Canada’s U-18 staff has WHL flavour . . . Blades salute former GM/head coach . . . WHL playoff spots undecided with nine games remaining

Nolan Baumgartner, a former WHL player and most recently an assistant coach with the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks, and David Struch, also a former WHL HockeyCanadaplayer who started the season as the Regina Pats’ head coach, have been named to the coaching staff of the Canadian team that will play in the IIHF U-18 world championship. . . . That tournament is to be held in Landshut and Kaufbeuren, Germany, from April 23 through May 1. . . . Team Canada’s coaching staff also includes Kori Cheverie, who will be the first female to coach one of the country’s national men’s teams. She spent five seasons (2016-21) as an assistant with Ryerson U’s men’s team and this season worked with the Canadian women’s Olympic team. . . . Baumgartner was a defenceman with the Kamloops Blazers when they won the 1994 and 1995 Memorial Cup titles. He had been part of the Vancouver Canucks organization since 2012 until he was let go in a regime change this season. He was with the Canadian men’s Olympic team at the Winter Games in Beijing earlier this year. . . . Struch spent nine seasons with the Regina Pats before being fired as head coach earlier this season. He played four seasons (1988-92) with the Saskatoon Blades. . . . The U-18 team’s coach staff also includes assistant coach Todd Miller, who is a former head coach of the OHL’s Oshawa Generals and was an assistant coach with the Brandon Wheat Kings in 2020-21, and goaltending consultant Brad Kirkwood, who works with the Calgary Hitmen and the U of Calgary women’s and men’s teams. . . . The complete news release is right here.


Courage


The WHL’s 22 teams are into the final two days of their 68-game regular seasons. There are nine games remaining, with seven of them scheduled for tonight. . . . Here’s a look at where things are in terms of playoff opponents (GR — games remaining) . . .

WESTERN CONFERENCE

  1. Everett Silvertips — Will finish atop the U.S. Division and the conference. One point ahead of Portland, which is out of games. . . . Will be without Olen Zellweger, the WHL’s highest-scoring defenceman, until at least the start of the playoffs. . . . GR (1): at Tri-City tonight.
  2. Kamloops Blazers — Actually third in the conference, two points behind Portland, but are second seed as B.C. Division winners. . . . GR (1): at home to Vancouver tonight.
  3. Portland Winterhawks — One point behind Everett, two ahead of Kamloops. . . . GR (0).
  4. Seattle Thunderbirds — Will finish fourth and have home-ice advantage against Kelowna in first round. . . . GR (0).
  5. Kelowna Rockets — Will finish fifth and meet Seattle in first round. . . . GR (1): at home to Prince George tonight.
  6. Vancouver Giants — Tied with Prince George for sixth, one point ahead of Victoria and two up on Spokane. Each of the four has one game remaining. . . . GR (1): at Kamloops tonight.
  7. Prince George Cougars — Tied with Vancouver for sixth, one point ahead of Victoria and two ahead of Spokane. . . . GR (1): at Kelowna tonight.
  8. Victoria Royals — Two points behind Vancouver and Prince George, one ahead of Spokane. Beat visiting Spokane last night. . . . GR (1): at home to Spokane tonight.
  9. Spokane Chiefs — Slipped to ninth spot as they lost while Victoria and Prince George won on Friday night. . . . One point out of a playoff spot. . . . GR (1): at Victoria tonight.
  10. Tri-City Americans — Not this season.

——

EASTERN CONFERENCE

  1. Winnipeg Ice — Will finish atop the overall standings so is assured of home ice through the playoffs. First-round opponent has yet to be decided. . . . GR (1): Ice will be designated as home team in Regina tonight.
  2. Edmonton Oil Kings — Will finish second and open against Lethbridge. . . . GR (1): at Red Deer tonight.
  3. Red Deer Rebels — Will finish third and meet Brandon in the first round. . . . GR (1): at home to Edmonton tonight.
  4. Moose Jaw Warriors — Will finish fourth and have home-ice advantage in first-round series with Saskatoon. . . . GR (1): at Regina on Sunday.
  5. Saskatoon Blades — Will finish fifth and meet Moose Jaw in first round. . . . GR (0).
  6. Brandon Wheat Kings — Will finish sixth and meet Red Deer in the first round. . . . GR (1): at Prince Albert tonight.
  7. Lethbridge Hurricanes — Will finish seventh and play Edmonton in the first round. . . . GR (1): at Calgary on Sunday.
  8. Prince Albert — Moved from 11th place into eighth with a 4-1 victory over the Broncos in Swift Current last night. . . . GR (1): at home to Brandon tonight.
  9. Swift Current Broncos — Actually tied for eighth with Prince Albert but have run out of games. . . . One point ahead of Calgary, two ahead of Regina. . . . GR (0).
  10. Calgary Hitmen — One point behind Prince Albert and Swift Current, one in front of Regina. . . . GR (1): at home to Lethbridge on Sunday.
  11. Regina Pats — In 11th place, two points behind Prince Albert and Swift Current, one behind Calgary. . . . GR (2): at home to Winnipeg tonight in what is an Ice home game, at home to Moose Jaw on Sunday.
  12. Medicine Hat — Sorry. Not this time.

