Thunderbirds drop two after racist incident . . . COVID-19 takes chunks out of Fighting Irish, two baseball leagues, NHL


Earlier this week, Geoff Baker, a reporter with the Seattle Times, was writing about Brendan Lee, a forward with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips who was born Everettin Seattle and is of Chinese heritage.

Baker wrote about how Lee was “jolted” by last week’s mass shooting in Atlanta in which six women of Asian descent were killed, something that brought stories of anti-Asian harassment to the forefront.

Baker wrote: “Lee said neither he nor his immediate family have felt targeted, though he’s aware of fears within the broader Asian community. He hopes there’s some role he can play, through hockey, in projecting a positive image of Asian Americans — within that diverse community and beyond.”

Lee told Baker: “It’s horrible what happened. And with the platform I have, I think I can be an influencer. Maybe have somebody look up to me that’s a kid, who can see an American Asian playing hockey — and that it’s a kid from Seattle.”

Let’s move ahead to Thursday now, when Baker was writing this:

“Two teenage forwards with the Seattle Thunderbirds major junior hockey Seattleteam have been released for the remainder of the season for a racial-taunting incident in which the squad’s lone Black player alleged he was called a racial slur and had a banana waved in front of him.

“The players, age 17 and 18, had been suspended the Thunderbirds’ first two Western Hockey League games last weekend after team officials investigated a complaint of racial harassment against a 17-year-old teammate.

“On Thursday the team informed the suspended players they were no longer on the team and would be flown back home to Canada shortly, and removed their names from the roster.”

Baker reported that the Thunderbirds have said neither player will be back next season, although the team will maintain their rights and could trade them.

“Both are awaiting further instructions on when they can return to Canada due to tightened border restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he wrote. “The 17-year-old is from Alberta, the 18-year-old from British Columbia.”

The victim texted Baker: “I am very disappointed with what happened, but I appreciate and respect the way my organization has handled this situation. That’s all I am going to say, and now I just want to focus on our season at hand.”

Baker’s wonderful story on Lee is right here.

Baker’s story involving the Thunderbirds is right here.


Oh boy, is the general manager of the Ottawa Senators going to be sorry about losing his cool in this age of social media, or what? This was Pierre Dorion after his club lost in OT to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night . . .


The Regina Pats broke a 1-1 tie with four straight goals en route to a 5-3 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders in the Regina hub on Thursday. . . . F Carson WHL2Denomie, who went into this developmental season with 35 goals in 198 regular-season games, scored his seventh goal in as many games for the Pats (2-3-2). He also had an assist. . . . Regina F Connor Bedard had two assists, giving the 15-year-old 12 points as he has started his WHL career on a seven-game point streak. . . . F Cole Carrier also had a goal and an assist for Regina, with D Ryker Evans adding two assists. . . . The Raiders (2-3-2) are winless in four games (0-3-1) after opening this developmental season by earning five points in their first three games. . . . Regina lost its captain, F Logan Nijhoff, to a kneeing major at 5:24 of the third period. . . . Prince Albert was without its captain, D Kaiden Guhle, for a fifth straight game due to a hand injury. . . . The Raiders dressed only one goaltender, Carter Serhyenko, because Cam Paddock is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. . . . Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, told Jeff D’Andrea of paNOW that “we had a goalie from another team (WInnipeg Ice) in the stands, so if something (had) happened to Carter, he would have dressed. It’s part of the bubble. It’s the way it is.” . . .

In the night’s other game, F Ridly Greig’s first goal of the season, shorthanded at 4:11 of the third period, broke a 3-3 tie and gave the Brandon Wheat Kings a 4-3 victory over the Winnipeg Ice. . . . F Connor Geekie gave the Ice a 1-0 lead in the first period, but Brandon scored three times — F Nate Danielson, F Rylen Roersma and F Jake Chiasson — in a span of 2:17 before the period ended. . . . F Peyton Krebs and F Owen Pederson pulled the Ice (5-2-0) even, the latter scoring on a PP at 2:09 of the third. . . . Winnipeg had won five straight since opening with a 3-2 loss to Brandon on March 13. . . . The Wheat Kings (5-2-1) were without D Braden Schneider for a second straight game. He is listed as day-to-day with what is believed to be an injury to his right knee.


Scarecrow


It was a big day for COVID-19 on the sporting front Thursday. First, it took the Notre Dame Fighting Irish right out of the chase for the NCAA men’s hockey title. And then it took big chunks out of two summer baseball leagues that used to feature lots of U.S. college players. Oh, and it got into the coach staff of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres for the second time this season . . .

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The Fighting Irish were to have taken part in the NCAA Northeast Regional hockey tournament in Albany, N.Y., this weekend. But they have had to withdraw due to COVID-19 protocols. . . . According to head coach Jeff Jackson, “With multiple positives and contact tracing it became clear that for the safety of our team and others in the tournament we could not proceed.” . . . Notre Dame was to have played the Boston College Eagles on Saturday. That game has been declared no-contest and the Eagles moved directly into Sunday’s regional final against either St. Cloud State or Boston U. . . . Interestingly, Notre Dame was in the tournament as a late invitee after St. Lawrence U had to withdraw because of COVID-19 protocols. Notre Dame couldn’t be replaced because the NCAA had set a Monday night deadline for replacements to be made.

