The Edmonton Oil Kings and Spokane Chiefs had the two poorest records during this WHL regular season.
But that didn’t stop the fans from showing up.
The Oil Kings played their final regular-season home game on Saturday at Rogers Place before an announced crowd of 14,781, the largest gathering in Edmonton this season.
According to figures compiled by the WHL, that lifted the Oil Kings’ average attendance to 6,223, the highest in the 22-team league.
Yes, indeed, the Oil Kings may have been last in the standings — they won only nine of 68 games — but they were No. 1 at the gate.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, completed their home schedule on Saturday night before a sold-out crowd of 10,541. That increased their average attendance to 5,842 and allowed them to pass the Everett Silvertips (5,840) and move into the No. 2 slot.
The Chiefs finished 10th in the 10-team Western Conference, winning 15 games.
Last season, Everett was No. 1 in average attendance, at 5,341, with Edmonton (5,198) in second spot and Spokane (4,419) in fourth.
With one game left to be played this season — Edmonton is to visit the Calgary Hitmen this afternoon — the WHL’s average attendance is 3,872, up from 3,205 in 2021-22.
How much of that do you think is due to the presence of F Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats, especially after he returned from the World Junior Championship?
THE BEDARD REPORT: F Connor Bedard scored his 71st goal of the season on Saturday night, but his Regina Pats dropped a 5-3 decision to the visiting Prince Albert Raiders. . . . The game was played in front of a sellout crowd of 6,499. It was Regina’s sixth sellout of the season, all of them since Jan. 21. . . . Bedard won the WHL’s Triple Crown, leading in goals (71), assists (72) and points (143), all in 57 games. However, he finished with just one point, last night’s goal, over three games. . . . He won the points title by 36 over F Chase Wheatcroft of the Prince George Cougars, and finished 21 goals ahead of F Kai Uchacz of the Red Deer Rebels. . . . Prince George F Riley Heidt was one assist behind Bedard, with D Ben Zloty of the Winnipeg Ice three behind.
If the WHL playoffs started today (x-locked in):
x-Winnipeg (1) vs. Medicine Hat (8)
x-Red Deer (2) vs. Calgary (7)
x-Saskatoon (3) vs. Regina (6)
x-Moose Jaw (4) vs. Lethbridge (5)
x-Seattle (1) vs. Kelowna (8)
x-Kamloops (2) vs. Vancouver (7)
x-Portland (3) vs. Everett (6)
x-Prince George (4) vs. Tri-City (5)
(NOTE:There are excellent playoff previews available on the WHL’s website.)
SATURDAY’S WHL HIGHLIGHTS:
The Medicine Hat Tigers grabbed the WHL’s last available playoff spot with a 4-3 victory over the visiting Swift Current Broncos. . . . The Broncos grabbed a 2-0 lead before the game was nine minutes old — on goals from F Connor Hvidston (21) and F Josh Davies (20), the latter on a PP — but the Tigers stormed back with the next four goals. . . . F Tyler McKenzie (18) got them on the scoreboard 14 seconds into the second period, and F Oasiz Wiesblatt (26) tied it, on a PP, at 7:52, . . . F Dallon Melin (16), celebrating his 21st birthday, gave the Tigers their first lead, on a PP, at 15:35. . . . D Cayden Lindstrom (19) upped the lead to 4-2 at 6:00 of the third period. . . . F Josh Filmon pulled the Broncos to within a goal with his 47th at 10:26. . . . F Gavin McKenna drew two primary assists for the Tigers. The 15-year-old — he won’t turn 16 until Dec. 20 — finished with 17 points, 13 of them assists, in 16 games. He was the first overall selection in the WHL’s 2022 draft. . . . Medicine Hat (30-29-9) will face the Winnipeg Ice, who finished atop the overall standings, in the first round. . . . Swift Current (31-33-4) will miss the playoffs for the third time since winning the 2017-18 championship. They didn’t qualify in 2019 or 2022, and there weren’t any playoffs in 2020 or 2021. . . .
