WHL exempt from Alberta gov’t restrictions . . . AJHL has another team on virus leave . . . Rebels’ Sexsmith opens up about the season


If you’re paying attention, you already know that COVID-19 had another good day on Thursday.

In fact, you have to wonder if behind closed doors junior hockey operators are WHL2starting to wonder if the 2021-22 season is going to start anywhere close to on time, at least in Western Canada. Because — and let’s be honest here — we aren’t anywhere close to seeing the end of this.

When Alberta released its Thursday numbers, they were the worst the province has seen since the pandemic began in the early days of 2020.

So, from the Department of Better Late Than Never, the Alberta government responded with restrictions that cover various cities with particularly horrendous numbers, like Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Red Deer, each of them home to a WHL franchise.

Part of those restrictions included this:

“All indoor fitness activities are prohibited. This includes: all group physical activities, such as team sports, fitness classes and training sessions; all one-on-one lessons and training activities; all practices, training and games.”

But never fear WHL fans because it seems your favourite teams are exempt from these restrictions. With Red Deer playing on Thursday night, Rebels interim radio voice Troy Gillard tweeted that a “team official tells me the WHL does indeed remain exempt and games will continue as scheduled.”

Other areas under the restrictions are Airdrie, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie and Strathcona County, which includes Sherwood Park.

It would appear that the AJHL, like the WHL, is exempt from the restrictions because the Grande Prairie Storm is at home to the Sherwood Park Crusaders tonight (Friday) and Saturday, with the teams to play next weekend in Sherwood Park.


Plague


The AJHL has suspended the team activities of another team — the Calgary Canucks — after a positive COVID-19 test result was identified within the ajhlteam’s cohort. As per the league’s return-to-play protocols, the Canucks are on hold for at least 14 days. They were scheduled to play the Drayton Valley Thunder in Calgary tonight (Friday), on the road Sunday and May 7, and May 9 in Calgary, but those games all have been cancelled. . . .

On Tuesday, the AJHL halted team activities for the Whitecourt Wolverines and Bonnyville Pontiacs for 14 days because of a positive test in the Wolverines’ group. Those two teams had played each other on Saturday and Sunday. . . .

On Sunday, the Okotoks Oilers were put on hold for 14 days because of a positive test in their cohort. . . .

On April 23, the Drumheller Dragons experienced a positive test and they, too, were shut down for 14 days. . . .

On Wednesday, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons announced that they were ending their season out of an abundance of concern for the safety of players, billets and their community, which is under a local state of emergency. . . .

The league has seven teams up and running — Drayton Valley, Grande Prairie Storm, Sherwood Park Crusaders and Spruce Grove Saints in the North Division, and Brooks Bandits, Camrose Kodiaks and Olds Grizzlys in the South Division.

With seven teams and three two-team cohorts, the Spruce Grove Saints were left without a partner. That problem went away with the news regarding the Canucks. So the Saints are to play the Thunder tonight (Friday) in Spruce Grove and Saturday in Drayton Valley.

The AJHL schedule is to conclude on May 8.


File this under The Best Laid Plans: The Los Angeles Rams rented and outfitted a 9,000-square-foot beach house in Malibu from which their personnel was to set up shop and conduct the NFL draft. . . . On Thursday, general manager Les Snead announced that he has tested positive so will isolate at home and conduct the draft from there.


Retire


Mark Brennan, the Portland Winterhawks’ equipment manager, announced Thursday that he will retire at the end of this season. He has been the club’s equipment manager since 2012, after also working with, among others, the Detroit Red Wings and Florida Panthers. When Portland’s season ends on May 11, Brennan will have worked 2,251 games. The Winterhawks’ news release is right here.

Brennan wasn’t behind a bench on Thursday night — he’ll be there tonight with Portland playing host to the Everett Silvertips — but there were three other WHL games . . .