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The pandemic has forced quite a shuffling of the deck with the Western Canadian Baseball League. . . . The Edmonton Prospects, Lethbridge Bulls, Okotoks Dawgs (two teams) and Sylvan Lake Gulls have said that they will play the 2021 season using only Canadian players. . . . According to the league, the Fort McMurray Giants and Medicine Hat Mavericks continue to discuss their options. . . . At the same time, “due to the COVID-19 restrictions, border issues and the uncertainty of any changes,” five other teams — the Brooks Bombers, Moose Jaw Miller Express, Regina Red Sox, Swift Current 57’s and Weyburn Beavers — have decided to sit out the 2021 season. . . . At the same time, Taylor Shire of Global Regina tweeted that the “Yorkton Carinals and Melville Millionaires have left the WCBL and, according to WCBL president Kevin Kvame they both ceased operations.” . . .

From a news release issued by the Red Sox:

“Player and staff testing protocols will need to be in place at an estimated cost of $40,000 per team, as well as quarantine costs amounting to $2,000 per player. Interprovincial travel continues to be restricted, and the US/Canada border remains closed at this time. The WCBL is exploring options for an ‘All Canadian League’ in Alberta, which would also be subject to quarantine, testing, and border restrictions, presenting a challenge for the league. The Saskatchewan franchises have made the decision to defer the resumption of operations until 2022.”

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Marker

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The West Coast League, a wood-bat summer baseball league, has revised its 2021 schedule in order to remove international travel from its regular season, but it is leaving open the possibility of a playoff format involving teams from both Canada and the U.S. . . . The WCL, which features 15 teams, didn’t play in 2020. . . . In Canada, the Kelowna Falcons have opted out of the 2021 season, leaving the Victoria HarbourCats to play against three first-year teams — the Edmonton Riverhawks, Kamloops NorthPaws and Nanaimo NightOwls. . . . American teams in the league are the Bend Elks, Corvallis Knights, Cowlitz Black Bears, Portland Pickles, Ridgefield Raptors, Walla Walla Sweets, Bellingham Bells, Port Angeles Lefties, Wenatchee Apple Sox and Yakima Valley Pippins.

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Kevyn Adams, the Buffalo Sabres’ general manager, served as head coach on Thursday night as the team lost 4-0 to the Penguins in Pittsburgh. That’s nhl2because Don Granato, who was named interim head coach last week after Ralph Krueger was fired, and interim assistant coach Matt Ellis were in self-isolation. . . . This is the second time this season that the Sabres’ coaching staff was impacted by the virus. Earlier, Krueger tested positive and missed some time. . . . The Sabres have six victories this season; they have been shut out seven times. . . .

Meanwhile, the New York Rangers had assistants Jacques Martin and Greg Brown back behind the bench for last night’s 8-3 victory over the host Philadelphia Flyers. But head coach David Quinn has yet to be cleared to return from COVID-19 protocol, so former WHL player/coach Kris Knoblauch continues to work as head coach. Under normal conditions, Knoblauch is the head coach of the Hartford Wolf Pack, the Rangers’ AHL affiliate. . . . Knoblauch will stay with the Rangers at least through Saturday’s game in Philly. . . .

Marc Bergevin, the general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, expects his club to return to the ice next week. He said Thursday that one player had tested positive — forwards Joel Armia and Jesperi Kotkaniemi — and that it was a variant. . . . So far, the Canadiens have had four games postponed — three against the Edmonton Oilers and one with the Ottawa Senators. . . . If all goes well, the Canadiens will return to practice on Monday and play in Ottawa on Tuesday. . . . The NHL now has postponed 41 games because of COVID-19.


And how are things going out west? Hey, thanks for asking . . .

Justin McElroy, CBC Vancouver — 800 new cases of COVID-19 in B.C., the highest number since the very height of the second wave, as the province’s trendline is going up VERY sharply now. . . . Active cases jump by almost 300, now the highest since January 8. . . . Five new deaths and hospitalizations up.

Oh, hey, things are going great in Alberta, too . . .

CBC News — Alberta reports 764 new cases of COVID-19 and 3 more deaths. The province confirms 191 variants of concern cases. 294 people are in hospital, 55 in ICU. . . . Variant cases now make up more than 20 per cent of the total.

Party on, Garth!


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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.


JUST NOTES: The Spokane Chiefs have promoted Chris Baird to director of hockey operations. He had been assistant director of hockey operations since 2017. He first was hired by the Chiefs in 2006-07 as a part-time video co-ordinator. . . . The AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders have named Adam Manah as general manager — he will continue as head coach — and Jeff Woywitka as assistant GM. Manah has been with the Crusaders since 2015 when he was associate coach. He took over as assistant GM and head coach in 2016. Woywitka has been associate coach since 2016. The moves were necessitated by the firing of general manager Kyle Chase on March 19. Chase, who had been part of the organization since 2004, had been GM since 2016. Shane Jones of the Sherwood Park News has more on Chase’s dismissal right here.


