Canucks’ Miller says team needs more recovery time . . . Rockets out of quarantine and back on ice . . . Maier, Garand pitch shutouts

F J.T. Miller of the Vancouver Canucks always has worn his emotions on his sleeve and spoken his mind.

So you have to think the team’s management wasn’t at all surprised when he Canuckstook the NHL to task on Wednesday.

“This is nothing to do with hockey,” Miller said during a virtual media availability. “To be brutally honest, we’re going to need more time than this to come back and play hockey. Even the guys that didn’t get it aren’t ready.”

The Canucks are scheduled to play host to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night. Thanks to a COVID-19 outbreak that impacted players, coaches, staff members and family members that would be the Canucks’ first game since March 24. All told, there were 22 players, three coaches and one staffer who tested positive.

When the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list was released on Wednesday is still contained seven Vancouver players — D Jalen Chatfield, D Alex Edler, F Jayce Hawryluk, F Nils Höglander, F Zack MacEwen, D Nate Schmidt and F Jake Virtanen.

“I don’t feel ready if I’m being honest . . . It’s kind of crazy,” Miller said. “I know everyone has a job to do but to expect our entire team to be ready to play in one practice and a pre-game skate is a bit hard to comprehend.”

Now the NHL wants the Canucks (16-18-3) to play their last 19 games over a 30-day span. They are sixth in the North Division and not likely to qualify for the playoffs.

“I hope people don’t take this the wrong way,” Miller continued, “I’m a super competitive guy . . . but this isn’t about hockey for our team. This is about the health and safety of our players, their family and their children. This isn’t about making the playoffs.

“What we’re being asked to do is not going to be too safe, if you’re asking me.”

The Canucks are scheduled to practice this morning at 11:15, and it’s to be open to the media.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, Blackhawks head coach said that F Adam Gaudette, who was acquired Monday from the Canucks, will be given some time before he dresses for a game. Gaudette was the first of the Canucks to test positive. He was removed from the ice during a practice on March 30.


The Colorado Avalanche cancelled their Wednesday morning skate in St. Louis “due to one positive test from (Tuesday’s) COVID-19 testing.” That person went into isolation; all others tested negative. . . . G Philipp Grubauer was added to Colorado’s COVID-19 protocol list on Wednesday. . . . G Devan Dubnyk, acquired Monday from the San Jose Sharks, made his first start for the Avalanche last night, stopping 31 shots in a 4-3 victory in St. Louis. . . . After last night’s victory, Colorado head coach Jared Bender said that Grubauer will be out for “more than 14 days.” . . .

The AHL’s Toronto Marlies are on hold through Wednesday because of the league’s COVID-19 protocol. They have had three games postponed. . . . The Toronto Maple Leafs added F Nick Robertson to the COVID-19 protocol list on Wednesday. He had been with the Marlies so this move quite likely was precautionary. . . . The AHL also has the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, who are affiliated with the Philadelphia Flyers, shut down through Sunday. The league postponed the Phantoms game last night against the host Hershey Bears, and also scrubbed Friday and Sunday games.

The Houston Astros put five players, four of them starters, on the injured list on Wednesday. Catcher Martin Maldonado, infielders Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, DH Yordan Alvarez and utility player Robel Garcia all went on the list. James Click, the Astros’ general manager, later said all five were placed on the list “as a result of health and safety protocols.” . . . The Astros dropped a 6-4 decision to the visiting Detroit Tigers last night.


Xrays


This is interesting because Sportsnet announced on Feb. 18, 2014, a 12-year “partnership extension” with the CHL that was to run through the end of the 2025-26 season. That made Sportsnet the exclusive broadcaster of the CHL and the Memorial Cup. . . . Makes one wonder if Sportsnet will pay TSN to take the contract off its hands?


The four Canadian teams that were to have been part of the West Coast League, a wood-bat summer baseball league, have chosen not to play in 2021. The Edmonton Riverhawks, Kamloops NorthPaws, Nanaimo NightOwls and Victoria HarbourCats had announced that they would play a schedule of games among themselves. The Edmonton, Kamloops and Nanaimo franchises are expansion teams. . . . The Kelowna Falcons announced in March that they wouldn’t take part this season. . . . The WCL’s 10 Oregon- and Washington-based teams are going ahead with a 2021 season.


If you have ever been close to a hockey team you will know that it is people like the equipment manager and athletic therapist/trainer who really keep things going. . . . But what’s it like for the people in those positions with a WHL team in these pandemic times? What’s it like behind the scenes in the Regina hub? . . . Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun checked in with the three men who fill these roles with the Brandon Wheat Kings. He came out of it with a terrific long read that is right here.


