Gregor’s rights now with Raiders . . . Royals get d-man from Oil Kings . . . Hurricanes sign two draft picks


MacBeth

F Waltteri Hopponen (Everett, 2013-14) signed a one-year contract with Peliitat Heinola (Finland, Mestis). Last season, he had five goals and 14 assists in 46 games with Espoo United (Finland, Mestis). Espoo United declared bankruptcy after last season and was dissolved. . . .

F Anthony Bardaro (Spokane, Prince Albert, 2009-13) signed a two-year contract extension with Asiago (Italy, Alps HL). Last season, he had 31 goals and 25 assists in 39 games. He was the Alps HL’s most valuable player. He led the league in goals, and also led in playoff assists and points, putting up six goals and 17 assists in 14 games.


ThisThat

Some reaction off my Twitter timeline from yesterday’s report here about the WHL working to restrict the trading of younger players . . .


The Prince Albert Raiders have acquired F Noah Gregor, who is to turn 20 on July 28, from the Victoria Royals.

PrinceAlbertAccording to a news release from the Raiders, “Terms of the trade were not disclosed.”

According to a news release from the Royals, they received “conditional compensation.”

Gregor was a fourth-round selection by the San Jose Sharks in the NHL’s 2016 draft, so is eligible to start the season with their AHL affiliate, the San Jose Barracudas.

Chances are that Victoria received a bantam draft pick that is conditional on Gregor playing with Prince Albert, with the round changing depending on the number of games he plays. Or perhaps there is a big bag of cash  involved? Hey, just kidding.

The Royals selected Gregor in the third round of the 2013 WHL bantam draft. They dealt him to the Moose Jaw Warriors on Jan. 6, 2014, in exchange for D Travis Brown. The Warriors also got third-round selections in the 2014 and 2016 bantam drafts, and an undisclosed conditional pick, as well.

On Dec. 11, 2017, the Royals reacquired Gregor from Moose Jaw, getting him and a 2018 eighth-round bantam draft pick for F Ryan Peckford and a fourth-round selection in the 2018 bantam draft.

Last season, he had 14 goals and 22 assists in 36 games with Moose Jaw, and 15 goals and 14 assists in 30 games with Victoria.

In 194 career regular-season games, Gregor has 86 goals and 119 assists.

The Raiders have three other 20-year-olds on their roster — F Kody McDonald, F Sean Montgomery and G Curtis Meger.

I think the Royals still have five 20-year-olds on their roster — F Braydon Buziak, F Dante Hannoun, D Ralph Jarratt, G Griffen Outhouse and F Lane Zablocki.

Later in the day, the Royals announced that they have acquired D Brayden Gorda, 19, VictoriaRoyalsfrom the Edmonton Oil Kings for a conditional fifth-round selection in the 2019 bantam draft.

Last season, Gorda had one goal and three assists in 30 games with Edmonton. In 151 regular-season WHL games, all with the Oil Kings, he had six goals and 26 assists.

Edmonton selected him in the third round of the 2014 bantam draft.

Gord was late reporting to the Oil Kings last season as he took time away from hockey to deal with the death of a close friend.


The Lethbridge Hurricanes have signed the two players they selected in the CHL’s 2018 Lethbridgeimport draft — Swiss G Akira Schmid and D Danila Palivko of Belarus. . . . Schmid, 18, was a fifth-round pick by the New Jersey Devils in the NHL’s 2018 draft. Last season, he put up a 2.60 GAA in 32 games with the U-20 Langnau club. Schmid will get a chance at being the Hurricanes’ starter in 2018-19 as they have to replace Logan Flodell, who played out his eligibility last season. . . . Palivko, who turns 17 on Nov. 30, played 40 games with Belarus’s U-17 team, putting up six goals and 20 assists. In 12 games with the U-18 team, he had six assists. The Hurricanes saw him at the Mac’s tournament in Calgary, where he had two assists in four games. . . . The Hurricanes finished last season with Russian F Egor Zudilov and D Igor Merezhko, who is from Ukraine, on their roster. The Hurricanes announced prior to the 2018 CHL import draft that Zudilov wouldn’t be back for a second season. Should Merezhko return, he would be a two-spotter as a 20-year-old import.