Anger

Ex-WHLer needs kidney; can you help? . . . Who gets new arena first — Regina or Saskatoon? . . . Cancer claims Hartnell at 48

Ryan Smith, who spent four seasons (1991-95) in the WHL, needs a kidney — the sooner, the better. Smith, 46, played with the Brandon Wheat Kings, Lethbridge Hurricanes and Prince George Cougars, totalling 158 points, including 131 assists, in 274 games before going on to the U of Manitoba Bisons. . . . A married father of two young sons, Smith and his family live in Lavington, B.C., which is near Vernon. . . . He was diagnosed with IgA Nephropathy (aka Berger’s disease) about four years ago and has been on dialysis for almost two years. . . . Smith is on the deceased donor list, but is hoping to shorten what could be at least a four-year wait by finding a live donor. He thought he had found a live donor at one point; however, 10 months into the testing process the potential donor was found to have medical issues that short-circuited things, something that sometimes happens. . . . If you are interested in being a kidney donor, the contact information for the Living Kidney Donor Program at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver is further down in this post. . . . Roger Knox of the Vernon Morning Star has Smith’s story right here.


So . . . I’m wondering who is going to win the race — Regina or Saskatoon? . . . PatsShaun Semple, who with his father, Gavin, now owns the Regina Pats lock, stock and barrel, says it’s time that the Saskatchewan capital had a new arena. As hard is it is to believe, the home of the Pats is 44 years of age and, as Shaun told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post, “it’s getting tired. . . . There needs to be a new (arena) for sure.” . . . Harder’s complete story is right here, and what it tells me is that the conversation has started. . . .

Meanwhile, there has been talk in Saskatoon about a possible new arena, one Bladesthat would replace the SaskTel Centre, for a couple of years now. The home of the Blades is 33 years old and getting close to its best before date, if it isn’t already there. . . . A new facility likely would be built somewhere in the downtown area. In October, Phil Tank of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix wrote: “A funding plan for the project has not been finalized, but the cost is estimated between $172 million and $178 million. If the arena project is combined with a new downtown convention centre, the cost rises to between $330 million and $370 million.” . . . While Blades owner Mike Priestner hasn’t said a whole lot publicly about it, he has let it be known that he wants to be involved. Colin Priestner, the Blades’ president and general manager, appeared in front of Saskatoon city council on Monday and, according to Kevin Mitchell of the StarPhoenix, “made a pitch for his group to take a larger role in SaskTel Centre’s operations.” . . . Mitchell’s story is right here.



Two WHL players, both of them eligible for the NHL’s 2021 draft, have had their developmental seasons come to an end. . . . The Red Deer Rebels announced Wednesday that F Jayden Grubbe, the team captain, needs knee surgery (ACL) and won’t play again this season. According to the team, Grubbe “is expected to make a full recovery in time for the start of the 2021-22 season.” Grubbe, 18, was injured in the first period of a game against the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes on Friday. That was his fifth game of this season; he had a goal and two assists. . . . Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Ice revealed that F Carson Lambos “has left the Regina hub and returned to Winnipeg for a medical procedure. . . . More information will be provided at a later date.” Lambos, 18, was pointless in two games this season. He is a potential first-round selection in the NHL draft.


Rob Hartnell, who played three seasons (1990-93) in the WHL, has died. He was 48 when he died of cancer on Friday in Camrose, Alta. . . . Hartnell played 143 games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes over parts of three seasons, then finished up his WHL career by putting up 59 points, including 25 games, in 48 games with the Tri-City Americans. . . . All told, he had 227 points, 98 of them goals, in 191 regular-season WHL games. . . . He went on to play professionally in the ECHL, WPHL and in Europe. He wound up his playing career in the Chinook Hockey League with the Bentley Generals. . . . He had been coaching the junior B Wetaskiwin Icemen until having to step aside for health reasons prior to the 2019-20 season. . . . There is a complete obituary right here.


Kris Knoblauch, a former WHL player and coach, made his NHL head-coaching debut on Wednesday night, running the New York Rangers’ bench as they drubbed the visiting Philadelphia Flyers, 9-0. . . . Knoblauch is the head coach of the Hartford Wolf Pack, the Rangers’ AHL affiliate. He was called into New York after the Rangers’ coaching staff was ruled out because of COVID-19 protocol. That took out Rangers’ head coach David Quinn and assistants Jacques Martin, David Oliver and Greg Brown. Gord Murphy, Hartford’s associate coach, and Chris Drury, the Rangers’ associate general manager, were behind New York’s bench with Knoblauch, 42. He played with the Red Deer Rebels, Edmonton/Kootenay Ice and Lethbridge Hurricanes (1996-99), and later coached with the Prince Albert Raiders and Kootenay (2006-12).


So . . . how are things going with the Buffalo Sabres? Well, they’ve lost 12 in a row and been outscored 50-19 in the process. . . . The Buffalo News published its latest NHL power rankings earlier this week and they had the Sabres in 32nd place. Yes, 32nd . . . behind the Seattle Kraken, the expansion club that won’t begin play until next season. . . . Oh yes, the Sabres canned head coach Ralph Krueger on Wednesday.



