IceDogs’ situation looks awfully messy. . . . Pats, Hurricanes make a trade. . . . WHL final resumes tonight in Langley

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An Ontario Superior Court judge in Hamilton ruled last month that documents related to ohlthe OHL’s Niagara IceDogs and unauthorized contracts with players would be unsealed on Friday. They were, and TSN’s Rick Westhead has gone over those documents.

According to Westhead:

“The Ontario Hockey League’s Niagara IceDogs agreed to unauthorized side contracts with the families of two players — one of whom is still in the OHL — and likely had similarly secret and unsanctioned deals with a number of European players, according to an investigation into the team’s recruiting practices.”

Westhead provides a lot of details in this piece, which is particularly damning because the OHL, as he puts it, “is embroiled in a class-action lawsuit filed by a group of current and former players demanding they be paid minimum wage.”

The IceDogs are owned by Denise and Bill Burke.

Westhead continues:

“In connection with that case, Denise Burke testified in a Nov. 14, 2015, affidavit that while her OHL team brought in an average of $2.7 million, it still lost money.

“Seven months before the IceDogs purportedly signed a secret deal with the (Liam) Ham family, Denise Burke said that it would be ‘catastrophic’ if the IceDogs had to pay players.”

At that time, Denise Burke testified: “We knew that we wouldn’t become rich owning a team, but seeing as this is our only business, we have always hoped that we would at least be able to break even and at least make more money than we spend, otherwise sooner or later the ‘Bank of Burke’ will run dry.”

Westhead’s complete story is right here.


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The Regina Pats have acquired F Drew Englot, 16, from the Lethbridge Hurricanes for a Patsfourth-round selection in the 2022 WHL bantam draft. Englot, who is from Candiac, Sask., was picked by the Hurricanes in the fourth round of the 2017 bantam draft. . . . He has played the past two seasons with  the midget AAA Notre Dame Hounds, who have won back-to-back league titles. This season he had 21 goals and 20 assists in 43 regular-season games.


Two former WHL coaches were fired by the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers on Monday as they juggled their staff after the hiring of Alain Vigneault as head coach. . . . Kris Knoblauch and Rick Wilson both were dismissed. . . . Knoblauch, 40, had been with the Flyers for two seasons. He began his coaching career as an assistant with the Prince Albert Raiders in 2006-07. He then spent five seasons with the Kootenay Ice, the last two as head coach. He also spent four-plus seasons as head coach of the OHL’s Erie Otters. . . . Wilson, 68, joined the Flyers this season, on Dec. 4. He has been an NHL coach, mostly as an assistant since 1988-89. He spent eight seasons (1980-88) on Prince Albert’s staff, the last two as head coach.


Dave Andrews will retire after spending one more season as the president and CEO of the American Hockey League. Andrews, a former head coach of the WHL’s Victoria Cougars, told the AHL’s board of governors on Monday that he is going to retire as of June 30, 2020. He is completing his 25th season as AHL president. . . . Andrews was the Cougars’ head coach for all of 1982-83 and part of 1983-84, when he was replaced by Les Calder. He later spent seven seasons as the director of hockey operations with the Nova Scotia/Cape Breton Oilers, then the Edmonton Oilers’ AHL affiliate.


The OHL’s Ottawa 67’s had their 14-game playoff winning streak come to an end on Monday as they were beaten 7-2 by the Storm in Guelph. The 67’s, who were outshot 36-20, lead the OHL championship series, 2-1. . . . They’ll play Game 4 in Guelph on Wednesday. . . . The 67’s had swept their first three series and then opened the final with two victories. . . . Ottawa G Mikey DiPietro, who suffered what is believed to have been a high ankle sprain in Game 2, wasn’t in uniform for this one. . . .

In the QMJHL, the visiting Rouyn-Noranda Huskies dumped the Halifax Mooseheads, 5-2, to take a 2-1 lead in the championship final. . . . They’ll play again tonight in Halifax. . . . Both teams will play in the Memorial Cup because the Mooseheads are the host team. The tournament is to run from May 17 through May 26.