The Kelowna Rockets were back on the ice at Prospera Place on Wednesday Rocketsmorning, the first time they have skated since they went into a 14-day quarantine after seven positive tests within the organization. An eighth positive was discovered during the quarantine period, but because it happened to someone already in isolation it didn’t impact the 14 days off.

Head coach Kris Mallette was one who tested positive.

“What’s crazy,” he told Global News, “is how it affects everybody differently, that’s the scariest aspect. I was fortunate that for me it was headaches, aches and a cough but it wasn’t anything that wasn’t manageable without taking some sort of medication.”

The Rockets, who had eight games postponed, have only played twice in what is supposed to be a 24-game season. They are scheduled to return to game action on Saturday against the Prince George Cougars in Kamloops.

Meanwhile, there were four WHL games on Wednesday . . .

G Nolan Maier recorded his ninth career shutout as the Saskatoon Blades beat Bladesthe Swift Current Broncos, 3-0, in Regina. . . . The Blades (13-2-2) have points in five straight (4-0-1). . . . The Broncos (3-13-1) have lost six in a row. . . . Maier now shares the Saskatoon franchise record for career shutouts with Andrei Makarov (115 games, 2011-13). . . . Maier, who has made 151 appearances in three-plus seasons, stopped 27 shots in posting his second shutout of this season. . . . F Blake Stevenson scored twice, at 10:35 and 12:21 of the first period for a 2-0 lead. He’s got seven goals. . . . F Chase Wouters also scored his seventh goal of the season. . . .

F Ben McCartney scored Brandon’s last three goals as the Wheat Kings beat the BrandonWinnipeg Ice, 5-3, in Regina. . . . McCartney, who has 11 goals, completed his evening with the empty-netter. . . . The Wheat Kings (13-3-2) opened an early 2-0 lead on goals from F Riley Ginnell (4) and F Brett Hyland (2). . . . The Ice halved the deficit at 4:55 of the second period on F Connor McClennon’s 11th goal, but McCartney got that one back at 9:07. . . . F Conor Geekie (7) got Winnipeg back to within at goal at 13:36, but McCartney counted again at 7:18 of the third. . . . F Owen Pederson (8) again pulled the Ice to within a goal, this time at 14:47, but McCartney put it away at 19:51. . . . Ice F Peyton Krebs had an assist to run his point streak to 16 games, while McClennon has points in 10 straight. . . . The Wheat Kings were handed all six of the game’s minor penalties and gave up two PP goals. . . . The Ice (12-5-0) had won its previous six games. . . . Brandon G Connor Ungar stopped 38 shots. He is 5-1-1, 2.57, .915 in the Regina hub. . . . Brandon is 3-0-0 against Winnipeg this season — 3-2, 4-3 and 5-3 — with one meeting left. . . .

F Eli Zummack scored the game’s last two goals to give the Spokane Chiefs a 4-Spokane3 OT victory over the host Portland Winterhawks. . . . Zummack, who has five goals, tied the game on a PP at 19:29 of the third period, then won it at 3:27 of OT. . . . Zummack is on a real roll at the moment. He scored a shorthanded goal and added an assist in Portland’s 7-6 victory on Saturday, then had a goal and three assists in a 4-3 victory over the host Everett Silvertips on Tuesday. . . . F Simon Knak (8) and F Kyle Chyzowski (3) gave the Winterhawks a 2-0 first-period lead. . . . The Chiefs tied it on goals from F Blake Swetlikoff (3), at 6:17 of the second, and F Adam Beckman (9), at 5:35 of the third. Beckman has goals in six straight games. . . . F Tyson Kozak’s first goal gave Portland a 3-2 lead at 9:10. . . . D Bobby Russell assisted on each of Zummack’s goals. . . . G Mason Beaupit was outstanding for the Chiefs, making 48 saves, 25 more than Portland’s Dante Giannuzzi. . . . The Chiefs now are 4-5-3; the Winterhawks are 5-4-3. . . . These teams played each other three times since Friday with Spokane winning twice. . . . D Sage Weinstein, a 15-year-old from Edmonton who was the 18th overall selection in the 2020 bantam draft, made his WHL debut with the Chiefs. . . .

In Kamloops, G Dylan Garand posted a 16-save shutout as the Blazers beat the KamloopsPrince George Cougars, 5-0. . . . That was Garand’s first shutout this season and the sixth of his career. . . . F Josh Pillar scored the game’s first goal, at 8:06 of the first period. He finished with two goals, giving him five, and an assist. . . . F Caedan Bankier had a goal, his fourth, and an assist, with F Connor Zary and F Orrin Centazzo each recording two assists. . . . The Blazers (7-1-0) have won three in a row. . . . The Cougars (3-3-2) had picked up at least a point in each of their previous four games (2-0-2). . . . Kamloops held a 40-16 edge in shots, including 20-2 in the third period.


