Wickenheiser wonders if Olympics should go ahead . . . Did virus find Flames? It found P.K. Subban . . . Hitmen return with a bang


One of the things that really, really hurts — and also amazes and confuses me — is the lack of respect shown to healthcare workers during the pandemic.

The numbers go up and it doesn’t seem to mean anything to a whole lot of folks. A government institutes new restrictions and a whole lot of people immediately start looking for loopholes, or just flat-out refuse to follow the recommendations.

So here we are . . . more than 14 months into this mess. And through it all our healthcare workers just continue to do their jobs. Day after day. Night after night.

It’s been more than a year now and I can’t begin to imagine the angst, the emotions, that every single one of them has to be feeling. I can’t imagine the feeling in the pits of their stomachs as they prepare for another day of working in their chosen profession.

That brings us to Hayley Wickenheiser, who has gone from being one of the world’s greatest hockey players to medical school. These days, she works the front lines at Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary.

And she is wondering whether the Olympic Summer Games and Paralympics that are scheduled to be held in Tokyo this summer should go ahead.

“It’s very hard after what I’ve witnessed this past year and then think about the Games. I’ve seen such suffering,” the six-time Olympian and four-time gold medal-winner told Devin Heroux of CBC Sports.

Wickenheiser, who also is on the IOC’s Athletes Commission, asked the same questions in March 2020 that she’s asking now, and that’s when organizers chose to postpone the Olympics and Paralympics until July 2021.

And here we are again. But, as Heroux points out, Japan has vaccinated fewer than two per cent of its population and a majority of the citizens there don’t want the Games to go ahead.

“I think we maybe have another month before they have to make a decision,” Wickenheiser said. “If things change drastically in terms of vaccinations in the country of Japan. Cases there are spiking . . . This is someone’s country we’re going into. These are real people living in crisis. We have to be sensitive to the needs of a nation.”

And when it comes time to make a decision . . .

“This decision needs to be made by medical and health experts, not by corporate and big business,” Wickenheiser told Heroux. “A very clear and transparent explanation needs to be given if the Games are going to go ahead.”

Heroux’s complete story is right here.


Fire


Prior to Friday, the Calgary Flames had been the only NHL team not to have had nhl2to place a player on the COVID-19 protocol list. However, it seems the virus has found the Flames.

Calgary cancelled its Friday morning skate in advance of the evening’s game against the visiting Montreal Canadiens. According to the team, a player received a positive test on Thursday.

Later Friday, the Flames placed F Josh Leivo on the COVID-19 list. After beating the Canadiens, 4-2, Calgary head coach Darryl Sutter said that Leivo was asymptomatic.


D P.K. Subban of the New Jersey Devils said Friday that he has tested positive. In a video that he posted to Twitter, he said the virus “got right in my kitchen.” Subban, 31, was placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list on Tuesday. . . . “The COVID thing hit me pretty hard,” he said, “but just battling through it, working through it. Just remember to take care of yourselves, stay healthy, I love you guys and I definitely will be back in the mix soon.”


The AJHL announced Friday afternoon that there has been a positive test “in ajhlthe Drumheller Dragons cohort,” so team activities have been suspended. . . . The Dragons were to have played the Okotoks Oilers on Saturday and Sunday, but those games have been “cancelled.” . . . Drumheller hasn’t played since April 3. . . . Okotoks last played on March 28. It was to have played the Calgary Canucks on April 2 and the Brooks Bandits on April 4 but both games were cancelled.


In the QMJHL, athletic therapist Joseph Ferrar and equipment manager Jean-qmjhlnewFrançois Larochelle of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies was evicted from the “protected environment” in Victoriaville for being in violation of COVID-19 protocol. The Huskies also were fined $5,000. . . . According to the league, “Support staff from within the protected environment have been found to replace them.” . . . The Huskies were in Victoriaville to open a first-round playoff series against the Tigres.


