There was a time when I would have told you that the best rivalry in the WHL featured the Moose Jaw Warriors and Regina Pats. Brent Parker, then the Pats’ general manager, was never shy about firing verbal darts. You had head coaches battling at the player benches. You had a helmet ending up in the other team’s dressing room and coming out in unwearable condition. There was the play-by-play guy who showed up one night dressed as Donald Duck.
I mean, stuff happened. And I can only imagine what stuff might have happened had there been social media back in the day.
These days I would suggest that torch has been passed to the Portland Winterhawks and Seattle Thunderbirds. Because when these two teams meet now . . . stuff happens. And there often seems to be an aftermath, too.
Take Saturday night in Portland. . . .
The first period wasn’t even two minutes old when Winterhawks’ F Jack O’Brien left with what appeared to be a bad leg injury.
That came after he was hit along the boards by Seattle F Matthew Rempe. Rempe, who is listed at 6-foot-8 and 240 pounds, was given a kneeing major and game misconduct.
After the game, Joshua Critzer, who covers the Winterhawks for @pnwhockeytalk, asked the two head coaches about the incident.
Mike Johnston of the Winterhawks responded: “I thought it was a cheap hit. I know Rempe has had quite a few of those. He’s been suspended a few times this year even. He’s a big guy who has to get control when he’s hitting people. I don’t know what he was thinking. I just know it was knee-on-knee. You have to be careful when you go in with your knee, especially when you are a big guy like that.”
(NOTE: Rempe has served two suspensions this season. The first was for two games under supplemental discipline for something that happened in game with the host Tri-City Americans on Nov. 5. The second, for one game, was assessed after he was given a charging major and game misconduct during a game against the Silvertips in Everett on Nov. 21. Last season, Rempe was suspended once for one game, that after he took a kneeing major and game misconduct in a game at Portland on Dec. 31.)
When Critzer asked Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette about Saturday’s hit, the response was:
“I thought their player was coming down the boards and our guy tried to finish his check. It was along the boards, wasn’t in open space where it was knee-on-knee in my opinion. I thought their guy lunged out of the way and (Rempe) kind of hit his leg that was dragging behind.
“(Rempe) is a big guy and, when he’s on his path, he’s come a long way to be a clean hitter. He’s a big guy and sometimes he’s just bigger than the other guy, which is why he gets penalties. I thought everything was compact — arms down, legs in — on that hit. Sometimes unfortunate plays can happen not intentionally.”
So . . . that was that. Right? Well, not quite. On Sunday, just as the Daytona 500 was heating up, there were sparks flying between Portland and Seattle.
It started when Thom Beuning, the long-time play-by-play voice of the Thunderbirds, tweeted: “So just saw that video of the Rempe major for kneeing. My reaction? ‘Where’s the penalty?’ I don’t see a minor, let alone a major. No initial call on the ice, so what changed?”
Beuning also tweeted: “Incidental contact happens all the time in hockey, including knee-to-knee. Doesn’t mean it is a penalty, doesn’t mean it’s a major, doesn’t mean it is a suspension. Example A, Ty Bauer injury.”
(Bauer, a forward with the Thunderbirds, suffered a knee injury during a game against the Blazers in Kamloops on Dec. 10 and hasn’t played since that night. There wasn’t a penalty on the play.)
After Beuning fired things up, Andy Kemper, a former Portland radio analyst who now is the Winterhawks’ historian, tweeted: “Rempe led into the check with his leg not his upper body. O’Brien was moving to the corner and Rempe put his leg out to stop him and it went knee on knee. That is not incidental. No intent, but it was a kneeing penalty.”
Kemper: “Yeah, I figured that would be your response. Have a nice day.”
That is when Nick Marek, the Winterhawks’ broadcaster and media relations manager, chimed in with: “Andy said it very well. Everyone knew there was no intent to injure (also why no match penalty assessed) and ‘he didn’t mean to do it.’ Still looks like everything was followed correctly according to the WHL Rule Book.”
Beuning: “Rempe compacts his body to deliver the hit, to avoid a check to the head. O’Brien moves down along the boards to avoid the hit, thus exposing his trailing leg to the contact. Incidental. Same reason there was no penalty when Bauer was injured. Or are you saying the league was wrong?”
Kemper: “The rulebook doesn’t account for incidental or not. The first four words in the rule book are clear: ‘All knee on knee.’ Since it resulted in an injury, the major penalty was assessed. I didn’t see the Bauer hit. Are you saying the league is wrong?”
