B.C. restrictions in place through Jan. 8 . . . Vancouver Winterhawks? It’s possible . . . Inside the BCHL’s Penticton bubble proposal

If the WHL is to open its next regular season on Jan. 8, as it has announced that it plans on doing, its five B.C. Division teams will be on the sidelines unless provincial health officials loosen some restrictions.

Under those restrictions, which on Monday were extended through Jan. 8, junior hockey teams are prohibited from playing games. At the same time, players aged 19 awhlnd older aren’t allowed to practice, while those 18 and under are able to practice with restrictions.

If it is to open a regular season on Jan. 8, the WHL would want players to travel from their homes on Dec. 26 to join teams for training camps that would open on Dec. 27.


If you subscribe to The Athletic, you are able to follow the link in the tweet below to a story by Ryan S. Clark on what’s going on with the five teams in the WHL’s U.S. Division. . . . Spoiler alert: How does Vancouver Winterhawks sound? That would be Vancouver, Wash., of course. Hmmm . . .

In light of those restrictions being extended until Jan. 8 by the Provincial Health Office (PHO), the BCHL announced Monday evening that it has “decided to BCHLdelay the start of its 2020-21 regular season to the new year.” It had hoped to begin its regular season tonight (Tuesday).

The last sentence of the BCHL’s news release: “If current restrictions are extended beyond midnight on Jan. 8, the league will come together and make a decision on when play can resume.”

In the meantime, you can bet that the BCHL will be putting even more work into a plan aimed at getting 17 teams into a bubble in Penticton, home of the Vees. If you’re a regular here, you read about it right here on Saturday night/Sunday morning.

In one scenario, all BCHL players would spend Jan. 15-29 in quarantine, then spend Jan. 29-31 moving into the Penticton bubble. The 17 teams would play a 20- or 24-game regular season from Feb. 1 through March 22, with a playoff tournament running March 23 to April 2.

Of course, there would be a lot more to this bubble than games.

For starters, the BCHL would have to find ways to keep more than 350 mostly teenagers entertained. They will have to be fed, have their laundry done, remote learning will have to be arranged and on and on.

The BCHL has chatted with the City of Penticton’s powers-that-be and reports that they are eager to help. Penticton also is home to a first-class arena — the South Okanagan Events Centre — and a roomy convention centre. I also am hearing that at least one Penticton hotel has offered to get involved.

In the convention centre, each of the 17 teams would be allotted about 2,000 square feet, which would provide room for about 30 beds and a team lounge of some kind. Beds/cots would be separated by curtains.

There also would be room for a study area, something that is most important because players would have to move to online learning. There also would be a quiet study area with ample power outlets and Internet access. Tutors would be made available, too.

As for feeding the ravenous teenagers, the facilities feature “multiple kitchens and concessions,” according to the draft of the BCHL proposal that Taking Note has seen, and the primary kitchen would be located in the SOEC. There also would be designated eating areas in which three squares would be served every day.

Players would be allowed to order in food “on occasion. Snacks and food orders to be delivered under strict protocols and paid for by the individual.”

There also would be game rooms that would include TV sets and various gaming units, theatre rooms with access to Netflix and laptops, and a recreation room that would include table tennis, bubble hockey, a pool table, air hockey and sports simulators.

In terms of outdoor activities, players would have access to a baseball diamond, basketball nets and a place to play road hockey. None of these facilities would be open to the public.

If approval for the plan is granted, the BCHL would arrange for players to have access to Zoom conferencing that would feature NCAA coaches, as well as former and current NHL players who might, for example, deal with life after hockey.

Of course, the teams would be in Penticton to train, practise and play hockey. Each team would have daily practice ice and likely three games per week with which to deal. There also would be a gym and training area with weights, bikes and other gear, with teams having assigned time slots for use.

What about scouts? If the project comes off, the BCHL is expecting NHL and NCAA scouts to flock to the games. There would be a safe area in the suite level, with access through a back entrance, that would allow them to come and go without having to bubble up. As well, teams would be designated suites with “absolutely zero tolerance for going down to the team or a lower level.”

And, of course, masks would be mandatory “at all times” for scouts, team governors, league officials, medical staff, etc.

Yes, there still is a long way to go before all of this would end up on the desk of provincial health officials. For example, a testing plan has to be structured, one that the BCHL said “will be determined by the PHO.”

Approval would have to come from government and health officials, as well as BC Hockey and Hockey Canada.

BTW, the BCHL now is pay-to-play, at least for this season, and players would pay $1,500 per month for February and March, which is what they already have paid for October and November.


