Konowalchuk returns to coaching game . . . President Piper leaving Winterhawks . . . QMJHL rocked by sexual assault investigation

The WHL’s only head-coaching vacancy was filled on Tuesday when the Red RedDeerDeer Rebels announced they had hired Steve Konowalchuk to replace Brent Sutter, who remains the franchise’s owner, president and general manager. . . . Sutter stepped aside on April 11. At the time, assistant coaches Alex Colville and Brad Flynn, along with assistant GM Shaun Sutter, took over the coaching duties. After the season, the Rebels chose not to renew the contracts of Flynn and goaltender coach Kraymer Barnstable. . . . Konowalchuk, 48, spent six seasons as the head coach the Seattle Thunderbirds and guided them to the WHL championship in 2016-17. He followed that with one season as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks. He has spent the past three seasons scouting for the New York Rangers. . . .

“I enjoyed that, but there was always a part of me that wondered which path to follow — to stay on the management side or the coaching side,” Konowalchuk told Greg Meachem of reddeerrebels.com. “I guess there are pros and cons to both.”

Konowalchuk added: “I saw a while back that Red Deer was looking for a coach and that got me thinking. With the reputation the organization has and with all Brent’s done in the game, it was intriguing for me because I want to be in a place where I can grow as a coach.

“You always want to go to a place where you can learn, just like when I was with the Rangers I was learning about scouting and management. I know when I was coaching in Seattle that Red Deer was always considered to be one of the teams that had a chance to win all the time.”

Meachem’s complete story is right here.


Doug Piper, the president of the Portland Winterhawks, has left PortlandAlternatethe organization after being an integral part of it since 2008. The Winterhawks, who have been under new ownership since Jan. 1, announced his resignation on Tuesday morning. . . . Bill Gallacher purchased the Winterhawks early in the 2008-09 season, with the team coming off 17- and 11-victory seasons. Piper provided a steady hand atop the organization as it rebuilt. From a news release: “During Doug’s tenure, the team consistently sat atop the WHL in wins, attendance, sponsorship sales and overall revenues. In the decade from 2010 to 2020 the Winterhawks had more wins than any other team in the Canadian Hockey League. In addition, during the past 13 years, the team won the WHL Championship in 2013, two Scotty Munro Memorial Trophies, and four Western Conference titles.” . . . Of late, Piper has been leading the Winterhawks’ side of the conversation that is likely to lead to the official dumping of the franchise’s longtime Indian head logo. . . . Joshua Critzer (@jjcritzer) of pnwhockeytalk.com added via Twitter that “Kelly Robinett is no longer with the organization full time.” Robinett, who has been with the Winterhawks for more than 20 years, has been the senior vice-president of operations and marketing. . . . The Winterhawks now are owned by Winterhawks Sports Group, which is controlled by investment banker Michael Kramer and Kerry Preete, a retired Monsanto executive.


Two players from the Victoriaville Tigres were arrested on Tuesday as part of a qmjhlnewsexual assault investigation involving a party on Saturday following the team’s victory in the final game of the QMJHL’s championship final. . . . Felix Seguin of Le Journal de Montreal reported that the party was held “at the Entourage sur-le-Lac hotel located in Lac-Beauport. This is where the team that had just won its first QMJHL title in 19 years was housed.” . . . As of Tuesday evening, formal charges hadn’t been filed. . . . Gilles Courteau, the QMJHL’s longtime commissioner, said the league will hold its own internal investigation into the situation.


The 12-team SJHL announced on Tuesday that it plans on opening its 2021-22 regular season on Sept. 24. . . . The SJHL’s 2020-21 season was limited to 29 games because of the pandemic. Five teams played six games each, with one getting in only two. . . . Its 2021-22 regular season is scheduled to conclude on March 4, with the playoffs getting started on March 11. . . . There is a complete news release right here.

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As much as we would like to think the worst of the pandemic is behind us, there always are little reminders that it’s still hanging around. . . . On Tuesday, the Falkland, B.C., Stampede announced that it was cancelling the 2021 rodeo. It had already lost the 2020 Stampede to the pandemic, and had postponed the 2021 rodeo to Aug. 27-29. But the Falkland Community Association, which runs the popular event, has decided to cancel it. . . . The Stampede, which was first held in 1919, usually is held on the Victoria Day long weekend. . . .

Also on Tuesday, Lacrosse Canada announced the cancellation of the 2021 Minto Cup, the junior A national championship. “This decision,” reads a news release, “follows Lacrosse Canada’s announcement last month of the cancellation of 10 national championships.” . . . Lacrosse Canada pointed out that “this is not a cancellation of the lacrosse season in Canada.” The B.C. junior A league, the Rocky Mountain league and the Ontario junior A league all are “planning modified seasons in accordance with their provincial health and safety regulations.”


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JUST NOTES: Castan Sommer, who left his job as an assistant coach with the Seattle Thunderbirds last week, has joined the College of the Holy Cross Crusaders in Worcester, Mass., as an assistant coach. He had been with Seattle through four seasons. Sommer attended Holy Cross and played there while his father, Roy Sommer, was the head coach of the AHL’s Worcester Sharks. . . . The 2021 U-18 Hlinka Gretzky Cup is scheduled for Breclav, Czech Republic, and Piestany, Slovakia, Aug. 2-7, but it’ll be played without a Canadian entry. Instead, Bernd Freimueller (@bfreimueller) reports that Germany will get into the tournament. The 2020 tournament was to have been played in Edmonton and Red Deer, but was cancelled by the pandemic. . . . Randy Hansch, a former WHL player, executive and scout, has joined the amateur scouting staff of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes. He scouted for the Buffalo Sabres from 2018-20. Hansch was a WHL goaltender (Victoria Cougars, Kamloops Blazers, 1982-86). He later spent 10 seasons as the Blazers’ director of player personnel. He also spent 11 seasons (2007-18) with the Edmonton Oil Kings, the last five as general manager.


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