In Lethbridge, the Medicine Hat Tigers broke a 1-1 tie with two shorthanded Tigersgoals and went on to beat the Hurricanes, 6-2. . . . Medicine Hat (13-6-1) had lost its previous three games. . . . Lethbridge is 8-11-2. . . . F Brett Kemp gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead at 6:44 of the first period, with F Jett Jones (5) getting the Hurricanes even at 12:07. . . . D Cole Clayton (9) sent the Tigers out front with the first shorthanded goal, at 3:51 of the second period, with F Nick McCarry (7) adding the second one at 10:48. . . . Medicine Hat put it away with the next three goals, too — Kemp’s second and 12th of the season, and two from F Lukas Svejkovsky, who also has 12. . . . F Ty Nash (2) got Lethbridge’s second goal on a late PP. . . .

F Cael Zimmerman’s OT goal gave the visiting Calgary Hitmen a 4-3 victory Calgaryover the Red Deer Rebels. . . . The Hitmen improved to 9-7-2. . . . The Rebels (2-15-3) have lost 13 in a row (0-12-1). . . . F Josh Prokop (9) put Calgary out front, while shorthanded, at 2:39 of the first period and the teams exchanged goals through game’s end. . . . F Carter Anderson (2) got Red Deer even at 13:19, with D Jackson van de Least (3) replying for Calgary at 17:40. . . . Red Deer tied it on D Jace Weir’s second goal at 19:52. . . . F Riley Fiddler-Schultz (5) put the Hitmen back out front, 3-2, at 10:18 of the second period. . . . F Chris Douglas (6) forced OT with a Red Deer score at 12:48 of the third. . . . Zimmerman won it with his sixth goal of the season, at 4:19 of extra time. . . . Calgary F Sean Tschigel had two assists, giving him 18 points, including 10 goals, in 18 games. He went into this season with five goals and nine assists in 64 games. . . .

BTW, if you are interested in a good story about what life’s been like with the RedDeerstruggling Rebels who have been living in the arena since this season began, here’s a taste from D Joel Sexsmith:

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t really tough,” the 19-year-old told Byron Hackett of the Red Deer Advocate. “It hasn’t been easy here. It certainly hasn’t been easy when you’re losing, too. I think the dynamic would shift if we’d been winning all the time and we haven’t been, that’s just the reality.

“We live here, we look at the rink every day and it kind of serves as a reminder that we are where we are in the standings. I think that’s really tough mentally. I would say I’m really grateful that I’m able to go through this with this group of guys. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I love this group of guys on this team.” . . . Hackett’s complete piece is right here and it’s well worth a read. . . .

F Alex Swetlikoff broke a 3-3 tie at 18:27 of the third period as the Kelowna RocketsRockets beat the visiting Vancouver Giants, 4-3. . . . The Rockets (7-2-0) have won four in a row. . . . The Giants (9-7-0) have lost four straight. . . . Swetlikoff’s fourth goal of the season stood up as the winner. . . . Kelowna D Jake Lee (2) had tied the game at 14:29 of the third. . . . Vancouver led this one 2-0 on two first-period goals from F Zack Ostapchuk, at 9:03 and 9:40. . . . Ostapchuk, who has six goals in 16 games this  season, finished last season with five in 44 games as a freshman. . . . F Dillon Hamaliuk (4) got Kelowna’s first goal, on a PP, at 13:21. . . . The Rockets tied it on F Turner McMillen’s first WHL goal, shorthanded, at 4:19 of the second. That was Kelowna’s fifth shorthanded score in nine games. . . . McMillen was a ninth-round pick in the 2018 bantam draft. He played two games last season and this was No. 9 this season. . . . Vancouver went back out front when F Bryce Bader (4) scored at 7:40. . . . Watching the replay of the winning goal, it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s changed to F Mark Liwiski, who appeared to score off a Swetlikoff rebound.