FRIDAY IN THE WHL:

Eastern Conference:

F Kyle Crnkovic broke a 1-1 tie at 11:56 of the second period as the host Saskatoon Blades edged the Brandon Wheat Kings, 2-1. . . . That was his 39th goal this season. . . . Nolan Maier, the winningest regular-season goaltender in WHL history, stopped 35 shots for the Blades. He earned his 122nd career victory in his eighth straight start and his 60th appearance of the season. . . .

The Prince Albert Raiders scored the game’s last three goals to beat the Broncos, 4-1, in Swift Current. . . . F Carson Latimer (17), who also had two assists, snapped a 1-1 tie at 4:27 of the second period, with F Vladislav Shiloh (9) adding insurance, on a PP, at 13:16. . . . The winners got 32 saves from G Tikhon Chaika. . . .

In a game that was moved from Winnipeg to Regina due to inclement weather and poor driving conditions in the Manitoba capital, the Ice scored five times in the first period and beat the Pats, 6-1. . . . Pregame chatter about the Pats, fighting for their playoff lives, maybe taking advantage of home cooking turned out to be much ado about nothing. . . . In fact, the Ice, the WHL’s best team in this regular season, led this one 5-0 at the 11:09 mark of the first period. . . . The Ice had 14 players get at least one point, but only two — F Jakin Smallwood (25) and F Conor Geekie (25) — had two. Each had a goal and an assist. . . . G Daniel Hauser stopped 21 shots to record the victory. This season, he is 33-3-1, 1.94, .916. . . . The announced attendance, for what was a Winnipeg home game, was 2,799. . . . Oh, yes. The Pats had advertised this as Guaranteed Win Night. The meant each fan in attendance received a coupon good for a regular-season game in 2022-23. . . .

F Yegor Klavdiev scored his second goal of the game in OT to give the Lethbridge Hurricanes a 5-4 victory over the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors. . . . Klavdiev, who also had one assist, notched his 21st goal at 1:00 of extra time. . . . F Brayden Edwards (9) also scored twice for Lethbridge. . . . D Cole Jordan (3) had given the Warriors a 4-3 lead at 16:20 of the third period, only to have F Alex Thacker (13) pull the Hurricanes even at 19:05. . . .

Ridley
Bob Ridley, the radio voice of the Medicine Hat Tigers, was back where he belongs on Friday night. (Photo: Scott Roblin/CHAT-TV)

G Sebastian Cossa stopped 21 shots to help the Edmonton Oil Kings to a 3-0 victory over the Tigers in Medicine Hat. . . . Cossa put up his sixth shutout of this season and the 14th of his career. This season, he is 33-9-3, 2.28, .913. . . . The Oil Kings scored once in each period, with all three goals coming from freshmen — F Cole Miller (9), F Dawson Seitz (7) and F Shea Van Olm (8), who also had two assists. . . . The Oil Kings were 7-0-1 in the season series. . . . Bob Ridley, the only radio voice the Tigers had known prior to the start of this season, returned to the microphone for their final game of this season. Health issues had kept him on the sidelines to this point. . . .

——

Western Conference:

The host Victoria Royals struck four times in the first period and went on to beat the Spokane Chiefs, 7-3. . . . The Royals jumped into a 4-0 lead at 10:31 of the opening period. . . . F Marcus Almquist scored two of those early goals, giving him seven. Almquist, from Denmark, enjoyed his first career two-goal lead. He has scored six of his even goals in his past eight games. . . . F Tarun Fizer, the Royals’ captain, had a goal, his 16th, and two assists. . . . F Chase Bertholet had a goal, his 24th, and two assists for Spokane. . . .

F Jonny Hooker snapped a 2-2 tie at 7:57 of the third period as the Prince George Cougars went into Kamloops and beat the Blazers, 4-2. . . . The Cougars led 2-0 early in the second period, only to have the Blazers tie it early in the third. F Reese Belton (14) pulled the home side even at 4:42, with Hooker’s 17th goal putting the visitors back in front just 3:15 later. . . . The winners got 43 stops from G Ty Young. . . .

