WHL has hit pause button on five teams . . . NHL to Saskatoon? . . . VIJHL, Panthers in mourning

Omicron

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According to statistics kept by Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Centre, the U.S. reported a single-day record 1,082,549 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, along with 1,688 deaths. . . . According to the Canadian government’s site that updates daily at 9 a.m., Canada had 35,618 new cases and 30 deaths on Monday.


The WHL doesn’t have any action scheduled until Friday, but with five teams WHLhaving paused activities because of COVID-19, three of the 10 games scheduled for that night have been postponed. So far . . .

Three of Saturday’s scheduled 10 games also have been postponed, as has one of three games scheduled for Sunday. One of the Friday postponements and one on Saturday is due to restrictions imposed on indoor gatherings by the Manitoba government.

On Tuesday, the league announced that the Edmonton Oil Kings, Moose Jaw Warriors and Red Deer Rebels had paused all activities “as a result of multiple players and staff” having been added the COVID-19 protocol list “due to exhibiting symptoms or having tested positive.”

The league didn’t provide any further information, although the Rebels said they had eight players and/or staffers test positive as of Monday.

The WHL’s Tuesday news release stated that the three teams “have paused all team activities, including on-ice practices and off-ice training, pending further test results. Additional test results are pending and the WHL provide further information when it is available.”

Shutting down those three teams resulted in the postponement of five weekend games.

Earlier, the WHL had put the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Swift Current Broncos on hold.

On Tuesday, Peter Anholt, the Hurricanes’ general manager, said in a statement that “our players and staff are okay. They are resting and recovering. We saw a wide range of symptoms, from a combination of headaches, runny noses sore throats, coughs and congestion, to no symptoms at all. Those who showed any symptoms were mild.”

Here’s a chronology of the WHL’s relationship with COVID-19 since Christmas:

Jan. 1 — The WHL announced that it had shut down the Lethbridge Hurricanes “as a result of 14 players being” on the protocol list “due to exhibiting symptoms or having tested positive.”

Dec. 30 — The WHL announced that it had shut down the Swift Current Broncos “as a result of four players” being on the protocol list “due to exhibiting symptoms or having tested positive. . . . It is believed the exposure . . . occurred outside the team environment.”

Dec. 29 — The WHL announced the postponement of a game scheduled for that night that was to have had the Portland Winterhawks meet the host Tri-City Americans. The move was made “due to goaltenders on both clubs entering COVID-19 protocols and/or sustaining injuries.”

Dec. 27 — The WHL announced that “a total of 36 players or hockey operations staff” were added to the protocol list “as a result of displaying symptoms for COVID-19 or returning a positive test result.” The league reported that Spokane and Victoria each had four people in protocol, with Portland, Saskatoon, Vancouver and Winnipeg each at three; Brandon, Everett, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Regina each at two; and Kelowna, Moose Jaw, Red Deer, Seattle, Swift Current and Tri-City each at one. Calgary, Edmonton and Prince Albert didn’t have anyone in protocols, while Kamloops and Prince George had yet to report.

The league has yet to update the Kamloops and Prince George results.

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If you’re wondering about the QMJHL, it last played games on Dec. 18 and won’t be back on the ice for at least another two weeks. The plan right now is to bring back the players around Jan. 14 with the next games scheduled for Jan. 19.

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In the BCHL, the Trail Smoke Eaters went into a holding pattern on Tuesday, pausing all team activities, according to the league, “for the next five days per BCHL COVID-19 protocol and provincial health regulations.” Trail’s games that were to have been played tonight (Wednesday), Friday and Saturday have been postponed.

On Monday, the BCHL shut down the Cowichan Valley Capitals, Langley Rivermen and Penticton Vees. The league said all team activities have been paused for five days, and six games involving those teams through Jan. 9 have been postponed.

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The junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey League hasn’t escaped the wrath of COVID-19, either. A game that was to have been played Tuesday night between the North Okanagan Knights and host Kelowna Chiefs was postponed. According to the league, the postponement is “as the result of a number of positive test results by members of the Chiefs organization over the past 48 hours.” . . . The league added that those involved are “experiencing mild symptoms and self-isolating.”

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And if you search the Internet you will find that COVID-19 is impacting NCAA hockey and basketball play. In hockey, for example, Dartmouth has postponed weekend games with Union and RPI, while Wisconsin, with protocols within its program, has done the same with Friday and Saturday games against Ohio State. Omaha, with issues in its program, has moved a weekend series with Denver to Feb. 4-5.


