Scattershooting on a Saturday night while pondering what just happened on the PGA Tour . . .

Scattershooting2


Covid


It has been a while since the sporting media has had access to locker rooms/dressing rooms, and it would appear that this situation will go on for a while longer. For starters, it seems the NFL is going to keep the warriors of the keyboards and the talking heads away at least during training camps and exhibition games. . . . The NFL, of course, is citing health concerns due to COVID-19, but this kind of access has come to be a real bone of contention in recent years. . . . During the pandemic, media has had to make do, for the most part, with Zoom calls. . . . Jay Rigdon of Awful Announcing writes: “The longer ‘no reporters in the locker room’ is the practice, the tougher it might be for reporters to ever get that privilege back again. If that happens, the job is going to look much, much different for sports journalists.” . . . Rigdon’s report is right here.

Meanwhile, in MLB, members of the media who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to have one-on-one conversations with team personnel on the field during pre-game warmups and batting practice. . . . Andrew Bucholtz of Awful Announcing has more on all of this right here.




Headline at The Onion (@TheOnion): Ron Artest Lands Consulting Role Teaching NBA Players How To Defend Selves From Rowdy Fans.



I haven’t watched a whole lot of these NHL playoffs, and I was reminded why after tuning in for the last half of the Wednesday night game between the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche. The inconsistent standard of officiating just never seems to change. The Golden Knights got away with a cross-check off a faceoff that should have been a double minor, then lost the game on a PP goal after a slashing call that was embarrassingly soft. . . . It’s too bad because that weak slashing call overshadowed what had seemed to be an awfully good playoff game.


Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle, reflecting on the number of injuries to key players in the NBA playoffs and whether a compressed regular season may be having an impact: “It would be such a sensible idea to shorten the schedule and lengthen the spells between games. Back-to-backs: never again. Long stretches of playing every other day: nope. Cut it to 58 games, each of the 30 teams playing the others twice each. Couldn’t be simpler, except for one thing: the greedy nature of billionaire owners. As Draymond Green put it so well on TNT the other night: ‘If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense.’ ”


MountainDew


The Victoriaville Tigres won the QMJHL championship on Saturday afternoon, beating the Val-d’Or Foreurs, 3-2 in double OT, on a goal by F Alex Beaucage. . . . Victoriaville won the best-of-seven championship, 4-2, with all games played in Quebec City. The first game was played without fans; a maximum of about 2,000 fans was allowed for each of the last five games. Saturday’s announced attendance was 2,176. . . . The Tigres led 2-1 after the first period. . . . The Foreurs forced OT on F Jeremy Michel’s goal at 14:40 of the third period. . . . Beaucage won it at 1:01 of the second extra period.


Here’s Ken Dryden in Saturday’s Toronto Sun:

Head hits. Whether intentional, careless or completely accidental, that distinction matters only to the hitter, not to the player hit. Nor even much to the rest of us now. The back stories — it’s the sort of thing he would do, or wouldn’t do — who cares? It’s about Tavares not Corey Perry, Evans not Mark Scheifele.

“And we know now. Everybody knows. Not just the scientists. The media know. Ron MacLean knows. So do Elliotte Friedman and Cassie Campbell, so do Darren Dreger, Craig Simpson, Pierre LeBrun and all the others. They know. George Parros knows, Bill Daly knows, so do all the owners. Jeremy Jacobs, Geoff Molson, Larry Tanenbaum, they all know. Mark Chipman, David Thomson, Murray Edwards, Daryl Katz, Francesco Aquilini, Eugene Melnyk. They all know. Don Fehr, the head of the NHL Players’ Association, he knows. Gary Bettman knows.”

That complete piece is right here.


Jon Rahm, the second-ranked golfer in the world, finished his third round with a six-stroke lead at the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, on Saturday when he was told that he had tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, he had to withdraw from the tournament. . . . It’s interesting that Rahm didn’t get vaccinated until earlier this week when contact tracing found him to have been in close proximity to someone who had tested positive. . . . He was in line to win more than US$1.5 million. . . . Bob Harig of ESPN has more right here.