The Seattle Thunderbirds got three goals from F Jared Davidson as they beat the Tri-City Americans, 6-4, in Kennewick, Wash. . . . Davidson, who has 42 goals, has put up hat tricks in two straight games. He went into this season with 39 points, including 19 goals, in 130 games. This season, he has 89 points in 64 games. . . . Seattle got three assists from D Jeremy Hanzel. . . . F Jake Sloan scored twice, giving him 17, and added an assist for the Americans, with F Parker Bell (18) adding a goal and two helpers. . . .  F Samuel Huo got No. 30 for Tri-City. . . . Seattle’s three 20-year-olds — F Henrik Rybinski, F Lukas Svejkovsky and D Ryan Gottfried — were given the night off. . . .

F Colton Dach’s OT goal gave the Kelowna Rockets a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Giants in Langley, B.C. . . . Dach scored his 29th goal at 1:12 of extra time. . . . F Adam Kidd (18) pulled Kelowna into a 2-2 with a PP goal at 12:27 of the third period. . . . F Zack Ostapchuk (25) had given the Giants a 2-1 lead, on a PP, just 39 seconds into the third. . . .

F Jaydon Dureau scored twice to help the Portland Winterhawks to a 5-1 victory over the visiting Everett Silvertips. . . . F Michal Gut (17) gave Everett a 1-0 lead at 3:45 of the second period. . . . The Winterhawks then rolled their way to five straight goals. . . . Portland was 3-for-5 on the PP, with Dureau’s second goal, and 24th of the season, coming after Everett F Jonny Lambos was tossed with a kneeing major. . . . G Taylor Gauthier stopped 24 shots for Portland. He is 24-4-0, 2.16, .931 since being acquired from the Prince George Cougars. . . . The Silvertips got 44 saves from G Koen MacInnes.


Lettuce


JUNIOR JOTTINGS: The AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders fired Jeff Woywitka, their head coach and assistant general manager, on Friday. Woywitka started as associate coach in 2006-07 and was named head coach in November, after the firing of Adam Manah. The Crusaders were 16-16-3 under Woywitka, and grabbed the Viterra North Division’s last playoff spot. The Fort McMurray Oil Barons beat the Crusaders, 4-1, in a first-round best-of-seven playoff series. . . .

The junior B Osoyoos Coyotes of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League announced on Thursday that head coach Carter Rigby will be back for a second season. “Rigby . . . took the Coyotes from dead last in the 2019-20 pre-COVID season (21 points) to top of the KIJHL (72 points) in his first full season as head coach, earning him the top coach award in the Bill Ohlhausen Division,” reads the team’s news release. Rigby, 28, played five seasons in the WHL (Kelowna, Swift Current, 2011-15). . . .

F Michael Misa of the Greater Toronto Hockey League’s Mississauga Senators U16 AAA team has been granted exceptional status by Hockey Canada and is expected to be the first overall selection in the OHL’s draft, which is scheduled for April 29. Misa is the sixth player to have been granted exceptional status in order to play in the OHL as a 15-year-old, the others being F Shane Wright, D Sean Day, F Connor McDavid, D Aaron Ekblad and F John Tavares. . . .

The junior B Aldergrove Kodiaks of the Pacific Junior Hockey League have hired Ron Johnson as their head coach. He replaces Chris Price, who had been head coach for two-plus seasons. Price has joined the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs as assistant coach and strength and conditioning coach. . . .

D Keith McInnis has signed a tender with the USHL’s Waterloo BlackHawks. McInnis, who turned 16 on Jan. 8, is from Red Deer and was selected by the Rebels in the fifth round of the WHL’s 2021 draft. He played this season at the Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford, B.C.


Sucks


If you’re a regular in these parts, you know that we’re big on organ donation and transplantation here, primarily because my wife, Dorothy, is with us today because of a kidney transplant. And now she is preparing to take part in the annual Kidney Walk for a ninth straight year. . . . The 2022 Kidney Walk will be held on June 5, but thanks to the pandemic it again will be a virtual event. . . . The Kidney Walk is a huge fund-raising venture for the Canadian Kidney Foundation and its provincial branches. By participating, Dorothy is able to give something back to an organization that has been such a big part of our lives. . . . If you would like to be on her team by making a donation you are able to do so right here. . . . You should know that Dorothy was all smiles on Friday morning when an NHL team’s head coach joined her team with a donation. Talk about an ear-to-ear smile!


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Comcast

Government hits WHL’s Sask. teams with PST . . . Big crowd watches Blades dump Pats . . . Garand blanks Rockets again

By now you will be aware that the cost of most everything is rising, rising, rising . . . with no end in sight. Well, six WHL teams learned earlier this week that their ticket prices will be going up, too, and there isn’t anything they can do about it.

That’s because this increase is thanks to the Saskatchewan government having slapped a six per cent PST on various entertainment events, all of which had been exempt. That announcement was part of the government’s latest budget that was announced on Wednesday.