Lady


Please don’t forget that Dorothy, who had a kidney transplant more than seven years ago, is preparing to take part in her eighth straight Kamloops Kidney Walk. Unfortunately, it will be a virtual walk for a second straight year, but that won’t keep her from fund-raising on behalf of the Kidney Foundation. If you would like to help her out, you are able to make a donation right here. . . . And a huge thank you to those who have already responded to this. Love seeing her smile every time she gets a notification of a new donor.

——

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.


JUST NOTES: The AJHL’s Lloydminster Bobcats are looking for an assistant coach following the departure of Brady Bakke. He joined the Bobcats prior to the 2019-20 season. From a news release: “A search for a new assistant coach has begun and any candidates looking to put their name forward are asked to send a cover letter and resume to nigel@lloydminsterbobcats.com.” . . . The SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves also are in the market for an assistant coach. From a news release: “To apply, please submit a cover letter, resume and references electronically to head coach/general manager Kevin Kaminski at coach.icewolves@sasktel.net.”


Sign

Toigo: Pandemic fallout won’t be pretty picture . . . Hamilton: We are in full support of what’s going on . . . Robison: Bantam draft may be delayed

Ron Toigo, the majority owner of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, said on Wednesday that the fallout in junior hockey from COVID-19 may take a year or two to be seen but that “it’s not going to be a pretty picture.”

Appearing on Sportsnet 650 in Vancouver, Toigo said:

“At some point, there’s going to have to be some government support for these Vancouverthings to survive, and without that I think you’re going to see failures across the country from (junior A) to major junior to junior B. It’s inevitable.

“From our perspective, we were already down half-a-million dollars when (last season) ended because we didn’t get the last home games in which is where you start to break even. All these things are more or less designed to break even if everything goes right, and then if you get a run in the playoffs you can recover some of the money.

“Most teams in general, not just the Western Hockey League, the BCHL, across the board, people don’t get into this to make a living. . . . These aren’t great models from an economic perspective. Now when you take all the revenue away but keep most of the expenses, it’s not a good scenario for any business.”

The end result, according to Toigo, could be disastrous.

“You might not see it this year,” he said. “It might take a year or two where a lot of these things will come to fruition. It’s not going to be a pretty picture.”

Toigo pointed out that he and the other WHL operators are hardly alone in having to face this pandemic.

“It is a scenario that virtually all walks of life are dealing with,” he said. “Every business is dealing with it. The catastrophic impact on small businesses across this province is something we are going to feel for many many years to come, and junior hockey is just one of those that are caught up in it.”

Toigo’s appearance is available right here.

——

Bruce Hamilton, the Kelowna Rockets’ president and general manager and the chairman of the WHL’s board of governors, agrees with Toigo in terms of what’s ahead.

“We are going to have some teams that are going to really struggle,” Hamilton KelownaRocketstold Travis Lowe of Global News.“It’s up to the rest of us to help make sure that they make it through.”

But, at this point in time, Hamilton said, “We just don’t see there being any way that we can safely have our players back here.”

Hamilton also pointed out that the WHL and its teams aren’t about to question any of the public heath officials or the regulations that have been put in place in any of the six jurisdictions in which the league operates.

“We fully understand and fully, fully support what is going on,” Hamilton said.

There was a time when the WHL had hoped to open a regular season on Oct. 2. It later changed that date to Dec. 4 and then to Jan. 8. On Tuesday, the league announced that it has moved on from that date and that it now doesn’t have a starting date. Instead, its board of governors will meet in January and assess things at that point.

“I think we are being wise to not name a date,” Hamilton told Lowe. “To me, that becomes an issue for the players . . . they get their hopes up.”

Meanwhile, the OHL is hoping to open its regular season on Feb. 4.

The QMJHL tried to get its regular season started in October, and has gone in fits and starts. Like so many other leagues, it now is back on hold and is hoping to resume play in January. When it does get back on the ice, it could be in some sort of bubble format.

There are 12 Quebec-based teams in the league and seven of them want to play host to bubbles — the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, Chicoutimi Sagueneens, Drummonville Voltigeurs, Quebec Remparts, Rimouski Oceanic, Shawinigan Cataractes and Victoriaville Tigres.

These days, however, there’s more to life than playing hockey.

As Rockets head coach Kris Mallette told Lowe: “There’s a bigger issue at hand. This pandemic is not going away.”