There will be a new hockey conference in play come the 2021-22 season and it promises to be a good one. The Prep Hockey Conference will feature six of the top prep programs, each with a history of producing NCAA and NHL players. . . . The six are Shattuck-St. Mary’s School (Minnesota), St. Andrew’s College (Toronto), Northwood School (New York), Culver Academies (Indiana), Mount St. Charles Academy (Rhode Island) and South Kent School (Connecticut). All six programs have developed NHLers and top-end NCAA players throughout their histories. . . . Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News has more right here.


The Wheat City Whiskey Jacks are going to play a second straight season without making even one appearance on their home field in Brandon. The Whiskey Jacks will play out of Fargo, ND., for a second straight Expedition League season because of the U.S.-Canada border being closed to non-essential travel. . . . Last season, the league played with six teams as four opted out; it now has 12 teams, all of whom have said they’re in for 2021. . . . The Expedition League is a collegiate summer circuit whose season opens in late May. . . . Thomas Friesen of The Brandon Sun has more on the Whiskey Jacks right here.



Zach16

——

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

——

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

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.

——

Vic2


JUST NOTES: The BCHL’s Cranbrook Bucks have lost one assistant coach and added two others to their staff. Adam Stuart has left to join the coaching staff at the North Alberta Xtreme. The Bucks have added Ehren Menard and Todd Skirving to general manager/head coach Ryan Donald’s staff. Menard has spent six seasons with the Knights of Columbus program in Edmonton. Skirving plays for the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers, who opted out of the 2020-21 season. He played in the BCHL with the Prince George Spruce Kings and Vernon Vipers, then spent four seasons at the Rochester Institute of Technology before turning pro.


Suspect

Scattershooting, with some of this and some of that . . . Winterhawks sign imports . . . Knoblauch a head coach again

MacBeth

F Luke Lockhart (Seattle, 2007-13) has signed a one-year contract extension with Kunlun Red Star Beijing (China, KHL). Last season, he had one goal and nine assists in 41 games. He also had one goal in one game with KRS-ORG Beijing (China, Vysshaya Liga). . . .

D Jagger Dirk (Kootenay, 2009-14) has signed a one-year contract with the Dundee Stars (Scotland, UK Elite). Last season, he had one assist in nine games with the Utica Comets (AHL), and had four goals and 17 assists in 49 games with the Kalamazoo Wings (ECHL). . . .

F Ned Lukacevic (Spokane, Swift Current, 2001-06) has signed a one-year contract with the Manchester Storm (England, UK Elite). Last season, with the Odense Bulldogs (Denmark, Metal Ligaen), he had four goals and three assists in 19 games. He also had four goals and five assists in nine games with Tours (France, Division 1). . . .

G Jackson Whistle (Vancouver, Kelowna, 2011-16) has signed a one-year contract with the Nottingham Panthers (England, UK Elite). Last season, with the Sheffield Steelers (England, UK Elite), he was 3.20, .898, with two assists, in 50 games. . . .

F Dylan Willick (Kamloops, 2009-13) has signed a tryout contract with Podhale Nowy Targ (Poland, PHL). Last season, he had eight goals and seven assists in 68 games with the Worcester Railers (ECHL). . . .

D Brady Gaudet (Kamloops, Red Deer, 2010-15) has signed a one-year contract with Annecy (France, Division 2). Last season, with the Redvers Rockets (Big Six Hockey League), he had nine goals and eight assists in 13 games. . . .

F Marek Škrvně (Kelowna, 2017-18) signed a tryout contract with Pardubice (Czech Republic, Extraliga). Last season, in 18 games with Kometa Brno Junioři (Czech Republic, Extraliga Juniorů), he had eight goals and 12 assists. On loan to Horácká Slavia Třebíč (Czech Republic, 1. Liga), he had one goal in 16 games. . . .

F Radovan Bondra (Vancouver, Prince George, 2015-18) signed a tryout contract with Pardubice (Czech Republic, Extraliga). Last season, with the Rockford IceHogs (AHL), he was pointless in two games. In 66 games with the Indy Fuel (ECHL), he had 10 goals and 25 assists. . . .

F Denis Tolpeko (Seattle, Regina, 2003-06) signed a try-out contract through the end of August with AIK Stockholm (Sweden, Allsvenskan). Tolpeko didn’t play last season. In 2017-18, with Spartak Moscow (Russia, KHL), he had one assist in four games.


ThisThat

I have spent the past couple of days trying to keep up with a three-year-old. So if I fall asleep in the middle of this, you’ll understand why. . . . In the meantime, here’s something of a potpourri. . . . A little Scattershooting, a little of this, and some of that. . . .


I don’t know about where you live, but there sure are a lot of vehicles with faulty turn signals in Kamloops. I mean, drivers are smart enough to use them if they work, right? Right?


The Portland Winterhawks have signed Swiss F Simon Knak, 17, and Danish D Jonas PortlandBrøndberg, 18. . . . Just last week I wrote this about the two of them: Knak has played in the EHC Kloten organization. Last season, he had 14 goals and 11 assists in 37 games with the U-20 team. He also had five goals and eight assists in five games with the U-17 side, and had one assist in three games with the Kloten team in the NLB. Knak also played 26 games with the U-18 national team. He was the captain, and put up 10 goals and six assists. . . . Brondberg played in Sweden last season, splitting 28 games between two U-18 teams (Växjö Lakers), totalling three goals and six assists. He also had one assist in 21 games with a U-20 team. In 14 international games, he had four assists. Brondberg captained Denmark’s U-18 team at the U-18 IIHF World championship tournament.


“Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Leaf and Lance Armstrong — three disgraced pariahs not that long ago — are suddenly high-profile TV commentators,” notes Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times. “Pundits said they’d never seen anyone land on their feet like that since Mary Lou Retton.”

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One more from Perry: “Hungary swamped host South Korea 64-0 in the women’s water polo world championships, breaking the mark for biggest victory margin by 27 goals. Even the U.S. women’s soccer team urged the Hungarians to tone it down a bit.”

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Here’s Perry, one more time: “A message in a bottle — dropped overboard by a teen boy in 1969 — finally washed up on shore in South Australia. In other words, aimlessly adrift at sea only two years less than the Toronto Maple Leafs.”


Kris Knoblauch is the new head coach of the Hartford Wolf Pack, the AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers. . . . He takes over from Keith McCambridge, who was fired in April. . . . Knoblauch spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Flyers, who fired head coach Dave Hakstol mid-season and hired Alain Vigneault earlier this summer. Scott Gordon, who took over as interim coach when Hakstol was fired, now is the head coach of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the Flyers’ AHL affiliate. . . . . . . Knoblauch, 40, worked in the WHL as an assistant coach with the Prince Albert Raiders (2006-07) and Kootenay Ice (2007-10). He was the Ice’s head coach for two seasons (2010-12), and spent four-plus seasons (2012-17) as head coach of the OHL’s Erie Otters.



Jack Finarelli, the Sports Curmudgeon, on NBC Sports Network hiring Lance Armstrong as an analyst for its Tour de France coverage: “The analogy that leaps to mind is that Lance Armstrong doing color commentary for the Tour de France is about as apropos as the Food Network naming Hannibal Lecter as its next Iron Chef.”


If you haven’t yet seen this editorial from the Baltimore Sun, take a couple of minutes out of your day and give it a read.

 


The junior B Grand Forks Border Bruins of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League had agreed to a five-year contract extension with head coach John Clewlow, 30. He is heading into his second season as the team’s head coach. Last season, the Border Bruins finished third in the Neil Murdoch Division. . . .

Grant Sheridan, the president and general manager of the junior B Kelowna Chiefs of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, has died. Sheridan passed away on Sunday night in Kelowna General Hospital. . . . Sheridan’s health problems began during the KIJHL playoffs when he was ended up in hospital in Revelstoke with bacterial meningitis. He was transferred to Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, then was moved to Kelowna General Hospital.


Tweetoftheday

Comings, goings and happenings . . . and now back to baseball and The Border

If you’re wondering where I’ve been, well, I’ve been right here. I am taking some time away from writing, just taking a break. . . . I also have cracked open The Border, the third book in author Don Winslow’s terrific trilogy about, yes, the U.S.-Mexico border and a whole lot more. So I have been spending some time with Art Keller (hey, Google is your friend). . . . If you haven’t read the trilogy, start with The Dogs of War, then move on to The Cartel. After that you’ll be ready for The Border. . . . A warning though — this stuff is gritty. . . .

Some stuff has happened over the last few days, so what follows is a summary. No, I’m not back on a daily basis. Not yet. . . . You see, I’m only halfway through The Border. . . .


MacBeth

F Radim Valchar (Portland, Lethbridge, 2007-10) has signed a one-year contract extension with Csíkszereda Miercurea Ciuc (Romania, Erste Liga). Last season, he put up 42 goals and 43 assists in 61 games. He was tied for the league lead in goals and was second in points. . . .

D Brenden Kichton (Spokane, 2008-13) has signed a one-year contract with the Vienna Capitals (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, with SaiPa Lappeenranta (Finland, Liiga), he had eight goals and 15 assists in 46 games. . . .

F Lukáš Králík (Victoria, 2011-12) has signed a one-year contract with Nový Jičín (Czech Republic, 2. Liga). Last season, in 28 games with Draci Šumperk (Czech Republic, 2. Liga), he had seven goals and four assists. . . .

D Matt Pufahl (Red Deer, Saskatoon, Everett, 2010-14) has signed a one-year contract with the Glasgow Clan (Scotland, UK Elite). Last season, with the Utah Grizzlies (ECHL), he had one assist in six games. He also had one goal and one assist in 26 games with Zvolen (Slovakia, Extraliga). . . . The Glasgow press release states that Pufahl will enrol in the MBA program at Glasgow Caledonian University while playing for the Clan. . . .

F Wacey Rabbit (Saskatoon, Vancouver, 2001-07) has signed a one-year contract with Corona Brașov (Romania, Erste Liga). Last season, with the Jacksonville IceMen (ECHL), he had 29 goals and 31 assists in 70 games. He led the team in goals and points, and was tied for the lead in assists. . . .

F Michael Burns (Edmonton, Vancouver, 2007-12) has signed a try-out contract with the Hannover Indians (Germany, Oberliga Nord). He didn’t play last season. In summer 2018, with the Sydney Bears (Australia, AIHL), he had five goals and five assists in nine games. He holds dual German-Canadian citizenship. . . .