F Carter Yakemchuk scored twice to lead the Calgary Hitmen to a 3-2 victory over the Oil Kings in Edmonton. . . . With the victory, the Hitmen locked themselves into seventh place in the Eastern Conference. That means a first-round meeting with the No. 2 Red Deer Rebels. . . . Yakemchuk, with 19 goals, gave Calgary a 2-1 edge at 6:39 of the third period, then broke a 2-2 tie, on a PP, at 14:22. . . . The Hitmen lost D Keagan Slaney to a charging major and game misconduct at 9:05 of the third period. . . . Calgary (31-28-8) has won four straight games. It last met Red Deer in the playoffs in 2016, when the Rebels won in five games. . . . Edmonton (9-54-4) has lost seven in a row (0-6-1). The Oil Kings will set a dubious WHL record for the fewest victories by a defending champion. That record (11) had been held by the Swift Current Broncos, who won the 2017-18 WHL championship and then went 11-51-6 in 2018-19. . . . The Oil Kings and Hitmen will conclude the WHL’s regular season this afternoon in Calgary. . . .
F Conor Geekie scored three times and added two assists as the Winnipeg Ice beat the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings, 5-3. . . . Geekie finished with 35 goals, while F Connor McClennon, who scored the Ice’s other two goals, scored 46. . . . D Jonas Wood helped out with three assists for Winnipeg. . . . Winnipeg (57-10-1) finished atop the overall standings. . . . Brandon (26-33-9) went 18-17-7 after general manager Marty Murray replaced Don MacGillivray as head coach. . . . The Wheat Kings, the lone WHL team to make a coaching change during this season, finished 10th in the Eastern Conference. . . .
The Calvert brothers, who are from Moose Jaw, each scored as the Saskatoon Blades posted a 6-3 victory over the Warriors. . . . F Rowan Calvert scored his fourth goal for the Blades and it proved the winner. His brother, Atley, had two goals and an assist for the Warriors, giving him 40 scores on the season. Their father, Jeff, played five seasons as a goaltender in the WHL, two with the Warriors and three with the Tacoma Rockets. . . . You can bet that Rowan and Atlee’s grandfather, the late Bob Calvert, a longtime member of the Warriors’ board, was looking down and grinning from ear to ear. . . . On Feb. 11, the WHL announced that four Warriors — G Connor Ungar, D Max Wanner, D Marek Howell and F Lynden Lakovic — had been suspended pending an investigation into potential violations of WHL’s policies of conduct. Those players later were suspended for the duration of the regular season — they sat out 17 games — and now are eligible to return, assuming they completed personal conduct and respect training as requested by the league. . . . Saskatoon (48-15-5) enjoyed a 100-point season for the fifth time in franchise history, and the Blades have been in the league since the start (1966-67) . . . Moose Jaw (41-24-3) had won its previous two games. . . .
The Red Deer Rebels scored four second-period goals en route to a 5-1 victory over the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . G Koen Cleaver made his debut with the Hurricanes, managing to keep the game scoreless through a first period in which they were outshot, 19-1. . . . By game’s end, the shot advantage was 39-12. . . . F Kalan Lind (16) and D Hunter Mayo (18) each had a goal and an assist for the Rebels. . . . Red Deer (43-19-6) had lost its previous two games. . . . Lethbridge finished at 36-26-6. . . .
F Sloan Stanick scored three times to lead the Prince Albert Raiders to a 5-3 victory over the Pats in Regina. . . . Stanick (31) scored two second-period goals, the second one while shorthanded, as the Raiders took a 3-0 lead. . . . He completed his second career hat trick at 4:15 of the third period, giving the visitors a 4-1 edge. . . . Stanick, a 19-year-old from Rapid City, Man., ws acquired from the Pats early last season. He finished this season with 64 points in 67 games. . . . F Tanner Howe, who won’t turn 18 until Nov. 28, scored his 36th goal. He finished with 85 points in 67 games, and has 156 points in 139 career games. . . . Prince Albert (28-37-3) had lots its previous three games. . . . Regina (34-30-4) has lost two in a row. . . .