Lowe’s story is right here.

——

Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, said on Wednesday that the league’s is considering moving the bantam draft back on year because of what the pandemic has done to this season.

“Yes, absolutely,” Robison said on The Jason Gregor Show (TSN 1260, whlEdmonton). “It’s hard to evaluate players (and) it’s hard for players to develop under these circumstances. We are considering delaying the draft.

“We haven’t arrived at a decision on that but I think in fairness to the players and the system generally that is something we are seriously considering and we will hopefully make a decision real soon.”

Robison pointed out that scouting has “represented a challenge.” But, he said, the WHL wants to “do it right and give the players every opportunity.”

Under normal circumstances, the bantam draft is held on the first Thursday of May, although the 2020 draft was held virtually on April 23.

During his appearance, Robison also said that the WHL hasn’t had any conversations about scrapping the season, and added that there isn’t a drop-dead date by which time such a decision would have to be made.

“We’re just trying to find a window of time that’s going to make sense,” he said. “Our goal is to have all teams, all divisions playing. Our hope is to get everyone started. We may have to stagger our start. We’re not quite sure what that will look like. We’re prepared to do anything, quite frankly, to get the season in and find a way to make it a representative season for the players and our teams.”

In the end, Robison said, the league is well aware that a final decision will come down to the health authorities.

“We are in discussion with the health authorities in order to return to play,” he explained. “Our protocols are a little bit more extensive than the other levels of hockey, if you will. We have not received final approval from all jurisdictions in order to play. It’s a health-and-safety issue first and foremost for our players, and we want to make sure we do it right. We want to have a testing base and a protocol solution and we’re working through these with the various health authorities.”

The WHL announced on Tuesday that it wasn’t going to start its next season on Jan. 8 as it had hoped. Had it been able to go then, it likely would have had a 50-game regular season.

Now, with no start date even pencilled in, Robison said a determination hasn’t been made as to how many games is needed to have a season.

“We aren’t going to be in a position to deliver (50 games),” he said. “We’ve got to make a determination on whether we can play four full rounds of playoffs and a Memorial Cup. Once we have all that information we’ll set our schedule. But it’ll all depend on what our start date is . . . and what our end date will be.”

At the moment, restrictions in at least two provinces — Alberta and Saskatchewan — have been extended into mid-January. Whenever restrictions come off, Robison there will be about a three-week time frame before a regular season could start. That would include getting players into isolation, a testing procedure and holding some kind of training camp.

“There is a bit of a process we have to go through in preparation to start,” Robison said, adding that the WHL isn’t “in a position to project with restrictions into Jan. 15.”

Robison also touched on the financial picture involving the 22-team league.

“They’re all in a very difficult position,” he said. “This is something that is very challenging for a lot of organizations, a lot of teams at this stage. They’ve been holding on waiting to start play. They’ve got ongoing costs associated with that.

“Let’s not forget that we had to cancel the balance of our season, including the end of the regular season and playoffs and the Memorial Cup that we were scheduled to host (in Kelowna). A significant amount of losses has been accumulated by the teams to date.

“It’s a very difficult challenge for them to envision moving forward, especially when we’re a ticket-driven league and at this particular stage we are not envisioning spectators to be permitted. The whole financial equation is a very difficult one for our teams.”

The complete interview is available right here.



COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

Earl Seitz, the long-time sports anchor at CFJC-TV in Kamloops, opened his Wednesday evening sportscast with this:

“We hear about the impact that no hockey, no sports, is having on the mental health of some.

“Can’t disagree with that.

“But to put it in perspective — think of the seniors, the elders, who are dying by the hundreds, the thousands, from Covid-19 — and because of restrictions are alone without the presence of loved ones there to comfort them in their final hours.

“Or those loved ones who will live with the anguish of not being able to be there with a mother, a father, a grandparent or wife or husband in their final hours.

“Hockey and sports will be back — those who are dying from Covid-19 won’t be.”

——

——

Skylar Peters, CJOB Winnipeg: 15 more Manitobans have lost their lives to COVID-19, and the province reported 292 cases Wednesday. . . . Total: 21,286. . . . Active: 5,797. . . . Deaths: 523. . . . Hospitalized: 328. . . . ICU: 46. . . . WPG test positivity rate: 13.7%. . . . Prov. test positivity rate: 13.6%.

CBC News: 169 new COVID-19 cases reported in Saskatchewan, the 2nd day in a row the number of cases has been below 200. That’s hasn’t happened since November 24-25.

CBC News: Alberta reports 1,270 new cases of COVID-19 and 16 more deaths. Dr. Hinshaw points out that more Albertans have died from COVID-19 in 10 months, than from influenza over the past 10 years combined.

