It's with heavy hearts we mourn the passing of former Wheat Kings captain, Don Dietrich of Deloraine, MB. He embodied what it is to be a Wheat King and will be remembered for his many contributions to the #Westman community.
Don Dietrich, a former defenceman with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings (1978-81) who went on to a pro career, died on Tuesday morning. From Deloraine, Man., and proud of it, he was 59.
He is survived by his wife Nadine and three sons — Tristan, Jake and Nick. The latter two, like their Dad, played in the WHL.
Tristan posted Tuesday morning on the Facebook tribute page that they recently started to honour their husband and father:
“We are sad to announce that Don, Dad, Dins, Beaker passed away this morning peacefully. He fought hard til the end. The ‘I Can’ in him stayed true right til the end.
“If ever having a hard day, remember it can always be worse. A bad day doing something you love is still better than a good day doing something you don’t. Keep your toes up ice! The golden rule must always be followed. Get the most out of life by finding out what you can do for others. Take a second to look at the man in the mirror. Be true to your self. Take ownership. Find a way to win.
“Don made sure he passed on lessons so he could live on in all of us. We love him. Will see him on the other side . . . just not yet . . . not yet.”
It has been almost five years since Randy Turner of the Winnipeg Free Press wrote a terrific piece about Don after a Molson Canadian promotion resulted in his being part of a group that got to play hockey on a frozen lake in the mountains near Invermere.
Dietrich, who was battling Parkinson’s disease and then was diagnosed with cancer, later told Turner: “I’ll put it to you this way. If there’s a heaven on Earth, I’ve been there.”
Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times has taken a look at the WHL’s plans to get players back on the ice, with a particular focus on the five teams in the U.S. Division. . . . Those five teams are scheduled to begin games on March 19, with all games in Everett or Kent, and with the Portland Winterhawks practising in Vancouver, Wash. . . . At one point, Baker writes: “I’m told not all U.S. Division teams favored playing, which isn’t surprising given risks to players, aged 16-20, paid only nominal ‘stipends.’ There’s no TV revenue at stake and gate-driven WHL squads will lose a bundle by taking the ice.” . . . Officials with the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds told Baker that “their motivation is showcasing and developing players for NHL careers.” That, of course, is what everyone is saying. . . . According to Baker, the Silvertips will have their players in a bubble — “most likely in currently empty dormitories at Everett Community College.” The Thunderbirds, meanwhile, will have their players with billets. . . . As Baker writes, “We’ll see how effective one ‘bubble’ team is when playing others mingling daily with nonquarantined people.” . . . Baker’s complete story is right here.
Meanwhile, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, held an in-person briefing on Tuesday. Asked when the WHL’s B.C. Division will be able to get its five teams playing again, according to Liza Yuzda of News 1130, she said that health officials “haven’t received an updated proposal in the last few weeks,” adding that they would be “happy to look at it.” . . . She also said that if the province continues on its present trajectory, she would hope for games in March or April.
The NHL announced a number of schedule changes on Tuesday, but also had another postponement on its hands. For the second night in a row, it had to postpone a game between the Nashville Predators and host Dallas Stars because of power-related issues in Texas all due to the inclement weather. . . . Former Lethbridge Hurricanes D Calen Addison made his NHL debut on Tuesday night as the Minnesota Wild played its first game since Feb. 2 because of protocols. The Wild dropped a 4-0 decision to the Kings in Los Angeles. . . .
The NHL had 22 players on its COVID-19 protocol list on Tuesday, with seven of them from the Philadelphia Flyers, who last played on Feb. 7 and are scheduled to play the visiting New York Rangers on Thursday. The Flyers, with seven players on the protocol list, practised on Tuesday after being off for a week. However, they had only 14 skaters, four of them from the taxi squad, and two goaltenders available.
The NBA’s San Antonio Spurs have had four players test positive and now have had four games postponed, including Tuesday game against the host Detroit Pistons. . . . The Spurs remain in quarantine in Charlotte, N.C., since playing the Hornets there on Sunday. . . . The Spurs were to have played road games against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, the New York Knicks on Saturday and the Indiana Pacers on Monday. . . .
Due to contact tracing, the Hornets’ next two games have been scrubbed. They were to have played at home against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday and the Denver Nuggets on Friday. . . . The NBA now has postponed 29 games for virus-related issues.
I have received a query from a WHL fan who has in his possession a black New Westminster Bruins sweater (No.22) from 1977-78 or 1978-79. He doesn’t know who wore it, although he wonders if it may have been Don Werbeniuk. . . . If you are able to help with some ID, please email me at email@example.com.
Dear hockey gods: We really, really need a best-of-seven series — a best-of- nine would be better — between the Colorado Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights. Their game in Vegas on Tuesday, especially the third period, was hockey as art, even without fans. . . . D Bowen Byram, 19, made the play that led to Colorado’s winning goal late in the third period of a 3-2 victory. The former Vancouver Giants star played 25:03 last night, after going 23:07 in Sunday’s 1-0 victory over the Golden Knights. The Avalanche is without three defencemen — Cale Makar, Erik Johnson and Samuel Girard — but hasn’t missed a beat with Byram back there.
THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Monday, 10:44 p.m. PT — Canada: 21,298 have died from coronavirus; 832,375 have tested positive.
Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Tuesday, 9:48 p.m. PT — Canada: 21,395 have died from coronavirus; 836,594 have tested positive.
Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Monday, 10:44 p.m. PT — United States: 486,321 have died from coronavirus . . . 27,692,967 have tested positive.
Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, Tuesday, 9:48 p.m. PT — United States: 487,927 people have died. . . . 27,753,824 have tested positive.
NBC Montana — State Medical Officer Dr. Greg Holzman announced his resignation from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Thursday in a letter to new Director Adam Meier. . . . The announcement came one day after Gov. Greg Gianforte announced plans to lift the state’s mask mandate, which went into effect Friday.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
JUST NOTES: Troy Gillard will be the interim play-by-play voice of the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels for the approaching 24-game developmental season. He takes over from Cam Moon, now the radio voice of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. Gillard, a familiar media face in Red Deer since 2006, has been the host of Rebels broadcasts since 2011. He will be joined on home games by veteran analyst Mike Moller. . . . You may recall reading there last week about the travels of former WHL star goaltender Taran Kozun. Well, add another chapter because he was released by the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears on Tuesday.
Nearly three years after losing his son Evan in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, Scott Thomas has written a letter in support of the semi-driver who was responsible, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu. https://t.co/o3oZTAADTm
It was in 1992 when Gatorade launched its “Be Like Mike” advertising campaign, one that was wrapped around then-NBA star Michael Jordan.
Here we are, almost 30 years later, and all I want is to Be Like Scott.
That would be Scott Thomas.
As hard as it may be to believe, almost three years have slid by since the bus crash involving the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos. Thomas and his wife, Laurie, lost their son Evan in the crash. He was one of the 16 people who died as a result of the bus colliding with a big rig while en route to Nipawin for a playoff game.
Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, the truck’s driver, is serving an eight-year sentence, and will be eligible to apply for parole in September. He also is waiting for a decision on whether he will be deported.
Not only does Scott Thomas think that shouldn’t happen, he has written a letter in support of Sidhu’s staying in Canada to the Canadian Border Services Agency. Thomas also has been in communication via email with Sidhu and his family.
“I don’t have the energy for hatred, our family just doesn’t,” Thomas told Ken Campbell of The Hockey News. “For me to go on and function and to be the best father I can be to the one daughter I have left and to leave this place with a positive impact and do something for our son’s legacy . . . for us to move forward, the best thing for us to do is forgive. There are days when I want to scream and there are days I do scream at the world, but for us to move forward, the easiest path to that is forgiveness and compassion.”
Take a few minutes out of your day and read them both. You’ll be a better person for having done it.
Let’s not forget, too, that Scott Thomas continues to advocate for standardized training across Canada for semi-truck drivers. You can bet that we’ll be hearing from him on that subject again and again and again, all the while wondering why politicians don’t sit up and take notice.
Scott Thomas' son Evan was killed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash. Not only has Thomas found room in his heart to forgive, he's advocating for the man who was driving the truck that killed his son to to stay in Canada after his prison sentence. My blog. https://t.co/tgPfMM8ALQ
The Regina Exhibition Association announced Friday that the ice is being taken out of the Brandt Centre, the home of the WHL’s Regina Pats. . . . Under the present public health restrictions in Saskatchewan, the Brandt Centre is closed through Jan. 29. . . . . In making Friday’s announcement, the association suggested to renters that “if the ice is installed for any reason over the next three months, ice may become available to rent.” . . . Should the WHL get to play the 24-game schedule that it has said it is “committed” to, games almost certainly will be played in empty facilities. Without ice in the Brandt Centre, the Pats could play next door in the Co-operators Centre. . . .
Earlier in the week, the Edmonton Oil Kings told season-ticket holders that if they get to play games this spring they’ll be in the Downtown Community Arena rather than Rogers Place, which also is home to the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. . . . The Spokane Arena, home of the WHL’s Chiefs, is to be used as a mass vaccination site starting on Wednesday.
In the midst of a global pandemic that is not showing any signs of abating, we take a look at messaging from a pair of under-18 hockey leagues.
In Saskatchewan, the under-18 female and male leagues have postponed their seasons, and it sure sounds as though the boys might be finished for this season.
“Due to the ongoing pandemic and health restrictions, the SU18AAAHL schedule will be postponed effective Jan. 19, 2021,” reads a release on the league’s website. “If public health measures allow for a return to game play at any time, the executive will meet and review game play options for any teams that wish to continue. “
Among the reasons for the decision: “Provide parents the freedom to move their son(s) home for personal reasons. For some parents this will take some pressure off their decision. . . . Provide billets the option to continue hosting players during the COVID-19 19 crisis. This will give them a freedom to evaluate their involvement.”
Meanwhile, next door in Manitoba, the male U18 AAA league has sent what it calls an “open letter” to Premier Brian Pallister, Heather Stefanson, the minister of health and senior services, and Dr. Roussin, the province’s chief health officer. In the letter, signed by Levi A. Taylor, the commissioner, the league makes a case for why it should be allowed to return to play.
At one point, the letter claims that “the continued prohibition of social interaction and limitation of permitted physical activities has caused immeasurable harm to the children of this province.”
Later, there is this: “The Manitoba U18 AAA Hockey League calls on you to reopen recreation facilities, gyms, and fitness centres for use by children and youth. It can be done (safely), and it must be done now to curtail the harms inflicted.”
Super Sky Point to the great Hank Aaron, the man who overcame hate and prejudice to do the unthinkable: chase down Babe Ruth and his legendary mark of 714 career home runs. Let’s relive that magic night in Atlanta one more time. Thank you, Hammer. #RIPpic.twitter.com/eGbIEjF4Yc
Let me be very clear: Nobody should be taking a vacation abroad right now. If you’ve got one planned, cancel it – and don’t book a trip for spring break. We need to hang on and hold tight for the next few months, and get through to the spring in the best shape possible.
CBC News — 173 COVID-19 cases in Manitoba, above the province’s 7-day average of 160. 2 additional deaths are also being reported. On the vaccine front, 23,884 doses have been administered so far.
CBC News — Saskatchewan reported 312 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday along with eight additional deaths.
CBC News — Alberta reports 643 new COVID-19 cases, 12 additional deaths.
CBC News — Nine additional deaths, 508 new COVID-19 cases reported in British Columbia on Friday.
CBC News — Ontario is reporting 2,662 new cases of COVID-19 and 87 new deaths. 779 of the new cases are in Toronto, 542 are in Peel and 228 are in York Region.
CBC News — Quebec is reporting 1,631 new cases of COVID-19 and has added 88 deaths to its tally, 18 of which occurred in the last 24 hours.
CBC News — 30 new COVID-19 cases in New Brunswick. This is the 4th time in a week the number has exceeded 30; the 7-day average for new cases in 29.
CBC News — Full lockdown announced in New Brunswick’s Zone 4 Health Zone. All schools to move to virtual learning, non-essential businesses to close, indoor formal gatherings not allowed. 19 of the 30 new cases on Friday are in Zone 4, which is the province’s northwest and includes Edmundston.
CBC News — Nunavut has its 1st new case of COVID-19 since Dec. 28. The new case is in Arviat. The person is asymptomatic and self-isolating.
KTVZ-TV — Oregon reports 22 more COVID-19 deaths, death toll at 1,865; 877 new cases, total at 136,839. . . . Oregon has now administered a cumulative total of 270,453 first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines. All vaccinations were administered by Oregon hospitals, long-term care facilities, emergency medical service (EMS) agencies, urgent care facilities and Local Public Health Authorities (LPHAs).
The Olympian — The Washington State Department of Health on Friday reported 2,162 news confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 49 new deaths. Statewide totals . . . are at 298,249 cases and 4,114 deaths.
Public Health Agency of Canada, Friday, 4 p.m. PT — Total cases: 737,407. . . . Active cases: 65,750. . . . Deaths: 18,828.
CNN, Friday, 4:31 p.m. PT — 413,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.
CNN, Friday, 7:21 p.m. PT — 24.8 million people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus.
The New York Times — Since March of last year, at least 424,000 more Americans have died than would have in a normal year, showing that the true toll of the pandemic may be higher than previously known.
Former MLB player and manager Davey Johnson is back in his Florida home after spending time in hospital with COVID-19. Johnson, now 77, was the New York Mets’ manager when they last won the World Series, in 1986. He played for the Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs (1965-78). He managed the Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Baltimore, Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals (1985-2013. . . .
Matt Norlander, CBS Sports: “Multiple conference commissioners and athletic directors told CBS Sports in the past week-plus that there is a growing sense of nervousness over the stability of the college basketball season. . . . With Joe Biden now holding office, high-ranking NCAA officials are in wait-and-see mode about monitoring case counts across the country and bracing for the possibility of federal shutdowns that could impact dozens if not hundreds of schools — prompting a midseason pause in the process.” . . .