Canyon


Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times was back on the legal beat yesterday, reporting Krakenthat the city’s NHL team, the Kraken, “moved quickly Friday to head off a legal dispute with a University District punk-rock bar alleging trademark infringement and tortious interference in a $3.5 million lawsuit filed the previous day.” . . . The team said it won’t be naming the restaurant at its practice facility the Kraken Bar & Grill. . . . The owners of The Kraken Bar and Lounge, the dive bar that doesn’t want to be a hockey bar, filed suit Thursday, asking that the team not be allowed to use Kraken as a nickname or in any other marketing or projects. . . . Baker’s latest story is right here. . . . Spoiler: It doesn’t sound as though this move by the Kraken is going to appease the dive bar’s owners.


I mentioned here yesterday that there is ample speculation about the future of the Vancouver Canucks’ AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets. No, they aren’t going to end up in Kamloops or Kelowna. . . . But if the Canucks choose to make a move, where might the AHL team land? . . . Rob Williams, who always has a solid grasp of what’s happening in the AHL, takes a look at some of the options right here.


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The Calgary Hitmen were hit by a positive test earlier this month and were shut WHL2down for more than two weeks. They returned to game action on Friday and opened with a four-goal first period en route to a 6-3 victory over the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . The Kelowna Rockets, on hold for more than two weeks after a handful of positive tests, returned on April 7 with four goals in the first 27 minutes of a 7-5 victory over the Prince George Cougars in Kamloops. . . . Hmmm. . . . The Tri-City Americans are scheduled to return from their virus-enforced layoff on Wednesday. . . . In the meantime, there were six WHL games played last night. . . .

The Calgary Hitmen, playing their first game since April 5 because of a positive Calgarytest, scored four times in a span of 3:11 in the first period and went to a 6-3 victory over the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . F Josh Prokop (7), F Cael Zimmerman (4) and two from F Adam Kydd gave Calgary a 4-0 lead before the game was 11 minutes old. . . . Kydd has six goals in 15 games; last season, he finished with six goals in 53 games. . . . The Hurricanes bounced back with three second-period goals. The first two came from D Alex Cotton (7) and F Dino Kambeitz (5) added a shorthanded score. . . . F Brandon Whynott (1) restored Calgary’s two-goal lead at 19:03 of the second period, and F Riley Stotts (4) got the empty-netter at 19:58 of the third. . . . Whynott, a second-round pick in the 2019 bantam draft, scored his first WHL goal in his 14th game. . . . The Hitmen (7-6-2) have points in three straight (2-0-1). . . . The Hurricanes (7-9-2) have lost two in a row. . . .

F Owen Pederson scored twice to lead the Winnipeg Ice to a 4-1 victory over the WinnipegSaskatoon Blades. . . . The Ice (16-5-1) has points in five straight (4-0-1). It moved into second in the Regina hub standings, two points ahead of Saskatoon and one behind the idle Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . Saskatoon (14-5-3) has lost four in a row (0-3-1). . . . The Wheat Kings have three games remaining, with the Ice and Blades each having two more. . . . The Ice scored the game’s first four goals. . . . Pederson got it started at 6:05 of the first period. . . . D Mike Ladyman (2) added another at 11:00, with F Connor McLennon (14) making it 3-0 at 14:32 of the second. . . . Pederson, who has 13 goals, got his second at 5:40 of the third. . . . F Alex Morozoff (2) scored for Saskatoon at 12:49. . . . Pederson has 30 points in 22 games. . . . McLennon also had two assists. He now has 33 points, including 19 assists, in 22 games. . . . Winnipeg F Peyton Krebs had two assists to run his point streak to 21 games. He now shares the Ice’s franchise record for longest such streak with F Mike Comrie, who did it in 2000-01 with the Kootenay Ice (hey, remember when Cranbrook had a WHL team?). . . . F Karter Prosofsky had an assist for the Ice. Les Lazaruk, the veteran radio voice of the Blades, reports that Karter is the “son of Tyler, former Tacoma/Kelowna Rockets forward, also nephew to F Garrett Prosofsky,” who played with the Blades, Prince Albert Raiders and Portland Winterhawks. . . .