Love


It was almost 40 years ago when (Wild) Bill Hunter nearly had the NHL’s St. Louis Blues moving to Saskatoon. Yes, he did! Now with some Canadian provincial governments restricting attendances in some facilities, might the NHL look at having a Canadian team or two play some games in Saskatoon? Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet had this in his latest 32 Thoughts, which is right here:

“Interesting question posed by one executive: would any Canadian teams consider temporarily playing home games at the 15,000-seat SaskTel Centre, home of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades? Saskatchewan is still allowing full capacity at this time. Obviously, the NHL, the NHLPA and the province would have to approve.”


The Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds will play their Feb. 26 game at SeattleClimate Pledge Arena, home of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken. The game originally was scheduled as a Thunderbirds’ home game to be played in the accesso ShoWare Centre in Kent, Wash. . . . Before being gutted and rebuilt as the home of the Kraken, what now is Climate Pledge Arena was KeyArena and was home to the Thunderbirds. They played their final game there on Dec. 30, 2008, beating the Chilliwack Bruins (hey, remember them?), 2-0. . . . The Feb. 26 game will be the ninth meeting of the season between the teams; the Silvertips hold a 5-1-0 edge at the moment.

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Still with the Thunderbirds, the WHL’s Dept. of Discipline apparently has yet to drop the hammer — ch-ch-ching! — on head coach Matt O’Dette for his comments after a 2-0 New Year’s Eve loss to host Portland. According to Joshua Critzer of @pnwhockeytalk.com, O’Dette offered up: “I saw the worst officiated game in my nine years in the WHL, plain and simple. It is not an even standard out there. I feel for our guys. Our guys had a tough week with many different things happening . . . and we don’t get a fair shake (Friday). I feel for our guys. They put their hearts into this and work hard and we didn’t get a fair deal. Portland started to take over the game, but I thought we deserved a better fate as far as the officiating. Our goalie gets obliterated and we get the penalty. That is about as outrageous as it can get.” . . . The Thunderbirds next are up on Friday when they visit the Tri-City Americans. Gotta wonder if O’Dette is asked to cut a cheque before then. Also gotta wonder if the WHL sends referees Mark Heier and Ian Jendro, who did the game in Portland, into Kennewick on Friday.


Knife


Dwight Perry, in the Seattle Times: “Another reason it’s a shame actor John Candy died so young:  His outsized persona  would have been perfect for  ‘Boom! The John Madden Story.’ ”

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Here’s Perry, with some notes “from the John Madden quotebook” . . . “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.” . . . “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.” . . . “Winning is a great deodorant.” . . . “Don’t worry about the horse being blind, just load the wagon.”


Terry Frei (@TFrei) pointed this out on Twitter on Tuesday night: “Both of acting (Denver) Nuggets head coach Popeye Jones’ sons, Seth and Caleb, play for the (Chicago) Blackhawks, the Avalanche’s opponent tonight. Popeye consulted Joe Sakic years ago when Seth expressed interest in playing hockey.” . . . The Jones boys both ended up playing with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. . . . Sakic, the former Swift Current Broncos star, is the Avalanche’s general manager. His guys posted a 4-3 OT victory over the host Blackhawks last night. You may want to check out the video of D Cale Makar’s game-winner.


Grant Gilbertson, an 18-year-old forward with the Peninsula Panthers of the junior B Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League, died in a two-vehicle collision on Monday. Pete Zubersky, the Panthers’ owner and general manager, told Wolf Depner of the Peninsula News Review that Gilbertson was on his way to practice when the accident occurred at about 6 p.m. . . . This season, Gilbertson had put up 16 goals and 25 assists in 38 games.


JUNIOR JOTTINGS:

Just a reminder that the WHL trade deadline, which under normal circumstances would fall on Jan. 10, will arrive on Jan. 17 this time around. You have to wonder how much of an influence the presence of COVID-19 will have on what will or won’t happen. . . .

The MJHL’s newest entry, a team that will call Niverville home starting next season, has signed Kelvin Cech as its first general manager and head coach. He is coaching this season at the West Vancouver Hockey Academy and will finish up there before starting in Niverville on April 1. . . . Cech was an assistant coach for three seasons with the UBC Thunderbirds, then spent 2019-20 as the head coach of the MJHL’s Winkler Flyers, and was honoured as the league’s coach of the year. . . . The Niverville franchise is excepted to announce its nickname at some point this month. . . .