After having their first four NHL regular-season games postponed after at least 17 players tested positive, the Dallas Stars were in action on Friday night. They were without F Blake Comeau, who was placed on the COVID-19 list earlier in the day, as they beat the visiting Nashville Predators, 7-0. . . . The Detroit Red Wings added F Filip Zadina to the list on Friday, too. He joined teammates F Robby Fabbri, F Adam Erne and F Sam Gagner, and D Jon Merrill on the list. . . . The Washington Capitals were without F Alex Ovechkin, F Evgeny Kuznetsov, D Dmitry Orlov and G Ilya Samsonov as they beat the visiting Buffalo Sabres, 4-3 in OT, on Friday night. All four, one of whom reportedly tested positive, will miss three more games as they all are on the COVID-19 list. . . .
The Memphis Grizzlies have had four straight games postponed, bringing the NBA’s total of such games to 20. The Grizzlies were to have met the Trail Blazers in Portland on Wednesday and last night (Friday) and were to have played the Kings in Sacramento on Sunday and Monday. . . .
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Clay Plume, who spent three seasons in the WHL, died on Tuesday. He was 37. Plume was from Standoff, Alta. . . . Plume, a defenceman, spent two-plus seasons (2001-04) with the Lethbridge Hurricanes before finishing the 2003-04 season with the Prince George Cougars. In 181 regular-season games, he has 22 goals and 43 assists. . . . He went on to play one season in the ECHL and six in the CHL. . . . Plume played 24 games over the past two seasons with the senior AA Fort Macleod Mustangs of the Alberta-based Ranchland Hockey League. . . . Dale Woodard of the Lethbridge Herald has more on Plume right here.
JUST NOTES: F Nigel Dawes, who doesn’t get nearly enough plaudits when the conversation turns to great WHLers, picked up the 500th regular-season point of his KHL career in a 4-3 OT loss to host Lokomotiv on Friday. Dawes, 35, is in his 10th KHL season, but his first with Ak Bars Kazan. This season, he has 22 goals and 17 assists in 40 games. He had a goal and an assist on Friday, leaving him with 501 points, including 266 goals, in 536 games. In his WHL career, he put up 272 points, 159 of them goals, in 245 games. He played four seasons (2001-04) with the Kootenay Ice (remember them?). . . . The QMJHL returned to action with four games on Friday night, its first action since Nov. 29. Playing what it calls a “controlled environment” rather than a bubble, there were games in Shawinigan, Drummondville, Rimouski and Chicoutimi. There will be games in the same venues Saturday and Sunday.
Saddened to share that my dad passed away in his sleep last night. He worked as hard as anyone I’ve ever known and he treated those he encountered with great respect…and he took me to work a lot. For all these things, I am very grateful. Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/cvlDRRdVXa
While the three community-owned Saskatchewan-based WHL teams combined to lose more than $1.5 million last season, the Lethbridge Hurricanes, the league’s other community-owned club, managed to lose only $1,030. . . . That appears to have been the biggest revelation as the Hurricanes held their annual general meeting in virtual fashion on Monday night. Originally scheduled for September, it had been postponed to December before finally being held on Monday. . . . While almost breaking even for last season, the Hurricanes, who had shown a profit of $282,168 for the 2018-19 season, have budgeted a loss of about $1.3 million for 2020-21. That, of course, is the worst-case scenario, which isn’t hard to imagine happening in these COVID-19 times. . . . Danica Ferris of Global News has more right here. . . .
The Hurricanes were able to get in 31 home games, averaging 3,970 fans per game. . . . Some numbers for the three community-owned teams that operate in Saskatchewan: The Moose Jaw Warriors, who declared a loss of $391,299, averaged 2,981 fans for 31 home games. . . . The Prince Albert Raiders, who lost $331,895, got in 32 homes games, averaging 2,642 fans. . . . In 32 home games, the Swift Current Broncos averaged 1,954 fans en route to losing $791,000.
The QMJHL, which last played on Nov. 29, plans on resuming play this weekend, but it won’t be playing in the Maritime provinces. The league had three games scheduled for each of Friday and Saturday nights in the Maritime Division, but has had to scratch them all “following meetings with government and public health officials of the three provinces,” the league said in a news release. “Meanwhile, the league will continue its constructive dialogue with the three provinces to resume playing as soon as possible.” . . . In the meantime, the 12 Quebec-based teams are scheduled to play a total of 15 games over the weekend.
Don’t look now but we already are half-past January, and there are daffodils blooming at English Bay in Vancouver. With that in mind and considering all that is going on around us, it perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise that some places are giving up on a 2020-21 winter season. . . . In Regina, the Highland Curling Club and the Caledonian Curling Club have cancelled the remainder of their seasons. A note from the Callie’s announcement via Facebook: “With the recent extension of the public health order, and continued rise of Covid-19 in our community, the need to end our curling season has become abundantly clear.” . . . Meanwhile, in B.C., the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) shut down Castlegar’s Pioneer Arena on Monday and is closing the Civic Centre in Nelson, effective Jan. 29. With a Public Health Order in place that restricts adult participation in sport and no end in sight, the RDCK said the closures were being done in order to reduce expenses. . . . The Nelson Star has more right here.
If you are an avid reader of Elliotte Friedman’s weekly posting 31 Thoughts, you are able to find the latest one right here. As always, it’s best served up with a hot cuppa coffee or tea, or whatever else is your beverage of choice.
THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
CBC News — Manitoba announces 111 new cases of COVID-19, which suggests the number of new cases is trending downwards. Today’s total brings the province’s 7-day average down to 172. There are also 11 more deaths due to the virus.
CBC News — Number of new cases in Saskatchewan tops 300 again after falling below that figure for 3 days. With 309 new cases, the province’s 7-day average rises to 300. 6 additional deaths are also being reported.
CBC News — Alberta reported another 17 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday and 456 new cases of the illness. There were 11,096 active cases in the province with 740 people in hospital, including 119 in ICU beds. Total deaths since the beginning of the pandemic now sits at 1,464. Active cases in the province declined by 827 compared to Monday.
Richard Zussman, Global B.C. — There are 465 new cases, including 13 epi-linked cases, for a total of 61,912 cases in British Columbia. . . . There are 12 new COVID-19 related deaths, for a total of 1,090.
CBC News — Ontario has 1,913 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest in more than a month. However, the health minister’s office says the number is likely low due to a data collection issue in Toronto. There are also 46 additional deaths. A record high 400 people are in ICUs.
CBC News — 1,386 new COVID-19 cases in Quebec, the lowest number of daily cases since December 4. The province is also attributing 55 additional deaths to the virus.
CBC News — Quebec calls on federal government to ban all non-essential international travel in light of growing emergence of new COVID-19 variants.
CTV News — PM warns Canada could impose new COVID-19 travel restrictions without notice.
CBC News — New Brunswick reports 31 new COVID-19 cases, tied for the 2nd highest number since the pandemic. Authorities recommend 3 health zones — including the province’s 3 biggest cities (Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton) be moved to red alert level.
CBC News, Tuesday, 12:30 p.m. PT — COVID-19 deaths in United States top 400,000, Johns Hopkins University tracking team says. Number of confirmed cases worldwide is 95,914,148 (24,163,823 in U.S.) with 2,049,813 deaths. Canada has had 718,519 cases with 18,232 deaths.
CNN, Tuesday, 4 p.m. PT: 401,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.
The NHL postponed a game between the Carolina Hurricanes and host Nashville Predators that had been scheduled for Tuesday night. According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, there is a COVID-19 “situation with the Hurricanes.” . . . The Hurricanes have five players on the protocol list — Warren Foegele, Jordan Martinook, Jaccob Slavin, Jordan Staal and Teuvo Teravainen. . . . The NHL now has postponed five games this regular season, with the other four all involving the Dallas Stars, who have yet to play a game. They are scheduled open on Friday at home against the Predators. . . .
The IIHF world men’s hockey championship, scheduled to open on May 21, won’t be taking place in Belarus, a country troubled by political unrest. The IIHF announced the decision on Monday, citing safety concerns. Of course, the decision also was made after three sponsors — Liqui Moly, Nivea and Skoda — said they would withdraw support if the tournament went ahead in Belarus. . . . The tournament was to have been shared with Latvia; the IIHF now is looking for another site. Another option is to move it to Denmark or Slovakia. . . .
The University of Nevada-Las Vegas Rebels have shut down their hockey program until the fall “due to continuous national hardships with COVID-19. . . . As it stands today, the local government determined that a safe enough path for competition could not be found for spring of 2021.” . . .
Hockey East has thrown out the remainder of its 2020-21 schedule because of coronavirus-related disruptions, and now says it will schedule on a weekly basis. . . . The conference has some teams that have played 15 games and some at four, so will work to try and even things out at least a bit. . . .
Devin Heroux of CBC Sports reported Tuesday that the Canadian men’s slopestyle team will miss an international event in Switzerland because two members have tested positive and are in isolation. . . . His story is right here.
IN THE NEWS! 📰📣 First in North America: All in Nova Scotia Now Considered Potential Organ Donors. https://t.co/tSXspSsaKa
JUST NOTES: In a letter to season-ticket holders, the Edmonton Oil Kings, among other things, indicated that should a WHL season get started they will their home games “in the Downtown Community Arena without fans in attendance.” Under what used to be normal circumstances, the Oil Kings played home games in Rogers Place, the home of the the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers, of course, own the Oil Kings. . . . The Montreal Canadiens have signed a three-year affiliate deal with an expansion ECHL franchise that is to begin play in Trois-Rivières in 2021-22.
How does the Prince George Cougars of Kamloops sound? Or how about the Victoria Royals of Kelowna?
The WHL announced on Friday that it has a “commitment” to play a 24-game 2021 schedule. The league didn’t announce any other particulars, other than pointing out that “he start date for the season will be determined once final approval has been received from the health authorities in each provincial and state jurisdiction, and it is anticipated the approvals will be received soon.”
Bruce Hamilton, the chairman of the WHL’s board of governors and the owner/general manager of the Kelowna Rockets, told Travis Lowe of CHBC-TV in Kelowna that the people running the show “thought that it was important that we let our players know that we’re going to do everything we can to get some kind of a season in for them,”
Taking Note was told Tuesday afternoon that one plan the WHL has looked at would have players reporting to teams on Jan. 22 in the hopes of starting a season on Feb. 8. However, that seems awfully far-fetched if only because, for example, the restrictions that presently are in place in B.C. are there until at least Feb. 5.
Hamilton told Lowe that a new season “probably” wouldn’t get started “until the end of February, early March.”
Lowe also reported: “According to Hamilton, the 24-game season will probably take about 60 days to complete. Teams would have a 21-day or 28-day training camp that would include a quarantine period for all players.”
Hamilton also told Lowe that “we may look at some kind of a setup where we would move one or two teams into Kamloops and one team into (Kelowna) and then limit the travel.”
A source told Taking Note that one option that has been discussed would have the Cougars spend the season playing out of Kamloops, with the Royals doing the same out of Kelowna.
Last week, the USHL’s Lincoln Stars added four players to their protected list, all of them American-born skaters off the roster of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. On Tuesday, the Winterhawks released those four to play for the Stars. F Cross Hanas, 19, who is from Highland Village, Tex.; F Clay Hanus, 19, from Excelsior, Minn.; F Jack O’Brien, 17, from Denver; and F James Stefan, 17, from Laguna Beach, Calif., will stay with Lincoln until the Stars’ season ends. . . . “With the uncertainty of our start date due to restrictions in Oregon and Washington, we felt the opportunity for these four American players to play significant games could not be passed up,” Mike Johnston, the Winterhawks’ vice-president, general manager and head coach, said in a news release. . . .
Meanwhile, F Bear Hughes of the Spokane Chiefs has been given his release to play for the USHL’s Fargo Force. Hughes, 19, is from Post Falls, Idaho. . . .
On Jan. 5, the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints announced that they were adding F Matt Savoie, who turned 17 on Jan. 1, of the Winnipeg Ice to their roster. However, Savoie’s name has yet to appear on that roster. He is from St. Alberta, Alta. Savoie played six games this season with the AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders, putting up three goals and three assists.
If you have been holding out hope that fans will be allowed into arenas to watch games when/if the WHL gets a season started, it really doesn’t seem likely to happen.
For proof, here’s part of message from the Lethbridge Hurricanes to their fans: “The Lethbridge Hurricanes Hockey Club has been working with the Ticket Centre and our ticket provider to begin the process of issuing full refunds to everyone who purchased 2020-21 season tickets.”
The WHL and the Winnipeg Ice are being sued by the City of Cranbrook. . . . Karin Larsen of CBC News reports that “a civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court says both the Winnipeg Ice (formerly Kootenay Ice) and WHL are responsible for breaking an arena deal that was supposed to run through June 2023. The claim says the city is out approximately $178,000 per year as a result.” . . . The Kootenay Ice franchise was purchased by 50 Below Sports and Entertainment, which is based in Winnipeg, from the Chynoweth family. The Ice played two seasons in Cranbrook under new ownership before moving to Winnipeg following the 2018-19 season. . . . Larsen’s story is right here.
With its 2021 regular season to start Wednesday night, the NHL revealed Tuesday that 27 players, 17 of them from the Dallas Stars, tested positive during the training camp period from Dec. 30 to Monday. . . . According to the NHL, about 12,000 tests were conducted on more than 1,200 players. . . . The other 10 positives tests involve players from eight other teams. . . . The NHL has said it will provide “regular updates on the results of tests administered to players, including the identities of the players” with the start of the new season. . . . The Stars have returned to the practice ice, although more than a dozen players were unavailable on Tuesday, but their first three games have been postponed. They also have had an undisclosed number of staffers test positive. . . .
D Jordie Benn and F J.T. Miller won’t play for the Vancouver Canucks when they open their NHL season Wednesday night against the host Edmonton Oilers. The Canucks aren’t saying why, but Matt Sekeres of TSN 1040 AM in Vancouver tweeted that the two are out “due to COVID-19 concerns” and that they will be out “for a couple of weeks.” Sekeres added: “Both players are quarantining. Miller had been staying at Benn’s Vancouver residence.” . . . Richard Zussman of Global BC reported via Twitter that he has been told either Benn or Miller “tested positive for COVID, then negative, then positive again and when tested a fourth time tested negative. The other is a close contact.”
THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
Justin Trudeau, Canadian prime minister — Update on the Canada-US border: We’ve extended the current border measures by another 30 days. Non-essential travel between our two countries remains restricted until at least February 21st. We’ll continue to do whatever is necessary to keep Canadians safe.
680 CJOB Winnipeg — Manitoba health officials reported 92 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday and said eight more Manitobans with the virus have died. It’s the first time the province’s list of new daily infections has dropped below 100 since Oct. 19.
CBC News — 248 new COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed in Saskatchewan. It’s the 1st time in a week the province has recorded fewer than 300 new daily cases. Health authorities also report 5 additional deaths from the virus. . . . The provincial government has extended current COVID-19-related public health orders until at least Jan. 29, due to current transmission rates.
CBC News — Alberta again breaks COVID-19 record with 38 deaths reported in single day. The province reported 652 new cases, 819 hospitalizations and 132 patients in ICUs. . . . Deaths from the illness are reported as Alberta Health compiles data, meaning not all 38 happened on the same day. The latest report includes deaths reported to the province from Dec. 30 to Jan. 12. But provincial numbers released over the last two days show that at least 21 people died from COVID-19 on Sunday alone. The total number of deaths since the pandemic began in March now stands at 1,345.
Richard Zussman, Global BC — There are 446 new cases of COVID-19, including 10 epi-linked cases, for a total of 58,553 cases in British Columbia. . . . There are 5,045 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. There are 368 individuals currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 72 of whom are in intensive care. . . . There are 7,238 people under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases and a further 51,144 people who tested positive have recovered. . . . There have been nine new COVID-19 related deaths, for a total of 1,019 deaths in British Columbia.
CBC News — Ontario reports 41 more deaths and 2,903 new COVID-19 cases. That’s the 1st time the number has fallen below 3,000 since January 3.
CBC News — Quebec reports 1,934 new COVID-19 cases and 47 additional deaths. It’s the 2nd day in a row where the number of new cases is below 2,000; it was above 2,000 for the previous 8 days.
Keith Baldrey, Global BC — No surprise the Canada/US border will remain closed. Here are the latest weekly (Jan. 4-11) COVID-19 stats for Washington state: 217 deaths. 20,251 cases. 818 hospitalizations.
CNN, Tuesday, 7 p.m. PT — So far today, Johns Hopkins University has reported 212,766 new cases and 4,212 new deaths.
CNN, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. PT — 22.8 million people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus.
CNN, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. PT — 380,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.
Our daily update is published. States reported 1.9M tests, 214k cases, 131,326 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, and 4,056 deaths. pic.twitter.com/5bBfNyaHYC
The number of postponements in this young NBA season has reached six, with the latest casualty a Wednesday night game between the Utah Jazz and Washington Wizards. Due to protocols, the Wizards don’t have the necessary eight players able to play. . . . Three of the postponed games have involved the Boston Celtics, including one that had been scheduled for Chicago on Tuesday night. . . . Five of the NBA’s six postponements have occurred since Sunday. . . .
The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association also have come up with some new rules aimed at keeping numbers down. From The Associated Press: “For ‘at least the next two weeks,’ the league and union said, players and team staff will have to remain at their residence when in their home markets and are prohibited from leaving their hotels when on the road — with exceptions primarily for practices and games. . . . Players also no longer will be allowed to have guests in their hotel rooms on the road. . . . Also from The AP: “Players have been told to limit on-court interactions with fellow players to elbow or fist bumps, with no extended socializing. And when a player is subbed out of a game, he can sit in a ‘cool down chair’ without a mask — but must put a mask on when he returns to the bench and sits in his assigned seat.” . . .
As if the NBA doesn’t have enough on its plate, Brian Windthorst and Zach Lowe of ESPN reported Tuesday that sources have told them “multiple players who previously tested positive for the coronavirus have recently tested positive a second time. That story is right here. . . .
Pro golfer Jhonattan Vegas has tested positive so has withdrawn from the Sony Open that is to open in Honolulu on Thursday. . . .
The Czech Republic pulled out of the world handball championship after 13 of its 21 players and a number of coaches tested positive. The event was scheduled for Egypt, Jan. 13-31.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
JUST NOTES: The ECHL has sold two expansion franchises to Deacon Sports and Entertainment, which is owned by Dean MacDonald. The new teams will begin play in 2021-21 in Coralville, Iowa and Trois-Rivières, Que.Deacon Sports and Entertainment also owns the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers. From an ECHL news release: “Coralville will play out of Xtreme Arena, a 5,100-seat venue which was completed in September 2020, while Trois-Rivières will play out of Le Nouveau Colisée, a new construction that will host 4,390 fans.”
The WHL’s board of governors chatted on Friday, after which the league announced that it had “made a commitment” to play a 24-game 2021 season.
The news release stated: “The start date for the season will be determined once final approval has been received from the health authorities in each provincial and state jurisdiction and it is anticipated the approvals will be received soon.”
In other words, there isn’t anything new for a league that has announced starting dates of Oct. 2, Dec. 4 and Jan. 8, only to watch COVID-19 make those goals impossible to reach. The WHL and its fans continue to play the waiting game as they have for almost 10 months now.
As I have written here on numerous occasions, the virus will decide if/when the WHL and other leagues will play, and let’s be honest — short of announcing that it was cancelling the season, what else could the WHL say?
On Dec. 15, when it announced that a Jan. 8 start date wouldn’t be happening, the league said the governors would “meet in January to consider potential start dates.”
That is the meeting that took place on Friday.
When the WHL states that it needs final approval from health officials and that “it is anticipated the approvals will be received soon,” you are free to wonder if someone in the Calgary-based office has some inside information. Again, though, what else would the WHL be expected to say?
But the coronavirus-based numbers in the six jurisdictions in which the WHL operates haven’t exactly provided anyone with warm and fuzzy feelings of late. (See The COVID-19 Chronicles further down in this piece.)
You also wonder if the governors started their meeting yesterday by discussing goings-on in the NHL where the Dallas Stars shut things down after six players and two staff members tested positive, and the Columbus Blue Jackets held 17 players out of practice.
The Stars were to have opened the NHL’s regular season against the host Florida Panthers on Jan. 14, but that obviously won’t happen. In fact, the Stars also have had to postpone two others games — Jan. 15 at Florida and Jan. 17 at the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Stars’ first game now is scheduled for Jan. 19 in Tampa Bay.
In the meantime, the Stars players and staff who tested positive are self-isolating and the team’s training facilities are closed.
The Blue Jackets, who are scheduled to open on Jan. 14 against the Predators in Nashville, held 17 of 38 players off the ice “out of an abundance of caution and in accordance with NHL COVID-19 protocols.”
Aaron Portzline, who covers the Blue Jackets for The Athletic, tweeted that the non-practising players were: forwards Emil Bemstrom, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Max Domi, Nick Foligno, Nathan Gerbe, Liam Foudy, Mikhail Grigorenko, Boone Jenner, Mikko Koivu, Eric Robinson, Alexandre Texier, and defencemen Adam Clendening, Vladislav Gavrikov, Seth Jones, David Savard, Andrew Peeke, Michael Del Zotto.
After discussing the NHL situation, maybe the WHL govs talked a bit about NCAA hockey where a number of schools have found out that their hockey teams have been bitten by COVID-19.
Nothing explains all of what has happened better than the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC). It took eight teams into Omaha in early December and played 38 games. They didn’t call it a bubble; rather, it was a pod. Teams were limited to their hotel and the arena. There was regular testing; there weren’t any positive tests.
However, once that experience was over and the teams returned home, well, the virus licked its lips and went to work.
The U of Omaha has been unable to play four straight games against North Dakota, including two scheduled for this weekend. Mike Kemp, an associate athletic director at Omaha, told The Associated Press: “We got it in spades.”
Elsewhere in the world of NCAA men’s hockey, Lowell’s program is on pause and at least its next three games are off the schedule; Canisius has put things on hold due to protocols and contact tracing; Michigan Tech had to put things on hold after positive tests in its program earlier this week; Northern Michigan has been able to play six games, while having eight postponed or cancelled . . . and on and on it goes.
Where it stops . . . only the virus knows.
F Logan Stankoven of the Kamloops Blazers told CFJC-TV’s Chad Klassen that he is looking at going to the USHL.
“I know nothing’s been confirmed yet, but I’ve talked to Fargo Force from down in the States,” Stankoven, 17, said. “I think they’re pretty interested in me, maybe having me come down, but obviously nothing’s set in stone.”
The USHL deadline to add Hockey Canada-released players to team rosters is Sunday. Klassen reported that should Stankoven go that route, he would be required to spend the remainder of the season there.
“As much as I don’t want to head down to the States and play for a whole different team and in a whole different country, things got to be done,” Stankoven said. “It’s part of our development and players need to play hockey. It’s our life. As much as people say it’s not our job, it’s part of our job. It’s our careers.”
You wonder what impact, if any, the WHL’s Friday news release might have on Stankoven’s decision.
Earlier this week, the Dubuque Fighting Saints announced that they were adding F Matt Savoie, 16, of the Winnipeg Ice to their roster. The Fighting Saints played Friday night — they lost 5-2 to the host Youngstown Phantoms — but Savoie has yet to be placed on their roster.
At least two B.C. junior B leagues — the Kootenay International and Vancouver Island leagues — had hoped to return to regular-season play on Jan. 15. However, those hopes were dashed on Thursday when the B.C. government and health officials extended a series of province-wide restrictions until Feb. 5. . . . The junior A BCHL now is talking about starting its regular season on Feb. 8. . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia tweeted that the BCHL couldn’t get approval for its Penticton hub idea from health officials so that idea is dead.
At the very earliest, play will resume when we ordinarily would be in the last two week stretch of a season. Perhaps it’s time to throw in the towel and prepare for next season. Parents must be sick of the ‘pay to practice’ scenario that is funding paycheques. https://t.co/gPbn93pms2
"I wish we could be going on a hot vacation, but we’re not politicians so we’ll do that when the time’s right," says couple who just won $8.7 million in World Juniors' 50/50. #ableg#yychttps://t.co/ipLVEhN4pg
CJOB Radio, Winnipeg: As Manitoba announced nine additional COVID-19-related deaths Friday, the province’s top doctor said hundreds of recent cases have been linked to gatherings over the holidays.
Scott Billeck, Winnipeg Sun: From the province: 355 cases and 1,900 contacts from holiday gatherings to date.
CBC News: Saskatchewan is reporting 336 new cases of COVID-19 and 7 new deaths related to the illness. It’s the highest daily case count since Dec. 6. There are currently 180 COVID-19 patients in the province’s hospitals, including 26 people in intensive care.
Jason Herring, Postmedia: Here are Friday’s COVID-19 Alberta stats: 1,183 new cases (total now 109,652) . . . 24 new deaths (total now 1,241) . . . 851 currently in hospital, 135 in ICU (yesterday: 871 in hospital, 139 in ICU) . . . 13,628 active cases (up from 13,298) . . . 16,765 tests conducted (~7.1% positive).
Justin McElory, CBC Vancouver: 617 new cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C. on Friday, a big drop from Thursday but part of a small rise since Christmas. . . . 18 new deaths, the highest number since Dec. 23. . . . Hospitalizations and active cases down.
Tacome News Tribune: The Washington state Department of Health reported 4,829 new cases of COVID-19 and 65 deaths Friday. . . . Statewide totals from the illness caused by the coronavirus are 268,607 cases and 3,699 deaths. The case total includes 11,160 cases listed as probable. Those numbers are up from 263,778 cases and 3,634 deaths on Thursday.
Daily Hive Portland: The Oregon Health Authority has reported 1,755 new and presumptive COVID-19 cases and seven new deaths. The state has now seen a total of 122,847 COVID-19 cases, and the death toll has risen to 1,575.
Public Health Agency of Canada, Friday, 4 p.m. PT — People tested: 15,420,760 . . . Total cases: 644,348 . . . Active cases: 81,670 . . . Recovered: 545,971 . . . Deaths: 16,707.
CNN, Friday, 3 p.m. PT: 368,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.
CNN, Friday, 3 p.m. PT: 21.8 million people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus.
AFP News Agency, Friday, 8 p.m. PG: US sets new record with nearly 290,000 Covid cases in 24 hours: Johns Hopkins.
Curling Alberta has cancelled its 2021 men’s, women’s and mixed doubles championships “due to Alberta’s continued state of public health emergency.” All were to have been held in Sylvan Lake, Jan. 25 to Feb. 5. . . .
With the B.C. government and health officials having extended various restrictions, including one restricting adult team sport, through Feb. 5, Curl BC has cancelled the men’s and women’s championships that had been scheduled for Kamloops and the mixed doubles event that was to have been held in Chilliwack. . . .
Holly Rowe, a veteran ESPN sideline reporter, revealed on Friday that she has tested positive, meaning she won’t be working on Monday when Alabama and Ohio State meet in the college football championship game in Miami. . . . Rowe admitted to having some symptoms and not feeling great. . . . She also is a cancer survivor, having battled melanoma. . . .
The Maine Red Claws, a G League men’s basketball team affiliated with the NBA’s Boston Celtics, have opted out of the 2021 season. . . .
Mike Lange, the veteran play-by-play voice of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, won’t start the approaching NHL season out of an abundance of caution. He says he’ll be back once he is able to be vaccinated and when he feels it is safe to return. Lange, who will turn 73 in March, missed the 2019 playoffs due to pneumonia. . . .