The Regina Pats scored two second-period goals 13 seconds apart and went on Patsto a 4-1 victory over the Moose Jaw Warriors. . . . F Cole Dubinsky gave the Pats (9-10-3) a 1-0 lead, on a PP, at 8:02 of the first period. . . . They broke it open in the second when D Layton Feist (5) scored, on a PP, at 15:30, and F Drew Englot make it 3-0 at 15:43. . . . F Zack Smith (4) scored while shorthanded for a 4-0 lead at 3:15 of the third period. . . . The Warriors (8-12-2) got their goal from D Cory King (2) at 12:46 of the third. . . . Regina D Ryker Evans ran his point streak to 12 games with an assist. He has two goals and 14 assists over that stretch. . . . The Pats were designated as the visitors for this game in the Regina hub. They are 3-5-3 as the home team and 6-5-0 as the visitors. . . .

The Kamloops Blazers erased a 1-0 deficit with three third-period goals as they Kamloopsbeat the Victoria Royals, 3-2. . . . Kamloops (10-2-0) has won three straight. . . . Victoria (1-11-1) has lost eight in a row. . . . F Brayden Schuurman (4) gave the Royals a 1-0 lead at 12:50 of the second period. . . . F Matthew Seminoff (6) got the Blazers even 36 seconds into the third. . . . F Connor Zary (5), at 12:57, and F Fraser Minten (1), at 16:25, stretched the lead to 3-1. . . . Zary had served 16 minutes in penalties — three minors and a misconduct — earlier in the game. . . . F Brandon Cutler (5) got the Royals within a goal while on a PP at 18:20. . . . Minten’s first WHL goal came in his 10th game — he has six assists — and stood up as the winner. He was a fourth-round selection in the 2019 bantam draft. . . . G Dylan Ernst, in his second start of the season, stopped 14 for the Blazers. . . . At the other end, Adam Evanoff blocked 31. . . .

F Jake Poole had a goal and two assists to lead the host Kelowna Rockets to a 5-1 Rocketsvictory over the Prince George Cougars. . . . The Rockets now are 4-2-0. . . . The Cougars (4-7-2) have lost four in a row. . . . F Dillon Hamaliuk (2) gave the Rockets a 1-0 lead at 16:15 of the first period. . . . The Cougars tied it on F Jonny Hooker’s fifth goal, on a PP, at 15:49 of the second. . . . Kelowna D Tyson Feist (1) broke the tie at 18:55 and F Dylan Wightman (3) upped the lead to 3-1 at 19:38. . . . Kelowna F Alex Swetlikoff (3) added a PP goal at 1:34 of the third period, and Poole concluded the scoring with his first goal at 17:27. . . . Poole, a sixth-round pick in the 2017 bantam draft, went into the game with three points, all assists, in his first five WHL games. . . .

G Dustin Wolf came within 1:58 of his 25th career shutout as the visiting Everett EverettSilvertips beat the Spokane Chiefs, 6-1. . . . Wolf, who recorded a 5-0 shutout over host Spokane on Thursday night, was beaten by F Cordel Larson at 18:02 of the third period. . . . Wolf earned his 100th career regular-season victory in his 142nd game. He is 1.83, .936 in those appearances. . . . D Zach Ashton, who went into the game with one goal in 89 career games, scored twice for Everett. . . . Ashton’s other goal came on Jan. 8, 2019, while he was with the Saskatoon Blades. . . . F Cole Fonstad (11) got Everett’s first goal, at 9:48 of the first period. . . . Everett also got goals from F Ryan Hofer (5), F Hunter Campbell (8) and F Austin Roest (2). . . . Roest, who also had an assist and was named the game’s first star, is the son of Stacy Roest, a former WHLer (Medicine Hat, 1990-95) who now is in his ninth season with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, now as assistant general manager and director of player development. . . . Wolf finished with 21 saves. . . . The Silvertips (13-3-0) have won four in a row. They lead the U.S. Division by 11 points over the idle Portland Winterhawks (6-5-3). . . . Spokane now is 4-7-3.