Bob McKenzie, the semi-retired TSN Hockey Insider, rattled off a few texts on CanadaMonday, all of them with regards to the World Junior Championship. Here are a few of them, but in text form:

1. The 2021 IIHF World Jr. Championship is set to begin 2 weeks from this Friday (Dec. 25) in EDM in a restricted-access “bubble” format. All 10 teams are scheduled to “check in” Sunday, for a 4-day quarantine/daily-test period before being released into bubble Dec. 18.

2. Key for teams, obviously, is to try to get to the “start” line, which is this Sunday Dec. 13, when they are scheduled to report to EDM. All teams, starting today, are now in a seven-day closed preparation window. Only players currently in team camps today will be WJC eligible.

3. In order to “qualify” for Sunday’s admission to four-day quarantine/testing phase, all players must be tested three times in the current seven-day window and, obviously, test negative each time for Covid. Only then do they enter quarantine phase in their EDM hotel room.

4. If any player tests positive now, he’s out of the tournament and cannot be replaced from outside the current roster of players now in camp.

As of Monday night, McKenzie reported, “Hockey Canada is awaiting word any hour now from Alberta Health on how the remainder of this week will play out. Team Canada has been off ice/quarantined for two weeks after two players tested positive during training camp. Team Canada hopes to be back on the practice sometime today (Tuesday) in Red Deer.

McKenzie also tweeted: As I’ve said on multiple occasions, first major hurdle is to get all 10 teams — CAN, FIN, GER, SUI, SVK in one group; USA, SWE, RUS, CZE, AUS in the other group — plus the on-ice officials (all Canadian locals) to what amounts to a starting line, which is Sunday’s check-in day in EDM.


Another day means another positive test for a player who was expected to contribute to the Swedish team at the World Junior Championship. D William Wallinder is the third Swedish player to be knocked out of the tournament by a positive test. Wallinder, who was selected by the Detroit Red Wings with the first pick of the second round in the NHL’s 2020 draft, plays for Modo in the HockeyAllsvenskan and the team experienced a positive test last week.

Pekka Jalonen, a writer with the Helsinki newspaper Iltalehti, reports that the KHL continues to have issues with COVID-19.

Former NHLer Alexei Morozov, who is the KHL president, said that going into this week there were 21 people within the KHL with the virus, while 486 had recovered.

Jalonen wrote: “There are 23 teams in KHL, so on average there have already been 22 infected people in each club. There are still more than two and a half months left in the regular season, so it is likely that almost everyone on the KHL teams will get a coronavirus infection this season.”

The Finnish team Jokerit, which is in a stretch of playing eight of nine games on the road, “is currently on a long tour of Russia and have had just 22 infections this season. Not everyone infected has been a player. All of Jokerit’s infections have been detected after the team returned from a road trip to Russia.”

As expected, the ECHL had three more teams choose to opt out of the 2020-21 season on Monday. Players who had been on the rosters of the Cincinnati Cyclones, Idaho Steelheads and Kalamazoo K-Wings now are free agents for this season. All three organizations plan on returning to the ECHL next season. . . . Jeff Marek of Sportsnet tweeted on Sunday that the Toledo Walleye and Fort Wayne Komets “are still undecided.” . . . The ECHL now has had 11 of its 26 teams choose not to play this season. Some of the remaining teams are expected to begin playing games on Friday.



From a family doctor based in Alberta . . .

CBC News: Manitoba has passed 400 deaths due to COVID-19 as 12 more people have died and there are 325 new cases, health officials say. The five-day test positivity rate is at 13.7 per cent province-wide and 14.6 for Winnipeg. There are 310 people in hospital due to the illness, down 38 from yesterday, with 39 people in intensive care, down from 43 on Sunday.

CBC News: 274 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Saskatchewan, dropping the province’s 7-day average to 308. There is also one additional death being attributed to the virus.

CBC News: Alberta reports 1,735 new COVID-19 cases and 16 additional deaths. 6 of these deaths are linked to outbreak at Edmonton Chinatown Care Centre.

Shelby Thom, Global Okanagan: B.C. recorded 2,020 new cases of COVID-19 over past 3 days with 35 deaths. . . . 647 COVID-19 cases and 17 deaths from Friday to Saturday. . . . 726 cases and 10 deaths from Saturday to Sunday. . . . 647 cases from Sunday to Monday along with seven deaths.

CBC News: Ontario reported a single-day high of 1,925 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, following two consecutive days of record numbers over the weekend. . . . Ontario’s 7-day average for new cases ticks up to 1,820, the highest it has been at any point during the pandemic. 725 people in Ontario are hospitalized with COVID-19, 213 are in ICU and 121 are on a ventilator.