F Kevin King (Kootenay, 2006-11) has signed a one-year contract with Cortina (Italy, Alps HL). Last season, in 45 games with the Guildford Flames (England, UK Elite), he had five goals and 13 assists. . . .

F Austin Carroll (Victoria, 2011-15) has signed a one-year contract with the Kassel Huskies (Germany, DEL2). Last season, with the Utah Grizzlies (ECHL), he had 15 goals and 20 assists in 45 games. On loan to the Manitoba Moose (AHL), he had one goal in seven games. . . .

F Michal Řepík (Vancouver, 2005-08) has signed a one-year contract with Sparta Prague (Czech Republic, Extraliga). Last season, with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, KHL), he had 10 goals and 11 assists in 42 games; he was an alternate captain. . . . He was traded to Vityaz Podolsk (Russia, KHL) on Dec. 26, and had five goals and four assists in 19 games. . . .

F Jim O’Brien (Seattle, 2007-09) has signed a one-year contract with the Nuremberg Ice Tigers (Germany, DEL). Last season, with the Belleville Senators (AHL), he had one goal and two assists in 11 games. . . .

F R.J. Reed (Vancouver, Prince Albert, 2010-11) has signed a one-year contract with Diez-Limburg (Germany, Regionalliga West). Last season, with the Nijmegen Devils (Netherlands, BeNeLiga), he had 33 goals and 17 assists in 19 games. He led the team in goals and was second in points. He was third in the league in goals. . . .

D Brendan Mikkelson (Portland, Vancouver, 2003-07) has signed a one-year contract with Red Bull Salzburg (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, in 47 games with Adler Mannheim (Germany, DEL), he had six goals and eight assists in 47 games.


ThisThat

The Kamloops Blazers have signed Shaun Clouston as their head coach, replacing Serge Lajoie who was one-and-done. Clouston arrives in Kamloops after spending 16 seasons with the Medicine Hat Tigers. He was dismissed as general manager and head coach on Kamloops1May 30 so that the Tigers could bring back Willie Desjardins to fill both roles. . . . The Blazers also named co-owner Darryl Sydor an associate coach. He was named an assistant coach on Feb. 12. . . .

A tip of the Taking Note fedora to Clouston for not ducking questions about what happened in Medicine Hat. The Tigers announced his departure in a three-paragraph news release in which the team said they and Clouston “have parted ways.” . . . Clouston told reporters in Kamloops on Wednesday that he was in shock — he likened it to a “punch in the stomach” — when the Tigers dumped him. . . .

The Blazers didn’t announce any terms of their contract with Clouston, but you have to think it is at least four years in length. After all, they originally offered Kyle Gustafson a four-year deal, only to have him choose to remain with the Portland Winterhawks as associate coach and assistant GM. The offer to Gustafson was made before Clouston’s time ran out in The Hat. . . .

What makes things interesting in Kamloops is Sydor’s presence as associate coach. He also is one of the team’s five co-owners and hasn’t hidden his desire to be a WHL head coach. Sydor has never been a head coach, but has ample experience as an NHL assistant coach, having worked with the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues. . . .

With the Blazers having hired Clouston, it leaves the Brandon Wheat Kings, Prince George Cougars and Spokane Chiefs as the only WHL teams still searching for head coaches. . . . The NHL’s Edmonton Oilers have a announced the hiring of Jim Playfair as an associate coach under head coach Dave Tippett. There continues to be speculation that Mark Lamb, presently the Cougars’ general manager, could be joining the Oilers as an assistant coach. He has a long history with Tippett.


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A couple of notes from Postmedia’s Jim Matheson:

“Connor McDavid’s junior coach Kris Knoblauch lost out for the Columbus farm team head job in Cleveland to Mike Eaves. . . . Hearing Los Angeles head coach Todd McLellan would have hired his other Oilers assistant Manny Viveiros, but there’s only room for two assistants for budgetary reasons. Viveiros is very much in running for an assistant’s job in Ottawa, though. No surprise Trent Yawney, who’ll look after L.A.’s defence, is joining McLellan again.”



I watched most of the Minnesota Twins’ 17-inning victory over the visiting Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night. One night later, Dick Bremer, the TV play-by-play voice of the Twins, passed along some interesting numbers. In a nine-inning game, he said, MLB teams will go through between six and 18 dozen baseballs. On Tuesday, in a game that included 487 pitches, they used up 27 dozen baseballs. . . . That’s a lot of souvenirs!


Shawn Mullin, the radio voice of the Swift Current Broncos for the past nine seasons, will be the new play-by-play voice of the OHL’s Peterborough Petes, according to Mike Davies of the Peterborough Examiner. . . . According to Davies, Mullin will replace Rob Snoek of Extra 90.5FM. Snoek told Davies that he won’t be back and that “it wasn’t my decision.” . . . Davies’ story is right here.


The Lethbridge Hurricanes have acquired F D-Jay Jerome, 20, from the Victoria Royals Lethbridgefor a pair of unspecified conditional bantam draft picks, one in 2021 and the other in 2022. Jerome is from Lethbridge. . . . Other 20-year-olds on Lethbridge’s roster include D Koletrane Wilson, D Ty Prefontaine, F Scott Mahovlich and F Zach Cox. F Jake Leschyshyn, F Jordy Bellerive and F Nick Henry also are 1999-born players, but are likely to begin their pro careers in the fall. . . .