“I’m just not sure about pairing an additional tax with the recovery of the live entertainment industry,” Tim Reid, the president and CEO of Regina Exhibition Association Limited, the Regina Pats’ landlord, told Regina radio station 980 CJME. “After everything we’ve been through, I just feel like the timing and the consultation has been not in the right place. . . .

“I think it probably gives us an opportunity to understand the co-dependencies between what we do to drive the visitor economy that they depend on and some of the decisions that they make fiscally.

“This is not an insignificant item for a business like ours, and it does change the affordability of our events.”


Safe


The IIHF recently created an Ethics Board and, according to a news release, its purpose “is to determine if the actions of an IIHF Member National Association IIHFor an individual associated with the IIHF or its members could constitute an ethical conduct violation.” . . . That Ethics Board now has two cases on its table. . . . From that same news release: “The IIHF Council has referred the Russian Ice Hockey Federation to the Ethics Board for review, due to reports that the RIHF allegedly sent instructions to Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) teams to take demonstrative actions in support of the Russia-Ukraine war. As such an action would constitute a violation of the IIHF Ethics Code, the Ethics Board will investigate further and determine whether this case will be referred to the IIHF Disciplinary Board. . . . The IIHF Council also decided to refer IIHF Life President René Fasel to the Ethics Board for review, following reports of his involvement with Russia and the KHL as well as public statements made about the war.” . . . Fasel has long been a supporter of Vladimir Putin, the Russian dictator who chose to launch attacks on Ukraine. . . . The Ethics Board will ponder things and then decide whether to refer either case, or both of them, to the Disciplinary Board. . . . Fasel, 72, now works as an advisor to the KHL. He has been critical of the IIHF’s decision to ban Russian and Belarus from future competitions.


Yes, those were the days. . . . Back in the days when newspapers were seriously into newspapering, we at the Regina Leader-Post tried to cover the local scene like a blanket. That included a nightly SJHL roundup that sometimes gave a headline to Cam Moon. Yes, that Cam Moon, who now is a radio voice of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers after all those years with the Red Deer Rebels. . . . BTW, on nights when Ian Hamilton was at his desk at The Leader-Post, we often had SJHL roundups that included quotes. . . . Yes, those really were the days! . . . BTW, Part 2: Lucas Punkari, who covered the Prince Albert Raiders for the Daily Herald not that long ago, now is at the Brandon Sun. Just in case you were wondering. These days he is busy churning out MJHL playoff previews.



The World Figure Skating Championships are taking place this week in Montpellier, France, and somehow things are just fine even though the Russians aren’t there, having been punted by the International Skating Union. . . . And just how have things been without the Russians? . . . Jon Wertheim of sicom wrote: “One official, who preferred to remain anonymous, remarked that, if anything, the event would be more legitimate, not less, since without Russians competing, there would be considerably less skepticism and speculation ‘over who was and was not doping.’ ” . . . Wertheim’s piece on whether various sports are missing the Russians is excellent and it’s right here.


Fashion


FRIDAY NIGHT IN THE WHL:

Habscheid
Marc Habscheid, the head coach of the Prince Albert Raiders, asks the on-ice officials why the fire alarm hasn’t sounded during Friday night’s game in Brandon. (Photo: wheatkings.com)

F Nolan Ritchie scored twice and added two assists as his Brandon Wheat Kings Brandongot past the visiting Prince Albert Raiders, 5-3. . . . The Wheat Kings also got a goal and two assists from F Riley Ginnell. . . . Ritchie, who scored on the PP and while shorthanded, has 29 goals, while Ginnell has 14. . . . Brandon G Ethan Kruger blocked 34 shots as the Raiders held a 37-19 edge in shots. . . . The Raiders’ loss allowed the idle Moose Jaw Warriors to clinch a playoff spot. . . . The Wheat Kings (29-24-5) appear headed for the sixth-place finish in the Eastern Conference. They are nine points behind Saskatoon and seven ahead of Lethbridge. . . . The Raiders (24-30-5) are ninth, two points out of the last playoff spot that is held by Swift Current. The Raiders hold two games in hand. . . .

In Lethbridge, F Carter Souch put up four points to lead the Edmonton Oil Kings Edmontonto a 5-2 victory over the Hurricanes. . . . Souch had three assists as the Oil Kings took a 4-0 lead through two periods, then added his 20th goal into an empty net at 19:42 of the third. . . . Souch now has 68 points in 61 games. . . . Edmonton G Sebastian Cossa stopped 24 shots in running his numbers to 31-7-3, 2.26, .914 this season. . . . Freshman F Brayden Edwards scored both goals for Lethbridge, giving him four in 39 games. . . . Edmonton (46-12-3) is tied with the idle Winnipeg Ice for top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Ice has two games in hand. . . . Lethbridge (26-29-4) is seventh, seven points behind Brandon and one ahead of Swift Current. . . .