As another reminder of the times in which we are living, the Singapore Grand Prix that was scheduled for Oct. 3 has been cancelled due to the pandemic. The Canadian Grand Prix that was to have run on June 13 and the Chinese Grand Prix both were cancelled earlier in the year. . . . The Turkish Grand Prix was going to take over the June 13 race date, but that also was cancelled. . . . The Australian Grand Prix was to have been run in March but now is on the schedule for November.


Resume


Soccer’s Canadian Premier League will gather its eight teams in Winnipeg and play 32 games from June 26 through July 24. Games will be played without fans at IG Field, the home of the CPL’s Valour FC and the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers. . . . Following the completion of the Winnipeg schedule, teams will return to their homes and hopefully complete their seasons with fans in the stands.


Gaelan Patterson has joined the junior B Port Alberni Bombers as the Vancouver portalbernibombersIsland Junior Hockey League expansion team’s first general manager and head coach. . . . Patterson, 30, spent three seasons on the coaching staff of the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves, leaving in mid-April to take over as director of hockey operations for the Nanaimo Minor Hockey Association. His stint with NMHA didn’t last two months. . . . The VIJHL recently awarded an expansion team to the same Port Alberni group that owns the BCHL’s Bulldogs. . . . Patterson played four seasons (2006-10) with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades. . . . Most recently, he was the Ice Wolves’ associate GM and associate head coach.


The Sarnia Sting selected G Taya Currie in the 14th round of the OHL’s Priority Selection draft on Saturday. The 16-year-old from Parkhill, Ont., thus became the first female player to be picked in the draft’s history. She is 5-foot-7, 143 pounds and catches left. She played in 2019-20 with the U-16 AAA Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs, but her 2020-21 season was cancelled because of the pandemic.


Dorothy will be taking part in her eighth Kamloops Kidney Walk, albeit virtually, today. If you would like to be part of her team, you are able to make a donation right here. . . . Thanks in advance for your generosity.

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If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

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Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

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

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

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Or, for more information, visit right here.


Hawaii

The Bookshelf: Part 2 of 3 . . .

Bookshelf

What follows is Part 2 of a three-part look at some of the books I have read over the past 12 months. Before we get to those, here are a handful of suggestions from the thumbnails that appeared here a year ago. If you haven’t read these, you can’t go wrong with any of them:

Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times, by Mark Leibovich

Bower: A Legendary Life, by Dan Robson

Football for a Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL, by Jeff Pearlman

Hockey Fight in Canada: The Big Media Face-off Over the NHL, by David Shoults

K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, by Tyler Kepner

The Last Cowboys: A Pioneer Family in the New West, by John Branch

Scotty: A Hockey Life Like No Other, by Ken Dryden

Us Against You, by Fredrik Backman (but only if you already have read Backman’s Beartown)

Now here is Part 2 of this year’s bookshelf . . .

Gloves Off: 40 Years of Unfiltered Sports Writing: Lowell Cohn, now retired, had a lengthy career as a sports columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Rosa Press Democrat. This is his look back at some of the people he dealt with and things that he witnessed. He doesn’t pull any punches as he writes about his career; no, it’s not a compilation of columns. I’m a sucker for books of this type, but this one really is an entertaining read.

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The Good Earth: My mother was a reader and I can remember seeing Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth in a bookcase at home. But I can’t explain why I hadn’t read it before the summer of 2020. Published in 1931, it follows the life of a Chinese farmer and his family through more than 50 years of change, and it always returns to the importance of owning land. It won a Pulitzer Prize so I don’t need to tell you how good it is — but it’s great. It also is the first book in Buck’s House of Earth trilogy, the other two being Sons (1932) and A House Divided (1935).

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The Gray Man — This is the book that started the legend of The Gray Man, aka Courtland Gentry. He’s an assassin who at one time worked for the CIA but most times freelances. In his debut, there is a bounty on his head, and he faces down a dozen kill squads, but not without paying a price. Author Mark Greaney has created a likeable leading man, and the excitement is palpable between the front and back covers.