CBC News: Quebec adds 1,577 new COVID-19 cases, which moves the province’s 7-day average up slightly to 1,543. Health authorities also report 22 additional deaths.

Medford Mail Tribune: The Oregon Health Authority reported 12 more deaths from COVID-19 Monday and 1,331 new cases, pushing statewide totals to 1,045 deaths and 85,788 cases.

euronews.com: Italy bans Christmas travel and midnight mass after nearly 1,000 people die in one day.


The Toronto Raptors revealed Monday morning that three members of their organization have tested positive as they open training camp in Tampa, Fla. . . . The team didn’t disclose whether they were players or staff, but they have been put into isolation away from other personnel. . . . On Sunday, the Portland Trail Blazers shut things down after getting three positive tests, one involving a player. The Trail Blazers’ camp is in Portland; the Raptors moved to Tampa because the U.S.-Canada border remains closed to non-essential travel. . . . The San Francisco Chronicle reported that F Draymond Green and C James Wiseman of the Golden State Warriors tested positive last week, so missed the team’s first practice of training camp on Monday. Wiseman was the second overall selection in last month’s NBA draft. . . .

The NFL’s Carolina Panthers placed eight players on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday. That included DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel, two of their top wideouts. As a result, the Panthers shut down their facility for Monday and Tuesday. . . . The Panthers are scheduled to play the Denver Broncos on Sunday. . . .

Texas A&M won’t be playing Ole Miss in an SEC football game on Saturday, as the latter is having COVID-19 issues. The game had been rescheduled from Nov. 21 when it was postponed because A&M was having issues. . . .

The U of Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey team has had to postponed games against the Michigan State Spartans that were to have been played today and Wednesday. The Badgers have a positive test. . . . Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s women’s team has postponed its next two series, scheduled for Dec. 11-12 and Dec. 18-19, because of COVID-19 protocols. By Dec. 19, Wisconsin will have played two if its eight scheduled games. . . .

Here is Pittsburgh men’s basketball coach Jeff Capel to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Monday: “These kids are away (from their families) and they’re out and they’re laying it on the line to entertain people. Something just doesn’t feel right about it right now. The numbers were what they were back in March. I look at it every day, man. It seems like every day it’s getting worse. I don’t know why you cancel it in March, but you say it’s OK to do it right now. But what do I know?”

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Team takes leave with border closed . . . KHL has 38 positive tests, no schedule . . . Will MLB season end Sunday?

The Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Buffalo Jr Sabres have decided not to play in 2020-21 JrSabresdue to “issues related to border travel with COVID-19,” according to a news release. From an OJHL release: “The team and the league have been in communication for a number of weeks as the situation of travel between Canada and the United States continues to be monitored.  With so much uncertainty as to when the border will be open to allow for OJHL teams to travel inter-country between the US and Canada, the collective decision has been made to have the Jr Sabres take a leave of absence for the 2020-2021 season.” . . . Larry Playfair, who played two seasons 1976-78) with the Portland Winterhawks, is Buffalo’s governor. . . .

The Jr Sabres are believed to be the first team to withdraw from play because the U.S.-Canada border is closed and appears likely to remain that way indefinitely. . . . A number of Canadian-based leagues, including the OHL, WHL, BCHL and KIJHL, include teams that play in U.S. cities.

Scott Moe, the premier of Saskatchewan, has expressed his disappointment in the five minor hockey teams from that province who travelled to Winnipeg for tournament play, July 16-19. . . . “I’m just disappointed that a few teams would put the entire safe restart of the province at risk,” he said. “Here is a prime example of a group of people putting their own self-interests ahead of the greater public health and safety of their neighbours, of their family and of their community.” . . . Bryan Eneas of CBC News has more right here.


Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, gave some space in a post this week to the Saskatchewan stupidity. And he hit the nail on the head with this:

“What is the lesson for those kids (ages 7-12) to learn here? If there is a rule or regulation that gets in your way, then what you should do is to figure out a way to circumvent that rule/regulation in such a way that you are not likely to get caught?”