Kamloops This Week: B.C. health authorities are reporting 640 new cases of COVID-19 and 24 further deaths due to the disease. . . . Those new cases include 91 in the Interior Health region, which now has 843 active cases, including 28 in hospital and seven of those patients in critical care units. . . . In total, there are 9,950 active cases in the province. Of those, 362 are in hospital, including 91 in critical care. The province has now had 44,103 confirmed cases. Of those, 32,375 have recovered and 692 have died.

CBC News: Ontario reported 2,139 new cases of COVID-19 and 43 more deaths from the illness on Wednesday as hospitalization figures reached second-wave highs.

CBC News: 1,897 new COVID-19 cases in Quebec, well above the 7-day average of 1,791. 43 additional deaths are also reported. The number of people in hospital rose by 16 to 975; 128 are in intensive care.

CBC News: New household gathering limits announced for all of Nova Scotia during Christmas period.

CNN: The United States reported at least 3,453 coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, the highest number of new deaths in a single day since the pandemic began.

Jim Acosta, CNN: A devastating day in the pandemic for the US. So far today (Wednesday), Johns Hopkins has reported 242,490 new cases and 3,518 reported deaths (10:20pm eastern). This is the highest single day reporting of daily new deaths since the pandemic began.

——

The start of the Australian Open has been pushed back three weeks to Feb. 8. It was to have opened on Jan. 18 in Melbourne.


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.



JUST NOTES: The NHL’s Calgary Flames have moved Jason LaBarbera from the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen to be their goaltending coach. LaBarbera spent four seasons as the goaltending coach with the Hitmen, who are owned by the Flames. LaBarbera, 40, also is Hockey Canada’s goaltending coach, so is in the Edmonton bubble with the national junior team. He played four seasons in the WHL (Tri-City, Portland, Spokane, 1996-2000). . . . The OHL’s Sudbury Wolves need a head coach after Cory Stillman left to join the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes as an assistant coach. He had been the Wolves’ head coach for three seasons. Prior to that, he spent five seasons as the Carolina Hurricanes’ director of player development.

Scattershooting on a Wednesday night while wondering if the QMJHL will ban fighting . . .

Scattershooting

If you are a baseball fan, you need to be aware of the website Alberta Dugout Stories. You are able to find it at albertadugoutstories.com. As a sampler, check out the story at this link right here, where Ian Wilson writes about a wily right-hander named Leroy (Satchel) Paige and others who toured the Prairies at one time or another. . . . This is really, really good stuff.



Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, has been giving up some of his time to watch XFL games. A couple of pertinent observations: “I do not like the fact that the XFL has doubled the number of sideline reporters doing the games; sideline reporters are as useful as a trombone player in a duck blind. . . . A big plus for XFL 2.0 is the absence of any cheerleaders.  They add about as much to a telecast as do the sideline reporters.”

——

The Sports Curmudgeon also had this observation, one that applies to hockey as well: “There is a broadcasting difference between dead air’ (very bad) and ‘announcers’ silence to let the scene speak for itself’ (usually very good). The announcers on XFL games need to shut up every once in a very long while.”


Chips


G Liam McGarva, 20, who won a Kootenay International Junior Hockey League title with the Revelstoke Grizzlies last season, has been suspended until March 11 by the SJHL. McGarva, who turned 20 on Feb. 17, now is with the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves. He was suspended after using his water bottle to squirt a referee, then, as he was being escorted off the ice after being ejected, shoving a linesman with his blocker. . . . Brady Lang of Saskatoon radio station CKOM has all the bases covered right here.


It used to be that Bruce Hamilton, the owner, president and general manager of the Kelowna Rockets, didn’t fire head coaches. And when one did leave, he always seemed to KelownaRocketshave an assistant coach poised to take over. . . . That changed when Dan Lambert left for the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and Hamilton went outside his organization to hire Brad Ralph, who was gone after a 48-20-4 regular season and a trip to the Western Conference final. . . . Jason Smith, another outsider, was hired on July 6, 2016; his run ended on Oct. 22, 2018, with Hamilton saying that “we need to go in a different direction.” The Rockets were 4-10-0 at the time of the firing; Smith left with a 92-54-12 record in two-plus regular seasons. . . . At that time, Hamilton bypassed assistant coach Kris Mallette, this time hiring another outsider, former NHL defenceman Adam Foote. . . .

On Wednesday, Hamilton, whose team is to play host to the Memorial Cup in May, pulled 2020MCthe plug on Foote, and this time he put Mallette in charge, albeit on an interim basis. Foote leaves with a 48-49-12 record, including 24-26-4 this season. . . .