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The Grim Reaper: The Life and Career of a Reluctant Warrior — With help from writer Kevin Allen, then of USA TODAY, former hockey enforcer Stu Grimson told his story in a book that came out in the autumn of 2019. The book’s title is a touch misleading because Grimson, who had about 400 fights combined in major junior and the NHL, doesn’t seem to regret any of it. That may seem a bit strange seeing as he was forced into retirement by post-concussion syndrome. Anyway, he provides some valuable insight into the thought-process of NHL heavyweights — their anxieties and fears, both for the present and the future. Grimson, who was adopted, also opens up about his personal life, including a surprising introduction to his birth father.

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The Guardians — Cullen Post is a lawyer/minister who spends more time lawyering than preaching. His lawyering is aimed at correcting wrongful convictions and the group he works with, Guardian Ministeries, has had some successes. This book, by the prolific John Grisham, is about one of those cases, and a whole lot more. It’s good Grisham and the genesis, unfortunately, was a true story, as the author informs us at book’s end.

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The Huntress — I absolutely loved The Alice Network, and The Huntress is every bit as good, if not better. Both books were written by Kate Quinn. The Huntress is the story of two young men who pursue war criminals and are brought together with a Night Witch, a woman who was part of a female crew that flew night bombing missions for the Russians during the Second World War. The hunters’ latest target is a woman in Boston, who isn’t what she is trying hard to be. There are great characters and much intrigue here. You won’t be disappointed.

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The Jordan Rules — I don’t have any idea why I hadn’t read Sam Smith’s book prior to May. I finally read it while taking breaks from watching The Last Dance, the 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan, co-starring the Chicago Bulls, on Netflix. Smith, a writer with the Chicago Tribune, details the Bulls’ 1990-91 season. As the Bulls run to their first NBA title, the reader is left to decide whether The Jordan Rules was the name for the way the Detroit Pistons played defence on Jordan or how his teammates came to feel about what dictated life with the Bulls. If you haven’t read this, it’s great. Interestingly, Smith now writes for the Bulls’ website.

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Major Misconduct: The Human Cost of Fighting in Hockey — Author Jeremy Allingham, a reporter with CBC in Vancouver, takes an in-depth look at the post-hockey lives of three former enforcers — James McEwan, Stephen Peat and Dale Purinton — and what he uncovers isn’t at all pretty. Interestingly, all three got their starts as enforcers in the WHL, a major junior league that has yet to ban fighting. This is a horrifying look at life after hockey fights and should be read by anyone involved in junior hockey — from fans to parents to executives.

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The Mighty Oak — Tim O’Connor is the fighter — goon — for the West Texas Hockey League’s El Paso Storm. But his best days are behind him and he’s feeling it all over. O’Connor, whose nickname is Oak, hasn’t yet come to grips with the fact that a hip and a shoulder and a whole let else have him headed for hockey’s junk heap. He’s hoping the Oxy and Toradol and Adderall and whatever else is available will get him through it. Then he punches a cop. Author Jeff W. Bens has written an engrossing character study of a hockey enforcer trying to find a way back into a previous life.

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Mission Critical — I had heard of author Mark Greaney and his Gray Man books, but I hadn’t ready any of them until this one, which is No. 8 in the series. Court Gentry is The Gray Man; he also is an assassin, code name Violator. In Mission Critical, Violator is working for the CIA and there is a lot of nastiness happening in a paperback that runs 706 pages. But it is readable and it is fun.

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Mohawk — I don’t know if there is an author who captures small-town life in all of its idiosyncrasies like Richard Russo. Such is the case, again, in Mohawk as he follows a handful of citizens through the routine of their daily lives and stays with them as they deal with life’s ups and downs. Mohawk was published in 1986 and it is as great today as it was then.

