These days I am spending time going through more than 40 years worth of files. As pages and pages of clippings, news releases and more, most of them related to the WHL and various teams, go into the recycling bin there are memories, lots of memories involving personalities.
Like Patty Ginnell, or Paddy Ginnell, who was Pat Ginnell when he took over as head coach of the Flin Flon Bombers on June 1, 1966. Quick now . . . who did he succeed? That would be Tom Baird, who stayed on as the general manager.
The Bombers were in the SJHL at the time, but that changed when they moved to what was then the Western Canada Junior Hockey League for its second season (1967-68). It had been the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League for its inaugural season (1966-67).
Anyway, Ginnell was 29 when he took over the Bombers. He had spent the previous three seasons playing for the IHL’s Des Moines Oak Leafs. You know that putting Ginnell behind the bench was a popular choice in Flin Flon because he had played for the Bombers when they won the 1958 Memorial Cup.
Ginnell coached the Bombers through Dec. 9, 1973, his final game a 6-3 victory over the visiting Regina Pats.
Why was that his final game?
He had purchased 40 per cent of the Victoria Cougars and was about to step in as general manager and head coach.
Ginnell told Mal Isaac of the Regina Leader-Post that he had been trying to purchase a piece of the Bombers but hadn’t met with any success.
“I’ve been manager-coach in Flin Flon for nine years,” he told Isaac, “and I don’t have a thing to show for it. I don’t even own a stick.” (If you did the math, you know that he actually was in his eighth season with the Bombers, but, hey, facts didn’t get in the way of a lot of stories back in the day.)
“It’s always been my desire to own and operate my own club and that was something I was unable to do in Flin Flon,” Ginnell continued. “Now I’ll have my own team.”
Interestingly, Ginnell’s impending move leaked with the Bombers on the road and before he was able to inform the team’s board of directors.
With the Cougars, Ginnell bought out Eric Bishop, who said he was quitting as the team’s general manager. The Cougars, who started that season with Ollie Dorohoy as their head coach, were in their third WCHL season, hadn’t made the playoffs in their first two and were struggling again.
Victoria finished that season at 22-40-6, which left it fifth in the six-team Western Division.
At some point before Ginnell bought a piece of the Cougars, he had been asked how long it would take him to turn the team into a contender. “One year minimum,” he replied.
Well, the Cougars, led by Mel Bridgman, finished the 1974-75 season atop the West Division with a 47-18-5 record but dropped a best-of-seven semifinal series to the New Westminster Bruins, 4-2.
The Bombers’ board of directors, meanwhile, accepted Ginnell’s recommendation that Mel Pearson, a teammate on the 1958 Memorial Cup-winning team, be the next GM/head coach. Pearson had spent the 1972-73 season with the WHA’s Minnesota Fighting Saints.
Pearson didn’t get to Flin Flon in time for the Bombers next game, on Dec. 13 against, yes, the Cougars. So trainer Nick Oklobdzija — he was known as Nick Alphabet — served as the interim head coach and posted one of his dozen or so career coaching victories, this one by a 10-2 score. Ginnell watched from the Whitney Forum stands as Dorohoy continued for the moment as the Cougars’ coach.
(Bruce Penton, writing in the Brandon Sun of March 7, 1974, noted that Oklobdzija “is undefeated in 12 tests as coach of the WCHL Bombers.”
“That goes back about eight or nine years,” Oklobdzija told Penton. “I’ve filled in here and there when (Ginnell) was away or suspended, or something. And we’ve never lost while I’ve coached.” The WHL’s coaching records show Oklobdzija with a 2-0-0 coaching mark.)
Pearson made his Flin Flon coaching debut on Dec. 18 with a 7-3 victory over the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings. (One of Brandon’s goals came from John Paddock, now the Pats’ vice-president of hockey operations, general manager and head coach.)
Pearson, who had signed a contract taking him through 1974-75, was gone early in the 1975-76 season, fired on Oct. 29. At the time, the Bombers had two victories in 12 games.
The Bombers then hired Mickey Keating to replace Pearson, thus ending Ginnell’s connection to the Flin Flon franchise.
As an aside, my favourite Keating quote emerged late in the 1976-77 season. At one point, I wrote a few stories detailing the history of the WHL and it included this:
A nine-hour meeting in Calgary resulted in a new playoff format. Under the original format, the Flin Flon Bombers, third in the East, were 20 points ahead of Regina and all but had a playoff spot locked up. Suddenly, there was a new format and the Bombers were fighting for a spot. Oh yes, they were also on a 15-game West Coast road trip.