Belarus (2-1-0) secured a quarter-final berth in the IIHF U18 World U18Championship in Texas on Thursday, with a 6-2 victory over Latvia (0-3-0) in Group A. . . . Sweden (2-1-0) beat Switzerland (1-2-0), 3-1, in the other Group A game. . . . In Group B, G Kaidan Mbereko stopped five shooters in the shootout as Team USA beat Czech Republic, 2-1. . . . In the other Group B game, Russia (2-0-1) skated past Germany (0-3-0), 6-1. . . . There are two games scheduled for today — Canada (2-0-0) meets Switzerland in Group A, while Finland (2-0-0) plays Germany in Group B.


My wife, Dorothy, is preparing to take part in her eighth Kamloops Kidney Walk, albeit virtually, on June 6. If you would like to be part of her team, you are able to make a donation right here.

——

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

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

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

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


Monkees

Former WHL goaltender dies at 64 . . . Recchi stays in NHL . . . Kamloops gets new baseball team


Ken Campbell of The Hockey News posted an interesting piece on Tuesday involving F Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning. In it, Campbell explained how the Lightning came to draft Point and how Al Murray, the organization’s director of amateur scouting, led the charge. It’s great to see a veteran scout like Murray, who is from Regina, get some acknowledgement. . . . Campbell’s piece is right here.

On Wednesday, Campbell wrote about the Vegas Golden Knights and how George McPhee and Kelly McCrimmon were able to shape an expansion into a Stanley Cup contender is such a short period of time. . . . They certainly have done that, and it should be said that they got a considerable amount of help from Vaughn Karpan, their director of player personnel. . . . Karpan, a native of The Pas, Man., and Murray have one thing in common — they both are quiet men who love to work in the shadows. Oh, and one other thing — they may be the best in their field. . . . Campbell’s piece on Vegas is right here.


Plasma


Loosely translating the above tweet: Each of the Canadian major junior teams must pay $266,667 as its share of the settlement of the class-action lawsuit that the CHL decided to settle for $30 million earlier in the summer. The QMJHL’s Chicoutimi Sagueneens and the Baie-Comeau Drakkar are owned by their respective cities, so the citizens will pay the bill via their municipal taxes.


Blaine Peterson, a former WHL goaltender who played with the Brandon Wheat Kings and New Westminster Bruins, died suddenly on Sept. 3. He was 64 and living in Stonewall, Man. Peterson’s death came less than a month after he was profiled by Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun as part of his excellent series on former Wheat Kings. . . . Peterson is survived by his partner Paulette and two adult children — Teague and Kael. . . . Peterson was with the Bruins for two Memorial Cup tournaments, losing in the 1976 final and winning it all in 1977. . . . He was a real contributor to minor hockey, coaching in Stonewall and doing a stint as president of the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League. . . . In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Manitoba. . . . There won’t be a formal funeral service, but a celebration of life is to be held at a later date. . . . There is an obituary available right here.


TP

COVID-19 CHRONICLES . . .

You will recall that Canadian OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif of the Kansas City Chiefs opted out of the NFL’s 2020 season a while back. During the pandemic, the graduate of McGill U’s medical school has been working as an orderly at a long-term care facility near Montreal. From Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que., he is planning to take online classes from Harvard U’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. . . . Julian MacKenzie of The Canadian Press has more right here. . . .

Louisiana Tech and Baylor had to postpone their football game that was set for Saturday. Why? Because Louisiana Tech had 38 players test positive in the days following Hurricane Laura. . . . The game was to have been Fox-TV’s first Big Noon game of the season, but now has been replaced by Arkansas State-Kansas State. . . .

Australian tennis star Ash Barty, ranked No. 1 in the world, has opted out of the French Open, which is scheduled to open on Sept. 27. She is the tournament’s defending champion. She also chose not to play in the U.S. Open because of concerns about COVID-19. . . .

The U of Lethbridge has suspended its women’s soccer program after it was found to be violating some pandemic-related restrictions. With Canada West having cancelled the fall season, teams still are being allowed to practice, but they are to do it in cohorts. The women’s team was allowing players who were from outside to take part in practice sessions. . . . Justin Goulet of lethbridgenewsnow.com has more right here. . . .

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association, which covers more than 500 high schools, has postponed football, volleyball and cheer seasons until March.