“The team has struggled since the Christmas break,” Hamilton said in a news release. “With 14 games remaining in the regular season, I felt a change was necessary at this time.” . . . He later told Regan Bartel, the team’s radio voice: “Part of success is being able to handle adversity and this group hasn’t handled adversity real well. That’s from playing scared to win, or scared not to lose probably is the better line. That’s what’s set in here a little bit. Hopefully, a new voice will change that.” . . . Except that Mallette isn’t a new voice; he is in his sixth season on the Rockets’ staff. . . .

The Rockets hold down the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot, two points ahead of the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Finish in the first wild-card spot and it likely will mean a first-round date with the Kamloops Blazers, who lead the B.C. Division. The second wild-card spot is likely going to get you the Portland Winterhawks in the opening round. . . .

Oh, and did I mention that F Nolan Foote, Adam’s son and the Rockets’ captain, is spending some time with the New Jersey Devils, who want their medical staff to check him over. The Devils acquired him from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday. Due to injury, Nolan has played in only four games since Nov. 30. He played a bit in a 6-5 OT loss to the visiting Calgary Hitmen on Monday — the Rockets blew a 5-1 lead — but wasn’t able to finish. The Lightning had selected him in the first round, 27th overall, of the NHL’s 2019 draft. . . .

The 2020 Memorial Cup opens in Kelowna in 93 days.


Prisons


Still with fired coaches, the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers have dumped head coach John Beilein after just 54 games; they were 14-40. He joined the Cavs prior to this season, after spending 12 seasons with the U of Michigan Wolverines. . . . Don’t cry for him, though — he had four years and more than US$16 million left on his contract when he left town.



It is pretty much agreed that CF Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels is the best player in MLB. On Monday, he spoke to reporters about the cheating scandal that is eating up the Houston Astros: “It’s sad for baseball. It’s tough. They cheated. I don’t agree with the punishments, the players not getting anything. It was a player-driven thing. It sucks, too, because guys’ careers have been affected, a lot of people lost jobs. It was tough. Me going up to the plate knowing what was coming — it would be pretty fun up there.” . . . The Angels play seven of their first 10 regular-season games against the Astros, opening with four in Houston, March 26-29. . . .

BTW, word out of Vegas is that the over-under on the number of Houston hitters who will be hit by pitches this season is 83.5. . . . During the 2019 season, only 41 Astros hitters were plunked; the MLB average was 66.


——

There are reports that QMJHL governors, who are meeting today (Thursday) may vote to ban fighting. I have no idea what steps the governors might take, but it’s about time. . . . It’s also more than past time for the WHL to follow suit. In this day and age, there simply is something wrong about charging admission for an event in which teenagers are allowed to punch each other in the face with bare knuckles and little in the way of consequences.

Mallette staying on Rockets’ staff. . . . Raiders, Oil Kings even after Game 4. . . . Holt everything! Giants have 3-1 edge


MacBeth

F Lauris Dārziņš (Kelowna, 2004-06) has signed a one-year contract extension with Dinamo Riga (Latvia, KHL). This season, in 62 games, he had 18 goals and 26 assists. The team captain, he averaged 18:29 TOI per game. . . .

F Justin Kirsch (Calgary, Moose Jaw, 2009-13) has signed a one-year contract with the Kassel Huskies (Germany, DEL2). This season, with Heilbronn (Germany, DEL2), he had 29 goals and 31 assists in 52 games.


ThisThat

The Kelowna Rockets have signed assistant coach Kris Mallette to an extension that runs KelownaRocketsthrough the 2020-21 season. Mallette’s contract was to have expired at the end of this season.

Mallette, 40, has been on the Rockets’ coaching staff since the 2014-15 season.

A defenceman, he played four seasons in the WHL (Kelowna, Moose Jaw Warriors, 1996-2000), before going on to a nine-year pro career. He has been coaching since 2010-11 when he was an assistant coach with the junior B North Okanagan Knights of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.

With the Rockets, he works alongside head coach Adam Foote, who is preparing for his first full season with Kelowna.


For what it’s worth, Kris Mallette, who has signed a two-year extension with the Kelowna Rockets, was on my list of the ‘next ones’ — high-end candidates for head-coaching positions in the WHL or elsewhere.

Mallette just finished his fifth season on the Rockets’ coaching staff, and he obviously likes it just fine right where he is. Of course, re-signing with the Rockets means he’ll get whlto coach in the 2020 Memorial Cup, what with Kelowna being the host team.