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Molly’s Game: The True Story of the 26-Year-Old Woman Behind the Most Exclusive, High-Stakes Underground Poker Game in the World! — A member of the U.S. freestyle ski team suffers a career-ending injury and ends up running high stakes poker games in Los Angeles and, later, in New York City. This is the story of how Molly Bloom did all of that and more. She spills some of the beans in anecdotes that involve players like actors Tobey Maguire, who comes out rather poorly, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck, and some Russian gangsters. The obscene amounts of money thrown around in these games prove only that some people have no idea how the rest of us live. In the end, though, it all comes crashing down. Unfortunately, the book ends before the end, which is the part where Bloom pleads guilty to federal charges. You’ll have to turn to Google to find out what happened in court.

——

Next: Part 3 of 3.

The Bookshelf: Part 3 of 3

Bookshelf

What follows is the third and final part of my annual Bookshelf piece, a thumbnail look at some of the books I have read in the past year. Hopefully, you will find something you want to read or to purchase as a gift. . . .

As for the 10 best books that I read this year, here they are, in alphabetical order (the last three are in the compilation that follows) . . .

Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times by Mark Leibovich

The Border, by Don Winslow

Bower: A Legendary Life, by Dan Robson

K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, by Tyler Kepner

The Last Cowboys: A Pioneer Family in the New West, by John Branch

November Road, by Lou Berney

The Other Woman, by Daniel Silva

Scotty: A Hockey Life Like No Other, by Ken Dryden

Us Against You, by Fredrik Backman

We Were the Lucky Ones, by Georgia Hunter

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Past Tense — This is No. 23 in author Lee Child’s books that follow the adventures of Jack Reacher. It is a bit different in that for the first while it details two stories that run parallel to each other like side-by-side railroad tracks. As a reader you know that they are going to merge, you just don’t know when. Reacher, for his part, gets caught up in a tangled web when he visits Ryantown, Maine, in search of some family history.

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The Power of the Dog — This is the first of three amazing books that author Don Winslow has written about the U.S. government’s war on drugs. The Cartel and The Border, the latter having been released in February, are the others. Winslow obviously knows his subject inside and out, as he tells the story from the perspective of politicians and law enforcement people from both sides of the U.S./Mexico border, and from those inside the cartels and on the streets. It’s all amazing and gory, and, in Winslow’s hands, it all makes for a tantalizing read.

——

The Quiet Game — Author Greg Iles knows his way around the southern U.S., especially Natchez, Miss. This was the first book to feature Penn Cage, a former district attorney in Houston turned best-selling author. In The Quiet Game, Cage is recently widowed and has a daughter, four-year-old Annie. He returns to his hometown of Natchez in an attempt to find some peace and quiet. Of course, he becomes embroiled in a situation that involves his father, who is a popular doctor, especially with the poor folks, an old love, her father and a whole lot more. I must admit that I quite enjoy the Iles-written books that I have read to date.

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The Reckoning — A war hero who is a gentleman cotton farmer in post-Second World War Mississippi kills the local Methodist preacher and doesn’t offer a defence. From there, author John Grisham takes the reader on quite a journey that includes the breaking apart of a family, a wife and mother in a mental institution, war, the Bataan Death March, lawyers, judges, life in small-town Mississippi and a whole lot more. In short, this isn’t your typical Grisham legal thriller; it’s more about historical fiction wrapped around everything else.

——

Road to Gold: The Untold Story of Canada at the World Juniors — The biggest complaint about author Mark Spector’s look at Canada and the IIHF’s U-20 World Hockey Championship is that, at 220 pages, it isn’t anywhere near long enough. There are a number of entertaining anecdotes between the covers, and the opening chapter is especially interesting. It details the work done by Murray Costello, then the president of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, to get the three major junior leagues to buy into the program that would produce such golden results at this tournament. Spector also explains how the tournament came to be such a major part of TSN’s programming when it started out as the property of CBC.

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Scotty: A Hockey Life Like No Other — Oh, how I looked forward to reading author Ken Dryden’s latest work! Yes, it met all expectations. In fact, it exceeded them. This isn’t a book strictly about Scott Bowman, though. Rather, Dryden, who played goal for the Bowman-coached Montreal Canadiens at one point in his career, had Bowman pick his top eight teams in NHL history in chronological order. Dryden then alternates chapters as he tells Bowman’s story and then writes about one of those top eight teams. Great stuff and a whole lot of memories here.