A third WHL player has had to bow out of Hockey Canada’s World Junior Showcase Canadabecause of an undisclosed injury. F Justin Almeida of the Moose Jaw Warriors has been replaced by F Serron Noel of the OHL’s Oshawa Generals. . . . Noel was a second-round pick by the Florida Panthers in the NHL’s 2018 draft. . . . Earlier, D Josh Brook of the Warriors and F Jordy Bellerive of the Lethbridge Hurricanes were scratched because of injuries. Brook apparently has a wrist injury, while Bellerive continues to recover from burns suffered in an accident involving a bonfire. . . . There now are eight WHLers on Canada’s roster — D Cale Addison of Lethbridge, D Ty Smith of the Spokane Chiefs, D Jett Woo of Moose Jaw, F Jaret Anderson-Dolan of Spokane, F Connor Dewar of the Everett Silvertips, F Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks, F Stelio Mattheos of the Brandon Wheat Kings and F Michael Rasmussen of the Tri-City Americans. . . . The Showcase opens Saturday in Kamloops and runs through Aug. 4. It features teams from Canada, Finland, Sweden and the U.S.


Mike Needham has returned to the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton. Needham, who was fired by the Kamloops Blazers on May 10, has been named OHA’s skills and development co-ordinator. . . . Needham, 48, spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach with the Blazers. Prior to that, he was the head coach of OHA’s bantam prep team for three seasons.


Tweetoftheday

Cst. Curtis Warner, who works traffic with the Regina Police Service, is worth a follow on Twitter. Would love to see someone working traffic like this, and tweeting about it, in Kamloops.

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Hay may be retired from Blazers, but he’s not done . . . What next in Kamloops? . . . Little Montreal days a distant memory

Don Hay is many things . . . father . . . grandfather . . . runner . . . a man who works out regularly . . . proud Kamloopsian . . . an icon in the community . . .

One thing he isn’t is retired.

Oh, he may be done as the head coach of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, but it’s obvious he doesn’t feel that his coaching career is done.

That became evident Friday morning as Hay read a prepared statement and then answered questions from the media vultures outside the Blazers’ dressing room.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Tom Gaglardi, the majority owner of the WHL franchise, had

DonHay
Don Hay, as the head coach of the Kamloops Blazers, talks with the media after a game earlier this season. (Photo: Gregg Drinnan)

announced that Hay had decided to retire. Gaglardi also said that once he learned of Hay’s decision — as incredible as it sounds, Gaglardi didn’t speak to Hay— the owners decided to move out general manager Stu MacGregor, lead assistant coach Mike Needham and Matt Recchi, the director of player personnel, as well.

Hay completed the fourth season of his second stint as the Blazers’ head coach in March. His first stint, with the Blazers’ then under  community ownership, included a couple of Memorial Cup titles. His second stint, under private ownership headed up by Gaglardi, didn’t go nearly as well.

In fact, the Blazers experienced two first-round playoff exits and two non-playoff seasons during Hay’s most-recent stop. This season, they lost their first nine games and weren’t able to dig out of that hole.

Between the end of the season, during which Hay never once indicated that he was the least bit interested in retirement, and Gaglardi’s announcement, Hay spent a month as the head coach of the Canadian under-18 team that played in the IIHF World Championship in Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk, Russia. Does that sound like something a career coach would do just before retiring?

Also, do you really think that Hay, who turned 64 on Feb. 13, wants to go out on the kind of season his team had in 2017-18?

No. No. No . . . just no to everything.

At one point on Friday, Hay was asked: “Do you think cleaning house is the right way to go?”

Hay replied: “I don’t know if that is a good question to ask somebody who just got let go, so, you know . . . who just made the decision to move or go to a different role.”