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JUST NOTES: The SJHL’s Yorkton Terriers have signed Mat Hehr, their general manager and head coach, to a contract extension that covers the next two seasons with an option for a third season. Hehr, 32, has been with the Terriers since 2016 when he signed on as an assistant coach. He stepped in as GM and head coach during the 2017-18 season.


Irony

Blazers, Lajoie go their separate ways. . . . Broncos taking games to the Internet. . . . Giants sweep way into conference final

MacBeth

D Sena Acolatse (Seattle, Saskatoon, Prince George, 2006-11) has signed a one-year contract extension with the Straubing Tigers (Germany, DEL). This season, he had 11 assists in 46 games. . . .

F Cody Almond (Kelowna, 2005-09) has signed a three-year contract with Lausanne (Switzerland, NL). This season, with Genève-Servette (Switzerland, NL), he had 12 goals and 17 assists in 40 games. Almond is a dual Swiss-Canadian citizen, and has played the past seven seasons in Geneva.


ThisThat

The Kamloops Blazers announced late Thursday afternoon that they and head coach Serge Lajoie “have mutually parted ways.” Lajoie had replaced Don Hay as the team’s head coach prior to this season.

The four-paragraph news release didn’t mention assistant coach Dan Kordic, who came Kamloops1to the Blazers from the U of Alberta Golden Bears with Lajoie. They had helped the Golden Bears win the U Sports national title for 2017-18.

Jon Keen, the Blazers’ broadcaster, later tweeted that Kordic “has been retained.”

Lajoie, a defenceman in his playing days, got into seven games with the Blazers in 1986-87. He went on to play five seasons (1988-93) with the Golden Bears, where he played under head coach Billy Moores for four of those seasons. Interestingly, Moores is a former WHL coach, having spent one season (1985-86) as the general manager and head coach of the Regina Pats. Moores is the older brother of Don Moores, who has been the Blazers’ president and chief operating officer for almost three years.

Matt Bardsley, who just completed his first season as the Blazers’ general manager, explained things this way to Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week, who shared all of it on his Twitter account (@MarTheReporter):

“We had some reviews, discussing with Serge, talked about some things, both sides, and we came to the conclusion that I think a little bit was the fit. Might not have been the right fit for us and maybe for him.

“I think, even for Serge, being away from family played possibly a part of it. It’s tough for coaches, for anybody, when you’re away from family all year long.”

Lajoie’s family — wife Kelly and children Isabella and Marc — stayed in the Edmonton area. Isabella is finishing up Grade 12, while Marc, a first-round selection by the Tri-City Americans in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft, spent this season playing for the Northern Alberta X-Treme prep team.

“I missed out on so much, in terms of my daughter’s accomplishments, my son’s accomplishments,” Lajoie told Hastings. “I would have loved to have been able to see his first WHL game. You sit down with your family and think — is this really worth it? It would not have been fair to the Blazers.”

In explaining his side of the decision, Lajoie said:

“I’m very comfortable with it. Both the Blazers and myself, totally on the same page. It was an evaluation that I made at the end of the year. I wanted to make sure I took some time at the end of the season to see if really this is something I could continue and commit the time and effort necessary to help continue to push the Blazers forward. Family was a big part in this decision. We came to an understanding, the Blazers and myself. Now is the right time to part ways and move on to the next opportunity.”

This season, the Blazers went 28-32-8, good enough for a third-place tie with the Kelowna Rockets in the B.C. Division. The Blazers then beat the visiting Rockets, 5-1, in a tiebreaker that propelled them into the first round of the playoffs, where they were beaten in six games by the Victoria Royals.