Kurt Warner, an analyst with the NFL Network, announced Friday night that he has tested positive so won’t be working on any studio shows this weekend. Warner, 49, has been with the NFL Network for 10 years. . . . Also on the NFL broadcast front, NBC’s Mike Tirico will call the play of the Tampa Bay-Washington game from home because of COVID-19 protocols, while CBS-TV’s Tony Romo will provide analysis of the Chicago-New Orleans game from a remote site for the same reason.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
JUST NOTES: Former WHL coach Jay Varady, who is the head coach of the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners, has been added to the coaching staff of the parent Arizona Coyotes. Varady, 43, spent seven seasons (2003-10) on the coaching staff of the Everett Silvertips. He had been the Roadrunners’ head coach for two seasons. . . . The NHL’s San Jose Sharks has left K-FOX, its play-by-play station since 2020-21, and now will stream its games on the Sharks Audio Network, available on the team’s website and app. . . . Lethbridge has been chosen as the host city for the 2022 Tim Hortons Brier (aka the Canadian men’s curling championship). It is scheduled to run March 4-13, which means the Hurricanes will be out of the Enmax Centre for a couple of weeks in the waning days of the WHL’s 2021-22 season.
F Matt Savoie of the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice has joined the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints. Savoie, 16, was denied exceptional status by Hockey Canada prior to the 2019-20 season, something that would have allowed him play full-time with the Ice. As it was, the Ice still got him into 22 games — he had seven assists. . . . The Ice selected him with the first overall pick of the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft. . . . This season, he had three goals and three assists in four games with the AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders. . . . From a Fighting Saints news release: “Savoie is expected to join the Saints shortly. The team is in action again on Friday and Saturday in Youngstown as they take on the Phantoms.” . . . Savoie will be eligible for the NHL’s 2022 draft. . . . Prior to the 2019-20 season, Savoie, who is from St. Albert, Alta., was in training camp with Dubuque, as was his older brother, Carter, who now is a freshman at Denver U. In fact, Carter was named the NCHC’s rookie of the month for December after putting up 12 points, including seven goals, in 11 games. . . . Dubuque is 5-11-0 and in fifth place in the six-team Eastern Conference. . . .
Interestingly, F Cole Sillinger of the Medicine Hat Tigers had made plans to join the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede to at least start their season. However, it didn’t work out. Here’s what Sillinger told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post:
“I’m a dual citizen so that was a decision I had made to go down there in early October. Long story short, my transfer from Hockey Canada to USA Hockey wasn’t accepted. I couldn’t play any games so I had to come home. I was down there for about 2 ½ weeks just skating and practising, which was still very good. I was able to get into a routine and got to be a part of an actual team again.”
Sillinger, the son of former WHL/NHL F Mike Sillinger, had 53 points, including 22 goals, in 48 games with Medicine Hat last season. He is eligible for the NHL’s 2021 draft.
Mike Sawatzky of the Winnipeg Free Press reported that F Conor Geekie of the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice, the No. 2 pick in the 2019 bantam draft, “is considering offers from USHL and NAHL teams.” . . . Sawatzky quoted Craig Geekie, a former WHLer and Conor’s father: “I’m not going to say that missing a year is going to hurt him but it will, to me, just set him back in a minor way. (It will help) if he can just play, even if it’s for two or three months.”
The USHL’s Lincoln Stars have four players off the Portland Winterhawks’ roster on their list. However, Mike Johnston, the Winterhawks’ GM and head coach, has told Joshua Critzer that the WHL hasn’t released any of the four players and that won’t happen unless the WHL season is cancelled.
Meanwhile, according to a tweet from the Tri-City Americans, D Andrej Golian “has arrived after competing with Slovakia” at the World Junior Championship in Edmonton.
At the same time, Seattle-based hockey writer Andy Eide tweeted that F Simon Kubicek of the Seattle Thunderbirds, who played for Czech Republic at the WJC, has headed home “for the time being.” . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia reported that D Marko Stacha, who played for Slovakia at the WJC, “is in Vancouver and the Giants say the plan is for him to stay.” . . . And according to Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week, D Inaki Baragano, who played for Switzerland at the WJC, is in Kamloops in anticipation of playing for the Blazers.
With the three major junior leagues not operating at the moment, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet had an interesting item in his first 31 Thoughts posting of 2021:
“The NHL’s biggest priority right now is starting the season, but, at some point, teams are wondering if there will be any changes to the draft. Selecting 18-year-olds is already a crapshoot. Now it’s going to be even harder with so few opportunities to scout them. Hopefully, the CHL finds a way (more for the kids’ sake than anything), but, if not, I wonder if regional combines featuring scrimmages are created a few months down the road to give everyone an opportunity to see and be seen.” . . . The entire column is right here.
IIHF Rene Fasel says it is still the goal to have a U18 Mens World Championship in April in Michigan. Hockey Canada says they have started to discuss with USA Hockey on how the bubble process was implemented at the World Junior.
Normally, 18 and 19-year-olds like Jakob Pelletier, Connor Zary and Dustin Wolf only have two options — NHL or CHL. But Brad Treliving confirms that until QMJHL/WHL starts up, Flames will be able to assign them to the AHL. The GM notes they will have a place for everyone to play.
Three of the AHL’s 31 teams have opted out of playing this season, which the league hopes to get started on Feb. 5. The Charlotte Checkers, who are affiliated with the NHL’s Florida Panthers, Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) and Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis Blues) won’t participate in a new season. . . . John Greenberg, the Admirals’ president, said: “Right now, we’d be able to have 10 fans at the game watching our teams play, and that’s really no way to run a business.” . . . And here’s Michael Kahn, the Checkers’ owner: “There are several travel, safety and player supply challenges to consider. Those, coupled with the increasing number of new (COVID-19) cases in our area, make it very unlikely that we will be able to host fans at our games in the near future.” . . . As things now stand, the AHL will operate with five divisions of three, four, six, seven and eight teams. The Canadian Division will feature the Belleville Senators, Laval Rocket, Manitoba Moose and Toronto Marlies.
Andrew Doty, an assistant coach with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes, has left to join the coaching staff of the AHL’s Henderson Silver Knights. . . . Doty, 30, was the Hurricanes’ video coach and will fill that same role with the Silver Knights. He had been with the Hurricanes, in one role or another, since the start of the 2014-15 season. In Henderson, Doty will be working with two former WHL coaches — Manny Viveiros is the Silver Knights’ head coach, while Jamie Heward is an assistant coach.
Rob Flockhart, a former WHL player who went on to play 55 NHL games, died on Saturday of an apparent heart attack. He was 64. . . . A native of Sicamous, B.C., he spent three seasons (1973-76) with the Kamloops Chiefs. In his third season, he totalled 51 goals and 47 assists in 72 games. . . . He played 55 NHL games over five seasons, split between the Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota North Stars. He retired after playing two games with the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks and 14 with that league’s Springfield Indians in 1984-85. . . . The Canucks selected him in the third round of the NHL’s 1976 draft. He also was selected by the Cleveland Crusaders in the sixth round of the WHA’s 1976 draft. . . . Rob was the older brother, by four years, of former NHLer Ron Flockhart.
THE COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
CBC News: Quebec gov’t mulling harsher restrictions, including a curfew and extending school closures, amid soaring COVID-19 cases.
Public Health Agency of Canada, Tuesday, 4 p.m. PT: Canada has 78,849 active cases, with 523,564 recoveries. There have been 16,233 deaths.
CNN, Tuesday, 1:30 p.m. PT: 356,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.
CNN, Tuesday, 5:20 p.m. PT: 357,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.
BC Hockey announced Tuesday that it has cancelled the 2021 Cyclone Taylor Cup and 2021 Coy Cup events. . . . The Cyclone Taylor Cup is the junior B provincial championship that features three league champions and a host team. . . . The Coy Cup is the province’s senior men’s AA championship. . . . There is a news release right here. . . .
The Cleveland Browns will be without three coaches, including head coach Kevin Stefanski, and at least two players when they face the host Pittsburgh Steelers in a playoff game on Sunday. . . . Pro Bowl G Joel Bitonio and WR KhaDarel Hodge tested positive, as did defensive backs coach Jeff Howard and tight ends coach Drew Petzing. . . . It meant that the Brown were forced to shut down their facility on Tuesday for the fifth time in 10 days. . . . Cleveland was without six starters and three coaches due to COVID-19 protocols when it beat the Steelers on Sunday.
There are reports that the Ohio State Buckeyes football team is dealing with COVID-19 issues but as of Tuesday evening it didn’t appear that the NCAA championship game was in jeopardy. The Buckeyes are to meet the Alabama Crimson Tide in Miami on Monday. . . .
The 2021 Canadian National Taekwon-Do championships have been cancelled. They were to have been held in Vernon, B.C., April 24 and 25. . . .
Bentley U, which is located in Waltham, Mass., has paused its hockey program because of positive tests within the program. All team activities have been halted until further notice. . . . Bentley plays in the Atlantic Hockey Association.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
JUST NOTES: Of the sporting events I have watched on TV over the past few months, none missed fans as much as the IIHF’s World Junior Championship. Not having flag-waving, hyped-up fans in attendance really cooled off that event. . . . I didn’t watch a lot of the WJC, but Tuesday night’s championship game was a terrific advertisement for the best that hockey has to offer. . . . If you missed it, there are rumours that the NBA will offer up a couple of expansion franchises and use the fees to help overcome losses caused by the pandemic. The whispers have Louisville and Seattle in line, with the price tag somewhere around US$2.5 billion per franchise.
Andrew Milne, a former WHL player and coach who now is the general manager and head coach of the AJHL’s Canmore Eagles, has been suspended for 15 games and fined $1,000.
Ryan Bartoshyk, the AJHL commissioner, told Meghan Grant of CBC News that Milne was disciplined for “bringing discredit to the league.”
Did Milne rip into the on-ice officiating? Was he stealing hotdogs from the concession stand in Drumheller? Did he throw a plastic straw onto the concourse in Sherwood Park? He must have cross-checked a little old lady from behind in Calgary. Right?
Actually, none of the above.
According to Postmedia, Bartoshyk said Milne, who is in his 13th season with the Eagles, was whacked for “bringing discredit to the league in the reasonable opinion of the board.
“Milne’s comments in several media interviews reflected his lack of knowledge regarding the league’s COVID protocols, or at the very least a misinterpretation of those protocols, which has resulted in the public misconceptions that strong protocols were not in place and put the AJHL’s partnership with AHS (Alberta Health Services) in jeopardy, both of which have now negatively impacted a return-to-play plan. Consequences of his actions led to inconsistent statements regarding the circumstances and damaged the extensive work undertaken by the league office and its members to operate.”
It’s worth pointing out that the AJHL didn’t announce the suspension and fine, both of which apparently were decided upon at some point last week. Nor is there a news release of any sort on the AJHL’s website. You would think that a 15-game suspension and a four-figure fine to a junior A GM/coach might be worthy of some kind of news release. Heck, it’s not even included in the discipline section of the website.
Did the AJHL really think no one outside of the Eagles and Milne’s immediate family would find out? Hey, 15 games and a grand is a lot more than a slap on the wrist. But now it’s out in the open and . . .
To go back, Milne first became aware that something was happening during a Nov. 14 game with the host Drumheller Dragons when one player took ill following the second period. At the time, it was thought that the player simply was fatigued because it was the Eagles’ second game in two days — they had played the Dragons in Canmore the previous night — after not having played since Nov. 7.
But by the time the team bus arrived back in Canmore it was obvious that the player in question was ill. So he went right into isolation at his billet’s home.
A couple of days later, six more players had symptoms and were isolated.
So the entire team was tested and 16 players and coaches came up positive.
In an interview with CBC’s Calgary Eyeopener that aired on Nov. 27, Milne said: “We tested everybody and that’s when obviously the numbers started climbing. And . . . it was evident that we had a massive outbreak in our club.
“I think part of the reason for the large numbers was the fact that we were just on a bus and there was very limited ability for us to move about in some recycled air.”
Milne said that number (16) didn’t include families that were impacted. Yes, there were positive tests among billet families. Milne’s wife tested positive, as did one of their children.
Milne said that “it is quite amazing” how rapidly the virus spread.
“We were a pretty tight group,” he told the Eyeopener. “We didn’t do much outside of our group. That’s why you see the infection rate pretty high within our group because we were together all the time. Right from the bus, the practice, to travelling to and from the facility, a group of four or five guys are car-pooling. They’re hanging out in the evenings because they’re not supposed to be outside of their bubble. You can see how fast it moves and how quickly it gets from one guy to the next.”
Near the end of the interview, Milne mentioned other teams that ended up with positive tests.
“(Drumheller) had some positives,” he said. “The Calgary Canucks, the team we played the week before, had some positives. I heard Okotoks (Oilers) had some positives.
“It’s definitely something that I think can be transferred through game play and that’s something that I’m assuming that we’re doing some research into to figure out. It wasn’t our team alone and where we got it we don’t know.
“These kids are in such tight groups and out and about that it becomes a challenge to sort of mitigate where it’s come from. But we’ve had anumber of teams that have been affected by the virus for sure.”
Meanwhile, CBC’s Grant also reported that the AJHL now “is preventing teams from speaking publicly or posting on social media ordering all media requests related to the pandemic or the league’s return to play plan to the AJHL office.
“The AJHL has also changed its protocols, deciding not to publicly report confirmed cases of COVID-19 in players and staff, according to a Nov. 21 email obtained by CBC, sent from Bartoshyk to team executives.”
When I checked late Thursday night, Grant’s story on the CBC website had drawn 106 comments. The AJHL wasn’t being treated at all favourably.
Perhaps the most pertinent of the comments was posted by Lisa Rosvold of Canmore:
“This is so ridiculous. I am a billet Mom for one of the Canmore Eagles players. I thought Coach Milne handled this whole thing in a very professional, transparent and caring way. The fact that the AJHL is now shaming Milne for being transparent is disgraceful. The fine and suspension are heavy-handed, and the AJHL should retract their COVID shaming punishments immediately. The AJHL should instead be thanking Milne for being so forthcoming and providing a human experience to COVID and helping to take the stigma out of it.”
For what it’s worth, I agree wholeheartedly with Rosvold. For some reason, the AJHL has decided to make a mountain out of something that is less than a molehill. Hey, why don’t you be the judge? Check out the three links that follow and see what you think.