Beuning: “By not calling a penalty on the Bauer hit, the league has determined there is knee-on-knee contact that doesn’t warrant a penalty. Plenty of time to review and bring forth supplemental discipline. They didn’t.”
Kemper: “OK. But there is a difference between assessing a penalty and assessing a suspension. Doesn’t mean that a penalty should not have been assessed at the time on the Bauer play. The league may decide to not suspend Rempe for the infraction.”
Beuning: “Have you not been around the WHL for a while now? I might very, very reluctantly concede the minor. But players often put themselves in vulnerable positions. Some of the onus is on that player.”
Marek: “Thom, this take is ridiculous. Essentially saying ‘he shouldn’t have been standing there.’ If that’s your belief, then I suppose you should say the same onus is on Bauer for his major injury he suffered. Can’t believe you just said that honestly.”
Beuning: “What’s the old expression? Keep your head up? It happens all the time. Players duck to avoid a hit and put their heads in the path of an opposing players shoulders. Or they turn at the last second and put their backs to the hit in the corner, exposing their numbers.”
Kemper: “I have been around a long time and every time something like this happens, the bias of the individual looking at the play comes out in how they see it called. I’m not going to change your opinion, nor you mine. By the rule book, it was a major penalty. I’m done.”
Here’s a tweet that includes the video of the play in question, so you can be the judge . . .
And here’s another angle . . .
The Winterhawks played host to the Spokane Chiefs on Sunday night and O’Brien was in the lineup; in fact, he scored twice and added an assist in a 9-1 victory.
It could be that, as the old all-star centre Billy Shakespeare of the Stratford-upon-Avon Rivermen once wrote, it all was “much ado about nothing.”
The Winterhawks and Thunderbirds are scheduled to meet four more times this season — March 11 and 19 in Kent, Wash., and March 20 and April 2 in Portland.
So there’s still time for even more fun.
BTW, the Thunderbirds won Saturday’s game, 5-1. Portland leads the season series, with a 5-4-0 record. Or maybe the series is tied, because Seattle is 4-3-2. Yes, thanks to loser points each team has 10 points from the series.
Bruce Vance is one of the good guys. He really is. At one time he worked in the Prince Albert Raiders’ front office, and now he is the the city’s marketing and sponsorship co-ordinator. He and his wife, Liane, also have been through more in the past few years than anyone should have to face in three lifetimes, but they have kept on smiling. Both have battled cancer and Bruce now is having another go-round with the Big C. . . . My wife, Dorothy, is a wonderfully positive person and she will tell you how important that frame of mind was as she went through a kidney transplant. . . . Well, Liane and Bruce are writing about their adventures on a blog — it’s right here — and through all the ups and downs positivity is a huge part of their approach. . . . Teena Monteleone of paNOW wrote about Liane and Bruce right here.
Dwight Perry, in the Seattle Times: “A cargo ship packed with luxury cars caught fire and is aimlessly adrift in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Sort of the nautical equivalent of the L.A. Lakers.”
Perry, again: “The team that won the opening coin toss now has now lost the past eight Super Bowls. Where’s the public outcry over the unfairness of that?”
SATURDAY IN THE WHL: The Everett Silvertips, with points in 12 straight (10-0-2), clinched a playoff spot on Saturday night, beating the visiting Victoria Royals, 3-1. This is the Silvertips’ 18th season in the WHL and they have been in the playoffs in every one of them. . . . F Logan Stankoven of the Kamloops Blazers ran his point streak to 19 games on Saturday in a 4-3 OT loss to the visiting Vancouver Giants. Stankoven, who had a goal and an assist, has 17 goals and 22 assists on his tear. Vancouver, now 1-19-0 when trailing after two periods, won it on F Fabian Lysell’s second goal of the game, and 17th of the season, at 4:33 of extra time. Kamloops is 28-1-2 when trailing after two. . . .
F Ben King’s second goal of the game, his WHL-leading 37th, gave host Red Deer a 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Ice as the Rebels overcame a 2-0 third-period deficit. F Arshdeep Bains had two assists for Red Deer; after Saturday’s games, he led the WHL in assists (46) and points (71). . . . F Connor Bouchard’s ninth goal of the season at 2:01 of OT gave the Tri-City Americans a 4-3 victory over the Spokane Chiefs in Kennewick, Wash. . . .