Mike Reagan has signed a new contract as general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s Flin Flon Bombers. This deal will take him through the 2020-21 season. . . . Reagan has been with the Bombers for 12 seasons, winning at least 30 games in six of them. The Bombers have been in the playoffs in each of those 12 seasons. . . . There is a news release right here.


Cam Basarab is the new head coach of the Trail-based Kootenay Ice of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League. He started this season as an assistant coach with the junior B Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. He was moved up to head coach in November and then replaced on Jan. 23. . . . Basarab also was a video coach with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes for the previous two seasons. . . . Basarab takes over from Kris Boyce, the head coach for the past three seasons.


F Liam Stewart, who played four seasons (2011-15) with the Spokane Chiefs, has signed on with the SkyCity Stampede of the New Zealand Hockey League. Stewart, born in Great Britain, has a New Zealand passport through his mother, ex-model Rachel Hunter, so won’t be classified as an import. . . . The Stampede, which plays out of Queenstown, is to open the season on May 31 against the Dunedin Thunder. . . . He was to have played this season with the Sheffield Steelers of the Elite Ice Hockey League in Great Britain, but was sidelined by a concussion. . . . Stewart’s father is rock musician Rod Stewart.


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NOTES: The WHL final for the Ed Chynoweth Cup resumes tonight (Tuesday) with the  Prince Albert Raiders and Vancouver Gains meeting at the Langley, B.C., Events Centre. . . . The series is tied, 1-1. . . . They’ll play again Wednesday and Friday in Langley. . . . The $64,000 question going into Game 3 is whether Prince Albert D Max Martin will play. He left Game 2 in the second period after falling awkwardly into the end boards and appearing to injure a shoulder. . . . Martin is key part of the Raiders’ back end. He had 41 points, including 35 assists, in 59 regular-season games, and has seven assists in 18 playoff games. . . . Here’s Darren Steinke of Stanks’ Sermon explaining the Raiders’ options: “If (Martin) doesn’t play that will likely shake up the Raiders normally locked-in defensive pairings of Martin with Sergei Sapego, captain Brayden Pachal with Zack Hayes, and Jeremy Masella with Kaiden Guhle.” . . . If Martin doesn’t dress, the Raiders likely will insert D Loeden Schaufler into what will be his fifth game of these playoffs.

Steve Ewen of Postmedia takes a look right here at Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, who has learned to change with the times.


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WHL governors go with Kelowna, should have rewarded Lethbridge . . . Hay wins in return to Kamloops . . . Raiders remain perfect

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It will have come as no surprise to veteran observers on Wednesday when Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, revealed that the league’s board of governors had voted to award the 2020 Memorial Cup to Kelowna.

The Rockets won out over competing bids from the Kamloops Blazers and Lethbridge Hurricanes. The three teams/cities presented their bids to the board earlier Wednesday in Calgary, following which the vote was held.

The Rockets were the host team in 2004 and they, along with their city, did a bang-up job. You can bet that they will do the same in 2020; Bruce Hamilton, their president and general manager, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Robison was quoted by lethbridgenewsnow.com as saying, in reference to the Rockets: “Very strong fan base, always a very competitive team, championship calibre team. And really, when it comes down to it, when you’re hosting a Memorial Cup . . . you have to be sure that that team is capable of putting together a championship team. And I think the confidence in (Hamilton) and his leadership on the hockey side was a key consideration.”

Of course, Hamilton also is the chairman of the WHL’s board of governors. Having filled the position since 2008, he is the longest-serving chairman in the league’s history. He is widely recognized as the most powerful voice in the WHL, and that is something that will hang over the Kelowna victory, at least in the minds of some.

Someone who has sat in on similar Memorial Cup bid presentations — no, not this one — told Taking Note that at the end of the day, though, only one thing matters in these situations, and that would be the money.

If that was the case here that is really too bad because the WHL’s board of governors had an opportunity to reward a member team, its city and fans for a job well done, and the board blew it.