As expected, the OHL announced on Wednesday that it has chosen to delay the start of its regular season. It had said it would open on Feb. 4. . . . From a news release: “This decision follows Premier Ford’s announcement of a province-wide shutdown in Ontario commencing on Dec. 26. The league will continue to consult and work closely with governments and health authorities to determine potential start dates in the new year. The safety of all of our stakeholders and communities is our priority and we are committed to starting the 2020-21 season when it is safe to do so. We know that this is difficult news for many of our players, fans, billets, parents, staff and teams. However, the restrictions both provincially in Ontario as well as nationally with regards to cross-border travel have informed our decision.” . . . Last week, the WHL ditched its proposed Feb. 4 start date and now will wait until some time in January to assess its situation. . . . The QMJHL, which received $12 million from the provincial government for its Quebec-based teams, plans on resuming play in late January under a bubble-type format. The QMJHL has revealed its playoff format and it has all 18 of its teams taking part. See the tweet below.
MUST READ! The 2020-2021 regular season's overall standings will be based on the highest point percentage and all 18 of our franchises will play in the President Cup Playoffs!
The Lethbridge Hurricanes announced on Wednesday that their 2020 annual general meeting will be held on Jan. 18. The team had announced in September that it would be held in November, but that didn’t happen. . . . The Hurricanes are one of four community-owned teams in the 22-team WHL. The other three — the Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders and Swift Current Broncos — announced losses totalling more than $1.5 million for 2020. The Warriors lost $391,299; the Raiders $331.895; and the Broncos $791,000. However, those totals included payments totalling $612,513 as their portions of a class-action lawsuit that the major junior leagues announced had been settled, only to have the courts reject the settlement. Lawyers are believed to be working on refining the settlement.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
CBC News: There are 201 new COVID-19 cases in Manitoba and 15 more deaths, the province reports. Manitoba’s 5-day test positivity rate — a rolling average of the COVID-19 tests that come back positive — is down to 10.4% from 11.5% on Tuesday.
CBC News: 159 new COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, the lowest daily total since Nov. 19 and 2nd day in a row it has been below 200. Health authorities are also reporting 5 additional deaths due to the virus.
CBC News: Alberta reports 19 more deaths and 1,301 new cases of COVID-19. As case numbers decline, hospitalizations across the province continue to rise.
Vancouver Sun: Second wave has peaked, B.C. health officials say, announcing 518 new cases.
Chilliwack Progress: COVID death toll nears 800 in B.C.; 5,600 people have received first dose of vaccine
CBC News: Ontario has 2,408 new COVID-19 cases, the 2nd-highest daily total of the pandemic. 629 are in Toronto, 448 in Peel Region, 234 in Windsor-Essex, and 190 in York Region. 1,002 people are in hospital, with a record 275 people in ICUs. 41 people died.
CBC News: 74 additional deaths due to COVID-19 in Quebec as province sets record with highest number of daily cases since the pandemic began. Health authorities say there were 2,247 new cases Wednesday, which tops the high of 2,183 reported Tuesday.
CNN, 4 p.m. PT: 326,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus.
KOMO News: Washington state’s COVID-19 cases eclipsed 230,000 Wednesday according to the state health department’s latest reporting. State health officials confirmed 2,315 new COVID-19 cases, 27 additional hospitalizations and 31 more deaths in the past 24 hours. This brings the state’s totals to 230,202 cases, 13,617 hospitalizations and 3,162 deaths. Health officials reported 8,507 “probable cases” of COVID-19 in its Wednesday reporting. Health officials said as many as 150 confirmed cases could be duplicates as test result data from Wednesday is incomplete. 1.4 percent of people diagnosed with COVID-19 in Washington have died, according to the state.
KATU News: The Oregon Health Authority on Wednesday reported 1,000 new cases of coronavirus and 21 new deaths. 1,403 people have now died from the disease in the state. OHA said there are currently 527 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 109 of whom are being treated in the ICU. The state has now reported 105,970 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
I hope the CPHO’s hold/firm & win. The NHL can play in Canada but under CPHO rules. I believe the NHL wants to play under their own rules so will likely move everything to the US where most states have zero rules. So much for player safety! $’s talk. https://t.co/6CUsl06XlQ
F Keyontae Johnson of the Florida Gators, the SEC’s preseason player of the year, collapsed during a basketball game on Dec. 12. He was released from hospital on Tuesday. Zach Abolverdi of the Gainesville Sun reported Tuesday night that Johnson “has been diagnosed with a heart inflammation that may be related to an earlier infection for COVID-19. Following the collapse that left Johnson unresponsive, he was transferred last Monday from Tallahassee Memorial to UF Health in Gainesville, where an MRI on his heart led to a diagnosis of acute myocarditis, according to a person with first-hand knowledge. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensibility of the situation.” . . .
The NBA opened its regular season on Tuesday, and postponed its first game for virus-related reasons on Wednesday when the Houston Rockets didn’t have the mandated eight players available for a game against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder. The Rockets had three players with tests that were positive or inconclusive and four others who were quarantined because of contact tracing. . . . As well, James Harden, their star, was ruled out because of a violation of health and safety protocols. There is a video making the rounds that shows a mask-less Harden at a private party on Tuesday night. . . . Harden also was fined $50,000 for what the NBA said was violating protocols, “which among other things prohibit attending indoor social gatherings of 15 or more people or entering bars, lounges, clubs or similar establishments.” Harden is to be paid US$38.2 million this season. . . .
The NAHL has decided to extend its regular season until May 16, with the opening round of playoffs to run from May 20-30. . . . There is a news release right here. . . .
An NCAA men’s basketball game between visiting UCLA and No. 25 Oregon didn’t happen Wednesday afternoon after one of the referees tested positive. . . . Chicago State suspended its men’s basketball program for the remainder of the season on Wednesday. The Cougars (0-9) lost head coach Lance Irvin before the season started due to COVID-19 concerns and have had virus-related issues since then.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Here is the fifth and final piece on the WHL’s first 25 years. The five stories were written in the late 1990s, while I was the sports editor at the Regina Leader-Post. I had pretty much forgotten about it until recently when I was asked if I might post it again. So I have done just that over the past couple of weeks. . . . As you read each piece, please remember that I wrote them more than 20 years ago and they cover only the league’s first 25 years. It isn’t an all-encompassing history, but hits on some of the highlights and a few lowlights. . . . The stories are pretty much as originally written. . . . Here, then, is Part 5 of 5. Thanks for reading along. I hope you have enjoyed these stories, and thank you for all of the positive feedback. . . .
The fifth five-year segment was easily the best of the WHL’s first 25 years.
There was success in the stands, particularly in the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States, and in Saskatoon where the Blades welcomed a new facility.
There was stability, too. Recent additions, like the Tri-City Americans and Lethbridge Hurricanes, settled in for what appeared to be long stays.
But the greatest success came on the ice where the WHL won four Memorial Cup championships during the five seasons, opening with three in a row and closing with a victory by the Spokane Chiefs.
The 1986-87 season actually started on something of a strange note. The Regina Pats signed Doug Sauter, who was under contract to the Medicine Hat Tigers, to a two-year deal as general manager/head coach. The result was that the Pats agreed to compensate the Tigers.
The compensation turned into two veteran players — defenceman Kevin Ekdahl and forward Kevin Clemens. It was the first time in WHL history that a coach had, in effect, been traded.
The Pats also welcomed back another familiar face with Dennis Sobchuk, the greatest and most-popular player in franchise history, signing on as assistant coach/assistant manager.
This was a time of great change in the front offices and behind the benches. Barry Trapp left the Moose Jaw Warriors, saying, “I wasn’t fired. It was just a mutual agreement. It was a very friendly parting.”
Medicine Hat signed Bryan Maxwell to replace Sauter, while Peter Esdale was the new coach in Spokane and Wayne Naka took over the Cougars in Victoria. In New Westminster, John Olver was the GM, with Ernie McLean the coach. Harvey Roy was out as the Bruins’ director of marketing, but he would surface in Moose Jaw as the GM and would hire Greg Kvisle to coach the Warriors. In Prince Albert, GM/head coach Terry Simpson left to coach the NHL’s New York Islanders and Rick Wilson took over.
Perhaps the biggest news in the summer of 1986 came on June 2 when the WHL announced it was doing away with round-robin playoff series in the East Division. Instead, the top two teams would get first- round byes.
In the WHL office, Richard Doerksen’s title was upgraded from executive assistant/referee-in-chief to vice-president.
There was trouble in Brandon, where the Bank of Nova Scotia called in a $77,000 demand loan, asking for payment on July 31. This resulted in the Wheat Kings’ board recommending to shareholders that the franchise be sold.
In August, shareholders voted 1,411-404 in favour of selling the Wheat Kings. Offers were received from two groups — one in Edmonton headed by Vic Mah, the other comprising Brandon businessmen Bob Cornell and Stuart Craig, and Winnipeg businessman Dave Laing.
Cornell’s group purchased the Wheat Kings for more than $300,000 and then added a unique twist to the situation by signing a 10-year working agreement with the Keystone Centre. The Keystone took over operation of the club, and hired Bill Shinske to run the front office. Shinske hired Marc Pezzin as coach.
The WHL also welcomed the Swift Current Broncos to the fold. Behind the bench was Graham James, who had recently reached an out-of-court settlement with the Warriors over a lawsuit he had started the previous year.
“If we continue to average close to 2,000, we’ll have a real successful year and we’ll show a profit of about $80,000,” Gary Bollinger, the Broncos’ vice-president and alternate governor, said. “That doesn’t include playoff revenue. We were budgeting for an average of 1,600. If we averaged that, we’d still make a bit of a profit.”
The first coaching change of the 1986-87 season took place on Dec. 8 in Seattle when Sheldon Ferguson gave up the Thunderbirds’ coaching reins, but stayed on as GM. Dan McDonald was the new head coach, with former Portland Winter Hawks star Jim Dobson as the assistant.
Disaster struck on Dec. 30 when the Broncos, en route to Regina to play the Pats, were involved in a bus accident. Four players — Scott Kruger, Trent Kresse, Brent Ruff and Chris Mantyka — were killed.
“There has never been anything more devastating that has happened to me personally,” Ed Chynoweth, the WHL president, said. “The question I keep asking myself is ‘Why?’ My heart goes out to all the parents and the people involved. I wish someone would call and say this is all a mistake.”
John Foster, the Broncos’ publicity director, said: “This team will band together and win it for those guys who died. The (survivors) were absolutely professional under stress. If the people of Swift Current could have seen them, they would have been proud.”
There was never any thought of the team not continuing. As team president John Rittinger said: “It’s up to the players and the fans now. We aren’t ready to throw in the towel.”
Defenceman Ed Brost, talking about the club’s next game, stated: “It will be difficult. To go right back out on the ice would be cheating ourselves emotionally and physically. Right now people have to remember athletes are human beings, not robots.”
Moose Jaw centre Theoren Fleury was in Czechoslovakia with Canada’s national junior team at the time of the accident.
“I just can’t believe it,” Fleury said. “I just sat on the bus all the way to practice today thinking about what’s going on with all those guys on that team right now. It just blows me away. I don’t know what to say. There’s nothing we can do about it and I think being helpless is the most frustrating thing about it.”
As if losing four players in the accident wasn’t enough, Herman Kruger, 67, suffered a fatal heart attack as he entered the church for his great-grandson’s funeral.
And later the same day, Sauter and Regina trainer Stan Szumlak came to the rescue of Keith Giles, a member of the Prince Albert executive, who was choking on some food.
Donations in memory of the players poured into the Broncos’ office and an education fund was set up in their memory. Another fund was started to raise money that would go towards the cost of replacing the bus.
On Feb. 2, a longtime veteran of the WHL’s coaching wars returned for one last fling when John Chapman replaced Wally Kozak behind the bench of the Calgary Wranglers. Chapman also was the Calgary GM.
On Feb. 15, Portland won a game in Spokane and Ken Hodge took over as the winningest coach in WHL history. His 547 victories were one more than Ernie McLean.
Tragedy struck the WHL again on March 1 when Regina centre Brad Hornung was checked into the end boards at the Agridome and suffered a broken neck.
Dr. Chris Ekong, a neurosurgeon, said Hornung suffered a burst fracture of the third cervical vertebrae and a crushed spinal cord. “Brad has no feelings in his arms and legs,” Dr. Ekong said. “He is completely paralysed from the neck down.”
Hornung would never regain the use of his arms and legs, but that didn’t stop him from going on with his life.
As the WHL completed its 25th season, Hornung was continuing with his education, taking courses at the University of Regina.
Despite the bus accident, Swift Current made the playoffs in its first season. But there wouldn’t be a Cinderella story as the Broncos dropped a best-of-five series to Prince Albert, 3-1.
April was highlighted by three coaching changes — Esdale’s contract wasn’t renewed by Spokane, Kvisle resigned in Moose Jaw and McLean stepped aside in New Westminster.
And Medicine Hat won the WHL championship. The Tigers faced elimination twice in each of their last two series, and dumped visiting Portland 7-2 in the seventh game of the championship final.
The Tigers would win their first of two consecutive Memorial Cup championships, the first under Maxwell, the second under Barry Melrose. Both came with Russ Farwell as general manager.
John Van Horlick took over as coach in New Westminster for 1987-88, with
Butch Goring the coach in Spokane. Jim Harrison was the new head coach in Moose Jaw, with Ed Staniowski his assistant. Harrison and Roy, the GM, were friends from their days in Estevan, while Staniowski was a former all-star goaltender with Regina.
And the WHL was returning to Lethbridge. The Tier One Junior Hockey Club of Lethbridge purchased the Wranglers for about $350,000 from Brian Ekstrom. The Lethbridge franchise would be called the Hurricanes, causing Lethbridge Herald columnist Pat Sullivan to wonder if the logo would be an overturned mobile home.
The sale also meant that there wouldn’t be a franchise in the city in which the WHL office was located. But the office wasn’t about to be moved.
“It was decided that it was certainly the most central location for our league,” Chynoweth said.
Going into the new season, the WHL passed a rule cracking down on checking from behind.
“We do use (NHL) rules and the NHL doesn’t have hitting from behind instituted in its rule book,” Chynoweth said, “but I predict that within two years the NHL will have the same rule.”
That is exactly what happened.