——

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

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873

Email: donornurse@providencehealth.bc.ca

——

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

kidneydonornurse@vch.ca

——

Or, for more information, visit right here.


JUST NOTES: Mark Recchi, one of five owners of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, is back in the NHL after a rather brief absence. Dumped as an assistant coach by the Pittsburgh Penguins on Aug. 12, he has joined the New Jersey Devils in the same role. The Devils gave Recchi a three-year contract. He had been with the Penguins for six seasons — three as development coach and the past three as assistant coach. . . . The BCHL’s Merritt Centennials have signed F Dylan Sydor, 17, whose father Darryl is a former WHL/NHL defenceman who also is a co-owner with the Blazers. Last season, Dylan had 17 goals and 20 assists in 40 games with the U-18 Thompson Blazers, who play out of Kamloops. . . . The Red Deer Rebels’ 15-year lease with Westerner Park, which operates the Centrium, was to have expired this year. Before it got to that, the two parties agreed on a seven-year lease. . . . Baseball’s West Coast League unveiled its newest franchise on Wednesday. The Kamloops NorthPaws will begin play in 2021 — Opening Day is set for June 4 — and it’ll be a 54-game regular season. The WBL is a short-season collegiate league. The NorthPaws are one of four Canadian teams, joining the Kelowna Falcons, Nanaimo NightOwls and Victoria HarbourCats. The NightOwls are another expansion team; they are owned by the group that operates the HarbourCats. The NorthPaws are owned by Norm Daley of the Kamloops accounting firm Daley & Company; Jon Pankuch, who owns a few Tim Hortons franchises; and Neal Perry of Westway Plumbing and Heating.


Video

Robison: Ice announcement ‘very soon’ . . . Blades sign L.A. prospect . . . Ex-WHLer draws more jail time


MacBeth

D Ben Betker (Portland, Everett, 2011-15) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Detva (Slovakia, Extraliga). This season, he had one goal and four assists in 15 games with the Kalamazoo Wings (ECHL). . . .

F Jonas Johansson (Kamloops, 2002-04) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with HA74 Sävsjö (Sweden, Division 2). He didn’t play last season. In 2016-17, he had eight goals and 21 assists in 33 games with Gherdëina Selva Val Gardena (Italy, Alps HL). . . .

F Konstantin Pushkaryov (Calgary, 2004-05) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Kurbads Riga (Latvia, Optibet Liga). Last season, he had seven goals and nine assists in 47 games with Barys Astana (Kazakhstan, KHL), and seven goals and two assists in 12 games with Nomad Astana (Kazakhstan, Championship).


ThisThat

On the ninth day of our annual Christmas countdown, I’ve got a pair of tunes for you (because I didn’t post on the eighth day). Both of these feature Michael Bublé, who brings a WHL flavour because he owns a piece of the Vancouver Giants.

If you click right here you’ll find him and Blake Shelton, with the Christmas version of Home.

And if you click right here, you’ll find him with Bing Crosby performing White Christmas.


According to Ron Robison, the WHL’s commissioner, there will be an announcement “very soon” pertaining to the future of the Kootenay Ice, a franchise that plays out of Cranbrook, B.C.

The Ice is in its 21st season in Cranbrook. This is the franchise’s second season under the Kootenaynewownership of Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell, who purchased it from the Chynoweth family. Fettes and Cockell are Winnipeggers and there has been speculation most of this season that they will relocate the franchise to the Manitoba capital once this season is done.

To date, there has been little in the way of comment from the WHL office or from the Ice owners.

Robison made an appearance with Dean Millard on Edmonton’s TSN radio outlet (1260) on Wednesday and talked about various things related to the WHL.

Here is Robison’s response to a question about the Ice situation:

We’re going through a process and I think that we’ve been very patient first of all with the Kootenay market . . . previously with the Chynoweth ownership which had some difficulty . . . it’s been well-publicized over the years and I think the new ownership has come in and done exactly what we wanted them to do and that was commit to that market and to make every effort to get things turned around.