The Royals also lost D Jake Kustra, 20, on waivers to the Swift Current Broncos. Kustra played under Broncos head coach Dean Brockman when both were with the Saskatoon VictoriaRoyalsBlades. . . . With Kustra, the Broncos have three 20-year-olds on their roster, the others being F Ian Briscoe and F Ethan O’Rourke. . . .

Having trade away Jerome and placed Kustra on waivers, Victoria has six 20s on its roster — D Will Warm, who was acquired from the Edmonton Oil Kings on June 13, Belarusian F Igor Martynov, F Tanner Sidaway, who is from Victoria, D Jameson Murray, D Scott Walford and G Shane Farkas, an offseason acquisition from the Portland Winterhawks. . . .

Meanwhile, the Broncos have signed F Mat Ward to a WHL contract. From Kamloops, he was the 14th overall pick in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft.


The Edmonton Oil Kings have waived F Zach Russell, 20. He got into 36 games with them last season. Earlier, the Oil Kings had dealt D Will Warm, 20, to the Victoria Royals. . . . The Oil Kings are left with four 20s on their roster — F Riley Sawchuk, who was acquired from the Tri-City Americans on May 16, G Dylan Myskiw, D Conner McDonald and D Parker Gavlas. . . . F Trey Fix-Wolansky also is 20, but is likely to begin his pro career in the Columbus Blue Jackets’ organization.


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An interesting note from Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian Pilot: “Bob Molinaro in the Hampton-Roads Virginian-Pilot: “Forbes has put out another list of the highest-paid athletes. It’s the usual dull cluster of dollar signs and numbers, but with one amusing twist. Strictly by salary, Tom Brady ranks fifth on the list — among Boston athletes alone. The top paid Beantown jock is Celtics guard Kyrie Irving, followed by teammates Gordon Hayward and Al Horford. Red Sox left-hander David Price slips into fourth place. Not taken into account is the cash value of six Super Bowl rings.”


The Kamloops Blazers are down to three 20-year-olds with F Travis Walton having cleared WHL waivers and signed with the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers. . . . Walton had nine goals and nine assists in 48 regular-season games over three seasons with the Blazers. . . . The 20s remaining on the Blazers’ roster are F Zane Franklin, F Kobe Mohr and D Jackson Caller. . . .

Meanwhile, the Blazers announced Thursday that they have signed Colin (Toledo) Robinson, their trainer, to a contract extension. The length of the extension wasn’t revealed. . . . Robinson has been with the Blazers since then GM/head coach Dean Clark signed him in 2005. Robinson is prepping for his 25th WHL season, having also worked for the Swift Current Broncos and Vancouver Giants.


The Prince Albert Raiders named Curt Brownlee as their director of player personnel. He has been with the Raiders since 2011 when he signed on as a scout. He takes over from the late Ron Gunville, who died in December.


There is zero chance of the Tampa Bay Rays splitting their American League seasons between the Florida city and Montreal. None. Zilch. Nada. . . . This is simply a cheap way for the Rays to try and pressure their way to a new ballpark in Tampa.


If you’re wondering about the costs of operating a junior A hockey team, consider this from Michael Reeve of radio station Q101.1 from the AGM of the BCHL’s Merritt Centennials:

“Beth Nadeau, the team’s treasurer, provided an update on last (season’s) financials. While the team’s expenses came in at approximately the same amount as last (season), this (season’s) revenue was down close to $23,000. All of that resulted in the team losing $95,644.68 last (season), up from a loss of $75,329.99 the season before.”

Meanwhile, the MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders held their AGM on Wednesday night and reported a deficit of $6,402.95. The Stampeders had a long playoff run or it would have been a lot worse. . . . For more, check out Benny Walchuk’s blog right here.


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IceDogs’ situation looks awfully messy. . . . Pats, Hurricanes make a trade. . . . WHL final resumes tonight in Langley

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An Ontario Superior Court judge in Hamilton ruled last month that documents related to ohlthe OHL’s Niagara IceDogs and unauthorized contracts with players would be unsealed on Friday. They were, and TSN’s Rick Westhead has gone over those documents.

According to Westhead:

“The Ontario Hockey League’s Niagara IceDogs agreed to unauthorized side contracts with the families of two players — one of whom is still in the OHL — and likely had similarly secret and unsanctioned deals with a number of European players, according to an investigation into the team’s recruiting practices.”

Westhead provides a lot of details in this piece, which is particularly damning because the OHL, as he puts it, “is embroiled in a class-action lawsuit filed by a group of current and former players demanding they be paid minimum wage.”

The IceDogs are owned by Denise and Bill Burke.

Westhead continues:

“In connection with that case, Denise Burke testified in a Nov. 14, 2015, affidavit that while her OHL team brought in an average of $2.7 million, it still lost money.

“Seven months before the IceDogs purportedly signed a secret deal with the (Liam) Ham family, Denise Burke said that it would be ‘catastrophic’ if the IceDogs had to pay players.”