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Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike — Phil Knight, the author of this book and the creator of Nike, was heavily in debt in his younger days, as the first part of this book details. By the end of the book, he is worth US$10 billion. This is the story of all that went on in between, and it’s a pretty good read — just don’t expect to read anything about the sins of Tiger Woods. Particularly interesting are the stories emanating from negotiations with Japanese and later Chinese businessmen. A highlight may be the evening in which Knight and his wife, Penny, were leaving a movie in Palm Springs, Calif., and encountered Warren Buffett and Bill Gates in the theatre lobby. I’ll let you try and figure out how much money was standing there and chatting.

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Slow Curve on the Coquihalla — This is subtitled A Hunter Rayne Highway Mystery, Book 1. Hunter Rayne is a former RCMP officer who retired following the suicide of a friend and now is a long-haul truck driver. When a fellow driver dies in an accident on the Coquihalla Highway, Rayne decides to look into it and, yes, it turns out to be murder. Living in Kamloops, which is at one end of the Coquihalla — the other end is near Hope — I found it most interesting to read a novel in which I was familiar with many of the landmarks that were mentioned. Yes, I will search out Book 2, written by R.E. Donald.

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Sold on a Monday — Author Kristina McMorris has written an engrossing novel based on a newspaper photo from 1931 in which two youngsters pose under a sign indicating that they are for sale. Ellis Reed, a newspaper writer with a camera, is looking for his big break. He takes one photo, then comes back for another. One thing leads to another and Reed ends up on a soul-searching journey. This is a fine period piece.

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Us Against You — This is the sequel to Beartown, Swedish author Fredrik Backman’s stunning novel about hockey and life in a small town. The sequel doesn’t disappoint and, yes, it is about hockey as life and one as a metaphor for the other. Pick up either of these books and you will find yourselves lingering as you read, enjoying them like a DQ Blizzard on a hot August day. Oh my, but Backman can write!

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We Were the Lucky Ones — Georgia Hunter spins an amazing story with her first novel, which really is a work of historical fiction. Thanks to a high school English project, Hunter, then 15, interviewed her grandmother about the family’s history. As Hunter learned, that history was quite something, and she was able to turn it into this book a few years later. As the Second World War began, the Kurc family was living in Radom, Poland. They were Polish Jews, so you can imagine what was in their immediate future, and it wasn’t pretty. In the end, though, as Hunter discovered, they really were fortunate. Trust me on this one . . . a huge recommendation.

—30—

Scattershooting on a Sunday night while contemplating greatness of Ken Dryden’s latest book . . .

Scattershooting

Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times: “If any good can come from the events that led to Bill Peters’ resignation Friday as (head) coach of the Calgary Flames . . . it will be to launch discussions about what constitutes appropriate behavior for coaches at every level in hockey, and beyond. Start with this: Anyone who resorts to physical or verbal abuse to convey a message is a coward and doesn’t deserve the honor of being called ‘coach’.”



There are a lot of parents who send their teenagers off to hockey academies, while other adults shake their heads and wonder: “Why?” . . . Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week granted anonymity to the parents of eight such players and the results are right here. It’s worth your time; it’s also enlightening, scary and food for thought, especially the apparent lack of trust in those responsible for minor hockey.


People inside the WHL have long said that a 15-year-old player is allowed to get into five games per season so long as his club team’s season is ongoing. Unless, of course, there are emergency circumstances involved. I note that highly touted F Matt Savoie, 15, played in his sixth game of the season for the Winnipeg Ice on Saturday night. I would suggest the over-under for his first season with the Ice is 20 GP. Hey, Hockey Canada, what say you? . . . BTW, Savoie has one assist in his first six WHL games.


Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times makes a valid point: “Not that football needs another rule or anything, but any player who goes nutso celebrating a first down, a touchdown or a turnover — when his team is trailing by three or more scores — should get flagged 15 yards for stupidity.”