Alexei Morozov, who played seven NHL seasons (1997-2004) with the Pittsburgh Penguins, now is the president of the Russia-based KHL. The league plans on opening on KHLSept. 2, although it has yet to release its regular-season schedule. Morozov, 43, said that will happen early this month. . . . However, it seems the KHL is having pandemic-related issues. . . . “Currently to the date we have 38 players that have tested positive,” Morozov told RSport on Wednesday. “We also have team staff members have tested positive. Some cases have been very severe and people have been hospitalized. There are people that feel very ill but they are all getting better and there are no worries about players not being able to continue their careers or having any threat to their life.” . . . There are reports that Avangard Omsk has had 20 positive tests, with Spartak Moscow at 15. . . . The KHL also has teams in Belarus, China, Finland, Kazakhstan and Latvia, something that will cause problems because various borders remain closed. The Chinese team Kunlun Red Star already has moved from Beijing to Mytischich, which is on the outskirts of Moscow.


MLB’s pandemic-related woes continued Friday with the postponement of a game between the visiting St. Louis Cardinals, who came up with two positive tests, and Milwaukee Brewers. The teams are hoping to make up the game with a Sunday doubleheader. Both games would be seven innings in duration. . . . That is barring more positives, of course. . . . The Cardinals were self-isolating in their Milwaukee hotel rooms on Friday. They played the host Minnesota Twins on Tuesday and Wednesday, then had an off-day in Milwaukee on Thursday. . . .

Friday’s MLB news means that six teams — the Miami Marlins, Milwaukee, the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis, the Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals all are sidelined, at least for now, due to COVID-19. . . . The Phillies now have had to postpone six games — that’s 10 per cent of their schedule — because of COVID-19. . . . By now MLB has to be asking itself: How much is too much? . . .

The Texas Rangers lost two broadcasters on Friday as Matt Hicks tested positive and Eric Nadel chose to opt out of games, at least through the weekend. . . . Nadel has been the play-by-play voice, with Hicks as an analyst. . . . A radio technician on the Rangers’ crew also tested positive. . . .

The NFL’s Buffalo Bills had five players test positive, so they sent all their rookies home on Thursday. Earlier in the week, the NFL said that there were 21 positives in testing done as players reported to training camps. . . . At the same time, at least 32 players have opted out of playing in the 2020 season. There’s a list right here. . . .

Gaby Lopez, 26, withdrew from the Drive On Championship in Toledo, Ohio, after becoming the first LPGA player to test positive. She was tested on Monday and now is in self-isolation for at least 10 days. . . .

Sergio Perez, who drives on the Formula 1 circuit for Racing Point, will sit out this weekend’s British Grand Prix at Silvertsone after testing positive. He believes he contracted the virus after returning to his home in Mexico on a private plane to see his mother. She recently had been released from hospital after being in an accident. . . . Perez also will miss next weekend’s 70th anniversary Grand Prix that also is to be held at Silverstone.


Derek Cornet of larongenow.com reports that “La Ronge councillors have decided to forgive debt owed by the La Ronge Ice Wolves, as well as pause ice fees for the team and other organizations.” . . . The Ice Wolves apparently owed about $20,000. That has been waived, and now the SJHL team won’t have to pay for ice in 2020-21. . . . Cornet’s story is right here.

NEVER arrives in Washington . . . WHL’s Chiefs would consider change “if requested” . . . Evason gets full-time Wild gig

Daniel Snyder, the owner of the NFL’s Washington Redskins, told USA Today in 2013: “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”

Well, it seems that NEVER arrived on Monday.

The team announced on July 3 that was undertaking a review of the situation involving its nickname. On Monday, it announced “we will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review.”

A new nickname will be revealed at some point once all the legalities have been dealt with.

Just don’t think for a moment that this was done for any reason other than MONEY.

Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, lives in the Washington, D.C., area, and he has more on the name change right here.


Closer to home, the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs say they would be receptive to calls for a change to their nickname, but that there haven’t been any such requests.

From a Chiefs’ statement: “We have not heard calls from local tribal leaders to change our name, but would certainly consider a name change if requested. The Spokane Chiefs stand together with our friends in the Native American community.”

As Dave Nichols of the Spokane Spokesman-Review explained in a recent story: “Locally, Eastern Washington is home to several Native American tribes and Spokane’s two professional teams — the Spokane Indians and Spokane Chiefs — as well as several high schools in the area, use Native American terms and imagery for branding.”

The Chiefs and Indians are owned by Brett Sports and, as Nichols wrote, “have had a long-standing relationship with Native American groups in the area.”

With the NFL’s Washington franchise having made the move and the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos sounding like they will do the same, you know that there is pressure on other teams, like the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians. But what of teams at lower levels, like the Chiefs, Portland Winterhawks, Seattle Thunderbirds and Moose Jaw Warriors in the WHL?

Nichols quoted the WHL team’s statement:

“The Spokane Chiefs Hockey Club is committed to honoring Native American culture of the Inland Northwest.

