Rockets dinged by positive test . . . Brandon to get hockey academy, rink . . . P.A. moves closer to three new arenas

Someone within the Kelowna Rockets organization has tested positive for RocketsCOVID-19, with one other individual identified as a close contact. The WHL announced Thursday that “the positive test result was discovered during the initial return-to-play testing phase.” . . . That means that person will self-isolate, as will the person who was found to be a close contact. . . . The Rockets hadn’t yet moved into team activities, so at this point their schedule won’t feel any impact from these positive tests. . . . The Rockets and Victoria Royals are headquartered in Kelowna as the five B.C. Division teams prepare for a return to play. The Rockets’ players are with billets, while the Royals are staying in a hotel owned by the GSL Group, which also owns the WHL team. . . . The Royals and Rockets are scheduled to meet in Kelowna on March 26 in the division’s first game of the developmental season. At this point, the Rockets’ schedule hasn’t needed to be changed. . . .

The three other B.C. teams — the Kamloops Blazers, Prince George Cougars and Vancouver Giants — are centred in Kamloops. The Blazers are with billets; the Cougars and Giants are in a hotel owned by Tom Gaglardi, the Blazers’ majority owner who also owns the NHL’s Dallas Stars. . . . The Blazers, Cougars and Giants have been cleared to begin skating and, in fact, were on the ice for the first time in Kamloops last night. . . .

Steve Ewen of Postmedia tweeted Thursday that Giants F Cole Shepard has an undisclosed injury and that GM Barclay Parneta has said Shepard, 19, isn’t likely to play in this 24-game set. Shepard has 11 goals and 18 assists in 2019-20 after having hip surgery in May 2019. That was his first season with Vancouver after playing with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees.


Ladder


F Seth Jarvis of the Portland Winterhawks was tied for the AHL scoring lead with 11 points in nine games when he had to leave the Chicago Wolves, who are affiliated with the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes.

F Connor Zary of the Kamloops Blazers had seven points in nine games with the AHL’s Stockton Heat, an affiliate of the NHL’s Calgary Flames, when he had to leave, too.

Obviously, both were doing just fine in their first tastes of pro hockey. But under the terms of the NHL-CHL agreement (aka the pro-junior agreement) Jarvis and Zary had to return to their WHL clubs. Drafted players under the age of 20 have two options — play in the NHL or return to major junior.

However, there could be interesting times ahead for that agreement, which expired after the 2019-20 season, but was extended for a year because of the pandemic.

There long has been a feeling among NHL executives and scouts that exceptional 18- and 19-year-old players should be allowed to play in the AHL once they are seen as having nothing left to prove in major junior. At the same time, major junior operators don’t want anything to do with such exceptions because they don’t want to prematurely lose their best players.

This is going to be worth watching over the next while.

Frank Seravalli has a whole lot more on this situation right here.


Drivers


Jared Jacobson isn’t about to let the ice melt under his feet. The new owner of the Brandon Wheat Kings — he purchased the WHL team from Kelly McCrimmon in September — is building a new ice surface in Brandon and also will open a hockey academy in the city. . . . Jacobson is CEO and president of the Jacobson and Greiner Group of Companies. . . . Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun reports that the new facility that will be home to the Western Canadian Hockey Academy “will include a National Hockey League-sized ice surface, three shooting bays on ice, a performance centre, middle-years classroom, six-lane 100-metre track and on-ice video training.” . . . Jacobson is hopeful that this will do something to keep younger hockey players at home longer. As he told Bergson: “For me it’s about developing players and keeping people in the centres they grew up in. Time flies by for families, and I just look at when kids are 12, 13, 14, it’s tough to leave home . . . I just wanted to look at a hybrid model to help the mid-market centres keep kids if they want to have another choice in their years of hockey to stay local and develop. I think it’s just a great fit, and it’s been well received by Hockey Brandon. I’m so happy for that because we wanted to create an opportunity, not a conflict.” . . . Players who attend WCHA will play for their minor hockey teams. The academy will ice teams — the Wolves — in the spring. . . . Bergson’s complete story is right here.