At the moment, the Kamloops Blazers are the only one of the WHL’s 22 teams not to have a head coach under contract. They and head coach Serge Lajoie went their separate ways on April11, after just one season together.

Many hockey people are assuming that co-owner Darryl Sydor will be the Blazers’ next head coach, and that the feeling will prevail until/unless the team announces otherwise. Sydor was named a full-time assistant coach on Feb. 12.

In the meantime, Mallette is just one of a number of WHL assistant coaches who would seem ready to step up.

Jeff Truitt, 53, is a former Kelowna head coach who now is an assistant under Marc Habscheid with the Prince Albert Raiders. Before moving to the Raiders, he spent five-plus seasons on the Red Deer Rebels’ coaching staff.

Kyle Gustafson, 38, has been on staff with the Portland Winterhawks since 2003-04 and is more than ready to be a head coach. He has been with the Winterhawks in good times (a WHL title in 2013) and bad (11 victories in 2007-08). You can bet that he has learned the business and the game while working with the likes of Ken Hodge, Mike Johnston, Travis Green and Don Hay.

Ryan Marsh, 44, is a former WHL player (Tri-City, 1992-95), who has been in the coaching game since 2003-04 when he signed on as an assistant coach with the AJHL’s Fort Saskatchewan Traders. He later spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the U of Alberta Golden Bears and four with the Edmonton Oil Kings. He just completed his first season as the Saskatoon Blades’ associate coach.

Scott Burt, 42, is another former WHL player (Seattle, Swift Current, Edmonton, Red Deer, 1994-98) and now is in his fifth season on the Spokane Chiefs’ coaching staff. He spent the last three seasons of a 13-year pro career as the captain of the ECHL’s Alaska Aces and then began his coaching career by spending two seasons with them.

Luke Pierce, 35, is in his first season as an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oil Kings, but may be ready for a second stint as a WHL head coach. He spent five-plus seasons in his hometown as general manager/head coach of the BCHL’s Merritt Centennials before spending two seasons as head coach of the faltering Kootenay Ice. When looking at Pierce’s background, you can’t discount that fact he spent five seasons playing at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont.

Mark O’Leary, 34, just completed his seventh season as an assistant coach with the Moose Jaw Warriors. From Owen Sound, Ont., he played in the OHL with the Mississauga IceDogs and Guelph Storm (2003-06), before playing professionally for five seasons.

Brian Pellerin, 49, has been coaching since 2002-03 when he was a playing assistant coach with the CHL’s Amarillo Gorillas. He went on to spend four seasons (2004-08) as an assistant coach with the Portland Winterhawks and now has been the Tri-City Americans’ associate coach for five seasons. As a player, he spent four seasons (1987-91) with the Prince Albert Raiders.

Of course, let’s not forget that there are some really experienced head coaches who just may be available, too.

Don Hay, 65, the guy with more regular-season and playoff victories than any head coach in WHL history, isn’t retired. He spent this season as an assistant coach in Portland and you can bet that he wants to keep on coaching.

Don Nachbaur, 60, is the third-winningest regular-season head coach in WHL history. He has worked as the head coach of the Seattle Thunderbirds, Tri-City Americans and Spokane Chiefs. He signed on with the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach after the 2016-17 season. His posting in L.A. lasted a season and a bit; he was fired when the Kings dumped head coach John Stevens on Nov. 4. This spring, Nachbaur provided analysis on broadcasts of Tri-City playoff games.

The Kings also hired Dave Lowry, 54, as an assistant coach prior to the 2017-18 season after he had been the head coach of the Victoria Royals for five seasons. Lowry was dismissed by the Kings on April 17 after Todd McLellan was hired as head coach.

Steve Konowalchuk, 46, was the Seattle Thunderbirds’ head coach for six seasons, guiding them to a WHL title in 2016-17. He was then hired as an assistant coach by the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, a job that lasted one season.  He now is an amateur scout with the New York Rangers. But, hey, maybe he’s got the coaching bug, again.

There also are other men out there with previous WHL playing and/or coaching experience who might be worth another shot, like Mark Ferner, the director of hockey operations and head coach with the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers; Mike Vandekamp, the GM and head coach of the BCHL’s Cowichan Capitals; Jason Becker, who has completed three seasons as an assistant coach with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees; Ryan Papaioannou, the GM and head coach of the AJHL-champion Brooks Bandits; Andrew Milne, the GM and head coach of the AJHL’s Canmore Eagles; Paul Dyck, the general manager, director of hockey operations and head coach of the MJHL’s Steinbach Pistons. . . .

Of course, in this day and age, there also are former WHL coaches like Mark Holick and Enio Sacilotto who now are coaching at hockey academies.