There was change in the WHL’s boardroom, too, as Portland’s Brian Shaw stepped down as chairman of the board and was replaced by Saskatoon’s Rick Brodsky.
On June 5, Swift Current celebrated its first birthday by revealing the franchise was no longer in debt.
Rittinger said: “We bought the franchise and we borrowed money to buy the franchise. So we took the season-ticket money to pay the bank loan off. The bank loan is paid off. We don’t owe the bank anything. And that’s incredible because we just got the franchise last year.”
Maxwell left Medicine Hat, joining the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach. Lethbridge named Glen Hawker as its first GM/head coach. Before the season started, Lethbridge reorganized, with Wayne Simpson taking over as GM.
On July 6, Hornung, in his first interview since being injured, told the Regina Leader-Post: “You have to accept it. Life goes on and you do the best with what you have. At first, it was a time of change, shock really, but right now, it’s actually gotten easier because you get used to the adjustments. Like everybody else, I have my good days and bad days. But I don’t have many bad days.”
Separate pregame warmups came to the WHL on Sept. 28.
With Seattle off to a 2-15-0 start, owner Earl Hale told Ferguson, the GM, to take a leave of absence. On Nov. 16, Ferguson was fired. A couple of weeks later, Hawker was fired in Lethbridge, where Blaine Galbraith took over. And on Dec. 8, Moose Jaw fired Harrison and hired Gerry James, the only person to have played in a Grey Cup game and Stanley Cup final in the same season.
On Feb. 2, Saskatoon beat Regina 7-2 before 3,308 fans in the final game at the Saskatoon Arena. Regina coach Doug Sauter, for one, was glad to see the end of the old barn: “I get screwed every time I come in here and I haven’t been kissed yet.”
One week later, on Feb. 9, Saskatoon beat Brandon 4-3 in front of 9,343 fans at Saskatchewan Place. Chynoweth announced prior to the game that the 1989 Memorial Cup would be played in Saskatoon.
On March 11, amidst rumours that the Warriors were on the verge of major financial problems, it was announced that Roy’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.
WHL attendance figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that Swift Current drew 82,080 fans to 36 home games, which was 99 per cent of capacity. Portland led in total attendance — 200,911. The league drew 1,405,874 fans, an increase of almost 80,000 over the previous season.
For the first time in league history, the scoring race ended in a dead heat.
Two centres — Fleury and Swift Current’s Joe Sakic — finished the regular season with 160 points. Sakic had 78 goals, Fleury 68. But there was nothing in the WHL bylaws to deal with the situation so the scoring race was ruled a tie.
The rumours were true — there were financial problems in Moose Jaw. The Warriors began sorting things out by separating the hockey side of things from the business side. With an accumulated debt of $234,000, Joe Celentano, a former referee with basketball’s Harlem Globetrotters, was hired as business manager.
On April 17, Medicine Hat beat visiting Saskatoon 3-0 to win its third straight East Division title. The only other team to win three consecutive East titles was the Flin Flon Bombers, beginning in 1968-69.
On May 3, the Tigers beat visiting Kamloops 5-2 to win their second straight WHL title, this one in six games.
The very next day, Bob Vranckaert, who was in the construction business in Alaska, said he would like to put an expansion franchise in Anchorage in time for the 1990-91 season. Born in Drumheller, Alta., and raised in Burnaby, B.C., Vranckaert spent more than 20 years in general commercial construction 800 miles north of Anchorage.
The WHL said it would play two exhibition and four regular-season games in Anchorage and use that, plus the 1989 world junior championship, which was to be held in Anchorage, as a barometer.
On May 8, the Pats announced that Sauter’s contract wouldn’t be renewed.
A week later, Sauter’s old team, the Tigers, beat the Windsor Spitfires 7-6 in Chicoutimi to become the sixth team in the 70-year history of the Memorial Cup to win back-to-back championships.
The board in Moose Jaw put H.J. (Toby) Tobias in charge and then resigned en masse. Tobias was empowered to chair a committee whose immediate responsibility was to carry on a fund-raising campaign aimed at erasing the club’s debt. The immediate goal was to raise $150,000.
Tobias said he would look into the team’s accounting procedures, recommend constitutional changes and appoint an auditor to present a year-end statement at the club’s annual meeting.
“To me it’s a four-stage project,” Tobias said. “Stage 1: Solve the immediate debt crisis and give us some breathing room. Step 2: Have a look at the front office and see if there are some things we can tighten up. Stage 3: Come up with a budget we can live with in years to come. Stage 4: Make sure fund-raising becomes a year-round effort.”
In mid-May, Pezzin resigned as coach in Brandon. He would be replaced by Sauter, who was reunited with Shinske. The two were old friends, going back to the Estevan and New Westminster Bruins. Sobchuk replaced Sauter in Regina.
Celentano resigned in Moose Jaw, saying: “By my staying I become just another liability, one of those accounts payable that they have to make every day, and they don’t have the money.”
On May 31, Tobias announced that the Warriors had reached their goal of $151,800. That figure covered debts accrued up until March 31. Tobias said: “The phoenix has risen from the ashes. The financial health of the club remains fragile . . . but it’s business as usual from here on in.”
Indications were that New Westminster owner Ron Dixon would move the franchise to the Tri-Cities area of Washington State. He just happened to be building an arena, the Tri-Cities Coliseum, there.
In July, Farwell and Melrose resigned in Medicine Hat. Shortly after, they signed in Seattle. Wes Phillips was named GM in Medicine Hat and hired Ron Kennedy, a former Estevan player, as coach. Before the season started, Phillips quit, citing business and family pressures, and Tim Speltz replaced him.
Peter Anholt was named head coach in Prince Albert, where Wilson quit to join the L.A. Kings as an assistant coach. Brad Tippett was the GM in Prince Albert.
The WHL arrived in Anchorage on the weekend of Sept. 24 and 25, 1988.
Kamloops and Portland played two exhibition games in Anchorage, drawing 2,100 to the first game and 1,750 the next night.
A shakeup occurred in Spokane. It started on Oct. 14 when Spokane GM Bob Strumm acquired six players while giving up four others in trades that involved three other teams. The Chiefs were 1-4-0 and had given up 33 goals in those five games.
Twelve days later, with the Chiefs 2-9-0, Strumm relieved Goring of his duties. Strumm, with a three-year contract extension that would take him through the 1991-92 season, went behind the bench, went 2-4-0 and immediately installed Gary Braun as coach.
On Nov. 11, Moose Jaw dumped Gerry James and installed Kvisle as head coach/director of hockey operations.
Three days later, Regina shook up things. Sobchuk moved from coach to GM, with Bernie Lynch moving up from assistant coach to head coach.
It was announced on Nov. 17 that Vranckaert had purchased the Victoria Cougars from Fraser McColl. Ownership actually had changed hands 10 days after the end of the season.
“Bob has been after me for a long time,” McColl said. “He wants to get into the business with a passion. And, perhaps, that’s the type of enthusiasm this team needs right now.”
On Nov. 20, the Tri-City Americans, having played their first 17 games on the road because the Coliseum wasn’t ready, opened at home with a 4-3 overtime victory over Seattle in front of a sellout crowd of 6,004.
Swift Current started the season with 12 straight victories, and went into the Christmas break at 28-5-0 and on a 10-game winning streak. Referring to the bus accident of two years previous, James said: “I think the bus accident galvanized the spirit of the community. I think that was a catalyst. Since then we’ve had to provide a product that’s been worthy of fans coming, but I think that incident certainly rallied the community.”
Added centre Tim Tisdale: “That’s all anybody in town talks about. It’s hard to believe. You go downtown and you’re eating in a restaurant and everybody at the next table is talking about the Broncos. It definitely helps your hockey.”
There was big news out of Calgary on Jan. 3, 1989, when Petr Nedved, a centre with a midget team from Litvinov, Czechoslovakia, defected after a midget tournament. His WHL rights belonged to Moose Jaw, but the Warriors would deal them to Seattle.
The season wasn’t over when Spokane owner Vic Fitzgerald said that Braun wouldn’t be returning.
On March 14, Chynoweth revealed that the WHL “had an inquiry from Terry Simpson about putting a team in Red Deer. They would have to get a new building.” A conditional franchise was sold to Simpson on Aug. 12, 1991. The Rebels would begin play in the fall of 1992.
Attendance figures compiled by The Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance was up 232,951 over 1987-88. Most of that was attributable to the first-year Americans who attracted 203,532 fans, which was 156,149 more than they drew the previous season in New Westminster.
There was a change in Seattle on April 11 when Medicine Hat businessman Bill Yuill bought the Thunderbirds from Earl Hale of Calgary.
The usual spate of front-office changes began in earnest with the news that: 1. Galbraith would not be back in Lethbridge; 2. Al Patterson, who quit in Victoria after the season ended, had signed as Tri-City’s GM; 3. Ron Byrne had signed as the GM in Victoria; 4. Sobchuk had resigned as GM in Regina; 5. Shinske had resigned in Brandon; and, 6. Tippett had quit in P.A.
Swift Current won 4-1 in Portland on April 30 to sweep the Winter Hawks in the championship final. The Broncos became the first team to sweep its way to the WHL championship — they also got past Moose Jaw and Saskatoon in four games each. The Broncos, just a season and a half after having four players killed in a bus accident, went 55-16-1, the best record in the CHL.
“This is a great accomplishment for our franchise,” James said. “But I don’t want the Memorial Cup to decide if we had a great year.”
Tisdale added: “We have the team to do it this year. If we can’t get up for four games, we don’t belong there. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t win the Memorial Cup.”
On May 14, Tisdale’s goal at 3:25 of the first sudden-death overtime period gave the Broncos a 4-3 victory over Saskatoon in the final game of the Memorial Cup. The game was played in front of 9.078 fans in Saskatchewan Place and brought to an end the most successful Memorial Cup tournament ever played.
Shortly after the Memorial Cup, the changes continued: 1. Lynch found out his contract in Regina wouldn’t be renewed; 2. Rick Kozuback signed a two-year contract as coach with Tri-City; 3. Simpson returned to Prince Albert as GM/head coach; 4. Bill Hicke was named GM in Regina; 5. Tippett signed as Regina’s head coach; 5. Maxwell returned from L.A. to sign as co-coach and director of hockey operations in Spokane; 6. Braun was Spokane’s co-coach and assistant director of hockey operations; 7. Melrose left Seattle to become head coach of the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings; 8. Marcel Comeau signed a two-year deal in Saskatoon but shortly after resigned to become head coach of the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks; 9. Anholt quit in P.A. to join Seattle as head coach; 10. Rob Daum signed as assistant coach/assistant manager in P.A.; and, 11. Terry Ruskowski signed to coach the Blades.
On June 14, 1989, Moose Jaw, so close to financial ruin just one year earlier, revealed at its annual meeting that there was a paper profit of $119,722 and that the Warriors had about $40,000 in the bank.
At its annual meeting, the WHL had two major announcements. It had decided for the first time to use full-time referees. “We’re hoping it leads to more consistent, professional refereeing,” Regina governor Ted Knight said. By the time all was said and done, the WHL had hired eight full-time and four part-time referees.
The WHL also said it would no longer allow teams to list 13-year-old players. From that point on, 14-year-olds would count for two spots on a list, players 15 and older for one.
Seattle set a single-game attendance record on Oct. 7 when 12,173 fans showed up to watch the Thunderbirds edge Portland, 4-3. “We could have sold 2,000 more tickets,” Seth Landau, the club’s director of marketing and public relations, said. “We were sold out the day before the game.” The previous attendance record belonged to Portland, which had attracted capacity crowds of 10,437 to Memorial Coliseum on numerous occasions.
The first coaching change came on Oct. 15 when Naka resigned in Victoria. Lyle Moffat replaced him.
On Nov. 1, Ken Hitchcock, 36 years of age and in the neighbourhood of 400 pounds, went public with the news that he was going on a serious diet.
“There comes a time in life when it becomes a case of now or never,” said the popular coach of the Kamloops Blazers. “I look down the road four or five years from now, what do I want to be doing? If that’s what I have to do to move up the ladder, that’s what I have to do.”
Victoria made another coaching change on Nov. 13 with Garry Cunningham becoming the Cougars’ third coach of the season. Moffat stayed on as marketing director.
A lawsuit launched by Hornung was settled out of court in November. Thirteen defendants, including the WHL, were named in the suit launched in July of 1987. Details of the settlement weren’t made public.
At a WHL board of governors’ meeting on Nov. 20, the chair switched bodies again. It was a case of deja vu, with Shaw taking over from Brodsky.
On Dec. 17, Sauter was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder that strikes at the central nervous system. He would not return to coaching until late in the 1990-91 season when he finished the winter with the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins. Brandon GM Kelly McCrimmon moved in behind Brandon’s bench.
There was a player revolt in Tri-City when Dixon named Bill LaForge director of player personnel. LaForge said he had a five-year contract.
On Dec. 31, with Portland scheduled to play in Tri-City, the Americans players refused. A statement signed by 19 players read in part: “We will definitely not participate in any further games without the termination of Mr. Bill LaForge from the Americans organization.”
The players ended their holdout the next day, winning 8-4 in Portland. Dixon had contacted players earlier in the day and said LaForge would no longer have any contact with them.
Defenceman Colin Ruck later explained the Tri-City deal: “He came into the dressing room screaming and cutting guys down. To get to us, he said we had to call him Coach. He had (coach) Rick Kozuback picking up pucks during practice. That really upset us. Bill came out and ran a really brutal practice. We felt we had to do something.”
Byrne was gone as Victoria’s GM before January ended, while Cunningham was out as coach on Feb. 5. Moffat went back behind the bench. The Cougars would set a CHL record, losing 29 in a row.
On Feb. 7, Seattle centre Glen Goodall had an assist in a 5-3 victory over visiting Tri-City to break the WHL record for most points in a career. That lifted his point total to 530, one more than Craig Endean, who had played with Seattle and Regina.
Two nights later, Seattle broke the WHL single-game attendance record as 12,253 fans watched a 5-3 victory over Spokane.