Hey, who knew that Saskatchewan was a province of such riches?

No sooner had I wondered here yesterday whether Regina or Saskatoon would be the first city with a new arena than I received a note informing me that “you forgot the third entry in the race: PA. They might even be in the lead.”

Yes, it’s true. And, yes, Prince Albert is in the lead. And it isn’t close!

Prince Albert is working towards a facility that will include three arenas — one with 4,500 seats and two others, each with an NHL-sized ice surface and perhaps 800 seats. Also included will be an aquatic centre with wave pool, water slides and a whole lot more.

That is Phase 1 of the project, and it might be ready late in 2023.

Phase 2 will include a new home for the WHL’s Raiders, with 20 corporate boxes and a banquet room. Opening date? Sometime in 2024.

The total cost is likely to run around $140 million.

Work already has started on getting the site ready for construction, which is to begin late this fall.

Now back to Saskatchewan and all that money . . .

You will recall that Regina now is home to Mosaic Stadium, a football facility that opened in 2017 and cost in the neighbourhood of $278 million. . . . And let’s not forget Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw that opened in 2011 — yes, it already has been almost 10 years — and cost $61.2 million to build.

Hey, Swift Current, are you getting in on this, too?


Toby Boulet sees the contradiction and, seriously, it’s hard not to. While the Alberta government studies a private member’s bill that would raise some speed limits to 120 km/h from 110 km/h, another private member’s bill that would promote organ and tissue donation didnn’t make the cut so won’t get to the floor this spring. . . . In fact, as Boulet said, “It’s not going to happen for a long, long time.” . . . Unfortunately. . . . Yes, one bill is certain to lead to more accidents and deaths, while the other would save lives, providing people with the opportunity to enjoy extended lives. . . . Boulet has been a leading proponent for organ donation in Western Canada since his son, Logan, died as a result of the bus crash involving the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos on April 6, 2018. Logan had registered as an organ donor and his organs went to six people. . . . Colette Derworiz of The Canadian Press has more on this story right here.


The AJHL announced Thursday night that it has “completed a fourth round of testing in its return-to-play plan with no positive COVID-19 results across 391 players and staff.” . . . There have been 1,532 tests conducted to day and the weekly tests will continue through the end of the season.


The QMJHL’s Baie-Comeau Drakkar had two players come up positive on Thursday, so the team has had to pull out of a protected environment event — that’s what the league calls its scheduled events where three or four teams play in one city — that was to run in Sherbrooke from March 19-24. The Chicoutimi Sagueneens and Sherbrooke Phoenix now will play each other four times over that stretch. . . . Meanwhile, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies will be without general manager/head coach Mario Pouliot indefinitely after he suffered a heart attack. Brad Yetman has taken over as the interim head coach.


Justin McElroy, CBC Vancouver — 622 cases of #COVID19 announced in B.C. today, as the province is now at its highest rolling average of new cases since January 12. . . . Hospitalizations up to 286, a 32% increase in one month. . . . Eight new deaths.

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CBC News — Alberta reports 505 new cases of COVID-19 and 1 more death. The province has identified 91 new variant of concern cases which account for 12% of all active cases.


March Madness got rolling in Indianapolis with play-in games on Thursday, but it is without six game officials who were to have worked the tournament. One of them tested positive and contact tracing impacted the other five. . . . The NCAA had four other officials on standby, so those four now are in the regular rotation.



The AHL’s Utica Comets were to have met the visiting Rochester Americans tonight (Friday), however the game has been postponed. According to the league, the move was made due to COVID-19 protocols involving the Comets, who are affiliated with the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. In this pandemic season, the Canucks also are sharing the Comets with the St. Louis Blues.