The writing may have been on the wall for the Blazers as early as Feb. 12 when they added co-owner Darryl Sydor as a full-time assistant coach. Sydor, who had moved back to Kamloops prior to this season, had been at most of the team’s home games, watching from the press box. After Feb. 12, he was behind the bench for all but a couple of games.

In a season-ending interview with Hastings, majority owner Tom Gaglardi said that Lajoie had a long-term contract. Asked if Lajoie would be back as head coach, Gaglardi told Hastings: “I suspect so. He’s got a long-term contract and we haven’t had any conversation about anything other than that.”

Gaglardi went on to praise Sydor’s contribution to the team and to the coaching staff. Asked if Sydor has “what it takes to be a head coach,” Gaglardi replied: “I’ve got to think so, if that’s what he wants to do.”

On Thursday, when Hastings asked Bardsley if Sydor would be the next head coach, the GM responded:

“We talked to Darryl and I think we’re comfortable Darryl is going to come back as a coach, At what capacity, we have to discuss that. Is it the head coach? We haven’t even discussed that. We’d like to have Darryl back as a coach.”

Despite the optics, Lajoie told Hastings that he didn’t see Sydor’s presence as any kind of threat. I recommend that you check out Hastings’ timeline on Twitter (@MarTheReporter) for more comments from Bardsley and Lajoie, along with a few quotes from Gaglardi.

The Blazers have completed 12 seasons under the ownership of Gaglardi, Sydor, Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla and Mark Recchi. The next hire will be the 11th full-time or interim head coach since they purchased the franchise.

In those 12 seasons, the Blazers have missed the playoffs four times, reached the Western Conference final once, gotten into the second round on one other occasion, and been bounced in the first round six times.

BlazersCoaches

The above chart is from the Blazers’ website. One asterisk indicates that he was replaced in mid-season; two asterisks indicates an interim head coach.


There are some nasty allegations being made by followers of the Prince Albert Raiders who journeyed to Saskatoon on Wednesday for Game 4 between their favourite club and PrinceAlbertthe Blades. Fans are claiming they had beer and macaroni thrown at them in the SaskTel Centre. . . . “I could feel something on the back of my neck, something really hard,” Raiders fan Matt Herbert told Jeff D’Andrea of paNOW.com. “We discovered it was macaroni later, but they were just pelting it down on us. Next thing you know, I could feel some beer coming down my back. The guy beside me was soaked.” . . . The macaroni had been given to fans as part of a promotion. . . . D’Andrea wrote: “The Blades did not wish to comment on the record. The SaskTel Centre did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The Raiders issued a response. . . . In it, they confirm that they’ve been told the occurrence is being examined by SaskTel Centre, and they hope nothing like this repeats itself for Game 5 Friday at the Art Hauser Centre.” . . . D’Andrea’s complete story is right here. . . . The Blades won Game 4, 4-1, to tie the series, 2-2. . . . Game 6 is scheduled for Saskatoon on Sunday.


The Swift Current Broncos are taking their game broadcasts to the Internet. After being SCBroncoson The Eagle 94.1 since the late 1980s, the Broncos announced on Thursday that they are beginning “a new era of audio content production and distribution.” . . . According to the news release, “This will include streaming game-day broadcasts, podcasts and interviews that will provide Broncos Nation with leading in-depth coverage and access that we believe our fans will truly appreciate. . . . Further details are set to be released at a future date that is considerate of the parties involved and after a proper process has been completed.”


The Red Deer Rebels have signed D Blake Gustafson to a WHL contract. Gustafson, who will turn 17 on May 21, played this season with the midget AAA Sherwood Park Kings. He had four goals and one assists in 38 regular-season and playoff games. Gustafson was a 10th-round pick by the Rebels in the 2017 bantam draft.