“In this league, you need two pieces of equipment,” said Flin Flon boss Mickey Keating. “You need a face-guard when you play some of the teams on the ice and a back protector for the committee room. I had inklings that there may be changes in the playoffs but I had confidence there were intelligent hockey men in this league. I was shown different.”
Ahh, yes, those were the days.
If you have time on your hands, you could track down the Twitter account belonging to the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs (@OHLIceDogs) and check out the ‘apology’ from the Burke brothers — Billy and Joey. And then see if you can find the screen shot of the WhatsApp chat that got them into trouble with David Branch, the OHL commissioner. . . . And after you have done all that, you are free to wonder why the Burke boys weren’t suspended for life.
Meanwhile, there is ample speculation that the IceDogs are soon to be sold to, as Ken Campbell of Hockey Unfiltered reported, “a group headed by Darren DeDobberlaer, an insurance magnate from nearby Brantford, who owns both the Brantford 99ers Jr. A team and the Brantford Bandits Jr. B team.”
Campbell also wrote: “Oh, yes, and the selling price is rumoured to be in the range of $20 million, which should disavow anyone of the notion that major junior hockey operators in Canada are mom and pop operations that require millions of dollars in tax money to meet their scholarship commitments and provincial government laws to help them skirt minimum wage requirements. Teams make money when they are strong and struggle financially when they aren’t. If the operators know what they’re doing, they can make it work. And as we’re seeing with the IceDogs, they can cash out when they sell the team.”
Campbell’s piece is right here and it’s because of reports like this that I subscribe to his site.
“The Greater Toronto Hockey League has hired a private investigator to scrutinize allegations that Jewish players with the U-13 Avenue Road Ducks and their family members were targeted with anti-Semitic slurs during games this season,” reports Rick Westhead of TSN. . . . That story is right here.
Meanwhile, CBC Ottawa reports that “after some Black minor hockey players in western Quebec alleged they were racially abused, a Gatineau, Que., team has suspended six of its players and the provincial governing body cancelled weekend games.” . . . That story is right here.
And, from Oakland, Mich., comes this from clickondetroit.com: “A 15-year-old boy is suing three players on an under 16 youth hockey team, their parents and the coach after he said he endured antisemitic bullying until he quit the team.” . . . That story is right here.
Dorothy is preparing to take part in the annual Kidney Walk for a ninth straight year. She has participated in every one since she underwent a kidney transplant at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver on Sept. 23, 2013. . . . The 2022 Kidney Walk will be held on June 5, but thanks to the pandemic it again will be a virtual event. . . . You are able to support her by making a donation right here.
FRIDAY IN THE WHL:
G Nolan Maier became the winningest regular-season goaltender in WHL history as the host Saskatoon Blades beat the Prince Albert Raiders, 2-0. . . . Maier stopped 20 shots in posting his 121st career regular-season victory, breaking a record he had shared with Tyson Sexsmith (Vancouver Giants, 2004-09) and Corey Hirsch (Kamloops Blazers, 1988-92). . . . Hirsch tweeted: “Congrats Nolan! Your perseverance, resilience and dedication is nothing short of inspirational. Enjoy the moment; you’ve earned it!” . . . The Blades won it with two third-period goals, from F Egor Sidorov (23), at 12:17, and F Trevor Wong (16), at 18:01. . . . Maier has three shutouts his season; he holds the franchise career record, with 11. . . . Saskatoon (37-26-4) moved into fourth place, one point ahead of the idle Moose Jaw Warriors, who hold three games in hand. . . . The Raiders (26-34-5) are 10th, two points out of a playoff spot. . . .
F Jake Chiasson had two goals and two assists as the Brandon Wheat Kings doubled the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers, 6-3. . . . Chiasson, who has six goals, struck twice in the second period as Brandon took a 5-1 lead. Chiasson missed a huge chunk of the season with an injury and only began play on March 4. He now has 15 points in 16 games. . . . D Mason Ward added two goals, giving him six, and an assist for Brandon, with D Chad Nychuk getting a goal, his 21st, and two assists. Nychuk has 68 points in 60 games. . . . Brandon (34-25-5), which has won four in a row, is sixth, four points behind Moose Jaw. Each team has four games remaining. . . . Medicine Hat (11-50-4) has lost nine straight games. . . .