Patrick Beverley, a guard with the Chicago Bulls, grew up in West Chicago. “Coming from where I come from,” he told ESPN, “I didn’t have the luxury of having a trust fund. Or money from generations. Or the luxury of hoppin’ into the family business, you know? It’s either hoop or you sell dope.”


If you don’t have Ken Dryden’s latest book — Scotty: A Hockey Life Like No Other — on your Christmas list I would suggest you get it on there ASAP. If you are a hockey fan, this is a book like no other. I couldn’t wait until Christmas to get my hands on a copy, and I haven’t been disappointed. Yes, it’s about Scotty Bowman, but it’s so much more than a book about one man. No binge reading with this one; it’s one chapter at a time in the hopes that I can make it last and last.



Here’s Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle, writing about the sign-stealing scandal in baseball: “Is baseball the stupidest sport? Bad question. It’s not even close. Only in baseball, this kind of thinking: ‘I’ve got an idea. We steal signals from opposing catchers with a spy cam. Nobody will know, except all 25 of our players, the manager and coaches, bat boys, the camera crew, and people we tell in bars when we’ve had too many, so it will be easy to keep it a secret, as long as none of those people have a conscience or character. Nobody on the outside will ever bust us, unless they have ears or look at a box score. We could win some games, and the only downside is that if we get caught, we’ll all be branded cheaters, liars and losers forever. Let’s do it!’ ”



There have been whispers that when Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones makes a coaching change, the new guy will be Urban Meyer. As Bob Molinaro scribbled in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot: “Can we look forward to the Urban Cowboy? The headline is too good to go to waste.”



How badly were the New England Patriots exposed during Sunday’s 28-22 loss to the Texans in Houston, which was far worse than the score would seem to indicate? Is it something that a wide receiver capable of beating man coverage could cure? No, I didn’t think so either. . . . But you were sad — really sad — to see the Patriots lose, weren’t you?


Derek Boogard, 28, died on May 31, 2011, of an accidental overdose after mixing prescription painkillers with alcohol. . . . Rick Rypien was 27 when he committed suicide on Aug. 15, 2011. . . . Wade Belak was 35 when he committed suicide on Aug. 31, 2011. . . . Todd Ewen, 49, committed suicide on Sept. 29, 2015. . . . All four were NHL enforcers. All four also were WHL enforcers. . . . After death, all four were found to have had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). . . . Still, the WHL continues to condone fighting; in fact, the Brandon Wheat Kings and host Winnipeg Ice were involved in a line brawl on Saturday night. . . . If you haven’t seen it, Virginia Smart and Lisa Ellenwood of CBC News have a story right here and there is a link in the story to a piece by The Fifth Estate. It focuses on Belak and it’s scary.


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?

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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.

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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.

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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

It’s time for WHL to do the right thing . . . Decision-makers must act . . . Fighting, headshots have to go

 


ThisThat

Included in a WHL news release that was issued on June 14 following the league’s annual meeting in Vancouver was this sentence:

“The WHL took further measures to address player safety by introducing new supplemental discipline regulations and raising its standard on illegal checks to the head.”

The news release didn’t provide any further details, but it says here that anything short of a complete ban on fighting and all contact with an opponent’s head, including incidental contact, is a complete failure.

If the WHL really — really, really, really — cares about the health and safety of its players it is time to make these moves. In fact, it’s well past time.

Why?

Well, let’s start with this Ken Dryden piece from the op-ed pages of the Washington Post.

And then there’s this piece right here from The Players Tribune. Written by Nick Boynton, a former major junior player who went to skate in the NHL, it isn’t pretty.

At one point, Boynton writes of his three-year-old son: “But I cannot, in good conscience, let him play the game of ice hockey until something changes and we start looking out for our players by taking the problems of head hits and concussions — and their potential impact on mental health — more seriously.”

Boynton also writes:

“Yes, ours is a physical, violent sport. And it may be the case that we cannot rid hockey of that violence and danger altogether. But at the very least let’s deal with the issues that arise as a result of that. Deal with the head trauma. Deal with the concussions. And deal with all of the ramifications that those things bring about.