G Chase Coward stopped 13 shots to help the Red Deer Rebels to a 3-0 victory RedDeerover the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . Coward has two career shutouts, both of them this season. . . . F Arshdeep Bains, the WHL’s leading point getter, scored his 35th goal and added an assist. His goal, at 14:05 of the second period, was the winner. . . . Red Deer F Ben King had an assist and now has at least a point in 14 straight games. He has 31 points, including 13 goals, during that stretch. . . . Bains now has 96 points, two more than King. . . . The Rebels (40-17-4) are sixth in the Eastern Conference and appear headed to a first-round series with Brandon. . . . The Tigers (11-44-4) have lost three in a row. . . .

D Marek Schneider’s first WHL goal proved the winner as the host Saskatoon SaskatoonBlades beat the Regina Pats, 3-1. . . . The Blades (34-22-4) now have clinched a playoff spot. They are fifth in the conference, one point behind Moose Jaw and nine ahead of Brandon. . . . Schneider, who turned 19 on Feb. 5, scored his first goal in his 56th game, 36 of them this season. He broke a 1-1 tie at 16:14 of the second period. . . . The announced attendance was 7,523 as the Blades ran a Kids Takeover promotion and also welcomed Regina F Connor Bedard for perhaps the last time this season. . . . Bedard had his point streak end at 21 games, the longest in the WHL this season. He put up 23 goals and 22 assists in those 21 games. . . . Regina (23-30-5) has lost three straight. It is 10th in the conference, four points behind eight-place Swift Current but with three games in hand. . . .

G Dylan Garand turned aside 41 shots in winning for the 30th time this season Kamloopsas the host Kamloops Blazers blanked the Kelowna Rockets, 6-0. . . . The Blazers have won nine in a row and six of those victories are over Kelowna. These two teams played home-and-home each of the previous two weekends and are doing it again this weekend. Yes, they’ll play in Kelowna tonight. . . . Garand, who blanked the Rockets, 4-0, in Kamloops last Saturday, has four shutouts this season 12 in 129 career appearances. This season, he is 30-7-0, 1.98, .929. . . . The Blazers got two goals and an assist from F Logan Stankoven, who now has 85 points, including 37 goals, in 51 games.. . . . F Reese Belton helped out with three assists. . . . Kelowna has lost seven in a row (0-5-2). . . . When the same two teams hit the ice in Kelowna tonight, it will be the 14th meeting between them this season. Kelowna is 7-4-2; Kamloops is 6-6-1. . . . Kamloops (44-14-2) will clinch the B.C. Division pennant with a victory tonight. The Blazers are second in the Western Conference, two points behind Everett. . . . The Rockets (34-19-6) are fifth, six points in arrears of Seattle, their likely first-round opponent. . . .

F Niko Huuhtanen struck for three goals and an assist as the Everett Silvertips Everettskated to a 7-2 victory over the visiting Spokane Chiefs. . . . Huuhtanen, an 18-year-old freshman from Finland, has 35 goals and 37 assists in 57 games. Interestingly, he scored just one goal in his first 15 games. . . . This was his first hat trick. . . . F Michal Gut picked up his 14th goal and two assists, with F Jackson Berezowski getting three assists. . . . Everett F Alex Swetlikoff had his 29th goal and an assist to run his point streak to 15 games. He’s got eight goals and 14 assists in those games. . . . Everett had a 48-15 edge in shots, including 20-2 in the third period. . . . This was the 12th meeting of the season between the Chiefs and Silvertips, each of whom now has played 60 games. So they have played 20 per cent of their games against each other. . . . BTW, the Silvertips won all 12 games; the Chiefs are 0-10-2. . . . Everett (42-10-8) leads the Western Conference by two points over Kamloops. . . . The Chiefs (19-36-5), who have lost four in a row, are tied with Prince George for the conference’s last playoff spot. . . .

F Marcus Almquist scored in a third straight game as his Victoria Royals VictoriaRoyalsdoubled up on the visiting Prince George Cougars, 4-2. . . . Almquist, an 18-year-old from Denmark, has four goals in 36 games with three of them coming in his last three games. . . . F Riley Gannon’s 21st goal, at 2:19 of the third period, gave the Royals a 3-1 lead. . . . Victoria now has won five in a row. . . . The Royals (22-34-6) are tied for sixth with Vancouver in the conference, with the Giants holding four games in hand. . . . The Cougars (20-35-3), who have lost three in a row, are tied with Spokane for the conference’s last playoff spot. . . . Prince George has two games in hand over Spokane. . . .