The junior A Ontario Junior Hockey League said Tuesday that it is pausing its schedule from Jan. 5 through Jan. 26 due to the Ontario government’s decision to implement “a time-limited modified Phase 2 Reopening.” A number of Ontario arenas have had to close due to restrictions put in place by the provincial government. . . . Tom Annelin of the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal tweeted that “including the SIJHL, which is also based in the province, that’s 50 Jr. A teams, plus 3 U.S. clubs, not being allowed play. This despite an excellent record of negative tests, since the start of the season under very strict guidelines.”


Fir


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Divorce

Report: WHL looking at Kamloops-Kelowna incident . . . Discipline handed out from Saturday games . . . Stankowski ready to play again


ThisThat

CFJC-TV in Kamloops reported late Monday afternoon that the WHL “is looking into an incident in the third period of Saturday night’s game in Kelowna between the Rockets whland Kamloops Blazers.”

The Rockets won the game, 2-1 in OT.

At 2:09 of the third period, D Montana Onyebuchi was given a fighting major and game misconduct after he went after F Conner Bruggen-Cate of the Rockets, who wasn’t penalized.

According to CFJC-TV, the WHL “is trying to find out what set off Onyebuchi that led to the one-sided fight.”

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Onyebuchi, whose father is from Nigeria, is from Dugald, Man. The 18-year-old is in his third WHL season. The Blazers acquired him from the Everett Silvertips on Jan. 8, 2018. The Silvertips had selected him in the third round of the WHL’s 2015 bantam draft.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Bruggen-Cate, 19, is from Langley, B.C. He is in his third full season with the Rockets after being a sixth-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft.


The WHL’s Dept. of Discipline had a busy Monday as three players were suspended and one coach was fined, all the result of incidents in games played on Saturday night.

F Jake Neighbours of the Edmonton Oil Kings will sit for four games after taking a boarding major and game misconduct at 8:33 of the third period of their 4-3 OT victory over the Blades in Saskatoon. . . . Neighbours was playing his first game after having missed a dozen with an undisclosed injury.

F Justin Nachbaur of the Prince Albert Raiders drew a three-game suspension after he became embroiled in a fracas at the final buzzer of their 4-3 victory over the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors. Nachbaur ended up with a fighting major and game misconduct after becoming involved with F Tristin Langan of the Warriors.

Langan was suspended for one game for his game misconduct. According to the online scoresheet, Langan was given a minor penalty for checking from behind at 18:53 of the third period. Shortly after, he was hit with a minor for leaving the penalty box, a fighting major and a game misconduct.

Neighbours and Nachbaur began serving their suspensions on Monday night as the Raiders played in Edmonton.

Meanwhile, even though there isn’t anything on the online scoresheet to indicate it, it seems that Matt O’Dette, the head coach of the Seattle Thunderbirds, was given a game misconduct at the conclusion of their 7-2 loss to the host Everett Silvertips on Saturday night. He now has been fined $750 for that transgression.


The Calgary Hitmen have activated G Carl Stankowski, so have returned G Brayden CalgaryPeters to the midget AAA Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . Stankowski is 6-6-2, 3.72, .879, but has been out since Nov. 23 with an ankle injury. He missed all of last season while with the Seattle Thunderbirds, due to injury and health issues. The Hitmen acquired him from Seattle on Aug. 7. . . . In 2016-17, Stankowski, then 16, stepped in as the playoffs began and backstopped the Thunderbirds to the WHL championship. . . . Peters got into one game during his stint with the Hitmen, going the distance in a 6-2 victory over the Broncos in Swift Current on Jan. 30. . . .

The Hitmen also have added D Tyson Galloway, 16, to their roster. From Kamloops, Galloway has 12 assists in 32 games with the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League’s Thompson Blazers. The Hitmen selected him in the second round of the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft.

The Hitmen are next scheduled to play on Wednesday when they entertain the Regina Pats.


Representatives of the Grant MacEwan U Griffins and Trinity Western U Spartans men’s hockey teams will present their cases today in the hopes of being admitted to Canada West for the 2020-21 season.

Canada West is an eight-team conference that features eight teams from schools in Canada’s four western-most provinces.

Both schools are members of U Sports, the governing body for university athletics in Canada, but the men’s hockey teams have played in other leagues, the Spartans in the B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League and the Griffins in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.

The Griffins, who are based in Edmonton, have won the ACAC’s last two playoff titles. The Spartans are the BCIHL’s defending champions.