“Stop telling people the world is flat and just do the right thing. Instead of ignoring the damage that occurs to the brain when you get your bell rung out on the ice, let’s own up to it and get guys the help they need. Not just after they retire, but while they’re playing the game.

“Let’s start addressing the problem. Let’s look closely at the brain — and how our sport as we currently play it might be harmful to the brain — and begin making things right.”

In a recent conversation with Brandon Rivers of dubnetwork.ca, WHL commissioner Ron Robison was asked about the fact that the OHL has fighting restrictions — Rivers pointed out that “If a player fights more than three times in a season, that player will be subjected to a two-game suspension for each fight over the number allowed” — while the WHL has no such thing.

Robison replied:

“I think that is another example. Each in our own way we are looking to reduce or eliminate fighting or what we would call . . . unnecessary fighting in the game. In our case, we have a WHL Player Safety Seven Point Plan, which has been in place for several seasons. We review that annually and make recommendations and we will be reviewing that actually with our general managers . . . It is an ongoing process. We each approach things a little differently but for the most part we are on the same page as far as what we are trying to accomplish.”

Robison, if you haven’t noticed, has got commissioner-speak down to a fine art where he uses many words to really say, well, not much. What he should have said is this:

“There is more and more scientific evidence linking CTE to blows to the head. Whether or not CTE is a direct result of blows to the head and/or concussions/traumatic brain injury, we are well aware that blows to the head aren’t good and may cause irreparable damage.

“As a result, the WHL is moving to the forefront of this issue by banning fighting. When a player has one fight, he will receive a warning. A second fight will carry with it a two-game suspension, with three games for a third, four for a fourth, etc.

“This is just another case of our wanting to protect the health of our players now and in the future.”

It would be easy for the WHL to adopt the IIHF’s rule that deals with checking to the head or neck. It’s Rule 124 in the IIHF rule book that is readily available at iihf.com.

Dryden, the former NHL goaltender whose latest book is Game Change: The Life and Death of Steve Montador and the Future of Hockey, spoke for 40 minutes at the See The Line symposium in London, Ont., on Thursday.

“Six years ago the process began (with See The Line),” he said. “Injuries happen, sometimes career-diminishing, sometimes career-ending, some that change a person’s life; and change them and make them not them anymore. In six years we are now more aware of that too.

“But after six years we still have this immense problem with brain injury in sports. Why? What can we do now? Our response to it is we need better science; we need to understand it better and that becomes our focus . . . to get better technology and the focus becomes on science. The problem is when it becomes so much of the focus; science takes time and games are played tomorrow.”

Later, he told Morris Dalla Costa of the London Free Press, whose piece is right here:

“If you don’t force decision-makers to do something, things will remain the same. We have to move beyond just awareness and science. As I said in the end it is up to the decision-makers to take all this awareness that’s been raised and apply it. They have every right to simply carry on and that’s the problem; they are the roadblock. Why do we let them off the hook? Put it into the hands of those whose hands it should be in. Say to them ‘you are not custodians of the game; but custodians of the people playing the game.’ What are you doing for them?”



If you would like to support my wife, Dorothy, as she celebrates the fifth anniversary of her kidney transplant by taking part in the 2018 Kamloops Kidney Walk on Sept. 23, you are able to do so right here.



Tweetoftheday

RCMP investigating ‘fire incident’ that left three players hospitalized . . . Royals sign first-round pick

MacBeth

F Tomáš Vincour (Edmonton, Vancouver, 2007-10) wasn’t offered a contract for this season after his one-week ‘introductory’ contract with Lukko Rauma (Finland, Liiga) expired on Sunday. Last season, with Brno (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had 10 goals and 10 assists in 39 games.


ThisThat

RCMP in Cochrane, Alta., are investigating a Saturday night incident that resulted in three hockey players being taken to a Calgary hospital.

Matt Alfaro of the U of Calgary Dinos, along with Jordy Bellerive and Ryan Vandervlis, both of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, remained in hospital Sunday night, being treated for Lethbridgeburns suffered in what the RCMP termed a “fire incident” that occurred “at approximately 11:43 p.m.”