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

Living Kidney Donor Program

St. Paul’s Hospital

6A Providence Building

1081 Burrard Street

Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

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Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney 

Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre

Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street

Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9

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

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

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Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: The Northern Alberta Xtreme announced Thursday that Adam Stuart has taken over as the head coach of the academy’s U15 team for 2021-22. He had been on the staff of the BCHL’s Cranbrook Bucks after working for two seasons as an assistant coach with Edge Academy’s U18 prep team. . . . Kevin Undershute, who played four WHL seasons (2004-08) with the Medicine Hat Tigers and Portland Winterhawks, has signed on as an assistant coach alongside Stuart.


Wings

Memorial Cup-winning coach on move . . . Two WHL coaches get U-17 postings. . . . Lambert joins Trotz with Isles


MacBeth

D/F Curt Gogol (Kelowna, Saskatoon, Chilliwack, 2007-11) signed a one-year contract with Fehérvári Titánok Székesfehérvár (Hungary, Erste Liga). Last season, he was pointless in one game with Rubin Tyumen (Russia, Vysshaya Liga), and had three goals and three assists in 27 games with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits (ECHL). . . .

F Taylor Stefishen (Prince George, 2010-11) signed a one-year contract with UTE Budapest (Hungary, Erste Liga). Last season, he had one assist in four games with the Edinburgh Capitals (Scotland, UK Elite), and eight goals and 16 assists in 56 games with the Atlanta Gladiators (ECHL).


ThisThat

Mario Pouliot, who guided the QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan to its first Memorial Cup title in May, has left the team to become general manager and head coach of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Pouliot, 54, had been the Titan’s head coach since 2014. . . . The Huskies had an opening after Gilles Bouchard left to work as an assistant coach with the Syracuse Crunch, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.


Andre Tourigny has taken over from Gilles Bouchard as head coach of the Canadian team that will play in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup next month in Edmonton and Red Deer. . . . Bouchard has signed on as an assistant coach with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch. . . . Tourigny is preparing for his second season as vice-president of hockey operations and head coach of the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s. . . . Tourigny’s assistant coaches are Mitch Love, the head coach of the Saskatoon Blades, and Ryan Oulahen, the head coach of the OHL’s Flint Firebirds. . . . The Gretzky Hlinka Cup runs Aug. 6-11.


Two WHL coaches were among the nine coaches named to Canada’s U-17 teams that will play in the World Hockey Challenge in Saint John and Quispamsis, N.B., Nov. 3-10. . . . Dennis Williams, the head coach of the Everett Silvertips, was named the head coach of Team Canada Black, while Mark O’Leary, an assistant coach with the Moose Jaw Warriors, is an assistant coach with Team Canada Red. . . . Brett Gibson of the Queen’s U Gaels was named head coach Team Canada White, with Louis Robitaille of the QMJHL’s Victoriaville Tigres the head coach of Team Canada Red.


Hockey Canada has invited 40 players to its World Junior Showcase in Kamloops, July 28 through Aug. 4. The news release is right here.


Lane Lambert, a former WHL player and coach, is moving to the NHL’s New York Islanders, where he will be back with head coach Barry Trotz. Krotz left the Washington Capitals after winning the Stanley Cup and then signed with the Islanders. Lambert had been an assistant in Washington for the past four seasons. . . . The two also worked together in Nashville when Trotz was the Predators’ head coach. . . . Lambert, 53, played two seasons (1981-83) with the Saskatoon Blades. He has coached in the WHL with the Moose Jaw Warriors and Prince George Cougars.


F Jackson Niedermayer of Newport Beach, Calif., will be joining the BCHL’s Penticton Vees for the 2018-19 season. Niedermayer, 17, is the son of Scott Niedermayer, a Hall-of-Fame NHL defenceman who played ?? seasons with the Kamloops Blazers. . . . Jackson played the past two seasons with the U-16 Anaheim Jr. Ducks. Last season, he had 23 goals and 19 assists in 34 games. . . . There’s more on this story right here.


Former NHL D Joe Cirella is leaving the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds to work as an assistant coach with the Stockton Heat, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Calgary Flames. Cirella had been with the Greyhounds for six seasons, the first one as an assistant coach and the last five as associate coach.


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