The host Portland Winterhawks got two goals and two assists from F Gabe PortlandKlassen en route to a 7-1victory over the Tri-City Americans. . . . The home side led this one 6-0 early in the second period. . . . Klassen’s second goal was his 30th of the season. . . . F James Stefan scored his 33rd goal and added two assists, with F Jaydon Dureau and F Cross Hanas each earning three assists. . . . The Winterhawks (41-15-5) are third in the conference, three points behind Kamloops. . . . Tri-City (17-38-5) is four points out of the last playoff spot. . . .

F Lukas Svejkovsky scored twice as his Seattle Thunderbirds beat the Vancouver SeattleGiants, 5-2, in Langley, B.C. . . . Sjejkovsky played 85 games over two seasons (2018-20) with the Giants, who dealt him to the Medicine Hat Tigers. Seattle acquired him from the Tigers this season. He has 27 goals this season, 14 of them in 27 games with the Thunderbirds. . . . F Reid Schaefer and F Jared Davidson, who combined to score nine goals in the 2021 development season, each scored his 30th goal for Seattle. Davidson also had two assists. . . . Seattle (37-17-6) is a comfortable fourth in the Western Conference, seven points behind Portland and six ahead of Kelowna. . . . Vancouver (23-31-4) is tied for sixth with Victoria, 24 points behind Kelowna and seven ahead of Prince George.



If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Chute

Royals complete sweep of Rockets . . . Ice alone atop WHL standings . . . Coaching vacancy in MJHL

In a piece posted here late Tuesday, I questioned why some hockey leagues are so quick to get through their playoffs after playing through a lengthy and kijhlgrinding regular season. . . . As an example, I used the junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. . . . Well, the Nelson Leafs and Revelstoke Grizzlies will play in the KIJHL’s best-of-seven championship final, and the schedule was released on Wednesday. . . . If the series goes seven games, the teams will play seven games in nine days. Seriously! . . . The series is scheduled to open Friday in Revelstoke, with Game 2 there on Saturday. The scene shifts to Nelson for games on Monday and Tuesday. If necessary, they then will play three games in as many nights — March 31 in Revelstoke, April 1 in Nelson, April 2 in Revelstoke. . . . Just thinking out loud here but maybe it is time junior hockey players had some kind of players’ association to stand up on their behalf when things like this happen.


A tip of the hat to the BCHL for taking advantage of more playoff time to spread bchlthings out. You may recall that the BCHL no longer is part of the Canadian Junior Hockey League, so won’t take part in the Centennial Cup tournament.

From Steve Ewen of Postmedia:

“The BCHL champion won’t be in the running for the Centennial Cup national title, since the league pulled out of the Canadian Junior Hockey League last spring and lost its spot in that tournament. The BCHL had sent a letter to the CJHL regarding multiple concerns. They wanted player transfers to be less restricted, for instance. The CJHL never responded to BCHL’s concerns, and the BCHL opted to leave.

“It did give the BCHL an opportunity to start its season later, which allowed it to spread out games. The league wasn’t concerned about having its schedule completed to link up with the other leagues for playoffs.

“I think this will make winning our league mean even more,” said (Penticton Vees GM/head coach Fred) Harbinson.

Ewen’s story is right here.


Stress


The Team 980, a radio station in Washington, D.C., had been the voice of the city’s NFL franchise since 2008. It ended its relationship with the team, known the Commanders, on Wednesday morning. Why? Kevin Sheehan, the station’s morning host, made the announcement. He explained: “The team and our company disagreed on the value of the broadcast. It’s also very important for us as a sports talk station, even as a long-time flagship station for the team, it was important for us to continue to be able to provide honest, objective information and analysis about the team on our talk shows.” . . . As Brandon Contes of Awful Announcing wrote: “Sheehan’s statement implies the Commanders have or would attempt to censor the content and topics that were discussed about the team on-air. The ability to speak objectively and honestly about NFL teams should be a requirement for sports radio stations, especially as it pertains to the Washington Commanders.” . . . Hmm, shouldn’t that be a requirement for any broadcast outlet?



WEDNESDAY NIGHT IN THE WHL:

In Victoria, F Marcus Almquist had a goal and two assists to lead the Royals to a 4-3 victory over the Kelowna Rockets. . . . Almquist, an 18-year-old from Denmark, went into the game with two goals and four assists in 34 games. . . . He also has goals in two straight games, having scored the game’s first goal on Tuesday when the Royals beat the Rockets, 4-2. . . . Last night, the Rockets got four assists from F Tanner Scott and two goals — he’s got 28 — and an assist from F Brayden Schuuman. . . . Almquist’s second goal, at 4:00 of the third period, gave the Royals a 4-2 lead. . . . The game featured two minor penalties — one to each team — and each team was 1-for-1 on the PP. . . . G Campbell Arnold stopped 36 shots to earn the victory. . . . Victoria (21-34-6), with four straight victories, is seventh in the Western Conference, two points behind the Vancouver Giants and five ahead of the Prince George Cougars and Spokane Chiefs. . . . Kelowna (34-18-6) is fifth, four points behind the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Darren Steinke, the travellin’ blogger, was at this game and his post is right here. . . .