According to the RCMP news release:

“Cochrane RCMP, along with Rockyview Fire and EMS were dispatched to a structure fire in the Bearspaw area of Rockyview County, located approximately 10 km east of Cochrane.

“Upon arrival, it was determined that a substance was placed into a fire-pit that caused an explosion. No structures were involved or affected by the incident.

“Three people who were in the area of the fire-pit sustained burn injuries. . . . The injured persons were transported via ground ambulance to a Calgary hospital, where they are being treated for their injuries. . . .

“The investigation into this matter is ongoing.”

While the RCMP has yet to release the identities of the three injured players, the Hurricanes revealed on Saturday night that they are Bellerive, Alfaro and Vandervlis.

The three players are in the Foothills Medical Centre. According to a report by Evan Radford of StarMetro Calgary, a spokesperson for Calgary EMS said that “one of the three is critical, one is in serious, potentially life-threatening condition, and one is in serious, non-life-threatening condition.”

Bellerive, 19, finished the 2017-18 season as the Hurricanes’ captain. Last summer, he went to training camp with the Pittsburgh Penguins and earned a three-year entry-level NHL contract.

On Sunday, the Penguins issued a news release that indicated assistant general manager Bill Guerin “has spoken with Bellerive, who is in good spirits and expected to make a full recovery.”

Bellerive is from North Vancouver, B.C.

Vandervlis, 20, is from Red Deer. His 2017-18 season was short-circuited when he underwent shoulder surgery in December.

Alafaro, 21, has played one season with the Dinos. From Calgary, he played in the WHL with the Kootenay Ice, before being traded to the Hurricanes during the 2016-17 season.


The Victoria Royals have signed D Nolan Bentham to a WHL contract. Bentham, who is from Victoria, was a first-round selection, 13th overall, in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. . . . Last season, Bentham played at the Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford, B.C., putting up five goals and 17 assists in 30 games with the bantam prep team. . . . He is the son of John Bentham, a defenceman who had three assists in 35 games with the WHL’s Victoria Cougars in 1989-90.

——

The WHL teams that have signed 2018 first-round bantam draft selections:

1 Edmonton — F Dylan Guenther.

2. Kootenay — D Carson Lambos.

3. Prince Albert — D Nolan Allan.

4. Calgary — F Sean Tschigerl.

5. Kamloops — F Logan Stankoven.

6. Saskatoon — F Colton Dach.

7. Red Deer — F Jayden Grubbe.

8. Lethbridge — F Zack Stringer.

11. Medicine Hat — F Cole Sillinger.

12. Vancouver — F Zack Ostapchuk.

13. Victoria — D Nolan Bentham.

14. Tri-City — D Marc Lajoie.

15. Brandon — F Jake Chiasson.

16. Red Deer — D Kyle Masters.

17. Spokane — D Graham Sward.

19. Portland — F Gabe Klassen.

20. Edmonton — D Keegan Slaney.

——

The WHL teams that have yet to sign their 2018 first-round bantam draft selections:

9. Prince George — F Craig Armstrong.

10. Seattle — F Kai Uchacz.

18. Kelowna — F Trevor Wong (committed to U of Denver, 2021-22).

21. Prince George — G Tyler Brennan.

22. Moose Jaw — F Eric Alarie.


In a news release following its annual general meeting in Vancouver last week, the WHL issued a news release that included this:

“The WHL took further measures to address player safety by introducing new supplemental discipline regulations and raising its standard on illegal checks to the head.”

Unfortunately, the WHL has yet to provide specifics. But anything less than a complete ban on headshots, including fighting, is a fail . . . a large fail.

If you’re wondering why, well, if you haven’t already seen it already, the always literate Ken Dryden wrote a piece for The Athletic on the NHL, commissioner Gary Bettman and its stance on concussions, CTE, checks to the head, etc.

Dryden’s essay is right here and it explains it all.


Josh Lee has signed on with the MJHL’s WayWayseecappo Wolverines as associate general manager and associate coach. Lee, 28, is from Edmonton. He will work under GM/head coach Taylor Harnett with the Wolverines.