The Portland Winterhawks scored the game’s last three goals to beat the Seattle Thunderbirds, 3-1, in Kent, Wash. . . . F Dylan Guenther (13) gave Seattle a 1-0 lead at 4:06 of the first period. . . . Portland got second-period goals from F Luke Schelter (8) and F Josh Zakreski (13) and a third-period empty-netter from D Ryan McCleary (13). . . . Portland (40-20-8) had lost its previous four games (0-3-1). . . . Seattle (54-11-3) finished atop the Western Conference. . . .
F Koehn Ziemmer and F Chase Wheatcroft scored shootout goals to give the host Prince George Cougars a 3-2 victory over the Kamloops Blazers. . . . Cougars D Hudson Thornton scored his 23rd goal, setting a franchise record for goals by a defenceman in one season. Dustin Byfuglien scored 22 times in 2004-05. . . . G Tyler Brennan stopped 43 shots as the Cougars were outshot, 45-17, including 6-0 in OT. . . . G Jesse Sanche, who turned 17 on March 19, made his WHL debut with the Blazers. He now lives in Kelowna, but grew up in Kamloops. Sanche was a second-round pick in the WHL’s 2021 draft. . . . Kamloops (48-13-7) has lost two in a row. . . . Prince George (37-24-7) goes into the playoffs having put up points in 11 straight (8-0-3). . . .
The Kelowna Rockets scored the game’s first four goals and then hung on for a 5-4 victory over the visiting Vancouver Giants. . . . F Gabriel Szturc (24) scored twice for Kelowna, the second one, at 13:11 of the second period, providing that 4-0 lead. . . . A pair of goals 26 seconds apart from F Skyler Bruce (15) and F Ty Halaburda (21) got the Giants to within a goal, at 4-3, at 14:25 of the third period. . . . F Turner McMillen (9) restored Kelowna’s two-goal lead at 18:23, with D Colton Roberts (3) getting the Giants back to within a goal at 19:20. . . . Kelowna (27-37-4) had lost its previous four games (0-3-1). . . . Vancouver (28-32-8) had won two in a row. . . .
D Lukas Dragicevic scored the only goal of a five-round shootout to give the Tri-City Americans a 2-1 victory over the Chiefs in Spokane. . . . F Kooper Gizowski (11) gave the Chiefs a 1-0 lead at 8:28 of the first period. . . . F Parker Bell (25) got the Americans even at 16:39 of the second. . . . Tri-City (34-26-8) has points in six straight (5-0-1). . . . Spokane finished at 15-42-10. Its 40 points is the lowest in franchise history, beneath the 47 earned by the 1998-99 club. . . .
F Raphael Pelletier scored the only goal of a shootout to give the Everett Silvertips a 4-3 victory over the Royals in Victoria. . . . The Royals had erased 2-1 and 3-2 deficits to force extra time on F Matthew Hodson’s 17th goal at 18:52 of the third period. . . . F Jackson Berezowski scored his 48th goal, shorthanded, to set an Everett single-season franchise record. F Josh Winquist had scored 17 goals in 2013-14. . . . Everett (33-32-3) had lost its previous two games. . . . Victoria (17-43-8) finished with points in three straight (2-0-1).
It’s that time of year again. Yes, the 2023 Kamloops Kidney Walk is almost upon us.
This year, we’re back to walking outdoors, and we’ll be hitting the trail at McDonald Park on June 4.
My wife, Dorothy, who in September will celebrate 10 years as a transplant recipient, is once again taking part. And, yes, she is fund-raising and would love for you to be part of her team.
If you are so inclined, you may make a donation right here. Thank you so much, in advance.
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.
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