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 took 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.
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 morning, 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 the 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 Winnipeg 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 4-3 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 Prince 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.
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
Toll free: 1-877-922-9822
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.” . . . 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 email@example.com.”