G Daniel Hauser ran his winning streak to 10 games as the visiting Winnipeg Ice beat the Saskatoon Blades, 4-2. . . . Hauser, who was called on to make only 16 stops, now is 26-2-1, 2.06, .913 this season. His career numbers are 33-2-1, 2.28, .909. . . . F Chase Wheatcroft’s 13th goal, at 2:06 of the third period, gave Winnipeg a 3-1 lead and stood up as the winner. . . . The Ice was without top-end forwards Matthew Savoie and F Conor Geekie, both of whom were in Kitchener, Ont., at the Top Prospects Game. . . . Winnipeg (45-9-5) leads the overall standings and the Eastern Conference by two points over the Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . Saskatoon (33-22-4) is fifth in the conference, three points behind the Moose Jaw Warriors and nine ahead of the Brandon Wheat Kings.


JUNIOR JOTTINGS: The MJHL’s OCN Blizzard won’t be re-signing Billy Keane, who had been the general manager and head coach since July 16, 2020. The Blizzard (18-29-7) finished last in the six-team West Division and didn’t qualify for the playoffs.


——


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Tequila

With pandemic ongoing, the WHL’s attendance not pretty picture . . . Oil Kings win 12th straight game . . . BCHL reinstates one Nanaimo coach


Just about the time the Portland Winterhawks and the Royals were facing off in Victoria on Tuesday night, a photo showing part of the crowd was posted on Twitter.

Shortly after it surfaced, a friend sent me a message: “Is Victoria only allowed 15 per cent capacity?”

After the game, with the Royals having announced attendance as 2,070, the WHLfriend sent another note: “Oh my goodness! Is the league as we know it dying in front of us?”

That likely is a bit of an overstatement, but there has to be more than a little concern in WHL circles, especially when the Winnipeg Ice, which plays in a city of more than 800,000 people, announces a crowd of 1,030 as it did on Tuesday night.

No, there aren’t any attendance restrictions in Manitoba sporting facilities these days. The Ice plays in the Wayne Fleming Arena on the campus of the U of Manitoba. The arena’s capacity once was said to be 1,400, but the Ice said in a Feb. 2 news release that the U of M “has confirmed the capacity . . . is 2,000 persons.”

The Ice, of course, played out of Cranbrook through the 2018-19 season, after which owners Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell packed up and moved to the Manitoba capital.

You may recall Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, visiting Cranbrook in January 2019 and telling people: “The WHL appreciates the support we have received from the City of Cranbrook, the corporate community, and, in particular, hockey fans in the East Kootenay region. However, after many years of monitoring the operations of the Kootenay Ice, it is evident this franchise is not viable in the market moving forward. It is a difficult decision, but given low attendance trends and the support required to operate a WHL Club, it is necessary to move the franchise to a market where it can be sustainable on a long-term basis.”

In 2018-19, its last season in Cranbrook, the Ice’s average announced attendance was 2,214. (BTW, the BCHL’s Cranbrook Bucks, in their first season after moving into the Ice’s former home, are drawing 2,199 fans per game, according to hockeydb.)

Announced attendances at Wednesday night’s five WHL games: 2,426 . . . 1,837 . . . 2,035 . . . 2,824 . . . 2,056.

Granted, this has been a tough season thanks to the pandemic and various mandates and restrictions, but according to figures compiled by the WHL the Ice is averaging 1,500 fans through 23 home games. Only the Swift Current Broncos, playing in a city of about 17,000 people, are playing in front of fewer fans — 1,392 through 27 games.

Those same WHL figures show that the 22 teams have an average announced attendance of 3,047 through 586 games. In 2019-20, the season that the pandemic brought to a premature end in March, the average was 4,154 for 694 games. In 2018-19, the last complete season, teams average 4,361 fans for 748 games.

This season, the WHL has three teams averaging more than 4,000 fans per game. There are 13 teams under 3,000.

With attendance numbers where they are and with so many costs on the rise — both for the teams and for the ticket-buying public — one has to think there will be some head-scratching and soul-searching going on in the WHL’s Calgary office and a whole lot of team offices once this season is over . . . if there isn’t already.