“We are proud to have partnered with local tribes in a variety of past events to highlight tribal heritage in an appropriate, respectful manner. Our team has been proactive in excluding any Native American mascots, chants or characterizations at our events.

“We have received positive, influential feedback from local tribal leaders regarding our representation of Native American culture and will continue to be receptive to any feedback or concern. We will always listen to our community.”

The statement doesn’t appear to have been posted on the Chiefs’ website.

Nichols’ complete story is right here.

The Victoria Royals haven’t announced it, but it seems they have parted company with Matt Auerbach, who had been their head equipment manager. His photo disappeared from the team’s website a while back, late one Friday afternoon. . . . Auerbach had been with the Royals for 14 seasons, going back to their days as the Chilliwack Bruins. . . . He was celebrated in Victoria on Oct. 26, 2019, on the occasion of his 1,000th game with the franchise. The Royal beat the Kamloops Blazers, 2-1, in that one. . . . The Royals didn’t respond to a request for comment from Taking Note.


Dean Evason, a former WHL player and coach, was promoted from interim to full-time head coach of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild on Monday. He had taken over from the fired Bruce Boudreau on Feb. 14. . . . The Wild is preparing to meet the Vancouver Canucks in a best-of-five series on Aug. 2 in Edmonton. . . . Evason played with the Spokane Flyers and Kamloops Jr. Oilers (1980-84). He later coached the Kamloops Blazers (1999-2002), Vancouver Giants (2002-04) and Calgary Hitmen (2004-05).


The 24 NHL teams who are continuing with this season, opened training camps on Mondays. . . . The Pittsburgh Penguins held out nine players “due to potential secondary exposure to an individual who had contact with a person who has tested positive . . .” Those players will be held out until it is deemed safe for them to skate. . . . Mike Kitchen, an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers, and F Andrew Shaw of the Chicago Blackhawks have opted out. . . . The NHL, which has put a lid on injury and illness information, released its weekly testing update on Monday, revealing that eight more players have tested positive at team facilities. One other player tested positive prior to reporting. . . . That means the NHL has reported 43 positives, with 30 of those coming out of team facilities. . . . The Athletic’s Arpon Basu reported Sunday that three players with the Montreal Canadiens had tested positive. On Monday, D Josh Brook, D Brett Kulak and D Xavier Ouellet weren’t on the ice, but there was no comment from the team on their status. . . .

Alexei Morozov, the president of the Russian-based KHL, reported six positive tests among players on Monday. There are three players from Torpedo HC, two from Severstal and one from Spartak HC who are positive. . . . One player from Amur HC is in hospital with what has been diagnosed as double pneumonia. His two roommates have been quarantined. . . . The KHL is hoping to open its season on Sept. 2.


Australian Rules Football has been hit hard by COVID-19. . . . Melbourne, home to nine of the AFL’s 18 teams, is in lockdown. One other team is in Geelong, not far away. That means there are 10 teams in the State of Victoria. . . . After Friday games, the AFL moved all 10 teams — six to Queensland and two to Sydney, with two others to play in Western Australia. . . . The AFL has played six rounds of its schedule; the hope is to move the teams back after Round 9. . . . But here has been a COVID-19 spike in New South Wales, and the AFL now may have to get its four teams — the two from Melbourne (Hawthorn and Melbourne), Sydney and Greater Western Sydney — out of there. If that happens, those teams are expected to be moved to Queensland. . . . Thanks to The MacBeth Report for keeping tabs on the AFL. He watched a game on Friday during which “the announcers said last weekend was the first time in the history of the league that no games were played in Victoria during a regular-season round. The league was founded in 1897.”

PG Russell Westbrook of the Houston Rockets, one of the NBA’s true superstars, has tested positive. He was one of 19 NBA players to test positive so far this month before the teams travelled to Orlando, Fla., in hopes of restarting the season on July 30. . . . The NBA had 25 positives tests in the first phase of testing last month. . . .

P Jordan Hicks of the St. Louis Cardinals has opted out, citing pre-existing health concerns. Hicks, 23, has Type 1 diabetes. He had Tommy John surgery on June 26, 2019, but was working out at Busch Stadium. . . .

The Patriot League became the second NCAA Division 1 conference — after the Ivy League — to cancel fall sports. Conference officials said they will make decisions about winter and spring sports “at a later date.” The Patriot League includes American, Army, Boston U, Bucknell, Colgate, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Lehigh, Loyola (Maryland) and Navy. . . . As well, Fordham and Georgetown are football-only members. . . . Army, Holy Cross, Colgate and Boston U have hockey teams.