“But we’ll be going through an exercise here as we’ve indicated and we’ll be very soon making an announcement as to what the future of that franchise is. But we gotta be very conscious that there’s been some great support in Kootenay over the years and the ownership have done what they can do to try and get things turned around.”

Robison didn’t sound at all comfortable in talking about the Ice and there weren’t any follow-up questions.

The complete interview is right here.


The Saskatoon Blades have signed D Spencer Shugrue, 15, to a WHL contract. Shugrue Saskatoonwas a ninth-round selection in the 2018 WHL bantam draft. . . . He has dual American-Canadian citizenship and presently lives with his family in Los Angeles, where he plays for the U-16 Jr. Kings of the T1EHL. In 17 games, he has three assists. . . . Last season, he was at the Delta Hockey Academy, where he had one goal and 11 assists in 28 games with a bantam prep team.


Barkley Swenson, a former WHL player, has been sentenced in Prince Albert Provincial Court to four months in jail on charges of possession of stolen property and breach of court conditions. According to Charlene Tebbutt of panow.com, “Swenson is to serve the four-month term on top of a 15-month sentence that he received in November in Melfort on charges of assault and uttering threats.” . . . Swenson, now 44, played 150 games in the WHL — 80 with the Prince Albert Raiders and 70 with the Tacoma Rockets — over four seasons (1990-94). . . . Tebbutt’s story is right here.


Feel free to click on the DONATE button over there on the right and help the cause. Thanks in advance, and Merry Christmas.


Tweetoftheday

Merry Christmas, and a few tunes and a couple of stories, from Taking Note

KaraCarol
Of course, Kara Drinnan loves Christmas and the songs that accompany it.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night, from Taking Note and Wonder Woman. We are fortunate enough to have Joanna and Todd, our son and his wife, with us for Christmas. And, yes, Kara, our only grandchild, is here, too. As you can tell from the photo, Kara has been leading us in a few Christmas songs.

As you get ready to shut it down on Christmas Eve, and perhaps stuff a few stockings, right here it’s The Pogues, featuring the late Kirsty MacColl, with Fairytale of New York . . .

And right here is another  favourite. It’s Darlene Love with Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home) from a 2014 appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. It was the 28th straight year in which she performed that tune with Letterman.

One more, if you’re so inclined. It’s Bing Crosby and David Bowie with The Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth, and it’s right here.

Finally, here’s one with a WHL flavour. It’s Michael Buble, who owns a chunk of the Vancouver Giants, and Bing Crosby, with White Christmas. It’s right here.


Meanwhile, here’s one of my favourite Christmas stories. It’s from the pages of the late Oakland Tribune, and it features a city editor named Alfred P. Reck. . . . It’s awesome, and it’s right here.


Craig McCallum played three seasons (2007-10)in the WHL, two with the Edmonton Oil Kings and one with the Prince Albert Raiders. He then went on to spend five seasons at the U of Saskatchewan where he played for the Huskies. Kevin Mitchell of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix writes right here about how it almost didn’t happen for McCallum, who opens up about alcohol, drugs, culture and family, and a whole lot more.


If you enter your email address over there on the right you will be notified each time I post something new on this site.

I haven’t yet been able to get a DONATE button posted here. But if you care to help the cause, please visit the old site (takingnote.ca), click on the DONATE button and do it there. Thank you.


Scoreboard

Sunday-Tuesday:

No Games Scheduled.


Wednesday (all times local):

Regina at Brandon, 7 p.m.

Prince Albert at Saskatoon, 7:05 p.m.

Moose Jaw at Swift Current, 7 p.m.

Edmonton at Red Deer, 7 p.m.

Calgary vs. Kootenay, at Cranbrook, B.C., 7 p.m.

Lethbridge at Medicine Hat, 7 p.m.

Tri-City at Portland, 7 p.m.

Everett vs. Vancouver, at Langley, B.C., 7 p.m.

Prince George at Victoria, 7:05 p.m.

Kamloops at Kelowna 7:05 p.m.

Seattle at Spokane, 7:05 p.m.