Plastic


WEDNESDAY NIGHT IN THE WHL: F Josh Williams, who reached the 100-goal career mark, and F Justin Sourdif each scored twice as the Edmonton Oil Kings ran their winning streak to 12 games by beating the Tigers, 7-3, in Medicine Hat. Williams has 32 goals; Sourdif has 18. F Hayden Wheddon, playing his first WHL game, scored for Edmonton in the second period. Wheddon, from Stonewall, Man., was a ninth-round pick in the WHL’s 2020 draft. . . . Williams has scored 79 goals with the Oil Kings, after starting his career with 21 for the Tigers. . . .

In Saskatoon, F Brandon Lisowsky scored twice, including his 30th goal of the season at 4:30 of OT, as the Blades beat the Lethbridge Hurricanes, 4-3. F Trae Wilke, who is from Saskatoon, scored his first WHL goal in his first game with the Hurricanes. He was a second-round pick in the WHL’s 2021 draft. Darren Steinke, the travellin’ blogger, was there and his report is right here. . . . Saskatoon has points in seven straight (5-0-2). . . . The Hurricanes are 2-3-0 while on a seven-game road swing with the Canadian men’s curling championship in their home building. . . .

F Nolan Ritchie scored at 1:11 of OT to give the host Brandon Wheat Kings a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Hitmen. Ritchie, who is from Brandon, has 26 goals. . . . The Wheat Kings are sixth in the Eastern Conference, 11 points ahead of Lethbridge and 13 up on Calgary. . . . The Hitmen hold down the last playoff spot, one point ahead of the Prince Albert Raiders and Swift Current Broncos. . . .

F Blake Swetlikoff scored his ninth goal and added two assists to lead the Spokane Chiefs to a 5-2 victory over the visiting Vancouver Giants. . . . Matthew Hutchison became the fourth 15-year-old goaltender in Giants’ franchise history to start a game — after Ryan Kubic (2013), Payton Lee (2012) and Tyson Sexsmith (2005). Hutchison, from Nanaimo, stopped 28 shots. He was a third-round pick in the WHL’s 2021 draft. . . . G Jesper Vikman, the Giants’ starter, is on the sidelines with an undisclosed injury. . . . Spokane moved into a tie with the idle Prince George Cougars for seventh in the Western Conference, two points behind the Giants. . . .

In Victoria, F Cross Hanas had two goals, giving him 22, and two assists to help the Portland Winterhawks to a 5-2 victory over the Royals. Victoria had beaten the Winterhawks, 5-3, on Tuesday night. Last night, the Royals’ second goal came from Danish F Marcus Almquist, who got his first WHL goal in his 29th game. . . . The Winterhawks are third in the Western Conference, one point behind the Kamloops Blazers and Everett Silvertips. . . . The Royals are ninth, three points out of a playoff spot.



The BCHL has reinstated Colin Birkas, the Nanaimo Clippers’ associate  general Nanaimomanager/associate coach, who was suspended early in February while the league had an unidentified independent investigator review what it said were “allegations of Code of Conduct breaches.” . . . On Wednesday, the league said that while it is reinstating Birkas, “the investigation has been partly completed but is still ongoing.” . . . At the same time, the BCHL said that Darren Naylor, the Clippers’ vice-president, general manager, head coach and director of hockey operations, “will continue on administrative leave until May 31, 2022.” . . . While Naylor and Birkas were sidelined, the Clippers brought in long-time junior coach Bob Beatty to work with assistant coach Ken McPhalen. . . . At the time of the suspensions, Clippers Hockey Limited Partnership, Naylor and Birkas filed a civil claim, arguing, according to CHEK News, “that the league acted ‘erroneously and in a high-handed manner’ in issuing the suspensions when no allegations have been proven, irreparably damaging the coaches’ reputations and putting the team’s season in jeopardy because there are no alternate coaches to take over.” . . . A B.C. Supreme Court judge issued a temporary injunction that would have allowed Naylor and Birkas to continue coaching; however, the team ended up putting the two on administrative leave just prior to what would have been their first game after the league had taken action. . . . With seven games remaining in their regular-season schedule, the Clippers are 29-16-2 and in third place in the nine-team Coastal Conference.



JUNIOR JOTTINGS: The QMJHL has unveiled its playoff format, with games to begin on May 5 with the final running from June 4 through June 15, depending how many games are needed. The first three rounds will feature best-of-five series with the championship final a best-of-seven series. There is a news release right here.


Today is World Kidney Day. . . . My wife, Dorothy, who underwent a kidney transplant on Sept. 23, 2013, is preparing to take part in her ninth kidney walk, albeit virtually, on June 5. She has been involved in every walk since she had her transplant. If you would like to sponsor her, you are able to do that right here.


Bedtime


If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Driving

%d bloggers like this: