. . . . According to the Bears, Kessy now is sidelined with an “upper-body injury.” Yeah, I bet.

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Headline at The Onion: Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Horrified To Learn Madison Bumgarner Risking Health as Baseball Pitcher.


You don’t see something like this happen every day in the world of hockey. . . . Jeff Dubois, the general manager and head coach of the junior B Comox Valley Glacier Kings of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, is leaving to take over as commissioner of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. The KIJHL is a 22-team junior B circuit in the interior of B.C. . . . Dubois stepped in as the Glacier Kings’ head coach during an October shuffle. . . . He will move into the commissioner’s chair, replacing Larry Martel, on May 1. . . . Dubois spent three seasons as GM/head coach the KIJHL’s Creston Valley Thunder Cats, and was the league’s coach of the year for 2016-17. . . . Martel had been commissioner since June 2018 when he took over on an interim basis from longtime president Bill Ohlhausen. . . . The KIJHL’s news release is right here.



Former WHLer Jake Toporowski is to make his head-coaching debut tonight (Friday) with the Quad City Storm meeting the host Evansville Thunderbolts in a Southern Professional Hockey League game. . . . Head coach Dave Pszenyczny, the Storm’s head coach, drew a one-game suspension for the actions of his players late in a game against the Fayetteville Marksmen on Feb. 16. . . . BTW, Toporowski is to turn 22 on Friday. . . . “I always wanted to have a head coaching job,” Toporowski told Bobby Metcalf of the Quad-City Times,”so there’s got to be a first game at some point.” . . . Toporowski played three seasons (2014-17) with the Chiefs, then retired after playing one game in 2017-18. Injuries had limited him to 36 games in 2016-17,


The New York Yankees owe OF Giancarlo Stanton more than US$200 million through 2027. Stanton, who rooms with the injury bug, has been on the injury list six times in his career. In nine seasons, he has played fewer than 125 games five times. That includes last season when he got into 17 regular-season games. . . . You guessed it. He’s hurt again, this time with a Grade 1 calf strain that likely will have him on the shelf when this season starts.


Fishing


The SJHL’s Melville Millionaires didn’t waste any time putting this season behind them as they fired Kyle Adams, the general manager and head coach, on Tuesday. . . . Jarett Waldbauer, the assistant coach and assistant GM, now is the interim GM and head coach. . . . With three games remaining in the regular season, the Millionaires are 15-34-6, good for fourth in the four-team Viterra Division. . . . Adams was in his first full season as GM/head coach after signing a two-year contract in April. He had joined the club as an assistant coach early in 2018-19, then moved up to interim GM/head coach in December 2018.



In a column suggesting that it’s time for a “de-escalation of in-game technology” in Major League Baseball, Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle writes:

“The aim of my campaign is not to stop analytics. That ship has sailed and it can’t be squeezed back into the toothpaste tube. Let the numbers jockeys have their fun, but once the game starts, let’s mix in a little baseball with our video-gamery, shall we?”

Ostler says he is on a crusade “to inject some baseball back into baseball.”

Ostler also took time to add this:

“While I’m at it, I also advocate a ban on cell-phone use by fans seated in the first five rows behind home plate. Hello, you rich, cool people! Many of us watching the game on TV cling to a romantic fantasy that a fan blessed with amazing seats that the rest of us would kill to sit in is actually, you know, watching the freaking baseball game.”

Bingo!


Parrot


JUST NOTES: Craig MacTavish is back in the coaching game, this time has head coach of Lausanne HC, which dumped Ville Peltonen. MacTavish began this season as the head coach of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL, but was fired eight games into the season. Lausanne HC plays in the National League, Switzerland’s top pro league. . . . Brantt Myhres, a former WHL enforcer who totalled 137 points and 1,025 penalty minutes in 241 games, has a book in the works, and that’s one I will be sure to read. He has battled alcohol and drug addiction, and now has been sober for more than 11 years. . . . The BCHL’s Penticton Vees opened the playoffs Thursday night with a 7-1 victory over the visiting West Kelowna Warriors. What was different about this one? F Tyler Ho, who had 13 goals in 42 regular-season games, scored three times, each one of them with his side shorthanded. . . .

I have access to six TSN channels. On Thursday evening, five of them were blacked out because Canadian NHL teams were playing and only folks in each region are permitted to watch. One Sportsnet channel, featuring the Calgary Flames, also was blacked out. But, hey, we could watch the Dallas Stars and the Bruins play in Boston. . . . I need someone to explain to me how keeping Canadian teams off Canadian TV screens helps grow the game. . . . On Wednesday night, the Edmonton Oilers played the host Vegas Golden Knights. You will be aware that Edmonton’s lineup includes Connor McDavid, perhaps the best player in the game today, and Leon Draisaitl, who is right up there, too. But — you guessed it! — the game was blacked out too.