Assuming that the Hurricanes’ presentation didn’t bomb — and it’s hard to imagine that happening in this day and age — the governors needed to use this moment to thank the City of Lethbridge and all of the Hurricanes’ supporters, including businesses and fans, for their help in hauling the franchise out of the financial muck and mire in which it found itself after not making the playoffs for six straight seasons.

The Hurricanes were more than $700,000 in debt when the 2015-16 season started, the first one under general manager Peter Anholt. They showed a profit of $167,000 that season, then followed with two trips to the Eastern Conference final and profits of $737,710 and $422,443.

Now there’s money in the bank and no fear of not being able to make a $167,000 annual payment to the city as the team’s part of renovations to the ENMAX Centre.

Rather than reward that remarkable performance — sheesh, the commissioner went to Lethbridge in the summer of 2015 and recommended that the shareholders sell to private interests — the WHL’s governors chose to thank the Hurricanes for their time with a pat on the head and send them on their way.

And that’s really too bad.

Yes, the last four times the Memorial Cup has been held in the west it has been in an Eastern Conference city — Brandon, 2010; Saskatoon, 2013; Red Deer, 2016; and Regina, 2018. Not since it was held in Vancouver in 2007 has it been played in a Western Conference city.

However, that shouldn’t have mattered, not with the opportunity that presented itself to thank a member club and city for such a tremendous effort in recent seasons.

The 2020 Memorial Cup in Kelowna will run from May 22 through May 31. The 2019 tournament is scheduled for Halifax, May 16 through May 26.

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Meanwhile, the CHL also announced Wednesday that it has a five-year deal with Kia Canada as the Memorial Cup’s title sponsor.

Mastercard, the longtime title sponsor, wasn’t mentioned during the announcement; there wasn’t even a thank you for its time in that role.

From this point forward, at least for the immediate future, the tournament will be referred to by the CHL as the Memorial Cup presented by Kia.

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Three online Twitter polls involving the 2020 Memorial Cup all closed with Lethbridge in the lead.

Guy Flaming, the host of The Pipeline Show, asked his followers “which team/city do you hope to see get the nod?” There were 446 respondents, with Lethbridge getting 47 per cent of the votes. Kelowna followed at 34, with Kamloops at 19.

Taking Note also posted one, asking in which city the tournament would be held. There were 445 responses, with Lethbridge leading the way at 37 per cent, following by Kelowna (34) and Kamloops (28).

Dub Network asked its followers “who should hold” the event? Lethbridge drew 39 per cent of the votes from the 431 respondents, with Kelowna next at 34 and Kamloops at 27.


WEDNESDAY NIGHT NOTES:

The Portland Winterhawks scored five second-period goals en route to a 7-3 victory over the Blazers in Kamloops. The game marked the return of Portland assistant coach Don Hay to Kamloops, where he spent the previous four seasons as head coach. Hay is the winningest head coach in WHL history. . . . Portland got a goal and two assists from F Cody Glass, who has nine points in three games. . . . The Winterhawks make their final appearance of this season in Kamloops on Friday. . . .

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The Vancouver Giants put a damper on celebrations in Kelowna by beating the host Rockets, 5-0. Earlier in the day, the Rockets had been named the host team for the 2020 Memorial Cup. . . . F James Malm scored three straight goals for the Giants, giving him a league-leading seven in five games, while G Trent Miner recorded his first WHL clean sheet with 21 saves. . . .

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F Noah Gregor had two assists in his first game with Prince Albert as the Raiders beat the Tigers, 5-1, in Medicine Hat. . . . The Raiders, who got two goals and an assist from F Max Martin, now are 6-0-0; the Tigers have lost five in a row. . . . F James Hamblin of the Tigers, playing in his 200th WHL game, came up short on a first-period penalty shot. . . .

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F Kirby Dach had three points, giving him 12 in six games, as the Saskatoon Blades scored a 5-3 victory over the host Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . The Oil Kings lost for the first time in six starts this season; the Blades (4-2-0) had lost their previous two games.


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