Whether that was a slip of the tongue or a look into what really went on, Hay, who has more regular-season and playoff victories than any coach in WHL history, isn’t retired. OK?

What he is right now, more than anything, is confused. That is what showed through on Friday.

He appeared to be confused and hurt by the fact that his decision to walk away from the Blazers’ bench apparently resulted in ownership clearing out three other people.

It seems that Hay had conversations with Don Moores, the franchise’s president, COO and alternate governor. (Moores, once a shareholder in the community-owned team, spoke out against the sale of the franchise in 2006 and 2007, then joined the front office two summers ago.) Moores obviously reported to Gaglardi, one thing led to another, and Hay’s decision led to three other departures.

MacGregor is gone after having completed three seasons in his second turn as general manager. He replaced Craig Bonner six games into the 2015-16 season and now, like Bonner, has had a soft landing on the Dallas Stars’ scouting staff. The Stars, of course, are owned by Gaglardi.

The Blazers also dumped Needham, who had been on the coaching staff, in either a part-time or full-time role, since 2010. Needham — wink! wink! — has been told that he can apply for the head-coaching position or the assistant’s spot from which he was just deposed.

Recchi spent 10 seasons as the director of player personnel. He is the brother of Mark Recchi, who is one of the four ex-Blazers in Gaglardi’s ownership group, the others being Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla and Darryl Sydor.

Hay will remain with the Blazers as an advisor, which is the same thing they did with Guy Charron after his first go-round as head coach.

I would suggest that Hay likely saw some writing on the wall and chose to walk away from the Blazers’ bench. I’m sure he is aware that this is an ownership group that has been stumbling around like a thirsty man in the Serengeti for the better part of 11 years. I’m sure Hay knows that the Blazers haven’t drafted well and that there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. At this stage of his career, he has to know that there are a lot of different places to coach if he wants to continue, and he does. He also knows that the ownership group’s dream of playing host to the 2020 Memorial Cup tournament is a pipe dream, so that didn’t figure in any part  of his decision.

In an interview with Jon Keen, the radio voice of the Blazers, Gaglardi said: “I think we have failed in all three facets. We haven’t coached well enough, we haven’t drafted well enough and we haven’t managed well enough . . . and I guess by extension, we haven’t owned well enough.”

No, they haven’t owned well enough. Not even close. And this is on ownership. All of it. The whole mess.

This goes back to when these guys bought the franchise. In 11 seasons under this ownership group, the Blazers have missed the playoffs four teams and lost out in the first round on five occasions. They have been beaten in the second round once and made it to the Western Conference final once.

This ownership group has burned through eight head coaches, nine if you count both of Charron’s turns. Dean Clark, Greg Hawgood, Barry Smith, Scott Ferguson, Charron, Dave Hunchak, Mark Ferner, Charron (again), and Hay. Hawgood, Ferguson and Ferner were interim head coaches, signalling midseason coaching changes.

None of those coaches has moved to a higher level. At least five of them, including Hay, aren’t even coaching, at least not now.

There has been a distinct lack of excitement around the organization, which didn’t even hold a news conference when Hay returned to Kamloops after a 10-season run as head coach of the Vancouver Giants.

What must happen now is that these owners have to find a general manager who has no loyalties to anyone in the organization, and who is prepared to make like he is taking over an expansion franchise. Yes, it’s time to start over, to rebuild this organization from the ground up.

How sad are things in Kamloops, whose WHL franchise once was so successful that the city was known in hockey circles as Little Montreal?

Had you visited the Blazers’ website on Friday evening, more than 24 hours after Gaglardi announced the purge, you would have discovered that Don Hay is the team’s head coach, and Stu MacGregor is the general manager, and Mike Needham is an assistant coach, and Matt Recchi is the director of player personnel.

Embarrassing? Yes. Sad? For sure. But that seems to be the way of the Kamloops Blazers these days.