In Prince Albert, F Jagger Firkus scored his 29th goal and added two assists as the Moose Jaw Warriors doubled the Raiders, 4-2. The Warriors have points in five straight (4-0-1). . . . F Dylan Guenther scored four times, giving him 32, as the host Edmonton Oil Kings spanked the Saskatoon Blades, 9-1. G Sebastian Cossa is 24-6-3, 2.30, .915 for the Oil Kings, who have won five in a row. . . .
F Ridly Greig had a goal and an assist to lead the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings to a 2-1 victory over the Swift Current Broncos. He’s got 50 points, including 23 goals, in 32 games. The Wheat Kings went into the Central Division and won four games in six nights. The Wheat Kings ended up spending the night in Swift Current because of the horrid weather conditions that swept across the Prairies. . . . F Reid Schaefer scored twice, giving him 23, as the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds beat the Portland Winterhawks, 5-1, for their seventh straight victory. . . .
In Prince George, the Kelowna Rockets got past the Cougars, 3-2, giving them a sweep of the weekend doubleheader. On Friday, the Rockets also had won, 3-2. . . . The Lethbridge Hurricanes rode two first-period goals to a 2-1 victory over the Medicine Hat Tigers, who have lost six in a row.
SUNDAY IN THE WHL: F Kyle Crnkovic reclaimed the WHL scoring lead with two goals — giving him 32 — and an assist as the visiting Saskatoon Blades beat the Calgary Hitmen, 4-1. That boosted Crnkovic’s points total to 73, two more than F Arshdeep Bains of the Red Deer Rebels. . . . D Clay Hanus had a goal — his 13th — and two assists as the host Portland Winterhawks dropped the Spokane Chiefs, 9-1. The teams combined for 118 minutes in penalties, with 69 of those going to the visitors. It was the sixth game between these teams since Feb. 5; the Winterhawks won five of them, outscoring the Chiefs, 39-10, in the process. Portland won the season series, 10-2-0, while the Chiefs went 2-9-1.
Headline at fark.com: NBC wants you to know their Super Bowl ratings KILLED IT. Oh, and their Olympics . . . look, a bunny.
“A new study shows the horse medicine, ivermectin, is useless in combating COVID,” tweets comedy write Alex Kaseberg (@AlexKaseberg). “This is hard to believe based on the tireless research of that great medical mind Aaron Rodgers.”
Mike Lupica, in the New York Daily News: “Dr. Oz vs. Dr. Phil in an old-time steel cage match — no way to root, right?”
Lupica, again: “Novak Djokovic says he’s not anti-vaccine, but he’s still not going to get jabbed. What an amazing tennis hill on which to die. Taking this kind of stance against something that has saved lives all over the world.”
Dick Butkus — yes, that Dick Butkus — is enjoying Twitter, witness this: “The USFL is back. Herschel Walker is all over the news. Did I have a stroke, or is it still 1985?”
You may have heard that NBA analyst Charles Barkley is talking about retiring in a couple of years once his contract with TNT expires. As he explained: “I don’t want to die on TV. I want to die on the golf course or somewhere fishing. I don’t want to be sitting inside over (by) fat-ass Shaq (waiting) to drop dead.”
Arthur Blank, who owns the Atlanta Falcons, apparently referred to the NFL teams and their seeming inability to hire minority head coaches as “just not acceptable.” It was then that Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union-Tribune pointed out: “It’s apparently acceptable in Atlanta, where his Falcons are one of 13 franchises never to have had a Black head coach.”
THINKING OUT LOUD:
As a hockey fan, are you old enough to remember when the boards were the boards and not the wall? . . . Are you old enough to remember when the goaltender’s crease was the crease and not the blue paint? . . .
The best entertainment-related news I’ve heard in a long while: Randy Bachman has cut a deal with Corus Entertainment under which some of its radio stations will carry a two-hour Vinyl Tap once a week. It all starts on March 6. . . . CBC Radio dumped Vinyl Tap in July after a 16-year run. . . .
Here’s to a happy retirement to Vicci Weller after 22 years as the Thompson Nicola-Regional District film commissioner. It was because of her that Clint Black was once in the area filming a movie and made acquaintance with my wife, Dorothy, who was working at the time at a Shoppers Drug Mart outlet. Yes, it gave her quite a thrill when he struck up a conversation and then showed her family pictures.
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
Toll free: 1-877-922-9822
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
Or, for more information, visit right here.