Figures compiled by the Regina Leader-Post showed that attendance totalled 1,678,651, up about 40,000 over the previous season. Tri-City, which sold out every home game, led the way with total attendance of 216,360. Saskatoon, in its first full season in Saskatchewan Place, played in front of 209,542 fans. Seattle, which finished with its best-ever record (52-17-3; the best previous was 32-28-12 in 1977-78), drew 181,211 fans, up 66,189 from a year previous.
On March 28, Chynoweth admitted that two groups had applied for an expansion franchise for Tacoma, Wash.
The Spokane franchise changed hands on April 10, with Fitzgerald selling to the Brett brothers — Bobby, George and Ken — for more than $600,000. Bob Brett wouldn’t say what they paid, other than to say it was “too much.”
The postseason changes started in April when Speltz and Kennedy learned that Medicine Hat wouldn’t renew their contracts, and Rick Hopper was named head coach/director of hockey operations in Victoria. Jack Shupe, the Tigers’ first GM/head coach in 1970-71, was the new GM in Medicine Hat. He hired Tim Bothwell as coach.
On April 29, Kamloops scored a 6-5 overtime victory in Lethbridge to win the WHL final in five games. Kamloops lost the opener and then won four straight. The Blazers struck out at the Memorial Cup, though, as the Oshawa Generals, with Eric Lindros, won it all in Hamilton.
There was much expansion talk in the WHL, resulting in this comment from Brodsky: “It’s sort of like being in love. If you have to ask yourself whether you’re in love, you’re probably not. If we’re wondering why we should expand, then maybe we’re forcing the issue a bit. If expansion is right, we’ll know it.”
Farwell left Seattle to become GM of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. Anholt added the GM’s nameplate to his door, and hired assistant GM Dennis Beyak from Saskatoon. Beyak had been in Saskatoon since 1981 and was the person deemed most responsible for the success of the 1989 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon.
Simpson left Prince Albert again, this time to become an assistant coach with the Winnipeg Jets. Daum was promoted to replace him.
There were shockwaves in Kamloops when Hitchcock resigned after six seasons with the Blazers. He signed as an assistant coach with Philadelphia. Tom Renney replaced Hitchcock, who left with a 291-125-15 regular-season record over six seasons, his .693 winning percentage the highest of any coach in WHL history.
Leaving wasn’t easy for Hitchcock, who said: “I got cold feet a couple of times. I almost went into (GM) Bob Brown’s office and said, ‘Call the whole thing off, I don’t want to go.’ ”
On Sept. 30, Chynoweth chatted about expansion: “There are what I like to call tire-kickers in Boise, Idaho; Eugene, Oregon; and, Tacoma, Washington. The WHL is in good shape and we’re aggressive to expand by one, possibly two teams in the West Division sometime soon. We are coming off our second record-setting attendance season. We’re also proud of the fact that this is the third year in a row we aren’t opening a new site. Believe it or not, but we’re stable.”
Bruce Hamilton, a former player and scout with the Blades, headed a group of Saskatoon and Tacoma investors who were eventually granted a franchise for Tacoma to start with the 1991-92 season.
On Oct. 30, with the 1990-91 season one month old, one night before Halloween, James went wild in Swift Current. Upset with referee Kevin Muench after the Broncos turned a 7-3 second-period lead into a 9-8 loss to visiting Medicine Hat, James went on to the ice in pursuit of Muench, then returned to the bench and threw sticks and water bottles onto the ice. James then removed his jacket, tie, shirt and one shoe and threw them onto the ice before his players escorted him to the dressing room.
Bothwell summed it up: “All I can say is, ‘Wow.’ I don’t know what words can describe what happened out there, from a lot of different aspects.”
James was suspended for six games and fined $2,000. “At least they didn’t ask me for the shirt off my back,” he said. The incident would show up on video on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and the David Letterman Show among others.
There was some silliness in Spokane, too. On Dec. 6, with Tri-City visiting Spokane, Maxwell and Americans assistant Gerry Johannson got into it after first period.
Here’s Maxwell: “He was waiting for me. He was yapping at me. He challenged me and I accepted the challenge.” Maxwell was said to have out-punched his opponent, 4-0.
Here’s Johansson: “He throws punches like marshmallows.”
Maxwell was suspended for three games and fined $500. Johansson got hit for $1,000 and four games.
Remember that $1 parking fee in Regina? Well, on Dec. 17, Regina Exhibition Park announced it was doubling it to $2. “I don’t think our fans will take very kindly to it if it does happen,” said co-owner/GM Bill Hicke. “If that’s the case it’ll drive another nail in the coffin.”
The Pats’ lease would expire after the 1990-91 season and Hicke had already made at least one trip into the Pacific Northwest to scout buildings.
A change in Prince Albert had Dale Engel move in as GM, with Rob Daum giving up that title but staying on as coach. It was no surprise when Daum left P.A. for Swift Current at season’s end.
On Feb. 4, Saskatoon fired head coach Terry Ruskowski, replacing him with former Blades defenceman Bob Hoffmeyer.
On March 17, Seattle was awarded the 1992 Memorial Cup.
The Leader-Post’s attendance figures showed that Tri-City, with 36 sellouts, again topped the WHL with 216,360 fans. Seattle was next at 215,248, up 34,037 from the season previous. But overall attendance was down 22,861 to 1,655,790.
On April 17, Marcel Comeau was named the first head coach of the Tacoma Rockets. Hamilton would be the GM, with Lorne Frey, most recently with Swift Current, as director of player personnel.
Spokane scored a 7-2 victory over home-town Lethbridge to sweep the WHL final. The Chiefs would go on to win the Memorial Cup, with goaltender Trevor Kidd and right-winger Pat Falloon wrapping up dream seasons. Both played for the Canadian junior team that won the gold medal in Saskatoon.
One thing more than any other summed up the WHL as it headed into its second 25 years. When the 1991-92 season opened, the league not only had the same 14 teams for the fourth consecutive season, but it had welcomed the Tacoma Rockets to the fold.
Dorothy and I were in Penticton, B.C., on the evening of July 24, 2015, for the B.C. Hockey Hall of Fame induction dinner.
Here is part of what I wrote afterwards:
The legendary Fred Sasakamoose was on hand to receive the Okanagan Hockey School’s Pioneer Award.
What a wonderful moment it was as a tremendously touching video chronicling Sasakamoose’s life was played and an emotional Sasakamoose made his way to the stage.
If you aren’t aware of Sasakamoose and all that he has done, get thee to Google and prepare to spend an hour or two.
At one point, Sasakamoose spoke to what was a thoroughly captivated audience about how lonely it was being an aboriginal — he is from the Ahtahkakoop Cree Nation — on the way to the NHL.
On this night, Sasakamoose was anything but lonely. He was on the receiving end of two emotionally charged standing ovations as he made a roomful of new friends and admirers.
That is the kind of night it was, and I will long remember being a small part of it.
Hockey Canada, we’ve got a problem!
Hockey Canada announced Tuesday morning that two players who are part of its national junior team selection camp in Red Deer have tested positive for COVID-19. Both players are in quarantine at the team hotel.
As a result, Tuesday afternoon’s Red-White game was postponed and all other activities were cancelled for the day. Ryan Rishaug of TSN reported later Tuesday that “as of now nothing is scheduled for training camp activity (Wednesday).”
Head coach Andre Tourigny had said the coaching staff wanted to trim the roster by a dozen or more players after Tuesday’s game. That obviously didn’t happen. Chances are that some players will be sent home before a scheduled exhibition game against the U of Alberta Golden Bears on Saturday.
This is Team Canada’s second brush with the virus. On Saturday, a person described as a “non-core” member of the support staff tested positive. That resulted in an undisclosed number of people going into a 14-day quarantine, including assistant coaches Michael Dyck and Jason Labarbera.
On Tuesday, after news of the two players having tested positive, Rishaug tweeted:
“A key question is, how many players will be identified as close contacts? We don’t know if the infected players were playing in the games Saturday and Sunday. All close contacts must isolate for 14 days.
“Covid has wreaked havoc on Canada’s camp to this point. 14 players were late arriving for various Covid testing related issues, including Ridly Greig testing positive before camp. He has since joined the team after his quarantine ended.
“All of this happening with the back drop of rapidly rising cases in Alberta, and news coming later today from the Premier that could involve further restrictive measures being put in place. The next few days will determine a lot on what Canada’s camp looks like moving forward.
“Players and staff were tested before arrival in Red Deer, then tested again upon arrival. A 2x per week protocol then kicked in once camp was up and running. The first positive test of a staff member came as a result of the 3rd test they had taken.”
Am told by Alberta Health that provinces new measures should not affect Hockey Canada’s training camp in Red Deer. Exemptions for sport’s activities need to be in place by Friday, but the two sides have been working together on safety protocols for some time…/
Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News has his take on Team Canada’s situation right here.
The NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets said Tuesday they have “had several players recently test positive for the COVID-19 virus.” . . . Frank Seravalli of TSN reported that a “significant” number of Blue Jackets “have tested positive . . . over the last 7-to-10 days.” . . . The players went into quarantine and the organization’s off-ice facilities at Nationwide Arena were closed “beginning the week of Nov. 16.” . . . The NHL apparently continues to have its sights set on a Jan. 1 opening. But now there are outbreaks with the Blue Jackets and Vegas Golden Knights. . . . Seravalli also reported that “sources say multiple family members of VGK players have also tested positive.” . . . Robin Brownlee of oilersnation.com wonders right here just how realistic a Jan. 1 starting date might be.
Blaming restrictions implemented by the state of Washington and the closure of the U.S.-Canada border, the BCHL’s Wenatchee Wild announced Tuesday that it is “taking a hiatus for the 2020-21 season.” . . . All Wild players now are free agents. . . . “The latest setback is not being able to train our players here in the state of Washington,” a Wild news release reads. “We are not opting out of the season we are being forced out because the United States and Canadian border are closed and (because of) the restrictions on gyms and ice arenas in the state of Washington.” . . . Kudos to Wild owner David White as Taking Note has been told that he is keeping the staff on the payroll. . . . There is a news release right here.
In the QMJHL, the Charlottetown Islanders have had to pause their schedule for at least two weeks. That’s because the Prince Edward Island government has withdrawn from the Maritime travel bubble. . . . With COVID-19 numbers rising in the Maritime provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island announced Monday that they were withdrawing from the bubble for at least two weeks. That bubble had been in place since July 3. It allowed people to travel rather freely across the Maritimes provinces without quarantining. . . . P.E.I. implemented new travel restrictions on Monday at midnight; N.L. puts its restrictions in place on Wednesday. . . . On Tuesday, the Nova Scotia government also announced travel restrictions, so the QMJHL postponed seven games scheduled for this week in the Maritime Division.
The Kitchener Rangers reported a net loss of $83,736 for the 2020 fiscal year at the team’s annual general meeting tonight. First time the club has failed to record a profit in 25 years. Last year, club made $335K. https://t.co/its8qCFtcW
“A shortened season, no playoffs and a $265,000 payment for litigation fees involved in a minimum-wage lawsuit against the Canadian Hockey League pushed the Kitchener Rangers into the red for the 2020 fiscal year,” writes Josh Brown of the Waterloo Region Record. “The Rangers announced a net deficit of $83,736 at Monday night’s virtual annual general meeting, making it the first time in the past 25 years the Ontario Hockey League club failed to record a profit.
“Last year, the team made $335,233.”
It is interesting that the Rangers apparently have written off $265,000 for the settlement of that lawsuit. In the WHL, the Moose Jaw Warriors told shareholders that they are on the hook for $180,846 as their part of the settlement, while the Prince Albert Raiders said their share was to be $166,667.
The Swift Current Broncos don’t seem to have stated a figure, while the Lethbridge Hurricanes have yet to hold their annual general meeting.
Lethbridge, Moose Jaw, Prince Albert and Swift Current are the 22-team WHL’s four community-owned teams. As such, they are obligated to hold annual general meetings open to shareholders.
BTW, the afore-mentioned lawsuit was thought to have been settled for $30 million, but courts in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec have rejected that settlement. So negotiations no doubt are continuing.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
Canadian responses to the covid second wave continue to mystify me. Why do we continue to pursue Canadian exceptionalism? Why not take the lessons from East Asia, NZ, And Aust seriously? Half measures won’t cut it and will prolong pain and uncertainty. #COVIDzero
The fact that Fred succumbed in his old age to Covid is especially sad given how much this man had to sacrifice in his life just to be treated half-way equally, yet so many are seemingly unable to sacrifice even putting on a little cloth mask at the mall during a pandemic. https://t.co/JvJdbyZFp6
CBC News: Manitoba announces 476 new cases of COVID-19, its 4th-highest daily total since the pandemic began. It follows yesterday’s record high of 543. The province is also attributing 12 more deaths to the virus.
CTV News: Manitoba issued $126,082 in tickets last week for those not following health orders.
CBC News: Saskatchewan adds 175 new coronavirus cases — 70 of them in Regina and 28 in Saskatoon zones. That’s the province’s lowest new daily case total in 4 days and is below the province’s previous 7-day average of 218.
Regina Leader-Post: After reporting 175 new cases and 112 recoveries Tuesday, Sask. government cancels afternoon press conference.
CBC News: Alberta reports 1,115 new COVID-19 cases, 16 more deaths, for a provincial case load of 13,349 active infections.
CBC News: Premier Jason Kenney declares a state of public emergency in Alberta. Imposing new restrictions on social gatherings, religious services. No indoor social gatherings permitted in any settings for a minimum of 3 weeks. Will be evaluated in mid-Dec.
Mo Cranker, Medicine Hat News: Medicine Hat is up to 103 active cases of COVID-19. There are 123 recoveries listed in MH. . . . There are 39 active cases in Cypress County. There are 40 active cases of Forty Mile. . . . There are 171 active cases in Lethbridge. Brooks is at 46 active cases of the virus.
Richard Zussman, Global BC: British Columbia has shattered the one day COVID-19 record with 941 new cases over the past 24 hours. There have been 28,348 total cases of the virus in BC. . . . There are 284 people in BC in hospital with COVID. With 61 people in ICU. The hospital number is a record. . . . Another double digit day for COVID deaths. There have been 10 deaths due to the virus over the last 24 hours. There have been 358 deaths in the province from COVID. . . . The latest positivity rate on the BC CDC website is 6.6%. On October 6th it was 1.2%.