So . . . if your favourite WHL team ends up changing coaches, there are a lot of capable coaches out there.



The Selkirk College Saints, who play in the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League out of Castelgar, B.C., are looking for a new head coach. Brent Heaven, the head coach for the past four seasons, “is leaving to pursue other interests,” according to a news release. . . . Under Heaven, the Saints went 62-25-0-10 and won the BCIHL championship in 2016. . . . There’s more on Heaven and the Saints right here.


EdChynowethCup

NOTES: The four remaining WHL teams all were in action on Wednesday night, and they’ll be back on the ice Friday night after changing venues. . . .

The Prince Albert Raiders beat the Oil Kings, 2-1, in Edmonton to tie the Eastern Conference final, 2-2. They’ll be in Prince Albert for Game 5 on Friday night, then return to Edmonton and play Game 6 on Sunday afternoon. . . .

This was the 68th playoff victory of Prince Albert head coach Marc Habscheid’s WHL career. He had been tied with Willie Desjardins and Don Nachbaur, but now is seventh on the all-time list. . . . Ahead of Habscheid on the list are Don Hay, 108; Ken Hodge, 101; Ernie (Punch) McLean, 87; Kelly McCrimmon and Pat Ginnell, each 80; and Brent Sutter, 79. . . . (If you don’t recognize him, that’s Ginnell to the left of Medicine Hat Tigers play-by-play voice Bob Ridley in the tweet at the top of this post.) . . .

In Spokane, the Vancouver Giants erased a 2-0 third-period deficit and beat the Chiefs, 4-3 in OT. Vancouver leads the Western Conference final, 3-1, with Game 5 in Langley, B.C., on Friday night.

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WEDNESDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

The Prince Albert Raiders scored the game’s first two goals and hung on for a 2-1 victory PrinceAlbertover the Oil Kings in Edmonton. . . . That tied the Eastern Conference final at 2-2 with Game 5 in Prince Albert on Friday night. . . . F Brett Leason (4) gave the Raiders a 1-0 lead with his first goal of the series at 13:01 of the second period. . . . F Noah Gregor (6), off a nifty pass from F Ozzy Wiesblatt, made it 2-0 at 2:13 of the third period. . . . D Wyatt McLeod (4) got the Oil Kings to within a goal at 13:54 of the third period, but they weren’t able to equalize. . . . G Ian Scott stopped 25 shots for the Raiders. In these playoffs, he now is 10-4, 1.96, .924. . . . G Dylan Myskiw stopped 25 shots for Edmonton. . . . To refresh, the Raiders won 1-0 at home in Game 1, with the Oil Kings winning Game 2, 4-3 in OT. In Edmonton, the Oil Kings won 5-1 and then dropped a 2-1 decision last night. . . . Had the Raiders lost Game 4 it would have marked their first three-game losing skid of the season.


F Dawson Holt’s OT goal gave the Vancouver Giants a 4-3 victory over the Chiefs in VancouverSpokane and a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference final. . . . The Giants get their first chance to wrap it up on Friday in Langley B.C. . . . Last night, the Chiefs skated to a 2-0 lead on a pair of goals from F Adam Beckman (7, 8), at 18:38 of the first period and 10:06 of the second. . . . The Giants, outshot 26-13 through two periods, began the comeback when F Jadon Joseph (7) scored on a delayed penalty at 4:26 of the third period. . . . D Bowen Byram (6) tied it, on a PP, at 9:11, and F Brayden Watts (4) gave the Giants the lead at 10:04. . . . Chiefs F Riley Woods (7) forced OT when he scored at 16:25. . . . Holt won it with his fifth goal of the playoffs at 7:07 of OT. . . . F Davis Koch and F Milos Roman each had two assists for Vancouver, and Byram added one assist to his goal. Byram and his defence partner, Alex Kannok Leipert, drew the assists on the winner. . . . Vancouver was 1-2 on the PP; Spokane was 0-1. . . . The Giants got 28 saves from G David Tendeck, while Spokane G Bailey Brkin blocked 26 shots. . . . The Chiefs were without F Luc Smith, who hasn’t played since the early moments of Game 1. Last night, he was behind the bench in a coaching role. . . . Spokane also scratched D Filip Kral, who left Game 3 after taking a hit from Giants F Justin Sourdif in the first period. Kral returned in the second period and finished the game, but obviously wasn’t able to play last night. . . . With Kral out, D Egor Arbuzov got into the lineup. . . . Vancouver remains without F Adian Barfoot, who hasn’t played since being injured in Game 4 of a first-round series with the Seattle Thunderbirds.


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