In Red Deer, F Ben King, who leads the WHL in goals, scored in OT to give the Rebels a 5-4 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . King, who also had two assists, scored his 49th goal of the season at 2:56 of OT. . . . King has a WHL-leading 15 game-winning goals this season. F Brian Propp of the 1978-19 Brandon Wheat Kings holds the WHL record of 16. . . . F Logan Wormald scored twice for Lethbridge, giving him 14. His second goal, at 8:33 of the third period, gave his side a 4-3 lead. . . . D Christoffer Sedoff (7) forced OT with a goal at 12:04. . . . Red Deer (44-17-4) is third, four points behind the idle Edmonton Oil Kings, who have a game in hand. . . . Lethbridge (30-30-5) is headed for a seventh-place finish. . . .
F Connor Bedard set two franchise records as his Regina Pats beat the Broncos, 4-2, in Swift Current. . . . Bedard scored twice to give him 47 this season. His 46th goal, a shorthanded effort, set the Pats’ record for most goals by a player in his 16-year-old season. F Jeff Friesen scored 45 times in 1992-93. . . . Bedard now has 89 point in 58 games, and that also is a Pats’ franchise record for a player in his 16-year-old WHL season. F Doug Wickenheiser finished the 1977-78 season with 88 points. . . . Regina got 37 saves from G Kelton Pyne. . . . Regina (25-34-5) is 11th and, with four games remaining, trails the eighth-place Broncos (26-34-7) by four points.
F Matthew Seminoff scored with four seconds remaining in the third period to give the Blazers a 4-3 victory over the Victoria Royals in Kamloops. . . . The goal came one second after the end of a Victoria PP opportunity. . . . F Logan Stankoven had three assists for the Blazers, including the only one on the winner. . . . Seminoff has 25 goals. . . . F Bailey Peach (36) scored twice and added an assist for Victoria, which came back to tie the score three times but wasn’t able to grab the lead. . . . Stankoven now has 99 points, leaving him three behind F Arshdeep Bains of the Red Deer Rebels, who leads the points race. . . . Stankoven, who has played 56 games, leads the WHL in points-per-game (1.77). . . . Kamloops (47-16-2) is second, four points behind the Everett Silvertips. Each team has three games remaining. . . . Victoria (22-37-6) is tied for seventh with the Vancouver Giants, one point behind the idle Spokane Chiefs. . . .
F Alex Swetlikoff scored three times and added an assist as the host Everett Silvertips dumped the Tri-City Americans, 5-2. . . . The Silvertips, who clinched the U.S. Division regular-season pennant, scored the game’s last four goals, the first two from Swetlikoff, who has 33 goals. . . . Everett was 3-for-9 on the PP; Tri-City was 0-for-2. . . . Everett had a 50-13 edge in shots. According to the online game sheet, shots were 10-0 in the third period. . . . F Jackson Berezowski had an empty-net goal and two assists for Everett. He’s got 46 goals. . . . Everett (45-10-10) leads the conference by four points over Kamloops. . . . Tri-City (18-42-7) has been eliminated from playoff contention. . . .
F Jack O’Brien had two goals to help the Portland Winterhawks to a 7-2 victory over the Vancouver Giants in Langley, B.C. . . . O’Brien has 13 goals. . . . F Cross Hanas scored his 25th goal and added two assists for the winners. . . . There was something of a brouhaha at 19:17 of the third period that resulted in 97 penalty minutes being handed out. . . . Portland (44-16-5) is third, three points behind Kamloops. . . . Vancouver (23-36-4) is tied for seventh with Victoria, one point behind Spokane and one ahead of the idle Prince George Cougars.
JUST NOTES: F Logan Nijhoff, the Regina Pats’ captain, has signed a two-year contract with the San Diego Gulls, the AHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks. Nijhoff, 20, had 20 goals and 23 assists in 52 games when the signing was announced on Thursday. He is completing his fifth season with Regina. Nijhoff attended the Ducks’ rookie camp in September. . . . The EIHL’s Cardiff Devils have fired head coach Jarrod Skalde, who was in his first season there. Assistant coaches Brodie Dupont and Neil Francis will run things through the end of the season. With four games left in the regular season, the Devils are third at 27-15-3.
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.