Keith Baldrey, Global BC: BC Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth on Global BC tonight with a message for anti-maskers: “Grow up, shut up and mask up.” I’d say that’s fairly clear.
CBC News: B.C. health-care workers plead for public to follow COVID-19 orders.
Global News: B.C. grocery story (in Nelson) hires security guard as anti-mask hostility grows.
CBC News: Ontario’s reporting error means (Tuesday’s) total case count is artificially low. Additional data: 14 more deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Ontario, 534 ppl are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the province, 159 of them in ICU, 91 on ventilators.
CBC News: Quebec reports 45 additional deaths due to the coronavirus, also diagnoses 1,124 new cases. That’s virtually unchanged from the province’s previous 7-day average of 1,162.
CBC News: Nova Scotia reports 37 new COVID-19 cases, highest since April 23. Province announces wave of restrictions for greater Halifax area, including gathering size limits, 25% capacity cap on the number of shoppers in a store, while restaurants and bars are restricted to takeout only.
CBC News: Nunavut has 10 new cases of COVID-19. Nine are in Arviat, on the west coast of Hudson’s Bay, where there’s now a total of 107 cases. There have been 375 negative tests in Arviat, which has a population of about 2,600. The other new case is in Rankin Inlet.
Keith Baldrey, Global BC: Brutal Washington state COVID-19 numbers today: 3,482 new cases, a record. 35 deaths. In the past week alone 119 people have died there and almost 600 people have entered hospital.
Oregon ArtsWatch: COVID-19 has claimed a record 21 more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 847. The total number of Oregonians hospitalized and in intensive care with COVID-19 also increased. There were 1,011 new confirmed and presumptive cases, down from recent days.
FacesOfCOVID: 2,028 people died of COVID today in the United States, the first time since May that the daily death count has exceeded 2,000.
The New York Times: California reported 17,694 new cases on Monday, well more than it or any other state had ever done before, according to a New York Times database. Over the past week, it has averaged 12,712 new cases a day — more than Maine’s total for the whole pandemic.
Ken Squier Update: After a challenging few days, the doctors now say they expect him to beat this. He is still very weak, but getting wonderful care. Keep those prayers coming, friends. They’re working.
There's nothing funny about the Ravens current covid-19 outbreak. What is funny is the NFL statement on it: Thursday's game still on (of course) but, 'our main concern is the health and safety of everyone.' Their major concern is having a primetime game for TV Thursday. Period.
The NFL’s Baltimore Ravens have had at least 10 positive tests among players and staff since Sunday night. They are scheduled to play the Steelers in Pittsburgh on Thursday. . . . Baltimore RBs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins won’t play, nor will DT Brandon Williams. . . .
To say that NCAA men’s basketball is a mess would be something of an understatement. . . . No. 1 Baylor has pulled out of a tournament in Connecticut that is to start today. Head coach Scott Drew tested positive. . . . Florida has pulled out of two games. . . . East Carolina, Indiana State and Akron pulled out of a tournament in Florida. . . . The start of Wichita State’s season has been delayed. The Shockers actually flew into Sioux Falls, S.D., for a tournament only to have seven team members test positive. . . . Rick Barnes, the head coach at Tennessee, has tested positive and team activities are on hold. The school reported multiple positives among “Tier 1 personnel, which consists of coaches, student-athletes, team managers and support staff.” . . . Gardner-Webb experienced at least one positive so pulled out of what was to have been Duke’s season-opener. . . . Ole Miss had some positives, including head coach Kermit Davis, so cancelled a three-game tournament it was to hold and team activities are on hold until Dec. 7. . . . The Florida A&M women’s team has opted out of the 2020-21 season. . . .
The 24-team Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, which had been hoping to open its season on Dec. 2, now is aiming for Jan. 15. The league’s return-to-play protocol includes games being played without deliberate bodychecking/intentional physical contact and no post-whistle scrums. . . .
90% of the Hockey East schedule is essentially wiped out at this point until at least mid-December.
Northeastern has shut down winter sports until Dec. 18 because of what the schools says is a “small cluster of recent COVID-19 cases that led to quarantining athletes on five varsity teams.” The men’s hockey team has cancelled or postponed six games. . . . The women’s basketball and women’s hockey team both experienced positive tests, as did the men’s women’s track and field teams. . . .
The U of Maine in Orono has shut down winter athletics through at least Dec. 8 “due to positive test results on campus, including individuals involved with the varsity athletic programs.” . . . All games for the men’s and women’s basketball teams and men’s and women’s hockey teams between Nov. 25 and Dec. 8 have been cancelled. . . .
The Minnesota at No. 18 Wisconsin football game scheduled for Saturday won’t happen. Minnesota has paused team-related activities due to positives tests within its program. . . .
Martin Pakula, the sports minister for the Australian state of Victoria, says the start of the 2021 Australian Open tennis tournament “most likely” will be delayed. The tournament, which is held in Melbourne, is scheduled to begin on Jan. 18. However, Pakula said it is likely to be delayed a week or two. At the same time, he didn’t rule out a longer delay.
My boys and I are loving the Tim Horton hockey card collection this year. Next year, I would like to see a special Fred Sasakamoose card as a tribute for being an Indigenous pioneer in the game of hockey. You could do a subset of all pioneers in the game. @TimHortons
The Brandon Wheat Kings announced Tuesday that they have promoted Don MacGillivray to head coach, replacing Dave Lowry who joined the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets as an assistant coach on Monday. . . . Lowry spent one season in Brandon. . . . MacGillivray has been on the Wheat Kings’ coaching staff for four seasons. . . . He has extensive coaching experience in junior hockey, including most of two seasons (1996-98) as head coach of the Prince Albert Raiders. He also is a four-time winner of the MJHL’s coach-of-the-year award. . . . The Wheat Kings’ coaching staff also includes assistant Mark Derlago and goaltending coach Tyler Plante. . . . The team apparently is in the process of hiring another assistant coach.
Four of the WHL’s 22 teams are publicly owned and, as such, are obligated to hold annual general meetings and to release their financial statements.
Two of those teams — the Moose Jaw Warriors and Swift Current Broncos — announced combined losses of more than $1 million on Tuesday night, something that should have set off alarm bells among fans hoping for some kind of 2020-21 season.
Moose Jaw finished the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season in last place in the East Division, while Swift Current was in the cellar of the Central Division. So neither team was in line to reap the rewards that come with qualifying for the playoffs.
The Broncos, whose average attendance dropped 444 from the previous season, lost $791,000, ending a run of six straight seasons in which they had shown a profit. Season-ticket sales were down 345, which is a big number for a team that plays in a 2,879-seat facility.
The Warriors, with their attendance down 366 per game, lost $391,299, running their two-season deficit to $556,444.
After Tuesday’s meeting, Randy Palmer of moosejawtoday.com reported that the team attributed $282,286 of its deficitto “pandemic-related lost revenues.”
The Warriors also had to pay $180,846 as its share of the settlement of a $30-million class-action lawsuit, although that settlement has yet to be approved by the court. Still, assuming that it is, each of the WHL’s Canadian teams will be on the hook for that amount.
The Warriors, Palmer reported right here, still have $610,653 in the bank, but they did defer their annual $200,000 payment that is part of their commitment to the Multiplex. They have two payments left in a 10-year pledge.
It’s worth mentioning, too, that the Warriors Booster Club raised $238,771 in 2019-20.
The Warriors, like all WHL teams, are going to have a different organizational look whenever it is that play resumes. As club president Chad Taylor told Palmer: “We’ll need the help of the community when we get going again and hockey will look different — our staff will look different, we’ll be leaner — but that is the times and we’ll make it work.”
The Broncos, meanwhile, also will be leaner. These days, Dean Brockman, the director of hockey operations and head coach, is the only employee working on the hockey side of things, with Nathan MacDonald and Ryan Stricker on the business side. Their retail store — The Stable — is open and management has authorized 10 paid hours per week for communications.
Trent McLeary, a former Broncos player who now is chairman of the team’s board of directors, said after the AGM that “it’s a fight to survive,” stating that it will take the franchise years to recover from the loss.
“It’s like how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time,” McLeary told Steven Mah of the Southwest Booster. “We don’t think we have to make this up in one year . . . so there’s lots of challenges, lots of things that are going to challenge us as an organization, as a community. But we’re not the only ones, you look at baseball, you look at soccer, you look at everything.”
The WHL’s two other publicly owned teams — the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Prince Albert Raiders — have yet to hold their annual general meetings.
The Raiders’ meeting is scheduled for Oct. 7. Following the 2018-19 season, one in which they won the WHL championship, they announced a profit of $633,314. In the previous five seasons, they had shown losses totalling $806,571 in four of them; the exception being a profit of $3,892 in 2015-16.
When the 2019-20 season was halted, the Raiders were 36-18-10 and had clinched first place in the East Division. They had two home games remaining and may well have had a deep playoff run in their future. Their average attendance also was up 27 over the previous season, meaning the championship love affair in that city still was in full bloom.
The Hurricanes have said they will hold their AGM on a November date that hasn’t yet been announced.
They are coming off four straight profit-making seasons. Last season’s profit of $282,168 allowed the four-season total to grow to $1,639,321. (Don’t forget, though, that they had losses totalling more than $1.25 million in the previous five seasons.)
When the 2019-20 season ended, Lethbridge was 37-19-7 and third in the Central Division. Its attendance was down one fan per game, to 3,970, over 2018-19. Still, it lost three home dates to the cancellation, and who knows how many playoff games were in its future?
The Hurricanes pay the City of Lethbridge an annual maintenance fee of $166,667 for their home arena, the Enmax Centre. Last month, the Hurricanes and the City agreed to a one-year deferment of that payment, in the process adding a year to the arena lease that now runs through 2029-30. The Hurricanes asked for the deferment, citing revenues lost to the pandemic.
We will find out in November just how much they lost.
I would suggest that the four publicly owned franchises are far from being the WHL’s biggest spenders. Of course, the privately owned teams don’t have to share their numbers with the public. But judging by what the Broncos and Warriors reported, and what is surely to come from the Hurricanes and Raiders, you have to think there is some major pain being felt.
And that’s why the WHL can’t afford to start a season without being able to operate at less than 50 per cent capacity in its arenas. The losses from a season played without restrictions, albeit a shortened one, were large. Losses from a season played without fans in the stands would be mind-numbing.
Here, in summation, is what I believe has happened with the QMJHL and fighting. . . . The league approached the government and asked for $20 million in subsidies to help its 12 Quebec-based team get through the pandemic. . . . Isabelle Charest, a former Olympic speed skater who is the junior education minister, suggested the league needed to do more to eliminate fighting. . . . On Wednesday, the QMJHL’s board of governors voted to slap a fighter with a major and a misconduct, meaning that player would have to sit out 15 minutes. A player also would face a one-game suspension after accumulating three fights, with more time off for each fight after that. . . . Here is the QMJHL’s Rule 47: “All players involved in a fight will now be assessed a misconduct penalty (duration of 10 minutes) which will be added to the major penalty (five minutes), except if a player involved is considered an instigator or an aggressor. An automatic one-game suspension will be assessed after the third fight, and for any additional fight.” . . . There is a chart right here that explains all possible situations. . . . I guess we can assume the QMJHL now is awaiting an etransfer from the government.
COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .
The SJHL’s Melfort Mustangs said Wednesday that they have been “approved to resume our training hockey-related activities.” Things had been on hold since Sept. 25 when one of their players tested positive. . . . According to the Mustangs, all tests “administered . . . this week have come back negative and there is no risk of the spread of the virus.: . . .
The Tennessee Titans have a reported nine positive tests in their organization, and the NFL has said their game against the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers that had been scheduled for Sunday will be played Monday or Tuesday. . . . The Titans have halted football-related activities until at least Saturday. . . . The Minnesota Vikings, who played the visiting Titans on Sunday, haven’t had any positives. They should return to their practice facility today (Thursday). . . .
The CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, who are forecasting a $10-million loss, revealed Wednesday that they have terminated some employees and laid off others in both business and football operations. . . . In a statement, the team said it “had to make significant adjustments to our workforce including temporary and permanent layoffs in both the Business Operations and Football Operations.” . . . Matt Lowry, a content provider with the team for four years, tweeted that he had been laid off, and added: “There’s too many awesome co-workers to thank, but you know who you are, and you’ll hear from me. And please WEAR A MASK so we can all enjoy the 2021 CFL season from wherever you may be.” . . .
The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group is in the process of terminating 40 per cent of its staff at TD Place. The arena and stadium are home to the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s and the CFL’s Ottawa Redblacks, both of which are owned by OSEG. However, staff from those teams weren’t included in the terminations. . . .
MLB announced Wednesday that it will allow about 11,500 fans into NLCS and World Series games at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Fans haven’t been allowed into MLB games since spring training. . . . Face masks will be mandatory and, according to MLB, “No seats will be sold within 20 feet of where a player can be located on the field, in the dugouts or in the bullpen.” . . . Some numbers from Deadspin’s Jesse Spector: “In September, there were 6,913 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Tarrant County, Texas, including 447 reported on Wednesday, the final day of the month. That brings the cumulative tally for the county to 46,527 people stricken by coronavirus, with 721 dead from the pandemic.”
JUST NOTES: Steve Hogle, who spent six seasons as president of the Saskatoon Blades, has been hired as the general manager of Hockey Edmonton. Hogle is from Edmonton and played minor hockey there. Before joining the Blades, he was with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers as vice-president of communications and broadcasting. He replaces the retiring Dean Hengel with Hockey Edmonton. . . . The Minnesota Twins, who were eliminated from the American League playoffs yesterday, have lost 18 straight post-season games, going back to 2004. Since then, the Houston Astros, who finished off the Twins, have won 43 playoff games. . . . Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post has a good look at Al Murray, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s assistant GM and director of amateur scouting, right here. It’s well worth your time.