Adding the two schools would bring Canada West men’s hockey to 10 teams, the others being the Alberta Golden Bears, Calgary Dinos, Lethbridge Pronghorns, Manitoba Bisons, Mount Royal Cougars, Regina Cougars, Saskatchewan Huskies and UBC Thunderbirds.


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MONDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

F Brett Leason had a goal and two assists to lead the Prince Albert Raiders to a 5-1 victory over the Oil Kings in Edmonton. . . . Prince Albert (43-7-2) has won two in a row. The PrinceAlbertRaiders lead the overall standings by 12 points over the Everett Silvertips. . . . Edmonton (29-16-8) had won its previous four games. It leads the Central Division by four points over the Lethbridge Hurricanes, who hold three games in hand. . . . The Oil Kings had beaten the Raiders, 6-3, in Prince Albert on Friday night. . . . Prince Albert won the season series, 3-1-0; Edmonton was 1-2-1. . . . F Ozzy Wiesblatt (11) gave the visitors a 1-0 lead, on a PP, at 17:00 of the first period. . . . F Vince Loschiavo (23) tied it, on a PP, 37 seconds into the second period. . . . The Raiders responded with two goals in the second period and two in the third. . . . F Parker Kelly (24) broke the tie, on another PP, at 4:04 of the second, with Leason (33) making it 3-1 at 9:13. . . . F Jakob Brook (5) upped it to 4-1 at 5:33 of the third, and F Cole Fonstad (22) rounded out the scoring at 10:53. . . . Prince Albert was 2-5 on the PP; Edmonton was 1-3. . . . The Raiders got 25 saves from G Ian Scott, while Todd Scott turned aside 41 shots for the Oil Kings. . . . Prince Albert F Sean Montgomery, who had one assist, played in his 330th regular-season game, all with the Raiders. That ties the franchise record (F Brett Novak, 2000-06) for franchise’s career games played mark, at 330. . . . Montgomery has 133 points, including 64 goals, in those 330 games. . . . F Dante Hannoun, who was acquired by the Raiders from the Victoria Royals at the trade deadline, played in his 300th regular-season game and drew two assists. Hannoun has played 14 games with the Raiders after getting into 286 with the Royals. He has 262 points, including 103 goals, in his career.


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Scattershooting after dozing through Stupor Bowl . . . Brodsky family gets Hall call . . . Seattle’s O’Dette voices some displeasure

Scattershooting

Greg Cote, in the Miami Herald: “Tiger opens season at Torrey Pines: Justin Rose carries a three-shot lead into Sunday’s final round of the Farmers Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. Tiger Woods, in his first event of the new season, made the cut but is 13 off the lead. Except on the attention leaderboard, where he remains on top.”


Prior to this season, the WHL cut its regular-season from 72 to 68 games, and there still are far too many instances of teams having to play three games in fewer than 48 hours. Maybe it’s time to cut back to 64 games, or even 60, and get rid of even more of those dastardly mid-week games.


Itch

How excited was Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, to see the Super Bowl halftime show? “This year’s performance will feature Maroon 5 as the headliner,” he wrote, “In the event that Maroon 5 were to pull out of the performance at the last minute and be replaced by Chartreuse 7.5, I would not know the difference.”


Dwight Perry, in the Seattle Times: “There’s rumblings out of L.A. that the Lakers are itching to swing a three-city trade to land Pelicans big man Anthony Davis. In return, the Lakers would send Lonzo Ball to New Orleans, and LaVar Ball to Flin Flon.”

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Perry, again: “Whacky ex-slugger Jose Canseco tweeted that aliens have been trying to teach mankind the fine art of time travel but, alas, our species has just been too reluctant ‘to change our body composition.’ Which raises the question: Is there a concussion-protocol statute of limitations for home-run balls off the top of the noggin?


chicken


The group that owns the Victoria HarbourCats of baseball’s West Coast League has announced that if all goes well it will field a team in Nanaimo’s Serauxmen Stadium in time for the 2020 or 2021 season. It would be the third Canadian team in a league that also includes the Kelowna Falcons. The 12-team WCL has expressed interest in Kamloops and NorBrock Stadium in the past but hasn’t been able to find anyone interested in bankrolling the project.


The NBA has fined Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans the grand sum of $50,000 because his agent went public with a trade request. As RJ Currie of SportsDeke.com points out: “Tsk. There’s seven minutes salary he’ll never get back.”