At that time, Denise Burke testified: “We knew that we wouldn’t become rich owning a team, but seeing as this is our only business, we have always hoped that we would at least be able to break even and at least make more money than we spend, otherwise sooner or later the ‘Bank of Burke’ will run dry.”

Westhead’s complete story is right here.


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The Regina Pats have acquired F Drew Englot, 16, from the Lethbridge Hurricanes for a Patsfourth-round selection in the 2022 WHL bantam draft. Englot, who is from Candiac, Sask., was picked by the Hurricanes in the fourth round of the 2017 bantam draft. . . . He has played the past two seasons with  the midget AAA Notre Dame Hounds, who have won back-to-back league titles. This season he had 21 goals and 20 assists in 43 regular-season games.


Two former WHL coaches were fired by the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers on Monday as they juggled their staff after the hiring of Alain Vigneault as head coach. . . . Kris Knoblauch and Rick Wilson both were dismissed. . . . Knoblauch, 40, had been with the Flyers for two seasons. He began his coaching career as an assistant with the Prince Albert Raiders in 2006-07. He then spent five seasons with the Kootenay Ice, the last two as head coach. He also spent four-plus seasons as head coach of the OHL’s Erie Otters. . . . Wilson, 68, joined the Flyers this season, on Dec. 4. He has been an NHL coach, mostly as an assistant since 1988-89. He spent eight seasons (1980-88) on Prince Albert’s staff, the last two as head coach.


Dave Andrews will retire after spending one more season as the president and CEO of the American Hockey League. Andrews, a former head coach of the WHL’s Victoria Cougars, told the AHL’s board of governors on Monday that he is going to retire as of June 30, 2020. He is completing his 25th season as AHL president. . . . Andrews was the Cougars’ head coach for all of 1982-83 and part of 1983-84, when he was replaced by Les Calder. He later spent seven seasons as the director of hockey operations with the Nova Scotia/Cape Breton Oilers, then the Edmonton Oilers’ AHL affiliate.


The OHL’s Ottawa 67’s had their 14-game playoff winning streak come to an end on Monday as they were beaten 7-2 by the Storm in Guelph. The 67’s, who were outshot 36-20, lead the OHL championship series, 2-1. . . . They’ll play Game 4 in Guelph on Wednesday. . . . The 67’s had swept their first three series and then opened the final with two victories. . . . Ottawa G Mikey DiPietro, who suffered what is believed to have been a high ankle sprain in Game 2, wasn’t in uniform for this one. . . .

In the QMJHL, the visiting Rouyn-Noranda Huskies dumped the Halifax Mooseheads, 5-2, to take a 2-1 lead in the championship final. . . . They’ll play again tonight in Halifax. . . . Both teams will play in the Memorial Cup because the Mooseheads are the host team. The tournament is to run from May 17 through May 26.


Mike Reagan has signed a new contract as general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s Flin Flon Bombers. This deal will take him through the 2020-21 season. . . . Reagan has been with the Bombers for 12 seasons, winning at least 30 games in six of them. The Bombers have been in the playoffs in each of those 12 seasons. . . . There is a news release right here.


Cam Basarab is the new head coach of the Trail-based Kootenay Ice of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League. He started this season as an assistant coach with the junior B Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. He was moved up to head coach in November and then replaced on Jan. 23. . . . Basarab also was a video coach with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes for the previous two seasons. . . . Basarab takes over from Kris Boyce, the head coach for the past three seasons.


F Liam Stewart, who played four seasons (2011-15) with the Spokane Chiefs, has signed on with the SkyCity Stampede of the New Zealand Hockey League. Stewart, born in Great Britain, has a New Zealand passport through his mother, ex-model Rachel Hunter, so won’t be classified as an import. . . . The Stampede, which plays out of Queenstown, is to open the season on May 31 against the Dunedin Thunder. . . . He was to have played this season with the Sheffield Steelers of the Elite Ice Hockey League in Great Britain, but was sidelined by a concussion. . . . Stewart’s father is rock musician Rod Stewart.


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NOTES: The WHL final for the Ed Chynoweth Cup resumes tonight (Tuesday) with the  Prince Albert Raiders and Vancouver Gains meeting at the Langley, B.C., Events Centre. . . . The series is tied, 1-1. . . . They’ll play again Wednesday and Friday in Langley. . . . The $64,000 question going into Game 3 is whether Prince Albert D Max Martin will play. He left Game 2 in the second period after falling awkwardly into the end boards and appearing to injure a shoulder. . . . Martin is key part of the Raiders’ back end. He had 41 points, including 35 assists, in 59 regular-season games, and has seven assists in 18 playoff games. . . . Here’s Darren Steinke of Stanks’ Sermon explaining the Raiders’ options: “If (Martin) doesn’t play that will likely shake up the Raiders normally locked-in defensive pairings of Martin with Sergei Sapego, captain Brayden Pachal with Zack Hayes, and Jeremy Masella with Kaiden Guhle.” . . . If Martin doesn’t dress, the Raiders likely will insert D Loeden Schaufler into what will be his fifth game of these playoffs.

Steve Ewen of Postmedia takes a look right here at Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, who has learned to change with the times.


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