There is an interesting story developing in the OHL where the Windsor Spitfires seem ohlabout to be sold, perhaps for as much as $12.8 million. According to reports, Dr. Azim Parekh is negotiating a deal that will end with him buying the Spitfires from a group that includes Warren Rychel and Bob Boughner. On Saturday, the Spitfires selected D Isa Parekh in the fifth round of the OHL draft. On Wednesday, the OHL held its U-18 draft, and the Spitfires, with the fifth overall pick, took D Aydin Parekh. . . . Yes, they both are sons of Dr. Parekh. . . . Dave Jewell of The Hockey Writers has a whole lot more on this story right here.


The SJHL’s Yorkton Terriers have signed Mat Hehr, their general manager and head coach, to a two-year contract extension. Hehr, 30, joined the Terriers as an assistant coach for 2016-17, then took over as head coach on Nov. 15, 2017. So he just completed his first season as the full-time head coach.


The BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs have promoted Brad Rihela to assistant general manager and associate coach. Rihela, 29, spent last season as their director of player personnel and assistant coach. . . . Before joining the Chiefs, Rihela spent three seasons at the Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford, B.C., coach in the bantam prep program. . . . In Chilliwack, Rihela will be working with Brian Maloney, the general manager of hockey and building operations and head coach.


EdChynowethCup

NOTES: The Vancouver Giants advanced to the Western Conference final by beating the host Victoria Royals, 6-1, in Thursday’s only WHL playoff game. The Giants, last in the conference final in 2010, swept the series, 4-0, and now await the winner of the series between the Everett Silvertips and Spokane Chiefs. . . . That series will open in Langley, B.C., with games on April 19 and 20. . . .

The Chiefs lead that series, 3-0, and have a chance to wrap it up at home tonight. . . .

The other series also resumes tonight, with the Saskatoon Blades in Prince Albert to meet the Raiders. The Blades won, 4-1, on Wednesday night in Saskatoon to tie that series, 2-2. . . . Game 6 will be played Sunday in Saskatoon and, as of late Thursday afternoon, the lower bowl in the SaskTel Centre, with 6,000 seats, was sold out. . . . The winner of that series will meet the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Eastern Conference final. They completed a sweep of the Hitmen with a 6-0 victory in Calgary on Wednesday night.

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THURSDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

The Vancouver Giants are into the Western Conference final after beating the Royals, 6-1, Vancouverin Victoria. . . . The Giants swept the series and will meet either the Everett Silvertips or Spokane Chiefs in the conference final. The Giants, who finished atop the conference standings, will have the home-ice advantage, so the series will begin with two games in Langley, B.C., on April 19 and 20. . . . Last night, the Giants took control with three first-period goals, from F Lukas Svejkovsky (3), at 10:04; D Bowen Byram (4), at 16:19; and D Dallas Hines (3), at 16:37. . . . F Owen Hardy (3) made it 4-0 at 9:39 of the second period, before F D-Jay Jerome (2) got Victoria’s lone goal at 11:58. . . . F Brayden Watts (3) and F Jared Dmytriw (4) had the Giants’ other goals, both in the third period. . . . Dmytriw, who played the first three seasons (2014-17) with the Royals, also had two assists. He also is Vancouver’s captain. . . . Vancouver was 1-1 on the PP; Victoria was 0-1. . . . G David Tendeck stopped 17 shots for Vancouver, while G Griffen Outhouse completed his WHL career with a 27-save effort. . . . The Giants held a 157-63 edge in shots in the series, but, because of Outhouse’s superb play, needed OT to win Games 3 and 4. . . . Victoria D Ralph Jarratt, who missed Game 3, was back in the lineup. Royals F Phillip Schultz, who left Game 3 in OT with an apparent injury to his left arm, also was in the lineup. . . . F Kaid Oliver, the Royals’ leading scorer in the regular season, missed all of the playoffs with a shoulder injury. F Kody McDonald, who has used up his junior eligibility, completed a six-game suspension by sitting last night, while D Jake Kustra sat out the second of a two-game suspension. F Tanner Sidaway missed all of this series with a hand injury.


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