When it came to watching the NFL Pro Bowl on TV, Hampton Roads, Va., was third in the ratings, behind only Kansas City and Pittsburgh. “Hey, neighbors,” wrote Bob Molinaro of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, “maybe it’s time we got out of the house more often.”


olddays


The best part of that Super Bowl game is that it’s over, which means it’s now baseball season. . . . Although I have to admit that the NFL’s showcase game did one thing good — it put me to sleep. Not once, but twice.


“Perhaps the highlight of the Super Bowl for most average Americans,” notes Janice Hough of leftcoastsportsbabe.com, “was the realization that 70,000 members of 1% paid thousands of dollars to be inside where they couldn’t change the channel.”


Former UCLA star Bill Walton, now a TV analyst, has suggested that Barack Obama should replace the fired Steve Alford as the men’s basketball coach at UCLA. To which Brad Rock of Salt Lake City’s Desert News asked: “What? Gene Hackman was busy?”



ThisThat

The Brodsky family, a major contributor to the WHL over the years, is among the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame’s 2019 inductees. The announcement was made on Saturday, with the saskhallinduction ceremony scheduled for July 6 at Saskatoon’s Prairieland Park.

“As probably everybody in the room will tell you, you come into these things and you just go to work every day and you do the things you want to be doing and enjoy doing,” Jack Brodsky said. “To be recognized, I’m especially appreciative of the fact that it’s the entire family going in. My dad (Nate) and my brothers (Rick and Bob) and sister (Debbie) were so supportive. To be here, for us to be recognized for this, is a wonderful thing. It’s humbling.”

Nate was a long-time owner of the Saskatoon Blades, which stayed in the Brodsky family until the franchise was sold to Mike Priestner of Edmonton after the 2012-13 season. . . . Rick Brodsky purchased the Victoria Cougars, moved them to Prince George in 1994 and and was involved until selling the franchise to local interests after the 2013-14 season. . . . Jack and Rick Brodsky both were heavily involved in the WHL at the administrative level, as well.

Also in the class of 2019 — Players: Bert Olmstead, Fernie Flaman, Keith Magnuson, Curtis Leschyshyn, Brian Skrudland and Ed Van Impe; Grassroots: Jim McIntyre and Joe Bloski; Builders: Murray Armstrong, Max McNab, Bill Thon and the Brodsky family; Official: Brad Watson; Teams: 2004-05 Saskatoon Contacts and 1966-67 Saskatoon Centennials. . . . The SHHOF is located at the Credit Union I-Plex, the Swift Current Broncos’ home arena.

Darren Zary of the SaskatoonStarPhoenix has more right here.


Officials of WHL teams and the folks who run their home arenas need to read this piece right here from CBS News. It details how the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons cut their concession prices, some by as much as 50 per cent, and had revenues rise by 16 per cent. Other teams have since followed suit and have experienced similar results. . . . “We talk about lifetime value of customers … and the lifetime value of the customer, for the Atlanta sports fan is, I think, quite higher now because people want to go there,” Scott Rosner, director of Columbia University’s sports management program, told CBS. “They don’t feel like they’re being taken advantage of. It’s an affordable experience.”


You are free to wonder if Matt O’Dette, the head coach of the Seattle Thunderbirds, will Seattlebe hearing from Kevin Acheson, the WHL’s sheriff, after expressing some disgruntlement after a 7-2 loss to the host Everett Silvertips on Saturday night.

For starters, O’Dette wasn’t happy with the fact that Everett F Connor Dewar, who finished with four goals and two assists, wasn’t given a kneeing penalty for a hit on Seattle F Matthew Wedman.

“They saw everything that we did obviously,” O’Dette told Andy Eide, who covers the Thunderbirds of 710 ESPN in Seattle. “We know what knees can do and we’re pretty sensitive about that. They continue not to call them. I don’t know why, but they continue to not call them.”

The Thunderbirds are sensitive because F Dillon Hamaliuk had his season ended by a knee-on-knee hit agains the visiting Portland Winterhawks on Dec. 29. D Matthew Quigley was suspended for four games after that hit.

On Saturday, Everett finished with nine power-play opportunities, while Seattle had two, none after the early part of the second period.

O’Dette was so frustrated that when referees Tyler Adair and Fraser Lawrence awarded Seattle a PP at 19:56 of the third period, he ended up with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“A typical referee move to give us a call with two seconds left,” O’Dette said. “No, no, no, no, we’re not taking that. We’re not making it look good on the boxscore. Typical cowardly ref move to do that. We didn’t want that power play.”

Eide’s complete story is right here.


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